Exclusive Chapter 1 Sneak Peek: Against the Wind by Rebecca Zanetti (Rising Storm Season 2) + Epic Giveaway

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Season 2 of the soap-opera series Rising Storm is coming September 27th. That’s eight stories written by eight bestselling authors. Yesterday, I published an interview with series creators Julie Kenner and Dee Davis, and you can read that here to get the inside scoop on what this series is all about and what readers can expect in this final buzzed-about season.

I’m thrilled to be able to share with you the first chapter of Against the Wind—episode 1, season 2—by author Rebecca Zanetti! Plus, don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom of this post as I’m giving away a copy of every book in both Season 1 and Season 2—that’s 16 books for one lucky winner!

Order Season 2 Now 

Synopsis

Sep-27Secrets, Sex and Scandals …

Welcome to Storm, Texas, where passion runs hot, desire runs deep, and secrets have the power to destroy… Get ready.

The storm is coming.

As Tate Johnson works to find a balance between his ambitions for political office and the fallout of his brother’s betrayal, Zeke is confronted with his brother Chase’s return home. And while Bryce and Tara Douglas try to hold onto their marriage, Kristin continues to entice Travis into breaking his vows…

 

Chapter 1

Joanne Alvarez finished scrubbing the scratched kitchen table until it shone. Wind rattled the windows, and she jumped, her heart rate kicking into gear. Standing up, she chuckled to herself. It was time to stop being scared by every little noise.

Hector wasn’t coming back.

She murmured the mantra once again, hoping to hell it was true. Guilt instantly slammed into her. He was her husband, and although he’d had his faults, she’d married him for better or worse.

Screw that. Even though she’d made mistakes, many of them, nobody deserved to be beaten by the person who was supposed to love her.

A small voice whispered in the back of her mind that Hector’s fists weren’t why she was finally starting to let the marriage go. It was their daughter. Hector had ruined Dakota by spoiling her so badly. He’d taught her she was better than everybody else, and that there would be no repercussions for her mistakes.

As if on cue, Dakota emerged from the back bedroom, her hair a wild mess, mascara clumped beneath her eyes. She shuffled in worn slippers across the faded but clean tile to pour herself a cup of coffee.

Joanne stiffened her shoulders. “Honey? I’m sorry about the bank job and your apartment, but it’s been close to a month. You need to think about what you’re going to do.” The Rush family had instantly retaliated against Dakota for her brash announcement, leaving the girl jobless as well as homeless. What the heck had Dakota been thinking to publicly announce Senator Rush’s affair with the now pregnant Ginny Moreno? Letting the gossip loose was one thing; standing at the podium in the town park during Founders’ Day and pointing fingers quite another.

Dakota shrugged, her thin shoulders moving beneath the bright pink bathrobe. “I’ll get them back. Don’t worry.”

Frowning, Joanne moved to wipe up the little bit of coffee Dakota had spilled. “That isn’t exactly what I meant. Revenge isn’t the answer, sweetheart.” Why couldn’t she get through to her daughter? Dakota was smart, ambitious, and beautiful. “There’s so much good you could do with your life if you’d just give yourself a chance.”

“Other people keep taking my chances away,” Dakota muttered.

Joanne’s chest actually ached. “Sweetheart, we’ve talked about this a hundred times. Can’t you see what you did was wrong?” She held up a hand when Dakota opened her mouth to most likely argue. “Yes, I know the truth probably had to come out, but the way you did it. In front of everybody, including Celeste Salt. She was devastated to discover Ginny’s baby wasn’t going to be her grandbaby.”

Dakota leaned back against the counter and took a deep drink of the steaming brew. “Ginny is the liar who hurt Celeste, not me.”

Joanne shook her head. They’d been over this and over this. When would Dakota start thinking about other people? Her father lacked empathy. Maybe Dakota did, too. Plus, the girl had been so lonely she’d also had an affair with the senator. Dakota needed self-esteem, but Joanne had no clue how to impart that, and it wasn’t like she’d been a good role model in that arena. Now wasn’t the time to fight about it, apparently. “What’s your plan in general? Not the revenge, but for work? I told you that you’re welcome to live here as long as you want, but our agreement was you had to be looking for a job.”

“I’ll find something else as soon as I can.” Dakota took another sip. “If Daddy would just come back, things would get better again. Have you heard from him?”

Joanne shook her head and glanced around the tiny kitchen. “Still not a word.”

Dakota’s pretty eyes narrowed. “You’re happy about that, aren’t you? Every day that passes without any word is like a celebration for you, isn’t it? If you were a real wife, if you’d treated him like you cared, then you’d at least have some idea of where he was living right now.”

There could be some truth to that statement. “He doesn’t tell me everything, so I don’t know where he would’ve gone,” Joanne said, the words lame even to her ears.

“You don’t miss him at all, do you?” Dakota’s voice rose.

No. Not even a little. “Dakota, I have no idea where he is.”

“He bought this house and everything in it!” Dakota stomped her foot and spilled coffee on the clean floor. “Daddy deserves to live here, and you don’t. When he comes back, he gets to live here, and he’ll kick your lazy butt out. I’m sure he’ll let me stay.”

“I’m letting you stay, too,” Joanne murmured.

“You were so mean to him,” Dakota spat, the venom pouring from her. “Being so clumsy and convincing everyone that he hurt you. It was all your fault.”

Joanne stilled. She couldn’t say the words to defend herself, and even if she could, Dakota wouldn’t believe her. Plus, saying them out loud would just shine a light on how weak she’d been. She couldn’t do it yet. “I’m sorry you’re hurting, but it’s time for you to grow up. Take responsibility for your actions, and find a better way. You can do it.”

Heck. They could both do it.

“You are so useless.” Dakota turned and stalked from the room.

Could things get any worse? Quiet descended around the lemon-scented kitchen. Joanne cleaned up the mess on the floor and then put away the cleaning supplies just as her cell phone rang. “Hello,” she answered.

“Joanne, this is Marylee Rush.” If a tone could be clipped and hard at the same time, the senator’s mother managed to make it happen.

A pit dropped into Joanne’s gut. “Good morning, Mrs. Rush.”

“I’m sure you know why I’m calling.”

Joanne sank into a chair. She’d enjoyed working for the demanding woman because of the position it afforded her. The money was nice, but all of a sudden, the community had started looking at her like she was somebody with a brain. A woman with something to contribute, instead of an accident victim always in the hospital. An abused woman who wouldn’t leave. “I have an idea why you’re calling.” To her absolute shock, her tone was dry and nearly amused. She pressed her lips together to keep from actually smiling.

“Your daughter is a two-bit tramp who is still telling lies about my poor son. There was an article with a quote from her in this morning’s San Antonio paper.”

“I’m sure Dakota didn’t say anything. Perhaps the interview was old? Someone quoting an old story? She made an agreement with you. She knows better.”

“That girl doesn’t know diddly. And even if the quote was old, she’s done plenty of damage. I’m telling you, she will regret her lies for the rest of her life.”

Joanne lost the smile. “My daughter definitely has problems, but you and I both know she hasn’t lied about your son. Let’s not pretend with each other, all right?” She straightened in the chair, fighting the absurd urge to pump her fist in the air.

Silence ticked for the tiniest of moments. “It seems the mouse has found a backbone,” Marylee slowly muttered. “Fine. No pretending. You tell your daughter to lay low for the remainder of the campaign. She signed an agreement, and if she breaches it, we’ll go after her with everything we have.”

Anger, the real kind, swept through Joanne. She was so damn tired of being pushed around. “I’ll pass your message along, Mrs. Rush. While we’re threatening each other, let me tell you, if your son spreads any more lies about my daughter, I’ll go to the press. A grieving mother, afraid for her lost daughter, and angry that a powerful politician took advantage of her and her need for a stable father figure.”

Joanne’s breath caught. What in the hell was she doing? God. Who was she all of a sudden?

Marylee was quiet for several moments. “You’ve just made a mistake, Joanne. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll soon have your hands full with more issues than you can count and will forget this tiny rebellion. By the way, you’re fired.” The line went dead.

Joanne slowly turned the phone in her hand and stared at it. Issues? The threat had been specific, and Marylee’s tone determined.

What in the world had she just done? She was still watching for the phone to bite her as Marcus strode into the room, wearing one of his better T-shirts and dark jeans. His unruly dark hair had been tamed a little to fall to his shoulders, and his steps were light. He paused. “You okay?”

Joanne gaped at her son. “I, ah, just got fired.”

Heat filled his dark eyes. “Dakota.”

Joanne shook her head. “Mrs. Rush makes her own decisions, and frankly, I’m not sure it’s only because of Dakota’s actions. I, um, pretty much called her son a pervert and threatened to talk to the newspapers if she didn’t leave us alone.”

Marcus gaped and then quickly recovered. A different light banished the anger in his eyes—a light she couldn’t quite decipher. “Good for you.”

“You think so?” Her heart was still galloping. “I’m not sure.”

Marcus hustled toward her and pressed a hand to her upper shoulder. “Mom, you did good. We can’t let bullies push us around.” Not anymore. He didn’t say the words, but they lingered in the air anyway.

Pride. Holy moly, that was pride in her son’s eyes. That was the light. When was the last time one of her kids had been truly proud of her? Warmth slid through her, and her shoulders straightened. “You’re right.” Although, now she was out of a job.

As if reading her thoughts, Marcus gave her a squeeze and then stepped back. “Don’t worry. I have a job and can help with the bills.”

Joanne shook her head. “It’s my job to support you and not the other way around.”

He grinned, his handsome face all man. When had he completely lost the boyish look? “I’m an adult, Mom. Plus, we’re family. If I have income, you have income.” He stepped back.

Boy, he’d grown up in Montana. If Joanne ever met Ian Briggs, she’d give him a big hug. He’d done a tremendous job helping Marcus get rid of his anger and find focus. Find himself. She sniffed the air. “You smell nice.”

His face tinged with red. “It’s a new cologne. I’m meeting Brittany for a quick lunch.”

Brittany Rush. Joanne tried not to wince. A careful person, a cautious mom, would warn him about getting involved with the senator’s daughter. Joanne forced a smile. “I like her. She seems incredibly sweet.” Hopefully she was strong, because at some point, she’d need to be. “I’m pleased you’re finding happiness.”

Marcus nodded, obviously catching the concern. “Don’t worry about us. Brit and I have something good, and even the evil Rushes aren’t going to break us up.”

“How is Brittany doing?” Joanne asked.

“She’s managing. Of course, she’s super confused about her mom not really caring about her dad’s affairs, and she’s furious with her dad. It’s a weird situation.” Marcus grabbed a light jacket off a kitchen chair. “It doesn’t help that my own sister created such a disaster by announcing everything so publicly.”

“I know. Dakota is in so much pain, she keeps trying to get rid of it by hurting others.” Once again, Dakota sounded just like her father. “I have to believe she’ll grow up and see that there are other ways to live.” Joanne hadn’t exactly been a good example with the abuse she’d taken for so many years, although Dakota didn’t believe that. Not right now, anyway. “How are things between Brittany and Ginny?”

Marcus winced. “Considering Ginny slept with Brit’s dad and might be having his kid? Not good. Really not good.”

“She’s lucky you’re there for her,” Joanne said softly. “You’re a good man, Marcus.”

The tips of his ears turned red. “Geez, Mom.” He pecked a kiss on her forehead. “I gotta go. We’ll figure out the job stuff later.” He turned and loped out of the room. Then she heard the front door close.

Okay. What now? Perhaps she should head to town and buy a paper. There had to be somebody in Storm who’d hire her, even though it would displease Marylee Rush.

A knock sounded at the door.

She stiffened and lifted her head, listening.

Another knock.

Oh, for goodness sakes. If Hector returned, he sure as hell wouldn’t knock. She quickly stood and smoothed back her hair, hustling to open the door. Her mouth gaped open. “Tate? My, ah, sister isn’t here.”

Tate Johnson drew off a black cowboy hat, leaving his blond hair ruffled. The lawyer was cool, collected, and very handsome. “I’m not here for Hannah. We broke up, as I’m sure you’ve heard.”

Joanne bit her lip. “Yes. I, ah, heard.” Hannah had slept with Tate’s brother well over a month ago. “I’m sorry about that.”

Tate shuffled shiny loafers.

“Oh my, please come in.” Where in the world were her manners? She stepped aside and tried not to wince at the threadbare furnishings. Well, at least everything was clean. “Take a seat, Tate. Can I get you anything to drink?” She had to have some soda somewhere.

“No, thanks.” He stepped inside, tall and broad, to take a seat on the sofa.

She hesitated only a second before following him and sitting on Hector’s ripped old recliner. “Um, what can I do for you?”

Tate smiled, and for a moment, her breath caught. She’d forgotten what a handsome man he was with a whole load of charm. “I need your help,” he said, his voice deep.

Her stomach clenched. “Tate? I really can’t get involved in Hannah’s love life. I’m so sorry she hurt you, and I’m assuming she did, but it’s really not my business.” What had Hannah been thinking to sleep with this guy’s brother? Although, Tucker and Hannah truly did make sense together. They should’ve gone about it a different way. “I’m sorry.”

He smiled and sat back on the sofa, his pressed black pants looking as out of place as his perfectly ironed dress shirt. “I’m here on business.”

Joanne stiffened. “What business?” Oh God. Tate was a lawyer. Was Marylee suing her for something? What would she do? Joanne couldn’t afford an attorney. “This is a mistake.”

Tate held up a hand. “Joanne, I’m not here to hurt or scare you. This is the deal. I’m running for mayor, as you might know, and I need somebody to manage, well, me.”

She couldn’t move. “Huh?”

He chuckled. “I have a campaign manager, and I have various staff, but I need somebody to be my personal assistant. Somebody who can make sure I stick to the schedule, have speeches prepared, and even ensure my tie matches my suit. I think you’d be perfect.”

“Why?” she breathed before she could even think it through.

He lifted one eyebrow and focused in on her, giving her all his attention.

She caught her breath. For years, she’d known the Johnson boys, but this was the first time she could actually see the ambitious lawyer in his element. “Did my sister put you up to this?”

“No,” Tate said simply, his gaze direct. “Your sister has nothing to do with this, and believe me, if she asked for a favor, I’d say no way in hell.”

Landmine there. Joanne’s mind spun. “Then why?”

Satisfaction tilted Tate’s full mouth. “You’re good at what you do. Oh, I’ve watched you work for Marylee. You’re organized, dedicated, and smart. You know how to stay in the background and get things done. I need that.”

Joanne shook her head. “You don’t understand. Marylee fired me. If you’re running for mayor, you definitely need to stay on the Rushes’ good side. Hiring me won’t do that.”

“I don’t care.” Tate leaned forward, all intent. “Marylee fired you because of your daughter and not because of your skills. If she challenges me, I’ll just explain or even lie that it was a favor to your sister.” He grinned. “Either way, my campaign is better off with you helping.”

Joanne’s mind spun, but her heart leaped. She could do the job, without question. It was time for her to take control of her life and stop letting everyone push her around. “I accept.”

Reading Order

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  1. Yeah! What a deal!

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