Authors: Delaney Cameron
Dream of Me
2015 Delaney Cameron
Cover art courtesy of: Arthur Hidden
Used under license from Shutterstock.com
All rights reserved. No part of this e-book can be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted without the written permission of the author.
This book is fiction and its characters are purely a manifestation of the imagination of the author. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places, and events is entirely coincidental. (6)
This book is dedicated to my wonderful husband. Without his support and encouragement, I would never have found the courage to make writing a reality instead of just a dream.
The man was only vaguely aware of the hushed conversations going on around him. The agony pervading his soul was acute, robbing him of coherent thought and speech. There was no similar situation to which he could compare the humiliation and shock that seemed to come at him in ever increasing waves. Never would he have imagined that a day he’d anticipated for months would become memorable for all the wrong reasons.
The woman to whom he’d share his deepest thoughts and hopes was lost to him. The heart that had quickened with the mere sound of her voice felt like lead in his chest. Memories floated through his mind: sunny afternoons on the beach, balmy evenings kissing under the stars, long drives up the coast, and countless hours making plans for a future that no longer existed.
How could he have been so wrong? Was a year not long enough to know someone?
Up until today he would have called her the fulfillment of everything he wanted.
Had he been chasing a dream that never existed?
His stormy eyes left their contemplation of the floor and rested on his left hand. By now a ring should have been there – a symbol of the love that burned brightly between them. A love that was so obviously one-sided.
Why did he linger here?
Wouldn’t it be better to leave the scene of his disillusionment? Nothing was going to alter what had happened. Even if she walked through the door and told him it was a mistake, it wouldn’t make any difference. It was too late.
A surge of contempt swept through him. He would find a way back from this. He wouldn’t allow this moment to define him. A single tear slid slowly down his face. Before it could drop to his sleeve, he brushed it away. As he walked out of the church, he vowed no woman would ever bring him to this state again.
Six years later…
Aubrey followed her new boss down a short hallway into a sun-filled room, its walls and tiled floor the color of sand. A casual wave sent her into one of the chairs resting near arched windows.
“Did you have any trouble finding me?” he asked in a deep voice that was attractively low and quiet.
“Not at all. Between your directions and my GPS, it was easy.”
Corbin said nothing for a moment as his eyes seemed to focus on her for the first time. The scrutiny lasted long enough to make Aubrey wish she’d been allowed a few minutes in front of a mirror. She must look a sight after ten hours of traveling.
“It’s hard to believe you and Phoebe are sisters.”
The tone more than the words left the impression that Aubrey was a poor substitute. She smiled dryly, resisting the urge to tell him that all the wishing in the world wasn’t going to turn brown hair to blonde or gray eyes to blue. “We hear that a lot.”
“For both our sakes, I hope you’re as efficient as she is.”
She hoped so, too, but said nothing.
If this didn’t work out, there were other jobs.
At this point, an older man joined them, his thin face breaking into a welcoming smile.
“This is Paul. He’ll show you to your room and help you get settled. Will an hour be enough time?”
“More than enough.”
“Meet me on the deck when you’re ready.”
Thinking longingly of a shower, Aubrey followed Paul upstairs. When he opened the door and motioned her inside, she couldn’t suppress a gasp of delight. Filmy net draped a four-poster bed and hung enticingly over the windows. The lilac walls, gray carpeting and white oak furniture set the romantic tone for a room that could have come straight out of a magazine. Her approval of the room was complete when she discovered the French doors leading to a private balcony.
“I never expected anything like this.”
Paul nodded. “It was redone recently. I’ll let you explore while I get your luggage out of the car.”
Aubrey took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
Would a new job and new surroundings ease the pain in her heart?
She remembered the last few weeks and the heated discussions with Phoebe.
Maybe it was better to be away. She couldn’t bear to watch her childhood home fall into the hands of strangers.
A discreet knock on the door heralded the arrival of her luggage. Unpacking only what she needed, she headed into the bathroom.
* * * *
The deck was empty when Aubrey emerged from the house. She strolled over to the railing and gazed back at the picturesque dwelling resting so close to the ocean. If nothing else, this temporary position had all the perks. Not many jobs offered free housing, a decent salary, and the enticement of living on an island.
But at what price?
Phoebe’s description of Corbin as nice-looking and personable was laughable. Hadn’t her sister thought the man’s size worth mentioning? He must be all of six-foot-four. This combined with his general lack of warmth made the “personable” label absurd. As for his looks, the dark hair, heavy brows, and penetrating blue eyes weren’t enough to make up for the fact that he hadn’t smiled once during their short conversation.
Mingled shouts and cheers pulled her attention back to the beach. A volleyball game had begun, its intensity drawing an appreciative audience. Suddenly envying their ability to be carefree when her own life was in such disarray, Aubrey bowed her head, her eyes misting with unshed tears.
Two months ago her life couldn’t have been more different. Home for the summer, a degree in finance sitting in her pocket, she’d been looking forward to helping her father open a consulting business. Her tortured mind relived the phone call late in the evening that changed everything. Combining business and pleasure, her parents had embarked on a trip to Europe. Just before landing, their plane had crashed. There had been no survivors.
The ending of the game was noisy enough to intrude on even Aubrey’s gloomy contemplation. With a start, she glanced at her watch.
Where was Corbin?
She debated on whether to go in search of her elusive boss, but was saved the trouble by the appearance of Paul carrying a tray with a pitcher and two glasses.
“Corbin will join you in a few minutes. He’s been delayed by a phone call. Would you care for lemonade?”
“I would, thank you.” Aubrey took the glass he held. “It’s warmer here than I realized.”
“It’s the humidity. You’ll get used to it.”
If I’m here long enough,
she thought but didn’t say. She was beginning to wonder how many other “things” Phoebe either glossed over or failed to mention.
Corbin materialized behind her and took a seat at the table.
“I’ll be back in a minute with dinner,” Paul assured them.
Once they were alone, Corbin looked at the pitcher with a faint smile. “You’ve evidently made a hit with Paul. He hardly ever goes to the trouble of making lemonade for me.”
Aubrey tilted her head to one side. “You don’t seem like the lemonade type.”
“What type do I seem to be?” he quipped abruptly, his eyes narrowed against the blaze of the setting sun.
“I don’t know – sparkling water or something less homey.”
“I happen to like lemonade. Do you always judge so quickly?”
She glanced away from his intent stare. “Not usually.”
The silence that fell between them lasted through a delicious dinner. When Paul returned to clear the table, Aubrey turned to him eagerly. “The seafood salad was delicious! Was that fresh crab and lobster?”
Paul nodded. “We have a local market. I’ll take you some time if you’re interested.”
“I’d love to tag along; on my days off, of course.” This last was added with an uncertain glance in Corbin’s direction.
“I’m sure that can be arranged. In the meantime, let’s go to my office where we can discuss what you’ll be doing when you’re not tagging along with Paul.” Corbin led the way to a room where light wood paneling rose to a dizzying height on three walls while the remaining one gave an uninterrupted view of the Atlantic Ocean. One side of the room contained a desk, a large drafting table, and a bank of filing cabinets. A smaller desk sat opposite.
Corbin walked through this area to an alcove where twin wing-back chairs sat facing each other against a backdrop of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Aubrey had never seen such an impressive display of books in a private home.
“I thought my father had a lot of books, but his collection is nothing to this. Have you read them all?” she asked.
“Close to half, I guess. They’re not all mine. Paul has added a couple shelves’ worth of books since he came.” He indicated one of the chairs. “Have a seat. I know you’re tired from a long day of driving. I won’t keep you long.” After she sat down, he went on. “My business is property development. Most of my renovation work is concentrated here on Tybee Island, but I do take projects elsewhere. About a year ago, Phoebe contacted me about doing a series of magazine articles on the revitalization of the area, and how renovation was impacting tourism, etc. Once those articles started appearing, other outlets started calling. The result is I’m contributing to several magazines, newspapers and trade journals.
“You’ll be helping with the research and editing for those articles as well as general office work with the business, some of which will be answering the phone, typing and delivering proposals, making trips to the courthouse, accompanying me on job sites, and so on.
“As for the living arrangements, the rental rates for even the smallest cottages are exorbitant and would eat up most of your salary. You could find something more reasonable in Savannah, but then you’ve got the traffic issues to deal with. For those reasons, I suggested to Phoebe that you stay here. If it helps with your decision, Paul lives here, too. Think it over and if you’re not comfortable staying here, I can help you find something else. Do you have any questions?”
She shook her head. “Not right now.”
Corbin waved a hand toward the smaller desk. “You’ll be working over there. I’ll be gone in the morning. Use that time to find your way around. Everything you need should be somewhere in one of those drawers. We’ll start working tomorrow afternoon.”
“I’m looking forward to it,” she added into the silence that fell between them.
He stood up, and she realized the interview was over. “If you need anything, let Paul know.”
“Thank you, I will. Goodnight.”
He walked with her as far as his desk. Just before the door closed, she glanced over her shoulder. He was already engrossed in something on his laptop. For some reason, his attitude bothered her. It wasn’t exactly rude, but it did seem to indicate a certain detachment.
Back in her room, she completed her unpacking and told herself to stop being so sensitive.
He wasn’t the friendly type – she could deal with that.
She walked outside on the balcony. The scene had changed dramatically from earlier. Darkness had fallen, and the beach was almost deserted. Aubrey decided to leave one of the doors open while she got ready for bed. She fell asleep to the soothing sounds of the sea.
* * * *
The next morning she wasted no time; immediately after breakfast she strolled into the empty office. Here she arranged the items on the desk to her satisfaction and turned on the computer. After doing everything she could think of to get ready, she made her way to the kitchen where she found Paul meticulously stuffing a chicken.
“I thought I smelled sage. Is that dinner?”
Paul looked up with a smile. “Yes, along with sweet potato casserole.”
“I’m going to get fat living here.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it; Corbin manages to stay in shape.”
“Yeah, but it’s obvious that he works at it,” she retorted with a laugh in her voice.
“Thank you, Aubrey.”
Neither of them realized that Corbin had joined them. Aubrey’s cheeks flamed, and she couldn’t meet his vivid eyes. Paul bridged the gap with the announcement that lunch would be ready as soon as the chicken was in the oven.
“That’s our cue to leave,” Corbin said as he motioned Aubrey to follow him.