Ill be there for you can.., p.1

I'll Be There For You (Canyon Creek, Co. Book 5), page 1

 part  #5 of  Canyon Creek, Co. Series

 

I'll Be There For You (Canyon Creek, Co. Book 5)
 



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I'll Be There For You (Canyon Creek, Co. Book 5)


  I’ll Be There for You

  Canyon Creek, CO, Book 5

  Lori Ryan

  Kay Manis

  Copyright 2018, RMI Publishing LLC

  All rights reserved.

  This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author/publisher.

  Contents

  Other Books By Lori and Kay

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Epilogue

  About the Authors

  Other Books By Lori and Kay

  To find all of the Canyon Creek Series Novels, visit Lori and Kay at www.loriandkay.com! We’ve got a lot more coming in this world. Stay tuned at the end of the book for a sneak peek of the next book.

  Lori’s Series can be found at www.loriryanromance.com and include:

  The Sutton Capital Series

  The Heroes of Evers, TX Series

  The On the Line Series

  Kay’s Series can be found at http://kaymanis.com and include:

  The X-Treme Love Series

  The Miracle Short Story Series

  Chapter One

  Jake Sumner didn’t need to look at the clock to know it was late. Of course, if he moved from being the Chief of Staff to a California State Senator to that of a United States Senator, things would only get worse. He could kiss sleep goodbye.

  When he and Todd Douglas had started Todd’s campaign for the state senate, Jake had been fully on board with the plan. He’d loved the work and believed in Todd’s platform. The senator might be the consummate politician with his charisma and charm—Lord knew Jake had seen the man work a room when they were studying at UC Berkley together—but Jake knew in his heart Todd could do a lot of good for the people of California.

  Lately, though—

  Jake didn’t finish the thought. If he let himself wonder if they were really making a difference, he wouldn’t get through the next few days of negotiation on a bill their constituents needed.

  He stretched his neck, trying to ease his nagging headache. His mother had tried to get him to take her yoga class the last time he’d been home to Colorado. He was beginning to think he should have given in. Maybe it could have helped him cope with the incessant ping his computer made every time a new email or message crossed his desktop.

  He picked up his phone and looked at the latest of three messages from Todd’s legislative assistant. As the senator’s Chief of Staff, Jake dealt with the people in the office more than the senator at times.

  Today was one of those times. The legislative aide for Senator Carrington, head of the Senate finance committee, had reached out to their legislative assistant. Carrington’s people were threatening to cut funding for a finance bill Jake and his staff had painstakingly drafted to ensure tens of thousands of California citizens kept their insurance. Senator Carrington wanted a guarantee that Jake’s boss would vote no on the climate change bill, a move that could very well lose Todd the next election.

  Of course, this was all complicated by the fact that Jake and Todd had recently created a behind-the-scenes exploratory committee to study the feasibility of Todd running for the US Senate.

  Jake stopped mid-text at the sound of his doorbell. If he found any of his staff on the front steps, he’d lose it. He shoved back his chair and left his phone on the desk.

  A glance through his peephole showed an older woman with graying hair, maybe in her late sixties, standing on his porch. She kept looking over her shoulder, nervously watching for something or someone behind her. Jake’s peephole didn’t allow him to see far enough to know if there was someone coming up behind her.

  “Yes?” he asked as he swung open the door.

  She stared at him for a few seconds, eyes narrowed, accentuating the wrinkles around her blue eyes. She studied his face as if trying to place him. Her own face washed ashen and she pressed her thin lips together in a white line.

  He took a step toward her, looking over her shoulder to be sure no one had been harassing the woman or causing her trouble. “May I help you?”

  Again the woman glanced over her shoulder.

  Jake spotted a car parked in front of his townhouse. A small girl, maybe four or five, leaned against the passenger-side door. She stared down at the ground, clutching a stuffed animal, her long, wavy dark hair falling forward, covering her face.

  Jake ran a hand through his own hair, thankful he could keep his unruly curls cropped short.

  He glanced from the girl back to the woman in front of him. Maybe they were selling Girl Scout cookies or something. “Whatever you’re selling, I’m not interested,” he said, although he tried to gentle his tone. He wasn’t sure he succeeded.

  The woman sucked in a deep breath and stared up at Jake, her hands shaking.

  What the hell? A sick feeling rolled through him, cramping his gut.

  Years of working in politics had honed his skills at sniffing out catastrophe. He could taste the acrid smell of disaster all over this, even before the woman spoke.

  “Are you Jacob Sumner?”

  Jacob? Only his mother called him Jacob, and that was only when he was in trouble.

  Jake stepped out onto the porch and closed the door behind him. “Who wants to know?”

  Again, the woman glanced back at the girl.

  He followed her gaze.

  As if sensing their observation, the little girl raised her head and stared directly at Jake, a hesitant smile forming.

  He sucked in a breath, his gut clenching tighter. This was worse than a disaster.

  The little girl’s hazel brown eyes locked with his. A dimple on her right cheek sprang to life as she tossed her dark wavy hair over her shoulder.

  It was like looking in a mirror.

  When he didn’t return her smile, hers quickly faded, and she stuffed two middle fingers in her mouth, sucking hard. It was a gesture he’d seen in his childhood pictures.

  He swallowed hard, not needing to hear the words that came next to know they were true.

  “My name is Phoebe Howard,” the older woman said calmly. She nodded behind her. “That’s my granddaughter, Rebecca. We all call her Becca.”

  Jake stared at the little girl who looked so much like him it was uncanny. His mouth pressed in a firm line as he clenched his jaw tight. This couldn’t be happening. He knew better than to show any emotion.

  “My daughter was her mother.” The woman spoke softly.

  Was?

  “Jennifer,” the woman said quietly. “O
r Jenni. That’s what all her friends called her in college.”

  Jennifer? Jenni? He thought back in his memories. The name didn’t ring a bell. He shook his head.

  “She attended U.C. Berkeley,” the woman went on.

  A painful buzzing rang in Jake’s ears.

  “She belonged to Chi Omega sorority,” she said, rattling off facts as if to jog his memory. He had none.

  “She once told me you were part of Sigma Phi Nu,” the woman said.

  “I was,” Jake admitted, still trying to remember a Jenni from his past. It wasn’t like he was a man whore in college, but he’d definitely gotten around. Could he name all the girls he’d slept with? Probably not. “What did you say your last name is?”

  “Howard,” she repeated softly.

  Jennifer Howard. Jennifer Howard. Jenni Howard.

  “Jenni,” he said quietly to no one in particular. “Jenni Howard.”

  He hadn’t thought of her since college, mainly because they hadn’t really dated or even gone out. They’d hooked up once at a frat party. His frat party. In his frat room, he remembered that. And only because they’d joked about her last name.

  He’d asked if she was related to Ron Howard, the actor turned director. She laughed and said no, she didn’t even know who he was.

  That stupid joke had led to more talking, a few drinks, a lot more laughing. Before he knew it, they’d gone up to his room.

  Jake stared out at the little girl by the curb. She was still sucking ferociously on her fingers as she clutched the animal tighter.

  Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

  The woman leaned in, her voice barely audible. “We believe you’re Becca’s father.”

  No. No, no, no.

  This wasn’t happening. She was lying.

  The porch light burned brighter, seeming to heat the small area, even though Jake knew that was unlikely. It was probably his own damned panic attack that was making him feel like a volcano, ready to explode. Sweat beaded across his forehead, droplets sliding down his back. He thought he might vomit in the hedges.

  “I’m sorry, what?” he choked out, still unable to believe what this stranger had just said.

  “Rebecca,” she said, glancing over her shoulder before returning her gaze to him. “Rebecca is your daughter.”

  Chapter Two

  Lina stared at herself in the mirror. Wearing a white button-down shirt and black dress pants she definitely looked the part of a banquet server—drab and boring, just like her boss, Maggie Sumner wanted. Okay, in fairness to Maggie, they were going for neat and unobtrusive, but that just came out to dull and boring in Lina’s book.

  Lina filled in at the Lodge at Canyon Creek, doing odd jobs here and there as the owner needed. The lodge was one of her many part-time gigs. Some said she had commitment issues, but in reality she bored quickly. It was easier for her to work odd jobs than to lock herself into one thing and then get into trouble when she started to feel restless.

  Lina surveyed herself one more time in the mirror, pulling her long dark hair into a ponytail. She ran her fingers over the bright blue tips that would still be visible, but from the front at least, she would meet Maggie’s requirements. She supposed she could put it into a bun that might hide the colored pieces better, but what was the fun in having colored hair if you didn’t flaunt it? It was her one act of rebellion. Okay, so maybe she had more than one, or so her mother would say.

  “Want something to eat, Candy?” came a deep voice from down the hallway as she stepped out of the bathroom. “I’m making pancakes, eggs, bacon…” Her roommate Cam’s voice trailed off.

  She and Cam lived in the house their friend Dak owned. Her family hadn’t been happy about her living with two guys but she hadn’t let that stop her. The place was gorgeous, with blonde hardwood floors, deep mahogany trim and chrome and glass accents. Her bedroom was on the second floor, the guys each had a room on the bottom along with the living room, kitchen and dining room.

  Brenda Cooper, the local real estate agent, stopped by at least once a month to see if Dak was ready to sell. Of course, Lina wasn’t totally convinced Brenda’s visits weren’t just an excuse to see Dak. Most women openly ogled the firefighter. As a former Air Force Pararescue Jumper and two-time college All-American football player, even she had to admit Dak was hot as hell. Funny thing was, he’d never done it for her, whatever done it meant. She was beginning to forget.

  Her roommates were both firefighters and EMTs working in Vail. They made the drive since their small town of Canyon Creek, Colorado, only had a small fire department. From the moment she’d met Dak and Cam on the slopes, they’d been more like family than romantic interests. Something her mother and half the town still refused to believe.

  “Candy?” Cam called again.

  Lina laughed at his nickname for her. He said she was hot enough to be a stripper and actually came up with a stage name for her. Candy Kane. It was a reference to the scary movie Cam loved, Joy Ride, which she couldn’t stand. She hated scary movies

  Just to give him shit, one night when they were all drunk, she’d told Cam she’d actually been a stripper back in New Jersey where she was from. His mouth had hung open for a solid minute before she’d shoved a banana in it. There were times she regretted that story, like now, when he called her Candy. But secretly she loved it too.

  “No thanks,” Lina said, “I’m working a luncheon at the lodge. I’ll probably eat there.”

  She came forward and wrapped her arms around Cam in a hug. “Good morning,” she said tipping her head back to look at him.

  He leaned down and kissed her forehead. It wasn’t far to bend. She was a tall woman.

  “You sure you don’t want something before you head to the barn?” He asked, flipping his spatula with a cocky grin.

  The Wedding Barn, or The Barn as most people called it now, was a special venue on the same property as the Lodge at Canyon Creek. Originally crafted to hold weddings—since the owner Valerie Sumner was such a romantic—the venue was now used for a multitude of things.

  Lily Sumner and her mother, Sally, the town’s baker, often called on Lina to help out at the barn when a staffer was sick, like today.

  Thanks to Lily—Valerie’s entrepreneurial niece and an event planner from Denver—the barn hosted business parties, birthday or anniversary events, and once even a party celebrating a cat’s twentieth birthday. Lina could understand that one. She loved her cats, Duchess and O’Malley, affectionally named after the characters from Aristocats, one of her favorite Disney movies. She would gladly throw her fur babies a party when they reached that age.

  Lina didn’t mind helping out at the lodge, if she was available. She’d always lend a hand to the Sumners, as she did with many of the business owners in town. They’d been nice to her and her family since they’d moved to Canyon Creek six years ago.

  “You sure?” Cam asked, holding her gaze, his brow quirked. It was hard to believe anyone would turn down his world famous pancakes.

  “Thanks,” she said kissing his cheek. “I’ll eat later.”

  “Okay,” he said, flipping another pancake on top of a stack that looked like it was ready to topple over. “But don’t say I didn’t offer. Not sure they’ll be any left after Dak wakes up.”

  She glanced down the hallway. “So what’s up with the pancakes this morning? There’s no one else down there, is there?” She nodded toward his room.

  Cam chuckled.

  If a lady was lucky enough to receive pancakes made by Cameron Delgado the morning after, it meant he’d had a good time with her the night before. There were many nights Lina was thankful that her room was upstairs.

  Lina looked down when she felt Duchess and O’Malley winding through her legs in their typical morning feed-me performance. The cats were technically hers but all of the roommates took care of them and it wasn’t uncommon for them to sleep downstairs with Cam and Dak. They’d sworn her to secrecy anytime she caught them nestling up to her feline friends.<
br />
  “Don’t let them fool you,” Cam said, glaring at the cats. “I fed the beggars already.”

  Lina gave the cats a mock gasp and she would have sworn Duchess smirked in response.

  “Breakfast?” Dak asked, walking into the kitchen with a groggy look in his eyes. “What’s the occasion?” He glanced over at Lina, pointing a finger at her then to Cam. “Wait. You two didn’t sleep together, did you?”

  “Eww,” Lina groaned, wrinkling her nose. “That would be like sleeping with my brother.”

  Dak shrugged and sat at the table.

  “Nope. I didn’t sleep with anyone last night,” Cam said. “Except Cupcake.”

  Cupcake was Cam’s stuffed armadillo he’d purchased on a layover in a Texas airport when he’d taken a trip home. Lina still didn’t know why he named the armadillo Cupcake and didn’t ask. He’d originally purchased the animal for his newborn niece, who he was going to see. But he said he’d fallen madly in love with the creature on the final leg of his flight.

  It now went with him whenever he flew. Cam didn’t enjoy flying much and the stuffed animal showed the effects. Lina had stitched Cupcake back together many times.

  Cam smiled, sitting the stack of pancakes in front of Dak. He returned to the stove, flipping bacon over in the pan. He was a master cook, thank God.

  Even though Lina’s father owned two Italian restaurants in town, she could barely boil water for pasta. Her grandmother would kill her if she found out Lina didn’t make pasta by scratch.

 
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