Last Goodbyes Chapter 5

 

This short story sequence is a series of several deleted scenes that didn’t make it into I am Girl Power because it wasn’t exactly in line with the vision I had for Megan’s installment of The Health and Happiness Society.

But there’s no reason we can’t take a leap into the world of Contemporary Romance now!

If you haven’t caught up, click here to go to the short story index where all the chapters are available to read!

The reason I’ve given the short story sequence to you here is because it’s separate from their actual 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 hope you love this side of Justin and Megan as much as I do.

 

Chapter 5

A blanket of fluff surrounded me the next morning.

Bands of sunlight streamed into the room where I stayed on Justin’s estate. Rebecca had given me a room with a private bathroom and a sitting area. A stained, elegant oak table sat in the middle of it, with a burnished tea set on the sideboard. The walls were a pearlescent cream. Just beyond the balcony whispered the ocean. 

The windows remained open all night, leaving the sheer drapes to trail into the room on the cusp of a breeze.

Would I break this place if I breathed too loudly? I recalled the loud chaos of life with the twins growing up. Had it been this sterile and perfect for Justin? 

“Miss Megan?” Rebecca called through the door. She tapped with her knuckle. “Are you awake?”

“Yes.” I sat up amongst a maze of pillows and a down comforter. “I’m up.”

Rebecca bustled into the room wearing a navy blue pencil skirt, heels, and a pristine white shirt freshly pressed. “Good morning. It’s so fun to have a new visitor. Are you hungry? The kitchen just finished breakfast.”

“That sounds wonderful.”

She stopped at the end of my bed and smiled. “Great. I’ll tell Justin to expect you. Just head down the main stairs and take a left. Follow your nose.” Her voice and expression dropped. “After breakfast we’ll prepare for the memorial service. It will be a small, simple affair out on the beach. Randolph was a quiet kind of man. Anyway, wear whatever black dress you brought.”

“Randolph is Justin’s grandfather?”

“Yes. I’ll see you downstairs in a few minutes.” Despite her kind demeanor, there was an undercurrent of expectation in her words. She reminded me of Bitsy. Clearly, Rebecca was a woman used to getting her way. I fell back onto the soft covers with a sigh.

It would be an interesting day.

* * *

Twenty minutes later, I slipped down a curving staircase, utterly lost. My favorite black dress brushed at the back of my knees. The tips of my hair brushed my shoulders as I walked. It had been awhile since I’d worn my hair in anything except a braid. It felt good to get dressed up again, even if mascara made my eyelashes feel heavy.

Had Justin seen me as anything but grunge?

“Wow,” Rebecca called, her shoes tapping as she approached. “Thank you for being exactly on time, Miss Megan. I hate waiting.”

“Uh . . . thanks. Is this dress—“

“Perfect. Classy and appropriate, though understated. Justin is waiting for you in the breakfast nook. He didn’t want to eat before you.”

She escorted me into a warm room decorated with antique china plates and old tea saucers. Sunlight bounced off light yellow walls. Breakfast steamed from a side table, filling the air with the smell of sausage and eggs. The silverware sparkled a bright silver as I passed a gracefully folded swan napkin when I walked inside. 

When was the last time I’d eaten in such a formal setting? 

Never. Probably never. 

I ran through all the etiquette rules Mom had tried to drill into our heads over family dinner, certain that three forks weren’t usually required for breakfast.

Justin stood at the open window, one hand tucked into the pocket of a pair of dress pants. The top button of his white shirt remained undone. His hair was wind tossed and pants rolled up, as if he’d just come in from a walk on the beach. 

The juxtaposition of his easy personality against this rigid elegance made me wonder what he thought of all this. While a small part of me thrilled to the luxury and shining beauty, I longed for the ease of braided hair and trail runs.

Justin turned to me with a warm smile.

“Sleep okay?”

“Wonderful, thanks. How are you?”

He managed a slight smile. “Ready to get this day over with.” His eyes drifted down to my feet and back up with an admiration that made my stomach flip. “You look beautiful.”

“Thanks. It’s just a simple black dress. I hadn’t really packed anything classy for a few months in the mountains.”

“Everything you wear is classy.”

I laughed. “Right. I’m sure a hair band and yoga pants is just what your grandfather would want at his funeral.”

Justin’s expression eased into a real smile this time. “He would, actually. Simple or not, you make that dress look very elegant,” He grabbed a plate and tossed it to me. “Grab some food that you didn’t have to plan, prepare, or organize, girl power. Let’s eat outside. I can’t handle all this silverware.”

I caught the plate with a grateful smile, easing out of my worries. “That sounds wonderful.”

What had I been worried about? Being with Justin felt more right than anything I’d ever experienced before.

* * *

“How are you feeling?” I asked a few minutes later, spearing a piece of scrambled egg. “You know, about all this?” 

I waved the fork around, indicating the estate behind us. 

“Coming back home without your grandfather here must be kind of difficult.”

He had settled on the bench next to me, not eating much. Sea spray coasted over the garden, making leaves buds dance. 

“Difficult, but not unexpected. I think I mourned him the most six months ago.”

“Do you miss him?”

“So much.”

“Tell me about him.”

He hesitated. “Are you sure you want to hear stories about my grandpa?”

“Definitely.”

“Okay, sure.” He set aside his plate and rested back on his palms. “I used to spend all my summers with him, up until I was seven years old and I moved in. My grandma died before I was born so he used to say I was his consolation prize.”

He paused, staring out, before continuing. “He never put any pressure on me to take over the family business. He always told me that I could do whatever I wanted. He didn’t. . . he didn’t even want me to feel strapped to our money.”

“What is the family business?”

“Old money.” He shrugged, stretching his legs out and crossing them at the ankles. “Investing. Insurance. The white-shirt-and-tie corporate life that sucks the soul out of guys like me. Grandpa made a few good decisions with the stock market in his youth. He’s kept it going.”

“Randolph was your father’s father?”

“Yes.”

“Did you dad take over the family business?”

He’d always been extremely elusive about details in general—this felt like a big ask. His eyes narrowed. The pause that followed his question gave me a self-conscious moment to study him. A coating of his usual stubble darkened his cheeks. He looked so at ease and natural it made my throat catch. 

Why did he have to be so ruggedly adorable all the time? Couldn’t he have an ugly day or two?

Justin’s jaw tightened. He clicked his teeth together before he cleared his throat, as if he’d made a decision.

“My father did work for grandpa, yeah, until my parents divorced.”

“Divorced?”

“When I was seven,” he said, his voice distant. “Dad was cheating with his secretary and someone else, at least when Mom found out. Mom was cheating also, so they agreed to just let the marriage go.”

And you with it, I thought, and the words bounced around in my head. 

The urge to reach out and touch him made my fingers twitch. I held back. He’d gone oddly still. For several minutes, the distant caw of the gulls overhead combined with the crash of the surf. 

Justin shook his head.

“Sorry, I spaced out. Anyway, Mom took me for awhile, but couldn’t handle caring for a kid on her own, so she sent me to grandpa. My dad was supposed to take me at the end of the summer, but he never came.”

“Never?”

Justin shrugged. “I overheard grandpa talking to him on the phone one night. Dad was planning on sending me to a boarding school in Boston, but grandpa wouldn’t do it. He didn’t want someone else raising his grandson, so he told me that Dad was busy overseas and it wasn’t safe for me to join him.”

“Was he overseas?”

Justin shook his head. “No. I found out later that he was in Miami.”

I glanced around the empty courtyard and lonely stretch of beach, imagining an old man walking up and down the sandy path. A terrifying, daunting thought struck me right then. My throat went dry.

“Is your dad going to come today?” I managed to ask.

He swallowed heavily. “I don’t know. For grandpa’s sake, I hope so. For mine . . . I hope not.”

“When was the last time you saw him?”

“When I was nine.”

The words hung in the air, expanding until they disappeared in the sea spray and sand. I reached over and put my hand on top of his. He looked at me with a wry smile and threaded his fingers through mine.

“If he shows up, I’m here.”

“Thanks, girl power. I’m so grateful you are.”

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