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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

PROMO: SeaJourney


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Arken Freeth and the Adventure of the Neanderthals, Book 1
Middle-Grade Fantasy Adventure

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A young warrior stands at the precipice of war…

To succeed he must find his courage and survive a treacherous journey across the sea.

Arken Freeth has always wanted to prove himself worthy of his king's appointment by becoming an officer in the Lantish Sea Service. Now the only thing standing in his way is his apprenticeship SeaJourney. But a peaceful training mission soon turns into a deadly struggle for survival as Arken's fleet must come to the aid of a princess fleeing capture by Tookan pirates.

SeaJourney kicks off an epic and fantastical adventure that is a great read for all ages.



Other Books in the Arken Freeth and the Adventure of the Neanderthals series:



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Shipwrecked
Arken Freeth and the Adventure of the Neanderthals, Book 2
Publisher: AIS, Limited

As war looms like an evil shadow over the world…

Arken Freeth must save his crewmates’ lives as they traverse a deadly jungle filled with massive wolves and sabertooth cats.

In the age before the Great Flood, 13,000 years ago, a new alliance between the nations of Lanth and Tolaria is threatened by pyramid-building Amarrats out to conquer and enslave the world.

Fourteen-year-old Arken Freeth is swept up in the conflict when his Lantish Military Academy training ship is attacked by pirates and runs ashore. He and six classmates are the only survivors of the shipwreck, and they struggle to live in a jungle filled with saber-tooth cats, dire wolves, mammoths, and mastodons.

Arken has salvaged a necklace from the wreck--a necklace that bestows the gift of prophecy. If Arken can get it to the King of Lanth, he will turn the tide of war.




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The Toth Hunter
Arken Freeth And The Adventure Of The Neanderthals, Book 3
Publisher: AIS, Limited

Arken learns more about the secrets of his heritage and discovers the strengths it offers will help him to earn a place of leadership among his grandmother’s people.

Arken Freeth and Asher, the future king of Tolaria, find themselves trapped in the Nanders’ Water Cave as they await the recovery of Arken’s love, Talya.

While living among the Nanders, Arken earns the respect of the tribe as he hunts the deadly jalag and massive toth with the tribe. But Arken, Asher, and Talya soon anger the wife and son of the tribe’s leader, Jen. If Arken does not accept Jen’s challenge to the death, all their lives will be in jeopardy.




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Tookan Attack
Arken Freeth and the Adventure of the Neanderthals, Book 4
Publisher: AIS, Limited

A battle is looming between the Tookans and Arken Freeth’s band of Lantish, Tolarian, and Nander warriors. Who will survive?

The Pirate King Yolanta’s fleet has fled to Situn, a barbarian settlement on the northern coast of the Circle Sea. Once provisioned, Yolanta plans a return to the River Zash and a final battle that will secure the Necklace of Tol for the Amarrat King. Yet before Yolanta can return to crush the Nanders, he will face betrayal and death at the hands of the hostile residents of Situn, the treacherous walled city of the North.

A troubling vision has warned Arken Freeth that Yolanta and his men will soon storm the Nanders’ Water Cave. In order to save the Nander tribe and protect the Necklace of Tol, Arken, Talya, and Asher must forge weapons and train the Nanders in the art of modern warfare, an impossible task when the Nanders follow The Way and are so resistant to change.

Mar discovers that Arken is the Jalet-hoi, the one foretold to be the savior of the Nanders. But in order to fulfill this powerful prophecy, Arken must survive a duel with Jen, the tribal chief’s son, to save his friend Ord’s life. No one, not even his friends, believes Arken will win this fight with such a powerful warrior. Even if he does live, will their battle training be enough for them to build a Nander army skilled enough to survive the Tookan Attack?




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Arken Freeth and the Adventure of the Neanderthals Boxed Set
(The Boxed Set, Books 1-4)
Publisher: AIS, Limited

Part Neanderthal, but raised as a human, Arken Freeth finds that he doesn't fit in either world as he struggles to survive.

SEAJOURNEY, BOOK ONE

Arken Freeth has always wanted to prove himself worthy of his king's appointment by becoming an officer in the Lantish Sea Service. Now the only thing standing in his way is his apprenticeship SeaJourney. But a peaceful training mission soon turns into a deadly struggle for survival as Arken's fleet must come to the aid of a princess fleeing capture by Tookan pirates.

SHIPWRECKED, BOOK TWO

Arken Freeth’s Lantish Royal Military Academy training ship is attacked by pirates and runs ashore. He and six classmates are the only survivors of the shipwreck and they struggle to live in a jungle filled with saber-tooth cats, dire wolves, mammoths, and mastodons. Arken has salvaged a necklace from the shipwreck—a necklace that bestows the gift of prophecy. If Arken can escape the Tookan pirates intent on stealing the necklace for themselves and deliver it safely to the king of Lanth, he will turn the tide of war.

THE TOTH HUNTER, BOOK THREE

Arken and some of his friends are rescued by the Nanders, only to find that many of the Nanders want to put them to death for fear they will escape and send slavers back to the Water Cave. Join Arken as he comes to grips with his heritage and struggles to keep himself and his friends alive while learning to live and hunt in the wild like a Nander.

TOOKAN ATTACK, BOOK FOUR

The bloodthirsty Tookans return for the necklace, but a surprise awaits them when they step on shore, for Arken and his friends have armed and trained the Nanders. Though outnumbered, the Nanders are powerful warriors in their own forest. The outcome for the Tookans is anything but certain as Arken fights alongside the Nanders to defend their home.



Excerpt

Chapter 1: The Rock Test

Mother, I weep for you each night. Our enemy’s campfires

seem to number more than the stars in the sky. Their soldiers

drum and chant all night and torment our sleep. I fear the worst

for my people, for I cannot read the Necklace of Tol to see the

Time to Come.

—Diary of Princess Sharmane of Tolaria

Thirty boys surrounded Arken in a circle, waiting for him to

lift the rock and prove he was strong enough to graduate.

“No more delays, Arken,” Lar ordered. “Sunset will leave you

too old to test!” Lar’s olive skin and dark beard turned his

sunken eyes into two caves in a rock cliff. He was a lean, tall,

and wifeless instructor who lived alone in the academy officer’s

barracks.

Arken could never tell if Lar liked him, since Lar was

sometimes friendly to him, yet now made fun and appeared to

enjoy his classmates’ laughter.

The circle of boys, all taller than him, carried sparring

swords and wore bronze armor over their white, knee-length

tunics. Bronze helmets shielded faces from the blazing sun.

“Class, form a seated square around the post and stone,”

Lar ordered. The moving armor rang with the music of bronze

and they joked as they sat. It was easy for Arken’s classmates

to laugh; they had all passed the test. As the youngest, he was

the last to reach his fourteenth birthday and take the test

before SeaJourney, a one-moonth-long apprenticeship, now

only days away.

If Arken lifted the rock, he would graduate and join his class

at sea. Failing the rock test today left only one way of going on

SeaJourney. He would have to defeat Gart, the class salcon, in

a sparring match.

“He’s taken so long I’ve grown a beard,” Gart joked in a loud

voice. Everyone laughed at Gart’s jokes, even if they weren’t

funny, because he was a year older than the rest of the class,

bigger than all of them, and their salcon, their squad leader.

Gart had passed the rock test the previous year, then failed his

final exams.

Given an additional year to study and the leadership

position as class salcon, the academy expected him to succeed.

A wave of depression swept over Arken. If he failed to lift the

rock, he had no chance of beating Gart in a sparring match. He

was a head taller and stronger.

“Arken, lift the stone!” Lar’s tone turned angry. “Why are

you stalling?”

“Yes, sir.” Arken scanned the second-story classrooms a

hundred legs across the courtyard. Girls in the Queen’s

Trackers often visited the academy for training and, being

scouts, they had good eyes. He didn’t want them to see him

fail.

But no girls watched from the openings in the gray stone

walls. Even the tower guards weren’t looking, probably due to

midmeal and the mid-day heat leaving them sleepy.

Arken turned towards Tok, the name given the rock five

hundred years earlier when the test began. He’d never lifted a

stone this big in practice. Father would be so disappointed if he

failed; he’d worked so hard with him practicing swords to help

keep up with his classmates. He stepped next to the rock.

“Don’t forget the warrior’s creed,” Lar reminded him.

“Sir! Fear none in battle, nor death at sea, nor those who

wish to torment thee, with Kal in mind and sword held high,

fight until you win or die.”

“Good! Now win your fight with that rock,” Lar ordered.

Arken squatted and picked up red, courtyard clay, then

rubbed it in his palms to improve his grip. Waves of heat from

the mid-day sun shimmered off Tok. Years ago they had run

laps from their classroom across the courtyard to the rock and

back while singing war songs. He and his young classmates

would slap the hot stone for good luck and shout “Tok” on the

turn.

A lingering touch of the stone could leave the palms warm

from the heat. Today he had to be careful and lift the rock’s

cooler, shaded side because touching the warm side would

make him drop the stone.

Arken was the only commoner in his class. All the other

boys were sons of noble families. The king had granted a

request by Arken’s father, a commoner, to send Arken to the

academy. It was a reward for his father’s heroism in battle.

Arken had endured bad treatment and bullying at the hands

of the noblemen’s sons since the age of six because he wanted

to prove himself to his father and he yearned for a chance to

explore the world in the Sea Service.

Now all those years of abuse would only be worth it if he

lifted Tok and graduated.

A swordtooth’s scream split the air. The class turned as one

towards the sound coming from beyond the fort’s north wall.

The high-pitched tone dropped to a long, low rumble that made

Arken’s neck hairs stand up.

“Remain calm,” Lar ordered. “The swordtooth is far away. I

promise, if it draws close enough for the guards to kill, we’ll go

up on the wall and watch.”

The boys all talked at once about the swordtooth and

seemed to forget about Arken. He wiped sweat from his face

that had run down despite the gastag leather strap holding

back his long blonde hair. He felt grateful for the swordtooth

because it bought time to get his nerves under control.

The swordtooth cat was old and couldn’t hunt toth and ton,

so it had moved in close to the city walls to attack King’s

Harsemen when they patrolled outside the fort. Two dead

horses and riders made it essential that the swordtooth die. So

the guards had tethered a goat next to the south wall before

dawn to draw the cat within range.

The swordtooth screamed again, sending chills down

Arken’s spine. The cats grew to twenty feet long. Though

terrifying, they inspired him. They were proof of the vast,

dangerous world beyond the city walls awaiting his exploration.

“Begin, Arken,” Lar said.

“Fourteen … I’m old enough,” Arken whispered to himself.

He rubbed the loose clay from his hands and rose to extend a

hand from the top of the post to his chest, measuring the

height he’d have to lift Tok to his belly button. A slight

depression in the top center of the post would hold the rock,

but to lift and gently place it so as not to roll off was the

challenge.

“He’ll never lift it,” Gart whispered loud enough for all to

hear. “He’s too small.”

“Silence, Gart!” Lar entered the square and strode towards

Gart. “You’re a salcon! Friendly teasing is fine, but a class

leader should never undermine his men.” Lar jabbed his heavy

walking stick into the back of Gart’s calf where the armor didn’t

protect his legs, making the boy wince. A grimace crossed his

face. Crying out during punishment lengthened the beating so

Gart made no sound.

“Yes, sir! Sorry, sir!” Gart pulled his feet in tight under the

skirt of his white tunic to avoid another poke of Lar’s stick. His

lower lip quivered slightly despite his stony face and Arken

knew he’d been hurt by Lar’s blow and comment.

“Arken, lift that stone now!”

“Yes, sir.” Arken said, but the swordtooth screamed,

drowning out his reply.

“It’s getting closer!” Lar exclaimed. “Arken. Hurry and lift,

we want to see that swordtooth killed!”

“Yes, sir.” Arken felt grateful the big cat had diverted

attention for now he felt ready.

He squatted, put his chest on the stone, and reached

around with his arms so he could lock his fingers. He’d always

thought his barrel chest was an advantage; it gave him more

wind when he ran. But now his chest prevented his fingers

from touching. Arken turned his head to the left, brushing his

right cheek against the stone. The hot rock stung his flesh as

his straining fingers locked together. For once his too big hands

were an advantage and not an embarrassment.

He held his cheek off the hot rock as he pushed with his

legs. But the rock didn’t budge. It felt alive and its weight

fought him. He struggled to breathe, his chest restricted by the

rock’s pressure.

He tipped back on his heels and the rock popped off the

ground. A thrill ran through him. I’m going to do it! But when

he strained to rise, nothing happened. Impossible! So heavy!

He thought of quitting, but his fingers slipped and to his

surprise he fought to tighten his grip instead of letting go.

I can’t disappoint Father. Dear God Kal, grant me a birthday

wish, Arken prayed. Help me lift this rock.

He screamed and it startled some of the boys. He didn’t

care; the scream gave him strength and the rock edged higher.

His inner elbows burned from the strain of the weight. They felt

as if red-hot fire pokers were being thrust into them. His legs

trembled.

I am strong enough! He simply had to endure the pain.

“Almost there!” Lar had stooped over to see the post’s top.

Arken lurched forward with his right foot but the rock

thudded against the top of the post. He advanced his left leg,

then leaned back, trying to raise the rock the last little bit to

clear the post.

Pain shot across his low back. He recalled Lar’s stories

about boys injuring their spine by tipping backwards too far.

“One finger width higher!” Lar yelled.

The pain straightened his spine against his will.

“No, you’re going lower, lift it higher!” Lar waved his hands

as if he could somehow help Arken lift.

Arken strained his calf muscles, trying to lift his heels off

the ground and raise the rock that way. He rose to his tiptoes.

“You’re clear, push it forward, Arken!” Lar stepped closer.

A final push, he could feel it! He strained to go forward, but

suddenly, his calves gave way as if they belonged to someone

else, no longer willing to do his bidding. He felt his heels strike

the ground as the rock pushed them down.

“Too low.” Lar bent down. “Can’t you get it higher? You were

close.”

“I’ll try,” Arken grunted. He strained to raise himself back on

his toes, but nothing happened. He tried to pull with his arms,

but the rock lodged against his chest and wouldn’t budge.

Suddenly everything started to go dark. He focused his eyes on

some palm trees across the courtyard outside the fort’s main

gate.

The green palms swayed in the light breeze as they receded

down a long black tunnel. He blinked, but opened his eyes to

only a pinhole of light.

“Clear!” His intended yell came out a whisper. He felt the

stone slip from his grasp. A hand snatched him back by his

arm and the world left him.

“Are you alright?” Lar’s voice echoed as if he were in a cave.

“I think so.” Arken opened his eyes. A seagull hovered in the

blue sky high above Lar’s hollow-cheeked face and Arken

realized he was lying flat on his back.

“You’re sure?” Lar leaned in closer and blocked the gull’s

view.

“Yes.” Arken rose to his elbows. “What am I doing on the

ground?”

“You blacked out lifting the rock.” Lar said.

“I didn’t pass the test?” The memory came flooding back.

“You will next year.” Lar offered his hand. “You’re strong

enough, just not tall enough.”

“I know.” He felt proud he’d at least been strong enough to

lift it.

“Do you want to try your luck sparring with Gart today?”

“Yes, sir, I do.” Arken surprised himself with his answer as

he rose to his feet. He didn’t care if he lost, or even if he got

hurt sparring Gart. He wanted so badly to go on SeaJourney

this week. Life at sea called him.

“Good, I admire your spirit, Arken, though you’ll probably

lose.” Lar chuckled and shook his head.

“Maybe,” Arken rubbed his hands to knock off the clay, then

tried to brush the red clay from the back of his white tunic, but

with little success. Arlet, their Nander kitchen slave, would

scold him tonight for the dirty uniform.

The swordtooth screamed again, this time so loud it echoed

around the courtyard.

“It’s close to the wall!” Lar turned his gaze to the

guardhouse where soldiers were running for the chariot

mounted, giant crossbow. “Arken will fight you, Gart, after we

watch the guards kill the swordtooth. Lead your class to the

top of the wall.”

“Yes, sir, I accept Arken’s challenge. Cadets to me!” Gart

jogged for the wall.

The cadets saluted and were gone, like armored quails

busting out of grass in fear. Tanned legs carried lean bodies up

the stairs to the wall top in seconds.

Arken jogged two steps to Lar’s one despite Lar running with

his ceremonial robe gathered in his hands to prevent tripping

on it. Arken was grateful for some time to regain his strength

before sparring with Gart. It was his last chance to go to sea

this year. He had been so excited about beginning his officer’s

apprenticeship as a saldet, a junior officer. Only Gart stood in

his way.




About the Author


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Alex Paul is the award-winning author of Arken Freeth and the Adventure of the Neanderthals books series, and co-author of They’re Mine and I’m Keeping Them.

Alex Paul lives with his wife Laura Ross-Paul (co-author of They’re Mine and I’m Keeping Them), and two faithful dogs, in Portland Oregon in the winter, and the Oregon Coast in the summer.

He trained as an Industrial Engineer at Oregon State University, working in a variety of fields before settling into a career as a real estate developer.

Alex Paul has been a life long outdoors enthusiast, having a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw on for his epic fantasy Arken Freeth series.


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Blog Tour: Grace's Kiss


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Romantic Suspense/Psychological Thriller
Date Published: September 2018

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Grace followed the rules. She always played it safe and never put her heart in jeopardy. Until the night she met Ryan. She’d never imagined that she could connect with an alpha male like him. Giving herself to him as he'd cradled her in his arms came naturally... until she sobered up. He was everything that she’d convinced herself she didn’t need. Or was he everything she needed?

Ryan balanced on a thin line of gray. He’d killed his share of demons but managed to live at peace with his actions. Then he met Grace, a woman who pushed all his buttons and shook him to his core. The need to have her overwhelmed him, but she kept shooting him down. Could he convince her that he was exactly what she needed?


Excerpt


Ryan liked the way her cheeks flushed when she stared at his crotch. The flash of innocence was a total turn-on. How could she look so innocent when she was so unabashedly sexy? He couldn’t help but groan as her hands slid over his ass cheeks and squeezed. Unintentionally, he tilted his hips towards her as he slid a hand into her hair. With the other hand, he tilted her head upwards and pressed his lips against hers. He tasted the alcohol on her as he traced the seam of her lips.
She stepped closer to him and lost herself in the kiss. She squeezed his ass again, harder this time, and he groaned. His ass muscles clenched in her grip. The burning ache between her legs intensified.
Parting her lips, she moaned as his tongue caressed the inside of her mouth. She enjoyed the overwhelming sensation of him and pressed herself against his body. The feel of his hard cock against her sent a rush of heat between her legs.
What was it about this guy? She didn’t go around kissing strangers or feeling them up. But this man had the pull of a rare earth magnet to iron. She couldn’t resist the attraction, so she enjoyed the draw. Curving her hands around his hips, she considered ‘accidentally’ brushing her hand over his groin and sneaking a feel of the impressive rod in his pants. But she lacked the courage. Instead, she pressed her breasts against his chest, thankful that she hadn’t worn a padded bra. Her nipples hardened at the heat of his body. She shifted her chest just enough to rub her sensitized nipples against her lacy bra.
As the kiss deepened, and her pleasure intensified, she pulled out of the kiss and glanced up at him. “Do you want to squeeze my butt?” she purred. She knew she sounded silly, but she was too drunk to care. She wanted his hands on her. She wanted to feel again. Besides, it wasn’t fair that he was the only one getting groped. She shouldn’t take advantage of him like that.
Her angelic doe eyes stared up at him. How had she managed to make that question sound so innocent and pure? Hell yeah, he wanted to squeeze her ass. “Darling,” he drawled, “I thought you’d never ask.”
Turning his torso so that he faced her, he asked, “May I kiss you?” Normally, he didn’t formally ask a woman for permission to kiss her. He just went by the feel of the moment. But Grace was skittish, and he didn’t want to rush her.
She knew they’d kissed on the dance floor. Heck, she’d rubbed her body against his in a shameful way as she’d groped him. But the way he asked her to kiss him, like he respected her, warmed her heart. With nerves whirring through her, she nodded and said, “Yes.”
The soft, whisper reply warmed Ryan’s heart in a way he hadn’t expected. He wanted to pound his chest in a proud display of masculinity. She was giving him her trust, putting herself out there for him, and he appreciated that honor.
Ryan leaned towards her, looking for any hesitation or concern on her part, but there was none. The trust and innocence in her expression stirred a desire in him that he hadn’t felt before. He’d experienced passion in a sexual sense, but now a different type of passion heated him. This passion didn’t radiate from his cock. It wasn’t lust based. This passion radiated from his heart and mind and flooded his body. Grace didn’t casually give herself to men, so her affections were so much more valuable than she even realized. He liked that purity. He could see himself with her in a long-term relationship.
As he pressed a hand against her cheek, his thumb brushed over her lips. Her heart fluttered at the tender caress. She quickly licked her lips in anticipation and then felt his lips against hers. Heat washed over her that nothing to do with the hot, humid evening of a summer in the South. This was a heat that was stirred through passion and went right to her core.
She wanted more of him, tracing the seam of his lips with her tongue, she urged him to take the kiss further. He didn’t disappoint. The little boat rocked as he repositioned his body for a better angle to continue the kiss. His tongue slipped into her mouth and caressed hers in an erotic dance. Her girl parts woke up and moistened. The ease and pleasure of his kiss assured her that sex with him would be equally pleasurable. Where had that thought come from? They wouldn’t be having sex anytime soon, despite the need surging through her body.
When he pulled away, he’d left her panting and with a pulsing need between her legs that Daniel had never stirred up. She adjusted in her seat, wishing she could beg him for another kiss. Did he feel the same desire in his own body?
“I like you, Grace,” he said. He wanted to kiss her again. Hell, he wanted to take her back to his place and make love to her, but he knew that would be rushing her. If Daniel was telling the truth, and she’d only had sex with him, then she wasn’t the type to have sex after a first date. That was okay with him. He knew they’d have more dates, and she’d eventually have sex with him after one of them. He only needed to wait her out.    

About the Author

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Karen Tjebben lives in central North Carolina with her wonderful husband, twin daughters, and two hamsters. When her girls left for kindergarten, Karen discovered that she needed to fill her days with something, and that was the beginning of her new career in writing. She loves to create worlds filled with unique characters that she hopes will delight and raise goose bumps on her readers. In her free time, she enjoys traveling with her husband and seeing the world through her daughters' eyes.



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Blog Tour: Chance For Rain


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Fiction—Romance, Women’s Fiction
Date Published: August 2018
Publisher: Front Street Press

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Elite athlete Rainey Abbott is an intense competitor on the outside, but inside, she feels a daunting apprehension about her chances of finding true love. Her life as a downhill skier and race car driver keeps her on the edge, but her love life is stuck in neutral. A tragedy from her past has left her feeling insecure and unlovable.

Now that she’s in her thirties, Rainey’s best friend Natalie insists she take a leap and try online dating. Rainey connects with brian85 and becomes cautiously hopeful as a natural attraction grows between them. Fearful a face to face meeting could ruin the magic, Rainey enlists Natalie to scheme up an encounter between the two where Brian is unaware he is meeting his online mystery woman. Rainey is left feeling both guilty about the deception and disappointed by something Brian says.

When they finally meet in earnest, Rainey’s insecurities threaten to derail the blossoming romance. As she struggles with self-acceptance, she reveals the risks we all must take to have a chance for love.

Excerpt


Chapter 19

The days begin to pass quickly. At a time of year when most people are hunkered down, hibernating, and waiting out the winter, my life is in full motion. I have been skiing way more than teaching, socializing, or even thinking about Brian. My days in the mountains are intense with workouts and tryouts and the anticipation of the Games in March.
When I finally get a weekend off, I relish the opportunity to be in my own bed, sleeping in and enjoying the laziness most people take for granted. I open my eyes, and the sun shines radiantly, though there are still flurries coming down off and on. Yesterday was a downright snowy December day, and it felt weird to be in town while there was probably some great skiing to be had in the hills. But, on this Saturday, when the ground is blanketed with white, I have absolutely nothing planned for the day and no idea where I’m going or what I will do. I’m in a funk, probably because once I get into the groove of hard training; it’s hard to take a day off. I feel like I’m losing my fitness and my edge, although realistically I know they don’t simply disappear overnight. I also haven’t had any great conversations with Brian, although we’re still writing daily.
I roll out of bed, head to the shower, and get ready for the day. While I’m rinsing my hair, I come up with a plan. I’ll head to the showroom where I know Jake will be working on his car, getting ready to put it on a trailer to head to South Carolina for next week’s race.
With winter fully set in, it seems like forever since I’ve spent quality time with Jake as sounding board, confidant, fellow speed demon. Ever since I found out he was happily married and I would never be Mrs. Jake, he’s turned into a pick-me-up, taking his role seriously. He always tries to make me feel better in moments like this when all I want to do is sit around and sulk.
As I push my chair across the linoleum floor of the showroom where we all keep our cars indoors during the winter, I spy Jake under the hood tinkering. I roll up to him in silence and manage a very slight “Hey.” I’m so quiet, partly because I don’t want to scare the crap out of him and partly because I don’t have the energy to be any more exuberant.
“Hey, Rainey, how ya doing?” Jake turns his head to look at me while still ducked under the hood.
I don’t say anything, only look at him with pathetic puppy dog eyes until he catches on that things in my world aren’t quite right. He stops what he’s doing, wipes off his hands with the nearest cloth, and comes over to me, getting down on one knee, so he is at my level. For a moment, I envision this gesture as the tender scene of a marriage proposal, but I know better. Jake is being polite. Getting down on my level to talk rather than standing tall and talking down to me. This is one thing I love about him. He thinks about these etiquette details, and I appreciate it.
“Jake, am I doomed to live my life alone? Why can’t I get myself to call Brian, ask him out to lunch, and meet him in person? Why am I so scared?
“We both know you’re in serious like with Brian. You have to be willing to let go. Let yourself feel and take a chance. Even if it doesn’t work out, it’s giving it a shot that counts. He might not be the one for you. That is a definite possibility, and there is a chance you’ll lose him, but that’s part of life. You can lose anything, on any day. You know that. You can lose your ability to walk, lose your family, or lose this relationship you have been building online. But that doesn’t mean you should live holding your breath, waiting for the worst. Why not go into this with hope instead of dread?”
“Because I want to be realistic.”
He stops talking long enough to stand up and retrieve his soda from the roof of the car and then returns to his position in front of me. I begin to get uncomfortable since I know what’s coming. It’s me. I know it’s me, getting in my own way.
“Rainey, you know what I believe? If you always go into situations expecting the worst, often that’s what you’ll get. I know you’ve learned this a million times as a skier and as a driver. When you’re on the ski hill or the track, and you feel outclassed and believe you’ll never win, you won’t. You don’t stand a chance. You have to have some amount of confidence and faith that things will work out the way they are supposed to. And it might not be with Brian. He’s the first guy you’ve dated … if I can use that term … though you haven’t actually even met him yet. Maybe it’ll be the next guy who is the right one. Or the one after that. You realize that Amber is not the first woman I’ve dated, right? Don’t tell her that,” he says as he winks at me.
Amber, Jake, and I are all keenly aware that Jake is a hot commodity, and that he’s had women throw themselves at him over the course of his thirty-three years.
Then he launches into the lecture that I know I need.
“Love is difficult. It can be fun, but it can also be exhausting. It’s hard work, but ultimately, it’s rewarding. That’s why it’s such a huge emotion. It has to be able to encompass all those things. It’s not all sap and romance like in the movies. Even your parents probably had those spiritless relationship moments of ‘Uh, you again?’ But there’s something about knowing you have that bond, and you’re united by a common feeling that belongs only to the two of you. To get there, you have to be willing to stick your neck out. And that’s where you’re getting hung up. You realize this isn’t all about the chair or your mom and Sunny, don’t you? It’s really about your unwillingness to open your mind. To be out of control and take the plunge. You’re staying in your protective little shell.”
Jake has me figured out, and as he looks directly into my eyes, I feel my body shrink into itself. I cross my arms and brace myself to take the rest of what he has to deliver.
“Rainey, it’s okay to feel scared, but the only one who can take the leap of faith is you,” he continues. “Being in love is like driving your car. You have to trust your machine, your mechanics, your tires. But more than that, you have to trust yourself. Think about how scary it was the first time you raced in a field of other cars. Did you ever get that lump in your throat when you were hitting a turn in a race, and there were cars on all sides of you, and you prayed that you would get through unscathed? You were totally out of your comfort zone, right? I don’t know about you, but I love that feeling when your skin prickles and the little hairs on your arms stand at attention because it makes me feel alive. Yeah, sometimes I feel like I’m gonna crap my pants, but when it’s over, and you’ve crossed the finish line, you know you’re a better racer because you had courage. And the more times you crossed that line, the more comfortable you got. Now it feels like home. You get on the track, and as soon as the flag waves and the race starts, you settle in and know exactly what you’re doing.”
He is right. There was a time when racing scared me out of my mind. But the more I did it, the more comfortable and confident I got. I learned my car inside and out. Got to know its quirks and when something wasn’t dialed in quite right. I wanted to learn to race so badly that I kept on pushing through all the scary stuff. I always thought—keep my eye on the goal.
“Approach falling in love with the same confidence and faith,” he continues. “Picture yourself with everything working like clockwork. But instead of being on the racetrack, picture yourself on a Sunday afternoon drive. Don’t rush to the finish line. Breathe it in and really feel it. Experience it for the butterflies it gives you. Even feel it for the lump you get in your throat when you disagree. Let yourself feel emotion because then you know you’re alive. You are living, Rainey. If you don’t, you’re just as guilty as what you assume about all the men out there. You are confined. Not to your chair, like people might say, but to your thoughts. That somehow different is bad. You have so much to offer because of your situation. Turn it around. You are the prize and it’s their loss if they can’t see it. Not yours.”
“Jake, I know. But I’m terrified. I want so badly to find someone who sees me as a person, not a chair or a tragedy. How do I get over this?”
I am so caught up in my woe-is-me drama that I don’t realize someone else has walked into our area in the showroom and is standing within earshot listening in.
From behind me, in the corner, piping up in a demure female southern voice, she matter-of-factly answers my question. “Just jump.” I can see the big loving smile on Jake’s face as we turn around to see Amber behind us, having heard our entire conversation.


About the Author


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Tricia Downing is recognized as a pioneer in the sport of women’s paratriathlon, as the first female paraplegic to finish an Iron distance triathlon. She has competed in that sport both nationally and internationally, in addition to competing in road racing and other endurance events. She has represented the United States in international competition in five different sport disciplines—cycling (as a tandem pilot prior to her 2000 accident), triathlon, duathlon, rowing and Olympic style shooting, in which she was a member of Team USA at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
She was featured in the Warren Miller documentary Superior Beings and on the lifestyle TV magazine show Life Moments. She has been featured in Muscle and Fitness Hers, Mile High Sports and Rocky Mountain Sports magazines.

Additionally, she is founder of The Cycle of Hope (www.thecycleofhope.org), a non-profit organization designed for female wheelchair users to promote health and healing on all levels—mind, body and spirit.

Tricia studied Journalism as an undergraduate at the University of Maryland and holds Masters degrees in both Sports Management (Eastern Illinois University) and Disability Studies (Regis University).

She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband Steve and two cats, Jack and Charlie. Visit Tricia at triciadowning.com


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