families readers want to be part of. Her series The Keller Family has
graced bestseller charts since its release in 2011, along with her other series
and single title books. The married mother of five sons promises Happily
Ever After always…and says she can write it, because she lives it.
their many events—mostly hockey—and enjoying the beautiful views of the
Colorado Rocky Mountains from her front step. She is also an accomplished
martial artist with a second degree black belt in Tang Soo Do.
publishing house in 2011, 5 Prince Publishing, so that she could publish
the books she liked to write and help make the dreams of other aspiring authors
come true too. Bernadette Marie is also the CEO of Illumination Author
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Hayes moved to Georgia to start the life she wanted to live and build her
catering career. On the brink of having everything she ever wanted, Eric Walker
and his family happened into her life.
Walker’s life had been quiet, structured, and boring until his uncle gambled
away the family’s property and jeopardized Eric’s livelihood. Now midst family
secrets learned, someone ruining his business and trying to drive him off his
land, he fell in love.
will never be the same for them—especially if someone succeeds in destroying
the Walker family and killing Eric.
available all sales sites are listed on the 5 Prince Publishing website.
Chapter One ~ Walker Pride
Fog rolled in over the ground giving the acreage around the house an eerie feel.
Eric Walker pulled up the collar of his jacket and let out a sigh. It was appropriate for the day to be gloomy, he thought. When you laid someone in the ground, it was fitting for it to rain or be down right cold, as it was today.
He walked down the old steps of the house to his truck, which waited for him like a good horse. Always ready for an adventure. He’d have taken his horse, but his stepmother would frown on it. Not that he’d have cared, but for his father’s sake he chose not to.
As he climbed into the old Ford, its red paint faded and its fender bent in, he kicked the mud off his boots before he swung his feet inside.
Some things were sacred like the inside of a man’s truck. Though the outside had seen many days in the fields, the inside was an oasis of new interior, which pleased Eric.
The engine would be the next upgrade, he thought as he gave her some gas as he turned the key. There was some hesitation, but a moment later she roared to life ready to take him anywhere.
Eric avoided the main house as much as he could.
He hadn’t been very old when his mother died, but while she lived in the big house she had added her touches. Rooms were decorated feminine and they just felt homey.
Of course, he would think that. His mother had done the work herself and had taken great pride in it. But when she passed away and a year later his father remarried. Glenda changed everything.
He’d been ten when the last room received its final coat of new paint and he’d held that grudge since.
As the road to the house tossed him back and forth he adjusted the dial on his radio. It was the kind of day for wallowing in misery with Hank.
His mother loved Patsy Cline. He could still hear her singing as she painted his childhood bedroom.
It was foolish for a man of forty to think so far back and get so worked up, but funerals did that to him.
It had been his grandfather, George Walker, they’d laid to rest in the family cemetery and that was what made him start thinking about his mother.
Her headstone was a mere few feet from his grandfather’s. CONSTANCE WALKER. The letters had seemed so big for such a small woman.
Eric could have done with walking away after the old man was lowered into the ground yesterday, but now he had to trek to the house to hear the will.
He could have cared less about who got what. His grandfather had always promised him the house on the edge of the property, where he’d lived since he was eighteen. There was no reason to assume he’d go back on his word.
Eric wondered about some of his cousins though. Would greed set in?
His own brothers were much like him. They were grateful for what they had. They worked hard and made honest livings. Everett Walker hadn’t raised his boys to be anything less than honest men. That alone gave Eric some pride.
He loved his brothers. He was eight when Dane had been born and there had been a lot of honest animosity, but that had come from a boy who missed his own mother.
Glenda, though she changed the house’s décor, was the best replacement for his mother Eric could wish for. She never treated Eric as though he were someone else’s child. She raised him as her own, with respect to his own mother.
Eric kicked up the heat in the truck as he crossed over the little bridge that connected the two original pieces of land over the small creek, which divided it.
All of his cousins had been at the funeral. Well, everyone but Bethany. It was completely possible his uncle Byron had forgotten to tell her that their grandfather had died at all. Or, she was so busy with her life in L.A. it was just too much to pack up to say goodbye to a grandfather she really didn’t know.
Eric’s uncle was a piece of work himself, he thought as he slowed to check the cattle grazing in the field to his right.
Byron Walker had five children, just as his father did. Only he’d been married and divorced twice and he’d never even married Bethany’s mother.
His father and uncle were complete opposites. Everett Walker, his father, was a family man. He was committed to each member of his family and to his wife. He saved money, nearly to a fault, Eric thought, and he worked harder than any other man Eric had ever known.
His uncle Byron, on the other hand, loved to live life as if it were a party. He’d nearly gone bankrupt three times.
It was well known he was not a faithful husband, which could have been why he’d been married and divorced. And his children were just people who had passed through his life.
Eric got along with his cousins, but they had never had a chance to become close. They came for visits when they were growing up and Todd had worked on the land for years, but he kept to himself.
It only made the drive to the house that much worse by thinking about everyone being in one room—together.
There were at least a dozen vehicles parked in the loop out front of the main house, each one as different as its owner.
Eric parked the furthest away. If he were able, he’d be the first one out. He stepped out of the truck onto the soft ground. Rain had softened it and he was sure his stepmother was already fit to be tied with the shoes coming into the house.
His father wouldn’t tolerate her asking everyone to kick them off at the door. Eric could lay down bets that the carpet cleaner van would be parked there by tomorrow morning.
Not wanting to make a grand entrance, as the last one to arrive, he walked around to the back of the house and pulled open the back door.
The woman standing in his mother’s kitchen jumped and placed her hands on her chest.
“You startled me,” she gasped and let out a breath.
Eric looked her over. He’d seen her before, but he couldn’t put a place to it.
The woman kept working. There were assorted trays on the counter and island. Obviously she was a caterer, and that was where he realized he knew her. She’d catered the reception after the funeral.
Eric toed off his boots. It was the least he could do for his stepmother, even if he hated the idea.
“So what’s going on in here?” he asked.
“Mrs. Walker wanted to have a small sandwich service while the attorneys were here.”
Eric nodded. “Platters of meats and breads. She hired you to do it?”
The woman shrugged, perhaps brushing off the insult he’d landed on her. “It’s what I do. Yesterday’s buffet was okay wasn’t it?”
“Yes, it was fine.”
She grinned as she continued to work. “Fine. This is why I need a sit down restaurant so I can create items that are more than fine.”
“I didn’t mean…”
She raised her eyes to meet his. “I know. This is what I have to do to pay for culinary school. Someday it will be much more than sandwich trays and buffets.”
“You want to own a restaurant, huh?” he asked as he reached over to the tray and took a black olive and popped it into his mouth.
Her eyes followed him and her lips tightened. “Yes. This isn’t forever.”
The unmistakable clicking of his stepmother’s shoes pierced his ears. He could hear the mumbling of his entire family, close and extended, down the hall. There was no doubt she was coming looking for him.
“Eric, I thought I heard that old truck of yours. The entire family is waiting for you.”
He gave the woman rolling ham into rolls a glance and she was smirking, her back toward his stepmother.
“I’ll follow you down,” he said as his stepmother turned and walked away. He leaned in toward the woman. “No fair laughing as she scolded me.”
The woman laughed then leaned in closer. “She scares me a little.”
“Yeah, she’s scared the hell out of me since I was eight.” That warranted a laugh. “I guess I’d better go. I can think of a million things I’d rather be doing.”
He picked up a ham roll and took a bite as she narrowed her eyes at him.
“She’s going to probably count each of those to make sure she’s paying the right amount.”
“If she short pays you I’m good for it. If she doesn’t tip you enough either, let me know. I’m good for that too.”
“Something tells me you’re trouble.”
He bit off another bite. “I’ve been known to be that too.”
She moved the tray of meat out of his reach. “I’ll be sure to be in touch if I need to collect.”
Eric held out his hand to her, but before she took it she wiped her own on her apron. “Eric Walker.”
“Eric!” His stepmother’s voice echoed down the hall.
“I’m forty years old. You think she’d realize I don’t play by her rules anymore.”
“Do you play by anyone’s rules?”
“Just my own.”
She took back her hand and reached for a bag of rolls. “Like I said something tells me you’re trouble.”
Eric shot her a grin as he stole a roll from the bag. Perhaps after putting up with his entire family he would actually stick around and watch the caterer work. He hadn’t had anyone pique his interest in a long time. It might be worth mingling with his family just to let her interest him a little more.