So, this was a major time of transition for me. At twenty-four, I was single again and starting a new life in Newport for the summer. My teaching job in Providence afforded me summers off. My hope was to find a temporary job for the season, but for now, I just wanted to enjoy a few weeks of relaxation.
My day would start with coffee on the upper deck that overlooked Easton’s Beach. Listening to the seagulls, I would peruse Facebook, read my In Style magazine or simply meditate. I’d then soak in the tub upstairs for as long as I pleased before getting dressed and starting my day, and by that I mean curling up on the couch with my book.
By mid-afternoon, I’d make lunch and bring it back out to the upper deck. Before nightfall, I would drive down to Thames Street in Newport and browse the shops, looking at blown glass, trinkets and nautical artwork. Then, I’d stop for gelato or coffee.
The day typically winded down with a trip down to the dock for some freshly-caught lobster or quahogs. I’d take them home in a bag and steam them in a pot outside in the yard. Then, I’d sit down to dinner with a bottle of chilled white wine while enjoying the sunset over the Atlantic.
This was the life.
My routine stayed the same every single day for a couple of weeks until my rude awakening hit.
Returning from downtown Newport with my bag of crustaceans one night, I noticed that the front door to the house was wide open. Did I forget to lock it? Was it the wind?
My heartbeat accelerated when I entered the kitchen to find a tall, leggy chick with short, cropped platinum blonde hair. She looked like a young Mia Farrow and was stocking the cabinets.
I cleared my throat. “Hello?”
She turned around before covering her chest. “Oh my God. You scared me.” Walking over to me smiling, she held out her hand. “I’m Jade.”
With fine features, high cheekbones and that pixie cut, Jade could have been a model. I was the complete opposite from her physically with my long, dark hair and curvy figure.
“I’m Amelia. Who are you?”
“I’m Justin’s girlfriend.”
My stomach sank. “Oh…I see. Where is he?”
“He just went to the market and the liquor store.”
“How long have you been here?”
“We just arrived about an hour ago.”
“How long are you staying?”
“Not sure really. We’re just gonna see where the summer takes us. Neither of us were expecting this development…you know, the house.”
“Yeah…I know.” I looked down at the French-manicured toes peeking out of her heels. “Do you work?”
“I’m an actress, actually…on Broadway. Well, off Broadway for now. I’m in between jobs, but I’ll probably be going back and forth to New York for auditions. What do you do?”
“I’m a middle school teacher. So, I get the summers off.”
“Oh, that’s really cool.”
“Yeah. It’s fun. Where does Justin work?”
“He works from home right now. He sells software. He can work from anywhere. He also performs. You know he’s a musician, right?”
“Actually, I don’t know much about him anymore.”
“What happened between you two anyway? If you don’t mind my asking…”
“He’s never told you anything about me?”
“Just that you grew up together and that you’re Mrs. H.’s granddaughter. Honestly, he never mentioned you at all until we got that letter from the attorney.”
Even though that was expected, it made me sad. “That’s no surprise.”
“Why do you say that?”
“It’s kind of a long story.”
“Did you guys ever date?”
“No. It was nothing like that. We were just good friends, but we drifted apart after I moved away.”
“I see. This whole thing is a little weird, right? I mean, inheriting a house like this out of nowhere?”
“Well, my grandmother was very generous, and she loved Justin very much. My mother is her only child, and Nana loved Justin like a son, so…”
“Your grandmother left the house to you and not your mother?”
“Mom and Nana had a bit of a falling out some years ago. Thankfully, they made amends before she died, but things were never really the same again.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
Jade opened her arms to pull me into a casual hug. “Well, I really hope we can be friends. It will be nice to have a girl around to shop with, check out the island.”
“Yeah. That’d be nice.”
“I hope you’ll have dinner with us tonight?”
I wasn’t ready to face him. I needed to make up a story and get out of here.
“Actually, probably not tonight. I’d better be leaving—”
“That’s what you’re good at, isn’t it?” a deep voice I hardly recognized interrupted me from behind.
“What’s that?” I asked, swallowing nervously and refusing to turn around to look at him.
“Leaving,” he said louder. “That’s what you’re good at.”
My breathing was ragged, but it was when I turned around that I nearly lost it.
Justin was standing in front of me, and I swear it was like the boy I’d left behind had been swallowed up by a lean mass of muscle. He just looked so different from what I remembered nine years ago. The anger on his face was transparent and somehow made him even more incredibly hot. It just would have been better if it weren’t directed toward me.
His skin was a beautiful shade of bronze that complemented the natural golden streaks in his dark blond hair. The smooth face I remembered was now rough and unshaven. A rope and barb wire tattoo wrapped around his bicep. He was wearing camouflage cargo shorts with a tight white ribbed tank that hugged his chiseled chest.
An indeterminate amount of time passed as I just took him in. Even though I was too stunned to say anything, my heart was screaming. I knew deep down my reaction wasn’t just because of my physical attraction to him. It was because despite all of the changes, one thing had stayed exactly the same. His eyes. They reflected the same hurt that I remembered from the very last time I saw him.
His name finally managed to roll off my tongue. “Justin…”
“Amelia.” The deep, throaty sound of his voice vibrated through me.
“I wasn’t sure if you were ever going to show up.”
“Why wouldn’t I have?” he sneered.
“Well, I thought maybe you were avoiding me.”
“You’ve overestimated your significance to me. Of course, I was going to come. This is half my house.”
His words stung. “I didn’t say it wasn’t. It’s just…I hadn’t heard anything from you.”
“Interesting how that goes.”
Clearly uncomfortable with our sparring, Jade cleared her throat. “I was just asking Amelia if she wanted to have dinner with us tonight. Maybe you guys can catch up.”
“Apparently, she already has plans.”
I turned to him. “Why do you say that?”
“Oh, I don’t know…because you’re holding a bag that smells like dirty snatch?”
“It’s fresh seafood.”
“Doesn’t smell very fresh to me.”
“God. We haven’t seen each other in nine years, and this is how you act?” I turned to Jade. “Is he always this rude?”