Authors: Kelli Wolfe
Copyright 2014 Kelli Wolfe
Published by Pink Parts Press
All rights reserved. No part of this eBook may be reproduced in any form or by any means, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review, without permission in writing from the publisher.
All characters in this story are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All characters depicted are 18 years of age or older.
Excerpt from Kelli Wolfe’s
Hot and Bothered
Excerpt from Kelli Wolfe's
Lexie’s Last Chance
Excerpt from Kelli Wolfe's
Excerpt from Kelli Wolfe’s
Have you ever had one of those days where life just decides to screw with you? Well, I was having one of those days. It had started before I left the house for work that morning, and I desperately needed to talk things over with Brynn, my best friend. Of course it was Saturday so a steady stream of customers kept me hopping until lunchtime and I had no chance to text or call. When I had applied for a job at the used video game store two years ago I didn’t know the difference between an Xbox and a pop tart, but the owner had hired me anyway on a hunch. I was young, female, sort of pretty in a wholesome, girl next door kind of way, and most of his clientele consisted of geeky, awkward guys in their teens and twenties. Sales had spiked almost twenty percent in the first month after I started working there and my boss immediately gave me a big enough raise to make sure I wasn’t going to find a better job anywhere else in town. I wondered if he’d be able to give me another one so I could afford to stick around.
As soon as I could break away for lunch I pulled out my cell phone and called Brynn. I had no idea I was about to get nailed with the second half of the double-whammy life had in store for me.
“Molly!” she squealed, “I was just about to call you. You won’t believe it!”
“I got the scholarship! The other girl dropped out.”
She had been the runner up for a veterinary scholarship at Texas A&M University, one of the ones they set up to encourage more women to get into the field, and very competitive. Just getting into the program was hard enough, but Brynn had kicked some serious butt to make it into the runner up spot. Icicles started gnawing their way through my stomach—my best friend was going to be moving halfway across the state. I couldn’t help but be happy for her, but I was feeling more alone by the second.
“That’s great news. I can’t believe she bailed on the scholarship.”
“Hey, why don’t you come over when you get off work and I’ll tell you everything?”
I thought about going home to spend the night wallowing in self-pity instead, but it didn’t sound particularly appealing. “Okay.”
“See you then!”
When I locked up that night I almost backed out—this was a big day for her and she didn’t need me spoiling it with my problems. Of course if I didn’t go over she’d wonder why and pester me with a nonstop barrage of texts until I eventually gave in and ended up telling her everything anyway. I figured my best course was to suck it up and keep my mouth shut. My personal issues would keep for another day or two.
Brynn lived with her dad in an enormous, two story farmhouse that was almost a hundred years old and had enough character for a dozen homes. I had been spending nights there since we first became friends back in middle school, and I loved that place more than anywhere else in the world. The stairs creaked and the pipes groaned and some of the windows had a tendency to stick during the summer, but you simply couldn’t beat the place for a wicked game of hide-and-go-seek.
With five huge upstairs bedrooms and the living areas downstairs all sized to match it was far too large for just the two of them. Brynn had been an only child when her mom had died in a car accident, though, and for some reason her dad never remarried. Thinking about it always made me a little sad because she had told me once that when her dad bought the house for her mom they had intended to fill it with kids. I never could understand why he held onto the place rather than moving them into something where they didn’t rattle around like the last two M&Ms in the candy jar. Maybe it was the memories, or maybe it was just inertia. I had never had the courage to ask.
By the time I met Brynn her mom was already gone and her dad, Dr. Jonathan Sanders, just seemed like a normal single father. A surgeon at the small hospital in town, he was often busy and sometimes absent-minded, but always seemed like a good dad. Over the years when he had to work or got called in for emergencies Brynn had spent countless nights at my house, and Jonathan repaid my parents by having me over on school holidays and taking me along with them on trips to San Antonio, Austin, and Houston.
It wasn’t until I pulled up in front of their house that I realized that with Brynn leaving he would be completely alone in that vast, empty place. Sympathy squeezed at my heart—however difficult this was for me, it had to be even harder on him.
“Is that you, Molly?” a voice called from the shadows as I started up the steps. A moment later Dr. Sanders poked his head around one of the tall, white columns that lined the porch. “Thank God you’re here. I was afraid she was going to spontaneously combust if she didn’t have a chance to tell you all about it six or seven times.”
How the man had managed to stay single all this time was one of life’s great mysteries. Ebony hair framed a lean, aristocratic face set with sea-green eyes that could shift in an instant between placid, sunlit ripples and storm-tossed, hoary deeps. Running and hiking were his passions whenever he wasn’t working, and he had a toned athlete’s body that belied the fine age lines around his eyes. By rights every woman in the county should have been beating on his door—and maybe they were. But so far as I could tell none of them had managed to get so much as a foot inside. Their loss.
“I’ll see if I can get her calmed down,” I promised, “but you might want to call in a prescription for tranquilizers just in case.”
“I should have thought of that hours ago,” he sighed, then with a wink at me he stretched back out on the porch swing. “In the meantime I’m staying out here where it’s safe. Good luck.”
Brynn popped the door open before I could knock and dragged me inside.
“I can’t believe it,” she gushed, bobbing on her toes. “I’m so freakin’ excited I feel like I’m going to explode.”
“Congratulations,” I said, trying unsuccessfully to free my arm. “You know, if you yank that off your dad is going to have to reattach it.”
It took a second, but then she realized what she was doing and let go. “Sorry. But can you believe it? I’m going. I’m really going!”
For two years she had battled disappointment and frustration at not being admitted to the veterinary school at A&M. In high school we had both been far too interested in other things—mainly boys—to worry about our grades much, so she had worked like a fiend after graduation to make up for it by excelling in college. Now her hard work had paid off and she was on her way to make her dreams come true. I just didn’t know what I was going to do without her.
“I know,” I told her. “You deserve it.”
“Come on, I’ll show you the letters,” she said, and grabbing my arm again bounced her way up the stairs to her room.
For two hours she told me all about it; I read the letters from the university half a dozen times, and then she pulled up the campus maps on her computer and we looked at pictures of dorms and the buildings where she would attend classes. I truly was happy for her, but at the same time my heart felt hollow. Whatever time we spent together before she left, she already had one foot out the door and would be looking ahead to her new life rather than thinking about me and the little town where we had grown up. I felt like I had lost her already.
“Oh, shoot,” she said, casting a guilty eye over her shoulder at me. “You never had dinner, did you? I’m sorry; I’ll bet you’re starving.”
“It’s fine,” I shrugged. “I didn’t have much of an appetite anyway.”
Big, blue eyes focused their full attention on me. “Molly, what’s wrong?”
“You’ve been acting off all evening. Did this upset you?”
! I am so happy for you, I truly am. Of course I’ll miss you like mad when you’re gone, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Those blue eyes narrowed dangerously. “Out with it.”
“It’s nothing,” I sputtered.
I sighed and slumped back on her bed. “Dad’s leaving.”
My alarm bells should have started going off the instant my dad stumbled into the kitchen that morning. I wasn’t sure what he was doing up so early; most days he didn’t crawl out of bed until after I had left for work since the antique store he managed didn’t open until ten o’clock.
“Hey, sweetheart,” he mumbled as he staggered past me and collapsed into a chair at our tiny table. “Is there any coffee?”
“It just finished brewing.”
I slid a steaming mug in front of him and stepped back to give him some room. Dad is not in any sense a morning person—one of the few things I seem to have inherited from him—and he’s usually best left alone until he’s had a chance to work through a couple of cups of coffee, so when he cleared his throat I spun around, startled.
“Molly, we need to talk.”
I glanced at the clock on the microwave. I had twenty minutes to get to work. “Now? I’ve got to run in a couple of minutes. Is something wrong?”
He squared his shoulders but refused to meet my eyes. “The Steins have sold the antique store.”
Oh, no, that wasn’t good at all. I sagged against the counter and bit my lip. Ever since the divorce three years ago Dad had been flaky, quitting jobs at the drop of a hat. The antique store was the first place he had seemed to settle in and find his balance again. I didn’t know if I could take him going back to bouncing from job to job.
“I’m moving back to Garvena.”
My mouth dropped open and I stared at him, speechless. Garvena was a flyspeck on the map of west Texas where his parents lived. Heck, it was so small it didn’t actually show up on a map.
“Mom and Dad are getting older and thinking about retiring, and they want me to take over running the store. Well, I’m going to do it. I need a fresh start, Molly.” His soft, brown eyes finally met mine, pleading with me to understand. “I know I haven’t been good for much since Denise left, but I think if I get away from here maybe I can pick up the pieces.”
Four years ago my mom had bailed on us and gotten remarried almost immediately after the divorce was finalized to a real estate agent named Hank. Hank had a big, brand new house right on the river in Kerrville, drove a BMW convertible, and went to wine tastings all over Texas. He also had a habit of undressing me with his eyes whenever Mom wasn’t looking, so I stayed with Dad after the divorce and didn’t go to visit.
Dad never really bounced back; I think his ego had been totally crushed knowing that he would never have been able to give Mom any of the expensive things Hank had, and afterwards no matter how he measured himself in his head he came up short. It was all baloney, of course. I think if I could have hated my mom I would have for what she had done to him. Dad was a great guy in every way—he was just never going to be wealthy. Up until the divorce he was solid and dependable and had loved his family fiercely, with everything he had. He was also still young enough to have a chance to start over again if he wanted to try badly enough.
How could I stand in his way?
“I think that’s great,” I told him, trying my best to sound upbeat and supportive, although my stomach was a churning vat of acid. Three years of Theater Arts in high school should have made that a lot easier. Maybe if I had gotten more speaking roles.
He blinked in surprise. “You do?”