Read The First Three Chapters of Swept Away!
Yesterday, I shared a post on my Facebook page and declared that if it could get 50 likes, I would share the first three chapters of Swept Away in honor of it being three days to release day. You guys delivered!
Swept Away is only TWO DAYS from releasing now, but here's your three chapters! I'll share the blurb, reviews, and preorder links at the end of the post :) Thanks everyone!
by Kamery Solomon
© Happily Ever After Publishing and Kamery Solomon Books
Available wherever e-books are sold on April 6, 2015!
It’s quite possible no two words, when placed together, incite the imagination of a person so greatly. Immediately, visions of rugged men, tanned from months at sea, bodies bearing scars that tell of a lifetime of battle, their clothes hanging slightly tattered around them, fill the mind of the believer. They imagine old, locked chests carried between sailors, over sandy beaches and into dense forests where the air is so thick that moisture clings to their every movement. Perhaps, just before burying their booty, the pirates decide to have one last look, cracking open their vault and revealing piles of gold coins, strings of pearls, and bright gemstones that spill over the lip of the case, tumbling into the pit below. And then, the buccaneers hide it all there in the dirt, under the leafy greens of the tropical paradise. A map is drawn, where “x” marks the spot, and then tucked away. Maybe the men will come back for the treasure, maybe they won't. Years later, some poor lad will find the map and go on an adventure rife with danger and suspense, winning the final outcome of a better life with more money than he could ever possibly use or want.
At the same time, no two words paired together have caused more eye rolls and explanations of disbelief. People don't partake of such adventures, and anything remotely like that kind of endeavor rarely happens. Surely, buried treasure does exist, but not on such a large and grand scale.
Or does it?
At one point in my life, I would have called myself a skeptic. Lost gold only brought trials to my mind, family issues, and a hate I didn't quite understand. But now? Hidden fortune tells me a story of danger, death, a love that conquered all time, and the greatest adventure of my life.
Tapping the toe of my shoe against the tiled floor, I checked my phone once more, frowning as I looked at it. He was more than an hour late. What a great way to start our unfortunate time together.
In all honesty, I should have known better. If what Mom had said about Dad and his punctuality was even remotely true, I ought to have planned to tell him the plane was arriving two hours earlier than it actually was. It'd been so long since I'd seen him, though, I couldn't remember if she'd been exaggerating or not.
The issue was this: my father was legitimately, one hundred percent crazy. He spent all day digging in the ground, looking for some lost treasure he was convinced lay just beyond his reach. Each night was spent planning to do the same thing when the sun rose again. Because of this obsession, he won himself a divorce after three years of marriage and shared custody of his only child—me. He used to come visit me in Arizona every spring, before returning to his stupid quest, but that all stopped after my tenth birthday. Becoming so involved in the search, he slipped further and further from us, spending more time away, quitting his day job, and eventually disappearing from our lives. We wrote every now and then, but there wasn't all that much to say. It'd been twelve years since he last visited and the basics of what we'd said to each other over that time could probably fit on a piece of notebook paper.
Something had changed when Mom got sick, though. Suddenly, she wanted Dad and I to talk more, to really know each other. She instigated a few video calls, insisted I write letters about school, and even invited him to my high school graduation. He hadn't been able to make it, saying something came up about a swamp he was swimming in. I think.
“Why are you defending him?” I’d practically demanded from my mom, not wanting to admit I was hurt he'd missed my big night.
“He's your father, Samantha,” she answered simply, just like she did any time I asked why I had to stay in touch. “I spent so many years keeping you from him, wanting you for my own. When I'm gone, I want you to have a parent to go to, even if it's someone who believes in buried treasure.”
“He's the one who stopped wanting to see me! That stupid hole in the ground is more important to him than I ever was.”
“That’s not true. I—I asked him to stop coming,” she replied softly, sadly.
Shocked, I stared at her for a moment, feeling guilty when I noticed the slight paleness to her skin and the way each breath seemed to hurt. Her light brown hair had been curled for the occasion, brushing past her shoulders, the red fabric of her dress hugging her skinny form. “Why would you do that?”
“You used to get so excited when he talked about that treasure. I just knew that if he kept coming and telling you those fanciful stories, one day you would go with him when he left. I didn't want that for you. There is so much more in store for you than spending your life trying to dig up something that doesn't exist.” Tears in her brown eyes suggested to me she'd only done what she thought was best, but in that moment I felt a rage like I'd never known toward her.
“But that wasn't your choice to make! If that's what I wanted to do, then you should have supported it! You’re always telling me that everyone should be free to make their own decisions, even if we don’t agree.” Hands balling into fists, I yelled at her, my own hot tears building up. “I spent years feeling like my own father didn't love me. And now, thanks to you, he probably doesn't, because he hasn't seen me! No wonder he didn't come to graduation!”
“I'm so sorry, Sam,” she said, her voice shaking as a single tear slid down her cheek. “I just didn't want you to—”
“What? Be like him? Would you hate me then, too?”
“I don't hate your father,” she snapped, a nerve obviously hit. “He's a good man. He was a good husband and father, too, before that pit entrapped him. He spent every dime we had trying to figure it out, and even after the money was gone, he kept going. It's a miracle our finances ever recovered. He’s the one who stopped spending time with us. He was obsessed. And he probably still is, since he's not found one thing of worth on that island, yet, just like all the men before him. It's not healthy! I was tired of being second best, of feeling unloved. Another woman didn’t replace me, I was replaced by a hole in the ground that people have tried to get to the bottom of for two hundred years. Can you really blame me for not wanting to stay with him? For not wanting you to be sucked in by that as well?”
Her chest heaved as she spoke and, fearfully, I suddenly realized how worked up she was becoming. Rant finished, she began coughing, and small flecks of blood came from her mouth. Hurrying to her side, I helped her to lie down, grabbing a bottle of water from the bedside table and offering it.
“I'm sorry.” I cried softly as she drank. “I don't know what came over me. I’m just upset with him, I guess. I feel a lot like you said—like the pit is more important than me.”
“It's not,” she said, placing her palm against my face. “You’re the most important person I've ever had the privilege of knowing. There are great things in store for you, Sam. I'm proud of you.”
She lived for another four years, just long enough to see me graduate from our local university. I thought she was still in remission, but it turned out she’d known the sickness was back for a year and refused to go through chemo again. Instead of telling me, she planned a two-week vacation to Hawaii that September and invited me along.
“Samantha Greene, you’re the most beautiful woman on the beach.” She laughed, watching as I tried to build a sandcastle.
“Whatever,” I scoffed, shoveling more wet dirt into the childish pail. “If anything, you are. All anyone ever tells me is how much I look like you, therefore, you are the prettiest one here.”
She laughed, long and hard, until the terrible, hacking cough I knew so well started. When she uncovered her mouth, there was blood on her hand.
“Mom?” I couldn't even stand to ask the question, but I didn't have to. The answer was in her eyes.
“Oh, Sammy,” she said mournfully, her voice catching. “I simply wanted to end with some happy memories.”
That February she was gone, like a whisper on the wind you thought you heard, but weren't really sure of. She was asleep in her bed and I'd gone to get myself a glass of water. As the liquid poured into my cup from the faucet, it was if the air in the house suddenly changed and I knew she'd left. Hurrying back to the room, I found her with a small smile on her face, her body finally spent from the battle it'd waged.
When she first became sick, we took care of the sad details of what would happen after her death together. Insisting that she didn't want to be stuck in a hole for all time, she asked to be cremated, so that her ashes could be spread and she would see the world. That request, along with a sneaky little note left in her will, was what had landed me here in Maine, waiting at the tiny Seaport airport for my father to pull himself out of the hunt long enough to come pick me up.
Sighing, I glanced down at the urn resting on top of my luggage. It was red, her favorite color. “Oh, Mom,” I muttered. “Why did you want me to spread your ashes with Dad? You must have known that would mean I had to come here. Did you really want to be so close to that stupid Treasure Pit?”
Personally, I would’ve much preferred to keep her with me. She was all the family I had and it was comforting to feel like she was still so close, but the last thing I wanted to do was dishonor her final wishes, so here I was. Originally, I'd called Dad, a feat that took much more effort than it should have—owing to the fact that I hadn’t spoken to him by phone or video since graduating high school—and told him what happened.
“Was she in a lot of pain?” he asked quietly.
“I'm sure, but she really tried to hide it. I think Mom wanted everyone to remember how she used to be, not as the sick, dying person she became.” A long silence followed and I waited, somehow knowing he would speak when ready.
“Thank you for telling me,” he finally said, his voice sounding somewhat choked. “I wish I could have been there. When is her funeral? I'd like to come, if you don't mind.”
“That's the thing.” I sighed. “She wanted to be cremated and for the two of us to spread her ashes together. I didn't know if you wanted to see her before she was . . . you know.”
“Oh,” he replied, shock obvious in his tone. “I would, truly, but I don't think I'm going to make it in time before—uh—she, well . . .”
“I understand.” He had a point there. They could preserve her body, but not for very long. “When can you come to spread her ashes?”
“Maybe in a couple months?”
Sucking in an angry breath, I paused, trying to keep from exploding at him. “A few months! Dad, you've got to be kidding! Is that pit really so important you'd put off a dying woman's last wish? Because that's what this is. She didn't even tell me herself, she wrote it into her will.”
“It's not that,” he rushed to reply. “It's just that, well, I don't have enough money. I spent the last of what I had on some new equipment, recently. My next payment doesn’t come in for a while and a lot of it is already tied up in other things. There’s a couple guys coming out to survey the island before we start up again this season, too. If I leave now, someone else will come in and take my permit or the land owner will grant permission to another to come dig. I can’t leave my team high and dry, not when we’re so close to getting started again. I could try and cash out some stocks, but that would take a lot of time and I’m not sure that they would approve the request. I didn't know about Lucy or I would have come before she passed, I swear.”
“You are unbelievable.” He couldn't see me rolling my eyes, but I was pretty sure he heard it in my voice.
Checking my phone again, I pressed my lips into a thin line. He was now an hour and a half late. At this point, hiring a cab and renting a room for the night sounded like a good idea. Grabbing the extended handle of my rolling bag with one hand, and safely tucking the urn into the crook of my opposite arm, I started for the door, eyeing the few taxis waiting by the curb outside. Just as I was about to pass through the exit and into the spring air, I heard someone call out.
“Sammy! Samantha!” Turning, I saw my dad running up behind me, apology written all over his face. “Sorry I'm late! I lost track of time and then the car had a flat—look at you! You've grown into a woman!”
Having finally reached me, he gave me an awkward hug, apparently not knowing if such an action was acceptable or not. Studying him, I realized he resembled most of my memories; tall, with wispy blonde hair that stuck up off his head, as if he'd just been caught in hurricane force winds. His face was well tanned from years of being outside, with blue eyes that sparkled whenever he smiled. I'd inherited his thin lips, but thankfully none of his apparent clumsiness.
“Hi, Dad,” I said, smiling tightly.
The old car smelled musty, almost like it had been left with the windows rolled down for a long time and the sea air had taken its toll on the brown fabric seats. If anything, the aroma matched the battered appearance of the outside. Paint spots had worn away from sun exposure, giving the yellow vehicle the look of peeling skin. A few good scratches marked up the sides, and there was a chip in the windshield on the bottom, passenger section. A tree shaped air freshener hung from the rearview mirror. It was this final item that I stared at, watching the piece of cardboard swing ever so slightly as we traveled down the road. The silence between us was so thick I felt like I could reach out and touch it.
Outside, the coast went by, beautiful and foreboding at the same time. Everything was so incredibly green, unlike anything I'd seen at home in the desert. There was something to be said for having all that water right here to liven things up.
“So,” Dad finally said, shattering the quiet surrounding us. “How was your flight?”
“It was good,” I answered again, having already told him at the airport. “Long.”
“Quite a way from Arizona.” Pursing his lips, he fell silent. It was painfully obvious we didn't know what to say to each other. Getting down to business would be best for both parties.
“I was thinking we could spread Mom’s ashes tomorrow morning. Does that work for you?”
“Yeah.” He nodded, tapping his fingers on the wheel, as he appeared to ponder. “I have a meeting tomorrow night with the crew, but I'm free for the majority of the day. I cleared my schedule to be with you.” Glancing at me, he smiled his old, familiar grin, the one that made the skin around his eyes and forehead wrinkle massively, and his dimples appear suddenly. “I know it's not the best of reasons for you to visit, but I'm glad you're here.”
“Thanks.” Truth be told, I wasn't all that sure if I was happy to see him or not. He'd always been so preoccupied with the Treasure Pit, I was surprised it hadn't surfaced in the conversation yet. Then again, that was most likely what his meeting with the crew was about. “I'm glad we can honor Mom’s last wishes.”
Opening his mouth, he sat there gaping for a second before finally closing it, apparently deciding against whatever he'd been about to say. After a few minutes, he took another breath, ready to try again. “I don't have a very big house,” he started,” but there’s a sleeper sofa in my office. I was thinking I could stay in there and you could have the bed.”
“I'm not taking your bed.” I laughed, certain he hadn't said what he wanted to before. “It's your room. I don't mind sleeping in the office.”
“Are you sure?” He sounded so hesitant, like he was afraid for me to see what was in there. “All of my work stuff is stacked around.”
“Isn't that what an office is for?”
“Yes, it's just—well—I know you don't approve of my work at the pit. I don't want you to have to stare it in the face the whole time you're here.” He shrugged, his face somewhat red, and it occurred to me that he was embarrassed to talk about what he did.
“Dad,” I said softly, my annoyance instantly diminishing. “I may not agree with how you spend your time, but it is your time. The Treasure Pit is part of who you are. I came out here expecting you to talk my ear off about it. You don't need to feel badly for being yourself.” Surprisingly, I meant every word of it. Mom and I may have thought he was a fool at times, and I certainly had my share of resentful feelings, but he was still my dad. If I was going to believe anyone could do whatever they put their mind to, he was going to be included in that, no matter how awkward I felt about it.
“Really?” The amount of surprise in his voice almost hurt my feelings. “I thought you would have shared your mom’s opinion on the matter.”
“We didn't talk about it very much.”
Quiet filled the car once more, and I turned my attention to the fading sunset. There were no pink or gold colors in the sky, like there were back home. Everywhere I looked, all I could think of was how different this place was. It was nice, an escape from the life without Mom that waited for me back in Arizona. The circumstances of my visit were dreary, but it was a welcome respite from all that had been going on. Here, only Dad knew I'd just lost my mother. There wouldn't be scores of people stopping by, offering to help. My neighbor wouldn't be calling every other day to suggest I join a grief-counseling group. Friends wouldn't glance at me apologetically whenever we were together. I wouldn't have to wake up each morning and wonder what I was going to do with all of Mom’s things, or if I was going to keep the house.
“I still loved her,” Dad said very suddenly, a soft mourning present in his voice. “I always did. We couldn't make it work, though. Not with both of us wanting such different things. Over the years, we talked less and less—you know that—and she simply . . . drifted away, you know? If I'd known how sick she was . . .” His voice trailed off, his eyes glued to the road, the smile he'd worn moments before completely gone.
“Don't beat yourself up, Dad.” His confession surprised me some, but when I examined the memories I had of him, it did make sense. My parents had always gotten along better than most divorced couples I knew of. At the time, I thought it was because they hardly spoke to each other. Now I wondered if perhaps Mom had always loved him as well.
“I should’ve fought harder for her,” he continued, coughing back emotion. “I should have proven I could be there when she needed me most. I wasn't before and it cost me dearly. If she'd told me she was dying, I would have come.”
“She didn't even tell me,” I offered, trying to help him feel better. Talking about our feelings was the last thing I'd expected to do, but it was strangely cathartic. “I only found out when she started getting bad and couldn't hide it from me anymore.”
Glancing at the urn in my lap, he smiled softly, but this time it held none of the happiness it had before. “She was always looking out for everyone, especially you.”
“She was a wonderful mother.”
Finally, we turned off the main highway and onto a regular city street. The sections of town we'd passed so far weren't all that big, and this place was no exception. I didn’t even seen any chain hotels, just a few bed and breakfast type places.
“This is it,” he said, pulling into the driveway of a tiny, one story home. It didn't look as beat up as the car, but was obviously old and in need of some tender love and care. The lawn needed mowed and there were chinks in the sidewalk path leading up to the sun bleached front door. The brown paint on the walls was cracked, but not too badly. Still, Dad smiled as he gestured to the whole of it. “Home sweet home.”
Sliding out of my seat, I smiled as he offered to take Mom from me, handing over the urn to him with ease. Our conversation had made me more than confident that he would take good care of her. The rest of my things were in the trunk and I quickly grabbed them, following him to the front door.
If the outside of the house was rundown, then the inside was immaculate. Pieces of art were displayed on the walls, leather furniture waited welcomingly, and various cool knick knacks were on display on bookshelves and the mantel of the fireplace. Straight across from the front door was a wall with a cut out window, revealing a small kitchen and dining table. A hall that broke off to the right concealed the rest of the house.
“It's not much,” Dad said, moving to set Mom on the mantel. “But it works for me.”
“I like it,” I replied, smiling widely. “If I'm being honest, I was expecting much less based on your car and the outside.”
“Really?” He chuckled, plopping down onto the couch, eyes sparkling. “Well, I guess you have me there. They could use some tuning up, but appearances don't bother me. Except for here, that is. I want to feel comfortable at home.”
“How did you afford all of this, if you don't mind my asking? I was under the impression that you were practically a beggar. No offense.”
“None taken,” he laughed. “I actually do make my own money, though. When I'm not out on Oak Isle, I run an eBay store that sells odds and ends. I've also gotten pretty good at stocks, if you can believe that. I managed to get an early bid in on some oil shares, which worked out supremely well. Most of my income comes from there.”
“The stock market. Are you serious?”
“Of course I am.” He chuckled again, seeming to enjoy my disbelief.
“Doesn't that all get used up on the island? I mean, Mom always made it sound like you two were dirt poor.”
“Oh, we were then,” he agreed. “I didn't have the financial know-how I do now. Sure, most of the money gets used in the excavation, but I do have a little for myself now and then. You caught me at a bad time. I haven't cashed in on anything recently and everything I did have was used up.”
“How much do you put into The Treasure Pit out of what you're earning?” I asked, not sure he was really telling the truth.
“Most of the funds come from backers. But my own money? I’d say I probably spend at least, oh, five million a year?”
“Excuse me?” I all but shrieked. “You mean to tell me that you're making millions a year? Like actual millions?” He continued to grin like an idiot, watching me process what he'd said. I had the sneaking suspicion he was really enjoying my awe. “Did Mom know?” I finally asked when I was able to quit gaping at him.
“Of course! I asked her if she'd like some of it, kind of like an interest tax on the alimony payments I’d made after our divorce. She turned it down, though. Never did tell me why.”
“I can't believe you spend that much treasure hunting,” I said, still stuck on the five million. “That's more money than I'll probably ever have in my whole life, combined.”
“That's not true,” he said with defensive humor. “When I die, you'll inherit everything—the money, the stocks, the house, all of it. You can do whatever you'd like with them. The money was never that big of a deal to me. It made things on Oak Isle easier, with the hunt and all, but that was it.”
Stunned into silence, I stared at him. I was getting everything? Mom had left me all she had earned from her teaching job as well, which wasn't millions by any means, but more than I thought I could ever need right now. What was I going to do with all of this as well?
“I hope that's okay,” he added quickly, seeing my expression. “I don't have anyone else to leave it to and I was hoping it could stay in the family.”
“Dad.” The word barely squeaked out, my throat having tightened and mouth gone dry. “That's a lot—too much even. I don't know if I can handle it.” I hardly knew him at all. It would be like getting a gift from a stranger.
“I probably shouldn't have sprung it on you like that,” he apologized, standing. “We’ll talk about it later, yeah?”
Flabbergasted, all I could do was nod, swallowing hard.
“Here,” he said, taking my bags from me. “Let me show you to your room. I apologize for not having it fixed up. Like I said, I was thinking I would be the one staying in it.” Leading me down the hall, we stopped at the first door on the right. Straight across from it was a bathroom and at the end of the hall I could see the bedroom through the open door. “Let me know if you want to trade.” The tone of his voice was serious as he turned the handle, opening it to reveal his office, which was a mess of papers and everything he needed for his work.
Entering the space, I immediately saw the couch he had mentioned, shoved against the wall by the door. The rest of the room was lined with bookshelves and maps tacked onto the walls. In the center was a large table, with several chairs around it. It was covered in all sorts of charts, order forms, books, and even more maps.
“This is where I have my meetings with the crew. The mess doesn't bother me much because it makes sense to me, the way it's laid out, but I feel bad putting you in here with all of it.”
“It's fine,” I reassured him, taking it all in. “It actually looks pretty interesting.”
“Oh? Has the treasure bug bit you, then?” He laughed, shoving his hands into his pockets as he stood in the doorway, glancing over everything.
“Not exactly.” I smiled, sitting down on the couch. “I don't really know much about this place, except for what you told me when I was younger, and anything you wrote in your letters.” And Mom’s ranting about how crazy this all is.
“Feel free to check out anything you want,” he encouraged. “Just be sure to leave it where you found it or I'll never find it again. Also, the couch folds out, like I said, but you'll have to move the table back some for it to fit.” He paused for a moment. “I have to ask one more time; are you sure you're okay with staying in here?”
“It's totally fine, really.”
“I guess I'll leave you to get settled then.” Grinning, he turned and walked back down the hall, into the kitchen from the sound of it. “Do you like chicken?” he called back, his voice traveling easily through the small structure.
Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.
Staring at the urn on the mantel, I ate cereal for breakfast the next morning while Dad ran to the store for something. It'd been so comforting to have Mom with me, even if it was in this form. Now that it was time to spread the ashes, the air seemed to hold a heavy sadness. I wasn't ready to say goodbye.
“Hi, Mom.” My food finished, I set the bowl down and rose from the couch, moving to stand next to her. “I'm sure you already know, but I love you so much. I don't know if I'll really have time to tell you goodbye later. Having Dad there will be great, I'm sure, but I wanted to have one last minute with you by myself.” The urn remained silent, of course, but I easily recalled how her smile looked, the way her teeth always seemed so much bigger when she was grinning. Smiling myself, I continued. “Speaking of Dad, I think we could get along fine. When I was on my way here, all I could think about was how you'd always said he wasn't ever concerned with anything that wasn't his treasure hunt. I thought I was coming to meet up with the man who abandoned his wife and child . . . but he doesn't seem like that at all. I guess people can change, right? Maybe it was best to push me to spend more time with him.”
A car drove by on the street outside and I paused to make sure it wasn't Dad. When I felt I could go on undisturbed, I took a deep breath, hating that she would be completely gone after today. “You don't need to feel bad for keeping us apart. I wasn't angry with you for it before, not really. And I'm not angry now. All that time was time I got to spend with you, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I wish I had more of that time.” Choked up, I hesitated, clearing my throat and blinking back tears.
A car door slammed outside and I quickly stepped away, grabbing my dish from where I'd left it and hurrying into the kitchen.
“Sam?” The front door opened and closed, disturbing the silence of the house.
“I'm in here,” I called, checking my face in the blurry mirrored finish of a spoon. As far as I could tell, I looked fine. “Did you get what you needed?”
“Yeah.” Appearing in the doorway, I immediately noticed a bouquet of flowers in his hand. “They're tulips,” he explained unnecessarily.
“Mom’s favorite.” I smiled, surprised at his sentiment.
“I thought we could leave them with her, kind of like a going away present. Is that okay?”
“I think that would be wonderful. I don't have a place in mind, though. Somewhere pretty, of course, so she can enjoy the scenery.”
“I know just the place,” he replied. “It's the perfect spot.”
“Okay. I'll just go freshen up real quick and then we can go.” The words sounded wooden, like I wasn't the one actually saying them. This was it. It was really happening.
Leaving the kitchen, I went into the bathroom in the hall, hoping to at least pass as presentable for the occasion. I was wearing a black, long sleeve shirt and jeans, which I'd originally thought was too casual, but it then occurred to me that spreading ashes in a dress might not be the best idea. I wanted the ability to move freely and over a large area if I could. My brown hair was curled and I’d donned light makeup. The earlier conversation with the urn seemed to have left my nose a bit pink, but it would do. Sighing, I really studied my reflection. There were things from Mom I could definitely recognize in my face, like the way my nose wrinkled when I laughed. I hoped that would always be visible to me, a part of her I could keep forever.
“You ready, Sammy?”
“Yeah,” I stated, stepping away from the counter. “I think I am.”
When I came into the living room, Dad had pulled the urn off the shelf and was cradling it in one arm, the flowers in the other. “You okay?”
Smiling tightly, I nodded, slipping my coat on and reaching out to take Mom from him. “I'm holding up. So, where is this place we’re going to?”
Grinning, he turned and opened the front door for me. “You’ll see in just a bit.”
We drove in silence, myself thinking of all the wonderful times I'd spent with Mom. Even when she was sick, she'd been such a light to me. Countless memories of the times she’d taught me, inspired my love for learning, and grown my empathy for others played through my mind, her laughter whispering in my ears.
After about twenty minutes, we pulled off onto a side road and parked. “It's just a short walk from here,” Dad explained, opening my door for me. Leading the way, I followed as he went down an old path that curved over a small hill, revealing the ocean. When we reached the summit, he gestured to the rocky shore below. “Your mother used to come to this place and tell me that one day she would sail away from this very spot and see the world. I would always laugh at her—where were we going to get the money for a boat? Was she going to learn how to sail? Why not just fly? But she was adamant. Eventually, she did go, but not in the direction she wanted to. She left with you and went home to her family in Arizona. I thought, since I messed so many things up when we were together, that maybe I could finally give her this one thing.”
“Dad,” I said, a little overcome. Any reservations I'd been feeling about spreading her so far from what I considered home had melted away as he spoke. “This is the only place to leave her. Thank you for telling me.”
“Do you think I could have her for a few minutes? To say goodbye?” He gestured to the bottle in my arms, a hopeful look on his face.
“Of course.” Handing it over, I watched as he walked a few steps away, his head bent as he told his lost wife farewell. After a couple seconds, I turned away, wanting to give him some privacy, as I'd had earlier. It didn't feel like I'd said a proper parting to her, but I didn't know what to say. Surely she would still be with me, as she'd promised before her death.
“Here, Sam. Thank you.” Turning around, I saw Dad holding the urn out, his face reddened and eyes a little watery. “I'm sure you want to say something before we continue.”
“Actually, I talked with her while you were gone this morning.” Taking the urn, I walked down to the beach, unscrewing the lid as I did so, my heart racing a million miles a minute. Mom was really going to be gone after this, spread across a place she'd once loved. Had I really said enough of a farewell? Thinking of her last year and how the cancer had hurt her so badly, I finally smiled. “Follow your dreams, Mom. See the world, be happy, be healthy, and be free.” Turning the urn over, I tossed the ashes onto the shore and into the ocean, where she could be carried away to the lands she never got to visit. Beside me, Dad lobbed the flowers into the water as well.
Standing there for a while, neither one of us spoke as we watched the bouquet move farther and farther from us. A strange sense of peace filled me and I suddenly knew I was going to be okay. A lifetime still lay ahead of me and my mother wouldn't be gone from it, her memory left behind to guide me. She had given me everything and would continue to do so, no matter where I roamed.
“Thanks again for bringing me here,” I finally said to my dad. “It really was perfect.”
“It was the least I could do.” He shrugged, watching the water in somberness. After a few more minutes of silence, he took a deep breath, which sounded very much like the precursor to something important. “Listen, Samantha, I was wondering if you'd like to stay a while longer. I know you were only planning on doing this, but I'd like to spend more time and get to know you better, if I can. We haven’t really visited the past few years and I’ve royally sucked at being a father. That, and I know you lived with your mom in Arizona and I feel bad letting you go back to her empty house.”
“How long were you thinking?” I asked warily. Staying longer meant I'd be around while he was working and I wasn't so sure I wanted to see that side of him. So far, I had only good memories of this meeting and it would be a shame if that were to somehow be ruined.
Shrugging again, still not looking me in the eye, he licked his lips. “As long as you want. Who knows, maybe you'll like it here and decide to stay. That would be fine with me, too, honestly.”
“Dad, I'm a grown woman. I have a bachelor’s degree and a job. You don't have to invite me to live with you and take care of me now. I can do it.”
“I know you can,” he replied, blushing furiously. “That's not what I meant, either. I simply thought it would be nice to spend more than a few days with you.”
Mom had said she wanted us to spend more time together, and I was on an extended leave from work so I could take care of family things. No one was really waiting for me to come back. But an indefinite stay? Was that something I really wanted to do? What if I agreed and was ignored while he worked? That would just make me feel worse. What if my job decided I was away for too long and I lost it? What if I ran out of money while I was here and couldn’t get back? On the other hand, Mom probably would’ve pushed me to accept. Hadn't I been thinking what a nice escape this place was anyway? So what if I had to put up with a little treasure talk? At least then I'd be able to find out how it was possible to spend five million dollars a year digging a hole.
Taking a deep breath, the decision made, I answered before I could change my mind. “You know what? I think I will stay. I'm not sure how long, and I'll have to see if I can get my flight refunded, but I think it could be good for us to be together.”
“Really?” He finally turned to me, his eyes lighting with excitement. “You mean it?”
“Why do you always ask me if I'm serious?” I laughed. “Yes, I mean it.”
Happily, he pulled me into a tight embrace. “Everyone's going to be so excited to meet you!”
“What do you mean everyone?” Suspicion pricked at me and I suddenly wondered if he had another family here, or a woman he was seeing. Hadn’t he told me there was no one else?
“I told the guys you were coming to visit. They'll all be at the meeting tonight, but I didn't know if you'd want to come to that. Now that you're staying longer, they'll get to meet you for sure.”
“Oh. I didn’t know I was allowed in your meeting tonight.” Foolish relief flooded through me and I scolded myself for becoming so possessive so suddenly.
“Of course you are! You can come to anything you'd like while you're here.” He was grinning like an idiot by this point, suddenly snapping his fingers as an idea came to him and he released me. “You need a real room. I'll talk to the guys tonight and see if we can have our meetings somewhere else so I can pack up that big table and give you some space. I might be able to borrow some money to see if we can get you the essentials, like clothes and stuff. When my next payment comes in, I'll pay the loan back and save more out so we aren't tight in the future.” He was babbling, obviously excited that I’d agreed to stay, and I didn't interrupt him.
There was a strange thrill of excitement at the thought of staying and trying something new. Stories he’d told me as a child of pirates, knights, and a treasure so large it wasn’t to be believed swirled faintly in my mind. At the same time, I heard my mother’s disapproving voice, whispering that he was a lost soul, obsessed with finding something that didn't exist.
Thank you for reading!
From Kamery Solomon, #1 bestselling genre author and creator of the bestselling series The God Chronicles, comes SWEPT AWAY, a time travel romance fraught with danger and secrets on the high seas! “Amazing! The best way I can think to describe it is Pirates of the Caribbean meets Outlander! There is action, adventure, romance and so much more! You will not be disappointed!” ~Heather Garrison, Amazon Customer “Kamery Solomon never disappoints a reader in her ability to tell a great story. She has proven she's not a one trick pony and capable of writing across genres. Highly recommend reading any and all of her books.” ~Lisa Markson, The Paranormal Bookworm “This book has so many twists and turns that will keep you reading all night long. I love the characters and the mystery. The author does a fantastic job weaving every part in this story that will leave you wanting more. I highly recommend!” ~Laura Collins, Amazon Customer “I was pulled in right away and I did not want to put the book down, nor did I want the story to end . . . a must read!” ~Holly Copper, Amazon Customer “Marvelous, wonderful, awe-inspiring; these are just a few words to describe just a fraction of the awesomeness that is this book.” ~Julie Engle, Amazon Customer “This is a book I will read time and time again.” ~Angie Angelich, Bookeepsie Get ready to be Swept Away! BLURB: Dead men tell no tales... For more than 200 years, the Treasure Pit on Oak Isle has baffled treasure hunters, engineers, and the common man alike. When Samantha Greene arrives, she finds her estranged father has spent years funneling energy and finances into the endeavor, finding nothing. When an accidental death occurs in the pit, fulfilling the prophecy that seven lives must end before the treasure can be found, the search kicks into high gear, with more than one party vying for the secrets that lie below. Finding herself the closest to the treasure anyone has ever been, Samantha throws herself into the work, landing among the coveted prize. Just as she's about to discover what's truly hidden beneath the island, the pit begins to flood with ocean water, sweeping her away despite her attempts to swim to the surface. Upon awaking, Samantha discovers that, not only did she not drown, but the year is 1695—one hundred years before the Treasure Pit was even discovered. Carried off by the pirate Tristan O'Rourke, a rouge Irishman with more than his share of secrets, she soon finds that there is much more than she realized in play. Will she discover the secrets of Oak Isle, or will an unexpected love keep her from finding out the truth? Will she ever make it back to her own time? Perhaps the real question is this; will she want to?
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