Authors: Nicole Deese
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary
This book is a work of
fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or
locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Creation Cover Designs
© Sarah Hansen
book is dedicated to my dad and mom.
Without you my passion for the arts would not exist.
I love you.
I used to pray for amnesia.
The irony of how some memories refuse
to be erased while others could so easily slip my mind—like sand through a
colander—was not lost on me.
Even with years of therapy, I still
choked on the word that defined my childhood. It remained trapped somewhere
inside my head, yet the feelings it provoked were unrestricted. It was almost
as if time had chosen to skip over those memories completely, denying me the
ability to forget.
I could remember everything—all the
details that my five-year-old brain should not have been able to recall. I
remembered the smell of the carpet, and the stale hot air that festered in our
run-down flat. I remembered the dumpster in the parking lot, and the children
who played near it round the clock. I remembered my tangled hair and the
never-ending hunger that gnawed at my belly.
But most of all…I remembered
She liked the quiet, yet she cried
incessantly. And when she wasn’t crying, she was sleeping. I was old enough to
see that she was broken, and desperate enough to believe that I could fix
her—that I could make her well, that I could make her smile, that I could make
her love me.
The day I heard the music, was the day
I thought I had finally found her cure.
delicate piano notes were a whisper on the wind, calling to me. I crouched
below the open window so I could listen to the woman play. A fire ignited in my
chest as the sound filled me; it was the sound of happiness.
music could make my mama happy, too.
through the parking lot, past the dumpster, up the stairs to the blue door with
the chipping paint. I threw it open, running to the bed where my mama lay. I
stroked her hair softly, careful to keep my voice low as I tried to rouse her
from her sleep.
didn’t answer me though.
louder the second time, and louder still the third.
never woke up that day.
When I went to live at a new house,
with a new family, nothing was familiar to me. There was no dumpster with free
stuff, no parking lot littered with kids, and no darkness lurking in the
corner. It did have one thing though—the one thing I wished she could have
heard, and the only thing that dulled the pain she left behind.
“What did you say?”
“I’m revoking your
scholarship. You’ve failed to keep up your GPA, which breaks the guidelines of
your scholarship,” Dean Thomas repeated.
I stood up from the
plush leather chair and slapped my hands down on the shiny mahogany desk in
front of him. “You can’t be serious! Maybe you haven’t heard, but my fiancé
just dumped me! Doesn’t the committee ever look at life circumstances, or are
they just a bunch of cold-hearted-”
“Don’t finish that sentence,
Charlie. Your engagement ended last December. It’s April now. We’ve given you
more than enough grace to resolve your personal drama. There are students who
are working extremely hard out there—trying to earn the scholarship you were granted.
We cannot keep overlooking your grades. It reflects poorly on the University,”
Fireworks were going
off inside my head.
This can’t be
right…they can’t just do this to me without any warning. I’ll get a lawyer;
some big, hotheaded Texan that loves to sue stuck up Universities for wrongful
termination—or whatever this could be classified as.
My scowl intensified
as I sat across from the old man with salt-and-pepper hair. Tears blurred my
vision. Our stare-down lasted several long seconds before he finally broke the
trance and scribbled something on a piece of paper in front of him, handing it
to me hastily.
“What’s this?” I snapped.
“That,” he said,
pointing to the document in my hand, “is the second chance I’m not convinced I
should give you.”
“I want you to take
the rest of the term off.
Go home; get
your life straightened out. I’ll hold your scholarship until fall term starts…but
that’s it, Charlie. No more chances. When you come back, there will be no more
grace to give, are we clear on that?”
I stared at the
paper, knowing I should feel grateful, but the words refused to come out. I
wasn’t going to
for my suspension.
That was stupid. I may be a lot of things, but stupid wasn’t one of them. I
mustered up the humility I needed to nod my head once before I turned to leave.
“Yes?” I said, reaching
for the doorknob.
“I had a nice long
chat with your father about this today. He is expecting your call.”
“Well, that’s just
excellent. Thank you for being so thorough, Dean Thomas.” The words were like poison
dripping from my lips.
I closed the door
hard as I exited.
Of all the schools I could have chosen! Why did the blasted
Dean have to know my father!
As I reached my dorm
room, I was relieved to find that Sasha wasn’t there. It wasn’t that I wanted
to avoid my roommate per se, but I needed to do a little venting first. And
that needed to be done alone. I screamed into my pillow until I felt
light-headed, then I marched across the room—all ten feet of it. I picked up
the picture I had refused to trash (along with the rest of the swag from my
broken engagement) and threw it hard against the wall.
Shards of glass flew
everywhere, but the photograph lay unscathed on the floor.
I stared at it. His sultry
smile, his dark hair, and his laughing eyes, all taunted me. What a fool I’d
been to believe he loved me. A single tear slipped down my cheek, I wiped at it
of crying over Alex Monroe; loving
him had screwed everything up.
My phone buzzed in
my bag. I reached for it instinctively, throwing my head back in frustration
when I read the name.
His timing was
“Briggs! My office—now, please,” Chief
I stood abruptly as my name echoed
within the concrete walls of the fire station. I hadn’t the foggiest idea why I
was being summoned, but I moved quickly regardless. He wasn’t a man to be left
waiting—that is—unless you liked urinal duty. I happened not to.
“Yes, sir?” I asked as I reached his
“Come in and close the door, please. Have
a seat.” Chief rested his elbows on his desk, massaging his temples. I entered.
It was obvious something was wrong, but while not being the best at reading
emotions, I decided to wait for him to address me further.
He took several deep breaths before
breaking the silence. Finally, he looked at me. “I need your help.”
“Anything, of course. What’s up, sir?”
“Julie and I are scheduled to leave
next week on our anniversary cruise to Greece,” he began; I nodded as this was
not news to me, “but we have run into a bit of a snag.”
forgot to find a dog-sitter. I like dogs. No problem.
“You need someone to watch Rocco?”
He lifted his head and stared at me as
if re-assessing his need—or perhaps the solution to his need.
“No. I wasn’t exactly looking for a
dog-sitter, Briggs; I have one of those already. That’s the least of my concerns
at the moment.”
He took another deep breath, drumming
his thumbs on his desk in a thoughtful rhythm.
it is…it sure has him worked up
“Charlie’s coming home from school this
weekend—for a while—and I need someone at the house to keep things in order
while we’re gone.”
Hmm…why did I think Chief had a daughter?
“Okay, like in what way, sir?” I asked,
confused why a college-aged boy couldn’t keep a house in order for four weeks.
“Charlie’s gotten into some trouble at
school. Too many extra-curricular
enough time hitting the books, if you get my drift. I need you to keep an eye
on her while I’m gone. And the only way you can do that is to stay at the house.”
I nearly choked on my own spit as I swallowed.
is a young woman, yes. I thought you knew I had a daughter, Briggs?”
“Uh, right…of course I did,” I said,
clearing my throat.
“So, it’s settled then? You’ll stay at
the house and make sure she follows my rules? I knew I could count on you.”
I looked behind me instinctively.
The firehouse was filled with candidates
much better qualified for a job like this.
“Sir, I think you might be better off
with Kai—or Evan,” I protested
“Kai’s getting married in six weeks, and
Evan is flying back home for his brother’s military graduation.”
I’m third on his list. That makes way more sense.
know he’s not losing it entirely.
“Julie will get the apartment above the
garage all set up for you. I know this is a lot to ask, Briggs, but Julie won’t
go on this cruise unless we know Charlie’s in good hands. She’s a little spitfire
for sure—always has been, but she needs consequences for her poor choices. She
may have just turned twenty-one, but I’m still the bank that funds her life.”
Chief Max smiled a bit at his last
“Well, I guess…”
“Great. Thanks again, Briggs. I’ll
leave some instructions for you both while we’re away. I’ve set it up for her
to come to the station during the day and do some office work for me. Other
than that, she is not to leave the house unsupervised.”
“What—you mean like house arrest?” I
“You got a problem with my parenting,
“No sir, it’s just that you said she’s
twenty-one…won’t she want to go out with friends and-”
and what is
two very different things. She has lived how she’s wanted to for the past six
months. Not only did that get her suspended from school, but her current taste
in friends is nothing short of repulsive. So no, she can’t go out, not until I’m
back from my cruise,” he said sternly.
No going out. But what about my shifts, sir?” I asked,
thinking about my schedule.
“She will come to the station when you
do, and she will leave when you do. Obviously she won’t be spending the night
here, so figure out how to make your hours work around her. She’s the priority
here, Briggs. She’s still my little girl—and the most precious person in my
life short of my wife,” he said, sighing, “I just can’t trust her right now.”
I nodded, though I was still having a
hard time computing his paranoia. I stood to leave, as it was clear to me that he
was finished. When I turned toward the door, he cleared his throat, drawing my
attention back to him once more.
“I trust you won’t let me down, Briggs.”
His eyes communicated more than his
words. He knew me—the real me, and yet he
me. There were guys at the station who assumed my past was still my present,
but not Chief.
I wouldn’t let him down.