Home > Hiding Places (Rochester Trilogy #4)

Hiding Places (Rochester Trilogy #4)
Author: Skye Warren

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

Jane Mendoza


The smells of roasted coffee and warm sugar waft over me as I step inside.

A little bell rings above the door. Dark wood furniture mixes in haphazardly with lumpy cushion chairs. Original paintings from a local artist hang on the walls with handwritten business cards beside them, with an email address and price. It’s quiet in the mid-afternoon.

A woman sits with her young child, the remnants of a muffin split between them on the table. Each of them has a book. There’s a pang of sadness inside me.

That could have been me and Paige.

A man works on his laptop. There’s a thick backpack in the seat opposite him that looks like it must weigh 100 pounds. He brings forth a different kind of envy.

I want that sense of purpose.

The barista looks up from her phone with a friendly smile. She has the kind of wispy red hair and pale, freckled skin that I’ve always admired. A small, scalloped nose ring looks effortlessly cool. “Good morning. What can I get ya?”

I study the large chalkboard menu hanging above us as if this is a more important choice than a drink. “A caramel macchiato,” I say. “Please.”

“Hot or iced?”

I press my lips together. I’m not used to ordering five-dollar lattes. I’m not used to wearing two-hundred-dollar faux fur boots. I’m not used to having a brand-new wardrobe full of perfectly fitting new clothes in every modern style.

There’s a cute retro headband in my hair. When I saw the price tag, I nearly had a heart attack. Beau Rochester doesn’t ask for permission. These clothes simply appear in my closet. No receipt, no bags, no way to send them back.

The only thing I can do is wear them.

“Iced,” I finally say.

She takes my money and then gestures toward a counter where I can wait. Her hands work efficiently at the silver levers on a complicated machine. Big rumbly sounds erupt along with a frothy drink. Someone else comes in and before they’ve even made it to the counter, the barista grins at them. “The usual?” she asks.

“God, yes,” the woman says, juggling a large tote and a toddler. “How’s Benny?”

“Same old,” the barista says.

“Well, tell him if he ever wants a job he is always welcome at the bakery. For that matter, you should come work for me too, Simone.”

Simone, that’s her name.

This isn’t the kind of establishment where she has a name tag on her green apron. This is the kind of place where everyone already knows her name, where she knows everyone’s order without them having to read a chalkboard menu.

In some ways, I fit into this new world. I have money now, and clothes that fit, but I still don’t belong. When my drink is ready, I wave my thanks and find a small table in the corner.

My tote bag contains college applications. Not one, not two.

There are over fifty in this massive stack.

I can’t decide where I want to go so I figured I’d let the colleges decide for me. Fifty applications, loads of essays. It’s a lot. Too much, even. But it’s a distraction that I need. A project to keep my heart from breaking now that I don’t get to see Paige every single minute.

The first one is a small private college in upstate Maine.

Name one person who influenced you.

My mind immediately flies to Beau, the man who rescued me, the man I rescued in return.

I also think of Noah, my friend from the foster home. He helped me more than I can repay.

In the end, it’s Paige that I write about. An anonymous little girl who started off as a nanny job but ended up stealing my heart. I lose myself in the paperwork and drain my drink down to the ice cubes. I don’t realize how much time has passed.

The bell over the door tinkles. A shadow blocks the light.

“What can I get ya?” the barista asks, the same way she asked me. This person is also a stranger. Except when I look up, he’s familiar.

Beau Rochester orders a large coffee, black.

He sits down across from me before it’s ready. “Any good ones?” he asks.

“Yes,” I say, but it’s not exactly an agreement.

He doesn’t think I should apply to 50 schools. He wants me to apply to my dream school. That’s it. I always thought that if I went to college anywhere, it would be in Texas. The University of Texas at Austin has an amazing social work division. Plus, it made the most sense location wise. The in-state tuition would have been the most affordable. So I built my visions of college around wearing burnt orange.

Dreams change. Beau taught me that. Paige taught me that too.

I can’t imagine being so far away from her. More than that, I can’t imagine taking Beau so far away from her. He doesn’t want me to compromise, but it isn’t a compromise to stay in Maine.

The barista emerges from the counter and hands Beau his coffee. He accepts it with a murmured, “Thanks.”

The barista, Simone, continues to stand there. “You’re Rhys Rochester’s brother?” It’s not exactly a friendly question, but there’s no avarice in her voice.

It strikes me that I’m not the only outsider here.

Beau was born on these shores, but he didn’t stick around. He made his fortune on the West Coast. It was his brother who stayed here, his brother who would have been known by the barista, his brother who died an ignoble death after working with a dirty cop.

We are more than outsiders in this small Maine town. We’re infamous.

Headlines splashed when a former detective was charged with Rhys Rochester’s murder.

For his part, Beau has been stoic.

He doesn’t want to talk about the fact that his brother abused his wife or the fact that he helped steal drugs and property as a dirty cop. He doesn’t want to talk about it, but it eats at him.

“That’s me,” Beau says, his expression grim.

I tense, waiting for the barista to say something sharp or condemning. Instead, she gives a friendly smile. “Tell Paige I said hi. And that I have a cookie with sprinkles waiting for her whenever she drops by again.”

Beau nods.

The barista disappears, and then I’m left with a man I love and a paper stack of possibility.

He picks up one of the papers and reads aloud. “Reflect on a time when you faced an unexpected challenge. How did you deal with it and what did you learn from the experience?” He reads my answer quietly and then sets the paper down. “Hell.”

My cheeks flush, “I didn’t think you were going to read that.”

“You couldn’t have written about the time you showed up for your job rain-logged and exhausted, and I pushed a kitten at you? ‘Keep it alive,’ I said. ‘Consider this your interview.’”

I worry my nail into the edge of the desk where the glue has started to separate. “It was intense,” I say, “but not really unexpected. I was getting paid a lot for this nanny job. It was always going to be hard.”

“Jane.”

I sigh and close my eyes. The money is incredible. He didn’t just pay me my one-year salary. He insists on showering me with money, with gifts.

He even wanted to hire this super expensive college coach because apparently that’s a thing rich people can do. The person would manage my applications, including all the deadlines and the recommendations. They would also do deep edits of all of my essays.

Hot Books
» House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
» A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
» From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)
» A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime
» Deviant King (Royal Elite #1)
» Den of Vipers
» House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)
» Sweet Temptation
» The Sweetest Oblivion (Made #1)
» Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels #6)
» Wreck & Ruin
» Steel Princess (Royal Elite #2)
» Twisted Hate (Twisted #3)
» Angry God (All Saints High #3)
» The War of Two Queens (Blood and Ash #4)