BOOKS BY JANE HARVEY-BERRICK
Dangerous to Know & Love
The Education of Sebastian
The Education of Caroline
The New Samurai
At Your Beck and Call (not yet published)
Jane A. C. Harvey-Berrick has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This book is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. Jane A. C. Harvey-Berrick has asserted her moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
First published in Great Britain in 2014
Harvey Berrick Publishing
Copyright © Jane A. C. Harvey-Berrick 2014
Cover design by Hang Le / byhangle.com
Cover photographs: iStock by Getty Images
This book is dedicated to Dina and Steve.
For letting love win.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 – Adjudge
Chapter 2 – Trepidation
Chapter 3 – Options
Chapter 4 – Nascent
Chapter 5 – Expectation
Chapter 6 – Forward
Chapter 7 – Opportunities
Chapter 8 – Rewards
Chapter 9 – Grieving
Chapter 10 – Instincts
Chapter 11 – Venturing
Chapter 12 – Endurance
Chapter 13 – Need
Chapter 14 – Exorcism
Chapter 15 – Souls
Chapter 16 – Spinnaker
More Books by Jane Harvey-Berrick
And Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.”
The morning rush was nearly finished. I knew from my experience of two days at the Busy Bee Family Diner that it would be quiet until lunchtime.
I stared out at the main road where not a single car or truck bothered to stop, and watched dust devils spin in the lazy summer breeze. That was about as exciting as it got. What a freakin’ dump.
Waiting tables wasn’t exactly my dream job, and not where I thought I’d be at 24 years of age with an expensive college degree several years behind me. In fact, I was shocked to find myself back waitressing, the kind of work I’d done when I was a teenager. But I liked to eat, and I couldn’t face crawling back to my dad to ask for a donation to the Torrey Delaney Life Achievement Award (Pending). He’d only chew me out again for walking away from my own apartment and a good job.
Yeah, well, when you’ve slept with your boss and then he dumps you and treats you like shit, no job is worth hanging onto, in my opinion. And I’d thought about it a lot.
All of my friends were clambering up their career ladders; they all had a plan. Something. I couldn’t face sleeping on couches and seeing pity in their eyes, while they put on their business suits and pumps, and headed out to their well paid jobs.
All I knew was that I had to leave Boston—start fresh somewhere else. Besides, Dad had just gotten remarried to a silicone-tit slut only a few years older than I was. Neither of them wanted me around. The feeling was mutual.
So I’d ended up calling Mom for the first time in six years and taking up her offer of a room in Smallbutt, Nowheresville, on the gulf coast of Texas.
Oh, she’d been happy to help, and thanked God that her prodigal daughter was returning to her at last. Yeah, well, some dreams are born to be shattered. Her idea of cozy nights reading Bible stories together and spending some quality mom/daughter time didn’t really match up with me going out drinking till all hours and being dropped off at the Rectory before dawn by a guy in a truck.
Yup, I was the talk of the town. At least I thought I was.
I’d been lucky that the Busy Bee’s owners were short-staffed, otherwise I’d have had to drive the 40 plus miles to Freeport, or 35 miles to Corpus Christi for a job. Of course, tip money would probably be better in the city, but that was a lot of gas money to lay out every day, never mind the time wasted driving back and forth. People sure weren’t overly generous here, unless it was with advice I didn’t want to hear.
I pulled out my phone and started texting one of the hook ups that I thought might be worth a second go. He’d been an okay ride for a country boy, and was a halfway decent distraction.
Doreen threw me an angry look. That was nothing new. My theory was that she’d been born with a broom handle up her ass. Or maybe just thirty years of waiting tables had left her as dried up and frustrated as a landed largemouth bass. Well, the expression was certainly the same.
I’d just pressed ‘send’ on my text when the old fashioned bell jangled above the door, and I glanced up. Now that was a long, cold drink of water on a hot day. Tall, over six foot, ripped, and with sandy-blond hair that was just a bit too long, tats running down both arms to his elbows, cheekbones you could file your nails on, and lips that were just perfect for biting.
I jutted out one hip, a move that I knew made my ass look great. The only problem was the guy seemed more interested in staring at his shoe than looking at me. Huh, maybe he wasn’t into girls. I didn’t think my gaydar was malfunctioning, but you never know.
I suddenly realized that all conversation had stopped and that each one of the redneck customers was staring at the newcomer. Yeah, I thought he was cute, but I didn’t think that was why the Vardry brothers, Chuck and Mo, were staring daggers at him, or why the two teenagers in the corner looked like their eyeballs were about to explode.
The hottie twitched uncomfortably, as if he could feel their glares bouncing off of his broad shoulders.
It seemed weird that Mr. Fine and Fuckable, a guy with all that lickable muscle, was acting so shy.
“What can I get for you, handsome?” I asked, ignoring Doreen’s hiss of annoyance.
“Uh, could I get a black coffee to go?” he asked hesitantly, still not making eye contact with me or anyone else.
I couldn’t see what color eyes he had, but his lashes were far too long and pretty for a guy. Life could be so unfair.
“Sure! I’ll just get that for you, hon.”
“No,” Doreen barked.
My eyebrows rose as I stared at my coworker, her vinegar face purple with anger.
The guy hunched his shoulders even more and didn’t argue the point. He ducked his head and left the shop.
“What the hell was that?” I said, turning and staring in amazement.
“Just putting out the garbage,” Doreen said nastily, and went into the kitchen to stir her cauldron some more.
I didn’t know what the hell was going on, but I wouldn’t have treated a stray dog like that. I poured some coffee into one of the paper cups we used for take-out, and headed after him.
I was just in time to see the guy climbing into a battered pickup truck.
He stared at me, and for a fraction of a second our eyes met—beautiful, soulful brown irises. They were so deep, I could have swam a few laps in those eyes.
I realized I hadn’t spoken again and that he was still staring at me.
“You left without your coffee.”
I gave him my best smile, but he’d already dropped his gaze.
I held out the paper cup to him, bu
t for a moment I thought he wasn’t going to take it.
Then his hand reached through the truck’s window. I noticed he had the word ‘love’ tattooed across the back of his wrist. I wondered if he had ‘hate’ on the other side.
He took the coffee from me without a word, not even a thank you—I really hated that. Then he just started his truck and drove away
“What a jerk!”
I shook my head, more determined than ever to get out of this one-horse town where the horse had died.
Doreen had built up quite a head of steam by the time I walked back in.
“What on God’s green earth do you think you were doing, serving that boy coffee, running after him like a bitch in heat?”
My mouth dropped open in surprise. I knew Doreen was a dried up old fatass, but she hadn’t been blatantly rude to me before.
“What’s wrong with this town?” I shot back. “A guy comes in for a coffee, all shy and polite, and you just treat him like trash!”
“Don’t you back sass me, Miss High-and-Mighty! Your momma might be the preacher-lady, but you’re no better than you ought to be!”
“What does that even mean?” I yelled.
“You just quit your job, young lady!” spluttered Doreen, red in the face.
“Fine, whatever. I didn’t like stinking of bacon grease every day anyhow.”
I dipped my hand into the tips jar and shoved the change into my pocket.
“I’ll consider it severance pay,” I smirked at the old witch.
“You put that back!”
“And you really should remember to wash your hands after using the ladies’ room,” I called over my shoulder, throwing my apron onto the nearest table.
The bell jangled cheerfully as I slammed the café door behind me.
Seeing as I was currently unemployed—and probably unemployable as far as Buttfuck was concerned—I decided to spend the rest of the day working on my tan at the beach which was only a ten minute drive away.
I climbed into my beloved Pontiac Firebird, stroking the paintwork as I buckled up. It was more than 20 years old, and one of the last third generation models to roll off of the production line at Van Nuys. Bright red, it reminded me of a fire engine, made 13 miles to the gallon on a good day, and I loved it.
Maybe I gunned the engine more than a little, before I tore out of that small town in a cloud of dust.
I drove a few miles along the shore before I found an empty sweep of beach at Matagorda Bay.
The white sand stretched for miles in both directions, fringed by wiry grass. There was no one around and not even marks left by tires to show that anyone had been here.
Abandoning the car at the side of the dirt road, I felt the sun hot overhead as the light fractured the deep blue of the ocean. I left the windows down, sure that no one was going to hotwire my car this far from nowhere. I hiked the short distance down to the shore, wishing I had more than a three-day old bottle of tap water in the car for refreshment. But wishing wasn’t having, so I dropped my ass onto the sand, pulled off my t-shirt and bra, then shimmied out of my jeans and panties.
I hated tan lines.
I must have been asleep for nearly two hours because the sun had shifted when I opened my eyes again. Somewhere in the pile of clothes, my phone had buzzed, shaking me out of a weird dream where Doreen was trying to make me go fishing for bass.
I peered at the screen: I had two messages—wow, I must have really been out for a while because the first one was from an hour ago and I hadn’t heard it.
The good news was that my hook up—Clancy—was free and eager. I’d suggested meeting at a bar in the next town over. It was more of a guys’ beer drinking joint than the kind of place I’d usually go, but I wasn’t planning on spending too much time there before taking Clancy for a ride in the back of his truck. I just hoped he was as good as I remembered. Although, to be fair, the details were a little hazy.
The bad news was that Mom had heard I’d been fired from the Busy Bee after a record two-and-a-half days. Guess good news traveled fast in a small town.
I had no idea how she could stand it.
My mom was a good person, I think. At least she tried to be. She wasn’t a huge hypocrite like some preachers I’d heard about, and she had as big an aversion to polyester suits as I did, but we still didn’t exactly see eye to eye either.
I had a pretty average, middle class life for the first 13 years of my existence. Then Mom had found God, or maybe God had found Mom, I’m not quite sure. Because she decided that she had a calling—and it wasn’t being a wife and mother. She had a mission to spread the Word of God.
Ironically, that ended up with Mom and Dad getting divorced. He didn’t much like playing second fiddle to a guy who was bigger than he was, so to speak. And I didn’t like being the child who was always waiting around for a mom who seemed to think that everyone else’s problems were more important than her own daughter’s.
Looking back, maybe we were being selfish, but I thought my mom could have looked in the same mirror and seen that, too.
Anyway, as soon as she finished her training at the Seminary, she got her first job down in the deep south. It was a world away from big city Boston, and I can only guess what the adjustment was like for her, being a woman and a liberal.
Then she moved to Texas and from what she told me, her church had been all but empty for the first six months, people preferring to hear their preaching from a man, not a woman who was also a Yankee.
In the end, her persistence paid off. I’d been here two, long, dreary weeks, and I had to admit I had a grudging respect for her. Hell, I’d never last in this state, let alone this town. And I didn’t intend to try.
My mind wandered back to the hottie in the coffee shop. I wondered what crime he’d committed to be the local pariah. Maybe he’d fucked the sheriff’s daughter. Nah, I’d met her in the diner once. She must have fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. Besides, she was so uptight, he’d have needed a crowbar to get those legs apart.
Still, whatever he’d done, it kept the heat off of me. Not that I cared what they called me, but I didn’t want to make things any harder for my mom. Damn, probably too late to worry about that now. Maybe I really was a lost cause.
I decided I’d have to try and find a new job tomorrow. What a drag.
I walked down to the water to wash off sand that had found its way into some interesting crevices. It just so happened that a couple of fishermen copped an eyeful as I cleaned up.
“Hey, sexy lady! You’re a sight for sore eyes!”
“You probably jerk off so much you’re already going blind,” I shot back.
His friend was laughing his ass off while he thumped him on the back; my contribution to the fun was to flip them off.
I think they decided to try their luck, because they looked like they were planning on beaching their boat. I pulled on my jeans over damp legs, and got my arms in my t-shirt before they made it ashore.
I burned out of there so fast they were probably breathing my exhaust fumes for the next hour.
Mom was out when I got back, which was no surprise. She was hardly ever around, day or night. God’s work kept her busy. I wondered what His health benefits were like. Did she get dental?
I took a shower and contemplated what to wear. I hadn’t unpacked any of my city clothes so I didn’t have a huge amount of stuff to choose from, but more than enough for Clancy. Although my ass looked at its best in skinny jeans, a skirt provided easier access for what I had in mind. I hoped Clancy would appreciate the sacrifice I was making on his behalf.
I chose a short denim skirt and a blue tank top that wasn’t too slutty. I teamed it with a jean jacket, made sure I had condoms in my purse, and headed out.
I didn’t bother leaving a note—I didn’t want to set a precedent.
As I drove out to the bar, I realized I was getting low on gas again and since I’d quit the only job I’d had for a while, my
bank balance was less of a balance and more of a sliding scale toward zero.
I still had the handful of change in tips that I’d scored from the diner. I pulled over to the side of the road and counted out the coins: nine dollars and a few cents. That wasn’t going to buy a whole lot of gas.
I sighed and shoved the money back into my change purse. I wondered if Dad would be good for a couple of grand. Maybe if he was still blissed out from his honeymoon with his bimbette he might spring for some cash. It was worth the cost of a phone call.
It went straight to voicemail. Perfect. At least he hadn’t blocked my number.
“Hey, Dad, it’s me. Just wondering how you are and whether you and, um, Ginger had a great time in St. Thomas. I bet it was awesome. Yeah, so, the reason I’m calling—turns out it’s not so easy to get work around here as a paralegal, or as anything really, and I was wondering if you could loan me a thousand, maybe two, just to tide me over until I get a job. I’m going to head up to Freetown tomorrow, so … anyway, hope you’re both well and, um, thanks, Dad.”
Yeah, that should do it. Just enough humble pie mixed with fake sincerity. With a bit of luck, he would put two K straight into my bank account without either of us having to speak to each other.
Feeling better about the state of the world, I used my credit card to fill up the tank. At least I wouldn’t be paying for drinks tonight. Clancy had better be good for the beers if he wanted to get laid.
He was already there when I arrived. I liked that he was eager, but was less happy that he seemed well on his way to being toasted. I hadn’t driven this far for a guy who couldn’t get it up.
“There she is!” he slurred, to no one in particular. “Prettiest little cowgirl in the state.”
I rolled my eyes as I sat on his lap.
“Cowgirl? Seriously? Do I look like the kind of woman who wears plaid shirts and a Stetson?”