Hometown Hearts by M.L. Rhodes
Copyright 2018-2019 by M.L. Rhodes, All Rights Reserved
The trip back seemed to take forever. I hadn’t been lucky enough to score a nonstop flight this time, so I spent an hour and a half in Chicago before I could finally get back in the air. At last, though, as the sun set behind the Rockies, my plane touched down in Denver and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Only two more hours and I’d be home. I was so close to Jay now I could almost feel a deep-down connection to him vibrating through me.
My rental SUV this time was a Ford Expedition. Bigger than I needed, but it had been the only four-wheel-drive the agency had left tonight. Frankly, I didn’t care the size, as long as it got me over the mountains and back to the man who hadn’t left my thoughts the entire time I’d been gone.
It wasn’t snowing tonight, but the deep freeze was still in full force. The thermometer on the dashboard of the Expedition said it was two degrees outside as left Denver. The windchill was probably far lower and I’d felt every biting, negative degree of it as I’d walked through the rental lot.
At least the drive itself was uneventful.
Mostly, it gave me another two hours to worry. I tried not to, but with every mile I drove closer to Lodgepole, it seemed the busier my mind grew. I’d left New York with a positive attitude, convinced I could come back to Colorado and make things right with Jay. My dealings with Shane had gone far better than I’d expected, and I’d been riding that high when I first boarded the plane at JFK.
Somewhere along the line, though, probably when I’d checked my phone during my layover in Chicago and still hadn’t had any kind of a response from Jay, I’d begun to fear things were worse than I’d believed. I’d reminded myself over and over that actions were what counted, not words. That I had to show him I’d meant everything I’d said in my voice mail, and until then, he had no reason to respond.
But exhausted, heartsick me, who’d had far too much time to think as I traveled, was beginning to doubt.
I’d considered trying to call or text him from the airport in Denver, if for nothing else than to at least let him know I was coming. But in the end, I’d held back. I think a part of me was afraid if he were truly running scared from our relationship, and I told him I was on my way, he’d tell me no, he didn’t want to see him. Or he’d tell me again that our lives were too different and we could only ever be friends.
If that happened, I knew my heart would break all over again.
So, for better or worse, I’d made the decision to show up on his doorstep unannounced. He might still say all those things, but at least this way I’d be able to see him, read his body language, and, God, I hoped with all my heart, convince him otherwise.
I finally reached Lodgepole a little before seven-thirty. It seemed much later. Probably because I was so damned tired after traveling for so long and having had so little sleep the past couple of days. Yet in spite of that, my brain still wouldn’t shut off. And neither would the ache in my heart.
As I pulled into the driveway, my tires crunching on the snow thanks to the now-subzero temperature, I noticed a few lights on in the house. I parked to the right of the garage since I was unable to open the door myself from out here. We’d planned to buy a second garage door opener for me, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Now, I wondered if that would ever happen.
I didn’t see any movement through the front window, and I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. My gut must have decided it was bad, though, since it sent a sharp, stabbing pain through me that made me wince.
I drew in a deep breath to ease it.
Then, my heart pounding, I grabbed my computer bag because it was far too cold to leave it in the car, opened the car door, and slid out.
Still no movement inside as I crunched along the walkway, then up the steps to the front door.
I debated for half a second on whether I should ring the doorbell. But then I decided, no, that was almost like admitting I wasn’t welcome, or I that I was any generic guest. I didn’t want to feel that way. This was hard enough as it was. Instead, I used the house key Jay’d given me after Christmas.
My heart was pounding so hard now I heard it thrumming in my ears, and I suddenly felt nauseous.
As I turned the doorknob and began to push the door open, I knocked lightly a couple of times so, if he were here, I wouldn’t totally startle him.
But when I stepped inside, I didn’t see him anywhere on the main floor.
I’d half expected the dogs to come running, but they were silent as well. Which felt weird and disheartening. Like no one, including the dogs, cared I was back.
Stop, I told myself.
I quickly closed the door to shut off the blast of cold I was letting in, and set my bag on the floor. But I couldn’t seem to make my feet move from where I stood on the rug in the entryway, still not sure whether I was welcome or not, or how he’d feel about me coming in uninvited.
“Jay?” I hesitantly called, looking around.
And then I saw him.
My heart, for all its crazy pounding before, had gone quiet. And my breath caught as well.
He’d been coming down the stairs, but had stopped halfway, a backpack slung over one shoulder, his phone in his hand. His eyes had gone wide, and he stared at me.
He had on a blue denim shirt tonight that exactly matched the color of his eyes, and in spite of the drawn, tired look on his face, he was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
But I could also see his chest rapidly rising and falling from here. Which mean he was upset. I just couldn’t tell yet why.
Then my gaze slid to the bottom of the steps…and I saw the suitcase waiting.
My heart began to pound again.
I looked back up at him. “Are you…are you leaving?” My voice came out sounding choked.
Why would he be leaving? Was it because I’d told him in the voice mail last night I was coming back to Colorado? Did he think he had to go to avoid me? God, Jay, no. Please. And was that why the dogs hadn’t come to greet me? Where were they?
Without saying a word, he held his phone out to me.
My feet somehow carried me across the hardwood floor to the bottom of the steps. He’d dropped his backpack and come down the remaining few to meet me. Silently, he put the phone in my hand.
With a confused look at him and an aching heart, I glanced down at it.
It was an airline e-ticket.
When I saw the destination, I’m pretty sure my heart stopped again.
“New York?” I whispered.
“I wanted to leave earlier today,” he said, his voice ragged with obvious emotion. “But the soonest they could get me out was a flight at midnight. I was just about to head to the airport.”
“You were coming to me?”
“I needed to see you in person.” He looked so damned pale and shaken, it shook me.
“Are you…? Are we…?” I had trouble forming words. And I still wasn’t sure where our relationship stood, which was killing me. “Why in person?” I finally got out.
His eyes glistened with moisture and that almost undid me. “Because I messed everything up so badly,” he said. “And I needed to apologize to you, face to face, so you’d believe me.”
My eyes burned with tears, too, as his words sank in.
“I should never have said all those things to you yesterday, Hunt. Our first real challenge as a couple and I fucked it up. Please believe me when I tell you how sorry I am.”
“I believe you. God, of course I believe you.”
We moved toward each other at the same time, and then we were in each other’s arms.
“I’m so sorry,” he said again, his breath warm, his damp face buried against my neck.
“You were hurt, and you had every right to be. I’m sorry I made you feel that way. I would never, ever intentionally cause you pain.”
“I know. I knew it then, I was just too damned stubborn and caught up in my own crap to hear it. I don’t ever want to hurt you either. Which is why I felt like an absolute shithead last night for pushing you away when I knew damn good and well it hurt you. And then I got that voicemail from you and….honestly, I don’t think I’ve cried that hard in a long time.”
I leaned back and cradled his face in my hands. “I meant every word of it.”
“I know you did.” One of his hands, warm and callused, caressed mine. “That’s all I could think about all night. And when I got up this morning, I knew I had to see you. It just seemed…wrong to text you or call you after that because I could never convey what I needed to say. So I started trying to find a flight out to you. I didn’t expect you to be back so soon.”
“I would never leave you here alone on the anniversary of your grandpa’s death,” I told him. “I know it’s tomorrow. I wanted to be here for you, with you.”
He looked surprised. “You… I…I didn’t know you felt that way.”
“Of course I do. You’re not in this alone anymore, Jay. I’m going to be right here. Always.”
“I really, really love you,” he whispered.
“I love you. So damned much sometimes I can barely breathe.”
I leaned in and pressed my lips against his. And when he kissed me in return, again and again, it was so achingly gentle and tender I wanted it to last forever.
When we eased apart, though his eyes were still damp, he smiled. That gentle smile that made my knees go weak.
“I missed you,” I said.
“I missed you, too. Every second I was away from you. But especially at night. I’ve been sleeping alone most of my life, but suddenly, after a week of being with you twenty-four-seven, the damned bed never felt so empty.”
“You had the dogs.”
“They’re not you,” he said, giving me an I can’t believe you even said that look.
I smiled. But then I remembered my earlier concern and a flicker of it returned. “Where are the dogs right now?”
“They’re fine, I promise. They’re at your parents. I took them over there earlier this evening. Your mom and dad were going to babysit while I was gone. And Maddy was going to come check on Hazel.”
“I’ve missed those fuzzheads.”
I shrugged off my coat and we sank down onto one of the steps, sitting side by side, our legs pressed together, holding hands. I couldn’t get enough of just being next to him, of touching him, and he seemed the same.
“They’ve missed you, too. I’m pretty sure they were mad at me for being such a jerk to you.”
“You weren’t a jerk. Don’t say that. And I’m sure they weren’t mad.”
“That’s what you think, but Newt slept on your pillow and wouldn’t get off of it, even when it was time to eat or go outside. He’d just lie there and give me a judgey look.”
I bit back a smile as I pictured it.
“And Ripley kept standing next to where you usually sit on the couch with her head resting on your spot as she was giving me the side eye. When I dropped them off at your folks tonight, it was the happiest I’d seen them in two days, like they couldn’t wait to be rid of me.” His brows drew together. “Although…now I think about it, I wonder if they were happy because they knew you were on your way home? Can’t dogs pick up on things like that?”
“My mom’d probably say yes. But…do you realize that if I’d gotten home a few minutes later, you’d have been gone already? We would’ve missed each other driving on the road. That’s such a horrible thought I can’t even contemplate it.”
“I know. But I’m taking it as a sign that you didn’t and I wasn’t. I think maybe the universe made sure I couldn’t get on an earlier flight today, too, so that I’d still be here.”
I smiled. “You think?”
He nodded. “Just like it made sure I was here when you came home this Christmas. I’m kind of starting believe things happen for a reason. How else do you explain the timing of everything that we’ve both gone through over the past year or so? The pieces seem to fit together far too well for it all to have been coincidence.”
“I’m not about to argue with the universe,” I said. “Not when it finally gave me you after all these years.”
“Ditto.” He lifted my hand and kissed my palm.
“Speaking of pieces falling into place, you should know that Shane already signed the paperwork to dissolve our business partnership.”
Jay’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “He did?”
I nodded. “It happened like you said.”
“What did I say?”
“That I’d get there and sort shit out. And that’s pretty much the way it worked. For all my worrying ahead of time, I’d had it up to my eyeballs with his crap, so when he finally woke up and was able to talk, I told him how it was going to be. I think his brush with death gave him a little perspective—not that I’m convinced he’s going to miraculously stop being an asshole, but, for now, he’s realizing his actions have cost him a lot. So, he was surprisingly amenable and signed the paperwork I’d drawn up without questioning it.”
“Wow. That was way easier than I expected.”
“Same here. But I’m not going to complain.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
“What are you going to do here, career-wise? I know I said once before, but I can’t imagine Lodgepole or any of the small mountain towns around here are exactly hot spots for corporate law.”
I smiled. Because not only had I been busy setting up the dissolution of my partnership with Shane, I’d also been doing some preliminary research on my future as an attorney in Colorado. “Well…as it happens, while I was waiting for my flight in New York this morning, I made a phone call. You know George Sheridan?”
“Sure. He was Grandpa’s attorney, the one I dealt with over Grandpa’s will and estate.”
“Mm-hmm. I did some looking and realized he’s the only general attorney, the only attorney period, in Lodgepole. I called him to see how he’d feel about having a second attorney in town. I didn’t want to poach his clients, so if he had issues with it, I told him I’d be fine looking outward from here at some of the other nearby towns. As it turned out, he’s apparently been wanting to retire for a couple of years now, but the only thing holding him back was the fact he was the only attorney in town. He didn’t want to desert his clients, many of whom are older, like Grandpa Fred was, and force them to have to go to Winter Park or Granby for their legal needs. So, we have tentatively agreed that, come summertime, he’ll begin to ease his clients over to me with the hope he’ll be able to retire at the end of the year.”
“Holy crap,” Jay murmured. “Can you…well, obviously you can, but…you can do that? Change to a different type of law?”
“Of course. I’ll have to jump through some hoops with the Colorado Bar to get licensed here, but, yeah.”
“Won’t you miss it, though? Working for big companies? I mean, you’ll be doing, what? Wills and stuff?”
“Actually, being a general practitioner has a pretty broad scope. Everything from estate planning, to personal injury, to family law, to bankruptcy, to criminal law. I’m pretty excited about it because it’ll be a challenge and also, there’ll always be something new to learn. But the best part is that I can help real people. Not big companies with rich CEOs who just want an attorney to cover their ass or help ’em get out of lawsuits or acquire smaller companies so they can get richer. I can help people who really need it. That’s what I wanted to do when I first started to law school. And now I can.”
“You’re serious, aren’t you? You’re really happy about this.”
“I am. I’ll be here with the man I love, close to my family, in the place I love. What’s there not to be happy about?”
I frowned then. “Unfortunately, though, for the next few months, until Shane’s able to be back in the office full time and I’ve seen through a few cases that I just can’t, in good faith, hand off to someone else, I am going to have to commute back and forth to New York. I’m so sorry, Jay. I wish I didn’t have to. I don’t want to have to leave you again, not even for a few days, and I’m going to try to be here most of the time. But there are just some things I’m going to have to deal with in person.”
I looked at him, questioning.
“After doing some hard thinking last night and today, I realized it’s pretty fucking unfair of me to expect you to have to travel back and forth when there’s no reason in the world I have to be here.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Grandpa always kept the tree farm closed most of January anyway, but I know from being here last winter that virtually nothing happens January through late April. I can’t replant, nobody’s buying any trees yet for spring. It’s dead time. There is literally no reason to keep the place open during those months, I don’t even know why Grandpa did, except maybe to sell some of his furniture. And I can work for my graphics clients from anywhere as long as I have my computer with me. So, I was thinking…maybe the dogs and Hazel and I can go stay with you in New York while you wrap things up?”
My pulse raced. “Are…are you serious?”
“Completely. That way you don’t have to commute back and forth and—”
“And we don’t have to be apart.” I let out a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding. “We can sleep next to each other every night.”
“Which sounds pretty damn nice to me.”
“Oh God, me, too. You truly don’t mind? I mean…New York City is kind of a different world. Nothing like the peace and tranquility of the mountains.”
“I lived in Seattle for fifteen years, remember? It’s not the same type of city, and not nearly as big, but it wasn’t exactly small town life,” he teased. “Besides, all I care about is being with you. It doesn’t matter where that is.”
“And it would just be temporary.”
“Do you have any idea how much I love you?” I asked him, my heart full.
“I do,” he said softly, brushing his thumb over my lips in that way that sent ribbons of warmth curling through me. “And I love you. I’ll always love you, Hunter.”
“Until we’re old and grey?”
“And the world’s falling apart around us,” he whispered, capturing my mouth with his.
Four months later…
“Have you got everything?” Emma asked.
“I think so.” I had just closed and latched the rear window of the camper shell Jay’d had installed on his truck so our things would be protected from the weather, and come around to the front, where Jay was stashing a drink cooler on the floor of the backseat.
It was a pleasant, sunny spring day and, next to us, Jackson, in full pirate regalia, was giggling and rolling around on the grass with Ripley. He’d lost his hat, and his eye-patch was askew, half pushed up on top of his head, but he didn’t seem to care. Ripley’d romp around him, then dive in to lick his face. He’d giggle and hug her, until she pulled free to do it again. Newt danced around them, yipping, wanting in on the action.
I smiled, and so did Jay.
“He’s going to miss those dogs,” Nate said, handing me a bag of food he’d just brought out of the house.
“They’re going to miss him,” Jay said. “I’m not sure Hunter and I are going to be able to summon up the same energy as a three-year-old to keep them entertained like Jackson does.”
“While I feel for Ripley and Newt”—Emma slid an arm around my waist—“I’m going to miss you guys. A lot. I’ve loved knowing you’re just two houses away.”
I pulled her into a hug. “We’re going to miss you guys, too.” It’d been so damned good to be able to see Emma on a regular basis again, not to mention having a chance to get to know Nate better, and spend time with all of them as a family.
When I’d talked to her after I’d gotten back to Colorado the end of December and told her Jay was going to come to New York with me while I finished up my obligations, she’d been thrilled. And when I’d said we’d need to find a temporary place to live, she’d told me their neighbor, a college professor, two doors down, had gone on a two-year sabbatical and rented her house. Her renters, however, had moved out unexpectedly in October and the house had been sitting empty since then.
“She’s a friend. I can call her if you’re interested. I can almost guarantee she’d be thrilled to rent it out month-to-month.
Jay and I had definitely been interested. “Will she allow pets? Because we’re bringing the dogs and cat with us.”
“I’m sure she will be. You should know, the house is unfurnished.”
“That’s not a problem. All we’d really need is a bed, and maybe a couch, and a table. We can pick up some inexpensive things when we get there.”
“How do you feel about having to commute into midtown from Queens, though? Are you going to be okay with that?”
“Well, considering I’d been planning to commute from Colorado…”
She’d laughed. “Point taken.”
So, on January second, Jay and I had packed our necessities and the dogs into his truck—Maddy had begged us to let Hazel stay with her and Kevin and their new dog—and hit the road for New York. We’d been happily living down the street from Emma, Nate, and Jackson for the past four months.
But now, I’d finished tying up the last of my loose ends and, on this Saturday morning, the twenty-first of April, we were moving forward from this brief but pleasant part of our life.
“All right, dude,” Nate called to Jackson. “Time for the dogs to get in the truck.”
“But I loves ’em!”
“I know, hon, but Hunter and Jay need to get on the road.”
Jackson let out a huffy sigh, but he stood and ran over, the dogs at his heels.
Jay put Ripley into her car harness in the backseat, while I got Newt situation in his raised booster seat and harness.
Then we turned to say our goodbyes.
Nate and I hugged, and even though he was perpetually easy going, I could tell he was genuinely sad to see us leave. “Thanks for everything, Nate,” I told him. He’d been there for anything we’d needed, from “Do you have a drill we can borrow?” to saying, on more than one occasion, “Come on over and I’ll throw some burgers on the grill so you guys don’t have to cook tonight.”
“Eh,” he said, and I noticed him casually swiping at his eyes behind his glasses. “That’s what family’s for.”
“Thanks, man.” Jay embraced him and patted him on the back.
Nate nodded and wiped his eyes again.
Jackson grabbed Jay’s hand, and Jay picked him up. “You, too, little man. Thanks for looking after Ripley and Newt for us and spending so much time playing with them.”
“I loves ’em,” he said again.
“I know. And they love you.”
“Will you bring ’em to visit?” he asked, his lower lip pouting out.
“Well, you know what? How about if you come visit them? Your mom and dad said you guys are going to come see us this summer.”
His eyes grew wide, then he looked at Emma. “We’s goin to Coronado?”
She laughed. “Colorado. And, yep, that’s the plan. While Daddy’s on summer break from his school.”
“Woohoo!” Jackson threw his arms around Jay’s neck and hugged him.
Then he leaned toward me, his arms out.
I took him from Jay and the moment I did, Jackson hugged me tight. But there were no woohoos this time. Instead, I heard him sniffle.
“Hey,” I said gently, rubbing his back. “What’s up, buddy?”
He clung to me even more tightly.
“Jacks…” I kissed his mop of curls. “What’s on your mind?”
I heard a loud sniffle. Then, in a small voice against my neck, he said, “You’s going away now. I don’t want you to.”
Okay, damn it, a few months ago I’d never in a million years expected I’d be holding a little boy in my arms and feeling the hot sting of tears welling in my own eyes because he was so sad.
“Aww, it’s okay, bud. I’ll see you soon. Remember, you’re going to come visit.”
“But that’s not until forever,” he cried.
“It’ll be here before you know it.”
“No.” The sniffles had become sobs.
I glanced over the top of Jackson’s head at Emma, who stood watching, half teary-eyed herself.
Can I tell him? I mouthed to her. About the dog?
She and Nate looked at each, then both of them smiled and nodded.
“You know what?” I said softly to him. “You’re going to be really busy between now and then. Your momma and daddy told me about a surprise.”
His head lifted just enough he could look at me. Tears still slid down his cheeks, and he his chest hitched as he sniffled and drew in a deep breath. “A sprize?”
“Mm-hmm. You want to hear about it?”
Another sniffle, then he nodded. “What sprize, Hunter?”
“Can I whisper it to you?”
“Like…” Sniffle. “Like a secrud?”
“Sort of. You ready?”
His eyes had gone wide and he nodded.
“You’re going to get a dog of your very own,” I whispered.
He pulled back and stared at me. “What?”
I nodded and smiled. “Your momma and daddy are going to take you to the shelter tomorrow, so you can pick one out.”
Tears still spilled out of his eyes, but his mouth had opened in an excited O. He looked from me, to his parents, back to me, then back to them. It was almost comical, and if he hadn’t still been half-crying in spite of his obvious excitement, I would have laughed.
“I gets a doggie?” he asked them in disbelief.
“That’s right,” Nate said.
“One of your very own,” Emma assured him.
His little arms suddenly pumped up into the air and he shrieked—literally shrieked—right in my ear. “Wooooooohoooooooo!”
At that point, all of us adults burst into laughter.
“I gets a doggie, Hunter!” he shouted, the tears magically gone, replaced with a huge smile.
“I know. You have to promise to take very good care of him or her, just like you’ve taken good care of Newt and Ripley.”
“I will,” he said, turning serious, which was also as adorable as hell. “I’ll take the bestest care.”
“Okay. Your job is to be the bestest brother ever to your new dog, and then you can tell Jay and me all about it when you come see us.”
He squirmed out of my arms and began to dance around the grass, whooping and laughing. Nate joined him, picking him up and swinging him around.
Emma hugged me tight. “You’re so good with him, Hunter. Thank you for making him smile. And I stand by what I’ve told you in the past.”
“You’d make an amazing dad one day,” she said quietly, so only I could hear her.
I glanced at Jay and he smiled at me.
“We’ll see,” I said softly, smiling back at him. “I’m pretty damned content with what I’ve got right now.”
“All right,” Emma said, stepping back. “Get on the road before I start bawling, too, and you have to promise to get me doggies.”
I laughed, but then I reached out to give her hand one last squeeze. “I’m going to miss you, old friend.”
“Me you, too. But we’ll see each other in a few months. And we’ll talk.”
“We will definitely talk.”
“I expect full reports.”
“On everything,” she said, grinning. “Just because you’re not going to be down the street anymore doesn’t mean I don’t still want to know everything you’re up to. I especially want to hear how the new law practice is going.”
“All right, you got it. Full reports.”
Emma and Jay hugged, then Jay got behind the wheel and started the truck, while I slid into the passenger seat.
“Safe travels,” Emma called while Nate and Jackson waved.
We pulled away, driving slowly down the street.
When we got to the stop sign, no other cars were around. Jay reached across the console and wound his fingers through mine.
“So,” he said.
“Leaving your law practice? Leaving the city? You’ve lived in New York a long time.”
I smiled and leaned across the console to press a lingering kiss against his lips.
“What’s that for?” he asked, turning me to mush with his smile.
“Because I love you. And because I have zero regrets. The past four months have been the best of my life. And it’s only going to get better from here.”
“Are you ready then?”
“I am. Let’s go home.”
And that’s it, gang! 🙂 Hometown Hearts is officially finished. I’m sad. As an author, when you live with characters for a long time, then you finish their book, it’s like breaking up with a lover (or in this case, two lovers). But…there’s no law that says Hunter and Jay can’t have another book in the future. So if you’d be interested in a sequel, let me know in the comments! I wouldn’t be able to start on it right away because I’ll be finishing Dark Magick Rising, Draegan Lords Book 5, first. But later this year, I could probably find time for some more Jay and Hunter. There’s certainly material left to tell.
Also….now that the entire book has been posted here on my blog, I will leave it up for a week or two for people to finish reading it. Then, all of it will come down. The completed manuscript will be going to my editor in the next day or so, and I’m hoping to have the final, formatted version ready for publication in mid-February. My plan is still to initially sell it here on my website. It will be available in both .mobi and .epub versions. Those of you who’ve been following along on my blog, stay tuned and, in mid-February, when the book is officially released, I will post info telling you how you can get a free version if it! I will probably also put it up for sale in the Kindle store at the same time, but it won’t be available in Kindle Unlimited right away (since I can’t have it in KU and sell it in other places).
Thank you so much for reading along, everyone! This was a lot of fun for me, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it as well!
Next up, starting Wednesday, February 6th, I will begin posting chapters of Dark Magick Rising! I’ll do a post probably a couple of days before that, with details. I’m going to try to run a sale on the previous Draegan Lords books at Amazon that will start around the same time I begin posting chapters of DMR. That way, for folks who haven’t read the series yet, or want a refresher with the newer editions (which have a few changes and added content) you can pick them up for cheap. Also…the first four books are in Kindle Unlimited as well, so if you’re a subscriber to KU you can read them for free anytime!