Love at First Sight
Courtney Taylor moved in with her brother after their parents were killed in a car crash. She has a new life in the small town, but isn't expecting the attraction to her brother's roommate.
Darren Orender has a past that just won't leave him alone. He's given up on dating and relationships, until Courtney moves in and lights a fire he thought was extinguished forever. Love at first sight can be a powerful thing to experience, especially when you don't expect it to ever hit you.
But just when things start to look up for them they are hit with the unexpected. Will the threat of loss for each other finally bring them together or forever keep them apart?
Courtney Taylor stood next to her brother Michael, at the head of their parents’ coffins as the priest said the final words before they were lowered into the ground. They were killed in a car crash, and lucky for Courtney she hadn’t been with them. A drunk driver had hit her parents head on, killing them instantly. The news was an emotional blow to her, not only because it happened, but because they were heading to the airport to pick up her brother. Michael was coming home for her birthday. Some birthday.
As the coffins were lowered she grabbed her brother’s hand. Michael gave her hand a squeeze before pulling her into his arms, hugging her close. She rested her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. She just couldn’t watch. Best wishes were given to her and Michael. After thanking people, they left the cemetery and went to Michael’s truck. They road in silence to the house where they would meet their father’s lawyer. Their parents had been dead for a week, not cold in the ground, and the man already wanted to meet with them.
The drive back to the house only took ten minutes, and when they pulled into the drive, the lawyer was waiting for them. Michael glanced at her before putting the truck in park and getting out. It didn’t look good that the man was waiting for them at the front door.
“Mr. Taylor, Miss. Taylor.” He shook Michael’s hand and nodded at her. “I’m Robert David. Your father’s lawyer.”
“I thought we were going to meet you at your office,” Michael said, walking past him to the front door. He unlocked it and stood back for Courtney to go inside.
“We were, but something came up and I thought it was best if I came here instead.”
Courtney dropped her purse on the sofa and turned to listen. Her gut told her that whatever news was about to be given wasn’t going to be good.
“Why?” Michael asked.
Robert David cleared his throat and appeared very unconformable. “Your father made many changes to his will and one of those changes was with regards to the little money and property your parents owned.”
“I don’t understand,” Courtney remarked.
Again, he cleared his throat and handed a letter to Michael. “Your father had made some business investments that have soured over the months. He also owes a large amount of money to investors as well as back taxes.” At her frown and the quick glance, she gave Michael, he quickly went on. “What I’m trying to say is that your father signed a note giving those investors the rights to collect their money back any way they can. Everything your parents owned was collateral.”
“What?” Courtney gasped.
“That son of a bitch!” Michael snapped.
“I’m afraid they’re calling in the note and demanding the selling of the house and over fifty percent of everything inside,” he finished.
“No!” She shook her head. “This is my home.”
“I have managed to hold them off in order to give you both time to pack up a few things and move, but they have only agreed to two days.”
Courtney rubbed her forehead and sat down on the arm of the sofa. “This isn’t happening,” she whispered.
“Mr. Taylor, they don’t know what’s in the house and don’t care. It’s more about the property. They will let you take whatever you can pack up in a moving truck as long as they get no trouble.”
“My father fucks people over and we have to deal with his shit,” Michael growled, pissed. It showed on his face, which was turning red with his anger. “I bet this is why mom was going to leave him,” he said to her.
“When does the two days start?” she asked.
“Today is Wednesday. I think I can convince them to give you until Friday.”
She was numb and couldn’t look at the man or her brother. “Then Friday it is.” She stood up and left the front room, heading for the stairs and to her room. She sat on the side of her bed and stared out at nothing. Courtney couldn’t believe this. First her parents, now her home. Everything she had was gone. Even the hopes of going to college were lost.
“You okay?” Michael asked from the doorway.
She snapped out of her self-pity and looked at her brother. “For someone who has nothing, sure,” she replied with a shrug. “Couldn’t be better.”
“I called a moving company for a van. All they have is one large trailer. I went ahead and rented it.” Michael came into her room and sat down next to her.
“How could he do this? How could he just sign our lives away like it meant nothing?”
Michael put his arm around her and hugged her. “Because Dad always thought about himself. We both knew that, and like Mom, we were just as blind.”
“So what am I supposed to do now?” A tear slid down her cheek and she quickly wiped it away.
“For starters you are going to help me go through the house and pack up what we want to keep.” He rubbed her back slowly, and added, “And then you are going to come and live with me.”
She nodded her agreement and took a deep breath. “Then I guess self-pity is going to have to wait.”
Michael stood up and pulled her to her feet. “When we get this mess behind us we both can have our pity party and cry. But for now, I want you to start going through the rooms, picking what you want to take. I’m going to go and pick up the trailer so we can get started. Two days isn’t long enough to do shit.”
She gave him a quick smile but said nothing. Once he left her room, she changed her clothes, putting on an old pair of jeans and shirt, then went into her parents’ room. She never thought she would have to go through things as she was going to have to do now. It all seemed so strange. Last week everything seemed so normal. They were discussing what to do for her birthday, where she might go for college and her hopes that Dad was going to get her a car. Now she stood, staring at everything, and thinking about what she could take and what she had to leave behind.
She went to the closet, opened the doors, and searched for the suitcases. Her mother had bought a new set for a special trip she planned nine months ago—a trip that never happened, or ever would. It was the first hint that money was a major problem in the house.
Courtney had heard her mother talking on the phone about the credit card she used and how it was no longer activated. In fact, all of the cards had been canceled. The next blow was that the savings were gone. That started the first fight of many. But Courtney didn’t want to think about that now. She pulled out the seven-piece leather set and placed them on the bed. She only filled one up with things from her parents’ room that she wanted. Photos, jewelry, and a few clothing items that she’d, in the past, borrowed from her mother. Zipping it up, Courtney put the suitcase in the hallway and took the rest back to her room.
It was a very slow and depressing task. They packed up dishes, old quilts, and most all of her clothes before they called it a night. The following morning, they started early, finished packing things from the dining room, kitchen, and front room. They had to be picky about what was going and what had to stay. Michael wanted her to take all of the furniture in her room, so they needed to make sure they had the space for it.
When Friday morning came, they had pretty much everything they wanted, or could take out, and unfortunately, much they had to leave behind.
Around noon, they handed the keys over to the lawyer. Then they drove away from the place where they’d grown up without a backward glance.
* * * *
They drove for a week before they reached the mainland of Fire Island. Michael explained to Courtney how it got its name; it was rumored that a volcano had erupted and split the harbor in two. After things settled down Fire Island was there.
It was a small town, fewer than one thousand people, and Michael was one of them. After he finished college with a major in construction management he didn’t go back home like his father wanted, but packed up his beat up truck and went looking for a place all his own. He heard about the small Island when he was passing through the mainland and had to go see it. Once there, he fell in love with the landscape and went in search of a home. He got lucky. An old man was moving out of his large Victorian house to move in with his son. The man had just lost his wife and didn’t want to be in the house alone. Michael got a great deal, but his father hadn’t thought so.
The moment his family came to see the place, his father started complaining about the shape the house was in and all the work and money Michael was going to need to fix it. It was also the last time his father came for a visit, and vice versa. Only when Courtney begged him did he agree to come home for her birthday, and he was going to fly. He would have if he hadn’t had to cancel his flight and reschedule it thanks to problems at work. What Michael didn’t tell Courtney was that he thought the accident was his fault. He’d called his father on his cell to tell him he was going to have to take a different flight. They started fighting and Michael hung up on the man. He just couldn’t handle being yelled at and treated like a little boy. Not even the day he started his construction business did he get a ‘proud of you, son’ from the man.
That call started a fight in the car between his parents. He knew his mother enough to know that she wouldn’t let it drop. She would nag and nag until her husband blew up and they were screaming at each other. That was how the drunk driver got the upper hand. Michael knew if his father had been paying full attention to the road then they wouldn’t have been hit. So he blamed it on himself.
“This place is gorgeous,” Courtney gasped, rolling down the window to stick her head out.
“Love at first sight,” he said and smiled. “Now you know why I had to stay.”
“Is the island just as pretty?”
He nodded. “And easy to get around. Have to get you a scooter or something. The ferry runs every four hours, and only shuts down for the weather.”
They made the ferry at the last minute. Michael told her that it took forty-five minutes to get to the island and they spent that time at the railing in silence. He used the time to study his baby sister.
Courtney wasn’t a child any longer. In the time he’d been away, she’d finished growing up and turned into a pretty girl. He also thought she looked like him. Both had dark, straight, thick brown hair with just a touch of wave to it, and both had the brown eyes and pouty lips. Michael lost count of how many times he’d been told he had kissable lips, and wondered if she’d been told the same thing. But knowing how their father was, he doubted Courtney had been allowed to date.
Since he was close to six foot even, and she came to the middle of his chest, Michael was going to take a guess and say she stood around five-three.
“So tell me what the town is like,” she said, snapping him out of his thoughts.
He took a deep breath and turned, facing her. She kept her eyes on the water, the wind blowing her hair around her face. “You scared?”
She nodded. “A little. Don’t like starting over like this.”
“I don’t think you’re going to have anything to worry about.”
She also turned to face him. “I wanted to go to college, Mike. He ruined that for me.”
He shook his head. “No, he didn’t. The mainland has a college and we can look into it if you want.”
She sighed and stared back out at the water. “So what now?”
“Well,” he said as he leaned against the railing, watching the water slapping against the side of the boat. “I guess we start learning how to live with each other again, but I must warn you. I do have a roommate and he’s kind of a slob.”
She smiled—the first real smile he saw from her since he came home. “Kind of like you, huh?”
“Yeah, well I didn’t get a chance to give him a call and tell him I’m bringing you back with me. So the place might be a wreck. That’s your heads up.”
He stared out for a few minutes before turning back to her again. “Listen, Court, I want you to take the rest of the summer off. Just chill, get to know some of the people, make a few friends. Don’t worry about school, working, that kind of stuff.”
“Are you going to take some time off also?” She didn’t look at him when she spoke.
“Some. Darren is my supervisor, so he can handle things, but I won’t be able to stay home for too long. That place can go to shit with all those guys.”
He pointed out the island and they got back into the truck. Michael followed the slow traffic off the ferry, took a left and headed away from the harbor to the main road. He pointed out places to her, one being his own little construction shop on the corner of Main Street.
Passing through, he waved at a few people on the sidewalks then headed east out of town to his home. He was about ten minutes out and up on a hill overlooking the beach below, and Michael kept glancing at Courtney and couldn’t stop from smiling. Her face was lit up while she hung out the window watching the landscape go by. The tree-lined streets made you feel as if you were living in a forest.
“Here she is,” he told her, turning into the drive that led up to his home.
A Victorian house came into view and he heard her suck in her breath at the sight. It took him almost six months after he moved in to get part of the house into its previous, glorious condition. After Darren moved in and helped, it only took five more months to complete the work.
The house was two thousand, five hundred and eighty-eight square feet. It was composed of four stories, which included a full basement and a full attic. Four large bedrooms with hardwood floors, three and a half bathrooms, and three fireplaces on the south side of the house. A large wraparound porch lined the outside that he’d decorated with wicker furniture and a swing. He told her that he was still working on the remodeling of the kitchen. New countertops with a large island in the middle and brand new tile were still being installed. The dining room was large enough to seat at least twelve people for a meal and was bare. There were two great rooms, one sitting room, and a library he had turned into his office.
The basement he’d transformed into a recreation room on one side, and the other half into a gym. It also had a small bathroom and his roommate had turned a corner into his bedroom. Since there was a door that led outside, Michael didn’t see him much except for work.
He parked right in front, got out and waited for her to join him. Together they walked up the steps to the front door. Michael opened the double doors and stood back for her to get her first view of her new home.
“God, Michael,” she gasped softly. “This place is great!”
He stepped in behind her, looking at the front room through her eyes. Oak stairs were the first thing one saw upon entering. The stairs also split the front room up. To the left was the family room. On the right was another large room that he’d left bare. At the back was the dining room and kitchen.
“There are four rooms upstairs, one is mine. The others are bare, so you can pick whichever one you want.”
She followed him up and he showed her one of the bathrooms. He also pointed out that another of the bedrooms had its own bathroom. That had her picking the room for her own.