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Finding Our Forever(8)

By:Brenda Novak

“Where’s Exeter?”

“Central part of the state.” Cora pulled into the drive that would be her drive for the next year and cut the engine. “My mom took me there once to show me the murals, thought I’d be interested because of my art degree.”

“I’m not that big on murals,” Jill said. “I’ve seen some pretty bad ones.”

“I’ve seen a lot that are worse than the ones they have here. The man who painted the one downtown interviewed for my job. I’m still surprised they didn’t hire him instead.”

“They told you who you were up against?”

“Aiyana and Elijah didn’t. When Aiyana showed me the house, she got a call on her cell, leaving me to speak with a neighbor. He said Gary Seton was a friend of his and was really disappointed.”

“Why didn’t they hire him?” Jill asked.

Cora gazed at her bungalow, trying to imagine calling this place home for the next twelve months. “I’m not sure. I would’ve guessed they’d prefer a local.”

“Could it be that Elijah wanted you to come to town?”

“No. I didn’t get those vibes at all.”

“So you think he’s married?”

“Not married.” There was too much sexual energy surrounding him for him to be in a committed relationship. She could tell he found her attractive—couldn’t help finding him attractive, too. A woman would have to be dead not to feel a little sizzle when a man like Elijah Turner came around. “Just completely closed off.”

“I’ve seen you approach guys before. You’ve never been afraid of a challenge.”

In this situation, she was. She had a lot to cope with already, didn’t need to add a romantic relationship into the mix. Even if she could manage to gain Elijah’s attention, she doubted she’d be able to keep it for long. He was too remote. “I’m only here for a year.”

“That could prove to be a very long year if you plan to remain celibate the whole time,” she joked.

“I’ll survive.” Although...she was already missing certain aspects of her relationship with Matt and, if she was being honest, sex was one of them. “It’d be kind of odd to hit up the man my mother adopted.”

“Why? You’re not related by blood. You didn’t even grow up together. For all intents and purposes, you’re part of a different family. You’re a Kelly.”

Cora dug through her purse, searching for the house key Aiyana had provided her. “On paper.”

“More than on paper! You’ve spent your whole life with the Kellys.”

“I was talking from a strictly literal perspective. But that reaction right there is part of my problem.”

“What do you mean?”

“Am I being ungrateful simply by wanting to know my birth mother? That tears me up inside, because I am grateful. I love my parents dearly.”

“It’s the same with regular parents. All kids should be grateful and aware of their parents’ sacrifice.”

“No, it’s not the same. There’s a sense of entitlement with children who’ve been kept and raised by their biological parents that doesn’t extend to me. Anyway, let’s not get caught up in all of that. Bottom line, people would look askance at Elijah and me if we ever admitted to having the same mother.”

“You wouldn’t admit that, because you don’t have the same mother.”

Cora groaned to show her frustration. “It’s murky. You have to give me that. Regardless, Elijah makes me jealous.” So did the other boys Aiyana had accepted into her life. That Aiyana would give Cora away and then take in eight other children left Cora feeling hurt, baffled. “He holds such a prominent place in Aiyana’s heart that it makes me wonder why she wanted him and not me.”

“We’ve talked about this.”

She climbed out of the vehicle and circled around to grab the suitcase that held her essentials. “You believe she feels the need to fix things—fix people.”

“You told me he had a rough childhood. The other boys probably did, too.”

Other than her ex-boyfriend, Jill was the only person she’d confided in about her search for her biological mother, her true purpose in coming to Silver Springs, and the background of the man who’d hired her. “No doubt. Elijah’s defies imagination. Which only makes me feel worse. When I think of what he’s been through, I can’t even be jealous without an avalanche of guilt. Considering the emotions he dredges up, I doubt he and I should even be friends.”

Jill ignored her uncomfortable laugh. “There were a number of years between the time Aiyana gave you up and adopted him. Her situation must’ve changed, that’s all.”