Authors: Kb Winters
The Elite Series
By KB Winters
Copyright © 2016 KB Winters
Published By: BookBoyfriends Publishing LLC
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 KB Winters
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of the trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
This book is dedicated to the brave men and women of our armed services who put their life on the line everyday to protect our freedom.
Thank you for your service.
Memorial Day was still weeks away, and I was already looking forward to the end of the summer. It had nothing to do with the wave of tourists that would invade my simple little beach town, Holiday Cove, and everything to do with the impending invasion of my younger sister, Alesha, and all the drama that a seventeen-year-old could whip up.
Mostly over nothing.
I had a million things to do before she was going to get here—but first things first. I needed to get out of the uncomfortable phone conversation I’d been tangled up in for the past half-hour.
“—needs someplace safe, where she won’t get into trouble. You’re the only one Kelli and I trust to make sure she stays in line.”
“Yes, Dad, I understand,” I said into the phone, nodding my head as he rambled on about all the reasons why it’d be impossible for Alesha to go anywhere else for the summer. “I’m not saying I won’t take her. All I said was that if she pulls a stunt like she did last summer, you’re going to be buying her a ticket out of here.”
“I’ve already talked to her about that…” my father, Pat, replied, his voice tensing at my mention of Alesha’s antics a year ago. While I’d been working at my coffee shop, she’d gotten bored, hitchhiked up the coast with some surfers, and ended up arrested for getting stoned on the Santa Monica Pier with them.
I pinched the bridge of my nose, still able to recall the panic and eventual fury over the entire fiasco.
“Just tell me you’ll get her out of my hair if things go sideways,” I pleaded. I needed to know I had a parachute out of this mess.
“Okay, fine. If she gets to be too much, I’ll arrange for her to go stay with Grandma.” My dad paused and heaved a sigh that spoke volumes.
“Are you okay?” A hot tip of guilt slid down my belly. I’d been so wrapped up in anxiety over Alesha’s visit and ironing out the logistics that I hadn’t even bothered to ask my dad how he was doing. His pained sigh told me that something wasn’t quite right.
“I’m fine, Noodle,” he replied, his tone still heavy and weighted down. “There’s just a lot to do in the next couple of weeks to get ready for the trip. The sooner I get Alesha squared away with you, the sooner I can get things figured out over here.”
I nodded. “Is Kelli still bugging you about having a baby?”
There. I’d said it.
My dad groaned. “Really, Carly? You think I want to get into that right now?”
I tossed my free hand dramatically into the air and spun on my heel to pace back to the other end of the counter. “I’m just asking. You sound…stressed.”
“Kelli and I will work that out between the two of us, thank you very much.”
I rolled my eyes and they landed on the silver plated mermaid-shaped clock on the wall, above the archway that led to the kitchen in the back of my coffee shop. My heart jolted at the time. How was it already nine o’clock? Granted, I didn’t have any major plans for the rest of the evening, but the late hour surprised me. After closing up for the evening, I’d hung around, preparing some new recipes for the summer menu. But, it seemed…the hours just slipped away when I was lost in my kitchen.
“Don’t get so snarky, Dad. You’re the one who told me about it in the first place, ya know,” I reminded him, my tone pointed, but not disrespectful.
“Yes, and if I recall, you’re exact words were ‘that’s what you get when you marry your mistress.’”
Okay. Not my finest hour.
Nearly three years ago, my father had married his secretary, whom he had been seeing for a couple of years before that. My mom and him had been divorced for years, so Kelli wasn’t
his mistress, but to me, it felt that way. Especially since Kelli was only a few years older than me, a good two decades younger than my father. Naturally, she wanted to start a family of her own, and had been putting the pressure on my father to give her a baby for the past couple of years.
“All right, all right. I’m sorry.” I sagged down and leaned on my elbows, braced against the counter. “It’s not that I don’t care, or want to know, but it’s just…hard…to imagine you having a baby.”
“I understand. As of right now, there’s nothing to report. We have our hands full between the two businesses and dealing with Alesha’s theatrics.”
“Which, I’m sure is a ringing endorsement to have more kids…” I mumbled.
“I’ll text you the flight details and send some money to your account,” my dad said, the rising sound of other voices in the background growing louder. I could hear Kelli’s voice, but not clearly enough to make out what she was saying. “Listen, Noodle, I gotta go.”
“Bye, Dad.” I clicked off the call and stared down at the phone in my hands.
It was going to be a long ass summer.
* * * *
The next week and a half passed in the blink of an eye, and I was on my way out of town, making the drive to the Monterey airport to collect Alesha. My dad had texted me the flight details and transferred five grand to my bank account. He said it was to cover expenses—food, extra utilities, and some extras to make sure Alesha got her weekly allowance. I knew it was my payoff—hush money—for taking Alesha off their hands for the next three months. The last two years, they’d gone to Greece for the summer. Kelli had family in the area and my dad managed to work at the Athens office of the chain of banks he was employed with as some kind of bigwig number cruncher.
I’d never even been invited.
Not that I would have accepted even if I was. A couple of years ago, I woke up from a series of bad decisions and finally got my shit together. I opened
on the shores of the lovely central California town, Holiday Cove and threw myself whole heartedly into making my little business thrive. I worked by myself, since my part-timer had abandoned me when she went off to college, and I hadn’t gotten around to hiring and training another one. The long days didn’t bother me. The shop was my life. I worked seven days a week, from six until four, and usually a couple of hours on both ends of business hours, as I indulged my control freak bent by preparing nearly everything in the shop from scratch.
As I drove up the coast, I gave myself a mental pep talk, in an effort to drown out the haunting memories of the summer before when Alesha had come to stay with me for the first time. She had just turned seventeen, making her eleven years younger than me, and had spent the majority of her life being the star of the show as Daddy’s little girl. By the time she’d come around, I was already in junior high and hadn’t been very interested in her once the initial excitement faded over having a baby in the house. Then, I was in my senior year when our parents split up. She was only five when our mom took off with her loser boyfriend and in the aftermath of the divorce, our dad had gone a little overboard trying to make things perfect for Alesha. I’d taken advantage of his distraction and spent the last couple of years of high school smoking cigarettes and screwing around.
Dad’s world revolved around Alesha and he catered to her every whim right up until he met Kelli. When his attention shifted to his new girlfriend, Alesha was knocked down a peg on the totem pole, right in time for her to enter high school, and she’d reacted in a series of self-destructive behaviors. Each one less pleasant than the one before.
I blew out a breath and shook my head. I loved my dad to pieces, and didn’t even blame him for wanting to get remarried and find happiness and love after my mom’s betrayal of their marriage, but the way he’d done it—and the timing—sucked.
And now, I’d spend the next three months rooming with and babysitting my teenage sister—all as a result of his life choices—not mine.
“All you have to do is keep her alive and out of jail,” I reminded myself, navigating to a parking spot at the airport. “It’ll be easy peasy. No problem.”
I shoved it all to the side, silently sent out some prayer that Alesha had grown up since her last visit, and got out of my Honda and started towards the front entrance of the airport. Since it was the middle of the day, the airport was fairly empty. I checked the arrivals board, confirming the flight number on my phone, and saw that everything was running smoothly. I went deeper into the airport and stopped outside the security checkpoint and took a spot by a coffee cart to wait. According to the real-time flight information on my phone, I had about twenty minutes before her flight would land.
The sweet, seductive scent of a Costa Rican blend wafted over to me. I turned towards the smell and gave the coffee cart a once over. I’d always been a caffeine junkie, but since opening my own coffee shop I’d turned into a full blown coffee snob. The cart looked clean. A glance at the steamer wand showed no residue. And best of all there wasn’t a line. A quick cup of coffee would be the perfect distraction to keep myself from obsessing over the myriad of worst-case scenarios that were flickering through my brain. I dug my burlap and lace wallet from the depths of my favorite crossover bag, it was a handmade piece I’d found at a weekend artisan market months ago, and made my way over. The barista working the coffee stand was propped against the corner, her hip resting on the cart while she scanned through her phone.
Apparently it had been a slow morning.
I smiled to myself, wondering what that would be like. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a slow day. The only reason I was able to escape to the airport was because Cindy, the lady who ran the gift shop next door had offered to watch the shop for a couple of hours. Cindy wasn’t an experienced barista, but I’d taught her the basics, and had been prepping my regulars—which was almost my entire clientele—that they were to take it easy on her when she filled in for me. I approached the coffee cart and cleared my throat to get the attention of the zoned out teenager standing on the other side. At my prompt, she turned, pocketed her phone, and offered me a smile. “Sorry about that.”