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Her Crazy Rich Ex High School Crush

Her Crazy Rich Ex High School Crush

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Sage Erickson has finally shed her high school shyness and found something she's passionate about--helping install water pumps in South Africa. The man funding the project is none other than her old crush, and he's interested in more than her plans to educate the villages they bring water to. Which is fine with Sage.
Ryker Campbell always like Sage in high school, although his pride kept him from pushing past her quiet personality. Now she's a tenacious woman who works hard for what she believes in, and he can't help a resurgence of his old feelings. The business trip feels more and more like the vacation romance of a lifetime, but his lavish lifestyle and social connections could prove to be too much for Sage.
As the two rekindle a friendship that blooms into something more, Sage worries that she’s just not cut out for that kind of life. Can they find a way to come together, or will the continents divide them forever?

Intro into Chapter One

Hot and arid, just like home. Sage Erickson should have been used to the desert landscape around the small villages in South Africa, but right now she really could go for a cold drink of water. That thought pushed her harder. She would make sure this village got their water pump placed so the children here could have clean water.
Memories of watching the young girls or women walk miles to the nearest watering hole, and sharing the water with the grazing herds tugged at her memory. Though the animals could manage fine with that water, it wasn’t healthy for human consumption.
She’d been to countless villages over the years, working with a non-profit company that supplied the equipment while the engineers and workers like her were paid just enough to cover cost of living. It was hard work, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Sage smiled at the tribal woman who was standing near the pump. Still not sure of the language, Sage gave her the word for water and soon and the woman smiled wider, her beautiful eyes brightening with excitement.
The chief of the tribe watched from the other side and when the final part was tightened and the pump handle was ready, Jerry Norman, the head of the project motioned for the chief to come forward.
“Give it a try, Ermand.”
The chief listened to the words of the interpreter and stepped closer, lifting the handle of the pump then pressing it down. Jerry motioned for him to continue pumping and Chief Ermand did as instructed. After a dozen pumps, clear water poured out of the pipe and the hopeful silence burst into deafening cheers.
“It works,” Jerry said. “Fresh, clean water for your people.”
The chief smiled, then bowed his head in thanks, turning to each of the crew who’d helped with the well. When he reached Sage, he had tears in his eyes as he took her hand and bowed over it.
“Thank you,” he managed.
“It’s our pleasure,” Sage said. “It makes us so happy to see you all so happy.”
The chief bowed again and turned to his people, talking excitedly to them. They all cheered and began to sing and dance. The chief took the cup that Jerry offered him, then drank deeply from it. After a gasp for air, he shouted in excitement again. The chief walked over to the pump and began pumping more water into a bucket that had been placed underneath. Then he reached in with the cup, scooping water up and passing it to each of his villagers who took long drinks, then passed it on. Each time he filled the cup, he said something that made Sage sure he was giving thanks or pronouncing a blessing upon the person he passed it to.
When all of the tribe members had taken a turn drinking the new fresh water, each one of the tribe members seemed to want a chance to lift the handle on the pump.
The sparkling of the water as the sunlight hit it almost seemed magical and Sage could feel the excitement that continued to build among the people there. Children filled up water bottles almost too large to carry and more than a few kids laughed in delight when the water sloshed over the sides and onto their feet.
Sage turned to a man in her group. “It’s so fun how every village celebrates.”
“Water at your fingertips does that to you, for sure.” Conner took the cup he held and lifted it high, pouring it slowly over her head.
Sage looked up, wanting to enjoy every second of the cooling sensation. She laughed with delight as a little boy who’d seen what Conner did, reached over and poured water on the girl next to him. Before long, a miniature water fight with handfuls and cupfuls of water were tossed about and instead of running from the water, everyone nearby pointed at their heads, or faces, or chests.
The chief called out a playful sounding reprimand and the children all giggled, but stopped pouring out the water and instead took more sips from the cups they passed around while the adults filled the four and five gallon water bottles they had used. Now, instead of walking miles to fill them, they’d be able to walk only a few minutes away from their huts to get the life sustaining miracle.
“Sage,” Jerry called out. “I believe our benefactor has arrived. Come, let me introduce you to him.”
Sage offered her cup to a darling little girl nearby and turned around to head over to Jerry. Before Sage had taken five steps, she froze in her tracks. The man who had gotten out of the jeep didn’t look a thing like what she’d expected.
Most of the rich men who’d donated to charity groups like the one she worked for were older men with obvious gray hair and a grandfatherly appearance. This man was nothing like that.
The guy wasn’t overly tall, but would have been at least a half foot taller than her own five foot, three inch stature. But it was his physique that was impossible to ignore. His muscles looked honestly acquired and not just sculpted from professional trainers and hours at the gym.
His hair was short and dark and she could almost imagine his eyes, hidden behind dark sunglasses, would have been dark as well.
Trying to regain her earlier ease, she pasted a smile on her face, wishing she’d been blessed with the ability to communicate with strangers. Especially good looking rich ones. Right now, she’d rather go try to learn the local language instead of attempt to string a coherent sentence together in front of this guy.
“Mr. Campbell,” Jerry said. “This is Sage Erickson. She’s the sanitation engineer on our project.”
“Sage?” Mr. Campbell said, pulling his sunglasses off and leaning closer toward her before straightening again and laughing. “Sage Erickson, what are the odds that I’d see you again, out here, thousands of miles from home?”
Sage could only stare. She was barely aware that Jerry and Conner were looking at her, waiting for her to reply. But what could she say about the guy she’d had an enormous crush on all through high school? She was actually impressed he even remembered her name.
“Hello, Ryker.” That was all she could manage to say since her heart slammed against her chest and she returned to the breathing strategies her life coach had helped her figure out.
“You two know each other?” Jerry asked.
“We went to high school together,” Sage said.


“I can’t believe it,” Ryker said, stepping closer to Sage. “It’s been what, nine years?”
“Ten,” Sage said quietly.
“Oh, that’s right. I got that announcement about the reunion. Couldn’t make it though. Can’t remember where I was traveling.” Ryker stopped talking and looked at Sage, noticing she was still not one to talk. “How have you been?”
“Good,” Sage said and glanced at the other two involved in the project with her. As much fun as it would have been to just sit and catch up with her, he knew he had to take care of business here so he could let them get back to work and be on his way.
But the sight of cute little Sage Erickson, all grown up now with long brown hair and hazel eyes framed in thick lashes wearing a wet t-shirt no less, was so much different than what he remembered of her from school. She’d been cute then too, but wasn’t interested in him at all. More of a holier than thou kind of attitude that he wondered if she’d outgrown.
“Mr. Campbell,” Jerry began, but Ryker stopped him.
“Please, call me Ryker.”
“Of course.” Jerry nodded. “We greatly appreciate the support you are providing for our next round of projects. If you would join me over here, we’ll show you the simple set up and explain the process. Then Conner can go over the list of materials and if you have questions on the water filtration part of it, Sage can explain.”
Ryker followed Jerry and when he glanced back to see Conner and Sage just standing there watching them leave, he motioned for them to follow. When the two looked at each other, Ryker was relieved to see there didn’t seem to be any interest between the two.
Though why he would have allowed his thoughts to go there, Ryker had no idea. It wasn’t like he had time to date, let alone worry about a girl from his high school that had been friends with his best friend’s girlfriend. They’d hung out a lot during junior year while Chase and Serena dated, but Sage rarely said a word to him and they passed the time rather awkwardly.
“This is Chief Ermand.” Jerry introduced Ryker to the chief and they had a conversation through the translator that was nearby. While Ryker’s eyes never strayed from the chief to search for Sage, he knew where she was. It was almost like he felt her presence. She talked a little with the women of the tribe, but she seemed just as quiet as she’d always been.
As he listened to Jerry and Conner explain how the whole well and pump system worked and summarized the things they’d need for future projects, Ryker nodded and took a few notes in his phone.
“This is quite the project,” Ryker said. “The materials are simple enough and I like the fact they can be repaired here with simple tools and replacement parts.”
Jerry nodded. “We thought it would be important for them to have the means to fix things if needed. And there is a government employee with training and information about it that will be traveling through all the villages we’ve installed these in to keep tabs on things.”
“Nice,” Ryker said. “You’re changing the lives of the people here. I’m pleased to be a part of it.”
“Thank you,” Sage said, surprising Ryker at her words.
Ryker turned to her and smiled. “You’re the ones sacrificing all your time to do this. I’m merely lucky I have some funds I need to donate to charity.” His tax adviser had suggested something like this and Ryker was happy to see it in person. But it might not be enough. He’d have to think on other options as well.
“Still,” Sage said. “It’s a lot, and we couldn’t continue without you.”
“Yes,” Jerry said. He patted Sage on the shoulder. “And once we’ve finished this next leg of the trip, you’ll be able to go back to the first villages and look into your schools.”
Ryker turned around to face Sage again. “Schools?”
Sage’s pert lips turned up into a sweet smile. “Yes.” She looked at Jerry and Conner, then back to Ryker. “I wanted to give the villages something more. Now that the girls don’t have to walk hours every day to get water, they could have time to go to school. But I’ve got to finish getting things set up to begin building schools.”
“Wow,” Ryker said again, more and more impressed with this timid girl turned activist woman. “I’d love to hear more about your plans. I might be able to help, or make some contacts with some colleagues of mine that could help.”
“Really?” Sage asked, her eyes getting wide and her smile growing even larger, reminding him of what a beauty she was. When Chase had first tried to convince Ryker to do a double date by taking Sage, Ryker had been totally willing. Sage was cute, but he was sure she’d disliked him completely the first time they’d doubled with Serena and Chase.
“Of course,” Ryker said. “This water project won’t need constant refunding. Just setting up an account to take care of the maintenance on it will provide for it in the future. But doing a school? That is something that will need ongoing support. Hiring of teachers, materials and so forth. I would love to see the money used for education. Would you be willing to talk with me more on this?”
“Sure,” Sage said. “I’m free tonight and the next couple of days before we pack up and head to the next village.” Her face turned red and he knew it wasn’t from the heat of the African summer.
Ryker struggled to keep himself from responding with a laugh or chuckle. He knew she wasn’t trying to flirt with him in any way. She was never interested in him and he figured she was embarrassed at sounding like she was after him.
“I actually have to catch my flight to Kenya.”
Sage nearly deflated and before he could stop himself, Ryker asked. “Would you be interested in coming with me? It’ll only be a week. There will be some flying and some driving. We could talk details as we travel. Then I’ll put you up in the same hotels I’m staying in.”
Her eyes widened and she opened her mouth like she was going to decline the invitation, but Jerry spoke. “You should do it, Sage. Have a chance to take a much needed break. You’ve not had a moment to rest in months. And explaining your plan to someone who can actually do something about it is too good to pass up.”
“But I can’t just go off with him,” Sage said, then looked at Ryker as if she’d just realized she said it out loud. “No offense or anything. I mean, we don’t really know each other anymore. What if you’ve turned into some creep in the last decade?”
Ryker laughed and Sage relaxed after a moment. “I promise I’ll be the perfect gentleman. I have a driver in the places I’m not familiar with. I have tons of meetings to go to so you’ll be free to rest and relax and vacation in the different places we stop. Besides, it would be nice to have a chance to catch up with you. I want to hear about all the villages you’ve been to and how you got started on this.”
“I don’t know,” Sage hedged again, but he could feel her caving.
He’d learned to be pretty adept at reading body language and knowing when to speak and when to remain silent so he just allowed her time to think it over. “Jerry, what kind of things will she need to pack?”
“Not much,” Jerry said. “We travel light. Only a suitcase and a carry on.”
“I’ll grab it for you.” Conner took a step toward the tents they had set up for them.
“I’ll do it,” Sage said. “I don’t want you going through my clothes.”
Conner laughed. “Don’t worry, kiddo. I’ve seen your clothes on the line often enough to know exactly how many unmentionables you have.”
“Then don’t mention them,” Sage said as she hurried away.
Ryker smiled at her retreating figure but then sobered quickly when he found himself being stared down by Jerry and Conner.
Conner measured Ryker with his gaze. “You know, Mr. Campbell, we appreciate all your plans to help us, but Sage is not a perk or compensation of your involvement. Understand?”
“Of course,” Ryker said. “Wouldn’t dream of it. I have no interest in making her a perk. I genuinely want to know more about her plans to see if there is a way my company could be involved. And the Sage I knew in school would be sure to have all the plans laid out and ready for a project like this. I’m almost certain we could figure out a way to help her get the things she needs while still helping me with my charitable contributions.”
“Good to know,” Conner said.
“She’s family to us,” Jerry said. “Treat her right. I saw that spark in your eyes when you two saw each other. Whatever happened with you in the past, think long and hard on how your actions will affect the future for our girl.”
“Understood,” Ryker said. “Now let’s go see if Sage needs any help.”
He looked up and saw Sage exiting a tent with her luggage and a nervous smile. At first, he had regretted the impulsiveness of the invitation, but now that she was coming, he was excited to spend time with her. And having someone on the trip with him would help keep the gold diggers off his tail.

She's on a humanitarian mission. He's the crazy rich guy funding it.

Main Tropes

  • Forced Proximity
  • Billionaire
  • Second Chance at Love
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