Page 5 of Her Hero

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“That doesn’t sound nice.”

“Trust me, it’s so not. It’s gross, but it was quick and easy food.” She shook her head.

“What is it?”

She shrugged. “I’m just thinking about … my life a few weeks before.” She scoffed. “A few weeks, more like a few days before. I was so focused on my work that I wouldn’t think about breakfast. Work was what I thought about when I woke up. In fact, that was my morning routine. I was lucky if I gave myself time to have a bathroom break.”

“Ah, the workaholic.” He smiled thinking about it.

“Were you the same?”

“Oh, yeah. Worked the markets, was so focused on building up clients, making people around me rich. Making myself rich in the process. Loving the high life.” Elijah sighed. “A new woman every single night. Work, work, more work. A few of the guys left the life, and I was suddenly the only single guy in their world. I didn’t get the jokes. They had wives and children, and I was the same.” It had been a long time since Elijah had woken up to that harsh reality.

“What changed?”

“I woke up one Christmas morning. I’d been invited to a coworker’s home for the holidays. It was the first time that had ever happened, and I watched him. He’d reduced his hours at work to spend time with his family, and I saw what he had, and it was like a wake-up call. He had a life, a family, people who loved him. He had it all, and after Christmas, having the best time of my life, I went back to my lonely penthouse apartment, and realized I had no one.” He sighed. “I quit work the next day, found this place, and never looked back.”

He looked over at her and she pressed her lips together, smiling.

“I’m guessing the same thing has happened to you.”

“I was so focused on work, I didn’t even realize it was my thirtieth birthday. My friends are all married, and we—I—was focused on work. I stopped returning calls. Stopped turning up for lunches and dinners. Work became my world.”

Elijah nodded. “Comes as a shock, doesn’t it?”

“A little bit, yeah. After that, I knew I had to do something, and that’s why I came out here. I don’t even know what I’m looking for. Answers, I’m guessing.” She sighed.

“You won’t find answers out here. What you’ll get here is a lot of experience.”

“What did you find out here?” she asked.

“I found my freedom. I found my love of life. I found Buster and Trixie.” He’d not found anyone to share it with.

Every now and then, he’d traveled into town to enjoy a beer, and a few women had been interested in him for the night. He wasn’t interested in screwing around. So, he stopped going into town.

“Don’t get me wrong, living up here is not easy. It has never been easy, but this is my home. This is my life and I love it here.”

“And you’re not lonely?” she asked.

“Sometimes I’m lonely, but I’m not looking for some quick fun, Josie. I want a woman who is willing to live like this. Off the beaten track. Work the land—it’s hard work, but I love it. I’m my own boss. Every now and then, we can travel into town to stock up on essentials. To me, this is the best life.”

“It sounds amazing.”

“What did you used to be?” he asked.

“I’m in advertising. I’m an artist, so I help to sell things.”

“I’m guessing you’re pretty good at it too.” The only way she’d be a workaholic was if she was in constant demand all the time.

“Yeah, you could say that.”

“I bet they would hate to lose you.”

She shrugged. “This wasn’t what I had planned for my life.”

“What did you have planned?” he asked.

“To work, obviously, to have a career, but to turn my art into something else. I used to imagine building a studio of my own, becoming an artist that people want to hire. To have people ask for me personally to do a portrait or a piece especially for them. I don’t know. I wanted a lot of things.”