Family Bonds- Drew & Amanda…Chapter One

D&A

If you haven’t read the Prologue you can catch up HERE

Chapter One

Figure It Out

Fourteen years later\

“Drew, your mother is on line one.”

Drew turned to look at his secretary, Connie. “I’m not here,” he said.

His mother had been trying to call his cell phone too and he’d been avoiding her. It seemed like lately all she called for was to ask if he was seeing anyone or that she had someone she’d like him to meet. No, thank you.

“It looks like you are to me,” Connie said back.

He narrowed his eyes and went to turn into his office, but his older brother, Bode, stopped him. “She won’t give up.”

“When did you get here?” he asked.

“I came in the back door and I’m not here long. I’ve got a few other properties to check out today.”

“Anything worth investing in?” he asked. Bode oversaw all the construction and maintenance for the rental properties, Drew, the sales and negotiating, the contracts for tenants and so on. He and his older brother had taken over the real estate business a few years ago so that his father could cut back and pretty much just sit on the board and boss them around…when he wanted.

His parents had raised three boys that were all successful and it was time for them to enjoy their lives. It seemed that was what the Bonds did. Had a business that was passed down through the generations.

Or most of them at least.

“I’ve got my eye on two. Once I see the amount of work it needs I’ll have you go check it out.”

“I’m trying to figure out how you find out about these houses before me when I’m the licensed realtor and you’re the contractor.”

“Because I am the contractor. People call me for work and then when I’m there they start talking about other properties in the area or tell me they are thinking of selling. They know I’ll tell you.”

It always annoyed Drew that Bode found out things before him when it shouldn’t. Must be the sibling rivalry.

They didn’t have it with their youngest brother who chose to be a dentist. No, Coy was the smart one it seemed. Instead, Drew and Bode went into the family business and convinced his father to expand it from just real estate sales to construction and rental properties all over Massachusetts, not just a few on the island that had been in the family for years.

“Whatever.”

“Boys,” Connie said. “Your mother is still on the line.”

“I told you to tell her I wasn’t here,” Drew said, turning to look at Connie’s grin.

“I thought you were joking since you are standing in front of me.”

He rolled his eyes. Sometimes things just went over Connie’s head. Bode smirked at him knowing exactly what was going through his mind.

“Tell my mother I’m not here,” Drew said. “I’m leaving right now. If it makes you feel better then you can wait until I’m out the door.”

“Okay,” Connie said just watching him. He let out a sigh, Bode laughed, so he went to his office, got his keys and phone, and left.

He wasn’t to his car before Bode was walking out telling him to wait up. “Did she really pick up the phone when I was out the door?” he asked.

“She did. She apologized for keeping Mom waiting and said she couldn’t find you.”

“She doesn’t mind lying about that, but couldn’t say I wasn’t there?”

“Who knows what she was thinking. Where are you going?” Bode asked.

“No clue. I hadn’t planned on leaving, but I didn’t want to talk to Mom either.”

“She’s getting a little bit crazy lately with the blind dates and you. Why is that?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “She doesn’t bug you or Coy.”

“That’s because I was seeing someone so she’s probably giving me some slack. She was on my case for months before I was dating Samantha.”

“What happened with you two?” he asked. Though Bode hadn’t been dating Samantha that long, he’d seemed pretty ticked off over the split.

“The same old same old,” Bode said.

“She only wanted the name?”

“Isn’t it always that way with us? Mom has it in her head that because she fell in love with Dad in one week when she was here with friends that everyone should fall in love that way.”

Drew shook his head. “I wish she’d get over it. She’s so stuck on the myths of this island. Not everyone meets and knows right away. Things were different back then, but she won’t listen to us when we say that.”

“She’s never going to change,” Bode said. “You know she’s always been a romantic. She sees the good in everyone and always has. She’s lucky Dad was a stand-up guy and didn’t take advantage of her.”

“Which is why the three of us boys are probably so anti-romance. She should have had girls or something.”

Bode laughed. “We tried to dress Coy up as a girl when he was younger. That didn’t fly.”

“Mom was so ticked off. I don’t even remember whose dress it was. One of the cousins had it on over their bathing suit.”

“Anyway,” Bode said, “Mom doesn’t mean any harm, but she just won’t back off. Tell her you’re seeing someone.”

“Then she’d want to know who it was,” he argued.

“Make a person up.”

“And she’ll want to meet her,” he said back.

“Then make up excuses why she can’t. You’re almost as bad as Connie with not wanting to lie.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to lie, it’s just I don’t want to get tangled in something like that. I’ll figure it out.”

“I’m sure you can go back in the office now without even leaving at this point,” Bode said. “I needed to talk to you about a few things anyway.”

“We’ve been out here gabbing like two women for ten minutes. Connie won’t even realize I wasn’t gone long. Walk with me across the street for a coffee since I’m out here.”

“Only if you’re buying,” Bode said.

“You should buy since you’re older.”

“Please, the younger brother always pays.”

“Which means you never have to open your wallet for anything.”

“It’s the price of the advice you just got.”

“That’s real good advice. Lie to Mom.”

The two of them laughed, got their coffees, then walked back to the office. Bode was right, Connie didn’t seem to notice that he barely left the parking lot.

“Your office or mine?” Bode asked.

“Mine’s neater. You’ve got tools and papers everywhere.” When they were seated in the two chairs around a table he asked, “What do we need to talk about?”

“Some of the rental properties haven’t had spot checks in a few years. We’ve been so busy, both of us, that we need to really make time to go in and check them out.”

“That’s your job,” he said.

“No. We both do it. I go in when there are problems. You do spot checks and play nicey nice with the renters.”

“They don’t even know us,” he said. “We’ve always had a property management company do it all.”

“Which you know is coming to an end soon. That’s my point. It was a waste of money and Dad agreed. Half the island knows we own properties; why should we hide behind a property manager? We talked about this with Dad last year.”

“I know,” he said. “One by one as leases ran out we were going to do the spot checks, introduce ourselves, blah, blah. I’ve done more than twenty of them so far. Isn’t it your turn?”

“Nope. Because once you have your meeting they start making their lists of things they’d like to see done and then it becomes my headache.”

“Which is why I didn’t want to do this.” He understood it was a money-saving move. A smart one too. He had no clue why one of his ancestors wanted to use a property management company out of Boston all those years ago, but Bode was right. There was no hiding anything at this point and they shouldn’t be. It’s not like they even had that many properties back then.

They were one of the biggest realty companies in Massachusetts and the only one on the island. Up until the last ten years it was a handful of rental homes at most on the island. Now it was close to fifty all over Massachusetts. They owned multiple apartment buildings too with other family members.

“We already started making the changes. We’ve only gone through about half the homes we own in the past six months. Can you let me know when the next one is so I can clear my schedule for the changes or work I’m sure I’m going to be asked to look over and schedule the crew to do?”

“Fine,” he said, getting up and going to his computer. “The next house is leased to Amanda Moore. Her lease is up in less than two months. I’ll send out the letter today to find out when a good time is to stop in for a spot check and introduce myself.”

“Good,” Bode said. “And you never know, maybe she’s some hot chick and not some retiree that came to the island for a few years to live life in the slow lane.”

“I couldn’t get that lucky even if I wanted to.”

Family Bonds- Drew & Amanda…Prologue

D&A

Prologue

 

“It hurts,” Amanda said as she gripped her mother’s hand.

“Of course it does. Did you think it wouldn’t?” her mother said back, not a lot of emotion in her voice. Not a lot of caring or sympathy either.

“Why won’t they give me something for the pain?”

There was sweat on her brow and every other part of her body. Her stomach was tight and the pressure was massive. It felt like her midsection was full of rocks. She’d bet a board could be broken across her belly.

“It was too late. You already started to have contractions and were too far along,” her mother said in the same know-it-all voice she’d used on her daughters their whole lives.

“Why do I have to go through this?” she whimpered.

The tears were running down her face. As if she wasn’t in enough pain this was all going to be for nothing.

“You didn’t have to and you know it. You went against our wishes and this is the price you pay. This is why seventeen-year-olds shouldn’t be pregnant.”

She’d been hearing this for months…ever since she’d told her parents she was pregnant. Thankfully she wasn’t showing by the time she graduated and no one really knew in school.

But Randall knew. Of course he did. She’d told him the minute she knew about the baby.

He’d panicked and told his parents who wanted her to end the pregnancy. Her own parents did too. Randall never really said one way or another what he wanted, but she didn’t care. It was her child and she was having it.

Randall wouldn’t stand up to his parents either. Not when there was money involved. He went off to college at Harvard a few months ago and they’d only talked twice. The last time was well over a month ago.

She’d have to assume they were done, though he never actually broke up with her. Must be the hundred-thousand-dollar check that was delivered to her two months ago was enough for him to wipe his hands of her.

She wasn’t going to be bought. They couldn’t make her end her pregnancy either. She didn’t give a shit what anyone said.

That check was going to set her up to raise this baby on her own.

Or that had been the plan.

The plan that wasn’t going to happen now.

“I wanted this baby,” she said, sobbing.

“We don’t always get what we want,” her mother said.

Amanda let out another scream and the nurse came in. “There, there. I know it’s hard. And I know it’s painful. It won’t be much longer. Breathe through your mouth. Slow breaths. The doctor is on the way.”

Her mother shot the nurse a look as if to say, “She deserves this for bringing shame on two families.”

“How much longer?” she asked. “I can’t take much more.”

“Not long. Your contractions are really close and you’re almost ready to push.”

“It doesn’t matter though,” she said. She wasn’t sure what was worse. The pain in her body or the one in her soul.

“I know, sweetie. I wish there was another way.”

The doctor walked in a few minutes later and told her to start pushing. She was pretty positive it sounded like she was being murdered in the room, and it sure the hell felt like it, so why not shout it out.

It wasn’t just her body that was being ripped apart, but her family and her heart.

She’d be leaving this town the minute she could. She was taking her money and she was going far away.

No one supported her. No one cared about her.

Hell, the nurse was showing more compassion than her own mother.

“You’re almost there,” the doctor said. Embarrassment was thrown out the window at this point with her legs spread wide, naked under the gown. Who knew what mess was on the floor from her body and she didn’t even care. She just wanted this over with.

“I can’t do it again.”

“One more,” the doctor said. “Just one more big push. I’ve got the head in my hand.”

Hearing that was enough for her to gather all her strength, grind her teeth, and push with everything she had.

“That’s it, I’ve got it now,” the doctor said. “Just relax for a minute.”

There was silence in the room. Only her breathing could be heard, her mother looking over at the doctors and the nurses at the other side of the room.

“Do you want to see the baby?” the doctor asked her while the nurses cleaned up the newborn.

She was having trouble catching her breath. Not just from the delivery but the pain in her chest. “Yes. I want to name my baby. She’s really gone?” she asked, even though they’d told her hours ago there was no heartbeat when she had her appointment.

She was only seven months pregnant and had pain so she’d called the doctor and drove herself there. The past six hours had flown by in one instant and lasted forever in another.

“There is no heartbeat,” the nurse said coming over and running her hand on Amanda’s sweat-dampened hair. “Do you want to hold your daughter?”

“Yes,” she said, taking in a deep breath. “Please.”

Her mother got up and walked out of the room, not even looking at her daughter or granddaughter.

Three weeks later, Amanda walked out of her parents’ life for good.

Family Bonds- Drew & Amanda

D&A

Two people wondering if they were destined to be alone might be fated to find each other on Amore Island.

Amanda Moore only wanted one thing in life. A family of her own. A child she could raise and nurture better than her parents had to her. When she thought she had exactly that, it was taken away from her and she’s never been able to find it again. Now she wonders if she ever will.

Drew Bond has spent his life dodging the setups by his mother. She was adamant her sons needed to find a woman and she knew the perfect ones for them. But everyone she put in front of him only wanted two things from him. Money and his name. All he wants is to find someone himself, but the one time he did, he’d been fooled and left heartbroken. Now he wonders if he’s just meant to be alone.

Family Bonds-Hunter & Kayla…Chapter One

H&K (1)

 

Catch up on the Prologue here.

Chapter One

To Hell And Back

 

Ten years later

“Are you kidding me, Marcy?” Hunter said to his secretary.

“Sorry. I wish I were. Patrice called when you were on the phone and she said she’d be here if she could, but her son has been throwing up since four this morning. She doesn’t want to cancel the interview because it’s the only applicant she received for the front desk position.”

“And she thinks I’d be a good fit for doing the interview in her place?” he asked. “I run this hotel and have for three years. I don’t interview lower level staff. That’s what I’ve got staff for.”

He wasn’t trying to come off like an ass, just be firm though it didn’t always come across that way. Ever since his father finally handed the reins over full time, Hunter had been making all sorts of changes to the hundred-plus-year-old hotel that his Great-great-grandfather James started and he was stretched a little thin on time.

Bond Retreat was the first hotel on Amore Island. Many more had been erected since that time, yet only Bonds owned them. But the first one was special and had been turned into a retreat and destination wedding hotel and resort while the other hotels on the island were more for family vacationers. After all, it was the island for love—amore—so why not cash in on it?

“I understand, but Carol is off today.” Carol was the assistant manager and also oversaw the front line staff.

“What about Pete?”

“Pete in accounting? No one in finance would know what to ask. It’s a completely different job than what they do.”

Hunter ran his hand through his thick black hair. “How about you?” he asked Marcy.

“I’m your assistant. I don’t interview and you know it. I don’t want Patrice on my case if I hire the person and she doesn’t work out. She wouldn’t dare say anything to you.”

“I wouldn’t bet on that,” Hunter said. Patrice had been in her position for ten years and was five years older than him. Sometimes she let him know that too, in a polite way. He didn’t consider himself a hard employer—even when he was trying to be—but he was driven and wanted everyone to work the same as him.

Some of it was because of his name. The rest was his stubbornness to maintain the family reputation that had been built up again after Great-great-grandpa James blew their line all to hell and back.

“Don’t even think of bringing up any of the other managers at the resort. None of them will want a hand in this. If you can’t do it, I’ll call Patrice back and tell her that you said to reschedule it. It might be weeks before we get someone filled at the front desk though and we are paying overtime to the current staff. They are really pressed.”

His staff knew how to pile the guilt on his shoulders and he wondered how he could be so weak.

Or maybe he knew when to cave and when to fight. Just because he hated interviewing and didn’t have the time didn’t mean it wasn’t one of those days to help Patrice out of a bind.

He let out a breath. “Fine. What time is it scheduled for?”

“Eleven. Here is her resume. I’ll have the front desk send her here when she arrives.”

“You can wipe that smirk off your face now that you and Patrice got your way. I think you two put your heads together and decided to pin this on me.” He started to flip papers around on his desk. “I’ve got to meet with the people at the conference at ten. I might be late.”

Marcy laughed. “We’d never do that. And if you’re a few minutes late, she can wait, it’s not a big deal. After all, you’re the CEO and you’re busy. We know.”

When she walked out the door still laughing he knew they did plan it exactly the way it happened.

He lifted up the resume of Kayla Rivers and looked it over. The only hotel experience she had was in housekeeping eight years ago. Looked like she was there for a year and then moved on.

She moved on with a lot of jobs by the looks of it. Lots of customer service positions, but not much more. Some labor positions too. Nothing steady either.

There wasn’t much he could do other than give Kayla an interview and hope it wasn’t a complete waste of his time.

 

***

 

Nothing ever seemed to go according to plan, Kayla thought as she sat in the waiting room outside of Hunter Bond’s office.

She was supposed to be interviewing with the manager, Patrice Martin, but when she showed up she’d been told Patrice was out with a sick kid. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Kayla had almost missed her ferry.

Time had never been her friend. She wasn’t late often, but she was always there right on the dot, normally from running the last distance to get in the door on time…just like today.

The short run and fresh air at least added some color to her face and took her mind off the bumpy ferry ride that turned her stomach and face to match the color of seaweed. Having never been on a ferry before she had no idea she’d react that way.

The minute she was in the building Kayla realized she had five minutes to spare and asked the front desk where the bathroom was so she could check over her appearance.

She’d turned down a hall, figuring she was lost, and bumped into someone, stumbled and he had to reach out to steady her so she didn’t do a face plant and have to show up for her interview with a black eye. When she looked up it was a man. A hot man. One that was staring down at her with a grin on his face, his big hands on her shoulders and then dropping away faster than she’d hoped. Talk about a crazy thought.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, rambling on. “I’m here for an interview and I’m nervous and excited because this island is so beautiful, but I look like Cinderella after the coach turned back into a pumpkin thanks to that ferry ride. I thought I was going to get sick it was so windy. I asked where the bathroom was and now I think I’m lost. But I suppose I should thank you for stopping my fall or I might look like the pumpkin guts smashed into me when the coach changed over.”

The man was laughing now. Since he was dressed up and there were a lot of people walking around in business attire, she assumed he was there for the conference and here she was babbling like a fool to him. Typical.

“You’re not lost. Keep going down this hall and turn left. And don’t worry, you look fine.”
“Thank you,” she said. She took a deep breath, wrapped her hand around the star pendant on her necklace, grinned at him and dashed away.

A few minutes later on the tenth floor, the woman named Marcy said to her, “Kayla, Hunter is ready now, if you’ll follow me.”

Kayla stood up and followed Hunter’s secretary to his office. She felt so out of place with her cheap—but clean—black pants and a white shirt with a blue cardigan over it. She suspected all the executives were housed here on the tenth floor.

“Hi, Kayla,” Hunter said with his hand out, then motioning her to a chair over in a sitting area.

Yep, that black cloud that always floated over her head from the day she was born to a teenage mother that would rather party than raise her seemed to cover the island, too. Here it was again as she faced the man she’d bumped into in the hall, looking like a train wreck while she was lost in his hotel.

“Nice to meet you,” she said as calmly as she could. There wasn’t much she could do other than acknowledge what happened. “Or we meet again. I’m kind of embarrassed.”

“No reason to be. We’ve all had rough ferry rides. And I’m sure Marcy explained to you why I’m doing the interview. Normally I don’t have a hand in positions like this.”

Meaning positions that were completely beneath him, she was sure, but wasn’t stupid enough to voice that, especially after the first crazy impression she gave him. “Not a problem. This place is even nicer than it looks online.”

“You’ve never been to the island before, I take it?” he asked.

“No.”

“Well, you got here okay,” he said. “I guess the first thing I should bring up is not everyone that works on the island lives on the island, but it is much easier to reside here. The ferry almost always runs on time, though the weather does play a part. There are three different ferries that you can grab. Two from the south port and one on the north end that comes in from Boston.”

“That’s the other end of the island,” she said. “How many miles away is it?”

“The Romeo Port on the north end is about sixteen miles away. Juliet Port is the south port that I’m assuming you came in on.” She nodded her head. “You can get a ferry from Plymouth or Provincetown off of Cape Cod.”

She’d done her research on the resort and the ferry she was taking to get here and how to get from the ferry to the resort, but that was all she’d done since she’d been working, trying to make up the time for being off for this interview so she didn’t go unpaid.

“I wasn’t aware of the two different ports, just how to get here today.” She caught herself reaching for her necklace to fidget and pushed her hands back down. She should have known that information and hoped it wasn’t held against her. This morning was going from bad to worse. She should just get up and walk out. It’s not like she’d ever see him again once she got on the ferry.

“Not a problem,” he said. “And you didn’t find the ferry ride that wonderful?”

“It was bumpier than I thought. I’d had an Uber waiting for me and then had trouble finding them.” Always something, but she’d finally found the driver and then got to the resort in the nick of time and ran through the parking lots to get to the entrance.

“It can be worse. It’s a windy day out there today. If you get the job, like I said, there are three different ferries that arrive at multiple times throughout the day. The first comes in around seven in the morning; the last to depart is nine at night. The last arriving here at eight.”

“So if I missed the last one, I’m here for the night?” she asked. “What are the hours of this job?”

He grinned at her, his straight white teeth flashing like a beacon calling her forth. His blue eyes were as clear as the sky had been outside when she ran in the door and had a humorous glint to them as he gazed at her. “We would never schedule anyone where they might miss a ferry. This position would start at seven at night and end at six a.m. An hour lunch and it’s four ten-hour days. This gives you time to catch the first ferry after work and not worry about missing it if you get held up at work.”

“Does that happen often? Being held up?” she asked and wondered why she was because she knew she’d be living here if she got the position. Which was pretty much a pipe dream with the way things were going. Yet he wasn’t acting like she didn’t have a shot. Probably just being nice.

Sometimes she just didn’t think before speaking and had to shut her trap so she didn’t blow this interview.

“It can if your replacement is late or you are dealing with a guest. Though on the night shift you aren’t quite that busy.”

“That all sounds good,” she said. “But if I get the job I’ve got a place to stay on the island.”

“Good,” he said. “Then let’s talk about your experience. I see though you’ve never worked the front desk at a hotel you’ve got a lot of customer service experience. A nice well-rounded resume.”

Which was probably his polite way of saying she’d bopped around from job to job lately. “I don’t want you to think I can’t hold down a job. Some of them I was laid off when the work slowed down. Some just didn’t work out, and others I found a better job.”

“So you are always looking for a better job?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “Not really. I started working at a young age and I’ve got experience in a lot of fields as you can see. Some of it just wasn’t to my liking, but I’ve never left before a year at any of my jobs. Sometimes I have jobs that overlap if you look closely.”

He lowered his head and focused on her resume. “I see that.”

“I’m a hard worker,” she said earnestly. She didn’t want to beg, but now was the time to sell herself if she had any shot in hell at this job. “I like to learn new things. I’m trying to find a career over a job. I guess that is the best explanation.”

“And you think this would be a career for you?” he asked.

“I’d like it to be. I just want to settle down and have a normal life.”

He laughed. “Life on Amore Island is hardly normal, some would say.”

She grinned. “Is it true what they say? That most come here to find love or are hoping for it?”

“That’s what they say. An island started by lovers that even one of the biggest storms of that time couldn’t prevent them from meeting. But I’ve been on this island my whole life and it’s just home to me.”

“You’ve lived here your whole life?” she asked, surprised to hear that.

“Not entirely. I grew up in Boston but spent my weekends here working or hanging out. Later I traveled by ferry back and forth to Boston for a few years, then decided it was best to just stay here. I can go into the city anytime I want and do, but I live here now.”

“I always wanted to live on an island,” she said without thought. She couldn’t stop her lips from flapping like the wind on the ferry ride and getting off topic. He didn’t seem to mind though so that was good.

“Then I guess you’ll get your chance,” Hunter said.

“What? I’m hired?” Woohoo—wishing on her necklace worked when it never had before. Imagine that.

“You are. When can you start?”

“I have to give two week’s notice at my job and move my stuff over here. It shouldn’t be too hard.”

She didn’t think so. She was just going to pack what she had in her car and bring it over in a few trips. It’s not like she needed much since she was going to be renting a bedroom and wouldn’t need furniture. She’d sell the used stuff she had and get some extra money for it.

Hunter stood up so she did the same, noticed that he had to be at least seven inches taller than her five-foot-five-inch frame easily. She figured he was a busy man and this twenty-minute interview was probably enough for him.

Not only that, she got the job and needed to get out of there before she did or said anything else stupid and he rescinded the offer.

“If you have any questions or concerns about the job or the move, Patrice can help you. You’ve got her number, correct?”

“I do,” she said.

“I’ll let her know that I’ve hired you and she’ll be in touch.” He held his hand out for her to proceed to the door and she did so, turning to shake his hand one more time. She must be more messed up in the head because she felt a spark and heat like she had when his hands stopped her from falling.

“Thank you so much. I’m excited to start my new career.”

“That’s what sold me, you know,” he said.

“What?”

“I don’t care what the rest of your resume says. I see you’re a hard worker by the jobs you’ve held. But you don’t want a job, you want something meaningful and that means more to me than any work experience. You can be taught the rest.”

Kayla nodded her head, and when she was out the door, she reached up and clasped the silver star on her neck that she always thought was a good luck charm. The only frivolous gift she’d ever been given with words that she’d kept close to her heart. On her way here she had made a wish on it while she’d held her breath in an attempt to not toss her cookies on the ferry ride over.

As good days went in her life, this one was right up there.

 

 

 

Family Bonds- Hunter & Kayla…Prologue

H&K (1)

Prologue

Many many years ago…

In the late 1700’s when English Captain Malcolm Bond was dropping off a shipment in America, he was given the offer of a lifetime…the hand in marriage to the sole remaining heir to the Rummer’s shipping empire. All he had to do was find the island the Rummer’s owned off the East Coast. An island he hadn’t known existed. He had three days and when a storm hit throwing him off course, he knew his chances of expanding his shipping business to America were sailing away out to sea.  

After being afloat and out of control for over twenty-four hours, the sun rose on the third and final day of the offer. Land was before him, so he guided his boat to the shore. What greeted him wasn’t just success or greed, but a vision of loveliness that made his heart pound and hands sweat greater than navigating through that storm. What he faced was his destiny. His future wife. And what many would call love at first sight…fate.

Present time

“Melissa, do you have a minute?” Kayla asked. She’d been dreading this conversation, but she didn’t have a choice at this point.

She’d be eighteen in two months and she’d be graduating in three. Not only was she hoping she wouldn’t have to leave her foster home until then, but she was also praying she could convince them to let her stay just a bit longer.

“Sure, Kayla. Why don’t you help me with dinner while we talk? The other kids should be back in thirty minutes.”

Scott and Melissa Fryer’s foster home had been one of the nicest she’d been in. They were young, too young to have teenagers, but they needed the money and they did the best they could. Better than most.

Kayla knew when she turned eighteen they’d stop getting the money for her and would want another kid in her place, but she had nowhere to go.

Crashing on their couch would be the best-case scenario. Worst, the old room above the garage. She wasn’t fussy. She’d take any roof over her head she could get.

Picking up the peeler, she attacked the potatoes with the same confidence as she was forcing for this conversation.

“You know I’m turning eighteen in two months.”

Melissa turned, her brown ponytail swishing about on her head. “I do know. Don’t worry, you can stay until you graduate. Scott and I already talked about it months ago.”

That was a relief, but she needed more. “Thank you. That was part of this conversation.”

“What’s the other part?” Melissa asked.

“I’ve got a bunch of applications in for a full-time job after I graduate. College is out of the question. My grades just aren’t good enough, and well, I’ve got no money and living on campus and everything else. It just wouldn’t work.”

She wouldn’t know what to do when there were breaks. She’d have nowhere to go, no transportation, nothing. She’d be stuck.

Stuck was a pretty shitty feeling she learned a long time ago.

“I know. I’m sorry about that. I wish we could help you,” Melissa said.

“I wouldn’t ask that. I know you’ve got your hands full here. It’s not that. It’s just that I was hoping that maybe I could stay on a little longer until I can get some money put aside to secure my own place or find a roommate or something. I need a car for the job, but I’m hoping to take the bus.”

Melissa’s eyes got a little teary and Kayla thought for sure she was going to burst into the waterworks herself when she got the answer.

“I’ll talk to Scott tonight about it.”

“I can sleep in the loft above the garage. There’s a bathroom in there with a sink. That is good enough, and if you wouldn’t mind me coming over for a shower once a day, I’d be out of your hair. I could pay you rent from my part-time job and I’ll take care of all my food. It’s just…”

“You’d be on the street or in a homeless shelter if we said no. I know. That’s why I’m sad. I wish there was more I could do for you. For so many in your situation. And the garage wouldn’t work. That bathroom is nasty and hasn’t been used in years.”

“I’ll try to fix it,” Kayla said.

She didn’t want to be a nuisance or in their way and she knew she was begging, but the truth was she was desperate. She needed to know now if they weren’t going to let her stay so she could figure out other plans.

“No,” Melissa said, reaching her hand over and laying it on hers. “It’s not safe. There is no heat there or anything. It gets cold in the fall and…no. That won’t work.”

“I know you need my room for another child and my guess is you’ll get one pretty fast.” There were plenty out there looking for homes, which provided a source of income for those who wanted to foster kids. Too bad most kept the money and didn’t give much back to the kids themselves.

Kayla didn’t have a ton, but the Fryers did buy them clothes and necessities. They never went hungry; they even did some fun activities now and again like the movies or bowling. They celebrated holidays on a low scale, but at least it was a celebration of sorts.

“I’m sure we will get someone in there once we tell them we are ready. It’s probably not much, but I don’t see any reason why you can’t sleep on the couch in the basement. That space down there isn’t all that cozy or modern, but it’s warm and I can move some things out of the way. We’ve got the extra furniture there and I know you kids go down there to hang out at times.”

The basement wasn’t that bad. It was old and musty, but it was dry and warm in the winter. Warmer than the loft above the garage would be. And she’d be in the house to use the bathroom too. It was better than she could have hoped for. She’d say luck was on her side, but not many would consider her future living arrangements as lucky as she did at the moment.

“That’s good. I can do that.”

She couldn’t help it when a tear escaped down her cheek. It was one of relief and happiness, not fear or stress. Kayla hadn’t shed too many tears in her life that weren’t associated with negative actions or thoughts.

“I’m sure Scott will be fine with it,” Melissa said. “Maybe I’ll clean out that back storage room and move the couch in there to give you some privacy. You’ll need a place to put your clothes and things.”

Her things…she didn’t have much more than enough clothes to fit in one dresser. What Melissa was offering was more than she could have hoped for.

She set the peeler down and hugged Melissa. “Thank you so much. I appreciate it. And I’ll pay you rent and I’ll feed myself. Really I will. I won’t be a burden. I just don’t want to be on the streets.”

“We wouldn’t let you stay on the street. Scott and I knew one day this might happen with one of you kids. You’re the first to age out on us. I just didn’t realize it’d be so hard.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” Kayla said and held onto Melissa a bit tighter.

There was no reason to tell Melissa how scared she’d been to have this conversation. Or how terrified she was that she might not find a job and that she would be on the streets at the end of the year because she wouldn’t overstay her welcome.

Kayla wasn’t looking for a handout, just a little help standing on some wobbly legs.

 

 

Family Bonds- Hunter & Kayla

H&K (1)

Hunter Bond always knew he’d take over Bond Retreat on Amore Island, the island established by his ancestors. He was the only son of an only son for generations, so it was expected he’d be the next in line. Was he tired of being reminded about the island’s legacy? Sure. Was he determined to do things his own way? Of course. Was he going to do his part to not tarnish the family reputation? Probably not.

Kayla Rivers always said she had multiple clouds over her head. Gray ones. Ominous ones. Very often black ones. When she saw an ad for a job on Amore Island—a place where people supposedly found love at first sight—she should have run in the other direction since she’d never been loved a day in her life. Instead she ran forward hoping and praying for once in her life she’d find happiness rather than disappointment.