By: Brenda Jackson

Dillon entered Stern’s office then closed the door behind him and leaned against it. Stern had seen that look on Dillon’s face before. It usually meant he was in a world of trouble.

“Any reason for your bad mood today?” Dillon asked, staring him down. “Your first day back from vacation and I’d have thought you’d be in a good mood, not the opposite. I heard hunting went better for JoJo than for you, but please tell me that’s not what has you upset. You’re not a sore loser. Besides, thanks to her father, she not only knows everything there is to know about cars, she’s also an expert marksman, a karate champ and a skilled archer. She’s been showing you up for years.”

Stern tossed a paper clip onto his desk and stared at it for a long moment before glancing up and meeting his brother’s gaze. “I’m well aware of all JoJo’s skills, and that’s not what’s bothering me. She informed me while we were on our trip that she’s set her sights on another target—and it’s not an elk. It’s a man.”

Dillon raised a brow. “Excuse me?” He moved from the door to take the chair in front of Stern’s desk.

“Just what I said. So maybe I am a sore loser, Dillon. JoJo has been my best friend forever and I don’t want to lose her.”

Dillon stretched his long legs out in front of him. “I think you better start from the beginning.”

So Stern did. Dillon said nothing while he listened attentively. When Stern was finished he said, “I think you’re getting carried away and not giving JoJo credit for being the true friend that she is. I don’t think there’s a man alive who can come between you two or mess up your friendship. I think it says a lot that of all the people she could have gone to for advice, she came to you. She trusts your judgment.”

Dillon stood. “If I were you, I wouldn’t let her down. And as far as your bad mood, you know the rules, Stern. No one can bring personal garbage into the office. Canyon just got back from his honeymoon and is in a great mood, understandably so. Yet you were going at him about every idea he tossed out, just for the hell of it. You owe everyone at the meeting, especially Canyon, an apology and I expect you to give it.”

Dillon then walked to the door and opened it.


Dillon stopped and turned around. “Yes?”

“Thanks for keeping me in check. I’m sorry I behaved inappropriately.”

Dillon nodded. “I accept your apology, Stern. Just make sure it doesn’t happen again.” He then walked out and closed the door behind him.

Stern rubbed his hand down his face. He could handle anybody’s disappointment but Dillon’s. When their parents, and uncle and aunt, died in a plane crash nearly twenty years ago, they’d left Dillon and his cousin Ramsey in charge. It hadn’t been easy, especially since several Westmorelands had been younger than the age of sixteen. Together, Dillon and Ramsey worked hard and made sacrifices to keep the family together. Dillon had even gone against the State of Colorado when they tried forcing him to put the youngest four kids in foster homes. Those were just a few of the reasons why Dillon deserved his utmost admiration and respect. Even now, he helped keep the family together.

Presently, there were fifteen Denver Westmorelands. Stern’s parents had had seven sons—Dillon, Micah, Jason, Riley, Canyon, Stern and Brisbane. Uncle Adam and Aunt Clarisse had had eight children: five boys—Ramsey, Zane, Derringer and the twins Aiden and Adrian—and three girls—Megan, Gemma and Bailey.

Over the past few years, everyone had gotten married except for him, the twins, Bailey and Bane. In June Megan had married Rico, a private investigator; Canyon had up and married Keisha Ashford, the mother of his two-year-old son, last month; and Riley and his fiancée, Alpha, would be getting married at the end of this month. It was still a shock to everyone that his cousin Zane, who had once sworn he would stay a bachelor for life, would marry his fiancée, Channing, over the Christmas holidays.

Stern tossed another paper clip onto the desk before picking up the phone and punching in Canyon’s extension.