twisted in her gut. She wanted to tell her father that he didn’t have to prove anything, but she needed to know that their deal was truly a thing of the past.

Connor looked up and met her eyes as he said, “Anything. Everything. She can have my house, my business, everything that I have. I don’t care about any of it. The only thing that I want is her.”

She bit back a smile as she walked over to him, making a show of thinking it over. “What about the bathtub?”

“It’s yours.”

“Will you stop stealing my hot chocolate?” she asked, reaching up to cup his slightly bruised handsome face.

“No,” he said, turning his head so that he could press a kiss against her palm. “But I’ll learn to make it the way that you like so that I can make it for you.”

“Highland Construction is mine?” she asked, already deciding a month ago to combine their companies into one and run it with him.

“Yes,” he said with absolutely no hesitation.

“You’ll work for me?”


“Fetch my drinks?”


“Be at my by beck and call?” she asked, loving the way his poor abused lips kicked up into a grin.


She sighed heavily as she said, “You really suck at interviews.”

“Do I have the job?” he asked, giving her that bad boy smile that she loved.

“I’ll have to think about it,” she said with a shrug as she turned to walk away.

“Uh, Rory, what do you want us to do with him?” Johnny called after her.

“Give him the official welcome to the family,” she said, laughing as she walked away.

“Rory?” Connor called after her, sounding uncertain and for good reason. “Rory!”

She paused long enough to look over her shoulder and wink as she announced smugly, “Checkmate.”

Chapter 1

One Week Later…

“Mmmm,” Rory murmured with a sleepy little smile as she slowly sank down into the old-fashioned clawed tub that was now legally half hers and closed her eyes as she savored the scent of lemongrass and mint carried by the steam rising from the tub.

She couldn’t believe how wonderful this past week had been. She’d slept in late every single morning, caught up on her chores, took naps, moved her stuff into Connor’s house, well, their house now, sold her house at a very tidy profit to Andrew, caught up on e-mails, managed to make Jacob’s life a living hell for a few days for all the trouble he’d caused and simply because she could, and just enjoyed herself. All in all it had been a very productive and relaxing week. It was the first time in years that she actually took time for herself.

Then again, it wasn’t really as though she had a choice in the matter, not since all of her brothers and most of her cousins had disappeared over a week ago, taking Connor with them as well as the decision to work out of her hands. Since she’d overestimated the time that they would need to complete Strawberry Manor, they actually had a few free weeks before their next job started. Normally when that happened she would have her guys organize their supplies, manage supplies for future jobs, provide estimates and make bids for future jobs. To her, there was no such thing as down time…

Until this past week when her brothers had stolen her husband that is. Granted, she’d given them permission to give him the official Bradford welcome to the family. Since they’d disappeared, she’d had nothing but down time and she hated to admit this, especially after priding herself for her strict work ethic for so long, but it had felt wonderful to wake up with absolutely nothing to do. Just so she didn’t feel completely lazy she did get a few things done, but for the most part she’d lounged.

She’d lounged in this tub…

On the bed…

On the couch…

On the porch…

And if it hadn’t been so damn cold out she would have bought a kiddie pool and lounged outside in it with Bunny. When she wasn’t watching mindless television and her favorite movies, she was napping, soaking in a hot bath, making chocolate chip cookie batter at two in the morning just so she could eat raw cookie dough in bed while she watched a Harry Potter marathon and just basically doing absolutely nothing.

It was without question the most decadent week of her life and even though she missed Connor and was actually a bit concerned about his safety, it was still the most relaxing week that she’d ever spent in her life and no matter how much she tried, she couldn’t make herself regret this past week. It didn’t hurt that she knew that her brothers and cousins wouldn’t let anything bad happen to Connor, so she wasn’t too worried about him.

Well, that wasn’t entirely true since there was a very good chance that he might come back…different. It had happened before to several of the men that had married into the family and to be honest, she really didn’t like to think about them or what had happened during their “Welcoming.” She certainly couldn’t allow herself to think about it now, because the thought of Connor coming back changed like those other men before him terrified her.

To this day she still cringed when she thought about the first man that she’d seen “welcomed” into the family. That was the first time that she’d ever seen a grown man cry. It hadn’t been a pretty sight and it wasn’t something that she liked to think of, especially now that poor Connor was going through the same level of hell.

Maybe she shouldn’t have egged her brothers on to do it, she thought as panic tried to take over and threatened to send her running for her keys and her cellphone, praying that she could find them before it was too late, but she knew that nothing that she said or did at this point would make a difference to the men in her family. They were doing whatever it was that they did to ensure that the men that married into this family followed their rules and they wouldn’t stop doing whatever it was to Connor that they were doing until they were positive that he was never going to hurt her.

There had only been one man in the history of their family that she knew of who hadn’t made it through the “initiation” and that was Trevor’s father. For whatever reason, they’d decided to put his father through their initiation process before he got a chance to propose to Trevor’s mother. As soon as they’d found out that he’d got her pregnant they’d beat the shit out of him before quietly taking him off to God only knows where Bradfords went when they were making sure that a man was good enough to join the family.

From what she’d heard from her father and the rest of the older generation of Bradford men that had taken part in the initiation, he’d quickly failed to meet their standards. They’d decided that he wasn’t good enough to marry into their family, but because of Trevor, they’d decided to put him through a completely different initiation, letting him know exactly what they expected of him and what would happen if he failed as a father.

Apparently he’d completely forgotten that warning several times over the years, forcing the men in their family to pay him a visit and refresh his memory. The last time that he’d failed Trevor had been the final straw. After Jason had gotten a few swings in, the rest of the men stepped in and took care of him. She’d only been a child at the time and she wasn’t supposed to know, but when they’d heard Trevor’s father call him a “stupid fucking retard,” they’d snapped. Trevor didn’t even know this, but they’d dragged his father off and made sure that he didn’t come back until he was ready to be a real father.

He’d decided never to come back.

Her stomach dropped at the thought of Connor never coming back. She kept telling herself that Connor could take whatever they dished out and more, but…

What if he couldn’t?

Tags: R.L. Mathewson Honeymoon from Hell Romance
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