Unfinished Business

By: Brenda Jackson

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS





This book is dedicated to all the faithful readers of my Madaris Family and Friends Series who waited patiently and untiringly for Christy’s and Alex’s story. I appreciate all of you and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

To my hero, husband and best friend, Gerald Jackson, Sr., and to my two sons, Gerald Jr. and Brandon.

Special thanks to my readers who are accompanying me on the Madaris Family and Friends 10-Year Anniversary Celebration Cruise to the Bahamas. Let the celebration begin.

To Cruises and Tours Unlimited, Jacksonville, Florida, the title sponsor of the Madaris Family and Friends Anniversary Cruise.

To the members of the Brenda Jackson Book Club—you are a very special group.

To Jeff Westcott, Special Agent, FBI, Jacksonville, Florida. Thanks for taking the time to answer all my questions.

To Shemell Perry. This one is for you.

And to my Heavenly Father who makes all things possible.



THE MADARIS FAMILY





FRIENDS OF THE MADARIS FAMILY





Unfinished

Business





Stop being mean, bad-tempered and angry. Quarreling, harsh words. . . . Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you.



—EPHESIANS 4:31–32





PROLOGUE





Christina Marie Madaris stood at the window that faced her mother’s flower garden as she remembered a quote from Albert Einstein: “In the middle of difficulty lives opportunity.”

She sighed deeply, acknowledging that this had been a very difficult two years since graduating from college and returning to Houston. But now she was faced with an opportunity, one she had decided to take advantage of.

She turned slightly when she heard the sound of car doors opening and closing. Drawing in a deep breath, she glanced down the walkway that could be seen from where she stood. As she’d known they would, three men came into view, and although she could see them clearly, they couldn’t see her, so she took a moment to study them. They had similar features, indicating that they were brothers. They were tall and handsome and had the gait of self-assured men.

But she knew how vastly different they were.

Justin, the physician, was the oldest of the three. He had been twenty and away at college when she was born twenty-four years ago. Of her three brothers she considered him the warm, sensitive, diplomatic one. That didn’t mean she had never seen him angry. It just took a lot to get him there.

Dex, the geologist, was eighteen months younger than Justin and didn’t know the meaning of diplomacy. Where Justin could be warm and sensitive, Dex could be hard and unyielding. Most of the time he was way too serious, but he was always a man of his word.

And then there was Clayton, the attorney. He was three years younger than Justin. Because Clayton was in high school and still living at home when she was born, she’d always had a special bond with him. He had been the fun brother, the one who would let her get away with just about anything.

She couldn’t help but smile when she recalled how her birth had been a shock to her two older sisters, Traci and Kattie. They had been in their early teens, and for the longest time they could not get over the fact that their forty-something parents were still sexually active.

Christy thought of all the fun she had being the baby in the family, with three overprotective brothers and two overindulgent sisters. She had never minded how her brothers’ guard-dog attitudes always scared guys away because she had truly believed that she was going to grow up and marry Alexander Maxwell. He had been their neighbor and a close friend of her brothers. Boy, what a fool she had been at thirteen to believe Alex’s promise, and an even bigger fool to continue to believe it for eight solid years. But he had set her straight on the matter three years ago, and as far as she was concerned her life had been in total shambles since.

Because the Madarises and Maxwells were such close friends, it was not uncommon for her and Alex to be invited to the same functions. Each and every time she had been around him had been difficult, and returning home from college had been the worst. Seeing him was a constant reminder of what a fool she had been to believe the eight-year difference in their ages meant nothing and that he was doing just as he had promised—waiting for her to grow up.

The phone call she had gotten two days ago had been a blessing. It would give her the opportunity to pick up her life and move on, something she could not do if she remained in Houston.

She had already told her parents her decision, and the only thing left to do was tell her brothers and sisters. She decided to tell her brothers first, since everybody knew her sisters couldn’t hold water and she wanted her brothers to hear it from her. She was glad that Justin, who lived near Dallas, was in town visiting, so she could tell all three of them at the same time.

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