Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Stormy August on the Coast + An Excerpt by Amber Leigh Williams

Walking "our beach" a few weeks before our boy became a big brother....
August is here. Hard to believe, right? For those of us on the Gulf Coast, it means one last month (hopefully) of intense heat. Unfortunately, this is the month where we really have to start watching the tropics for potential hurricanes. Though the tropics have been pretty quiet this year, it doesn’t stop those crazy summer storms from sweeping over our house at a moment’s notice.

Last week, I put my newborn in her bouncy chair where she likes to take short power naps during the day so that I could get her big tough toddler brother to sleep for an hour or two. As I closed the living room curtains to help bring on the sleepies, I noticed that it looked slightly overcast. Toddler guy and I settled into the rocking chair and slowly began to wind down for naptime.

Ten minutes later, as he was just starting to close his eyes, I heard thunder rumbling. It sounded close and began to shake the house. My guy likes watching big storms roll in from the window overlooking our front porch so when he heard the storm getting closer and closer, sleep became the last thing on his mind. As rain began to lash the front of the house, I sighed. Naptime’s hard enough as it is for him to do. Add in the noise and excitement of severe weather and this mommy can count out any quiet time for writing during the day.
However, this storm seemed to be gaining in intensity. I peeked out through the curtain and was shocked to see the wind all but laying down the trees in our front yard. I could hardly see the street, the rain was coming down so hard. I got that eerie feeling. You know, the one you get if you’ve ever seen hurricane or tornado weather. That instinct that tells you to head for the cellar.

Calling my guy away from the window, I picked up my newborn (bouncy chair and all) and ran for the bedroom closet (our version of a cellar). As I set her deep in the closet amongst winter boots and hanging coats, I noticed that my guy wasn’t with me. Alarmed, I rushed back to the front of the house to find him…that’s right…sitting at the front window between the parting in the curtain watching nature’s fury in awe. You see, this is the problem with daredevil boys. That “no fear” mentality is great when we ride on the family boat at high speeds or when we want him to try something new like sports or sleeping over at grandma’s. But when it comes to those things that are clear “no no’s” yet are just too irresistibly thrilling for him to resist (like, I don’t know, scaling the back of the sofa like a tight-rope walker…or doing a Superman dive off the dock into the water at the lake all by himself…) I really wish common sense was there to take over. Alas, I had to pick him up (no easy task; he’s a two-and-a-half-year-old inside a five-year-old’s body) and haul him back to the closet.

My guys, the aforementioned daredevils....

The closet has a light in it, thank goodness. I was able to calm the little one enough to hear what was going on overhead and give my husband a call to make sure he was out of the storm. When he heard how bad the weather was at home, he decided to drive straight to us. Yep, through the torrential downpour. (Like his love of cars, sweets, and power tools, Big Tough Toddler Guy gets his daredevil streak honestly.) I wondered how I was going to keep the boy from escaping the closet when he found a box of vintage toys from my childhood. In a rare moment of sibling comradery, he paraded half-dressed Barbies and Kens in front of his sister. He giggled over the naked ones and puzzled over the ones with missing limbs. (My sister and I once joked that if a child psychologist ever got a look into our toy box, their best guess would be that we turned out to be coroners or serial killers.)

It was difficult to hear anything over newborn’s raspberries and my guy’s chatter. When the door to the closet opened, we looked up to see the hub. He surveyed the explosion of Barbies and their counterparts crammed with the long-legged toddler, baby’s bouncy, and me with knees drawn up to my ears all in close confines and had himself a good laugh. “Storm’s over,” he announced before crawling into the fray and delicately explaining to one curious little dude the difference between naked Barbie and naked Ken.
This was the first storm in a long time that has scared me enough to hunker down. I’m pretty sure the last one involved one itty bitty boy baby. (Crazy to think that at one time he was that small….) Long before he was born, I remember walking the beach with the hub while a hurricane boiled in the Gulf. There was little room between the raging waves and the windblown dunes. The windows of the condos we walked passed emitted a loud, rattling sound. Remembering it all these years later still makes my spine tingle. That night the salt in the air from the wind crystallized on the power lines and caused massive power outages. I remember sleeping in the truck after Katrina with our dogs because the house was too oppressive without air conditioning. I also remember driving back from the lake after Hurricane Ivan and the destruction we came across as we cruised slowly with the rest of the evacuees down I-65. Not to mention the National Guard patrols who greeted us once we arrived home. Storms are a fact of life on the Gulf, one my stalwart son doesn’t seem to mind all that much. Ah, well. Maybe he’ll grow up to be a storm-chaser or a hurricane hunter. (I foresee long years and high blood pressure ahead for this mommy.)

He was in some serious trouble….
Cole Savitt does not want to deceive Briar Browning. But if he wants to see his son again, he has to find the weaknesses in her charming bed-and-breakfast, then get out of town fast! But the quaint inn isn’t the only thing charming him….
Cole’s straightforward plan becomes anything but when he begins to fall for the beautiful innkeeper. Suddenly everything’s on the line—his future with his son, a chance at happiness and the love of a good woman. Cole must rethink his priorities…and the stakes have never been higher.

When I wrote the first book in my Harlequin Superromance series, A Place With Briar, set in my hometown here on the Gulf, I couldn’t help but include some impressive tropical weather to help draw the hero and heroine closer together. If living in the same place for twenty-some-odd years has taught me anything, it's what it's like to have a category storm barreling toward my house and being helpless to stop it. Here’s a little Throwback Thursday excerpt from Briar and Cole’s summer romance….

Even with the fan cooling things somewhat in the bay-view suite, Cole couldn’t settle. He lay on top of the sheets in T-shirt and shorts, frowning at the ceiling and listening to the low-tuned, battery-operated radio he’d found downstairs.

The DJs promised to stay up through the night with listeners, providing the latest updates on Hurricane Brett, whose slanted eye was now staring straight down the watery barrel of Mobile Bay. The treacherous east side of the storm was already pounding the Alabama and west Florida coastlines. Several tornado warnings were in effect. Early damage reports trickled in from cell phones.

One message was clear for those who’d not evacuated – don’t venture outside. Law enforcement officers and meteorologists stated imperatively: stay away from windows. In case of tornado, find a safe, windowless room in the lowest part of the house for cover.

With Briar upstairs, Cole didn’t feel at all comfortable drifting off to sleep. Why had he left her alone? 

Suddenly, a deafening crash outside launched Cole out of bed. It subsided quickly. In the dim silence that followed, he heard the quick patter of footfalls in the hall.

He crossed to the room and peered out just in time to see the white tail of Briar’s robe disappear down the stairs to the first floor. Hot on her heels, he reached the landing as she ran to the back door.

When he saw her disengage the dead bolt, he rushed forward. “Briar, no!”

She didn’t stop or look back, yanking the door open.

“Don’t go outside!”

His voice was drowned by the banshee scream of the wind. The door sailed out of her grasp, crashing against the wall. She didn’t stop there. Gripping the doorjamb, she battled the wind, stepping over the threshold and moving out into the storm.

“Holy hell,” he muttered. It might have made him as crazy as she was, but he went after her without hesitation. Leaves scattered into the den as he made his way to the door and chased her onto the porch.

The clouds flickered with devilish light, illuminating the churning, rising bay—an animal all its own under the storm’s manipulation. The strobe quality helped him spot Briar at the far end of the porch, looking at the thick branch that had fallen over her vegetable garden and torn through the roof of the porch. Gripping the rail and driving himself into the sucking wind, Cole raised an arm to fend off the stinging slap of rain. Reaching out, he gripped Briar’s arm in a viselike hold and dragged her back.

It took forever to reach the door. Finally, he shoved her to safety and fought the wind again to wrestle the door closed. When it bolted, he whirled on her. “What the hell were you thinking?”

“I had to see,” she explained, crossing her arms over her chest. Her voice sounded close to feeble. “I heard something break….”

As panicked as he’d felt when he saw her go through the door, he could’ve railed at her. But seeing the slight quiver of her knees and her pale features, he swallowed his fury. “You’re soaked.”

“You, too,” she noted. “I’ll go upstairs and wash off.”

He grabbed her by the hand. “You’re not going anywhere without me. We’ll both be safer together downstairs. We should be comfortable enough here.”

Before she could answer, another ominous clatter broke through the silence. Her face fell, stricken. “The porch.”

He reached for her. “Here, sit.” Gently, he ushered her down next to him on the sofa. “Just sit. There’s nothing we can do until morning.”

“Right,” she said, swallowing. “You’re right.” Another crash. “God.”

His arm wrapped around her shoulders. Comforting, he told himself. Strictly comforting.

But his need to protect, to enfold, overwhelmed him. He leaned back with her hugged close at his side. Tension loosened from his chest when her head fell to his shoulder and she didn’t hesitate to curl into him.
A Place With Briar is on sale for just $3.99 at Amazon, along with the two sequels, Married One Night (October 2014 Superromance) and His Rebel Heart (July 2015 Superromance)! I hope you enjoyed the throwback snippet!
A toast to hot August nights and summer reads!
Amber Leigh Williams lives on the Gulf Coast. A southern girl at heart, she lives for beach days, the smell of real books, relaxing at her family’s lakehouse, and spending time with her husband, Jacob, and their two children. When she’s not trying to keep up with rambunctious little ones and two large dogs she can usually be found reading a good romance or cooking up a new dish in her kitchen. She is represented by D4EO Literary Agency. Visit her on the web at!


Leah St. James said...

Great stories, Amber, both the real one and the fictional one! I've never lived in one of the storm-prone areas (like the Gulf coast or "tornado alley") but have been through some rare doozies. I also love watching storms and feeling the surge of Mother Nature's power, to a point.

As a kid in Jersey, I used to run to our screened porch during lightning/thunder storms. I loved the scent of sulfur in the air...and the rush of the wind. (We didn't have air conditioning.) Here in Virginia, our lightning/thunder storms are much more violent than Jersey, and it can be a little scary. I don't have a screened porch, but I'm not sure I'd rush to it these days!

Stay safe! Here's hoping the rest of hurricane season is quiet.

Jannine Gallant said...

Hey, you didn't turn into a serial killer, so there may be hope for the boy! Umm, I think I might prefer the storm to a closet with a baby and a toddler... LOL In our neck of the woods, we worry about forest fires. Last summer we had one close enough that I packed up a box with all the must save paperwork and my backup hard drive...just in case. I guess we all learn to cope with what mother nature throws at us in our respective areas of the country.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Amber, you would have laughed to see the way Californians got nervous over a thunder and lightning storm that wouldn't have made any midwesterner blink. It's all in what you know/experience. My memories of Minnesota and Wisconsin storms were set in my younger years...and I always think of them as kind of exciting and scary in a way that drew the family together. Kids always watch the faces of their parents to gauge how frightened the children 'should be.' Sounds like you kept it together very well.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Amber, enjoyed the post -- especially since I live where those kind of storms don't happen!

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Leah, back porch storm-watching is almost like bird-watching around here. It really seems to be a thing. Once, my parents were sitting on their screen porch one year when they lived in Fairhope (the town where my Superromance series takes place) when a big storm rolled through. They were just watching the rain and wind and lightning when a bolt hit my sister's basketball goal in the driveway and blew out the garage door power box as well as several electronics in the house. Nobody was hurt, thank goodness. And I still tell them they're crazy whenever the story comes up, LOL

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Jannine, people do seem to adapt to their chosen geography. Earthquakes are commonplace in California and Alaska and people there tend to brush them off, but if I felt one I'm pretty sure I would freak the heck out :-)

Sorry about those forest fires. We had one sweep through our favorite state park a few years ago. Thankfully, everything's growing back and we take the kiddies as much as we can....

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Rolynn, thank you for the vote of confidence! However, I'm not sure even if I did lose it completely whether my boy would take the hint. He loves his storms.... My aunt and uncle lived in the Ozarks for a while and they would talk about the crazy the weather is there. A hurricane's one thing; it gives you plenty of warning to evacuate. A tornado's a totally different and MUCH more scary story. Yikes.

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Brenda, LOL - is there such a place where you don't have to worry about some kind of natural disaster? I'd love to live there!