Author: Jeff Erno
Genre: Mystery and Detective; Gay romance
Imprint: Ai Press
Price: 3.99 USD
Cover art: Louca Matheo
Trade paperback from Amazon
Homicide detective Tucker Brown hasn’t always made the right decisions, but one thing about his life he’ll never regret is his son Jaydin. While at the hospital for his four-year-old’s tonsillectomy, he encounters Jaydin’s nurse, Ivan Ramsey. Tucker is taken aback, however, when he discovers he’s been assigned to investigate the potential murder of Ivan’s mother.
Ivan Ramsey is a pediatric nurse, and he loves his job more than life. Raised in a devoutly religious family, he’s not yet out to a lot of people, but on the very night he chooses to come out to his mother, she dies tragically in a house fire. Devastated by the news, Ivan all but falls to pieces, and to make matters worse, a cocky, know-it-all police detective shows up asking nosy questions. The cop implies his mother’s death might not have been an accident and even infers a family member might be responsible.
Tucker and Ivan at first clash. Their strikingly different personalities are oil and water, but soon they begin to work together to determine the real cause of Ivan’s mother’s death. In the process, sparks begin to fly and a romance ignites. Ivan falls hard, not only for the sexy detective but also his adorable son.Tucker, equally smitten, has made some discoveries he can’t yet reveal to his lover. There are so many loose ends and unanswered questions for both of them, and when the truth finally comes out, it just might tear them apart.
For the next week, Ivan functioned on auto-pilot. There was so much to do, so many things Ivan’s father needed help navigating. Although his parents had already made final arrangements, they still had to plan the funeral. Ivan had to pull himself together and be strong for his dad’s sake. He’d had his moment, his complete breakdown. His mother, of all people, would want him to remain stoic going forward. She’d expect him to face tragedy with a degree of dignity. She’d always concerned herself with appearances, and the last thing she’d want would be for her son to lose it in public.
He allowed himself to go numb and suppress his intense emotions. It was the only strategy that allowed him to greet and thank so many people who’d reached out to the family with expressions of condolence.
With his parents being so active in the church, the entire congregation seemed to be involved in the memorial. For the most part, the church ladies were very sweet, and they all had very kind words for Ivan and his family. They also had no concept of moderation, at least when it came to food. They not only prepared massive quantities of casseroles, sandwiches, salads, and desserts for the memorial, but they delivered equally as much food to Brandon’s house.
And after the closed-casket service and the interment, Ivan’s father faced a mountain of paperwork. They had death certificates to obtain, creditors to contact, insurance companies to notify. The home owner’s insurance was the worst. His father had lost everything, and they had to try to compile an inventory and determine replacement costs on every item. That process would have been painful enough in and of itself, but the death of his mother made it all the worse. Every detail—every physical item lost—was tied to a memory.
As horrific as the process was, Ivan felt a twisted sense of appreciation for all the busy work. It allowed him to remain focused upon his mom. The obvious challenges they faced during their time of transition at the very least gave Ivan pause, allowed him to think about how complex life was and how many people were touched by the life of one individual. Had she simply been buried and forgotten, had life just gone on as normal, Ivan wasn’t sure he’d have been able to cope. He welcomed the turmoil and chaos and viewed them as proof that his mother’s life had mattered.
But when a police detective showed up, and a member of the media cornered Ivan, Brandon, and their father one morning at a restaurant, asking questions about how Mrs. Ramsey had died, Ivan became concerned. And annoyed.
“What was she talking about?” Ivan sat across from his father at the local diner. Ivan turned to his brother. “That reporter, what did she mean? It was a fire. An accident.”
“Apparently, they’re not sure it was an accident.” Brandon took a sip of his water.
“Of course it was an accident.” Ivan stared directly at his father. “And why’d that detective contact me? He wants me to meet him for an interview.”
David Ramsey leaned back, straightening his posture in the chair as he scrubbed a hand across his face. “I didn’t want to tell you everything yet… I mean, until I knew for sure. But there was an autopsy conducted. Routine, really. And the fire was determined not to be the cause of death.”
“What?” Ivan leaned forward, elbows on the table. “What the hell, Dad? What are you saying?”
His father looked at him sternly, perhaps in response to Ivan’s language. He took a deep breath.
“Sorry, I didn’t tell you because…It was just too much to deal with.”
“Dad, how did she die then?” Brandon’s tone was more measured.
“Apparently she was shot.”
“Shot!” Ivan and Brandon spoke in unison.
“The police think someone killed your mother and then set the fire to try covering it up.”
“No!” Ivan shook his head. “This is crazy. Why? Why would someone do that?”
“That’s why they want to talk to all of us,” Brandon surmised. “They want to find out which one of us had a motive to kill our own mother.”
David raised one hand. “Now just a minute. Hold on, and quit…” He took a deep breath. “Try not to get emotional about this. The police are just doing their job. They know someone killed your mother, and they have to question everyone. Of course, they’re going to start with us first. Once we are eliminated as suspects—“
“Suspects?” Ivan nearly shouted. “Why would someone kill my mother? And why on earth would they ever suspect Brandon or me…or you.” He stared at his father.
“Well, of course we didn’t kill your mother. It had to have been a burglary or something. Someone broke into the house. Lord knows why. We have no idea what, if anything, they took. It’s not like we can take an inventory at this point. But whoever did it probably killed your mom to keep her from identifying them.”
“And to get away,” Brandon added.
“Right.” David looked into Ivan’s eyes as he reached across the table and placed one hand on his son’s wrist. “The police are just doing their job. Just cooperate with them, because we want more than anyone for this monster to be caught. The sooner they clear our family, the sooner they can find the killer.”
Ivan again felt as if he’d been body-slammed. The news was unfathomable. It sounded like an episode of Forensic Files or NCIS. This shit didn’t happen in real life. Not to him and his family.
After lunch, Ivan excused himself, saying he needed to head back to his apartment. When he got to his car he retrieved a business card from his pocket that Detective Viviano had left him. “This is my partner’s card. He’s leading the investigation. Detective Brown.” Ivan stared at the card, trying to recall why the name sounded so familiar. He dialed the number.
“Hello, this is Ivan Ramsey. Your partner left me your card and said I needed to contact you.”
“Oh yes. Hello, Ivan. Thanks for returning my call. I just need to talk to you about—“
“About who killed my mother.”
“Yes, I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“Look, I don’t appreciate your insinuations. I know you think someone in our family did it, but that’s utter bullshit.”
“No, I don’t assume anything like that.”
“And don’t you think my father has enough to deal with at a time like this? Shouldn’t you be out looking for the murderer instead of harassing us? We’re the victims here.”
“I want to catch the murderer more than anything, but in order to do that, I need your cooperation. Like I said, I’m sorry. I wish there was some other way.”
“I’ll come in right now for your interview.”
“That would be wonderful. Or I could meet you somewhere.”
“I’ll come to the police station. I’ll answer your questions, but then I want this to be over with. I want you to catch my mother’s killer and quit wasting time.”
“That’s the plan.”
“Good!” Ivan ended the call.