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A Memorial Day with the Men of Honor




This is how I envision  Memorial Day being spent between the Men of Honor families. This is told in Annabelle’s POV. Annabelle is Jaxson and Julia’s daughter and Braedyn is the runaway teen they adopt. Their story will be the first in the Next Generation series. 









Laughter drifts through the yard we share with my aunts and uncles as we all spend another Memorial Day together. A day to honor and remember all the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for this country and our freedom. 


Honorable people like my father and uncles, who could have suffered the same fate. Thankfully, they didn’t, but they didn’t walk away completely unscathed either. It’s something I’m reminded of every time I see the deep jagged scars on my father’s back. It’s why I will honor the sacrifice not just today, but every day.


While my mom and aunts set the picnic table, my father and uncles man the grill, flipping burgers. Hope, Mia, Ella and I sit across from them and wait anxiously for the day to get warmer so we can enjoy the new pool that was recently installed.


On the other side of the yard, Parker, Beckett, and Braedyn throw the football, a direction I do my best to avoid because I have no doubt Braedyn is over there without a shirt on. Something my temper or hormones need to deal with. 


Most days I'm not sure if I want to slap him or kiss him….No! Not kiss him. Never kiss him. Not again. That was a big no, no. It should have never happened all those weeks. 


I know this, yet it’s all I can think about. It was a kiss that probably no sixteen-year-old girl should have but one I'll remember forever. It's forbidden— his touch is forbidden—he is forbidden. The boy who sleeps down the hall from me, one my father loves like a son and uses as his personal watchdog.


“Okay, which one of us is going to bring up the fundraising idea?" Mia whispers, breaking into my tortured thoughts. “I’d do it, but I’m a chicken. We all know this.”


“Same,” Hope adds.


They aren’t the only ones. Not this time.


Ella throws an arm around my shoulders, wearing a smile. “I vote Annabelle.”


“Why me?” I ask, affronted. “It was your idea.” 


It’s a good one and could raise a lot of money. If our fathers go for it. Which they won't.


"Because you're the oldest,” she says, using the same excuse she always does. “Go on,” she persists, nudging my shoulder. “Be a trooper and take one for the team.”


“Fine,” I relent with a grumble.


“This is a really bad idea,” Hope worries, yet there is no denying the amusement lacing the nerves in her voice.


We’re about to find out.


Just as I am about to say something, Parker, Beckett, and Braedyn come walking over.




Ignoring them, I look straight ahead at my father and watch as he laughs at something my Uncle Sawyer says. The infectious sound brings a smile to my face. The man might drive me crazy with his overprotective nature, but I love him with all my heart.


 “Hey, Dad?”


His ice-blue eyes meet mine, the smallest shadow cast over them by the hat he wears. “Yeah, Belle. What’s up?”


I pick at the label on my soda bottle. “Remember the fundraiser I told you about that we’re going to put together for the homeless shelter?”


Pride fills his expression as he nods.


“Well, Ella just came up with an idea that we think will raise a lot of money.”


Ella stiffens next to me. “Way to throw me under the bus,” she murmurs.


I shrug, refusing to feel bad since she had no problem offering me up as the sacrifice.


My father cocks a brow, intrigued. “Oh yeah? Let’s hear it.” He lifts his beer to take a swig.


“A kissing booth.”


The bottle pauses at his lips, his eyes narrowing dangerously. I chance a look at all of my uncles to find the same expression on their faces.


Ella snickers next to me, unable to help herself.


Our fathers, on the other hand, don’t look nearly amused. 


“Not funny, Annabelle,” my father speaks, annoyance edging his voice.


“I’m serious.”


“I am too,” he snaps. “I’m telling you right now, it’s not fucking happening.”


“Jaxson!” my mom scolds, giving him shit for his language.


“Just think about it,” I add calmly. “It’s for a good cause.”




I drop the argument, knowing it’s a waste of time.


“You girls should have known this wouldn’t fly,” Uncle Sawyer says, looking as unimpressed as my dad.


“Especially you, Mia,” Uncle Cade chides, giving her a pointed look.


“But Daddy dear, you know you're still number one. But girls, they want to have fun.” She sings, using her empty bottle of water as a microphone. “Oh girls, they want to have fun!”


Laughing, we all join in, singing along, even though our voices don’t hold a candle to hers. A talent she inherited from her mother.


Our moms even join in and clap, providing us with a beat. 


We give it all we have, but our efforts prove futile as our fathers’ expressions remain stoic.


Their lack of humor has us quieting down and rolling our eyes.


“Why the hell am I not surprised this was your idea?” Uncle Cooper says, glaring daggers at Ella.


“Because you know how brilliant I am?” she guesses, causing more laughter to ensue. 


Uncle Cooper grunts. 


“Listen, Daddyo. I need to do this. Not only for the shelter but also for myself. It might be the only opportunity I get to lock lips with Brantley Irving,” she says, bringing up her crush. 


Her father’s expression turns to stone, his jaw ticking with fury. 


“Wait for it,” Ella murmurs, but loud enough for everyone to hear. “The vein is gonna appear any second. The one that pops from his forehead just before he’s about to explode.”


How she manages to keep a straight face, I have no idea. Not even Aunt Kayla can compose herself, her laughter filling the yard. “Ella, honey, you make me so proud."


Uncle Cooper does his signature move as he reaches for patience, pinching the bridge of his nose.


My gaze returns to my father who continues to glare at me. “You have to admit, we would make a lot of money,” I say, unable to help myself. “I bet we’d even sell out.”


“Yeah, you would because I’d buy every fucking ticket.”


We all burst into laughter at the overreaction, something my father is famously known for. 


Taking pity on him, I walk over to where he sits and bend down, hugging his neck. “That’s so sweet, but you don’t have to pay for a kiss from me. You get them for free,” I add, giving him a smacking kiss on the cheek.


He grunts but wraps an arm around my waist.


“That was pretty pathetic, girls,” Parker remarks, arrogantly, breaking into the conversation.


“Shut up,” Hope snaps, putting him in his place. “No one asked you.”


“You should have. I could have saved you the time and embarrassment because the three of us wouldn’t let this happen either,” he says, gesturing to Beck and Braedyn. “We would have shown up and delivered kisses with our fists.”


Uncle Sawyer lifts his beer in a salute. “That a boy.”


“Unless there were hot chicks in line,” Parker adds with a smirk. “I’d make an exception for them.”


“I just bet you would,” Mia mumbles, a note of hurt lacing her voice.


I feel for her. I love Parker like a brother, but sometimes I want to smack the shit out of him for being so oblivious.


“Parker’s right,” Braedyn cuts in, his voice echoing close behind me. Too close. “And if you ask me, it sounds like you girls need to cool off.” 


Before I can anticipate what’s about to happen, his arms lock around my waist, his hot, hard body pressing against my back as he lifts me off my feet.


“Hey! Get off of me!” I barely manage the words before he throws us both into the pool, the cool water exploding through every cell in my body.


I clear the surface on a sputter and find the other girls being tossed in by Parker and Beckett. Our parents laughing at our demise.


Growling, I shove against Braedyn's chest, trying not to revel in the feel of his naked skin against mine, but it proves useless. His arms are like a steel band around my waist as he backs me into the corner of the pool. There’s no mistaking the erection against my stomach.


Sucking in a sharp breath, I make the mistake of looking into his clear celadon eyes, ones that always cause my heart to turn over in my chest. 


My eyes narrow in an attempt to mask the reaction. “What’s your problem?”


“You know what my problem is,” his voice is low, the deep timber vibrating through my entire body. “Pull something like that again, Belle, and I’ll remind you what happens when you poke the beast.” 


I swallow hard at his warning. Not in fear, but in anticipation.


I’m in serious trouble.

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