I was as ugly inside as I was outside. It was the only explanation for the fact I hadn’t been able to cry one single tear. I hadn’t even squeezed out one fake tear at Mrs. Williams’s funeral. I knew the church people thought I was evil. I could see it when they looked at me. But they had all gotten to witness it firsthand when they’d watched me not show one small streak of emotion when I’d stood beside Pastor Williams as they’d lowered his wife into the ground. She had been diagnosed with a brain tumor only five months ago. It had been stage five, and there had been nothing they could have done.
The congregation had stopped by to check on her daily, and the parsonage had been flooded with casseroles, pies, and flowers. I had been told to stay out of sight. I’d only upset her. Pastor Williams had been kind when he’d instructed me to keep to my room when I’d come home from school, but it’d still stung. I’d waited until I was sure they were asleep most nights to sneak downstairs and fix me something to eat for dinner. The endless supply of food had made it easy.
When she had finally taken her last breath, the hospice nurse had come and knocked on my door to inform me. I had been asked to call Pastor Williams at the church and have him come home. I hadn’t felt anything. Not one emotion from the news. I’d realized then that she had been right all those years. I was evil. Only someone truly evil could be so indifferent to death. Mrs. Williams had been only fifty-four. But then, that was much older than my mother had been when she’d died—she had been only twenty.
That was all behind me now. That life was over and in my past.
I stood outside the apartment building that overlooked the Alabama gulf coast and let it sink in that this was now my home. I was far away from the life I’d lived in South Carolina. I would have a new life here. One where I could sit and write my stories and attend the community college.
Pastor Williams had wanted to get rid of me. I was thankful for that because I needed a way to get free from that place. He had called a friend of his and had gotten me into a community college ten hours away from the town full of people who hated me. He had bought me an apartment on the beach and even managed to get me a job working as a church secretary. He had a friend who pastored a church in Sea Breeze, Alabama. It was one of the reasons he had sent me here. He had had someone help set me up while he remained in South Carolina.
I had heard Pastor Williams on the phone explaining to the man who would be my boss that I wasn’t good with people and I was sheltered. Which wasn’t exactly true. I had gone to an all-girl Christian academy, and everyone there had pretended that I hadn’t existed. It wasn’t my fault their mommas had told them about the evil inside me. I had never had a chance to actually be around people who wanted anything to do with me.
Before I took my boxes out of the truck, I wanted to check out the apartment. Pastor Williams had given me a truck, too. Grabbing my purse and the keys he had placed in an envelope, along with one thousand dollars in cash, I jumped down out of the old truck and headed for the stairs. None of the apartments were on the street level. They were all on stilts above the ground. I figured this was for times when the water got high . . . or during hurricanes. I wasn’t going to think about hurricanes. Not now.
I slipped the key into the lock and turned before pushing the door open. It swung wide, and I took in the pretty pale yellow walls and white wicker furnituThe notorious rock ’n’ roll star from Misbehaving might just make some beautiful music with his sweet new downstairs neighbor in this sultry installment in the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Sea Breeze series from Abbi Glines.
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