17 Jan Last Goodbyes: Chapter 4 in a Short Story Sequence
This short story sequence is a series of deleted scenes of Megan and Justin that didn’t make it into the final book, I Am Girl Power, because it swayed the book to a contemporary romance, and that wasn’t in line with the vision I had for it.
But no reason we can’t do that now!
If you haven’t read the earlier chapters, click here to read chapter 1 or here to read any of the other chapters!
The reason I’ve given the short story sequence to you here is because it’s separate from their story for now—and some future books that I may write for them. Assume that we’re back at Adventura before the summer ends, when the tension between Justin and Meg is at its highest.
I think you’re going to love this side of Justin.
“You literally grew up on the ocean?”
Justin and I stood with our toes buried in sand, staring out at the vast blue expanse as waves crashed in white foam around our ankles. The fresh ocean air brushed across my cheek as I drew in a long, deep breath.
This surpassed everything I could have imagined.
Justin kicked a piece of dried seaweed, his pants rolled up to the middle of his well-shaped calves. His shirt fluttered loose in the wind, making his skin look golden tan.
“Yep. This is home. Since I was seven, anyway. The beach and I are pretty tight.”
I looked at him askance, wondering what happened at seven years old. He seemed like the kind of guy that only gave up info when he was ready, and so I left it to him. We weren’t there yet.
The stretch of beach lay deserted and quiet, with nothing but the gulls overhead. After hours jostling through the plane and airport, the lulling noise soothed me. Behind us stood the back of his grandfather’s beautiful, sprawling estate. Estate—because house didn’t encompass such a building. A wide sweeping porch on the back, accessed by several staircases, led to double doors. A driveway nearly a mile long had brought us here. We hadn’t even gone inside yet.
Justin had come straight here.
“This is paradise, Justin.”
“When my grandpa was alive, definitely. It was a great place to grow up. Lots of adventure.” He pointed to a pier jutting into the waves. “That’s where I learned to swim. Grandpa threw me off the dock when I was nine.” He laughed and the corners of his eyes wrinkled. “He always believed in jumping right into things.”
“Sounds like he really loved you.”
“The feeling was mutual.”
I looked back out over the waves. While the mountains really held my heart, I could appreciate the vast expanse and power of the ocean. The music of the water was continuous. Soothing. So expansive. I hoped my room faced the ocean so I could listen to it all night.
“Thanks.” I pushed the hair out of my face when the wind whipped it into my eyes. “Thanks for letting me come. I know you’re private so it can’t be easy to share this much of yourself.”
He smiled, looking for a moment like the Justin I first met. “Thanks for coming, girl power. It’s nice to have someone along. I’ll tell you my story one day, I promise.”
I shrugged and meant to wave it off, but the sound of someone calling from the back porch drew my attention. A slender woman waved, hair tousled in the wind. Justin grinned with affectionate warmth.
“That is Rebecca. She runs the estate.” He put a hand on my shoulder and turned me toward the house. The warmth of his touch penetrated all the way to my bone. “We better go see her or she’ll get upset. Trust me. You don’t want to get Rebecca upset. I spent most of my childhood dodging her wrath.”
We followed a rough path through the sand and into a garden filled with trellises and marble sculptures. It could have been a wedding event rental for celebrities for all I knew. Groundskeepers clearly cared for the elaborate place, where benches and arbors and greenery abounded—sandy shore notwithstanding. The scent of honeysuckle mixed with the ocean floated by.
How had Justin ever left?
Rebecca rushed toward us down a flight of stairs, grayish blonde hair trailing out behind her. She wore a pressed pant suit with a lovely pearl broach. The faint curl at the edge of her shoulder length hair looked classy and elegant. I pegged her for her early sixties by the laugh lines around her hazel eyes, which, at the moment, appeared severe and concerned.
“Justin!” Her heels clacked as she walked toward us down a circular path. “Get over here.”
They embraced for several long moments, so I stood back, eyes averted. Her hawk-like gaze narrowed on me instantly from over his shoulder.
“And who are you?” she drawled.
Justin turned around, put a hand on the small of my back, and gently pushed me forward.
“Rebecca, meet my friend Megan. Megan, this is Rebecca.”
“Girlfriend?” she asked.
I almost choked.
“Nice to meet you,” I said. “It’s a pleasure to visit.”
Her head tilted back so she literally looked down her nose at me. “I’m sure it is. How long have you been waiting to see Justin’s wealth?”
“Stand down, Rebecca.”
The ice in her eyes intensified. I swallowed back my annoyance. Her immediately judgment irked me. I didn’t even know he was wealthy.
Justin stepped closer to me, his hand back on my shoulder and burning a hole right through it. “Megan is JJ and Mark’s little sister,” he drawled.
As if an Amazonian air current had just swept through the arctic tundra of her disapproval, Rebecca’s coldness dissipated in an instant. A bright smile illuminated her face. She melted like hot butter.
“The twins?” she cried. “Oh, how could I forget? Of course, I see it now. You have both of them in you. That JJ still owes me a date . . . or seven. Oh, how are they? They haven’t come back to visit me.”
“They’ve their hands full with the summer camp.”
Rebecca took my hand in hers with a warm smile. “I’m so glad you came, Megan. Your brothers have said a lot about you with all their stories. All good things, of course.” She sent a glare to Justin. “Why didn’t you tell me earlier who she was? I would never have behaved in such a way.”
She put her arms around my shoulders.
“Do forgive my greeting,” she said, as affably as she steered me toward the house. “We’ve had a few fortune hunters slip through here, what with how much money this estate is worth and all. I just want the best for Justin. I’m sure you understand.”
“I understand completely.”
“Good. Come inside, both of you. I have some refreshments awaiting, and the rooms all prepped and ready. James put your luggage in the hallway. I’m sure you’re both famished. Everyone is clamoring to see you again, Justin, so be prepared. Megan, follow me. I’ll take you to your rooms.”
Chapter 5 of this short story sequence is coming at you in February. Click here to go to the short story index for more goodness.
If you need more of the Health and Happiness Society ladies, sink in to any book in the collection here!