I've had several people ask which cover I decided to go with for A Season for Love. I decided to go with this one, (though that's subject to change later on.) Thank you to everyone who offered advice and opinions. I played with many different things, even after I asked you, and this is what I ended up chosing, for now.
If you are interested in purchasing A Season for Love, it is available on Smashwords.com.
Peals of laughter met her ears as the hill came into view. She watched as Joey and Jerrick were sledding together down the small hill towards a group of small snowmen. Looking more carefully at the snowmen, she discovered they were placed in a triangle formation. A triangle? Really? Were they bowling? To her amusement, the men plowed toward the snowmen while Andy frantically clicked the camera.
“You only got two,” Brent hollered from the top of the hill. The children cheered and laughed.
Jerrick and Joey dismounted the sled and began doing a strange sort of victory dance that almost looked like a rain or snow dance of sorts. Rhianna couldn’t help but giggle.
“Watch how it’s done.” Brent climbed aboard his sled.
“Let’s see it, old man,” Joey called back. “Mom said you can’t throw out your back this year.”
Jerrick appeared suddenly at Rhianna’s side. He pulled her to him and kissed her forehead. Every inch of her tingled but she told herself it was due to the cold, not Jerrick’s touch.
“That was great!” he exclaimed. “I really thought we were going to miss them all together. But we got a couple. Did you see it, kitten?”
She smiled up at him. “Yes, I saw you.” Another giggle escaped her throat as she looked into his eyes. His pleasure oozed into her like hot chocolate.
Momentarily transported in time, she imagined she stood at the bottom of a much steeper hill covered in snow. At the age of thirteen, little scared her and she had just made it down the large hill on her stomach with many large bumps and obstacles. The feeling of flying had exhilarated her and lifted her spirits to a heavenly level.
As she stood looking into Jerrick’s face now, she knew he was experiencing the same exhilaration, even though the hill was much smaller. Sledding down any hill had a way of exciting a person.
Squeals and hollers forced her gaze toward the hill again and she saw Brent sprawled at the bottom, having missed the snowmen entirely. Andy and Clark started down the hill next with Joey behind the camera. They missed the snowmen by a couple feet but no one seemed to mind as everyone seemed to be heading up the hill again.
“Do you want to go down, kitten?”
“Oh!” She redirecting her gaze at him. “I don’t think I could possibly…. I just don’t….”
“Come on, Anna. I’ll go with you. We use to make quite a good team, you and me. What do you say? Are you willing to give it a go?” She looked at him, realizing that perhaps his words held hidden meaning. “I promise not to disappoint you.”
Looking into his eyes, she longed for him to take her up the hill. She longed for his arms around her and for his lips to join with hers in an exhilarating exchange known only to those deeply in love. And while she could not allow her heart to love him deeply, she did find her heart wanting to try. Wanting to trust him and not disappoint him.
“Okay,” she finally said, reluctantly.
A smile donned his face and he bent down and kissed her on the cheek. “Come on.” He pulled on her hand and led her up the hill. Everyone else was already at the top.
“Mommy go?” Lavender asked with delight. Lark looked at Jerrick with dislike blatantly written upon her young face.
“I thought I’d try it out, if that’s okay.”
“Fun, Mommy!” Lavender exclaimed. “You go with Jerrick. He’s a good sledder.”
“I don’t think you can hit the snowmen with that man, Mommy,” Lark said.
“Oh, you don’t?”
“No. Jerrick is bad luck.”
Brent’s laughter ricocheted off the trees. “I think she just called you out, son.”
“I am not bad luck.” Jerrick looked between his father and Lark and then at Rhianna. “I’m not that bad.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that, little brother,” Joey chuckled. “I think we could have hit more of those silly little snowmen if you had not shifted your weight at the last minute.”
“That’s probably the only reason we hit any. But if I’m so bad, you will let us go first. Since we don’t have a shot at hitting any of them anyway.” He gave Rhianna a conspiratorial wink.
“Have at it, little bro,” Joey laughed. “Mindy,” he hollered. His wife who stood at the bottom of the hill with the camera. “Jerrick thinks he can get all the snowmen. Make sure and get him on film will you?”
Jerrick sat on the sled and motioned for Rhianna to sit in front of him. She hesitated for a minute but, looking at the delighted faces of her daughters, sat on the sled in front of Jerrick. The conversations around them muted in her ears as he put an arm protectively around her waist. She stared down the hill, attempting to swallow her terror. She stiffened and clutched the sides of the sled. “You ready?” Jerrick’s breath warmed her neck her neck. She nodded her head with a jerk, and they were off.
It seemed to be over as quickly as it began. Powdery snow sprayed her face on the way down and in no time they were at the bottom of the hill. As Joey had predicted, they missed the snowmen entirely and when they came to a halt at the bottom of the hill, she heard an eruption of noise from the top of the hill. A bubbling tickled her throat and she soon discovered she was laughing. What a feeling. She had not experienced the thrill of flying down a hill in a long time. Happiness filled her and she suddenly wanted to do it again.
Leaping off the sled, she grabbed Jerrick’s hand and this time pulled him up the hill. She was enjoying herself so much she did not realize that no one waited at the bottom of the hill to catch her daughters as they took their turn. When it came time for Rhianna and Jerrick to go again, five of the snowmen still stood. As she sat on the sled she said, “We’ll get them this time.”
“You’re pretty confident,” Andy said. “That brother of mine is not the most consistent.”
“But he and I make a great team.” She smiled at Jerrick. “Just watch. We’ll get them all.”
“Are you so confident, kitten?”
“Yes.” She wrapped both his arms around her waist and leaned into him. “Just feel me.”
“Excuse me?” He pulled away from her momentarily to look at her face.
She pulled his arms tightly around her again. “Feel me. You said earlier that we make a good team. How do you expect to do that if you don’t know what I’m feeling? Hold onto me and feel me. I have better instincts for sledding than you do, so feel me and do what I do. I promise we’ll get all those poor little snowmen. They won’t even know what hit them.”
She laughed and they pushed off. This time, she allowed herself to move with Jerrick and he moved with her, and they hit four of the little snowmen covering themselves in powdery snow in the process. However, working together, they worked up enough momentum going down the hill that they continued to sled across the clearing and went down a much steeper hill on the other side of the cabin.
By the time they made it to the bottom of the hill, Rhianna felt Jerrick bail and she had little choice but to go with him. Rhianna couldn’t stop her laughter. It felt good to be with Jerrick! Looking up at the hill they just sledded down, she noted that it was much steeper and longer than the hill everyone else was on. If her girls saw this hill, they would much rather go down this hill. And rightfully so. But she quickly pushed the thought out of her mind. There were few trees on this hill and it had been a blast to ride down.
She felt a warm weight covering her and realized that Jerrick had rolled on top of her when they landed. “Sorry,” he mumbled. As she lay there looking at him, she could see the glee in his eyes change. His eyes still danced with the excitement of the ride but they contained something else as well. “We make a good team, kitten.”
“And we hit most of those little snowmen,” she said smiling.
“Yes,” he whispered. Then to her astonishment, he lowered his head and kissed her lips lightly. Her eyes opened in surprise, yet she found the touch of his lips to hers was even more exhilarating than the sledding had been. He must have seen the change come over her, for he smiled and lowered his head again, engaging her in an exhilarating exchange of passion.
In all the years she’d known Jerrick, she had never kissed him, though not because the thought hadn’t entered her mind or because she hadn’t desired it. Rather, the opportunity had never presented itself. As she now enjoyed his kiss, she felt a burning in her heart. It swelled and longed to know him better. His gloved hand caressed her face as he pulled away from her for a moment in order to look at her. Her stomach burned with desire and her emotions were flying into a jumble. She couldn’t make heads or tails out of anything.
One thing she did know, however, she enjoyed kissing Jerrick Mason and wanted to kiss him again. So reaching up her gloved hand, she pulled his head down to meet with hers and kissed him again. They had not been locked in their exchange for long, when they heard voices above them.
“You hit four of the snowmen!”
“Wow! What a hill!”
“I want to go first!”
“Hey! Uncle Jerrick is kissing that lady!”
Rhianna looked up to the top of the hill and saw the entire sledding party observing them in the snow. Among them was Lark looking extremely angry. Jerrick laughed as he pulled away from Rhianna and her cheeks flushed with color, but it could not be detected from the color already there from the cool air. He pulled her to her feet and gave her a kiss on the cheek before going to retrieve their sled.
“Watch me, Mommy,” Lavender exclaimed as Rhianna looked to see her youngest daughter sitting on a sled by herself and pushing off to go down the hill.
“Wait, sweetheart!” Rhianna cried, but it was too late. Lavender was racing down the hill, squealing with delight. Though Rhianna was concerned for her daughter, she couldn’t help but laugh at the smile on Lavender’s face and ran to where the girl was heading to ensure her safety.
“I did it, Mommy!”
“Yes, you did. Next time will make sure someone else goes with you?”
“I do it myself.”
“I know. Mommy would just like it if you went with someone next time.”
“Oh kay,” she exaggerated the words before bounding off for more fun.
Rhianna couldn’t help but smile.
~ * ~
After a warming bowl of soup, Rhianna stayed in the kitchen to help with the dishes. She had her hands in the sudsy water and handed the scrubbed dishes to Mindy who rinsed them and set them on the drying rack. Alice brought up the end of the line as she dried them and put them away.
“I haven’t seen those boys have so much fun in a while,” Mindy said.
“Yes, we all missed this last year.”
“You do this often?” Rhianna asked.
“I think we’ve been come up here nearly every year for Thanksgiving for the last thirty years. We missed once when Andy got his tonsils taken out when he was six. And we missed that year Aunt Hilda had her ninetieth birthday. And then last year, when Mindy was in the hospital and Andy was on study abroad in Europe.”
Questions flooded Rhianna’s mind, but she felt it would be rude to voice them.
“I had a DNC,” Mindy explained.
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
Mindy shrugged. “It was hard, but we’re trying again. Hopefully things will work out better this time.”
“I’m sure they will, dear,” Alice smiled lovingly.
“Do you only come up here during Thanksgiving weekend?”
“Oh, heavens no. The boys come up here to hunt.”
“And we camp up here in the summer,” Mindy supplied.
“Do you remember a few years back, Mindy? You and Joey were newly married. But do you remember that time when the Shorts joined us?”
“The Shorts. Are they the ones who found the bear tracks in the wood and decided to follow them?”
“Oh, my. Yes,” Alice laughed. “I’d forgotten that.”
As Alice and Mindy began to reminisce of times at the cabin, a noise caught Rhianna’s ear. She listened for a minute, excused herself from the ladies, and went to stand behind the doorway to the other room where the voices were coming from.
“Read it again,” Lavender squealed.
A deep, resonant chuckle followed.
“No, Lavey. Grandpa B already read it once. I want to read this one.”
“I want this one.”
“No. You play with your friends. I want this one.”
“Now girls, perhaps we can read Lark’s book and then read Lavender’s again tomorrow.”
“Okay,” the girls chimed together. Rhianna peered around the corner and saw both of her girls snuggled into Brent’s big chest, listening avidly to him read the story. Brent glanced up and smiled, never missing a word of the story. Rhianna smiled back and crept back to the kitchen.
~ * ~
As Rhianna prepared for bed that night, she remembered the fun she and the girls had shared with Jerrick’s family. Just before she had come inside, the boys had built another snowman and took pictures of it being catapulted across the clearing in between the two hills. It had been a long time since she had laughed so much and done anything impulsive.
Not only that, but she had experienced her first kiss with Jerrick. Her heart beat erratically. He was a very handsome man and had always treated her well. Their exchange earlier had seemed natural and, given their past with each other, it was about time! But she found herself feeling guilty. Was it right for her to be kissing Jerrick, even though she had known him forever, when Scott had not been dead a full year?
The day had been rewarding. Still, she found herself building up a wall of defense around her heart over guilt between her newly forming emotions towards an old friend and the loyalty she held towards her deceased husband. She had promised to be faithful to Scott ‘until death do us part.’
Suddenly that phrase disturbed her.
What did it mean exactly?
True, she could legally remarry. In the eyes of the law she was no longer married but a widow. But what about in the eyes of heaven? She had always imagined she would see Scott again, though the possibility of that seemed highly unlikely. Still, the idea was fantastic.
As she lay in her bed, listening to the steady breathing of her girls, she wondered if her thoughts had been accurate. If her marriage ended because of Scott’s death, what came next? And what of Jerrick? Would Scott approve of her sharing in another man’s affections or did he expect her to live out her life alone?
A conversation she and Lark had earlier in the day assaulted her mind.
“Mommy! Why did you kiss that man?”
“I don’t know, honey. He bent to kiss me and before I just kissed him.”
“But he’s not Daddy.”
“I know, Lark. But Daddy isn’t here anymore. It’s okay if I decide to kiss someone else now.”
Lark nose wrinkled as she scrunched up her face. “Does that mean you don’t love Daddy anymore?”
“No, sweetheart. I will always love Daddy.”
“Do Lavy and I have to go away if you decide to marry Jerrick?”
“Oh, Lark! What makes you think that?”
“When Cindy’s mommy got married again she went to live with her daddy and only sees her mommy sometimes.”
Rhianna gathered her daughter in her arms. “No matter what happens, I will always love you girls and I will never abandon you.”
“I will never leave you.”
“With all my heart.”
Unable to sleep, Rhianna slipped out of bed and put on her robe and slippers. Tip-toeing downstairs, she made her way to the living room where the fire still burned low in the hearth. She placed another log on the fire and sat on the couch. Her thoughts turned to Jerrick as she sat watching the flames devour the new log. He had been attentive to her all day and all evening. Even after their intimate exchange on the sledding hill, he had not acted different towards her. In fact, no one of the family seemed to think it peculiar either. She shrugged. Since they were playing at being a couple, his family probably expected to see that from time to time. Was that the reason Jerrick had done it? She had not been prepared for that part of the charade but she found herself tingle all over at the thought.
A floorboard creaked behind her, startling her, and she turned to see Jerrick standing behind the couch. He wore only his green and blue plaid pajama bottoms and no shirt. She found it difficult not to stare. His torso was expertly sculpted and she wondered how many hours a week he put in at the gym to keep his body in such great shape. He made his way to the other side of the couch and sat next to her.
“Couldn’t sleep?” he asked.
“No. Did I wake you?”
He shook his head. “I couldn’t sleep either.”
He smiled at her and she wondered if he was dwelling on the same moments between them as she had been. Silence settled around them while they sat gazing contentedly at one other. Finally, Jerrick moved closer to her and put his arm around her. She laid her head on his shoulder and breathed in deeply of his scent – he smelled of Speed Stick and peppermint. She smiled, knowing his slight obsession of peppermint candies.
“I should thank you,” he said suddenly.
“What for?” she asked, looking up at him.
“For coming here. Mom has been throwing me amused smiles all day, but at least she hasn’t said anything to me about not wanting to settle down.”
“Do you really have such a resolve to remain unattached?”
“Are you applying for the position?” When she hit him playfully he chuckled. “I don’t want to be hurt again,” he said, soberly.
She understood his feelings. To love someone only to loose them was a depressing thought and not an easy thing to live with.
“You’re welcome.” She laid her head back on his shoulder again. “I’ve been having a good time.”
“Me too.” She could hear the smile in his voice.
They sat there for some time before she realized he was carrying her back to her bed; she must have dozed off. She hovered briefly in an almost conscious state and was slightly aware of the kiss he left on her cheek ,but did not understand the words he whispered to her as she drifted back to sleep again.