Reynolds' Family Romance - Book cover

Reynolds' Family Romance

Niccolite Slater

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15
Age Rating
18+

Summary

Family vacations are awkward and tense as all get out for someone like Bailee Reynolds. All she wants is to relax on the beach, hole up in her own little world, and maybe find a fling. What she didn’t expect was to find her life turned upside down when she attracts the attention of three handsome men. Mason, Benji, and Angelo have been looking for their unicorn, the perfect woman to share their lives with, and they might have found her in Bailee. But can Bailee break free of the hold her family has on her to find the happiness she deserves?

Age Rating: 18+

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Chapter 1

BAILEE

To Whom It Doesn’t Concern,

Family vacations are bullshit. That is all.

Sincerely yours,

Me

***

The sand sunk between my toes, sifting in between my feet and my nude thong sandals, causing an uncomfortable grate as I walked up to the front door of the beach rental my parents had somehow acquired last minute.

The jewels that adorned the sides cost more than my monthly wages, but my mother had insisted that they were perfect for the occasion. They were not.

My gaze fell upon the beach rental, which was entirely too lavish and too large for a relaxing seven days, boasting of the rich and pompous life the Reynolds family lived.

Excluding me.

Strangely enough, I felt more at ease in my one-bedroom apartment just outside of New York City than I did wallowing in wads of cash.

But who was I to deny my family a little extra comfort if I meant that I could escape on this vacation too?

My therapist, Nala, had said that tagging along for a family vacation was the perfect distraction from my most recent breakdown.

It would give me the needed time to sift through my thoughts and analyze the failing pieces of my life before resuming my daily routines.

I called bullshit, especially when it involved me stuffing myself in a shared room with my older sister Mya.

I had had the entire flight to struggle with the decision of which sister I wanted to suffer the next week with until the decision was rudely made for me. As always.

Elissa, the oldest of us four, had been married for nearly ten years, sporting only one well-behaved daughter from the union.

Her husband couldn’t make the trip, something about a business meeting popping up out of the blue. By the look on Elissa’s face, I called bullshit on that too.

Her husband was definitely stepping out on her, but it wasn’t my place to say anything. Lips shut, girl. Nothing to see here.

Conflict was my own worst enemy, and creating it tore me apart. It was essentially the cause of my last freak-out.

You need to start taking this more seriously, Lee. Your health is important. I shrugged off the doc’s voice in my head. It couldn’t be that important if my entire family thought I was a fuck-up.

Despite the pills and the constant monitoring, I still found it hard to be in crowds or stressful situations, and to speak up about things that made me uncomfortable.

I’d rather live with this discomfort than die a horrid death as I spoke up for myself.

My thoughts weren’t valuable enough to voice. And it caused me little damage to swallow them to become the most easygoing person on the planet.

You’re doing yourself a disservice. I grimaced at the voice and shifted uncomfortably as I continued dragging myself along the beach behind my other family members.

The chaos erupting in front of me between unruly kids, tired parents, and jet-lagged sisters I chose to ignore, head buried so far deep in my own thoughts as I clutched a leather-bound journal to my chest.

Not even the brisk summer wind or the sound of crashing waves could bring me back to the present.

Nala had given me the task of writing down my thoughts three years ago. I had balked at the suggestion, fighting the idea that putting pen to paper would change anything.

But when she suggested that I treat it as something other than a “task,” my mindset changed. Instead of just the keepers of my secrets, my journals became a way to escape from a past I no longer identified with.

I filled them with everything and nothing—my days, my worries, my lovers or lack thereof—and then once I had written the very last page, I buried them.

No, not in like my goddamn backyard or anything. I traveled and found places to offload my emotions, titling each page “To Whom It Doesn’t Concern,” an inside joke between me and Nala.

With each journal, I felt a little lighter. My current journal had seven pages left.

Seven days of vacation gave me the perfect opportunity to find a resting place for it. I had my mission for this trip and it was the only thing that mattered to me.

Well, that and finding a cute island boy to pass the time.

You won’t even talk to people. No boy is going to make the effort to come talk to you, Lee.

Mya—my roommate for the week—was recently divorced (not a surprise) with three sons from hell, all under the age of seven.

They were currently rolling around in the sand, yelling and shooting fake guns as they dodged imaginary bullets. Funny enough, my nephews all had different fathers, a fact that Mya had kept under wraps from our parents.

Despite how fucked-up Mya’s life was, it was almost like she could do no wrong according to our mother.

It’s how I got roped into being the babysitter of the three heathens before we even landed. After all, I was the only single one left in the family, a sore point for all Reynoldses involved.

Even my brother, Zak, who was a year younger than me, had brought along his fiancée.

I bet them a happy five months before his fiancée got bored. This was the third fiancée this year and it was summer, but he swore up and down that she was the one. They were a bunch of giggling, groping idiots in front of me.

I wanted to tell Zak that his “fiancées” were only here for the money and the adventure, but that would break his heart and would make me the mean sibling.

Which I would never do. ~Mouth shut, remember?~ I bit my bottom lip, tugging it farther between my teeth as I continued to wrestle with my thoughts.

None of it mattered, really. Just as long as my parents focused their attention anywhere but me.

After the most recent incident had landed me in the hospital and then back on Nala’s couch at the whopping embarrassing age of twenty-four, my parents had homed in on my well-being.

Dad had been amazingly accommodating, but Mom—fuck her—it was like having a helicopter parent all over again.

Even my siblings had been treading lightly around the subject, but like…in a sibling way. Which meant they kept shoving potential suitors in my face until I literally removed myself from the situation.

We have the Reynolds charm, baby girl. You just…need to seem a little less sad. Mya’s words hit a nerve, but I bit my tongue before I said something I regretted.

We all had a gorgeous caramelized skin tone, thick dark hair, and piercing brown eyes that flashed purple at the right angles.

I knew what I looked like, but it wasn’t the sad part keeping me from potential suitors. I just…didn’t need to be let down anymore.

I think I suffered through about fifteen profiles from both sisters before I faked a stomachache and then dozed off when sickness didn’t deter them.

“Lee?”

I jerked my head up, feet firmly planted in the sand, and met Zak’s gaze. I glared at him as his arm curled tighter around his fiancée’s waist. What is that about?

“What?” I spat, tightening my hands around my journal. It was the only thing I owned that meant anything to me. Everything else could be burned or go to hell, but the pages in my arms held everything that I was. They held me.

Zak pointed to the summer house behind us and said gingerly, “We’ve got a tour guide or something that’s going to give us the rundown of the place, and then we’re going to the beach. You in?”

I blinked a few times, trying to understand when this development had taken place.

I wiggled my toes in the sand, letting my shoulders relax. I had probably been standing here like an idiot for more than a few minutes.

It was something I did, something that messed with my entire family. I’d zone out for a while, just to come back and not realize that I had ever left.

Sometimes it was a few seconds. The worst of them had been hours.

I squinted at him, still trying to understand why he was literally petting his fiancée. My nose scrunched up as I asked, “With you?” Why else would he be asking?

My little brother bellowed out a laugh. “Fuck no. The whole family. Mom and Dad were going to start a fire and have the food catered there.”

Of course they were. I could never forget how much my parents were worth or how often they flaunted their wealth, even with simple things.

Everyone seemed to take the money for granted, and I was the ungrateful one when I didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars when taking a bus or walking would do the same trick.

Mya was the worst of them. She might have gotten herself into single motherhood, but she was determined to have our parents drag her back out. Bitch.

I noticed that Zak was still waiting for my response so I shrugged. “Yeah. Maybe.” Liar. You’re not going. I tried not to grin as I agreed with myself.

Family time was for people who cared. I did not care, nor did I find solace in gathering around a campfire to end up talking about my nonexistent love life.

Zak grunted, “You can’t be antisocial here. We’re on a family vacation.” He actually looked disappointed. I didn’t know why. I ~never~ joined in on these things.

I moped around, babysat the kids, and then disappeared the moment we returned home.

Just, this time around, I had had my freak-out right before we left, which meant I was even more fragile than usual. Well, not fragile, just irritable.

“I’m not antisocial.” I wasn’t. But people made me antsy. They were unpredictable. And I didn’t like them. Okay, so maybe a little antisocial.

“Really? Because you said all of three sentences on the six-hour plane ride and now you’re spacing out like you always do.”

I stiffened. Zak was always the most perceptive, but with the least amount of tact. Like none of it. Just poof, gone.

He released the girl snuggled into his side—no idea what her name was and I was pretty sure it wasn’t worth learning—and approached a few steps until he was standing right in front of me, towering over my five-five height.

Fuck men and their growth spurts.

His hands rested on my arms, rubbing up and down in comforting strokes. Or at least what was supposed to be comforting. I ended up clutching my journal tighter against my chest, a move that he noticed but didn’t address.

“Are you okay? Is this all too much too soon?”

A frown spread across my lips at the implication as I took a step back, freeing myself from his touch. “I’m not a piece of porcelain, Zak. I don’t just…” I huffed, furrowing my brow.

I didn’t want to go down this road again. Explaining to my family that my breakdowns didn’t just happen out of the blue but were ongoing.

They thought it was excessive stress or failing to measure up or whatever bullshit they kept telling themselves. It was none of those things. I just…didn’t want to do anything more.

No amount of effort or time ever made me enough. So what was the point? My head hung low, and I knew Zak was going to start beating himself up about the fact that couldn’t get through to me. “Let’s just go see the house.”

“And then you’ll come down to the beach,” he said so matter-of-factly that I almost wanted to believe him.

“It’s a vacation, Zak.” He didn’t get it. My family never did. “We’re on vacation. Which means I’m on vacation too. Maybe I just want to escape to the farthest side of the beach and have a margarita in silence.”

Skip the margarita. Give me back my apartment. Cue the lights, blankets, and my favorite source of pleasure, with three glorious settings—Mr. Toddy.

“You don’t mean that.”

“Zak, you adore this family. But it’s not all roses for the rest of us. Well, me. Okay?”

“It could be if you—”

I held up a hand before this became an argument. I didn’t do those, my chest already heaving at the insane thought that Zak was going to shout at me.

Deep breaths, Lee. No freak-outs here. A slow breath filtered through my nose as my eyes squeezed shut.

“No, not doing this here. On vacation,” I told myself out loud. It was meant for Zak, but those words were just as important for me.

There would be no conflict here. No arguments. No getting myself into situations that I couldn’t easily escape from.

I ushered him toward the front door, hoping that as soon as everyone decided to fuck off to the beach, I could finally have a few moments of silence to myself.

Because to be truly honest with myself, I had come on this vacation for one important reason. It was to bury the last piece of myself—the darkest part of my past.

In one week, I would be truly free. My therapist said that that’s not how diaries were supposed to work.

I call bullshit.

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