His One and Only

By: Theodora Taylor



“You should have just let us fight,” Colin said beside her, his voice laced with the same dread she was now feeling in the pit of her stomach.

She shook her head. “I hate Alabama. I can’t wait to get out of here.”

“Me either,” Colin said. Then he took her hand in his. “But no matter what happens, just keep on thinking about the leaving part. One day we’re going to get out of Forest Brooks and nobody from here is going to be able to touch us.” He squeezed her hand. “You just wait and see.”

Josie squeezed his hand back. Colin was right. She’d figure out how to get out of Alabama one day and when she did, she’d never think twice about Beau Prescott ever again.





CHAPTER 1

Fifteen years later



JOSIE WAS NOT HAVING A GOOD WEEK, a good month, or even a good year. And waking up in a freezing mobile home pretty much confirmed she wouldn’t be having a good day either.

Luckily for her, her grandmother’s trailer had been paid off years ago. However, unluckily for Josie, rent-free didn’t mean utilities-free, and apparently the Alabama Gas Corporation had grown tired of her inability to respond to all of their “pay now” notices. The frigid air hit her face like a slap with a wet towel and sent a cold tremor down the spine of her overly thin body.

She put on her old, chunky cat-eye glasses and got out of bed anyway, if only so she could grab one of her grandmother’s quilts and wrap it around her shivering shoulders. It was Alabama, she reasoned with determined cheerfulness, so the poorly insulated mobile home would warm up later in the day. Maybe she could run to Wal-Mart after her shift at the shelter and use the last of the money left on her only credit card for a space heater to get her through the night.

But then, she flipped on the trailer’s main light switch and nothing happened.

She groaned. Not the electricity, too!

Less than an hour later, Josie arrived at Ruth’s House, a small, unmarked domestic abuse crisis center in a recently gentrified area of Birmingham. And she was still shivering from the super cold shower she’d forced herself to take before reporting for duty.

Technically, she could have showered at the shelter. But mornings were basically rush hour for the shelter’s communal showers, especially when they were over their 17-bed capacity as they had been lately. She didn’t want to further tax the shelter’s already over burdened resources.

Still, she didn’t think she could take too many more cold showers, and she definitely didn’t think she could take another night in the freezing trailer.

“Hey, Josie,” Nancy, Ruth House’s latest receptionist, said after buzzing her through the outer glass doors. The young, sloe-eyed brunette sat behind a panel of bulletproof glass toward the back of a small outer room pebbled with a few banged up folding chairs. “Sam said she wanted to see you as soon as you got here.”

Josie’s heart lifted. A couple months ago, she and Sam had applied for a grant, which would enable Ruth’s house to promote Josie from her volunteer position to one of the shelter’s official intake workers. If Sam was asking to see her right away, maybe she had some good news.

“Thanks, Nancy,” she said, as she waited to be buzzed through a second set of doors that led straight into the actual shelter part of Ruth’s House.

This part of the shelter was much nicer, with a carpeted front room where their temporary residents could congregate and seventeen small private rooms with beds for sleeping.

Sam, who had come to Alabama five years ago to open the center, had somehow managed to make the industrial space look cozy, painting the walls a pale yellow and adding quality furniture, which was holding up well despite having seen better days.

Josie walked down the center’s main hallway and knocked on a wooden door that had Director of Center Services written across it in peeling gold letters. She made a mental note to redo the sign herself when Sam wasn’t looking. Her friend would pay for a hotel out of pocket if it meant keeping one woman safe for the night, but wouldn’t ever divert funds to the upkeep of her office—if the converted broom closet that barely fit Sam’s desk could really be called an office.

“Come in,” Sam’s lilting voice called from inside.

Josie walked in and found Sam digging through a file cabinet. “Hey, Josie. I’m just looking for this one thing that might be able to help me figure out how to get this other thing we really need if we want to—aha, found it!”

Sam pulled out a manila folder and waved it around triumphantly.

Josie shook her head. Samantha “Sam” McKinley was pretty, bright, warm, and generous, almost to a fault, but she wasn’t exactly known for being succinct or even comprehensible at times.

“You’re going to have to be more specific than that, girl,” Josie said, dropping into Sam’s guest chair.

Sam winced, her soft brown eyes clouding over as she dropped into her own chair. “It’s this other grant we got at the last shelter I worked at. Technically, it’s only supposed to go to shelters in Missouri, but maybe they’d be open to giving it to us, I mean considering all the good work we’re doing.”

Now Josie winced. “So we didn’t get the grant.”

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