So… It has occurred to me that I was so busy trying to make deadline in December that I didn’t tell you all what I was making deadline for.
The sequel to Beneath the Stain is coming out in August, in Mass Market Paperback, and I’m super excited about that.
I might not have mentioned it, but all of the extras are out on Prolific Works now– YOU CAN CLAIM YOUR COPY HERE.
Anyway– if you want to see the blurb for Paint It Black, it’s UP ON AMAZON for mass market preorders, and if you want a sneak peak of it…
Well, you have no further to look than right here:
from Paint it Black…
Cheever looked… young.
He was lying on his side, his cheek on the hand handcuffed to the bedrail. His vulpine features—a little longer in the jaw, but much like Mackey’s—stood out in stark relief against his tanned skin, pointed and vulnerable.
Blake double-checked on Marcia and moved his chair, waiting for the nurse and the orderly to settle Cheever’s monitors and medication before he settled in.
Cheever opened his eyes blearily as he heard the scrape of the chair across the floor.
“Do you want me to call her?”
He watched then, the struggle over Cheever’s face, and his heart constricted in his chest. God, this boy wanted his mama so badly. But a room full of blow and his ass torn open for good measure—what kid wanted his mama to know that?
Not to mention that big incriminating bandage on his wrist.
Blake couldn’t hardly look at it.
“No,” Cheever whispered at last, his eyes filling.
Blake stood. He hadn’t seen this much emotion in the kid since the day Mackey had lost his shit at him for grabbing Briony’s boob. He came near the bed and smoothed Cheever’s hair back from his forehead like he had for Marcia.
“That there is the biggest fucking lie I’ve ever heard in my life,” he said mildly, as Cheever’s shoulders started to shake.
“Not like this,” Cheever sobbed.
“Son, that woman loves you—”
“Not like this!” he begged. “God, please. Not like….” More sobs filled the room, big and loud and noisy. He kept trying to cover his mouth so nobody could hear, but hey, he was handcuffed to the bed because he’d tried to hurt himself, so there they were, his messy emotions, pouring into the empty air.
Blake just stood there, smoothing that curly red hair back, and thought it was about fucking time.
The sobs died eventually, and Blake brought the chair close to the bed—and grabbed a box of Kleenex too, so he could clean the boy up.
“Blow,” he murmured automatically. He hadn’t known kids until Mackey brought his old lover’s little girl home. But first with Katy and then Kell and Briony’s kids, Kyrie and Kansas, and the triplets’ kids, Kyla and Kale—Blake had spent the last eight years becoming everybody’s favorite uncle, and loving every kid as the blessing he’d never been.
He knew how to get a kid to blow into a Kleenex, and how to clean up traces of tears, and even how to sing a kid to sleep if he was too keyed up to let his brain relax.
“I am not this person,” Cheever said, his voice lost, like a kitten in the rain. “I don’t cry. I don’t…. Oh God, I don’t do what….” His body started to tense up again, like he was going to lose it, and Blake wasn’t sure he had anything left in him to lose.
“Sweetheart, I need you to take a deep breath, okay?”
Cheever did, bless him, and nodded.
“’Kay. Now I’m going to talk, and if I bore you to sleep, that’s fine. But you start out listening, okay?”
A small nod, and Cheever’s enormous green eyes focused on Blake’s face like he held the magic keys to the kingdom.
“Good. Now here’s the thing. In eight years, we been seeing a stranger show up where Cheever Sanders was supposed to be. He said all the right things, and he did all the right things, but he never seemed like he wanted to be with us. So in eight years, I ain’t ever known who you were, Cheever. But today, I know you’re the kind of person that would make that little girl break out of rehab in her Eeyore slippers and stand in the middle of a cocaine tornado because she missed you and was worried. I know you’re so hurt inside, you don’t want to show your mama, when you want her here more than you want anything in the world. And I know there is shit in your heart—probably ugly, festering shit—that you ain’t shown nobody, not your brothers, who would lay down and die for you, and not your mama, who would bring you back to life. So now, I’m real fucking curious. Who in the hell is Cheever Sanders, and why was he hiding behind that shitty rich kid for the last eight years?”
“He’s nobody,” Cheever whispered. “He’s a sniveling baby, crying on the floor, just letting shit happen to him that nobody wants to know.”
Blake made a hurt sound. “I’ve been that kid,” he said softly. “That kid can grow into a decent person. You just gotta let him cry a little, let him know he’s heard.”
Cheever’s breath was long and shaky, and his eyes kept leaking tears, but that terrifying storm of weeping seemed to be kept at bay. “Who wants to listen to that kid?” Cheever asked after that long breath. “I sure don’t.”
“I do,” Blake said, surprising himself. “I’ve been waiting for that kid to talk to me for eight long goddamned years.”
Cheever’s eyes fastened hungrily on his face. “I wanted to not be a fuckup,” he moaned. “I wanted to be someone worth listening to.”
So needy. This kid—all his coolness, all his arrogance—he’d been trying to earn their approval?
Blake cupped his cheek. “Aw, kid. You wanted to not be a fuckup? You were born into the wrong damned family. We are fuckup city here. We just make that work for us. Welcome to Outbreak Monkey, right?”
That got a smile from Cheever, surprisingly enough. He used his free hand, the one not cuffed to the rail, to capture Blake’s palm against his cheek.
“I’m glad it was you,” he said, which surprised the hell out of Blake, “who found me.”
He didn’t say why, but his eyes fluttered closed, and Blake breathed a sigh of relief. That rot was still there, festering, needing to be bled out, but maybe Cheever’s heart could rest for a little bit before it did.