This takes place in a flashback scene Amanda has in the middle of the book. It takes us back to a dark time in her past. I think I just figured out what happened to her, but I have to write more to know for sure.
I redid the cover because I wanted the Pioneer Series to have a new look. I think the Pioneer Series will be three books total. Book 1 is Richard and Amanda’s story.
Amanda slowly gained consciousness. She hadn’t expected to. She honestly believed she wasn’t ever going to wake up again. But she had. And the first thing she was aware of was her disappointment. She thought it was finally over, but it wasn’t. She was still alive, and because of that, she still had to deal with the pain.
Releasing a long breath, she focused in on her surroundings, fully expecting the familiar chill of the early morning on her face or the sound of a rat scampering somewhere near a trashcan nearby. Instead, she was warm. In fact, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d been more comfortable. Someone had tucked a blanket around her and, if she guessed right, put her in a soft bed. Her head rested on a feather pillow. Her boots had been removed, though her clothes were still on.
Part of her wanted to go back to sleep, but another part of her had to find out where she was and who was with her. She forced her eyes open. The room was dim. The only source of light came from a kerosene lamp a few feet away. It took her a moment to focus in on the small table holding the lamp. Next to it was a full glass of water. Beyond the table was a small window, and through the thin curtains, she saw it was night.
Where was she? And, more importantly, who brought her here?
She closed her eyes again to give herself time to wake up. The silence should have probably alarmed her, but she found it soothing. After all the creepy noises in the alley, it was nice not to worry about something—or someone—finding her. Better yet, nothing crawled over her.
With a shiver, she opened her eyes again. This time, her gaze went lower from the window, and she saw someone sitting in a chair in the shadows. She stiffened for a moment but then realized it was Richard Larson and relaxed. She didn’t think she had any fight left in her, but for the instant she thought it might be someone else, the desire to live had sparked through her. She thought for sure the spark was gone forever. But apparently, the will to live was stronger than she imagined.
“What happened to you?” Richard asked, his voice soft in the still room.
She hadn’t seen him in over a year, and the first thing he said to her had to be the hardest thing to answer. She closed her eyes, thinking he might assume she hadn’t heard him, that she had fallen back asleep.
But she heard footsteps and couldn’t help but open her eyes again. Richard was kneeling in front of her. He seemed to be intent on studying her, and usually such concentration would make her squirm, but she sensed something in his expression that hovered between concern and tenderness.
He reached out, as if to touch her, then changed his mind. After a moment, he said, “We grew up together. You know me. You knew you could trust me. It wasn’t like I was a stranger. Last night, I found you in an alley, wrapped up in garbage to keep warm.” He glanced up at the ceiling and shook his head. “I don’t understand. I’ve been going over our entire lives in my mind, and I can’t think of a single time when I ever made you think you couldn’t come to me if you needed help.” When his gaze returned to hers, there were tears in his eyes. “I’d never let you live like that. Why didn’t you ask for help?”
She didn’t know what to tell him. How was she supposed to say she couldn’t take advantage of him? Of course, he’d help her, but that’s who he was. He deserved better. A lot happened since she last saw him. And even now, she didn’t want to think about it. It was why she’d hoped she’d never wake up. Then the nightmare would be over.
“Won’t you tell me something?” he asked.
She wanted to tell him to take her back to the alley, that she wasn’t worth saving. But by the expression on his face she knew that would hurt him more than anything else she could say. Richard Larson had no idea just how dark people could get. He was all light and laughter. He’d always been that way since they were children. But darkness could block out light and pain made people stop laughing. Even in the small apartment he’d taken her to had shadows that crept up on the light around it.
“I can’t tell you,” she whispered.
She’d hurt him. She could see it in his eyes. Just one sentence, and she’d managed to strike him without trying. She pulled the blanket over her head so she wouldn’t have to keep looking at him. It was better to pretend he wasn’t there.
He stayed there, by the bed, for the longest time. She was beginning to think he was going to stay there all night, kneeling in front of her, watching her. She held her breath and waited, her heartbeat picking up in dread. Was he going to insist she tell him?
Finally, he rose to his feet and walked away. Relieved, she released her breath, unaware her lungs had begun to hurt from holding it for so long. She didn’t know where he went, nor did she bother to check. It was much better to stay hidden under the blanket and keep silent. The less he knew, the better. One thing she always liked about him was his light, and she’d never do anything to take it away.