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Lorana Hoopes

Her First Love

Her First Love

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Can an attraction turn into a forever love?

Israel Martinez was attracted to Tiffany the first time he saw her, so much so that when he gets out of the military, he decides to make Courage, Colorado his home. But will she return his feelings or will he be forced to look elsewhere?

Tiffany's only desire has been to be a mother for as long as she can remember, but none of the men she's dated have supported her desire. When she meets Israel, she wonders if finally she's found the right man, but when she receives news that throws her world upside down, will she throw it all away?

Find out in this charming, heartwarming small town romance from USA Today Best selling author Lorana Hoopes

First Chapter

Had he made the right decision?

Israel Martinez stared up at the Patriot Peak Resort that was nestled snugly in the Courage, Colorado mountains and took a deep breath. The place was beautiful and exuded a feeling of peace, but that wasn’t why Israel had chosen Courage as his home. Nor was it because his long-time friend Chance Overstreet managed the resort, at least not entirely. No, if he were honest, at least part of his reason for choosing Courage had to do with a woman. A woman he wasn’t even sure would give him the time of day, but one who had managed to invade his thoughts and reappear in his mind since the night he laid eyes on her. The night of Chance’s wedding a few months ago.

He had barely gotten to speak with her that night because she had been busy with her bridesmaid duties, but that hadn’t affected his attraction to her. The question was did she feel any attraction to him? He didn’t know, but the hope that she might had brought him back to Courage when his military service ended. That hope and the offer from Chance to help him find a job which was why he now stood outside the resort gathering his courage to go inside.

The lobby of the resort was bustling with activity, but having been there once before and having an appointment with Chance, Israel headed straight for Chance’s office. He knocked on the door jamb when he arrived, and Chance waved him in with a smile.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were here? I would have come out to meet you.” Chance came around the desk and clasped Israel’s shoulder in the familiar greeting they’d shared for years.

“I just finished signing the lease on my place. Wasn’t sure how long it was going to take, but since you said the afternoon was free…” He shrugged, letting the lift of his shoulders fill in the rest of his words.

“Yep, I cleared the whole afternoon for you.” Chance’s grin was wide and almost mischievous as if something bigger than hanging out with his friend fueled it. He squeezed Israel’s shoulder one more time before returning to his side of the desk and taking his seat. He motioned for Israel to do the same in the chair across from him. “I’m so glad you found a place because I have exciting news for you.”

“You do, huh?” Israel hoped it was a lead on a job. He had enough savings to cover his rent for a few months, but he would need to find a job soon to feel comfortable.

Chance nodded and glanced down before sliding the sheet of white paper across the desk. Israel lifted a curious brow as he picked up the paper and began to read. Suddenly, he paused and looked up at his friend, sure that Chance was playing a joke on him. “Are you serious?” Head of the maintenance department at the Patriot Peak Resort? It was too good to be true.

“Dead serious, my man.” Chance leaned back and shook his head as if amazed by the events. “Our lead maintenance man just up and quit last week right after you called and said you were moving to town. I can’t think of anyone more qualified to run the department than you, and I almost called you back to offer you the job over the phone, but I’m glad I waited to tell you in person so I could see your reaction.”

The opportunity was just the thing Israel had been looking for, but it was so sudden. After all, he’d just moved into Courage, Colorado. The ink was probably still drying on his lease agreement. He’d hoped Chance would be able to help him find a job, but he hadn’t expected to find a job this soon, much less this job. It was almost a dream come true, but… “What about the other guys in the maintenance department? They’ve been here longer. Shouldn’t you promote one of them?” As much as he wanted to accept this job, he didn’t want to take it from anyone who had been here longer and earned the right.

“I would if one of them wanted the job.” Chance leaned forward and folded his hands on his desk. “I asked them when the last guy left. Our lead right now, Dustin, is about to have his first child. While he recognizes the raise would be nice, he also knows the hours are longer. He and his wife discussed it, and he doesn’t want to take it on. The rest of the crew are either too young or not sure they want to stay in Courage long term. The short of it is, no one wants it, so not only would you be great at it, but you would be doing me a huge favor.”

Israel liked the idea of helping Chance out. He and Chance had served in the military together and become almost as close as brothers, especially after the last deployment they’d been on together had taken the lives of their friends and left Chance injured. Chance had then returned to Courage, Colorado and taken over running the Patriot Peak Resort. Israel had finished his term in the military and then gotten out as well. 

Israel read the paper again. He’d never expected to receive such an amazing offer from his friend, but Chance had been there for him countless times, and if he could repay him with something this simple and that would solve his problem as well, then he would be a fool not to take it. Plus, he would enjoy working with his friend, and-

“And Tiffany is around most days, so you could get to know her.” Chance smiled as if he’d been reading Israel’s mind.

Tiffany. The beautiful blonde he’d spotted at Chance’s wedding. The one he couldn’t shake from his mind and who he would love the chance to get to know better. “Okay, where do I sign?”

Chance’s smile widened, and he scooted another paper over for Israel to sign. “Right here, my man.”

Israel scrawled his name across the contract, a sense of pride and purpose swelling within him. He’d known it was time to get out of the military - the horrors he’d witnessed weighed heavily on him and the physical demand was taxing his body - but he hadn’t expected everything to fall into place so neatly. He should have though. The desire to come to Courage and settle down had been his own, but he was almost certain it was what God had planned for him as well, and he was not one to ignore proddings from God. 

“Great, now let’s get you set up with security clearance and then I’ll show you around. You only got the crash tour last time.” Chance tucked the contract in a manilla folder and placed it in a tray that was labeled Merribeth. Merribeth was his wife and office manager, and while Israel didn’t know Merribeth as well as he knew Chance, it was obvious she kept him organized. The tiny seed of jealousy that had sprouted within Israel at his friend’s wedding nagged him again. He was happy for his friend, but he also wanted what Chance had found - a woman he could share his life with. 

He’d thought he’d found that once, but deployments and the stress of military life had worn on their relationship and eventually she’d ended it. He’d been disappointed at first, but he was happy for her now, and he’d realized they were better friends than partners. Still, he hoped that he might get a second chance at love now that he was out of the military and his life was more stable.

As Israel followed Chance to the security office, he took in the environment around him. It was a habit from the military to always know his exits and the lay of every place he worked, and as head of maintenance, he would need to know this building inside and out. The walls were a calming tan and gold color accented with blue, green, and maroon colors, creating a rustic and homey atmosphere. Whoever had decorated inside had definitely had a knack for it.

“Here we are.” Chance stopped outside a door marked Security and gestured for Israel to enter. The room itself wasn’t large which made the man sitting behind the desk appear even larger. He stood as they approached, and Israel blinked in surprise. Either he had forgotten how large Dougie was or he’d looked smaller in the suit he wore at the wedding. Maybe both. Israel was not a small man, but his average five-ten build was nothing compared to the large black man who was built like a tank with broad shoulders and a massive chest. His dark hair was cut close though not as short as military regulation and he sported a neatly trimmed beard and mustache.

“Israel, I’m sure you remember Dougie from the wedding. He’s head of security here at the resort.”

“Good to see you again, Israel,” Dougie said, sticking out his hand.

Israel clasped Dougie’s hand, unsurprised by the strength in the man’s shake. “You too, Dougie. How’s life been treating you?”

Dougie smiled, revealing a row of white teeth and softening the lines of his face. “Can’t complain. I assume you’re joining the family here?”

Chance smiled and clapped Israel on the back. “He is. Israel is taking over as head of maintenance, so can you get him set up with a badge and keys?”

“You bet. Why don’t you step over here to the camera and I’ll get the card made first and then I’ll get you the key.”

Israel stepped to the place Dougie had pointed out, feeling very much like he had when he received his first military ID. He’d been nervous yet full of hope back then, and a similar sensation surged within him now as well. There was something about having a direction and a sense of purpose that made him feel grounded and safe. The camera clicked and then a machine hummed, spitting out a hard plastic card a minute later. 

“Here you go.” Dougie handed him the card, and Israel studied it. Though grainy, it seemed to capture his warm brown eyes and soft smile perfectly and more than that, it was his. A tether to this community that felt a little like coming home.

“That also serves as your key card and will get you into the resort.” Dougie reached into a drawer and pulled out a single gold key on a small ring. “This is the key to the maintenance room. You’ll find all the equipment you need inside. Everyone on your crew has one, but no one outside the maintenance department does besides Chance and myself, so try not to lose it.”

Israel nodded. He was not in the habit of losing things in general, much less something as important as this, but Dougie didn’t know that, didn’t know him well, so Israel took no offense to the words. Dougie struck him as a brother in arms - a rule follower who took pride in his work. Israel had no doubt the two would become good friends.

“Thank you, Dougie. All right, Iz, let me show you the room and your office and you can meet the guys.”

Israel thanked Dougie and then followed Chance down the hall to the maintenance room. Like Security, it was on the ground floor, but it was much bigger inside. There was a large desk and several smaller cubicles to the left, and to the right was a massive shelving unit that held all the tools Israel might need for his job - tool boxes, plungers, electrical tape. It was all there.  “Wow, this is amazing.” He could not remember the last time he’d had this much space or a key to his own office.

“Well, we do have to keep the place working and looking good,” Chance said, clapping him on the back. “It’s not the newest building, so it does have its share of issues. That being said, if you need anything else, be sure to let myself or Merribeth know.”

“I will. So, how many men do I have?” Israel was already running calculations in his head, and he knew that he would need at least five to keep the hotel running in top shape. More would obviously be better.

“There are four plus you, however, one of the guys is only part-time.”

“Part-time? Is there any chance I can hire one more guy then?” He could probably make do with what he had, but if the option was available, he would certainly rather have five full time people.

Chance smiled. “Let me check with the boss, and I’ll see what I can do.”

“I thought you were the boss, man.”

With a chuckle, Chance shook his head. “Iz, you got a lot to learn about married life. Come on, let’s meet the guys.”

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Lorana Hoopes

Lorana Hoopes is a USA Today Best Selling Author and now an Award Winning Author as well. She's had two books earn a Page Turner Award Finalist badge and she recently won the Reader's Favorite Book Award for Romantic Suspense.