Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Teaser Tuesday (261)


Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the weekly Meme that wants you to add books to your TBR, or just share what you are currently reading. It is very easy to play along:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Everyone loves Teaser Tuesday.

34416671

Engadine Aerie (Kindle)
    - Bluette Matthey

"I didn't really didn't do much, Abby," he replied.
"You mean other than get tangled up in one murder, one attempted murder, a terrorist bombing, and an illegal arms sale?" 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What's Next, Wednesday (51)


  •  To play along share a book you've been looking forward to reading, whether it's new or has been on your reading list for a while.

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I'm looking forward to...

Engadine Aerie by Bluette Matthey. Though I haven't read the whole Hardy Durkin series, this travel mystery is definitely on my reading list. While assisting on a ski trip, Hardy finds a body in the snow who appears to have been murdered. With his track record, it's easy to know that he won't stop until this mystery is solved and it promises to be full of action and adventure. 

Left Hanging

34145839As a nurse and single mom, Darla Battle hides her loneliness behind a smile. But when she discovers that the new cute doctor everyone is talking about is her daughter’s father, she knows she needs to keep her distance from the man who abandoned her and their child, Stella.

When Theo Edwards returns to Nashville to finish his medical training, he never expects to run into Darla, a girl he spent one night with seven years ago. For reasons he can’t fathom, her attitude toward him is frosty, but he still hopes to ignite the spark they once felt.

Once Darla realizes Theo doesn’t know he’s Stella’s father, she has no idea how to tell him the truth. And the longer she waits, the more difficult it becomes. When the situation spins out of control, can the two come together for the sake of their daughter? Or is forgiveness out of reach?

*May Contain Spoilers*

Cindy Dorminy delivers a novel full of love, family, fear, and fun with her new book, Left Hanging. This contemporary romance really does have everything a fan of the genre would want. Once I started it, there was no stopping. 

Darla Battle and Theo Edwards share the spotlight as the main characters of Left Hanging. Darla is a nurse and a single mom who lives for her daughter Stella. In short, she's a fighter. Darla doesn't have many people in her corner but she tries to give her daughter everything. She sees Stella as her single ray of sunshine in a world that has never been easy on her. Darla's a very caring, hopeful woman who fell in love with Theo, a man she spent one night with in college, and never stopped loving him. Her commitment to her daughter is amazing and respectable. Though she's not experienced much luck or happiness over the years, Darla fights away the darkness by loving her daughter. I don't think there's any way readers won't love her character, even when Theo's sudden reappearance pushes her into a flurry of fear and uncertainty. Darla wants Theo to be in Stella's life and her life, and she knows she needs to confront him with the fact that he has a daughter who needs him. The reactions Darla has to various situations make her a relatable character who doesn't know what to do to reach the truth, though she's willing to try again and again. 

Theo Edwards is a doctor with a huge heart who has a lot to offer the world with his generous nature. His desire to help people is evident in his actions and readers will respect him for it. Theo is also open and honest, trustworthy, and caring. When he sees Darla, he knows that she's the one who got away and makes it a point to do everything to reconnect with her. He recognizes that she's afraid and tries to put her at ease, helping her trust him again. Though a huge misunderstanding and the secret that Darla's daughter is Theo's daughter threatens their budding relationship. 

The plot of this novel is a bit tricky because of all the factors that influence Darla and Theo. First off, Theo's ex-girlfriend Mallory (who used to be Darla's friend) refuses to believe that Theo doesn't want to be with her. Second, Darla thinks that Theo knows about Stella and abandoned them. Third, Darla doesn't know how to confront Theo with the news of Stella. And finally, Theo has type one diabetes and believes that he's infertile. Add in the Edwards family and Darla's two best friends and things head quickly toward chaos. The various points of this plot are all connected and work to influence the main characters in their decisions as new situations pop up and impede Darla's progress toward telling Theo the whole truth. The whole fiasco is quite funny, with an ongoing game of hangman throughout the course of the novel, until the plot takes a dangerous turn. At this point, consequences become life or death, adding a dramatic ending to this lighthearted contemporary romance. 

As I said, Left Hanging delivers. It covers so much in the span of a few weeks that at times it seems a little overwhelming. Though the various upsets will push readers to the novel's conclusion. It also gets a little confusing at times as the chapters switch between first person narratives of Theo and Darla. A few times it was hard to keep straight who was narrating. The only thing I wish this book did have was an epilogue. I would have really liked a glimpse into the future of Theo and Darla, but maybe we can hope for a sequel. 

Rating: 4.5/5 Cups

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Teaser Tuesday (260)


Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the weekly Meme that wants you to add books to your TBR, or just share what you are currently reading. It is very easy to play along:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Everyone loves Teaser Tuesday.

34145839

Left Hanging (Kindle 25%)
    - Cindy Dorminy

"I have no idea what love feels like. All I know is that seeing him again after all this time sent a shockwave of emotions back into my soul." 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Chaos Unbound (The Metis Files #2)

31625294Framed for the murder of a high ranking member of the Unseelie Court of Fae, Steve Dore–also known as Diomedes, Guardian and protector of mankind–goes on the run. He’s determined to uncover the real culprit and clear his name.

But the assassination may be the beginning of a more sinister plot that involves not just the Fae and Humankind, but all the races of the world. And what if the real assassin is a boogeyman even the Fae don't believe is real?

*May Contain Spoilers*

Chaos Unbound, by Brian S. Leon, is a militaristic novel of mythology and fantasy. Though I've read many fantasy novels, I've never read one quite like this. Leon gives the faery world a combative twist that takes the story to a level of epic proportions. 

Diomedes, a human avatar for Athena, is the main character of this novel and the entire book is told from his point of view. Thousands of years old, Diomedes, or Steve, has witnessed countless wars and battles, and has participated in many of them. His main job is to protect humanity not from each other, but from supernatural forces that choose to interfere in human conflict. He's trained in multiple military forces and even has SEAL experience. This resume gives the story a military feel as fighting techniques, military combat knowledge, and weaponry are all described in intricate detail while Diomedes tries to find out who framed him for the death of an important member of the Unseelie court. 

Diomedes is intelligent, brave to the point of nearing recklessness, determined, and dedicated. Readers will respect him for his commitment to humanity while fearing for his life as he goes up against a boogeyman with substantial power. It's interesting to witness a godlike being so down to earth, focused, trusting, and even forgiving. The level of understanding that Diomedes has for others knows no bounds. His job often puts him in a position to kill in order to protect, and he doesn't take that lightly, even after thousands of years doing his job. 

The story begins right at the start of all the action, or rather all the chaos. Diomedes has been framed for a murder he did not commit and he's forced to go on the run to clear his name and save his own life. He's soon caught by the Unseelie court and is put in a position that evokes sympathy and fear from readers. When he escapes, with the help of someone who believes his innocence, the race is on to find the real murderer and uncover the reason behind a string of high profile deaths. The mystery behind this boogeyman is intriguing while the story is packed full of action and adventure. The setting constantly changes as Diomedes and his friend, Duma, travel through pathways that connect the entire world while trying to track down the boogeyman, which in this case turns out to be a Hanner Brid, or a half-breed. 

Readers who enjoy fantasy novels will definitely enjoy this book. However, I think that readers will also need an interest in military combat (or the like) to really get into it. There is a lot of discussion about weapons, political unrest, and very detailed passages about fighting techniques and mission planning. While this really pulls readers into the action, it could also alienate those readers who felt it would be more focused on the fae. I did not expect the book to be so heavily laced with combat, as I thought it would be more focused on uncovering who framed Diomedes and why, like a crime thriller or a mystery. Though, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to understand the military information with Leon's writing style. Lastly, I hadn't read the first book in this series before diving into this one and found that it didn't make a big difference. I think it's easy for readers to connect with Diomedes as he is instantly and unjustly cast as the underdog and villain. As he fights for his honor and the truth, that connection is strengthened and solidified creating an interesting adventure/fantasy novel filled with action and mythology that will surely please readers of the genre. 

Rating: 3.5/5 Cups

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What's Next, Wednesday (50)


  •  To play along share a book you've been looking forward to reading, whether it's new or has been on your reading list for a while.


I'm looking forward to...

Left Hanging by Cindy Dorminy. Years after a one night stand, two people are brought back together. This promises to be an intriguing love story and I'm excited to read it. One thing that seems really important: Theo doesn't know that he has a child and Darla's afraid he'll take their child away if he finds out. Sounds like sparks will fly over this one!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Teaser Tuesday (259)


Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the weekly Meme that wants you to add books to your TBR, or just share what you are currently reading. It is very easy to play along:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Everyone loves Teaser Tuesday.

31625294


Chaos Unbound (Kindle 5%)
   - Brian S Leon

What they were, they were human sized -- too small to be Cu Sith. Unfortunately, in the fairy world, size has no correlation to dangerous. 

Meet Me Under the Stars - Cover Reveal

Today I have the pleasure of hosting the cover reveal for KD Proctor's MEET ME UNDER THE STARS, to be released by BookFish Books on July 19, 2017. Look at this pretty...



Cover Reveal! MEET ME UNDER THE STARS
Author: KD Proctor
Genre: NA Romance
Release Date: July 18, 2017
Publisher: BookFish Books (www.bookfishbooks.com)
Cover Designer: Anita B. Carroll, Race-Point US (www.race-point.com)

Back Cover Blurb

When ratings for her popular DIY show start to circle the drain after the sudden death of her sister, Charlotte “Charlie” Conti has only one mission—to plan a comeback. But her sister had other plans. As part of the will, Charlie must work with *him*  to create a memorial scholarship in her sister’s memory. The same *him*  Charlie fell in love with three years ago while working at a summer camp.

The same *him* she dumped to protect his heart.
Sexy British player, Nate Walsh, has sixty days to find a new job or he’ll be deported back to England where he’s no longer welcome. He doesn’t have time to work on a memorial scholarship with *her*. The same *her*  who shattered his heart without explanation or warning.
The same *her*  he’s never gotten over.
Unable to agree on a benefactor for the scholarship, Nate and Charlie challenge each other to a winner-takes-all competition. They both know the only way to win is to turn up the heat and tease one another with the one thing they both want: each other. But as sparks fly, their true feelings resurface. Nate and Charlie must decide if their love is worth the effort or if they'll allow their disastrous past mistakes to destroy their chance at forever.

A Little about KD...

KD Proctor loved college so much that when it came time to graduate, she didn’t want to leave.  Trading in her textbooks for student handbooks and policy manuals, she began a career in College Student Personnel and she fulfilled her wish to stay on a college campus forever.  She always joked that one day she’d write a book about college students, never expecting that to come true!

KD lives in West Central, Minnesota with her husband and fur-kids.  She likes to write fun twists on the usual tropes that we all love. Her characters are smart, funny, and always swoony.  And yes. They always get their happily ever after.

Before being accepted for publication, MEET ME UNDER THE STARS (formerly titled IF YOU'RE EVER IN TOWN) was the 2016 YARWA winner for the New Adult category.



Rafflecopter link- Two $15 Amazon Gift Cards are up for grabs!
Click HERE for Rafflecopter Giveaway! 

Find KD here:

Monday, April 10, 2017

Hannah's Moon (American Journey #5)

34212850After struggling for years to have a child, Claire Rasmussen, 34, turns to adoption, only to find new obstacles on the path to motherhood. Then she gets an unlikely phone call and soon learns that a distant uncle possesses the secrets of time travel.

Within weeks, Claire, husband Ron, and brother David find themselves on a train to Tennessee and 1945, where adoptable infants are plentiful and red tape is short. For a time, they find what they seek. Then a beautiful stranger enters their lives, the Navy calls, and a simple, straightforward mission becomes a race for survival.

*May Contain Spoilers*

The final book in the American Journey series, Hannah's Moon, gives readers both an adventure into the 1945 and the end of WWII and a summary of the time travelling benefactor, Geoffrey Bell. This series, which has taken readers to various points in the 1900s, continuously focuses on the idea of family, adventure, and experiencing history. Hannah's Moon is no different. 

There are three main characters who share the experience of travelling back to 1945 in this series conclusion. However, I believe Claire, Ron, and David are the only travelers who go back in time for a very specific purpose: to adopt a baby. Claire and Ron have been trying to expand their family for years and have been sadly disappointed each time. Adoption becomes their only option and they soon learn that the desire to adopt comes with more hurdles and red tape then they would have ever imagined. Geoffrey Bell, long time time traveler, decides to help his niece and nephew with the chance to make the adoption process easier. In 1945, adoption regulations were less strict and travelling back to the past would expedite the process. Claire and Ron jump at the opportunity, even if time travelling seems impossible. 

Claire and Ron are both fantastic characters. Though readers will probably feel more connected to Claire, as they will have a stronger empathetic connection to her as a woman with fertility issues. Her emotions are presented more often than Ron's and, therefore, reach the reader at a deeper level. For everything that Claire has gone through, she is an extremely strong character. Her perseverance and sunny disposition light up the darkness that experience and loss have created. Claire keeps moving forward with unabashed courage and resolve. These characteristics are amplified in 1945 when trouble ensues. 

Unfortunately, Ron's character brings most of the trouble and a lot of the excitement to the novel. Ron is a loving man who cares for his wife and wants to give her the world. In 2017, he's a coffee shop owner, but in 1945 his protective nature kicks in. It leads him to a back alley fight, in which he saves someone's life, but is also sentenced to enlist in the military. With no other options, Ron serves his country as a time traveler. Things heat up quickly for Ron because, although the war is ending soon, he stumbles into a very dangerous position that threatens his life. Ron's character shines as courageous, level headed, and brave with all that he's put up against.

David Baker is Claire's bachelor brother who travels to 1945 to help his family fulfill their wish of being parents. He's a history teacher in 2017 and also serves as the historian for the 1945 experience. He also offers a love story as a sub-plot, as he meets the beautiful Margaret Doyle (who I believe would have died in 1945 if not for David). This adds a little intrigue to the downtime between Ron and Claire's story while also adding to the main plot. David's loyalty to his family and respectable nature makes him a very likeable character that readers will want a happy ending for. 

Readers who have enjoyed the American Journey series will undoubtedly want to read this last installment. Perhaps it's the plot, or the concrete mission, or the actual involvement that Claire and Ron stumble into, but this final book feels different than the others. It feels like it has more weight in terms of circumstance and even danger. The main issue I had, as I've had with the other installments, was the dialogue. At times it felt stilted and lacked the flow of a conversation. Though that doesn't really interfere with the enjoyment that this book offers. My favorite part of the book was the end, as Geoffrey Bell brings all the time travelers together to meet each other. It was a fitting end to the series, with a possibility of more to come if the author chooses to ever keep going. 

Rating: 4/5 Cups

Other American Journey series books:

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What's Next, Wednesday (49)


  •  To play along share a book you've been looking forward to reading, whether it's new or has been on your reading list for a while.

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I'm looking forward to...

Chaos Unbound by Brian S. Leon. A little fantasy reading is up next! Diomedes, guardian of mankind, has been framed for murder and is forced to run while trying to prove it wasn't him. I love fantasy novels and crime novels and this one sounds like it might be a mix of both. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Teaser Tuesday (258)


Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the weekly Meme that wants you to add books to your TBR, or just share what you are currently reading. It is very easy to play along:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Everyone loves Teaser Tuesday.

34212850

Hannah's Moon (Kindle 30%)
     - John A. Heldt

David laughed to himself. He didn't need to ride the rails to find some local history. It was sitting on his couch. He couldn't remember the last time he had heard someone refer to Memorial Day as Decoration Day or the Civil War as the War Between the States. California and the twenty-first century never seemed farther away.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

M.A.R.R.I.E.D. (Jessie and Graham 1.5)

32929978In rainy Seattle, Washington, Graham Kelly has won the heart of independent minded Jessica Jacobs. Wedding bells are near, yet nothing will stop Jessie’s overbearing mother from throwing a wrench into the plans.

When an unexpected situation expands the swelling tension between the two, matters arise uncertain. Graham loves Jessie. But will his endless affection and warm heart be enough to keep her? This trip down the aisle is going to be a bumpy one.

*Contains Spoilers*

Lindsay Marie Miller continues the story of Jessie and Graham in M.A.R.R.I.E.D., the sequel to S.I.N.G.L.E. With the wedding just ahead, Jessie and Graham must jump a few more hurdles before they can exchange rings and vows. In the first book, it took all of Graham's power to convince Jessie that they should be together, but life has a way of surprising even the most stable couples. 

Jessie is blissfully happy. She believes that Graham is her soul mate and will forever be by her side. Her happiness weighs the pages of this book as the story move closer to her wedding day. However, Jessie's mom, who is easy to dislike, disrupts her happiness as she suggests a little pre-wedding dental work for Graham. This doesn't seem like much of a wrench, but it works to upset Jessie as well as insult Graham, when he eventually finds out. Though this suggestion also works to define Jessie's loyalty, it also punctuates her strength that she stands up for her fiance and herself. 

One thing that readers get to see in this sequel, that wasn't as prominent in the first book, is Jessie's budding relationship with her younger sister. In the first book, Jessie fought to be able to see Ella, but her stepmother resisted the two sisters knowing each other. Now, Jessie's father allows Jessie and Ella to see each other consistently. The growing relationship between these siblings is nice to witness as a reader as it demonstrates the importance Jessie places on family. 

The biggest surprise that Jessie and Graham face (spoiler alert) is an unexpected pregnancy. They find out just a few weeks before the wedding and the uncertainty of whether they want this and are ready for this is a big focus of this book. This major twist allows readers to see how Jessie and Graham react as a couple to something unplanned and their reaction reveals a lot about their personalities. Graham's love of family dictates his reactions while Jessie's old fears about broken families seems to dictate hers. However, happiness does come out of this surprise and both Jessie and Graham accept their beautiful fate of being parents as they struggle with other obstacles that pop up. 

While this book is sweet and romantic, I feel like it fell short on building on the connection between readers, Jessie, and Graham. The first book did set up an initial connection based on Jessie's fear of being let down and disappointed by love and Graham's never-give-up attitude. Though, this book didn't do much for me in the way of expanding that initial connection. I don't feel like I learned anything new about Jessie or Graham and their characters seemed a little flat. It's almost as if the characters did all their growing (in terms of personality) in the first book. On the brighter side, there was much less arguing and bickering in this book between Jessie and Graham, which I appreciated. They seemed to be on the same side, for the most part, which helped show their deep commitment to each other. While I didn't feel much of a connection to the characters, I do think readers who enjoy the romance genre with a focus on the relationship and less on the evolution of the characters will enjoy this book. It's a light, easy read that shares the blissful happiness of being in love, and there's nothing wrong with that. 

Rating: 2.5/5 Cups

Read the review of S.I.N.G.L.E.
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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Ashes

30775537Middle-aged brothers Jason and Tom Prendergast thought they were completely done with each other. Perceived betrayal had burned the bridge between them, tossing them into the icy river of estrangement. But life and death has a robust sense of irony, and when they learn that their cruel father has died and made his final request that they travel together across the country to spread his ashes, they have no choice but to spend a long, long car trip in each other s company. It s either that or lose out on the contents of the envelope he s left with his lawyer. The trip will be as gut-wrenching as each expects it to be . . . and revealing in ways neither of them is prepared for.

*May Contain Spoilers*

A road trip across the United States with a wooden box of ashes and two brothers who couldn't misunderstand or dislike each other more. Ashes by Steven Manchester crosses state lines and personal boundaries, pushing two estranged family members back together after fifteen years of silence. 

Tom Prendergast is a university professor who has always needed to be the smartest person in the room. Not only was he the smaller brother in an abusive household, he was also the most afraid. Tom grew up being physically and verbally abused by his father, his hatred for him constantly growing. As a fifty year old man, he dreams of escape. Or the very least, something more. His wife consistently cheats on him while he fears what will happen to his children if he leaves her. It becomes another form of abuse for Tom. While he tries to deal with that, he also struggles with his health. Readers will empathize with Tom as they learn more and more about him. The road trip with his brother, Jason, is not something that Tom exactly wants to do. He'd actually rather do anything else. Yet, he hopes that his father, though a horrible person in life, left him something decent in death. And though these expectations might be a little selfish, Jason feels the same way. Almost as if, the brothers both wish that there father would willingly take back everything he put them through as children. 

Jason is a tough, giant of a man, who works as a correctional officer in a prison. Though he has a very hard exterior, battling criminals, he also has a surprisingly soft side for those who have also experienced the difficulties life can bring. He volunteers at a youth detention center, attempting to reach children who may still have a chance to escape the criminal path they've started on. I think readers will connect with him most based on his relationship with his daughter, Miranda. Though she seems a little over the top when it comes to her wedding, Jason treats her like a princess who deserves everything. It's very sweet to see his interaction with her and it creates a stark contrast to how he others. 

The entire novel revolves around Stuart Prendergast, the good-for-nothing father that attempted to raise Jason and Tom, while abusing them and treating them like vermin. He has just died from prostate cancer and his will includes instruction for Jason and Tom to take his ashes to Seattle, WA and spread them at a certain address. If they do this, they'll receive whatever is in a mysterious envelope. Though Stuart Prendergast most definitely is described as a complete nightmare, this road trip may be the only thing he ever did right. As Jason and Tom set out, the trip is nothing but snapping, matching wits, and making threats. But the more distance that stacks up between Salem, MA (where they pick up the remains) and Seattle, WA, the less distance there is between these two brothers. 

Between present day influences and flashbacks to the boyhood battles, Jason and Tom have fifteen years to make up for and readers will enjoy the mountain these two men climb in attempting to repair their lost friendship and sense of understanding. The realism of their characters is strong and I think readers will be able to connect with both Jason and Tom on various levels. Manchester has really fleshed out these characters and though Manchester's happy endings are sort of an expectation, Jason and Tom earn theirs from start to finish. 

Rating: 4/5 Cups


Steven Manchester
Meet the Author

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers Twelve Months, The Rockin’ Chair, Pressed Pennies, and Gooseberry Island as well as the novels Goodnight, Brian and The Changing Season. His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning, and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of Manchester’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.




Excerpt (Contains Adult Language)

Tom wheeled his late-model, platinum-colored BMW into Attorney Russell Norman’s freshly paved lot and parked between a brand new Lexus—sporting the license plate JUSTIS4U—and a custom pickup truck. Looks like I’m going after the hillbilly, he thought when he spotted the faded Massachusetts Department of Correction sticker in the rear window. His blood turned cold. “It must be Jason,” he thought aloud. I didn’t think he’d come.

Tom took a few deep breaths, not because he was nervous about his father’s death or talking to any lawyer but because he hadn’t seen his Neanderthal brother—for fifteen years, I think. He paused for a moment to give it more thought. Although their relationship had essentially vaporized in their late teens—the result of a fall out that still haunted his dreams—they’d occasionally wound up in each other’s orbits; weddings, funerals, and the like, enough to remain familiar with each other’s career choices, wives, and children. But even that came to an end fifteen years ago, he confirmed in his aching head before opening the door. While his toothache-induced migraine threatened to blind him, he took one step into the oak-paneled waiting room. His and Jason’s eyes met for the briefest moment. As though they were complete strangers, they both looked away. And here he is, Tom thought, disappointed. This is just great.

Through peripheral vision, Tom noticed that his older brother now wore a scar over his right eye, just above a bushy eyebrow that could have easily belonged to a homeless Scotsman. A jagged ear lobe, a piece clearly torn away, pointed to a crooked nose that sat sideways on his face—all of it rearranged since birth. What a big tub of shit he’s turned into, Tom thought, struggling to ignore his throbbing face and head. He’s as fat as a wood tick now, he thought, grinning, and he looks like he’s ready to pop. Jason looked straight at him, as if reading his mind. Tom immediately looked away, his rapid heartbeat starting to pound in his ears, intensifying his physical pain. Unbelievable, he thought. After all the years and all the distance, his elder brother—by only two years—still scared the hell out of him. He’s just a big asshole, that’s all, he told himself, but he still couldn’t bring himself to rejoin his brother’s penetrating gaze.

The secretary answered her phone before calling out, “Mr. Prendergast . . .”

Both brothers stood.

“Attorney Norman will see you now.”

Tom walked in first, letting the door close behind him—right in Jason’s face.

“Still a weasel,” Jason muttered, loud enough for all to hear.

“What was that?” Tom asked just inside the door.

“Don’t even think about playing with me,” Jason warned as he reopened the door and entered the room, “’cause I have no problem throwing you over my knee and spanking you right in front of this guy.”

I’m fifty years old, for God’s sake, Tom thought, and he thinks he’s going to spank me? I’m surprised the prison even let him out.

The attorney—his hand extended for anyone willing to give it a shake—looked mortified by the childish exchange.

Tom shook the man’s hand before settling into a soft leather wing chair. Jason followed suit.

The room was framed in rich mahogany paneling. The desk could have belonged in the oval office. Beneath a green-glassed banker’s lamp, stacks of file folders took up most of the vast desktop. An American flag stood in one corner, while framed diplomas and certificates, bearing witness to the man’s intelligence and vast education, covered the brown walls.

Attorney Norman wore a pinstriped shirt and pleated, charcoal-colored slacks held up by a pair of black suspenders. He had a bow tie, a receding hairline that begged to be shaved bald, and a pair of eyeglasses that John Lennon would have been proud to call his own. There’s no denying it, Tom thought, trying to ignore his brother’s wheezing beside him, he’s either a lawyer or a banker. He couldn’t be anything else.

While Jason squirmed in his seat, visibly uncomfortable to be sitting in a lawyer’s office, his hands squeezed the arms of the chair. What a chicken shit, Tom thought, trying to make himself feel better. Peering sideways, he noticed that his brother’s knuckles were so swollen with scar tissue they could have belonged to a man who made his living as a bare-knuckle brawler. He’s still an animal too, he decided.

Attorney Norman took a seat, grabbed a manila file from atop the deep stack and cleared his throat. “The reason you’re both here . . .”

“. . . is to make sure the old man’s really dead,” Jason interrupted.

In spite of himself and his harsh feelings for his brother, Tom chuckled—drawing looks from both men.

“The reason we’re all here,” Attorney Norman repeated, “is to read Stuart Prendergast’s last will and testament.” He flipped open the folder.

This ought to be good, Tom thought, while Jason took a deep breath and sighed heavily. Both brothers sat erect in their plush chairs, waiting to hear more.

As if he were Stuart Prendergast sitting there in the flesh, the mouthpiece read, “My final wish is that my two sons, Jason and Thomas, bring my final remains to 1165 Milford Road in Seattle, Washington, where they will spread my ashes.”

“Seattle?” Tom blurted, his wagging tongue catching his tooth, making him wince in pain. Quickly concealing his weakness, he slid to the edge of his seat. “Oh, I don’t think so,” he mumbled, careful not to touch the tooth again.

Jason was shaking his head. “Hell no,” he said.

The attorney read on. “I’ve always been afraid to fly, so I’m asking that I not be transported by airplane but driven by car.”

“No way,” Tom instinctively sputtered.

Jason laughed aloud. “This is just great. The old bastard’s dead and he’s still screwing with us.”

The less-than-amused attorney revealed a sealed envelope and continued on. “As my final gift to my sons . . .”

“Only gift,” Tom muttered, feeling a cauldron of bad feelings bubbling in his gut.

“I’m leaving this sealed envelope for them to share, once and only once they’ve taken me to my final resting place.”

“What the fuck!” Jason blurted.

Every cell in Tom’s overloaded brain flashed red. Don’t do it, he thought. You don’t owe that old man a damned thing. But every cell in his body was flooded with curiosity. He looked at Jason, who was no longer shaking his fat head.

“Maybe the bastard finally hit it big at the dog track?” Jason suggested.

Tom nodded in agreement but secretly wondered, Could it be the deed to the land Pop bragged about owning in Maine? He stared at the envelope. For as long as I can remember, he claimed to own forty-plus acres with a brook running straight through it. He stared harder. Could it be? he wondered, wishing he had X-ray vision. A parcel of land in Maine sure would make a nice retirement . . .

“How ’bout we travel separately and meet in Seattle to spread the ashes?” Jason said, interrupting his thoughts.

“Great idea,” Tom said, hoping against all hope that the idea would fly with their father’s lawyer.

Attorney Norman shook his head. “I’m sorry, gentlemen, but your father specifically requested that you travel together with his remains to Seattle. Any deviation from this can and will prohibit you from attaining the sealed envelope.”

There was a long pause, the room blanketed in a heavy silence. Son of a bitch, Tom thought, this couldn’t have come at a worse time. He turned to Jason, who was already looking at him. “What do you say?” he asked, already cursing his inability to curb his curiosity.

Jason shook his head in disgust. “The last thing I want to do is to go on some stupid road trip with you.”

“Trust me, that’s a mutual feeling,” Tom shot back.

“But I don’t think we have a choice,” Jason added. “Our fucked-up father wants to play one last game with us, so to hell with it—let’s play.”

This is insane, but he’s right, Tom thought. With a single nod, Tom stood. “Okay, let’s have the ashes then,” he told the lawyer.

The attorney shook his head. “I don’t have them. They’re currently at a funeral home in Salem.”

“Salem?” Tom squeaked, unhappy that his tone betrayed his distress.

“That’s right. You have to take custody of your father’s remains from the Buffington Funeral Home in Salem, Massachusetts.”

“You must be shitting me.” Jason said.

The attorney smirked. “I shit you not,” he said, throwing the letter onto his desk.

Salem? Tom repeated in his head. Just when I thought Pop couldn’t be a bigger prick . . . The migraine knocked even harder from the inside of his skull, making him feel nauseous. Amid the pain, his synapses fired wildly, considering all this would mean: I’ll have to take bereavement leave from school and find someone to cover my classes. I should probably double my treatment with Dr. Baxter tomorrow. And what about Caleb and Caroline? he asked himself, quickly deciding, They’ll be fine without me for a few days. Then he pictured his wife’s face. And Carmen, she’ll be fine without me for a lot longer than that. The nausea increased. Screw her.

"Are we done here?” Jason asked, obviously itching to leave.

The lawyer nodded. “I’ll need proof in the form of a video or a series of photos that you’ve deposited your father’s remains where he wished. Once I have that, the letter’s all yours.”

“How wonderful,” Jason said sarcastically. He stood, turned on his heels, and headed for the door.

Tom also got to his feet. He looked at the lawyer and, trying to ignore his physical discomfort, he smiled. “Don’t mind him,” he said, shrugging. “That imbecile is exactly what our father trained him to be.”

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