Authors: Coco Jordan
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #United States, #African American, #Romance, #Women's Fiction
COPYRIGHT 2015 COCO JORDAN
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission from the publisher or author. If you are reading this book and you have not purchased it or received an advanced copy directly from the author, this book has been pirated.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or, if an actual place, are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Books by Coco
A Hopeless Place (Richmond-Banks Brothers #1)
A Love Like His (Richmond Banks Brothers #2) (Releasing Jan 2015)
A Beautiful Masterpiece (Richmond Banks Brothers #3)
(Releasing Jan/Feb 2015)
A hopeless place was where I found the greatest love of my young adult life.
When I took a job as a private nurse to a wealthy white man with an incurable condition, I never expected for sparks to fly. I never expected to fall head over heels in love with him or for him to promise me the world on a silver platter.
But when false accusations were flung my way by his jealous and spiteful mother, we were forced to run away if we wanted to be together. And that's when everything changed...
Book One in the Richmond-Banks Brothers series. Intended for mature readers due to adult situations.
I couldn’t afford to blink.
Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.
My eyes fixed on the gas pump, the numbers spinning faster than I could track. A penny over ten dollars and I’d be overdrawn. Those three gallons of gas would cost me forty bucks. Forty bucks I most certainly did not have.
Blustery February wind whipped my ebony hair into my face and sliced through my coat, forcing my body into uncontrollable shivers.
Warm wool, my ass.
$8.78. $9.12. $9.24. $9.41…
I lifted my foot from the puddle of melted snow I’d evidently been standing in the entire time and watched as brown-gray slush dripped from my navy kitten heel.
I released the trigger on the nozzle, slammed it back into the gas pump, screwed the cap back on, and climbed back into my car for a little respite from the cold. I was lucky that thing started up. I hadn’t driven it all winter. I had no job, no money, and nowhere to go.
Nine months out of nursing school, and I still hadn’t found a job, though it’d been said before that the unemployment rate in Halverford, Kansas was the highest in the state. My father liked to remind me that not even the fast food joints were hiring anymore. His obsession with the economic downturn had started right about the time he lost his job at the now-defunct appliance factory.
“Amara,” my mother had called out as she returned from church that morning. Her mouth danced as she blathered out the words that would change my life forever. “We found you a job!”
Within five nerve-rackingly short minutes, I’d arrived at the Richmond-Banks estate on the west side of town, nestled deep within a cocoon of evergreens that seemed to kiss the sky and leafless grand oaks that had stood the test of time. Everyone in town knew where the Richmond-Banks’ lived, but very few people had ever been invited over. A turn of the century Gothic mansion, it was rumored to be complete with everything from a maid’s quarters to a ballroom to an English garden to an eight-car, underground garage. Someone had once mentioned it had twelve marble fireplaces and sixteen crystal chandeliers.
I parked my car in the circle drive, grateful to shut off the God-awful rumbling and ticking of the neglected engine. I was quite certain they’d heard me coming from a mile away. I climbed out, praying there would be no oil drips staining their pristine white driveway when I returned.
I rang their doorbell and waited patiently until an older gentleman dressed in a black suit opened the door. He looked like he was allergic to smiling. “You must be Amara. Come in.”
I stepped into the foyer as my eyes struggled to adjust to the darkness. Outside, it was two in the afternoon and the sun was trying its hardest to peek through the clouds. Inside, it was as dark as midnight.
“Wait here,” the man instructed.
Drawn curtains covered each and every window and ornate, mahogany woodwork covered every inch of the floors and walls. A small amount of light trickled in from a stained glass skylight a couple stories above, and the dampness in the air sent a quick shiver through my body.
“Amara Robinson?” an older woman’s voice called out, startling me from my thoughts.
The creaking of steps drew my attention to the top of a curved staircase where a lithe woman stepped out of the darkness and made her way toward me. As she floated into what little light filled the foyer, it reflected off the chilling beauty of her platinum blonde hair and icy blue eyes.
“Sterling, she’s here,” the woman called out, her eyes locked on mine. She reached the bottom of the stairs and stepped closer, extending her right hand toward me. “I’m Ingrid. I’ve heard so much about you at church. It’s very nice to meet you.”
“I’m here now,” Sterling announced, extending his hand as well. He seemed to have come out of nowhere. “I’m Sterling. Very nice meeting you, Amara.”
“We’re going to meet over here in the den,” Ingrid said, lifting a thin arm and pointing toward an arched doorway. I followed them into the dark room filled with leather furniture and an overabundance of mounted, exotic game, their expressions hollow.
“Have a seat, dear,” Ingrid said as she patted one of the loveseats. “So, I hear you recently graduated from nursing school. Are you a registered nurse?”
“Yes, I am. I mean, I did.” I tripped over my words. “Yes to both.”
“So, you haven’t been able to find work yet, huh?” Sterling mused. “Rough economy out there.”
“That’s what my dad keeps telling me,” I said.
“Well, I’m just going to cut to the chase here, Amara,” Ingrid interjected. She clearly wasn’t one for idle chitchat or small talk. “Our beloved nurse, Eleanor, who’s been with us just a hair over twenty years, just retired.”
“I guess we paid her too well,” chuckled Sterling, one hand on his globular belly. His wrinkly, golden hazel eyes met mine as his lips spread into a reserved smile.
“We’re looking for someone who’s as compassionate and selfless and dedicated to our sweet son as Eleanor was,” Ingrid said, clutching her hand across her heart. “This isn’t an easy job. Bennett’s been sick his entire life. And as his mother, I can say he’s a very bitter and resentful young man.”
Ingrid sat up straight and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear as she raised one eyebrow, as if she expected me to bolt out of there and never return.
“He’s not the easiest patient,” Sterling added.
“He can be difficult at times,” she continued. “And a bit demanding. Sometimes I don’t know whether he’s twenty-four or six.”
“I completely understand,” I assured her. “Based on what you’ve told me, I don’t blame him one bit. If given the chance to work for you, I’d not only provide him with exceptional care, but I’d also work to improve his quality of life.”
Ingrid and Sterling exchanged looks as Sterling mumbled, “Good luck with that.”
“I’ve been told I have the gift of persuasion,” I said, sitting up proudly. “I can pretty much convince anyone to do anything. And I love a good challenge.”
“Amara, are you familiar with cystic fibrosis?” Ingrid asked, studying my face.
“I am,” I said, recalling my pulmonary rotation during clinicals. “The key to caring for patients with CF is reducing their risk for lower respiratory tract infections. Antibiotics and daily percussion therapy are key, as well as regular physical activity and a healthy, high-protein diet.”
“Can you excuse us for one moment, please?” Ingrid stood up and ran her delicate fingers along her neckline as she turned to walk out, Sterling following. They returned after a few minutes of whispering out in the hallway. “We think you’d be perfect,” she announced. “Can you start tomorrow?”
“Shouldn’t we have her meet him, first?” Sterling suggested.
“Oh, yes, what was I thinking?” Ingrid said, rolling her eyes and throwing her hands in the air. “Come, come.”
She turned on her heel and made her way toward the grand staircase, her long dress flowing with each step. I followed, plunged into the dark abyss of the mansion and feeling like it could swallow me whole at any moment. As we approached the end of the upstairs hallway, Ingrid rapped lightly on the door.
“Bennett, sweetie, it’s your mother,” she said into the door. “I’m coming in.”
My heart raced a little as Ingrid pushed open the heavy wooden door. Immediately greeted with stale air, my eyes honed in on the assortment of various pill bottles lined up along his side table next to several half-empty glasses of water and a nebulizer. Remote controls, books, and a laptop were stacked neatly beside it all.
Ingrid sat on the edge of his bed and gently rubbed her son’s back. “Wake up, Bennett.”
Beneath a mountain of covers, the outline of a frail man with a disheveled mop of chocolate brown hair began to stir. Ingrid switched his bedside lamp on and he rolled over to face me, squinting as his eyes adjusted to the light. His face was gaunt and his champagne eyes rested above dark circles.
“Come closer,” he said, his gaze honing in on mine.
I took a few steps forward as he had instructed. If he wasn’t so sickly, he might have actually been attractive.
“May I?” I asked as I looked down at the bed next to him and took a seat. “I’m Amara Robinson. I’m going to be your new nurse.”
“So, you’re replacing Eleanor,” he said in even monotone.
“Yes, Eleanor was very special to Bennett,” Sterling said from the doorway. “But don’t be too quick to draw comparisons, son. I think you’ll really like Amara, if you give her a chance.”
“Amara is starting tomorrow,” Ingrid told Bennett. “We need to show her to her room.”
“Oh,” I said. “I didn’t know this was a live-in position.”
“Yes, it is,” Ingrid said, her frozen blue eyes uncompromising. “Is that going to be a problem?”
“No, it’s fine,” I replied, knowing I didn’t really have a choice. I needed this job more than they needed
to fill it.
“We gave Eleanor the maid’s quarters, but we’re going to put you in a nice guest room next door to Bennett,” Ingrid said, standing up and working her way back toward the door. “Come now. I’ll show you to your room.”
“You’ll have to get used to night calls. That’s why we pay so well. Some days you work around the clock,” Sterling explained as the three of us left Bennett’s room. “But you will get most weekends off.”
“Except when we’re out of town,” Ingrid was quick to interject. “We travel at least once a month. We have family on both coasts.”
“And of course, Bennett is unable to travel with us,” Sterling said. “So that’s why we need you here with him when we’re gone.”
“It’s not a problem,” I said, standing behind Ingrid as she opened the heavy wooden door to the room next to Bennett’s.
My mother leaned against the doorway of my room Monday morning as I packed my things.
“This is all happening so fast,” she said with a pained look on her face as she nibbled her fingernails. “I didn’t know this was going to be a live-in position. I thought you’d be home for dinner every night.”
“Mom,” I said as I rifled through my closet. “I’ll just be across town. And I’ll be home on the weekends. I’m ten minutes away. I’ll miss your cooking, but I promise I’ll be fine.”
“Do you need any more help packing?” she asked as she stepped inside and began making my bed and fluffing my flat pillows.
“No thanks,” I replied as I zipped up my suitcase. “I’m not taking much. They have a beautiful guestroom for me that’s all ready to go. I have my own bathroom and everything.”
I flashed my mom a reassuring smile and slipped my arms around her for a big hug.
“I’m happy for you. I really am,” she whispered.
“Worst case scenario,” I said, “is that I hate it and I quit and come back.”
She squeezed me with the intensity of a mother bird not wanting her baby to leave the nest quite yet. We’d gone through this a few years ago when I’d left for college. It took her a while, but eventually she adjusted.
“I’m proud of you, my sweet Evelyn Grace,” she said as she kissed my cheek. “Now, go say goodbye to your father and Alexis.”