Read A Million Tiny Pieces Online

Authors: Nicole Edwards

A Million Tiny Pieces

A Million Tiny Pieces

Nicole
Edwards

 

SL
Independent Publishing, LLC

PO
Box 806

Hutto,
Texas 78634

www.slipublishing.com

 

Copyright © Nicole Edwards, 2014

All
rights reserved
.

This
is a self-published title.

 

Without
limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication
may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or
transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of
both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

 

A Million Tiny Pieces
is a work of
fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents either are
the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events,
or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Cover
Image: © zelfit – 123rf.com; © arsgera – 123rf.com

Cover
Design: © Nicole Edwards Limited

Editing:
Blue Otter Editing

 

ISBN
(electronic): 978-1-939786-40-1

ISBN
(print): 978-1-939786-39-5

Dedication

To you, the reader.

 

I recently celebrated two years of writing full time
and I have to say, without you, I wouldn’t be here. I am truly blessed. Thank
you.

Prologue

End of August

 

AFTER
THE SUDDEN death of his father three months ago, venture capitalist Phoenix
Pierce has become the youngest team owner in NHL history. We are here to
announce that, with the NHL board of governors’ official approval, Phoenix’s
minority share in the Austin Arrows combined with his father’s majority share
now puts twenty-nine-year-old Pheonix at the helm of the Arrows organization.

When
recently asked whether there would be changes to the team in the upcoming
season, Phoenix advised that there had already been plans in the works prior to
Sidney Pierce’s death. Sid died suddenly from a heart attack back in May.

From
what we’ve learned from Tarik Marx, the public relations spokesperson for the
Arrows, Phoenix intends to implement those changes and move forward. He has
assured us that the team is healthy and strong and looking forward to a solid
year ahead.

Phoenix
refused to comment further on the pending lawsuit from real estate mogul Damien
Landry. According to our sources, prior to Sid’s death, there was a rumor that
the team was to be sold to Landry for a reported $280 million. Forbes.com
recently valued the Arrows at $205 million, although the team has reported an
estimated $10 million loss each year due to its continued decline in rankings.

We
were told by a source close to Landry that Sid had backed out of the deal two
months prior to his death; however, no documentation has been provided to
support Landry’s claim. Yet Landry refuses to go away quietly.

As
Tarik made his way into the room, Phoenix hit the button on the remote to turn
off the television, causing the darkened room to be cloaked in silence.

Dropping
onto the arm of the sofa, Tarik forced a smile as he watched his boss stare at
the blank TV screen. It was far too early in the morning to be drinking, but
since neither of them had gone to sleep yet, it was fitting.

Twisting
so that he could face Phoenix, Tarik held up his beer bottle. “You’re in full
control now. It might be bittersweet, but it’s still a win.”

“Bittersweet,”
Phoenix echoed, not bothering to look up from where he was slumped on the sofa
as he blindly held up his beer bottle, clanking it with Tarik’s. “Bitter-
fucking
-sweet.”

 

»»»»»♥«««««

 

MIA
CANTRELL PROPPED her shoulder against the wall, staring out one of the
floor-to-ceiling windows of the high-rise condominium she had recently
purchased and moved into as she willed her fluttering heart to settle. Kings of
Leon softly crooned through the speakers in her living room but did little to
ease the tension that had been building for the last few days.

With
her second cup of coffee warming her hands, she watched the sun peek over the
Austin skyline laid out before her, trying to get a grip on herself. It
would’ve been decidedly easier if she weren’t pondering how her life had gone
so wrong.

Wrong?
No, wait. She
tossed the word around in her mouth for a moment but didn’t like the feel.
Maybe
wrong
wasn’t necessarily the appropriate word.

Touching
her lips with the tips of her fingers, Mia realized she was smiling. Now that
she thought about it, she was inclined to say that she was actually quite
content for the first time in a very long time, even excited about her new
lease on life. So maybe it was more accurate to use the word
different
in this case.

Yes
… things were now so very
different
.

Moving
her hand to her chest, she noticed her heart had finally stopped pounding,
although she could still feel the anxious flutter in her tummy.

As
soon as she had crawled into bed last night, she had realized how eager she was
for this day to start. Naturally, that excitement had carried over into her
dreams. Two hours ago, just as Mia had done in grade school when her mother
would wake her on the first day of a new school year, she had practically
leaped out of bed. But not from her mother’s sweet words or her mother’s gentle
hand nudging her awake. Nope, Mia’s alarm clock had belted out a noise — one
that should be illegal in at least half the country — that got her moving
today. It had had the same effect a fire alarm would have. She had thrown off
the covers, shot upright out of her bed before she’d even realized she was
awake.

As
she’d learned that morning, it was vastly different getting ready these days
than it had been for the last few years. When it wasn’t necessary to get
perfectly coifed, lacquered, and spit-shined, things were considerably easier.
After drying her hair, Mia had realized that she didn’t need to curl her long
blonde locks. And when she went to put on her makeup, she recognized it was not
necessary to accentuate her bright blue eyes with tons of eyeliner and mascara,
either. She wasn’t that girl anymore.

So,
instead of spending an extra hour polishing herself to perfection, Mia had
pulled her hair back into a ponytail, secured it in place with a brightly
colored rubber band, applied a clear gloss to her lips, and pulled on her
favorite outfit these days — jeans and an oversized, comfy T-shirt.

What
was left was a much younger woman staring back at her, and she happened to like
the new image. This new version of herself … well, she seemed less confined,
less restricted.

Significantly
more confident.

As
far as Mia was concerned, this was exactly where she was meant to be. And in a
few minutes, she would be taking the next steps in jump-starting the rest of
her life.

Her
first day of college.

Chapter One

January

“GOOD
MORNING, MR. Pierce,” Phoenix’s doorman, George, greeted, holding the glass
door open to allow him to enter when he strolled up to the building.

Strolled.
Right. Because
that
was what he was doing.

Waving
him off briefly, Phoenix stopped inside the lobby to catch his breath. Folding
himself over, he pressed his hands to his knees and sucked in oxygen as though
the world were in short supply. His lungs happened to feel as though it really
was.

These
days, his hour-long morning runs were getting the best of him. During the
particularly brutal form of hell that he’d put himself through today, Phoenix
had finally convinced himself that this was another kind of self-punishment
that he was allowing to get out of hand.

Not
that he planned to do anything about that — he had merely accepted it.

“Good
morning, George,” Phoenix replied when he could form words and not sound like a
vacuum hose stuck to a pillow.

George
smiled down at him. “I didn’t realize you were back in town, Mr. Pierce. Will
you be here for a while?”

“Nope,”
he answered, the only word he could shove past his constricted lungs. Forcing
his tired muscles to return him to his full height, he slapped the air
fleetingly, an exhausted form of a wave, and headed toward the elevators that
would take him to the penthouse.

“Good
morning, Mr. Pierce,” Roy, the elderly man who prided himself on manning the
front desk, said cheerfully as he punched the up arrow on the wall to call the
elevator. “The other elevator’s on the fritz again. We’ve called a repairman,
so hopefully it’ll be back to normal in a bit.”

Phoenix
nodded in Roy’s direction, still trying to preserve what oxygen he did have. He
didn’t really care about the status of the elevators, but he wasn’t going to
tell Roy that.

Instead,
he walked in a circle on the gray travertine floor, hands on his hips, chest
still rising and falling rapidly, trying to keep his muscles from locking up as
he watched the numbers above the elevator doors, waiting for the next car to
arrive.
It had momentarily paused at seventeen and was down to two before he stopped pacing
and stood stone still, hoping like hell his quads weren’t going to do some sort
of new trick and refuse to stretch enough to walk.

Phoenix
dropped his gaze to the floor, allowing his hood to cover most of his face, not
wanting to make eye contact with whomever was coming off the elevator. Today
was not the day for a complete stranger to want to engage him in a conversation
about hockey, something he found himself doing more and more often these days.

When
the doors opened, the first thing he saw was a pair of running shoes. They were
too small to belong to a man, so he allowed his gaze to travel north slowly.

Very
slowly.

A
pair of trim, jean-clad legs came into view. And as he continued his path
upward, moving on to admire the small, curvy hips attached to the impressive
legs, he found himself skipping over the oversized sweatshirt until he met a
pair of crystal-blue eyes staring back at him.
From this distance, those eyes
seemed to glow — a brilliant turquoise, so clear, so pure that the color was
probably only rivaled by that of the waters of the Caribbean.

“Excuse
me,” the succulent mouth attached to the beautiful face that held the bright
blue eyes said.

Those
words had Phoenix’s gaze sliding back down to her lips. Perfect pink lips that
he noticed were
not
forming a smile.

Well,
hell.

Phoenix
nodded his head — a nonverbal form of an apology — knowing there was no sense
trying to force the words out through his abused lungs. Although now they were
oxygen deficient because this woman had taken his breath away, not because he’d
run nine miles.

Phoenix
couldn’t look away as she moved around him, giving him a wide berth, those
striking blue eyes tracking his every move as though he might jump on her at
the first possible chance.

Oh,
jumping on her was definitely on his mind, but not in the way she was probably
imagining. Phoenix was suddenly thinking about naked acrobatics, actually. Some
slick, sweaty sex that resulted in those blue eyes piercing his as he made her
come a hundred different ways, in a thousand different positions.

He
realized he was still staring at her, watching the gentle sway of her sweet,
heart-shaped ass encased in lucky fucking denim. He wanted to be her fucking
jeans at that moment.

The
elevator dinged, and Phoenix turned back to see the doors were beginning to
close. He shoved his arm in to stop them, waving Roy off, not wanting to wait
another five minutes for the damn thing to return. As he backed into the car,
he watched the sexy blonde smile at George as they engaged in a short
conversation.

He
wanted to be George.

Okay,
no. He did
not
fucking want to be George.

But
Phoenix did have every intention of talking to George a little later. After
all, he wanted to know who those blue eyes belonged to. Apparently the doorman
knew her well enough to earn a sweet smile before the woman moved closer to the
door.

When
she stepped out onto the street and out of his line of sight, Phoenix punched
in a code that would take him to the penthouse. As the elevator doors closed,
effectively blocking any opportunity of seeing the woman who was responsible
for kicking his heart rate back up into dangerous territory, he gave in to his
exhaustion and allowed the wall to hold him up.

Jesus
Christ, he was acting like a fucking teenage boy. He really needed to get a
grip.

The
elevator ride to the top floor was as painful as waiting for the damn thing on
the first floor, and by the time the doors slid open, Phoenix was desperate to
get out of the steel box.
He stepped into the lavish entry that smelled oddly of cinnamon for reasons
unbeknownst to him, and after crossing the vast space that separated his door
from the elevator, he punched in another code to gain entry to his condo.

Nudging
the door open a fraction of an inch, he glanced back over his shoulder, trying
to locate the source of the smell. It had to be his mother’s doing — that was
the only logical explanation — but for the life of him, Phoenix had no idea
what the hell it could be. The only thing he noticed — with the exception of
all the Christmas decorations having finally been taken down — was a bowl of
pinecones resting on the antique table that sat between the two sets of
elevator doors.

Did
pinecones smell like cinnamon? Surely not.

Realizing
he truly didn’t give a shit, Phoenix grabbed the knob and pushed open the front
door to his condo.

When
he stepped inside, he was breathing regularly and his heart was no longer
trying to crack through a rib. He grabbed the stack of mail that was sitting on
the table inside the door, the same place his bodyguard/public relations
spokesman/assistant, Tarik Marx, put it every day.

The
guy had too many fucking job titles, that was all there was to it.

As
usual, Phoenix took a moment to flip through the envelopes, not finding any of
them especially appealing. Tossing them back on the table, he glanced in the
mirror hanging on the wall in front of him.

Damn.
No wonder the blue-eyed woman had given him a wide berth as she’d come off the
elevator. The black hoodie he wore covered most of his head, and the little bit
of his face that was visible looked downright lethal. His black hair fell
across his forehead, his green eyes glittered, probably from the pain and
suffering of having pushed himself to his limits that morning. Hell, even his
nose looked a little more crooked than normal. Scrubbing his hands over his
jaw, he realized he needed to shave.

Hopefully,
he’d had the
decency to smile when she had been standing there, allowing him to eye fuck her
first thing in the morning. Knowing him, he hadn’t. He didn’t smile much these
days, mainly because it took too much fucking effort.

“Phoenix,
is that you?”

“If
it’s not, then I may have to question who you let in here, Mother,” Phoenix
replied, snatching the mail up once more and flipping through it again.
Anything to look busy.

His
mother made it her job to visit him every morning. She had her own condo in the
same building, yet she arrived at some point after Phoenix left for his daily
run, and she stuck around for a short time after he got back, longer if he didn’t
appear to have anything to do. Not that he didn’t love his mother, but despite
what she thought, he really was busy.

Too
busy.

“Don’t
you get smart with me, young man.”

Smiling
to himself, Phoenix didn’t respond.

His
mother must’ve known he had no retort, because she added, “Tarik should be here
any minute.”

“Yes,
he should. And your point?” he asked, keeping his eyes on the envelopes and
making his way through the vast, open area that served as a living room, dining
room, and den.

His
condo consisted of the entire thirty-sixth floor. Roughly five thousand square
feet overlooking downtown Austin in a building he personally owned that housed
three hundred and forty additional condominiums. It should’ve been enough space
to keep him from having to run into someone every time he walked through the
door, especially since he lived alone, but that never seemed to be the case.

With
one eye still on his mail, Phoenix stepped into the commercial-grade kitchen,
feeling his mother’s eyes track him as he stopped in front of the refrigerator.

Sometimes
Phoenix wished Tarik didn’t feel the need to go down to the gym every morning
while Phoenix went for his morning run. If the guy would come to work first
thing, Phoenix would be spared this awkward daily confrontation with his
mother. Most of the time, Phoenix was back before Tarik arrived, which meant he
was left dealing with his mother alone.

Tossing
the less-than-interesting envelopes onto the black granite counter for Tarik to
deal with later, Phoenix flipped the hood off his head, opened the
refrigerator, and grabbed two single bottles of orange juice. He had learned
long ago that drinking out of the carton — although he was the only one
drinking from it — was a surefire way to get his mother to ride his ass first
thing in the morning.

Tarik’s
solution: individual bottles.

Phoenix
couldn’t argue with the man’s logic. Wasn’t the first time he’d thought Tarik
was a genius, either.

As
he tipped the first bottle to his lips, Phoenix glanced at his mother. As
always, Ellen Pierce was dressed in one of her beloved black silk pantsuits,
her short ebony hair, severely cut and board straight, resting on her
shoulders. While Phoenix watched her, those observant green eyes, so similar to
his own, raked over his face.

“Are
you here to stay for a while?” Ellen asked.

Phoenix
shook his head. “On the road this week.”

His
mother didn’t respond immediately, simply watched him carefully. Studying him
silently.

She
was always trying to figure him out. He’d informed her on more than one
occasion that it wasn’t worth the time or effort. Half the time, he couldn’t
predict what he would do or say next; no sense in someone else trying to do the
same.

In
his defense, Phoenix was only unpredictable as long as it didn’t have to do
with business. When it came to his companies, he was as straightforward as he
was shrewd and single-minded. At twenty-nine, he’d built an empire that
couldn’t be rivaled by many, and he didn’t make any apologies for it, either.
It hadn’t come easy, but it had helped that his father — God rest his soul —
had taught him everything he knew before he’d died nine months ago. A fresh
wave of grief passed through him as he thought about his father. God, he missed
him more with each day that passed.

But
he’d had little time to grieve for the man who’d been his mentor and role
model. After Sidney Pierce had suffered a heart attack that’d taken his life
and stolen the person Phoenix had been closest to in the world, he’d been
hard-pressed to move forward, to keep things going in the right direction, to
prove to himself — as much as to his father — that he was worthy.

Now
that Phoenix was the owner of the Austin Arrows, one of the youngest teams in
the NHL, as well as Pierce Industries, a multi-million-dollar venture capitalist
firm, he didn’t have nearly as much time for erratic, impulsive behavior as
he’d once had.

As
he figured it, either the job was getting to him or he was getting old.

He
refused to believe the latter.

Twisting
the lid off the second bottle of juice, Phoenix said, “We’ll have dinner next
weekend. Will that work?”

The
smile that formed on his mother’s ageless features brightened her entire face.
“I’d like that.”

Draining
the second bottle of juice, Phoenix tossed both bottles and the lids into the
recycle bin, knowing Tarik would have his ass if he didn’t. Sometimes he threw
them in the trash solely to listen to him bitch and moan.

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