Home > When I Found You (Silver Springs #8)

When I Found You (Silver Springs #8)
Author: Brenda Novak



   The old Victorian looked nothing like the pictures she’d viewed online.

   Dr. Natasha Gray sighed as she stood in the entryway, peering at the place she’d rented, sight unseen. No wonder her landlord had been willing to leave the key in the mailbox. She’d assumed it was because the town was so safe he wasn’t worried about someone else finding it. Now she understood that a key wasn’t necessary—a large window on the side had been broken out. Although the hole had been taped off with black plastic, the barrier would do little to stop anyone who really wanted to get inside.

   “This is where we’re going to live?” Her six-year-old son, Lucas, had slipped past her and was turning in a circle, surveying the dilapidated interior.

   She could understand his disappointment. Living here would be different, in every way, than what they’d known in Los Angeles. There, they’d had a nice upper-middle-class home in the suburbs. This was an old, one-of-a-kind house located in a small town ninety minutes to the northwest of the sprawling metropolis they’d called home, with the town’s main drag in front and a small patch of worn grass in back. But it was all she could currently afford. And they were far enough from where they’d lived before that she’d no longer have to face the stigma of everything that’d happened this past year.

   “This won’t be so bad once we get it fixed up,” she heard herself say, but she’d expected much more after seeing the darling pictures online. They must have been taken a while ago, because it was obvious the house had been vacant for some time. Whoever had cleaned up the glass from the broken window had left footprints in the dust on the hardwood floor.

   “Who will I play with?” Lucas asked.

   Since there were only commercial businesses in the immediate vicinity, they’d have no neighbors—none with children, anyway. “Silver Springs might be small, but there will be other kids,” she told him. “You’ll make friends once school starts.”

   “When school starts! It just got summer,” he said in a sulky voice.

   She tamped down her own disappointment. “It’ll be fall before you know it. You’ll see.”

   The way he shoved his hands in his pockets and bowed his head let her know he wasn’t even slightly mollified. But she hadn’t asked for what’d happened; she and her family had been victims of it. The nightmare that had destroyed her practice had also wiped her out financially and proved to be the death knell for her marriage.

   But there were others who’d been hurt—and some of them had suffered much worse. She couldn’t think of them without wanting to cry.

   If only she could’ve figured out what was going on sooner...

   “Why can’t I live with Daddy until school starts?” Lucas asked.

   Natasha wished she could let him. As much as she’d miss him, she had no doubt spending the summer with his father would be easier on him—less lonely—than spending the summer with her in this strange new place. His father didn’t give him a great deal of attention. Ace never had. But Lucas would have been able to associate with his grandparents, who were more hands-on, and some of his friends had he stayed in LA. Natasha might’ve considered leaving him with his father for a month, just so that the summer wouldn’t seem so long and lonely for him. Except she and Ace had lost the house when her practice failed, and he’d made it clear that there wasn’t room for Lucas to stay with him in the condo he was now sharing with two roommates—not permanently. Visits would be crowded enough.

   “I’d rather you stick with me and we both get settled here,” she said. What else could she tell him? Not only had Ace agreed to let her move to Silver Springs, he’d only requested two weekends a month and every other holiday for visitation. Natasha suspected her ex preferred to be free to play the field, so he could find another woman.

   “But I don’t like it here.” Lucas pinched his nose. “It stinks.”

   He was right. The scent wasn’t strong, but it was distinctive. “Smells like a skunk to me.” Had one died under the house? She couldn’t say until she looked, but she wasn’t ready to brave what she might find under there, not when the part of the house that was supposed to look good didn’t. “A thorough cleaning will make a big difference,” she insisted.

   The dust and dirt she could contend with. Natasha was more worried about the integrity of the roof and the rat droppings she spied in one corner. Did they have a rodent problem?

   This was hardly the sanctuary she’d envisioned. But since when had anything ever been easy for her? With a mother who’d dragged her all over hell when she was a child and consistently put her own needs first, Natasha had always had to fend for herself.

   She’d get through this, too.

   “Maybe you should play on the porch while I sweep,” she said.

   He peered out the door. “When will Uncle Mack be here?”

   “Any minute.”

   “Uncle Mack” was driving the rental truck that carried all of their belongings, other than what she’d been able to squeeze into her car. He wasn’t really her son’s uncle. As far as she was concerned, a long-ago marriage that had, for a fleeting time, joined her family with his didn’t qualify. It wasn’t as if they’d grown up together. He’d been twenty-five when they first met, and she sixteen. Neither did they get together for the holidays or anything like that. His father was just another man in the long line of men who’d been in her mother’s life, except that he’d had five sons who’d stepped in to help her at a critical point when she was a teenager.

   But she and Mack had always struggled to figure out exactly what role they should play in each other’s life. Ever since she’d lived with him and his brothers before she went to college, she hadn’t had a lot of contact with him, especially since her son was born. So she’d been surprised when he’d called, out of the blue, and insisted on coming to help her move.

   No doubt he’d heard about what’d happened to her practice and her marriage and felt sorry for her. She hated being the object of his pity, once again, especially after all she’d done to make something of herself. Not only had she put herself through medical school, she’d survived the insanely long shifts required during residency—while raising a young child, no less—and, after eleven years of pushing for all she was worth, had finally achieved her dream. She’d become a pediatrician and started her own practice—only to be leveled just when she’d thought she was home free.

   “He left when we did,” Lucas said.

   “He can’t travel as fast in that big truck,” she explained. Her son had taken to Mack instantly. Maybe it was because he’d lost his father and his friends all at once, but the relationship worried her.

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