Called Home to the Edge, страница 1
Table of Contents
About the Author
Called Home to the Edge
ISBN # 978-1-78686-250-1
©Copyright Aliyah Burke 2017
Cover Art by Posh Gosh ©Copyright July 2017
Edited by Shannon Combs
Totally Bound Publishing
This is a work of fiction. All characters, places and events are from the author’s imagination and should not be confused with fact. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, events or places is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher, Totally Bound Publishing.
Applications should be addressed in the first instance, in writing, to Totally Bound Publishing. Unauthorized or restricted acts in relation to this publication may result in civil proceedings and/or criminal prosecution.
The author and illustrator have asserted their respective rights under the Copyright Designs and Patents Acts 1988 (as amended) to be identified as the author of this book and illustrator of the artwork.
Published in 2017 by Totally Bound Publishing, Think Tank, Ruston Way, Lincoln, LN6 7FL, UK
Totally Bound Publishing is a subsidiary of Totally Entwined Group Limited.
This book contains sexually explicit content which is only suitable for mature readers. This story has a heat rating of Totally Sizzling and a Sexometer of 1.
CALLED HOME TO THE EDGE
Book one in The Edge series
Unexpected situations can be amazing if you allow yourself to believe.
Joseph Meyers grew up on a fruit farm in northern Wisconsin, and planned on spending his life there until the day his father kicks him off. Over a year later and he returns because the old man has had a stroke.
Sissy Edwin has taken over the job her mother had as housekeeper for the Meyers family after she passed. As a single parent, she’s focused on two things—doing her job and raising her son, Taylor.
These two had grown up together and had a one-night stand, but now things are different. They’re not in high school and they both have goals. Joseph’s is to have her back in his life, as she woke part of him that was dead for so long, hers is to do right by her son. Do they have what it takes to keep it all at The Edge, or will everything fall apart?
Thank you so much to Totally Bound for allowing me to do another series with them. To my husband, for always encouraging me to follow my dreams. To my readers, thank you so much for the support. This series is for those who know what it’s like growing up in a small town where everyone knows your business, whether you want them to or not.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Civic: Honda Motor Company
John Deere: Deere and Company
“It can’t keep going this way, Jen. He won’t listen and it’s about to sink all around him and Mom. You have a business degree. Can’t you get him to listen to some advice? Something that could save the farm?”
The woman across from him shook her head. Her blue eyes, usually full of sparkle, were subdued.
“I didn’t realize it had gotten so bad. I know our father is a stubborn old fool, Joseph, but to say he kicked you out of the farm because you looked at the books? Really? Even if I do talk to him and I can do it until I’m blue in the face, he still won’t be convinced that any way other than his own is the right one.”
Joseph Meyer stared at his twin. She had a point.
“Besides,” she continued. “You were just there and if he’s not listening to you, hell, if he’s telling you not to come back, what makes you think he’d even entertain listening to me?”
Joseph shrugged and took a swig of his beer. He gazed around the bar and sighed. Upper class, posh, and not his scene, although he was getting his share of looks from the women there.
They must be tired of pale, skinny businessmen. Even his sister out-dressed him. She still wore her business suit from her day job at some corporation. Her blonde hair had been yanked back in a savage bun. Not at all the girl he remembered, with her hair flying everywhere as they did chores on the family farm.
“Stop judging, Joe,” she said with the familiar bite to her tone. “I didn’t want to stay there like you did.”
“As if it’s doing me any good now. I can’t stay there, I’ve been booted off the farm.” He shook his head and pointed at her. “But Princeton? You’re even acting like a snob. Look at this place.”
“Just because the floors are clean and bar top polished doesn’t mean it’s a bad place.”
“No, but the cost of the watered-down drinks does.”
She rolled her eyes. “They serve top shelf here.”
“May be what it states on the label but I know my liquor and that shit is watered down.” He held up his hands, not having come here to argue with her—he needed her help. “Could you at least try to talk to him about it next time you’re home? Offer to scan the books and use that degree to help out?”
“I’m not going home until Christmas, but yes, I will do it when I get there.” She sipped her drink. “What are you going to do? I’m not sure what I can offer him. I thought he had someone to handle the books.”
“He refuses to let anyone help out. But from the stress on his face and Mom’s, it’s not good.”
Joe got off the high chair and raked a hand through his hair. “Be right back.” Maneuvering through the crowd, he smiled at the women and nodded at the men. How his sister enjoyed this atmosphere was beyond him. That they watched him, too, didn’t bother him. Joe knew he stood out with his jeans, Henley and his heavy work footwear, especially in a place dominated by thousand-dollar suits.
Coming back from the bathroom, he realized he was exhausted and wanted some rest. The past few weeks had been harder than he’d expected and the idea of not having to roll out of bed to begin his day was sort of a bittersweet knowledge. Damn near nirvana on one hand and sad on the other. Being a fruit farmer was the only life he knew and now he wasn’t allowed to go back to the family farm.
His sister spoke to someone and he waited until she’d finished. She smiled and beckoned to him.
“Come on, Joe. You look exhausted. Crash at my place and we can continue this over breakfast.” She made a hand gesture. “Or lunch given how late you may sleep.”
He rubbed the back of his neck and nodded. “Sounds good to me.”
Hefting the bag that had been at their feet, he then followed outside to her small sporty two-seater. He couldn’t tell what kind of car. He knew trucks and tractors. He knew about cherries, raspberries, apples and more. Not sports cars.
Joe tossed his bag into the middle of the trunk and climbed in on the passenger side, groaning before locating the adjustment bar for the seat, allowing him to stretch out his long legs. He dozed on the way to her place. As they entered her apartment, he gazed about.
“Fancy,” he said with a whistle.
No hint at all to where she came
“Were you expecting images of cows to be up everywhere?”
Perhaps. “No, but maybe a shot or two of your family.”
“They’re in my bedroom.” She headed down the hall, her heels clicking with each step. Jen gestured. “In there.” She kicked off her shoes and grabbed some linens before entering another room.
Within ten minutes he’d said goodnight to his twin and had climbed into the bed she’d provided for him to use. She’d done well for herself, no doubt. Joe closed his eyes and succumbed to his exhaustion.
He woke early, as his body had long been conditioned to do, but when it sank in where he was, he rolled over and went back to sleep. There would be time later to deal with what was before him.
* * * *
Eighteen months later
“Joe! Call on line two for you.”
He tossed the rag over his shoulder and walked away from the bar to take the call. Outside, snow fell and soon it would be Thanksgiving, then on to Christmas. He’d not gone home since his father had kicked him out. He shook his head. Now wasn’t the time to dwell on that.
“This is Joe,” he said, pitching his voice to carry over the noise in the bar where he worked. He lived above it and put all his time into odds and ends, saving up what he could. He still lived in Wisconsin but had left the county where he’d spent his entire life.
His mother’s voice was tear-laden.
“Mom? What’s wrong?” He put his left hand up to his ear to block out some of the sounds.
“It’s your father. He’s had a stroke, I need you to come home.”
Fear slammed into him. “I’m on my way, Mom. I’ll be there in the morning.” If he had to drive all night, he would. Snow or not.
“I’ll call your brother and sisters as well. Hurry, please.”
The call ended and he located his boss, an older man of incredible height who went by the name Tiny.
“What’s up, Joe?”
“I have to go home.”
Tiny paused and gestured for him to head to the office. The second the door closed he turned and crossed his massive arms. “What’s happening? You said you weren’t ever going back again.”
“That was my mom. My dad had a stroke.”
“Go. I’ll have someone pack your items and send them to you along with your final check. If there’s anything I can do, don’t hesitate to call on me.”
“Thanks so much, Tiny. Sorry to leave you shorthanded.”
“Think nothing of it. It’s been my honor getting to know you these past few months. Drive carefully.”
Joe shook his hand then jogged upstairs to grab a bag. Within the hour, he was on the road, heading to the place he hadn’t been sure he would ever be welcome back to again.
Sissy worried her lower lip as she continued to gaze out of the window. Her insides were a mess and she wanted nothing more than to run off and hide. But she couldn’t. She worked for the Meyers family now and had for the recent year since her mother had passed away.
“Is this what I had planned to do with my life? No, but it is what it is. I tried to leave this place but The Edge wasn’t about to let me go.” She ran the dust rag over the spot she’d already cleaned four times now. “Which is why there’s a sign on the outskirts that states, ‘You’ve reached The Edge, nowhere else to go.’”
The town was small but during fruit season, it was a huge tourist trap. Also for the fall leaf aficionados they had a lot of people through this small piece of heaven. And it wasn’t as if she didn’t love it here—she’d just had bigger plans, grander plans.
“Something that didn’t constitute me cleaning up after someone else to make a living.” Especially for a family she had grown up beside. With a boy she’d had a crush on. Still did, if she wanted to think about it. Not only that, but she’d done other things with him as well.
“Which I don’t.” She swiped angrily at the polished table top and sighed. It wouldn’t do her any good to break something.
A truck turned up the drive and her belly knotted. Joseph had returned. Over a year since his father had kicked him off the farm and now here he was, approaching the house. She recognized his battered truck. Hell, I probably know the thing better than he does for all the fantasies I had about the two of us in the bed of that vehicle.
Behind it was a smaller car and she wondered who that could be. Certainly, if he had a woman coming with him, she would be riding with him, right?
She seriously had to get it together. This was neither the time nor the place for her to be thinking anything along those lines. They were coming home because their father had had a stroke.
She loved the elder Joseph Meyers. He’d always made her laugh and it had scared the shit out of her when that stroke had happened. She’d come back to town when her own mother had needed her home and none of his children had been around. Sissy had watched him get progressively worse. Yet the stubborn man he was, he’d refused to slow down. Then the stroke happened and everything changed. The entire atmosphere in the area was different. The town seemed more somber as a whole. The Meyers were a big part of the town and its history.
She wiped her hands on the apron around her waist and turned to get back to the kitchen to check on the meal cooking in the oven. Mrs. Meyers was upstairs with her husband and if the vehicles hadn’t been on their way up the drive, Sissy would have gone up soon and had her come down to eat something. The woman hadn’t eaten much at all.
She’d just closed the oven door as the front swung open.
“Mom!” Joseph’s deep voice filled the air. “Where are you?”
Sissy moved to the doorway and laid eyes on the man for the first time in years. Broad shoulders pushed against the leather jacket draped over them. Tight jeans tempted her mind down roads best left untraveled. Behind him stood a stunning blonde and it took her a moment before it sank in. Jen, his twin. As rough and untamed as Joseph appeared, she was polished and refined.
Joseph turned and glanced at her, those beautiful Meyers blue eyes pinning her for a second, and moved on. “Where’s my mother?” he demanded.
“Upstairs with your father.” She found the wherewithal to speak.
Joseph took off up the stairs. She’d polished the railing earlier, and its smell gave a faint beeswax scent to the air that combined with the winterberry and the food in the oven. That left her with Jennifer.
The stunning blonde looked at her, canting her head to the side. “Sissy?”
“Hi, Jennifer. I’m so sorry about what happened to your dad.”
“Good to see you. And thanks. How’s Mom doing? And how long have you been working here?”
“Your mom isn’t getting enough sleep or food. I can’t force her like my mom would have been able to do. I’ve been here for about a year after my mom passed.”
She squeezed Sissy’s arm. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you. I can take your bags up to the room for you if you’d like.”
“Thanks.” She headed up the stairs after and Sissy waited there until the clacking of her heels faded. Only then did she start for the bags, grab each one by the handles and pick them up. Cripes, these are heavy. At least one is.
Each child had their own room and she knew the others should be arriving later in the day. She put Jennifer’s bag in hers then carried Joseph’s to his and hesitated a moment before entering.
She’d just made the double bed that morning with fresh linens, as she’d done the rest of the rooms. Less for Mrs. Meyers to do and giving her more moments with her husband. Sissy set down the bag near the foot of the bed and turned to leave when she drew up short. Joseph stood in the doorway, staring at her. His expression seemed confused, almost as if seeing her for the first time.
“Excuse me, Mr. Meyers, I’ll just get out of your way.” She’d nearly called him Joseph, which was inappropriate now.
“Thanks for bringing that up here. Where’s
Christ, we grew up together. I was practically raised in this house given the number of hours my mom worked here. And now you don’t even know who I am? Well, it certainly tells me he’s not been having dreams about me, nor does he remember we’ve been naked with each other and fucked.
“Mrs. Edwin no longer works here. I’m the new housekeeper.” She pasted a smile on her face. “Excuse me.” Doing her best to avoid any contact with his hard body, she edged by him and down the stairs.
Back in the kitchen, she fought to keep from swearing. How was it he no longer knew who she was? Hell, even Jennifer remembers me and she’s been gone for a lot longer than he has been.
The rest of the day went by in a blur of activity. The remaining two siblings had shown up and she’d served them supper precisely at six, then as they’d walked out of the dining room, she’d gotten to work on clean up. She’d just finished the final bit, dropping the rag over the sink divider, when a prickle ran up the back of her neck.
Turning slowly, she sucked in a sharp breath at finding Joseph standing there. Somehow wishing she had something to hold almost like a barrier between them, she gave him a small smile. “I was just about to head out. Can I fix you anything before I go?”
He didn’t speak, just walked toward her, eyes locked on hers. Her insides were doing the funky chicken. She waited for him to say what he was doing in here or what he required of her.
I wouldn’t be averse to him taking me to his bed. I would love one more night with him. Not at all what she needed to recall. Their one night of drunken mishaps while they’d been in high school shouldn’t be her focus. It should be not to look or sound like an idiot.