Home > Memories of You : A Stark Security Novella

Memories of You : A Stark Security Novella
Author: J. Kenner

 

Prologue


He lives there in my earliest memories. The boy next door with his quick smile and stupid jokes. We’d play tag in the cul-de-sac with his brother and the neighborhood kids. We’d look for rocks in the field behind our house, getting filthy, then splashing in the blow-up pool to wash off the grime. He was my best friend, my closest ally, the boy with whom I shared all my secrets.

He was my rock before he became my crush, the boy about whom I drew hearts on my notebook and wrote long passages in my diary. I never told him, though. I never shared that part of my heart. His friendship meant too much, and we clung to it like brother and sister over the years.

My heart broke for him when his family shattered.

That horrible D word.

Divorce.

Then he was gone. His father to one coast, and his mother to another, taking the boy I adored and his brother with her. I mourned the loss, even more so when we lost touch.

And though life went on, I can’t deny that he left a hole in my heart.

Now he’s back, and this time a wild passion crackles between us, filling me with hope and promise.

But I can see how the years have broken him, and now I can’t help but fear that the boy I always needed has grown into a man I can never have.

 

 

Chapter One


“I’m being paranoid,” I say as I walk down Wilshire toward Java B’s, a local Los Angeles coffee house that recently opened up in Santa Monica, right near my new office. “They were probably just wrong numbers, right?”

“Sure, Abby,” Lilah says, the sarcasm coming through my earbuds loud and clear. “Because that’s what people who dial a wrong number do. They don’t just hang up. They stay on the line and mouth breathe like the low-life cretins they are. And then they call a zillion more times in a two-day period.”

It’s a typical Lilah answer, and even though she’s right—I’m probably dealing with an actual creep and not a wrong number—it makes me feel better.

I ask her to hang on as I head into the coffee shop and get in line to order. She starts humming the theme from Jeopardy, and I roll my eyes and ignore her as I wait for my turn to order.

I met Lilah Barrett on the first day of my sophomore year of high school. I’d been working up the courage to tell Renly Cooper, my childhood bestie, that freshman year had been hell because I’d developed a huge crush on him. And rather than just deal with it, I’d avoided him. Not that he’d noticed. He’d been too into sports and debate and theater, whereas I was the tech geek who hung out in the STEM wing and wrote computer games instead of doing my homework.

I’d been hoping to man up and let him know that I missed hanging out with him, and that even though we didn’t live next door to each other anymore, that I was hoping we could still be friends. I wasn’t sure if I was going to own up to my crush, but Renly always had a knack for reading my mind, so I figured he probably already knew that part.

I was nervous as shit, just standing there waiting by his locker, when this fairy-like wraith of a girl came up and started fiddling with the combination lock.

“Um, are you getting something for Renly?” I’d asked.

She’d turned pale blue eyes on me, then said, “Wow, there’s a lot of orange in your aura. What’s stressing you out?”

I should have said it was none of her business.

I should have asked why she was getting into his locker.

Instead, I word vomited my life onto her, ending with the fact that I was waiting for Renly to basically tell him that my teenage hormones were under control and that I missed my bestie.

“Oh, wow. That really blows. Maybe you can track down his new phone number and tell him? Hanging on to that kind of emo baggage can really mess with your aura, and yours is already funky.”

I ignored the aura bit but dove straight to the heart of the matter. “New phone number?”

She shrugged. “They told me at the office that the guy assigned to this locker moved out of town. So I guess it’s mine until graduation. Sorry about that.”

Renly and Red had been doing the Divorced Parent Dance that summer, pushed off to stay with their dad up north, even though they didn’t want to go. It turns out that while they were away, their mom had pulled up stakes and moved herself and the boys down to Houston, which meant I hadn’t seen him since he’d left in June.

The whole situation sucked, but at least it meant that I didn’t have to pretend to be over my crush when I was around him. Not exactly a plus considering I was still missing my friend.

The upside was that I gained Lilah. And despite the fact that we’re so different—or maybe because of it—she fast became one of my closest friends.

Now we’re neighbors, too, as I rent half of a Santa Monica duplex that she inherited from her parents after they died in a helicopter crash our first year at UCLA.

“A latte?” she says once I’m back on the street. “I thought you were cutting down on caffeine.”

“No, you said I should cut down on caffeine. And I said I’d try. Today, I need frothy, caffeinated comfort.” I take a sip and sigh with pleasure. Then I frown when I remember why I need comfort in the first place.

“How many calls today?” she asks.

“Seven today. Five yesterday.”

“Do you think it has to do with Fuck Me Now?”

I hold back a snort. “That is not what the app is called, and you know it.”

“Hey, I just believe in truth in advertising.”

“That’s not what I’m looking for, and you know that too. I had that. It wasn’t what I wanted, and I wouldn’t sign up for that kind of app.” I know I sound frustrated, but it’s only because I am. It’s just so damn hard to meet anybody in this town, and I’m not interested in serial hookups or even friends with benefits.”

“You’re right, you’re right. I’m sorry. Back to the topic. Do you think it has anything to do with Tribe Find?”

“I don’t know. Maybe?” About a month ago, I decided to try out a new friend and dating app that a guy I knew in college recently rolled out. You can use it to look for new friends—finding your tribe—or to set up dates. It’s supposed to be focused on relationships, not hookups, and while online dating was never my thing, since Cedric created it, I agreed to be a beta user.

“Do folks on the app have your phone number?”

“No,” I say. “The app does, but it’s not shared. But the calls are coming to my work phone, too. Those are the ones I answer. I let unknown calls on my cell roll to voicemail.”

“You’re getting them both places?”

“Yup.”

“You went out on a couple of dates through the app, right?”

“Yeah, I—oh, hold on. It’s Darrin.”

I put Lilah on hold, then take the incoming call. Darrin is a new hire at the LA office of Greystone-Branch Consulting, Fairchild & Partners Development’s biggest client. And since I am the partner in “Partners,” I put on my office voice and take the call.

“Darrin, I’m not at my desk anymore. Did we forget something?” It’s past six on Friday, and I spent most of the morning and afternoon on a video call with him as we worked through various features they want added into some new marketing software we’re designing. The walk to get coffee was to clear my head before I take my laptop home, spread work out on my kitchen table, and dive into my backlog.

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