Excerpt: Alone With You - The Walker Brothers Book 2 by Amanda Adams (Prologue & First Chapter)
Amanda Adams joins us to share her book ALONE WITH YOU!
Sometimes, even true love needs a kick in the...
Claire Miller fell in love with Jake in the third grade. Years later, one hot night of reckless passion changed things between them forever. Jake rocked her world, but Claire had plans for her life. Knowing she could never be what he needed, she let him go and has missed him every day since.
Jake Walker knew the first time he saw Claire, when he was nine years old, that he wanted to marry her. At seventeen, he let her go. But seven years later, the sight of her hit him like a punch to the gut. Every cell in his body demanded that she was ‘The One'. But can he convince Claire?
Author: Amanda Adams
Tags: * Contemporary
Publisher: Independently Published
Jake Walker rang the doorbell and waited. A few seconds later, Mrs. Klasky opened the door in a pair of navy-blue pants and an oversized, cream-colored sweater. She had to be at least seventy years old, but she looked ten years younger.
“I’m so sorry about your mom, honey.” She grabbed him by the arm and pulled him inside before closing it softly behind him. “You’re the first one here.”
“Figures.” Jake took off his hat and held it down so he could tap the rim against the outside of his thigh. He was always the first one everywhere. His three brothers seemed to have a problem telling time. He followed her into the kitchen, past a wall filled with family photos and sepia-toned portraits of the Klasky family’s ancestors, and sat down in his usual spot at the Klasky kitchen table in the hardwood oak chair closest to the twenty-year-old sofa covered with a paisley print and colors that he’d been told dated back to the 1970s.
“Here you go, dear.” Mrs. Klasky set a glass of lemonade in front of him and he took a sip.
“Thanks.” Fresh squeezed and real sugar, just like Mom used to make. His eyes actually misted and he looked up at the ceiling for a moment, waiting for the ache behind his eyes to pass. He’d cried enough. Boys lost their mothers every day. He was twenty-four, not twelve. He had to get his shit together and remember that some boys didn’t have a mother at all.
The doorbell chimed and Mrs. Klasky excused herself for about a minute before leading two of his three brothers into the kitchen. Derek was the oldest, and the meanest, but Jake had leaned on that toughness more than once growing up. Derek ran a custom motorcycle shop in downtown Denver and looked the part—biker boots, black leather jacket and tattoos. Mitchell, on the other hand, was a second year surgical resident at the local trauma hospital. As much as Derek looked like a rebel, Mitchell looked like a city boy, with his hair too long for Jake’s taste, expensive clothes and a sports car. Jake preferred his jeans, work boots, and truck. If he tried to wear the fancy crap his brother did, Jake knew he’d just look like a stray dog at a poodle party. Too big. Too rough. Too dirty.
After a couple of hard slaps on the back, the doorbell rang again.
“That’ll be Chance.” Mrs. Klasky disappeared again and came back with his brother Chance, the newly blooded attorney just a year out of law school.
“Chance.” Derek got up from his seat at the end of the table and wrapped Chance up in a hug.
“Hey, loser.” After a quick hug, Chance patted Derek on the shoulder. Jake and Mitchell took their turns. Normally, they weren’t huggers, but being here today was making Jake’s head trip, and he figured it was doing the same for his brothers.
“Late to the party, as usual.” Jake grabbed Chance and lifted him off the floor as if his brother were a little girl. Jake was the youngest, but all three of his older brothers were at least five inches and fifty pounds lighter. And as the baby, Jake never passed up an opportunity to rub their noses in the fact that he could kick every single one of their sissy-boy asses.
“And you still smell like cow patties and hay bales.” Chance chuckled and Jake grinned back. His older brothers, Chance in particular, told Jake that he was the only one who was adopted. And Jake had spent several weeks believing their bullshit. He’d been five years old at the time. He’d cried to his mother, who’d told him the truth.
They were all adopted.
“Tough love, brother. But you smell like you had your ass wiped by a bathroom attendant with a perfumed moist towelette. You turning into one of those metrosexual, city boys?” Jake set him back down and Mitchell took his place, giving Chance a hard time. Mitchell was the only one who spent more time in the city than Chance did.
“Naw, man. That would be me.” Mitchell grinned and grabbed Chance around the shoulders. Mitchell lived in the city now, but ran for the mountains every chance he got. Hell, his brother texted them all pictures hanging from the side of a rock wall in a sleeping bag a couple hundred feet up the side of a cliff. Mitchell lived for the adrenaline rush of the emergency room. Gory gunshot wounds and stabbings made his brother happier than the steady stream of nurses he was always dating.
Chance stood there in his suit, and as usual, he was the only one in a tie. Even Mr. Klasky, his mother’s eighty-year-old attorney, was in khakis and a golf shirt.
“Now that you’re all here, we can begin.” Mr. Klasky rolled in a small television with the old-fashioned VCR combo. Jake kicked out a chair and Chance sat down at the kitchen table, tugging on his tie.
They all thanked Mrs. Klasky respectfully as she served them lemonade and a tray of chocolate chip cookies, just as she’d been doing since they were in grade school.
When she settled against the wall, Jake offered her his seat, but she shooed him away. “You boys are going to want to be sitting down for this.”
“All due respect, Mr. Klasky, but Mother’s estate was taken care of months ago when she first got sick.” Chance was the lawman, so Jake was happy to let him speak legalese with Klasky.
“Yes. Yes. I know.” The older man bent over, looking for an outlet in the wall so he could plug in the dinosaur of a television.
“Then why are we here?” Chance looked from Mr. Klasky, who had finally found an outlet and was shoving the electrical prongs into it, to his wife, who glowered at him with a raised eyebrow until he added, “Sir.”
Satisfied, Mr. Klasky stood tall and rubbed his hands together like an excited schoolboy. “Well, boys, I promised your momma that I would get you all together today, six weeks to the day after she passed. God rest her soul.”
“But why? Everything’s been handled.”
“Not everything.” Mrs. Klasky pulled four envelopes from her apron pocket. Each looked like it would hold an oversized birthday card. She walked to the table and handed one to each of them. “Don’t open them yet. You have to watch the video first.”
Jake felt a lump in his throat as he traced the outline of his name written on the front of his card. He felt like they’d all been caught in some kind of evil time warp. His mother’s distinct cursive handwriting on the outside of the card made him miss her more. She’d written his name in red ink on the white envelope. Red, because when he was nine years old, he’d told her that red was his favorite color. He looked up to check his brothers’ cards. Sure enough, their mother had written each of their names on an envelope. Chance’s card was green, and Jake smiled. Who could forget his brother’s obsession with The Incredible Hulk? Mitchell’s envelope was faded now, but red. And Derek? Mr. black leather and tattoos held an envelope that was a shockingly bright yellow.
“Holy hell.” Jake leaned back in his seat and started tapping his cowboy hat against his knee.
Mr. Klasky shoved an old VHS tape into the player and the fuzzy screen went black for a few seconds. Jake heard the whirring of the tape as it played, and grinned. Mom always hated technology. It had taken him three years just to talk her into a cell phone. His grin faded as her voice echoed through the Klaskys’ kitchen. And, oh boy, were they going to be in trouble. He knew that tone of voice, the devious quality that had kept her one step ahead of all four hardheaded teenage boys for so many years.
“ Hello, my precious boys. I’m going to make this tape and give it to Mr. Klasky just in case something happens to me. I don’t plan on going anywhere, but if I do, I want you boys to know I loved you more than anything and I was always proud, every single day, to be your mother.”
Jake sniffed and turned his head away. No more waterworks. Christ.
“You boys know how much I always pushed you to follow your own hearts. Follow your dreams, I say. Well, I’ve been thinking about this a lot this past year. Derek is fourteen now, and I see it happening already.
“Life is going to get ahold of you boys, and drain your dreams right out of you. I know. The real world is hard and unforgiving. Boys don’t get to have dreams anymore. They have to be men. The world is going to expect you to be hard. And I know you can be hard as nails. All of you. I know where you came from. You were born into a hard world. I tried to show you a different life, but I’m afraid. I’m afraid you’re going to grow up and forget who you really are. I don’t want you to forget your dreams.
“So, I did something a little crazy. Maybe you’ll remember, maybe you won’t, but on my birthday this year, I asked each of you to write a very special card—”
Jake looked down at the card with dawning horror. Fuck no. He didn’t even want to open it. He didn’t want to relive that day, any more than he wanted to relive what happened eight years later.
Heartbreak. That was what he was holding in his hands.
His mother’s laughter filled the quiet kitchen and the moment felt surreal. She was right there, on that little screen, smiling and happy and beautiful.
“I’m going to ask Mr. Klasky to hold on to these cards for a while. Someday, I’ll die. Maybe I’ll be ninety, maybe not, but if I’m gone and you need reminding, he’s going to remind you of who you really are.”
She got serious and leaned forward until her face filled the entire screen.
“I love you. Each and every one. And you each made a promise to me, all those years ago. And dead or not, I expect you to keep it.”
Then she laughed again. “Dead or not. How’s that for a good one? I love you. Don’t forget who you were born to be. Open your cards now. Read them. And above all, remember why you wrote them. Keep your promises. I love you, and you know I’ll be watching.”
Jake ignored his brothers, who all sat in stunned silence. God only knew what they’d written down in their cards, but he knew exactly what he’d written in his on that day in third grade. His mother had made him write down three things, but he was only worried about one of them. Number one on his list.
The only girl who ever truly broke his heart.
Six Months Later – Amazon River Basin, Brazil
Claire Miller wiped at the sweat on her brow with her forearm and continued to brush away the last bits of rock and debris that kept her from her prize. She’d found a new piece of pottery, likely at least five thousand years old, and she could feel the past calling to her through the layers of dirt and rubble, almost as if the ghosts of the ancient woman who had left the pottery in this cave was standing behind her, leaning over her shoulder, watching and waiting for Claire to touch what she had once touched, to feel what she had felt. Waiting to live again, through Claire.
The past was waiting to be brought into the present and she lived for that moment of discovery, the split second between nothing and something. Every artifact was like a piece of the past haunting the present, longing to be seen and felt, yearning to exist again, just for her.
She gently lifted the small pot from the earth and held it in the palm of her hand, marveling at the fact that it was in one piece. It was small and, to Claire’s delight, the etched patterns were plainly visible. As she gently ran her fingertip along the edges of the piece, she could almost feel the hands that once held this pot, feel the strength that had forged the ancient stone and invested hours in making it beautiful. Sometimes, Claire swore she could actually feel the ancient people’s joys and their struggles to survive. The people, who had been here in this cave, were real to her, and it was her sacred duty to protect their story and bring them back to life.
“We have to pack up soon, Claire.” Emily was shoving gear into her backpack on Claire’s left. Emily was a friend of hers from university, her roommate back home, and a fellow archeology graduate. They’d been lucky enough to travel the world together. Claire loved every trip, every new location, new food, and new adventure. They’d been here for five weeks now and their time was about up. In less than a week, she’d be home.
All around her, the excavation team scrambled to put things away and pack up the day’s artifacts for safe shipment to the museum where each piece would be inspected, cataloged and cleaned.
“I know. I know.” Claire sat cross-legged on the ground and cradled the pot in the palm of her hand, unwilling to give it up just yet. “Isn’t it beautiful?” She tilted her head to get a better look. “Some of the paint is still visible.”
“It’s a great piece, Claire. Get it labeled and pack it up. We have to get out of here. It’s supposed to rain in about an hour.” Howard Pierson, the team leader from the sponsor museum, shrugged his giant backpack onto his shoulders and wiped his face off with a handkerchief. Early June in Brazil meant eighty-degree days, high humidity, and only a few hours left until the afternoon rain made driving out on the trails a risky endeavor.
“Stinking rain.” If she could, Claire would just camp up here and keep digging all night. She could crawl back into the cave where Howard and a couple of the guys had a second pit going. She could dig by lamplight if she had to. Flashlight? If it weren’t for the mosquitos and the snakes, she’d be tempted.
Claire crawled out of the digging pit on her hands and knees and scurried over to their supplies to carefully label and pack the artifact in the plain brown tackle box they’d converted to tool kits. When the pot was safely stowed, she pulled a water bottle from her backpack and drank half of it. It was hot and she felt like she was melting. They were a good quarter-mile hike up the mountain and they had to haul their gear out on their backs. Far below, two all-terrain vehicles waited to take them back to the small Brazilian town of Monte Alegre where their hotel and a soft bed waited. A few miles away, the big black mushroom-shaped Pedra Pintada rock rose like a friend waving to her in the distance. Twenty-five years ago, one of her archeology idols, Ann Roosevelt, had discovered the famous cavern holding artifacts and paintings dating back more than ten thousand years.
Roosevelt had rewritten history with that discovery, and Claire longed to make the same kind of epic announcement to the world one day. She wanted to be the one who buried her hands in the ground and found something that would change the way the world thought about itself. Claire wanted to leave her mark on history.
But not today. She shoved her water back into a side pocket on her pack. The sun rose early and set early here. By the time they drove the winding roads back to town it would be dark before they made it back to civilization, and she was tired.
Claire lifted her backpack and braced her feet apart to balance its weight. It wasn’t light, and her back was already sticky and wet where her sweat had soaked through her t-shirt and shorts. She stank like dirt, sweat, valiant but ineffective antiperspirant, and insect repellant. “I smell like a chemical factory.”
Emily laughed. She looked as gross as Claire felt. Emily’s dark blonde hair looked three shades of brown and stuck to her face and head beneath her hat. Sweat ran down Emily’s temples and soaked her shirt with the same v-shaped pattern above her cleavage and at the small of her back that Claire’s filthy T-shirt displayed. They were both walking antiperspirant commercials. Not that it helped here, where the air was so sticky that the moment she dried off after a shower, she was wet again.
Emily lifted her arm and took a quick sniff of her armpit with a completely disgusted face. “We all stink. Freaking mosquitos.”
“Better than donating blood, I guess. Or getting sick.”
Claire had suffered the bite of multiple needles over the last few years while being vaccinated against everything from Typhoid and Yellow Fever, to Rabies. She figured she was a walking science experiment. Still, there were new diseases popping up all the time, and the freaking mosquitos always seemed to be in that equation somewhere.
“True.” Emily lifted her pack and Claire fell into step behind her, as the whole crew marched down the hiking trail. There were nine members of the team, and she and Emily were the only women—which was typical. This trip, the guys were pretty decent. They weren’t crude, disrespectful, or pushy, which was nice for a change. Their excavation team consisted of two older men from the museum who were friends with Howard, two others in their twenties who were both married that she and Emily knew from school, and their guide, Senhor Gomes, who was a local archeologist and their liaison with the Brazilian authorities. He was also fluent in both Portuguese and French. Claire spoke a bit of Spanish, but would have been lost down here without him.
The fact that every member of the team was married except Claire and Emily was also typical.
Seemed women were expected to let their husbands pursue their passions and roam the world having adventures.
Women were expected to settle down, get pregnant, and stay put.
Every time she thought about it, she got pissed off and sad at everything she’d left behind...or more accurately, who. But she shoved that shit down and kept hiking. Jake Walker was past history. That ship sailed an eon ago. Her biggest problem was that she’d never really gotten over him. He was too freaking perfect in every way but one.
He wanted a housewife, a little woman to share the ranch life with him and raise horses. And he was a great, amazing, sexy-as-hell cowboy who could probably have just about any women he wanted in his bed. His babies would look like cherubic little blond versions of himself, too cute to handle with shy smiles, big eyes and chubby little arms that couldn’t wait to hug everyone. His kids would be perfect in every way. It was a dream life for just about any woman. Well, any woman but her.
Shaking off thoughts of the past, Claire took a deep breath and admired the view. The Amazon River Basin stretched out below them like a picture from a postcard. The area was rich with biodiversity. Everywhere she looked things were green, and growing, and filled with life. The birds were colorful and wild, and the flowers and trees were so different from the dry sagebrush and pine trees of her home in Colorado that she felt like she was in another world.
The team was about halfway down the mountain when her satellite phone rang.
No one called her when she was on a dig, unless it was bad news. She would video chat with her friends and family from the hotel when she had internet access, but the phone was for emergencies only. Only three people had her number: Her parents, Emily, and her boss back in California.
Emily stopped in front of her and Claire swung around so her friend could dig the phone out of the side pocket of her pack.
“You want us to wait?” Howard half shouted over his shoulder from the head of the line.
“No. Go ahead. We’ll be right behind you.” Emily answered for her and Claire smiled over her shoulder at her friend in gratitude. She had no idea if it was her parents or her boss. Either way, she didn’t need seven sets of male ears listening to every word. Claire held her hand out to the side and Emily placed the ringing phone in her palm from behind so Claire could answer the call.
“Claire, honey? Is that you?”
“Mom? Is everything okay?”
“Where are you, Claire? Do you have a minute? I can call back later.” Her mother’s voice wavered and Claire’s stomach dropped like a two-ton brick. Something was wrong.
“Mom. I’m fine. I’m still in Brazil but we’re heading home in a few days. What’s wrong?”
“Honey, it’s your dad. Widowmaker threw him and they’re taking him in to do a brain scan right now. He’s hurt pretty bad.”
A million scenarios rushed through her mind, everything from a broken neck to shattered bones, and she felt an odd calm settle inside her mind. Claire turned her back to the steep rock that ran along one side of the trail and leaned her pack against it for extra support. Every horseman knew that he could be thrown on any given day. The risk came with the thrill of riding, but her dad had been riding that stubborn stallion for years. The horse was ornery, but not mean or unpredictable. “What happened? How bad is it?”
Emily peered up into Claire’s face with a worried frown and wide green eyes, and Claire whispered, “It’s my dad. He got thrown off his horse.”
“Oh, no.” Emily paled, her normally cheery face stoic as Claire waited silently for her mom to continue.
“They think he’s going to be all right, but he’s got a concussion, broken ribs and he separated his shoulder. They’re going to put some screws in his collarbone to reattach it.” Her mom sounded fairly calm, considering.
“How bad is the concussion?”
“They don’t know yet, dear. He went for his scans but we don’t have the results yet. You know how that goes. And now they’re talking about surgery. But they said they want to wait to make sure his brain’s okay before they put him under general anesthesia, which means we’re going to be here for a few days. And he’s in a lot of pain.”
Claire’s mind was clear, but her pulse was pounding. Her dad was like a rock. Her rock. He couldn’t’ be hurt or in the hospital. He could not have a brain injury. That reality simply did not make sense in her world.
“Do you need me to come home?”
Her mom started crying, and that was the only answer Claire needed.
“I’ll catch a plane tomorrow, Mom.” Hopefully, she could catch a plane at the local airport in Monte Alegre. If not, she’d have to take the bus to the Santarem airport, which was almost sixty miles away, but still doable. “I’ll be home as soon as I can. If I get lucky, I’ll be there tomorrow night.”
“I’m so sorry, sweetheart. I don’t want to mess up your trip.”
“You aren’t messing up anything. I’m already on my way.”
Claire talked to her mom for another couple minutes and ended the call. She tapped the phone against her thigh and exhaled with a huff. “Shit.”
“That didn’t sound good. How’s your dad?”
“He’s got a brain injury and he needs surgery on his shoulder. He’s going to be in the hospital for a few days at least, and my mom needs help.” Claire looked out over the trees and swallowed back a lump in her throat.
“You okay? We gotta move. They’re already loading gear.” Emily tilted her head to the side to indicate the vehicles parked below them. Claire glanced over the side of the cliff to see the men loading their packs, a couple already lounging around waiting for them.
“I’m fine. Let’s go.”
Emily nodded and took off at a quick pace. Claire was right on her heels, but she felt like a huge liar. She wasn’t okay. She was going home for the first time in seven years. She’d seen her parents two or three times a year since she’d left Colorado. They came out to California regularly to visit, but Claire never went home.
Too many memories waited for her there. She loved the past, as long as it wasn’t her own.
Amanda Adams always loved fairy tales, fantasy and anything magical, especially romance. What’s more magical than true love? If you love old-fashioned fairy tales with a side of naughty, or contemporary love with a bit of magic, you'll enjoy Amanda's books.