Read One More Day Online

Authors: M. Malone

One More Day

BOOK: One More Day
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DEDICATION

For the lunchroom girls.

I miss you.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This book wouldn’t be possible without the support of my friends and family. Thank you, especially to my friend Zaki Shabazz, an amazing musician with a golden voice of his own.
 

(Check out his music at
www.eazykeezy.com
)
 

As always, thank you to my husband, Andre, for putting up with my special brand of crazy as I wrote this book.
 

ONE MORE DAY
 

When the P.I. she hired to find her father is murdered, Ridley Wells runs to the only person she trusts, her twin sister, supermodel Raina Winters. But Raina’s out of the country and she needs a place to hide. So when a handsome man mistakes her for her sister, she gets an idea.
 

Where better to hide than in plain sight?

Millionaire hit-maker Jackson Alexander is happy to take in his neighbor. Warm, funny and a little shy, she’s different from his initial impression. The fact that Raina’s beautiful has nothing to do with it. His heart was buried with his late wife and no woman has ever tempted him to break his no-strings rule and none have roused the instinct to comfort and protect.
 

Until now.

And if anyone figures out who the supermodel-next-door really is, she'll need someone to protect her...

WARNING
: This book contains cloak and dagger intrigue, family drama, brothers fighting, supermodels with attitude and hot sex between people who can't keep their hands off each other. Just saying...

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“YOU DIDN’T BRING your hot-ass sister with you?”
 

As soon as the words left his mouth, Jackson Alexander dodged the punch that came sailing his way. A chorus of laughter rang out around him as he playacted dodging blows while his friend, Matt Simmons, growled at him.

“I should give you the ass-kicking you’ve been waiting for since freshman year.”
 

Matt shoved the side of his lawn chair and Jackson tumbled out. He was laughing so hard by the time he hit the ground that it barely hurt.
 

Hanging out with his boys was his new favorite way to spend his weekends. After producing several platinum albums, suddenly everyone

from the kid who’d sat behind him in high school English class, to the receptionist at his gym

wanted to be his best friend. Just a year earlier he wouldn’t have believed the things people would do for a piece of the spotlight. His
real
friends kept him sane.
 

Giving one of them a hard time was just part of the fun.

“Man, you know I’m just messing with you.” Jackson righted his chair and flopped back down. He kept a healthy distance from Matt though, just in case.

His brother, Nicholas, and their friend, Trent, stifled their laughter when Matt looked at them.
 

“You know we love Mara. Mainly because she keeps your crazy ass in line. She’s coming to the barbecue, right? Or is she visiting your parents for Memorial Day weekend?” Nicholas asked. That was his brother, always the mediator.
 

They could have passed for twins with their golden brown skin, dark eyes and curly black hair, but they couldn’t be more different in personality. Nicholas craved excitement whereas, more and more, Jackson just wanted solitude. It was hard to believe that his playboy brother was actually twenty-seven, two years older than he was.
 

Matt took a swig of the beer he held. He rolled it through his palms a few times before answering. “Ask Trent. He sees more of her these days than I do.”

All eyes swung to Trent. He shrugged but the look in his eyes was like that of a cornered animal. “She’s great. She said to tell everyone hi.”

Jackson picked up his lawn chair and then straddled it backward so he’d be facing the group. “Damn, you two aren’t just playing with me? If I’d known she wasn’t off limits…” He stopped at the murderous expression on Matt’s face.
 

Nicholas leaned over. “If I were you I wouldn’t finish that sentence.”

Jackson shook his head as he looked back at Matt. “You are pathetic. I was going to say I would have married her. Mara is one of a kind.”
 

Matt snorted. “You? Married?”

A hush fell over the group. Matt cleared his throat a few times before speaking. “Sorry, man. I shouldn’t have said that. I wasn’t thinking.”

“You aren’t saying anything that isn’t true. I’m glad for once you aren’t walking on eggshells around me.” Jackson looked pointedly at Matt, then the other guys in the group.
 

“I gave up my chance to have a solo career when Cynthia got pregnant. I’ll never regret that choice. She gave me the two best things in my life. I just wish she was here to see how amazing our boys are.”
 

He stopped, frightened for a moment that his throat would close and he’d confirm their image of him as the tragic, broken widower. He just felt such anger, such impotent rage, that one twist of fate could take away his entire world.

“It’s not too late. You could put out an album now,” Nick suggested.

“I could. But it would mean a lot of time on the road away from the kids. I’ve let that dream go and I’m okay with it. Producing may not have been my first love but it’s been good to me and I’m grateful. As for the marriage thing… Look, I know you guys think my life is just one party after another but I’m not making anyone any promises. I only date women who know the score and want the same thing I want. No strings and no drama.”

“You’re only twenty-five, Jack. You can’t think you’re going to be alone the rest of your life.” Nicholas pointed out.

“I loved Cynthia more than life and when she died… well, let’s just say I’m not signing up for that kind of pain ever again.”

It was so hard to remember his vibrant wife in that hospital bed, broken and bruised. Especially since he’d been as much at fault in the accident as the drunk driver who’d plowed his SUV into her car.
 

He’d gotten there before they wheeled her into surgery. There’d been just enough time to tell her how sorry he was and how much he loved her. She’d made him promise that no matter what happened, he wouldn’t stop living. For their boys’ sake, especially, that he not close himself off.
 

He ran a hand over his face wearily. It was the only time he’d ever consciously lied to her. But in that moment he’d have done anything, promised
anything,
to give her peace. Including the one thing he knew he couldn’t do.

Love again.

“So, anyway, my point is that it doesn’t make me an asshole because I’m not signing up for the whole ‘til death do us part deal again. I just don’t believe you can find that kind of connection more than once in a lifetime.”

He looked at the ground, not meeting anyone’s eyes. He couldn’t stand the looks of pity. He was a composer not a lyricist. He didn’t have words to describe what it felt like to have the perfect family and then have it ripped in pieces. All he had were emotions that made him feel about as big as an ant and a sense of humor to keep his mind off the things he couldn’t change.

He leaned closer to Matt. His friend clapped a hand on his shoulder, his expression grave. He almost hated to play a joke on him when he looked so serious but this conversation was way too kumbaya for his taste. And joking around was easier than putting his emotions on a platter for everyone to rifle through.

“But I would definitely make an exception for your sister because she is fine as hell!”

He barely had time to duck when Matt swung on him this time, but hearing his friends laugh was worth a few blows.
 

*
 
*
 
*
 
*
 
*

“FINAL STOP—PORT of New Haven!”

Ridley Wells leaned her forehead against the bus window and gazed at the boats bobbing in the water. The small shops lining the pier still had the same bright red awnings. Fat seagulls still swooped down from above, ready to waddle their way up and down the boardwalk begging for food. Everything looked exactly the same as it had the last time she’d been here. Fifteen years ago.

After waiting a few minutes so the other passengers could disembark, she grabbed her backpack and stepped down into the warm, briny air. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, enjoying the cool breeze coming off the water.
 

She’d been traveling for two days and was more than ready to take a hot shower and sleep in a real bed.
If Raina doesn’t slam the door in your face.
With her sister’s temper, it was a distinct possibility.

“Is this your first trip to the peninsula, too?”
 

A middle-aged woman wearing a bright pink “Nowhere Like New Haven” tee shirt and a faded blue visor stood at her elbow. A group of other women, all wearing the same bright pink shirt, milled nearby chatting excitedly.
Tourists
, Ridley thought. Come to enjoy the beaches and the world-class seafood restaurants.
 

“No. I used to live here. A long time ago.”

She smiled politely at the woman before walking past the others and pulling out her phone. She’d mapped out the distance from the New Haven, Virginia bus station to her sister’s house while on the road. At less than a mile it should be a relatively easy walk and a nice one. She hitched her backpack higher on her shoulder and set off to the south, toward the center of town.

The late spring breeze carried the scent of salt water and something slightly tangy, like someone was having a clambake. It brought back memories of the two years she’d spent in New Haven back in middle school. After years of moving around, an old friend of her mom’s had told her about a waitressing position in the diner where she worked and offered to rent out her basement.
 

Ridley and her twin sister, Raina, were used to the schools in Washington, D.C. so moving to some backwater town in the south of Virginia seemed like banishment. Back then the town hadn’t even had its own movie theater.

But their mom’s friend, Miss Ruth, fixed up the basement so nicely it looked like something in one of the fancy design magazines Raina had always liked to flip through at the corner store. Their beds had been covered in pillows and not just the kind you slept on. Pretty little decorative ones with lace at the edges. Miss Ruth had told them she’d done the lace edging herself. It was the first time Ridley had realized everyone didn’t live the way they did.
 

Her mother didn’t do much after work that didn’t involve a bottle.

They’d stayed there longer than just about anywhere else. Long enough for Ridley to get completely attached to Miss Ruth, her friends at school and the sleepy, little town itself. Driving away in their secondhand Buick had just about broken her heart.
 

College had become an obsession after that. If she had enough money, she could afford to make her own decisions. To make a place for herself somewhere, something no one could ever take away. Her sister had been just as driven. Raina had started modeling right after high school and never looked back. After years of working nonstop and traveling all over the world, she’d finally bought a house in the one place they’d lived that had felt like home. She’d sent Ridley a message containing her address, the security code and a simple sentence.
 

You are always welcome.
 

Those four words had let her know that no matter what happened, her sister would always be there for her. When she’d found herself scared and in need of a place to stay, this had been the first place she’d thought to come. She’d always known she’d come back to New Haven at some point.

But not like this.

All she’d wanted was to locate her father. After her mother

s death she

d become obsessed with finding the only family they had left. The private investigator she’d hired had
finally
gotten a lead. If only she’d pushed him to tell her what it was. Images of charred wreckage flashed through her mind and she shivered. She pulled the diamond pendant she’d been wearing since the accident from beneath her shirt and stroked it.
 

What had he found out that was bad enough to make someone sabotage his car?
 

Whoever it was had to have been planning for him to die in the accident. They just probably hadn’t counted on her witnessing the whole thing. She pulled back her sleeve to reveal the mottled bruises and scars on her forearms.

“You’re just here to hide out until the police figure out what happened.”
 

The officers working the case hadn’t told her much, but she could tell something was up by what they hadn’t said. When she’d asked directly, they couldn’t tell her what she wanted to hear: that the accident was
truly
an accident. She planned to stay under the radar until they figured it out.
 

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