Saving This (The McCallans #5)

~
Saving This
~

(
The McCallans, Book Fiv
e
)

 

Hadley Quinn

 

 

 

 

 

Cover Credits

 

Model:

Colby Lefebvre

 

Photographer:

Philipe Hernandez

 

Design:

Hadley Quinn

 

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”

~Maya Angelou

 

 

Copyright © 2016 Hadley Quinn

 

Without limiting rights under the copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, introduced into a retrieval system, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including without limitation photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. The scanning, uploading, and/or distribution of this document via the internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and is punishable by law.

 

Please purchase only authorized editions and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrightable material
s
.

 

The events and characters in this work are entirely fictitious and of the author’s imagination. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, used without permission. The use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

All rights reserved.

 

Content Warning:

This book contains adult material, including sex and language. It is not suitable for readers under the age of 18.

 

Prologue

 

 

 

My Dearest Max,

 

You may find it strange to receive a letter such as this from an old lady you hardly know, but I feel in my heart your soul is open to such a thing. No matter what others think of you, I can feel your goodness and sincerity, and despite the trials in your life (or, because of them) I know without a doubt you will do great things in the future.

In writing this, I hope you feel the confidence in yourself that I do. Sometimes in doing the things that are right, we give ourselves more work and frustration. But I can assure you…it’s worth it. I wish you the best in your life. Thank you for being in mine for such a short time, but know that you made quite a significant impact.

Please look after my grandchildren for me, and please love and nurture their children in my place. Thank you for all you gave me when you didn’t have to spend a single second on an old, dying woman.

 

Love always,

Gram Sullivan

 

 

With a sigh, Max placed the letter on the bed next to him. He sat on the edge, elbows on knees, and dropped his head into his hands in reflective silence. Why such an extraordinary woman would use her last moments for such a cause, he wasn’t sure. He hadn’t spent that much time with Tate’s grandma, but she truly had made an impression on him. Rarely was he ever around someone with such pure character.

Altruistic people were hard to find in his line of work.

He stood from the bed and stretched, and then placed the letter back in his nightstand. Kellie had given it to him after Gram’s funeral. It was sealed, with his name on it in shaky handwriting; the entire letter was written in her own unsteady penmanship.

He didn’t know why he read it every single day. Maybe it was because he wanted to believe every word of it. Maybe studying the words from someone he looked up to and admired would convince him of their truth. He questioned her state of mind in writing it, though. She didn’t know him very well, so how could she form such a positive opinion of him? Surely she had her facts jumbled up with someone else in mind.

He knew he wasn’t the stereotype most people labeled him with, whether it be the good half of it or the bad—he was definitely a mix, as were most people—but usually you don’t see what’s truly behind a person’s actions. An individual’s perception of you can be altered by how others perceive you first. It was the sad truth, but if you’re only given a tiny glimpse of someone’s personality, how much are you going to stick to that narrow-minded opinion of them? Do you take the time to do your own research to truly get the whole picture, to truly understand who they are?

Well…you should.

 

Chapter One

September, two months later

 

“Cut!”

Max leisurely exhaled to shed his current role: a suave, sweet-talking millionaire who was laying the charm on his latest conquest. It wasn’t a far stretch from his own credentials, although he hated being attached to such an arrogant typecast. Prowling for women wasn’t necessary—they usually flocked to
him;
obsessed over him, freaked out over him, lost any sort of composure within his presence—but he’d learned it was far better to prey than to be the prey.

“What do you think?” John asked as he approached. “Good for the day or another take?” The director stood with unbridled optimism as he waited for a response.

Max was the actor not the director in this case, but he was always asked this question. His family name had put him on a pedestal as a person who needed to be pampered and given leeway. It wasn’t needed, though. He’d never been disrespectful to any director or producer; never acted like a fucking diva to get his own way.

They associated him with his father way too much.

“I’m fine with that scene if you are,” Max answered as his personal assistant handed him a fresh pomegranate tea. “I’m more concerned with what the bartender was doing, though. I couldn’t help but notice how unnatural it looked. He seemed too scared to serve me a drink.”

Okay, so maybe he liked to put in his two cents, but it was for the entire good of the movie, not himself. His instinct was to mentor the guy on his own a bit, but his dad had always advised against it. “
Let the people who get paid to do that take care of it
,” he would say. Sometimes Max would and sometimes he wouldn’t, but never if his father was on the set like he was that day, watching from a distance.

It wasn’t worth the lecture.

While John had a discussion with the actor playing the bartender, Craig McCallan used the opportunity to take on a conversation with Max. He was never one to hesitate at the chance, so it was no surprise.

“Two more days and this will be a wrap,” his father told him. “Time to focus on bigger and better things.”

Max calculated his own response as he took a sip of his drink. His dad was baiting him into this conversation with the cocky assumption that he was able to influence his decision. There were always “bigger and better things” according to his father, but that next step which was being designed for him had never been in Max’s plans.

After a short pause, he warily shook his head and quietly answered, “I haven’t changed my mind, so please don’t bother.”

Craig’s face instantly darkened. “Don’t fuck with me on this, Max. I don’t care what life changing bullshit you’re going through right now, but now is
not
the time to throw your career away on one half-assed decision.”

“It’s not half-assed, and like I told you a few months ago… It’s the direction I want to go.”

His father chuckled bitterly. That laugh alone resonated years and years of seasoned condescension. “You can’t be serious.”

“I
am
serious. And until you understand that, we’re not having this discussion.”

Craig closed the gap between them and got in Max’s face. “Whatever the hell those kids have put in your head, they are
not
looking out for your best interest,” he growled in a low voice. “
I
am. Do you understand that? Do you see what I’ve built for this family? What your grandfather started? What
you
will continue? You
cannot
throw all of that away.”

His threatening glower quickly turned into a fake smile as soon as John approached them, placing a hand on both their shoulders.

“It makes me a proud man to see this on my set; first you and your father,” he said to Craig, “and twenty years later, you and your son. Simply amazing,” he murmured to himself as he rejoined the cameraman and called for another take on the previous scene.

Craig’s smugness returned instantly as he faced Max again. “‘Simply amazing’,” he repeated. “
So don’t fuck it up
,” he added as he turned away.

Max took a silent, measured breath as he closed his eyes. This would be the very last movie he did with his father, and even though he’d made that decision with a lot of thought and countless hours of contemplation, it still felt bittersweet. He loved acting; he also loved directing. There was an art to it that he was good at—no,
great
at—and he knew it.

But some of that joy had been squashed over the past few years. His father’s hold on him and the stress that came with it…it just wasn’t worth it anymore. He wanted to continue what he loved doing, but not at the expense of his own identity. He wanted to be his own person—he
needed
that—and if separating himself from his father and taking on the backlash that came with it was the only way to make it happen…

So be it.

 

***

 

Come around the side, we’re out back

 

Max briefly glanced at Kellie’s text as he pulled into her neighborhood. It was after eight that night, and even though he’d planned for an early night in, his cousin’s invitation to come over was too hard to turn down. He evaded both his bodyguard and assistant, just so he could be by himself for a bit, but by the time he got to Kellie and Tate’s, he was ready to be social again.

Kellie. Man, he loved that girl. Sometimes he thought God might have mixed up the sibling arrangements because he could swear she should have been his sister instead. But who was he to question shit like that? She was in his life and that’s all he cared about. Now she was married with a kid on the way—something he never saw for her so quickly—but she was happy and healthy, and he’d grown to like Tate quite a bit. The guy was one-of-a-kind, and it was easy to see why his cousin had fallen for him so quickly.

He punched in the code to their security gate and pulled up the driveway, parking off to the side. Climbing out of his Maserati was a quick reminder that he didn’t have Chase with him. Moments of reality such as that stung like a bitch, but it was one of many situations in his life that he had to accept.

At least until the timing was right.

“Hey there, long day for you?” Kellie asked as he came around the side of the house. She and Tate were sharing a large outdoor lounger on the deck; his arms were around her, resting on her baby bump. It was picture-perfect.

“Yeah, somewhat,” Max answered as he pulled up a chair and dropped into it. “What’ve you two been up to? Wait, don’t answer that.” Newlyweds, what a dumb question.

Tate smiled as only a guilty, drunk-in-love guy could smile, but Kellie made a funny face at him. “Whatever,” she scoffed. “Day off for both of us. But we’ve been fixing up the baby room, so it was still work. How was
your
day?” She’d asked it cautiously since she knew his dad had been on the set, too.

Max frowned with a matter-of-fact shrug. “Same as always. He brought up that movie again.” He looked from Kellie to Tate since they both knew what he meant. His father wanted him to produce a movie on his own under the McC Studios name. “Still told him no.”

“And how did that go?” Tate inquired.

“As expected. He thinks I’m in some sort of rebellious phase, trying to prove a point or something.”

“Well you’re definitely proving a point,” Kellie stated. “But it’s not a phase. He’ll see that eventually.”

“Goody, I can’t wait,” Max replied dryly. “Anyway, how you feeling? You still look good, not too fat yet.”

She reached out and swung a fist at him, barely catching his shoulder. “Ass.”

“Ah, you know I’m joking,” he laughed. “Everyone knows you won’t get fat for another month or two.”

“Who fed you feistiness for breakfast?” Kellie glared at him. “And besides, you can’t provoke me with fat jokes to test where my self-esteem is. I’m past that.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes. Maybe. I mean it’s always something that bothers me—you know that—but I’m doing okay right now.”

“Good for you. And I wasn’t testing you, merely being a shit because I can. Was pretty insensitive, really. My apologies. And anyway, tell me how the ultrasound went yesterday.”

She arched an eyebrow with smugness. “We’re not telling anyone.”

Max gave her a steely gaze. “Not telling anyone except
me
, you mean.”

“Sorry cuz,” she laughed. “Not telling
anyone
.”

“But I’m your favorite.”

“Not always.”

“True.” He got up and helped himself inside the house. He trekked down the hallway to the baby room and stepped inside. “Beige?” he asked out loud. There was furniture in there—a mahogany crib with matching dresser, changing table, and rocking chair—but all the walls were
beige
.

“We’re not that dense,” Kellie’s voice spoke behind him. “What, you expected blue or pink?”

“I guess with you two crazies, probably not. I’m betting beige is just a background for one of Tate’s outrageous murals.”

“Yup,” she agreed, stepping into the room. “And it’s going to be amazing.”

“I don’t doubt it. I can’t wait to see it.”

Kellie cleared her throat and turned to face him. “Hey, I wanted to ask you something.”

“Sure.”

She bit her lip as she paused, but glanced away like she did when she was nervous.

“What’s up? What’s wrong?”

She offered a partial smile but shook her head. “Nothing’s wrong, really. I’m just about to ask you something difficult and I have no idea how you’re going to respond.”

He licked his lips, realizing it probably had something to do with family. “Whatever it is, I won’t be upset with you. You can ask, doesn’t mean I’ll agree.”

“I know.”

“So just ask.”

With a sigh she said, “I really want you to talk to Teague. Please, Max? How long are you going to put it off?”

He exhaled in frustration but didn’t reply.

“I really think it’s time, and I truly believe it will only move you guys forward.”

“You can’t predict that,” he challenged. “Teague won’t be okay with a word I say.”

“Well I’m pretty sure he will if you tell him
everything
. I mean maybe not at first, but you need to make him listen. Put your pride aside for once and just do it. Please, Max. You’re both fucking stubborn, but you’re the older brother. I think you need to take the lead on this. Try again, okay?”

Max ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “I still don’t think the timing is right. Let me get this next step of my life squared away and then I’ll consider rebuilding those bridges. If it’s at all possible.”

“It’s possible.”

His sad smile was directed toward her optimism. “We’ll see.”

 

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