A Seekers of the Past novel
by Amy Valentini
Available now for pre-order
Releasing July 10, 2018
Introducing a series like no other—the Seekers of the Past series will take you on a journey where the past meets the present and love lives forever.
Seeking the Past...
Emma Wells has uncovered clues that might prove an old family tale as being true. Strange things lead her to question whether her grandfather’s death may not have been an accident and goes in search of something worth killing him for buried on her property. When she asks an old friend to assist, the man who comes in his place is the last person she ever wanted to respond to her call for help.
Seeking a Second Chance…
Sam Martinelli has been hoping for a reason to get close to the woman he still loves since he destroyed their relationship five years ago. His foolish actions drove her away then, but now he’s hoping his expertise as well as time working with her allows him another chance.
When Emma’s suspicions prove to have substance, she convinces Sam to help her even if he still carries doubts. Being with him again, she begins to question her heart and past as well as her foolish pride. When things take a dangerous turn, Emma realizes she must trust the man she trusts least, especially when the past collides with the present and the truth of it all is uncovered.
And because everyone loves to read the first chapter of a book:
“You’ve seen a lot over the centuries, haven’t you? Well, it’s time to give up some of your secrets.”
The orange and pink glow in the western sky was beginning to fade, and darkness now crept along coating the landscape in the shadows of tall trees as Emma Wells turned the old Jeep toward the house. It rumbled down the hill from the old cemetery and onto the access road running parallel to the cornfield. The humid summer night air filled with swirling waves of honeysuckle perfume mingling with the earthy scents of farming country surrounding her like a comforting blanket. Breathing it in, she knew it wouldn’t be long before the breath of the corn would take its place. It was nearly midsummer and the corn was already almost four feet tall.
Emma loved Green Mount Farm. It was old, centuries old actually. It had seen better days but since her colonial ancestor, Jason Embry had built the grand house, it had survived the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and many more decades of despair so she hoped it would survive a stint in her care. Although the house had gone from what was considered in its early days, a grand home, it had changed over the centuries. A kitchen fire, damage from storms, and modern modifications throughout the twentieth century had changed the grand building into a rather simple yet beautiful farmhouse. It had taken a lot of work this past spring to get the fields back into condition for planting, but it was worth it. She’d hired on agricultural students from the university to do the fieldwork while she concentrated on the house.
The death of her grandfather, Duncan Chambers, had come as a shock to her two years earlier. After burying the beloved man, she’d taken a leave of absence from her job as researcher and restorer at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. Now, she wondered if she’d ever return to her old life or continue to make a new one here, at Green Mount Farm.
A frown crossed her brow as her thoughts returned to the days after her grandfather’s death. There were still so many questions in her mind about his accident. True, Grandpa Duncan was not a young man when he died, but his mind had been as sharp as any younger man she knew. His driving head on into the Carlson’s pond just hadn’t made sense to her and she had tried to get the local authorities to pay more attention to the case, but they claimed he’d been drinking and lost control of his truck. She knew Grandpa Duncan had enjoyed hanging out with his friends at the local tavern because he used to take her there when she spent her summers at Green Mount Farm with him and Grandma Louise, so it was possible. During those visiting months, her grandfather took her everywhere with him, including the local tavern. He would have a beer and smoke a cigar, which he made her promise not to tell her grandmother about, and she would have a chocolate malted. She loved those times. Emma would sit quietly and listen to the older men tell their tales about hunting the big buck, which always got away or fighting to catch the biggest, oldest fish in the local lake. Grandpa assured her their tales were just that, tales. Tall tales, even for them, as he was sure none of them had ever really seen a buck as large as they described or a fish in the lake bigger than two pounds in weight. He would laugh and tell her if old men weren’t able to tell their heroic deeds in tall tales, they would just wither away and die. There was one tall tale however, which never changed in the telling and had long ago led Emma to begin to believe it was true. It was the tale her grandfather never told anywhere but at home in his easy chair.
Her grandfather’s story about Jeremiah Chambers, Grandpa Duncan’s own great-grandfather, had intrigued her from an early age. Grandpa Duncan had told her Jeremiah was a hero of the Confederacy. Now Emma had inherited Green Mount Farm and all of its property. She was determined to prove, mostly to herself, that the tale Grandpa Duncan told every summer was, in fact, true.
When she left the house this morning, she had not intended to be gone until dark so she was now tired, dirty, and very hungry. Having set out early in the day, she’d packed enough food and water to get her through the day but hadn’t had anything to eat since around four in the afternoon. It was now going on nine-thirty. With a great sigh, Emma pulled her long golden blond hair loose from her usual ponytail. She shook her head, loosening her hair around her as she squared her shoulders and relaxed them easing away some of the exhaustion living there. It had been a long day of clearing brush and fallen trees from the opening to an obviously manmade cave she’d found. She hoped it might be the opening to a tunnel, which might lead her to solving the mystery surrounding her grandfather’s tale of Jeremiah Chambers, her own great-great-great grandfather.
As she maneuvered the Jeep closer to the once grand old farmhouse, she saw a light shining from the kitchen window in the back of the house. One of the boys had most likely left it on again, only this time she was grateful since there were no other lights illuminating the house. The only light she had to lead her home was that one since any lights from the working quarters weren’t visible from the direction she was driving.
The vehicle’s headlights lit up the road as she turned into the long driveway leading from the farmhouse to the rural road, which stretched for miles in either direction in front of the land she now owned. It was times like this, in the quiet of the countryside, she wished her mother and her father were here with her to help uncover the secret Jeremiah Chambers had left behind over one hundred and fifty years ago.
Her thoughts elsewhere, Emma saw the dark-colored SUV parked near the carriage house converted to a garage at the last minute. She slammed the brakes on to keep from hitting the back end of the vehicle. Her lungs sucked in a great gasp of air which she held as she glanced around apprehensively, wondering where the owner was hiding.
Shutting off her lights, she killed the engine but left the keys in the ignition. Slowly, without taking her eyes away from her surroundings, she reached her right hand down the side of her leg to where a leather sheath strapped to her leg contained her hunting knife. She slid the knife from the sheath and as it came up from the shadows, the small amount of light in the air glinted off the four-inch blade. The Cocobolo handle felt cool and comfortable in her small hand.
Grandpa Duncan had bought her the slender lightweight knife for her when she was fifteen. He told her it would not only come in handy during her hikes in the woods, but no bad-ass guy would ever bother her if she had it strapped to her hip once she was on her own. Her own father had frowned when he saw it but understood his father-in-law’s concerns, and eventually admitted he was glad she had it. He’d confided this to her when she was preparing for her first archaeological exploration in Central America. Between her grandfather and father, by the time archaeologist Emma Wells headed off to foreign lands and uncharted jungles, she’d received enough lessons on how to use it that confidence was second nature whenever she drew it from its sheath. Her father had insisted she learn every means available to defend herself before heading off on digs. Emma learned very quickly it was necessary on many of her jaunts into unknown territory. She never really believed she would ever use it to protect herself against another human being but with the events of late, she wanted to be prepared and the feel of the hard steel resting against her thigh was always reassuring. In her hand, it gave her much needed confidence.
The darkness made her nervous. She opened the car door and slowly stepped out onto the gravel drive careful not to make too much noise. She decided to leave her knapsack in the Jeep in case she needed to leave quickly. With her knife in her right hand at the ready, she used her left to pull her cell phone from a cargo pocket on the side of her pant leg. Unlocking it, and cringing slightly as it clicked open and glowed, she glanced down to see if she had a signal.
Shit! As usual—no service.
It never ceased to amaze her how she could get a signal while out in the fields, but not at the house. Emma slowly glanced around her then stepped carefully around to the front of her vehicle. Her eyes had become accustomed to the dim light now and the moon was beginning to rise in the east shedding a small amount a light over the landscape. As she stepped up alongside the strange truck, she could see inside it. It was empty. She silently asked herself where the driver might be as she glanced around.
Emma could feel the hair standing up on her arms and on the back of her neck. She wished she’d left a light on so she could see if anyone was waiting on the front porch. Right now, she was wishing she had a huge mean dog.
“Note to self, get a really big mean dog,” she whispered to herself, holding the knife at the ready as she moved closer to the porch.
“If you’d remember to leave a light on, you wouldn’t need a big dog. Besides you’d probably forget to feed the dog, and then you’d have to protect yourself from a vicious hungry beast.” A man’s deep voice spoke from somewhere on the large dark veranda. “You never change, Emma girl. You never think ahead.”
Emma recognized that voice and as much as she hated hearing it, she was relieved it was someone she knew, and somewhat trusted—well, used to trust. Anger replaced apprehension. “What the hell are you doing here, Martinelli?”
She knew she’d snarled more than spoke the question as she stomped up the steps to the veranda, swung open the screen door, and unlocked the front door. Reaching inside the door with her left hand, she switched on the porch light. As the light filled the porch, Emma saw him sitting in one of the chairs, which curved around a small table. It was her grandmother’s favorite place to sit while watching her as a little girl playing in the yard. It was where she and her grandparents would eat their lunch, and take afternoon snacks with ice-cold lemonade. Now it was where Samuel Martinelli was sitting. The sight of his cocky smirk, and handsome good looks irritated the devil out of her. After five years, couldn’t he have at least gotten a little less attractive?
“Not even a hello for an old friend.”
“Old friend!” The idea incensed Emma. “You’ve got a lot of nerve even showing your disloyal, cheating, arrogant face around here. What are you doing here, and how did you know where I was?”
“Walt sent me.”
Dr. Samuel Martinelli sat relaxed in the chair, smiling at Emma. He couldn’t help but notice how great she looked. She was dirty but he could tell her figure hadn’t changed much. In fact, it might have improved and beneath the dirty exterior, he could see she was as pretty as ever. Even five years older, she was still a knockout. He watched her watching him, her full chest rising and falling quickly as she reacted to his being on her front porch. Sam also noticed her right hand held that mean hunting knife of hers. He was not going to make a move until she put it away.
Emma seemed to freeze. He wasn’t even sure she was breathing. Suddenly, as if breaking out of her trance, she quickly looked around the porch. “Did he come with you? Where’s Walt?”
“I’m afraid he wasn’t able to come. That’s why I’m here in his place.”
“Is he all right?” Emma asked, her tone giving away her recognition of the seriousness of the tone in his voice. He knew she instinctively knew something was wrong. “Has something happened?”
“He didn’t want you to worry and he’d probably bang me upside the head if he knew I was telling you, but…” Sam paused briefly before continuing. “Walt’s had a heart attack.” Knowing this would throw Emma into a panic, so he quickly added, “He’s fine though, he’s already back home. He just needs some time to recuperate.”
Emma took a seat in one of the other chairs at the small table or rather she sunk into the chair as if every bit of energy had just been sucked out of her body and left her limp as a rag doll with no stuffing. He knew the idea of losing someone else she held dear to a heart attack was too much and the paleness of her sun-kissed skin made it obvious.
“Sam, tell me the truth,” she pleaded in a quiet voice. “The absolute truth, dammit…is Uncle Walt really okay?”
“Truthfully, honey, the old coot is doing okay.”
He liked hearing her call him Sam just as she used to do when they were dating. He always knew when she was feeling scared, nervous, or even amorous for it was those times when she called him by his first name albeit the shortened version. It was when she called him by his surname, Martinelli, he knew she was truly annoyed or worse, angry with him. Her first reaction told him she was still mighty pissed off at him for what happened five years earlier. “It was serious enough to put him in the hospital for a few days but not serious enough, or so the old man claims, to worry you over. Walt refused to let me call you. Hell, when he heard your voice message, he wanted to come here himself. I had to threaten to call his doctor, so he finally gave in but insisted I come in his place.”
“But he’s okay?” Emma asked, her voice shaking a bit in need of reassurance.
Sam knew this was hard for her to hear. The idea of losing Walt was scary for her. Walt Bingham was the closest thing to family she had left. Her own father, Robert Wells, had died five years ago of a heart attack. It was during the aftermath of his passing when Sam had foolishly betrayed her and consequently, lost her. Losing Robert Wells was as heartbreaking to Sam as it was for his daughter because Robert had been his mentor, best friend, and surrogate father. Feeling lost and full of grief himself, he’d tried his best to comfort Emma, but when she pushed him away claiming a need to be alone with her own grief, he’d done a very foolish thing. He’d gone to a local watering hole, had entirely too much to drink, and gave into a temptation which he would never have given in to had he been sober—a beautiful young coed. She’d been one of his students who had been very bold in the past about her attraction to Sam. She’d recognized his vulnerability that night and offered to take him home. Once in his apartment, she set about seducing him. While the two of them entangled themselves in Sam’s bed, Emma, having used her key, entered the apartment and found them. The whole event was still foggy in his memory. He remembered thinking when he heard Emma’s voice in the living room, he must be dreaming. Even now, he only vaguely remembered her coming to stand in the doorway, her face filled with expressions of shock, hurt, and anger. Sam knew positively she was actually there when she called him every name in the book before storming out, slamming the front door behind her. Too drunk to follow, he asked the young woman to leave, and promptly passed out. It was nearly noon the next day before he went searching for Emma only to discover she’d packed a bag and taken off for parts unknown. Another two months passed before he learned of her whereabouts through Walt. Emma Wells had run off to Mexico and was working a dig there. Sam tried to contact her but she’d refused to respond. She refused to let him explain. He finally received one message back, one very brief email with words, which tore a huge hole in his heart.
You betrayed me when I needed you most.
Even now, he wished he could take that night back. He was deeply in love with this proud woman, had been nearly from the first moment he’d met her, and would continue to be despite her rejection. Pride made her run away and now her pride objected to him being here now. He hoped by being here to help her when she needed him then maybe, he could break down the impenetrable wall of pride she’d constructed and she’d learn to trust him again. Then maybe he could convince her he hadn’t actually betrayed her five years ago.
“He’s okay. The doctor said if he rests, and takes his meds as he should, he should be right back to his grumpy old self in no time,” Sam explained with a big smile. “If you don’t believe me, you can call him yourself and let him tell you. ‘Course, it’s kind of late to be calling tonight.” He tipped his arm to read the time on his watch beneath the porch light. “By the way, where have you been? It’s late.”
“Yes, it is late.” Ignoring his question about her whereabouts, she noted how he watched her as she raised her right hand meaning to run her fingers through her long hair. She surprised herself when she realized she was still holding her hunting knife. Glancing at Sam, he knew she expected some smart-ass remark but when she failed to receive it, she placed the knife on the table.
“I was beginning to think you were going to continue threatening me with that.”
“Martinelli, if I wanted to use my knife on you, I wouldn’t threaten first, I would just start cutting. Now it’s late and I’m exhausted.” Pulling herself out of the chair, she stood giving her back an arching stretch. “I’m going to go soak in a tub, get something to eat, and then sleep.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Sam said, standing up as well. “Where do you want me?”
“You can sleep in your truck for all I care.”
“Ah, come on, Emma. You can’t expect me to sleep out there.” He motioned toward the driveway. “The bugs will eat me alive.”
Emma was obviously too tired to argue because she closed her eyes on a long sigh. “Okay, okay. I had made up a room for Uncle Walt. You can sleep there.” Turning to enter the house, she stopped and turned back toward Sam. “You so much as make one move toward me and I’ll gut you for sure.” To emphasize her meaning, she snatched her knife from the table and waved it at him before returning it to its sheath strapped to her thigh.
Sam raised his hands in surrender. “Got it, sweetie, got it.”
Emma started toward the door again, but then stopped. She glanced over her shoulder to the Jeep. Shaking her head, she let her shoulders fall, turned, and walked back to the driver’s side. She returned a few minutes later carrying a backpack. She walked right past him without a word and entered the house not waiting for Sam but instead, allowing the screen door to swing back at him. He grabbed the door before it hit him. Smiling as he entered the foyer, he knew he’d won the first battle even if it was only a small one.
Once inside, he watched Emma’s backside as she climbed the stairs. His smile widening, Sam decided she still had one of the finest asses ever. He locked the front door securely before following her up the steps. As Sam reached the top landing, he heard Emma’s door shut followed by loud clicking sound as she locked the door. With a deep sigh, he started checking rooms to find the one Emma had made up for Walt.
An hour later, Emma found Sam in the kitchen cooking something, which smelled heavenly. Refreshed from a long bath, Emma stood watching him from the doorway. He was handsome as ever, and she cursed herself for noticing. He looked like he’d put on some weight. Of course, it wasn’t flab weight. He’d always been lean but now he was muscularly lean, and it gave him an incredibly sexy look. Five years ago, he’d been only a year older than she was right now but back then, he’d still looked like a college kid. Now at thirty-four, Sam Martinelli had grown into a mature looking man. The mustache helped, Emma thought to herself as she watched him move about the kitchen. His dark hair, which she used to love to run her fingers through, was much shorter just brushing his collar instead of tied back in a long tail.
Sam flipped the switch on the coffee maker. Then as if he had eyes in the back of his head, he seemed to sense her standing in the doorway with her hands on her hips. He glanced over his shoulder at her with a broad white smile.
“What’cha makin’?” Emma asked, the scent of food making her mouth water while the sight of his sweet ass filling out his jeans so deliciously did things to her lower body she had to force herself to ignore.
“I figured you hadn’t eaten anything since who knows when and I was hungry too, so I’ve got sausage, toast, and I’m starting the eggs. Still like ‘em over easy?” he asked as he cracked the first of four eggs into the cast-iron skillet her grandmother always used. The smells and sounds pulled her thoughts back to good times sitting at the kitchen table while Grandma Louise fussed over Sam, frying him eggs in that very skillet.
“Yeah, thanks,” Emma answered clearing her throat first.
Her attention drawn to the neatly set table, she gently shook her head. He always was a fussbudget about making sure everything was just so. Taking a seat at the table, she made herself comfortable. She wasn’t going to bother asking if she could help because she already knew, he’d refuse. One quirk of Sam’s, which she remembered all too well, was he didn’t like any interference while he was cooking. “I’m sorry if I was a little short with you earlier. I’m very tired and you were the last person I expected to find on my porch.”
She watched Sam finish turning the eggs. While the eggs finished cooking, he divided the sausage and toast between two plates, which she suspected he’d warmed in the oven. When the eggs were finished, he placed them gently onto the plates. Using oven mitts, he carried the two plates over to the table where Emma was sitting.
“Careful, the plate’s pretty warm yet.” He warned her as she reached for it. After she’d pulled her hands back, he set the plate in front of her.
As he came close to Emma, Sam smelled vanilla. The scent brought back sweet memories of bubble baths with her and falling asleep with her in his arms after making love with that sweet scent filling his nostrils. His heart skipped a beat at the memory and something else stirred to life, which hadn’t been so alert to a woman in a very long time.
He set his plate down at his seat, and settled in while watching Emma. She picked up her fork and began eating the whites from around her yolks. Sam smiled as he watched her do this. It was a quirk of hers to eat the whites leaving the yolk intact before sliding the fork beneath the yolk to put it in her mouth whole without breaking it. Sam watched as she lifted one of the yolks to her mouth. As her blue eyes lifted, they met his. Caught off guard, Emma dropped her yolk. It broke open on her plate and she sighed in disappointment.
“Sorry,” Sam said frowning.
Emma shrugged her shoulders and used her toast to sop up the yolk. He noted how she was careful to keep her gaze glued to her plate as she enjoyed the late meal. Meanwhile, Sam didn’t take his eyes from Emma. He took in everything about her. She hadn’t changed at all. Her long silky blond hair was still damp but he wanted to bury his nose in it, inhaling that sweet vanilla scent. Her mouth was full and he remembered the feel of her lips under his as if he’d only last kissed her a few minutes ago. Her skin was a golden tan from working in the sun. There was also a sprinkling of freckles on her arms, and across her nose. Sam knew Emma was avoiding eye contact but even as she concentrated on her food, she threw a peek at him from time to time. He smiled as he picked up his fork.
“You look as beautiful as ever, Emma girl.” Her head snapped up quickly in reaction. Her blue eyes darkened as they locked with his. He continued before she had a chance to react fully. “I’m sorry about that night. I was drunk, too drunk it turns out to even do anything,” Sam said quickly.
She dropped her fork to her plate with a clatter. “I don’t want to hear it, Martinelli. It was a long time ago and it’s best left in the past,” Emma snapped as she wiped her hand and mouth with her napkin without looking at him.
He saw her blink a few times rapidly and suspected tears were now filling her eyes. He also knew Emma wouldn’t let him see her cry. Sure enough, she started to rise from the table. Sam reached out, grabbing her small wrist in his larger hand. For a moment, she froze. He silently prayed she wouldn’t move. Then as if his touch had begun to burn, Emma snatched her arm away and pushed her chair back with a loud scrape against the linoleum floor as she stood.
“Okay, okay. I won’t bring it up again.” Sam wanted to change the subject as quickly as possible. She’d called him Martinelli again, which meant she was angry. He’d tried to broach the subject casually, but now he realized he’d pushed it too soon. He should have waited but it felt so right, the two of them together like old times. “You told Walt you’d found something.”
Standing next to the table, Emma stared up at the ceiling. He knew she was counting to fifty to keep from losing her temper. He hoped she’d make it to at least twenty-five then maybe she wouldn’t try to hit him over the head with the hot skillet still on the stove. He watched her take a deep breath, let it out slowly, and then without looking at him, she spoke.
“Not tonight, I’m too tired. I’ll tell you all about it in the morning.” Turning on her heel, Emma started to leave the kitchen. When she reached the doorway, she stopped and standing with her back to him and without turning, she spoke in a controlled tone. “Thank you for the food. Good night.”
Before Sam could say another word, she was hurrying down the hallway to the stairway. He heard her footsteps as she took the stairs so quickly, he assumed it was two at a time. He wished he could go after her, but one thing Sam knew better than anyone when it came to Emma Wells…he knew to stay away from her when she was angry.
It was not anger driving Emma toward the safety of her bedroom. It was the burning ache in her heart, threatening to steal her ability to breathe. She reached her room just in time. With the door locked behind her, she fell on the bed shedding the tears she thought she’d long ago cried out. When he brought up that horrible night, it was all she could do to keep from screaming at him about how much he’d hurt her. How she had relived that night again, and again in her dreams ever since. How humiliated she’d been when she walked into his bedroom where they’d spent so much time together, only to find him in the arms of a naked woman. Each breathless sob racked her chest until she thought she could cry no more, but the tears continued until she fell into a physically and emotionally exhausted sleep.
~~SEEKERS OF THE PAST by Amy Valentini
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