From a Jack to a King
The movie “Nottinghill” with a dash of flames.
World-renowned author Rebecca Finlay seems to have it all—award-winning books, fame, and fortune—but her reality is bleaker than the public eye sees. Widowed three years ago, she tries to juggle her celebrity status while raising her two teenagers. She never thought she’ find love again, until she meets Jack Priestly.
There are only three things Jack Priestly loves—his restaurant The Boathouse, his family, and his ordinary, private life.
But when celebrity author Rebecca Finlay walks into his life with her beauty and the constant flash of cameras, he starts to fall, and hard. She is everything his heart has ever desired, everything he thought he’d never have again, but he struggles to accept the fame that goes hand in hand with who she is. Will he find a way to deal with the limelight that surrounds her, or will it drive them apart?
Read the First Chapter
BECKY Award-winning novelist, Rebecca Finlay, has done it again.
That was what the headline in the New York Times’ entertainment section read. They’d dubbed her THE QUEEN OF THE LITERARY WORLD.
She’d sold millions of novels; each and every title had become an international bestseller. If you wanted a story to read, fall in love with reading, or experience what book junkies were always raving about, all you had to do was pick up a Rebecca Finlay novel.
Her latest work had just started its pre-production for the big screen, which was nothing new to her anymore. She was as close to living the royal life as a non-royal could live. But nobody truly knew the heartache and pain Rebecca—Becky to personal friends—hid behind closed doors, and her typewriter.
No one used typewriters anymore, but she was old school. She loved the feel of the keys beneath her fingers, the force she had to exert to type each letter, the sound of each letter slamming into the paper.
Sure, there was little room for error, but she was set in her ways. To her, the typewriter was magical, and she believed it was thanks to the typewriter that her walls and bookshelves were decorated with awards.
She still preferred hardcovers, though. There was no risk of the book dying while she was in the middle of an intense scene, and there was no risk of accidentally tearing the cover. Her private library only included hardcovers. The Queen of the Literary World. She laughed at the nickname the New York Times had bestowed upon her in its review of her latest novel.
This one had sold almost 200,000 copies during its release week alone, and reached a million in less than a month. And that was only the beginning. She had high hopes for this latest offering of hers. It was part of a series she’d started a few years back.
Her fans had been bugging her for ages, pressuring her to finish it.
But she just hadn’t been able to. It reminded her too much of Phil. After all, he was the inspiration behind the main character—Stefan.
It had taken her a long time before she was able to delve back into that world without turning into a blubbering mess. Three years.
That was how long it had been since the accident. That was how long she had been raising her teenage twins solo. That was how long she’d been a widow.
The past three years hadn’t been kind to any of them.
Phil had been the glue that kept them together. He had been a fantastic father, a great husband, and her best friend.
Sure, they’d had their share of ups and downs—sometimes more downs than ups—but what marriage didn’t face adversity? The key was to never give up. They’d followed that advice throughout their entire marriage.
When she felt that she’d had enough, Phil was determined to say no, and when he’d wanted to give up, she was ready to stand her ground. But they always tried. After all, they had two amazing reasons as motivation. It was like fate—or destiny, or karma, whoever the bitch was—had tried to tip them off for years, dropping hints and signs left and right, that they weren’t meant to be together, that they weren’t made for one another. But they had both been too stupid to see it, so fate forcefully snatched one of them away.
The only problem was that it had taken the wrong person. Becky’s default setting was insanely busy. Always working on a new novel, or trying to give her children everything their hearts desired—she wrote book after book and raked in the cash so she could achieve that—and in return, she missed much of her children’s lives, the highlights of all the things they accomplished.
Phil never had. He’d always been there, cheering them on. But fate chose him. It wasn’t fair. Not to her, and definitely not to her children.
Zach and Chloë were so similar in their mannerisms, though in looks they were opposites. Zach had blond hair like his mother, and Chloë had dark hair like her father. She’d had them when she was twenty-four and had always felt she’d been too young to be a mother. Nothing had been in place at the time, but Phil had wanted them so badly, and he’d kept wanting and loving them all the way up until the day of the car crash. Why had he been the one to die?
He’d had such a close relationship with the kids, known them so well. She wasn’t sure she knew anything about her children, or at least anything important.
Zach was always off doing his own thing with his friends, and Chloë spent all her time in her darkroom. It worried Becky. A lot. But Phil… She sighed.
Phil had understood them all. It was one of the reasons she’d struggled to finish her series. Stefan was Phil, and her fans were crazy about him. But it was over now. She’d finished it. Thank God.
“Do you want some coffee?” asked her assistant, Cass.
This startled Becky out of her train of thought. Cass was about ten years younger than she was and lived on Becky’s farm. Her long, curly red hair framed her oval face. Green eyes met Becky’s blue ones. Becky nodded and winked. She always said yes to coffee.
The door closed, and Becky resumed her vigorous typing.
She had promised her family a simple lifestyle, amply provided for, but simple. Filled with fresh air, horses, lakeshore fun, and freedom.
Stopping, she read over the last few words she’d typed, then leaned back in her chair to consider how to move the story forward.
Life was far from simple now. Even after three years, she had no idea how to reconnect with her children and fill the role of both mother and father.
They deserved so much more than what she was giving them now. What they needed was something money couldn’t buy.
“Jack, your computer’s buzzing,” Robert, one of the kitchen staff, called from the kitchen.
Jack shot him a grin. Technology had never been his thing. Adrian, Jack’s identical twin, skyped him on a daily basis. They’d been inseparable as kids. Their mother, Fiona, was the only one who could tell them apart.
He wondered whether Anna would be able to tell them apart when they were in the same room. Probably so, since she and Adrian had been married for nearly five years now. They’d met when he and his brother had been backpacking across Australia. Adrian had decided to move there to be with her. It had been tough for Jack to live so far apart from his brother, his best friend, his other half.
Adrian was the only one he could share his deepest secrets with, the only person who truly understood him. Now, the only way they saw each other was through Skype.
He answered Adrian’s call with a lighthearted laugh.
Both were wearing midnight-blue shirts. Even though they lived on opposite sides of the world, they were still so attuned to each other that they dressed the same. It always felt like he was looking in the mirror when he spoke to Adrian.
“So, did you chat with Anna about our last conversation?”Adrian snorted and shook his head.
“You are such a wuss.”
“If you’re so certain she won’t flip out, why don’t you take my place and break it to her?”
“Yeah, I can see how that would go down.”
“I would fucking kill you,” Adrian joked. “But you’re probably right. The truth would come out and I’d have to tell her it was you, and then I’d be in even more shit.”
“She’ll understand, bro. I mean, c’mon, we haven’t been together for our birthday in a fucking long time. We can have it at the Boathouse. It’ll be fun. Just ask her, dude. It’s really not that hard.”
“What don’t you understand about fear of flying? She’s terrified. Like, breathing into a bag, freaking out terrified. Do you know how far Australia is from America?”
“Buy her a business-class ticket.”
“Fine, but it’s on your head if she incinerates me. We’re due for a visit, anyway. Mom is already grinding my balls that she doesn’t see Bea more.”
“Yeah, how is the little ankle-biter doing?” Jack mimicked an Australian accent as best as he could.
Adrian tilted his head back and chuckled. “Ankle biters are toddlers, Jack. Bea’s not quite a toddler. She just started crawling, though, so we’re almost there.”
“Please see if you can convince Anna, somehow. I would really love it if we could be together for our birthday.”
“Jack,” Mary Jane called from the door.
Jack flicked a glance over his shoulder before looking back at the screen. “I’ve got to go.”
“Seriously? MJ again?”
“Shut up,” Jack growled, then flipped the laptop shut on his brother’s laughter.
They’d agreed never to say hello or goodbye to one another over Skype. Besides, he was going to speak to him later tonight again.
He got up and walked out of the kitchen with his laptop under his arm.
MJ was waiting for him in the living room.
Her legs went on for days, and she always wore the highest heels and the latest fashions. Her luscious brown hair hung in waves down her back, like a chocolate fondue fountain. She was a goddess, every guy’s fantasy—at least physically. But that was where it ended.
He didn’t know why he kept getting involved with her. She’d proved countless times that they weren’t meant to be. Her quirks drove him insane, and not in a good way. But it didn’t keep him from trying. He always tried. Relationships were hard. Especially after Kate.
It still twisted his heart to think about Kate, even though seven years had passed since the plane crash. A fucking mechanical error had taken away the love of his life—his childhood sweetheart—and their unborn baby.
Their deaths had wrecked him. Though he’d tried to move on, he hadn’t been able to find someone to fill the hole in his heart. No one would ever take Kate’s place, and he didn’t expect that from anyone, but sometimes he just wanted his heart to feel less empty.
MJ for sure would never be able to fill that role. She had been Kate’s best friend, but she was far from being Kate. Being close to MJ was almost like being close to Kate, which was probably why he always ended up entangled with her. Come to think of it, had he ever consciously decided to get together with MJ? Or had it just…happened? He knew Kate wouldn’t be angry if he moved on, that she’d want him to be happy. But he doubted she’d approve of this.
“Hey, you.” She came in for a kiss. “Please tell me you’re free tonight.”
After a quick brush of the lips, he grimaced in response to her proposition. “Sorry, I really need to work at the Boathouse tonight.”
“It’s not going to sink if you’re not there.”
He smiled. “It’s not that. Tony’s cancer relapsed. I don’t think he’ll make it this time.” “Oh, babe, I’m so sorry to hear that. Do you know how long he has?”
The Boathouse was elite, despite its bourgeois name. It was a yacht with three decks that he had converted into an elite restaurant.
They served five courses every night, with a full bar that specialized in fancy cocktails.
It had been Jack and Adrian’s dream, a dream he had realized to perfection. Now, it was one of the hottest places to dine in New York.
Jack was a chef—a damn good one, if he said so himself—and when he wasn’t at the Boathouse, he was lending a hand at the family restaurant, like now.
His family’s restaurant was a quintessential Texan steakhouse. People loved bringing their kids here for the magnificent play area.
Jack maintained an iron fist over the kitchen, prepping, and trying new things out. If it worked, it made the menu; if it didn’t…well, lesson learned. But he loved his life. Most of it, anyhow.
MJ cocked her head at his pensive expression. “Okay, big guy. You’re going to miss out.”
“I bet.” He smiled.
“I guess I’ll see you tonight at the Boathouse. Say one-thirty?”
“If I’m awake. I’m not that young anymore, you know.”
“Seriously? You’re thirty-two, Jack. Not eighty.”
He laughed. “Fine. Call me,” he said as he walked back to the kitchen.
“Talk to you later,” she sang as she left.
Might as well take her up on her offer. His balls were a dangerous shade of near-blue. Though the late nights were taking their toll on him, one-thirty didn’t sound too bad at all.