Chapter One

Carina

I still couldn’t believe I was doing this.

But here goes nothing, I kept thinking, all during my trip out here.

I left Manhattan on a gray snowy day and arrived in L.A. where there were blue skies and ninety-degree weather. Traveling was weird that way. And deep down I was hoping that the change in weather was a good sign, like a sign that every part of the next two days would go perfectly.

High school reunions were tough. Especially when you were bullied in school as much as I was. But I had a plan to instantly boost my reputation and get back at those mean girls from high school, and I was pretty sure it was going to work.

I hoped it was going to work, anyway.

Butterflies were in my stomach as I looked out the window at LAX.

Over the years, growing up here, I had grown tired of it. I know, right? You’d think the place where they make movies and celebrities grow on trees would be interesting, but really, Los Angeles can be dull.

You get used to the nice weather and famous people are just actors. Sure, some of them have millions of dollars, but lots of people do. They’re no different than you or me.

At the end of the day, it was all about who you were surrounded by. Sure, I had a few good friends growing up, but I didn’t fit in with all the beautiful L.A. people.

So, I left, telling myself that I wanted something a little more exciting.

Going to college in Manhattan, I learned to love New York. Once I got my teaching degree, I slid right into a teaching position at a private school. For the first year, it was a blast. By the end of the second year, I started to burnout.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love teaching, but the hectic intensity began to wear me down. Plus, after six winters in New York City, I was tired of sloshing through snow.

Needless to say, when my high school reunion came up, I jumped at the chance to get out of town for a few days. Vicky, my best friend from high school, offered up a room at her place for the first night of my stay and I couldn’t say no. There was just one problem.

Since I hadn’t been very popular in high school, attending the reunion was going to be a big deal to me. I wanted to show all the mean girls and bullies that I had made a life for myself, but other than having a successful carrier, I hadn’t.

Not a single man had come into my life in years. Somewhere along the way — after tons of awful dates — I had given up on relationships. But going to my reunion alone was not an option. That was why I had a plan.

The moment I stepped out of LAX, the California sun was like a welcomed hug from an old friend. I hopped into my Uber and headed to Vicky’s place. My Uber driver was chatty, but he was a local, so I didn’t mind.

“Hey, I’m Carlos,” he greeted. “What brings you to town, Carina?”

“High school reunion,” I told him. “Ten years.”

“Aw, those are fun,” he smiled. “I just had mine a few years back. It was so much fun catching up with the old gang.” He looked a bit dreamy eyed for a minute, but then shook himself and glanced at me through the rearview mirror. “Where are you coming from?”

“Manhattan. I missed the sun,” I said, looking out the window and watching the palm trees zip by.

Carlos nodded. “There’s nothing like it. Once you get used to all this sun, it’s hard to stay away.”

We pulled into Vicky’s neighborhood. She and her husband, Jim, had just moved into this place last summer and I had never been here before. The houses were massive.

Well, for L.A., they were massive. It was so expensive to live here already. A regular two bedroom could be a million dollars, depending on the location.

A mini-mansion like Vicky’s? Well, it was safe to say that her husband’s law firm was doing well.

Carlos pulled up into the driveway of a Spanish style home with creamy white walls and red tiles on the roof. There was a fountain in the middle of the driveway’s loop. Between that and the landscaping, the place looked like a photo out of a magazine.

Vicky, with her toddler, James, in her arms, rushed out the door to greet me.

We hadn’t seen each other since James was born, but Vicky still looked the same. I had always been envious of her red hair and big brown eyes. They were bright and pretty, not like my dull brown hair and normal blue eyes.

Unlike me, Vicky was beautiful. The only thing that kept her from being a model when we were younger was that her nose was a bit too big.


Tags: Jamie Knight Romance
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