Okay, I owe you guys an explanation–Wacky Wednesday will continue, but this is probably the last excerpt from Pagan Sex for a few months (even though I really love all the Google search traffic I get for that phrase).
I’m actually removing PS from most online stores. For a few months, it’ll be available only on Amazon. It’s a little counter-intuitive, ’cause it’s actually been selling better on both Barnes & Noble and Google Play than on Amazon…but I’m going to take advantage of some promotional opportunities at Amazon that require exclusivity.
Basically: I like this book. I think it should get in front of as many readers as possible. And my blog doesn’t compete well with Amazon.com, so….there it is. Plus, I have a sneaking suspicion that more people will download a book with this sort of title than will tell their friends about it! So, it can be an ad for my other stuff. Sorta.
And I’ll be working on my blurb too.
I’m not sure what I’ll go with next week. If you have a preference or a suggestion, let me know.
Anyway. We began with the Prologue a couple of weeks ago, which you can find here. Otherwise? On to the free stuff!
Chapter Two (John)
“Hey, Zack,” I said as I walked into my bookstore to help him close up. “Any problems this afternoon?”
Zack didn’t bother to look up from the book he was reading. “Shoplifting. But I figure justice was done.”
Mrs. Knebel, who came into the shop at least once a week, cackled from my ‘UFOs—Are They Really Here?’ section. “Kinder to call the police, Mr. Faa, if you’d like my opinion of the matter!”
Zack glanced over his shoulder. “Shut up, you mean old lady!”
She tittered. I don’t know what else to call the sound. I also don’t know how Zack can insult everyone in the store and manage to make them like it. But it works, so I don’t mess with it.
“Okay,” I said. “Shoplifting. Who took what?”
“Couple of kids came in together. One of ’em took a Heinlein juvenile. Rocket Ship Galileo, I think.”
“So where’d the justice come in?”
He slammed his book shut in exasperation. “Jesus, John. A Heinlein? That kid’s gonna get more moralizing from the book he stole than I could ever dump on him. Besides,” he went on, “it’s not my money. I’m paid by the hour. Barely.”
Whoops, bad mistake. Especially with a customer listening in. As Zack’s employer, I had to enforce certain standards. “Lookit, twerp. Heinlein’s books are pretty damned good. I grew up on those things.”
“Uh huh. Find us a new home yet?”
“Nope.” My new and used bookstore—A Criminous Exchange—was due to lose its lease in three months. The owner had already sold the building to a company that planned to tear it down, so there wasn’t much room for negotiation.
“You suck, boss. Three months isn’t a lot of time.”
Mrs. Knebel came up to the register with her books just then, so I didn’t bother to answer. It was true, though.
And my son came in, slamming the door. “Sorry, Da—uh, John. Hey, Zack. Hi, Mrs. Knebel. How are your cats today?”
Jesus, what a charmer. Fourteen years old, about a hundred pounds, and every ounce was pure evil. He had her smiling and offering him candy from her purse in fifteen seconds flat. While he simultaneously texted some probably-misspelled nonsense to a random friend on the iPhone I’d bought him for his birthday.
If my multitasking kid worked in the store? We’d be rich. I didn’t know why he’d switched to “John” from “Dad,” though. The change was only a week old, and so far I was officially failing to notice.
I slapped the top of his head after she left. “One day some nice old lady will feed you poison, kid.”
“Never happen,” he mumbled, still looking at his phone. “It’s the girls my age who hate me.”
I doubted that, but it was okay with me if it was true. As a single parent, I had enough trouble already. I was pretty sure the next few years were going to be interesting, in the sense of the Chinese curse. “So how come you’re here instead of home?”
“Well…I took a bus. You know how Coach Watson asked me about the wrestling team?”
“’Course I remember. I’m not senile yet.”
He ignored that, probably because he didn’t agree. “I figured I’d try out next year. So, are you going to the gym tonight?”
Brian was born with a deformed left foot. He walked okay, but he couldn’t run very well, and he usually didn’t like to let people see the foot. I’d have to make a point of thanking Coach Watson for whatever he’d said.
“Of course I’m going. So you’re gonna come along?”
“Just for the summer. If that’s okay, John.”
It was kind of funny watching him pretend calling me “John” was normal. Zack’s eyebrow rose, but I shook my head when Brian was looking the other way, and Zack caught on. Nothing going on here.
“’Kay with me.” I grinned. “Since you’re here, you can help us move stuff around for tomorrow’s signing. Build up those muscles doing something useful.”
* * *
At the gym I left Brian to the weights and headed for the elliptical trainer. I used to run, but I tweaked my left knee a couple of years ago and these days I can’t go more than a couple of miles without pain.
It was getting better, though, and I hadn’t given up hope for a full recovery. I missed running the roads, especially at night.
This gym belonged to a friend of mine, and had two additional advantages: no television and no obtrusive music. I liked to think my own thoughts, especially when an endorphin rush made the world a bearable place to live, and as long as I didn’t put on a headset I could do just that.
Brian finished long before I did—he didn’t know how to pace himself yet, but advice from me was not wanted—and waved to me as he headed for the locker room. I knew he’d just sit in the sauna as long as I let him, so I didn’t rush.
When I finally got my shower, I decided to relax in the hot tub for a while. It usually helped keep me from getting too sore.
But when I got to the edge of the hot tub my eyes leapt to the man already in it. Andrew?
I hadn’t seen him for fifteen years—but he’d died that night. The same night I’d lost Jeanette.
This guy looked just like him, though. I opened my mouth to say something, I don’t know what, and noticed the way his arms were floating. “Hey,” I called. “You okay?”
He didn’t move, and at first I couldn’t either, but I made myself get closer. I bent down and touched his shoulder, and his head flopped over onto my hand. In spite of the water temperature, it felt cold.
This man was dead. Andrew was dead. But…it made no sense, I told myself. This guy looked only slightly older than Andrew had when he’d died. If Andrew had lived, he’d have been over eighty by now.
I realized I was being an idiot. I jumped in and wrestled the body out of the hot tub. No rigor mortis yet—there might be a chance. “Call a doctor!” I yelled, and started giving CPR.
Within two minutes one of the trainers had relieved me, with one of those plastic mouth-things people use now that we’re all so afraid of disease.
I rolled back and grabbed the dead guy’s arm—I’d seen a glint of something familiar.
He wore a silver bracelet with a triple-spiral design on the front. Bizarre, obviously, but I knew it had to be coincidence. Didn’t it?
With shaking fingers, I jerked it off his wrist and flipped it over. On the back was engraved “J/J”…which was flat-out impossible.
I knew what it meant, though. To Jack. From Jeanette. But I hadn’t seen it for fifteen years.
I ran to the toilet and threw up.
* * *
Steve Welch, the owner of the gym, collected Brian for me while I took another quick shower. We left quickly, and I didn’t tell Brian what had happened until we were in the car on the way home.
“Damn, Dad. Did you know the guy?”
“No. Not really. He just looked like an old friend I haven’t seen in a while.” Then I realized what he’d called me. “So I’m not ‘John’ anymore?”
His face reddened and he turned away without speaking. Oops. Apparently I’d overstepped somehow. Well, maybe he’d explain later. Meanwhile his thumbs worked the phone.
“I was at Grandma and Grandpa’s the weekend before last,” he said just as I pulled into our driveway.
I knew that. I’d driven him, both directions. I finished parking the car, turned off the ignition, and looked at him. “And?” If Mary, my mother-in-law, had upset him again…
“I saw a picture of Mom!”
He was really upset. “We have pictures at home, too, Brian.”
“Yeah. But this one was bigger. From high school.”
Oh, shit. Mary had promised me she would get rid of those. I guess I should have known better than to believe her.
“It’s basic genetics, Dad. John. Blue eyes, like yours. Mine are brown.”
I remembered Jeanette’s blue eyes, alive with mischief as they’d once been…not alive with anything anymore, though, and I wrenched my thoughts away from that. But there had never been anything malicious in her eyes, and I couldn’t believe we’d come to this.
I’d been silent too long. “I’m not your kid. John. And Mom was just a slut, wasn’t she?”
I reverted to my own childhood for a moment. “Dear God in Heaven. No, Brian. No, she wasn’t.”
I knew right away: saying that wouldn’t help. I had hoped I wouldn’t have to explain all this until he was out on his own, and impervious—in my fantasy—to harm from the past.
“Brian. Being your father is…it’s all I am. You’re my kid. Let’s just start with that much, okay?”
He didn’t answer.
I’m sorry, Jeanette, I said to no one who could hear. I’d thought I was doing okay. But…I obviously wasn’t. How could I have let this happen?
Want the whole book at once? Get it from one of these links (bearing in mind that non-Amazon links will soon quit working, if they haven’t already).
Or check out my other fiction if you’ve a mind.