LAKE STARLIGHT BUZZ WHEEL PRESS RELEASE
The rumor around town is a certain matriarch of the Bailey family is having a BIG BIRTHDAY! It’s even brought a few of the Bailey kids home to celebrate with their beloved great-grandmother, Dori. In fact, now that there are twenty-six Bailey great-grandchildren, the event is going to be overflowing with laughter and love.
Also… I heard that Piper and Rayne have been speaking to some of the kids (Calista, Maverick, Easton, Brinley and Palmer). I can’t wait to report my findings the day after the party!
Operation Bailey Birthday by Piper Rayne is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.
Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!
LAKE STARLIGHT BUZZ WHEEL PRESS RELEASE
The rumor around town is a certain matriarch of the Bailey family is having a BIG BIRTHDAY! It’s even brought a few of the Bailey kids home to celebrate with their beloved great-grandmother, Dori. In fact, now that there are twenty-six Bailey great-grandchildren, the event is going to be overflowing with laughter and love. Also… I heard that Piper and Rayne have been speaking to some of the kids (Calista, Maverick, Easton, Brinley and Palmer). I can’t wait to report my findings the day after the party!
A Novella in the Baileys Series
Author: Piper Rayne
Easton Bailey (fifteen and a half years old)
Austin and Holly’s son
I’m not sure what’s worse.
The fact that my dad saved his old-ass Jeep for me to drive when I turn sixteen or the fact that he makes me drive our entire family to school every morning as part of my “learning to drive” experience.
“You have to stop before you turn right,” he dictates from the passenger seat.
“You don’t want Sheriff Miller Jr. to pull you over,” Mom chimes in from the back. At least she doesn’t watch my every move, waiting to correct me like Dad. “Harper, you gotta eat something.”
“Kind of crazy when you think of Sheriff Miller…” Dad glances at the back seat, and he and my mom exchange creepy smiles that say they’re remembering a time before my sister and I were around.
“If it wasn’t for the retired Sheriff Miller’s daughter we might not all be here,” my mom says and runs her hand down my dad’s arm.
Harper huffs. At least she’ll get out of the Jeep first since she’s still in middle school. “Please stop.”
“It’s a great story. Are you sure you don’t want to hear it again?” my mom jokes.
I watch in the rearview mirror as she picks up the granola bar Harper put down on her backpack and hands it back to my sister with the look of “eat the damn thing.”
Having a thirteen-year-old sister has taught me that girls her age are temperamental—you never know what mood she’ll be in every morning.
“If Sheriff Miller Jr. wasn’t born and his mom didn’t take maternity leave from the school, your mom—”
“Wouldn’t have come to Alaska and been your boss,” I say. “We know.”
“Principal.” My dad winks at my mom behind us.
I pull into the middle school to drop off Harper. She’s already unbuckling her seat belt and grabbing her bag.
“Yeah, yeah, and you two fell in love.” I pull the Jeep beside the curb.
“And you should both be thankful, otherwise, you wouldn’t be here.” My mom sounds annoyed that we’re not going gaga over their love story, but seriously, they’ve told it a million times.
“Here you go, brat,” I say, putting the Jeep into park.
My mom says my name as if it’s a scolding, but we all know she’d like to call Harper that on the daily.
“Yeah, I’m so sorry I can’t drive the entire way with you, East. I mean, being Mom and Dad’s chauffeur and having Mom as your principal and Dad as your science teacher. I’m super jelly.”
She gets out and slams the door shut.
I ignore her and roll my eyes, putting the Jeep into drive. She’ll feel my pain next year when she starts high school.
I look through the rearview mirror as my dad turns to face Mom. She’s holding up the granola bar. Dad snatches it from her hand and opens his door.
I satisfyingly put the Jeep into park again and roll down the passenger window, so I don’t miss a minute of what’s gonna happen. This will be good.
“Harp!” my dad yells. He jogs down the pathway a few feet, holding up the granola bar.
A honk blares from behind us and I look in the rearview mirror to see Uncle Denver in his truck.
My cousins Ryder and Rohan file out, heads tucked into their coats as if they didn’t just emerge from the truck.
I shift my attention back to my dad, who’s waving at my sister to leave her friend group and come over to where he’s standing, but a pounding on my window startles me and I look away.
“Son, you’re holding up the line.” Uncle Denver tries to sound like a police officer.
Sometimes I wish Uncle Denver were my dad. He’s so fun and he’s always doing crazy shit. But right now, he looks tired with bags under his eyes.
My mom rolls down her window. “How are the twins?”
Aunt Cleo just had another set of twins—girls this time—and Mom and every one of my aunts can’t get enough of them. Maybe because they’re the youngest of the Bailey brood by five years.
“They’re good. Sleep, eat, shit, repeat.”
“I bet they fall asleep in your arms and their little hands wrap around your fingers. The quiet nighttime feedings when it’s just you and them…” My mom’s eyes roll back in her head as if she’d do anything to relive that experience.
“Amazing how warped your memory can become over time. Cleo was like you until the reality of being woken by screams and never leaving the house without a stain on her clothes set in.
“I will say though that the betting is fun.”
“The betting?” Mom asks.
“Yeah. I grabbed Abby, and Cleo put her money on Allie.”
“On what?” My mom sounds as confused as I am.
“Who will walk first. Abby is so close, and the minute she walks, Cleo owes me a—” His gaze trails back to me in the driver’s seat. “Well, let’s just say I win.”
Mom drops the subject, but I’m not some naïve little boy. Is that what marriage is like? Having to make bets to get blow jobs?
“Denver,” my dad says, climbing into the car. “Did you order the balloon bouquets?”
Uncle Denver laughs. “Relax, I got it covered.”
My great-grandma’s ninetieth birthday party is this weekend and we’ve had about a million family get-togethers to talk logistics.
Great-Grandma Dori is pretty much planning the entire thing while acting as though she has no idea we’re throwing the party.
“I gotta get to school,” I say.
Denver laughs. “Shit, East, you got the principal wrapped around your finger. Take advantage.” He laughs.
“See you all later.” He waves and heads back to his truck, where he climbs in and speeds off around me.
“How is it that he just never grew up?” my dad says—more to himself than us, I think.
I love my dad, but he’s so serious most of the time. My mom harps on my grades and about college, and my dad keeps asking me how serious I am about baseball.
It’s easy to tell he doesn’t want to push me too hard, but I’m sure he’d be ecstatic if I chose to pursue baseball. His shot was thrown when my grandparents died, and he returned home.
Although he’s adamant he regrets nothing because he has my mom and my sister and me.
I drive five more minutes and park in the back of the lot of the high school because I’m pulling up with my parents—the school’s principal and science teacher, who have been found way too many times making out in closets or my dad’s classroom.
I get razzed about them all the damn time.
I toss the keys to my dad and bolt across the parking lot.
“Have a great day, East,” Mom calls.
I lift my hand in a wave without turning around. As I’m approaching the curb, Lance pulls up in his dad’s truck. Uncle Wyatt files out of the passenger side to round the truck.
“Easton!” Uncle Wyatt high fives me and luckily stops my parents from breaking the distance between us.
“The Jeep?” Lance asks, cringing.
I nod as we fall into step with each other.
“My grandma called last night,” Lance says. “She’s buying me a new car for my sixteenth birthday.”
We walk into the school and I nod at a few friends. Lance’s dad, my uncle Wyatt, comes from a wealthy family in Manhattan, and Lance always gets extravagant gifts for holidays and his birthday.
“Once I get my license, I’ll pick you up in the morning so you don’t have to drive the Jeep,” he says.
He’d be easy to hate if he didn’t say shit like that. I remember the time he got the new game console we’d been begging for, and he let me play first. I couldn’t ask for a better cousin.
“Check out Brinley,” I say nodding to our cousin putting on lip gloss at her locker mirror.
Her best friend, Kenzie, is next to her, rambling on about something.
“You think she’s bringing Kenzie to Grandma’s party?” Lance asks.
I punch his shoulder. “I knew you had a thing for her.”
He rubs his arm as if I actually inflicted pain. Lance isn’t athletic. He’s more into being the school president or editor of the newspaper.
“I don’t, but…”
“Not many options in a school full of our damn cousins,” I say what I know he was thinking.
We go to high school with six of our cousins. Three of us are referred to as the Bailey Triplets, since we were all born within a day of each other.
Although Lance’s last name is actually Whitmore and Brinley’s is Kelly, we’re all Baileys—especially in Great-Grandma Dori’s eyes.
“Hey, Phoebe.” I nod at our oldest cousin who attends Lake Starlight High.
Her boyfriend, Coulter, is at her side with his arm slung over her shoulder. Uncle Rome hates Coulter, but I don’t know the details of why.
The bell rings, and Lance and I say goodbye and head in different directions.
I sit in my homeroom class as Kenzie sits down next to me.
“Hey, East,” she coos.
I can’t tell Lance that Kenzie’s been flirting with me since the start of the school year. Everyone knows he likes her—that’s been clear since we were kids, and she and Brinley became best friends.
So I try my best not to notice her. Not notice her long dark hair and her glossy pink lips. Not notice the way her eyes fall over my body as if she’d love to jump my bones.
Not notice my body’s physical reaction to her.
Hell, I’m fifteen, I have no control of my body, right?
“Hey, Kenzie,” I say.
“Brinley invited me to your great-grandma’s party. I hope that’s okay?”
I glance at her to be polite and she’s smiling. “My great-grandma wants the entire town there, so I’m sure she’ll be thrilled.”
“And what about you? Will you be thrilled if I come?”
I groan inwardly. Lance is my cousin. Lance is my cousin. Lance is my cousin.
I repeat the mantra to ward off the temptation of acknowledging Kenzie’s attention. It works for the moment.
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Calista Bailey (twenty-one years old)
Rome and Harley’s eldest daughter
After the long plane ride, my legs thank me when I stand and allow them to stretch. Coming home for a week during my senior year isn’t ideal, but it’s Great-Grandma Dori’s ninetieth birthday.
If we’re not all present and accounted for, she’s sure to put out a search party for any missing family member.
I take my phone off airplane mode and wait for the texts from my mom or dad to say they’re waiting outside baggage claim for Dion and me.
As I follow the signs to baggage claim, my phone vibrates in my pocket, but I figure I’ll wait until I’m down there to check it.
If I’m lucky, Dion’s plane came in before mine and he’s waiting at my carousel already.
I step on the escalator, rolling my head to crack my neck.
Missing class while I’m back in Alaska forced me to do extra work these past couple weeks, which meant long nights of drinking a lot of coffee and getting no sleep.
So it takes me a minute to process that someone is calling my name.
“Calista Bailey,” the male voice says from behind me.
My head whips around. Why would he be here? No way he got an invite to the party. He’s not family. He’s not anything other than Ethel’s grandson. I slowly take in his smug expression.
“Rylan Greene, how peachy to see you.” I inject as much sarcasm as I can into my voice.
He’s got a duffle bag over his shoulder, and he’s in track pants and a sweatshirt with Stanford University stamped on it. Smug prick.
Got a full ride to play soccer when I know his grades weren’t nearly as good as they should have been to attend there.
“How’s UCLA?” he asks.
“Fine.” I hide my bitterness that I didn’t get into my first choice of Stanford. It’s none of his business.
“I heard you have a pretty awesome place. Your aunt’s?”
I step off the escalator. “Yeah, it’s nice. I gotta go. See you around.”
Searching the numbers on the baggage carousels, I spot five and head that way. Dion is nowhere to be seen, which means I’ll be waiting for him. My phone dings again, so I check my messages.
One is from my mom in a group chat to Dion and me.
I sigh and see two other messages.
I exit my texts because I probably won’t figure out what my great-grandma is up to anyway. Everyone knows when it comes to Great-Grandma Dori, don’t even bother.
It’s usually more absurd than you’d think.
Scrolling through my emails, I slide past all the clothing store promotions and sales emails and stop on one from my econ professor. Ask me again why I chose business as a degree to pursue?
She wants me to check in with her when I return to talk over my assignments and grades.
Great. I’m pretty sure I’m failing the class.
Finally, the carousel moves, and luck must be on my side because my suitcase is the second one to come out.
I slide between a few bodies and yank it off, checking the name to make sure the generic black suitcase is actually mine.
Rolling it behind me, I walk out the sliding doors to the pick-up area, but I don’t spot any familiar cars.
I reach back to grab my cell phone out of my pocket, but my hand pauses when I spot a van with Northern Lights Retirement Center on the side.
No way. When she said Earl, I assumed she meant an Uber. Dion isn’t standing outside of the van, ready to take a picture, so I’m hoping it’s a coincidence.
Then my blue-haired great-grandma peeks her head out of the van. Once again, I was naïve about the level of embarrassment she can conjure.
“Calista!” she hollers, waving.
Sure enough, a man—Earl, I presume—is slumped over the steering wheel.
I close my eyes and say a prayer that we arrive safely in Lake Starlight. “Happy early birthday.” I wheel my suitcase to the van. “Is Dion here?”
“He’s already snug and secure inside.” Great-Grandma Dori takes care stepping out of the van and holds my upper arms—for balance, I think, as much as a hello.
Her gaze falls down my body in examination. “You’re so grown up. My first great-grandchild.” Then she pulls me into her arms, her red-lipsticked lips pressing to my cheeks. “Come. Come.”
I help her back into the van, lifting my suitcase behind me.
Grandma Dori nudges Earl with her fist. “Wake up. We’re all here.”
I finish climbing the short steps with my suitcase at my side.
“Dear, you really should put a ribbon on your bag. That’s how you know which suitcase is yours,” Ethel says.
I shouldn’t be surprised she’s here. She’s Great-Grandma’s sidekick. I smile politely and look at the rest of the van. My jaw tics at who I find sitting two rows down by the window.
Rylan’s arrogance oozes around his smirk.
A flash blinds me for a second, Dion’s laugh barreling out of him a millisecond later.
“Perfect. I’m sending it to Buzz Wheel right now.” Dion’s happy-with-himself smile shines as he steps into the aisle with his arms wide open for me. “Sis. I missed you.”
I have no time to prepare or ask questions before his big body swamps me in a bear hug.
Dion got my dad’s height and build, where I ended up a few inches taller than my mom but not nearly as tall as I would prefer.
Height that would’ve made me a better soccer player and gotten me into Stanford. Good thing I’m not bitter about it.
“You could have warned me,” I bite out in a whisper.
“What fun would that be?” He squeezes me tighter, lifting my feet off the floor before depositing me back down.
“Sit! Earl is on a tight schedule,” Great-Grandma yells.
Dion sits down in the front row with his legs stretched out, entertaining Grandma by asking if she’d like a stripper for her birthday. She shoos him away as if she has no idea there’s a party.
I slide into the seat behind Dion and quickly realize my mistake when Rylan’s staring at me from across the aisle.
“How come I don’t get a welcome like that?” he asks.
I flip him off and he laughs.
We’ve been competitors for as long as I can remember. When Uncle Jamie took Rylan under his wing, jealousy hit hard.
I had no trouble keeping up when Uncle Jamie pitted us against one another when we were young. But as we grew older, Rylan grew stronger and faster.
My workouts felt as though they capped out and I’d reached my limit.
But not Rylan. Every time he’d come into my uncles’ rec place, he was bigger, gaining inches on me like he took growth hormones.
Then we both applied to Stanford and the bastard got accepted even though his grades weren’t even close to as good as mine.
But when you have the speed, skills, and a dick, like Rylan Greene, somehow the world opens up for you.
Staring out the window, I’m struck by the fact that they’ve already had a snowstorm here when it’s all sunshine and tans in Los Angeles. I live in my aunt’s place with my cousin Maverick.
Uncle Grif, Aunt Phoenix, and Jack come down sometimes, but not nearly as often now that Jack is getting older.
“Ry, sweetie, tell Dori about your girl,” Ethel says.
My gut twists and I stare out the window as though I don’t care.
I feel Rylan’s gaze on me, watching for a reaction, before he answers his grandma. “She’s nice.”
Guess that confirms he does have a girlfriend. I shouldn’t care. It’s not as though I like him or even find him remotely attractive.
“Nice?” Great-Grandma Dori says as if he said she was a serial killer. “Nice is boring.” She rolls her eyes and gives Ethel a look like good luck with that.
Dion peeks over the edge of the seat and I punch the back of it, making him lose his balance. He almost falls off the edge, but the bastard catches himself.
“What about you, Dion?” Ethel asks.
He glances up from his phone.
Dion laughs and clears his throat. “No.”
“Why not? I’m sure the girls are crazy about you in North Carolina?” Great-Grandma Dori pets his ego, and I roll my eyes internally.
“Well, yeah, but I’m not settling down.”
“Dating one girl isn’t a marriage license,” I say.
He sits up and looks over the edge of his seat. “How about you, sis? Any guys?”
I narrow my eyes at him, and he laughs, sliding back down in his seat.
Ethel smiles warmly at me. “Yeah, Calista, what about you? I’m sure the boys must be circling you.”
“More like trying to escape before she devours them like chum in the water,” Rylan chimes in from across the aisle.
“Ry,” Ethel scolds.
“I’m concentrating on my studies this year.” I don’t mention that last year was horrible for my love life. I had three boyfriends, each one worse than the last.
A cheater, a thief, and a druggie-turned-dropout. “Plus, soccer takes up a lot of time.”
Rylan chuckles and I whip my head in his direction, waiting for him to continue. He holds up his hands. “Relax.”
“What’s so funny?”
He chuckles some more. “I just wonder how high your expectations are.”
“There’s nothing wrong with high expectations. Does your ‘nice’ girlfriend meet your expectations? Does she cater to you? Give you massages after every game?
“Or perform other duties that you probably don’t reciprocate?”
“Gross. Do not make me picture that about Rylan. Unless we’re gonna talk about a girl going down on me—” Dion stops talking when Great-Grandma Dori smacks him across the back of the head.
“Behave, both of you.”
We all stare out the windows, and I catch Rylan texting. Probably his perfectly nice girlfriend. I can’t get off this bus soon enough, so as soon as we reach Lake Starlight, I step into the aisle.
Great-Grandma Dori and Ethel are talking to Earl about heading to Sunrise Bay to drop off Rylan, so he takes the opportunity to ambush me in the aisle.
“Just so you know, I am a reciprocator and I’m usually rewarded with my name being shouted like a plea from her lips.” He winks as his hard body slides by mine.
An electric current zaps my body, concentrating between my thighs. Okay, so the guy is a little attractive, I’ll give him that. But attitude changes everything, and he’s got it in spades.
“Thanks, Grandma, I’ll catch an Uber from here.” Rylan says his goodbyes to Ethel.
Grandma Dori stops me before I can get my suitcase. She looks behind her then back at me.
“Just in case there is a party for me, I don’t want a stripper. Your great-grandfather would roll over in his grave having some man’s thing swinging in my face.”
Mayday. Mayday. I have to stop my mind from forming a visual. But nope. It’s right there. Great-Grandma Dori in a chair while some stripper’s dick bounces to the beat of “Pony” by Ginuwine.
“I should mention though.” She looks behind her again. Dion’s already off the bus and I see Dad hugging him on the sidewalk.
“I like strawberry cake, but marble is my favorite. With the whipped frosting, not buttercream. And definitely none of that fondant stuff.”
“Noted.” I nod. “No strippers and a marble cake with whipped frosting. You know… if there’s a party for you.”
“Yes, don’t go planning one or anything. I don’t want to be any trouble.”
I have no idea how she keeps a straight face.
“Okay, I’m going to say hi to Dad. Thanks for the ride.”
I step off the van, and my dad smiles at me. “There’s my girl.”
He opens his arms for me to fall into. If only I could suck back the tears that build up the instant he’s holding me, as though he’s ready to take on my problems.
But as I clutch the back of his jacket and he runs his hands down my back, I open my eyes.
Rylan Greene is staring at me while two tears run down my cheeks. There’s no smugness or arrogance, just general concern as our eyes meet.
I step back and wipe my tears away. The last person I’d ever want to see me at my weakest is Rylan.
My dad takes my bag. “Come on. I made a special meal for you guys.”
We follow Dad down the sidewalk to his restaurant, Terra and Mare. At the doors, I give one fleeting look over my shoulder. Sure enough, Rylan is stepping into an Uber without a look back.
I stop myself from caring what he thinks because I’m clearly the furthest thing from his mind.
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