I'm really pleased to welcome Alyson Reuben to my blog today. Alyson - the stage is yours.
Hi, P.L.! I’m glad to be here today!
I confess, I’m a romantic. But I wouldn’t call myself a “hopeless romantic” who believes everything is sugar, flowers, and rainbows forever. After all, while part of me believes in happily ever after, my other side realistically knows it doesn’t happen (or continue to happen) without encountering some shaky moments. This is even truer for some relationships more than for others. Take my latest story, CASTLES WE BUILD, for instance. Fewer people have a more difficult path to happily-ever-after than my heroine, Julia Hampton.
In the beginning of the story, Julia believes she has already found her happily-ever-after. After enduring a childhood of poverty, followed by a loving marriage that ended in loss, she’s now married to her second husband, a wealthy industrialist, living in a beachside home with her two children and a stepdaughter. Life may not be as passionate as she’d like, but it’s peaceful. Yet, for all the seeming tranquility, Julia has no idea what cyclone of events lurk on the horizon. Out of nowhere, her first husband, Landon, “returns from the dead” and her peaceful world is suddenly bouncing like a child’s rubber ball. She’s received a second chance to be with Landon and take back the stolen years of her youth. The first problem with this? She loves her children too much to destroy their lives with her selfish motives. The second problem? Her current husband, Ford, doesn’t exactly take Landon’s reappearance sitting down. The third? She’s bombarded with one setback after another - her mother’s unexpected and unwanted attention, her sister’s bankruptcy concern, her stepdaughter’s rowdy behavior, an encounter with a bootlegger, and the horrific kidnapping of her son.
Her happily-ever-after has suddenly become her own personal hell.
At this point, you might think her situation sounds hopeless. Absolutely not! Julia isn’t the type of woman to give up easily. She yanks off her dainty gloves, flings off her expensive hat, and pushes up her lace sleeves, prepared to fight for what she wants. Her final decision may or may not be what everyone expects, but she will have her happy ending one way or another.
She has a chance to relive her past. But at what cost?
When Julia married the man of her dreams, Landon Sloane, neither of them could have predicted the destructive impact of The Great War. Finding herself a widow and single mother in a period ripe with women’s suffrage and the prohibition, Julia married wealthy industrialist Ford Hampton.
Now, ten years later, with a son attending an academy for the gifted, a daughter with special needs, and a flapper stepdaughter who tests her daily, Julia is hardly prepared for Landon’s return from his long foreign captivity to announce he has never stopped loving her.
Faced with unrequited love for Landon, her life truly begins to unravel with the intrusion of her mother, who abandoned her as a child, a devastating factory fire, and an alarming encounter with a tawdry bootlegger. Finally, when her son is kidnapped in a diabolical scheme of revenge, Julia knows she has to make a final decision that will forever change everyone and everything in her life.
There he is. A man whose memory I desperately tried to lay to rest at his memorial site in Westbrook Cemetery.
For a few seconds, I wobble, my peripheral vision closing in. I’m about to pass out….
Suddenly, he grins. And the grin does the same thing to me now that it did nine years ago, saving me from losing consciousness. Saving me, period.
He holds out his arms, and I rush into them, moaning as his mouth claims mine in a kiss that’s like a drowning man clutching a lifesaver. Pulling me inside and reaching behind me to slam the door shut, his hands grip at my clothes and my hair, tangling in them as if hoping to extract the essence of everything I am.
Now he’s kissing my cheeks. My forehead. My chin. The places behind my ears. The hollow of my neck. The skin above my lace collar. My breasts through the voile fabric. My legs as he pushes up the hem of my frock.
And I’m falling backward on a bed that seems to have appeared like magic. Calling his name. Over and over. He answers me with a voice tinted by a slight brogue, as familiar as the sound of leaves rustling in the wind. Yes. Yes, he’s really Landon Sloane. Alive. Very alive. And my name is also on his lips, coming out in hoarse whispers, pressed against my skin, branding me with what’s always been there, never disappearing completely, but only lying dormant — my love for him.
Rising above me, his body comes down over mine in the ancient way that has coupled countless lovers. In the same way that summoned us in the past with pleasure and intoxication. I grip him, pulling him closer, needing him to complete what’s lacking. To satiate me with his heat and energy….
A little girl’s cry floats through the room.
Gracie! Just that suddenly, I push Landon back, forcing his flushed face away from mine. No, I’m not thinking clearly. That wasn’t a girl’s voice. Just a bird outside the open window. One that has a trill similar to a child’s outburst.
For several seconds Landon and I stare at each other, saying nothing. He looks the same. Yet, different in several ways. Slimmer…a little too slim. A leathery tan that makes his eyes brighter, as potent as midnight’s navy sky in a flash of lightning.
I’m lying here half naked. With a husband I thought would never return from the war he left to fight nine years ago. And the question hits me like a rock to the stomach. “Why, Landon? Why didn’t you come home? Where have you been?”
He visibly swallows, his face glistening with perspiration and what might very well be tears. “My ship sank off the coast of South Africa. Most of the men didn’t…. Anyway, me and my lieutenant were rescued by natives. They had bartering friends who traded with them. Local radicals who supported the enemy forces. I think a few of them even had direct ties with Germany.”
His voice has deepened, grown huskier with age. I try to concentrate on his words, needing desperately to understand. To make sense of this unexpected phenomenon: the miracle of his rise from the dead.
“So me and the lieutenant were arrested and held in an encampment. Seventeen straw huts surrounded by a high fence. Guards with guns and long pikes. Shared it with criminals and other detainees. We didn’t even know when the war was over. Guess they liked having free laborers too much to set us free. Or maybe they just liked trapping us like mice in a maze.” His voice is hard now. Gritty. Full of hatred and anger. In a tone I don’t recognize.
“They finally released us last month. Because of some new political uprising, I think. I don’t know exactly who or what…. I only care that I’m free. Back where I can see you. Hold you. And…oh, God, if I can just get all this filth out of my head.” He sits up beside me, gripping the sides of his head.
The hair at his temples is peppered with silver.
It used to be completely dark, the color of coffee with no creamer.
I reach for him, pulling him to me. Prison. For almost a decade. What a nightmare that must’ve been. The hurt is palpable, transferring between us. “It’s over, darling,” I whisper near his ear. “And I’m so glad you’re back, safe and sound. Alive.”
He folds his arms around me so that we’re huddled in a ball. And we stay that way. Unmoving. Quiet. For a very long time.
His heavy breathing steadies to a hoarse snore; the sound of a man who hasn’t had good, clean rest for a long time. He shifts, spreading out his arms in unconscious freedom. And I release him, sitting up gently in order not to wake him.
The bedroom is mostly bare. A utilitarian iron bed. A dresser. A shabby club chair. But nothing else. I stare at the open window where the cage hangs, dangling slightly in the breeze. There are no finches in it. Or any other birds. The door is hanging open, facing the outside.
He won’t cage anything again.
I push my tousled hair from my face, combing both hands through the chin-length strands.
None of this is the way it should be.
It’s all messed up somehow.
Ford’s face enters my mind. Just the way he looked last night, smiling at me from the dinner table.
I’m married to someone else.
And I have a family.
Castles We Build can be found at Amazon (ebook Kindle version will be available later this week): http://www.amazon.com/Castles-We-Build-Alyson-Reuben/dp/1479296104/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1348024240&sr=8-1&keywords=castles+we+build
Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Alyson-Reuben/e/B008MOD09E
Fast forward a few years — okay, actually several years — she began writing historical romance and women's fiction, leading to the debut of A BEAUTIFUL CAGE, published by the Wild Rose Press in 2011.
Now she gets in trouble for writing stories when she should be cooking dinner for her family.