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10 years ago, I lost her.
I made my billions, and then I built my fortress.
But will she stay mine when her memories return?
*** This is a full length novel with a happily ever after, no cliffhanger, no cheating, and plenty of steam. ***
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Is this actually happening?
I stared out of the window of the car at the trees that were sweeping past as we bumped and bounced our way through the dips in a road that had taken a decidedly disheartening shift from smoothly paved to uneven gravel to worn dirt. The woods around me looked like it had to be teeming with starving artists ready to burst out from behind the trees and hunker over their canvasses to paint the undeniably picturesque scene as quickly as they could before withering beneath the sheer weight of their artistic angst and the disappointment from their family. We continued on through the woods and suddenly the trees broke at the end of a curve, revealing the cabin that my parents had rented for our Thanksgiving celebration. The driver brought the car to a stop and I didn’t bother to wait for him to open the door. I stared at the cabin incredulously as I stepped sideways out of the car and let the door remain open as I took a few steps forward.
There has to be a tiny old woman holding a massive turkey at a ridiculous angle around here somewhere, expecting the magic of the season and the admiration of her family to defy the physics that were making her presentation of their feast a potentially dangerous impossibility.
“Isn’t it wonderful, Charlotte?” my mother said with a distinct trill in her voice.
I knew by that sound that she wasn’t entirely convinced by the whole concept of the rented cabin, either. That was one of the things about her that no one who knew her for more than a few days could get around, likely because she didn’t even realize that she did it. It was her tell. The higher that her voice got, and the wider that her eyes grew, the more she was either straight out lying or at least trying to convince the people around her of something. At this point it seemed that she was in full denial, but if an entire lifetime of knowing her had taught me anything, it was that she wouldn’t let up her charade throughout the trip. She would go to her grave swearing that this was the best Thanksgiving that we had ever spent as a family. And, lord help us, she would fully expect us to agree with her.
“It’s definitely something,” I said.
“I think it’s lovely,” Mom said, her voice creeping up even higher.
“Explain to me again why you thought that we needed to come all the way up to the top of a mountain to celebrate Thanksgiving.”
“Well, we aren’t really at the top of the mountain,” she said.
Of course not. Because that would just be ridiculous.
“All right. Then explain to me again why you thought we needed to come all the way up to almost the top of a mountain to celebrate Thanksgiving.”
“Your father and I just thought that it would be nice to have a change of pace. It’s so beautiful up here,” she said, looking around the woods and trying her best not to shudder.
My mother was many things, but a nature-lover was certainly not one of them. The most in touch with the Earth that I think that I had ever seen her get was when she participated in stomping the divots back during a polo game. Come to think of it, even that was somewhat traumatizing, and I couldn’t remember attending another game with her after that. Whatever her motivation for renting this cabin and bring us all up here for the week, it must be something serious. It wasn’t that we didn’t celebrate the holidays together. We were a family like any other. It was just that us celebrating Thanksgiving generally meant my sisters and their families all going to our parents’ home and sitting at an almost comically long table to eat a feast prepared not by our mother or grandmother, but by members of our staff. In all honesty, they might as well be members of our family. Many of them have been with my family since well before even my oldest sister was born, so in a way I suppose that was almost traditional. That made it seem even stranger when at the beginning of November my mother and father suddenly announced that they had rented a quaint little cabin in the woods so that we could get away for the Thanksgiving holiday. It would be so much more personal, they assured us. So cozy. We would be able to focus so much more on each other and making memories.
These are all things that I would have liked, of course. I would have loved to think that we would spend the week bonding, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Unfortunately, there was not a doubt in my mind that there were other reasons why they had planned to bring us up here. I could only imagine the gears were turning in my mother’s mind even as I walked up the drive towards the steps that led on to the wide porch of the cabin. There was a reason that we were here. Soon enough I would find out what it was.