Thursday, October 22, 2015

5 Days of Angel Island Day 4: After the Storm Excerpt

This week is the release of The Complete Angel Island Series, a box set that includes all three of my Angel Island companion novels, Waiting for the Storm, After the Storm, and Take Them by Storm. For this week only you can get the set for just $2.99 - that's all three books for the price of one! If you're curious about the series and haven't started it yet, or if you've read one but not the other two, now would be a great time to give them a try!

To celebrate the release of the box set, I'm dedicating this week to posts about the series. On Monday I kicked things off with fun facts about the series, Tuesday I shared pictures inspired by the books, yesterday I shared an excerpt from the first book in the series, Waiting for the Storm, and today is an excerpt from the second book, After the Storm.


A hand settles on my shoulder, jerking me from my thoughts. I’ve been staring into the fire without realizing it, and now the imprint of the flames is burned into my retinas. I angle my head toward the darkness, blinking rapidly until River comes into view. He’s got one hand on my shoulder, and the other is juggling two cans of root beer.
“You okay?” he asks quietly.

My gaze slides past him and lands on Charlotte, who’s sitting just beyond River. Her eyebrows draw together and she cocks her head at me, but I only nod and meet River’s eyes again. “I’m fine. Just daydreaming.” I force a smile, but when he grins, my face relaxes into an easier, more genuine smile. I accept the can of root beer from him and pop the top, clinking it against his can.  

“Do you like living on the beach?” River asks.

“I love it. My parents hated Toronto Harbour—said the water was dirty and they always ended up finding something scary in the sand, like a syringe or a broken bottle or something—so they rarely took Charlotte and me as kids. We really only ever went to the beach on Amherst Island or Wolfe Island, so it was a treat we looked forward to. Now I get to go to the beach every day.” I look over and he’s watching me, his lips slightly curved. “Do you live on the water?”

He shakes his head. “No. We live close, though. There’s a path that goes from my street down to a private section of the beach. My mom knows the owner, and he says we can go anytime, but I don’t go that often. Used to swim all the time as a kid, though.”

“You lived near the water growing up?”

He nods. “We were pretty close to the Bay of Quinte. There were a few creeks around, too. My dad used to take me fishing all the time, and then he’d let me swim for as long as I wanted.” His smile is wistful. I wonder if that’s how I look when I talk about Mom.

“Did you take it for granted?” The question comes from out of nowhere, slipping past my lips. That seems to be happening a lot lately. Like the filter between my brain and mouth is on the fritz. River looks at me strangely, so I clarify. “When you were little, did you realize how lucky you were? To have those days with your dad?”

His expression softens and he tilts his head back and forth. “Maybe. Probably. Does any kid really realize how lucky they are to spend time with their parents? You think they’re invincible and that they’ll live forever. It never occurs to you to make as many memories as possible and then store them away because someday there won’t be more.”

“Exactly.” A flood of Mom-related memories sweeps through my mind like a video on fast forward. I was sixteen when she died, so I’m lucky to have a lot of good memories, but it’s the memories I don’t have that haunt me. The ones I should have started making the second I found out she was sick. The multitude of questions I should have asked her when the doctor told us she was terminal. 

“I think when you lose a parent at a young age, it teaches you a lot.” River moves in closer, drawing up his knees and leaning toward me. His voice is soft, flowing over me in soothing waves, washing away some of the pain. “It teaches you not to take the people you have left for granted. It knocks your priorities into line, and makes the stupid, petty things seem so unimportant. It can mess you up in so many ways, but it makes you stronger too. It makes you want to seize every opportunity and hold onto the things that matter.”

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