The last book in Carrie Ann Ryan’s Gallagher Brothers series releases in less than a week – but you can read the first chapter now! Check it out below and preorder your copy today!
About HOPE RESTORED
The Gallagher Brothers series from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan concludes with the final brother who thought he had everything to look forward to, and the one woman who can handle him.
Life isnât worth living if you donât fight to live. Thatâs what Murphy Gallagher learned at a young age when cancer ravaged his body not once, but twice. Over the course of his survival, he lost his parents and his childhood, but heâs been healthy for years and has become a man he hopes his family is proud of. But when his world tilts on its axis yet again, heâll have to learn what it means to fight not only the unknown but also his attraction to his best friend.
Tessa Stone works hard and plays harder. Sheâs spent her life trying to figure out who she is in the present rather than looking back. Yet when sheâs forced into close proximity with Murphy, sheâll have to not only be his rock but learn how to relax enough to maybe let him be hers, as well. But seduction doesnât stop when the world seems to, and close encounters of the naked kind might just be the first step in something much more complicated than either of them bargained for. Life, though, is for living, after all.
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HOPE RESTORED releases July 25th, 2017 – preorder your copy now!
Chapter One of HOPE RESTORED
Sometimes, life was damn good. Other times, it kicked him in the balls until he couldnât catch his breath. Today, luckily, was one of the good days. Murphy Gallagher grinned from ear to ear as he tried to run from his niece, Rowan. She was eleven now and getting pretty fast, but he was faster. Not that heâd actually run at his full speed around her. It was always more entertaining when she caught him and took him to her lair.
As he was the evil dragon to her warrior princess, it only made sense.
âBehold! My mighty sword that shall slay the dragon!â
Murphy bit his tongue so he wouldnât start laughing, but seriously, where had Rowan learned to say things like that? Of course, she was almost a teenager now and probably a little too old to play princess and the dragon, but that wasnât something Murphy would ever bring up. Her mom, Blake, had been married to Murphyâs brother, Graham, for a little while now. Murphy hadnât known Rowan when she was little, and he had a lot of playing to catch up on being her favorite uncle.
Sure, his brothers Owen and Jake were decent uncles, as well, but he would always be the best. Jake was the artistic one, Owen the type-A, Graham the grumpy one, and Murphy was the fun one.
He had to play his part and make sure Rowan had the time of her life. Sheâd only had her mom to play with for years, and while Blake was a kickass mother who made sure Rowan had the best childhood, Murphy wanted to make sure Rowan had even more fun now.
Murphy rolled to the ground as Rowan jumped on his back, both of them laughing so hard they shook. He made sure to take the brunt of the impact so he wouldnât hurt his niece. She giggled as she stabbed him with her imaginary sword, and he put his hand over his heart and gasped, feigning injury before letting his tongue hang out and groaning.
Andâ¦ the dragon was dead.
âVictory!â Rowan stood up and started dancing near Murphyâs corpse like any dignified warrior princess was wont to do.
âItâs about time,â Graham said with a laugh as he walked out from the porch where the rest of the Gallaghers were sitting. âI thought youâd have gotten him within the first few minutes, Rowan.â
Murphy sat up as Rowan beamed at her stepdad, though she just called him âDadâ now. Murphy smiled as he remembered the first time Rowan had called his brother âDadâ in front of them. Every single Gallagher had choked up and didnât bother shrugging it off. They might all be inked, bearded, and pierced, but Rowan referring to Graham as her father as if it were no big deal was a big fucking deal.
âI didnât want my prey to feel like it didnât put up a fight,â Rowan said solemnly.
Murphy barked a laugh. âPrey? Really? What shows are you watching these days?â
Rowan turned to him and rolled her eyes with the pro of a teenage girl, rather than the eleven-year-old she was. âIt was from a book, duh. Uncle Border got me a whole set of books with dragons in them.â
Border was Jakeâs husband and the quietest of their group, though Murphy knew Border and Jakeâs wife, Maya, was slowly changing that. The triad had been together the longest out of the Gallagher relationships, and yet they still acted like newlyweds with the way they incessantly groped one another.
Come to think of it, Blake and Graham acted the same way. And, hell, Owen and Lizâ newly engagedâ made out relentlessly, as well. No wonder Liz and Blake were pregnant; their men couldnât keep their hands off their women.
That, of course, meant that Murphy was the last single Gallagher. He didnât mind, though. After all, someone had to bear the mantle of bachelorhood. Plus, he really wasnât ready to start settling down yet. Heâd just learned to live life as it was, no need to change everything so dramatically again.
And that was enough of that.
Murphy rolled his shoulders and took Grahamâs outstretched hand, helping him to his feet. âIt wasnât Game of Thrones was it?â he asked his niece.
Rowan rolled her eyes again, and Graham narrowed his. âIt wasnât that, Uncle Murphy.â
âWhat did we say about rolling your eyes so much, Rowan? Use your words, not your attitude.â
Rowan blushed and looked down at her feet. âSorry, Dad.â
Murphy did his best not to smile at the way Grahamâs chest puffed out at that. Seriously, the man was like a damn peacock. And now that Blake was pregnant, his brother was even worse. It was as if he were the first man to get his wife pregnant. And considering Jake and Border already had a kid with Maya, and Owenâs fiancÃ©e Liz was also pregnant, it wasnât as if babies were something totally new to their crew.
Though with the way everyone kept popping them out, Murphy made a mental note to buy more condoms. There was something in the water with all the pregnancy hormones flying around like they were.
Murphy followed father and daughter back to the porch and gingerly took a seat next to Lizâs former roommate and Owenâs neighbor, Tessaâ the only other single person at the Gallagher family dinner. Heâd hit the ground a bit hard when he rolled to make sure Rowan didnât get hurt in her exuberance and now his muscles were feeling it. He was in damned good shapeâ had to be for his jobâ but, apparently, he needed more protein or something because his body made him feel like an old man.
Murphy looked at the brunette next to him. Tessa wasnât a Gallagher, but she was the only family Liz had, even though they werenât related by blood. Plus, it would have been awkward as hell to not have Tessa over since there wasnât a fence separating the two yards at the moment. Owen had taken it down after a few of the boards rotted. Eventually, theyâd put it back up.
Considering that the family owned a construction and restoration company, it wouldnât take too long, but they actually had to find the time to do it. Murphy figured heâd be enlisted soon to take care of it since he was the only one without a pregnant significant other or kids to keep him busy. And it wasnât like he minded. He liked being able to do things for his family since theyâd spent so much of their lives doing things for him when he couldnât do them for himself.
And that, once again, was enough of those thoughts.
âYou okay, dear dragon?â Tessa asked with a wink before handing over a beer. He took it with a wink of his own. âThanks, and yeah. That warrior princess is tough.â
She laughed and pulled her long, chestnut hair behind her shoulders. He hadnât seen her wear it down for a while since she was always working and tended to do severe ponytails. He had to say, he kind of liked it better down. Not that heâd tell her that since sheâd have his balls for breakfast if he did. Every single woman in the Gallagherâs circle tended to be a ballbuster, and while Murphy loved it, he didnât want to lose his nuts. He liked them, what could he say.
âThat she is, but I was serious. You hit the ground hard, and you winced when you sat down. Did you hurt yourself? Because you know, Murphy Gallagher, you may still be hot as fuck, but youâre not getting any younger.â She whispered the last part so the kids wouldnât hear, and Murphy held back a snort.
Considering heâd spent most of his life praying that heâd have a chance to get older, he didnât mind that he had a few more aches and pains now that he was in his thirties. Hell, heâd relish the day he got wrinkles and grey in his hair. That meant he was alive to witness his body changing. For a man who didnât know if that would ever happen, it was his own form of bliss.
Of course, he didnât tell Tessa any of that and wasnât sure why heâd let his thoughts get that deep so suddenly. Tessa was a fantastic person and sexy as all get out, and he loved flirting with her, but there was no way heâd get into deep feelings or heavy conversation with her. Their dynamic worked because they joked around and kept things lightâ if a bit inappropriate at times. If he changed that, then things would get fucked up, and he didnât want to jeopardize what they had. Hell, he didnât want to jeopardize her position in the group.
Everything was better if they just remained friends that didnât go too deep.
âHey, Murphy, did you send over the files on the house?â Owen asked, a frown on his face as he looked at his phone. Liz was perched on his lap, their hands tangled over her baby bump. She was finally starting to show, and Murphy loved the way she glowed. She just finally seemed so at peace with being pregnant, though he knew that wasnât always the case since the baby hadnât exactly been planned.
He made another note to himself to buy condoms. He couldnât be too careful these days.
âI did,â he answered before pulling out his phone to check his outgoing messages. âI thought you replied back.â
Owen let out a sigh. âShit, I did. Sorry. Didnât get much sleep last night.â
Murphy looked over at Tessa and winked since she loved joking with him, and she laughed before whistling. âWhat were you doing, Mr. Organized One, if you werenât sleeping.â
Owen looked over to where Rowan held her cousin Noah, Jakeâs son, and shook his head. âPerv,â his brother whispered. âI was up finishing the final details on Blakeâs house.â
Blake looked over and widened her eyes. âItâs almost done? Really?â
Murphy didnât blame his sister-in-law for the incredulous look. The Gallaghers had been working on Blakeâs family home for over a year now and had hit every obstacle known to man, including a kidnapping and an injured worker thanks to Blakeâs former in-laws. Murphy fisted his hands as he let the rage wash through him, remembering everything that Graham and Blake had gone through when they were dating.
âItâs almost done,â Graham said as he wrapped his arm around Blakeâs middle, his large hand resting over Blakeâs tiny baby bump. She wasnât as far along as Liz, but she was close.
Blake wiped away tears and turned into Grahamâs arms for a hug. Murphy blinked in surprise at Blakeâs show of emotion since she usually hid what she felt so well. Either she was feeling more comfortable around them, or it was the baby hormones. Knowing Blake, it might be a little of both.
âI canât believe itâs almost done,â Blake said after a moment. âI mean, I knew you had to be close, butâ¦â She shook her head as if at a loss for words.
Maya came up and hugged Blake, even though Graham refused to let his wife go. âThese guys are pretty amazing, arenât they? And soon, you wonât have to deal with the house at all. Itâll be in the cityâs hands and only a distant memory.â She kissed Blakeâs temple before going back to take Noah out of Rowanâs arms.
Murphy didnât know the whole story behind Blakeâs childhood, but he knew it wasnât good. Sheâd grown up affluent but with the worst kind of family. Sheâd run off as soon as she could, and had had Rowan when she was pretty young. And when her parents had died, theyâd left the huge mansion in disrepair and neglect but had forced Blake through their will to oversee the restoration. The project had brought Graham and Blake together, but other than that, it had been a pain in the ass. And considering that Murphy loved jobs where he got to dive into the history of a place and see how to keep some of the past blended into the present, it was saying something that he truly wanted nothing more to do with the project.
The others began talking about the next steps involved in finishing up the house as well as what they would do next since their last big project hadnât panned out thanks to shady deals and selfish businessmen. But Murphy just closed his eyes and let the breeze slide over him. Heâd slept for shit the night before, and he wished it had been because of a woman. Instead, he hadnât been feeling well and had tossed and turned all night.
âHey, Iâm going to go get the chips and salsa, want to help?â Tessa asked. She put her hand on his forearm, and he opened his eyes. Her hands were cold to the touch, but it could be that his skin was overheated. Ever since the chemo when he was younger, he had a hard time keeping a consistent body temperature. Thatâs what happened when you had leukemia when you were in grade school and again when you were a teenager. You dealt with the side effects for the rest of your life.
No wonder he was damn tired.
âSure,â he said and sat up, taking a sip of his beer once he was on his feet. The others were still shooting the breeze and passing Noah around. The kid was getting pretty big since he was nearing one year old now. Or at least Murphy thought. He should probably check his calendar and make sure he hadnât missed a birthday since their family kept growing.
He and Tessa made their way to the kitchen and got out the chips and three kinds of salsa and dip that theyâd made for the barbeque. Tessa brushed by him on her way to the fridge, and his cock hardened.
He glared down at his crotch, annoyed with himself for once again getting hard around her. She was his friend. Sure, they flirted because it was fun, but theyâd never fooled around, and there was no way they would now. Theyâd firmly put themselves into their roles, and he didnât want to change that.
Of course, his dick had other ideas, but hell, Tessa was hot. She was tall, mostly leg, and had just enough curves that he knew heâd have plenty to hold onto when he fucked her from behind or held her up against the wall and pounded into her.
He would never be fucking Tessa against anything, thank you very much.
Tessa snuck a chip into the salsa and groaned. He did his best not to think about whether sheâd groan like that under him, or over himâ¦ anywhere around him.
âThis is so good. Here, taste.â She held out a chip with salsa on it, and he bent forward, taking it in one bite as he gently nipped at her fingers.
She swallowed hard before lowering her hand and giving him a sultry smile. âLike it?â
He nodded before swallowing. âSpicy.â
âI like a little heat, what can I say.â
He snorted and took a sip of his beer. He loved flirting with Tessa, even though he had to use his hands more often than not when she wasnât around because she kept him in a perpetual state of arousal. He couldnât help it. She was sexy and flirted better than anyone heâd ever met, but still, they were just friends.
Tessa took his beer from him since she hadnât brought hers with her and took a sip, her eyes on him the whole time. He cleared his throat and looked away, only to glance at her breasts and notice that her nipples were hard pebbles against her very thin bra.
Damn, he could just bend her over the kitchen island and fuck her right there. Just slide her jeans down and fill that tight pussy with his dick. Sheâd cream for him, coming hard on his cock, and heâd fill her to the brim.
Andâ¦ that wouldnât be happening.
He shook off those thoughts, and Tessa gave him a knowing wink before handing back his beer. He took a deep swallow, finishing it off, and then tossed the bottle into the recycling can.
âWhy didnât you bring Brian?â he asked, keeping his mind on what was important. Like the fact that she was sort of dating a guy that wasnât him.
Tessa laughed and picked up one of the trays of veggies theyâd also taken out of the fridge. âHis name is Brent, dork. Weâre not that serious and still pretty new. Thereâs no way Iâd bring him over to one of these. Weâre just casual. And why didnât you bring one of your many lady friends?â
âThere arenât that many, and Iâm not seeing anyone serious right now.â In fact, now that he thought about it, he hadnât been with a woman in over a month. Hell, no wonder he couldnât get sex with Tessa off his mind. He just needed to get laid, and everything would work itself out.
Thoughts of Tessa just might kill him, but damn, he loved being her friend. Way better than any fucking amazing sex they might have.
âYouâre never seeing anyone serious, Murph. Itâs why we get along. Let the others be adults and get settled. We can live it up for the rest of them.â
She turned and sashayed from the room, and he did his best to keep his eyes off her very bitable ass. It wasnât exactly easy since it was right there and practically speaking in tongues at him.
He followed Tessa out to the back deck and bent over the table to set everything down. He froze at Tessaâs gasp and looked over his shoulder.
âWhat is it?â
âWhat the fuck, Murphy?â she asked, pulling up his shirt. âWhat happened to you?â
He frowned and straightened, trying to see what the hell she was talking about. âHuh?â
âJesus Christ,â Jake said shakily. âYour back, Murph. Youâre black and blue.â
âWhatâs wrong with Uncle Murphy?â Rowan asked, her voice shaky.
Thunder pounded in Murphyâs ears, and he tried to process what everyone was saying, but they were all talking at once and trying to tug up his shirt. He pulled away from them and ran back into the house and into the nearest guest bathroom so he could check himself out in the mirror.
They had to be wrong or just fucking with him. Everything was fine. He was not black and blue. There was no way this could be happening again. He was healthy, damn it, and had been for a decade.
He wasnât sick.
He wasnât bruised.
But when he turned on the light and lifted up his shirt, he couldnât think. Couldnât speak. Heâd looked at himself that morning after he got out of the shower, and the bruises hadnât been here. Yet his side and what he could see of his back were covered in newly formed bruises. They werenât bad yet, but he knew theyâd grow.
They always did.
âMurphy,â Tessa whispered from the doorway. âIâ¦ Murphyâ¦â
He met her eyes in the mirror and tried to think of something to say to brush this off, but he couldnât. He knew what the bruises meant. Heâd seen them before. Every single little ache and pain, infected scratch from the jobsite, mood swing, and fever over the past few weeks came back to him in a rush.
His cancer was back.
And he had no idea what the fuck he was going to do about it.
HOPE RESTORED releases July 25th, 2017 – preorder your copy now!
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About Carrie Ann Ryan
Carrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Talon Pack, and Gallagher Brothers series, which have sold over 2.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasnât stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over fifty novels and novellas with more in the works. When sheâs not writing about bearded tattooed men or alpha wolves that need to find their mates, sheâs reading as much as she can and exploring the world of baking and gourmet cooking.