Her Lucky Love
Book 4 in the Holiday, Montana Series
Brayden Cooper has always been lucky. It’s in his blood and in the coin that he has hanging on a leather tie around his neck. He has everything in the world he could ever want, money: a job, brothers he loves, and the luck that comes with his powers. Yet he’s empty. Everyone but him knows he loves Allison, yet it’s going to take something stronger than luck to bring them together.
Allison Malone’s hell of a marriage is finally over but long hours at work and mommy duty at home are taking its toll on her and that’s not the worst of it. Her late husband’s family is in town and they want her children.
The magic of Holiday, Montana can only help so much, but together, Allison and Brayden just might find a way to save their families—and finally give into one another.
Her Lucky Love
“Oh, no, you mangy bastard, you can’t die on me!” Allison Malone yelled at her car as it sputtered to a crawl on the side of the road, each wheeze and cough from the engine striking her in the heart. She carefully steered the vehicle onto the shoulder and cut the engine, even as the engine thumped against the inside of the dashboard, steam fuming from the hood of the car.
“Mommy! You said ‘bastard’,” Lacy, her six-year-old and only daughter, said from her booster in the back seat, a mischievous smile on her face.
Allison closed her eyes and prayed to the gods of motherhood for patience. She used to pray to God, but she was pretty sure He’d grown tired of her and her prayers of deliverance from random juice cups, action figures, and children with sticky fingers, so she switched to someone who might actually care about the fact that she was a single mother of three.
Yeah, not so much.
Allison took a deep breath, trying not to let the anxiety of her everyday life bleed into the current anxiety of a dying—no, dead—car.
“Lacy, honey, I’m sorry. It just came out. But, remember, that’s a grown-up word. You shouldn’t say it, even to point out to me that I said it.”
Her twelve-year-old son Aiden, who was in the front passenger seat, snorted. Darn it, when had her little boy grown up? She was pretty sure he was almost as tall as her now.
“Oh, man. Mom, are we screwed?” eight-year-old Cameron asked from the back seat.
Lacy giggled at Cameron’s cursing, and Allison prayed for a double dose of patience.
Well sorry, but waiting for things to happen had never helped her in the past, and it sure wasn’t going to happen now.
“Cameron Malone, you watch your mouth.” He opened it to defend himself, and she held up her hand. “Not now, kid. We’re in a little bit of trouble right at the moment, and I don’t have time for you to be a smart mouth. Got it?”
She smiled when she said it, but noticed her voice getting a bit high-pitched at the end. Darn it, she wasn’t hiding her fear as well as she used to.
“Sorry, Mom,” Cameron mumbled and bit his lip.
Allison let out her breath and reached behind her to squeeze his knee. “Any other time, baby, and I’d laugh, but, right now, Mommy needs to figure out what to do.”
Lacy’s lip quivered, and she looked at Allison with those big green eyes that would one day have boys dropping by the dozens. One problem at a time, Ally.
“It’s okay, lady-bug. Just let me get out and figure out what to do.” She turned on her flashers and undid her seatbelt. “Stay here and be safe, okay? We’re on the side of the road. There are other cars coming down the curve, and the drivers may not see you. Okay?”
Cameron and Lacy both nodded, and Cam held out his hand so Lacy could grip it. Oh, God, she loved that her kids relied on each other as much as they did her. At least they had that. They might fight like cats and dogs like normal children, but at least they had that underlining love and trust that she’d been afraid they’d never have.
She was lucky.
She just had to remember that.
Allison did a quick check to make sure a car wasn’t coming—that was the last thing she needed—and got out of the car. A cool breeze tickled the back of her neck, and she zipped up her too-thin coat a bit higher.
Even though it was March and some places in the country would be enjoying spring soon, not so much in Montana. Although there wasn’t snow on the ground unless she went higher up into the mountains, the bitter wind didn’t do much for her already achy bones.
How had she ended up feeling like a sixty-year-old when she was only thirty?
She heard the passenger car door open and close, and Aiden walked over, a somewhat defiant look on his face.
Oh, yeah, three kids with way more energy than she’d ever possessed as a younger girl packed into their little bodies would add years to any gal.
“Aiden, what are you doing out of the car?” Allison asked as she bent over the hood, trying to blindly find the little rusted catch that always seemed to evade her.
Aiden rolled his eyes—an annoying habit that he seemed to be developing these days—and felt under the hood and flipped the catch.
“How did you do that?” she asked.
“Come on, Mom, it’s in the same place every time.”
Okay, her baby was turning into a typical caveman, and that wouldn’t do.
“First, watch your tone. Second, I’m going to repeat myself: why are you out of the car?”
He folded his arms across his chest and tried to scowl, but she still caught a glimpse of that sweet little boy in his eyes. Her sweet little boy.
Oh, God, her baby would be a teenager in less than a year.
What was that pain in her chest? Was she having a heart attack? How on earth had time passed so quickly?
She shook it off and glared at her son. She could deal with the fact that life was going way too fast later.
He let out a breath and dropped his arms. “I’m sorry, Mom. I just wanted to make sure you’re safe out here. It’s dangerous.”
Okay, so a little piece of her melted. The kid was just too cute for his own good. He was going to be way too much to handle when he got older considering how tough he was now.
She bit her lip then cursed herself for showing that weakness to her kid. “Aid, I know you want to take care of me, but I’m the mom, remember? You’re supposed to do as you’re told.”
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
“I know, hon. Okay, now as for the attitude? Watch it, okay? I’m already a little stressed, and that’s not helping.”
He opened his mouth to speak, and she held up her hand. Who knew what he’d say to defend himself?
“No, I just want you to quit it. Now, thank you for opening the hood for me. You know I hate that thing.”
She grinned, and he rolled his eyes, but smiled back.
See? All was right with the world when her babies smiled. That meant she was at least doing something good.
“You’re welcome, Mom.”
At least she’d taught him manners. That had to count for something.
Allison braced herself and turned toward her engine. Honestly, she had no idea what she was looking at, but the hissing sound and dripping from the lower left part of it probably wasn’t the best thing.
“Mom? I don’t think we’re gonna be able to fix that.”
“Going to,” she corrected and shook her head. So not the time to worry about his grammar, considering she wanted to curse and hit something.
It looked like water on the ground under her car, so she guessed it was the water pump. The only reason she could even guess that was because she’d already had it fixed before.
This time, however, it didn’t look as if it could be repaired.
Ugh. The sound of a cash register echoed in her head at the thought of how much it would cost to be fixed—it if could be fixed.
There went new shoes for the boys.
A new dress for Lacy.
Damn it. How the hell had she gotten in this position?
Oh, yeah. Greg.
She held back a shiver at his name and ignored it, pushing the thought of him back into the vault deep in her mind where it belonged. She couldn’t take care of her babies and think of him. Yet, unconsciously, she wrapped her arms around her stomach, protecting herself and her womb the way she had so many times before.
Stop it, Allison.
“Mom?” Aiden asked, that familiar quiver of fear in his voice. Damn, she could never hide anything from her son.
It had been only three years since things had fractured, but they’d been strained for too long before that time.
She should have left before…just before.
She shook her head and put on her brave Mom-face, though she knew it looked a bit more haggard than usual.
Or maybe it always had, and she’d ignored it.
Like she tried to ignore most things.
Wow, this pity party of hers simply had to stop.
“I don’t think I can fix it, Aid. Looks like we’re walking.”
Aiden shook his head. “Call Brayden, Mom. He can tow us and get us back to town, so we don’t have to walk.”
Another shiver spread over her, but this one felt like silk and didn’t haunt her.
Okay, enough of that.
Darn it. Why hadn’t she thought of calling Brayden Cooper, the town mechanic, first? Apparently she’d rather leave her car on the side of the road, available for all the poachers and their grubby little hands, even though she wasn’t sure anyone would even want her car to begin with. Was he so irresistible that she’d prefer to have her kids walk along the side of the road and risk their lives instead of calling the one man who could help—all because whenever she was in the same room with the ruggedly handsome and sexy man she wanted to melt into a puddle of bliss?
Stupid hormones acting up after all this time.
She did not want Brayden Cooper.
She didn’t have time for him
She didn’t want to want a man again.
And that was that.
But, she needed him and his truck to help her babies. He loved them already from helping out when he could, and he’d help them now.
She just didn’t want to think about the cost.
Financially and so much more.
“Okay, we’ll call Brayden. Good idea, kiddo.”
“I’m not a kid, Mom.”
“You’re still my kiddo for a bit longer. Don’t take that from me. Okay?”
He rolled his eyes again, but smiled. “Fine.”
“Glad to know you approve. Now go get in the car with your brother and sister and make sure they’re not trying to tear each other’s heads off. I’ll call Brayden.”
He nodded and did as he was told—thankfully—while she pulled her phone out of her pocket. It was a cheap flip phone that only had enough minutes for emergencies, but it was all she had.
And frankly, this time counted as an emergency.
She found his cell number in her contacts and pressed the green button. God, she really didn’t want to talk to him, even though she really, really did. Okay fine, she was fine talking with him, she just didn’t like how it made her feel—like she was on quicksand and any sudden movement would take her under.
Great, now she sounded like a teenager.
The phone rang twice, and Brayden picked up.
“Ally? Is everything okay? Are the kids okay?” he asked, his deep voice washing over her and sending goose bumps down her spin.
God that voice made her ache.
No, stop it, Allison. He isn’t for you.
“Yes, the kids are fine.” Damn, point for him for thinking about her kids first. “It’s the car.”
“Did you get in an accident? Do I need to call Tyler?”
Tyler Cooper was Brayden’s brother and the town sheriff, not to mention the fiancé of one of her best friends, Abby.
“No, we’re fine; the kids are fine. My car’s just died on the side of the road near Sunset Pass, and I need help.”
God that last part hurt to say.
She hated asking for help. But, as soon as she’d had her kids, she knew pride was for people with means. She’d do anything to protect her babies, and she’d done most everything to prove that.
“Sunset Pass? I’ll be right there. Stay in the car, okay Ally?”
Relief swept through her that he’d be there soon. That he’d drop everything to take care of her and her babies.
No, just her babies. She had nothing to do with it.
Sure, Ally, keep telling yourself that.
“No problem, it’s cold anyway.” She bit her lip and held back a curse. Why did she have to tell him that? Now he probably thought she was some weak damsel in distress on the side of the road waiting for her knight in shining armor to race to her side on that stallion of his.
Well, so she was sort of like that, but only for her kids.
All she ever did was for her kids.
She didn’t have pride anymore.
She had to remember that.
Brayden mumbled something unintelligible then said he’d by right there. They hung up, and Allison closed her eyes, remembering the deep rumble of his voice.
What would that voice sound like surrounded by soft sheets and candlelight?
She blinked and cursed at herself for fantasies that were too good for her.
This was why she avoided Brayden Cooper unless her kids needed him.
She couldn’t help the dreams of his touch, his integrity, and the way he could slip right into their lives and keep them steady.
Allison was the steady point in her family.
She didn’t need a man to be her anchor.
She’d tried that and look how she’d failed.
Oh, how she’d failed.
She put her phone away and got in the car, wincing as she noticed the heat had slowly leached from the interior.
“Okay, guys, Brayden is coming to help us, so let’s make sure we have all our stuff ready to go. We don’t want to make him wait for us.”
Lacy’s smile brightened up so much Allison was afraid she’d need sunglasses just to look at her daughter.
“Really? Brayden’s coming? Yay!” She clapped her hands and wiggled in her booster.
It looked like she wasn’t the only Malone girl who’d fallen for Brayden’s charm.
No, no. Scratch that. Ally hadn’t fallen.
Nope, not in anyway.
She ignored the inner eye roll.
“Yep, so make sure you’re on your best behavior, okay?”
“Of course, Momma. Brayden is special,” her daughter said with a seriousness that surprised Allison.
God, why had she let her kids get so close to him? She’d known they needed a father figure in their lives. They’d never really had that with Greg, even when he’d been alive, but maybe she’d gone too far with the Cooper brothers.
The five men had taken her under their wings and been the uncles her kids had never had. Matt, Justin, Jackson, Tyler, and Brayden had gone to birthday parties and celebrated Christmas and Easter with her babies. They’d taken them to movies and to the park when Allison couldn’t do it because she had to work to support her family.
They’d offered to help her with the bills from time to time, but she’d said no. The town of Holiday was small enough that anything like that would spark rumors that would be hard to pat down. Plus, even though she’d said she’d lost her pride, she still had that fragile hold on the last bit of it.
Her job as a waitress at the town diner could support her family if they lived leanly, and it had worked.
She had her family, and the Uncles Cooper were amazing with her children. Justin had even saved their lives last Christmas during the accident on the ice pond.
Yet, Brayden had stepped up even further. He’d been there for everything she could ever need, and she knew she relied on him too much.
From the way her kids looked at him and the way their excitement filled the car at just the mention of his name, she knew she’d gone too far.
She’d have to back off and slowly break some of the ties that held Brayden to them. He couldn’t be the steady rock they needed.
That was her job, and she didn’t trust anyone else to be part of that.
What would happen when Brayden found a wife and had children of his own? She couldn’t let her children go through that disappointment.
A sharp pain hit her at the thought of Brayden married to someone else, watching his wife grow round with his child.
No, she didn’t need to feel that or be jealous.
Brayden Cooper wasn’t hers.
He would never be hers.
Someone rapped on the glass beside her, and she jumped.
Her kids laughed and waved as she turned to see Brayden’s handsomely chiseled face at her window, a worried and cautious look on his features.
Yet even as relief swept through her that he was there, that annoying little sense of pride that she’d thought she’d lost flared.
Damn it, she didn’t want to lean on him.
Maybe she’d just learn car repair. She was already the cook, maid, seamstress, police, and kid wrangler of the house. What was one more talent?
She put on a smile and got out of the car, doing a quick glance over her shoulder to let her kiddos know to stay in the car.
“Hi, Brayden, thanks for coming,” she said, her voice sounding huskier than usual.
Oh, that’s just great. Get turned on by a man you can’t have.
Great going, Allison.
Brayden did one of his side smiles, where only a corner of his mouth lifted, but even so, it always seemed to make her melt.
“I’ll always come for you, Allison,” he drawled, his voice, low, deep.
Images of every single innuendo that statement could conjure assaulted her.
“Uh, yeah, thank you.”
That sounded smooth.
Brayden smiled and waved over her shoulder. She turned as her kids climbed over the seats to see him. She noticed that they carefully stayed in the car like they were supposed to.
“Hey, kiddos. Looks like you guys ran into trouble,” Brayden said, kneeling so he was at eye level with Lacy.
Lacy wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek.
That little annoying tick in her heart thumped even louder at the cuter-than-cute sight. Damn, Brayden loved her kids as much as they loved him.
Allison was pretty sure she loved him too.
Not that she’d ever admit that fully.
She couldn’t put herself in that situation again. Love wasn’t for her. She’d accepted it. Well, she’d accepted that she had to accept it.
“Mommy said bastard,” Lacy tattled, and Allison watched as Brayden held back a laugh.
“I don’t think you’re supposed to curse or tell on your mom, Lace. But, I’m sure your mom had a reason to say it.”
Lacy nodded, completely absorbed.
Well, if Allison were honest, so was she.
Cameron smiled and patted Lacy’s shoulder. “But, you’re here to help us, right?”
Brayden nodded. “Yep. Let me take a look at the car and see if there’s anything I can do right here, though since your mom called, I’m pretty sure that’s probably not an option. If that’s the case, I’ll get you all in the truck and tow your car behind me.”
For some reason, the fact that he trusted her opinion of her situation warmed her.
Damn the man.
Brayden strolled over to the front of the car, his lean hips and strong legs making him look damn sexy.
Okay, Allison could admit she loved the way Brayden looked, not just the way he treated her and her kids.
He was taller than her by a good five inches or so, even though he was the shortest of his brothers at six feet. His blue eyes always seemed to follow her every movement, even though she’d tried to ignore it. His black hair was longer than any of his brothers and just brushed the collar of his shirt.
He looked like the rough-and-tumble Cooper brother. He always had grease on his hands, though she’d personally seen him wash his hands more than every one of them.
His body was muscular from working with his whole body on cars and using his hands, not from going to the gym.
Oh, yes, she could imagine just how good he was with his hands.
She swallowed hard and forced her gaze from his body to his face as she blushed.
Brayden gave her a knowing smile, and she held back a curse.
Great, he’d caught her looking. Though she’d caught him looking at her daily when he came in for his cup of coffee, so fair was only fair.
“There isn’t anything I can do here. In fact, I’m not sure there’s anything I can do at my place either beyond getting you a new engine.”
He whispered the last part to shield it from her kids as he crushed her hopes.
Damn it. She didn’t have the money for a new car. She didn’t even have the money for repairs as it was.
“Okay,” she whispered, her voice surprisingly steady.
“We’ll work it out,” Brayden said as he lowered the hood.
She just smiled and went to get the kids out of the car along with anything that might be valuable, not that there was much.
They all piled into the extended cab, the kids in the back and her up front, as Brayden finished attaching her vehicle to his.
When he got in beside her, she could feel the heat of his body in the close quarters, and she blushed.
“Okay, Malones, let’s get you home,” he said as he pulled away from the side of the road.
Aiden and Cameron talked to him as they drove while Lacy just watched, her eyes filled with their usual brightness when Bray was near. Brayden was patient, answering every question and asking a few himself.
He was so good with them.
Good with her.
The man had never asked her out, yet he’d always been there.
He didn’t love her.
And she couldn’t love him.
She just wasn’t that lucky.