Love Next Door (Lakeside #1) - Helena Hunting Page 0,2

to do some of the bookkeeping. Except it didn’t go well, and I had to come in and clean everything up over the Christmas holidays so it wouldn’t be a complete cluster come tax time. After that he had to hire someone else to come in and help out, since he couldn’t juggle every aspect of running the company.

“There isn’t one, unless you’re looking to move back home for a few months instead of visiting for a few days.”

I laugh, but it’s flat. I love my family, but I worked my butt off to get a scholarship to a college in Chicago. Away from Pearl Lake and all the things it doesn’t have to offer, like anonymity and opportunity.

I spent four years earning my bachelor’s in business administration. I worked two jobs, aced all my exams, and walked out of college and straight into a job with a sweet paycheck. For a while, I felt like I had succeeded. Gotten out of Pearl Lake and fulfilled my dream of living the city life in Chicago, which everyone back home refers to as “the city,” as if it’s the only city there is. To me, it was. Yet now I’m currently still jobless, and in two days I’ll be homeless as well.

To me, moving home means I’ve failed. It means facing all the people I left behind and have basically avoided for the past decade. It means going back to where everyone knows everyone else’s business. But I honestly don’t have anywhere to stay in Chicago that isn’t an Airbnb, and I don’t have the kind of money to sustain that.

I must take too long to answer because Dad fills the silence. “Did you manage to get another job out there in the city?”

“No, I haven’t found anything yet.” I’ve applied for a bunch of positions, but none of them are what I really want to be doing—and to be honest, I don’t even know what that is. I have always been singularly focused on getting a job so I can continue to live the city life. Only I never stopped to ask myself what it was I wanted to do as a profession. And now that I’m in a position to find a new job doing something I love, I’m a bit lost.

“What is it exactly you’d want me to be doing for you, if I agreed to stick around for a while?”

“Same kind of thing you did last time. Help manage the books, field calls from customers, set up deliveries, make connections with the other companies in town. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I could really use your help, Darlin’. Just for a few months, until Billy is back on his feet.” My family and friends have this habit of saying my name in a way that sounds like Darlin’ instead of Dillion.

I look around my half-packed bedroom and consider what’s left of my life here. I have no job and no boyfriend. All the people I’ve worked with have either had to take jobs elsewhere or were part of a couple, putting me on the outs. Sure, I’ll get the occasional text message or invitation to go out for drinks, but they are proximity friends, not the kind I would reach out to after Jason and I broke up.

I have a couple of girlfriends from college I still talk to, but I spent most of my time studying and working, trying to get ahead. I’ve realized that as much as I love the city, I built a life in a bubble that consisted mostly of my boyfriend and my job, and with both of those gone, there’s not much left for me to hold on to.

Besides, my dad asking for help is a big deal. We’ve always gotten along well, and I know how much work the project-management side of things can be, especially since it’s such a small business. I don’t want my dad to end up in the same position he did two years ago—not when I can actually do something to help. Even if it means leaving the city behind.

“Okay, Dad, I’ll come home.”




Two days later I’m behind the wheel of a rented U-Haul, driving the contents of my apartment back to the town I grew up in and swore I’d never live in again. I remind myself that this is temporary—that I’m only going to be here as long as my family needs my help, and then I’ll move