This Side of the Sun (The Sun Trilogy)

BOOK: This Side of the Sun (The Sun Trilogy)
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THIS SIDE OF THE SUN

A New Adult Romance by

 

M. Lauryl Lewis

 

Prior edition published under the pseudonym
Blythe Santiago.

 

 

Copyright 2014
M. Lauryl Lewis / Larson Falls Publishing

 

Cover image © Coka - Fotolia.com. Used under license.

 

This story is a work of fiction and a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to real people or places or events is coincidental.

 

 

 

Other Books by This Author

Horror/Dark Fantasy:

 

Grace Lost (#1)

Tainted Grace (#2)

Dark Grace (#3)

Fallen Grace (#4)

Praying for Grace (#5, coming soon)

 

 

 

 

 

DEDICATION
S

 

For my husband and our three sons, always. For Donna, and your unending polishing! For Angela - thanks for encouraging me and for believing in me!

 

A special “thank you” to the staff of the
Westin Ka’anapali Villas
in Maui, Hawaii. Our family stays with you often, and your beautiful grounds and kind staff inspired a portion of this story to take place in Paradise. You create a home away from home that I hope even more vacationers will come to enjoy in time. Mahalo!

 

 

CHAPTER
1 ~ SOLAR FLARE

 

There was no time for my usual cup of morning coffee. My brother was getting married and there was far too much to do before his noon wedding. It was a pretty Saturday in late May, but cold. Joe and Justine were going to say their vows outside on the shore, so I was glad it wasn’t raining. I had volunteered to stop by Main Street Floral to pick up the flowers. Joe’s best friend Everett would be his best man, and I was to be Justine’s Maid of Honor. It would be a small gathering, so transporting the flowers wouldn’t be difficult.

I was getting used to the jabs from friends that Joe was getting married before me. He’s only younger than me by minutes, but that fact was being shoved in my face lately. I've never been big into dating. Joe's the outgoing one. I'm happy to sit in a corner with a cup of tea and read a good book. It’s just the two of us now, for the most part. Our mother died delivering us twenty-one years ago. She had left our father behind to raise us on his own. He had done a fair job until we were in our teens. That’s when he met our stepmother, Helen, who had made it clear after they married that she had never wanted children
. She had convinced my father to live on the East Coast. Daddy divided his time between our home in Fidalgo Bay, WA, and their apartment in New York City for a while. Eventually, we seldom saw him as his visits became scarce. Now, Helen had conveniently planned a trip to Kenya and he decided to go with her rather than to his own son’s wedding. Joe pretended not to care, but I knew it was really tearing him apart inside.

***

The walk from our family home to Main Street was only about two miles. I ordinarily would have ridden my Schwinn bicycle, but Joe had loaned me his car for the special occasion. I preferred getting around town on foot or by bike. I loved the fresh air, especially in Fidalgo Bay. The salt water breeze that was near constant always left me feeling refreshed.

It was early, just nine o’clock, but people were already bustling on the streets. Tourists and locals alike were milling about, enjoying the boardwalk and watching sea birds soaring nearby. Storefronts were just opening for the day and a group of musicians was setting up for a small concert for the Saturday Market. By ten o’clock there would be stands full of fresh crab, salmon, clams, oysters, and local produce lining the street. Different local bands would play throughout the day. It was like this the first and third Saturday of each month spring through summer, but would tone down to just the local seafood stands and crafts for the winter.

I parked Joe’s car on the street right outside of the flower shop, unbuckled my seat belt, and slipped out of the driver’s seat while no traffic was coming. A construction worker whistled at me as I stepped onto the old fashioned wooden boardwalk on my side of the street. I could feel his eyes boring holes into my butt as I walked. I recognized him as one of Joe’s friends from high school. I couldn’t recall his name, though. As I turned to smile and wave to him, all I saw was a bright flash of white. I wasn’t aware of the searing pain in my eyes until later. An intense wave of heat hit me, throwing me backward into the building just behind me. As I fell to the ground, my head struck something hard. There was an intense ringing in my ears and my head was throbbing. I tried to breathe in, but my lungs felt as if they were on fire. I sat there, stunned, for what seemed an eternity. Just over the ringing in my ears, I could make out the sound of sirens. I opened my eyes, but was unable to see anything clearly. Smoke and debris surrounded me like a veil of imminent death.

Without warning, there was a loud noise that shook the street. Strong arms encircled me and a deep voice tried to calm me.

“Hang on, I’ve got you! I’ve got you!”

I felt myself being lifted off the ground and did the only thing that I could. I grabbed on to my savior and held on as tightly as possible as he ran with me in his arms. I choked on the toxic air around us, trying with desperation to breathe. The sirens grew louder and were accompanied by the screams and sobbing of other people. A baby was crying shrilly somewhere nearby.

“My baby! Oh God, save my baby!” screamed a woman.

“Hold on, I need to set you down. Don’t move!” yelled the man who was carrying me.

“No, please don’t leave me!” I yelled back, pleading.

“Stay here!” he shouted, also choking on smoke now.

He set me down as gently as he could under the circumstances. I felt cold concrete beneath me and could see a bit more clearly now. The air was clearer here, but bits of burnt matter and white ash fell to either side of me. People were running down the street, away from the destruction. The exception was the man who had just left me. He was running back into the storm of devastation. I could feel my heart beating wildly against my chest. My hands were trembling violently. I wasn’t sure what had happened.

I dared to look around and was horrified to
see bodies lying in the street. Some were struggling to get away from the threat of the fire and others were unmoving and surely dead. Debris littered the street and bits of burning paper swam in the air around me. The smell of burnt things stung my nose. The heat from the fire to my right was growing uncomfortable. Not knowing what else to do, I began crawling away. My left arm hurt and I saw that my sleeve was covered in blood. Before I knew what was happening, someone grabbed onto my right hand and pulled me up until I was standing.

“I thought I told you to stay put!”

I looked to the man who had just scolded me. He was a bit taller than me and had dark wavy hair. His bright blue eyes were reddened from the smoke. His face was rugged, sporting a five-o-clock shadow, and was smeared with soot. He was holding a tiny infant in the crook of his other arm, still loosely swaddled in a light pink receiving blanket. It hurt my throat to speak, so I just looked forward in reply.

“Keep running!” he yelled. “As fast as you can! Don’t look back!”

He was pulling me forward, and I held tightly onto his large hand. His voice was deep and commanding, but he could have been a rodeo clown trying to sell used tires and I would have done as told. The tiny baby in his arm was wailing.

“C’mon, faster!” he barked with a sense of urgency.

The street before us had grown crowded. People of all shapes and sizes, all colors, all ages were running away from the destruction. At first it appeared that a medic was running toward us, but just as quickly his face contorted and he turned to run. The man pulling me forward gripped my hand even harder, almost painfully so. Behind us, a wave of heat and pressure pushed us forward. I stumbled to my knees, but the man never let go of my hand. Screams of agony and cries of sorrow surrounded us, along with the rumble of buildings on fire.

“What’s happened?” I yelled
from where I had fallen.

The man beside me crouched down and was covering the baby and myself the best he could with his own body.

“Some kind of explosion! We have to get farther away! We have to run again! Are you ready?”

I looked into his s
triking blue eyes and nodded. We stood together and ran again, still holding hands. The heat from the blaze behind us was near searing. It was hard to breathe and my eyes felt like they were on fire.

 

CHAPTER 2 ~ JUST BREATHE

 

Finally, after following others in hopes of finding safety, we arrived at a safe zone that had been set up for triaging victims. We were several blocks east of the burning block of buildings by now. Medics, fire fighters, and police had quickly organized tents and mobile treatment units. A sheriff was suddenly at our side, and took the baby from my savior. She was yelling for us to follow her.

The man beside me, his other arm now freed, lifted me from the ground and walked quickly to the closest tent. Setting me on a portable table, he looked into my eyes. At that moment, his eyes were the only thing I could see. Not the death and destruction and terrors
that surrounded us. Just the kindness in his eyes.

“I think I’m going to pass out,” I mumbled, feeling light headed.

“Shhh, just breathe,” he soothed. “Just breathe.” I felt his hand gently smoothing the hair on the back of my head.

I did as instructed, taking a breath in. As the cool sea air filled my lungs, I began coughing again. Almost immediately a medic was at my side and placed an oxygen mask over my face.

The medic looked at the man who was still at my side. I realized I was still clutching onto his hand. “Wrap the elastic strap around her head?” suggested the medic. “Stay here with her?”

The man nodded in reply
as the medic rushed off to help an old woman who looked as if she may die at any moment.

“You saved me,” I said through the plastic mask.

“I suppose I did.” He smiled softly at me. “What’s your name?”

I coughed again, which prompted him to rub me
gently on the back.

“Don’t talk if it’s too hard. Just breathe the oxygen. I’m Saul. Saul Meyers.”

I tried to slow my breathing and focused on watching others pass by. So many of them looked in such terrible shape. Blood, burns, tears. Faces full of grief and pain.

“Hattie,” I said, my voice muffled by the mask.

“Nice to meet you, Patty,” said Saul.

I took the mask off of my face. “No,” I whispered hoarsely. “Hattie.”

Saul smiled down at me. “Well that’s even prettier. Pleasure to meet you, Hattie. Pretty crappy circumstances, though.”

I continued to breathe the oxygen and nodded my agreement. Saul lifted my left arm and began looking for the cause of the bleeding.

“Ah, here it is,” he said calmly. “Nothing a Band-Aid won’t cure.”

His smile was charming, and more importantly I found it to be calming. I watched his face as he inspected my wound. He was ruggedly handsome. I figured he was in his mid-twenties but I didn’t dare ask him.

Things around us were slowly starting to calm down. Fewer people were running, but fire fighters were struggling to contain the inferno down the street. Wounds and burns were being tended to in order of severity. I wondered briefly what had become of the baby that Saul had saved. Breathing was getting easier. I took my mask off and looked around. There were people far worse off than me.

“I think I should leave,” I said somberly.

“You really need to get looked at.”

“It’s easier to breathe now, though. And my arm isn’t that bad. I can clean it at home. Look at these people. They need help way more than I do.”

Saul did as I suggested and looked around us.

“I suppose you’re right. But it’d be irresponsible of me to just let you walk off. Let me at least see you home?”

“I wouldn’t usually say yes to a stranger, but under the circumstances I’d really appreciate it. My brother’s car was back there where you found me.”

I’m parked about four blocks up. Do you think you can walk that far?”

I nodded. “I think so.”

“And you don’t feel like you’re hurt anywhere else?”

I shook my head no.

“Ok, Miss Hattie. We should at least leave our names with someone.”

I coughed one more time and nodded.

“I’ll find someone. You wait here. Oh, what’s your last name?”

“Leonardo.”

“Alright, Hattie Leonardo, stay put and I’ll be right back.”

He winked at me, causing me to flush.

***

Several minutes later, Saul returned to where I was perched and offered me his hand. I took it, this time aware that it was an offer of kindness and not one of necessity. I took it willingly.

“Sorry that took so long. I left our names with one of the local police. Let’s get out of here,” he said.

I just nodded. My throat was still sore. We began walking in the general direction of where he had left his truck. Self-conscious, I had let my hand slip out of his as we walked. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so pretended I had an itch on my other arm. As much as I appreciated his saving my life, he was a handsome man and I was chronically shy.

“You doing ok?” he asked me.

“Yes, just a bit sore.”

Saul stopped walking and put his hands on his hips. “Are you hurting somewhere?” He seemed genuinely concerned.

“No, just achy.”

“You sure you can walk? We’ll be there soon, but I can bring the truck back for you.”

The thought of this stranger leaving my side sent me into near-panic.

“No, no,” I fumbled for words. “I’ll be fine. Really.”

“You look a little pale.”

I chucked nervously. “I’m always pale.”

From the few pictures I had of my mother, I assumed I got her pale skin and splattering of faint freckles that darkened every summer. I was cursed with my father’s wavy light brown hair. It’s between straight and curly and rather ‘blah.’

“Well, it suits your big green eyes,” he said with a soft smile.

Feeling my face flush, I managed to mumble a quick “thanks.”

“Okay, let’s get you home.”

We began walking again. Smoke was lingering in the air, drifting our direction in the breeze. Sirens were piercing the air as more trucks came to battle the blaze and ambulances transported people from the triage site to local hospitals. Helicopters were hovering overhead, likely filming for local news stations. One was larger than the rest. I paused to watch as it landed behind a building that was obstructing our view.

“It’s a medic helicopter,” explained Saul. He had to yell next to me over the noise of the huge copter. “Let’s hurry before the roads get jammed up.”

He grabbed my hand again and urged me forward. We heard an explosion in the distance behind us.

“Just one more block,” he promised. “Almost there.”
He was obviously in a hurry and trying to keep his cool for my sake.

Saul had me near-running now. We reached the truck in short order and he used his key fob to unlock it. As he opened the driver’s door, another explosion rocked the ground upon which we stood.

“Hattie, get in and scoot over!” he yelled urgently.

Without hesitating, I stepped up onto the runner board and climbed into the front seat, clambering over the center console to make room for the man who was right behind me. I could feel adrenaline coursing through my veins. Saul jumped in
before I was fully in the passenger seat, slamming his door shut. He quickly inserted the key into the ignition and the engine purred to life. I didn’t dare speak until we were moving forward.

“Saul? What’s going on?”

“I’m not really sure, but I think the fire just got a heck of a lot worse. We probably got out of there just in time.”

His face was full of intense tension. I looked behind us. There was a huge plume of dark black smoke rising high into the sky. The helicopter that had landed was back in the air and fighting for stability as it moved away from the area.

“Hang on, Hattie.”

The truck began speeding
away. I looked forward and wiped at my eyes, which had become filled with tears. People seeing me cry was never something I had appreciated.

“Take a deep breath. We’re ok.”

“Do you think all those people just died?” I asked in a shaky voice.

He stole a quick glance at me and then looked forward again.

“Possibly.”

I noticed that Saul was gripping the steering wheel tightly with both hands, and his knuckles were white. Now several blocks farther away, he slowed a bit and pulled off
of the road and into the parking lot of a local café.

“Think we’re far enough
to be safe?” I asked.

“Yeah. I just need to clear my head for a minute. Well, and figure out where I’m taking you.”

“I can’t stop thinking of all the people back there.” I wiped at my face again.

Saul opened his door and stepped out. He closed it gently and walked to the back of the truck. I stayed in the cab and tried to slow my breathing and keep more tears from falling. Stealing a glance in the side mirror, I saw that Saul was near the tailgate, facing away, his hands on his knees. I knew then that he, too, was badly shaken. I opened my own door and slid out and down to the ground. I slowly walked toward my new companion. Sensing me, he stood up and attempted to compose himself. Turning halfway to face me, he kicked at a large metal dumpster that was beside him.

“Fuck,” he yelled. “FUCK!”

I flinched, not expecting the outburst.

“I’m sorry,” I muttered.

He turned the rest of the way to face me and laughed, rather inappropriately.

“No way. You have nothing to be sorry about.” He took a deep breath and looked up to the sky for a moment. “Yes, I think most of those people died.”

Finally, he looked back to me.

“We almost died,” I said quietly.

“Yeah, we almost died.” He took a deep breath. “Sorry for my cursing.”

I began shaking. I wasn’t really sure what to do.

“Look at you. You’re in shock. We need to get you warmed up. Think you can tell me how to get you home?”

I nodded while watching him walk to the passenger side of his truck. He opened the door and reached behind the seat, pulling out a zip-up hoodie.

“Here, wrap this around yourself. I promise to not kick and scream again.”

“Ok.” I let him drape the large sweatshirt over my shoulders, and let him help me up into the truck since this side didn’t have a runner board. I welcomed the warmth of his hands on my hips as he helped boost me into the cab.

A moment later, he appeared in the driver’s seat.

“Go back the way you were headed. Then turn right on Maple.”

“You got it.”

We drove on in relative silence. The sirens and helicopters still lingered, but not as loudly as before.

“Head this way till you get to 13th, then go left.”

“So what were you doing in town?” he asked.

“Picking up flowers for my brother’s wedding.”

“Is it today?”

“Yeah.”

“Guess this’ll put a crimp in their plans?”

“I suppose you’re right,” I answered with a sigh. “How about you?”

“I didn’t have plans today.”

I stifled a chuckle. “No, I meant what were you doing in town?”

“Oh, just grabbing a coffee.”

“So do you live here?”

“Just moved here a couple weeks ago. Got sick of the big city so decided to move into a little beach bungalow. It’s more of a shack, really. Belonged to my grandfather.”

“Like it so far?”

“Well enough. I have some good memories of the place.”

“Oh, we just
passed 12th. It’s the next left,” I said as we got close to the turn off to my house.

As Saul turned left onto 13th, I wondered if anyone would be home. They might all be at the wedding already, wondering where the flowers were.

“Do you know what time it is? I think I lost my cell phone back there.”

He checked his watch, something I had never taken a liking to wearing myself.

“Ten till noon.”

“Already? Guess I’m gonna be late for the wedding.”

“When is it?”

“Noon.”

“I wouldn’t worry about being on time, Hattie. They’ll all just be glad you’re alive.”

“I suppose so.” I paused. “That’s my house on the left. The light blue Cape Cod.”

Saul pulled his truck onto the street two houses down. My driveway was packed with cars, as was the street. They should all be miles away at the shore, getting ready for Joe and Justine to say their vows.

“Looks like there’s a crowd waiting for you,” said Saul.

“I don’t want to go in,” I admitted. I hated being the center of attention and didn’t want to talk about the events of the day.

“Do you want me to come with you?” he offered.

I looked at him in surprise. “You’ve already done too much for me.”

“You sure you’ll be ok?”

“Yeah. How about you?”

He sighed deeply. “I’ll be fine, but I’m pretty pissed off, to be honest.”

BOOK: This Side of the Sun (The Sun Trilogy)
5.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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