Home > Until Then (Cape Harbor #2)

Until Then (Cape Harbor #2)
Author: Heidi McLaughlin

PROLOGUE

Graham Chamberlain pressed the power button on his desktop tower. The guts of the computer groaned, and the monitor flickered to life. The cream-colored device was Hewlett-Packard only by name and not the inner workings. Over the last year, Graham rebuilt, modified, and swapped out every part he could, building himself the ultimate computer. The holy grail of machines. One faster than his roommate’s. The competition between them had grown since they decided to live together. Who could build the better system? Who was going to be the one to break the mold? To date, Graham was winning by a hair. Of the five roommates, two were computer geeks—or nerds, as the women who often visited called them—and the others worked in banking and finance. Graham hadn’t cared about being called a geek, though. He had a love for artificial intelligence and couldn’t wait to watch the world evolve with technology. Bill Gates was going to change the world, right along with America Online. Once the display came to life and the icons from installed programs finished loading, Graham double-clicked on the AOL icon and waited. The familiar tones of his modem echoed throughout his room as he connected to the internet. The increasingly popular voice alerted him that he had mail, which brought a smile to his face. Before he could click on the yellow man who looked to be running, multiple messages from women he’d chatted with in various groups popped up. They wanted to know how he was doing, what his plans were for the night, and if he could help them with a computer problem. Since he became an avid user, his knowledge of computers had given him a bit of a reputation online. If someone posted a problem, many people from his buddy list often referred them to “Graham Cracker”—a nickname the love of his life had given him. But right now, it was his email that had his attention. The moment his screen showed his in-box, his smile grew wider. He clicked on the message from Rennie Wallace, his best friend, former hookup buddy, and the one woman he would drop everything for if she asked, which made him the worst possible boyfriend in the history of boyfriends.

Graham met Rennie his junior year of high school, when she visited her best friend, Brooklyn Hewett, in his hometown of Cape Harbor, Washington. From the second he saw her, he was smitten. In love. The week during spring break wasn’t enough time for them—at least not in his opinion—and when she returned to Seattle, he made his first long-distance phone call and asked her to his prom.

They couldn’t talk as much as either of them wanted due to school and the all-important evening and weekend jobs, but once a week, they took turns calling each other with long-distance phone cards. He remembered the first time he walked into Pinky’s, the local tourist shop that doubled as a pharmacy, and selected the paper card off the rack. He was embarrassed—for what, he couldn’t pinpoint. It was likely due to the look Old Man McGregor gave him as he rang up and activated the card. Graham felt as if he were doing something wrong. Of course, the look was sterner when he returned a month later and bought a box of condoms.

Rennie and Graham had been each other’s first in almost all relationship categories. First kiss. First make-out session under the stars. First person either of them had ever slept with. Graham hoped after they had done the deed, their relationship would be serious, but Rennie was a free spirit and hard to tame. Not that he wanted her to be any different. He just wanted her to be his. For the most part, she was. They confided in each other, became best friends, and often added the “benefits” part of their relationship whenever they weren’t dating someone else. When she started looking for schools in California, it made sense for him to do so as well. He wanted to be in the up-and-coming tech world, and Silicon Valley was the place to be. Rennie wanted to be a lawyer. Entertainment law. She wanted to be immersed in Hollywood. The glitz and glam of working in the industry. Only, her idea of the law changed once in school—multiple times—and, in fact, it became a running joke between the two of them. Graham expected a call, once each semester started, about how such and such professor had changed her views on whatever subject they taught. In the time since they had moved to the area, Rennie had gone from entertainment law to environmental, from corporate to criminal, and finally settled on family. Graham had joked she should be a law clerk and float from judge to judge—this way she would never be tied down.

Graham opened his email and took in her words. Since the invention of email and online chatting, this was how they communicated if they were home and both at the computer. As of late, they weren’t as close as they once were, mostly due to Graham’s girlfriend giving him an ultimatum: her or Rennie. Graham met Monica Watson during his senior year of college at a frat party. They hit it off and started dating. One year turned into two, and two became three. She was in love and ready to get married. Graham was neither. He wanted to wait until they were thirty, settled, and homeowners. He wanted to be free of debt and financially able to support his spouse so that when they had children, she could stay home if she wanted. His mother had when he and his twin brother, Grady, had been born. Monica saw things differently, which Graham respected, but he still wasn’t willing to budge on his own life plan.

Monica also hated Rennie, which made life difficult for Graham, and he resorted to communicating with his friend via email or at night when Monica wasn’t with him. To complicate matters, Rennie was busy, whereas Graham was a nine-to-fiver and home by six every night, making communication between them hit or miss.

The first email on his screen came from Rennie with a subject line of “Tonight.” Graham’s heart sank. She was supposed to come over for the backyard party he and his roommates were hosting. He had invited her since Monica was out of town visiting her parents in San Diego, and he missed Rennie. As he sat in his chair, he swiveled slightly back and forth and stared at the screen. He had a sinking suspicion she had to cancel. Still, he opened his email.

From: Rennie Ren

To: Graham Cracker

Subject: Tonight.

Graham Cracker,

I need a raincheck. I’ll call you tomorrow. Love, Ren

Graham read over the words a few times before he hit reply. He typed out “No problem” and quickly sent the message. She wouldn’t call, and he was okay with that. Truth be told, he was playing with fire by inviting her over. He contemplated answering the chat messages waiting for him but ultimately decided to log off. He hated how much of an effect Rennie had on him and had tried to break the hold many times over the years. Yet, all it took was for her to walk into the room, and his attention would be focused on her—something Monica was very keen to notice.

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