California's Calling (Hunt Family Book 3)

BOOK: California's Calling (Hunt Family Book 3)
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California's

Calling

 

By:

Brooke St. James

 

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any means without prior written permission of the author.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2016

Brooke St. James

All rights reserved.

 

Other titles available from Brooke St. James:

 

 

Another Shot
:

A Modern-Day Ruth and Boaz Story

 

When Lightning Strikes

 

Something of a Storm
(All in Good Time #1)

Someone Someday
(All in Good Time #2)

 

Finally My Forever
(Meant for Me #1)

Finally My Heart's Desire
(Meant for Me #2)

Finally My Happy Ending
(Meant for Me #3)

 

Shot by Cupid's Arrow

 

Dreams of Us

 

Meet Me in Myrtle Beach
(Hunt Family #1)

Kiss Me in Carolina
(Hunt Family #2)

 

Chapter 1

 

 

The heartache was unbearable.

It caused a physical pain in my chest that made all the muscles in my torso tense and flex. It hurt. I collapsed with my head in my hands, crying bitterly.

I woke up to my cousin, Mia, shaking my arm. I blinked, trying to differentiate dream from reality. An airplane. I was on a flight. My jaw was still clinched from the nightmare, and I took a deep breath as I tried to relax, letting my head fall back onto the headrest.

The dream left me so disoriented that it took a minute to remember where I was and where I was going. Mia and myself, along with a good portion of my extended family, were on an eight-hour flight from Charlotte to London. Once we got there, we'd catch another flight to Africa.

We had left Carolina at 8PM, and I was relatively sure it was now the middle of the night because the plane was fairly dark, and most of the people around us were sleeping. Mia was sitting right beside me and had been looking at me with a worried expression since I opened my eyes, but I couldn't bring myself to speak right away.

"You okay?" she whispered, leaning toward me.

Although it had been a dream, I still had the pain in my jaw and stomach like I had been crying. I smiled sleepily at her.

"You okay?" she repeated as if I hadn't heard her the first time.

I nodded and blinked slowly.

"Because you were crying," she whispered. "And you said the name Lance over and over."

A sharp pain shot through my chest at the sound of his name. Thoughts of him remained with me, but I hadn't heard his name spoken out loud in a long time.

"What happened?" she asked, sitting up more fully as she stared down at me. It was only then that I realized my face was contorted in whatever sort of sadness I felt at the mention of his name.

"Nothing," I said, trying to adjust my expression. "I was just dreaming, I guess."

"Was it about that guy you used to date?" she asked.

God bless her, she had no idea what she was doing. As far as my family was concerned, I had dated a guy named Lance, it hadn't worked out, and that was the end of the story. How I wish it were that simple. How I wish I hadn't spent the last two years pretending that I was fine and I had forgotten all about him.

"Are you okay?" Mia asked as she turned to face me more fully and put her hand on my shoulder.

I blame the fact that it was the middle of the night and I was taken off guard, but the next words out of my mouth were, "I dream about him all the time. It's nothing new."

"Who, Lance?" she asked, looking confused.

Again with the gut-stabbing pain at the sound of his name.

"Charlotte, what the heck is wrong with you?" she asked when I flinched. I breathed a long sigh.

"Love is for fools," I whispered. Tears started welling in my eyes, and Mia pulled back to stare at me with an expression that was so flabbergasted, I had no other choice but to laugh. It's an odd sensation when laughter filters through tears, and I sort of just let out a few silent breaths that could have passed for laughs or sobs.

"Will you please tell me why you woke up with your angst level through the roof?" she whispered.

"He was married," I said. It was the first time I had ever admitted that to another human being, and I regretted saying it the second it crossed my lips.

"Lance was
married
?"

I gave it my best effort not to cringe at the sound of his name again as I nodded. "And he was my professor."

Her eyes widened and she gasped quietly. "Are we talking about the same guy you dated when you first started college?"

I nodded. "My freshman and most of my sophomore year."

"Two years?" she asked, her expression growing even more confused. "You dated him for
two years
?"

"Yeah, but it seems like a big joke looking back on it. I should have known something was wrong. I should have known he was married." I paused and took a deep breath, but she just sat there, waiting for me to continue. "He was at the beginning of his career—he didn't even have tenure yet. He told me no one could know we were together until I graduated. He said he'd get in trouble. I told my family about him, but I didn't scratch the surface of how serious we were because he said he could get fired." I paused again and sighed. "I was so naïve."

"Is that why you quit the creative writing program?" she asked.

I nodded. Tears were already on the very edge of coming out, and the mention of my unrealized dreams called them forth with so great a force, I could no longer contain them. A giant tear fell onto my right cheek right before one followed on my left.

"Oh, honeyyy," Mia whispered, sitting up to hug me. "Are you really still this torn up over him?"

I nodded. "What about that guy Dillon you were seeing for a little while? Or that Australian you had the hots for at the beach?"

"Fake," I said, wiping my face with the back of my hand. I did my best to smile at her, but I could tell it looked pitiful. I was thankful it was dark in there and all the people around us were sleeping.

"Fake? What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means I made it up."

"Made what up?" she asked, looking at me like I had lost my mind.

"Dillon was a friend of mine from school who I pretended was my boyfriend, and I was just acting like I was infatuated with the Australian. I knew he had a girlfriend when I talked to him that night. I just acted like I was disappointed about it."

"Why would you do that?" she asked. We stared at each other for a few long seconds—her not understanding what I was saying, and me not understanding why she wasn't getting it.

"Because I want my family to think I'm normal," I said. "I don't want you guys worrying about me being doomed to a life for spinsterhood."

Mia scoffed. "
Spinsterhood
? What is this, the eighteen-hundreds?"

"I'm serious," I said. "I have to act like I'm interested in checking out guys like the Australian. It's what you'd all expect of me, so I did it. I just really don't feel like explaining why I don't date."

"So you don't date now?" she asked. "You're just gonna stay single for the rest of your life?" She was still whispering, but I could tell by her tone that she didn't approve of me making blanket statements like that.

I rolled my eyes. "That's exactly why I act like I'm boy crazy. I don't feel like explaining to you guys that whatever sort of
love mechanism
I had is broken."

"That's a little dramatic, don't you think?" she asked.

I smiled sadly at her. She, like everyone else in our family was used to the happy-go-lucky Charlotte—the one I pretended to be all the time. I couldn't expect her to understand this heartbroken version of me. It was obvious that she didn't like seeing me this way, so I took a deep breath and tried my best to smile. "It's really no big deal," I said. "I'm just tired, and that dream freaked me out."

"Don't pretend it's okay when it's not," she said with a soft smile aimed at me.

"It's stupid that it's not okay," I said.

"Love makes us stupid," she said, rubbing my leg.

I let out a humorless laugh. "So stupid."

"You're not still seeing him, are you?" she asked.

I shook my head. "No. I haven't seen him in over a year."

"I can't believe you changed your major over him," she said. "I’m mad at him for that."

I smiled at her protective statement. It felt good to have someone I love know what happened. I had been keeping all this to myself for so long that I felt an undeniable sense of relief. "He was everything I wanted," I said. "Young, driven, gorgeous, and talented." I smiled sadly. "His poetry inspired me in ways I can't explain. He had the ability to string words together in such a way that they reached my soul."

She smiled, and I smiled back, although mine was laced with regret. "I know it sounds crazy, but it's true," I said. "Some people have a gift, and his gift was with words. He made me want to be a poet too. He made me strive to develop the ability to touch people with words the way he touched me."

"You can still do that," she said. "I've read some of your stuff, and it's wonderful! I can't believe you quit doing something you love because of some jerk."

"He's not a jerk," I said morosely. "He's wonderful."

She let out a disapproving noise. "I'm sorry, Char, but he's not
wonderful
. He's manipulative, and he took advantage of your infatuation."

"Thanks," I said, sarcastically.

"It's true," she said. "But thankfully, you're not that same girl anymore. You're stronger now. You'd never let that happen to you again."

"You're right," I said. "Because no one's ever gonna have the chance."

"Don't be ridiculous," she said.

"I'm not," I said. "I'm not trying to be dramatic, but I was being serious when I said my love mechanism is broken. I could really care less about guys and the whole love thing in general." I paused, shaking my head. "He was the one I wanted, and he belonged to someone else the whole time." I stared off into space, remembering. "You should have seen some of the things he wrote for me," I said. I let out a self-deprecating laugh. "At least he
said
they were for me."

"You need to forget about those things," she said. "Just put them right our of your mind."

"Easier said than done when you've memorized most of it. He told me about my eyes, the color of the ocean and my hair like honey-colored silk."

"Those are easy ones," she said. "Every poem ever written has ocean-eyes and honey-hair."

I laughed. "Maybe you're right," I said. "But anything that came out of his mouth sounded like perfection to me."

"And you had no idea he was married?" She asked.

The answer was a resounding no. I wasn't perfect, but having an affair with a married man wasn't on my list of things to do. I shook my head in answer to her question. "I think that's part of the reason why I can't get over it."

"Why?"

I shrugged and sighed, not certain what to say. "Guilt, I think. I can't stand the thought that I was the mistress. I hate mistresses. I think about her and how sad she'd be if she found out about it." I grabbed my chest. "It makes my heart hurt."

"Well, tell your heart to get over it, because you didn't know what you were doing. That's on him."

"I know, I just hate thinking about her. And plus I think I'm just bitter for having experienced such affection for someone only to find out it was a farce. It's embarrassing."

"That's just another thing you've got to tell yourself to get over," Mia said.

"Believe me, I've tried," I said. "I really have. I hate sadness. I hate discontentment, and heartache, and guilt, and everything else I've been feeling."

She stared at me. "Have you told anyone about this?"

I shook my head, which caused her to smile and pat my leg. "It's no wonder you can't get over it," she said, "holding it in this long. Now that you've told someone, you can set forth about forgetting it ever happened."

I laughed. "Oh, that easy, is it?"

"Yes," she said, smiling. "That easy it is."

"I have to say, it does feel like the load is a teeny-tiny bit lighter."

"There should be no load," she said. "You didn't do anything wrong."

I leveled her with a stare and she smiled and held her hands up in a gesture of surrender. "You're not a mistress if you don't know there's a wife," she said.

"I should have known," I said.

"But you didn't. You have to cut yourself some slack and move on with your life."

"Yeah, but then I still compare every eligible guy to him, and find that they come up short."

"Don't idealize him," she said. "He's not worth it. You're an amazing woman, Char, and I'd never forgive you if you wasted your talents and youth pining away over some lost love."

I smiled.

"What?"

"You called me a woman just now."

"I called you amazing, too, which you are. I'm serious when I say I'm gonna be ticked if you waste any more of your time on this loser."

My smile broadened. "I love that you love me."

"I do," she said. "And I'm glad we had this talk. I can't believe it took you so long to tell someone. I can't believe you didn't tell your mom."

"I can't believe I
did
tell you," I said with a wide-eyed expression. "I was all disoriented from waking up on a plane, or I never would have mentioned it."

"You needed to mention it," she said. "Be thankful you were disoriented."

I could tell by the way she looked at me that she had total faith that I'd be able to forget all about Lance and live a full, maybe even joyful life. Something about her trust gave me some assurance. For the first time in two years, it crossed my mind that I'd be able to recover from him, and I felt a tinge of hope like a warm ember in my chest.

BOOK: California's Calling (Hunt Family Book 3)
8.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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