Excerpt for Never Say Never (Resetter Series: Book 2) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Never Say Never


By


Brenda Barrett


Published by Jamaica Treasures at Smashwords:

Copyright 2017 by Brenda Barrett


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Prologue



Summer 2000



"Skyler Porter, is it?" Mrs. Beckett, the human resource director looked over her glasses at Sky and then down at the resume in her hand before Sky could answer.

"You have an MBA from Harvard?" The lady looked up at her again. "How old are you?"

Sky resisted the urge to roll her eyes and point out that her age was at the top of the document.

"Twenty-two," she replied in a well-modified tone.

She needed this job—if she had to suffer through obvious questions she would suffer through them. She had no idea why Jefferson Pharmaceuticals called her at the time they did even though she had not applied for the job. Nevertheless, it was an answer to prayers because she was at a crossroad in her life.

She had the option of staying in the States with her cousin, Addi, and find a job in New York, or return to Jamaica. The decision had been made for her with an invite to a job interview.

"How did you do it?" Mrs. Beckett leaned back in her chair.

"Do what?" Sky thought that she had missed something.

"Finished your undergraduate degree by twenty and your MBA by twenty-two?"

"I just worked hard," Sky said. "I did more courses than the usual in my undergraduate studies and graduated with a perfect GPA and then went to Harvard Business School on a scholarship."

Mrs. Beckett smiled. "I am impressed."

"Thank you." Sky nodded. She was now warming up to the stern looking woman.

"As you know this is a family owned company. Travis Jefferson is the current president of this company. His father, Manuel, started out selling cough syrup. Since the eighties the business has grown exponentially.

"We are the leading pharmaceutical company in the Caribbean. We are a large company and we continue to expand everyday. This position of Business Development Manager is a senior management position, Miss Porter.

"Unfortunately, you have no experience whatsoever. You have a very nice degree, no doubt, but I am afraid that I can't in all good conscience recommend you for this position..."

Sky couldn't believe what she was hearing. She had not applied for this position. She had not even heard about it until she was asked to send in her resume. And now, after scraping together her airfare and spending her last dollar on an expensive suit, she was told this madness. Now, she would have to report the bad news to her father who had so exuberantly greeted her at the airport.

He had been excited at the possibilities of her living back home and closer to him. She was going to have to burst his bubble.

Sky got up slowly, disappointment ricocheting through her like fireworks.

Did this lady think that she had just been hanging out in Kingston? Did she have any idea how far she was coming from to be having this failed interview?

They could have done this over the phone!

"I am sorry Miss Porter." Mrs. Beckett held out her hand to be shaken.

She didn't look sorry.

Sky looked at her outstretched arm and for a split second considered being rude, but she didn't. She shook the lady's hand and searched for something to say that was pleasant, something that didn't scream her disappointment.

The door to the office was unceremoniously opened before she could formulate a word and a rather handsome guy pushed his head around the door.

"Oh good, she is here. Send her to my office Bertha, will you?"

Sky frowned and looked from Mrs. Beckett to the mysterious gentleman.

Mrs. Beckett looked miffed. "But I already checked over her resume as you asked me to, sir, and I think..."

He came into the room fully. He was tall—over six feet. He had dark nutmeg brown skin and jet-black wavy hair, which was brushing his collar—some of it was falling in his chocolate brown eyes. He was the definition of tall, dark and handsome.

He pushed his hand in his suit pocket and looked at Sky for longer than was polite and then back at Mrs. Beckett.

"This interview was supposed to be a formality, Bertha. If I didn't have that meeting I would have been around to welcome Sky into the Jefferson Pharmaceutical family."

And then his magnetic brown eyes were eating her up. "I am sorry for the misunderstanding, Skyler." He moved from the doorway and advanced to her with a smile in his eyes.

"My name is Travis Jefferson. Will you be so kind as to walk with me to my office?"

Sky nodded as if she was in a daze. He called her Sky with a hint of familiarity that was puzzling and exciting at the same time.

This was the Travis Jefferson, the head of the company. She had no idea he was so young, maybe early thirties and no idea that he was so attractive. Sky tried not to stare when she walked closer to him. She could smell his cologne—something earthy.

She had the insane urge to stop and sniff him. Instead, she concentrated on looking professional and followed him to the bank of elevators. His office was three floors up from where she met Mrs. Beckett.

He stood apart from her in the elevator and stared at her as if he wanted to say something.

Sky felt a bit self-conscious. She suffered through his silent regard and then followed him through the carpeted hallway and into his office.

Up here in the hallowed hallways of richness was obviously where the executives resided. Every door had a name embossed in brass, each of which had a VP of whatever on it.

His door was wider than the rest. There was a sub-office before another door. A lady who Sky assumed was his secretary was sitting at a desk. She was on the telephone.

"Hold my calls, Betty, and no visitors," Travis said before they headed to another door, which Sky assumed was his office.

The office was large and tastefully done. One section of the wall was made of stone, with little niches in the wall, which were filled with flowerpots with bright looking plants—each blooming a different color.

A small conference table was at one end and in the middle was his desk. There was a patio filled with plants and a view of the mountains in the distance.

"Nice." Sky looked around. "This is a dream office."

Travis indicated for her to sit in a seat across from him and then he leaned over the desk smiling. "I have been keeping track of your educational pursuits, Miss Porter."

"You have?" Sky was trying not to act surprised.

But he could see that she was.

He scratched his head and then laughed. "My God, it's going to take time explaining this to you."

"What are you going on about?" Sky asked frowning. "Do you know me from somewhere?"

He smiled. "I believe I do, Miss Porter. Not from some other place but some other time."


Chapter One


July 1995


"I can't believe I lost my books in the fire." Sky sat down heavily on the bed beside Addi. "My Econ texts could have gone up in flames for all I care, but my future book, the one that I had recorded the future prices of stocks and shares, is gone.

They had gotten the call last night from the security company that the hardware store was on fire.

This morning there was nothing left of the place. Where there once was a huge warehouse was now a big black hole of nothing.

Sky wished that she hadn't left her stuff there the night before. She had been working part time at the store for the summer. Today was supposed to have been her last day.

Except there was no store.

It was a good thing she had handed in her Economics assignments for the first summer session or she would have been in deep trouble.

"I wish you had remembered that last night was the night of the fire, Addi," Sky said morosely. "Why didn't you write that down, record it for future reference, that would have been perfect!"

"I began losing the memories shortly after coming back. By the time, I thought to write down anything significant, I didn't know what was definite anymore. I am so sorry Sky. I did tell you about the fire in '95, didn't I?" Addi sighed. "I wish you hadn't taken your book to the store. Why did you take it there anyway?"

"I was copying the stuff to a new book." Sky felt a very real urge to cry. "I had stuff in there pertaining to '95.

"Now I am going to have to live my life like an ordinary person. Working summer jobs and applying for scholarships because I lost my future book with all my glorious future stock predictions. I had plans, Addi. I was going to be rich by twenty and retire by twenty-five."

"Hush," Addi said gently patting Sky on the shoulder. "It's not the end of the world. The good news is nobody was at the store when the fire started."

Sky sniffed and then stood up. She was going to mourn in her room in her empty soulless house.

"Whatever Addison!"

"Wait!" Addi held on to her hand. "I have something to tell you. Now please, promise me that you will not explode."

Sky squinted her eyes and looked at Addi. They were both eighteen, but Addi was the calmer of the two. Sky was prone to volatile bursts of emotions. She was known to cry broken heartedly, laugh loudly, and generally enact whatever she was feeling with gusto.

Addi was not so out there, with her feelings or reactions. She had it all together. She was calm, mature and took things in stride. Maybe that was a left over from her time traveling.

"No." Sky answered. Addi had always had it together from they were tots. She on the other hand was a volcano waiting to erupt.

"Well," Addi cleared her throat, obviously trying to choose carefully what to say.

"You know when you went to college last year, I applied to some colleges too?"

"Yes. So?" Sky knew she wasn't going to like where the conversation was going. She could see it from Addi's body language that she was expecting an overreaction from her.

"Well, Grandma Wallace filed for us. Mom and Dad said they wouldn't be leaving this year. Daddy said he is not sure he will ever be going. He doesn't want to leave Uncle Stan to run the business alone.

"Mommy said she is not leaving Daddy so..."

"So?" Sky wanted to squeal get on with it.

"So I guess I will be going alone," Addi said quickly, looking at Sky as if she expected retribution. "I have three college acceptance letters. I am thinking of taking the one to New York University."

Sky sat down on the bed again, feeling shell-shocked. "But this year you are supposed to join me at Mount Faith University!"

"I don't want to," Addi said stubbornly. "I am leaving, Sky. I think this is the best thing for me. I was thinking of doing psychology. I could live with Josh. He is in New York doing internship at a tech firm."

Sky exhaled noisily. "But what about me? Have you thought about me? When you leave Jamaica I'll have no one."

Addi covered a snort. "Sky, you have your dad and... Monica and your new baby brother, Michael."

"Good gosh, don't remind me about them," Sky muttered crossly. "Dad and Monica are caught up in a world of their own. If I disappeared now they wouldn't care. Dad only cares about his new offspring—his long awaited son."

Addi chuckled. "You love your baby-brother."

"Well..." Sky's heart softened somewhat. He was a cute child. And sometimes she did think of him as the sweetest baby on the planet.

Her father and Monica Campbell from next door had started hitting it off almost as soon as the ink was dry on her parents divorce papers. Two months after the divorce, they were married.

One year later they had a child together and her father was acting like a first time father.

It made her feel left out somehow. Monica was a lovely woman and quite accommodative, she had to grudgingly admit. Sky didn't feel comfortable in her house on the hill. Even after eighteen months she still thought of Monica as 'the lady next door', even after her father moved in with her.

Their home was not hers. After coming home from school she spent most of her time with Addi anyway.

"And you have Aunt Ivy," Addi said haltingly because she knew that Sky did not really have Ivy as a viable parenting option or even as a friend.

Sky glanced at her. "You know my mother is crazy. I can't have a regular conversation with her. Besides, any day now she will be going back to England to live."

"Well, there is always my mom and dad." Addi shrugged. "They are not leaving. They'll be right here. My mom is already talking about rebuilding."

"But they are not you," Sky said bitterly. "You deliberately and willfully want to leave me, Addison Porter. You are the worst cousin in the entire world."

Addison got up from the bed and stretched. "I am sure there are other cousins worst than I."

Sky laid back in the bed and looked up at the ceiling. "I am not looking forward to going back to school in two weeks then. I was hoping you'd be there. Now my life sucks big time."

Addi chuckled and unraveled her hair from her messy top bun. "You'll be fine."

"No I won't be fine." Sky turned on her back and hit the bed. "I won't be okay ever again."

Addi turned on the radio to drown out her tantrum.

"Hear this!" Addi pinched her. "This is your new jam, Waterfalls, TLC."

Sky grunted. "There is nothing, nothing at all that can make me happy again."

"So why is your feet moving up and down in tandem to the music?" Addi asked as she combed out her hair.

"It is a nice tune," Sky looked at Addi grudgingly. "This changes nothing. You are still the worst."

Addi didn't answer she just gave her a smirk and continued combing out her thick long hair.

Sky got up and stuck her face beside Addi's. They looked nothing alike except for the nose. They both had the Porter nose, short straight with a little flare at the end. That was where the similarities ended.

She wore cinnamon shade makeup for her lighter skin. Addi wore brown sugar for her darker complexion.

Sky had freckles along her nose bridge, little discolored imperfections that increased with exposure to the sun. Addi's skin was smooth and even toned. She rarely needed makeup and she surely didn't need mascara, she had thick stumpy lashes that looked like perfect little fans.

On the other hand, she had brown hair and not in a shade that was remarkable in her eyes either. She was going to put a rinse over it. She didn't like it. It was nowhere near as luxurious as Addi's.

Addi's hair was jet black, thick, long and looked like a lions mane when out. Whereas she had to use volumizing sprays and potions to have even half the body that Addi had. She resented her curls and would have gotten it processed a year ago except that her only time with a flat iron had her hair looking thin, long and lifeless more than she was comfortable with.

Addi was quite obviously the better looking of the two of them in her humble biased opinion. She made crossed eyes and pushed her tongue out at Addi. Then she felt like a cow for comparing herself to her cousin.

She slumped dramatically beside her.

"You are leaving because I am totally ugly aren't you?"

"Yes." Addi laughed. "I can't bear to see your ugly face any more."

"And I have no boobs," Sky said despairingly.

Addi was in hysterics. "Yep. I am going to pursue an education away from here because you have no boobs."

"No Addi and no boyfriend." Sky groaned. "My life sucks."

"Your life is fine." Addi turned to Sky. "Stop feeling sorry for yourself. It's unattractive."

"I am unattractive," Sky muttered, "that's why I have nothing."

"You know very well that you are gorgeous." Addi shook her head in exasperation. "And you have your whole life ahead of you filled with glorious possibilities. I don't have a boyfriend and my life is quite fine."

"You don't have a boyfriend because you like Randy Vassell and nobody meets up to chocolate coated Randy." Sky stuck out her tongue at Addi. "You two were a thing in another time. Remember?"

"Shut up." Addi scowled. "I don't remember many details. I wrote stuff down but..."

"You wrote stuff down about you and Randy but you didn't write about the fire or any significant financial details we should know!"

Addi nodded.

"I take it back," Sky said in exasperation. "You are not the mature one."

Addi inhaled, "I didn't think my memories of before were going to be relevant to us now. Everything changed for the family. You were the one with the financial details and all of that. There was no need for me to write down anything."

Sky grimaced. It was true. She had confidently assured Addi that she would take care of them financially with all of her information.

Look at her now. No book. No nothing.

"Randy doesn't talk to me anymore," Addi said defeat in her voice. "It is one of the reasons I am going too. He just stopped corresponding. He used to send me a card for my birthday, he doesn't anymore!"

"Because you told him to stop. There is just so much a guy can take. You pushed him away." Sky elbowed Addi. "Josh told me that he is working in Kingston as a junior accountant. Why don't you stay in Jamaica and go to a school in Kingston, so you can be near him? You guys could get it on again."

"Nope." Addi shook her head. "I am going to New York."

"Wrong stupid answer." Sky got up. "I still think you are the worse yet."

Addi grinned. "I have a feeling by the end of the semester when you find a boyfriend and you get obsessed you'll be asking who is Addison again?"

"Not likely." Sky muttered. "Not at all likely."


Chapter Three


January 1996


"Heard they replaced old Dr. Mathers this year. There goes my easy A in International Marketing." Emma, her old roommate and now classmate said as she sat beside Sky. "The man was blind as a bat, and slightly senile. The university should be ashamed of themselves for letting him go for as long as he did."

Sky laughed.

"So who is the new teacher?" Emma grunted as she slapped her knapsack on the desk. "I hope it's another senior citizen with sight problems."

"Don't know." Sky yawned and pulled her hoodie over her hair and crouched down further in her chair. "One Dr. Jefferson or something. Wake me up when he is done."

Emma chuckled. "Too much partying in the old year, huh?"

"No." Sky cracked one eye opened. "Well... a little. My cousins came from New York and I was very instrumental in planning my neighbors wedding. The bride is a dressmaker and we thought that we should do an elaborate dress. She looked gorgeous. It was fun."

"Good for you." Emma grimaced. "I flunked three courses last semester...have to take them over this year. My mother spent all Christmas talking about it. You would believe that I had murdered someone or something the way she kept carrying on."

"You were a little wild last year with the constant partying." Sky pointed out gently.

"I was not wild. I was a totally normal teenager with an unusual amount of freedom and like thinking friends." Emma huffed, "I don't know how you took ten courses."

"By not partying." Sky smirked, "and having zero social life. I want to get out of here. Not prolong the pain."

"You didn't fail any of the courses did you?" Emma asked hopefully.

"No." Sky shook her head, "A for every single one. Sorry to be so good at the school thing."

Emma snorted. "Yeah, you are forgiven. So where are you living this semester?"

"Off campus, in the town. A relative of my mother's has an apartment there. It's empty so I got the go ahead to live there and drive her car too."

"Cool." Emma widened her eyes. "Super cool. I wish I had a set up like that."

Sky nodded. "It's a nice place—two bedrooms. Each of them with their own bathroom. Bungalow style. Each apartment has a view of the pool at the back."

"That's totally wasted on you." Emma sighed, "I would have parties every weekend. Pool parties."

Sky shook her head. "No parties, unless it's okayed by the other residents. I am afraid it's not a place that's party friendly."

"That's totally your speed then." Emma straightened up when the classroom door opened and then widened her eyes in disappointment. "He's young and disabled!"

She spoke so loudly that the man who had wheeled himself in the classroom looked up to where they were sitting and nodded.

"Yes. I am disabled. Thank you for that observation Miss...?"

He was looking at her. Sky sat up straighter. "I er...It wasn't me."

"Okay, Miss It Wasn't Me."

The rest of the class chuckled.

He moved around to the desk putting a stack of books on it and then introduced himself. "My name is Travis Jefferson. I am sure I will get to know your names by the end of this semester."

Sky didn't dare make eye contact with him. She was feeling embarrassed. All through the first hour she kept her head down.

Emma leaned in to whisper to her near the end of class. "This guy is fine. It's a pity he is in a wheel chair. How old do you think he is?"

"I don't know," Sky mumbled. "Stop talking."

Emma wasn't listening though. "Seriously Sky, he looks a little like an Indian Superman, don't you think? A dark honey Christopher Reeves with brown eyes. Look at the cowlick and the jaw line. We have ourselves an undercover superman."

"Shut up!" Sky growled a bit too loud.

Travis Jefferson looked up at them from his place in front of the class and then spun closer to the edge of the dais. "You have something to say to me, Miss It Wasn't Me?"

"No er..." Sky swallowed. He was pegging her for a troublemaker; Sky could see it in the narrowed gaze thrown at her.

She groaned inwardly. This was not going to be an A class for her. Superman hated her.

She vowed not to sit beside Emma for the rest of the semester. Maybe she would sit farther in the back.


****


Travis wheeled himself to his van, maneuvered himself on the ramp and secured his chair to the driver's side of the vehicle. He always felt a tinge of thankfulness when he thought about the freedom of driving a car for himself, living on his own and pursuing a career. A decade ago when he was bed ridden, all of this was not an option.

A tap on his window had him winding it down and staring at the teacher outside. One year ago he would have eagerly wound down the window and smiled at her. Today he didn't, Amelia Perkins was on his list of persons to avoid.

"Hi Travis," she smiled at him. Her smile perfect. "We are having a get together at my place. It's a back to school kind of thing and a meet and greet for the new lecturers in our department. It's at eight. You remember where my place is don't you?"

"Yes," Travis nodded, "but I am afraid I can't make it. I have other plans."

"Are you in pain?" She asked concerned. Looking him over, pity in her eyes when she looked at his lifeless legs.

"No." Travis gritted his teeth. "Rich cripples can have plans too."

She gasped. "Travis, when are you going to allow me to forget that silly conversation from last year? I didn't mean it when I called you...a...cripple."

Travis grimaced. "I took no offence to that Amelia. It's the truth. What I took offence to was you inferring to your friend, Sandy, that I could be dateable because I am tied to the rich Jefferson's.

"You said, and I quote, 'Travis has two things going for him, the fact that he is good-looking at least from his waist up and his family's millions. Ooh, those millions, I would date a cripple to get close to those millions."

Amelia closed her eyes in mortification. "That wasn't a conversation I ever, ever wanted you to hear. We were just girls having fun saying stuff."

"I know." Travis nodded. "It's amazing the things you can hear when people don't know they are being listened to."

He wound up the window in her face and started the vehicle.

There was no denying it, he was still smarting from the overheard conversation. He backed out of the parking lot and wondered when he would stop feeling the twinge of hurt he felt when he heard Amelia discussing him with her friends so crassly.

To her it had been last year, something to be dismissed. To him it was just six weeks ago. And he was feeling particularly bad about the whole conversation because he had feelings for her.

He had been prepared to let her in, to trust her, to consider a relationship with her. That was a huge step for him. He hadn't had those thoughts about anyone for years.

He had thought that his heart had died with his legs. But it hadn't died; he had just chosen the wrong woman to consider offering it to.

He backed out of the parking lot and headed home to his apartment. He hadn't been lying to Amelia when he said that he had plans. It was his mother's birthday; he had to give her a call.

It was also his fifth year anniversary of being an independent adult. It had taken him years to convince his overprotective mother that he could live on his own.

Better than convincing his mother was convincing himself that he was worthy of the opportunity to be alive, because he shouldn't be alive. It was his fault that he was in this wheelchair.

He often thought of his wheelchair as punishment for his sins. His prison.

All of the things that he had taken for granted before the wheelchair he was so appreciative for now.

He had not thought that his legs were a blessing until he lost the use of it. Just the simple act of running, of wriggling the toes in warm sand of exercising and feeling his leg muscles burn.

Just the very thought of feeling his legs.

He turned the car into the apartment and greeted the security. Someone was parked in his parking place.

His space was right before his apartment, it was wider than usual so that he could maneuver his chair out of the van and straight to his door. He had chosen the corner apartment for that reason.

He didn't want to blow the horn; it was six in the evening. It would be inconsiderate to the other residents in the building.

But who would be so stupid as to park their car in the furthest spot from the rest of the parking spaces.

Who would be so utterly foolish that they would park in a space with an obvious disabled sign... he felt himself getting angry and then calmed down.

There were twelve apartments in the compound. Eleven of them were currently occupied. The apartment to the right of his was usually empty. For the five years he had been living there he had met the owner once. A fast talking lady named Corvette or was it Yvette?

The door opened and a girl stepped out in a short shorts and a slouchy blue sweater.

He wound down the window. "Is this your car?"

She jumped and then turned to look at him like a deer caught in headlights.

"Yes," she nodded vigorously, "it is."

"Can you move it?" he asked impatiently. "It is in my parking space."

"Oh, sorry. I am so sorry, Sir!" she said a mortified tone to her voice, she moved closer to his side of the car and he saw that it was his student from today.

The pretty one, the loud one that he had called Miss It Wasn't Me. What was she doing here?

He hoped that she wasn't going to be living beside him. He didn't like having students in his space. They were usually noisy and untidy and didn't know how to respect boundaries.

And this one, he couldn't remember her name was obviously one of the popular outrageous ones. She had legs that went on for days, a smooth honey complexion and curly brown red hair that was perched on top of her head in a casual topknot.

She probably would have a boyfriend coming over at various hours of the night and an assorted batch of girly friends crowding the swimming pool where he took his morning swim.

He watched as she backed out of his space and then he drove in. He waited for the ramp to be lowered and then he wheeled himself out and headed to his door.

She was parking in the proper designated area for her apartment. He waited for her to come out of the car.

Curiosity was getting the best of him. He had to find out if she was going to be his neighbor. If she was he had some ground rules to lay down. First one was not to park in his parking space.

She came out with a box in hand, slammed the car door and armed it.

"Sorry again Mr. er Dr, Jefferson. She wasn't making eye contact with him. She fuddled with the door and almost dropped her box.

He wheeled closer to her. "Let me help you with that." He indicated for the box and she looked at him half scared.

"It's okay," he held out his hands. "I won't drop your box."

She reluctantly handed it to him and pushed the key into the door and opened it after two tries.

"So you'll be my neighbor?" He asked the obvious question. He had taken a look in the box. It was filled with cleaning supplies. She had probably just moved in.

"Yes," she said shyly. "My mom's cousin Yvette owns this place. She is gone to Italy for a while."

"I see." Travis nodded. "What's your name again? I had four new classes today. Quite a few names to remember and since you are going to be my neighbor I can't keep calling you, Miss It Wasn't Me."

"My name is Skyler Porter," She said smiling at him. "I really didn't mean to..."

"That's okay Miss Porter. Apology accepted. I hope I won't have any problems with you being my close neighbor. I hate loud noise and parties, the walls are not as thick as I would like."

"Oh no, I don't do parties," Sky said hurriedly, "I study a lot. I really don't have a social life."

"We'll see." Travis handed her the box and wheeled himself to his door. "Have a good evening Miss Porter."

"You too, Dr. Jefferson," She said quickly. He heard when she closed the door. He suppressed a laugh—she only studied and didn't have a social life. Yeah right.



Chapter Four


Sky spent most of the first week back at school flitting from class to class without a breather. In the nights she cleaned the apartment room by room. Yvette had not had anyone clean it for what seemed like years. The furniture had layers of dust, the bedding and sheets were musty and the refrigerator, though it looked new was not working.

She had three different repairmen coming by to look at it. The last one, a cocky self-assured guy named Brian, who looked a lot like the boxer Mike Tyson, announced to her that it was an easy fix.

He flirted with her mercilessly and smacked his lips in an obscene manner when he spoke to her. Thankfully he solved the mystery of the refrigerators malady. Though she nodded while he elaborated on the mysterious problem, she had no clue what he was talking about.

All she could think was, why on earth didn't he hurry and leave?

She let him out of her place close to midnight on Friday night, after he tinkered with the back of the fridge and got it working again.

She was very grateful to him for the fix, and even more grateful when she heard what he was charging. She paid him quickly, all the while thinking of all the things that she was deprived of not a fridge for a week.

She could cook and have leftovers and drink cool water and she could have her chocolate bars rock hard instead of room temperature.

"Say, want us to do something tonight?" Brian intruded on her thoughts.

He was standing too close when she let him out of the apartment. Sky hadn't even realized it at the time. The guy had no concept of personal space.

His casual invitation to go out with him was not welcomed. What on earth made him think that she would be willing to go anywhere with him?

"No, I am good," she said briskly.

Brian scowled. "What's wrong with you, don't like blue collar workers?"

"I just don't want to go out with you." Sky scowled back at him. "I had a stressful week at school. All I want to do now is go inside, put my chocolate bar in the fridge and wait for it to harden and then eat it...slowly."

Brian laughed. "I like you."

Sky rolled her eyes. This guy was not going to take any rejection of him seriously.

"I would probably like you, if you weren't coming on so strongly."

"It's my thing, you know." Brian winked. "I see a pretty girl like you I just have to get a word in, make myself memorable."

Sky considered rolling her eyes and then decided not to. Brian looked as if he had a chip on his shoulder a mile wide and he looked as if rejecting him with a no would not cut it.

Sky sighed. "I have a boyfriend, Brian. I can't go out with you."

"Who?" Brian asked crossing his arms over his chest and showing off his bulging biceps.

Sky considered going inside and slamming the door in his face, but she had a funny feeling that this level of persistence would not be solved with a simple slam of the door. She imagined he would keep coming back and hounding her to go out with him.

"Why do you want to know who?" Sky asked frowning. "How is that any of your business?"

"Because women lie," Brian said smugly, "and if you really don't have a guy you are fair game. I like you, I am going to pursue you, wear you down. You'll see what a great guy I am when I am done."

Sky shuddered, and it wasn't from the chilly January night. It was the thought of Brian hounding her, maybe for the next year and a half she would be living in Mount Faith. She wracked her brain for a name. She didn't have any single guy friends.

"I don't think I should tell you," she tried hedging, "he's ah..."

"Married?" Brian asked raising an eyebrow.

"No." Sky frowned, "he's ah..."

"Invisible?" Brian was enjoying watching her squirm.

Sky looked out at the parking lot in front of the house in defeat and then she spotted Travis Jefferson's van.

Emma had been going on and on about him all week. She had even found a ridiculous article about people in wheelchairs and sex. "If you live beside him, Sky, you must find out if he's all there, down there. I wouldn't mind dating him. I don't care if he's in a wheelchair."

Sky looked at Brian and smirked. "I'd prefer not to say his name because he is a lecturer at my school."

"Oh." Brian nodded and then laughed, "nice try."

"I am serious." Sky hissed, "he lives next door and he wouldn't like me talking to you so long out here. Now go before he sees you."

Brian chuckled. "Likely story."

Sky inhaled. "Goodnight Brian. Thank you for fixing my fridge." She was about to close the door when Brian put his foot in the threshold.

"Not so fast. I was thinking we could go out tomorrow. Spend the day together. You know. Get to know each other better."

"No!" Sky said firmly, "leave me alone. Now!"

"Or else what?" Brian sneered, "Your boyfriend from next door will come to your rescue?"

Sky felt real fear at the look of determination in Brian's eyes. He was acting way past creepy.

She almost slumped on the wall in relief when she heard the door from next door open. And then she heard Travis Jefferson's voice.

"Sky, is everything all right?"

He had never called her Sky before, always Miss Porter.

"No," she almost pushed Brian out of the way and stood in the corridor,

He was dressed all in black his hair was ruffled more than usual. He looked at Brian with a frown. "What are you doing here?"

"Nothing," Brian straightened up guiltily, "I... er... thought that Sky was... er... single. I had no idea she was telling the truth. Listen man, I don't trample on other men's territory. I am a lover not a fighter. This is just a misunderstanding. Goodnight."

He walked stiffly to his car and then drove out.

Sky slumped on the wall and sighed. "Such a pity he is borderline dangerous. I think he is a good electrician. He's the only one who knew how to fix my fridge. Thank you Dr. Jefferson."

Travis nodded. "No problem. That's what boyfriends are for and he is dangerous."

"You heard the conversation?" Sky groaned, "I am so sorry. I couldn't think of anyone to use as my imaginary boyfriend. I saw your van and..."

"No worries." Travis wheeled back to his apartment. "Goodnight Miss Porter."

They were back to her being Miss Porter.

"Goodnight Dr. Jefferson." She straightened up from the wall.


****


For a full month Sky watched as he swam in the mornings. She watched as he pulled himself out of the water and into his special chair. She was fascinated with him. She had turned into a low-key stalker.

She could probably memorize his schedule by now. He swam every morning at six without fail. Her back patio gave a clear view of the pool.

She could time the squeak of his wheelchair as it progressed along the pool lounge area. There was a special place at the end of the pool where he stopped and lowered himself from his chair and into the water.

The first morning she saw him entering the pool she got anxious like a mother hen, waiting to see if he could manage all by himself. She didn't have long to wait. He was an expert at it. She felt ridiculous after that.

When had she gotten so invested in him?

The following morning she observed a couple of details as she watched him. His chair was different from the one he rode to class. He wore black swimming trunks, his legs were skinnier than his upper body, but his upper body was rippling with muscles.

When he hauled himself from the water with the help of the rails he always gave a glance at her section of the apartment like he knew she was watching.

She dismissed that idea after the first week. He didn't know she was watching. He didn't have the same kind of madness that was infecting her.

He had breakfast at seven thirty, she heard him in the kitchen banging around. He liked to listen to the BBC World News for half an hour and then he played music. He liked stuff like Enya, Sail Away and Sail On by the Commodores. He played it constantly.

She could hear it especially when he opened his patio doors. She concluded that he had a thing for sailing.

He left for school at nine, most days, except for Wednesdays.

She watched him at school. She couldn't believe that she had not seen him before her class with him. He was truly a lovely looking man.

And she was reminded of that every class because she had not quite managed to shake Emma who seemed to be as obsessed as she was becoming about him.

Wherever she sat, Emma was there with little tidbits of information.

"I found out his age!" Emma announced in mid-January. "He is thirty-one."

A week later she announced, "I know how and why he met in the accident that crippled him," Emma had told her almost panting with glee at the announcement. "I have all the scoop on him. All the scoop!"

Sky had pretended that she didn't want to hear but she had found herself traipsing behind Emma as she headed to the cafeteria like an obedient puppet and playing nonchalant as Emma scarfed down her burger and fries and told her some nonsensical story about a party that had gone wrong.

"About Dr. Jefferson?" Sky snapped in the middle of Emma's telling. "I have to go to another class."

"Dr. Jefferson." Emma looked at her smugly. "You came here for Dr. Jefferson didn't you? Not to have lunch with me."

Sky would have gotten up then and stormed off, but her curiosity was heightened. She had wondered more than once how he got injured, so she swallowed the retort at the tip of her tongue and glared at Emma.

"Yes I want to hear about Dr. Jefferson." She didn't know if her voice could be anymore longsuffering.

Emma cackled. "Good girl. It is time you admit that you think he is the finest lecturer here, wheelchair or not."

"I admit it." Sky growled.

"Now before I give you any details, you have to promise me something."

"What?" Sky looked at Emma, her eyes narrowed.

"Please, please, please let me come over to your place for the weekend. My current roommate is driving me nuts. She talks too much, she has boyfriend issues and she is constantly hogging the phone. I just want a break. Besides, I can get to see gorgeous Dr. J. all weekend. What does he do on the weekend?"

Sky gritted her teeth. "No."

"Yes." Emma grinned. "Because I am not telling you what I know until you help me."

"Okay." Sky closed her eyes and then opened them. She was going to regret having Emma over for the weekend. All the reasons why she had a problem with her roommate were identical to problems she had had with her. "Okay."

"Well," Emma said moving into storytelling mode, her eyes lit with glee. "I called a friend of mine in Kingston who knows everything about everyone and I was telling her that I had a crush on my teacher, Dr. Jefferson. And girl, let me tell you, I have enough information to fill a magazine."

"Really?" Sky asked skeptically.

"Don't interrupt." Emma grinned. "You'll love this. So, hear this, Travis Jefferson is rich. I mean rich, like crazy rich. His father is Miguel Jefferson of the pharmaceutical Jefferson's. The guy has a Caribbean empire. Anyway, Travis is his prized only son. He has like two or three older sisters or something.

"Anyway, Travis was reportedly wild. You know the kind of wild I am talking about—lots of girls, drinking and all of that jazz. He was on his father yacht one day, a couple of years ago, and some friends of his challenged him to a water ski race. Rumor has it, that Travis was drunk; the guy who challenged him was drunk too and they had some sort of love rival or something.

"They raced then collided. Rumor has it that the collision was not an accident, that somebody tampered with the jet skis. Anywho, Travis was crippled and his frenemy and love rival damaged his brain. That is why Dr. J Hotty is in a wheelchair."

"Oh," Sky nodded, "thanks for telling me."

"There's more," Emma said rubbing her hands together, "a juicy bit more."

"What?" Sky was so interested she was leaning toward Emma like a dutiful puppy waiting for the next morsel.

"He and a professor had a thing last year and they broke up."

"Which professor?" Sky asked feeling odd. Why hadn't she thought of him having relationships?

"The economics lady, the one who looks a little like Malinda Williams in that movie, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate. And she dresses like a runway model. Always matching."

"Miss Perkins," Sky whispered. "And I haven't seen the movie yet. It's not out in local theatres yet. How did you even watch it?"

"Doesn't matter," Emma said smugly. "What is important here is that Dr. Jefferson is functional. Miss Perkins looks like the type that would care about that."

"You are something else." Sky got up.

"See you this weekend." Emma winked at her. "I am taking my bathing suits."


Chapter Five


"This one or this one?" Emma came to her room door and held up two bathing suits. "I am going to meet Dr. Hotty at the poolside."

Sky peered over the sheet at Emma and groaned. "Go away."

"You know you want to join us." Emma chuckled. "Yesterday you watched him like you were starving. I saw it, don't deny it. I can't understand why you are so shy."

Sky covered her head with the blankets and listened as Emma walked away. She heard the door to the patio open and Emma's flirty laugh as she approached the pool.

She had arrived for her weekend stay from Friday. And had spent all the weekend trying to chat up Travis at the pool. When she wasn't trying to get Travis' attention, she was eating all her groceries for the week.

Sky inhaled ruggedly. That's what she got for being curious about Travis Jefferson. Emma would thankfully be gone in six hours. She had a group meeting for a project. Then Sky would have the apartment to herself. She was never going to bargain for information again. She closed her eyes trying to shut out Emma's laugh as she recounted some story or the other to Travis.

He never laughed back and the conversation seemed one sided. Good. Sky thought jealously. She wished she was as bold as Emma but she was not. She would never be. She was cured from all girlish nonsense like crushes.

Her last crush, Rusty, had been a disaster.

Not only had he been her mother's secret lover but things could have ended up much worse if her cousin had not changed events. She could have given up her virginity to Rusty. The very thought was horrifying.

Rusty was the man who would have killed her father had Addi not intervened.

Worse than that, she had spent her future obsessed with him. What could be more dismal and psychologically screwed up than obsessing over the guy who killed your father?

She hadn't said this to anybody but she was concerned that she couldn't trust herself to make good decisions. Since she heard about the decisions that she had made in another time, she was teetering on the edge of clinical self-doubt. So this fascination with her neighbor, her current lecturer was probably another bad idea.

But when she closed her eyes his face came up in her mind's eye. She was tormented about him. It was like madness. She wasn't sure that this was on the scale like a crush she briefly had for Rusty.

She got up and held her head in her hands. She assessed herself honestly. What was it that she found so fascinating about Travis Jefferson?

He was handsome, yes. A fairly good lecturer, yes. He was really strict with assignment dates and he had a sadistic streak where he gave them surprise exams. There was something about him that she found attractive. She didn't know what it was and it was driving her nuts.

Maybe it was just regular teenage hormones chipping in after a long four-year break. Her nineteenth birthday had come and gone at the end of January and she had escaped the usual pitfalls of attraction to another person.

And what a person she had chosen to be fixated on. A man that was unavailable. A man that was older than her by quite a bit, not that it was majorly significant but still...And she couldn't forget that he was physically disabled. She had never taken much notice of people in wheelchairs before Travis Jefferson.

This, whatever it was, would pass.

It had to.

She turned on her radio and headed for the bathroom. She needed to wash her thoughts away, sing at the top of her voice, start the day fresh. She usually felt energized after doing that.

Sunday morning oldies belted from her radio. She sang aloud to The Supremes, Baby Love, and then You Can't Hurry Love.

She exited the shower and wiped the steam from the glass and picked up her brush pretending to be Diana Ross. You can't hurry love oh you just have to wait...

A little mad streak had her dancing along and pretending she was eight again and entertaining the family with Addi as her faithful sidekick.

She finished with her antics when the song ended. She dried off and headed for the closet, which still housed some of Yvette's clothes. Clothes, which Yvette had casually, said Sky should wear or give away.

She had turned Sundays into Yvette's Clothes Day. Some of the outfits were very nice, others were weird, like the black jumper suit that was littered with pointy sequins that was dangerous to handle. Where had she worn them?

Sky took out a simple soft gray cashmere dress, which hugged her body in the right places and actually made her look like she had curves. It had long bell sleeves and stopped at her knees. This would be today's dress, though it was nice enough to wear to school.

She let her hair down and put some moisturizer on it, hoping that it wouldn't dry out and become frizzy. Her hair hung down her back in little red brown curly tendrils. Her real hair color was growing back from the roots with a vengeance and snaring at her attempts to hide it.

She gave her hair a little flash and headed to the living room.

Emma came racing in, her eyes dancing in excitement.

"He invited us to breakfast!"

Emma squealed. "I don't know why you but he said you should come along. I tried to tell him that you were sleeping but unfortunately you were singing so loud that the whole Malvern could hear you. Why were you singing at the top of your voice like that?"

"Breakfast?" Sky was on her way to the settee.

She froze. "In his apartment?"

"Yes." Emma ran to the guest room, "I am going to dress to the nines!"

Sky sat down abruptly. Breakfast? She was finally going to see inside his apartment. Eating with him. What kind of stranglehold did Emma have on Travis Jefferson that she could wring this kind of invitation from him?


****


Travis closed his eyes in exhaustion when he entered his apartment after his swim. He had never had such a stressful morning in all of his thirty-one years. Fending off a chattering, perplexing teenaged female had all but wrung him out. The chattering he could handle, but when Emma had walked into his apartment, apparently looked into his fridge and then declared that she would come over and fix him breakfast.

That had been too much.

He had actually considered yelling for security or squeezing the panic button that was on his chair.

Thankfully, he had come to his senses before overreacting. He had managed to see the light side to Emma's behavior. She wasn't sinister in anyway. She probably weighed a little over a hundred pounds. Coupled with her overly bright smile, she looked like a pixie.

She wouldn't do him any bodily harm; she just had no concept of boundaries. She barreled in where others were afraid to go.

He didn't want the security thinking he was a wuss that couldn't handle a girl with a crush.

The other option was to tell her firmly to leave him alone but that had not worked yesterday. She had gone blessedly silent and then started talking again.

So instead of vinegar he was trying honey. He had actually invited her to breakfast, told her he liked to prepare it himself and asked her to bring Sky with her. Sky was supposed to act as a buffer. In the six weeks that Sky was his neighbor he had not had any occasion to complain about her.

She was silent as a mouse except when she sang in the shower. She had a pretty nice voice he couldn't complain about her singing.

Except for that encounter with the persistent electrician, a couple of weeks ago, he hardly saw her outside of class.

Last week was the first time he had seen her on campus. She was sitting in the Greens on a picnic blanket talking animatedly to a mixed group of people. There were more guys in the group than girls. He hadn't missed the look that the guy to her right was giving her. He had been staring at her with adoration. Sky seemed to have that effect on men.

He had actually stopped and watched her for a while. If he were to be honest he was curious about her. He had greatly misjudged her based on her looks. He had instantly summed her up as a party girl who probably had more than one boyfriend.

Sky had debunked his theories—he had given his class two exams so far and she had completed them with grades in the nineties and she had no visitors, male or female.

Emma had just chirpily told him that Sky was dating her books and that she had more than the usual course load this semester.

He hated when people judged him based on the fact that he was in a wheelchair and yet he had had no problems summing up Sky after an initial meeting. He was remorseful about that. One thing was for sure, he was quite happy she was his neighbor and not Emma Brown.

He wheeled himself into the shower and turned it on warm.

His whole apartment was refitted for his needs; he had bought the place and extensively remodeled it. Counters were to his height; the shower was retrofitted to accommodate a wheel chair. His whole life was on a different level literally.

What would take him ten minutes before when he was on his feet, like taking a bath and getting dressed, now took him at least thirty minutes.

He showered quickly and pulled on a pair of specially designed jeans and then his grey sweater. It had been the usually cool morning. By the time he had brushed his hair and teeth and wheeled into the kitchen, it was eight o'clock.

He wasn't terribly pleased to hear Emma knocking on his patio door shortly after he had decided that cereal, toast, eggs and orange juice was all he was willing to exert himself over this morning.

His helper cooked him good wholesome dinners in the week, on the weekends he didn't pretend that he was a chef. Takeout from a lovely mom and pop restaurant around the corner usually sufficed and barring that he went light with his selections.

He reluctantly wheeled to the door and opened it, letting in an over eager Emma who was dressed as if she was going to a party. She was in a short pink dress and sky-high heels with a face full of heavy makeup.

He suppressed a groan. What he should have done after the swim was, come inside and lock the door and not answer the knock when he saw that it was Emma. He changed his mind almost instantly as Sky appeared behind her.

"Good morning, Dr. Jefferson." She held up a bottle of juice, the same type he was about to remove from his fridge. "I brought juice to contribute to... er... this invite."

"Good morning, Sky," he smiled at her taking in her simple dress her make up free face that was beaming with health and her flip-flops. She was a breath of fresh air compared to Emma.

"So TJ what are you fixing?" Emma had gone straight to the kitchen, flitting about as if she owned it.

He looked at Sky. "Don't tell me she is going to be living next door?"

Sky shook her head. "Five hours till leaving time".

"And no more weekends, please," Travis whispered. "Or I'll have to call security or take out a restraining order."

Sky laughed.

"What are you two whispering about?" Emma came around her high heels clicking on the floor.

Travis wheeled toward Emma and scowled. "I know you are hard of hearing but if you call me TJ ever again, you will pay."

Emma recoiled. He could see that she was finally taking him seriously. But then he felt really bad for saying it but he didn't dare take it back.

She withdrew like a puppy that had been freshly kicked and he had to admit he felt a sense of relief at that.


****


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