At 23 Hugh McGuire had his life figured out. He was on top of the world and nothing could stop him. In the blink of an eye, it all changed, when a disgruntled employee, Burton Dunn, shot and killed Hugh’s parents, and attempted to take Hugh’s life as well. Hugh’s life would never be the same, and twelve years later, Hugh was a depressed and somewhat bitter man that could now see and speak with the dead.
Kimber Dunn had been a sickly child, and on her deathbed, her nurse, a leopard shifter took pity on her and converted Kimber to save her life. Now Kimber couldn’t run far enough to outrun her brother’s murderous deed. Spending most of her days as a leopard kept her hidden well. But when fate threw her in front on the one man she’d been hiding from all these years, Hugh McGuire, her cat knew him for who he was…her mate…the only thing she knew to do was run…run as fast and as far as she could….
KOBO Coming Soon
Steele Bennett was born with a gift, but he sees it more as a curse―he can see and speak with spirits. And when he loses his twin sister at seventeen, he wants to turn his back on life―block his heart so that he never has to feel the sharp pain of loss again…
The small bar Kari Briggs runs is failing fast. She hasn’t seen the owner in three months, past due notices are piling high, and her last paycheck bounced twice. And if she doesn’t pay the delivery guy soon, there’ll be no more supplies.
She has trouble enough controlling her cat, so the last thing she needs tonight is trouble. But those guys at the bar won’t listen and take it outside. Deciding to take matters into her own hands, she is shocked when a tall stranger grips her arms from behind and her cat wants to roll over and purr.
From the moment Steele touches her, she knows he’s her mate. And Steele thinks he can just get her out of his system with sex and a lot of it―he won’t mark her and she can’t mark him―no permanent attachments. But that’s not how it works with a shifter, she will die if her cat can’t get what she needs from him. She will love him because she has no choice―he is her mate―but that is a secret she is willing to take to her grave…
Nick Stark had known Addison West for quite some time. Although they’d never met in person they shared the same nightmare―both were unwilling participants. However, through these dreams they had formed a bond between them. And a telepathic connection. So when out of the blue, Addie contacted Nick and told him she had seen some things that she shouldn’t have and she was next on the killer’s list, Nick didn’t hesitate to come to her rescue.
Nick had known for some time that Addie was to be his―why else would they share the same dream? But he was in no hurry to form emotional attachments. Never having much in the way of a decent family life, he didn’t know much about love. And with the deep emotional scars he bore from an abusive childhood, he didn’t want to bring that burden onto another soul―especially Addie.
Addie had her own baggage. Her father had been forcing her to marry an abusive man―he told her it was her duty as his daughter to obey him. Addie wasn’t having any part of it, so she ran…. She had been hiding for the last five years.
Nick may not have wanted any attachments but he couldn’t ignore the beauty he’d rescued. But there were things he had to tell her…about all of them…about Steele Bennett’s group. He wasn’t sure how she fit into all this….
Mitch Riley was a haunted man, and being a necromancer didn’t have much to do with what haunted him. A troubled childhood left him withdrawn and short tempered, so when he received a summons that he was being sued by the foster parents who had abused him, he didn’t take it well at all. And their attorney? None other than a vamp. There was nothing much worse than a vamp in Mitch’s opinion.
Victoria Graham, or Vinnie her mother had nicknamed her, wasn’t expecting the man her clients were suing to be her mate, and a necromancer. She would have refused the case had she known she’d be walking into a den of necromancers. She had grown up on horror stories that necromancers were the one thing that could kill her kind, and it was clear the man hated her very existence…. But when he touched her, she’d lost control of her magic…and her mind too apparently.
Landon Logan is a man haunted by a tragedy that he blames himself for but didn’t do. No one can convince him otherwise—especially his well-meaning Grandda who happens to be dead. Landon is a necromancer.
Dillon Malone has a few abilities of her own. She can “find” things by touching the owner or touching something the owner has touched. This makes her a wanted woman.
Landon is so angry at his good-for-nothing parents that he storms out of their house with their maid in tow. Dillon is happy to leave with this brooding young man and soon discovers that the handsome hunk is her other half.
Dillon’s happiness is short lived when her past reaches out to bite her, and she and Landon become pawns in her father’s evil scheme. When Dillon’s father has Steele’s new baby kidnapped, all bets are off.
Ryder Mackenzie didn’t remember much about what happened to her. All she knew was she hurt in more places than she could remember. Mac barely remembered going over the falls and hitting the rocks below to save the little girl. But now that she’d been to the other side, the ghosts wouldn’t leave her alone.
Drew Mullins was a haunted man, quite literally. His mother tortured him as a child and seemed bound and determined to continue doing so seventeen years after her death. Drew, being a necromancer, was having a hard time avoiding her because she didn’t know she was dead.
Between Mac having the little girl’s father haunting her and Drew dealing with his mother’s ghost, they both were a mess. But in each other they found what had been missing in their lives—love.
But when the thirst for revenge heats up, can Steele and his group find a solution? At least one where no one else ends up dead?
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Being a country lawyer was something Christian Stanton had always wanted to do. Taking a client he really didn’t want to represent was not what he had in mind.
Allie had been hired to teach the Stanton men hand to hand self-defense. She loved her job and was quite good at it. She knew about shifters, but had never really worked with them before. And when the big cat shifted into a very naked man proclaiming to be her mate, Allie wanted nothing to do with him.
When it came to Allie, Christian was in big trouble. She was no pushover and the sooner he figured that out the better off he’d be….
“Master McGuire, your father would like a word with you. He said that he will meet you in his study when he has completed his business this morning.” Hugh wanted to ask him what his father wanted, but knew this household well enough to know that they’d not answer him. Most of them would just stare at him as if he had something in his teeth, but none of the staff would go against anything that the master and mistress of the house wanted. Ever. Not that his parents were task masters, but the people who worked for them were very old world, and wouldn’t have gone against them even if they asked them to kill him. Which would never happen either. His parents loved him very much. Nodding once, Hugh pulled his jacket from the closet in the main hall and slipped it on. He knew for a fact that his father wasn’t even in the residence, and that his “little while” could be hours. Hugh had been down this road with his father before. He was as forgetful as he was organized. And Hugh didn’t want to wait. He was easily distracted, his dad. Not his mother, but his dad certainly was. He took being lord very seriously, and did a good job of keeping things in perfect order and done in a timely matter. Hugh thought his father was the best. A little on the annoying side, but he loved him as much as he did his mom. They were both his world, and would be forever. It was a show of just how powerful his father was, Hugh thought. He had no idea— and he had asked—of what made a man know how to be like his dad was. Just simply a man who others knew, instinctively, was in charge. Hugh had known that his parents, the Lord and Lady of Whimmpington, the ninth earl to the estate, were going to be the only ones who took care of the burg they lived in, because he knew he’d never be as good as they were. Everyone in the house did, as well as all of Whimmpington. Hell, he was pretty sure that all of the world knew it. His parents were perfectly suited to being in charge, while he, on the other hand, liked to just have fun. He supposed someday he’d have to straighten up, but not any time soon. As he made his way to his car, he thought of what his father might want with him now. He’d graduated from college, as his father had wanted. Gotten the grades that were required of a man of his stature, and he’d made sure that he kept his nose out of trouble and his dick properly sheathed when he did have to have sex. Smiling, he thought about the sheathed sex he’d had last night. Mary had always been more than willing to let him toss her skirts up over her head and fuck her. In fact, it was a well-known fact that anyone could have Mary for a price. He thought perhaps his dad was the only man alive who had not had a go at her. The woman could suck a nail through a board, too, when she gave head. Crude? Yes. He was no more interested in anything long term than he thought she was. But good Christ, the woman could fuck well.
He’d met her in her father’s orchard just after supper last night, and she’d been as naked as the day she was born. He’d nearly come in his pants when he found her leaning against the apple tree fingering her pretty, bare pussy. As soon as she saw him, she spread her legs and told him to eat her. Not one to turn down a splendid offer like that, he’d stripped down and gotten down on his knees before her. She came twice before she begged him to fuck her. Standing up, Hugh had looked at her, a prime woman who loved sex as much as he did, and wondered if all the rumors about her were true. He’d bet they were, just as the ones about her fucking her way through high school and beyond were. When she’d told him to meet her there, she said she’d give him a fuck to remember, and he was pretty sure she was going to do just that. That was going to be the last time they’d be meeting out here, as he was moving away next week. Mary had large breasts and dark, thick nipples. Lifting up her left breast with both hands, he suckled it while she fisted his cock. When she begged him again to fuck her and Hugh pulled a condom from his pocket, she told him she was too needy to wait, but he knew that there was never going to be unprotected sex between them. Mary had been around, and if she didn’t have protected sex, there was no way he was going to stick his dick in her without a condom. Hugh did not want to chance getting anything she might have picked up elsewhere, much less a child with her. Between long pulls on his cock with her mouth and hands, Hugh knew that he wasn’t going to last as long as she liked to go if she kept this up. “Mary, love, unless you want me to come before I’m in you, you’d better stand up and let me inside of you.” Her mouth let go of him with a small pop, and he wanted to beg her to take him again. “You have a mouth that begs to be fucked. But I need to be in your pussy. Later we can play if you want.” As soon as he pulled the condom over himself, he lifted her up by her ass and slammed his cock as deeply as he could into her hot wet sheath. “Oh yes, Hugh. Fuck me.” He did, pounding her as hard as he could as she wrapped around him. “Harder. Harder.” When she came, screaming out his name as he emptied himself in the condom, he fucked her again just to give her everything he could before he needed a break. When she pulled his head up from her shoulder, Hugh smiled down at her when she nipped at his lower lip. “I needed that.” He laughed. “Christ, I’m going to miss you. You have no idea. That guy I’m supposed to be marrying next summer is going to be boring after this. I think you ruined me. Are you sure you have to go away? I could come with you. We could have so much fun together.” He knew there was no other man. And he also knew that she would more than likely never marry anyone from around here. She’d been with too many men for any parents to even let her marry one of their sons. People did talk. “You’ll be fine. And maybe he won’t be so bad.” He pulled from her and tore the condom off and wrapped it in the foil it had come out of. He was always careful to take all means of DNA with him when he had sex. Another rule of his dear father. “He might have a dick as long as mine and know how to use it.”
He’d been joking really, but she only shrugged. Hugh wasn’t stupid enough to think that Mary wasn’t plotting and planning something. She’d been getting her way since they’d been hanging around together, and she always seemed to have something up her sleeve. Just before he’d been sent away to boarding school, there had been a rumor that she’d had a baby out of wedlock. Not a big deal to him, but the community had been in an uproar about it. But he didn’t ask her about it, nor about a great many things he’d heard about her and her family. He and Mary were fuck buddies and sometimes friends, but not close enough that he’d ask her something so personal. So last night had been a farewell fuck between two people that more than likely would never meet again. Or at least he hoped not. He’d keep an eye out for her, but he knew that he’d never contact her again. When his phone rang he realized that he’d made his way to town and parked at some point in his musings. Pulling out his phone to answer it, he nearly put it away again. His father would not be a happy man to find out that he’d skipped out on talking with him. “When I ask you to come talk to me that is what I mean for you to do, Hugh. I know that I sometimes forget the time, but there is no reason for you to as well. Where are you anyway?” He told him. “Come to the office, please? I have a few things for you to sign before you leave. I meant to do it several days ago, but I got…well, I got distracted. When did you grow up? Never mind. But your mother and I would enjoy your company for dinner this evening. If you can tear yourself away from the Manchester orchard.” He sat there for several minutes with his phone still in his hand after his father had stated what he wanted him to do then hung up. Hugh was twenty-three years old now, not some kid that needed to be ordered around. Not that anyone had ordered him to do much of anything for a long time, but…well, he supposed he was embarrassed that his father knew. Not just about Mary, but the orchard as well. Hugh put his phone on the seat next to him and stared out the window. He could see his father’s empire right in front of him. The building stood high above any other in the town. A monument to a great man and a better father. The McGuires made money. Hugh was pretty sure that they didn’t really print it, even though there were times when he wasn’t so sure. But they did make it. It seemed that everything his father touched turned to gold. And if his mother thought it was a good investment, then it was. People from around the world came to his parents for advice on making more money and how to turn nothing into something. They were that good. Hugh could turn a nickel into a buck as well. He’d taken the money that he’d gotten from his grandmother and turned it into his own little empire. The seven million that she’d left him when he turned eighteen was now worth a billion and a half, and growing daily. Hugh, it seemed, had the touch as well. Hugh wondered again what it was his father wanted. Starting the car, he made his way to the parking lot. His father had no special parking for himself, and he didn’t have any for his son either. Hugh the ninth prided
himself on being like one of the people that worked for him, and Hugh was pretty sure he believed that he was. There was no doubt that aside from being their boss or lord, everyone loved his parents. Including him. It was not that his parents were easy people, as in being saps. In fact, they were very stern, if not a little…okay, a lot stiff. And very much in love with each other. They had money, but they never stopped working, either of them. And they did not indulge on things that they didn’t need. There were no private jets…they all flew commercial, and no boats floated in the harbors. Nor did his parents have a lot of status things in the house. A few paintings and a vase or two, but things they liked, not things they felt they needed so no one else would own them. Hugh loved his parents very much. He thought them odd at times, but he loved them all the same. “Good morning, Master Hugh. Your father is on the phone. He asked me to have you go to his conference room and wait.” Smythen, his father’s right hand man, led him down the hall to the long room and asked him if he wanted anything. It was on the tip of Hugh’s tongue to ask him if he could tell his dad that he’d not shown up, but only shook his head. Hugh wanted to get going, and getting this over with was the only thing holding him back from making arrangements to go to the States again. Fifty minutes after he was shown to the room, with Smythen coming in several times to tell him that his dad was having problems and would come in soon, Hugh was ready to leave. His mother had made a list for him last week of things he had to take care of, and another list of people he had to say goodbye to. Hugh looked at his watch when he decided it was well past time to go. The noise down the hall had him standing. Hugh moved closer to the door and put his ear to the wood to see if he could make it out. Hearing the screams had him pausing at the door but not going out. Whatever was going on, he didn’t want any part of it. The gunshots startled him. They were loud, close even, and the screams were being cut off one at a time. Moving from the door now, Hugh reached for his cell phone to call his father. As it rang and rang in his ear, Hugh looked around for a place to hide. Finding nothing helpful—the room only held a large table and some chairs—he hung up the phone when no one answered and tried his mother. She answered almost immediately. He could hear the screaming coming through the phone as someone, he thought it was his mom, told everyone to be quiet. Then the gunshots started again, louder than they’d been down the hall. When she spoke, he had to ask her what she said, her whispers too low with all the noise going on around them both. “Get out if you can.” He asked her what was going on. “Hugh, get out of the building. Hurry. Someone is shooting everyone they—” This shot was almost right in his ear. And when he heard someone screaming again, he wasn’t sure if it was right outside the room he was in or coming from the phone. Closing his phone, he moved to the door and put his ear to it again. If he was honest, he’d say that he was terrified. And not just a little.
The silence was both scary and a relief. He wasn’t sure if the person or persons shooting everyone was gone or if they were waiting for him to come out. Picking up the phone again, he dialed the police. They answered right away. “I’m in the McGuire building. My name is Hugh McGuire. There are shots being fired. I think someone is killing the people who work here. I’m on the eleventh floor.” She asked him if he could see the shooter. “No. I’m in a conference room just down the hall from the elevators. I think…my mother, I think she’s been hurt, and my father isn’t answering his phone. I need for you to come here right away, please. I think someone is killing everyone.” “We have cars on the way. Are you hurt, Mr. McGuire?” He told her that he was not. Then the shooting started again, with screaming. “Mr. McGuire, I need for you to find a place to hide, can you do that? Somewhere safe, as far from the shooting as you can get.” “I’m not sure what’s going on out there. If I leave here to go somewhere else, I have no idea where this person is, and I could…I don’t know where the shooter is.” She told him to stay put, but to barricade the doors. He had no idea how that was going to work either, but said he’d try. The shooting began again almost as soon as the words left his mouth, this time right in front of where he was standing. He could hear the dispatcher on the phone screaming at him, but Hugh had no idea what she might have been saying. Backing away from the door just as it exploded open, he left the phone on, but slipped it behind him as a man came in the room. He knew him, though he couldn’t place his name. Someone…he backed up when the man entered the room with a gun pointed right at him. “There you are. I knew you were in here somewhere. Hiding out like all the rest of the cowards.” The man standing in front of him looked like any other person that worked for his parents. Suit and tie, and he even had a name badge on with the magnetic strip that got him into the building. “I’m going to kill the last of the McGuires. Payback is a bitch, and you are going to pay like she did. I’d ask you why you did it, but I know. I found out. You bastard. You fucking bastard.” “Payback? I don’t understand what you mean. You killed my parents too? Please, tell me what it is you think we did to you.” The man laughed at him. Hugh read his name badge and knew that he was going to die. He wanted the police to know who it was that murdered them too. “Your name is Burton Dunn, and you say you killed my parents. Why? Tell me what it is you think we did to her. You said her…what is it we did to her that would make you do this?” “You fucking killed her. And now I’m going to kill you too.” The first bullet hit him in the leg. Hugh went down, the pain taking his breath away. “This is for my sister. When I’m finished with you, I plan to go to your house and kill all the people working there as well. I’m going to wipe the McGuire name from the planet. There was just no reason for you to do that to her.”
“Why?” The next bullet hit him in the belly. Hugh fell all the way to the floor, rolling to his back as the man stepped in front of him, his gun pointed at his head. “Why are you doing this?” “Because, you let her die. You killed my baby sister because you and your family are selfish bastards and took everything away when she needed it the most.” Hugh thought he could see the bullet leave the gun, feel it as it pierced his head. Then…then nothing. ~~~ “Hugh?” Sander Phillips looked at his client and waited for him to focus. Wherever he’d been, Hugh was not happy about the memories. And he’d bet anything it had to do with his parents again and the day that they’d been murdered. When Hugh straightened up and looked ready to get back to work, Sander handed him the paperwork that he’d brought for him to sign. Instead of reading it over, which Hugh was meticulous about, he laid it on the table between them and went to the window. “It was twelve years ago today.” Sander knew that, and had taken care that everyone that was going to come into direct contact with Hugh did as well. “I guess you kind of realized that was what I was thinking about just now. It was as if I were there all over again. The entire day rolls through my mind like a loop every day.” “Yes, sir. I can understand that.” He just looked at him, and Sander didn’t even bother to apologize for calling him sir. “We can do this some other time, if you wish. Tomorrow is just as good. There is nothing really that important here that we can’t just do tomorrow.” “No. I need to get this done today.” He came back to the table and picked up the discarded file. “Everything is in their names now, right? James and Becky Mullins will get everything if something should happen to me?” “Yes.” He started to say sir, but one look from Hugh told him he’d not get away with it a second time. “Yes, they’re named as sole heirs to your estate, and Mr. Mullins, their father, is to care for it for them until they reach the age of eighteen. Mrs. Mullins will also receive a payout to do with as she chooses. The rest, the castle and the other properties attached to the estate there, is to be diverted to the burg, and they can do with it as they please.” As the man he had worked for since that terrible day twelve years ago read over the will he’d had him draw up, Sander looked around the room. It was the most un-office like area that he’d ever been in. Not to mention that no one looked like they worked there, but instead seemed as if they were just the cleaning crew or held some other job that didn’t require them to dress up. That was, in fact, frowned upon. No ties or briefcases where allowed. If they had to take things to and from work, they carried a backpack or some other form of carry all. Jackets were the kind that you wore in the winter, not the ones that gave you the appearance that you were someone important. To Hugh McGuire, everyone was the same. And he treated his staff that way as well. He was quirky, as he’d heard others call him, but that came with what he’d suffered, he was sure.
Hugh McGuire was nothing like his father, yet he was just like him. While his father had an air that said he was one of them, nobody ever believed it. Not really. With the younger Hugh, he was just like them, if you forgot about how rich he was. There had seldom been an occasion when he didn’t go out with them when invited. Birthdays were never forgotten, and he seldom forgot a person’s name or those of their family. Hugh was a man of men, a hardworking man who had never gotten over the tragedy of his parents being killed. Then there was his feeling about suits. Everyone just assumed that it had to do with the day that had changed his life, but it was more than that. And mostly due to the men who had stood guard at his bedside when he’d been in the hospital. There had been five men in suits, all of them armed and none of them friendly. Hugh had tried to engage them in conversation, talk to them about what he was feeling. None of them had acknowledged the wounded young man in the bed. When Sander had asked their boss why they couldn’t simply talk to him, help him when he needed it, the man had glared at him. It was their job, he’d been told, not to get friendly with the client. So for nearly six months they stood there, their hands on their weapons and staring at the door as if someone would come in and try to harm him. Men in suits, Hugh told Sander, were the worst kind of people. But there were other things that made him stand out with his peers. Not just his ability to read a person without much information and know everything about them, including what type of home life the person had, but also their worth. As in what kind of worker they were at a glance. How hard they would work, and the best possible job for them. It mattered little what their education level was; he would know what they were better suited for. And he was never wrong. So at almost thirty-five he was the richest man in the world, and also the loneliest. Not to say he didn’t have friends, but Sander doubted any of them knew the real man. Nor the ability he had inherited from his mother that had given him the boost up when it came to money. The young man could see the changes in the climate of a business better than anyone Sander knew, and had made them both very rich. Sander listened to his boss better than he did his own wife. However, he’d never say that to her. “This is good. Send it out to the right people.” As he stood up, so did Sander. There were a couple of other things he needed from his boss, but was hesitant to ask right now. Not today, at any rate. Hugh turned to him and Sander just nodded. Not asking him would not get him the answer he needed. When Hugh smiled at him, Sander decided that now was as good a time as any. “There is that thing tonight. I’ve already said that you are unable to attend, but Mrs. Bennett has asked that you escort her and Mr. Bennett.” Hugh was shaking his head even before he finished. “She said that if…she told me to tell you that if you didn’t go, she’d hunt you down and eat your arm off. I’m pretty sure that she wasn’t kidding, either.” Mrs. Bennett, like Sander, was a panther. She was by far meaner than he was when she needed to be, and she scared him to death each time she called to speak to him. He
was just glad that no one, not even Mr. Mullins, Hugh’s best friend, knew where the offices were. He feared the lovely Mrs. Bennett more than he cared to admit. “I’ll talk to her.” Sander’s relief was profound. “In the meantime, make sure there’s enough staff on hand to answer questions, as well as food for them all. I don’t want anyone complaining that this thing was a bust. And you did make sure that there were donations from the estate? As well as bids on the things we talked about?” “Yes. There is the trip, as well as the paintings that were donated. And there are several other pieces that you expressed a desire to put there as well. The bids that we discussed are with the proper people to use as necessary. No one’s donation will not get bought.” Hugh nodded. “Security has been hired as well, and there are several appraisers on hand to make sure that there are no problems with things that are bought. Just as last year.” Sander knew that no matter what they did, there would be at least one or two things crop up that had been forgotten, but for the most part, things went smoothly. The function was a Christmas fundraiser that had been held annually by Hugh’s mother before she’d been killed. The McGuire name had never been attached to it, nor was it now. But they did raise a great deal of money for the children of the world, and would continue to do so long after the people attending tonight were gone. “Hugh, there is one more thing.” Hugh turned and looked at him. Sander didn’t want to talk to him about this, but there really wasn’t anyone else. “It’s about my retirement, sir. You do know that next week is my last week. And we’ve yet to settle on who is taking my place. I hate to bring this up now, today of all days, but we must settle things.” “I don’t want you to leave me.” He sounded so wounded that Sander almost told him that he’d stay. But he had to go. It was time…he and his wife wanted to have some time, now that their children were all gone, to see a little of the world. “What will I do without you?” “You will survive, sir, as you have done before.” He looked at the scar on his forehead, the one that the monster had given him all those years ago. “My wife said that if I allow you to talk me into staying she will harm us both. I’d believe her if I were you, sir; she is quite set on seeing France and all those other countries I’ve been to on business for you. She and I want to see the world, one city at a time, before we leave this world.” Nodding, Hugh made his way to the door out of his office, but paused there. Sander would do anything for this man, as he had his father before him. But the son, unlike his father, was the genuine article, as his wife said about Hugh…a true man and gentleman. Sander knew that Hugh was a man that was also fighting the worse kind of demons, his own self. “Set me up some interviews for early in the week. Only the ones that you think will work out. I don’t want anyone coming here that…that might want more from me than I have to give.” He told him he would. “And Sander, make sure that they have no priors before they get in the building, please. I don’t want anyone hurt.”
“I’ll make sure that they’re investigated completely.” As Hugh left the area and made his way to the bank of elevators that only went to this floor, he asked him about the last thing. “What of the other, sir? I haven’t…there is the matter of the buildings that needs to be taken care of, as well as the endowment to the burg. What shall I tell them should they ring here again?” “My parents loved that place. And all that went with it.” He turned and looked at him then. The anguish was there, as it was whenever he talked of his parents. “I’ll go there this weekend and see what I can figure out. See if Drew and his family can come with me. I know that they’re working on getting their house in order, so maybe they can use a break from all that. Don’t tell them where we’re going, but that…perhaps your wife would like to go as well? It would be a nice start to your vacationing. Then you can settle up there and get going on that trip.” “I’ll see what she would like to do.” He smiled, knowing that his wife would leap at the chance to go to England. “I’ll take care of the arrangements, as well as any paperwork that the others will need. Anything else?” “No. Not that I can think of right now.” Pressing the button to go down, Hugh smiled at him. It wasn’t the best smile he’d ever seen, but there it was. “I remembered about you leaving, Sander, just so you know.” The doors closed and Sander wasn’t able to reply, even if he had known what to say. Whatever he’d meant by that, Sander would have to wait to ask him when he saw him next. Going to his office, he went to his desk to call his wife and mention the trip to England. She was going to be so happy. But the phone was ringing before he could pick it up. “Oh Sander, you should see it. Oh my goodness, Hugh must have spent a fortune on just the wrapping alone. And it’s so pretty that I don’t want to…I wish you were home with me now. I can hardly contain myself from opening it.” He was ready to ask her what she meant when his doorway was suddenly filled with a large box. And it was topped with a large red ribbon. The men who had brought it in just dropped it off and left, not saying a word or having him sign for it. Sander realized his wife was still talking. “Honey, I have a box here. From Hugh as well.” She squealed, and he had to take the phone from his ear or risk having it explode. Laughing, he continued. “I’m to assume that you’re excited about it, correct? Is your name on it, love?” “Yes. Is that one addressed to you? Oh, I do so hope it is.” He told her it was. “Then I’m opening mine. I’ll call you back when…oh, just open it and I’ll open mine. Then call me when you have it opened.” The phone went dead and he approached the large box. No, that wasn’t right, it was huge. At least six foot tall and that deep as well. And the width of it had to be four or five feet. Sander pulled off the card and read it. “‘Happy retirement, my friend. My parents would have wanted you to have this. I know that I do as well. Take your lovely wife out right, and when you return, I expect to see hundreds of pictures. Send me a postcard too.’” He stared at the card then at the box, almost afraid, like his wife had said, to mess it up…it was that beautiful.
The large red ribbon on the top hung about halfway down the sides. The sides, just thick cardboard covered in paper, he could see now, were held together by string. The heavy kind, but string all the same. The wrapping paper was decorated in large balloons of every color one could imagine, and on each was his name. He was almost afraid to open it. Not for fear, but whatever was inside would be epic, he knew. Pulling on the strings that were tied in a smaller bow than the one on top, he watched as the sides fell open and the top floated down quietly. As they filled the floor, all he could do was stare at the contents. This was more than he could have ever dreamed of receiving, and he knew that for as long as he lived, he’d never be able to thank Hugh enough. Picking up the phone when it rang again, he stared at his gift while his wife spoke. “It’s not real, is it, Sander? He couldn’t have done this for us. It’s too much.” Sander told her he believed that it was and he had. “Sander, he gave us a trip of a lifetime. Several lifetimes. However will we be able to thank him?” The large globe was decorated with envelopes. Each of them stated a country, state, as well as a city. Each one, like the one he’d pulled off when his wife called, would be filled with a plane ticket, an address where they were going to be, as well as a credit card to be spent on food and dining. A second card had been marked for entertainment, as well as any incidentals that they might need. Below the globe was brand new luggage that was spilling out clothing, as well as both casual and dress shoes. There were other boxes too, none of them opened, and Sander could only guess at their contents right now. This really was too much. “We enjoy ourselves is how we repay him. Take this gift and have the best time we can.” She was crying now, and his own eyes filled with tears. “I do believe that he’s the best man I’ve ever known. His parents would have been so proud of him.”