Originally Published in 2005
|File size:||453 KB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
All My Tomorrows
By Rochelle Alers
BET BOOKSCopyright © 2005 Rochelle Alers
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLydia Lord touched a button on the dashboard of her late-model Nissan Pathfinder, turning off the air-conditioning. Reaching over, she pressed another button, then lowered the driver's-side window.
She'd left Baltimore's hot, hazy, humid weather behind miles ago. The cooler, pine-scented air, the steep incline of the winding road, and the massive pine and birch trees growing closely together as if forming a natural fortress against intruders were constant reminders that she was now in the Appalachian Mountain region.
She had signed on to cook for one hundred boys and girls and the counselors and staff of Camp Six Nations for the next eight weeks. The sleepaway camp, east of West Virginia and south of Pennsylvania, was a far cry from Kinkeads, the popular high-end restaurant in Washington, D.C. But on the other hand, Lydia looked forward to the experience with the same anticipation of a young child on Christmas morning.
Camp Six Nations was far away from D.C. and Justin Banks, and the next two months would provide enough time for her to adjust to life without him and her prestigious position at the restaurant, where she had been passed over not once but twice for a promotion she believed she'd rightfully deserved.
After discussing her first professional setback with her sister-in-law, master chef Victoria Jones-Lord, Lydia sensed ambition was getting the better of her and clouding her judgment. However, after the second time she knew it was a game-one best played out in the nation's capital. She had had enough of the "politricks." A month later she tendered her resignation. The first morning she woke up realizing she did not have a job to go to was the morning she decided it was time she worked for herself.
She decelerated, maneuvering the SUV on the paved road along a lake; painted wooden stakes bearing Native American symbols and the number of miles to the campsite were positioned every quarter of a mile. Within minutes her drive ended as she slowed and stopped at a clearing. Glancing at printed directions taped to the dashboard, Lydia bore right, following the signs for STAFF HOUSING and CAMP PARKING.
She pulled into a space between a gleaming black Range Rover and a minivan, parked, and cut off the engine. She had less than an hour to settle into her cabin before meeting with other staff members for an orientation session.
Alighting, she opened the hatch and grasped the handles of a large duffel bag and hoisted the strap over her shoulder. Her body sagged under the weight as she climbed a wooden stairway to a clearing where a large two-story house sat on a hill overlooking the lake. Two smaller cabins with screened-in porches were erected nearby under a copse of towering pine trees.
"Let me get that for you."
Lydia went completely still before a slight tremor swept over her. She was as entranced by the velvety masculine voice as she was from the intoxicating scent of an unfamiliar men's cologne floating around her. Shifting slightly, she stared at a pair of broad shoulders straining against the fabric of a navy blue cotton golf shirt. She knew the man was tall, very, very tall, because there weren't that many men she had to tilt her head and lean back to look up at. At five eight and a half she was taller than the average woman.
"Why, thank you," she said, smiling, letting the strap slide off her shoulder.
Her father had helped her load her SUV with enough clothes, books, and personal items for the summer. Moving back, she glimpsed the profile of the man assisting her. A baseball cap bearing the camp's name covered his head, a pair of sunglasses was perched on the bridge of his prominent nose, and faded jeans clung to his slim hips and long legs like a second skin.
There was something about his strong brown jaw that was vaguely familiar, and she knew if she saw all of his face she would then be able to recall where she'd seen him.
Where have I heard that voice before? she mused, staring at the flexing muscles in the man's upper arms as he deftly hoisted the bag as if it were a five-pound sack of potatoes. His voice was musical, melodious. The timbre reminded her of the low, soothing notes from a muted trombone.
Quickening her step, Lydia mounted the porch to the cabin she'd been assigned, opening the door. The man brushed past her as he walked into the cabin, leaving the subtle, sensual, masculine scent trailing behind him.
She had gone to a sleepaway camp during her preteen years, and although she'd learned to swim, exceled in arts and crafts, and gotten along well with her camp mates, what she remembered most were the smells: wet bathing suits, grass, mildewed clothes, and the occasional unwashed camper who refused to comply with the rule of a daily shower.
This time she would not have to share her living quarters or shower with eight or ten other girls. The responsibility of planning meals for one hundred campers, twenty counselors, and an administrative staff of twelve afforded her private housing.
She walked into a cabin that was no larger than her first studio apartment. A double bed in an alcove took up more than half the space. The floor plan in her orientation packet indicated a bathroom with a sink, a commode and shower, and a utility kitchen.
The man who had appointed himself her baggage handler turned and stared at her from behind his dark lenses after placing her luggage on the floor in front of a pair of sliding doors.
"How many more bags do you have?"
Lydia went completely still when she saw the hint of a smile curving the corners of his mouth upward. "Why would you think I have more bags?"
His smile curved into a full grin as he displayed a mouth filled with perfectly aligned large white teeth. Her stomach muscles contracted and her eyelids fluttered. There was something about the sexy smile that was so familiar she wanted to scream, Who are you?
"You're a woman and that bag certainly isn't heavy enough to hold all of the gadgets and doodads you'd need for eight weeks."
What was he talking about? The bag had to weigh at least twenty-five pounds, while the other one was even heavier. Resting her hands on slim hips, she tilted her chin.
"Do I detect a hint of sexism in that remark, Mr...." Her words trailed off. She didn't even know his name.
He crossed his arms over his chest and rocked back on the heels of his hiking boots in what she could only interpret as a challenging gesture.
"Ken," he supplied.
Affecting a similar pose, Lydia stared up at him. "It's Mr. Ken?"
His smile faded. "No. It's Kennedy Fletcher, but most people call me Ken."
Realization rocked her. "Kennedy Fletcher," she whispered softly.
His striking good looks and magnificent body had most women gasping whenever his image appeared on the television screen. She had once openly referred to him as an African god. The remark elicited strange stares from her six brothers before they teased her mercilessly about turning into a groupie.
The man standing less than five feet away was the elusive former running back for the Baltimore Ravens. Known in the world of sports as the "Juggernaut," Kennedy Fletcher had retired from professional football at the height of his career. Sportscasters could not stop talking about the former rookie and defensive player of the year who had walked away from his career at a time when he'd become the highest-paid player in the game with endorsements that far exceeded his seven-figure salary. Rumors abounded about gambling losses, substance abuse, and an unsubstantiated paternity suit with a high-fashion model.
Her lush mouth softened as she offered him a smile. "Well, you do live and breathe."
Kennedy stared at the tall, slim figure in a pair of body-hugging jeans, a crisp white man-tailored shirt, and low-heeled black leather boots. Her flawless gold-brown complexion, shoulder-length hair pulled into a ponytail, and casual attire afforded her an overall look that was an alluring combination of exotic and classic.
Lowering his arms, he splayed his fingers on his waist, smiling. "And I hope to live and breathe for a long time, Miss ..."
Lydia closed the distance between them, extending her right hand. "Lydia Lord, chef," she said.
Kennedy wanted to tell Lydia he knew who she was. He shook her hand, finding it cool and soft to the touch.
"My pleasure, Lydia. I'm the sports director."
Her expression stilled and grew serious. Maybe it was just a figure of speech, but it was the second time Kennedy said, "My pleasure." What she wanted to remind him of was that she was not at Camp Six Nations for his pleasure. There had been a time when she had been available for a man's pleasure. After she ended that relationship she'd promised herself it would never happen again-and it hadn't.
She eased her fingers from his firm grip. "It's nice meeting you."
Kennedy's penetrating gaze was fixed on Lydia's slender face. He wanted to remove his sunglasses to see the exact shade of her large eyes. As it was he had the advantage of staring openly at her.
"Do you have more stuff to bring in from your car?" There was a hint of laughter in his soothing voice.
Lydia raised her chin and flashed a facetious smile. "Yes. I do happen to have another bag."
Kennedy successfully bit back a grin, extending his hand. "Give me your key and I'll bring it in."
Reaching into the back pocket of her jeans, she dropped a key in his palm. "It's the silver Pathfinder."
She stared at his retreating back, then turned to survey what was to become her living quarters for the next two months. The cabin was half the size of her one-bedroom Silver Spring, Maryland condo, but it would do for the next eight weeks. In addition to the bed, there was a chest of drawers, a chair that matched one on the porch, and a small round table. The kitchen had a microwave, a two-burner stove, and a built-in cupboard. She counted the number of electrical outlets. There were four.
She hadn't planned to work the summer, but when her brother's best friend, Ethan Bennington, asked if she would supervise the kitchen staff at a sleepaway camp for economically disadvantaged boys and girls from the Baltimore/D.C. area, she hadn't hesitated.
She'd accepted the position, then decided to forgo a salary when told that it was the camp's inaugural season. Her decision to become a volunteer affected the fate of the last two wait-listed campers. Instead of spending their summer vacation playing on sidewalks or getting into trouble they would be given the opportunity to interact with other children in an environment that could possibly change their young lives forever.
Kennedy returned with a matching duffel bag slung over one shoulder and a small canvas case in his right hand to find Lydia sitting on a straight-back chair on the porch. He had removed his glasses and when his gaze met and fused with hers he felt as if a three-hundred-pound defensive linebacker had tackled him, knocking the air from his lungs.
Her eyes were beautiful. Framed by long, thick lashes, they were a peculiar shade of a burnished gold with dark brown centers that reminded him of shimmering liquid citrines. She rose to her feet and the soft fragrance of her perfume wafted into his nostrils.
He swallowed to relieve his constricted throat. "I'll take these inside for you."
Lydia nodded. "Thank you very much."
Kennedy gave her a sidelong glance as he walked into her cabin. He could've bitten off his tongue seconds after he'd uttered his sexist remark about her packing more than she would need for her stay. He did not want Lydia Lord to think of him as a misogynist.
During college and the years he'd played pro ball, he had always kept his private life very, very private, which had added to the mystique regarding his association with the opposite sex.
There were rumors as to his sexual preferences, but those remained unfounded rumors. He'd made it a practice to select women who were content to remain out of the spotlight, not flaunting their status as Ken Fletcher's girlfriend.
"Would you like a quick tour of the campgrounds before the staff gathers for orientation?" he asked, once he joined Lydia on the porch.
She glanced at her watch. It was now 1:20. Staff orientation had been set for 2:00. "Sure." Lydia knew she could not realistically unpack and put everything away in forty minutes.
Kennedy led her off the porch and across a grassy meadow. He pointed at the large two-story structure. "The camp directors, physician's assistant, and social workers will live in what is referred to as the main house. There are four larger cabins on the east side of the main house for the rest of the administrative staff."
"Where are you staying?"
"In the cabin next to yours."
Lydia stared straight ahead. "So, you're going to be my neighbor."
Kennedy chuckled softly. "No," he countered, "you're going to be my neighbor. After all, I moved in first."
Turning her head, she met his amused stare. "When did you move in?"
"Three days ago."
"Why so early?"
"Roger and Grace Evans decided it would be best that I inspect the play areas and sports equipment before the campers arrive."
Lydia nodded. She had met with the middle-aged couple for an interview; in a subsequent meeting a week later she signed papers authorizing a background investigation as mandated by the state's department of child protective services.
"Is that the alarm clock?" She pointed to a large bell perched atop a pole rising more than thirty feet in the air.
Kennedy chuckled again. "Yes."
"I'm willing to bet that someone will climb the pole and remove the clapper before the end of the season."
He stopped, reached out, and caught her forearm. "Do you realize how high that pole is?"
She nodded. "I'm still willing to bet that someone will climb it."
"What are you willing to bet?"
Vertical lines appeared between Lydia's eyes. "I only said bet as a figure of speech."
Kennedy dropped his hand, took a step, bringing them only inches apart, and within seconds Lydia felt lightheaded. It was the first time in twenty-seven years that she found herself besieged by an overwhelming, tangible masculinity. She'd grown up with a lot of brothers-six, to be exact-and although they were the quintessential alpha males they always treated her as their equal.
She'd never been drawn to athletes, viewing them as pompous, arrogant, and manipulative. But she was aware that the Ravens had selected Kennedy in a first-round draft, offering the Olympic-gold-medal sprinter a contract that gave him instant multimillionaire status.
His penetrating eyes crinkled in a smile. "Are you that certain a camper will try to climb the pole and remove the clapper?"
"Very certain," Lydia countered. The two words were filled with a note of defiance, as well as a subtle challenge.
She was confident some camper would make the attempt, because it had happened every year she went to sleepaway camp. Once she'd turned thirteen she had been the one to shimmy up the pole and remove the clapper. She'd earned the distinction of being the only girl in camp history to successfully achieve the feat at that time.
"Okay," Kennedy drawled, his gaze lowering along with his mellifluous voice. "If no one removes the clapper before the end of the season, then you'll have to wine and dine me at a restaurant of my choice."
Lydia stared up at the man with the chiseled features and magnificent body. A slight frown marred her smooth forehead. "I don't date athletes."
He cocked his head at an angle. "Who said it would be a date? And, for your information," he added quickly, "I am not an athlete." He was a former athlete and now the owner of Camp Six Nations. But, on second thought, he wouldn't mind dating Lydia Lord, wondering how long it would take to make her see that there was no reason to take life so seriously.
Heat searing her face, Lydia prayed for the earth to open up and swallow her whole. Why, because he'd mentioned their dining together, did she liken it to a date?
Excerpted from All My Tomorrows by Rochelle Alers Copyright © 2005 by Rochelle Alers. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Every little girl dreams of growing up and finding just the perfect man to love and to be loved by. All My Tomorrows, by Rochelle Alers, reinforces the belief that dreams and sometimes fairytales do come true. Lydia Lord, a pampered chef from an upscale Washington, DC eating establishment, quits her job and takes a volunteer position as the head chef for an underprivileged summer camp. The purpose of this venture is to unselfishly give back to children but also to determine if she can successfully run and operate her dream restaurant ¿The Lady Day¿. Kennedy Fletcher, ex-Baltimore Ravens football extraordinaire, realizes his dream by underwriting Camp Six Nations, and working there as the Athletic Director. As Athletic Director and male species, Kennedy takes one look at Lydia and finds himself smitten with her. Lydia on the other hand is coming out of a relationship and starting a new one with Kennedy is the last thing on her mind. Together with the rest of the camp staff, Kennedy and Lydia embark upon making this a summer to remember however, the kids are not the only ones that will remember this summer experience. This story reminds the reader that the best part of being in love is¿ loving the person that you are with. As a reviewer, after reading a book, I sit back and think about the story. This is a story that I couldn¿t seem to get out of my mind. Instead of this being the authors words, it was like a movie. I could almost visualize all of the people in this character driven novel and in today¿s literature, that is definitely a refreshing twist. Ms. Alers really outdid herself. Although, the scheme of this story was romance, it was refreshingly clear to see that the little people (children) in this book had voices as well. I have always been a fan, but this book has sealed the fact that I will be a Rochelle Alers fan for life. Webster defines romance as ¿the tendency to derive great pleasure from romantic adventures romantic sentiment¿. My summer¿s definition of romance is ¿All My Tomorrows¿. Reviewed by: Eleanor S. Shields, Black Butterfly Review