Dreams of Ivory
Book 5 in the Holiday, Montana Series
Jackson Cooper hates magic. Even though his brothers are falling prey to the seductive draw of the paranormal world, Jackson wants nothing to do with it. He also wants nothing to do with marriage, babies, and all that comes with it. He’s content with being the stoic, but quiet Uncle Jacks. But when a woman from his past, one he’s been dodging for years, comes back to town, Jackson might have to reevaluate his plans.
Honor Bridges is a tooth fairy, yes, you heard that right. For the past eight years she’s been on her own, hiding from what she truly wants. Now she’s back in Holiday and ready to take over her duties…as well as deal with Jackson once and for all. Only there’s another player in town who isn’t happy with the decisions she made all those years ago and there might not be enough magic left in Holiday to save them both.
Dreams of Ivory
“Maybe if he got laid, he wouldn’t be such an ass.”
Jackson Cooper gritted his teeth as the words floated into the grocery store aisle. He gripped the handle on his cart then took a deep breath. He had two choices: either confront the woman who’d spoken or walk past her and act like the ass he knew he was.
The latter seemed like the best choice since he really didn’t give two cents about an opinion from a woman he’d turned down.
He put the box of pasta on the bottom of his cart and moved down the aisle, passing Jessica Turnip’s—the woman who’d spoken—and Claudia Sanders’ wide-eyed looks.
“Oh, J-Jackson…” Jessica stuttered, her too-painted cheeks blushing, her heavily shadowed-eyes wide with mocking and just a bit of fear. “It’s good to see you. Um…I wasn’t talking about you…no…it was…”
Her voice trailed off as she clutched her throat—as if he’d strangle her for her comments.
Really? They’d been talking about another Jackson Cooper who happened to be a dentist?
The two gossips had been talking about how the single male pool had almost completely dried up in Holiday, Montana with the sudden marriages of the Cooper brothers. Well, at least four of the five brothers. It’d be a cold day in hell if he ever took that plunge. When they’d come to his name in the short list of available men, Claudia had giggled while Jessica had sighed.
Apparently they wanted him, and he wanted nothing to do with them.
Hence why they thought he was an ass.
Well, he was an ass, but he had good reasons—he didn’t particularly like people.
He just didn’t care about being nice for the sake of making people feel better about their own jealousy and insecurities.
Instead of saying what was really on his mind though, he merely raised a cool brow then turned his back to them, walking toward the check-out lines. He heard their mumbled voices as he left, but he didn’t bother trying to figure out what they were saying. Either they were commenting on his ass or the fact that he was an ass.
Most likely both.
Hell, he missed having his brothers free to be able to take the brunt of the female population, but now they’d all married within a short time of each other. Matt and Jordan had married first, soon after they’d gotten back together. Then Justin, Tyler, and Brayden had married the loves of their lives in a triple ceremony on the Cooper property.
Though the whole town had tried to come, Jackson and the women were having none of that. No, everyone had wanted a small ceremony with only family and close friends. Even Jackson’s cousins had come into town, his cousin Caleb bringing his two girls to be flower girls along with Lacy, Brayden’s new daughter. Brayden’s two new sons, Cameron and Aiden, had been ring bearers while Jackson had stood awkwardly to the side acting like best man and maid of honor.
Apparently that had been the women’s wishes, so he’d done it, but he’d be damned if he let anyone other than his family mention the fact. It was either that, or let the women bring in another woman to take the job and match make.
Everyone had wanted the ceremony to be fast yet peaceful, so they had done just that back in March. Brayden and Allison had been dating for little more than two weeks before they got married, but really; they’d been circling around each other for ten years, so it hadn’t seemed fast for any of them. Tyler and Abigail had been the same way with their fast courtship. The two had known each other for years and were perfect for each other. Seeing how Tyler was a cupid, it only made sense his brother would know his own mind.
Well, that was as long as Tyler didn’t have a curse on him, but that was a whole other story.
Justin and Rina had known each other the shortest amount of time, but it didn’t seem to bother them that they were now shackled to each other.
As long as they left Jackson’s personal life alone, he’d stay on the sidelines and watch the happy newlyweds gush and smile at each other for eternity. Yet, it was the odd gleams in their eyes when they looked at him that made him worry. They were either filled with pity that he was alone or were calculating how to make him join their wedded bliss.
Again, not for him.
He’d made it to the checkout line when his phone rang. With a sigh, he checked the screen and answered Matt’s call.
“Yes?” he asked, his voice clipped. Not that he was angry with Matt, but if his brother was calling now, it was probably for an errand Jackson wasn’t in the particular mood to do.
“Hey, bro, we need a favor,” Matt said, his voice a little harried.
Ah yes, we. That either meant him and Jordan, or him and the rest of the Coopers. Jackson never knew anymore since they all congregated together far too often. Not that he didn’t love his brothers and new sisters-in-law. He just felt that being alone and at peace would be nice every once in a while.
“Yes?” he said again, ignoring the looks of Jessica and Claudia as they passed him again.
“We need peanut butter. A lot of peanut butter.”
Jackson blinked. “Uh, don’t you already have some at home?”
Matt let out a shaky laugh. “Yes, but it’s not the right brand and right now all four women are at the house picking wallpaper and craving peanut butter.”
Jackson let out another sigh. “What kind?”
“I knew you’d help. Thanks, Jacks. Okay, Jordan wants the extra crunchy kind. Rina wants smooth. Abby wants that New Age organic kind with honey inside, and Allison wants the kind with the jelly already added. You know those mini Coopers. They’re picky.”
Jackson blinked again, almost at a loss for words as he ignored the mini Cooper reference, a term the girls loved and had begun calling their offspring. Having four women all entering the second trimester of their pregnancy at the same time was just about killing the brothers. How the hell had he become part of this? He wasn’t married to any of them, and yet now he was the peanut butter bearer.
“Four…four types of peanut butter?” Jackson asked.
“Yes. Four. I’m alone in the house with four pregnant women who all want peanut butter of their own choosing. For the love of God, help me.”
The panic in his brother’s voice made Jackson smile. Matt had the pre-daddy jitters. In fact, all his brothers did.
“Fine. I’ll get out of line and get your peanut butter, but there’s no way in hell I’m getting out of my car to drop them off. You’ll have to come out—sans women. I need to get to work since I took the morning off.”
Matt laughed. “I still can’t believe you did that. I called your office first to see if you’d pick some up on your way home, and your receptionist was there doing paperwork and told me you’d be in late. I thought hell had frozen over.”
Jackson gritted his teeth as he made his way to the peanut butter aisle. He still couldn’t believe there were so many types of it. He piled them into his cart and shook his head.
“I had a cracked bicuspid emergency last night and didn’t get home until late. I decided I could take off the morning since my appointments were easily moved.”
The perks of a small town was that he could afford to change things around if his loyal patients were on the books.
The downside was that he was the only dentist in town—as well as the county. He never got a break unless he inconvenienced someone.
“I’m not blaming you, Jacks, God no. It’s about time you take time for yourself.”
Jackson rolled his eyes and made his way back to the checkout lines—this time four jars of peanut butter heavier. “I’m fine with the way things are, Matt.”
“If you say so, Jacks. Okay, I’ll be on the lookout for your car and will run out to you so you can speed off before the women come out. I’ll make the excuse that you have to head to work. Which really isn’t a lie since it’s your favorite thing to do.”
Jackson grunted at his brother’s remark then hung up without saying goodbye. Matt would get the gist of it. He paid and made his way to his car, ignoring the looks of his townspeople. The Coopers were the most well known family in all of Holiday, so it wasn’t surprising he garnered a few looks.
Plus he was a single man in a town full of single women.
God, he needed a vacation away from Holiday.
When he got to Matt and Jordan’s place, he parked near the curb but didn’t go to the driveway. He needed a quick escape in case one of the women saw him. Considering one was a witch, another a magical elf, and one more like a harpy, he wasn’t taking any chances. Not to mention that Allison was raising three children with another on the way and was as fierce as any momma bear.
Yeah, he wasn’t too afraid to admit—to himself—that he’d steer clear of the new Coopers as long as possible.
The front door opened, and Matt ran out, his hair standing on end as though he’d been running his hands through it throughout the day. Considering he’d been in the house alone with four pregnant women all day, Jackson couldn’t blame him.
“Oh thank God,” Matt said as he took the bag from Jackson. “They’re all upstairs looking at more wallpaper for one of the guest rooms. Jordan is going crazy with finishing renovations on the house, but don’t tell her I said that.” His eyes widened as if he’d just noticed what he’d let slip.
Jackson let out a deep chuckle. “Your words are safe with me. Is everyone off work today?”
Matt raised a brow. “It’s Saturday, Jacks. They’re all off work and bugging me. Again, don’t tell them I said that. Brayden and Justin took the kids on a hike near your place, and Tyler is on duty today while he trains his new deputy, Hugh.”
Jackson ran a hand through his own hair. “Hell, I don’t even know what day it is anymore.”
Matt looked over his shoulder at the house then nodded. “Take time for yourself, Jacks. You’re only thirty-eight, yet you’re looking far too haggard for a thirty-eight-year-old man. I need to get back before they come out.”
Jackson glared but nodded. “After your charming words on my appearance, I don’t know how I’ll be able to leave your company.”
Matt laughed then walked backward toward the house. “Get some rest, though we both know you’ll ignore me. We have a guys’ night out soon, so don’t forget.”
Jackson waved him off and drove toward his own home to take care of his groceries. The Cooper brothers had regular guys’ nights out, though now they were down to maybe twice a month with everyone getting married. He enjoyed the time with his family, though he would never confess it. He might be an ass according to some people, but he loved his family more than they knew.
They were the ones who kept him going since he had little else to do it for him.
It took him a bit to get to his house since he was right on the outskirts of town in the woods. His house—the Cooper place—had been his parents’ home before they died. He held back the usual shudder that came with that though, and as the eldest son, Jackson had been the one to inherit the house. All his brothers called it his place, but he’d never thought of it that way.
No, it would always be the Cooper place. His name might be on the deed, but his brothers and their families were always welcome.
He put away his groceries then headed back out to work. He always wore slacks and a button-down shirt unless he would be staying home. Then it was jeans and a shirt, so he didn’t have to change to go to work.
As much as he wanted to go to work because it was his life, he honestly didn’t know if he could take those steps into the building. He really just wanted to take a nap, but he knew that wouldn’t be possible.
Jackson walked into his office and nodded to his receptionist, a pretty blonde who, thankfully, was married and didn’t hit on him. He wasn’t vain but, hell, it was hard to be the only single Cooper left. Maybe he should invite his cousins Chase and Caleb to move in so he wouldn’t be the only one. Caleb, though, was a recent widower, so Jackson wasn’t sure if he was even ready to date.
He went through his normal routine, looking through his emails and charts, getting ready for the day. It was odd to start in the middle of the day, rather than at the crack of dawn, but he’d needed the time to get groceries and sleep. He hadn’t had a day off in two weeks, and because he was open weekends to accommodate his working patients, he’d been at his wit’s end.
After three fillings and a child’s checkup, Jackson made his way back to his office, his temples throbbing. Nothing a little coffee wouldn’t fix. His two hygienists were working on cleanings so he’d have to go and finish the checkups soon.
As he took a sip of the dark brew from his fancy one-cup maker—his one splurge—he closed his eyes, trying to regain the energy he’d had as a man in his twenties and early thirties, rather than the man who was on the downhill slide to the dreaded forty.
Hell, he wasn’t ready to hit forty.
Wasn’t he supposed to have his whole life ahead of him? Yet, here he was, alone and a workaholic, watching as his magical younger brothers found the loves of their lives and were making a future for themselves.
Not that he wanted the wife and kids, but a future beyond work would be nice.
And he definitely didn’t want their magical abilities.
Holiday, Montana, seemed to be the mecca of holiday paranormals, and the Coopers were so deeply entrenched in it, Jackson wasn’t sure how he’d been spared. They had witches, Santa’s elves and executives, cupids, leprechauns, harpies, and ghosts. Even his new nephews and niece were half-gnome.
Magic and the paranormal seemed to touch everything in his life, and he was so dammed grateful he’d been spared.
Jackson hated magic.
Hated it all.
With magic came instability and the possibility of things he’d rather not think about. Enemies came with those powers, and one never knew when such an enemy would pop up and try to destroy it all. He’d had to watch as his brothers had been almost taken down one by one by magic forces, and Jackson had been helpless to fight against it.
He was the only Cooper untouched by magic, and he’d be damned if he’d let it happen to him.
There was a knock on the door and he looked up as his receptionist, Veronica, stuck her head in, an odd expression on her face.
“Yes?” he asked, annoyed his moment of peace was now over.
“Uh, Dr. Cooper, there’s a woman out there who says she needs to speak with you, but she doesn’t have an appointment.”
Jackson didn’t miss the curiosity in her gaze, but he ignored it. “Did she say exactly what she wanted?”
Veronica shook her head. “No, but she said it was personal. She also doesn’t look like one of those Cooper groupies, so I thought I’d ask you anyway.” She winked, and Jackson held back a smile.
“Did she say what her name was?” he asked, a little bit of that curiosity peeking through his stubbornness.
“Honor. Honor Bridges.”
Jackson coughed up the sip of coffee he’d taken then cursed as he spilled some on his shirt. Veronica’s eyes widened, and she stepped in the office. He held up his hand.
“I’ve got it. Hell, tell her to give me a minute while I change my shirt.”
His receptionist looked as though she desperately wanted to question his reaction and the fact that he wanted to talk to this woman, but she thankfully held her tongue.
“If you say so.”
He turned his back to her to grab a new shirt from his closet, and she left, closing the door behind her. As he buttoned up his new shirt, he tried to stop his fingers from shaking.
What the hell was Honor doing here?
He hadn’t seen her in…almost eight years.
He rolled his shoulders and made his way to the door. He’d just get this over with. There wasn’t anything between them—there hadn’t been for too long. He’d just nod and say hello to an old…friend…then get back to his day.
She stood in his waiting room facing the wall so he only saw her profile, and damn if he didn’t lose his breath.
She had to be at least in her early thirties now, but she looked at least a decade younger. Her long black hair fell to the middle of her back, straight, yet thick and exotic. He could remember how soft it had felt against his chest late at night.
She turned to him then, and he set his face so he wouldn’t gasp. Her striking blue eyes had always called to him, and now was no different. Since she was average height, her curves suited her well, her hips just wide enough for his hands…
No, not the time.
It would never be the time.
Her face was elegant, her cheekbones sharp, but not too sharp, her chin pointed like an elfish goddess.
Hell, she looked even more beautiful now than she had eight years ago.
Honor would have to go.
“Honor,” he said, his voice surprisingly steady despite the emotions warring through him.
“Jackson,” she said, her smile making her whole face brighten.
Veronica stood between them, her gaze traveling between the two.
“I had called before, but you didn’t say anything,” Honor said, but Jackson didn’t say anything back.
He remembered her first call months ago, and the few calls afterward, but he’d never said anything back, thinking it couldn’t have been her—shouldn’t have been her.
She couldn’t be here…not the one who’d left him.
No, he didn’t want to think about the past.
“Um…” She looked down at her hands as she wrung them together then squared her shoulders. “I just wanted to say that I’m staying at the inn.”
He swallowed hard and nodded. “You’re visiting your aunt then?”
Honor shook her head. “No, I’m staying here in Holiday, Jackson. That’s what I wanted to say when I called and why I’m here. I know it’s been forever, and you don’t care, but I thought I’d say it anyway.”
“You’re moving here?” he asked, his voice hoarse.
No, hell no. She couldn’t move here. Holiday was his home, and there was no way he could share it with her.
“Yes, I’m staying. I left before because…” She shook her head. “No, that doesn’t matter, not anymore. I’m here to stay though. My aunt needs me, and I have responsibilities that I’ve been ignoring too long.”
He didn’t know what kind of responsibilities she could possibly have since she’d been gone for eight years, but he ignored it. “Why can’t your brother, Tucker, help?”
Surprise then hurt crossed her face. She must have been surprised that he’d remembered her brother’s name, and he cursed himself for letting that slip. For a woman he was supposed to have forgotten, he remembered too much about her.
The hurt was obvious, but he couldn’t show that he cared.
“Tucker’s busy,” she said shortly. “I’m sorry to take your time, but I wanted to tell you I was in town.”
“Why should I care?” he asked, trying to put distance between them.
He ignored the gasp from Veronica and cursed himself for being so rude. He’d forgotten they had an audience. The news of this confrontation would be all over Holiday’s grapevine as soon as Honor walked out the door.
Honor rolled her eyes and smiled. Hell, he’d never understood this woman. “Whatever, Jackson. Play the stoic man if you want, but I wanted to tell you anyway. Bye.”
She turned on her heel and walked out of his practice, her hips swaying, leaving him breathless.
He forced his gaze to Veronica and frowned. “I take it there’s no way I can make you keep this between us?”
“Huh?” she asked as she looked up from texting on her phone.
He shook his head. “Never mind. Let me know when my next appointment shows up.”
Jackson left Veronica to her gossip and closed himself in his office.
Honor was back.
What the hell was he going to do now?