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CASH - Part 4 of the HMB Doggie Series

By Sarah Gage All Rights Reserved ©

Drama / Romance

Chapter 1

My breath catches in my throat. If I’m not careful I may just drive my car right off the highway.

I’ve been driving for three days straight and to finally see the ocean is like this little miracle I never thought would actually occur. The waves look huge. I never understood the idiocy that came with being a surfer but upon seeing this huge expanse of glistening blue water, I can start to see the appeal. Maybe I’ll take up surfing…

I hear my husband Trevor’s voice in my head saying, “You’re an idiot, Gage. You’d kill yourself.”

As if he’s actually sitting in the car with me, I can’t help but roll my eyes.

Never again do I have to deal with his condescending, demeaning words and that alone makes me want to burst into song.

The reason I’ve been driving for three days straight is because I left my husband back in Texas.

Remember that Julia Roberts movie “Sleeping With the Enemy”? Well…my marriage was kinda like that. Except he never really threatened to kill me and I didn’t fake my own death. I just left.

The rundown is that he’s not a very nice man, and that’s putting it nicely. If I’m being brutally honest, I’d say he’s a dickless, hopeless, worthless piece of shit who drinks too much and beats on me like I’m a punching bag and then expects ample amounts of sex which I always gave him because I didn’t want another fist across my face. As it is I have a nice shiner highlighting my left eye from when he came at me right before I left.

I’ve been planning this escape for months, however. Since I run my own online fitness coaching program that he had no interest in, it was easy for me to start stockpiling money away into my own secret account. I trashed all my credit cards, blocked him from all my social media accounts, changed my phone number and deleted my email account. On my way out of town I stopped by our bank and took out my share of our savings, which I thought only fair because I wasn’t allowed to spend it in the first place. Maybe it was kind of a dick-move, but I can’t muster an ounce of give-a-shit.

Half Moon Bay, California is the exact opposite of the land-locked Dallas I’m coming from. I’ve done my research on this place and it looks like somewhere I can start my new life and be happy for a change. It’s small, it’s cozy and it’s right on the ocean, a luxury I haven’t had in eight years.

My GPS dings and then squawks at me to make a left at the next light, effectively taking me into the heart of Half Moon Bay.

Main Street is absolutely adorable. Trees line the streets, stylish storefronts scream money and people mill around laughing and talking. No one is rushing from one place to the next. This slower pace is something I’ll have to get used to, I realize.

I turn down a side street and drive a few more blocks. When my GPS tells me I’ve arrived at my destination I almost can’t believe my eyes. Sure…I’ve seen pictures of this house, but seeing it in person makes this new life real and I can’t keep the stupid grin off my face as I get out of my SUV and head for the front door.

The house is a one-story cottage tucked back behind a white-picket fence. It’s siding is white shiplap and there’s even little window boxes underneath the two large windows that sandwich the front door. The landscaping is minimal, which I appreciate because my green thumb hasn’t been green for years. The roof looks brand-spanking-new and even the walkway up to the front door is paved in that quaint cobblestone that reminds me of nymphs and fairies.

It’s so different from my gigantic, 3,000 square foot monstrosity in Texas.

I love every square inch of my new life so far.

I knock on the front door and wait patiently, looking out over what will soon be mine. My heart lifts.

The door opens to reveal a sweet-looking older lady wearing a housedress, complete with apron. She pushes her glasses up her nose as she smiles at me.

“You must be Gage McGhee, yes?” She extends her hand, trying not to stare at the bruise decorating my face. I appreciate her efforts.

“Yes, hi. And you must be Betsy Rogers.” We shake hands as she guides me into my new house.

It’s absolutely perfect. The living room is small, with new beige carpet and a fireplace with built-in shelves surrounding it. Betsy gives me the specs on the house as she follows me from room to room. The kitchen is updated with new appliances and the counter looks over into the small dining area. There’s even a little bay window with a cushioned window seat so I can sit with my morning coffee and admire my backyard. So. Cool. A tiny attached garage that will never hold my car houses the washer and dryer.

The bedroom is just off the living room. It’s small but it does have a walk-in closet, which’s great because even though I don’t have furniture I have a shit-ton of clothes. The bathroom is updated as well. The tub doubles as a shower and the counter even has space for a chair so I can turn it into a vanity.

“This is exactly what I’m looking for, Mrs. Rogers,” I beam at her like she just offered me a million dollars.

“I’m so glad, dear. I’m sure you’re going to love it here.”

She hands me my key as I hand her a check for my security deposit and rent…a hefty chunk of money. She locks onto my hand and looks me in the eyes, “You’ll be safe here, Gage. Maybe get yourself a dog? They lighten everything up.”

And just like that, she’s out the door, leaving me to stare after her in wonder.

Well…that was interesting.

I do one more slow walk through my new house, letting the rooms speak to me like an old friend. I start to open windows, letting the cool coastal breeze blow through and clear out the stale air. I open every cupboard in the kitchen and the bathroom, simply because I can. I meander into my backyard. It has a beautiful open deck that’ll be great for taking a tan. The fence is high, portions of it covered in a lush green ivy, giving me sufficient privacy from any prying eyes. Not that there is any. I’m lucky enough to have this house on a dead-end street, the front of the house looking into a lush forest and the back of the house looking out over a huge hilltop full of green grass and a few maundering horses.

I inhale deeply, close my eyes and raise a smile to the sky.

“This is going to be perfect.”

I head out to my car and start hauling in all the crap I was able to salvage from my old life. Aside from a few photo albums, a couple books, my laptop and my jewelry box, it’s really just clothes and hangers I bring in. I start assembling my closet and bathroom, giving everything a rightful home. It doesn’t take me very long and before I know it, I’m standing in the middle of my empty living room, contemplating what to do next.

“I need furniture.” A gentle breeze caresses my face and I take that as a sign to walk downtown and see what the local shops have to offer by way of house fittings.

I grab my purse, lock the front door behind me and stroll the few blocks back onto quaint little Main Street.

The day is cold and grey, the crispness of the air giving me an extra boost of energy. I walk slowly and look into every window of every storefront. The smells from the restaurants are completely enticing. Living this close to excellent cuisine could be fatal to my figure, but since I don’t have a douchebag husband breathing down my neck, maybe I could afford to let my body go a little. The thought brings a wicked smile to my face.

I walk past one store, the display so well made up I can’t help but take a look inside. Lavender, freesia and something else assault my nose but I like it. It’s definitely a posh little store, with beautiful furniture, throw blankets and pillows, glassware and everything else in between.

I’m just sitting into a cream colored, fantastically comfortable couch when I hear, “Can I help you with anything?”

I turn and come face to chest with the most arresting woman I’ve ever seen. She’s easily four inches taller then me and her dark skin is as smooth as mocha. Her black hair is shiny and reaches down to her waist. Her green eyes are kind, but when she registers the bruise on my eye they go hard as ice She recovers quickly and smiles down at me with the warmth of a thousand suns. If I was a lesbian, I’d be all over this one.

“Oh, uh, no thank you…I’m just browsing,” I smile up at her, feeling about three feet tall.

She laughs and it’s like little bells ringing in my ears, “New to the area?”

What the hell? How does she know?

“Don’t look so surprised,” she laughs again, “Anyone who’s a new local has some kind of tan…us coastsiders do not.”

Oh.

“You’re good…I just moved to town today actually. Looking for some furniture. So…anything I should know about this place?” I make a gesture like I’m encompassing the whole town.

“Only that everyone knows everyones business,” she says with a wink.

“Good to know.” I’m not a huge fan of that fact, but I guess that’s the price you pay for living in a small town.

I do a thorough search through her whole store, deciding that I need that couch, I want the sleigh bed with the distressed white wood, and I’m keen on the beautiful rough wood coffee table that sits low to the ground. She even has a roll-top desk that will be perfect for work. I pick out a few throw pillows, a few blankets and a set of Egyptian cotton sheets. I even go so far as to snap up a set of beautiful white porcelain dishes and silverware. Talk about one-stop shopping.

I fire off my purchases and she writes everything down like a boss.

She looks over at me from behind the register and smiles, “Nice choices.” She starts ringing it all up as I fish my wallet out of my purse.

“So…do you own this store?” I loath small talk but I don’t want to just stand here like a dip-shit either.

“I do. I’ve owned it for about two years now.” She takes my card.

“Are you a local as well?” Stupid question, dumbass…she already said she’s a coastsider.

“Yep. I live over in El Granada though. It’s about four miles North. You should check it out. There’s some fun little shops down in the harbor.” She hands me my card back.

“Wonderful. Thank you.” She gives me my receipt. I’ve just spent a hefty amount of money, but I’m so excited I can’t seem to care.

“When do you need all this stuff by? Today?” I nod. “Okay…no worries. I’ll make a call and get it over to you this afternoon.” She eyeballs my bruise and I try not blush. “Don’t be a stranger now, neighbor,” she extends a well-manicured hand, “I’m Kim, by the way.”

“I’m Gage,” we shake, “It’s nice to meet you, Kim.”

I feel her eyes on me as I head out the door. I’m so excited about my new furniture I practically skip down the street. I stop at a bakery and order a cup of coffee, more for having something warm to hold then for the caffeine rush.

I’m mentally debating whether I should continue my shopping spree when I walk past an art gallery with paintings so striking I actually stand and stare like an ignoramus, mouth hanging open.

When my eyes finally focus I glance through the window and spot Betsy. No way!

I open the door and when she sees me she smiles like I’m her long-lost daughter.

“Gage! Hello, dear. How are you settling into the house? Is everything working properly?”

“Oh yes. Everything is wonderful. I just came downtown to get some necessities…you know, furniture and the like,” I chuckle, “Do you own this gallery?”

“I sure do.” She puffs up her little chest like a football player.

“These paintings are absolutely amazing,” I say as I start to wander from wall to wall, reminding myself to keep my mouth closed.

“They’re lovely, aren’t they? She’s a local artist actually. She’s had a few shows here and they’ve all done extremely well.” Betsy follows behind me, much like she did at the house, giving me stats on some of the paintings. One picture in particular catches my fancy. It’s colors aren’t as bright as some of the others and maybe that’s why I like it so much. It kinda reminds me of a koi pond or something Monet would have painted. As I stare at it I feel my heart lifting and my good mood turning into something almost like euphoria.

“How much is this one?” I ask over my shoulder, unable to take my eyes off the swirls of color.

Her eyes crinkle as she looks down at the list she must have permanently glued to her hand. “‘The Koi’ is going for $2,000. It’s one of the first pictures she’s shown here. No one bought it but I wanted to put it back up with this collection…just to see.” She winks at me.

“I want it,” is all I say.

As Betsy starts readying my purchase I grab one of the business cards and slip it into my pocket. If this Cindy Lacy chick’s half as fly as her paintings, I think that’s someone I want to get to know.

Betsy and I chat for a few more minutes before I remember that I should probably head home and wait for my furniture. She gives me a hug as she hands me my new painting, telling me she’ll check in on me later in the week to make sure I’m all settled in.

I’m walking back when I realize I have no food in the house and all this shopping has revved up my appetite to mass proportions. There’s a cute little market on the corner across the street, so I head over and grab a few of the essentials; almond milk, granola, various vegetables and fruits, popcorn and, because I don’t feel like cooking, a frozen pizza for tonight. As an afterthought I grab a nice bottle of red wine and add a few more necessities.

By the time I get home, my arms are aching and I can’t keep the idiotic grin off my face. I store away my food in the kitchen, all the while thinking of the perfect spot to hang my new painting. I run to my car and grab the utility box from the trunk…thank God I had the foresight to steal that from Trevor’s toolshed.

I’m staring at the walls when a knock hits my door.

I practically jump up and down as I watch movers start to haul my new furniture into my new house. The bed fits perfectly in my bedroom. I’ll have to find some kind of small nightstand but for now it’s perfect. They place the couch and coffee table directly in front of the fireplace, effectively taking up a better part of my living room…I think I can squeeze one more chair in here. I have them put the roll-top desk in the living room as well, right in front of the large window that overlooks my backyard. That should offer some inspiration when I’m writing programs or updating my blog, I think with a smile. As they work I hang my picture on the wall that separates the kitchen from the living room. Anyone who comes over will be marveled by it.

When everything is stashed inside the workers make a move to leave, but not before I see them gander at my eye, pity flitting across their faces, and then check out my ass.

Fucking men.

I’m so over the opposite sex I could puke. I contemplate the many ways I could castrate them as I put away my new dishes and find homes for my other purchases. I preheat the oven for my pizza and pop the cork out of my wine. I have no TV or stereo so I plug in my phone and turn on my music, going for something soft and mellow. My husband hated this kind of music…he always said it was “hippie shit.” I turn up my phone to as loud as it’ll go, sit in the window seat and sip my wine as I wait for my pizza.

I don’t think I could be any more content.

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