Thirty years of pent-up longing and steamy dreams can lead to a wonderland of erotic explorations.
1967: At a hippie shindig at the height of the Summer of Love, May and Ethan discover that one person they’d always been hoping to find. The stars seem to have aligned to bring them to the start of a whole new life together–until a police raid separates them, leaving them alone and forlorn.
1997: Now in her early 50s, May is a widow and grandmother, but she’s never forgotten about that one night of passion and the man she left behind. For Ethan, now divorced with a grown son, he’s never quite moved past the woman he met for that one brief moment.
Two lonely strangers meet on a park bench, each convinced the past is just a dream. Now, they must find a way to heal themselves and rediscover the love and enduring passion fate once took away.
An unusual second chance, steamy seasoned romance with a guaranteed HEA, Seasons will take you into the longing, family drama, and intense love scenes of this reunited pair.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
In a conversation with another writer, she asked, "What if a couple met knowing a lot about each other but not knowing that this WAS the person they've been thinking about?" Her mind was going in a different direction with this prompt, but I started thinking about reasons the couple may not recognize each other and thought about the question of "Well, what if thirty years had passed?" I then mixed in the idea that they were both unintentionally dosed on LSD and a few other things when they first met, and that was the start.
The reason why I started it in the late 1960s is because I admire the social activism of that time period, and I've known some lovely people who emerged from it with their ideals intact.
I was not actually seasoned when I first wrote this novel, but I liked the idea even when I was younger that love and passion don't have to die with age. Now that I've actually passed the age of the characters (and finally reached a point where I reworked and published it), I enjoy that idea even more.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I imagined two strangers meeting on a park bench, having no idea that this was the person they'd fallen in love with on one night thirty years ago. Then I started thinking about all that might have happened as the fallout of their first meeting and all the effects that those intervening years and life events in general would have had on them.
Mostly, though, the characters wrote themselves. I just had to follow along and listen when they told me who they were.
Every day since that one night in 1967, May had thought about it. Thirty years–thirty excruciatingly long years. And all of them spent so very much alone.
As she wandered along the street that led to the park, May shook her head at herself. The fall winds were whipping at her, but they were nothing to the chill of her thoughts.
“Alone”–no, not really. But none of the people she loved–as important as all of them were–had ever, entirely filled that hole in her heart.
No, she had had company through the years, much of it good; she swallowed back her tears. If only she had been able to appreciate it more.
The truth was that she had simply never been the same since that one night thirty years ago, had never allowed herself to entirely accept joy again. She had had people who cared about her–who adored her, even–but she had never truly been able to return their kindness, had never even come close. No–she had become some sort of polite, tender robot. Whatever she showed to the world, everything since that one, perfect night had been nothing but the slow, inexorable ticking by of endless hours and days.
Admittedly, she had never been entirely certain how to feel about that night, either. In some ways, she saw it all as a huge mistake, one she had never recovered from–but, at the same time, it had given her the deepest, truest pleasure she had ever known. Not simply sexually–not at all. For the only time, she had discovered the missing part of herself.
It had changed her permanently.
Oh–if only he had stayed.
She slowly blinked away the pain, knowing she was being unfair. It wasn’t like her lover had decided to just take off on her; he hadn’t gotten up, said “Thank you, Ma’am,” and disappeared.
No, it had been fate, or karma, or maybe just the workings of a vindictive God which had separated them.
Now she could see the park before her, moved toward it slowly, as her mind ran back once more through those terrible hours after that perfect union. She had never known precisely how long she had really been with him; her one and only acid trip had efficiently removed all perception of time. Still, after they had been lying there in that greenhouse for the sweetest, most peaceful eternity she had ever understood, after they had both begun to come down but were still holding each other close, there had been a sudden, terrible change–an clanging and screaming of noise, people, and flashing lights.
God, it had been terrible, had been the beginning of a nightmare which had simply never ended.
She swallowed back her regret. She still didn’t know exactly why the police had come except that they had been after the idiot Ruben, but that hadn’t stopped them from rounding up the rest of them for good measure.
Evidently, the police had spotted herself and her lover lying on the earth in the greenhouse. It hadn’t really been that hard for them to, she supposed–a fact she had only, very uncomfortably, realized later.
They had crashed into their love nest, all screams and demands, taking hold of herself and her beloved. He had tried to defend her in what ways he could, had blocked her naked body with his own from the eyes of their intruders for the second or two they had let him–but it had done neither of them any good. He had just been pulled away by several of them, fighting, screaming for her, as they had tossed his discarded clothes at him and dragged him away.
That large press of blue-clad bodies had then watched, as she had tried to dress as quickly as possible–left alone, utterly terrified. None of them had touched her, fortunately, not in the ways she had feared, but their eyes had done a great deal on their own, had held all of their sickening desires. To this very day, the thought made her ill–and it hadn’t even been over yet.
Heading with little conscious thought toward one of the park’s lakes, May couldn’t stop her memories from plaguing her. As they had pulled her out, screaming for her beloved, her clothes dirty and disheveled, she had caught sight of herself in a reflection in the glass of the greenhouse.
The vision she had seen there had stunned her, the way the make-up had made her look shocking. Her heart had plummeted, as a new fear had swept through her–one which had proved all too true. She hadn’t looked like herself, wasn’t easily identifiable. How, then, would her beloved know her, once it was gone?
It was a question she had yet to find an answer to to this day.
After that, the scene at the station had been terrible and frightening. If she had felt isolated at the party, she had been utterly abandoned there.
Still, after she had been forced to scrub off the paint–she had tried to keep it on for as long as possible, hoping he would find her again–she had finally managed to rediscover Carlotta. Her friend had been taking the whole thing in stride, only vaguely annoyed by the inconvenience of it, but she had been very sympathetic, had shown more calm and maturity than May had ever seen in her before, when she had seen just how devastated May was.
May had been grateful every day since for her kindness. Without her, . . .
She stopped this thought, moving on–not able to handle the possibilities. Carlotta, of course, had known someone–Charlie, a Cockney local lawyer who had left London behind him and now liked to run with the in-crowd–who had gotten them out by a few hours later. Thankfully, the police hadn’t really been that interested in her.
But, even after she had been released, she hadn’t been able to go, had needed to find her lover, to know he was all right–needed to be with him in order to survive.
For longer than anyone had had patience for at the station, she had stayed, begging everyone she could find for information until they had finally just tossed her out. Even then, she had refused Carlotta’s request to come back with her, had stood in the rain outside of the station for the next 15 hours or so, watching various partygoers who weren’t him being released. The dirt in her hair had turned to mud, her fears rising catastrophically with every stranger who passed.
Nonetheless, she had stayed there, until, on the police’s third and final warning that she would be rearrested if she didn’t leave, and with both their repeated assertions that everyone from the party except Ruben had already been released and Carlotta and Charlie’s now-desperate attempts to convince her to come away, she had finally left her heart behind.
Nothing since then had ever been remotely the same.
She tried to blink back the tears which were threatening, as she moved further into the park, toward a bench near the lake. She had nothing better to do than sit and stare, not anymore.
Of course, in many ways, she hadn’t for years, but she had gone through the motions, nonetheless; she sat down. She had been twice both a mother and a dutiful wife and had watched the years slip past her terribly slowly, had watched herself become less and less the woman her beloved had first seen. Although some rebellious part of her still looked up at men on the street, trying to place their faces as her beloved, doing her best to reconstruct what he would have looked like beneath the make-up and then ageing it, she knew it was pointless. Even if he were still alive, even if he remembered at all–which she doubted–she was an old woman now, far older than her years.
She was just sitting there mournfully, feeling her sorrow, thinking through both her regret that Cynthia, the body artist, had ever been at the party in the first place–a total anomaly to such events, so Carlotta had told her–and over her more recent loss, when she heard a voice beside her.
“May I share this seat?”
And, for a short, traitorous moment, her soul rang out, so wanted to believe.
It’s him. He finally found me.
Then, she grabbed the thought, yanking it viciously back into line, remembering all too well where such desires had gotten her before.
No. He didn’t exist. Perhaps he never had. She just had to remember that again.
As she answered, her voice was calm, almost blasé.
She didn’t even look up, not caring enough to wonder whether this were someone with good intentions or not. She never really expected to meet anyone like that again.
Ethan gazed over the very lovely woman, as he took his seat. Although she looked so very unhappy, there was an overly-calm veneer to her, one which said that she had long ago convinced herself that joy was illusory. He sighed quietly. He understood the feeling altogether too well.
For a few moments, they sat there silently. Somehow, as he had walked toward her, he had felt that old sense ringing in him–the one that told him that this was her, his only beloved–but he had pushed it away once more.
He knew better than that, had been in one short and thoroughly stupid relationship simply because he had wanted to believe. He had forced himself to accept, or to try to, that he would never know what had happened to his beloved, would never know if she had been real. It was just the way things were.
His mind went back once more, obsessed as always. Some days, long ones, he could almost believe that he had imagined the whole thing, that it had been some sort of intensely real vision brought about by the acid. Still, he knew that wasn’t true. He had seen her for that short eternity, even after it had worn off, in those moments before the police had come to shatter his dreams. They had been some of the most intense of his life, even more than what had come before. For the only time, he had felt that something was real, that he was real; it hadn’t been the drugs, but her. And he had been determined to spend every moment of the rest of his life with her–to do everything in his power to bring her every kind of happiness he could find–in order to hold onto that newly-discovered sense of self.
He let out another, quiet sigh, his thoughts plaguing him once more. But no, that feeling of life had been stolen from him, as he was led away, physically pulled from her, forced to see her standing there, naked, in the middle of a pack of slavering, ogling men–the dirt from their temporary bed marring her lovely hair.
God, it had been torment. That moment appeared in his nightmares to this day.
He looked over to the woman beside him and smiled a little, his gaze caressing her, as something in him thumped, his thoughts having a life of their own. Her features had aged a little, had grown softer, but were still intensely beautiful. The strands of that lovely hair were prematurely silver now, were pulled back into a correct, matronly bun, her body also a little softer with time and, probably, maternity. But something in him recognized her. Oh, how he wished . . .
He caught his roaming, random thoughts, pulled the wayward desires back.
No, this wasn’t her; it couldn’t be. God had proven to him thirty years ago that he wasn’t worthy of taking one of his angels for a mate, had taken his most beautiful one back to keep for himself. He was never going to meet her on some park bench, just staring into the lake–was never going to meet her at all.
That one night had been an anomaly, the only beautiful one in his life, but it had been over almost before it had begun. Everything since then had been simple existence.
Still, whoever this woman was, he might as well talk to her. She seemed sad enough to want the company, even if she didn’t seem particularly open to it. Gazing at her again, he traced the full lines of her lovely face. He wondered what had happened to make her so unhappy.
Just as he was about to speak, she stopped his visual caress, her voice ironic. “If you’re going to sit there and stare at me, you could at least say something.”
Liking her already, he smiled to himself. She was straightforward, obviously didn’t believe in subtlety. Still, the revelation made him sad, too, since he suspected that her gruff veneer had been a hard-won trait.
He gave in to her request. “What would you like to hear me say?”
Oh. Something deep inside her sighed at his voice, a traitorous part of herself answering silently: Anything.
Shaking herself mentally, she resumed her rather cold manner. “How about why you came to the park in the middle of the day.”
He smiled. She had yet to look at him, but he was going to change that. “Don’t you think I’m old enough to be allowed an afternoon in the park?”
Sighing inwardly, she understood what he was doing. But, for some reason, she was half-terrified of actually seeing this man. She supposed it all went back to that wayward part of her soul which wanted to believe that he was her beloved. Seeing him would tell her he wasn’t.
Giving in to the inevitable, she looked over to him casually–but her breath caught a little, as she did; she had to repress her look of shock. It wasn’t so much that he was the man she loved, just that he was downright gorgeous–too much so for a random man in the park.
Her eyes evaluated him, trying not to give away how her heart was pounding. Although he was probably about her age, he had held up much better, she thought. His rich auburn hair was still longish, a touch of white at the temples, his features only more prominent and striking with time.
Her gaze ran down. Wrapped in a form-caressing shirt and jeans, both of them black, along with a long black coat, his body was still quite gorgeous, if a little larger than before; something about it made her shudder. The outfit should have made him look like some sort of poser or at least a little fey, but it did nothing but enhance his intense masculinity.
Lord. She hadn’t felt like this since that one night thirty years ago.
She managed to pull her gaze away, moving it back blindly to the lake, but she couldn’t quite get over his beauty. She was trying to keep herself in line, too, could see how she had been comparing him to her beloved. Especially given her recent bereavement, it unsettled her.
Her face became more correct. “You look too well-dressed to be in the park at all.” Casual as his clothes were, it was obvious that they were very well made. Like him.
He let out a small laugh. Her appreciation hadn’t gone unnoticed–and, for the first time in a very long while, he loved it.
Gazing down her form again, he took in her correct, designer dress, the string of pearls, the long black coat with the small, gold and diamond, brooch over her heart. It was all very correct. On any other woman, it would have added up to nothing, but on her . . .
He pulled his mind back to the conversation. “And you’ve just been out wandering the streets?”
Although she smiled a little in acknowledgment of his point, the look quickly faded as his words sank in. She had done that once, along with her child–his child. Only for a day or so, but still . . .
Pulling herself back into line, she willfully erased the traces of sorrow. Whoever this gorgeous man was, none of it was any of his business.
His words had gone on before her look had faded, though, his smile subtle. “Are you a fugitive from a cocktail party?”
She drew herself back from her dour thoughts to his words, smiling a little–but it faded when she remembered the truth. Her look saddened considerably, her voice a little hoarse. “No.”
Seeing the change in her mood, he understood that he had just trespassed on something very painful. “I’m sorry.”
He almost reached out to touch her when he reminded himself that he had only met her a few minutes ago. How odd that she had that effect on him.
He tried to form the right words. “Have you lost someone?”
Swallowing back heavily, she closed her eyes. God, have I ever.
Still, she managed to open them a second later, taking in the more immediate part of his question. But her mind turned before she answered, making her focus on him suspiciously. “How do I know you aren’t just some gold digger or serial killer who preys on rich women?”
His eyes were calm, held his sympathy for her. Still, he answered with a slight smile. “Because I didn’t know you were rich until about two seconds ago.”
She almost interrupted, probably about to point out how she was dressed, but he changed the subject. Her accusation was untrue, so why linger on it?
His smile deepened. “And I think I’m a little long in the tooth to be a serial killer.” He laughed morbidly. “Too much heavy lifting.”
A little incredulous, she looked into him for a few moments, before letting out a short near-bark of a laugh. He did have a bizarre sense of humor.
Besides, if he were either of those things, it wouldn’t matter. He wouldn’t get near enough to her for the former–and she had long ago given up caring about herself enough to regret the latter.
Pulling herself away from these heavy thoughts, she smiled a little, shaking her head. “I very much doubt that you’re too old for much of anything, but I’ll take your word, for now.”
Her eyes widened slightly, when she heard the insinuation in her voice. Where the heck had that come from?
Smiling, he picked up the other thoughts which hid behind her words–and her own amazement at them, liking her more and more. His own insinuations grew. “I doubt either of us are.”
Oh, please. Her smile had faded, as she gazed over at him, semi-disgustedly. “I’m a very old woman, Mister . . .?”
He shook his head. “Janvier–Ethan Janvier. And no, you are very far from ‘old’–Ms. . . .?”
His words struck her in several bad ways. She looked back to the lake.
She didn’t want to tell him her last name. Then, he would know how very rich a widow she was. Still, if she told him her first, it would be inviting further familiarity.
She sighed, deciding on the lesser of two evils. “Just May. And if you actually think you can impress me by lying about my looks, I’ll have to seriously downgrade my opinion of you.”
His eyes widened a little. That name–it struck a chord in him somewhere. He had to take a deep breath to suppress his throbbing heart.
“May,” he breathed. “It’s lovely, like you.”
She looked back to him furiously, and he saw her gorgeous blue eyes flash. God, how I remember those.
He shook the random thought from his head. “If you’d like me to lie about your beauty by discounting it, I can.” His warm eyes caressed her. “But I have no idea why you’d want that.”
No. She wouldn’t take any more of this. The way his voice caressed her name was bad enough, set off something deep inside her–some sense of longing which made her angry. But she wouldn’t be lied to about her looks; she’d grown used to those long ago. “I’m 50, if you’d like to know, Mister Janvier, . . .”
Smiling at her wrath, he interrupted. “Ethan, please.”
She ignored him. “My hair is gray. My body is, well, much more than it used to be, and there’s the start of a new wrinkle somewhere for every day I’m alive.”
His quiet smile continued, annoying her no end. “Your hair is a beautiful shade of silver, like something that would catch moonlight. Your body is . . .” He gazed down at it, his smile deepening. “. . . well . . .” His eyes caught hers again, his insinuations clear. “. . . and if you have a wrinkle, I have yet to notice it.” His gaze became more serious. “50 is not old, May.”
Although she let out a disgusted huff, she wasn’t honestly certain who it was she was annoyed with. If this were any other man, she would already have gotten up and left. She still wasn’t sure why she hadn’t with him.
She looked away. “It is for me.”
He shook his head, unable to fathom her inability to see her own beauty. Still, he pulled his mind back to an earlier point, wonderingly. “Have you lost a husband recently, May?” Her face showing her sorrow, despite herself, she looked down.
“Is that why you’re so angry?”
She glared up at him but looked away again quickly. He just seemed far too sympathetic.
He was wrong to be like that. She didn’t deserve any sympathy at all.
He saw the truth there–or part of it, anyway. Amazed, his gaze went deeper. “Didn’t he ever tell you how beautiful you are?”
Letting out a snort, she shook her head. “He was prejudiced.”
He shook his head as well, his gaze distant and honest, his voice soft. “He was alive.”
Oh. She heard the truth, the honest appreciation, in his words and looked up to him, swallowing heavily.
Why the hell is he being nice to me? Just what exactly does he want?
“Would you like to tell me about him?” His eyes were still very gentle and caring.
Sighing, she looked back to the ground. Something in his gaze told her that he really didn’t know who she was, that he wasn’t a gold digger–if such a term could be applied to a man.
Giving into the inevitable, she wanted to see if the information changed him, put that familiar look of avarice in his eyes. “Ellsworth. My name is Mrs. May Ellsworth.” She looked back up to him.
Oh. Several layers of understanding falling into place, his gaze deepened. “You’re Aaron’s wife.”
As she refocused on the ground, she sighed. “I was.”
There was a pause, before she looked up suspiciously. “Did you know him?”
He nodded, staring deep inside her. If she was who she said she was, she should have known.
“Yes. He bought a painting of mine a few months ago.”
He saw the look of recognition come into her beautiful eyes, watched her nod and look away, and sighed. Everyone who read a newspaper in San Francisco–or in many other places, for that matter–knew about Aaron’s passing. He had been sick for nearly a year, lung cancer if Ethan remembered correctly. Aaron had already been rather frail when he had come to buy the painting–a vast difference to the fairly virile sportsman, not to mention art collector, gallery owner, and benefactor, whom Ethan had met in passing at a few shows.
No wonder the poor woman was so sad. It had been common knowledge that Aaron was desperately and openly in love with the woman he had married; they had made quite the society couple. He knew it must be hard for her now.
May let out a long, unhappy sigh. God, it hurt to admit that. She hated thinking about poor Aaron–about all she had done to him by marrying him. He had deserved so much better than her.
Heavily, she swallowed back her tears, upset even more that this man would no doubt be thinking her utterly bereft over the loss of a beloved spouse. It hurt that he was only partly right.
Yes, she missed Aaron, missed his quiet, loving good humor, his ability to find the joy in anything, but she had never really loved him–not like she should have, anyway. The fact that he had known that and loved her despite herself only made it worse.
She didn’t deserve this man’s sympathy at all.
Knowing she could do little about his misperceptions, she let out another long sigh. She remembered the painting that Aaron had bought from this man, vividly. Sometimes, it haunted her dreams.
The painting still hung in her husband’s dressing room, mostly because she hadn’t had the heart to try to change or get rid of anything there. Aaron had actually wanted to put it in the bedroom, but she had objected, for one of the first times.
It wasn’t that this man’s work was poor–far from it. While he had a style which Peter Max had made popular, Janvier’s works were often more surrealistic.
The one Aaron had purchased had been of a tiger with wings–had actually been a little William Blake inspired, she had thought–but it wasn’t that which disturbed her. No, it was something else, some sense of familiarity which rang at her out of the past, the painting too hard for her to look at for long.
Aaron had adored it, though, had treasured it till his death. She supposed she should thank this man for that.
Just as she was about to say this, another thought came into her head. Aaron had actually been encouraging her, near the end, to buy some of this man’s paintings for one of his galleries. The nostalgia for the sixties had made the style popular again.
How odd that I should run into him like this.
She didn’t get a chance to say any of this, though, her thoughts interrupted, Ethan’s voice reflective. “Aaron mentioned that I should contact you when . . .”
As she met his gaze, he caught himself from finishing his sentence. He tried to shake off his error.
“He thought you might be interested in some other paintings.” He saw the look in her eyes and shook his head, staring into the distance. “Sorry, I was just remembering. I wasn’t trying to make a sale.”
She blinked, finally catching up to this last shift. No, of course he wasn’t. She smiled softly. She would just have to set him straight.
Just as she was about to, a child’s voice called out. “Gramma!”
They both looked over, May with a soft smile, as the little girl ran up to her, bracing herself finally on the side of bench, grinning.
May laughed softly, her smile genuine for one of the few times in her life, as the girl screeched to a halt. “Careful,” she said softly, in pure grandmotherly tones; she sometimes thought it was an innate trait to warn children when they were too active, as though they would easily break.
She caressed the girl’s cheek. Still, she didn’t want to imagine any harm coming to any of them. Little Monica was only one generation away from the only man May had ever fully loved.
The girl grinned more broadly, her speech rapid. “Mamma says dinner’s almost ready. She wanted to see if you want a ride home.”
May smiled gently at the girl, but let out an internal sigh, the real message obvious. Still, she did love Fan for looking after her so. She nodded. “I’ll be along in a minute.”
The girl grinned again, nodded, looked up to Ethan to give a brief, “Hi!” and then, her breath regained, took off up the hill once more.
Ethan watched the girl go, his heart tugging a little. There was something about this woman, something he couldn’t put together. Whatever it was, it made him truly wish, if only for just a passing moment, that this was their grandchild who had just come running to them.
But he had no idea where that wish had come from at all.
He looked up the small hill to where the girl’s mother stood and smiled, but his mind was turning. Although the woman was way too dark to be Aaron’s child–Aaron having been as much the attractive, WASPy blond as his wife–Ethan thought he remembered having heard once that the man’s wife had already had a child when they had married. He assumed so, anyway.
Still, she was lovely. His heart caught again on his wayward wishes. But no. It was hard to have a child with a woman you’d never met before. Lovely as May was, she was a stranger.
May’s smile had faded, as she turned toward him. “I suppose I’d better go.”
Watching her rise quietly, a sense of mourning came over him at the thought of never seeing her again. Suddenly, his resolve set.
His words seemed casual, as he looked away. “I’m usually here at this bench in the afternoons. The park’s beautiful this time of day.”
Her eyes widening, a new thought replaced her sorrow at leaving for just a second. “I took your bench?”
He looked up warmly. “I didn’t mind the company.”
Oh. She understood his message, smiling deeply. “You even come when it rains?”
He laughed slightly. “Especially when it rains.”
Nodding, she stepped back and smiled at him, their messages received. Huh. It has been an odd day.
He watched her walk away with some regret but told himself to let her go. Hopefully, she would be back.
He exchanged a look with May’s daughter who waited for her mother at the top of the small hill, her eyes more than a little curious, and then gazed back out at the lake. He didn’t know what to make of this day, but–for the first time in decades–he felt like this was the start of something good. He supposed he would just have to return tomorrow and find out.
Katherine Gilbert is the author of several sweet paranormal romance/urban fantasy novels in the More in Heaven and Earth series. But, when the werewolves, witches, angels, and their friends are on vacation, she transforms into her alter-ego, Kat Samuels, writer of steamy contemporary and historical romance. She is a BBW and hippie at heart.
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