They say you can’t go home again, Adam Klay doesn’t intend to until the death of his father forces his return to Skagit, Washington. Cleaning up his father’s chaotic life was never on Adam’s bucket list. Worse, Adam finds himself inexplicably drawn to the elusive, terminally-clumsy, gorgeous, Micah Ryan. No way is he getting involved with someone from his hometown, he’s always insisted the best view of Skagit was in his rearview mirror.
Micah Ryan has been coasting on auto-pilot since his family was killed in a car accident a decade earlier. He runs a web business and has an irritable cat. He hardly leaves his house, unless it is for his afternoon espresso. His world tips upside down when Adam Klay rolls into town. For the first time in years, he feels alive. Unfortunately, Micah’s return to the living has been noticed and is not appreciated.
Will Adam and Micah be able to exorcise the ghosts of their pasts so they can embrace their future together?
*This re-edited version does not significantly depart from the original, just better grammar.
- 3 Read lists
Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Coming Home
Word Count: 74000
Setting: Washington State
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
The small town of Skagit, Washington, sucked. The drive north from L.A. had sucked. Generally, everything sucked. As he expected, nothing had changed about the town he’d spent his first 18 years in. The only thing that hadn’t sucked was finding a new and nice local coffee shop around the corner from his motel.
It had been madness to drive, really, but he was tired of airports and airplanes. After flying from Ringling to Helena to Seattle to Bellingham, then driving to Skagit for the funeral, then two flights to get to L.A., Adam couldn’t face another airplane for a while. He also had no idea how long it was going to take him to wrap up everything in Skagit. From what the lawyers had said, the house wasn’t going to be easy to clean up. If he wanted to sell, he had his work cut out for him. The county had already sent a certified letter giving him 90 days before they would begin the process of condemning the property. Bastards.READ MORE
In a moment of irrational sentimentality Adam had booked himself a room at the Wagon Wheel, a relic from the heyday of old Highway 99. The contents of the room were relics, too. The furniture had lots of history evidenced by nicks and dents and by the fact he was reasonably certain this exact bedroom set had been featured on The Brady Bunch. The paint on the walls was beige. As were the carpet and bedspread. Beige being a rule adopted by landlords and cheap hoteliers everywhere. The lobby was, possibly, even worse, but Adam didn’t care. He’d sleep there and spend the next few days at the cleverly named Booking Room Café, directly across from the Skagit police headquarters.
Was he task avoiding? Absolutely. His intention had been to come to Skagit, rent a bulldozer and a Dumpster, maybe salvage what he deemed worthy. Unfortunately, driving down the pitted driveway toward the wreckage of his dad’s life had thrown Adam into a state of panic.
So he was going to wallow in self-pity for a few days before getting back to his depressing chore.
The Booking Room was cute and, in addition to an impressive selection of espresso drinks, also offered sandwiches and soups. He thought maybe the guy he’d seen behind the counter was a manager. Since he wasn’t staying, he didn’t need to find out. He was certain the colorful 30-ish woman was the owner; she ran the place with a sassy no-nonsense attitude. Adam liked her.
Adam claimed one of the tables toward the back and next to the windows as his own. He’d been there since they opened at 5:30. He was attempting to keep up with his cases while he took care of Gerald’s business. Mohammad had told him not to worry, but he couldn’t help it. Reputation notwithstanding, he felt personally responsible for each victim and wanted to help their families find closure. He also didn’t want some other yahoo messing up all his hard work.
Adam was also avoiding talking to the lawyers and going back out to Flagstaff Lane. He’d managed to talk Weir into sending him the findings from Ringling. Adam had been trying to put some kind of timeline together. There was so much time between Rochelle’s disappearance and the discovery of her body, though. He ran his fingers through his hair, making it stand on end—he needed a haircut.
A crash startled him from his brooding. The perpetrator was a hot mess who, in the space of three minutes, knocked over a chair with the grocery bags hanging from his wrist and then backed into a woman on her way to the restroom. The poor guy almost expired on the spot.
Adam was immediately and inexplicably fascinated by him. At first it was pure rubbernecking. The guy seemed to have no idea where his arms and legs were in relation to his body or the space around him.
Three days later, when Adam realized he was waiting for the poor guy to come in for his afternoon coffee, he knew he needed to quit going there. There was no reason to waste time going over paperwork and files if Mohammad wasn’t going to let him actively participate. There was absolutely no reason to keep his eye out for a lean man with dark curly hair and green eyes (he thought) who couldn’t walk a straight line sober.
The next afternoon he found himself disappointed when Cute Hopeless Guy didn’t come in for his standard triple Americano, with room. Adam was so disconcerted by the unfamiliar emotion he stayed away a full day.
Instead, he drove out to his dad’s property. It kind of reminded him of Rochelle’s meadow. He wasn’t wearing his third-best suit or his dress shoes, but he felt just as useless. Just as unsure of the timeline of his father’s life and death. The house was shabby and unkempt, more so than when he had left 18 years ago. It hadn’t changed since the other night when he had pulled off I-5 and driven straight there: dark, empty, brooding.
“Why?” The two huge Douglas firs had heard it all before. Their long limbs scraped across each other, whispering their secrets into the damp. Still not answering him.
November in the Pacific Northwest meant the sun never fully rose. Despite the murky light, Adam could kind of see into the windows of the log house. He could see muted shapes that might be canvases or, just as likely, stacks of garbage. He had no clear idea how much his father had painted since Adam had left.
When Adam was much younger, his father always had a canvas going. Sometimes more than one. Peering closer, Adam could also see stacks of what might be books and papers. Mounds of what looked like clothing—towels, maybe? The front area seemed mostly clear; cars had to park somewhere. The medical examiner had to have come down the same gravel road to pick up his father’s body.
The backyard was a testimony to decades of hoarding. When Adam was a teen it wasn’t called hoarding. It was “collecting” or “preparing” or “just in case.” Calling it hoarding didn’t make it any more understandable.
A vehicle grumbled down the pitted driveway. He was going to have to have fresh gravel brought in if he kept the place. A nosy neighbor had probably seen him arrive. Seen, meaning: watched him through a grimy pair of binoculars, and decided to call the citizen patrol on him.
Eighteen years and he still recognized the beat-up truck pulling up next to him. He was incredulous the thing was still running. It was a relic from the late 1970s. It had rust on its rust. Ed Schultz, weather-beaten and grayer than Adam remembered, but still tall and strong-looking, slid off the driver’s seat and out the truck door as it creaked open. The truck’s windshield had a huge horizontal crack running along the bottom that the sheriff’s department had probably ticketed Ed for twenty times. Adam figured that because it had been there the last time he had seen it.
“Adam.” Ed held out his hand, grimy and stained from years of hard work. Adam shook it and managed not to wipe his hands on his pants afterward.
“Marty Lang called and said there was someone up here. I figured it was you. But I told her I’d check.” Ed’s voice was wicked from decades of cigarettes, pot smoking, and heavy drinking. He was kind of a miracle of science. Skagit’s very own Keith Richards.
“How’d you know I was in town?” Stupid question, really, what with the Marty Langs of the community.
The older man rubbed his chin. He needed a shave. “Adam, this town may have grown since you were here and now some folks seem to think Skagit is actually on the map. But a lot of us old folks are still around and we have a network kinda thing.”
That didn’t sound sinister at all. But it did sound eerily similar to the conspiracy theories his father and his cronies used to throw around when they were high or drunk. So, pretty much all the time.
“Okay.” Adam didn’t know what to say. He was in Skagit solely to remove the evidence of his father’s existence, not to linger with the locals and reminisce. He’d looked up a couple of junk-removal companies. They were booked out a week or so; he had time to go through the house and get rid of the trash.
The house he hadn’t been able to enter yet.COLLAPSE
It's always a crap shoot when reading an author's debut book. Sometimes you get something terrible, sometimes it turns out just okay, sometimes you can see the potential but it's just not quite there yet and sometimes you find a diamond in the rough.
This is a diamond in the rough.
Very smart writing and interesting story with characters who are fully fleshed and pretty dang awesome. The sex was hot too and just enough to not overwhelm the story. Great balance between action, romance and dialogue. Good descriptors so you get detailed, but not too detailed, pictures of setting and characters. I fell in love with Adam; he's so curmudgeonly! I love a grump that's lovingly coaxed into showing his vulnerabilities.
I'm glad I took a chance on this one and I can't wait to see what the author has in store for us next.