Hunter Hammond sat down on the bench, the beautiful organ music filling the chapel, and rested his forearms on his knees. His head bowed, he tried to clear his mind and push all the achiness from his muscles.
He closed his eyes and prayed, letting his thoughts move wherever they were wont to go.
“You okay, Hunt?” his dad whispered from down the pew, and Hunter just nodded. He simply wanted to sit for a minute. Ponder, and try to rejuvenate before he started full-time at Hammond Manufacturing Company in the morning.
Am I in the right place, Lord? he asked, and the answer came instantly.ff
Tingles ran down his shoulders and into his fingers, sliding down his spine and all the way to his toes.
Yes, he was in the right place.
Exhaling the last of the tension out of his back, he raised his head and looked up to the pulpit. He’d missed coming to church here for the past seven years as he’d been off at MIT, learning and working and trying anything he thought he wanted to try.
He’d earned his master’s degree in Bioinformatics, which blended computer science with genetics, molecular biology, math, database creation, and operating systems. He loved computers almost as much as he loved crossword puzzles, and as he’d progressed through high school, he’d realized how very good at math and science he was.
The horses and goats on the family farm where he’d grown up and worked until he’d left for college hadn’t cared about his skills with numbers and formulas, but MIT had. He’d earned a full scholarship there that he only came close to losing once.
He glanced down the row, over the tops of three children’s heads. His half-siblings. Really, they felt like his full siblings, and he grinned at the youngest of them, Deacon, a cute five-year-old that finally looked like a Hammond.
“Hunt, look,” the little boy said, and Hunter pulled the dark-haired child onto his lap to look at what he’d been writing.
“It’s your name,” he whispered. “Remember, we have to talk quiet at church.”
“Shh,” Deacon whispered back. “How do you spell your name, Hunter?”
Hunter started to spell it for him, pleased when Deacon knew all the letters and got them all about lined up in a row. “Good job, buddy,” he whispered, pressing a kiss to the boy’s head.
“Good morning, friends,” a man said, and Hunter looked up to the pulpit again, where Pastor Benson stood. He’d definitely aged since Hunter had attended church here for the last time, and he had plenty of gray hair now, with wrinkled laugh lines around his eyes.
Hunter loved Pastor Benson—and not just as a pastor. He’d spent a lot of time at the Bensons’ house, as he’d dated their oldest daughter for years.
His father hadn’t been pleased with Hunter and Molly’s relationship. Looking back, Hunter could see his dad’s point of view, and he knew that twelve was way too young to start dating.
At the same time, he’d been devastated when Molly had finally ended things between them completely the week before his sophomore year started. Hunter had disappeared for a while that year, and he’d discovered his tenacity and talent for science and math while he hunkered down and tried to figure out who he was.
“We have a lot of visitors today,” Pastor Benson said. “It’s nice to see all the young people home from college.” He beamed out at the congregation, and added, “Let’s stand and sing hymn forty-two.”
Hunter set Deacon on his feet and picked up a hymn book as he stood too. He didn’t count himself as one of the “young people home from college.” He was twenty-five years old and had been living in Massachusetts for years now. He’d graduated a year ago but stayed back East to finish a project he’d founded during his collegiate career.
He’d gotten his two billion dollars on his twenty-first birthday, and he’d done something with it already. Now, he was set to start at HMC in the biometric lab, and his voice scratched on the first note. He recognized the nerves, though his dad had been telling him not to worry. Everyone at HMC knew him; he’d be fine.
Hunter sang the hymn, using the music and the message to once again relieve his rising anxiety. He’d been seeing a therapist for over a decade, and he was glad to be back in the Denver area so he could see Lucy in person. She’d been amazing over the past several years, and he’d been able to do video counseling with her to keep himself mentally strong.
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