Search through today's Most Popular authors, titles and publishers.
Add as many books as you'd like to your sample shelf.
Each day, you'll receive the next sample on your shelf by email.
eBook Kindle Edition
The Early Years
It was late afternoon on one of those exhilarating California spring days that made you feel glad to be alive. There was a gentle breeze coming off the ocean that seemed to cleanse your lungs as you breathed in the fresh salt air.
Although there was a slight chill in the air, their half naked bodies were warmed in the bright sunlight as they lounged on the motel room outdoor patio sipping wine and enjoying a spectacular view of the Pacific. Barely audible above the gentle lapping sound of the waves breaking on the beach was the soothing romantic music of Sinatra and the Count Basie Band.
"I'll never get over the beauty of this place," Reed said as he leaned back in his cushioned lounge chair. "It surely hasn't changed that much over the years."
"No it hasn't, dear," Joanie answered with a sigh. "I hope it stays this way forever. Or at least long enough for our kids to enjoy it the way we have."
"They'll be lucky to have just half the good times we've had over the years, don't you think?"
"No doubt about it, dear. We've had a lot of fun, even through the rough times. I can't believe it's all gone so fast. It seems like only yesterday that we first met. Do you remember?"
"I surely do, dear. Just like yesterday."
"Anyway, happy 35th anniversary. And here's to many more," Joanie said as she raised her glass in a toast quickly met in mid-air by her aging but still loving companion.
35 years earlier
Joanie Houseman was totally infatuated with Paul Kramer, a cute young man who had asked her out to the high school prom. After all, he was the son of the owner of Kramer's Department Store, an independent establishment that had challenged the dominance of the national chains in the southeastern Washington town of Atomic City. The Kramers were not only well respected members of the community, but were considered by some to be members of the local elites. And since her own family had struggled through some hard times after her father had become disabled, she was encouraged by both her parents and two sisters to "latch onto this guy".
Since Joanie was a very wholesome good-looking young lady with a petite figure, wavy blond hair and a pleasing but somewhat subdued personality, she was quickly accepted into the Kramer family. Although she'd been an average student in high school, she had shown considerable singing talent as a soloist in the girl's glee club. She was considered a tolerable addition to the Kramer line despite her family's lower class status. In fact, Paul's mother was overjoyed not only by the thought of eventually having grandchildren, but also having a daughter to share her feminine thoughts and desires that had so far been suppressed in her own all-male family.
It was not long before Paul popped the question and Joanie was faced with one of the most important decisions of her life.
She had always admired Paul and especially his parents, mostly because of their gracious and warm acceptance of her and their seemingly enormous wealth. Compared to her modest upbringing, their way of life was completely foreign to her. She was constantly in awe of their beautiful home and what she believed to be their luxurious possessions.
However, there was one problem. Joanie was not sure she loved this man. He was certainly polite enough and always conscious of her material needs, but he lacked something that Joanie herself could not describe but was always in the back of her mind.
She would not recognize this flaw until years later, when everything would become much clearer and at the same time, desperately depressing.
But none of this seemed to be important as she became caught up in the excitement of the planning and preparation for her marriage into this wonderful family.
* * *
Since his early days in high school in the largely government built city of Atomic City, Washington in the 1950's, Reed Kramer had become increasingly curious about the work that was going on at the local government reservation just outside of town. The plant was involved in the development of the first atomic bombs. It was now involved in the peaceful use of nuclear energy including the development of nuclear power.
Reed had studied hard at college to get his bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering at Washington State University and was awarded a scholarship to earn a Masters Degree. It was during his time as a graduate student that he was able to take several courses in Nuclear Engineering, which he knew would help him land a job at the Atomic City Plant. In fact, nuclear energy was becoming a very lucrative field since it was believed that nuclear-powered plants could produce electricity that was so cheap that "you would hardly be able to meter it".
And even though he'd been very close to his brother Paul during their younger days together, they had slowly drifted apart when Reed went off to college. So it was a bit of a surprise when he received an invitation to Paul and Joanie's wedding.
Although he knew Paul had been dating an unassuming, bashful, sweet young girl since high school, Reed didn't realize they were that serious.
It was actually somewhat of a relief to him as he knew it would reduce some of the pressure he was constantly subjected to from his mother to get married and give her the grandchildren she secretly desired.
But regardless of a tinge of jealousy that was buried deep within him, it was nice to know that his brother had found himself a mate that would allow him to get away from his parent's control and have a life of his own.
In spite of being disappointed that Paul had chosen one of his close high school buddies to be best man, he knew he must attend the wedding. He temporarily excused himself from his studies and duties as president of his fraternity and headed back to his hometown.
It was like old times as he relaxed with his brother and parents in their home the night before the ceremony.
"So how do you feel about this marriage mom?" Reed asked his mother Agatha as he poured himself another after-dinner drink.
"I think it's wonderful!" Agatha said. "She's such a nice girl even though she's from a poor family. I can't wait to pass on some of the things I learned from my mother. She's got a lot to learn you know."
"Yes, I'm sure she does. But don't you think you should find out what she thinks about that before you take over her life?"
"No problem! I've already seen she hasn't been out much. Do you know she'd never had a shrimp cocktail until we took her to dinner the other night?"
"Well, I hope she enjoyed it." Reed answered. "And what do you think, Paul?" Is she that uneducated in the ways of the world?"
"No sir! I don't believe that," Paul answered. "She just hasn't had a chance to go to any of the fancy places we're used to. You know her dad is disabled and they're struggling to get by."
"So I've heard," Reed said. "And just because she's from a poor family doesn't make her a stupid lady."
"You're right, Reed," Reed Sr. said. "I wouldn't say that any of us came from a rich family. We were just lucky enough to get away from the farm and get started in the department store business. And so far, we haven't had any of the bad luck Joanie's family has."
"Anyway, I'm looking forward to meeting her. I'm sure she's a nice lady and will be a good wife for you Paul. You're a lucky man."
* * *
The church ceremony was very conventional. Despite the Kramer family's best efforts to show off their ability to elaborately decorate the chapel with the best flower displays money could buy, the pastor was able to retain control and only allowed a limited display consistent with the "church standards".
After the final vows had been taken, the couple and their guests adjourned to the wedding reception. Reed finally had a chance to talk to the blushing bride.
"You must be happy it's finally over," Reed said to break the ice.
"Yes, I am. And I'm glad to finally meet you. I've heard a lot about you."
"Well, I hope you don't believe all you hear. I'm really not as big a hell raiser as everybody thinks."
"No one has told me that. All I've heard is good things you've done at college and you're travels in Europe."
"That stuff is no big deal. I've been lucky enough to stay single and do things I could never do if I was married. That doesn't mean I think marriage is a bad thing, because I'm sure it isn't. And I know you'll be very happy with Paul."
"I'll drink to that!" Joanie said as she raised her champagne glass in a toast.
"Good luck to you both!" Reed answered as he quickly downed his drink and gave Joanie a big passionate kiss.
For the first time in my life, I must admit, I'm truly jealous of my brother, he thought to himself as he turned and left the startled Joanie gulping for breath.
* * *
Upon receiving his Masters Degree from college and making a quick trip home to thank his parents for their financial support, Reed Kramer struck out for the metropolitan San Francisco bay area. He'd been attracted to the area not only because of the possibility of greater job opportunities but also because several of his recently graduated fraternity brothers had relocated there and were enjoying the wide range of entertainment available to young bachelors.
After arriving and settling in with his buddies, he was somewhat surprised that landing a suitable job was not easy. Many of the companies he interviewed appeared to be reluctant to hire such a young, untried young man who was still eligible for the armed services draft.
He finally found a somewhat humbling entry-level job as a technician in a research lab for a multi-national paper company.
But his career path was rudely interrupted soon after it started when he received the dreaded letter from Uncle Sam with the ominous opining line:
"Greetings, You have been selected by the draft board in your area to report to the local induction center ..."
What a shock! This can't be happening, Reed thought. He was only a few months from being over the age limit for draftees. And besides, didn't the draft board know he was more valuable to his country working as a Chemical Engineer in the private sector than serving as a "ground pounder" in the Army.
Naturally, his pleas for a deferment were rejected and the Army assigned him to what they considered their "prime duty base" at the Army Missile Command in Alabama.
He was not impressed as he considered the next two years a major setback to his career.
* * *
Following his discharge, Reed wasted no time gathering together his few meager belongings and heading for his parent's home in Washington. He would spend five long days on the road traveling from Alabama to his parent's new house in an exclusive suburb of Atomic City.
It had been especially tiring since he was traveling alone in a broken down 1952 Buick convertible that had seen better days. The car was tabbed the "rust bucket" by the Army friend who'd sold it to him, but for 500 bucks, he couldn't complain. It was a bit unnerving however, when you could see the highway passing beneath you in a blur through the corroded openings in the floorboard. Surprisingly, it somehow survived the trip without major incident and remained in running order.
He was very excited at being with his family again and, of course, his mother insisted that he stay in his old room. The house had seemed deserted to her since Reed had left and Paul was living with his wife Joanie in their new house in Atomic City.
It didn't take long for Reed to realize that life at home wasn't the same. He was no longer the innocent, high school teenager that his parents remembered. From his nearly six years of college through his two year stint in the Army, he'd naturally become more independent with a defined set of principles and beliefs that didn't always agree with his provincial mother and father's views.
He soon found that his parents still thought of him as the sweet young boy they'd raised in their image and who could do no wrong. After all, he'd always done well in school, had put in his time working at the family-owned department store, and even though he had degrees in some crazy field called Chemical Engineering, he would eventually come around to their way of thinking and go to work in his father's store.
After taking a few months off during his stay at home before seriously looking for work, Reed became bored sitting around waiting for the weekends when his friends were able to join him in a few rounds of golf or nightly trips to the local taverns.
There had never been a question in his mind that one of his first priorities would be to apply for work at the Atomic City Plant. And within a few weeks of contacting them, he was hired as a junior engineer at a test facility doing research on the use of plutonium in power reactors.
He was very proud of his new job. He was making what was considered at the time to be the very substantial monthly salary of $750 a month. It had always been one of his dreams to work at the Atomic City Plant and he felt he'd achieved a milestone in his life.
But there was something missing. Except for his immediate family, he had no one to share in his joy. And he was beginning to become tired of the same old bar scene every night with the same guys he'd known in high school doing the same stupid juvenile things they'd done years ago. Besides, the crop of aging lady bar flies that had long ago been passed over by the dwindling group of eligible males was certainly not encouraging to his quest for female companionship.
It was inevitable that his lifestyle would have to change.
It all came to a head when he returned home one weekend night after touring the local bars. It was nearing 2 am as he made his way into the house. He was suddenly startled to be confronted by his mother who had obviously been waiting up for him.
"Where have you been, son?" she asked in her familiar anxious voice. "Don't you know we've been worried about you?"
"What the hell are you talking about?" Reed answered in disbelief. "I was having a few beers with my old buddies. And why is it any business of yours, for Christ's sake?"
"Well, we're not used to staying awake every night wondering where you are. Don't you understand?"
"Yeah, I understand perfectly. So let's forget it for now. We can talk about it later."
But from that moment on, Reed knew he had to get away from his parents or he could never have the life he now realized was so important to him.
So it was with a sense of renewed hope that he welcomed a call from two of his die-hard fraternity brothers who were living in a local suburb of San Francisco. Their message was brief and to the point. Get out of that one-horse town and join them in the jewel of northern California. Jobs were plentiful and the swinging bachelor life was a blast!
It didn't take Reed long to decide it was time to do it and again join his true friends. It proved to be one of the most critical decisions he would ever make, as it soon led to many life-changing experiences.
But before he left, there would be a complicating factor that he hadn't counted on.
The First Encounter
Reed's brother Paul was doing very well. It had been nearly four years since he'd married Joanie and he had worked his way up to be manager of his father's store. He was making good money and he owned a house in one of the nicest middle class sections of Atomic City.
He was also the proud father of a 3-year-old son, Josh, and a 2-year-old daughter, Dana. And more importantly, the level of respect afforded him by his mother and dad had risen to new heights. He had their total support in every aspect of his life. They'd provided him with monetary assistance whenever he needed it. And since Reed had been off to college and out of the picture for the last 5 years, he now believed he'd overcome the nagging feeling that had somehow been instilled in him that he was not as deserving as his older brother.
Life was good and getting better every day.
But there was a festering problem in this virtual paradise. He was becoming increasingly aware of the romantic intentions of a young lady in his employ.
Her name was Shelly. She was an attractive blonde who Paul had met in high school. She had married an older man who was now working as a cook at one of the local restaurants. She'd been hired as a clerk in the Kramer department store, but was obviously striving for a much higher position and was not bashful when it came to "buttering up" the boss's son.
And although Paul was content with his current life at home, there was something about this woman that made him feel special. Her attitude seemed to be more in tune with his own than anyone he'd ever met.
Thanks for reading! Join BookDaily now and receive featured titles to sample for free by email.
Reading a book excerpt is the best way to evaluate it before you spend your time or money.
Just enter your email address and password below to get started:
Instant Bonus: Get immediate access to a daily updated listing of free ebooks from Amazon when you confirm your account!
I am a retired Chemical Engineer with over 35 years experience as a process / project engineer for a large San Francisco engineering firm.