Family Matters - Book cover

Family Matters

C.B. Rose

Age Rating


Cassidy Parker has had a truly awful life. Born to drug-addicted parents who abandoned her at fourteen, she’s been in and out of abusive foster homes for years. And then there’s the toxic relationship with her high school sweetheart… But now she has a chance to change everything and be happy with the dashingly handsome Xavier Montero. The problem is, will her past let her?

Age Rating: 18+

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Chapter 1


“30 more minutes and I’m out of here!” I huff as I roll my shoulders and neck to ease the soreness from a long workday of waiting tables. I remind myself I only need to do this for one more year while I finish up nursing school.

Three hundred sixty-five more days working nights as a waitress here at the Sapphire Casino until I graduate, and then I start my dream career.

“You can leave early if you’d like. It’s almost 10pm on a Friday night, which means it’s still early enough for you to relax and have some fun,” Sadie, the bartender and my boss, responds to me from behind the bar.

“It’s ok. I’m planning on going out tomorrow night anyway with some friends. Besides, I could use that 30 minutes to nab myself more tips.”

“Oh! That’s right!” Sadie rushes out from behind the bar and pulls me into a tight hug. “Happy Birthday tomorrow, my sweet girl!” I let out a giggle and thank her.

I am going to miss her after my stint here is done.

Sadie has been like a mother to me ever since I started working here, first in security and now here at the bar.

After losing my mom at 14 to a drug overdose, then going through a string of shitty foster mothers over the next four years, and finally having nothing after aging out of the system, Sadie coming into my life was a godsend.

“Happy early birthday, Bella Bells!” Mia squealed as she wrapped me in a hug from behind. Mia is another waitress at the bar and one of the few employees I consider a friend.

I turn to return the hug and thank her. “I wish I could celebrate with you tomorrow, but I’m working.”

“I wish you could, too, but I get it. You gotta make that money. The bills aren’t going to pay themselves and you have to eat, right?”

“Right! Speaking of making money, your services have been requested, again.”

She gives me a wink and nods towards one of my tables where three guys around my age have sat down. Two of them are smiling and laughing as they’re checking out the other waitresses.

The brooding one on the end is looking along with them but doesn’t seem as interested.

They’re all pretty good looking, but the moody-looking one is hot as hell. Dark hair, chiseled jawline, tan skin, slight hint of stubble gracing his smooth face. Even with the dim lighting, I can see the outline of his muscles through his clothing from way over here. And his eyes! They’re beautiful and hypnotic. I bet he’s got a harem somewhere. How can he not, as good as he looks right?

I pull my notepad out as I walk up to them. They all look up at me, the two checking out the wait staff still grinning like two kids in a candy store with unlimited funds and immunity to cavities.

“Good evening gentlemen. What can I get for you tonight?”

The one on my left leans in a little too closely to look at my name tag.

“Well, Bella, we’ll have three whiskeys please.” He says smiling like calling me by the name on my tag makes him special. He doesn’t know how dumb he looks right now since that’s not even my actual first name.

“And maybe we can get a little side dish with that?” The one on my right adds wiggling his eyebrows at me. Ugh!! Like that’s going to happen.

“Sorry, my kitchen is closed, however, if that’s something you really want I can move you to one of the other tables where the buffet is always open,” I say with the sweetest smile I could muster.

They all laugh, even the moody one. Huh. He’s not so unattached from his emotions as I thought.

“Nah. We’re good here. Thanks,” Mr. Moody responds with a wink.

“Well alrighty then. I’ll be back with your drinks.” I smile and head back to the bar to put their order in. I turn back and see Mr. Moody staring at me, drawing me in with those captivating eyes of his. This is going to be the longest 30 minutes of my life with Mr. Moody, Flirt 1, and Flirt 2.


I put the drinks on my tray and start walking towards them when I see a blond waitress with boobs bigger than her head, talking with them. My shift isn’t even over yet and here she comes trying to poach my customers.

Hold up. Is she flirting with Mr. Moody? My eyes narrow on her, and a territorial feeling washes over me. Whether it is because she’s encroaching on my table and my potential tips or encroaching on Mr. Moody’s personal space, I am not sure.

Either way, she needs to back off like right now. My footsteps get angrier as I approach, but falter when I see Avery’s flirtations are being reciprocated. All my bravado dissipates instantly, and a small ache hits me from nowhere.

Ugh! This is ridiculous. I’m ridiculous. Get it together, Cassie! You don’t even know him! I will just serve their drinks and go home. They can do whatever they want. I don’t care. I shouldn’t care.

I walk up to them after my inner monologue-slash-pep-talk is over and put their drinks on the table.

“Your drinks, gentlemen. Anything else I can get for you?”

“I think we’re good for now. Maybe a little later?” Mr. Moody says to me with a smile. Dear Lord! This man has beautiful eyes! Blink, Cassie, damn it!

“Well, when you’re ready for your next round, let me know. I’ll be taking over her table now,” Avery says with a smirk. Is she still here? “Your shift is over, isn’t that right Bella?” She asks me, still with that dumb smirk on her face. I roll my eyes and just focus on Mr. Moody with the nice eyes.

“My shift is over now, but if you need anything else, just flag down any of the other waitresses and they’ll be more than happy to serve you.”

I start to walk away, but Mr. Moody grabs my wrist. My body stiffens at the contact. I was ready to turn and give Mr. Moody something to be moody about when he quickly releases my hand.

“Sorry.” He looks apologetic, but there is something else in his eyes when he looks at me.

I can’t pinpoint whatever emotion it is, but it looks like a mix of concern, anger, and curiosity. “Wait one minute, please?” I nod and turn so I am fully facing him.

He reaches in his pockets and pulls out a bunch of money and hands it to me. I can see Avery scowling out of the corner of my eye, watching this exchange. I laugh to myself at her reaction as I fold up the money and put it in my bra strap. I sense Mr. Moody likes my hiding spot when I see him shift a little in his seat.

Mr. Moody clears his throat to get my attention again.

“So, I wanted to ask if you were doing anything after your shift. We are heading to the club after this and thought maybe you would like to join us?”

“Oh, um, thanks, but I don’t fraternize with the customers outside of work.”

“So, how about joining us for a drink here instead? Drinking and talking is not considered fraternizing, is it?”

“I have an early morning tomorrow, so I can’t, but thanks, though.”

“Just one drink? I promise we won’t keep you out too late.”

So persistent, this one! I wanted to let him down hard so he would stop asking me to hang out with them, but the adorable look on his face was making it difficult.

I pity the woman who finally captures this man’s heart because she would have a hard time saying ‘no’ to him. Trust me, I know.

“Look,” I sigh. “I appreciate the offer, but I’m not interested.”

I thank him again for the tip he gave me and practically run back to the employee area so I can change and go home. Evan, the head of security and my only other friend here, is standing guard by the door, observing everyone as usual.

“Hey Cass! I see Avery didn’t waste any time claiming your tables.”

“I swear that woman is like a vulture. Always scavenging for tips and fresh meat.”

We both laugh.

“At least her attention is not on you tonight,” I tell him as I pat his arm.

“Please don’t jinx me.” He makes a show of his scrunched face and exaggerated shudder. I spare a quick glance back over to them to find Mr. Moody’s eyes fixed on me and Evan.

The smile he had been giving me was replaced with a glare that made the tiny hairs on my arms shake. I quickly turned away and headed through the door to change.


When I come back out, I see Avery has decided to use Mr. Moody as a chair. I guess the normal chairs aren’t good enough for her. I roll my eyes again.

I take the long way around the bar, hoping to leave without being noticed. Standing at a whopping five foot two inches should make that easy. I could blend into the crowd and essentially turn invisible.

Which is exactly what I needed to be because, call me crazy, but I had a feeling the three stooges were going to try their luck again at asking me to hang out with them tonight. And after the glare Mr. Moody threw at me earlier, I did not want to give them an opportunity to do so.

Just as I was passing the area where they were sitting, I heard a screech over the noise of the casino.

“Hey Bella!” Avery calls out to me.

Damn that woman! I stop abruptly and turn towards them. Flirt 1 and Flirt 2 stand from their seats and frantically wave me over to them. My eyes flick to Mr. Moody, and I swear he mouthed “help” to me. I groan internally as I make my way back to their table.

“Yes?” I say with a smile. Avery has one arm draped her arms around Mr. Moody’s neck and uses the other to hand me a business card.

“What’s this for?”

“That’s the name of a doctor that does wonders in making women look beautiful. You should give him a call. His work could help you get more tips.” Dear Lord, please give me strength not to choke this idiot and make these men have to testify against me in court.

“You think I need plastic surgery to look more like you, and that would get me more tips?”

She was busy nodding at me and did not notice the disgusted look on the three men’s faces.

“So, you’re saying men, like these three, are really into plastic?” My innocent tone and smile did nothing to hide the sarcasm in my question. She replaced her smile with a look that, I think, is supposed to intimidate me, but it doesn’t.

I square my shoulders and turn to the three men with a playful smile.

“Well, then you guys should enter today’s raffle. I heard the first prize is a set of Tupperware.” The three men burst out laughing hysterically. Avery jumps off Mr. Moody’s lap and steps in front of me, getting directly in my face, but I don’t flinch. Evan suddenly appears and steps between us with his back towards Avery. He puts his hands on my waist and turns me towards the front of the casino. He leans in close and speaks so only I can hear.

“Go on home. I’ll take care of this.”

“I can handle her.” I cross my arms in front of me and pout as if he had just taken away my favorite toy.

“I know.” He gives me a little nudge forward and makes a shooing motion with his hands.

I roll my eyes for what feels like the millionth time that night and leave.



Today, Austin, Ethan, and I are headed over to this bar at the Sapphire Casino. My father owns a dance club and a small casino, and I help run them with my brother Austin and best friend Ethan.

One of the best things about our job is having to go out and scope our competition every now and then.

The Sapphire Casino has been our biggest competitor since it opened about 5 years ago.

We’ve come here a few times already, but it seems that it’s picked up business in the last 6 months since it updated its bar area. We walk in and I can see why.

It’s basically a gentlemen’s club within a casino. They’ve added some VIP rooms behind the private bar area and all their waitresses look like a bunch of strippers.

Well, all of them except for the one standing at the bar. She has a sweet look about her, not like the other waitresses. And of course, my brother zeros in her right away.

“Damn she’s hot!” Austin says as he eyes her up and down.

“Which one?” Ethan asks trying to figure out who my brother is talking about.

“The one at the bar.” Ethan lets out a long whistle.

“I saw her first.” Austin claims.

“That won’t matter if she notices me first.” I scowl at the two of them as they go back and forth staking their claim on her. These two need to shut up and stop drooling over her. It’s irking me. Why? I have no idea. It’s not like I haven’t seen or heard them act like this before. But for some reason, it’s bothering me tonight. As we’re standing there one of the other waitresses comes up to us.

“Looking for a table?” She asks.

“Yes. We’d like her table.” Austin answers. He points to the waitress at the bar.

“Of course.” She says with a smirk. “She’s quite the popular one. Follow me.”

What’s that supposed to mean?

A few minutes after we’re seated, the object of our attention since we first stepped foot in the casino, comes over and my brother wastes no time in flirting with her. Ethan even jumps in asking for a “side dish”. She rolls her eyes at him and does this cute curl with her lips.

I can’t help but feel turned on by that.

“Sorry, my kitchen is closed, however, if that’s something you really want I can move you to one of the other tables where the buffet is always open.”

I had to laugh at her response. She was snarky and polite at the same time. This woman is adorable. Wait. No! Not adorable. Stop it!

As I finish chastising myself, I can see Austin and Ethan considering taking her up on her offer to move us to one of the private rooms for someone else to serve us. I speak up before they can say anything and decline the offer. I don’t need another server or a private room. I just want her.

Whoa! Where did that come from?

While Bella is waiting at the bar for our drinks, she turns toward our table. When our eyes meet, I’m instantly mesmerized, and my body starts to heat up. My brother, however, verbally throws cold water over me and snaps me out of my trance.

“I’m going to get her number,” Austin says as he watches her at the bar.

“No,” I tell him.

“What? Why not?”

“She’s not your type.”

“How do you know?” Why does my brother have to be so annoying?

“Because she’s not! She looks like the serious relationship type. And that’s not you!”

“Well, that’s not you either!”

“So? Who said I was interested?”

“Well, she looks like my type,” Ethan chimes in. Damn! Him too?

“No way.” My words came out sounding a little more forceful than I intended, almost like a command.


“Because I said so!” Oh my God! Did I just throw a tantrum?! They both look at me all weird. Hell, I’m looking at myself weird. What do I care if they ask her for her number? Before I can make sense of my reaction, one of the blond waitresses comes over to our table.

“Good evening, gentlemen. I’m Avery. Is there something I can get for you?” She’s trying to sound seductive but failing miserably.

“Nah. We’ve been taken care of,” Austin tells her, not even bothering to look her way.

“Are you sure there’s nothing else I can get you?” She runs her hand up and down my arm, looking at me through her fake lashes. Actually, everything about her seems fake. I bet her teeth are fake too. Before I can answer, Bella comes back with our drinks and places them on the table.

“Your drinks, gentlemen. Anything else I can get for you?” She says sweetly. Quite the contrast to this blond Barbie standing too close to me. Avery is giving her the death stare, but she isn’t even looking her way. In fact, I would say she was deliberately ignoring her.

“I think we’re good for now. Maybe a little later?” I tell her. She’s looking right at me with those beautiful hazel eyes. I can’t seem to look away. Avery proceeds to tell us that she’ll be the one to take care of us the rest of the night since Bella’s shift is over. As she’s telling us this,

Bella does another eye roll and that cute thing with her mouth but doesn’t look away from me. Not that I want her to. She turns to leave, but I reach out and gently grab her wrist.

I notice how soft her skin is, and I want to hold on to her longer. However, I also notice how her body became rigid at my touch. I release my hold on her quickly so I don’t make her more uncomfortable.

An uneasiness came over me, thinking about what would make Bella react that way to my touch. I want to pull her into one of those private rooms to ask her about it, but that would probably make her want to run from me.

I pull out some cash to give her as a tip, and when she takes it from me, she folds it up and tucks it into her bra strap and smiles at me. Well, shit! I want to be one of those $20 bills right now.

I try my hardest to keep her talking to me, but she seems determined to leave. That is definitely not how women usually respond to me.

I watch her walk to the back towards the door to the employee area. There’s a guy standing there who looks to be around my age guarding the door. He smiles as she walks up.

I don’t know what they’re talking about, but they’re both laughing. It is when she touches his arm that I’m greeted by old friends I had not heard from in ages and did not think I would ever again. Hello, jealousy and possessiveness. It’s been a while.


About 10 minutes have gone by since Bella disappeared to the employee area when that Avery chick comes back over to our table. She puts her tray down at our table and sits on my lap.

Does she not know boundaries are a thing?

She starts stroking my hair when Bella comes out from the back.

“Shit!” I say under my breath as I see Bella give that damn eye roll and lip curl again! I can tell she’s avoiding coming near us when I see her take a different, much further route through the bar to the casino entrance. I kick my brother under the table to get his attention. He and Ethan were busy ignoring Avery to notice Bella sneaking out.

Austin looks up at me with a scowl, and I not so subtly tilt my chin towards Bella. Avery noticed our exchange and called out Bella’s name to get her attention.

Well, at least she is good for something. I can see the look of pity on Bella’s face when she relents and changes course from the casino entrance to our table. Would it be rude to throw Avery off my lap and replace her with Bella?

The three of us watch as Avery makes a weak attempt at insulting Bella’s looks. If you ask me, Avery doesn’t hold a candle to her. And judging by the looks on Ethan’s and Austin’s faces, they agree.

“So, you’re saying men, like these three, are really into plastic?” She asks Avery with a smile. When Avery glares at her, Bella turns her attention to us. My body tingles when I see the glint in her eyes.

“Well, then you guys should enter today’s raffle. I heard the first prize is a set of Tupperware.” Hold the phone! She did not just compare her to Tupperware! I think I’m going to pee from laughing so hard.

When Avery jumps off my lap and gets in Bella’s face, Austin, Ethan, and I immediately go into protection mode. Even though Avery is taller than Bella and has some extra pounds, albeit plastic, over her, Bella does not flinch when Avery confronts her. Maybe Bella doesn’t need our help.

The guy Bella was talking to earlier appeared out of nowhere, squeezing between the two women and instructing Bella to leave.

My gaze immediately goes to his hands on Bella’s hips, and my muscles tense. More importantly, Bella’s muscles don’t tense, which tells me she is comfortable with him touching her. That makes me tense up more. I hate him.

With a huff, which I found to be adorable, Bella leaves and walks quickly toward the entrance of the casino while Mr. Touchy Feely, the security guard, leads Avery in the opposite direction as they argue.

Note to self: Tell Bella she needs to set boundaries with Mr. Touchy Feely security guard.

“I’ll be right back,” I tell the guys as I jump up from my seat, not waiting for their response, and take off after Bella. I catch up to her just as she exits the casino. “Bella! Wait!”

“Um, yes?” She says as she stops and turns to face me. I look down at her hand and see she was still holding the business card Avery had given to her. She watches closely as I take the card from her and crumple it into a small ball.

“You don’t need that,” I tell her softly.

“I know,” she answers with a smirk. I could not help but smile at her confidence. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my wallet. I took out my own business card and handed it to her. She raised an eyebrow at me without looking down at the card. “Is this your business card?”

“Yes, it is,” I smiled.

“I don’t need it.” She threw my words back with a sweet smile, holding the card out towards me. I wrapped my hand over hers and gently guided the card back to her.

“You may not need it, but I know you want it.” She let out a soft laugh as she held my card in one hand and tapping it on the other.

“Is that so?”

“Absolutely.” I gave her my brightest smile, one that I know women cannot resist, and take a step closer to her. Bella’s eyes don’t leave mine as I slowly inch my way towards her. Suddenly, her eyes narrow on me like she is trying to work something out in her mind.

“Have we met before?” Her question stops me in my tracks.

“I don’t think so.”

“You look familiar.” She tilts her head as if a different angle would somehow help her work out how she knows me.

“Well, I can positively say we don’t know each other.” I lean down towards her ear. “Yet, my Bella doll.” I straightened to see Bella had paled, and her eyes had widened to the size of saucers. “Bella?”

My calling her name seems to have pulled her out of whatever state she was in. She blinks a few times, then pushes my business card against my chest. My hand grazes hers as she releases it, letting it fall into my grasp.

“Not interested.” She then turned and bolted for the nearest taxi and called over her shoulder, “Enjoy the rest of your life!” It took me a few seconds to get over the shock of her reaction, but when I did, I ran after her, calling out for her to stop, but it was a waste of effort.

The taxi had pulled away and disappeared into the traffic. Damn! Damn! Damn!

“That was awesome!” Austin’s voice rang through the air as I stood there staring in the direction Bella’s taxi had disappeared. He and Ethan were still laughing like hyenas, no doubt about that last exchange between Bella and Avery as they walked up to me. Austin’s laughter died down when he saw me. “Hey.” I turned to face him. “What’s that look on your face? Did Bella shoot you down or something?” I glanced back towards the street, then back to my brother.

“Or something,” I sighed.

Who are you, Bella, and why did you run away?

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