Kiss From a Rose
by Bella Fontaine
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Secrets that were meant to be hidden jump out of the closet in this hot, sexy, enemies to lovers romance.
From USA Today Bestselling Author Khardine Gray writing as Bella Fontaine…
There are two things in this world that I’m certain of:1.Money doesn’t grow on trees.2.Caine Donoghue is the devil. He’s the kind of guy who’s sexy, knows it, and uses his charm to fool you. It doesn’t help that he’s an Ex-Navy man with all that hard muscle and a body built like a god. He’s the devil.
It sounds harsh, but it’s true. I should know because I practically grew up with him. I had to endure many summers of his evil. So I should know.
However, the day came when the man decided to go and shock me.
It only took a fifteen-year absence in each other’s lives, but…one major act of kindness that saved the person I loved most dissolved the barrier I placed up to keep him out.
I never saw it coming.
Me, trapped in the charm he oozed. Me, trapped in the temptation that lured me to him just from his sinful sexy smile. Me, getting lost in a man I thought was my worse nightmare.
Caine Donoghue sucked me into a sizzling hot, whirlwind romance that was so scorching it would make hell feel like the artic.
He unlocked something inside me.
But…us being together unlocked something else.
We unlocked secrets from the past that should have stayed hidden. Secrets that tangle the past with the present, and will affect the future.
Secrets that could destroy us.
It’s only a matter of time.
Then it won’t matter what I think …
Once again, I was sitting in a waiting area.
This time, I was outside Aunt Halle’s room. We weren’t allowed inside with her yet.
I watched Caine sort out all the paperwork. He filled out various forms and gave all his contact details.
I was too numb to think, and we hadn’t actually spoken yet. Not hello, or anything. He’d just jumped into action and sorted things out.
There was one thing that I’d heard though. He said he was with Halle when she collapsed. It was he who’d called the ambulance.
He was there when it all happened. And I wasn’t.
I was in town at the spa thinking of how bad my life was when the woman who’d sacrificed so much for me fought for her life.
I couldn’t believe it. I was so numb I couldn’t think straight, and this all felt like I was watching what was happening play out like it wasn’t happening to me but someone else.
Caine finished talking to Dr. Fernandes and looked at me.
I gazed at him, and like always got that stunned moment where I got sucked into his looks and had to remind myself that the guy couldn’t stand me.
When we saw each other last, he was eighteen and I was fourteen. He’d looked like the regular high school jock who was popular and played football and had the prettiest girls on his arm. Much as I couldn’t stand him back then and knew the feeling was mutual, I was annoyed at myself for finding him attractive.
That annoyance very much filled me now because Caine Donoghue had traded in his boyishly handsome looks for the powerfully-built Navy man who stood before me. He’d cut his long, dark locks and sported a sharp faux hawk that accentuated the angles and planes of his chiseled face and his high, exotic cheekbones.
I couldn’t have been more annoyed at myself for even thinking about him, and at a time like this.
He walked up to me with a tentative expression on his handsome face. His bright green eyes sparkled with a hint of something too, and he attempted a smile.
“Can I get you a coffee or something?”
The last time he got me an or something, there was a frog in the cup. I’d gone to the mall and saw him there with his friends. I thought he was being nice when he brought me a tall Starbucks cup. It shook as I took it, and when I took off the lid, a disgusting frog jumped out. Actually, I think it could have been a toad.
“No, thank you.”
He sat next to me, and I looked at him out the corners of my eyes, then fully. I needed to say thanks. It didn’t matter what happened between us as kids. I needed to tell him how grateful I was. Especially since he didn’t have to be here. “Thank you, for doing this for her. I wouldn’t know what I’d do if you hadn’t offered to help.”
A slow, easy smile crept across his sensual lips. “You’re welcome.”
“I’ll pay you back.” Of course, I would. That was a lot of money to give, and it was a lot of money to part with.
The smile widened on his face. “No, you won’t.”
“Yes, of course I will. I have every intention of doing so.”
He chuckled. “I don’t mean I think you won’t pay it. I mean I won’t accept any repayment.”
I gazed at him long and hard. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking so much from you.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but this isn’t about you, sweetheart.”
Sweetheart. Wow, that was an endearment I never thought I’d hear from him. Not when I was being called Big Bertha when I’d gained a bit of weight in my early teens, Metal Mouth when I had to wear retainers for a few years, Dotto- dot when I had so many zits on my forehead it did look like a game of
connect the dots, and then there was The Ugly Duckling. That one had hurt me the most. I wasn’t ugly, not by a long shot, but he’d taken to calling me that after Mom cut my hair way too short after a relaxer went wrong. My hair had looked like duck feathers. It took forever to grow back.
“It’s a lot of money, and they only gave us the minimum, could be more.”
“Can’t put a price on life, and you can’t put a value on a woman like Halle.
She’s priceless. She was like a mother and father to me, so I’ll provide whatever she needs. And you won’t pay me back, Anya.”
My name sounded foreign on his lips, probably because he’d rarely ever called me by it.
“Thank you. I thank you for her.” I looked over to the window, at Aunt Halle on the hospital bed.
She still looked so frail and weak. I hated seeing her that way.
“So... long time. Fifteen years,” Caine spoke.
“Very long time,” I answered, but I didn’t look at him. I kept my gaze trained on Halle.
“You were still in training bras.”
I frowned and turned to face him. “And you were a big-headed jock.”
“I thought you’d write me.”
Now I squinted at him and wrinkled my nose. “What?”
“When I went to join the Navy, I thought you’d write.”
“Why in the world would you think that?” No way was he being serious.
He smirked at my reaction.
“Oh, we were such good friends, I just thought you’d keep in touch. You know, seeing as how I went to Afghanistan and Iraq. It was dangerous. A letter here and there, or even a Post-it note just to say hey would have been nice.” He nodded.
I blinked several times. “Caine Donoghue, I’m pretty certain your host of admiring fans would have written to you.”
“Not you though.”
“I’m not the letter-writing type. It wouldn’t have worked.” Better to say that.
“So, how come you went to see her? You were at the motel?”
“I visit her every time I’m home. Sometimes I stay over and help out if things need doing. I got back Monday, and I was visiting today when it happened.”
I was surprised to hear that he went to visit her, but admittedly in awe to hear it. Halle hadn’t worked for the Donoghue’s in nearly the same time that I hadn’t seen Caine. When he left, she continued to work for them for an additional five years, then left to start her business.
She’d worked her fingers to the bone for twenty years and saved up, so she could start her own business. The motel she called The Hideaway Motel. Located on the coast of Wrightsville Beach, the place was perfect and attracted quite a lot of tourists. Aunt Halle took great pride of the place. She was even more proud because she was one of the first African Americans to set up a motel in that area.
It was her accomplishment, and I was proud of her.
“What happened? I didn’t even know she had a heart condition.”
“She didn’t tell you?” He lowered his brows.
He nodded. “For a while now. I was the one who encouraged her to get treatment, and that was years ago.”
I winced. “Why wouldn’t she tell me that? Something so important.”
He sighed. “Well, she was always very protective of you. Maybe it was that.
She just didn’t want you to know because she knew how worried you’d be.”
“I would have moved back here sooner.” That was for sure. I would have come back and taken care of her. It wouldn’t have gotten to this stage where she was in hospital with talk of surgery.
“That’s probably why you didn’t know.”
“How did it happen? What happened today?”
“When I got to the motel, there were some shady-looking guys talking to her in reception. She looked terrified. I got rid of them, but I think they’ll be back. Looked like they were loan sharks, and not the understanding type either. We went to the back office to talk, and she grabbed her chest and collapsed.”
I released a strained breath. This was getting from bad to worse. “Loan sharks?”
“Yes. I would say so. Anya, I think things may be a lot worse than Halle led anyone to believe. She looked sick, and the motel doesn’t look like it used to, plus she seems to be working overtime and doing the job of four or five people. The usual crew were there, but she has less staff than last year.”
God, what did it mean? Clearly, she was struggling financially. I couldn’t believe it was that bad.
Loan sharks. Halle hated loans of any kind. She never even allowed me to get a student loan. After Mom died, she paid for everything for me. She’d paid for everything well before, right from when Dad walked out. But when I had no one left in the world, she made it so I could still have all that I ever needed and wanted.
Caine was right. Halle was mother and father to him. She was that for me too.
“I didn’t know things were so bad. I feel just awful,” I said breathlessly.
“I feel bad too. She didn’t tell me anything either. I had to guess she was sick.”
“At least you can help her now.” I couldn’t.
“Anya, I would have preferred to stop things from getting this bad. Dr. Fernandes said she used to be on the full insurance and switched things over to the lower package after the price increased. A simple thing like that, and it could have meant she didn’t get the proper treatment.”
“She looks so frail.”
“She’s strong. A fighter. She has to make it.”
“I don’t know what to do.”
“We just sit here and wait.”
“We?” Was he going to stay with me?
As I pressed back into the chair, my shoulders tensed. Tears streamed down my cheeks, but the warmth of his large hands over mine soothed me. I had to look down at where his hand rested on top of mine on the crisscross pattern of the metal bench.
He was the last person I thought would be here to offer me comfort right now.A lump formed in my throat, and my chest tightened. I had the feeling that bad luck of mine was about to really show its true colors.
What I’d experienced before was nothing.
Bella Fontaine is the multicultural and interracial romance pen name of USA Today Bestselling bestselling author Khardine Gray.
The name is to honor the strong, super talented, and courageous women in her family who inspired her to write and do what she loves most.
As with her other books expect hot, steamy, contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Expect drool-worthy heroes and sassy heroines. People falling in love and the wild, sexy fun they have on their journey.
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