A Splash of HopeBy: Charity Parkerson
Harmony, Faith, and Serenity—better known as the Hope sisters—had always been a bit of a town joke. The locals liked to enjoy a good chuckle over their names, since it was widely known the girls’ parents never possessed any such virtues. This is why it came as no surprise when a twenty-year-old Harmony, along with her parents, were killed after accepting a drunken bet. It was rumored to have involved some sheep, a motorcycle, and a two-dollar prize. Thankfully, no harm came to the livestock in their antics. At eighteen, Faith was newly graduated from high school. She feared sixteen-year-old Serenity would be sent to live with strangers since they didn’t have any other living relatives. However, Faith had easily received guardianship when it turned out that no one else wanted a teenager who’d surely turn out to be as wild as her parents had been. Little did they know, she would indeed become the talk of the town. Unfortunately, it was for a whole new reason.
Serenity: Seven years later
He was graying at the temples. It was the first thing Serenity noticed about Carter Monroe when she spotted him eating alone in a restaurant otherwise crowded with couples and families. He might have gone unnoticed if they weren’t the only two people there seated by themselves, while everyone else packed noisy tables. Serenity snorted at the ridiculous notion of Carter Monroe going unnoticed. He possessed the type of powerful presence that would stand out even if he were dressed as a beggar. His steel gray eyes could pin a man in place and have him shaking in his boots. They also crinkled at the corners when he smiled, making a person feel as if the gesture was meant for them alone.
Those eyes lifted, meeting hers as if he felt her stare. Even though her face flushed at being caught watching him, she didn’t look away. He leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. He tilted his head slightly as if assessing her courage. Serenity forced herself to stay still. Unfortunately, she couldn’t help the defiant tilt of her chin during his inspection. She’d be damned if she let anyone find her wanting. Taking her by surprise, he stood and tossed a few bills down on the table. After making his way across the room, he stood over her. The expensive three-piece suit he wore was obviously tailored to fit. The color was the same shade as his eyes. Taking a deep breath, she drew the scent of his cologne into her lungs. Her body tingled with awareness.
“Carter Monroe.” She ensured her reply matched his dry tone. As if it was his cue, Carter took the seat across from her. A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. Refusing to give him an inch, she kept her face smooth by sheer force of will. It was always the same greeting, and for Serenity, it never got old. They jogged in opposite directions on the greenway every morning. Each day as he ran by, he would nod his head politely. “Serenity Hope.”
“Carter Monroe,” she would say in response, always making sure to match his bland tone. That would be the end of it. There’d only been one day when the strange routine they’d formed had been interrupted. She’d been jogging her usual route when she glanced down for a moment to adjust her mp3 player. In her distraction, she missed the cyclist speeding around the corner. He clipped her as he went by. Although it knocked her off balance, she righted herself before falling completely to the ground. It came as no surprise the man didn’t slow long enough to check on her. Of course, it added fuel to her anger.
“Fucking dick!” The screeching words barely left her lips before she found herself face to face with Carter who, having witnessed the entire incident, moved to check on her. It was the one and only time she’d seen his smile. It was the most amazing thing, beginning at his eyes before spreading to the rest of his face. For a moment, his grip tightened on her shoulders. As he was busy checking her for injuries, she was incapable of looking away from his mouth. When he seemed satisfied she was unhurt, he released her, and took a step away. She instantly hated the distance. The loss of his warmth left her cold.
“Serenity Hope,” he said in his usual manner. The smile remained in place.
“Carter Monroe.” She matched his tone, as always. It no longer felt the same.