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Confessions hes the rich.., p.1
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       Confessions: He's the Rich BoyHe's My Soldier Boy, p.1

           Lisa Jackson
 
Confessions: He's the Rich BoyHe's My Soldier Boy


  LOVE AND TRUST DON’T ALWAYS GO HAND IN HAND...

  HE’S THE RICH BOY

  Young love—that was what Nadine and Hayden had. The kind of love that captures the soul and never dies. That is, until Hayden’s father swindled Nadine’s family, and they didn’t see each other for thirteen years.

  When his father suddenly dies, Hayden returns home to the family’s lakeside mansion—and to his first love. But Nadine and her two young sons aren’t quite ready to trust again. Soon Hayden is left trying to work through mistrust and misinformation to gain the love of the girl no amount of money could make him forget....

  HE’S MY SOLDIER BOY

  Dark, sexy and dangerous, young Ben Powell could steal kisses as deep and stormy as Whitefire Lake. But when he cruelly accused Carlie Surrett of unthinkable sins, he left her in the dust of her shattered dreams.

  Now, steelier than ever after his stint in the army, Ben is back—making Carlie curse the love that all but destroyed her...and the volcanic passion that still sears her soul.

  Dear Reader,

  I’m thrilled to be telling you about Confessions. This book contains two novels in the continuing story of Gold Creek and the Legend of Whitefire Lake. You met some of the characters in Secrets and Lies, my earlier novel that included the stories of Jackson Moore and Rachelle Tremont in He’s a Bad Boy, and Heather Tremont Leonetti and Turner Brooks in He’s Just a Cowboy. Now, the saga continues!

  In Confessions, another 2-in-1 volume, you’ll meet Nadine Warne, a struggling single mother, and Hayden Garreth Monroe the IV, the richest boy in town, in the first story, He’s the Rich Boy. Then Carlie Surrett and Ben Powell take center stage in the final book, He’s My Soldier Boy. Their tales are both heartwarming and intriguing. I think you’ll like them.

  I remember writing these novels when my children were adolescents. Recently one of my grown sons picked up He’s the Rich Boy and noted that one of the scenes in the book, the part where Nadine’s two not-so-perfect sons arrive home from school, was very reminiscent of his own life. He read the scene aloud and asked me if I’d used events from my life (as well as his and his brother’s) for this particular book.

  “Uh, not all of them,” I told him. But the truth of the matter is, yes, those two rambunctious fighting boys, they do “remind” me of my own. Hmmm. I wonder why?

  Anyway, enjoy Confessions! I’ve had so much fun going back to Whitefire Lake and being reunited with these characters. I hope you do, too!

  If you want to catch up with me and my other books, please visit www.lisajackson.com or “friend” me on Facebook and join the conversation. It can get interesting!

  Keep reading,

  Lisa Jackson

  Also available from Lisa Jackson

  and Harlequin HQN

  Rumors: The McCaffertys

  Secrets and Lies

  Abandoned

  Strangers

  Sweet Revenge

  Stormy Nights

  Montana Fire

  Risky Business

  Missing

  High Stakes

  Secrets

  And coming soon...

  Disclosure: The McCaffertys

  Lisa Jackson

  Confessions

  He’s the Rich Boy

  Contents

  Prologue

  BOOK ONE

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  BOOK TWO

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Epilogue

  Prologue

  Whitefire Lake, California

  The Present

  NADINE WARNE RUBBED the kinks from the back of her neck and considered taking a bubble bath to soothe her stiff joints. How long had it been since she’d allowed herself the luxury of an hour soaking in a tub of hot water?

  Years.

  She simply didn’t have the time. With the tiring job of cleaning other people’s houses, a smaller business on the side that she was trying to get off the ground while single-parenting two rambunctious preteen boys, there didn’t seem to be a minute she could call her own.

  “Such is life,” she told herself pragmatically.

  She carried her mops and pails and boxes of wax and cleansers into the house and stashed them inside the cupboard near the back door of her small cabin. The house wasn’t much, but it was paid for and the land it rested on, on the south side of the lake, would be valuable someday. She was counting on it. This small plot of land was her investment for the future—her boys’ education, and nothing, not heaven or hell, would take it from her. She’d been robbed of the education promised to her, and ever since then she’d vowed to herself that her children wouldn’t have to make that particular sacrifice.

  And she wouldn’t be as foolish as her father and believe in a rich man’s dream. She scowled and refused to think about the wealthy bastard who had swindled her father.

  She’d put all her hopes and dreams into this little piece of real estate. Even though the prime properties were located on the north shore of Whitefire Lake, soon enough there would be no more land for wealthy people to build dream homes and they would have to search elsewhere; most likely on the south side.

  Nadine was convinced that there would come a time when water-frontage upon Whitefire Lake would all be worth a pretty penny. At least she hoped so. That was why, when she and her ex-husband, Sam, had divorced, she’d fought like a terrier to keep this old cottage.

  She smiled as she reheated a pot of coffee and glanced at the kitchen. Large enough for a table pushed against one wall, the cozy room boasted a few pine cabinets, a small expanse of wooden counter and one window surrounded by red gingham curtains that matched the three place mats stacked beneath the napkin holder and salt and pepper shakers on the table. Not much, but all she could afford.

  In addition to the kitchen there was a living room, single bath, one bedroom, a large pantry converted into her sewing room and “office” and a loft with bunk beds for the boys. Not exactly the Ritz, but comfortable enough, and what John and Bobby lacked in creature comforts was surpassed by the fact that they lived practically in the wilderness, with the lake a bare twenty yards from the front porch. Frogs, deer, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons and birds were in abundance. Her children, whether they knew it or not, were far from deprived.

  They should be returning soon, she thought, and glanced toward the road. Each day after school they rode their bikes to a neighbor’s house where they stayed until Nadine arrived home. John was old enough to protest being “babysat,” but both boys were too young to fend for themselves even for a few hours.

  Pouring coffee into a mug, she wondered how things would have worked out if, as she’d hoped, Turner Brooks, a rancher she worked for, had shown her the least bit of interest. She’d been attracted to him for years, even fantasized that he would someday open his eyes and fall in love with her, but it hadn’t happened. He’d found his own true love with Heather Leonetti, a beautiful girl from his past, and Nadine had surprised herself in letting go of her dream so easily. Maybe she hadn’t really loved him after all. Maybe, after the pain of her divorce, Turner had seemed a safe haven—a no-nonsense cowboy who talked straight and didn’t promise her the moon.

  Unlike the other men in her life.

  Sam, her husband, had been a dreamer who’d spent too many hours drinking to actually make any of his plans come together, and the other man—the one to
whom she’d given her heart so many years ago—was a forbidden and bitter thought.

  Hayden Garreth Monroe IV. Even his name sounded as if it had been hammered in silver. At one time Hayden had been the richest boy in town, with only the Fitzpatrick boys, his cousins, for rivals to the title. And she’d been silly enough, for a brief period, to think that he cared for her.

  Stupid, stupid girl. Well, that was all a long time ago, thank God.

  She heard gravel crunching on the drive and knew the boys and their bicycles had arrived. Hershel, the mutt they’d inherited when someone had dumped him as a half-grown pup, yipped excitedly at the back door. With the pounding of quick feet and a few insults hurled at each other, the boys scrambled into the house, Hershel jumping at their heels.

  “Shoes!” Nadine said automatically.

  “Aw, Mom!” John complained, his face an angry pout as he kicked off a pair of high-tops.

  Bobby, her seven-year-old, did the same, black Converse sneakers flying against the wall as he shed the shoes and made a beeline in his stocking feet for the cookie jar.

  “Hey, wait a minute!” John ordered, concerned lest he somehow not get as many cookies as his younger brother.

  “You both wait a minute,” Nadine interjected, grabbing John by his thin shoulders and hugging him. “The least you could do is say hello and tell me how your day went at school.”

  “Hello,” Bobby said cheerily, snatching two peanut-butter cookies before the jar was wrested away from him by John. “I got a B on my spelling test.”

  “That’s great.”

  “Yeah, well, I got a ‘biff,’” John retorted with a touch of defiance as he snagged a couple of cookies for himself.

  “A what?”

  “He got put up against the wall at recess,” Bobby eagerly explained. “By the duty.”

  “Why?”

  “’Cause she said I said a bad word, but I didn’t, Mom, honest. It was Katie Osgood. She said the S word.”

  “I think I’ve heard enough. But I don’t want to hear that you’ve been saying anything that even brushes upon swearing. Got it?”

  “Yeah, sure,” John said sullenly, looking at the floor. “Uh, Mrs. Zalinski’s gonna call you.”

  Nadine’s lungs tightened at the mention of John’s teacher. “Why?”

  “‘Cause she thinks I was cheating on a test, and I wasn’t, Mom, really. Katie Osgood asked to use my pencil and I told her to buzz off and—”

  “Stay away from Katie Osgood,” Nadine cut in, and John, now that his admission was over, muttered something about Katie being a dweeb and followed Bobby into the living room. Hershel, eyes fixed on the cookies, bounded after the boys, his black-and-white tail wagging wildly.

  The phone rang and Nadine sent up a silent prayer for her confrontation with the teacher. John was always having trouble in school. He, more than Bobby, had shown open defiance and anger since her divorce nearly two years before.

  “Hello?” she answered as the theme music for the boys’ favorite cartoon show filtered in from the living room.

  “Mrs. Warne?” The voice was cool and male. Principal Strand! Nadine braced herself.

  “Yes.”

  “This is William Bradworth of Smythe, Mills and Bradworth in San Francisco. I represent the estate of Hayden Garreth Monroe III....”

  Nadine’s heart nearly stopped beating and her stomach curled into a hard knot of disgust. Hayden Garreth Monroe III had been the catalyst who had started the steady decline of her family. She’d only met him once, years before, but the man was brutal—a cutthroat businessman who had stepped on anyone and anything to get what he wanted. Including her father. In Nadine’s estimation, Monroe was a criminal. She felt little remorse that he was dead.

  “What do you want, Mr. Bradworth?”

  “Your name was given to me by Velma Swaggart. I’m looking for a professional to do some housekeeping.” At this moment in time, Nadine would gladly have strangled her aunt Velma. Just the name Monroe should have been enough of a clue for Velma to come up with another maid service. “So I’m willing to pay you the going rate to clean the house at 1451 Lakeshore Drive,” Bradworth continued, and Nadine held back a hot retort.

  Instead she stretched the phone cord taut so that she could look through the window and across the lake. Far in the distance, on the north shore, surrounded by tall redwood and pine trees, the Monroe summer home sprawled upon an acre of prime lakefront property.

  “The job would entail a thorough cleaning and I’d want a report on the repairs needed. If you could find someone in the area to fix up the place, I’d like their names—”

  “I’ll have to think about it, Mr. Bradworth,” she said, deciding not to cut the man off too quickly, though she would have liked to have sent him and his offer packing. But right now, money was tight. Very tight. Aunt Velma knew that she was hungry and Velma had probably swallowed her own pride in giving out Nadine’s name.

  There was a deep pause on the other end of the line. Obviously Mr. Bradworth wasn’t used to being put off. “I’ll need an answer by tomorrow afternoon,” he said curtly.

  “You’ll have one,” Nadine replied, and silently cursed herself for looking a gift horse in the mouth. Who cared where the money came from? She needed cash to fix up her car, and Christmas was coming.... How would she afford to buy the boys the things they needed? But to take money from old man Monroe’s estate? She shuddered as she hung up the phone.

  Her eyes clouded as she walked out the back door and along the path that skirted the house and led down to the dock. A stiff, November wind had turned, causing whitecaps to form on the lake’s usually smooth surface. She remembered the old legend of the lake, conceived by local Native Americans but whispered by the first white settlers. The story had been passed down from one generation of white men to the next, and she wondered how much of the old myth was true.

  Rubbing her arms, she stared across the graying water, unaffected as raindrops began to fall. The Monroe estate. Empty for nearly thirteen years. A splendid summer home, which Nadine had never had the privilege of visiting, but which had gained notoriety when it was discovered that Jackson Moore and Rachelle Tremont had spent the night in the house on the night that Roy Fitzpatrick was killed. Jackson had been the prime suspect as Roy’s killer and Rachelle had been his alibi. She’d ruined her reputation by admitting that they’d been together all night long.

  Few had gone back to the house since. Or so the gossip mill of Gold Creek maintained. Nadine had no way of knowing the truth.

  She thought for a poignant moment about Hayden, the old man’s son. Named for his father, born and raised with a silver spoon stuck firmly between his lips, Hayden Garreth Monroe IV had been more than a rich boy. At least to Nadine. If only for a little while. Until he’d shown his true colors. Until he’d proved himself no different than his father. Until he’d used money to buy off her affections.

  Nadine bit her lower lip. She’d been such a fool. Such an innocent, adoring fool!

  Her Reeboks creaked on the weathered boards of the dock and the wind blew her hair away from her face. Shivering, she rubbed her arms and stared across the lake to the wealthy homes that dotted the north beach of Lakeshore Drive.

  To the west, the Fitzpatrick home was visible through the thicket of trees, and farther east, the roofline of the Monroe summer home peeked through the branches of pine and cedar.

  “Damn it all,” she whispered, still cursing the day she’d met Hayden.

  Meeting him...riding in his boat...thinking she was falling in love with him had seemed so right at the time. Now she knew her infatuation with Hayden had been a mistake that would remain with her for the rest of her life. She could recall their short time together with a crystal-clear clarity that scared her.

  As raindrops drizzled from the sky, she let her mind wander back to that time she’d told herself was forbidden:when she’d been young and naive and ripe for adventure, and Hayden Garreth Monroe IV had shoved his way into he
r world and turned it upside down....

  BOOK ONE

  Gold Creek, California

  The Past

  Chapter One

  “YOU MAKE SURE you pick me up at quittin’ time,” Nadine’s father said as his truck bounced through the gravel lot of Monroe Sawmill, where he worked. He parked in the shade of the barking shed, twisted his wrist and yanked the key from the ignition of his old Ford pickup. The engine shuddered and died, and he handed the key to his daughter.

  “I won’t be late,” Nadine promised.

  Her father winked at her. “That’s my gal.”

  Nadine’s fingers curled over the collar of her father’s dog, Bonanza, who lunged for the door and whined as George Powell climbed out of the cab and walked toward the office where he’d punch in before taking his shift in one of the open sheds. “Hold on a minute,” she told the anxious shepherd. “We’ll be home soon.”

  Thinking of the Powells’ rented house caused a hard knot to form in her stomach. Home hadn’t been the haven it had once been and the chords of discontent in her parents’ marriage had, in the past months, become louder. Sometimes Nadine felt as if she were stranded in the middle of a battlefield with nowhere to turn. Every time she opened her mouth to speak, it was as if she were stepping on a verbal and emotional minefield.

  Squinting through the dusty windshield, she tried not to think of life back at the house by the river, concentrating instead on the activity in the yard of the mill. Trailer trucks rolled through huge, chain-link gates, bringing in load after load of branchless fir trees, and a gigantic crane moved the loads to the already monstrous piles in the yard. Still other cranes plucked some of the logs from the river, to stack them into piles to dry.

  Men in hard hats shouted and gestured as to the placement of each load. One by one the logs were sorted, their bark peeled, and the naked wood squared off before it was finally sawed into rough-cut lumber, which was stacked according to grade and size. Her father had been a sawmill man all his life and had often told her of the process of taking a single tree from the forest and converting it into lumber, plywood, chipboard, bark dust and, in some cases, paper. George Powell was proud of the fact that he came from a long line of sawmill men. His father had worked in this very mill as had his grandfather. As long as there had been Monroe Sawmill Company in Gold Creek, a Powell had been on the payroll.

 
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