Last Goodbyes Chapter 7
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 I'm so excited to share that with you now!
If you haven't read Chapter 1, click here to read that first!
Click here to read Chapter 6!
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 hope you'll love this short story sequence as much as me!
“California is so different from Florida,” Randy said as we walked into the back foyer of Justin's newly inherited estate, escorted by a slight gust of wind.
Randy was back to his affable amusement now that I'd made my place in Justin's life clear. If I didn't know the coward behind Randy's easy congeniality, I would have enjoyed him.
My stomach twisted in a knot, and I felt for Justin. This wasn’t fair to him. Wouldn’t be easy. I wanted to warn him, but didn’t have my phone.
The closed the door behind us when a familiar voice called out. “Meg, there you are. I—Dad?"
Justin stood underneath a dim light, several manila folders in hand. A man with salt and pepper hair and a burgundy briefcase flanked him Randolph's lawyer, no doubt.
“Son,” Randy said.
He sounded as stunned as Justin.
I kept my gaze on Justin, as if I could tell him with my eyes how sorry I was. For what, I didn’t know. I just knew I wanted something different than this for him.
Justin did an impressive job maintaining a cool facade, but his fingers curled into a fist that held the envelopes.
“I just came back from my run,” I said to fill the dead air and give him a moment. “Randy was outside and we started talking while we walked in together.”
Justin nodded and swallowed hard. I slipped to his side, hoping to impart some strength.
“He just arrived.”
Whether Justin knew what he was doing or not, one of his arms slipped around my shoulders. The burn of his presence made it difficult to hold a thought for more than three or four seconds.
Randy grinned and advanced a step. Although I didn't want to like him, the excitement in his eyes felt sincere.
"Justin.” He stopped, leaving a gap between them. He kept his hands tucked into his pants pocket, though it was clear he wanted to throw his arms around him. "It's . . . it's wonderful to see you again."
"I'll see you tomorrow morning, Justin.”
The lawyer clapped Justin on the shoulder, then nodded to both Randy and me as he slipped by and disappeared into the sprawling house.
"I didn't think you'd come," Justin said to Randy. ”You missed the ceremony."
"My flight was delayed. I had hoped to be here."
Crystal from a modest chandelier overhead tinkled and swayed in a little breeze coming off the ocean, but other than that, no other sound filled the vacuum of silence. Randy stepped forward again, but quickly halted.
"I . . . I haven't seen you in years.” He tucked his hands into the pockets of his pants, which were still rolled halfway up his calf. Just like Justin’s had been. “It's . . . it’s so strange . . .you look great. Really great. I mean, you’re a man now. And . . . ”
The gap between Justin now—and the boy his father had left—boggled my mind. If Randy was so successful, charming, and put together, why had he left Justin for so long? Surely, Randolph would have paid his way here. There were no excuses for such blatant abandonment.
Were those Justin’s thoughts too?
"Yeah, thanks." Justin ran a hand through his hair. "I've been bouncing around."
"Dad mentioned you were traveling a lot."
"I guess I got my wanderlust from him."
"Your mother, too.” Randy shrugged. "She still gets around, I hear."
“Did he tell you?" Justin asked.
The abrupt twist in conversation left me confused, but a flash of pain in Randy's eyes filled in the rest.
"No," Randy said softly. "Dad never told me he was dying. At least, not until it was too late. I spoke with him the night he died. Looking back, there were no real indications, but he seemed to know it was his time. He mentioned something about regrets, but even then, he was so vague . . .”
“I haven’t spoken with her in years.”
"Rebecca had your room prepared just in case you showed up," Justin said, breaking apart another pregnant pause. He tightened his hold on my shoulders. "I'm sure you don't need anyone to show you up there."
Randy's eyebrows lifted, but he nodded, accepting Justin's end. For the briefest moment, Randy's eyes met mine.
"I'll see you both at dinner?"
“No,” Justin said before I could. ”Megan and I are going to take care of a few things tonight. Breakfast?"
"I look forward to it."
Randy headed for the stairs, then paused, one leg in the air. He didn't turn around. "It's good to see you again, son. Whether you believe me or not, I have missed you."
The soft skid of Randy walking up the stairs and down the hall eventually disappeared. I let out a long breath.
Justin grabbed my hand and tugged me away without a word.
* * *
Not to my great surprise, he led me back to the beach.
The sun had fully set by now, leaving a globe of speckled white stars in the velvet canopy overhead. From somewhere in the upper floors of the estate, the sound of someone playing the piano drifted over the sandy shore. The gentle strains mingled with the soft roar of the ocean.
We sat with our toes just out of reach of the water. I remained silent, wanting him to take the lead, and pressed myself close to his side.
He leaned into me.
"Dad called, but didn’t return,” he said suddenly. "Mom invited me for holidays every other year. Christmas and New Years. The occasional two weeks in the summer. Sometimes for my birthday. I think she was afraid I'd want to stay if I came too often. Emotionally, she was a disaster after the divorce, although she tried. I always knew she tried, and she didn't want to send me away. She just . . . she couldn't do it."
He sucked in a deep breath. "So grandfather became my world. He was my family, my best friend. Everything. Mom and dad sort of shared me for holidays until I was twelve, and then . . . I don't know. It all just seemed to fade. Mom took me for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but dad faded away. She occasionally calls, but dad never really has."
“Is it hard seeing him again?”
“Yes, but not as hard as stressing over it. I’m glad he came.”
He glanced at me with amusement. “Yes. I’ve dreaded that confrontation for years. Better to just have it done.”
“Did things go all right with the attorney?”
He nodded. “Grandfather was nothing if not organized.”
“Is it a coincidence that your dad arrived as the business of your grandfather’s estate was being dealt with?”
A wry smile crossed his face. He shook his head. “Honestly? Probably not. My dad is charming, kind, even funny. But he’s always focused on him. It’s made him a fantastic businessman and a crappy human.”
While my mind played over all that had just happened, a thought struck me. “You said that we were doing something tonight. What did you have planned? I may need to shower because I’m still sweaty, but I’m up for anything.”
“This.” He tilted his head back and closed his eyes. “Just this.”
Unable to stop myself, I reached over for his hand. He wrapped an arm around my shoulder and pulled me into his side. I kept our fingers intertwined off my shoulder and we stared at the ocean.