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1542016797 (ISBN13: 9781542016797)
I’d never forgotten him—a man I’d yet to meet.
Griffin Quinn was my childhood pen pal, the British boy who couldn’t have been more different from me. Over the years, through hundreds of letters, we became best friends, sharing our deepest, darkest secrets and forming a connection I never thought could break.
Until one day it did.
Then, out of the blue, a new letter arrived. A scathing one—one with eight years of pent-up anger. I had no choice but to finally come clean as to why I stopped writing.
Griffin forgave me, and somehow we were able to rekindle our childhood connection. Only now we were adults, and that connection had grown to a spark. Our letters quickly went from fun to flirty to downright dirty, revealing our wildest fantasies. So it only made sense that we would take our relationship to the next level and see each other in person.
Only Griff didn’t want to meet. He asked that I trust him and said it was for the best. But I wanted more—more Griff, in the flesh—so I took a big chance and went looking for him. People have done crazier things for love.
But what I found could change everything.
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Oh boy, here we go again.
I pushed my shopping cart forward rather than turning to walk down the aisle I’d originally planned. But after taking a step or two, I couldn’t help myself. I backed up enough to hide my body behind the endcap and peeked my head out to watch the action.
A woman with the frizziest, most unnatural color of red hair placed a deodorant back on the shelf and grabbed a new one. She opened the top of the stick and sniffed it, then proceeded to lift one side of her shirt and wipe the deodorant under her armpit, then moved on to the other. Replacing the cap, she examined the shelf for a moment before picking another brand. Again, she plucked the top off, sniffed, then swiped under each of her pits. I watched, fascinated by how serious she was, while she sampled six different deodorants before a store employee finally noticed what she was doing. When they both ran down the aisle yelling, I figured that was my cue to move my ass and finish up my shopping trip.
A few months back, I’d seen a man sample a dozen whole rotisserie chickens. He removed the plastic cover off each one, ripped off a leg, took a big bite, jammed the leg back inside the cavity of the chicken, and replaced the cover of each. When I’d told the manager, he’d sighed and yelled to a stock boy to go fetch Mr. Hammond. Food shopping at two in the morning in a twenty-four-hour supermarket tended to bring out a unique brand of shoppers. I fit right in.
“How are you doing today, Luca?” Doris, the cashier, asked as I loaded my groceries onto the conveyor belt. She’d been working at this supermarket since I started coming here about five years ago—really nice lady. I knew she was a grandmother of nine and number ten was on the way. She babysat a few of them during the day, which was why she worked the graveyard shift. Doris was also one of the few people who I ever told the truth about why I shopped forty miles away from my home in the middle of the night.
“I’m doing good.” She scanned a package of black licorice followed by two canisters of Pringles and two boxes of packaged brownies. Not my usual grocery items, so I explained. “I’m stocking up for a road trip, not pregnant.”
Doris’s brows rose. “A road trip? Must be something special if you’re boxing yourself into a little car for a long haul.”
“I have to clean out my dad’s apartment in Manhattan.”
“He passed away last year, right?”
I nodded. “I’ve been avoiding it. I’d rather be water-boarded than step foot onto a tiny island with a population of eight and a half million people. Not to mention hours stuck in a car with traffic jams to get there—pure torture.”
Doris frowned. “Can’t you hire someone to do it?”
I had hired someone. Then a combination of my own guilt and Dr. Maxwell, my therapist, made me decide to do it on my own. But eventually the stress of thinking about all those people in New York City gave me trouble sleeping, and I hired the company again. Then I canceled. Again. Then I’d hired a new company because I was too embarrassed to hire the same company a third time. And again I canceled. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Until I was out of time, and, well, now it’s tomorrow.
“It’s just something I need to do myself.”
Doris looked genuinely concerned. “You going to be okay? I’m a good copilot if you need a friend to tag along.”
I smiled. “Thanks, Doris. That’s really generous of you. But I have someone coming. We’re leaving tomorrow evening to avoid traffic as much as possible.”
Doris finished scanning my groceries, and I swiped my card. Before leaving, I reached into my cart and grabbed the bag containing bing cherries and a package of dark-chocolate Milano cookies. I put it at the end of her checkout counter, like always. “The cherries are for your grandkids. Hide the Milanos from the little monsters.”
She thanked me. “Have a safe trip, sweetheart. Can’t wait to hear all about it.”
Yeah, me too. This was going to be one hell of an interesting road trip.
“You could focus on relaxing more if you’d let me drive my car. Maybe listen to some of those breathing technique recordings I gave you.”
I looked over at Dr. Maxwell’s dented-up Cadillac parked in my driveway. The man shouldn’t be driving at all. In fact, he was a prime example of why people over a certain age should be retested to keep their driving privileges. Relaxing would be the last thing I would be able to do with him behind the wheel. Plus, he knew I needed to be in control as much as humanly possible.