MaddJax, Book One
It is better to have loved and lost than to never love at all. But it is the love that’s lost that forever owns your heart and forever leaves you a little broken…
“Princess,” my dad called from the bottom of the stairs, “the car’s arrived!”
I downed the rest of my wine, and shouted back, “Coming!” taking one last glance at myself in the full-length mirror before I stepped out of my walk-in closet. No amount of primping was going to prepare me for the night ahead. I was absolutely dreading the next few hours and was now questioning why I hadn’t made up some excuse to get myself out of this wretched event.
And showing up solo, dateless, wasn’t ideal, either. But I guess that’s to be expected when you lived for your job, like I did. The job was your spouse…your partner…your companion. There was no time to pursue anything else. Anyone else. No time for romance, or love.
The job was all I needed anyway. I loved my job. And romantic love wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Certainly not the fairy tale I’d read about growing up. Life had taught me that. One boy in particular, he had taught me that. Hard work, that’s how one made dreams come true.
I shut my bedroom door behind me and descended the grand staircase into the foyer of our house, three floors down. I lived at home, in my father’s massive mansion of a home. The same home where I’d lived since junior high, when my mother and stepfather married.
Theirs had been a whirlwind affair; met in Vegas, at some sort of business hoo-ha—Mom had been on a girls’ trip—spent umpteen hours straight in bed, then scattered hotels over the following couple weeks, sexing it up with each other— I should know, I was nearly scarred for life hearing my mother brag and recount the intimate details of their beginning, over and over again, my blood-curdling at the sheer grossness of hearing one’s own mother’s sexual prowess; her awakening, if you will. —then married. And us kids were swept up in the whirl of dust settling down.
I grabbed ahold of the balustrade to steady my step in my high heels. The heels were red, to match my racy red cocktail dress, and had a fairly impressive heel. The heels made my legs look even longer than they were naturally, for my 5’10” height, exposed beyond the mid-thigh hem of the dress; backless, descending into a teasing, seductive point between the two dimples low on my backside. I had to forgo a bra, what with the plunging neckline on this figure-hugging baby. But I liked the look and felt fabulous in it; which was a plus, for a class reunion.
Cautiously gliding my way down the stairs, I was met with a whistle from Dad, standing at the last stair. “You’re gonna knock ‘em dead, princess. You look absolutely stunning. Although, I’m concerned about the length of that dress—”
“I’d be concerned if you weren’t, Dad,” I returned as I kissed his cheek, cutting him off before he could remark on the deep cut neckline or back—rather, lack thereof. “But thank you.”
My dad— Well, technically he’s my stepdad. —protective, loyal, and loving. I would not be the success or the woman I was today without him. Marrying Sawyer Jaimison had been the single smartest thing my mother had ever done in her somewhat-sort-of-messy life. Dad worshiped the very ground she walked on. He couldn’t adore my mother more.
As for me, he not only raised me as his own, from day one, but groomed me to be CEO of Jaimison Cole Group—the company that bears his family name, Jaimison—while I’d still been in college. He’d even changed the company name when I came on, to include my surname, Cole.
“You’ve put a lot of work into this event…”
That was an understatement. The planning of this class reunion had been really time-consuming. A lot more so than I’d expected when I signed up to head the shindig. But at least I was able to oversee the decorating and the food selection, and supply an amazing venue. There hadn’t been much in the class reunion fund to speak of, so I kicked in extra. Well, in truth, I carried the expense myself. It was well worth it though; if just for the hired help it allowed for, alone. As well, there’d been an anonymous donation, of a rather large sum.
“Try to enjoy yourself.” Dad smiled.
“Maybe you can convince one of those good-looking men to take you out…” my mother shouted from the other room, in a bit of a slur. Mom likes to indulge in the evening… be it wine, vodka, champagne, tequila…she’s not too selective. “It’s not right, a woman your age still single. Your looks aren’t going to last forever, honey.”
My eyes rolled at that. Leave it to my mother to give such charming advice. It really irks her, my head for business, that I’d chosen work over a man, even if a part of her was proud of my success.
“Now, that’s enough of that, Marie. Maddison will always be beautiful, in addition to being brilliant,” Dad gently argued, as always, sweeping in to my defense. “…Not just any man is good enough for her.” He lifted my wrap from my arm and whisked it over my shoulders. “You wait for the right guy to sweep you off your feet, princess,” he whispered conspiratorially. “Don’t give up on that or let anyone push you to believe otherwise.”
And that’s why I loved the man so much. Truth be told, that’s what I was really holding out for, a man just as wonderful as him; a man who could compare to that high standard; a man as loyal and loving and patient as my dad.
There was one man…
Or at least I’d thought so, once upon a time. One would have thought he’d be genetically predisposed—
I shook the thought from my head. Thoughts like that were going to get me nowhere…had gotten me nowhere. He’s gone—apparently for good.
I kissed Dad’s cheek and whispered a thank you. “He’ll have to live up to your example, Dad.”
He offered me a tender, loving smile and an affectionate hug, his large frame wrapping around me and swallowing me up. “You have yourself a good time, princess,” Dad wished as he released me and stepped back, his green eyes twinkling beneath his dark lashes.
My clutch purse in hand, I made my getaway out the front doors and slipped into the back seat of my awaiting town car.
“You look lovely this evening, Miss Maddison.”
“Thank you, Jared,” I returned, letting Jared, our driver, shut me in.
Five years, I thought on the drive through town. It really was true what they say, that time passes quickly. If you’d have asked me back then, in high school, I would have said that nothing would keep me from attending every single one of our class reunions. But when talk of a five-year reunion started swirling earlier this year—instead of waiting for a ten-year—I seriously considered not going.
But as class president, a key member of the reunion committee, foregoing really wasn’t an option. I was stuck and would have to attend, like it or not.
Truth was, I’d done a lot of changing since high school; a lot of growing up. Carlsbad High was a pretty pretentious school, to which I was the most pretentious—at least back then I was. Head cheerleader, class president, voted most popular… I bypassed the actual social climb itself and went from lower class, straight to the top of the social status ranks upon my mom marrying my stepdad. I now see how senseless, frivolous and useless all that was. In addition to how fake most of those so-called friends were. That I’d learned the hard way—shallow friends made you shallow as well. Unhappy.
I appreciate the smaller things now, the more important things. Like the people in my life. A calming lap in the pool. A simple dinner with a friend, colleague or college friend. Though, there had been one true friend back then; one always loyal, always on my side, trustworthy and selfless to a fault, friend. I never felt that more than after he left. He was my best friend…he was the one. If there really was such a thing— The perfect match… A soul mate, destined to walk by your side through life. But I was too young and foolish to realize or admit it.
I couldn’t help wondering if he’d be there tonight; he who fled town junior year and stole my heart and took it with him. Only I’d been too self-absorbed—blinded by my quest for popularity and social status—to see it before then, that he actually held my heart.
It’d made all the difference though, and was when everything changed. When I became driven on success and focused, eliminated all the frivolous—not right away of course. But after I crawled out of the black hole he’d left me in.
Inside, I knew for certain he wouldn’t be attending. I was in charge of tickets sales, funds, and distributing purchased tickets to attendees. His name hadn’t been one. But still, it didn’t keep a small part of me from hoping.
We pulled up in front of the venue; a charming castle with turrets. The place was truly magical. The hotel property was one our company owned. Well, my father’s company—a multi-billion dollar company with interest in several ventures. Mainly buying and taking over companies. And I was the CEO, as well as Events Coordinator. I have a bit of a creative side. But mostly I’m good at running the show… taking charge. Managing and organizing people efficiently.
It’d come in handy for this reunion event. The ballroom looked especially beautiful and magical tonight. We’d designed a waterfall feature in one corner, flowing down the wall and running off center through the ballroom, flanking one side of the dance floor with a bridge leading to the bar. Thousands of tiny, twinkling white lights hung from the ceiling, adding to the magic.
Okay, here goes. Show time! I took a deep breath and slipped my legs out of the opened car door, my sexy red heels touching to the cobblestone entrance leading to the magic. I thanked my driver, Jared, and was on my way…
~ * ~
The event was really hoping, now that cocktail hour was well underway, and I was enjoying seeing how much my classmates had changed. Some aging enough that I didn’t recognize them. And some who had surprisingly grown into their own in many ways, looks included. Most of which, knew it; arrogant beyond belief. There were a couple men that I would even consider ‘good catches,’ had the remembrance of what idiots they’d been back in high school wasn’t still so fresh in my mind.
I stood at the edge of the dance floor with a few of my former cheerleader friends, multicolored lights flashing and glowing around us while we listened to the DJ play music hits from our high school days, watching a few brave souls dancing and grinding for all to see. On display.
It was nothing short of awkward, in a crowd this large and so few dancers joining in. But hey, they were having fun.
“So, how much longer till dinner’s served?” Malissa asked. “I fear if Jeremy Clark, out there on the dance floor, doesn’t get something to soak up all that alcohol soon, we may have a repeat of Junior Prom…” We all roared with laughter, but inside I was cringing. The memory of Jeremy Clark puking all over his lovely prom date and the dance floor was the single most disgusting thing I’d witnessed. Ever.
“Well,” I said, “hopefully he’s learned to hold his alcohol since then. Because I, for one, don’t care to witness that again.”
“My bet’s on the wife, this round,” Cara piped in. “She’s hammered. Just look at her? What kind of rhythm is that?”
I giggled. She had a point, the girl was crazy wasted out there, staggering in motion.
“That’s just an embarrassment all the way around,” added Victoria, shaking her head from side to side. “Especially next to Conner McKnight. That man’s got some moves. And his body’s—”
“Hey!” blurted her husband in protest, his arms coming around her middle as he hugged her from behind. “There will be none of that, baby, no ogling other men.” He playfully nipped Victoria’s ear, eliciting an array of sweet giggles from Victoria as she squirmed in his arms.
Good grief. I chugged back the rest of my wine. This was going to be a very long night if that was what I had to look forward to. We were in dire need of a subject change, and a distraction. “So, am I the only one without kids in this circle?” I threw out there.
“Yes,” Malissa responded eagerly, the corners of her lips tipping up into a grin.
“No,” protested Cara, giggling, “I have no children.”
Malissa cocked a brow at her, “You’re pregnant, Cara. With twins! That counts.” Cara rubbed her swollen belly.
This night was going downhill in a hurry.
“I beg your pardon,” Grace asserted, stepping to the forefront of our little circle, “I absolutely do not have kids, nor do I want them. I enjoy shopping around, comparison shopping men and sampling the wares.”
Wine… I need more wine!
Grace had two date’s tonight, two gorgeous men waiting at her table while she visited with us girls. I should be so lucky. I hadn’t even mustered up one date.
Well, in my defense, I hadn’t really asked anyone to accompany me tonight. I figured it would be better to just face this night on my own and not drag some poor guy along. Nolan had offered, but I shot that down right away.
Professor Nolan Neal, a business law professor I secretly hooked up with here and there, a couple nights a week—had since it began my sophomore year in college. He’s ready to take it to the next level. Me, not so much. I subtly shot him down every time. Bringing him along tonight would have just complicated things, that much more.
There’s only one man for me. But regretfully, I screwed that up, and feared the opportunity had passed. The worst part was that I was the one to push him away, afraid of what others would think or say. I’d regretted how things went down, every single day since, and swore if I was ever given another chance, regardless of the circumstance, I would make my feelings known.
But that scenario was unlikely…he hadn’t been around or shown his face since, and I had little hope that he would ever again. Other than a flicker of thought that maybe he’d come to the reunion.
“I’m single, too,” Jennifer suddenly announced, “and kid-less.” Broke from my musings, my focus was brought to Jennifer, grinning.
This whole kid thing, I still couldn’t wrap my head around it. That my former classmates had children—that we were old enough. I wasn’t in that place. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be in that place.
I traveled up Highway 101 with the top down, the salty scent of a beach breeze blowing through my dark hair, and a mix of emotions coursing through my body: excitement and adrenaline, laced with a little anxiety. I shifted gears as I sped into the hotel parking lot, zipping my sleek, black Maserati GranTurismo straight to the valet.
This was it. A night seven years in the making.
If you’d have told me back in high school that I’d be attending my high school reunion, I’d have laughed in your face.
Back then you couldn’t have paid me enough to attend something so lame.
Socializing with phony, pretentious social climbers still didn’t top the list as something I would enjoy. In fact, it was still at the bottom of my list—I mean, I left junior year for a reason.
But when the old man phoned with the news of an upcoming class reunion—I’ll be it only a five-year reunion—I knew this was it. This was my chance. My chance to return for the girl I’d left behind in my teens. The girl who was too good for me back then. The girl I’d spent the last seven years bettering myself for. The girl who was no longer a girl, but now the woman I was coming back for, to finally win her heart.
Maddison Cole had been my first … my first everything. My first kiss, my first touch of soft, feminine skin, and the first girl I found utterly beautiful beyond words. Breathtaking. The girl who’d enticed me with the wiles of her intoxicating, sensual but sweet scent, twisting its way up into my senses, clouding my brain and infecting me in ways I’d never even imagined. The first girl I could talk to, share with—in truth, she was the only girl I’d ever opened up with, still, to this day. The first girl I’d been inside, experiencing the blissful ecstasy that only Maddison could elicit. The girl who not only intoxicated me with her luscious, sweet, heavenly scent, but with her very existence.
Though, she hadn’t known it at the time, that she’d been the first. I put on a good act. Everyone perceived me as a cool, tough guy who made his way through a throng of girls. But that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
I not only lost my virginity to her, I lost my heart. I might actually have lost my heart first, I’m not quite sure. Only I wasn’t good enough for her—so she’d thought—and she’d realized it almost immediately after, regretted having sex… Or, maybe she just regretted having it with me?
As far as I was concerned it was magic, being with her, us together. Only she’d grabbed her clothes and scurried off so quick after, I never got a chance to tell her that.
And then there’d been the poison oak disaster.
She was afraid too, I figured, of what she felt. Of the consequences.
Hell, I was too! But I was just as sure of it then, as I was now, that we were meant to be together. No other woman or girl would ever compare. Would ever make my heart beat as fast, my breath steal away, my blood sear in my veins, or affect my body in such a way.
Of course, there’d been a slip or two after… well, the slip of my tongue in her slick heat, when I’d cornered her on her raft while floating in the pool later that day. And then again later that night, when I’d splayed her out on the sofa in the pool house while we were watching a DVD—to this day, the sweetest thing I’d ever tasted.
But then watching her flirt with other guys at school the following few days—them touching her, and her completely shutting me out—my head had been about ready to explode! As well as my heart; it was absolutely crushing.
Trouble was, Maddison wasn’t only the love of my life, she was my best friend, and having her shut me out, losing her friendship, that was the hardest part. Then having her reject me as her lover… my heart was shattered.
Though it didn’t seem she cared. She cared about her popularity, her social status.
It was my own fault, really, I don’t know what I was thinking. She had achieved the rank of class president, head cheerleader, the one other girls sought to emulate, and guys dreamed to have. No way would she fall for me with all those football players—the quarterback himself, in point—and pretentious elite after her, showing her attention, idolizing her. I knew social status and money were new to her, her mother marrying into money.
I’d had it all of my life, took it for granted, and wasn’t the least bit impressed by it. Not Maddie, though. It was all new for her: the money, the status, the popularity… and she wanted it all. I didn’t fit in. More, I didn’t want to fit in. I had nothing to prove to those stuck up, arrogant assholes. I’d put up with their shit my whole life: all through elementary school, middle school, and high school. But Maddison, on the other hand…
I bailed shortly thereafter. Took the jagged pieces of my shattered heart and moved to my grandparents’ ranch in Texas, 1500 miles away, until I finished high school, with the intention of joining the military. The marines, to be specific. Then had a change of heart; college seemed the better option.
With a new goal of following in my father’s business footsteps, and a fierce, unwavering new determination and drive, I kicked college in the ass and blew out of there in three years. I knew I needed to make something of myself to deserve Maddison, change my image in her mind. She was mine—always had been—she just didn’t know it yet. Or, rather, just didn’t want to admit it. I intended to change that.
I could still feel the soft, feverish touch of her tentative fingers trailing across my chest that first time, exploring something new and exhilarating, my insides lit up with fiery adrenaline. It was all I could do not to ravish her on first touch, to contain my composure and let her take her time exploring the newness, the thrill.
Just the idea of being near her again, touching that silky, soft skin… Jesus. This girl makes me lose my damn mind and absolutely undoes me.
I walked through the doors, sweeping in like I owned the place.
Well…technically, I did own it, partially. With the rest of my family. The Beach Castle Inn, the venue where the reunion was being held, was one of the first hotel properties Dad acquired. One he held very near and dear to his heart, since it had been a gift for Mom on their first wedding anniversary. She’d left us six years later.
I’d always loved this hotel myself, too. A regal castle, with turrets and all. White and pristine, the castle looked more like a cathedral than the old gray stone castles, with twin turrets capped with what looked like shimmering crowns. Something you’d find in a royal country, not SoCal, near the Pacific Ocean.
The ballroom in sight, I strolled in and scanned the room real quick. Yep, same lame ass group as in high school. Only now they’re adults.
Eye on the prize, Jaxon, eye on the prize.
Ahh, and there she was.
She was even more beautiful than she was back then, in high school. Gorgeous. And, fuck, sexier than hell.
A sudden twitch beneath my zipper had me reaching into the pocket of my slacks to do a little adjusting.
Yeah, I’m having her before this night is through. I’ll be in her, guaranteed. Seven fucking years too long, that’s what it’s been. Dark hair flowing, swept to one side over her lovely shoulder; it was quite a bit longer than it’d been the last time I’d seen her, a good twelve inches longer. Skin porcelain and pure as always—I imagined her perfectly scattered freckles, wondering if they were still visible. And that dress… that sinful as hell dress. It hugged every one of her glorious curves to perfection, the neckline plunging, offering more than a teasing peek of cleavage—the fleshy swell, breasts threatening to bust free…
She turned slightly, giving me a glimpse of the barely there back, displaying more of her flawless, porcelain skin to just below her waist, to the small of her back. I remember the sweet little surprise just a bit lower, the two cute little dimples that always mesmerized me when she was in her tiny bikini.
She was laughing; someone had said something funny, someone in her group of friends. God, how I loved that smile…those lips…the sound of that lovely, musical laugh… Maddison was still just as poised and classy; only now elegant and sexy. She was simply stunning.
Too bad I wasn’t in hearing range, I’d missed…
My body tensed, and my jaw clenched tight, noticing some dumbass cozied up close to her.
I figured she’d be alone.
That was the inside information I’d received; no boyfriend, no date.
She sure as hell better not have a boyfriend.
Or date, for that matter. If she did, that bastard’s history. I mean, look at that guy… He better take his filthy hands off of her…of what’s mine. Or I’d help him with that.
I picked up my pace. I’m coming for you baby!
‘MaddJax BK1’ MaddJax Series ~ Chapter One & Two
~ MaddJax, Copyright © 2018 by Deborah Ann