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Authors: Heidi McLaughlin

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Fiction

Finding My Way

BOOK: Finding My Way
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FINDING MY WAY

THE BEAUMONT SERIES

by Heidi McLaughlin

Other Books by Heidi McLaughlin

The Beaumont Serie
s

Forever My Girl

My Everything
– A Beaumont Series Novella

My Unexpected Forever

Finding My Forever

Lost in You

For Grandma

Each day I wish you were here, just so I could hear your voice and see you smile.

Chapter 1

Liam

S
enior year. Today’s the day that starts it all. The one-day I’ve been looking forward to since my freshman year. Three weeks ago I started my last year of high school football, once again taking the helm behind center as the starting quarterback at Beaumont High. This is my second year as captain, earning the title at the end of my sophomore year. That alone is an achievement. Most of the time, the outgoing seniors give the honor to juniors, but not that year. My father said I should’ve had it my freshman year especially since I was leading the team. He’s always like that though. Westburys are the best at everything they do. According to my dad, no one is on the same level as us. It’s not something I agree with.

I rest my hands behind my head and stare at my ceiling. Mine and Josie’s names are written in glow in the dark paint just above my bed so it’s the last thing I see before I close my eyes at night. She did this over the summer. She stood above me in her tiny cut-off shorts with her long, tan legs straddling me as she stretched her arms above her head writing on my ceiling. I did what any normal red-blooded male would do – I sat up and bit her ass and tried to get her to stop what she was doing so she could focus on me.

I love this girl. Josie Preston. We’ve been together since our sophomore year. I remember asking her to homecoming on a whim. I then made a mistake and told her I’d call her that night but couldn’t because my dad was on my ass about football and homework. The next day she wouldn’t even look at me. It killed me inside. I didn’t know what to think, but knew that Josie was going to be someone special. I just never realized how special. I can’t imagine my life without her now.

I’m not afraid to admit that I’m whipped. When you have someone as sexy as Josie Preston on your arm, you’re bound to do anything she asks. Everything about her makes me crazy. If I’m not staring at her long legs, I’m playing in her brunette locks. I love that she enjoys running and wants to stay toned. Her eyes, they’re the gateway to her soul and I can stare into her blues orbs until she pushes me away. Most guys balk, but not me. I love her and I know she loves me. We’re going to spend the rest of our lives together whether my parents want me to or not. I’m not like my father. I refuse to turn my nose up at people who have less than my parents. Material possessions don’t mean anything if you don’t have someone to love and share life’s experiences with.

I listen carefully for my dad to leave the house. I’ve been setting my alarm so I can get up and practice my guitar without him being home. I know my mom knows. I’ve seen the hallway light come on and the shadow of her feet stop at my door. She won’t knock or even ask me when I am coming down for breakfast. She’s operating under the
if I don’t ask my son a question I won’t have to lie to my husband
policy. It doesn’t bother me, not anymore. After years of her being despondent I’d probably be shell-shocked if she actually opened her mouth to ask me a question.

This house is strictly football. Day in. Day out. Even when I’m playing baseball, football is the focus. I don’t mind, but there are other things I want to try. One of those things is taking a music class, but my dad approves my schedule. All the classes I take are NCAA regulated according to the clearinghouse. A strings class isn’t on the approved list, I know because I asked my guidance counselor. It was a long shot, I knew that, but I still tried. Now I’m self-taught.

I get up and move slowly in my room. In my closet, deep in the back behind a few boxes, hides my acoustic guitar. I bought her at a yard sale and had her tuned up at the local music shop. She’s a Yamaha with a spruce top with a rosewood fingerboard and bridge. My favorite part is the tortoiseshell pickguard. It makes her look old and used. Since then, I’ve been practicing each morning after my dad leaves for work before my day needs to begin. That was six months ago.

I haven’t told Josie. I plan to. I’m just waiting to finish a song so I can show her how the music I create makes me feel. She’s the only one that will understand. She’s the only one that will appreciate what I can do. I want her to see that there’s more to me than being QB1 and captain of the football team.

Carrying my guitar to my desk, I pull out my chair and sit down. I slide the drawer open and pick up the yellow notepad that I’ve been taking notes on. I don’t really know what I’m doing. Aside from playing the piano when I was younger, it’s foreign to me. But I’m willing to learn and teach myself until I can get to college and find a tutor. My dad won’t be able to stop me then. I’ll be on my own. I’ll be able to roam freely around campus and do what I want, when I want. My only concern will be Mason. He won’t understand. He doesn’t have much, but what he does have, his father works hard for.

Mason Powell and I have been best friends since I can remember. We’ve always played football together and he’s always been on my left. He’s my running back and a damn fine one at that. He’s also the reason I noticed Josie. He’s been dating her best friend for a bit longer than Josie and I have been together. The summer he started dating Katelyn, I left for football camp. He was so pissed, but got over it quickly. When I came back he pointed out Josie and I was smitten. I just had to get up the nerve to ask her out.

Mr. Powell is someone I respect. He’s there every game, rooting on his son. Mason can run for ten yards or a hundred and his father will be outside the locker room with the biggest smile on his face, waiting with open arms to give his son a hug. I want that. I’ve wanted that for so long. I don’t know when I realized I’d never have that relationship with my dad. Seventh or eighth grade, maybe? My memories run together now when I try to think about it. I can’t remember a time when my dad hugged me, instead of only handing me piece of paper telling me everything I did wrong.

After my games, he’d sit down and go over and over the list until I was a walking mantra of his advice. He’s Sterling Westbury, he knows everything, even if he couldn’t finish out his college career. Westburys excel at everything they do. And if that’s the case then I’ll succeed at learning how to play this guitar and I’ll create music that everyone will love, even if it’s only Josie that I’m playing for. If I can make her smile with music I’ll be on the right path.

I strum the strings, closing my eyes as I take in the melody. In my head, when I imagine what it should sound like, it’s soft, romantic. I know I’ll achieve that sound, it just takes time. I love that when I play my guitar she sounds like she’s talking to me. She’s telling me a story and each note is a letter or a word that I need to decipher. I need to decode her to figure out what makes her tick and she’s just waiting for me. Together her and I are going to create a masterpiece, we’ll create magic, happiness.

I play a few more chords before picking up my pen and writing down some words. I can’t call them lyrics, not yet. I’m not there. These are just words. Feelings that take control of my body every time I think of Josie. Each song I’ve tried to write is about her. One day I’m going to get it right and she’s going to sit on my bed and I’m going to surprise her.

My parent’s bedroom door opens and closes. I count her steps and watch the shadow of her feet as she stops in front of my room. I like to think that one day she’ll knock, but it won’t be today and not likely tomorrow either. I could engage her in a conversation and maybe she’d ask me how I’m doing or how things are with Josie, but she’d just stare and smile softly. She’s a robot. A shell of who she used to be. My dad did this to her. He comes home late. He’s demanding and ignores her. He’s the poster child for a shitty husband and father, but she doesn’t leave him. She won’t. Bianca Westbury likes the prestige he brings to her: The country club, dinner parties and gala events. Those are the things that she looks forward to and when she doesn’t have one to prepare for, she drinks until she’s numb and walking through a fog.

She continues down the hallway and I wait until I hear the water running for her coffee which she’ll be adding Baileys to. Everything has booze in it and I’m sure she’s oblivious to the fact that I know this. I’ll go down in a minute for breakfast and pretend like today is just like any other day, except it isn’t. It’s one hundred and eighty days until I graduate and can start packing for college, that’s when the real countdown will be begin. Josie has one of those eighteen-month calendars and the last days in July are marked in red. I’ll leave then, for some college, away from her.

Chapter 2

T
he traffic to Josie’s house is heavy, which makes no sense since she lives three blocks from me. But those three blocks can stretch on. It always does on the first day of school and even though I’m heading in the wrong direction there’s no way I’m letting my girl ride the yellow submarine. I rest my head on the back window and tap on my steering wheel. I’m currently stuck behind said yellow submarine while we wait for the train to finish crossing. You’d think the rail company would make a conscience effort to make sure the train doesn’t interrupt school traffic, but no. It’s like this every morning. Tomorrow, I’ll just have to leave earlier.

My dad detests that I pick Josie up every day, but I don’t care. I stopped caring after he called her trash our sophomore year. He doesn’t get it. Not everyone has to be like him. Hell,
everyone
I know doesn’t want to be like him. I know I don’t want to. I just want to get through this year, go off to college, do my four years and get drafted into the NFL. The day I’m drafted, I’m asking Josie to marry me. It might be a few days later after I get paid, but I’m buying her the biggest diamond ever. I’m going to let the world know that she is mine.

When I finally had enough nerve to talk to Josie that day before football practice I was so nervous that she’d turn me down. I was just a pimply teen going through bodily changes that I don’t want to mention and I had no clue how to talk to her. I had to ask Mason for advice because he had spent the summer messing around with his girl and Josie’s best friend, Katelyn Cohen. I felt stupid and if I’m honest, a little bit embarrassed. I mean, I should know this shit, shouldn’t I? Still, Mason’s words of wisdom worked.

Shit hit the fan when Sterling found out I was taking Josie to homecoming our sophomore year and since then it’s just gotten worse. Josie rarely comes over and when she does, he’s not around. I look forward to him going on business trips. The peace and quiet is a welcome relief. Even my mom is visibly relaxed when he’s not around.

The school bus finally moves across the tracks allowing me to get to my girl. She’s waiting on her front step with her arms bent and resting on her knees and her fingers playing with her lips. Tomorrow she’ll be in her sassy little cheerleading uniform, which drives me insane. I can’t keep my hands off of her and I can’t keep guys from staring at her.

As soon as I pull up, she’s standing and shouldering her bag. I wish she’d wait for me to come get her, but she says we’ll be late if I do that each and every time. She doesn’t understand that she’s worth being late for. I lean over and open the door for her and watch as she jumps in, dropping her bag by her feet. I grab her hand and pull her to me, cupping her face so I can taste her delicious lips. I can’t get enough of her. I’m sure it’s not healthy, but I don’t care. I need her like I need water.

“I missed you, Josie.”

I feel her smile against my lips and know today is going to be torturous. “I saw you yesterday.”

“It’s not enough. Let’s runaway together.”

Josie laughs and pulls my hand away from her face. She threads her fingers in with mine and snuggles into my side. This is where she belongs, next to me. She rests her head on my shoulder as I put my truck in drive and take off down her road.

“You didn’t answer me.”

“About what?”

“Running away together. We should do it. We should leave Beaumont and go someplace where no one will know us.”

“What about Katelyn and Mason? We’ll miss them.”

I set my hand down on her knee and give her a gentle squeeze. “They can come too.”

“And college and the NFL?”

I smirk as I look out the window. “You’re right, baby. We’re living the American dream right now, aren’t we?”

Nothing is said the rest of the way to school. We have a plan and sometimes I think she’s afraid to deviate from said plan. My path has been chosen for me and while I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given, I can’t help but wonder what else is out there for me. For us. Are we destined to be what I made her into? She’s captain of the cheerleading team this year. We’ll be homecoming and prom king and queen this year. There are expectations and we’ll follow them because we’re both afraid of letting people down. But Josie could’ve been something different. I never stopped to consider her dreams. I just expected she’d be a part of mine and we’d be happy. But what if she’s not?

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