My Way to You Page 1

Author: Catherine Bybee

Series: Creek Canyon #1

Genres: Romance


Parker peered into the mirror, closed one eye, and swiped a perfect cat shape eye line over the lid. She fanned the wet makeup before opening her eye completely. She stood back and moved her head side to side to check out her skills.

Her roommate, Suzzie, stood beside her, competing for space in their tiny apartment bathroom. “I wish you didn’t have to work tonight, Marcus said the party is going to be the memory of the summer.”

It was late August and the fall semester was already a week in. At twenty-four, Parker had spent more time with people like Marcus on the beach with bonfires than in the classroom, and her parents had put their foot down.

She had one year to finish her classes and earn a degree. All doable if she skipped a few tequila-induced sunsets and worked her ass off. Saturdays and Sundays were her only days to work, and since she made the best tips on the weekends, that’s what she was going to do.

“Time for you to grow up, Parker. Your dad and I have been patient, but enough is enough.” Her mother and father sat across the dining room table making her feel like she was the target of an intervention.

Her parents were skimming their early fifties . . . and kinda free thinkers. “We were fine with you taking a couple years to figure out what to do. When you started college at twenty, we were happy to make it happen. But four years and you aren’t taking it seriously.”

“It’s because I don’t know what I want to do,” she told them.

Her father smiled, patted her hand from across the table. “We figured that out when you changed your major for the third time. We also know that San Diego State is a party school, and we were young once.”

She wanted to argue that many students change their majors, and that she didn’t party as much as they were implying, but held her breath.

Her mom released a long-suffering sigh and looked her straight in the eye. “Mallory was accepted to four UCs, and the reality is we can’t afford to pay for both of you to be in college at the same time for more than a year. We’d planned on you being out by the time she was in, and Austin is three years from going off to school, too. And you know how much it cost us last year before Nana passed away.”

Their grandmother had lived in their guesthouse before she suffered a stroke and her care became simply too much for her mom to take on. Assisted living was not cheap.

Parker looked around her family home, a sprawling ranch style that sat on over five acres in an upscale part of the Santa Clarita Valley. It was the closest to country living one could get while living less than forty minutes from Los Angeles. She’d grown up with everything she needed and many things she wanted. But that didn’t mean her parents were floating in money. Her dad yelled at them as kids to turn off lights, and they weren’t allowed to be wasteful when it came to throwing food away.

In the end, Parker didn’t argue. Her parents were right . . . it was time for her to start adulting, and that began with her finishing college and getting a real job.

Parker twisted the cap off her lipstick and applied it in three gentle swipes. “Tell Marcus that if I get off early enough I’ll drop by.”

She slid behind Suzzie and exited the bathroom. After grabbing her apron and a hair tie, she tossed her cell phone in her purse and ran out of the apartment. San Diego was unusually warm, even for August, and she secretly hoped that she wouldn’t be put on the patio for the night’s shift.

She plugged her phone into the aux cable and flipped through her playlist for the short drive.

It rang and flashed her sister’s name.

Parker silenced it and continued with her playlist.

She put the car in reverse and backed out of her parking spot.

Her sister called again.

Instead of ignoring her a second time, Parker picked up the phone and kept her foot on the brake. “I’m in the car on the way to work, can I call you later?”

“Parker!” Mallory screamed her name, hysterical.

Everything inside Parker froze.

“What is it?”

“It’s Mom and Dad. Come home right now.”

“What is it, Mallory?”

Her sister started sobbing, and panic tore every cell in Parker’s body in two. “Oh, God . . . What is it? What happened?”

There were shuffling sounds, and an unfamiliar voice sounded on the line. “Hello, is this Parker?”

Tears already threatened. It was like everything started moving in slow motion and she couldn’t stop what was about to happen. “What’s going on?”

“I’m one of the nurses at Henry Mayo. There’s been an accident.”



“We’re going to be late.”

“Trust me. This is the third time I’ve done this.” Parker waited patiently for the gate on their property to open and let them out. “It doesn’t matter when you show up, we’re going to walk into a tiny room with a bunch of kids from your school. When you get there, your name goes on a list and you wait. The appointments are a joke.”

They passed through the gate and drove down the private road shared by seventy of her neighbors. She turned the air conditioner on high, hoping to combat the ninety-degree heat radiating through the windows.

“I hate being late.”

Parker glanced at her seventeen-year-old brother, who was staring out the window. He looked like their dad more every day.

“You could have just driven yourself,” she reminded him.

He shrugged.

He was starting his final high school year in a month, and it was time for senior portraits, hence the rush to the tiny room filled with pimply-faced kids on the cusp of starting a new future. Sure, Austin could have driven himself, but he wanted her there. She wasn’t a substitute for their mom, but she was the next best thing.

Of the three of them, Austin had the hardest time after their parents’ accident. His grief came in the form of rebellion that lasted six months and almost forced the courts to take him away. Parker pushed the memories aside and focused on what was in front of her.

“I made Mom get there almost an hour early when she took me,” Parker said as she turned off the private road and onto the one major street that traversed their neighborhood. “We ended up waiting an hour and a half.”

“I hope it doesn’t take that long. I told my friends I’d meet them at In-N-Out at two.”

They drove past the burger joint in question and onto the highway.

“You might be late.”

“I hate being late,” he muttered a second time.

Parker glanced in the rearview mirror as she merged onto the freeway and saw a plume of smoke in the sky behind her.

“Oh, no.”

Austin turned in his seat. By now Parker had eased into her lane and was searching the landscape behind her.

“That looks close.”

She focused on the road. “Someone probably tossed a cigarette out the window. Assholes.” Southern California was in its seventh year of severe drought. The hillsides were nothing but dense vegetation too starved for water to even scream anymore. “I wouldn’t worry. The Santa Anas aren’t blowing.”

They’d had plenty of experience with wildfires in the canyons surrounding their family home. Some had come close enough for the authorities to close the one major street in and out, but all were put out before any homes or properties were touched.

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