Authors: Brooke St. James
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.
Table of Contents
Other titles available from Brooke St. James:
A Modern-Day Ruth and Boaz Story
When Lightning Strikes
Something of a Storm
(All in Good Time #1)
(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)
(Hunt Family #3)
Back to the Beach
(Hunt Family #4)
Evan Hunt left North Carolina the week after he graduated high school and had been a bit of a gypsy ever since. He had always been the risk-taker of the family. He was the kid who would do a backflip into the pond when everyone else was doing toothpicks and can-openers—the one who took all the dares. Evan loved a challenge, and he sought adventure. He was a thrill-seeker of thrill-seekers.
These natural tendencies, combined with his passion for the environment, had kept him busy as an activist in recent years. He completed two years of college in France but decided to go to work for the EOC before finishing his degree. The EOC was a world wide environmental group whose mission was to fight poachers, polluters, and other environmental offenders. Evan was traveling the world and doing his best to make it a better place.
He really thought his life was on track—that he was doing what he was meant to do, which was why he was shocked when his parents confronted him. He had flown from Thailand to be with his family on their annual vacation in Myrtle Beach, and on the morning of the last day of the trip, his dad gave him a stern talking-to about finances, retirement, and other long-term things Evan rarely considered.
His normally non-confrontational mother was in on it, too. She smiled at him like the facial expression could make the intervention less awkward.
"What your Dad's trying to say, baby, is that thirty will be here before you know it. Then forty, and fifty, and so on—all before you know it."
"I know how old I am, Mom." Evan said, feeling defensive and blindsided by the unexpected conversation. "You two are acting like the EOC doesn't pay me."
"They don't pay you enough," Dan said.
"How do you know?" Evan asked, still feeling defensive.
"Because you don't have health insurance. And because your mother and I bought your plane ticket to get home, Evan."
to buy it," Evan said. He could feel blood rise to his face, and he took a deep breath, telling himself this would be over in a minute.
"We offered, just like we do every year, because we knew you needed us to."
"Okay," Evan said. "Is that what this is about?" He lifted his hands and shrugged. "I'll just pay for my own ticket home from now on—either that or I won't come."
Christy backhanded Dan's shoulder when Evan added that last part. "Let's not get—honey, I told you this was a bad idea." She paused and looked at Evan with a pleading expression. "It's not about the plane ticket, baby. It has nothing to do with that. Your dad and I will pay for you to come on vacation with us for the rest of our lives if you need it. We just wanted to talk to you ab—"
it," Evan said, trying his best not to be angry and hurt.
"You're not focusing on the right part of what we're saying, Evan," Dan said. "We know the EOC pays you. We're not accusing you of not being independent or not being a hard worker. We know that you're perfectly capable of making it on your own—you've been out from under our roof for long enough that we know you can take care of yourself."
"So what's this about?" he asked.
"It's about planning, son. You're not gonna feel like chasing down poachers for the rest of your life. You're gonna need some sort of plan."
"Maybe chasing poachers is my plan," he said, staring at his dad in what he hoped was a reasonable, man-to-man way that didn't reflect his full frustration.
"What if you want to meet someone and have a family, Evan? What are you gonna do for insurance and retirement?"
"I'm not coming to work at the quarry, if that's what you're asking," Evan said.
Dan put his hands up in surrender. "And I'm not asking you to," he said. "I'm not trying to get you to do anything you don't want to do, Evan. Believe me, I've been your dad long enough to know that's a lost cause. I just want to officially remind you that life is shorter than you think, and before you know it, you'll be wishing you'd been more strategic when you were younger."
"It's not all about money for me, Dad."
"And we're glad it's not, honey," Christy said. "That's one of the most beautiful things about you."
"Unfortunately, you need money to buy food and clothes," Dan added practically, which drew a displeased glance from Christy.
The three of them had been sitting on the back deck of the family beach house, but at this point in the conversation, they heard Cody's little girl, Ryan, coming up the stairs. Most of the other family members were down at the beach, but obviously Ryan needed to come to the house for something.
Evan and his parents discontinued their conversation when they heard Ryan's voice and watched as the little girl walked onto the deck followed by Evan's sister, Mia, and her new boyfriend, Nico. Ryan was Evan's niece, but she belonged to his brother, Cody, who was nowhere in sight.
"Why didn't you come to the beach yet?" Ryan asked as she crossed to Evan.
Evan smiled at her and reached out to mess up her wet hair. "Memaw and Pops wanted to talk to me for a minute, but we're done, peanut. I was on my way down there to meet you guys."
"What did Memaw and Pops want to talk to you about?" Ryan asked, not knowing any better.
"About getting a job," Evan said, honestly.
Ryan giggled, but it was obvious that she didn't really know what was funny.
"Like a desk job?" Mia asked in a disbelieving way that made it obvious she believed her brother wasn't suited for such a thing.
"Retirement, and whatnot," Evan said, shrugging at his sister in a knowing way.
Nico reached out and pinched Mia on the arm. "I'll take Ryan inside," he said.
"I have to go number two," Ryan said, explaining to Evan why she had to leave. He smiled at her and scratched her head again as she took off with Nico.
"When it comes down to it I know they're right," Evan said, smiling at Mia as the other two went inside. "I know I won't be able to maintain this lifestyle forever." He sighed. "It just sucks to have someone bring it up to you."
"That's what parent's are for," Dan said, dryly. "We do all the sucky jobs."
"They just don't want to pay for my plane tickets anymore," Evan said, since he couldn’t resist teasing his mom.
"That's not true, Evan Michael, and you know it," Christy said, causing Evan and Mia to share a smile.
"Nico's dad has that clothing line," Mia said. "I always thought you'd be perfect for one of their ads. I could come up with some marketing ideas and try to get you a job modeling if you want to give that a shot."
"Oh, you're dating Nico for one day, and already you have pull at Square Root?"
"I'm not saying I have pull, but it's a little bit of a foot in the door that we know the founder and CEO. I think that's a pretty good idea if you're trying to make some money." Mia looked at Evan with a serious expression. "I've already considered the idea of you doing an ad campaign for Square Root before anything ever happened between Nico and me. From a marketing standpoint, you'd be perfect for them. They'd have to be blind not to hire you."
"I have no idea how to model," Evan said.
"Oh, please, you big ham," Mia said, pushing at her brother's shoulder.
"I was thinking more along the lines of koi ponds," Dan said.
"Modeling for koi ponds?" Evan asked, even though he knew his dad was referring to building them.
They were rock specialist, after all, and it wasn't the first time Dan had mentioned that part of the family business being a good fit for Evan. The Hunts owned both a rock quarry and a thriving stonemasonry business. Dan thought koi ponds and other outdoor water features might appeal to Evan, and they did, just not in a
I want to build them
sort of way. It wasn't that he was opposed to manual labor—because Evan definitely didn't mind getting his hands dirty; stonemasonry just didn't appeal to him like it did the rest of his family. He thought of abandoning the work he was doing at the EOC, and cringed at the feeling of selling out that hit him.
"No one said you had to come to work at the business," his mom said when she saw him flinch. She looked at Mia. "Dad and I were just touching base with him on his long-term plans."
"Of which I do not have any," Evan added dryly.
"Evan will be fine," Mia said, sounding fully convinced and wearing a big smile. "He'll finish his work saving the world, and then he'll figure out what comes after that."
A feeling of dread hit Evan at her statement because there would never be an
. Evan's environmental work would never be done. There would always be some injustice waiting to be stopped. He stared straight ahead, wondering what would come next for him. His parents were right. The EOC was only able to pay him enough to survive. He certainly wasn't working there for the money.
What would he do when he finally didn't feel like living out of a suitcase anymore? Would that time ever come? What if he did meet someone? Would he settle for building koi ponds with his dad and brother for the rest of his life?
During his many hours at sea, Evan had thought about his future, but in his mind, he would work with the EOC until he was too old. Somewhere in his fantasy, he ended up as an old man who had married some hot, foreign woman and retired owning a restaurant—not because he loved to cook or anything—he could just see himself as a restaurant owner. Maybe it was because he liked the idea of being able to eat at his own restaurant anytime he wanted. Maybe it was because his cousin, Logan, had always mentioned retiring with some restaurants to his name when he got tired of acting because he thought it would be a good family business. Either way, this random restaurant thought was the only sort of long-term thing Evan had ever even considered.
He smiled at himself, knowing there was no way he was going to state that ridiculous fantasy to his parents. They would only have to ask a few questions to find out that it was not properly thought-out. His plan was more of a distant daydream, so he would just stick with them thinking he didn't have a plan at all.
"I'm glad you have faith in me," Evan said to his sister for taking up for him.
"Of course I believe in you," she said.
"Who wouldn't?" Christy added with a loving smile aimed at her son.
Mia poked at her brother's arm. "I know it's probably against some sort of hippy moral code to become a model, but I really think I could get your foot in the door if you decide to look for some work." The last part of her statement came out rushed and in hushed tones because Nico and Ryan had opened the sliding glass door and were coming onto the deck.
"My tummy feels
better," Ryan stated when she came onto the deck.
Nico looked at Mia with wide eyes that said he wasn't sure if he had succeeded in his mission to take a five-year-old to the bathroom. "I just waited for her in the kitchen," he said. "I assumed she was fine by herself."
fine," Ryan said. "I know how to wipe myself at school. Plus, I didn't have anything on there anyway."
"Ryan, a lady keeps that information to herself," Christy said.
The little girl nodded at her grandmother before saying, "Okay, so let's go back to the beach," to Mia and Nico. "Are you coming, Uncle Evan?" she asked.
Evan knew Nico would be flying back to L.A. soon, so if he was going to talk to him, he needed to do it now. "I am, but can Memaw take you down there while I talk to Nico and Mia for a second?"
"You need to talk to Nico?" Ryan asked, staring up at her escort with concern.
"Just for a minute," Evan said. "Memaw and Pop will bring you to the beach."
"I'm not leaving your sister alone, if that's what you're gonna say," Nico said, out of the blue.
Evan couldn't help but let out a laugh at the irony of his situation. The day before, he had been trying his best to keep Nico away from his sister for fear that he would break her heart. But today, he was not only in support of them getting together, he now also needed to ask a favor of Nico. Oh, the difference a day makes.
"It's not about Mia," Evan said, regarding Nico with a smile. He had already called a truce with the man about pursuing his sister and had even apologized for his behavior in trying to keep them apart, but asking for a favor on top of all that took a level of humility that Evan wasn't accustomed to displaying.
Christy and Dan took their cue, and went with Ryan down the stairs in the direction of the beach. Evan stood up and pushed his chair under the table so he could stand near Nico and speak to him eye-to-eye. "I might be looking for some work in the not-so-distant future, and Mia mentioned my look being a good fit for your dad's clothing line." He smiled and lifted a hand casually. "I know it's a long-shot and it hasn't been thought out much at all, but I guess I just wanted to let you know it was something I'd be interested in discussing with you."