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Forbidden Flame

Monroe Brothers, Book 6

Why do forbidden flames always seem to burn brightest?​

Daphne Calloway is off limits. Our families have been bitter rivals for years. I shouldn’t want her.

But I do.

Which is why I bid on her at the bachelorette auction. Letting some other guy get his hands on her was…unthinkable. 

Then she suggested our date take place in a hot tub and everything got harder. Literally. 

See, as a single mom with a new business, Daphne was in desperate need of a fun, sexy, one-night stand—and I was morethan happy to deliver. That should’ve been the end of it.

Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.

Because now that I know how amazing she truly is, now that I’ve started fantasizing about being there for her and her daughter in a happily-ever-after kind of way, I have a huge problem.

Choosing Daphne could cost me everything I’ve been working so hard for. What remains to be seen is whether any of it will be worth a damn thing if I lose her…

+ Excerpt +

My eyes adjusted to the dimly lit barn. A stage had been set up in the back for the bachelorette auction my cousins were hosting to raise money for the farm and a local animal rescue.

Even though I was a Monroe, I always felt like an outsider. But I was here to support my cousins.

Finally, I spotted Sebastian. I made my way through the crowd of eager men and curious women. Marley introduced the dark-haired woman on the stage.

She reminded me of the teenage girl I’d run into on the tree farm when we were teens. She’d been shy at first. Eventually she’d admitted that her mother had died a year earlier, and she wanted a break from her siblings. Even as a teen, I understood her pain. I hadn’t lost a parent, but I might as well have. We sat on the hill of the Christmas tree field and watched the people shopping for trees in the cut lot outside the barn.

There was something about her. I wanted to hold her hand and tell her everything would get better.

When one of her older brothers had come looking for her, he’d been pissed to find her with me. She’d given me an apologetic look and left without another word. He’d stayed behind to tell me to stay away from her.

I’d wondered about her for months afterward, but I never saw her again. I hadn’t even gotten her name.

My cousins said they were the Calloways, the owners of the competing Christmas tree farm, and they must have been there to scope out our operations. I didn’t care about any of that; I just hoped to get another glimpse of her. But with the feud between our families, it hadn’t happened.

When I finally reached Sebastian, I nodded toward the stage and asked, “Who is that?”

“Her name’s Daphne. She bakes those pies everyone’s been talking about lately.”

“She works at Pine Valley Farms?” More like her family owned it.

“Is that a bad thing?” Sebastian’s friend Hanna asked.

Sebastian lowered his voice. “They’re our competition. It’s a smaller operation but closer to town, so they get more traffic than we do.”

“I didn’t realize.” Hanna’s voice trailed off as I moved away from them and closer to the stage.

There was something about Daphne that pulled me in. She looked lost and slightly panicked. Her expression was similar to the one I’d seen on her face when we were teens.

I had that same urge to rescue her now that I did back then. Without thinking, I raised my hand to add my bid.

Daphne’s startled gaze flew to mine, caught, and held. Her eyes flared with recognition. I slightly inclined my head to let her know that I had her.

I hoped it was relief that flashed in her eyes.

The bidding continued while I let everything around me fade away, never taking my gaze from hers.

Daphne Calloway was the prize. I had this overwhelming desire to take her off the stage and away from these guys. I couldn’t explain where the instinct came from, but it had overtaken all logic and reason.

When Marley declared me the winner, Daphne was ushered backstage. I needed to get to her, but as I moved in that direction, a hulk of a man blocked me.

I grunted in frustration, “Calloway.” I recognized him as one of the Calloway brothers. There were so many of them, and I never had a reason to know them.

He inclined his head slightly. “It’s Teddy Calloway.”

“Cole Monroe. It’s nice to meet you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have somewhere I have to be.” I moved to step around him, but Teddy stepped sideways to block me.

“That’s my sister you just bid on.”

I bristled at his interference, wondering if this was the brother that warned me away from her the first time we’d met. I might have been a kid back then, but I wasn’t anymore. Tonight, I didn’t care about the farms or whether that woman was our competition. “What’s your point?”

His jaw worked. “I don’t know what your intention is, but I don’t want you messing with her. She’s a single mother.”

Awareness hit me square in the chest. The fight went out of me as I held up my palms to ward him off. “I just wanted to get her off that stage. She looked uncomfortable. I promise I don’t have any other plans for tonight.”

Teddy’s shoulders relaxed slightly, but his jaw remained tight. “Our families don’t mix.”

“You won’t get an argument from me on that point.” I swallowed hard. What the hell was I doing getting involved in a family feud? I was the cousin, an outsider to this family. I might have been a Monroe because Uncle Larry was my dad’s brother, but that didn’t mean I stood to inherit any part of this farm. No matter how much I wanted to be part of the farm and the family.

“If you hurt her—” The threat was clear.

“I won’t.” I had no intention of doing that. I wanted to protect her. The urge was strong and insistent, and I had no clue where it was coming from.

Teddy must have seen something in my expression, because he stepped back. “You’d better not.”

“You don’t have to worry about me.”

He nodded as I moved past him.

I felt the weight of his gaze on my back. When I reached the backstage area, Marley’s eyes lit up. “There you are.”

“Sorry, I was talking to someone.” My throat felt dry as I looked past Marley to Daphne, whose gaze was set at some point over my shoulder. I wondered if she’d seen me talking to her brother.

“I was just explaining to Daphne the dates we’ve set up for the lucky couples. One is a picnic and movie date by the lake. There’s the hot tub—”

“We’ll take the hot-tub date,” Daphne interjected, surprising the hell out of me.

I raised my brow at Daphne. I wanted her to have control over how things went tonight. But I wasn’t expecting her to request the most intimate date offered. “You want to go on the hot-tub date?”

 

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