Last Goodbyes Chapter 10
This short story sequence is a series of several deleted scenes that didn't make it into the final version of I am Girl Power because it leaned into Contemporary Romance and wasn't exactly in line with the vision I had for Megan.
But there's no reason we can't explore that now!
If you haven't read Chapter 1, click here to start at the beginning!
Click here to read the other chapters!
California, Nevada, and Utah passed by in a blur of conversation, jerky sticks, empty water bottles, and Justin laughing over me sticking my feet out the window.
The sun warmed my skin, and I dozed on and off to the sound of Justin humming along with an O.A.R. song and drumming on the steering wheel, his now longish hair flapping in the wind. I could have stayed in that Jeep with him forever.
Gravel ground beneath the tires as we turned off the worn dirt road and sped past Adventura's welcome sign. I couldn’t wait to get out of this confined space. It felt like years since I’d moved my body—even though it had just been days.
"Home sweet home," Justin said.
Adventura unfolded in front of us, and I felt a sense of relief. The sound of kids laughing came from the background. I thought I heard Mark yell as I stepped out of the Jeep and drew in a refreshing breath of air. The familiar spread of trees and backdrop of rugged peaks and valleys eased a prickle in my heart. My soul belonged to these mountains, regardless of other earthly majesties like the ocean.
"I can't wait to go for a run,” I said.
"I can't wait to see my dog," Justin countered as he climbed free. He whistled, high and fast, in a quick staccato fashion.
"JJ," Mark cried from the main office as we approached. "Justin is whistling for you."
“Are you calling me a dog?”
Ten seconds later, a familiar black dog loped out of the trees, headed right for us. Justin dropped to his knees and embraced his loyal canine, Atticus who whined quietly with every breath at the happy reunion. He kissed Justin's face repeatedly, as if he couldn’t get close enough.
"Good boy," Justin crooned, grinning from ear to ear as he rubbed Atticus down with an affectionate hand. "You're a good boy, Atty. It's boring at home without you chasing driftwood on the beach. Yes, it is."
JJ and Mark appeared out of the office at the same time. They nearly knocked me down with a hug that would have taken down a brick wall. I hadn't been gone very long, but it felt good to be back.
"Uncle!" I cried when they pinned me to the dirt. "Good grief. You can't attack after a twenty hour car ride!"
Mark grabbed my hand and yanked me off the ground, pulling me up so fast it made me dizzy.
"Adventura almost burned to the ground in your absence, Justin," JJ said, hands tucked into his pocket. "So thanks for leaving."
I laughed, but stopped when I saw the serious expression on their faces. "Wait." I glanced between them when Mark glared at me. "You're serious?"
“Yeah.” Mark’s eyes widened. “Preeetty intense. Enough about us. How did things go with the funeral and everything?"
"Good," Justin said. "Smooth."
He left it at that.
Good? Smooth? I wanted to counter. That's it?
We had just stayed for days at a sprawling estate with a private beach and a staff. I could have rambled about the mansion alone for days, not to mention the ocean-view runs and Justin's strange father. But I took cues from his silence and smiled instead. JJ sent me a questioning look but I shook my head.
"Great," Mark said, satisfied with the lacking details. He motioned to the Jeep with a smile. "Glad to see you got the Jeep!”
“It’s all that mattered."
Atticus came to my side and pawed at me. I crouched down and gave him a good face rub.
“Meg, I’ll help you grab your stuff.” Justin motioned back to the Jeep with a nod. “Do you want me to bring it to your cabin?”
“Oh, I can grab it.”
“I’ll come. Then I’ll grab my radio and get back at it,” he said to Mark, who was already distracted by a group of campers that, supposedly, had fireworks. JJ waved Justin and me off.
“Take your time. Nothing happening right now.”
Justin was quiet as we walked back to the Jeep, gaze on the ground and deep in thought. The scent of evergreen filled my nose, so I plotted out a trail run. When he opened the back of the Jeep and then stopped, I didn’t notice the weird silence at first. Then I felt him staring at me.
I glanced up and blinked.
Justin bit his bottom lip, his gaze on mine. Then he let out a long breath.
“Thanks, Meg, for coming.”
I grinned. “Anytime.”
“Really. I . . .” He held his breath, then let it all out. “I would have been fine, but having you there made all the difference. So I appreciate that. Thank you.”
His voice wobbled a bit, like he was nervous. He ran a hand through his hair. For some reason, we just stood there and I wondered if he was waiting for something. Should I just grab my bag? Say something?
“Thanks for having me,” I finally managed. “It was so fun to—”
He grabbed my arm, yanked me against his chest, and pressed our lips together. My breath caught. My heart hiccuped. For a second, I swam in a sense of denial, but this his lips opened to mind and I lost all thought. All ability. The only thing I could think of was the feeling of his arms around me and his lips over mine.
When he pulled away, I wanted to chase him. Instead, I slowly opened my eyes and froze. For an interminable amount of time, we just stared at each other. Then he grinned. His eyes crinkled. It was the first bright thing I’d seen in him in days.
His fingers reached up to touch my face.
“I hope that was okay,” he murmured. “I wanted to do that all weekend.”
“Me too,” I whispered.
His lips met mine more intensely, melting any previous strength I had. I fell into him, grateful to end the tightening tension in my chest with such a shattering kiss.
I didn’t know where this left us. Nor did I have any idea what it meant. But I knew that it felt good. That Justin felt for me what I felt for him.
And that that was the best first kiss of my life.