I cannot believe it’s been one year since Saving Cruz was released. When I first had the idea for his story, I could never have imagined that I’d write an entire 5-book series based on he and his siblings. With the final book in the series, “Educating Sophia”, due out next year, I will close the chapter on my amazing family and move onward with other new exciting stories to share with all of you.
Since Cruz’s release, my little engine that could has slowly and steadily been gaining momentum. I’m so very grateful for the people who took a chance on me and purchased one of my books. Even though I’ve been writing for decades now, Cruz’s book was the first I’ve released as a self-published author (my two previous books were published through AuthorHouse Publishing). The world of self-publishing is certainly not for the faint of heart, but I would not trade it for anything.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the wonderful people who have helped me along the way. To my friends and family first and foremost…thank you for your patience and support of what I do. My husband and kids…I could not do this without your support and encouragement. To my beta readers…Mom and Deb….I hope you know how much I appreciate all you do for me. Your feedback, constructive criticism, and guidance have made me a better writer.
I may have mentioned a time or two how much I adore my editor. Max…I truly mean it when I say I could not do this without you. You’re tough on me, which at times can be very painful…but I wouldn’t have it any other way. You push me to do better, to BE better, and I have learned so very much from you. I look forward to years and years of working together.
To my readers….I simply cannot thank you enough for reading my stories and loving my sweet family just as much as I do. Thank you for reaching out on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for signing up for my newsletter. You are the reason I do what I do and I’m beyond grateful to each and every one of you.
If you’ve not yet taken the plunge and gotten to know sexy Cruz Moran, here’s a treat for you…Chapter 1 in its entirety. Happy Reading! AJ
Chapter 1 - Cruz
“Have you heard a word I’ve said?”
Lifting my head, I gaze across the large expanse of desk to my very angry, younger brother Marco. His dark expression tells me I must have tuned out for a lot longer than I assumed.
“Sorry. You were saying?”
He curses under his breath and tosses the thick pile of papers at me. “I’m not going through all that again. You can read about it.” Shooting to his feet, he shoves his hands into the pockets of his slacks. “What’s with you lately?”
His question is rhetorical, sine we both know I’m not the type to air my laundry—dirty or otherwise—to anyone, even my closest relatives. That being said, he does make a good point. For someone who professes to be so in tune with every aspect of his own company, I’m sure as hell not acting like it. This stargazing or daydreaming or whatever you want to call it has got to stop. People count on me and depend on me to be on my game 24-7. Besides, I think, as I thumb through the construction bid in front of me, I have a reputation to uphold. I didn’t become one of the wealthiest commercial builders in Miami being soft-hearted, easygoing, or out of touch with everyday matters. I’m sitting here in this spacious, elegant office, surrounded by everything a man could ask for because I’ve earned it. I am ruthless when it comes to business, and I am the best at what I do.
“You all right, big brother?”
I shoot him a heated look. “I’m fine.” He knows how much I despise personal questions like this—at any time, not just in the office—so I’m not sure why he feels like I’m all of a sudden going to confess my deepest, darkest secrets to him in the middle of what should be a somewhat normal Wednesday afternoon.
Marco gives me a sheepish look and knowing smirk. “Relax, man.” He strolls to the mini fridge tucked away inside a long cabinet along one wall, takes out two water bottles and tosses one to me. Twisting off the top, he takes a healthy swig and asks, “Feel like grabbing a drink after work?”
Setting the bottle on the edge of the desk, I consider his question for as long as it takes my brain to comprehend the mountain of work waiting for me. I offer him a quick shake of my head. “Not tonight.”
Arms pulled across his chest, he leans against the wall. “How long has it been since you’ve been anywhere but here or at home?”
I throw him another hard look that would send most people running. Marco, however, is more than used to my anger. To him the annoyed looks and sneers are merely amusing.
“You need to get out, man.” He offers me a grin. “And you really need to get laid.”
Since we have a version of this same conversation at least every few weeks or so, I dismiss him quickly with a finger pointed toward the door and another hard look. Ass that he is, he offers me a shrug and a muttered “your loss” before strolling across the office and out into the hall.
I wish I knew why he was so damned determined to see I have a social life. I’m not a social person. He, of all people, should know this. I work. I work a lot. The rare few hours I don’t work, I spend either with my family or occasionally the very expensive women I hire to warm my bed for a few hours. Those brief liaisons insure I have zero need to go out socially, working to get a woman in my bed, which I have neither the patience nor time for. I learned long ago that a quick exchange of cash was much easier, and in the end a whole lot less messy than the alternative.
I’m not proud of myself, but this works for me. And really that is just a small part of what my life is. My life is all about my family, my company, and the money I make. It always has been and always will be. While I might be the one sitting in the large office counting the millions, I’m still the same guy who knows every aspect of the business, the same guy who works six or seven days a week, more than twelve hours each and every day. I’m a workaholic and yes, I get off on that. Work is my passion, my mistress, and at times my only friend. It may not keep me warm at night, but we don’t always get what we want. Sometimes we have to take what we’ve been given and turn it into gold.
Glancing around my spacious office, I see an abundance of wealth that I’ve worked my ass off to obtain. There are dollar signs on every surface: the dark teak wood floors, the luxurious wool area rugs scattered throughout the room, and the sleek, leather furnishings I selected with great care. Cost was never an issue when this space was being designed, mostly because I knew going in that I’d spend the majority of my waking hours here; because of that, I needed it to feel like an extension of my body.
The office itself has every amenity I could ask for. There’s a full bath tucked discretely off to one side, a bar hidden away in what appears to be a bookcase, and floor to ceiling windows make up the entire wall behind my desk. This office is my sanctuary, my salvation, and the one place where I never have to guess who I am. In this space I somehow manage to actually like myself … a little anyway.
A knock sounds at the door, pulling me out of yet another bout of daydreaming. In walks my head of Human Resources, Liza Anders. Mid-thirties, Liza is polished from head to toe in expensive everything. The finest clothes, the priciest shoes, even the sweep of her long blond hair down her back screams money. She’s a walking, talking billboard for this company and on more than one occasion she’s made it abundantly clear that she’d be happy to take our relationship on a different path: from the nothing it has always been to her taking up permanent residence in my bed. As I’ve told her—repeatedly, I might add—I don’t mix business with pleasure. Ever. It’s a promise I made to myself when I first went to work for my father back when this company was just a small construction firm and belonged solely to him. Back when I was nothing but a skinny teenager looking to make a buck, when my dreams were vast and filled with happily ever afters.
“Sorry to bother you, Cruz.” I give her a hard look, and she flushes and stammers. “My apologies. Sorry to bother you, Mr. Moran.”
“What do you need?”
She hesitates briefly and rolls her eyes over my body, telling me everything I don’t want to know. For some reason this woman can’t seem to get it through her head that I’m not interested. Not now, not ever.
“Ms. Anders, I’m a busy man. What do you need?”
“Yes, of course. Your assistant called earlier. She’s gone into labor.”
I wonder why my own assistant didn’t call me directly to share that information but then consider the slight wave of uneasiness rolling in my stomach, and I know exactly why I’m the last to be notified. I’m not what you’d call a people person, and I sure as hell couldn’t care less about the state of any woman’s pregnancy. I’m certain my assistant must be well aware of that. “Find me someone temporarily until she returns. How long will she be gone?”
Liza smirks then immediately corrects her expression. “She informed me that she won’t be returning.” She offers up a piece of paper. “Her resignation.”
I wave her and it off dismissively. “Find me someone.” I’ve lost count of the number of assistants I’ve gone through in the past year … the past five years. They’ve been fired for coming onto me, for doing a piss-poor job, or thinking they are in any way being paid to spend an entire day keeping up with social media. Some have quit, stating I’m too demanding, too mean, too rude. All true descriptions perhaps, but ones I expect them to deal with in exchange for the perks they receive. I pay my employees well—very, very well, but I have little tolerance for bullshit. I also have little tolerance for all their personal woes, babies, weddings, boyfriends, and the like. None of that crap has any place in my business, and I make that point very clear from the outset.
Glancing up, I briefly assess the heated look in her eye and snap, “I want someone experienced this time.” I know better than to come right out and say someone older, but we both know that’s exactly what I mean.
Liza nods and purses her lips. “I’ll do my best, sir.”
“In the meantime, call the temp agency and get someone to fill in.”
She nods. “Yes, sir.” With one final ‘do me’ look, she strides purposefully out of the office and pulls the door closed behind her.
I should fire her. I should have fired her months … years ago even. Obviously she can’t take a hint, and at this point I’m certain she’s sticking around because the chase is a turn on for her. Why the hell she continues to waste her time on me is baffling.
Rising, I stroll to the bank of windows and give my tie a slight tug, loosening the restraint around my neck that at times feels like a noose. There are days like today when I wish I could come to work like I used to years ago: dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, get the job done, and head home at a normal time. The days of casual wear are over and have been for years now. I have a reputation to uphold, people who expect me to behave and appear a certain way. After all, it would be hard to convince multi-million dollar companies to let me build their high-rises if I showed up to a meeting dressed like the construction worker I used to be.
I envy my brothers sometimes, though I’d never tell either of them that. They believe, as most people do, that I live and breathe my work because I enjoy not having any life of my own. They sure as hell don’t understand that there are days—not many mind you, but a few nonetheless—when I simply wish I could sleep in late, have few responsibilities, and leave at the end of the day with the rest of the crowd. I’ve never been like anyone else, never lived my life freely and by the seat of my pants like Marco, or with the simple joy found in everything like my youngest brother, Roman. I’ve always been the serious one, the well-educated one with the Harvard degree, born and bred to take over the family business from the day I was conceived. Little does anyone know that if I’d had a choice, or if I’d been given a do-over years ago, I’d have gathered my happiness by the balls and run with it.
"Saving Cruz" is available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon