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Finding Our Forever(4)

By:Brenda Novak

“No. Not at all. I didn’t want the added responsibility of mixing the two genders, knew it wouldn’t be easy to keep them apart,” she said with a chuckle. “The boys who come here have enough to worry about without adding that kind of temptation. This is a time for them to focus on getting their lives in order. Hopefully, as a result, they’ll make better husbands and fathers later.”

“You’re saying it was purely a practical decision.”

“Absolutely. Someday, on the opposite side of town, I’d like to open a school exclusively for girls, and do essentially the same thing. Now that I have Elijah handling so much around here, that’s more of a possibility than ever before. I just haven’t geared up for the push it will require.”

“I’m sure you’ll do equally well with girls.” At least now she knew that her mother hadn’t given her up because she didn’t like girls. Perhaps that’d been a silly thought to begin with, but Cora couldn’t help searching for The Reason. Maybe that was all she really needed to know in order to be satisfied...

“We’ll see. Now, I’ve been told you’ll be moving into the housing on campus. But have you seen where you’ll be living?”

“Not yet. Mr. Turner showed me the school and some other parts of the property, but he didn’t offer me the position until after I got home, so we didn’t go inside the faculty housing.”

“Well, the cottages aren’t big, by any stretch of the imagination, but I like being able to include them in the package we offer our teachers. I figure discounted rent might tempt them into staying for a while.” She grinned. “Longer than a year.”

This comment revealed that Aiyana was well aware of her arrangement with Elijah. “It’s a nice benefit.”

“You’ll find we’re more like a family here than what you’ve most likely experienced in the past,” she said with a wink.

A family... Those two words nearly caused Cora to burst into tears. Aiyana had no idea how literal their connection was.

As Cora followed Aiyana out of the building, she couldn’t help thinking back, over all the different ways she’d imagined her mother while growing up. As a drug addict who didn’t care about anything except her next hit. As a prostitute eager to rid herself of the child from an unwanted pregnancy. As “the other woman,” abandoned by her lover after telling him she was going to have his child. As a businesswoman who refused to allow motherhood to get in the way of her ambition. There were more, but each scenario provided a ready excuse for adoption. She’d never pictured Aiyana like she was—soft-spoken, seemingly wise, well educated, accomplished, stable, kind, loving and devoted to a cause.

Cora had expected that just by meeting her mother so many of her questions would be answered. But she was more baffled than ever. What happened twenty-eight years ago? Why would someone like Aiyana Turner put her only child up for adoption?

Chapter Two

“So...do you like the woman you’ll be working for?”

Cora was packing up the kitchen of her condo in Burbank with Lilly when Lilly asked this question. For a second, Cora froze, fearing her adoptive mother had figured out the reason she was moving to Silver Springs. But when Lilly kept wrapping glasses in newspaper and putting them into the box she was filling, it became apparent she was merely making conversation. She didn’t know—not yet, thank goodness.

“I do.” She forced a smile despite the discomfort her deception caused. “She seems really nice.” Although Cora had been home for a week, getting ready for her big move, she hadn’t been able to quit thinking about Aiyana. She’d spent nearly every extra minute on the internet, doing searches on all of the teachers and many of the students who’d graduated from New Horizons—whatever names she could cull from their website, including a graduate who had turned into a professional football player, one who’d just recently been accused of killing the couple who adopted him when he came to the ranch at fifteen and Elijah Turner, who’d hired her. Only one article had come up on him, but it told a lot. When he was ten years old, he’d been kept in a cage like some animal in the basement of his parents’ house, and starved until he was only sixty pounds.

Imagining what he’d been through turned Cora’s stomach. What kind of people could do that to one of their own children? And where were those people now? Did he know?

Considering what he’d been through, it was no wonder the man was so guarded, so aloof—and so devoted to Aiyana and New Horizons.

“I can’t believe you’ll be staying right there on the property,” Lilly said.