It was just supposed to be a vacation.
It’s been over a year since Sara’s husband died. The one thing she doesn’t want is another Christmas at home without him. So, budget be damned, she books a ski trip to the Rockies. A change in scenery, she figures, would do her and her two sons a world of good.
After another fight with his on-again off-again girlfriend, Ty hops a flight out of LA. Destination: the mountains. Plan: ski as much as possible. Then he’ll head back to LA and be just fine, playing out with his band every weekend. When he sees Sara from the chairlift, kicking butt on one of the toughest trails on the mountain, he decides right then and there to add her to his to do list.
Sara is flattered when Ty approaches her, but a no strings attached encounter isn’t her style. “Thanks but no thanks,” she tells him. What she doesn’t know is that Ty isn’t the type to quit before he gets what he wants. And what Ty doesn’t know is that a week is not going to be enough. Not even close.
This is Book One of Ty and Sara’s story. Book Two: My Angel and Book Three: Forever is Here, may be found on Amanda Wilhelm’s Amazon page.
Targeted Age Group:: 18
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My first book ended in such tragedy that I had to write something with a happy ending. So Unexpected started with the idea of two people trying to avoid their real life and meeting on vacation. When I wrote the book I didn't have an outline or an idea about where it was going. I realized it was going to be in three parts and decided that each book of the trilogy would be the name of a song in the book.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I have a things for musicians, (I married one 🙂 so that was an easy choice. Sara isn't me, but when I wrote I felt everything she felt, especially in her relationships with her kids. I know how kids behave at those ages but it was fun to come up with specific situations for them.
Sara checked the clock as she slid around the gate into the ski lift line. It wasn't actually a line, there was no one waiting. She saw that it was quarter to four, so that meant this would be her last run, then she had to head right to the ski school and pick the boys up. She had till four-thirty to get there but she probably wouldn't make the chair for another run anyway, at least not without skiing crazy fast, and she wasn't about to do that. Last thing she needed was to hurt herself, they still had three days of skiing left.
Sara settled herself into the chair and took a deep breath. She was tired, but a good kind of tired. She could definitely feel the effects of the higher elevation. Last night, after skiing with the boys, she had slept like a rock. It had been a long time since she had a good night's sleep like that. They said if you moved to a higher elevation it took about six months, for your body to compensate for it, and start manufacturing more red blood cells. Could be worth it, if you got to sleep like that for six months.
Sara shook her head and muttered "no" to herself. "Great, now I'm talking to myself," she thought. Luckily there was no one around to hear her anyway. She looked down off the lift and up at the chairs ahead of her. Maybe a couple of people, five or six chairs ahead of her, but that was it. Didn't matter. The thought of moving appealed to her just about every day. A fresh start was probably just what she needed. But the boys? A move on top of everything else would be too much.
Robbie seemed really happy yesterday. It made Sara think the vacation was a good decision, although she knew full well she might not feel the same, a couple of weeks from now, when the credit card bills started coming in. She had been over the numbers and she had the money for it. But taking the money out of savings for this scared her. What if she needed it for something else, a couple of months from now?
"Don't think about that," Sara told herself firmly. This wasn't just a vacation. It was, what? A mini fresh start? A chance for the kids to enjoy their Christmas. Last Christmas had been absolute hell. Their dad, Sara's husband, had died at the end of November. They had spent Thanksgiving in the hospice with him, but Sara doubted Dan had even known they were there by that point. After Dan's funeral Sara had run around like crazy. She knew a giant pile of presents wouldn't make up for it, but she did it anyway. Robbie had opened his presents with the least amount of enthusiasm any kid had ever shown on Christmas morning. Ben had been a little better, but Sara could see his apprehension, glancing at Robbie for approval, afraid Robbie would lash out at him if he did something Robbie deemed inappropriate.
Sara had saved the hockey tickets for the last present. Dan always ordered them, the day the tickets went on sale for the season, to make sure they had a game to go to over the kids' winter break. When they had gotten to the point where there was no hope left, Dan had been very proactive, about making sure Sara knew everything he thought she needed to know. They talked a lot. By then even talking wore Dan out and he would go to sleep after. After those talks Sara would lock herself in the bathroom and cry. During one of those talks Dan gave her the hockey tickets, and made her promise to give them to the boys on Christmas morning, like always.
Sara had debated long and hard about writing from "Dad" or from "Mom" on the gift tag. In the end she chickened out and wrote "Santa". It had been a tradition, one that started when Sara and Dan were dating. He gave her the tickets as one of her Christmas presents the first year they were dating. Robbie was six weeks old, the first time they took him, in his teeny little jersey. One of her favorite pictures was of the three of them at that game. It hung in the collection of family pictures on the staircase landing in their house. Her house?
When she wrapped the tickets for the boys this year, there were only three tickets to put in the box. One ticket she had given to the undertaker, to give to Dan. Sara hadn't thought about the actual game. How the empty seat would look, or make her feel. The crowd went nuts in the third period, but Sara could barely hear it. It seemed like there was a wall projecting out of that seat, around them, separating them from everyone and everything around them. Finally Sara had nudged Robbie and asked him if they should leave. "Beat the traffic," she had said. He agreed and Ben hadn't objected.
They stopped in the rest rooms, before they left, and Sara had cried in the stall. Thankfully there was no one in the bathroom, the game was far too exciting to break away from. It was short lived though, by necessity. Sara hated sending Robbie and Ben into a public rest room by themselves. One of the many things she was going to have to get used to.
The drive home was quiet. Too quiet, when Sara was used to Robbie and Ben tormenting each other and bickering in the car all the time. Sara used the time on the ride home to berate herself, for asking Robbie if they should leave the game. He's eleven and you need to be the parent. He needs time to be a kid.
Exactly, that's what this vacation is all about. They need to be kids. They need to enjoy Christmas. Please let them have had a good day. Please let them be happy when I pick them up. Especially Robbie. Sara knew she had to find a way to make sure the boys had a real childhood. One that wasn't just about their dad getting sick and dying. Please let me find a way to do that.
Sara shifted to the front of the chair and prepared to ski off the lift, as the chair approached the top. "You'll see them in twenty minutes," she told herself. Now get your head where it needs to be, getting down this mountain. Sara stood up as her skis touched the snow and skied off the lift and down the ramp. She cleared her head and prepared to make the most of her last run of the day. "You deserve a good Christmas too," she told herself. At least take this run and give it all you got. Sara committed to blocking out anything and everything, except skiing, for as long as it took to get down, slipped her hands into her pole straps and took off.
Ty slid into the gate next to the two guys waiting.
"You mind if I ride with you?" he asked the two guys already in the gate.
There was no one else in the line, but Ty was kind of tired of riding the lift by himself. It seemed like he hadn't talked to anyone all day.
"No problem," one of them said, and they all skated out to catch the next chair.
"You here on vacation?" the guy next to Ty asked.
"Yes," Ty told him.
"Us too," the guy replied, "We're from Connecticut."
"LA," Ty said.
They made small talk for a couple of minutes. Ty glossed over his music career and focused on the construction work which made up the bulk of his employment. At least it did as far as bringing in the majority of his income. That particular topic of conversation made him think about Missy, which was the last thing he wanted to think about. After all that was the reason he was here. He thought about the message she had left him, on his cell phone, Christmas morning. He had listened to it waiting in line for security, at the airport. Then he had texted her that he was boarding a plane to Colorado and would call her when he got back. Then he had turned his phone off.
Ty guessed he would have to call her when he got back. Although she had said it was over and kicked him out of her bed, her beachside condo and her life Christmas Eve, her message Christmas Day made it clear she didn't mean it. Again. Trouble was, this time, Ty had accepted it as fact and actually found, to his surprise, all he was feeling, driving back to his crappy apartment with Andre was relief. Now he was determined to make it stick this time.
There was a slim chance someone might call, looking for Ty to fix something around their home, while he was gone but, as he had been scheduled to work all week, he wouldn't have been free to do any extra jobs anyway. Ty had called his boss and left a message Christmas Eve after he booked the flight. Gill had texted him Christmas morning. "You're a dick and I wish I could fire you. Keep this shit up and one day I will." Ty wasn't worried about that. Ty knew his way around all aspects of a construction site and Gill was used to him missing a day here, or a week here. Once, over beers, Gill had confessed that Ty was the best worker Gill had ever had. They weren't quite friends, but Ty always worked his ass off for Gill, which Gill respected, and in turn Gill didn't mind Ty missing time occasionally, to play an out of town gig with the band.
"Hey there she is," said the second guy.
Ty looked down at the trail and saw a woman in a red coat and purple helmet bombing down the mogul run. He had been down that run, earlier in the day, and had realized he hadn't been skiing in a lot longer than he had thought. It was a very tough run, but she was making it look easy.
"She's a ski nanny," the first guy said.
"We think she's a ski nanny," the second guy corrected him, then for Ty's benefit he added, "We saw her skiing with a couple of kids yesterday."
Ty wasn't really sure what a ski nanny was, but he didn't care that much. Any women who could ski like that was definitely interesting. Ty had dated some nannies, when he and Andre had first moved to Los Angeles. The memories made him smile.
"Have a good run," one of the Connecticut guys told him.
They were almost to the top.
"You too," Ty replied.
They all skied off the lift together and separated, the two guys from Connecticut heading off immediately, to the trail to the left of the mogul run. Ty decided the mogul run was worth another shot. He took a minute adjusting his goggles and pole straps and prepared to ski down. It had been almost four o'clock when he had boarded the chair, so this was the last run of the day. He took a minute to ponder his chance of seeing the ski nanny again. The way she was skiing he'd never catch up with her on the mountain. Probably a lost cause. As he took off down the trail he resolved to keep an eye out for a red jacket paired with a purple helmet. Just in case.
Sara stopped to check-in at the front desk of the ski school.
"Can I help you?" the girl behind the desk smiled at Sara.
"I'm here to get my kids," Sara told her.
"Rob and Ben Wilson."
The girl bent her head over the clipboard.
"Yup, go on in. Just stop back out here and sign them out when you leave, okay?”
Sara nodded her consent and walked into the ski school. She congratulated herself on remembering to say "Rob" instead of "Robbie". In her head, and her heart, he was still Robbie, but in the meantime it seemed right to honor his wishes. Maybe one day he wouldn't mind if she started calling him Robbie again, though she suspected he might be thirty or older before that happened.
Sara was constantly torn with both boys, but less so with Ben, with how much to give in and how much to expect from them. Finally, at the one year mark of Dan's death, she had told herself that she had to commit to the same level of expectations she'd had for the kids before Dan got sick. No more using Dan's death as an excuse for them, or herself. She tried to keep her expectations reasonable for an eight and twelve year old. She checked in with her friends who had kids the same age, to see if their behavior was normal, or at least normalish, since normal seemed impossible to define. She searched for parenting books on the internet and borrowed any that seemed hopeful, from the library. Still she was plagued by the feeling that whatever she did it would never be enough.
The ski school pickup area was a big room set up like a cafeteria. There were long rows of tables and chairs. Right now it was teeming with a couple of dozen kids of all ages, parents who were arriving for pick up, and the ski instructors, who were mostly hanging out on the side, unable to tear their eyes from their cell phones. Sara had entered in the middle of the room and she scanned the room to the right of her, looking for her boys.
Sara heard Ben call from behind her. She turned around. Ben barreled into her, wrapping his arms around her. She smoothed his hair, taking comfort in the feel of it and his excited attitude. "The trip was a good idea," she told herself.
"I did the rail, Mom!" Ben was practically yelling, he was so excited, "Curtis showed me how to do it. Just the little one, but Robbie did the big one!"
Sara looked at Robbie for confirmation and to see if he noticed Ben's slip up. On one particularly bad day, back in the fall, Robbie had slugged Ben with no warning, when Ben called him Robbie instead of Rob. But Robbie was smiling.
"Rob?" Sara asked him.
"Oops, Rob, I meant Rob, I'm sorry," Ben was babbling.
"Rob?" Sara asked him, again.
"It was pretty cool, Mom," Robbie told her, "Curtis's a really good teacher."
Robbie was never the type to get excited. He and Ben couldn't be more different in that way, Sara reminded herself. She let go of Ben and reached for Robbie. He let her hug him, but not for long.
"I'm glad you had fun," she told him quietly, before he slipped out of her grasp, making a mental note to give Curtis a big tip at the end of the week, assuming both her kids still had all their teeth. The rails in the terrain parks seemed awfully dangerous to Sara.
He nodded at her, but Ben was already onto the next thing.
"Can we go get the cookies now Mom? Can we?"
"Ben calm down, Mom said maybe we would get cookies."
Sara normally would have told Robbie to let her do the parenting, please, but she decided to let this one slide. Besides she was starving and when they had spied those cookies in the (closed) bakery window, walking home from dinner, the night before, they looked amazing.
"Let's go get cookies," Sara told them, and earned another smile from Robbie.
She started to ask him if he was hungry, the ski school included lunch, and snacks, she was curious what they had eaten that day, but Ben was running for the door and Robbie took off after him. Sara's rented skis and poles were checked for the night, but she still had her ski boots and helmet, which she had brought from home. Running was out of the question. The kids had rented all their equipment, so they were just in their regular boots. Sara caught up with them at the desk and signed them out.
"I can't walk that fast you guys, so no running, okay. Ben," Sara put a little emphasis on the last word, but kept it light.
Inside she felt as light as Ben was acting. It wasn't the first time she felt okay since Dan had died, but she was learning not to feel guilty about it. Dan hadn't wanted her to spend the rest of her life being sad.
The three of them made their way through the ski town. Sara longed to stop and linger at the windows along the street. She stopped in front of an art gallery but, in the time it took to glance at the oversized painting in the window, the boys were quickly two stores ahead of her. She caught up with them and they walked a couple more blocks, to the bakery.
Keeping Ben in check kept the pace manageable for Sara, but a couple of times she pulled the kids up against the building they were walking by, to let people pass. There were a lot of people in town, for the holiday week, and the streets were bustling.
Finally they got to the bakery and Sara reached for the door. As she pulled it open a man's arm reached from behind her and grabbed it.
"Thanks," Sara said, glancing at the man.
He was tall and she had to look up to see his face, even in her ski boots. She was struck by his blue eyes, which were a sharp contrast to his darker hair, but then she was in the bakery and the kids were clamoring in front of the display case.
"That one," Robbie said, every bit as excited as his younger brother.
"Yes," Ben agreed, and turned to Sara for approval.
"Which one?" Sara asked them.
The cookies were huge, thick and chunky, but made impossibly amazing by the fact that they were sold in pairs, two cookies sandwiching what had to be a full inch of butter cream frosting. Sara was a nut for frosting. After spying them in the bakery window, on the way back to the hotel the night before, Sara's brief thoughts, before slipping into unconsciousness, had been, chocolate chip cookie, naturally, but chocolate butter cream or vanilla, chocolate or vanilla?
Unfortunately the one the boys were pointing to was neither. They agreed on (oh yeah, this they decide to agree on) the M&M cookie, with some sort of rainbow colored frosting. Sara could just imagine the taste of all that food coloring. Sara hated the taste of food coloring and she had no desire to waste calories on that. And, at seven dollars for one of these unbelievable creations, she was only buying one. She decided to try to change their minds.
"You want that one?" she said keeping her tone light, "What about the chocolate chip? Look you can get chocolate or vanilla frosting with that one."
"That one," Ben said, pointing to the rainbow colored abomination.
Sara decided to try reason.
"It's just going to taste like food coloring," she said, a little bit of pleading in her voice.
"Let's vote," Robbie said, "all in favor of the rainbow cookie," Robbie and Ben both raised their hands, "rainbow it is."
"Oh this they want to put to a vote," thought Sara. But she was too happy to see Robbie happy and acting like a kid again, to really be mad, and besides, it was just a cookie. Both boys were grinning at her like crazy.
"Fine," Sara said, in an over exasperated voice, but she was really more than happy to let them get the better of her.
Sara shooed the boys to a table, ordered the cookie, asked for it to be cut in half and paid for it. She walked over to the table and handed each kid their half. Robbie took a huge bite, but Ben could barely get his mouth around the thing and ended up smearing frosting all over his nose. Sara suppressed a laugh and headed back to the counter for napkins, while Ben tried a different approach, namely licking the frosting out of the middle.
The man who had held the door open for them was paying at the counter, and Sara waited for him to step out of the way, so she could reach the napkins. He stepped away and Sara grabbed some napkins and turned around to go back to the boys. She almost bumped into the man, who hadn't moved from the counter.
"Oh, excuse me, sorry," Sara said.
She got a better look at him this time, but started to continue around him. He stepped quickly to his right, so he was directly in front of her again. Sara stopped quickly, confused.
"Oh, sorry," he said.
Sara was about to continue around him again, when he held out his hand. There was half a cookie in it.
"I thought," he paused, "you might want this."
Sara looked at the cookie sandwich, it was a chocolate chip with the chocolate frosting. She looked back at this face and when her eyes met his, those blue eyes he had, she felt something. Something she hadn't felt in a really long time. At the same time she was a little embarrassed, about making such a big deal over a cookie, that a total stranger noticed.
"Oh, was I that obvious?" she said.
"Pretty much," he smiled at her, and held out the cookie, "here."
Sara took it and thanked him. She couldn't think of anything else to say, but part of her was sure she didn't want that to be the end of the conversation.
"I think I saw you skiing today," he said.
That surprised her.
He gestured to the helmet she had hanging off her arm.
"I recognized your, helmet, coat, you know, you're a really good skier."
Sara was again at a loss for words. She was a good skier. Her Dad had been a total ski nut and had taken her out on the slopes as soon as she could walk. She wasn't sure where the man was going with this line of conversation. Did he want a free lesson or something? Out of habit she glanced over at the boys. They were relishing their treat and talking happily. The man noticed her glance.
"Look," he said, "I know this is really forward of me, but would you want to meet for dinner later? Or drinks maybe? I mean, what time do you get off work?"
"Oh I'm here on vacation," Sara told him, "I don't live her."
She stored the fact that he was actually interested in her for future consideration, but realized that going out for dinner or drinks was absolutely impossible.
"Oh, okay," he said, "but do you have to take the kids to dinner? We could meet for drinks later, after their parents get back?"
Sara wasn't sure what he was talking about, so she just repeated it back to him, realizing she sounded like a parrot and hating it.
"Their parents?" she asked him.
"Yes, their parents," he said, turning slightly and pointing to the boys.
"They're my kids," Sara told him, not quite offended, but still feeling kind of weird about the situation.
"Aren't you the nanny?" he asked her.
"No, they're my kids," Sara told him.
He took a couple of seconds to process that.
Then he asked her, "Are you sure?"
Sara almost laughed out loud, but he seemed so earnest and that made him seem sweet in a way. Really, am I sure that I gave birth to two kids and raised them for twelve and eight years, you don't make mistakes about that. So she pretended to ponder it a couple of seconds, the way he had, and then answered him.
"Hmmm, let me see, yes, I'm sure."
Right on cue Ben called out, "Mom."
"Just a minute," Sara told him.
Now the guy seemed embarrassed. Sara felt somewhat bad for him, he seemed really nice. She held out the cookie to him.
"Do you want this back?" she asked him, but she kept her tone cheerful and smiled.
"No, it's okay," he said, "keep it."
She couldn't resist teasing him a little.
"Are you sure?" she asked him.
He smiled at her and she felt that same thing stir inside her again, but a lot stronger this time.
"I'm sure," he told her.
"Okay," she said, "thanks."
Then she walked over to the boys and took a big bite of the cookie. Oh my. That was some cookie. She chewed enough of it to not look like a total pig and looked back around the shop. But he was already gone.
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