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Loving Mr. Wright (Three Rivers Book 2)

Loving Mr. Wright (Three Rivers Book 2)

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A man with a past. A woman who was tired of being single.Erica was tired of searching for the right man, she had all but resigned herself to a single life but then the mysterious Caleb Wright showed up and Erica saw one last opportunity to ditch her single life. He was perfect for her. But what was he hiding? Could his past be that bad that they could not get pass it?
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Erica drove into the shrub-lined driveway of her sister's former home and felt a surge of loneliness so palpable it hit her like a dull thud somewhere in the region of her heart. Her sister, Kelly, and her family were gone to the Cayman Islands to live, and for now, she had volunteered as their house sitter.
It was a job she was happy to do because her apartment, though walking distance from where she worked as a hotel nurse, was just a glorified studio, and she relished the prospect of living again in a real house with yard space. She glanced over at the lawn. It had just started to sprout some wayward patches of grass and already looked overgrown. A gentle breeze touched the greenery and the clumps of grass seemed to wave at her mockingly─you cannot take care of a yard as big as this, they seemed to say to her.
Erica sighed and parked in front of the garage. How would she putter around in a five-bedroom, four-bathroom house with almost half an acre of yard space dedicated to flowers and exotic shrubs?
This was a family home. She picked some lint off her jeans. In the past, she was quite happy to visit her sister and lounge on her verandah sipping drinks or scrounging around in her kitchen for food.
Now, here she was, all alone, no children to play with and no sister to argue with. She felt a gaping hole that her sister and her family used to fill. For the first in a long time, she realized that she had no life.
She worked at the hotel Flamingo as a nurse, where she dispensed painkillers and kept up with the light work. Her job now was a far cry from her duties in the surgical ward. It was now more laid back and less stressful.
That’s all she did, work, hang out with her sister's children, occasionally have lunch with her mother, and go to church. She was happily living the life of a spinster, but she had no male prospect on the horizon to get excited about, and nobody to get excited about her.
She looked down at her size 14 jeans balefully. Lately, she had been spending way too much time eating. The jeans she had on could barely fit her. She had struggled to get into them this morning, and now she was shuddering to think of how she would get out of them.
"Pathetic!" Erica muttered impatiently, taking her box out of the car and heading into the house.
The house felt empty—even though there was furniture in it—as if it knew that the rightful owners were away. She had a plan to cart over a box or two of her belongings every day until she had fully moved in.
She headed toward the guest room at the very end of the hallway upstairs. She was used to staying in that room when she visited in the past, and she always thought that it was cooler than the rest of the rooms in the house. It had a balcony, which had an unobstructed view of the town of Ocho Rios. She gazed out of the window for a while and then sat on the bed, staring into space.
Maybe she should call her sister and let her know that she was just starting the moving-in process, but then again, they had left just one week ago. She had been speaking to Kelly at least twice per day, asking her questions about Cayman, hanging onto her every word. She needed to get a life apart from her sister and her family. As the older sister, by four years, she had always thought that she would be the first to get married and have children. But she was, still single and for the first time in a long time, she felt the first stifling stirrings of unhappiness grip her heart; that feeling, that everybody in the world was happier than she was. She thought she had quenched these feelings a long time ago.
She grabbed her cell phone and punched in her mother's number. The two of them were unusually close for a mother and daughter, maybe because she had nobody else to hang out with. All her friends were married or had children and were too busy raising their families to care about her. Usually, she was okay with that, but today she felt slightly down because of her situation.
The phone on her mother's end rang for a while, and then a breathless Lola came on the line. "Erica, I thought you would have been down here."
"Where?" Erica frowned slightly. "What are you up to?"
"I'm at church," Lola said, "getting my heart checked, my blood pressure checked and doing an eye test."
"What for?" Erica asked puzzled.
"The medical professionals from church, are doing a free day," Lola said exasperatedly. "Were you not at church when it was announced? Shouldn’t you be down here helping? Aren't you a medical professional?"
"Oh, I forgot all about it," Erica said sullenly. "I was just moving in."
"Aah," Lola said soothingly. "You are feeling a bit down."
"Yes," Erica mumbled. "I am missing Kelly and the children a tad bit more than I should. I suddenly feel as if I have no life."
"Do you know what a good remedy for that is?" Lola asked sweetly.
"What mother?" Erica asked suspiciously, "get married, and have my own babies?"
"Nooo…well yes," Lola laughed. "I was thinking that your present situation could be remedied if you come and help out down here. You don’t have to go to the hotel until in the evening. Come on down and take your mind off your empty nest."
"Okay," Erica sighed, "might as well."
When she drove into the church parking lot she had her car's AC on full blast and was reluctant to get out of the car. For some reason this summer felt like the hottest on record. However, the full parking lot was an indication that the heat was not a deterrent to people attending the health fair. She could already see, from her vantage point, several white round tents with signs on the white flaps announcing various medical procedures. The parking lot did not have enough space though, and several tents were pitched on the church lawn.
Erica grimaced. Hyacinth Donahue was going to have a fit. Her precious heliconia flower leaves, which she maintained as a matter of pride, and which made for a very colorful hedge, were being used as temporary umbrellas and fans.
There were long lines in front of each tent, and persons were milling around with small packages in hand. She spotted a health food tent and vowed to check it out. Maybe it was time she started eating healthier. The thought made her gag a little, but enough was enough; she hadn’t gotten this big because she was eating healthily.
She pushed her hands into her white overcoat; even the short sleeves felt hot.
"Sister Erica, so glad you are here." Dr. Mansoon grinned when he saw her. "You forgot about this, didn’t you?"
"Yup," Erica nodded, grinning back at him. "I was talking to my mother on one of my routine calls to her and she reminded me."
"Well," Dr. Mansoon patted his shirt pocket and dragged out a badge with her name on it. "You are not the only one who is missing in action today. I have three more badges. We assigned you to the eye-care booth for routine eye tests. Get to work, Nurse." He gave her a mock scowl.
"It seems as if the whole town is here," Erica said taking the badge from him.
He grunted and then spun around when somebody shouted his name. "Got to go."
Erica nodded and made her way to the eye-care booth. It was routine and slightly boring work for her.
Her small booth was supposed to be manned by two nurses, but when Sister Darcy saw her coming, she handed the clipboard to Erica and explained the routine. "When the nurse from this booth detects that something is seriously wrong, send them to that booth." She pointed to an adjoining booth. "Write your findings and the doctor over there will take it from there. Simple." She then gave Erica a smirk and said, "Gotta run…have things to do."
After the long line receded from her booth, and mercifully, the sun had retreated behind an ominous looking cloud, Erica sat gazing over the parking lot. The community had taken advantage of the church's initiative to provide free health care. It was something that the medical professionals at the church had wanted to do for a long time.
Erica could barely remember discussing this venture at the last meeting. At the time she had been distracted by her sister's unfortunate situation.
She still couldn’t believe that Kelly had been brave enough to have had an affair and then had her lover's baby. If she had a husband like Theo she would never, in a million years, have looked at someone else.
She always dreamed of marrying a man like Theo, a man who loves his woman with such a deep abiding love that nothing could shake it.
She exhaled. She was happy that Theo took back Kelly after her extramarital affair, but she still shuddered to think of the long-term consequences that the affair would have on the family.
Maybe it was better for her to remain single and unattached than to go through the emotional wringer that relationships seem to offer. She had tried to be the perfect girlfriend to two men in the past, but both times she had to leave the relationship broken hearted.
She had known Corey from high school, and he had been her first love, but he left her when she became a Christian. "Can't handle the rules," he told her sheepishly. "Christianity is a bag of rules, and I am a free thinker."
She moped around for years after that, yearning for a stable Christian man to recognize that she was wife material. Then she met Jay-Jay: Jason Jolly.
He was handsome, had a good job and seemed God-fearing. He had proposed to her on a Tuesday night. She had just gotten off shift from her job at Three Rivers Bay Hospital, and he had gone down on one knee.
The Wednesday morning his wife had called her, asking if bigamy was no longer illegal in Jamaica. Erica had been shocked. It had taken her the better part of her thirties, when she still had a semblance of a waist, to get over Jay-Jay.
Now here she was, single and lonely. The kind of loneliness that usually had a single woman of thirty-five—with no real prospects—feeling that she had to do something about her situation.
Obviously, Mr. Right was nowhere near her radius.
"Why are you frowning, Sister Erica?" Phoebe stood before her, smiling.
"Oh, hi Phoebe," Erica grinned at the younger girl. Phoebe was gorgeous, had smooth golden skin, long wavy black hair, perfect teeth, tall and shapely but for some strange reason the men of the church avoided her like the plague. Her beauty would draw them like a moth to the flame, but a few days in her presence and, one by one, they would slink away in fear.
Phoebe was the church pariah, and as Sister Freda would put it, "There was still justice in this world," because one by one unattractive single women were marrying while Phoebe remained curiously unattached.
Phoebe sat down across from Erica and looked at a folder. "The welfare division of the church is catering for this event, and we would like your order. We have several vegetarian options and fish."
"Fish," Erica said conclusively. "Don’t need to hear the vegetarian dishes."
"Okay." Phoebe scribbled the information on paper.
"I heard that Sister Kelly and the children left last week."
Erica nodded. She was reluctant to talk about Kelly with anybody at church, even if it was in answer to innocent queries.
"I think Pastor Palmer is a very good man for staying with her."
Erica shrugged. "It's their business."
Phoebe nodded. "True, but the church felt cheated that they did not hear the whole story or that we couldn't have a say."
Erica widened her eyes. "Why should the church have a say in the lady's business?"
"What our pastor does is our business," Phoebe shrugged. "We were concerned."
"He is no longer your pastor," Erica scratched her chin, "no need for them to publicize their life to all and sundry."
"Well, what I really wanted to know…" Phoebe cleared her throat, "is Elder Chris over Kelly?"
Erica laughed. "Phoebe, you are something else."
Phoebe shrugged. "I knew you wouldn’t tell me anything, but now that he is free, can I have a go at him?"
Erica couldn't contain herself. She got up from the chair and started to laugh so hard several people stopped to see what was so funny.
Phoebe calmly sat in front of her and watched Erica until she calmed down.
"You are a riot," Erica wheezed, wiping the tears from her eyes. "Didn't you stalk Chris for a whole month until he came to church and publicly asked you to leave him alone?"
Phoebe smiled. "He called it stalking. I called it checking him out."
Erica gave Phoebe an assessing look. "You need to let men do the chasing for a change, Phoebe. Just look at you, when you walk into a room, women move closer to their men and men can't help looking at you with their mouths opened, but here at Three Rivers, you have such a bad reputation that the men have vowed to stay far from you. That is not normal. The pretty girl should be able to pick, choose, and refuse who she wants to be with. You are an exception to that rule."
Phoebe twirled a strand of her hair. "I don’t like just anybody. He has to be tall, handsome and rich. Did I say rich?"
Erica nodded. "You did."
"That's why I convinced Sister Freda to put a singles section in the church newsletter with a picture of the single person and their occupation. I wanted her to put their income, but I guess you can't have it all."
Erica grunted, "Why are you so gung-ho to get married? You are just twenty-three. I am thirty-five, and I am not married. Do you see me going around moping about my singleness?"
"That's because you had Sister Kelly as a distraction," Phoebe said smugly. "Now you are just like the rest of us—single, working at a job which you have a love/hate relationship with, sitting in church week after week, trying to convince yourself that being single is okay and that you don't want anybody, and you are quite happy the way you are.
When deep down," Phoebe grinned wickedly, "you fear that one morning you will wake up and look in the mirror and see white hairs popping up all over your head, your waistline has expanded, your childbearing years are over, and you are still lonely and single and poor."
Erica stared at Phoebe in horror. Well, she had thought about that on more than one occasion, but not the poor part. She did not have Phoebe's unholy fascination with money, but the lonely and single part was spot on.
She was just in her thirties, and that wasn't old. However, which woman wouldn't think about being lonely while staring at the slippery slope of the big four-oh.
Apart from that, the church brethren were notorious for shoving the —you need to settle down—spiel down her throat.
"Well, I … I have thought about the fact that I have no real Christian prospects but, I would not even think of going outside the church to look for a spouse…too many things to contend with. I think life is easier when you have a man who fears God, don't you think?"
Phoebe nodded. "My point exactly. I could be married by now, but I am still holding on for a good Christian man who is not a womanizer, rich like Midas, and handsome as a Nubian prince."
Erica chuckled. "Maybe we should start a singles club, where we share our pain."
Phoebe sat up straighter. "Maybe we should, but that would do me no good. In case you don’t realize, I am not the most loved person around here."
Erica grinned. "I wonder why."
"Stupid men get insecure when I ask them about their income and what their prospects are for a promotion." Phoebe shook her head in disgust. "I have never understood why that is so offensive. Would they rather I act all coy and innocent? I don't want to know what their favorite color is or which movie they want to watch. I want to know if I can have a comfortable future with them. Every woman wonders about that, I am just outspoken about it," Phoebe said heatedly.
"All right, all right," Erica said, "take it easy."
"Anyway, enough about that. I was wondering," Phoebe, looked at Erica earnestly, "what are you doing tonight?"
"Well, I was planning on hauling two more boxes of my stuff to Kelly's and then watch re-runs of The Cosby Show."
Phoebe sighed. "Sounds boring. I can think of something infinitely more interesting."
"What?" Erica asked curiously.
"We could go to Great Pond Church. They are having a musical evening with their all-male chorale."
Erica snorted. "I am not groupie material, Phoebe. I am overweight, almost middle-aged and too cynical."
Phoebe shrugged. "You are never going to find someone if you don't go visiting other churches. Besides, you are not that bad. You have blemish free skin," she squinted her eyes and looked at Erica contemplatively. "Your face is not that plain, you have an attractive dimple when you smile, and your eyes are slanted just a little at the sides to look a tad bit exotic."
Erica nodded. "Go on. I am liking this."
"Your uhm… your hair is thick and bouncy and curls along your ear attractively."
Erica laughed. "Curls along my ear, I can work with that."
"Your eyes are slightly bloodshot, but when clear, they look intelligent, and there is a smile lurking there. I think your body can use some serious work, but that's just me. Lots of men claim that they like full-bodied women."
Erica groaned. "You were doing so well until you started on my body."
"You are good-looking, okay," Phoebe said exasperatedly. "The things people have to say to get a drive to Great Pond. If I had a car I would not be complimenting you so long and working so hard."
Erica grinned. "Well, you did a good job. I'll pick you up at six."
Phoebe got up hurriedly. "I've got to go take the orders for the other people. Okay, six it is. I'll be waiting out at my front gate, so try to come on time. I have a new neighbor who is trying to get my attention, but he is unemployed. Don’t know why he even bothers to try."
Erica rolled her eyes. "Okay ma'am, six it is."