Until Then (Cape Harbor #2) - Heidi McLaughlin
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