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The Radcliffes
 


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The Radcliffes


  The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

  Copyright © 2017 JBP Business, LLC

  Cover design by Jerry Todd

  Cover copyright © 2017 by Hachette Book Group, Inc.

  Hachette Book Group supports the right to free expression and the value of copyright. The purpose of copyright is to encourage writers and artists to produce the creative works that enrich our culture.

  The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book without permission is a theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like permission to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), please contact [email protected] Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

  Grand Central Publishing

  Hachette Book Group

  1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104

  grandcentralpublishing.com

  twitter.com/grandcentralpub

  First ebook edition: October 2017

  Grand Central Publishing is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. The Grand Central Publishing name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc. The BookShots name and logo are trademarks of JBP Business, LLC.

  The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.

  The Hachette Speakers Bureau provides a wide range of authors for speaking events. To find out more, go to hachettespeakersbureau.com or call (866) 376-6591.

  ISBN 978-1-538-71139-2

  E3-20170906_NF_DA

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Preface

  The Wedding Florist

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  The Horse Trainer

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  The Gourmet Chef

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  About the Author

  James Patterson Recommends

  BookShots

  Newsletters

  Dear Reader,

  There’s nothing more heartbreaking than being in love with someone you can’t have—especially when that person wants to love you back. In this book, you’ll find three of those love stories, where the characters would give anything to be together, even though the world keeps getting in their way.

  Welcome to the world of the Radcliffes, San Francisco’s most elite family. Their name has been synonymous with old money ever since they made a killing during the boom of the shipping industry. You’ll understand their pedigree the moment you read about their mansion on the cliffs and their interactions with their staff.

  But Gabe, Fallon, and Alexandra don’t always keep a proper distance from the people who work for them. How can they, when they find their soul mates in such unlikely and impossible places? This is a collection of stories about challenging and breaking all the rules, all in the name of love.

  I had a lot of fun reading about these characters, who weren’t afraid to be bold and daring as they went after their passions. I hope that you love wrapping yourself up in their world as much as I did.

  —James Patterson

  The Wedding Florist

  Chapter 1

  “That son of a bitch,” Anna Nolan muttered to herself as she sat, fuming, in the standstill traffic along the California 101. She was heading home after her boss had humiliated her by giving her promotion to his unqualified niece, cutting Anna’s job in the process. “That ass could have at least sent me home early enough to avoid this mess.”

  She eyed the long line of brake lights flashing red ahead of her, wondering why the fast lane was the only one not moving. Maybe it was a metaphor for her career. How was she going to come up with her rent now? Her landlord was already breathing down her neck, and the warning notices he’d tacked on her door two weeks ago made one thing clear—there was a good chance she’d have to downsize apartments soon.

  Anna twisted to adjust the massive jewel-toned floral centerpiece in the backseat. She’d taken it with her—okay, stolen it—from the shop’s refrigeration unit. Lifting it straighter, she felt a small sense of satisfaction. Her designs had earned her boss—ex-boss, she corrected—his high-end clientele and, since no one else had seen this one design, she wasn’t about to let him keep it and take credit for it. Or try to copy it, again. Not after kicking her to the curb without any warning. Technically—

  She gasped as a flash of movement in the side-view mirror caught her attention. A speeding sports car cut through the creeping traffic, the sleek lines slipping between cars, coming closer and closer until she realized…it wasn’t slowing. Anna let go of the flower arrangement, faced forward, and stiffened as she braced herself for impact. She gripped the steering wheel and pressed her foot on the brake even harder as the sports car smashed into the rear passenger side of her car, jolting her sideways. It pushed her old Ford onto the shoulder.

  Anna took a deep breath, mentally taking inventory of her situation. Nothing felt broken. Miraculously, she hadn’t rammed into the car ahead of her and the car behind her had avoided the mess. Easing her foot to the gas, she moved her vehicle away from the sports car, cringing as she heard metal scraping. Anna prayed she would at least get a glimpse of the other driver’s license plate before he bolted.

  Parking on the shoulder, she looked backward in time to see a tall man slip out of the sports car. She unclipped her seat belt and shoved her door open. “What the hell w
ere you doing? Do you have any idea—”

  He held up a hand, then pointed at his cell phone to indicate she should wait until he finished his conversation. “Yeah, I just sideswiped a car on the 101. Go ahead and start without me. I won’t be home in time for dinner.”

  Anna’s mouth dropped open. This man had hit her car and he couldn’t even be bothered to get off his damned phone?

  “Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow, love.” He tapped the screen and tucked the phone into the pocket of his slacks. “Hey, sorry about this. I was late and I guess I wasn’t paying attention.” He shrugged and gave her a nonchalant smirk, as if that would remedy the entire situation, as if it was no big deal. “Don’t worry, I’ve already called CHP and reported it.”

  “Excuse me?” Even in the dying light, with the sun sinking low and reflecting off the waters of the San Francisco Bay, something about this man caused a vague sense of recognition to tug at her mind. Anna narrowed her eyes. Perfect chiseled features, penetrating hazel eyes. But she couldn’t quite place him. “Don’t I know you?”

  He held out his hand and gave her a dashing smile, as if he’d expected this to happen. “Gabriel Radcliffe. I’m—”

  Her heart plummeted to her toes as she realized she was talking to “San Francisco’s Most Eligible Bachelor.”

  “I know who you are. Everyone in San Francisco knows who the Radcliffes are.”

  The man’s family had more money than Midas. No wonder he acted like she was nothing more than a minor aggravation. Ignoring his outstretched hand, Anna slipped between the two vehicles to get a look at the damage he’d done to her car.

  “Shit! Really?” She threw her hands up in the air. “Could this day get any worse?”

  After hurrying back to the driver’s side, she pulled the insurance card from her glove box. Then she turned to the backseat for the cell phone in her purse. Toppled on one side, with its array of colorful roses, carnations, and lilies crumpled and scattered, was her arrangement.

  Oh, no! No, no, no! Forget the phone.

  Water pooled around the side of her purse and over the pictures that had come loose from inside her portfolio—the one and only thing she had left to help her land another job since she’d told her ex-boss exactly where he could stick his letter of reference. One day, she’d learn to curb her tendency to burn bridges. Anna quickly yanked the photographs from the water. Shaking them off while droplets reflected the dying light, she prayed they weren’t ruined, but didn’t hold out much hope.

  “Why do these things always happen to me?” she muttered to herself.

  “Look, lady, why don’t I just write you a check for the damages?”

  Anna looked over her shoulder and saw Gabriel leaning over the dented hood of his Audi, scribbling quickly as she tried to dab the water from the pictures with the front of her T-shirt.

  “What?”

  “Here.” He ripped a check from the register before tossing it back inside his car and walking toward her. “This should more than cover it.”

  She glanced down at the ruined pictures in her hands, then at the check in his. There were a lot of zeros on it.

  Was that twenty thousand dollars?

  The check was almost enough to buy a new car. It was certainly enough to cover the cost of the damages and the late rent she owed, with a little more to tide her over until she found another job. She eyed the man standing in front of her. His body language looked carefree, but even with his eyes partially shadowed by the sunset, the lift of his brows made it clear his patience was wearing thin.

  There was no question she should take the money. She should call a tow truck, get her car fixed, and deem this entire disaster a blessing in disguise, but his complete disregard for her welfare and his sense of entitlement enraged her. She was tired of being overlooked and cast aside. First by her boss and now by this guy. In San Francisco, you either had to be “old money” or know someone to get ahead, and, unfortunately, she was failing on both counts.

  All she wanted was to design beautiful flower arrangements, but the universe didn’t seem inclined to give her a break. Every time she seemed to get ahead, to start saving to open her own shop, karma seemed to kick her in the ass and knock her back three steps.

  He shook his hand slightly, the check fluttering as he encouraged her to take it, breaking her from her thoughts. Anna held the pictures against her chest with one hand and plucked the paper from between his fingers with the other, staring at his flowing script. This might not solve her problems, but it could sure go a long way toward helping with them. If she was willing to be satisfied by a temporary fix.

  As much as she might be tempted, she couldn’t accept it.

  Damn my stubborn pride.

  “You didn’t seem too worried that I could have been injured, or concerned that you might have ruined my chances at getting another job. You’re probably not worried about much, are you, Mr. Radcliffe? I seriously doubt you’re worried about what your insurance costs, so I can only assume that you’re trying to pay me off.”

  “Excuse me?”

  Anna’s hands shook and her mind screamed at her to stop. Her fingers moved quickly as she tore the check in half, then in half again. Her hands didn’t stop moving until the check had been shredded into tiny pieces.

  “No, no way. You’re not buying your way out of this.”

  Chapter 2

  As the torn pieces of check rained down at his feet, Gabe had no doubt his shock was apparent on his face. He’d seen a lot in his thirty-two years, both in life and business, so it took a lot to render him speechless, but this scrappy redhead had just managed it. He’d assumed that she’d be impressed once she realized who he was and saw the amount of the check, especially since it was likely more money than her car had cost brand-new.

  The top of her ponytail barely reached his chin, but she planted her fists on slim hips and stepped up to battle him. “I’m sick and tired of people thinking they can just toss me out like last night’s garbage. I’m a person, too.” She stormed back to her car.

  Gabe ran after her. “I didn’t say—”

  “You didn’t have to!” She glared at him before bending over into her backseat, giving him a view of her worn jeans that were hugging some pretty dangerous curves. “You think I haven’t met enough of you to know? Money doesn’t make you more important.”

  Eyes in your head, Gabe. You’re engaged, even if you don’t want to be. Stay away from this one.

  “Look,” he said, trying to soothe her again. “I’m sorry you seem to think—”

  “I don’t think—”

  His patience snapped. “Well, that’s obvious.”

  She stood up and pierced him with her anger. “Do you see this mess?” She pointed at the backseat of her car.

  Gabe glanced into the backseat to see multicolored flowers strewn all over, water spilling from a toppled vase onto more pictures of what appeared to be more floral arrangements.

  “This is what was left of my career and you’ve just flushed it down the toilet.” She shook her head and hit the palm of the hand that wasn’t holding pictures against the top of her car. “Do you have any idea how difficult it is to survive in this city with a job? Now try to imagine living without one.” Her gaze slid over him before she dismissed him with a scoff. “What am I thinking? You have no clue what it’s like to want for anything, do you, Mr. Radcliffe?”

  “I’m sorry. I’ll buy you more flowers, okay? Settle down and I’m sure we can get this worked out.”

  “Oh, you are, are you? You still think you can just throw money at this and make it go away.” She jerked several more pictures from the pile, sighing at the damage. “The flowers aren’t the problem. These are.”

  She shoved several wet pictures at his chest. Gabe jumped backward, clutching them so they didn’t fall to the ground, but keeping them at arm’s length so they didn’t drip on his Armani suit. “The pictures?”

  “Yes, this is—was—my portfolio.”

 
I’ll pay to have the pictures reprinted.”

  “Which would be great if I still had the photographers’ names, or the arrangements from the shoots.” The woman glared at him again, but this time he saw more than anger in her face. Frustration and doubt clouded her eyes. “This is nearly ten years of my career, gone to hell. All because you were in too much of a hurry to watch where you were going.”

  “Now, wait a minute—”

  “No, you wait a minute.” She flipped her long auburn hair back over her shoulder and jabbed a finger into his chest. Gabe forced himself not to smile at the cliché. “We’re going to exchange insurance information and you’re going to accept full responsibility for this accident. This was your fault.”

  “I never said I wouldn’t.” Red and blue lights flashed as they wove between the slow-moving traffic.

  Great. Of course the officer arrives when she is in a full meltdown.

  Women and agitation made for a toxic combination. Gabe had no idea what she might say to a cop in her current state. He should probably consider himself lucky there wasn’t already a news crew out here. The last thing he needed right now was his grandmother breathing down his neck about embarrassing the family. It was difficult enough keeping her happy while trying to deal with her demands about his upcoming wedding.

  Wait! The wedding.

  Gabe looked back at the pictures in his hands. Stephanie Maurier, his fiancée, and his grandmother had been telling him they wanted him to be more involved. He knew nothing about floral arrangements, but even he could see that this woman was talented. The arrangements in the photographs looked more like artwork. He could imagine seeing them displayed in a magazine. She’d put them together in a way that used every part of the plant to make a statement. They weren’t like most arrangements he’d seen that merely looked like flowers in a vase.

  He looked back at the woman muttering unintelligibly from the back of her car, tossing handfuls of blood-red roses onto the side of the highway in the middle of rush hour. There was a good chance he was going to regret this.

  “What if I were to offer you a job?”

  Chapter 3

  “Are you kidding?” Anna couldn’t have heard him correctly. He didn’t even know her name.

 
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