Laina Turner, Author
L.C. Turner, Author

Ari’s Adventure – a Moonshire Bay Clean Small Town Romance

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Chapter 1

Ari was so glad the kids were coming home from college soon. Her youngest, Katie, was finishing up her freshman year at Michigan State, and her son, Sam, his junior year at Marquette. It was still hard for her to believe her kids were grown when it seemed like just yesterday they were in grade school.  With both of them away at college the past year, it made her realize how quiet life was. In some respects, it was nice, but mostly she missed the hustle and energy the house had when the kids were there. She looked forward to having them back under the same roof, though the last time they’d talked, it sounded like they’d already made summer plans and wouldn’t be around much. Oh well, it was to be expected. Who wanted to spend time with Mom and Dad when they could be hanging with friends? Whatever time she could get, she’d take. Soon, they’d be out on their own, starting their own families, and her time with them would be even more limited. The thought brought tears to her eyes.

Ari Evans was going on twenty-plus years of marriage. She spent her days working as an accountant at a large accounting firm where she’d been employed since college. During that time, she’d raised her two amazing kids. She had what she’d consider a typical life with her husband Craig and her children Sam and Katie, and she loved it.

Ari's Adventure - a Moonshire Bay Clean Small Town Romance

While tidying up the kitchen after breakfast, her phone rang. She looked at the display and saw that it was her assistant Robin calling. Since it was after nine, the office was open but Ari had planned to go in late that day because she had scheduled a late client appointment. Robin knew that and she usually didn’t bother Ari when she was home. It must be important.

“Hey, Robin. Did you forget that I’m not coming in until about noon today? I have the CEO and COO from the Marshall Group coming tonight at six.”

“Ari, you need to come in now,” Robin whispered, almost like she was trying not to be overheard.

“Is something wrong? Your voice sounds funny. Are you sick?”

“Just come in as soon as you can,” Robin replied frantically, then she disconnected.

Ari stood there in her kitchen with its cheery white cabinets and yellow accents, and her stomach started to do slow somersaults. She could feel her hands tremble a little. Robin wasn’t normally highly strung or one to blow things out of proportion. For her to act like this, something must indeed be wrong. The partners who’d founded the firm were both in their seventies. Maybe something had happened to one of them.

Ari had already showered, so she ran to her bedroom, threw on her favorite blue suit, and applied some makeup. She then went to her home office, stuffed her laptop into her bag, and headed out the door.

Since it was after rush hour, she made it to her office in Sterling Heights in record time. She pulled her black SUV into a space, gathered her things and got out, locking her car and briskly walking into the office building. She took the elevator to the fourth floor where the offices of her company, McPherson and Kincade, were located. Her stomach was churning, a nervous energy caused by her wondering what had spooked Robin so badly.

Ari stepped off the elevator, which opened directly into the offices that occupied the entire floor, and there was a palpable buzz. Something was going on. Normally, it was quiet and calm in the office, a very relaxed atmosphere. There were two main things Ari enjoyed about her job. The people and how laid back the place was.

What was it about today that gave the office such a different vibe? The cliché you could cut the tension with a knife came to mind.

She dumped her stuff at her desk and quickly made her way to Robin’s. Robin was on the phone but signaled that she’d be just a minute, so Ari sat down, her foot tapping impatiently.

Before Robin got off the phone, however, Ari’s boss, Ross Kincade, walked over.

“Good morning, Ross,” she said. “What’s going on here?”

“Can you come to my office?” he asked, his voice devoid of all expression.

“Uh, sure.” Now she was really nervous. Ross, who was normally a very upbeat and outgoing person, seemed very somber. Oh no, maybe something happened to the other managing partner. Jim McPherson had heart problems. He should have retired years ago, yet he still came in every day.

Ari looked sideways at Robin and raised her eyebrows. Once Ross had turned his back, Robin mouthed, “I’m sorry.”

“What’s this about, Ross?” Ari inquired the minute his office door was shut. It came out a little harsher than she’d intended. Robin’s I’m sorry had scared her, but he didn’t seem to notice.

“Have a seat, Ari.” He sighed and sat down.

“What’s going on?” she asked again, a little softer this time.

“As you know, things have been rough here for a while, ever since we lost the Ambrose account when they went bankrupt.”

She nodded. “Yes, but I thought things were getting better.”

“They are. However, Jim and I realized that we’re too old to be doing this.”

“You’re not too old, either of you. You work circles around me and everyone else around here,” Ari protested.

Ross held up his hand. “I appreciate you saying that, but the truth is, we want to retire. Enjoy the easy life.”

“So, are you selling? Is that why it feels so tense out there?” Ari didn’t like that thought but she couldn’t fault them for wanting to get out of the rat race.

He nodded and she felt a sense of relief. Companies were bought and sold all the time. It didn’t mean anything. Sure, there’d be changes but she could adapt.

“Whew. You had me worried it was something bad. I hate that you two are selling. I’ve loved working for you, but I understand.”

Ross looked pained, and she felt nervous again. “Unfortunately, there is no easy way to say this. The company who bought us bought our business. Just the business.”

As the words sank in, she began to realize his meaning.

“You mean, they want our list of clients but not us, the employees,” she said slowly.

He slid over a folder. “Inside, you’ll find there is a very generous severance package. I’m sorry, Ari. You’ve been a great employee.”

Ari was stunned. She’d expected to retire from there. “So when is my last day?” she said with a calm she didn’t feel. Was this really happening?

“It’s effective immediately.”

“Oh, okay then. Thank you, Ross.” She felt dazed, like what had just happened was a little surreal.

She felt like she was in a fog as she walked out of Ross’ office and to her own, where she’d tossed her stuff just a few minutes earlier, before her professional life came tumbling down. She picked her things back up again. As she headed to the elevator, she heard Robin call out to her, but Ari ignored her, not wanting to talk to anyone at that moment.

She’d never been unemployed before. Since she’d started working at the ice cream shop at fifteen, she’d had a job. She didn’t blame Ross and Jim for wanting an easier life, but still, hers had just become harder.

As she reached her car, the tears started falling. She drove home, not even remembering the trip by the time she reached her front door and walked into an empty house.

When she looked around the home she’d lived in so long, she felt a little calmer in her familiar surroundings. She would get through this and find another job. She still had what was important. Her family.

Ari changed into her after-work uniform of yoga pants and a t-shirt, then warmed up a cup of coffee from earlier, taking it into the living room.

She opened up the folder that Ross had given her and saw that she’d received a better severance package than she would have expected, a full year’s salary. That softened the blow a little.

Feeling a bit better, and knowing that she wasn’t going to solve her problems in that instant, she took her now-empty coffee cup back into the kitchen and noticed that Craig had left his phone sitting on the kitchen island. He was probably annoyed, as he lived by the thing. Then, she thought about how nice it would be to take it to him at work. She would stop on the way and pick him up a white chocolate mocha from Starbucks, his favorite drink. He would appreciate it, and she thought it would be fun because it was something that she rarely had the chance to do. Maybe being unemployed wouldn’t be so bad after all. It would give her an opportunity to do all the things she never had time to do before.

As she reached down to pick up Craig’s phone, it buzzed. She saw that he had three texts from someone named Sarah White. Who is Sarah White and what is so important that she would send three texts?

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