ARRIVE: The Sequel to DRIVE is (ALMOST) Here!

It’s been a while, huh?

The past few months I have really buckled down with getting the DRIVE sequel done. Life was getting all in the way and turned my preferred spring deadline into summer. But, it is what it is – you can’t rush the process.

And the process is finally (close to) complete!

ARRIVE will be released at the end of this month and I am so

e x c i t e d.

This is my first time writing a sequel to a novel (this post will be updated to include a link to the upcoming post soon to come about my experience writing a sequel and what I’ve learned), and finally having finished it is honestly, bittersweet.

Update: Check out Writing Sequels for Beginners (3 Tips & Tricks)!

I cried when I finalized the manuscript. Because, like… Maybe only fellow novelists will understand this and everyone else may find it crazy, but I am going to miss my characters. Solenne, Jonathan, Noel, and each of their stories contain small bits and pieces of myself. I have been living in their world for the past year and suddenly, my time there is up. Their story has reached an ending and it’s time to let it go and release it for others to see and hopefully, enjoy. Maybe one day, another opportunity will be provided in which I am called to continue their story. Until then, I’ll miss them.

Any who, enough of me being a weirdo baby.

The ARRIVE Kindle eBook is available for pre-order right now, right here – the title will be automatically downloaded to your device on July 27, 2021. You do not need a kindle to access kindle eBooks – you can download the kindle app and create an account.

Paperback and hardcovers will be available July 27, 2021 on Amazon and here on my website – along with new, exclusive ARRIVE bookmarks! This post will be updated with all internal and external links once everything is available for purchase. And of course, you can stay updated on my Instagram as well: @a.erinw.

Until then, enjoy the below snippet. I cannot wait to share this novel with you all! xo, aew

Sometimes we hide what we must highlight. And we fight with which we should take pride.

The ground tries to keep up with her departure and the waters rush beneath her. She holds herself in the darkness, struggling to believe her ability to be so naive. Maybe if she hadn’t lost sight of her own reflection she could have foreseen this lesson.

The fur on her jacket struggles to protect her from the cold of this world, the fabric can’t stop the knives aimed for her back, especially the ones she refuses to admit she wields.

Their lives flipped upside down over several nights, a slow burn with all chances of extinguishing going untouched.

His explanations mean nothing if the truth is not within them. His attempts to instill peace fall on deaf ears, the same touch that invited this turmoil could never offer her comfort. The water begs her to release and she gives in to the attraction, she dives into all she’s held in and he begs her anger to lower but it grows. It’s out of her hands.

The stars don’t want to be seen with this and maybe she doesn’t deserve a bright side as his words turn into mirrors and she hates what she hears. Silenced by the blame game, it bears no winners. Silenced by the realization of going home alone. Everything said this was impending, but she thought she could control the ending. Everything said she would lose, but as she always does, she had something to prove.

And there is nothing left when he turns and walks away.

All that was hidden has been exposed, he is not the man she once knew. And she is leaving behind the woman she has always been. For all new levels call for new models and new challenges call for new strengths. A lifetime of questions calls for an abundance of recollections, she will come out from underneath this on the other side. Who she is may die a few times and who she was will join the collection. And he might not come back.

And the waters pull from inside of her when she looks beyond his shortcomings enabling the fact that she would need to accept the blame for that.

CHAPTER ONE

Solenne skips out of the kitchen with a second helping of food.

The sound of the Gap Band is muffled inside the Otay Ranch home that Jonathan grew up in until she slides open the patio door and Outstanding is heard loud and clear from the outdoor speakers.

Desiree waves her over in the middle of the designated dance area on the patio with extended Bennett family members surrounding her.

“Excuse me, excuse me… Hey, how are you? Good, good… excuse me,” Solenne squeezes herself and her plate toward the center of the group and stops beside Desiree just in time to fall in sync with the line dance.

A hand taps her shoulder and she continues to shuffle her feet as a cousin of Jonathan’s whose name has long gone forgotten directs her attention to Jonathan’s mother, Amara. She stands just outside the group of dancers and motions for Solenne to hand over her plate. Solenne relieves her hand of the second helping, passing it between Desiree and one other family member who hands it off to her mother- in-law.

“Thank you, Mama!” she smiles as she kicks her leg up and the group changes direction. But she looks over her shoulder, watching the long brown braid with gray streaks sway down her mother-in-law’s back as she carries Solenne’s plate to the table where Jonathan, his older brother, Joseph Jr., and their father, Joseph Sr. sit. She and Desiree giggle at the sound of their husbands being ordered by their mother to get up and join their women on the dance floor.

Jonathan and Joseph Jr. do as they’re told, and Joseph Sr. takes Amara’s hand and spins her around, engulfing her in their own dance between the picnic tables.

Joseph Jr. wraps his arms around Desiree as he seamlessly lands behind her. She embraces him and tilts her head back for a kiss, neither of them missing a step in between. Jonathan announces his presence behind Solenne by stumbling over her feet. She winces at the contact of his sneaker knocking the sandal off her foot and he kneels down to put it back on before her bare toes can touch the concrete.

“Ooh sorry, babe,” he apologizes with a kiss on her cheek and she tries to get back in her rhythm.

Several children ranging from elementary to middle school ages come running from the side of the home. They notice the line dancing and their game is paused, making their way to the patio and gluing their eyes to the shoes of adults as they try to mimic their movements to the music.

A little boy chooses Solenne to be his teacher, casually wrapping his tiny hand around her wrist without taking his eyes off her feet.

She brings his tiny hand into hers and guides him. “Step right, step right, step left, step left, step back, step back, up… back… up… back… up, turn!”

After a few rotations he raises his head and shines his snaggle- toothed smile for half a second before looking back down at her feet.

“Good job! You got it!” She encourages him before scanning the yard for any indication of who his parents might be. Jonathan places a hand on her lower spine as he leans in.

“I don’t know whose kid that is either,” he shrugs and they both laugh.

The end of the song creeps up and another one of Jonathan’s cousins who decided to be the official DJ for this Memorial Day cookout, transitions the song to Tamia’s Can’t Get Enough.

The kids run away first, returning to their game and the dance floor goes nearly empty. Only the professionals are left getting situated in the middle of the patio to begin the tougher step.

Jonathan follows Solenne to the sidelines.

“Are you having fun?” He asks.

“Yeah. It’s been a while since we’ve hung out with family. It’s really nice.”

“Right, I was just thinking that.”

A moment of silence claims the space between them. Solenne watches the family members still line dancing. One foot crossing the other before going into a spin. Steps forward a few times before crossing one foot over the other once again.

“My mom said you had a nice little chat earlier when my dad had me cleaning and prepping the grill,” Jonathan grabs Solenne’s hand and brings it to his lips before pulling her closer.

Solenne thinks back to her time with Amara in the kitchen when they first got here. They arrived before Joseph Jr. and Desiree and were immediately put to work. Jonathan went out into the backyard to help his father with the grill and Solenne took on the task of helping Amara finish cooking the myriad of side-dishes. Solenne washed her hands as Amara handed her an apron and expressed excitement for their first cookout of the year. The weather seemed to be breaking, a cloudy sky giving glimpses of sunlight and the chill of the morning dying out. Solenne listened and agreed and Amara moved the conversation into many scattered updates regarding her newly retired life.

Then she asked Solenne how she’s been doing.

And Solenne felt it best to keep her answer short and sweet. The less she had to go into the truth, the less she had to worry about risking her mother-in-law catching on to her and her son not being on the same page as of late. So, she gave a generic answer about work and staying busy. Amara smiled and nodded and Solenne stared at the woman who basically hit “copy and paste” when she pushed Jonathan out of her body thirty-one years ago. He has her exact face and the same way his smile comforts Solenne, his mother’s smile does too.

“Yeah, it was cute,” Solenne picks a piece of lint off Jonathan’s button-down. “She seems to be really enjoying retirement.”

Jonathan laughs. “Oh man, I’m sure she made a point to fill you in on all their adventures, huh?”

“Oh, absolutely. I was particularly fond of the story of her and your dad in Tijuana looking for a restaurant and ending up in a strip club.”

“Oh shit,” Jonathan brings a hand to his mouth. “I meant to tell you about that! They exposed my poor mother to some things!”

“Your ‘poor’ mother sounded more entertained than traumatized,” Solenne laughs as Jonathan covers his ears.

“Hey, bro!” Joseph Jr. calls over from the grill across the yard. “Need your help over here!”

Jonathan waves him off and places his hands on Solenne’s shoulders. “I’m glad you’re having fun, babe. Let me know if you need anything,” he leans in and Solenne puckers her lips before realizing he’s aiming for her cheek. Then she turns her head so he can kiss her cheek but he aims for her lips. So Jonathan places a hand under her chin and holds her still to kiss her lips, both cheeks, and forehead before jogging across the yard to his brother.

Desiree is seated on a swing chair under one of the gazebos working on a plate of food.

“Dezzy,” Solenne adjusts her maxi dress and sits beside her sister-in-law. “One day I’m gonna learn that Tamia line dance. Wait until I find the time to practice,” she looks down at the plate on Desiree’s lap. “Is that my plate?”

Desiree looks up, a hot dog stopping on its way to her mouth. “Girl, is it? One of these kids just brought it over to me, I thought someone was just being nice.”

Solenne fake groans. “Damn, at least give me the burger, that’s like your third hot dog any way.”

“Fourth,” Desiree hands Solenne the burger off the plate. “Here, boo.”

Joseph Jr. and Desiree have been married for almost six years. And while the entire Bennett family has been more than welcoming to Solenne, she has always felt closest to Desiree. They both come from households opposite what they’ve married into. Desiree’s parents being divorced and sworn enemies while Solenne’s parents are sworn enemies within their marriage. It wasn’t all smiles and camaraderie in their childhood households the way it was in Jonathan and Joseph Jr.’s so they relate to each other in a way their husbands cannot. Plus, they’re both the only children of their parents, further strengthening their bond in being the sisters to each other that they’ve always wanted.

“Finally, we have some alone time to catch up! How’s it going, sis?”

“It’s… going. Just been working my ass off and what not,” Solenne takes a bite of the burger. “How are you?”

“I’m fine. Been a little under the weather lately, but fine. Feels good to be out here getting some fresh air, dancing, and eating with the family. The last time we all got together was what, Christmas?”

“Girl, yes, I know. It feels good to be back around each other, it’s definitely needed. And after all that dancing it feels good to just sit down! I might pass out right here on this swing,” Solenne sits back and crosses her legs, taking another big bite of the burger.

“I feel you,” Desiree says. “So, how are… things?”

Solenne looks toward her husband, connecting what Desiree means by things. The big lifestyle change she and Jonathan have had in effect for two months now when he decided to quit his job out of nowhere. Things haven’t been great since then. And suppressing her true feelings about it grows tougher every day, but she doesn’t want to give in. She wants to show Jonathan she can be supportive. He said he needs to do more with his passions to be happy and she wants him to see that she wants him to be happy too. Apparently, at the expense of her own happiness.

Things have been complicated.

Solenne clears her throat. “Things are going well.” She holds Desiree’s eye contact and stuffs the rest of the burger into her mouth, determined to appear as unbothered as possible.

She is relieved when Desiree looks away first, reaching for the can of ginger ale at her feet and Solenne’s jaw unclenches.

“Hmm,” is all Desiree gives and Solenne can tell there is more. But maybe she will leave it at that and let Solenne figure this out on her own as she prefers to. She doesn’t need advice on this. She’ll handle it.

“You’re better than me,” Desiree says as she sets the can back on the grass.

Solenne frowns at receipt of one of the best inconspicuous insults ever created.

You’re better than me?

“What do you mean by that?”

***

Copyright © 2021 A. Erin Walker All rights reserved.

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