Priceless ( Forbidden Men #8)

By: Linda Kage

On September 14, 2013, exactly a month after I pushed publish on my first true self-published book, Price of a Kiss, I received an email that started out a little something like this:

Dear Linda,

As an avid reader and wife, mother and attorney with severe cerebral palsy, I am begging you to please take the opportunity to write Sarah’s story. I am so tired of reading stereotypical romances where the woman with the disability is bitter, helpless, has no self-esteem and is just waiting to be rescued or miraculously healed. Well, the real world doesn’t work that way (even when it’s prettied up). Real life can be beautiful. I found a wonderful guy that thinks I am the sexiest woman alive despite my wheelchair. This year, we will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Our oldest son is 23 and in medical school, and our youngest is nearly 10 and a 4th grader....

Well, this is still one of the most meaningful letters I ever received from a reader along with the scariest, because holy crawfish, how was I supposed to say no to that? But then...eek, how was I supposed to write about a character who lived with something I knew nothing about, and do it any kind of justice?

Then I realized, oh yeah, I did that with every story I wrote! LOL.

So I replied to Ms. Mary Crawford and told her this was one request I couldn’t refuse. But I knew it was going to take me some time to come up with a suitable story line, a suitable hero for our precious Sarah, and a suitable way to work them into what later became my Forbidden Men series. And now, nearly three years later, I’m hoping and crossing my fingers that I have something to please and honor our very patient Mary.

I would also like to note how happy I am for Mary. In the three years it took lazy ol’ me to come up with something for her, I also nudged her into following her own desire to tell stories (yeah, look at me, taking the credit for all her hard work. Ha!), and she now has eight books published! Isn’t she amazing? Everyone, tell Mary how awesome she is!

Okay, sorry! Enough of my rambling. Let us now proceed with the story.


AGE 13

“Get out of my bed!”

Jolted awake by the hand shoving my shoulder, I bolted upright with a gasp. “What? Huh?”

An irate sister jostled me again. “I said out, you little dweeb.”

Damn it. I collapsed back onto the mattress. She was home.

With a groan, I rolled over to flop onto my back and yawned up at the darkened ceiling of our bedroom as I tried to rouse myself enough to crawl off her bed. But against my will, my eyes drifted shut and sleep tried to reclaim me.

“Brandt!” Caroline snarled through an irritated whisper. “I’m serious. Get out. What’re you doing on my bunk anyway?”

“What do you think I’m doing? You weren’t home, and Colton’s sick.” I wasn’t sleeping anywhere near that kid when he had a torrential flood of green shit gushing from his nose. Besides, with his fever raging, he’d been hot as hell to lie next to.

It seriously sucked ass that I had to share a room with both my older sister and younger brother, but to have a single bunk bed to sleep on between the three of us was even worse. To top that off, the bottom twin-sized mattress Colton and I used had become a tight fit in the last year since we’d both hit a growth spurt.

When I’d seen Caroline’s empty top bunk, I hadn’t been able to resist hogging a mattress all to myself for a while.

“Well I’m home now.” She ripped the warm covers off me. “So, move.”

I cursed as the cool night air stole through me, settling straight into my bones, and tried to reach for the blankets again, but Caroline was having none of that. As we started a snarling tug-of-war, I muttered, “Jesus, why couldn’t you have just stayed the entire night with your rich prick boyfriend?”

The douche probably had a king-sized bed all to himself too. Bastard.

“Goddammit, Brandt.” She let go of the sheets so abruptly that I went sailing backward and landed with an oomph onto her mattress, all the covers piling on top of me.

Batting and spitting cotton out of my face, I lurched upright to give her a piece of my mind. She was the one who’d left me alone with a sick-as-hell eight-year-old so she could prance off with her new, jerk-of-the-century boyfriend. I deserved this bed for the entire night. But as soon as I opened my mouth to rant, she sniffed and wiped the back of her hand over her nose.

I squinted through the dark to see her face better and finally caught sight of the tears dripping down her cheeks. Fuck.

“What’d he do?” I demanded.

“Nothing,” she answered quickly. Too quickly.

“Nothing my ass.” I wasn’t an idiot. We heard all the juicy high school gossip down our middle school halls, and no one was talking about how the rich Sander Scotini was dating trailer park trash, Caroline Gamble. So that meant he was making her keep their relationship a secret. The jackass was using her big time. If she was crying, it was his fault.

“Just...give me my bed back, all right?” She sounded tired and beaten.

This time, I hopped over the side without complaint, landing on the floor next to her. “Do I need to kick his ass?”

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