Zander drove down the street, the homes on either side seeming much smaller than when he was younger.
“Looks different, doesn’t it?” Rafe asked from the passenger seat, his face turned toward his window. “I know you’ve been around often, but I haven’t been back since last year. Some of the houses look a little better than they used to.”
“Some of them have been bought by younger couples trying to do the house-flip shit that’s on TV. You know, buy a run-down house, put a fuck-ton of money into it, and hope to sell it for a profit.”
“Well, they look pretty good.”
Turning at the next corner, Zander noticed Rafe lean forward, his gaze now focused on the house at the end of the street. Quiet, neither spoke for a moment, the comfortable silence passing between them.
“Do you ever wonder what would have happened if we hadn’t ended up here?” Rafe asked, his voice strangely hoarse.
“Every damn day,” he replied. Pulling to a stop on the street, he parked his truck, but neither made a move to get out.
“She saved my life.”
Zander shot a glance at Rafe, wondering what was going through his mind, but did not ask. If he wanted to talk, he would. “I reckon she saved all our lives.”
With that, he opened his door, the gift in his hand, meeting Rafe on the sidewalk. A roar of motorcycles came down the street, halting behind them, and they watched as Jayden and Jaxon climbed off. The two pulled off their helmets in sync, shaking out their dark hair, hooking them on the handlebars before turning their wide smiles toward the house. When they moved as one like that, it was hard to remember that they weren’t identical twins. Greeting the twins, Zander and Rafe moved forward, hugging the pair.
An SUV was the last to arrive, Cael at the wheel and Asher in the passenger seat. Asher slid out first in the lithe way of his, followed by Cael, the sun catching on his light hair. Both stopped and stared at the house as well. More greetings filled the air before the six of them moved to the front door of the house.
They made the trip every year, sometimes joined by a few of the other boys Miss Ethel raised in the large home she opened whenever social services called. But this year it was just them, all having been taken in at about the same time that came to remember.
Using his key, Zander opened the door and stepped in, immediately greeted with the smell of Miss Ethel’s rosewater perfume, the gentle scent having permeated the walls. Walking into the front hall, the others at his back, he stopped, assaulted by the memories. Miss Ethel greeting them after school with a platter of homemade cookies, dinner around the old, wooden table in the dining room, always finding room for another chair whenever their ranks increased with a visit from another social worker. When times were lean, they had soup and sandwiches. Other times, she would cook a large chicken or roast. When the kitchen was filled with the scent of pies or cookies baking the boys knew afterschool snacks would be a treat. All served with love.
Some boys stayed a few weeks, some for longer. And then some, like Zander, stayed until they were eighteen.
Walking past the dining room on the right, he turned toward the living room, once more his mind filled with memories…the holiday decorations and the tree she would have in the corner.
“Well, my goodness, boys. Come in, come in,” came the call from the corner chair, next to the floor lamp. Knitting needles now resting on her footstool, Miss Ethel pushed herself upright as Zander hurried to assist.
“Miss Ethel, you know we’d never forget your birthday,” he assured her, moving in for a hug, feeling her feeble hands pat his back. “We haven’t missed one yet, have we?”
Stepping back to allow the others their chance with her, he stood to the side, watching the annual tradition unfold. Her hair, still in its bun, was now snow white. Cael, last to greet her, assisted her back into her chair and she adjusted her wire-framed glasses after wiping her eyes.
“Sit, sit,” she ordered with a smile. “It hurts my neck to look so high up to see your faces. I never get over seeing what good-looking men my boys turned out to be.”
Zander sat on the end of the worn, but clean, sofa, Rafe and Cael settling next to him. Jaxon and Jayden headed to the dining room to bring in two more chairs while Asher took the wing-back chair matching the one Miss Ethel used.
“So, tell me all,” she said, clasping her wrinkled hands in her lap. Not waiting for one of them to speak, she turned to Rafe. “I haven’t heard from you in a couple of months. Are you still a hot-shot model?”
The others laughed as Rafe blushed bright red and dropped his chin, shaking his head. “Yes, ma’am.” Shrugging, he said, “It pays the bills and I figure I’ll do something else when this gets old.”
Heroes at Heart
The true measure of a man is not in the mistakes he makes…but in how he handles those mistakes.
After leaving the Army, Zander King wants nothing more to do with being a hero. His life plan is to keep his nose clean, work hard to make his bar successful and avoid damsels in distress. Old habits died hard, though, so when a beautiful stranger walks into the bar to drink alone, his protective instincts kicked into high gear. It was a good thing too, because his was not the only eye she caught in his rough-side-of-town establishment.
When a man won’t take no for an answer from her, Zander kicks him out, but he sends the woman, who doesn’t belong there, packing too. Too late, he realizes his mistake in releasing the petite, vulnerable woman out into the neighborhood alone, when he finds her near death outside the bar at closing time.
Racked with guilt, Zander’s conscience won’t let him abandon her until he knows she’ll be okay. At the hospital days later, his sleeping beauty, Jane Doe, finally wakes up, but she doesn’t remember who she is or how she got there.
Zander vows to help her put the pieces of her memory back together, but would regaining her memory only put her in more danger?
A Heroes at Heart novel based loosely on the fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty.
Themes, language, and adult situations are similar to an R-rated movie. For 18+ years.
Romance Military [Author Self-Published, On Sale: March 6, 2018, e-Book, eISBN: 9781947214088]
About Maryann Jordan
As an Award Winning, Amazon International Bestselling and All-Star author, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble Best Selling Author, I have always been an avid reader. In 2013 I started a blog to showcase wonderful writers. In 2014, I finally gave in to the characters in my head pleading for their story to be told. Thus, Emma’s Home was created.