Authors: Alana Hart,Alana Claire
Riding the Perfect Storm
A Second Chances Romance
Alana Hart & Alana Claire
Copyright © 2015 Alana Hart & Alana Claire
All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locals or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Please note that this work is intended only for adults over the age of 18 and all characters represented as 18 or over.
Published by Hartfelt Books
Cover Design by Alana Claire
Image by DepositPhotos.com
Editing by Alias Pen Publishing
"Gracelyn," a voice says as I spin around to see Judah standing there in the waiting area for our plane.
"Judah, what are you doing here?" I ask my eyes wide.
"I couldn't let you leave without one more try," he says begging me to stay.
I glance at Blaine as he narrows his eyes to Judah. "Say your goodbye and we need to go," Blaine says and turns to join his father. I nod.
"Judah, you shouldn't have come," I say as my heart wants me to rush into his arms.
"Pick me Gracelyn. You love me not him. You may love him but not like you love me. You and I have something. I know you felt it on the island and all the times we've spent together," Judah says, his brown eyes are not leaving mine.
"Judah please," I say as the tears spring forth in my eyes.
"Please. My heart is yours, Gracie."
I back away shaking my head. I want to scream and run to Blaine, but yet there's another part of me that wants to run into Judah's arms. Judah is on the verge of tears. He shakes his head. "I just had to try one last time," he says and backs away. "Go be with Blaine if that's what you want so badly." With that, he turns and leaves.
"Judah," I whisper as the tears fall freely from my eyes. Blaine walks up to me and spins me around.
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Table of Contents
"What? You can't leave me!" I am on the verge of tears. Blaine Kendall stands there straight faced telling me he's going off to Africa for God-only-knows how long. I don’t want to hear this.
"I'm sorry Grace, I just feel this is what I need to do," Blaine says. "My dad has a golden opportunity to go to the Congo to help the people there. They are desperate for medical care. My father can provide of his expertise. I'm going to go along to help as his assistant. These people live in utter poverty. They need help in just meeting their basic needs as well. We’re taking a basic skills team along. They will be setting up clean drinking water, enabling sanitary conditions."
It's a good argument, but it means Blaine will be away from me. What kind of person would I be if I denied these people good quality health care and the ability to live stronger and healthier lives? "But what about our plans? We said we'd discuss this over the summer," I say hoping he still means it when he says he loves me. I desperately love him at the moment.
He takes me into his arms. "Gracelyn, I love you. You know that. I don't have to be here physically to still love you. This is a big opportunity, though. I can't let my father go to Africa without all the help he can get." Blaine's dad is a semi-retired surgeon. Blaine is the only child of divorced parents and still lives with his father. While we both graduated college this May we're taking things slow. Blaine's education degree can wait. He hasn't tried to get a teaching position anywhere yet. I guess he can teach math to the starving Africans while his father performs surgery. I hate myself for feeling so petty, but I want my boyfriend to stay here with me.
Then I had a bright idea, one I thought great. "Can I come too?" I ask hopefully to be with the man I love. I knew nothing about Africa or the mission in which he spoke. I just knew if Blaine were there, I could be there too with him.
Blaine frowns and shakes his head slowly, his brilliant blue eyes looking to the side, his sandy blonde hair in a mess atop his head. "No, you can't come. I'm sorry. My dad is funding me to go. It's not a money-making opportunity. We're footing the bill for this. We don't need another mouth to feed," he says.
I pout. It's not fair, just when we're ready to start our lives together, he decides to go away. I wish I had a trust fund stored away with which I could garner all the resources I’d need to tag along on such an exotic trip. But alas, I don’t. I have a house and that’s about it. "How long are you going to be gone?"
"I don't know," Blaine says and sighs. He's getting aggravated with me. "This is a mission type of trip; it's with an organization my dad helped to start. We have a team in place, people who are trained to do this sort of thing. This is a tight mission, Grace. We'll be okay," he says and kisses my head as if that will make it all go away and be fine.
"It's just that I thought now that we've graduated we'd be making plans, you know like we discussed earlier this year," I say.
Blaine and I discussed possible marriage after graduation. He hadn’t proposed yet, but I figured it was a matter of time before he properly popped the question.
Blaine grabs my arms and looks me straight in the eyes. "Look, honey, I told you, this was a sudden opportunity. I'm not going to let this pass me by. I can come back and get a teaching position any time. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. You can't deny me this chance to see the world and make a difference," he says with an accusatory tone in his voice.
I squirm out of his grip. I'm hurt. I'm twenty-three years old. I have a college degree to teach kindergarten in my hands and thought that life would be settling down instead of gearing up to take my love off to the other side of the world,
. My impulse right now is to walk away from him. He made this decision without consulting me but then we aren't married yet so I can't expect him to give me that privilege. Blaine hasn’t proposed yet, but he did act as if he'd be proposing this summer. I considered popping the question but didn’t. I rather like being treated like a lady and I long for that. I want the whole shebang. I want the dozen roses, him going down on one knee and professing his undying love for me. Is that asking too much?
I turn and walk away from him and the sad situation he brought on us. He calls me to stop and come back, but I throw my hand up and keep walking as the tears spill forth, and I begin to cry uncontrollably at the loss of my dream. I know I'm selfish, but this hurts too much to stop the tears.
I end up in my little house at the corner of Boston and Ash Streets. In our small town in eastern Kentucky, everyone knows everyone, so someone probably saw me snotting and crying all the way home from the park after Blaine told me he was leaving me for Mother Africa. I don't care who saw it. It will get back to Judah soon too, and he'll come by to check on me I'm sure. But for now I'm wallowing in my self-pity feeling as if Blaine and I just broke up.
A knock at the front door causes me to sit up and blow my nose. "Come in," I yell figuring it to be my best friend, Judah. I am going to blubber all over his shoulder. I startle when I see it’s Blaine.
"Sweetheart," Blaine says as he rushes into my room and to me. "Honey, don't." He wraps his arms around me. I cry a little more and stop. I didn't expect Blaine to come looking for me.
"Why are you here?" I ask as I dab my bloodshot eyes. I know I must look a mess with my eye make-up smeared and tear-stained.
"I couldn't let you just run off like that. I'm not leaving
I'm leaving for a job on a mission opportunity. My father isn't getting any younger, and I am looking forward to working out in the field with him on this. You know how close my dad and I are. I figure this will be a chance of a lifetime, and I couldn't turn it down. I'm not leaving you per se I'm just going away for a while, that's all," Blaine says as he offers a smile.
"So we're not breaking up? Are we still on par to plan for a real future then?" I ask feeling brave.
"No, absolutely not breaking up. But I'm not sure about how long I'll be gone," Blaine says.
"So you want me to wait for you?" I hold my breath waiting for his answer.
He doesn't speak right away, and it makes me wonder just how serious he really is. "Mmmm, I guess so. I'm not sure how long I'll be gone. But sure, wait if you want," he says and kisses the top of my head as if I'm a little kid and tries to dismiss it from going any further.
I don't want to lose him. I love him. He and I have dated since our third year at college. We're both from Cullfield, Kentucky too. We
each other at college and have been inseparable since then. At least that’s the way I see it. If you ask Judah, you’ll get a different story. Judah thinks Blaine is a playboy with nothing but himself on his agenda. I’m sure Judah will have a field day with this once he hears.
"Hey girl, it's not the end of the world," Judah says as we're walking together to the animal shelter where we volunteer every Thursday afternoon to help bathe the dogs and cats. I've been gloomy since Blaine shared his news about leaving for Africa, moping around feeling sorry for myself.
I kick a rock along. I look over at my steadfast best friend, Judah. He's tall and lanky with dark brown hair and a splattering of whiskers around his chin as he tries to grow a goatee. He's two years younger than me and a welder for Tritan Industries. He always jokes with me about finishing school before I did and how he's making three times the money I do. He works in spurts, though, he'll work seven straight days and have seven off. He's on his time off now. I'm thankful for his presence otherwise I'd be sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. He’s been my bestie since sixth grade for him and eight grade for me.
Judah's warm brown eyes follow me as we walk into the shelter. He's concerned about my distress which is why I love him so. I can tell him anything. He understands about Blaine and me.
Cara Johnson, Blaine's cousin, runs into the shelter trying to catch her breath. "There you are, I thought you'd be here. Blaine is looking for you," she says. She pauses and bends over placing her hands on her knees and nods to me.
I jump up leaving Judah in the midst of a sudsy terrier. "Sorry dear, can you finish? I need to run," I say as I'm backing out the door. Judah looks up as a stray bubble floats by.
Judah is a sweetheart, and though he looks troubled for a moment, he smiles at me and nods. "No problem Grace, I'll finish up here," he says. He goes back to scrubbing the pooch.
I run back in and kiss his cheek. "Thanks love," I say as I skip out the door to find Blaine leaving Judah behind.
In Cullfield, everyone walks everywhere because it's such a small community. Vehicles on the streets are rare up in our hidden mountain village. I practically run to Blaine's father's home where Blaine’s waiting for me on the front porch. I run up the walkway as he smiles and opens his arms. I willingly rush into them enjoying the feeling of his hands on my back, his aftershave stings my nose. I wrap my arms about him.
"Here I am," I say catching my breath.
"Yeah, we're leaving in two days. I want to spend as much time with you as I can. I just found out about that," Blaine says and pulls back to judge my reaction to his sudden news.
I wrap my arms around his neck, and our lips meet in a soft velvety kiss. I relish every moment with him. I shudder to think of the lonely nights without him once he leaves. The summer is going to be long and boring. I hold onto him not wanting to let go, ever.
We start out hand-in-hand walking up the road toward the old mill. It’s a familiar walk we’ve done many times before as we attempt to get away from people. We turn down Rusty Ridge Road, a gravel road, saying nothing. He swings our clasped hands as we walk along. He’s trying to be chipper, but his face says otherwise. He seems as sad as me about his leaving, I think. I hate this. I hate good-byes and the thought of waking up without him in the same town as me. We reach the mill to find we are entirely alone. He climbs the steps pulling me with him until we reach the top, and he perches on the ledge, drawing me to him between his legs. I rest my head on his shoulder, and we just enjoy the moment of listening to the music of the tinkling water rushing over the paddles. The sun edges down in the west casting long shadows through the trees.
"You know I love you. But I'll be away for a long while," Blaine says quietly as he strokes my hair.
"How long?" I'm on the verge of tears again. I can’t stand it.
"As long as it takes. My father is bringing a team that will help the village establish clean drinking water. And my father's surgical team will be there performing medical procedures as long as it takes to treat every person there. After this, we will return. It might only take a few months, it might take a year or longer," Blaine explains and sighs.
I sit up and turn to Blaine. "Will you come back for visits?" I peer into his eyes wanting desperately to hear a yes.
"I don't think so. He said that would be a waste of time unless something catastrophic happens. Of course there may be some visits, I just don't know." Blaine looks at my lips and leans in to me.
I reach up and grasp his face pulling him to me in a long deep kiss. He kisses back with fervor. "I love you, Blaine Kendall." I tug on his shirt because I know this is what he wants.
"I love you Gracelyn," Blaine says as he gently yanks on my shirt. I smile and comply and right there on the broad ledge of the upper window in the mill we make love. Afterward, I lay in his arms wishing we could stay this way forever. He has a satisfied smile on his face. I'm thinking ahead to the moment he is to leave, and the sadness grips me again. I worry about our relationship and his reluctance to give me a firm
wait for me
. I keep hoping to hear it. I keep hoping for a surprise proposal, anything to bind us together officially.
I pull up again and look him in the eye. The tears threaten to spill forth, but I keep them at bay. "Tell me, do you want me to wait for you?" I ask.
Blain shrugs. How I hate that non-committal way, he brushes me off. "You can do what you feel is right. Wait for me or not. I won't be here to stop you." He gives me a sad look.
"Then let me ask this, are you going to wait for me?" I hold my breath waiting for the answer.
He gives me a half smile. "Do you think I'll have time? I mean I probably won't be able to have a decent shower until the water team establishes the water system. And I have no clue who's going to be there. I'm not going with the intent on dating. But I also can't expect you to wait here for me, especially if I'm gone for a good long while." There it is again, that non-committal tone.
I dress, teary-eyed feeling no better than before. I still manage to keep the tears stashed behind my lids. But Blaine whistles as if he's happy. I grab his hand and turn him to me. "Blaine, do you love me?"
"Yes, of course, I do." He smiles as he looks into my eyes.
"Do you want a future with me?" I feel my throat constrict as I ask these crucial questions.
"If it works out that way. Right now I have to focus on going to Africa. I don't know what will happen while I'm there. I want you to decide for yourself if you wish to wait for me or not. I may only be gone for a couple of months, in which case, I'll be back before you can miss me much. But then I may be gone for a lot longer. It's up to you my dear." And so with his wish-washy attitude he drops me off alone at my home.