Can't Stay Away First Chapter

Friday, November 17, 2017

Hello lovelies!

As promised in my last update post, I'm re-posting all of the first chapters that I had on Wattpad over to this blog. The rest of the month will consist of these first chapter posts, so if you haven't read certain books of mine, you're in for a little treat these next couple weeks. ^_^

Chapter One

Stand up for yourself.

It's part of my morning mantra: after my eyes adjust to the light and I remember what the day holds for me, those four words come to mind. Every time. They return like a ghost, haunting me with the voice that first uttered them to me four years ago. I thought one day it would stop, but it hasn't.

I peel the covers away and get up, groaning as I look at the time on my alarm clock. Eleven o'clock. Marjory will have words for me about missing church again. You'd think she could show some understanding, especially since as her future stepdaughter I've been spending the majority of my free time planning her wedding. It's the third week in a row I slept in, though. Third time's a charm? I let out a snort. At least I can still find humor in annoying her during these stressful times.

I shuffle down the hallway to the kitchen of my spacious one-bedroom apartment. Marjory helped decorate the place in a classic motif—gray upholstered furniture, lamps with subdued floral accents, and a couple ornate silver matching mirrors on the walls. The only things I insisted on were the paintings that would hang on the walls in my bedroom, which were all painted by me. It isn't quite the style I pictured for my first place, but I like it just the same.

A loud meow greets me when I enter the kitchen. My cat Sparkles runs up to me, rubbing against my legs as I fill her food dish and set it down. I scratch the top of her head. "Good morning, pretty kitty." She peeks up at me between bites with an appreciative look.

I get a bowl out of the cupboard and start making oatmeal for breakfast. While it heats in the microwave, I cut up a banana to put on top. I'm not a fan of oatmeal, but it has enough protein to keep my energy level where it needs to be to make it through the day.

The faint sound of my phone has me scrambling to find it. I rummage through my purse thinking I left it in there when the ringtone starts again from my bedroom. I run in there and pick up right before it ends. "Hello?" I answer breathlessly.

"Piper, darling?" The sound of Marjory's confused voice causes me to shove my face into my pillow. This is the reason they invented caller ID and yet I'm not awake enough to utilize it. "Did I interrupt your cardio?"

I hold back a laugh at the thought of me actually exercising. If I had the time, maybe. "No, I was just trying to find my phone. I left it on my nightstand."

"Ah, I see. Missed you this morning. Just wanted to make sure you were going to make it for dinner tonight."

"Of course I will. I always come home for Sunday dinners." Per your request, if you remember.

"Excellent. Well, darling, I have to get ready. The ladies are coming over this afternoon for tea. We're discussing Charlene's fundraiser for the hospital. That's where her sister Francesca has her chemotherapy. The doctor says there's a good chance of her going into remission when she finishes treatment."

"That's great news, Marjory."

"You should stop by when we're finishing up. They always love to see you."

"I have a few errands to run, but I'll do my best."

"That's my girl. I'll see you tonight, darling."

"See you." I end the call and rub a hand over my face. I don't want to go over there early, but when she mentioned me stopping by it sounded more like a request than a recommendation. I wish I could talk to my father about this, but he's too busy with business to be concerned with ladies and their tea. Shaking my head, I go back to the kitchen and finish breakfast so I can get started on my day.

A few hours later, I walk into my father's house. It feels strange every time I come here. There's no reason for it to since I lived here for all my teenage years. Maybe it's because it's five times bigger than the yellow farmhouse that was my childhood home. Maybe it's because once Marjory moved in, the place became more like the rest of the houses in this tax bracket. Shiny, sparkly, sterile.

But I'd bet dollars to donuts it mostly has to do with somebody who used to grace these halls.

I follow Nan, the housekeeper, as she leads me to the sunroom. Once inside, a chorus of hellos greets me from twelve different women. I smile and return their greeting as Marjory walks over to me. Her silky yellow-flowered top sets off her auburn hair perfectly. She gives me a kiss on the cheek. "Darling, I'm so glad you were able to make it."

I plaster on a smile. "Well, I'm glad I made it in time." I hold out the box I've been carrying. "I brought a treat for everyone."

Marjory gasps in delight as she takes the box from me. "Macarons! Oh, darling, this is lovely. Look at what my sweet girl has for us." She waltzes over to the ladies and sets it down on the glass coffee table. Every woman present gets a napkin and picks out a macaron. Marjory takes a bite out of one and closes her eyes. "Oh, this is heavenly. What shop did you get these from?"

"Annie's Confectioneries."

Charlene brightens and says, "Marjory, you should have these at the reception."

Rachael claps her hands together. "Yes! My cousin's daughter had a dessert bar at her reception instead of dinner. Everyone thought it was brilliant."

Instantly, I cringe on the inside. I spoke to the caterers on Friday regarding the filet mignon Marjory selected. It's the second time she's changed her mind. I doubt the caterers would be thrilled with yet another change.

This fact, of course, doesn't deter Marjory from speaking up. "That sounds absolutely divine!" She turns to me, eyes full of hope. "Do you think that maybe you could contact the caterers and ask if they could forward you a dessert menu?"

It wouldn't be a problem at all! I'm sure the caterers would absolutely love to start over for the third time. It's not like your inability to make decisions and stick with them doesn't complicate matters. Oh wait, it does. I fake a smile. "I'll call them tomorrow."

"Splendid, darling. I'm sure they won't mind if we tweak the plan just a smidge. They're getting paid either way."

The ladies chuckle over this. Yeah, "tweak" the plan from dinner to dessert. I want so much to roll my eyes, but I know I can't without at least one person noticing. I love Marjory, I really do, but sometimes she is impossible to deal with. I'm already wishing I hadn't arrived for dinner early.

"Piper, dear," Charlene says. "How are you enjoying working for Loving Bliss?"

Loving Bliss is what I like to call Marjory's pet project. It's a wedding planning company with all the connections and expertise. Marjory couldn't find a wedding planning service to fill her every need, so she decided to take it upon herself to create a company that could. She has plenty of connections in the community and she has my father's money to pay for the start up costs. It hasn't even officially opened for business and the buzz for it is overwhelming.

And, of course, let's not forget her almost stepdaughter who ends up running the company by herself since the first client is the woman who started the business.

Yeah...welcome to my life.

I launch into the speech I've given to everyone else. "It's been great so far. Marjory has supplied a long list of amazing businesses and companies that can accommodate every possible bride-to-be. Most of them have a wide array of choices and packages, which is great. And even though some can't work around all requests, there are plenty of back up plans. Plus, our first bride has been special, so I couldn't ask for anything more." I smile at Marjory and she holds a hand to her heart as a chorus of "aw" spreads through the room.

Charlene blinks back the moisture building in her eyes. "Oh, Piper, you're the sweetest girl. I wish I was gaining you as a stepdaughter."

"Well, you can't have her, Charlene. She's mine." Marjory takes my hand in hers and gives it a quick squeeze before letting go.

"Where will Loving Bliss be located?" Charlene asks.

"We have a space in a building downtown in the boutique district," I answer. "My father signed the papers and got the key for me on Friday. I'll be spending most of my time getting the place ready in between wedding plans. You know, setting it up and interviewing potential staff. We'll be opening September fifteenth."

"Will you be able to get it all done by your grand opening?"

Considering the time crunch, I'll be lucky to make it to the end of August without wanting to hurt somebody. Namely Marjory. "Of course. There's plenty of time." Before anyone else can probe into my job any further, I ask, "Is my dad home?"

Marjory shakes her head, tapping a napkin to her lips. "No, he went to the office for a couple hours to work on some new contracts. He should be back soon, though. We've got something special planned for dinner tonight."

"Oh? What's special about it?"

"It's a surprise."

When she grins, I can't help but wonder what in God's name she has up her sleeve tonight. Ever since I graduated from college last month, she's been pushing me toward what she believes to be the next goal in a young lady's life: marriage. This doesn't bother me because I'd actually love to get married in the next couple of years. The problem lies in her choices in men for me. Don't get me wrong, these are decent and upstanding young men. They're just not my type. Their lives are too similar to my father's—focused on working sixty or more hours per week. Marjory might like playing the role of trophy wife, but it's not the life I envision for myself.

Not that I know what I ultimately want from life. I know I can't continue working for Loving Bliss forever. Once Marjory gets married to my father and back from the honeymoon, the company is back in her hands. I'd be glad to play a part in the company, but only a small one. There's something else out there—something bigger—and I want to be available to grab onto it with both hands when the time comes.

My phone buzzes and I excuse myself from the room to answer. "Theo, you're a master."

"Master of what? Ceremonies? Master Chef?"

I chuckle as I let out a sigh of relief. Leave it to Theo to ground me again. I slip upstairs quickly to get well out of earshot from Marjory. "Master of timing."

"Ah...I take it you're with the parentals. A little early for a visit, though, am I right?"

"Yes. Marjory said something about tea this afternoon and—"

"You were guilted into 'stopping by'?" he finishes my sentence and tsks me. "Piper, Piper, Piper."

"What, what, what?" I round the corner and walk into my old bedroom. "I made her day. I might not have needed to do it, but it's done."

"Yeah, sure. Whatever you say. So! You gonna stop by tonight? I'm working until close and need company."

Theo works at a bar downtown called The Village Idiot. It's located in a dumpy brick building on the outside of the city of Charlotte. It's not the kind of place my "parentals" would approve of, but I don't care. I've been friends with Theo since high school and I'm not about to toss aside one of the few people who have been with me through thick and thin. "That would actually be nice. I won't be able to stay late, though. I have work in the morning."

"You only have the one client. It's not as if you have to make tons of phone calls. Can't you sleep in just this once?"

"I slept in today. And I have to call the caterers."



He breathes out a long sigh. "Girl, we need to get you out of the house more."

"Tell me about it." When I peek at the time on my phone, I rub my other hand over my face. "I better get back downstairs. My dad will be home soon and dinner is probably almost finished. Apparently, there's something 'special' happening tonight."

"Oh, God. It's a blind date, isn't it?"

"I'm hoping the answer is no," I grumble. "But with her, anything is possible."

"Good luck, sweets."

"Thanks. I'm going to need it." I hang up with Theo and slowly make my way back downstairs. Instead of returning to the sunroom, I head into the kitchen.

Charles, my parents' full-time cook, is hard at work. He glances over when I walk in and smiles warmly. "Miss Piper, so good to see you."

"Hey, Chuck. What's on the menu tonight?"

"Roasted potatoes and duck l'orange."

Sounds about right. "Can't wait." Even though it's a typical meal in this house, Charles is an amazing connoisseur of food. Seeing him is always a treat, too, because he's so genuine. When I'm around so many people who place stock in their money, being around down-to-earth people always bolsters my spirit.

I leave Charles to his masterpiece of dinner and head back toward the sunroom. By the time I get there, all the ladies have left. Marjory is nowhere in sight, either. I stroll through the downstairs searching for her. I find her outside the dining room with my father.

I observe them from several feet away. Their heads are close together and they are talking quietly. When they met, neither of them had any interest in a serious relationship. My mother died when I was ten and my father swore he would never marry again. For Marjory, her ex-husband was a deadbeat dad, leaving her when she got pregnant. She didn't plan on getting married, but after four years of living with my father, she finally told him that they might as well make it official since they're committed to each other.

I walk toward them, not wanting to interrupt their conversation, but also not wanting to be caught staring either. When my father sees me, he grins and says, "There's my baby girl."

I let him pull me into a tight embrace. "Hello, Daddy." Something I can always count on is my father's love for me. There's nothing he wouldn't do to ensure that I have everything I need.
My father, Marjory, and I sit down at the solid oak dining room table. I clear my throat. "So, where's the surprise that comes with dinner?"

Marjory looks at her watch and frowns. "I was hoping he would be here by now. His flight must have been delayed."


The doorbell rings and Marjory clasps her hands together. "Oh, that has to be him. Excuse me a moment."

She stands and leaves the room. I sneak a glance at my father, but he isn't looking my way. Who is this man Marjory is inviting into our lives and trying to set me up with? He must be someone very special if she's willing to leave the room to meet up with him instead of letting one of the hired hands answer the door as she usually does.

Marjory's voice travels from down the hall. "You're just in time to experience a delightful dinner, my dear. As you can see, the rest of the family is here. And now all four of us are together again at last!"


My head whips in her direction. Standing next to her, I'm greeted with a sight I never thought I would see in my life again. He's taller, more muscular, brown hair longer. The chiseled features of his face seem more prominent, and those eyes...those bright green eyes stare at me with the same boyish wonder they always did four years ago. My heart skips a beat when his lips curve into a slow smile. I swallow hard, mustering the courage to say hello to the boy I once knew.

The boy who is about to become my stepbrother.

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