During the hardest years of my life, Samantha Benson was my shining light. The one person that understood my pain. The girl that lent an ear or shoulder when I needed it most.
She was my best friend.
And this summer would change us forever.
Release date: September 4, 2022
Publisher: Between Words Publishing LLC
Print pages: 56
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Sweetest Devotion: A Devotion Series Short Story
Fifteen hours on the road over two days was worth every muscle spasm, horn honk, and dispute over where to stop for decent food or a clean restroom. Because finally, we reached our destination.
Mom parks in the driveway of the cedar-shingled cottage we will call home for the next seven days. A vacation to celebrate my twenty-second birthday tomorrow. I told her a trip wasn’t necessary—twenty-two isn’t one of the major milestone birthdays, not like eighteen or twenty-one—but she refused to listen. Neither would Ma. In fact, both were adamant about celebrating me as much as humanly possible. I indulged them.
Dr. Tiffany Page and Eliza Warren. The best two mothers a guy could ask for. Two of the most incredible women. They spoil me—more with love, but also with gifts—because of my rocky past. Although unnecessary, they feel it is their duty to make up for all the atrocious things my birth parents did during my adolescence.
Just having them in my life, though, is all I will ever need. Their constant love and support and positivity is the beacon I never knew I always needed. What would always bring me back to the light.
And Samantha. Sam. The most extraordinary girlfriend. A woman I am damn lucky to call mine. A remarkable woman that healed my heart while I healed hers.
I peek over at her as she unbuckles her belt and shoulders her purse. Her messy dark locks mask her profile, but I easily picture the excited smile on her lips. The gleam in her eyes. I live for that smile, that shine.
She opens the car door and slides out of the SUV. When I don’t join her after a beat, she peers back into the car, brows pinched together. “You planning to stay in the car?” she teases.
Unbuckling my belt, I exit the car and sidle up to her. Inhale her sweet magnolia scent and close my eyes briefly. Get lost in her presence and warmth.
Will I ever get my fill of her? Nope, absolutely not.
“Nah. Was caught up in you is all.”
Her hand slaps my bicep playfully as she rolls her eyes. “Always trying to sweet-talk me.”
“Is it working?”
Twisting into my frame, she hugs my side and kisses my cheek. Warmth spreads from where her lips touched my skin to the center of my chest. “Always.”
Ma walks back to the car from the cottage. Excitement lights her expression while the idea of time away relaxes her frame. Much as she loves her job, she doesn’t grant herself time off often enough. Neither does Mom. Which is why I would never deny them family trips, no matter how old I am.
“You two gonna stand there gawking outside all day?”
“No, Miss Liz,” Sam says as she follows her to the back of the car.
Ma comes to an abrupt halt, spins to face Sam and the two almost collide. Bringing hands to her biceps, Ma holds her at arm’s length. “I know you mean well, but please, for the love of God, call me Liz or Ma. We’re not strangers. You can drop the Miss business. Makes me sound old or snooty.”
Sam winces and it is adorable as hell. “Sorry, Miss…” She clamps down on her lips, takes a deep breath, then starts again. “Sorry, Ma. Old habits.”
With a gentle smile and a pat on the arm, Ma says, “I know. They’re not bad habits. But you’re family. No need for formalities.”
Sam is family because she matters—to me, and to our unconventional family. Fingers crossed, one day I hope to call her family for an entirely different reason.
We lug the suitcases from the car and wheel them inside the cottage. From the outside, the place appears small and quaint. The perfect place for a getaway. Enough room to sleep and dine and not much else. Stepping inside, I’m reminded to never judge something or someone by outward appearance. Because the cottage exterior is an illusion compared to the grandeur within the walls.
The cottage is spacious and bright and open. Floor-to-ceiling windows inhabit each room and gift us a view of the evergreen-lined beach. Invisible from the street view is a lower level with bedrooms facing the coast. A wraparound wood deck with Adirondack chairs allows for the perfect view of the sunset. Which I plan to watch with my girl every night.
Down a short hallway, I steer us into the smaller room on the right. Deposit our bags on the bed Sam and I will share while here. Step to the window and take in the scenery. Breathe deep and try to settle my nerves.
This vacation was planned to celebrate my birthday, an occasion I never enjoyed until my moms came into my life. But that isn’t what has me on edge. I have other plans mapped out this week. Plans that scare me to death.
Warm hands wrap around my waist, followed by a kiss on my upper back. I blanket her embrace with my arms and hold Sam impossibly closer to my frame. Bask in her warmth and touch.
God, I love her.
“It’s beautiful here,” she whispers as she rests her cheek on my spine.
“It is.” I lift her hand to my lips and kiss her knuckles. “Let’s unpack then go exploring.”
She nods and reluctantly releases me from her hold.
We unpack our suitcases, stash our clothes in the closet and dresser, and toiletries in the en suite bathroom. With our belongings in their temporary home, we wander back to the open living room and kitchen at the heart of the cottage. As expected, Ma is in the kitchen unloading the cooler and organizing the space. Mom has already cozied up on the chair near the window with a book.
“Is it cool if we take the car and go explore downtown?” I ask Ma as I snag a banana from the counter.
Scooping the keys off the counter, she hands them over. “Only if you’ll do me a favor before you return.”
She hands me a slip of paper and cash. “Stop at the market for a few things.”
My eyes drop down to the list and note that a few things equal twenty-plus items. Not that I expect less. I can’t argue, though. Nor would I want to. I owe these two incredible women everything and more. They rescued me from hell.
Mom marks the page of her book and joins the conversation. “Oh, and let us know what shops and restaurants you find. Or if you want to have your birthday dinner at one of them.”
Sam and I start for the door, get within two feet of our getaway, and Ma chimes in again. “Ooh. See if they have a farmers’ market too.” A dreamy look steals her expression. “I love farmers’ markets.”
I reach for the door handle and twist. “I’ll keep ya posted,” I say as I all but shove Sam out the door. “We’ll be back.”
Soon as we hit the deck and the door closes behind us, I sigh and Sam chuckles. I love my moms more than anything, but sometimes they make me delirious. I hope to not be as needy—or excited about groceries and produce—in my midthirties. Then again, life could be much worse.
Unlocking the car, I open the passenger door for Sam then dash around to the driver’s side, hop in and crank the engine.
I twist to face her after adjusting the mirrors. “Ready to explore?”
My favorite smile dons her face as she takes my hand. “I’m ready for everything.”
Me too, sweetheart. Me too.
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