Last Goodbyes Chapter 8
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!
A tangle of sunlight woke me the next morning.
I didn't want to escape the warm web of light, so I closed my eyes and drifted into a sleepy in-between. The fire that ignited my skin every time Justin touched me flared again and I wanted to see him. Thinking about his stubbled face and the unusual vulnerability of his eyes while talking about his father on the beach made my stomach flutter. Just remembering him made me giddy.
The thought of seeing him again was enough to motivate me out of my bed of sunshine.
"Miss Bailey?" Rebecca called through the door, tapping with just one knuckle the way any self respecting housekeeper would do. "I'm sorry if I awoke you, but I have something I need to speak with you about."
The sheer number of pillows on the bed at Justin's estate would have drowned me, but throwing a down comforter in with it meant I was swimming in softness all night. I batted my way out of the pool of luxury and spilled onto the floor.
"Come in!” I called.
Rebecca's high heels announced her with a steady tap tap tap as she walked to the bedside. She stood next to me, one eyebrow lifted so high it disappeared into her hairline. She wore a mauve vest with a matching pencil skirt and a white shirt underneath. Her hair was tucked into a prim bun.
"What are you doing on the floor?" she asked, eyebrow high.
"The bed was trying to convince me to stay all day.” I stood up with a little smile. “So I had to battle my way out."
She smirked. "I have that same problem with men."
"Well done." I laughed. "I'm impressed."
Her cheeky smile faded a little as she extended her arm. A small white piece of paper was stuck between two fingers. "Justin asked me to bring this to you.” I accepted it, but kept it in my palm to read later.
"Can you and I talk about Justin and Randy while it’s just the two of us?" she asked. Concern darkened her eyes and voice. "I just received word that he arrived last night, and I heard he spoke with you. Wanted to check on you."
“Yes, we spoke on the beach. He was . . . kind.”
Her normally well-groomed exterior hid a nervous woman. "Randy is an easy man to like, as long as you don't know him too well. I just . . . I wanted to be sure that . . . "
She trailed off with an expectant face. How was I supposed to know what she meant? A beat paused before I ventured a guess.
"That I'm not swayed by his charm?"
She exhaled in relief. “Yes.”
"He certainly had a way with words, but no. I wasn’t fooled. He abandoned Justin and I don’t take that lightly.”
Her face visibly relaxed. "We care a great deal for Justin. The whole staff loves him, and we can't stand the thought of anyone else hurting him. So I just wanted to check."
Her anxiety, while understandable, set off alarm bells in my head. Was it that obvious what was happening between Justin and me? I should tell her we were just friends. But was it worth it to even dispute her observations anymore? If the staff was worried about how I treated Justin, that meant something.
Nothing had been officially decided between Justin and I.
Or had it?
Any declaration I made with Rebecca would certainly determine the course that a relationship between me and Justin would take. To declare that we were nothing more than friends, before anything was official and serious, would be the safest bet. Or I could plow forward at his side and take it one moment at a time without giving it a definition. Years of bad boyfriends gripped my ankles and weighed me down.
Rebecca stared at me while my mind swirled. "Megan?" Her gaze tapered. "Is everything all right?"
Pulled from my spiral, I simply nodded.
“Yes, fine. Thank you. I appreciate you looking out for me.”
She hesitated, as if there was something else to say, but eventually shook that off with a nod and professional smile.
“Breakfast is ready anytime. I’ll see you later.”
She disappeared with the tap tap tap of her heels. I watched her go with the feeling of something unsaid between us. The note in my hand brought my attention back to the moment, so I slid it open and let it unfold.
Had an errand to run. I'll meet you in the breakfast nook. Feel free to show up late so you don't have to make small talk with my dad before I return.
With an amused snort, I tossed it into the garbage and reached for my jeans. No man scared me.
Certainly not Randy.
* * *
"Good morning, Randy," I said twenty minutes later.
Justin's father spun around from where he stood at the window, scrutinizing the view with a heavy brow. His face straightened when he pasted on a charming smile.
"Megan. It's good to see you again."
The breakfast nook seemed especially small with Randy standing inside it. When Justin returned, the force of their combined personalities wouldn't leave much room for anything else. Surprisingly, I looked forward to it. My hair remained unbound, free on my shoulders instead of trapped in the usual braid, which gave me an extra feeling of levity. Just seeing the sandy beach below made my toes itch for another run.
Randy gestured to the sideboard, already full of steaming food. Eggs Benedict. Fresh English muffins. Orange juice in elegant flutes next to a crispy pile of bacon. Maybe extravagant wealth had its benefits.
“Help yourself,” he said.
“Justin will be here soon, right? I’ll wait for him.”
Randy nodded. He seemed more tired today, with bags under his eyes that looked a little bruised.
"Did you sleep well?" he asked.
"I think I floated, actually.” I managed a genuine smile. “Between the pillows and the comforter."
His charming grin returned, and I could see why people liked him. “Good.”
A calm silence fell between us after that. I pulled my phone out of my pocket to check for a text from JJ or Mark. Randy hadn’t moved from his spot by the window, so he resumed his study of the ocean.
"Sorry for the delay."
Justin’s voice broke the silence. I whirled around as he strode into the breakfast nook, all traces of the previous night were gone. He carried a new confidence, and he carried it well.
"Let’s eat, girl power.” He put a hand on the small of my back to nudge me toward the tantalizing breakfast. “I’m starving.”
Randy motioned for us to go first with a wordless nod, seeming awkward now that Justin had returned. Justin chattered while we piled food on our plates. I couldn’t help but notice that Justin never actually addressed him as dad.
By the time we all sat down, Randy’s tension became palpable. While I cut my melon into smaller squares to avoid looking up, Justin continued painfully polite attempts at small talk. Just before it became almost unbearable, Justin cleared his throat, set down his fork and knife, and leaned his forearms onto the edge of the table.
"I know you must have some questions about the will," he said to Randy, staring him straight in the eye. "I thought we'd discuss it now so both of us can be on our way."
Randy hesitated, glancing over to me and back to Justin, as if I had some explanation for the sudden current of steel in Justin's voice. Randy carefully set down his fork, as if he were working hard to hide his enthusiasm.
"Well, it seems a bit early to discuss business, but if you want to, I'm willing."
I smelled a snake, but pressed my lips together to keep my mouth shut.
Justin shrugged and leaned back in the chair. "It's pretty simple. Grandpa left everything here to you."
My mouth dropped open. He what? I quickly closed it again. Randy's left eye twitched. He leaned forward, gaze narrowed and uncertain.
"I'm sorry." He cocked his head to the side. "Dad did what?"
"He left the estate to you.” Justin’s voice didn’t even waver. There was no undercurrent, no tone, no bitterness. Silently, I applauded his business acumen. “There’s only one provision, and that’s in the agreement that all the workers keep their current position unless they choose to leave. If you’re amenable to that,” Justin lifted both hands, as if to encompass the house, “this is all yours.”
Randy’s mouth open and then closed several times before he managed to say, "I must admit that I'm surprised. I thought it would go to you."
Justin shook his head.
Randy blinked several times. No doubt he wanted to ask the same question as me. Why not? Why wouldn't Justin get the estate? And, more importantly, what was Justin going to receive as his grandfather's legacy if not this beautiful house? I kept my questions silent and waited.
No doubt more drama would unfold.
Justin didn't give Randy the chance to ask. He stood, put a hand on my shoulder, and squeezed it with the slightest pressure. I took it as a hint and set my napkin on the table to stand next to him. His hand lingered on my arm.
"His lawyer will be here to discuss the details with you within the hour. Megan and I are leaving soon, but it was good to see you. I hope you enjoy the house.”
With that, Justin gave a nod. His gaze lingered on Randy for a moment before he steered me to the door.
“I’ll explain in a minute,” he whispered and squeezed my hand. “Trust me.”