Welcome to Winter Falls! Winter Falls is a whacky small town settled by a bunch of hippies. I’m not ashamed to say I want to live there (even if the mayor gets caught without his pants on on a regular basis). But, since I can’t, I invented a series of stories set in the town. The perks of being a writer! The Winter Falls series will consist of at least seven books, but there’s also a free prequel.
Ruby has her life planned out. Go to college. Join the Peace Corps. Save the world. But then she bumps into Daniel at a Peace Corps presentation and her life plan doesn’t look as appeasing as it once did. When it takes longer than she expects to get an assignment, she decides to follow Daniel to Winter Falls. By the time her Peace Corps assignment comes through, she’s fallen in love with the town where helping to save the Earth is obligatory, but pants are optional.
Decision time. Does she go off and safe the world as she’s dreamed of since she was seven or stay in Winter Falls with the man she’s falling in love with?
And here’s the first chapter to whet your appetite:
What’s a police record between friends?
I’m practically skipping as I enter the auditorium. I’m so excited I can barely contain the energy in my body. The Peace Corps. Finally! This is why I’ve spent the past four years studying to obtain a degree in education – to join the Peace Corps and help make the world a better place.
Oops! I didn’t realize I’d stopped to stand in the middle of the aisle to stare at the giant Peace Corps logo on the screen.
“Sorry,” I mumble before turning around to smile at the man.
The smile freezes on my face. Standing in front of me is the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen. He’s tall and stands with confidence staring down at me, but it’s his face that captures my attention. His forest green eyes are sparkling with amusement, and he has prominent cheekbones most women would die for. To top it all, there’s an adorable dimple in his chin I want to lick.
He could be a model. What is he doing here?
I clear my throat and stick my hand out. “Ruby.”
After we shake hands, we stand there staring at each other like a couple of dorks. I clear my throat again. “I guess we should take our seats.”
He motions me forward. “After you.”
I find a seat near the front. Yes, I’m that person. The one who sits in the front of the class and raises her hand when she knows the answer to a question. What can I say? Education is important. Thus, the teaching degree.
A rush of excitement runs through me when Daniel chooses the seat next to me.
“What are you doing here?” I ask, but before he can answer, the speaker takes the stage.
We listen to two speakers tell us about their experience within the Peace Corps. One was in Cameroon and one in the Philippines. I’m literally sitting on the edge of my seat as they talk about how fulfilling their work was. I cannot wait!
After they finish, I nearly spring out of my seat loaded with questions for them, but a recruiter comes on stage to talk about the application process and what it entails before I get the chance.
“Are there any questions?” she asks once she finishes her presentation.
Someone shouts from the back, “What if I have a police record? Can I still apply?”
My heart squeezes at the question. I may be in trouble here.
“It depends on the charges.”
I raise my hand. “What if the charge is disorderly conduct from a protest? And the charges were dismissed?”
“If the charges were dismissed, you have an arrest record and not a police record. You should be fine.”
Phew. My arrest record may be longer than my arm, but I’ve never been convicted of anything. I’ve never even had to pay a fine of any sort.
“Are there are any more questions?”
Questions are shouted out until I start to wonder if the whole ‘the only stupid question is the unasked one’- adage is a bunch of bull hockey. Weapons training by the Peace Corps? Really? The recruiter finally ends the meeting by telling everyone to review their information packets and to contact him if there are any more questions.
I jump to my feet and clap as the recruiter leaves the stage. A few people clap with me, but most of the crowd hurries to leave.
Once the noise level quiets down, Daniel turns to me. “Please tell me you’ll get a drink with me. I need to know why a good girl like you has an arrest record.”
My nose wrinkles. “Good girl? How do you know I’m a good girl?” My mom calls me ‘my problem child’.
He lifts an eyebrow in challenge. “Am I wrong?”
I never could resist a challenge. “Let’s get that drink.” I’ll prove to him I’m not some innocent good girl.
We exit the auditorium and walk down the block to the local college bar. I push the door open, but he stops me with a hand on my wrist. My skin tingles where he touches it, and all my nerve endings wake up.
“Are you old enough to be in here?”
“I thought I was a good girl? Would a good girl use a fake ID?” For good measure, I flutter my eyelashes.
“I’m starting to think I’m wrong about the good girl thing.”
I wink at him before proceeding into the bar. We settle in a booth along the far wall.
“Okay,” he says once we have our beers. “Tell me why you have an arrest record.”
“I guess since you bought me a drink and all, I can tell you,” I begin. “It’s actually not an exciting story. I didn’t get caught streaking down State Street or anything crazy. I think it’s important my voice is heard is all. I’ve been involved in some anti-nuclear protests and peace protests. The Three Mile Island accident set off a bunch of needed demonstrations about the safety of using nuclear power in my opinion.”
“The Three Mile Island Accident was in 1979. You would have been what? Nine?”
I waggle my eyebrows at him. “Why Daniel? Are you trying to figure out how old I am?”
“My mother taught me it’s not polite to ask a woman’s age.”
I wave my hand. “It’s fine. I’m twenty-two. Hold old are you?”
Twenty-five? A bit old for a college student. “Are you a student?”
“About to graduate law school actually.”
“Cool. Congrats! And you want to join the Peace Corps?”
“I would, but I don’t think it’s in the cards for me.”
I rub my hands together and lean closer. “No? Do you have a police record?”
He barks out a laugh. “I do not. And, before you ask, I don’t have an arrest record either.”
I sit back and cross my arms over my chest. “Maybe you’re the goody two shoes instead of me.”
“I didn’t have much choice.”
Now, I’m intrigued. I lean forward and whisper. “Why not? Are you a communist spy?”
He frowns. “What makes you think I’m a communist?”
I slap my hands down on the table. “Holy smokes! You are a communist!”
“Keep it down,” he hisses. “I’m not a communist. I’m the furthest thing from it in fact.”
My nose wrinkles. “You’re an ultra-conservative capitalist?”
He sighs. “My parents are defectors from the Soviet Union.”
My eyes widen to the size of saucers. “You have got to be kidding. How exciting! Why did they defect? Were they caught distributing copies of Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak? Or did they vandalize a communist propaganda poster? Oooh. Maybe they were ordinary criminals and used Soviet oppression as an excuse to defect.”
“You have quite the imagination.”
“Come on. Tell me. If you don’t, I’ll keep coming up with more and more outrageous reasons they might have defected.”
“I’m kind of curious to hear what other outrageous reasons you can come up with.”
Game on. “Did they get caught burying a body after they killed a guard who caught them spitting on Lenin’s grave? Did they—”
He holds up his hand. “Stop. I’ll tell you.”
I drum my fingers against each other. “Yes, my evil plan is working.”
“You’re not an innocent girl, are you?”
I bat my eyelashes at him. “Of course, I am.”
He laughs. “The story isn’t actually very interesting.” I motion for him to get on with it. “My mother is an English teacher. She was arrested for teaching the original version of Robinson Crusoe.”
My nose wrinkles. “Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe? There’s another version? What’s wrong with the original one?”
“It promotes individual acts of heroism. History is made by the collective effort of society, not the acts of individual people.”
“Are you quoting a Soviet propaganda pamphlet?”
He nods. “I am. Anyway, the book was rewritten. The rewrite skipped most of the time Robinson Crusoe spent alone and placed more emphasis on the idea of the importance of society. My mother did not approve of the re-write and refused to teach it.”
“And they arrested her?”
“Yes. She was very young at the time. My father and her hadn’t been married very long. Since my father was a member of the party in good standing, he was able to get her released after she signed a declaration stating she wouldn’t teach the original version of the novel again.”
“Let me guess. It was a declaration she had no intentions of following through with?”
“Exactly. Which is why they decided to defect.”
“But how did they do it? It can’t be easy to defect from a country where the vast majority of people don’t have passports, let alone are allowed to leave the country for vacation.”
He shrugs. “I don’t know. They won’t tell me. They claim to be protecting people.”
“They probably are.” I sit back. “Wow. Your life is way more fascinating than mine. I grew up an hour north of Madison and came to town to go to college. End of story.”
He wiggles his eyebrows. “Except for your arrest record.”
“Now, you’re just trying to flatter me.”
“Is it working?”
I giggle. “Maybe?”
“Shall we order some food?”
My budget doesn’t have room for eating out, even if it is a mere burger at a bar. But what the hell? I’m having a good time, and those are few and far between when you work full time while attending college.
I give in. “Okay.”
We make small talk while we eat. There’s a possibility I scarf down my food as it’s the first meat I’ve eaten in over a week. After we finish eating, Daniel takes my hand and leads me to the door.
“I’m to the right,” I say and point that way.
“And I’m to the left.” He points in the opposite direction.
“I guess this is where we say goodbye. Parting is such sweet sorrow.”
“Does this make me Romeo to your Juliet?”
I smirk. “If the tights fight.”
He grins as he leans forward to kiss my cheek. “I had a lovely time tonight. Can I ring you sometime?”
My stomach flips at the idea of this handsome man wanting my number, but I ignore it and act all calm as I respond.
“Okay,” I say and give him my phone number. “I shall say good night till it be morrow.” I wave as I make my way down the street toward my apartment. I can’t resist looking back. When I glance over my shoulder, I find him standing in front of the bar watching me leave. Yes.