Annapolis Harbor Ebook Bundle
Annapolis Harbor Ebook Bundle
Immerse yourself in the magic of a small town. From a billionaire with dreams of a quieter life to a professional football player seeking refuge from the spotlight, a compassionate doctor with a healing touch, a ruggedly handsome contractor who can fix anything but a broken heart, and a musician whose melodies can mend even the deepest wounds—these irresistible heroes are about to sweep you off your feet!
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ "Must read romance series of the year!" - World of Books 65
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ "I am a huge fan of this series and have been gobbling them up as they are released. Each one brings you back to Annapolis, where the friendships are strong and the love stories beautiful." - Judy Ann Loves Books📚 Do you prefer paperbacks?
Chapter 1 - Look Inside
Chapter 1 - Look Inside
I set my empty champagne glass on a table, tired of being at the Belles and Beaus Charity Ball. I turned to Layton to tell him it was time to leave, finding him on one knee. My face heated as the
conversation around us quieted. A few people backed up to give us space.
“Layton, what are you doing?” I hissed.
“Hadley, we’ve only been together for a short time, but I’ve always wanted you in my life. Will you marry me?” His face
was tilted up to mine, he grabbed my hand tightly, as if holding me in place, anchoring me to the moment.
I tried to draw in a breath around the
tightness in my chest.
Our few dates flashed through my
mind—outings with friends, charity events, and business dinners. We were rarely alone. We hadn’t even had sex. We didn’t love each other. Staring down at his face, the one filled with expectation, I wasn’t sure I even liked him.
I tugged on the hand Layton held, hoping he’d stand so we could speak privately. I needed to get him away from the crowd of spectators, but he didn’t budge. How could I tell him no in front of everyone? These people who pretended to be our friends were more interested in what we
could do for them, whether it was status or money.
Layton’s eyes narrowed as if he sensed my hesitation. I sucked in a breath. He’d planned this. He wanted to put me on the spot so I couldn’t say no.
“Layton, we’ve only been dating for three months.” I smiled tightly keeping my voice low so no one could overhear.
Layton stood, tightened his grip on my right hand, lowering his mouth to my ear. “Say yes, Hadley.”
I was used to giving in to pressure from my father in situations like this. I wanted to please those I loved, but I
didn’t love Layton. I couldn’t say yes to save him from the embarrassment of public rejection. I was irritated he’d put me in this situation, to begin with. I closed my eyes against the curious stares and the heavy expectation. “I didn’t put us in this situation.”
“Don’t embarrass me.” His voice was low and threatening. One thing I did know about him was that he hated not getting what he wanted. I’d seen him lash out at his employees if they didn’t do what he demanded. I never thought I’d be the recipient. If anything, he’d treated me with cold indifference. This public display was confusing.
The crowd around us began to shift. I’d been silent too long. Even if I said yes, the damage was done.
Layton cupped the back of my head, forcing me to look up at him. “Smile, sweetheart.” A muscle in his jaw clenched and his eyes held a warning—don’t make a scene.
I shook my head subtly, trying to
communicate without words that we needed privacy for this conversation.
Layton turned away from me, raising our joined hands in the air. “She said, yes!”
My heart sank. How would I fix this? I
didn’t like public spectacles or manipulation.
Shouts and claps erupted as relief swept through the room. Our parents and friends offered congratulations and hugs, but I didn’t take my eyes from Layton’s. His eyes warned me not to disagree with him. The one thing I’d been taught since I could remember was never make a
scene. Reputation was everything, but this was different.
“I didn’t say yes, and you know it,” I
said when most of the crowd dissipated. I also didn’t say no. The thought caused a trickle of panic down my spine.
“You didn’t have to. You’re mine.” He
lifted my hand, slipping an enormous diamond ring on my finger.
A sick feeling filled my stomach. Layton never saw me. He only saw a woman who looked a certain way, who held an advanced degree, and whose father was friends and business associates with his father.
I didn’t want to embarrass Layton, but I wanted to be clear about what I wanted. I tugged my hand away, slipped the ring off, and held it out for him. “No. You don’t ask someone you’ve dated for three months to marry you in front of a room full of strangers. I don’t love you.”
“Who said anything about love?” He crossed his arms, refusing to take the ring.
I sighed, disgusted that I’d gone out with him to keep my father happy. I shouldn’t have wasted any time on him. I slipped the ring into the front pocket of his suit jacket.
“You should have discussed it with me first. We could have avoided this.”
“I asked your father’s permission,” Layton said as if that was the sole deciding factor. As if my opinion didn’t matter.
Dad stood behind Layton. I had done what he’d wanted ever since Mom died. In the beginning, it was a desire for him to work less and be home more often. Over the years, it morphed into wanting his
love and approval.
My father leaned in, whispering in a low voice. “Hadley Ann Winters, he’s a good match. Don’t say or do anything you’ll regret.”
“Why? What do you get out of me marrying Layton?” It had to benefit him in some way. He’d insisted I major in business and attend law school. Working at the U.S. Attorney’s office reflected nicely on
him. He’d expressed pleasure when I started dating Layton, but he’d never taken things this far before. It was too much.
“It’s time for you to settle down and come work for me.”
“The answer is no, and it will always be no.” I looked at my father and then at Layton, so there was no mistake I was speaking to both of them. If I stayed, I’d say something I regretted. I hadn’t called my dad out on his behavior since my mom died and it wasn’t the time or
the place. Instead, I turned and walked away.
I ignored the stares and whispers that followed me. I knew my dad operated on manipulation and lies but expecting me to marry Layton—someone I didn’t like, much less love, went beyond what I tolerated
from him in the past.
A doorman opened the door as I approached, and I stepped out into the humid Louisiana evening. I was done with my father. I stood on the sidewalk, waiting for my driver to pull up, unease curling up my
spine. I needed to go home and regroup. I needed to figure out how I was going to handle the fallout.
“That was quite an exit, sister.” I turned to find Colin leaning against the wall, a teasing smile on his face, his hands in his suit pockets.
“I wasn’t expecting any of that.” I
gestured behind me.
“You weren’t expecting Layton to propose or weren’t expecting him to do it at an event in front of Dad, our friends, and a room full of strangers?” He placed air quotes around friends before walking the few steps to stand next to me.
I raised my brow at him. He smiled wider, so that his dimple popped. The town car pulled up and we waited for the driver to open it for us. “Neither. Where were you?”
“I didn’t want to interrupt the touching moment.”
“You’re such an asshole, sometimes.” I smiled as I sunk into the soft leather cushion.
“I’m a lovable asshole.”
“You are.” The little brother I’d worried about had grown into a man—one who, despite our father, was carefree and fun.
Colin’s face tightened. “It’s about time you stood up to him.”
“He said it was time I came to work for him.” He’d groomed me for a position in his business but now he was interfering in my personal life.
“He thinks marrying Layton will keep you close?”
“And under his thumb.”
“Will you let me be here for you like
you’ve been for me?”
When I didn’t respond, he sighed heavily. All teasing was gone from his face, leaving the haunted look. The one he’d had after Mom died. The one I swore I’d fix. At her funeral, I vowed to be there for him. I’d never let him down.
“You’ve fulfilled your vow to me. It’s
your turn to live a little. I’ll be fine.”
He was the reason I’d stayed so long in New Orleans when I wanted to escape Dad’s reach. What would it be like to be on my own with no apartments, no drivers, and no safety net? It usually would have
scared me, but this time, the desire to escape overrode that fear.
“I think it’s time for you to do your own thing,” Colin said.
Since I graduated from law school, I tried to carve out a life separate from Dad, but in reality, I still lived in an
apartment I didn’t pay for, in a building my dad owned. Who was I? What did I want? The sad part was after twenty-eight years, I had no idea.
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