Authors: M. Stratton
Eye of the Storm
Eye of the Storm
Copyright 2014 by M. Stratton
This title is also available in print:
Cover by MG Book Covers (http://salon.io/mgbookcovers)
Edited by Angi Black
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the author.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and the punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
After the Storm is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
For Michael, my husband.
You are my shelter, my rock, my calm when life’s storms blow around us.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
If you have not already read After the Storm please do so. I understand that might not be possible so please read the following to get an idea as to what happened and be brought up to date. The following contains spoilers from After the Storm.
Alexia “Lexi” Hanson
– Lexi moved from La Jolla, California, into her grandmother’s home in Ipswich, Massachusetts, after her death. She spent her time helping out at the local senior center, Golden Ages, taking photographs, and playing with her rescue dog, Pepper. After spending considerable amount of time and energy rebuilding her new life, she thought it was complete, until her neighbor moved in for an extended vacation.
– After fifteen years on the road making music and playing to sell-out crowds with the band Last Stand, Noah needed a break. His bandmates, all married with children, were spending time with their families, so Noah went to his beach house to relax and spend time with the only family he had left, Sam and Martha Edwards, the caretakers for his home and his godparents. Things change after he meets his neighbor crawling through his garden one morning.
– Grandmother to Lexi and ringleader for the Fearsome Foursome. The ladies had met when they were in college and formed an alliance that lasted through the years. For a while after Patsy died, the group didn’t cause as much trouble, but after a few years the Troublesome Trio was born.
– The new ringleader of the group. Evelyne will say and do anything she pleases.
– Second in command she enjoys seeing if she can shock people by what she does and says.
– Has always been the voice of reason. The most conservative of the three, but don’t let that fool you, you don’t want to let your guard down around her.
– Lexi’s best friend and Evelyne’s granddaughter. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree with Evie; she is very much like her grandmother. Evie and Lexi spent many summers growing up together in Ipswich and causing trouble. Evie owns a bookstore and café in Boston. She recently hired Jesse Fields as a manager to help her.
Jackson “Jack” Taylor
– Evie’s older brother. He has spent his life roaming the world after a football injury ended his career with the Pittsburg Steelers. While he might seem carefree, his family loyalty runs deep.
– Is the bodyguard Noah hired to protect Lexi. Very quiet and reserved she doesn’t share much with the others.
– Growing up he had the best things in life, loving parents and world travel. It wasn’t until he was in his early twenties that things started to go wrong. Taking over the family business after his parents died didn’t ease the heartache at their sudden death or the other deaths that seemed to follow him. Things took a turn for the worse when Anthony went out on a date with Lexi, soon after he was accused of raping and beating her. Being sent to prison for something he didn’t do was just another event in his string of bad luck.
– When the one woman he truly loved was stolen from him in his early twenties by Anthony Maldono he could no longer keep the monster he was hidden. Following Anthony over the years he systemically took everything he could from him. He learned everything he could about him until he became him, both mentally and physically. As his madness grew, so did his crimes. Once he got a taste for murder there was nothing that could stop him.
Lexi stood before the full length mirror looking at her reflection. Never in her wildest dreams would she ever think she’d be marrying rock-and-roll’s hottest star. Smiling to herself, she remembered the first day they met in his garden, here some woman was crawling around it and he took it all in stride. They started out as friends, doing things that were normal and so important to Lexi, things Noah hadn’t done in years. He’d even met the Troublesome Trio, Evelyne, Leigh and Marie, and lived to tell about it.
Then strange things started to happen. Things that shouldn’t have been happening. Noah was her rock through the whole thing. While she didn’t like having to depend on anyone, and made some stupid choices, everything came out fine in the end. Noah had saved her. She hoped she’d learned to lean on him more and not be so independent, but there were still times. Especially knowing that Jeremy was still out there. He could come back at any moment to take her happiness away. Then there was Anthony. He had been released months ago. She still felt bad about sending an innocent man to prison but was trying to forgive herself.
Her wedding day. Looking at the other women gathered around getting ready, in the reflection in the mirror she locked eyes with Evie, her best friend. The friend that helped her through the first attack and was there last September to help again. Kenyon, Dre and Sam sat together talking making up the last of her bridesmaids. Her mother was rushing around making sure everything was just perfect and trying not to cry. Kat stood in the background like usual, watching but never interacting.
“Hey, beautiful,” Evie came up behind Lexi and wrapped her arms around her being careful not to mess up her gown. “You ready for your big day marrying the smoking hot Noah Matthews?”
“More than ready.” A smile that reached her eyes spread across her face.
“So you’re saying I haven’t got a chance?”
“Ha-ha. Like you ever had one once he saw my ass wiggling around his garden.”
“He still hasn’t told you where you’re going for your honeymoon?”
“Nope. The bastard. It’s killing me. I have no idea what to pack.”
Evie raised her eyebrows at her. “Do you really think you’re going to be wearing that many clothes to begin with?”
“Well, I have to travel there and back don’t I?”
“True. Are you ready?”
“I’ve been waiting for this day my whole life and once I met Noah everything just fell into place. I can’t wait for us to begin our lives together.
Noah stood at the front of the church waiting for Lexi. His chest constricted at the thought of everything they’d gone through to get here. The Last Man Standing would be no more. He couldn’t wait to make her officially his. He would have eloped if she would’ve allowed it, although he was surprised at how quickly it had all come together.
The Troublesome Trio were led in and they made a big show of making sure they said hello to all of the single men, no matter the age, as they made their way to the front row. He chuckled to himself about his bandmates meeting them for the first time. The ladies had the time of their lives giving them a hard time. Who’d have thought guys that were so used to women grabbing them would be running scared from three little old ladies.
He watched as the ushers brought in Sam and Martha and sat them in the typical spot for groom’s parents. Closing his eyes, he wished his mother could be here today.
Mom, I did it. I’m marrying someone you would love, someone I wish you could have met. I’ll do everything I can to show her everyday how much I love her and protect her.
Someone slapping his back interrupted his thoughts. Turning he saw Ren grinning at him. “Snap out of it boy, it’s almost time.”
“Yeah, do we need to have the car ready so you can bolt?” Dylan smirked.
“We can have you out of here in two minutes flat,” chimed in Rob.
“Asshats. I’m not going anywhere. Try to act civilized, we’re in church.”
“Yeah, but we aren’t the ones who just swore in a church.” Jackson laughed. “Good job.”
“Shut up,” was all Noah could think to say. He took a deep breath as the music began.
As the flower girls, ring bearer and bridesmaids made their way up the aisle, his eyes stayed pinned to the doorway waiting for Lexi to appear. When he finally did, all the air whooshed out of his lungs and his heart ached at her beauty. He barely registered that her father was there by her side. It took all he had not to rush to meet her. The closer she got the more everyone faded into the background. He only had eyes for her.
Shaking hands with her father he looked away from Lexi for the first time. “Sir, thank you for raising such a wonderful woman. I’ll take care of her.”
“Welcome to the family.” Lexi’s father turned and kissed her on the cheek. “I love you, baby girl.”
“I love you, too, Daddy.”
Noah took her hand and together, they turned toward the pastor. Time seemed to go both slow and fast. Focusing on her, he wanted to remember every moment forever. The old wood of the church lit up by the sun streaming through the stained glass windows, the smell of the candles. The people that meant the most to both of them, smiling and happy for them. Lexi, beautiful Lexi in her white wedding gown glowing with excitement walking towards him.
When it was time for their vows, Noah watched as tears pooled in her eyes. Using his thumb, he wiped them away. Finally, it was time to take her in his arms and have their first kiss as husband and wife.
Grinning as the cheers went up throughout the church, they turned and faced everyone as husband and wife. For Noah, it was better than a standing ovation at Madison Square Garden.
Evie sat down at the head table and watched her best friend dance the night away with her new husband. Everything was perfect, she stared wistfully at her friend’s joy. It was a beautiful day. After everything Lexi had been through, she deserved this. Noah and his bandmates left their women on the dance floor and headed for the stage. Curious, Evie got up and walked over to Lexi and the other band wives.
“What are they up to?” Sam asked.
“With those four, only God knows.” Dre replied.
Noah took the mic. “Thank you everyone for coming to share our special day. If you don’t mind, the guys and I would like to play a special song for my bride.”
Evie looked over at Lexi at the opening notes to George Strait’s
I Cross My Heart
. There was a sentimental smile on her face as she gently rocked back and forth to the song.
Hearing the words of the song, Evie was struck by a longing to have something like that in her life. She knew what they had didn’t come along every day. She had to find some way to make sure their happiness continued. Whatever it took, she would find a way to ensure the darkness never found them again.
Book Two in the Storm Series
Anthony Maldono sat back in his chair and looked out the window of his home in La Jolla California at the ocean. The turbulent waves crashed on the beach and he felt it fit his mood exactly. He looked at the computer screen and scowled at the e-mail which was still waiting for his reply, he stood and walked over to where he kept his files his private investigators compiled for him about everyone and everything involved with Alexia Hanson and Jeremy Ellison. Looking through them until he came to the one labeled “Evie Taylor,” he pulled it out and started to review it.
He didn’t understand why she would contact him. Thinking it might be good to surprise her, he started moving his plans up.
Jeremy lay back in the bed, staring up at the ceiling, listening to the gossip show coming from the other room about Alexia and Noah’s wedding. Right now, he hated his life. He knew it was temporary, but he couldn’t wait for a change to come. A change he was going to make.
He formulated his plan. He’d spent considerable time and money keeping track of everybody while staying hidden. He knew Anthony Maldono as well as he knew himself and he knew what Anthony would do next. He wasn’t done making Anthony’s life miserable. Time to step it up a level.