Katelyn joined the Biggin Hill First Aid Squad when she turned sixteen. She'd taken a year off between high school and college and now she was headed for Penn State. Chelsea wrote her letter of recommendation with mixed feelings. Katelyn had become one of her most reliable EMT's. She didn't enjoy seeing her go, but she understood the need to get out of your hometown.
Chelsea had been glad to move away for those four years.
Voices murmured around her. Most people met friends here. A lot of the town dispersed the current gossip from this very store. She reflected that she'd never been the giver or receiver of the town news. Not having a large circle of friends, she'd never met them here either.
Once in awhile she'd curl up in an overstuffed chair by the window and read a book.
She sighed, once again envying the ease with which Brad could make friends. Morgan, too, but her ability had to do with her eagerness to spread her legs.
Chelsea dropped some tip money into the jar on the counter.
“You don't have to do that Chief," Katelyn said.
“Of course I do."
The young girl shook her head, reaching into the jar. “That letter you wrote got me into school despite the year I took off."
Chelsea backed up. “I only said the truth. Keep the tip."
She strode away from the counter before the young girl could argue.
She stepped around piles of books that didn't fit on the already full shelves. The children's section sat in the back of the small bookstore. Several people greeted her as she went by. Some just gave her a strange, knowing look. As if they held a secret they wanted to tell her. The hair on the back of her neck rose, but in a small town bookstore, she couldn't see any threat.
Maybe not a threat, but a feeling. Anticipation. She shook off the idea. He lived far away in Ohio.
One of the booksellers read a story to a bevy of eager youngsters. The sight made Chelsea smile.
The book Max wanted wasn't one about that boy wizard, but along the same lines. Chelsea rifled through it checking for content before she bought. Satisfied, she tucked the book under her arm. Now for her requisite romance. Why her rational self would enjoy those, she didn't know, but she did. Maybe she took heart in the fact that someone somewhere could look forward to having a happy ending.
Then she turned and the sight in the reference section took away her breath.
So much for him being in Ohio. He stood mere feet from her looking better than he deserved to.
He'd filled out since the last time she'd seen him a decade ago. Her lips went dry and her heart pounded in her chest. She'd have never guessed he could do this to her.
She'd taken lovers since him, but nothing serious. Nothing had matched their passion. Stone Feeney occupied her life awhile and even though she cared about him, she didn't love him.
Jake's dark hair slicked back from his face as if he'd just taken a shower. He studied a book on home repair, his lips pursed in the way he always did when trying to solve a problem. His hand in the air, his fingers moved along a phantom keyboard. The familiar movement mesmerized her for a moment.
A shiver went down her spine remembering what those fingers could do to her. He'd played her like a fine musical instrument.
She shook off the unwelcome trip down memory lane.
Several people watched her from the aisle next to the one Jake occupied. They wanted to see fireworks.
There wouldn't be any today.
Skirting around where he stood, Chelsea paid for her book and left before he noticed. Her heart thudded. Her knees quaked.
What was he doing back?
Did he have anything to do with that fire? It must be a coincidence. Had to be.
Her gaze went to her white knuckles, her fingers clutching the book like a life line. She relaxed each finger one by one then with a steadying breath, walked to her car.
She could not let Jake Campbell ruin her day.
“Gang way," Chelsea yelled and executed a very splashy cannonball next to her brother.
She came up again at the other side of the in-ground pool. Brad blinked and brandished a fist in her direction. She stuck her tongue out at him.
Max James splashed his uncle and Chelsea laughed. He'd taken Brad by surprise. Pride washed over her. The large man stood sputtering in the middle of the pool.
She gave her son a high five. “Way to go, Max."
Brad's lip sprouted into a pout. “No fair. I'm outnumbered."
Chelsea snorted and waved away his statement. “You outweigh us both combined."
Max nodded in agreement.
A grin replaced the pout. “You're right."
Brad lunged for both of them, but they avoided him by going in different directions.
“I'm going for something to drink," Max said and climbed out of the pool.
He dried himself off and for probably the thousandth time that year, she mused at how much he'd grown. Not just physically, but he'd gained confidence and poise. Things she'd never had at that age.
She swam toward Brad who lounged against the side of the pool soaking in the sun. He'd gotten slightly darker skin from their genes than she did. While he browned, she burned.
Should she really ask? She bit her lip. “I heard a rumor," she began when she reached her brother.
He opened one eye to look down at her. “What?"
Her hand twirled her braid around her finger. Her next statement would open a can of worms. “I heard that house fire was set."
He closed his eyes again, nodding. “It was. The arson team arrived before my crew left this morning."
Floating on her back, she passed in front of him. He splashed her and she did it back to him.
“Truce?" She held up her hands.