Love For Hire: The Helena's Grove Series Book 2

Love For Hire

The Helena’s Grove Series

Book 2

 

Ivy Alexander

Copyright © 2014-15 by Ivy Alexander. All rights reserved. All characters and events depicted in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance or similarity to any real person, living or dead, is purely coincidental, and is not intended by the author. Any and all product names referenced within this book are the trademarks of their respective owners. None of these owners have sponsored, authorized, endorsed, or approved this book. No part of this book may be duplicated, reproduced, or transmitted in any way, including electronically or otherwise, without express written permission of the author.

 

First Ebook Edition 2014

 

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Enjoy all the books in the Helena’s Grove Series Today:

Love Finds You: The Helena’s Grove Series Book 1

Love For Hire: The Helena’s Grove Series Book 2

Love Takes Hold: The Helena’s Grove Series Book 3

Love Is Strong: The Helena’s Grove Series Book 4

Love Lives On: The Helena’s Grove Series Book 5

Chapter 1

 

“I’m so happy for you!” Annie LaFaye exclaimed. “Although I can’t say I’m surprised, we all saw it coming.” She listened for a moment to her brother on the other end. “Yeah, I knew you guys belonged together from the moment I met her. I have a sixth sense about these things ya know. Jen is an awesome person. I’m really am happy for you Zack… yeah, you too. Kay bye.” She hung up the phone and looked at it for a few seconds. Zack and Jen had just moved in together. Even though they’d only been dating for two and a half months, Annie didn’t think they were moving too fast. In fact, she was surprised it had taken them this long.

Annie smiled inwardly when she thought of Jen. She loved her like a sister and was very excited for them. Zack deserved to be happy and Jen could give him that happiness. Slowly, however; that inner smile faded and Annie suddenly realized something. Now that Zack had a girlfriend, that meant that she, Annie LaFaye, would be the only single person at all the holiday parties this year.
I don’t like being single, I just haven’t found the right one yet
, she thought to herself as thoughts of having to explain to everyone why she wasn’t dating filled her mind. Excuses like, “I’m too busy to date,” or “I don’t need a relationship right now, it will distract me from my schooling,” would be how she explained her solitary existence.

The truth was, dating was hard for her. She had only had a couple steady boyfriends in her twenty-four years of life, and her last relationship had ended almost two years ago. She could just hear the endless chatter of well meaning relatives and old high school buddies telling her to get back in the saddle, or worse, trying to set her up on a blind date.

Annie opened the door to the student housing at Penn State University. She quickly made her way up the stairs, her brown hair bouncing. Stopping at her room, she unlocked the door and went in. It was small and quaint and just right for Annie. She waved at her roommate, Roxanne, who besides being in the medical field like Annie, was her polar opposite. She didn’t talk much, unless it was about the horrors of humanity, and she didn’t like Annie to talk to her either. She was a very different person who spent most of her time on her laptop or at the bar down the street where she worked. It bothered Annie at first, not being able to talk to her roommate about everything that was going on in her life, but despite their differences, she came to really like Roxy.

Annie was becoming more used to the silence now. She herself was usually very talkative; in fact, some might say a little too much, but being at the University had helped her with that. She no longer felt obligated to strike up a conversation with every person she saw. She did however, still ramble when she got nervous. Some habits are harder to kick than others.

Annie kicked off her shoes, plopped on her bed and stared at the ceiling, dreading the coming month. Thanksgiving was only two weeks away! She shook her head irritably. She used to love Thanksgiving, but now it seemed like the pressure to have a boyfriend was the central part of it. She couldn’t remember exactly when this pressure had begun, but she knew that it only gotten worse with time. By now, most of her high school friends from her home town in rural Ohio were either in long term relationships or married. That was one thing about living in a small town; everyone always knew who was dating who, and who was not dating at all! Annie sighed.
Maybe it won’t be that bad,
she thought.
Maybe with Zack and Jen’s new relationship still on the front pages of people’s minds they’ll just sort of forget about me.
It was a vain hope she knew, because even if everyone in the entire town forgot about Annie, she knew one person who would not; her dear Aunt Gabby. Annie smiled at the thought of her. She picked up her phone and scrolled to the number. After only two rings she heard the sweet old voice on the other end. “Hello?”

“Hey Aunt Gabby, how’s it going?”

“Oh hey darlin’, I’m fine, just peeling some apples. What are you up to?”

“Just got done with classes for the day. Thought I’d call and see how you’re doing. I hate that you’re there all alone.”

“Oh sweetie don’t worry about me. Carmen is here and she keeps me company.”

Annie smiled at the thought of Aunt Gabby’s orange and white cat sitting on the porch meowing at everything she said. “I’m glad to hear that,” she giggled.

“You’re still planning on being here for Thanksgiving aren’t you honey?” Aunt Gabby asked.

“Yes ma’am,” Annie replied. “I wouldn’t miss it.”

“Zack and Jen are coming too,” Aunt Gabby continued, “so we’ll have a full house, which will be nice.”

“Sounds good,” Annie said trying to be chipper. “Well, listen Aunt Gab, I’ve gotta run. Lots of homework tonight.”

“Alright hun, I’ll talk to you later.”

Annie hung up the phone and draped her arm over her eyes. “It’s going to be fine,” she told herself out loud. “Everything will be okay.”

“Keep telling yourself that,” Roxy piped up from across the room, her black fingernails furiously typing at her keyboard.

“How was your day?” Annie attempted a conversation.

“It sucked, as usual.”

“At least you have consistency,” Annie pointed out with a smile.

Roxy stopped typing to stare at her. “Positivity isn’t always a virtue,” she said cynically and went on with her typing.

Annie laughed and shook her head. She had never met anyone like Roxy; maybe that’s why she liked her. She wasn’t the same as everyone else and was okay with it. Annie wished she had that much confidence. Maybe one day she would.

 

****

             

The day before Thanksgiving Annie was getting off the plane at the Cleveland, Ohio airport. She’d made the trip several times but the holidays always made everything so much slower because of the congestion of people. She gradually made her way through the crowd to the doors where Zack and Jen were waiting for her.

“Hey! There she is!” Zack greeted her with a hug. “How’s the college life little sis?”

“It’s great! How about yours?”

Zack glanced at Jen. “Gettin’ better every day.” He winked at her and Annie shook her head. Zack was a hopeless romantic.

Annie turned to Jen and hugged her tightly. “It’s so good to see you!”

“You too!” Jen hugged her back. “The minute you get time you need to come to Boston and see our new place.” She smiled cheerfully, her blond hair and blue eyes looking bright and shiny in the autumn weather.

They got Annie’s bags loaded and began their drive back to Aunt Gabby’s, chatting the entire way. Jen’s new job as an attorney was working out well, and Zack was going to be starting his internship at the hospital the following January. Annie smiled happily for them, but as they continued going on about life and how it was better than ever, she began to realize what it meant to be the
third wheel
.

When they got to Aunt Gabby’s house, she was standing outside waiting for them. She waved vigorously and wrapped her jacket tighter as she made her way down the stone path to greet them. “Hello my darling!” she said as she hugged Annie.

“Hey Aunt Gabby.”

“I’m so glad you could all be here!” Aunt Gabby was genuine in her love for the three young people who stood before her.

“Me too,” Annie replied. “Are you sure you’re ok with me staying here? I can ask Angie if they have a couch I could crash on.”

“Oh don’t be ridiculous.” Aunt Gabby made a face and wrapped her arm around Annie’s waist as they walked to the house. “The house seems empty now that the three of you are gone. I got used to having everyone around over the summer.”

“I can smell the apple pie from here,” Zack said excitedly as he followed the women into the house. He set Annie’s suitcase on the floor and inhaled deeply. “Ahhh, home sweet home!”

“Zacky, go ahead and take Annie’s bag up to that first bedroom will you? I’ll start cutting the pie,” Aunt Gabby said with a twinkle in her eye.

“Yes ma’am,” Zack said as he made his way up the stairs.

“You two sit down and get comfortable,” Aunt Gabby told Jen and Annie, motioning to the living room couches.

“Let us help,” Jen began.

“No, no,” Aunt Gabby said, holding up a hand. “Sit like I told you to. You can hang your coats, scarves and whatnot there on that coat rack.”

Jen and Annie smiled but obeyed as they removed their winter apparel. They made their way to the living room and sat down on a couch, facing each other and already engaged in deep conversation.

“So how do you like Boston?” Annie asked. 

“I like it more than I thought I would. It’s a beautiful city and,” she caught Zack’s eye as he walked in and sat on the couch opposite them, “the company isn’t bad either.” She smiled at Zack and he winked back at her.

“Zack do you want my seat?” Annie asked sarcastically. “I can see I’m not going to want to be between you two.”

“Just wait until it’s you,” Zack teased back. “Being in love does things to your brain that you can’t explain.” He and Jen shared a few more looks until Annie surrendered. “Alright,” she said laughing and holding her hands up, “you guys do what you’re going to do. I’m going in the kitchen to help Aunt Gabby.”

“Oh Annie, you don’t have to leave,” Jen started.

“I know.” Annie smiled at her. “But it’s okay, really. You guys stay in here and hang.”

Zack didn’t need any more convincing. He quickly moved from his position to the seat next to Jen. “Don’t mind if we do,” he said, pulling her into a kiss.

Annie left the room shaking her head as Jen pretended to be upset with Zack. “Anything I can do to help?” she asked as she walked in the kitchen.

“Nope, I think I’ve got it.” There were four plates filled with apple pie on the counter. Annie smiled in anticipation. Aunt Gabby’s pie was known for miles around and Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it. She helped carry the plates into the living room and there they all sat, eating pie, sipping wine, and catching up on all the gossip going on around town. Annie couldn’t remember a pre-Thanksgiving that was this nice. At least, not since her mother had passed. When she was alive it seemed every day was a special one. The first few holidays without her seemed so dull and lifeless, almost as if there was no point in carrying on with the celebrations. But over time the agonizing pain turned to an ache, and as Annie thought of her mother now, more than five years later, she could only remember the happy times. Now, with Jen here, they seemed complete again, and she had a feeling this holiday season would be a memorable one.

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