Love Off Limits Series Bundle
Love Off Limits Series Bundle
- Purchase the E-book Instantly
- Receive Download Link via Email
- Send to Preferred E-Reader and Enjoy!
Join our group of friends and family as they find love where they least expect it.
Chapter One Look Inside
Chapter One Look Inside
Jackson Franklin had always wondered what it would be like to have a normal family. As he drove through the city of Twin Creeks, Tennessee, he admired the small-town feel and it reminded him of the town he grew up in. But the sight of a family playing in the park—mom, dad, and kids—he knew it was nothing like his own childhood. The sound of his phone ringing distracted him. “Hey, Emily,” he said. His sister would be wondering about his arrival. “Don’t worry, I’m almost there now.”
“Good, I can’t wait to see you,” she practically squealed.
Hearing the excitement in her voice made him smile. “I know, it’s been too long.” The familiar feeling of guilt washed over him, he knew that was his own fault. He hadn’t meant to stay away so long, but he used the excuse that he was busy building his business. Now that didn’t matter anyway. He promised himself he would do better. His siblings were the only real family he had, and he didn’t want to push them away.
“Just use the key and let yourself in. I’m sorry I’m not there yet, but I’ll be home in an hour or so.”
“No worries. I’m sure I can make myself at home. I’ll see you in a bit.” Jackson hung up as the navigation directed him into his sister’s neighborhood.
Jackson finally pulled into the driveway after what felt like the longest drive of his life. His brain felt like a tornado was taking place inside it as all the thoughts swirled. Thoughts about his home and life in Atlanta, about his business there, and about the real reason he had come to Twin Creeks—the one he hadn’t told Emily about.
He hoped he was doing the right thing, but didn’t know for sure. Emily’s house came into view and it warmed his heart to be near family. If only he was traveling to a family home where his siblings had grown up together. Oh well, at least he had his sister. The loud music and energy drink had kept him awake for the last thirty minutes, and he was relieved to climb from the vehicle and stretch his muscles. When he reached the porch, he looked around for the plant Emily had said would be there. Jackson spotted it and flipped it over with his toe. Whoops, a little dirt spilled out, but he found the key underneath. He picked it up and tried to gather up the dirt from the concrete, then brushed his hands off on his jeans as he let himself into the house.
Through the front door the air conditioning hit him in the face, a contrast to the June Tennessee heat outside. He dropped his keys on a table in the foyer and made his way through to the living room. Since Emily had said she would be home in a little while, he ignored the rest of the house that he’d never seen before and looked for Emily’s room where he could catch a nap before she got home. He didn’t think his sister would mind.
* * *
Ally Hughes liked her job and her predictable routine, but today she was glad she had gotten home earlier than usual and was able to take a luxuriously long shower. The hot water felt amazing on her sore muscles after an afternoon workout. She grabbed the shampoo bottle and inhaled the vanilla scent as she washed it through her long dark hair. She had hoped she could relax under the water, but her brain had other ideas. As usual, it was busy making a to-do list for the next day: monthly reports, check office supplies, water the plants. Her job as an office manager for a large accounting firm kept her busy, and she liked it that way. Still, that didn’t keep budget numbers and spreadsheets from sticking in her mind all the time.
With her work checklist done, she switched to her list of plans for the weekend: Dust, vacuum, clean out the car and take it to the carwash.
Sighing, she decided her relaxing shower was only making her brain work overtime. She turned off the water and stepped out onto the soft bath mat. She squished her toes into it and breathed in the steam for a few moments, repeating to herself as she often did: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Ally wrapped the towel around herself and reached for a second cloth to carefully wipe the fog from the mirror. She stared at her eyes and skin and wondered if she’d been drinking enough water. Smiling, she checked her teeth and squinted at her eyes. She made a mental note that she was due for dentist and eye doctor appointments soon.
Deciding that was enough of an inspection, she wrapped the towel tighter around herself and opened the bathroom door. Before she stepped out, she made sure the water had drained properly in the shower and flipped the light switch off. She never could be too careful.
The air in the hallway was much cooler than the bathroom, and she almost felt a chill. But two steps out and her heart sank to her stomach. She heard heavy footsteps and someone clearing their throat. It sounded nothing like her roommate, it sounded like a man. Her hands flew to her mouth as she held back the scream that burned in her throat. She begged her feet to move, but they might as well have been stuck in concrete. Were the steps coming closer? She listened carefully. Her eyes dropped to the floor, and her heart rate tripled as a shadow appeared across the hallway doorway. When a pair of men’s shoes came into view, she couldn’t hold it anymore. Her scream echoed through the house. Fear gripped her body as she ran the few steps to her bedroom. Hands shaking, she locked the door and grabbed for her phone. She was just about to press the button to call 9-1-1 when a knock sounded on her door. “I’m calling the police! Get out of here!” she yelled.
“Um, Ally?” said a male voice.
Her skin prickled all over when he spoke. Her panic rose even higher when he said her name. “Who are you? How do you know my name?”
“It’s me, Jackson.”
“Jackson?” Her mind reeled as her thumb hovered over the call button. She bit her lip and almost pressed the screen.