Authors: K. S. Thomas
It goes without saying that this book would no
t have come together as well or as neatly had it not been for those brave and patient souls who took on the task of reading my manuscript while it was still in ‘draft’ status. So, thank you to Toni, Stephanie, Vycki, Simone and Candie! --Thank you for all of your feedback, edits and above all, encouraging words!
Three books in and hopefully many more to come with my awesome editor. Wendy ~ THANK YOU!!
As always, I owe an ocean of gratitude to those I love and am lucky to be loved b
support means more to me than you will ever know
Last, but certainly no least, I would like to thank YOU! Thank you for reading this book. I hope you enjoy Embers’ and Brady’s journey as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
as fast as I could without breaking into a jog while I maneuvered my way through the terminal. I’d always hated airports. Today, I hated them even more than usual. It was only a matter of time before someone would recognize me and the last thing I needed just then was a slew of fans following me all the way back to the check-in counter, not that I wasn’t grateful for their admiration. After all of the years I’d spent in LA, I knew better than anyone how fickle fame could be. Although, it wasn’t ever the fame I was interested in.
The only son born to an award winning film director and a former super model, I was practically Hollywood royalty. My face had been plastered on the covers of magazines since before I could walk. By the time I was old enough to understand what it all meant, it had become so second nature to me that I didn’t think twice when my then model turned fashion designer mother handpicked me as the new face of her up and coming clothing line for the fashion forward teens of America. Having inherited my mother’s good looks and my father’s charm and work ethics, I guess I was the obvious choice.
From there, the modeling gigs just kept rolling in until one night when I was seventeen and out with a bunch of guys. We were on our way to a game when we passed a billboard displaying none other than yours truly wearing next to nothing along with my mother’s signature pout. It was the same pout I’d seen her practice in front of the mirror since I was in diapers, the same pout I had inadvertently and unknowingly copied. My friends were kind enough to ignore the abomination hanging some forty feet above us, but I don’t remember ever feeling more humiliated in my entire life.
I gave up modeling shortly after and then took off the second I graduated. I had foolishly believed that I could run away to some obscure part of the world and backpack my way from Point A to Point B while enjoying what would have been my very first taste of actual privacy. However, it was too late. The fame monster of Jack Cole had been brooding for nearly two decades and there was no escaping it. So, I reluctantly boarded the private jet my father had sent for me and did the next best thing to hiking in Europe…doing charity work in South Africa.
Initially sick of people, I signed up to volunteer at a Big 5 Wildlife Conservation in the Limpopo Province. Honestly, it was to date, one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I became addicted to this simple and isolated way of living where I gained a completely new and unexpected perspective.
When my stay on the Conservation came to an end, I was nowhere near ready to leave and head back to the life I had left behind. However, I was ready for more human contact, and so I volunteered again, this time dedicating myself to orphanage education in Cambodia.
I was only nineteen at that point, so my teaching skills were limited. This left me to pass on the only knowledge I had acquired growing up with parents who had the combined knowledge of all things photography, given their vast experiences from both behind and in front of a shutter. So, after hitting up every one of my parents’ socialite friends and accumulating a large variety of cameras and lenses, I started my new journey as a teacher.
It wasn’t long before I was seeing more life from behind a camera than I was without one. Things just looked different when viewed through that tiny window and its red square center. I was able to focus in on the most remarkable details and see new aspects of the world I had missed before. I discovered the beauty of the human face and each intricate perfection visible through its most vulnerable expressions. I unveiled treasures that had been buried only by my own ignorance and obliviousness. In short, I found myself and I learned far more from the children I taught than they ever could have learned from me.
When I returned home, I was twenty-one and I finally knew what I wanted to do with my life. Photography had given me an intimate look at people and their emotions and I had been fascinated and touched by what I’d seen. So much so that I wanted to learn to emulate those feelings, to someday touch others. I wanted to act.
preferred theater, I learned early on that the money wasn’t on the stage but in front of the camera. And given my father’s connections, frankly, there were too many offers to turn down. So these days, much to my disappointment, most of my acting took place without a live audience.
ow, as I was scurrying along the crowded halls of the airport, I was eager to avoid an audience all together. Ducking while talking to my buddy Crisco on the phone, I only lifted my head as much as I needed to in order to keep track of where I was going. When I spotted the doors closing on an empty elevator, I jumped at the chance for temporary seclusion.
I slid my
hand inside just as the gliding door was about to touch, setting off its sensor and causing it to retract its motion instantly. I took one step in and paused. The elevator wasn’t nearly as deserted as I had thought. A woman and her daughter were standing on the inside corner, where they had been previously hidden from my view. Oh well, it was too late now. I barely glanced at either of them as I joined them inside the elevator, still mid-conversation on my phone.
...No, man. That's what I'm trying to tell you. I get here thinking I'm going to surprise her, only I'm the one who ends up surprised when the old friend from college she came to visit turns out to be her ex!” I was still reeling from that conversation. Thank God I had called her the moment my plane landed, otherwise I probably would have walked into her hotel room and seen things that could not be unseen.
Yeah...well, whatever. It's done and over with now...No, I'm still here at the airport. Yeah, I'm just headed there now.”
The elevator had already stopped again. Reacting without thinking,
I looked up just as the doors slid open revealing a group of people, two of whom seemed to recognize me right away. In spite of the evidential sparkle of excitement in their eyes, neither of the newcomers said anything to me, but repeatedly exchanged knowing glances with one another as though they were communicating via their brainwaves.
I quickly averted my
eyes and turned inward toward the corner.
“Shit, I gotta go,”
I blurted into the phone and hung up. Attempting to look busy to avoid interacting with the people now standing within a two foot radius of me, I continued to play with the screen of my phone as though there were some incredibly interesting things happening there. I was so engulfed in this ploy to appear distracted, I didn’t even notice when the woman and her daughter exited the elevator.
That’s freaking Jack Cole! What do I do? Nothing. I do nothing. Shit. Am I blushing? Don’t blush. Do NOT blush. What am I talking about?! Forget blushing! Don’t faint!
I could already feel the telltale signs of a full blown anxiety attack announcing themselves via the heart pounding out of my chest like a sledgehammer and the cold numbness setting in around my ankles.
My first instinct was to shut my eyes and take several deep breaths, but then I realized how insane I’d look and squashed that plan immediately. Instead, I focused all of my attention on the silver metal doors ahead. Still slightly maniacal, but then Mr. Cole seemed too wrapped up in his own problems to take notice of mine.
With my eyes steadily staring straight ahead, my ears were free to drop in on his conversation with unconscionable ease. My frantic heart froze the moment my brain registered what my wandering ears had heard. Jack Cole had dropped his model of the month girlfriend. He was single! I had to remind myself that in all reality, this information – however exciting it seemed – actually would have no bearing on me or my relationship status.
In the midst of forcefully hiding all of my Jack Cole madness, I had forgotten one minor detail. The tiny person
to my left, who at any given moment could glance up and recognize the man of my every fantasy and sell me out faster than a girl scout peddling cookies to a pothead.
My daughter was no evil genius, but she was five with no inhibitions and a knack for listening in on my grown up conversations. She wouldn’t think twice before blurting out his name and asking him to marry me. In fact, I’d once had a daydream just like that, only in my warped and lonely mind, he had found her so adorable he had said yes on the spot. To be fair, my daughter didn’t hear ‘no’ from people often, something I hoped would work in my favor one day, but I digress.
I carefully lowered my gaze from the safety of the elevator doors to take a peek at Jessa. Much to my relief she was far too involved in chatting with Mermella the mermaid to pay attention to anything else.
Just as my eyes re-centered themselves on the shiny metal ahead, the door slid open revealing a large group of people eager to board the elevator. This was my floor. I had two choices.
Either stay on and ride the elevator aimlessly in hopes of basking in Jack Cole’s presence a moment longer like a stalker, or get off.
Before my head had a chance to decide, my body took over, moving on autopilot and taking me onward as I had originally programmed it to do when I first boarded the moving metal box.
I said a silent goodbye to my once in a lifetime opportunity with each painful step I took. It wasn’t until I had safely removed myself from what had been loaded with potential for the most humiliating scene of my life, that I finally turned around to look at Jack full on.
I was still mesmerized by the sight of him when I
watched as one of the new passengers opened his mouth, about to talk to Jack.
“Hey, aren't you
Ja-” the words never fully formed before I interrupted him.
“Brady, are you coming?”
Unaware that he was being spoken to, Jack maintained his iron clad focus on the screen of his cell phone, while I began to panic. What the hell was I doing? This was insane. Not only that, but if I wanted to avoid looking like a complete ass at this point, I would have no choice but to fully commit and hope it didn’t end with me being hauled off in cuffs by airport security.
I repeated, this time more sternly.
At last he looked up. Still not entirely sure what was going on, his eyes dart
ed back and forth between myself and the strangers beside him.
“Come on, this is us.” I
was looking directly at him. Jack was about to say something when I gestured for him to follow me, now with a slightly annoyed expression to go with it. I watched as he took one more look at the guy who had been about to chat him up and then quickly fell into step behind me just in time to avoid the elevator doors closing in on him.
hanks. I really appreciate that.” He was looking around like a nervous animal trying to figure out his next move.
No problem. I just got the impression that you didn't feel like being on display at that particular moment.” Instantly realizing how it had sounded, I quickly added, “not that I was eavesdropping.”
He looked at me and chuckled, clearly amused by my suddenly frazzled exterior and uncomfortable smile. “
No, it's fine. I was standing two feet from you, of course you heard.”
Another crowd was headed for the elevator and so I gently led my daughter over toward a corner and out of their path.
“Anyway, where did you need to go? I'm sure we can get you there without you getting mauled by a bunch of crazed fans.” I nodded at the most recent group of twenty something women clearly here on spring break and anxiously waiting for the heavy sliding doors to open.