Chapter Reveal of WIDE OPEN SPACES by Aurora Rose Reynolds
off my car, I stare at the two-story house I used to call home. It looks the
same as it did when I left. The deep blue is still vibrant, even more so now
against the backdrop of the gray sky behind it. The white porch is still
welcoming, with flowers hanging from the banister.
grandmother and I would spend hours planting flowers in those boxes during the
summer. When she passed away during my sophomore year of high school, I made
sure to keep up the tradition in her memory. It looks like, in my absence over
these last fifteen years, someone else had taken over the job.
at the bright blooms growing wild, hanging over the sides of the boxes, I
wonder if Granddad hired someone to plant them for him when he left to live in
Florida. He never mentioned that he cared about the flowers we planted.
Honesty, I don’t remember him mentioning them. Growing up, I didn’t even think
he noticed, but now, looking at the blooming buds that are artfully arranged, I
know they meant something to him after all.
Turning my head, I look at my son Hunter and force a smile as aching pain and
regret slice through my chest.
honey. I spaced out. Do you want to unpack tonight, or do you want to wait
until tomorrow, kiddo?”
over his shoulder, he eyes the boxes and suitcases piled in the back then looks
at me. I hate the sadness I see in his eyes. I hate I’m the cause of his pain.
I know he misses his father already, and I know that at ten years old, he
doesn’t understand why we’re no longer together even if it’s been over two
years since we separated and divorced.
he grumbles, and I feel that ache in my chest expand. He hates me for moving
him across the country. Away from his friends, away from everything he knew.
And I hate myself a little bit, too, for failing miserably at keeping my family
together. I just hope this move will be a new start for us.
I agree softly, unhooking my belt and opening the door.
the hood of the van, Hunter has already made it to the porch and is waiting at
the top of the stairs, with his eyes pointed over my shoulder. Stopping, I look
behind me as rain soaks through my clothes. I can’t believe how much the town
has changed and grown. When I’d left home, you could see the sound from the front
porch of my grandparents’ home. Now, the view is blocked by houses that have
been built up side-by-side across the road. The street looks more like a New
York City block, rather than a street in small-town Alaska.
always raining?” Hunter’s voice breaks into my thoughts, and I turn back toward
him and take the steps slowly, noticing they are rotting out in a few spots.
Something I will have to fix soon.
always, but this is a rainforest, so I guess the answer in some ways is yes,” I
tell him, when I make it up to the covered porch.
draw together over his blue eyes, making him look like his father, as he asks,
“This is a rainforest?”
I want so badly to reach out and run my finger down his cheek, but I keep my
hand locked at my side. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but some time
ago, he stopped wanting my affection. Stopped being my little boy.
he asks curiously, with wide eyes. “It doesn’t look like a rainforest,” he
states, and he’s right; it doesn’t look like what you might imagine a
rainforest would look like.
doesn’t look like one, but it is all the same.” I smile, and his eyes move over
my face then to the view, and his face loses the curiosity it held a moment
lip, I take the key the lawyer mailed me out of the front pocket of my jeans,
put it in the lock, and turn. The door opens with a loud creak and dust rises
up from the floors. A loud alarm sounds, making us both jump. Running into the
house, I look frantically for some kind of alarm system, finally finding the
small white box off the door in the kitchen. Flipping the panel open, I stare
at the numbers.
the code?” Hunter yells over the siren, covering his ears.
know,” I yell back, pressing in every single number combination I can think of,
but none of them work.
“Is it in
the papers in the car?”
I yell, then run for the door and down the stairs to the van. Swinging open the
back door, I shove three boxes out of the way before finding the one I’m
looking for. Ripping off the tape, I shuffle through the contents and scan the
papers the lawyer sent, searching for the code, but stop and look over the hood
of the van when the alarm goes quiet. “What was the code?” I ask Hunter, when
he steps out onto the porch.
know.” He shrugs, looking over his shoulder into the house, like he’s waiting
for someone to come out, which makes me frown.
just stop?” I question, slamming the van door. His eyes come back to me and he
shakes his head then starts to open his mouth to say something else, but is cut
off by a deep voice.
one breath to realize who just stepped out of my grandparents’ house. One
breath for every moment I spent with the man standing before me to flash
through my head. Two seconds for me to feel my world come to a stop.
The boy I
once knew is gone. There’s nothing boyish about Zach Watters anymore. His jaw
is now sharp, the stubble on it giving him a rugged look while accentuating his
full lips. His dark hair has silvered around the edges, drawing attention to
his expressive hazel eyes that look like they hold a thousand stories. His red
and black plaid shirt is stretched tight across broad shoulders, giving a
glimpse of the muscles it’s covering. He’s still every bit as beautiful as he
once was, only more so now that time has aged him, taking him from a handsome
boy to a gorgeous man.
I look at my son then back again. “Thanks,” I whisper, and Zach’s eyebrows pull
together as he sweeps his gaze over me. I have no doubt that I too have
changed, but unlike him, time hasn’t been good to me. I’ve gained a few too
many pound from eating my feelings over the last year. My skin has lost its
youthful glow, and my hair has grown out at the roots without my bi-monthly
he asks, but all I can do is confirm with a nod, since my mouth has dried up and
I can’t find my voice. “Jesus.” His eyes widen as he looks down at Hunter then
back toward me. “What are you doing here?”
son Hunter and I are moving in,” I stutter, caught off guard by his presence. I
wasn’t stupid enough to believe I wouldn’t see him when I moved home, but I had
convinced myself that seeing him would be on my terms, or sporadic at best.
he whispers, leaning back on his boots, crossing his arms over his chest.
his question, I start to move back toward the stairs, asking, “Do you mind
giving me the code for the alarm? I’m sure it’s somewhere in the papers the
lawyer sent, but...” I stop and look to the left when Zach’s name is called.
Standing on the porch of the house next door is a woman I know he got with a
few months after I left. A woman he married soon after she gave birth to their
twins. A woman I used to call my friend.
A woman I
absently hear him say something to her, but the nausea turning my stomach and
the sadness prickling my skin have me moving quickly up the steps, focusing on
not falling over as I move past him. “Never mind about the code. I’m sure I’ll
find it. Thanks for shutting off the alarm,” I mumble, as I walk through the
honey. Let’s have a look around, and then we need to get to the store.”
Hunter repeats, sounding confused. I plaster a fake smile on my face.
pizza place we drove past has the best pizza I’ve ever tasted. We could do that
here, honey.” I laugh, even though that laugh feels like glass edging down my
me for a long moment, he finally mutters, “Pizza sounds good. I’m gonna call
Dad before we go, and tell him we’re here.”
agree, watching him pull out his cell phone and walk toward the kitchen. I
didn’t agree that he needed a cell phone at his age, but like all things with
his dad, there was never any kind of conversation. He didn’t ask what I thought
about it; he just did what he wanted to do.
I hear a
familiar throat clear. “You’re back?” Zach asks from behind me, making my
shoulders slump forward and my eyes slide closed briefly.
turn to face him and wrap my arms around my waist, feeling my stomach twist
into knots. When I left town, we didn’t fight, didn’t yell at each other,
didn’t say things we would end up regretting one day. I just knew there was too
much pain between us to make what we had left work, and Zach, knowing the same,
didn’t put up a fight when I told him my plans.
staying here?” he asks, and I nod. Running a hand over his head as his eyes
move to the right, where Tina had been moments ago, before bringing his gaze
back to mine. “The code for the alarm is one, two, three, four. I told Pat to
change it, but you know Pat,” he mutters, and I nod, knowing exactly how
stubborn Gramps was. Shoving his hands into the front pocket of his jeans, his
voice drops. “I’m really sorry about Pat.”
“Thanks.” I hold myself a little tighter. His
eyes drop to my arms around my waist and soften before moving up to meet mine
need anything, I’m next door.” He lifts his chin in that direction, and my
world stops again.
maybe I should have guessed that, since Tina was over there, but I didn’t, and
this is not good… as in really not good. There is not one damn thing I can do
about it, though, unless I want to load Hunter back into the van and live out
of it for the next year or so, which I don’t think will win me any brownie
points with my son.
whisper pathetically, with nothing else to say. Something familiar-looking and
soft slides through his features, making my stomachache twist again, but this
time in a way I haven’t felt in a long time.
pause, needing this encounter to be over. “Thanks again for turning off the
alarm. I wish we had time to catch up,” I lie. “But I need to get to the store
before it closes, and then I need to get Hunter some food. Growing boys don’t
do well without food,” I ramble, as I put my hand to the door, wanting so badly
to shove it closed.
He nods then looks over my shoulder, into the house. “Nice meeting you,
too—” Hunter looks between Zach and me.
Watters, honey,” I mutter, answering his unspoken question, as he comes to
stand at my side with his cell phone in his hand.
Zach’s eyes come to me and his face softens
once more. “See you around, Shelby.”
see you around,” I lie again, since I plan to pretend he doesn’t exist from
this moment forward. I wait, even though I don’t want to, until he is walking
away to close the door then stand there for a moment, trying to process what
you know him, Mom?” Hunter asks.
was younger,” I say, turning to face him, “we were friends.” I shrug, looking
toward the stairs. “My room used to be in the attic—it’s the best room in the
house—and if you make it there before me, I’ll let you have it.” I raise my
brows before taking off in a sprint up the stairs, listening to my son, who I
haven’t heard laugh in weeks, giggle as he runs up the stairs behind me.
this is awesome.”
over my shoulder at Hunter I smile as he walks into the room with wide eyes. “I
told you it’s the coolest room in the house.” I used to love hanging out up
here when I was a teenager. The vastness of the space, with its angled ceilings
and four large skylights, was a cool place to spend time. Looking at my son
now, I can see the excitement in his eyes as he wanders around the room.
think I could get a telescope?” he asks, looking up at the cloud-covered sky
through one of the skylights.
I bump my shoulder with his as I walk past him toward the couch in the corner
that’s covered with a sheet and pull it off. “We may also want to find a cover
for this thing while we’re at it,” I say, looking from the floral-covered couch
to his scrunched up face.
He nods, moving to the bed, where he rips off the sheet that is covering the
mattress. “I can’t wait to tell Dad about this. He’s going to think it’s so
cool,” he mutters, and I bite my tongue to keep from saying, No, your dad will
definitely not think it’s cool.
Hunter’s father, grew up wealthy. He never owned anything that had been used.
Even when we got married, he insisted I sell the Victorian house I bought when
I graduated college, wanting instead for us to buy a newly built house in a
cliché subdivision, where all of his friends lived. Shortly thereafter, he insisted
I sell all of my old furniture, things I had bought secondhand and refurbished
over the years. At the time, I was blinded by hope and love, so I didn’t think
anything about it. But over time, I slowly realized I was no longer the person
I used to be. I had turned into a trophy wife who lived in a show home and
neither of us had any real character.
Hunter calls, bringing me out of my thoughts, and I turn to look at him and
notice he has a stack of photos in his hand. “Who’s this?”
my mom,” I say softly, while walking over to where he’s sitting on the bed,
holding out a picture of my mom and me. In the photo, we’re sitting outside on
the porch, with our arms wrapped around each other, smiling at the camera.
like her,” he says thoughtfully. “You have her eyes and hair.”
think so?” I ask, looking at my mom, who had to have been about my age when the
photo was taken. She was beautiful, with long dark blonde hair, big blue eyes,
and a smile that lit up the world.
He nods then looks at me, and asks quietly, “Do you miss her?”
day.” I nod, taking the photo from his hands. “She gave the best hugs,” I say,
fighting back the tears I feel creeping up my throat. My mom and dad both died
in a plane crash when I was fifteen. My father was the owner and pilot of a
local adventure company, and he had taken my mom with him to drop off supplies
to some men who were bear hunting out at one of the islands. On their way back
into town, the weather shifted, and their plane went down on one of the
mountains. Neither of them survived. That’s when I moved to Cordova to live
with my dad’s parents.
have any pictures of your dad?”
trying to recall if I’ve ever really spoken to Hunter about my parents, if Max
ever asked about them, but I can’t think of a single time. “There are a few
downstairs on the wall. I’ll point them out to you.” I lean into him a little
then stop when his arm wraps around my shoulders, surprising me. “I love you,
kid,” I whisper, not surprised when he doesn’t say it back, but happy that his
arm tightens ever so slightly.
starving.” He chuckles releasing me when his stomach growls loudly, breaking
have that.” I laugh, standing from the bed. “Let’s go to Joe’s. Hopefully, the
pizza is still awesome. If not, you’re gonna have to suffer and eat it anyway,
‘cause the store is probably closed by now.
such a thing as bad pizza?”
we’ll find out,” I murmur, and then head out of the room and down the stairs,
grabbing my purse as we leave.
make it to Joe’s, I find nothing has changed in the years I’ve been gone. The
owner Joe, an older Korean gentleman, is still in the back making the pizzas,
and his wife Kim is still working the counter, gossiping about everything and
everyone. While we wait for our pizza, Kim talks my ear off, telling me about
the people in town, including Zach, who she informs me is not only a cop, but
also the sheriff. She also tells me that Zach is single. He and Tina supposedly
got divorced nine years ago, and Zach has had full custody of both his kids
since then. I tell myself I don’t care that Zach is no longer with Tina, but I
still feel some relief knowing I won’t have to witness seeing them together.
sleep in my room tonight?” Hunter asks, as I finish off my third slice of pizza
and wipe my mouth with a paper towel.
mind, but everything in the house needs to be washed. So if you want to sleep
up there, we have to get your stuff from the van.”
it, and then we can bring in everything else too.”
to clean out the van?” I ask, not at all excited about lugging stuff up three
flights of stairs.
He nods again, taking his half of the pizza box lid that he used as a plate to
the trash bin.
that’s what you want,” I agree, regretting those words an hour later as I head
out for the last box. My arms and legs are tired from carting everything inside
and up the stairs. I haven’t worked out in the last year, and I can feel it now
as every muscle in my body protest.
when I hear a door close, I hold the box in my hands closer to my chest and
look toward the house next door. I spot a handsome blond boy, who looks a lot
like Zach, hopping down the steps, with Tina following close behind. Ducking
down, I hide and watch them as they get into an old pickup truck, only coming
out of hiding when they drive off.
over fifteen years to deal with the adoption of Samuel should make it easier to
see Zach’s other children, but it doesn’t. I still feel bitter about the
situation. I know it’s the fact that Zach’s children were born a little over a
year after Samuel, meaning Tina got pregnant not long after I left town. So not
only did Zach have a relationship with Tina, but he built a family with her and
kept the kids they had together.
back into the house with the final box, I wonder how I’m going to do what I’ve
been doing for the last fifteen years. It was easy to block out thoughts of
Zach when I was gone, but now that I’m back and living next door to him, I
wonder if it will be as easy to ignore the feeling in my chest that coincides
with thoughts of him.
my quilt from the end the my bed, I carefully balance my Kindle and glass of
wine in one hand as I open the sliding glass door in my room and step out onto
the balcony. Tonight is one of the first nights it hasn’t rained since we moved
in, and I have been looking forward to sitting outside under the stars with a
good book all day long. Grabbing my glass, I take a sip then look to the left
when the sound of rock music starts up and light flutters across the back deck
next door, making me wonder if Zach’s room is off the balcony like mine.
that thought away, I turn on my Kindle then proceed to get lost in someone
else’s happily ever after.
Jumping, some of the contents from the glass in my hand sloshes out over the
side and runs down my fingers as I swing my head to the left, where Zach is
leaning on the banister, his eyes on me. A short glass full of dark liquid is
in his hands, and the light casts a glow behind him.
scared the crap out of me,” I gripe, holding my free hand over my rapidly
been standing here awhile,” he mutters, then takes a swig of his drink. “I
thought you would have noticed.” He rolls the glass between his hands while
looking at me intently, making me fight the urge to squirm in my chair.
lost in a good book, the world could crash down around me and I wouldn’t
notice.” I shrug, taking a sip of wine, using the moment of reprieve as an
excuse to look away from him, but realizing for the first time that I don’t
know the man standing across from me. Yes, he looks a little like the guy I
dated years ago, but he also seems more intense, like he has the weight of the
world on his shoulders. He’s definitely not the easygoing kid I dated in high
you guys settling in?”
my legs out from under me, I rest my Kindle on the edge of my lap and turn to
face him fully while adjusting the blanket.
going to take a little bit to get everything cleaned up. I didn’t know Gramps
was such a hoarder until now. I think I’ve thrown out about ten thousand issues
of National Geographic, along with a hundred empty boxes and every single item
you can possibly buy from an infomercial,” I reply, then smile when he laughs a
deep rumbling laugh and leans a little farther over the railing between us,
causing another plaid shirt—this one blues and yellows—to tighten across his
didn’t keep them? You never know when you might need an automatic potato
thought about it, but if I did, I wouldn’t have anywhere to put my shoes, since
all of it was stacked up on the floor in his closet, everything unopened.” I
smile, watching him grin for a moment before the smile slides away and his eyes
move beyond me to the forest that sits behind the house.
gonna miss him. I know he’s been gone from town for years, but I’ll miss our
talks,” he mutters, then looks up at the sky for a moment before meeting my
gaze once more. “Why’d you come back? Last time I talked to Pat, he told me you
were planning on following him down to Florida.”
catch me off guard, since Gramps never told me he kept in contact with Zach.
But then again, I never asked. I shouldn’t be surprised they kept in touch,
since they we’re close when I was home, and were obviously neighbors before Gramps
moved to Florida. Plus, Zach is the sheriff in town. Yet, it still feels
strange that he knows about me, while I know nothing about him.
I let out a breath, adjusting the blanket around my shoulders. “But I had to
wait until…” I trail off, not wanting to talk about my divorce to anyone,
especially not him. “Then when Gramps passed away, there was nothing for me in
Florida, so I decided to come back here instead.”
didn’t want to stay in Seattle?”
needed something different, so when I found out Gramps left me his house, I
just knew I needed to come back here,” I whisper the truth. Ever since I read
the will and found out this house was mine to do with as I please, I had a
feeling in my gut that I couldn’t get rid of. Something telling me that I
needed to come back here.
a good town,” he murmurs, but the look in his eyes is saying something I can’t
quite figure out.
the last place I remember being really happy. I hope that I can make it that
way for Hunter,” I say quietly, and his face softens.
like you.” His words and tone catch me by surprise and I sit up a little
taller. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be sitting on my
granddad’s deck in the middle of the night talking to Zach about anything.
Definitely not about my son.
wouldn’t say that if you saw his dad,” I return honestly. “When he was a baby,
he looked like me, but not any more.”
your eyes and your smile.” He pauses, taking a drink from his glass. “He seems
like a good kid.”
best kid.” I take a sip of wine, trying to keep whatever it is I’m feeling
right now in check.
think I saw your son. Um, the other day. He looks like you,” I tell him,
wanting to take the words back after I say them, because I don’t want him to
think I was spying on him.
like his mom, but has my personality, which I can’t decide if it’s a good thing
or not. My daughter, Aubrey, on the other hand, looks like me, but is sweet
down to her core. Where she gets that sweetness, I have no fucking clue.”
bite my lip, trying to figure out what to say to that. The Zach I knew was a
good guy, sweet even. Tina, however, was mostly bitch, and I honestly don’t
even know why we were friends. Then again, growing up here, there weren’t a
hundred girls to choose from. My graduating class had five girls in it, and
none of them liked Tina, which meant none of them really liked me either.
go in,” he says abruptly, cutting into my thoughts, standing to his full
height. “I need to be to the station early tomorrow.”
uh… have a good night.” The urge to say something that will make him stay hits
me hard, and it takes everything I have in me to keep my mouth shut.
Shelby. And be careful when you’re out here reading. Louie’s out and about
around this time of night, searching for food.”
I question, scrunching up my nose. Cordova never had homeless people before,
and I can’t imagine it would now.
a black bear. Normally, he sticks to the woods, but he’s been known to nap on
the decks now and then.
man.” I jump up, looking around for any sign of Louie, not sure how I could
forget there are bears out here, since we are in Alaska. “What’s funny?” I
frown, turning to face him when I hear his deep laughter.
in Alaska, babe. You lived here for years. You know there are bears out in
those woods.” He nods to the trees.
Why, oh, why did that word make butterflies erupt in my stomach?
that, but I forgot.” I shake my head and watch his face soften once again.
sweet as pie,” I think I hear him say, but can’t be sure, because his voice
dropped to a low rumble that I felt skid across my skin.
I’m gonna go in too,” I blurt, picking up my Kindle and wine glass. “Have a
good night.” And with that, I duck my head and go back into my room. Closing
the door I lock it behind me then hurry and get into bed where I try to forget
once more about Zach Watters.
“Hello?” I answer the phone, still
half asleep, then look at the clock and notice that even though it’s light out,
it’s barely 6:00 a.m.
I’ve called three times,” Max, my ex-husband, says into my ear, and I pull my
pillow over my head with thoughts of suffocating myself with it.
only six, Max. I haven’t gotten out of bed,” I grumble, tossing the covers back
and sitting up. “What’s going on?”
to fly out there this weekend,” he states, and I fight the urge to toss my
phone across the room or scream at the top of my lungs.
weekend?” I verify, rubbing my face. “We haven’t even been here a week.”
“I have a
few days off and would like to see Hunter.”
considering him and his request. “Our stuff is going to be delivered in two days.
Then I start my new job next week, and Hunter has swi—”
not keeping my boy from me,” he cuts me off, and I can tell by his tone that
he’s mad and likely pulling at his ever-present tie in annoyance. Something I
make him do often.
saying you can’t see him, Max,” I clarify, wishing I had at least one cup of
coffee before this conversation. “I’m just explaining to you that we’re trying
to get settled in here. Can you wait a few weeks before you come out?”
fucking bullshit. I can’t believe you moved to Alaska, of all goddamn places. A
boy should have his dad in his life.” My heart stutters and I feel my pulse
skyrocket. We didn’t have a custody battle, but I wouldn’t put it past Max to
take me to court to gain custody of Hunter if I step out of line in his eyes.
soften my voice as I walk to the kitchen, “you know we talked about this. You
can come see him anytime, and in a couple years, he can fly out to see you
whenever he has a break,” I say, then drop my voice even lower. “We agreed on
him living with me at least until he’s sixteen. After that, he can choose who
he wants to live with.”
you both.” He sighs, making me roll my eyes. I know he doesn’t miss me. I know
this, because he’s been dating woman after woman since I asked for a
separation. For all I know, he was dating before that. Hell, the last year I
spent under the same roof as him, he hardly spared me a glance. Hunter later
suffered from his lack of attention, when we lived in the same town after our
separation. With Max, it’s always about him getting his way.
please just wait a few more weeks, and then you can come and stay as long as
you like,” I offer, the words leaving a horrid taste in my mouth. I will do
whatever I have to in order to keep my son, though, including putting up with
his dad in my childhood home for more than a few days.
my eyes, I whisper, “Next month. Whenever you like. Just let me know, so I can
make sure I don’t make plans for Hunter. I know there are a few camps here he’s
Where is he now? I called his cell phone, but he didn’t pick up.”
Like I said, it’s only six here, and he was up late talking to his friends back
in Seattle on Skype.”
really shouldn’t let him stay up so late, Shelby,” he scolds, sounding
disapproving, and again, that’s not a surprise.
summer, Max, and his ‘late’ is ten, not three in the morning,” I mutter,
wondering how the hell I put up with him for so many years. “I’ll have him call
you when he gets up.”
tell him I’m coming out. I want to tell him that myself.”
do,” I grumble, looking at the coffee pot and begging it to hurry up.
you later,” I agree, setting the phone down on the counter. I make myself a cup
of coffee and take it out to the back deck, drinking it while the morning sun
beats down on me.
That moment you love someone more than
you love yourself.
That was the moment we gave our son up
for adoption and the moment I was left bare. A wide-open space that would
forever be empty.
There are moments that define you as a
person, moments that prove just how strong you are, moments you push yourself
to keep going forward when all you really want to do is give up. It was in one
of those moments when I reached out and found him waiting for me.
When Shelby Calder left home fifteen
years ago, she never planned on returning to the Alaskan town she left behind. But
after the death of her grandfather and a bitter divorce, she hopes going home
will be a fresh start for her and her ten-year-old son.
Zach Watters has made a lot of mistakes
in his life. But when he sees Shelby Calder, looking more beautiful than ever,
standing outside her childhood home, he promises himself that letting her go
won't be a mistake he ever makes again.
Some things never change and love is one
Aurora Rose Reynolds is a navy brat who's
husband served in the United States Navy. She has lived all over the country
but now resides in New York City with her Husband and pet fish. She's married
to an alpha male that loves her as much as the men in her books love their
women. He gives her over the top inspiration everyday. In her free time she
reads, writes and enjoys going to the movies with her husband and cookie. She
also enjoys taking mini weekend vacations to nowhere, or spends time at home
with friends and family. Last but not least she appreciates everyday and
admires it's beauty.