Beyond Monogamy Book One
Aiden stood near the window watching the cows in the pasture. There was a peacefulness to the view, almost relaxing in a way. They weren’t their cows, but belonged to the farmer who lived on the adjacent property. It was a deal they had worked out when they purchased the property. He could lease the land, giving his cows more room to roam, in exchange for fresh meat when he butchered an animal or during hunting season. It worked out in their benefit since none of them hunted and the land would have been unused anyway.
“Are you listening to me?” Cody sat perched on the edge of Aiden’s desk.
“Yes, I’m listening. What do you want me to say?” He still didn’t turn to look at the others, instead he kept his gaze out the window.
“Tell us you feel it too,” Cody pushed.
“Cody, you’re being too hasty about this. Step back and relax for a minute. She’s here on business. Rushing in head-first and screaming she’s the one isn’t going to make her receptive to the idea.” Kain leaned against the wall, watching them.
“What do you expect us to do then? She’s leaving in a few hours.”
“We need a game plan.” Aiden turned from the window to look back at the two men he was closest to, the ones he would spend the rest of his life with. They had become like brothers over the years, knocking sense into his thick head when he was sinking into a deep depression. If it hadn’t been for the two of them when his career ended, he wasn’t sure what he would’ve done. Football had been his life, the only real thing he focused on since he was a child, and to have it taken away from him in an instant was devastating.
At least I went out at the end of one of the best games of my life.
He shook his head, chasing away the thoughts of his past and focusing on more important things. It was time to begin building their future with the one woman who would cement them together permanently, and if they had their way, it would be Paris.
“So what’s the plan?” Cody slapped his hand down on his leg.
“We’re going to meet with her individually like she wants. Answer her questions, but also ask some of our own. We need to know more about her before we can begin convincing her. If we start now she’ll think we’re nuts, and if she leaves here with that in her mind there’s not a chance we’ll get her back here. When she leaves, I’ll take her back to the plane.”
“Aiden, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Kain pushed off the wall to turn toward him.
“I figured you wouldn’t, but you had your time with her and I think I can connect with her on the drive. If anyone has to convince her this is what we want, it’s going to be me. She’s already mentioned the media coverage.”
“They made you look like a player.” Cody shook his head. “I told you that you should have come out against that years ago.”
“They’d have focused on us.” He shrugged his shoulders, as if to convey it was a lose-lose situation. “It wasn’t easy, but neither were good options. Being a playboy in the eyes of the media seemed liked a better option at the time than having them hound us day and night trying to catch us in awkward situations.”
“It would have been bad either way, but now we’re going to have our work cut out for us.” Kain took off his cowboy hat and ran this hand through his hair before putting it back on. “I didn’t make a very good impression on her when we first met either. I was expecting Mr. Nelson, and when he didn’t show I couldn’t help but question our decision to work with the company.”
“Guess I’m the only one who doesn’t have to convince her I’m different than what she thinks.” Cody smirked.
Kain shook his head. “You’re the youngest and your boyish good looks mean you have to convince her you know what you’re doing, including tying yourself to us and a woman.”
“Why does everyone treat me like I’m a boy?” Cody stretched out his legs.
“Don’t knock it, Cody. You have the good looks that will win our woman over. Haven’t you noticed how her gaze travels back to you whenever she thinks no one is looking?”
“He’s right,” Aiden said. “Which is why you’re going to talk to her first. Diane will serve the two of you lunch while you’re answering whatever questions she has for you. We’ll eat in here and whenever you’re done Kain will be next. I’m sure she’s going to have the most questions for me, therefore it will take more time and maybe she’ll be able to eliminate some of the questions after talking to the two of you. I’ll meet with her last.”
“I’d say you just want to spend all your time with her.” Cody stood. “While I’m gone I don’t want either of you to worry, I’ll smooth the way for you. When I’m done she’ll want us as much as we want her.”
“Don’t lay it on too heavy,” Aiden warned while he watched him stroll from the room. Then he turned to Kain. “You know he’s going to be overzealous.”
“He always is, which is why he works well with us.” Kain took a seat in one of the leather chairs across from Aiden’s desk. “You know, Paris being the one for us is only going to bring more attention to the situation. Her family is in the center of this new trend, and Beyond Monogamy is getting a lot of attention—both good and bad. It’s going to give us twice the media attention.”
“I had thought about that, but if she’s the one it will be worth it.” Aiden sat down behind his desk. “Before my mother died she told me that when the right woman came into my life I’d know it.”
“Yes. I’m not sure I ever believed her, but when I saw Paris walk into my office I knew she was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I just hoped you and Cody would feel the same way. Everything else will fall into place, it has to.”
His words made him sound so sure, but everything inside of him was turning. He hadn’t been this nervous or anxious when he began playing pro-football. Now he sat before one of his best friends wondering how they were going to make this work, because he knew the woman in the other room wasn’t going to make things easy for them. There was something about her that screamed she wasn’t looking for anything serious, and even if she was it wouldn’t be them.
Don’t worry, darling, I’m going to convince you otherwise.
During the winter of 2115, storm after storm dumped piles of snow until Paris Nelson thought she’d never see the green grass again. She vowed she was taking a vacation at the first sign of nice weather, somewhere far from her office. To work from home seemed like a dream but it also had her working longer than normal hours. Day or night if she wasn’t working she was thinking about work, and the fact that her office was adjoined to her bedroom made it hard to separate life from work.
She leaned back in her leather office chair and looked out at the beautiful mountains with their snow covered caps. Even through the latest snowstorm, the mountains called to her. When was the last time she’d gone skiing, or snowboarding? Too long. Since the world had changed, the family’s dating company—Beyond Monogamy—had taken off. People had lived the lifestyle in private, but now they were going public and seeking help to find the perfect match. Good for business, bad for her life outside the office.
It was amazing to think her fathers were on the battleground to make all of this possible. They’d fought for the rights to live a polyandry lifestyle, the right for one wife to have multiple husbands, as well as polygamy—one husband with multiple wives. Her father, Mathew, was one of the lawyers fighting the legal grounds while Paul had taken other routes to make the future possible. Making their relationship public while it was still illegal had given her parents a rough start, but they made it possible for Paris and her bother London to live this life if they chose to. Not to mention the countless other couples and future generations they paved the way for.
“Paris, we need to talk.” Paul, one of her fathers, stood in the door frame looking stressed.
“What’s wrong? Is it Mom? Something happen at her doctor’s appointment?” She sat up straighter in her chair, giving Dad her full attention.
“The doctor ordered another round of the chemotherapy and radiation to begin immediately.” Her father stepped into her office until he stood just in front of the large cherry wood desk. “You’ve been cooped up in this office working too much.”
“What are you getting at?” Her forehead creased with suspicion as she watched her father lead into something. It had to be something big for him to go through all that trouble.
“We’ve been thinking it’s time for you to get out more. I have a client I was supposed to meet with in Thermopolis, Wyoming, but with your mom’s treatments and Mathew working on that murder trial, I need someone to take my place. These are very important clients, and they’ve asked that someone come to them.”
“Why not send London? He’s the one who normally deals with the face to face stuff; I’m the matchmaker behind the scenes.”
“This client is special.” He tipped his head and looked at the stack of paperwork she was working on. “It’s better than what you’re working on here, and these can wait until you’re back, or you can give them to London to complete. Plus, you deserve to get out of this office once in a while. Point is, I really need you to take this trip for me. I don’t want to leave your mom right now. The chemo has been bad enough but with radiation, it’s going to be worse. Mathew and I both need to be with her.”
“Who’s the client?” She relented without much of a fight because she understood her parents needed to be together. Cancer was a bitch, and her dads wanted to be there for anything Mom needed. She leaned forward to the computer to pull up the file she’d need once he told her the client’s name.
“You won’t find him in the system. I’ve been keeping this one close to the vest because of who the client is. I didn’t need London finding out because he’d want to deal with it and that’s just not happening. Oh, that boy.” He shoved his hands into his pockets and shook his head.
“London isn’t that bad, he just likes to party a little too much. There’s never been any problem with him and the business. He shows the clients a good time when they need it. It’s more than the rest of us do.” Even if her baby brother got on her last nerve sometimes, she still felt the need to defend him. “Maybe we should all take a page from his book, we work too hard. I know you and Dad laid back a little since Mom’s been sick, but maybe once the treatments are complete you should think about taking her away for a few days. She could use it.”
“None of this has been fair on you.” He leaned against the edge of her desk. “My little girl, running the company while we care for Mom. You rarely ever leave the house unless it’s for work. What kind of life is that for you?”
“I love my work and wouldn’t change that. You know if there’s anything you need, just let me know and you can consider it done. You need to focus on Mom, she’s top priority. I can handle Beyond Monogamy…and even London if I need to.” She grabbed her notebook and pen. “Now who’s this secret client?”
She gasped, certain she’d heard him wrong. “Not Aiden Dalton, the former pro-football player?”
“The one and only. He received my number from a colleague and contacted me directly. Now you understand why I can’t have your brother take this and why it needs to be kept quiet. I’ve got the basic information he provided on this.” He dangled a jump drive from between his fingers until she took it. “None of this can go into the system. For now, it’s just between us, Mathew, and Mom. Don’t say a word to London.”
“Oh, believe me, now I understand why you didn’t want him to take this client. He’s always been a huge fan of Aiden’s, even after he blew out his knee and had to give up playing.” She looked at the drive and wondered what she’d find on it, while her mind had already jumped to conclusions of its own. “How many wives is he looking for?”
“My sweet daughter, you’ve got it wrong. He’s only looking for one…and before you ask why he’d used our company if not for multiple partners, it’s because he’s partnered with two other men and they’re looking for one wife.”
“One wife?” The question came out lighter than she had expected it. “Sorry, Dad, it’s just not what I’ve expected. The media always portrayed him as a bad boy and something of a ladies’ man. To think he’s willing to settle down with one woman and share her with two other men is hard to believe.”
“Remember what the media tried to do to the company? It could have been done to him, too.” He shrugged. “I don’t know much yet. I’ve only spoken to Kain, Aiden’s lawyer, who is also one of the partners. You need to go, gather the rest of the information, and if you feel that Beyond Monogamy cannot help them, I’ll trust your judgment. However if we can, it could be the hit we need to take the company to the next level.”
“We’ve already got more business than we can handle.”
“We’ll have to hire more staff.” When she shook her head, he added, “Employees are not overrated. Even you can’t run this company on your own. If you tried, you’d burn out. Have you given more thoughts to hiring an assistant?”
“Dad, that just not me. I’m too controlling, I would be double checking everything she did.”
“You need someone to help you. You’re working too much.” He cupped his hand over hers. “Since Mom’s been sick, you’ve picked up the duties Mathew and I used to handle. It’s not fair on you. I had hoped London would have helped you with some of them, but he’s too busy acting as entertainment director.”
“It’s what family does,” she insisted, ignoring his last comment. “Plus, I love what I do and that makes the long hours worth it. Just know I’m going to take a few days off once the weather is nice again. I want to sink my toes into the sand. London will have to manage by himself for a few days. Now, back to business. When am I supposed to meet with Aiden, Kain, and the other man?”
“The plane will be ready for you at ten tomorrow morning. You’ll arrive at a private airport just on the outskirts of Thermopolis, and Kain will be there to meet you. You should be able to wrap up what you need to do by dinner time, and the pilot will be on standby to make the return trip when you’re ready.”
“Very well. Then I better get this stack of paperwork complete.” She scooted her chair closer to the desk, prepared to return to the tasks at hand.
“Okay, I can take a hint. Let me know if there’s anything I can do. Being here with Mom doesn’t mean I can’t do some of this paperwork.” He rose from the edge of the desk where he had been leaning.
“It’s fine, Dad. You need to focus on Mom. Plus, this is just the standard check, and one client I need to go through some matches for. What I don’t finish tonight I can get done on the plane tomorrow.” Her cell phone rang, giving her the excuse she needed to get back to work. She glanced at the screen and saw one of her clients’ names. The call could wait, but knowing Dad, he’d hang around if she didn’t take it. “If you’ll excuse me, Dad, I need to take this.”
“I’ll see you for dinner tonight.”
She nodded as her father left her office. When he reached the door, she brought the phone to her ear. “Hello, Carter. I was just about to call you.”
“Lily and I were wondering if you found us a potential match. We’re planning a trip to visit her family. If you’ve found someone who isn’t local, we’d like to see about meeting with her while we’re traveling.”
“Actually, I did.” She clicked a few buttons on the keyboard and brought his file up on the screen. “The woman I have selected for you is named Dana. Looking over both of your files, I believe she’d be the perfect fit for you. She lives in Florida, and though she hasn’t been in a relationship like this herself, she was raised with two mothers.”
“Would she be willing to relocate? With the business, I couldn’t, so that’s a big thing for us, and Florida is across the country.”
“She’s willing, and understands you have a chain of hardware stores in Arizona. That won’t be an issue. She’s anxious to meet you and Lily and has even offered to fly out there.” She opened Diane’s file, creating a side by side display on the computer screen. “I can email her picture and information for you to look over. If you’d like to arrange a meeting, or speak with her over the phone, I can provide the contact information.”
“Shoot the file over and we’ll look at it this evening. If she’s the one, we’ll be in Georgia visiting Lily’s family and we can meet with her.” The hesitation in Carter’s voice reminded her of why she had taken him on as a personal client. She hadn’t let anyone else, not even her fathers, deal with his request.
Normally her clients were excited when she told them there was a match, but Carter had been down this road before and it showed in his reservation. Before coming to Beyond Monogamy, he had tried another less credible company that hadn’t screened their clients properly. Carter and Lily had been through Hell and back with the prospective mate before they were able to distance themselves. It had taken them nearly two years before they were willing to try again, and Paris was making this her personal priority. She had double checked Diane, digging even deeper than normal to ensure there was nothing alarming in her past. With every check, Diane had come up clean—not even a speeding ticket. Paris had been doing this long enough that she had a six sense about matching; she could even feel it in her bones, and she knew Diane was the right match for Carter and Lily.
She had ended the call and emailed him the file before she picked up the jump drive Dad had given her. She was anxious to read what was on the file but there were still other things she needed to deal with before she could focus on that. She forced herself to lay it aside and focus on the paperwork she had been working on when Dad had entered. She needed to finish searching through matches for another client so she could settle on one, and that needed to be done before her flight in the morning.
The paperwork detailing the couple who was searching for another wife sat on top with the possible matches to the side. Trying to match Greta and Bob with another woman had been more challenging than most. How Greta and Bob made their relationship work in the first place was beyond Paris. They were almost completely different people, and everything she’d learned in the matchmaking business told her they couldn’t possibly work, yet somehow they had for over five years. Now they wanted to add to their family, something they’d wanted to do for years, but with Bob’s career as a police officer, it hadn’t been possible until now.
“Hey, sis.” London leaned against the door frame. “I passed Dad when I came in and he said you might need a hand with some paperwork. What can I do for you?”
“You know, little brother, you might be just the person I’m looking for. Are you familiar with Greta and Bob’s file?”
“Yeah, aren’t they in Maine and looking for a wife?” He strolled toward her desk, his hands in the front pockets of his jeans.
She nodded. “You think outside of the box, maybe you can figure out which of these three would be the best fit. Each time I look at the women, I talk myself out of the one I thought I settled on. Each of them would be perfect for either Greta or Bob, but I’m not sure completely perfect for both.”
“I could do some research and settle on one so you can get to the rest of this stuff.” He nodded to the papers scattered around the desk. “Anything else you need?”
“What’s with the change? You have a workload of your own and don’t normally offer to help.”
“Dad told me about Mom’s upcoming treatment. I want both our dads to feel confident that we can handle the company so they can focus on Mom.”
She placed her hand over his. “Little brother, I think you’re finally growing up. Thank you. If you can handle them I’ll be able to deal with everything else.”
“Consider it done.” He stood back up with the papers in hand. “Dad wanted me to remind you that we’re expected at dinner.”
“I told him I’d be there.” She shook her head. “I’ve got to go out of town in the morning, it’s just a day trip, but if anything changes with Mom I want you to call me. I know our dads won’t unless it’s something serious, since I’m meeting with a client, but I want to know. Okay?”
“You know I will.” He nodded. “I didn’t see anything in the book about you traveling this week.”
“It was unexpected.” Not wanting to rouse his suspicions, she added, “I just need to smooth some ruffled feathers and assure him we can take care of all his needs.”
“Well, if you need to show him a good time I can give you a list of the area’s hotspots.”
“I appreciate that, but that’s not my scene and I don’t think the client wants that either. Though I’ll keep it in mind if that comes up.” She didn’t want him to wonder about the client, or start to ask questions, so she quickly changed the subject. “Now, if there’s anything I can do for you, just let me know.”
“I’ve got it under control, Dottie makes sure of that.”
She nodded, knowing his personal assistant Dottie wouldn’t allow the clients to suffer while London was enjoying the nightlife and showing the clients a good time. She made sure he did the real work as well, and for that, the whole family was thankful. Maybe Mom’s latest cancer treatment was forcing him to grow up, because he’d never offered to take any of Paris’s work no matter how busy she was.
She leaned back in her office chair letting her gaze drift back to the window. Since cancer had touched their lives, things had grown a little darker around the house. While London let himself get sucked into the party scene to forget what was going on with their mother, she had drowned herself in work. That needed to change, for both of them. She had to have a life outside of work, so maybe Dad was right. Maybe it was time to hire an assistant.