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Authors: Terri L. Austin

His Every Need

BOOK: His Every Need
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Copyright © 2014 by Terri L. Austin

Cover and internal design © 2014 by Sourcebooks, Inc.

Cover design by Dawn Adams

Cover image © Roberto Pastrovicchio/arcangel-images.com

Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any
electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except
in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission
in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously.
Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended
by the author.

Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.

P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410

(630) 961-3900

Fax: (630) 961-2168

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Austin, Terri L.

His every need / Terri L. Austin.

pages cm

(trade paper : alk. paper) 1. Young women—Fiction. 2. Domestic fiction. I. Title.

PS3601.U86365H57 2014

813’.6–dc23

2013045381

To Jeff.

Thanks for always believing
.

Chapter 1

Allie Campbell frowned at the black SUV parked in her driveway. One of Monica’s friends?
Damn it, if her sister ditched school again, Allie was going to handcuff herself to
that kid and haul her delinquent butt into class. And even though Monica was an adult—
technically
—and could make her own decisions—
really
stupid
ones—
she was going to graduate high school this year if it killed them both.

Allie parked on the curb and shoved open the driver-side door. It groaned, sounding
as tired as it looked. And for a Ford Festiva that had seen seventy-five thousand
miles too many, it looked exhausted.

Before she could grab groceries from the backseat, a man strolled around the side
of the house, clipboard in hand. Middle-aged and slightly paunchy, he waved at her
with a tape measure.

“Great, you’re home. Would you mind letting me in so I can get some measurements,
ma’am?”

Allie shut the car door with a bump of her hip and adjusted her purse strap.
Ma’am
? Twenty-five wasn’t ma’am territory. She walked across the narrow strip of yard,
stopping directly in front of the stranger who wore a polo shirt with the name
Dave
embroidered on his chest.

She had been on her feet for the past nine hours soothing unhappy hotel guests. The
Festiva’s air conditioner was on the fritz. Again. And her polyester uniform—hot and
itchy on a good day—stuck to her in all the wrong places. Add the
ma’am
comment, and she didn’t have any niceties to spare. “Who are you and what are you
doing in my yard?”

He pointed at the truck. “Dave Buchanan, home appraiser. I’m taking measurements for
the owner.”

Allie glanced at the white magnetic sign affixed to the truck’s door. Sure enough—Dave
Buchanan, Home Appraiser. “My dad is the owner, and he didn’t mention this to me.”

Dave examined the clipboard. “Says here Trevor Blake ordered an inspection.” He shrugged.
“Maybe he forgot to tell you?”

Who the hell was Trevor Blake? “No, you’ve got the wrong house. Would you mind moving,
so I can pull into my driveway?” She turned and walked toward her car. Crisis averted.
No need to have another pointless argument with Monica. At least not about this.

“Nope,” Dave called after her. “This is the place. I need to get inside. I have a
couple more houses to see this afternoon.”

A small tingle shot up Allie’s spine. She spun around to face Dave, if that was even
his real name. Was this some kind of scam to get into her house? If so, he’d picked
the wrong place. They didn’t have anything worth stealing.

Pulling her phone from her pocket, she glared at the man. “If you don’t leave immediately,
I’m calling the police.”

He shrugged. “Whatever, lady. It might speed things up.”

Well, that wasn’t the response she was expecting.

He squinted down at the form. “The signature says Trevor Blake. There’s a second one
here too—a Brian Campbell?”

Alarm bells started clanging in her ears. This had to be a mistake. She speed-dialed
her dad’s cell number, her eyes tracking the stranger as he pointedly looked at his
watch.

“Yeah, Al,” he answered, “I already know. School called this morning. Monica never
showed up. I don’t know what to do with her. I’m out of ideas.” He sounded weary.

Allie pinched the bridge of her nose. “It’s okay. I’ll deal with it. Listen, a guy’s
here at the house, says he’s an appraiser?”

There was long pause on the other end. “Damn, he’s there already?”

She blinked. Something was wrong. Seriously wrong. Her dad didn’t make a sandwich
without asking her opinion. “You’re not thinking about refinancing, are you? You never
even mentioned it.”

“I, uh.” He cleared his throat. “I don’t know how to tell you this, honey.”

His answer scared her. The afternoon sun seemed brighter, hotter, making her skin
feel prickly. A bead of sweat slid down her back. “Just say it.” For some reason,
her voice didn’t sound like her own.

“We…” He trailed off. “No, not we. Me.” He stopped. “This is my fault. I did this.
I lost the house, Al.”

Despite the dry Vegas heat, Allie went cold all over. “What are you talking about?”

Dave tugged on his earlobe and wouldn’t make eye contact.

“I’ll explain it all tonight.” Another drawn-out pause. “I didn’t know how to tell
you.”

She shook her head, gripping the phone like it was a lifeline. “Tell me now. And who
is Trevor Blake?”

“He’s an investor. English guy.” His breath sounded ragged, his voice shaky. “I borrowed
money for the business. But when your mom…” He didn’t finish. He didn’t need to.

Allie staggered backward a few feet until her ass hit the Festiva’s taillight, her
stomach in free fall. She felt a little woozy. “No,” she whispered. “It’s all we have
left.”
Lose
the
house?
They’d already lost so much. “The business will pick up. We just need more time to
pay off this loan. I could get a second jo—”

“No. The business is busted. It’s over. You don’t know how sorry I am.” She heard
his pain, as clear and sharp as her own. “Trevor Blake’s the new owner.”

A thousand thoughts flooded Allie’s brain. How were they going to survive? Where would
they live? How much time did they have before the new owner kicked them out?

No, she couldn’t think about any of that. She needed to fix this. Now.

She gathered herself together and pushed off the car. “Dad, I’ve got to go. We’ll
talk about this tonight.” Without waiting for his reply, she hit the end button and
tossed her hair over her shoulder as she strode back to Dave, shoving her phone into
the pocket of her slacks.

Another day, another freaking crisis. She needed to get rid of this guy before her
youngest sister got home. If Brynn thought they were losing the house—well, Allie
had to make sure that didn’t happen.

“Mr. Buchanan?”

A red-faced Dave looked at her with pity. “Sorry. These things are tough,” he said.
“The economy’s bad for everyone right now.”

God, Allie was so tired of pity. So tired of empty platitudes. She squared her shoulders
and clung to her purse strap with both hands. “This isn’t a bank thing. We’re not
in foreclosure.” Realizing how defensive she sounded, she swallowed and tried for
a softer tone. “Can I see that?” Allie nodded at the clipboard.

“Sure, of course.” Dave handed it over and stared at the Garcia’s house next door.
With its freshly painted exterior and decorative yucca plants, it was the complete
opposite of Allie’s raggedy place with peeling brown paint and a crumbling driveway.

She read through the form, making a few mental notes. “Mr. Buchanan? I need you to
put off this appraisal until tomorrow.” She held out the clipboard.

“Not possible. Look, I’m sorry for your troubles, but I’ve got a job to do.”

All
right, Dave, time to pull out the big guns
. Allie widened her eyes, glanced up at him through her lashes, and took a deep breath.
“Please? Just twenty-four hours, that’s all I’m asking.” She placed a hand on his
forearm and squeezed. “Please, Dave?” she whispered.

He gulped and licked his lips, his eyes darting back and forth. Finally, he let out
a gusty breath. “Okay, what the hell? But I’m coming back tomorrow. And I’m getting
in the house, one way or another.”

Allie smiled. “Thank you.”
Ma’am my ass.

He sniffed and hitched up his jeans before climbing into his truck.

She had bought herself some time, but how was she supposed to get their house back
in twenty-four hours? And what if she couldn’t?

She closed her eyes for a second. Focus. One thing at a time. Groceries first.

Allie made three trips, hauling bags into the house. As she shoved a box of cereal
in the cupboard, she heard the front door slam. “Brynn, is that you?”

She stuck the milk in the fridge and glanced at the kitchen doorway to find her fifteen-year-old
sister propped against the jamb. With a bulging backpack, she looked like a turtle
ready to topple over. Brynnie was pale. And too thin.

“How was your day?” Allie asked.

Brynn studied her thumbnail and shrugged.

“You hungry? I could make you—”

“No, thanks.”

Allie grabbed four potatoes out of the bag and dropped them in the sink. “What about
your geometry test? Did you kick ass and take names?”

Brynn scuffed her toe over the worn, beige linoleum, causing a high-pitched squeak.
“It was easy. Boring.”

“Your art teacher emailed me this morning.” Allie glanced over her shoulder. “She
said you didn’t want to enter your drawing in the art show this year.”

“So?”

“That’s the drawing of Mom, right? The one of her in the hospital.” Their mother had
been beautiful, even if she had lost all her hair and forty pounds. Her frame was
thin, her face gaunt, but her smile was radiant. Brynn had captured that. “Mom was
proud of that picture, Brynn. And your teacher said you could win an award.” Allie
scrubbed at the potatoes and blotted them with a paper towel.

Brynn rolled her eyes. “Who cares about awards? I’m not showing it. Ever. And why’re
you making so many potatoes? Dad will be late and Monica won’t be home.” Digging a
hand in her pocket, she whipped out her phone, her thumbs flying over the keyboard.

“Have you heard from her?” Allie asked.

“Right. Like she talks to me.”

“She skipped school again today.”

Brynn ignored her.

“Did Monica even get on the bus?”

“No.” Brynn paused and glanced up. “One of her stupid friends picked her up at the
bus stop. As usual.”

Fantastic. Banking her anger and frustration, Allie dried her hands on a dish towel.
“We’re having pork chops for dinner tonight.” Pork chops were Brynn’s favorite. That’s
why Allie’d bought them, even though they weren’t on sale. She knew the chances of
Brynn coming out of her room for dinner were almost nonexistent, but she kept trying.

“I’m not hungry. Sometimes…I just wish we could all be together again.” She said it
so quietly, Allie barely caught the words.

“We can be. I’ll text Monica and tempt her with chocolate cake. A family dinner would
be nice.” The cheerful note Allie forced into the words grated on her nerves. She
knew what Brynn meant. But if she thought about it right now, she’d completely fall
apart. And she couldn’t do that in front of her little sister.

“Monica would never pull this crap if Mom were here. I miss her so much.” Brynn pressed
a hand to her abdomen. “I remember how it was before she got sick.”

Allie remembered too. The house had been filled with chatter and laughter and the
smell of her mother’s sweet perfume. But the chatter had been replaced by Monica’s
bitching and Allie’s nagging. Deep lines of stress and worry etched their way across
her dad’s face, and he seemed older than his fifty years. Losing Mom changed everything.
For all of them. And Brynn was right. Monica wouldn’t dare act like this if Mom were
alive. Allie was doing her best, but she made a poor substitute parent. And Monica
resented the hell out of her for it.

Allie glanced away from the pain in her sister’s eyes. “Dinner will be ready soon.
Do you have homework? When is that English essay due?”

“I know what I need to do,” Brynn said. “You don’t have to keep reminding me. I’m
not a six-year-old.”

Allie stepped forward, her hand outstretched to pat Brynn’s shoulder, but her sister
turned and walked out of the kitchen. As Allie’s arm fell, so did the fake smile that
left her cheeks sore.

She wanted to follow Brynn, hold her close, tell her everything would be all right—even
though it was a lie.
Everything
will
be
fine. It gets better. We’ll be okay
. Lies. She said them over and over and felt like a fraud every time.

A hug wouldn’t make Brynn feel better. Wouldn’t bring her mom back. Wouldn’t heal
her family.

Allie glanced at the wooden doorjamb Brynn had been leaning against and the growth
marks her mother had charted. Each sister had a different color. She traced a finger
over her own red marks. This was her family’s history.

Crossing her arms, Allie cast her eyes over the dated kitchen, took in the red-and-white-checkered
curtains and the rooster wall clock. Her mom loved that stupid rooster.

Allie made a promise.
Take
care
of
the
family
. She was supposed to hold everything together, but she was failing. Big time.

Losing the house would be like losing her mom all over again.

She had to talk to this Trevor Blake, make him understand, beg if she had to. Allie
was prepared to do anything to keep the promise she made. She would take care of everyone—starting
with the house. She was going to get it back.

And she wouldn’t take no for an answer.

***

Trevor Blake sat behind his polished desk and stared at the girl—woman, really—who’d
come to plead her father’s case. Her lips were full and pink. Her cheeks were bright
with color. She was flustered, nervous, hand trembling as she repeatedly tucked her
pale hair behind one ear.

Lovely. Although that uniform should be burned. The bright green waistcoat hid a spectacular
pair of breasts.

“So, that’s why we have to keep the house.” She looked at him and waited.

Chin propped on his palm, he stared at her. Truly lovely. He roused himself and straightened
in his seat. “I don’t care, Miss Campbell.”

With wide blue eyes, she stared back. “Excuse me? I don’t understand.”

Trevor placed his elbows on the desk and steepled his fingers. “I said I don’t care.
Not about your problems, not about your house. I don’t care about any of it.”

She blinked a few times. “But my mother died six months ago. We’re still trying to
recover.”

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