Where There's Hope(11)

By: Marianne Rice

“Meantime? I’m not planning on buying. I can’t afford that. I thought this was a rental?” Those butterflies fluttered around in her belly again, and her mouth turned dry. She needed water. Or wine. Living so close to Coastal Vines would have its perks.

“Oh, it is. But the owners put in a rent-to-own clause, if you find yourself wanting to stay. The rent would go toward a down payment.”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. One thing at a time.”

“If I take this room, can we paint it teal and gray?”

“I don’t think we can paint in here, honey.”

“Actually...” Melissa took out a folder from her briefcase and flipped through the papers. “The renters are allowed to make renovations as long as they’re approved by the Johnsons. Get me your color samples, and I’ll send them your ideas.”

“Cool. Can we go to Lowes today, Mom?”

“Wait. I didn’t even say we’d take it. Don’t you want to look at the other rentals? The ones by the beach?”

“No.” Delaney curled her nose. “Those places look like temporary homes. I think this place can be our forever home.”

Hope clutched at her chest. She couldn’t love her daughter any more.


IT HAD BEEN THREE DAYS since his encounter with Hope and Ty, and no one had come to him yet with threats to leave town. Either they hadn’t mentioned Cameron’s shady past to anyone, or the town was working on their massive plan on how to run him out or lynch mob him at the fall festival.

He was on a suicide mission, he knew. Nothing good could come of staying around town, not now that Hope had practically wished him dead, and Ty threatened to cut his balls off if he messed with Hope or Delaney.

But Cameron couldn’t stay away. Not after what he’d learned. How hard life had been for Hope raising her daughter as a teenager, trying to make ends meet, still living with her parents. He was grateful she had parents who hadn’t disowned her and supported her, even after dropping out of college and not being able to support herself or her baby.

Cameron shimmied on his back so he could get a better look at the engine. The 34 South Shore boat had a decent 225 John Deere in it, but the owner did a crap job caring for the fuel tank. He claimed he had it cleaned regularly, but the contaminants compacted into a solid bottom layer, which resulted in clogging the filters.

Many fishermen went for the cheaper route, adding additives to the fuel in an attempt to keep them clean, but the tanks needed manual cleaning. And that’s where he found himself on this gorgeous fall day.

The temps climbed into the sixties, a far cry from the biting chill a few days ago.

He adjusted his headlamp and slipped the cutters from his tool belt. He spent the next few hours cutting ports into each fuel tank then wailed on the insides with a stiff steel scraper. It would take a few days to get all the asphalt-looking contaminates. Not a fun job.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Her voice startled him, and he cracked his head on the steel drum.

Cameron closed his eyes to fight off the impending ache to his skull and straightened before looking up. Standing on the dock, hands on her hips, her eyebrows pulled down and together, eyes glaring, Hope’s lips narrowed and grew thinner.

“What. The hell. Is this?” She tossed an envelope at him, and it landed with a thud at his feet.

He didn’t need to look inside it to know what she was so furious about. “I’m only trying to help.”

“If I wanted your help I would have asked you for it.”

“You would?” No, Hope seemed the type to pride herself on handling things herself.

“You can’t buy your guilt away. Stay away from me. And especially from Delaney.”

Cameron pulled a rag out of his back pocket and wiped his hands on it. He reached down and picked up the envelope, sliding it between his fingers. Hope backed away as he stood, and he slowly made his way across the boat. He heaved himself over the side and on to the dock.

“Stay away from me.” She backed away another foot, holding her hand out in front of her to stop his approach.

It saddened and angered him that she feared him. All Cameron wanted was to start over. To take care of his niece. To right his wrongs.

“I’m sorry about Justin. That he didn’t get to meet his daughter. That he couldn’t help you, help raise Delaney.”

“You’re the reason why he couldn’t do any of that.”

Cameron wasn’t about to argue with her, even though she was wrong. Even if Justin hadn’t died in the accident, he wouldn’t have supported Hope and the baby. It wasn’t in his game plan. But telling Hope this wouldn’t earn him any points.