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Finding Our Forever

By´╝ÜBrenda Novak

Chapter One

Cora Kelly had never met her birth mother.

The records had been sealed when she was adopted as a newborn twenty-eight years ago. Her adoptive mother didn’t even know her birth mother’s name, so it wasn’t as if Lilly Kelly had ever mentioned it. Cora had had very little to go on. Even with two different attorneys, a website designed to help families reconnect and a private investigator who’d taken her case for free since he was an adoptee himself and did what he could, in his spare time, to help others who’d been through the same thing, it’d taken six long years to glean the information she craved. But here she was, only moments away from coming face-to-face, for the first time since the day she was born, with the woman who’d brought her into this world.

Would she like her mother? Would they resemble each other more in person than in the one picture she’d seen? Would Aiyana Turner somehow recognize her for who she was?

Those questions churned in Cora’s mind, making her stomach churn, as well. But one question weighed heavier than the others: Was she making a mistake?

Wiping her palms on her slacks, she told herself to calm down. As far as Aiyana knew, they were only meeting to talk about Cora’s new job working as an art instructor at New Horizons Boys Ranch, a boarding school for troubled teens, ages fourteen to eighteen, ninety minutes outside LA. No way would Aiyana have any reason to suspect Cora’s true identity. And Cora didn’t plan to tell her who she was. Not today. Maybe not ever. That was why she’d sought this job—and accepted it. So she’d have the chance to see what she might be getting into before making that decision.

Hopefully, her mother would be someone she could admire, at least. From what she could tell, Aiyana had done a lot to help teenage boys who acted out, some who’d been orphaned as well as many who hadn’t. Her work as executive administrator of the school she’d founded twenty years ago seemed to be her one true love. She’d never been married, and she’d never had any more of her own children. According to a newspaper article honoring Aiyana on the anniversary of the date the boys ranch opened, something the private detective who finally solved the mystery of Aiyana’s identity had provided, Aiyana had adopted quite a few of the residents who’d come to the school through the years—eight of them, so far. The oldest, Elijah Turner, was now a man in his early thirties. He helped run New Horizons. Cora knew because he was the person who’d interviewed and then hired her. That was why she hadn’t yet met Aiyana. Aiyana had been out of town when Cora came two weeks ago.

“I’m sorry it’s taking a few moments. Ms. Turner is on an unexpected but important call.” The receptionist, a gray-haired woman who had to be in her sixties, smiled kindly as she imparted this apology. “I can’t imagine it’ll be much longer.”

Hauling in a deep breath, Cora smiled. “It’s fine. I don’t mind waiting.” She didn’t mind, except that she was beginning to fear she’d have a heart attack right there outside of Aiyana Turner’s office. Somehow, she had to stem her anxiety...

“Are you too warm, dear? I can turn down the air...”

She glanced up at the receptionist again—and realized she’d been fanning herself. “Um...no. I’m okay, thanks,” she said and dropped her hand.

“It’s been hot this summer.”

“Yes, it’s particularly warm today,” Cora said, but it was generally worse where she lived in Burbank. Along with Jill, her best friend, Cora rented a small condo just outside of Hollywood, where her adoptive parents still owned the lovely four-bedroom home where she’d been raised.

She felt a twinge of guilt when she thought of her parents, Brad and Lilly. They’d been good to her, treated her just like her brother, who was two years older and their biological child. They wouldn’t be pleased that she’d landed this job if they knew the driving force behind it.

Don’t think about that. What they don’t know can’t hurt them. It would be premature to drag them into this, anyway, since she had no idea where it might go. For all she knew, it wouldn’t go anywhere. And maybe that was for the best. Several years ago, when she’d first mentioned that she’d like to find her birth mother, Brad and Lilly had acted shocked and disappointed. They’d taken it personally, didn’t understand that they didn’t do anything to cause the emptiness inside her and weren’t the ones who could fix it. The hole was just there, and Cora felt it would be until she could figure out where she came from, who she was and where she belonged.

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