Saturday, July 31, 2010

NEW and Exciting from MLR Press

A thousand words, a single picture...

Since artists are often called upon to turn prose into a visual for such things as book covers, I wondered, would writers be able to pick up the creative torch and run in the opposite direction? I had little doubts they could and it got me excited wondering what they would come up with for my own pastel paintings.

So with that it mind I though it would be fun to launch a contest and invite friends, fans of my art, amateur scribes, professionals writers, really anyone who wanted, to pick a painting from my body of work and build a short story around it.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. I wanted to find out if that was true.

Art-inspired short stories contributors for this collection include: L. John Williams, Todd Schoonover, Veronica, Aleksandr Voinov & Marquesate, Linda Schnelle, John Stewart, George Seaton, Gabriel Morgan, Alan Bennett Ilagan, Todd Peissig, Harold Dixon, Justin Shephred, Clare London, and artist Michael Breyette.

More details.
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Review: VICIOUS by Kevin O'Brien

I have discovered a great new thriller writer, one who annoyingly keeps me up all night, relentlessly turning the pages. Here's a taste of my review of Kevin O'Brien's latest, Vicious, at Dark Scribe Magazine:

"...Although it’s being marketed as a thriller, Kevin O’Brien’s latest Seattle-set chiller would be more appropriately classified as a horror novel. It’s in the same true-life vein as, say, a horror novel by Jack Ketchum or a movie like Last House on the Left or The Strangers. It’s the scariest kind of horror, because it could really happen.

I say the above because Vicious is a book that defies convention as a thriller in the same vein as Harlan Coben or Lynwood Barclay. Vicious, unlike most books in the thriller genre, is all about the villain (or villains) and the victims. O’Brien spends very little time on police procedure or even amateur investigators getting to the bottom of crime. Most books classified as thrillers make the detection of the principle crime the heart of the work. Vicious brings us brilliantly into the mind of a very sick and twisted killer – dubbed by the press as the “Mama’s boy Killer” because he kills only the mothers of young children – and his victims..."

Read the entire review here. Click on the Amazon link at left to get your own copy of Vicious.
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

The NEW 3G Kindle Releases August 27

I am sorely tempted...

From Amazon:

Kindle at a Glance
New, High-Contrast E-Ink Screen
50% better contrast than any other e-reader. The clearest text and sharpest images.

Read in Bright Sunlight
Unlike LCD screens, Kindle's screen reads like real paper, with no glare. Read as easily in bright sunlight as in your living room.

Lighter Than a Paperback
At only 8.7 ounces and 1/3 of an inch thin, Kindle is lighter than a paperback and thinner than a magazine.

Holds 3,500 Books
We doubled Kindle's storage so you can carry up to 3,500 books.

Battery Life of Up to One Month
A single charge lasts up to one month with wireless off. Keep wireless always on and go for up to 10 days without recharging.

Free 3G Wireless
No annual contracts, no monthly fees. Download books anytime, anywhere. Learn more.

Global 3G Coverage
Travel the globe and still get books in under 60 seconds with wireless coverage in over 100 countries and territories. Check wireless coverage.

Built-In Wi-Fi
Connect to Wi-Fi hotspots at home or on the road. Includes free Wi-Fi access at AT&T hotspots across the U.S.

Quieter Page Turn Buttons
Quieter page turning means you won't disturb your partner when you want to read all night.

Share Meaningful Passages
Share meaningful passages with friends and family with built-in Twitter and Facebook integration.

Simple to Use
Kindle is ready to use right out of the box - no setup, no software to install, no computer required.
Books in 60 Seconds
With fast, free wireless delivery, you can start reading books in less than 60 seconds. No computer required.

Massive Selection
Over 630,000 books, including 109 of 111 New York Times Best Sellers, plus audiobooks, periodicals and blogs. For non-U.S. customers, content availability varies. Check your country.

Free, Out-of-Copyright Books
Over 1.8 million free, out-of-copyright, pre-1923 books are available such as Pride and Prejudice. Learn more

Low Book Prices
Over 510,000 books are $9.99 or less, including 80 current New York Times Best Sellers.

Free Book Samples
Download and read first chapters for free before you decide to buy.

Read Everywhere with Whispersync
Your Kindle books can be read on your Kindle, iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac, Android device, and BlackBerry. Our Whispersync technology syncs your place across devices, so you can pick up where you left off.

Worry-Free Archive
Books you purchase from the Kindle Store are automatically backed up online in your Kindle library on Amazon. Re-download books wirelessly for free, anytime.

With Text-to-Speech, Kindle can read English-language content out loud to you.

Improved PDF Reader
Now with new dictionary lookup, notes and highlights, and support for password protected PDFs. Easily carry all of your documents on the go.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

BLUE MOON CAFE Gets Positive Review at Dark Scribe

The horror magazine Dark Scribe gives a very positive review of the The Blue Moon Cafe in its current issue, raising important questions about whether a gay romance/horror story can have appeal for a mainstream audience.

In part, the review says,

"Reed brilliantly pours much of society’s lingering hatred and bigotry toward gays into the werewolf metaphor, giving lycanthrope fiction a refreshing spin..."

Read the rest of the review here.

Purchase The Blue Moon Café

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Win a FREE, Signed Copy of My NEW Gay Erotic Collection, ON THE EDGE!

Congrats to KZ Snow, who is the winner of the signed copy of On the Edge! KZ, I will be in touch for your information. Didn't win? Get your copy here.

I'm proud to announce the release of my collection, On the Edge from Amber Allure (the LGBT imprint of Amber Quill Press). This book is especially for you if you're one of those people who just doesn't cotton to the idea of an e-book and prefers the look, smell, and experience of a real print book. On the Edge collects eight of my stories that were previously only available in electronic format before. Check out the descriptions of each story below (titles are hyperlinked so you can go to their original publisher page, where you can read excerpts, see reviews, and a more detailed synopsis).

To win a FREE, autographed copy of On the Edge, all you need to do is the following:

1. Leave a comment below.
2. Be sure to leave an e-mail address so I can get in touch if you're a winner.
3. Bonus points for reposting news of this contest/release on your Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace. Even more bonus points if you click on the link at the right to subscribe by e-mail to this blog.

That's it. Good luck! And if you can't wait to see if you've won, you can get your copy of On the Edge from Amazon here.

In Rick R. Reed’s haunting, mesmerizing, suspenseful, and romantic world, his gay male characters live on the edge, often literally as well as figuratively. In this new collection, you’ll take a wild ride with some of literature’s most unforgettable characters. Along the way, you’ll be moved—to tears, to laughter, to uneasiness, and sometimes, to arousal. As Bette Davis once said, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Previously available only in electronic format, these eight stories of Gay Erotica and Romance have now been combined for a paperback edition! Included are the tales...

A story about promises made, promises broken, and dreams unfulfilled. Yet ultimately, it’s about realizing that love can come along when one least expects it—and in the unlikeliest of places.

Through The Closet Door 
A tale that brings to painful life the consequences of coming out of the closet when you’re married. Gregory’s mask is slipping, pulled down by the allure of a handsome neighbor and the demands of a desire that only gets louder the more he tries to quiet it.

Riding The El At Midnight 
When the gorgeous and twisted Mark boards a northbound el train, he is looking for love in all the wrong places. Finding Julio aboard that same train, Mark thinks, is the answer to his dreams. But are his dreams nightmares?

Slip into the dungeon playroom of a master and his boy. But in the boy’s mind, a dream state takes him places the master could not imagine...places where the established order turns upside down.

Two men, one predator, and a violent crime equal a journey into hellish nightmare territory. This tale merges horror with a tragic love story and the result is...chilling.

I awoke one morning from uneasy dreams to find my penis had transformed itself into a vagina... Thus begins the story of a very unusual day...

No Place Like Home 
Trannies and Psychos and Bears...oh my! Burl discovers—in a hilariously bizarre quest—that there really is no place like home.

Pottery Peter 
One long hot summer. Three gorgeous men. And a burning triangle set down in the middle of a factory filled with sweaty men with bulging biceps.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Cover for Upcoming Novel TRICKS!

It's always so exciting when an artist and an author's vision mesh in the cover for a book. Such was the case was Alex Beecroft's excellent front cover for my upcoming dark romance novel from MLR Press, Tricks (tentatively scheduled for a fall release). I think this was one case where less is more (and that could be taken a lot of ways...and should). Its sheer simplicity makes this cover more eye-catching than most.

Here's a little bit about the book:

Tricks can mean many things: sex partners, deceptions, even magic. In Rick R. Reed’s searing love story, it means all three. Arliss is a gorgeous young dancer at Tricks, the hottest club in Chicago’s Boystown. Sean is the classic nerd, out of place in Tricks, but nursing his wounds from a recent break-up. When the two spy each other, magic blooms. But this opposites-attract tale does not run smooth. What happens when Arliss is approached by one of the biggest porn producers in the business? Can he make his dreams of stardom come true without throwing away the only real love he’s ever known? And will this question even matter if the mysterious producers realize their dark intentions?

And here's what some early readers have to say:

“From the beginning, Rick Reed pulls you into the world of male strippers and the seedy side of gay life, where the emotion and suspense rarely let up. With Arliss and Sean, he proves that even though opposites might attract, their love can burn forever. Sean is an unlikely hero, but proves to himself and to Arliss he's got what it takes. Arliss has just the right blend of innocence and experience, and goes straight to your heart. I hated to put it down. Tricks is definitely a keeper!”
--Lynn Lorenz, bestselling author of David’s Dilemma

“This opposites attract tale clearly shows Rick R. Reed does romance right—a little sweet, a little savory, a lot suspenseful. You can't go wrong with Rick R. Reed."
--Z.A. Maxfield, author of Notturno
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Authors Intervew YOU...Talk to Sloane Taylor & Win a FREE Book!

I'm pleased to announce that Sherry Strode is the winner of the free copy of Teddi Turns On! Congrats, Sherry!

Today, I continue my new series...with a twist. Instead of the standard author interview, where you read all about the author, I thought it would be cool to turn the tables and let the authors interview you.

Here's how it works:
1. Read and respond to the questions from the author below (just put your answers in the comment section).
2. Leave a way to contact you should you win a FREE book.

That's it! I'll pick a winner on Monday and send you your free escape. This week Sloane Taylor, author of several highly acclaimed erotic romances is offering you a copy of Teddi Turns On, her contemporary romance with an international twist, just for answering her questions below:

1 - Which is your preference to purchase print books or e-books?
2 - Do you read books written in first person? 
3 - Who do you relate to more the hero or heroine? 
4 - How much sex do you want to read in a book, 50%, 75%, or more?
5 - Do you always want the couple to stay together at the end of the story?

Just post your answers in the comments section below. Sloane and I will choose a winner within 48 hours and will announce it here and, hopefully, be in touch with you!

Sloane Taylor is a sensual woman who believes humor and sex are healthy aspects of our everyday lives, which carry over into her books. Her stories are set in Europe where the men are all male and the North American women they encounter are both feminine and strong. A true romantic, the women Sloane writes will bring more than lust to their men’s lives.

Born and raised in Chicago, Sloane and Studly, her mate for life, split their time between a home in Illinois and a weekend cottage on the back roads of Indiana...or you can catch up with her as she travels though Europe, researching new material.

To learn more about Sloane and her writing, please visit her at or Sloane loves to hear from readers. Feel free to email her at

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gay Crime: Man Shot in NJ Cruising Area

I write about gay crime, whether it's fiction, as in IM or Bashed, or in real life, as I did for quite some time on the true crime blog, In Cold Blog. So I keep an eye open for stories involving gay people and crime. Sadly, most of the stories have the gay people as victims rather than perpetrators. Like this one (which I found in the excellent local gay news source, Beyond Chron; the story was written by Tommi

Cop Kills Man in Gay Cruising Area
It’s a scenario that has become all too familiar in this country: An unarmed African American man is shot by a police officer, and the official spinmeisters go into overtime. In this case, the man, DeFarra “Dean” Gaymon, was in a gay cruising area in a park in Newark, New Jersey, and the officer was an undercover cop assigned to bust gay men for consensual sexual activity in the park.

Essex County Acting Prosecutor Robert Laurino spins the story this way: Gaymon approached an undercover officer for sex in Branch Brook Park and when the cop identified himself, the man “appeared to panic.” That’s when Gaymon, according to Laurino, “assaulted the police officer and fled.” The cop caught up to Gaymon by a pond and tried unsuccessfully to handcuff him.

“Mr. Gaymon reached into his pocket and lunged at the officer in an attempt to disarm the officer,” Laurino claims. That’s when the officer shot Gaymon in the abdomen. Gaymon died several hours later.

Police are refusing to identify the undercover cop. No witnesses have come forward to affirm or refute the officer’s account, and they probably never will, given the social stigma attached to sexual activity in parks.

Gaymon, CEO of the Credit Union of Atlanta, was visiting his home town for his 30th high school reunion. He was married and has four children. His sister, Kelly Gaymon Armstrong, told the Star-Ledger, “I do not believe that story. Not one bit. That is not my brother’s character. That is a made-up absolute lie. The truth will come out.” She said that an independent investigation needs to happen.

John Joyce, president of the Montclair High School Alumni Association who worked with Gaymon on organizing the reunion, said that in Gaymon “you never met a kinder, nicer, more gentle person.”

Gaymon’s murder raises a lot of troubling questions. Why are armed police officers being sent into gay cruising spots, which are not considered dangerous areas? Why, when resources are scarce and budgets tight, are police wasting money and time they could devote to serious crime to patrolling parks to stop consensual sex? Are cops using entrapment (an attractive officer entices a man to make a pass at him, then cuffs him) to get their arrests, as they did in the past?

When Gaymon panicked, why didn’t the officer merely give him a warning and let him go, rather than risk the situation escalating? Even if Gaymon was masturbating, as the cop contends, is that “crime” worth a human life? Did Gaymon’s race play into the situation?

While some people may not like public sex, it doesn’t threaten anyone’s life or safety. Men who engage in this sort of activity usually keep it out of sight in bushes and in places where there’s not much public traffic.

A man walking around a park looking for sex should not be shot dead.

The police need to answer for this senseless killing, and queer leaders need to hold them accountable for it.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is co-editor of Avanti Popolo: Italians Sailing Beyond Columbus, and editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, which has been nominated for both an American Library Association and a Lambda Literary award. His website is
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Amazon Reports E-Book Sales Outnumber Print

According to the New York Times yesterday, ", one of the nation’s largest booksellers, announced Monday that for the last three months, sales of books for its e-reader, the Kindle, outnumbered sales of hardcover books."

The article said that for every 143 e-books sold, only 100 print books sold. Amazon has been selling print books for fifteen years; Kindle e-books for only 33 months.

What's your take? Purchased an e-book reader already? Considering one? Or are you one of those people (like I used to be, before I got--and fell in love with--my Kindle) who just loves the heft and the smell of a "real" book?

""Book lovers mourning the demise of hardcover books with their heft and their musty smell need a reality check," said Mike Shatzkin, founder and chief executive of the Idea Logical Company, which advises book publishers on digital change. "This was a day that was going to come, a day that had to come," he said. He predicts that within a decade, fewer than 25 percent of all books sold will be print versions."
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

A DEMON INSIDE Gets Its First Review!

I am very excited to see my gay romantic horror tale, A Demon Inside, getting its first review...and that reviewer rated it 5 kisses. Lisa, from MichelenJeff Reviews had this to say about my haunted/possessed house story:

"Rick R. Reed’s A Demon Inside is an intense, macabre, edge-of-your-seat, don’t-read-it-in-the-dark thrill ride. From the prologue to its final chapter, I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough to see what would happen enthralling read...kept me spellbound from beginning to end..."

Read the whole review here.

Hunter Beaumont doesn't understand his grandmother's deathbed wish: "Destroy Beaumont House." He'd never even heard of the place. But after his grandmother passes and his first love betrays him, the family house in the Wisconsin woods looks like a tempting refuge. Going against his grandmother's wishes, Hunter flees to Beaumont House. But will the house be the sanctuary he had hoped for? Soon after moving in, Hunter realizes he may not be alone. And who---or what---he shares the house may plunge him into a nightmare from which he may never escape. Sparks fly when he meets his handsome neighbor, a caretaker for the estate next door, but is the man his salvation...or is he the source of Hunter's terror?

BUY A Demon Inside.

READ an excerpt.
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Friday, July 16, 2010

Authors Interview YOU...Talk to Melissa Bradley & Win a FREE Book!

Today, I continue my new series...with a twist. Instead of the standard author interview, where you read all about the author, I thought it would be cool to turn the tables and let the authors interview you.

Here's how it works:
1. Read and respond to the questions from the author below (just put your answers in the comment section).
2. Leave a way to contact you should you win a FREE book.

That's it! This week Melissa Bradley, author of the bestselling sexy horror romp, Maxie Briscoe: Werewolf, offers up a FREE copy of her scary, steamy tale to one lucky reader just for answering the questions below:

1. If you could give away a book to open someone up to the joy of reading, what would it be and why?
2. What draws you to an author you’ve never read before?
3. If you could meet any character from a favorite story, who would it be? Why?
4. What book or books do you reread from time to time?
5. What is your perfect reading experience?

Just post your answers in the comments section below. Melissa will choose a winner within 48 hours and will announce it here and, hopefully, be in touch with you!
Melissa Bradley grew up the eldest of five in a storytelling, book-loving family on Chicago’s Southeast Side. Some of her fondest memories include being regaled by tales of giants and goblins by her father. She has a passion for stories of history, romance, adventure and fantasy featuring strong women. An avid bookophile, she can often be found in a library or bookstore when not writing or working her day job. She loves to hear from people and you can visit her at She also has a blog called Melissa’s Imaginarium and you can visit the site at
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Why I Don't Want to be a Vampire

So I woke up this bright and sunny Seattle morning thinking about vampires. While you may think about coffee, the person lying next to you, what to wear to work, or how close you now are to Friday and the weekend, I think about vampires.

I never claimed to be normal.

Anyway, maybe the reason I'm thinking about vampires so much is that I am reading two Sookie Stackhouse novels in a row (Definitely Dead and All Together Dead and, at the same time, watching season 3 of True Blood on HBO).

I am sort of on vampire overload, which brought me around to thinking about if I'd want to be one. It didn't take me long to come up with the answer, kind of like Amy Winehouse's response to rehab. Do I want to be a vampire?

I said, "no, no, no."

The answer surprised me. After all, through most of my younger years I was enthralled with the undead, vicariously living (deading?) out their experiences in such books and movies as The Hunger, Interview with the Vampire, and 'Salem's Lot. I even wrote my own vampire book, In the Blood, which you see pictured above. Maybe when I wrote it, I was beginning to see the tortured, not-so-glamorous side of the undead.

See, here's the thing. I want to die. No, I don't mean I want to die right now, give me at least a couple more decades, maybe more. But the prospect of being immortal doesn't hold the appeal it did for me when I was say, sixteen.

I'd like to think with age comes at least a smidgen of wisdom and that wisdom tells me that being immortal would be a nightmare. Now that I'm a little older, I can see the many stages I've already passed through and know that there are more to come. These stages have taught me who I am as a person and have resulted in at least a little growth (and I'm not talking physical growth). I have accomplished things I wanted to accomplish. I have been married, had a son, found a wonderful life partner, published a few books. There's a progression there. The responsibilities of being immortal are daunting. I need a rest! I can't imagine hundreds or thousands of years more of trying to fill up my time.

But that's not the worst of it. Being older has also taught me something very serious. It's taught me about loss. I've lost my father and my mother. My grandma. Beloved aunts, uncles, and cousins. Each loss takes a little something more away from me. It would be a true horror to live forever, every few decades losing all of your loved ones while you go on. That's terrifying. That's tragic.

So, if any bloodsucking fiend knocks on my door one night, I will turn him away with a polite, "No thank you."
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Congrats to Andrew Wolter for winning a free, signed copy! Andrew, I will be in touch.

Well, it's finally here and available both in e-book and paperback editions: my fifteenth book (and fourth with MLR Press), A Demon Inside.

This book continues my goal of combining both the horror and the romance genre into one compelling read. A Demon Inside is as much a romance as it is a chilling horror novel. I believe it will satisfy readers of both genres equally.

So here's a little bit about the book, along with an excerpt.

BUY A Demon Inside

Hunter Beaumont doesn't understand his grandmother's deathbed wish: "Destroy Beaumont House." He'd never even heard of the place. But after his grandmother passes and his first love betrays him, the family house in the Wisconsin woods looks like a tempting refuge. Going against his grandmother's wishes, Hunter flees to Beaumont House.

But will the house be the sanctuary he had hoped for? Soon after moving in, Hunter realizes he may not be alone. And who---or what---he shares the house may plunge him into a nightmare from which he may never escape. Sparks fly when he meets his handsome neighbor, a caretaker for the estate next door, but is the man salvation...or is he the source of Hunter's terror?


Hunter Beaumont awakened drenched in sweat, striped sheets twisted around him. His heart pounded and an irrational fear coursed through him, disproportionate to the calmness of the dark bedroom surrounding him.

He sat up, rubbing his hand over his slick face, and reassured himself with the same words countless nightmare sufferers have told themselves since the dawn of time: “It was only a dream; it was only a dream.” But it was that same dream again. The one that was part memory, part horror movie. The one where he was camping with his parents and he can see the glow of the campfire flickering on their faces. It’s a lovely scene, at first, romantic and warm. His parents’ voices are hushed, his mother’s laugh tinkling, as the two of them huddle together, the fire keeping the darkness of the woods at bay. But then a shadow falls over his mother and father’s faces and their eyes turn in an instant from contented and adoring to terrified. Then come the screams…and the blood, all the blood. That was when Hunter always awakened.

But this time something more than the nightmare had awakened him. Was someone knocking on his bedroom door? Yes, there it was again, an almost tentative tapping. In his post nightmare state, Hunter imagined the worst—that a monster lurked outside, something needing to be invited in. And once inside, it would rip him limb from limb, gorging on his flesh and drinking his blood.

Hunter allowed himself an embarrassed laugh and attempted to pull himself together. He sat up straighter against the headboard and used a corner of the top sheet to dab at the beads of sweat still gathering on his forehead. “Yes?” he called out.

With a creak, the door opened a crack and Lori Schmidbauer, his grandmother’s nurse, peered in. Even backlit, Hunter could see the kindness in the woman’s dark brown eyes and the concern and sadness on her face. She glanced down the hall and then back toward him, gave him a tentative smile.
“Hunter? Honey, I’m so sorry to wake you. Can I come in?”

Hunter pulled the sheet up further, covering his chest. A new kind of alarm began inside, the dread beginning to churn like something alive in his guts. “Is everything okay?”

Lori didn’t respond. She simply tiptoed into the room and sat down gingerly on the edge of his bed. Hunter leaned over and switched on the nightstand lamp. Lori still wore her scrubs and her curly brown hair was pulled loosely into a ponytail. She looked tired. Hunter repeated his question and added to it. “Is everything okay? Is Nana all right?”

Lori clutched his hand, squeezed it, and let it go. “I don’t think so, dear.” She stared off at a point over Hunter’s head and he could see her eyes glistened with tears.

It felt like his stomach dropped a couple of feet. He bit his lip. “Is it time?”

Lori drew in a quivering breath before responding. “Yeah. I think it is.” She stood. “You better come now if you want to say goodbye.”

“Okay,” Hunter whispered, barely able to find breath to put behind the single word. For his whole twenty-two year life, his grandmother had been his savior, protector, shield, comforter, mother, father, playmate, and teacher. There actually was a monster outside his door, and its name was cancer. That monster was about to rip all he held dear away from him.

Lori waited on the bed, watching him. He could tell she was trying to gauge his reaction, to see if perhaps he would need a hug. Lori was the kind of nurse that was free with her hugs. A good woman. But right now, Hunter needed a moment to himself and he told her that.

“Sure, sweetheart. Just don’t be too long.” She got up and paused at the door. “I don’t know how much time we have.” Sorrowfully, she nodded, her lips coming together in a line indicating sympathy. She took her time leaving his room, then he heard her quickened pace as she hurried down the long hallway to his nana’s bedroom.

Hunter didn’t know if he could do this. Part of him thought if he just stayed here in bed, he could delay or prevent the inevitable. If he could only freeze time at this moment, he would never have to face a world without Nana in it. He shook his head and chastised himself for being weak. To every season, he thought, there is an end.

Feeling numb, Hunter roused himself from bed. He slid into the jeans and sweater he had left on the rocker by the window. He looked outside, where the inky darkness revealed nothing, a void. He knew Lake Michigan was out there and in the morning it would reveal itself in aqua or gray, depending on the quality of light, but right now it seemed as though the huge body of water had vanished. The night’s darkness pressed against his windows like something palpable, aching to get inside.

Barefoot, he padded down the hall to his grandmother’s bedroom. Ever since he had lost his parents at the age of five, this had been his home, and suddenly the big old house seemed strange and unfamiliar to him, as if he were seeing it for the first time. Here was the portrait of his father, painted when Daddy was sixteen, looking young and vibrant, and not that much different from Hunter: the same smile and auburn hair. And there was the old Oriental rug, its pinks, blues, and grays faded, leading the way to the door to his grandmother’s bedroom, which yawned open. Hunter stood for a long while, staring at that doorway and breathing in the smell of sickness that emanated from the room. “Go,” he whispered.

He ducked into the room. Nana lay propped up on her old four-poster bed, the one she had had since marrying Hunter’s grandfather about six decades ago. She looked small and shriveled, vulnerable and nearly lost among the pillows, blankets, and quilts that never could keep her quite warm. Her hair looked like gray straw and parts of her scalp peeked through. A few days ago, they had taken her off the IVs and oxygen, knowing there was no hope. The medical detritus stood in a corner of the room, looking like defeated soldiers.

Lori stood near the bed. When she saw Hunter, she leaned down and whispered to Nana, whose eyes fluttered open at the sound of the nurse’s voice. Although she had not been completely coherent for the past couple of weeks, a combination of the morphine she took to manage her pain and her own failing memory, her eyes brightened when she saw her grandson. She even managed a weak smile, which vanished almost as soon as it arrived, as if the effort to maintain it was just too much for the old woman.

It probably was.

Lori stepped away from the bed and donned a fleece she had left on a chair nearby. She hugged herself and then said, “I’ll leave you two alone. I’m going to run downstairs and call Dr. Blackstock.” She squeezed Hunter’s shoulder as she left the room.

Hunter sat down beside his grandmother on her bed. “Nana?”

“Hunter,” Nana croaked, her voice only an echo of the vibrancy it once had. She tried to lift her hand to his face but it appeared she didn’t have the strength, letting it drop back down to the bedding. She closed her eyes and swallowed; the latter action looked painful and Nana winced.

“Don’t talk, Nana. If it hurts, don’t talk.” He picked up one of her withered hands and covered it with both of his own, trying to impart some of his own warmth to the frail appendage, feeling now as if it had been made of parchment and bird bones. She nodded, staring up at him. She licked her lips. “I just want to go to sleep now. I’m ready. Can you tell the nurse?”

“Sure.” Hunter smoothed her hair away from her forehead and leaned in close. He bit his lips, not wanting to cry in front of the old woman. What if she didn’t know this was the end? He couldn’t be so cruel as to reveal that to her. And even as he thought these things, he knew—deep in his heart—that Nana knew perfectly well what was happening.

“Sleep. That sounds good.” Nana’s eyelids fluttered and closed. Hunter thought she had fallen asleep and simply sat with her for several minutes, holding her hand. Finally, he thought maybe he should creep away, hoping against hope that this was not the final moment. Lori could have been wrong after all.

But then Nana opened her eyes, and Hunter thought he needed to speak while there was still time and before he gave in to the tears and sobs that were clamoring inside. He gathered the old woman up in his arms and pulled her close. Placing his lips close to her ears, he thought for a moment, grasping for something profound to say, but finally decided on only:

“I love you so much.”

“I love you, too,” Nana whispered. She slumped back against the pillows.

Hunter covered his mouth. Was she gone? But her eyes opened once more, about half-mast, seeking him out even though his face was only inches from her own.

“Beaumont House,” she croaked.


“Beaumont House. Promise me you’ll burn it.”

“What are you talking about, Nana?”

The old woman simply shook her head and he could see a spark in her blue eyes. “Promise.”

“Sure, Nana. Anything for you.”

The old woman closed her eyes and a tremble coursed through her. She turned very pale, and then, as Hunter watched, color seeped back into her cheeks, almost rosy. Had she survived?

But Hunter knew it was over. He bent to place a kiss on her forehead.

Downstairs, the doorbell chimed. Nana’s doctor, Jay Blackstock, had arrived. Not that there was anything he could do now. Hunter turned and smoothed Nana’s eyelids down over the milky whites. He gazed down at her, touched her once more, then turned away.

In the hall, he passed Lori bringing Dr. Jay Blackstock to his grandmother’s room.  The three stopped to regard one another. The young man, who—only the year before—had replaced the doctor his grandmother had had most of her life, had worry stamped on his dark features. He was only a bit older than Hunter himself and Hunter had to wonder if he had seen many deaths yet in his new career. He felt a stab of pity for him.

Lori spoke. “Is she…”

Hunter wondered from where the calm he felt was coming. Where were the tears? The anguish? Somehow, he thought, they waited patiently for him, gathering together in a round room with dim light, a kind of emotional way station. Hunter exchanged somber glances with both of them. “She just passed,” he said softly, biting his lower lip. He stared into the doctor’s brown eyes for a moment. “You’ll want to verify that, of course. But she’s gone.”

“I’m so sorry.” Lori Schmidbauer came toward him, arms outstretched. Hunter stepped back, not ready yet for the comfort the older woman had to offer. “I’m okay. I’m okay.” He nodded and smiled, but knew the smile for the lie it was and he was certain Dr. Blackstock and his grandmother’s nurse did as well.

The doctor hurried into the bedroom and Lori followed. She looked back at Hunter. “I know. It’ll come.” She turned and left him standing in the hallway. Purposely, he did not glance in the bedroom, not wanting to see them hovering over his nana’s body. She wasn’t there anyway.

He hoped she was in a better place, free at last from the pain and agony of the last six months, free from invasive treatments, drugs that made her sick; most of all, free from the beast that went by the name of cancer.

He returned to his bedroom, still feeling next to nothing. When he had imagined this moment coming, as he had over the course of Nana’s illness, he had envisioned hysterical sobbing, choking, a torrent of tears, reddened eyes, and difficulty breathing. When his grandfather had died, many years ago, Hunter had still been a child and the loss really hadn’t registered. In a way, it had been only Hunter and his nana alone in the world for many years. And now he faced being completely alone—no parents, no grandmother, no grandfather, no one. Nana had seen to it that he led a very sheltered life but he knew her intentions were good: she wanted to protect him from the world that had murdered his parents.

He sat down heavily on the bed, as if drunk, although he had yet to experience that particular sensation firsthand. The bed itself was a mess and Hunter realized he must have been thrashing around like a caged wild animal to do this much damage. Besides the sheets and pillows being damp from sweat, the fitted sheet had pulled away, revealing the striped ticking of the mattress below.

The nightmare images paraded through his mind, a macabre circus. The campground. Their tent pitched in the woods, where five-year-old Hunter had lay huddled inside a sleeping bag. The looks of terror on his parents’ faces. The screams. The struggling. Blackness. Dull morning light and his parents lying together, no longer alive, the gory ruins of their corpses…

Hunter gasped. No matter how hard he tried, he could not remember the actual event. Not really, not the details. He had only been five and he knew shock could block or even erase horrible trauma. But over the years, cops, psychologists, and even a professional hypnotist had tried to get him to remember details about the carnage. All to no avail. The memory, as far as Hunter was concerned, was gone.

The case had never been solved.

And Nana, God rest her soul, had never allowed mention of the slaughter in her house, not after the first few weeks, when the police and media had been relentless in pursuing the two of them in and out of Nana’s Evanston home. Nana, over the years, chose not to remember that she had had a son and a daughter-in-law who died. Hunter wondered, leaning back on the bed to lie flat and stare up at the ceiling, if she was in denial herself or if it was all part of her master plan to shield her grandson from further grief and horror.

Whatever it was, she had held Hunter away from the world. He had never seen the inside of a school. Nana had arranged for a succession of private tutors to come to their house. Hunter had never been allowed to play outside unsupervised. Nana had tried to make up for it by being Hunter’s best friend and lavishing him with expensive toys, electronics, and carefully guided tours of world capitals.
And now Hunter was alone. Really, truly alone. And with his grief and despair at the loss of his grandmother held temporarily—he thought—at bay by shock, he had the luxury of wondering just what the hell he would do now.

He was twenty-two years old and—he supposed—rich, an heir to a fortune once made from something as fragile and insubstantial as paper.

The world was his. He thought of a cliché: the world was his oyster. He could do anything. Travel. Go to college. Work. Engage in long overdue rebellion and fall headfirst into hedonism.

He shook his head and the first tears coursed out of the corners of his eyes, to dribble down his face and run into his ears. He sat up and wiped them away. He didn’t know what he would do. He had no idea what he was good for, or good at… he didn’t even know what he wanted. He glanced at the window, where the sky was just beginning to lighten, a band of pink at the horizon. The first day without Nana was beginning. The world out there was not his oyster; it was an enigma.

There was a gentle rap, once, twice, at his closed bedroom door. Thinking Lori had come by once again to see if he was ready for a hug or some words of condolence, he said simply, “Come in.”

Dr. Jay Blackstock entered. Hunter noticed for the first time—and he thought how inappropriate this was—how handsome the doctor was, with black, curly hair cropped short, an olive complexion, and the darkest eyes. His whole look was Mediterranean, belying the white bread Blackstock name.

He smiled at Hunter and took only a step or two into the room. “I just wanted to say I was sorry.” The doctor chewed on a corner of his lip, glancing rapidly from Hunter on the bed to back out into the hallway. Hunter was touched by the doctor’s attempt to offer sympathy.

“I appreciate that. Lori has all the information about, um, final details, so if you’d just take care of...” And Hunter crouched over, the onslaught of tears taking him completely by surprise. The grief hit him like a physical blow. It was a sneak attack; he didn’t have any time to prepare.

Dr. Blackstock laid a hand on his shoulder as Hunter wept. “Don’t worry about a thing.”

And Hunter thought that statement was easy for the doctor to say.

What would Hunter do now?
* * * *
Hunter awakened to bright sunlight streaming into the room. Last night, he thought he would never sleep, but Dr. Blackstock had given him an Ambien and it knocked him right out. He glanced at the clock on the nightstand and saw that it was nearly noon.

Outside, the sun was shining in a pure, blue sky. Hunter got up and stared out his window at the back lawn of the house, a pristine expanse of green leading down to their private beach. Beyond the sand and pebbles stretched Lake Michigan, an expanse of aqua marine that appeared almost tropical. The day seemed out of sorts with what had just happened, as if the sky should be heavy with storm clouds and the lake should be a roiling mass of muddy waters, in deference to Nana’s passing.

Hunter sat down on the window seat and stared out at the day, wondering once more what he would do with himself now that the foundation of his whole life had been knocked out from under him.

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