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How could she still love someone who was the source of most of her misery and grief? Someone who had ruined her life?
Joyce Owen sat behind closed drapes in her living room, the TV flickering but unwatched although Days of Our Lives was on. She had scarcely left the house in two weeks, had become so accustomed to keeping the blinds closed she never noticed anymore how dim the room was. Her world had narrowed gradually as she cut off contact with that hateful Marvella Hatcher first, then the Daleys, Kirk and Marie Merfeld, Alice Simmons, once her dearest friend, the Jurgens until no one was left. Once she'd enjoyed gardening and talking over the fence with the neighbors to each side, grocery shopping here in town, going to the library, catching up on gossip. It had been years since she'd stepped foot in the Food Emporium here in Tucannon; she drove all the way to Walla Walla now to buy her necessities, just so she didn't have to pretend not to hear the whispers when townsfolk set eyes on her.
All because of Robbie, who couldn't help himself—oh, she knew he couldn't—but he had made her life hard. There was no denying that.
Two weeks ago, she'd had to tell him this was no longer his home, not if he wouldn't take his medicine. He was her oldest, thirty-four years old and no more capable of taking care of himself than a five-year-old. But she had finally become so frightened of him she couldn't live with it anymore.
Since he'd stormed out, she had understood that this wasn't any better. Joyce felt as if a tornado was approaching. The sky was sickly yellow, the stillness absolute, and by the prickling of her skin she knew, knew, that something terrible was coming. She was just waiting to find out what that something terrible was. She slept only in uneasy bursts, every creak of the old house jerking her to wakefulness. Come morning, she did her housekeeping chores out of long habit, hurrying when she had to step outside to water her poor pitiful roses in the backyard or haul the garbage can out to the curb. Then she sat, pretending to watch TV. And all she could think about was what he was doing right now. What he was thinking. How scared he was.
She knew Robbie hadn't left town, the way she'd half hoped he would. She didn't answer the phone, but she did listen to messages. Several neighbors had called to complain that they'd caught him sleeping in their garage or under their lilac bushes beneath the front windows. Sounding mad as hell, Wayne Tindall said, "I looked at him down the barrels of my shotgun and told him if he steps foot on my property again I'd let him have it."
Of course, Wayne hadn't liked the boys even when they were just normal high-spirited kids. He'd called the police when David hit a baseball through his plate-glass window. As if he hadn't known perfectly well that Pete and Joyce would pay for the replacement and then make David work it off in chores. Joyce just plain didn't like Wayne Tindall. She tried to feel sorry for his wife, Betty, living with a man who lacked even a grain of compassion.
Crack. The crack of a gunshot came from so close her entire body spasmed. Joyce dropped to the floor with her heart racing. Oh, God, oh, God, she thought. It had come. Whatever the terrible thing was.
Somebody was screaming, a keen of terror. Crack. The second shot, cutting that scream off, was just as loud, just as near, rattling the window glass. It sounded as if it had been fired right outside her living room.
Or next door, she realized with a shudder. At the Tindalls'.
But she'd heard shotguns fired before, and they didn't sound like this, clean and sharp.
Panic squeezed her chest. Whimpering, she crawled a few feet and then lurched to her feet and ran toward the back of the house. She hardly ever went into Pete's den, only to vacuum and dust every week or so. She hadn't emptied out any of his things since he dropped dead of a heart attack near two years ago. She just closed the door. She had too much grief already on her mind.
Now she flung the door open and stared in horror at his gun safe, standing open and empty. The key. Robbie had found the key. Pete's hunting rifles were missing, both of them, and Joyce knew without looking that the handgun he kept in the drawer at the bottom of the safe would be gone, too. Lord have mercy on them all.
What had Robbie done?
Right that moment, she didn't even care that he might be coming for her. No, she hoped he would. This was all her fault. Her legs sagged, and she sank down onto the floor right there, in the doorway where she couldn't look away from the awful sight of those missing guns. Tears streaming down her face, she waited for him.
Reeve Hadfield lay on his back on his wooden creeper under the car, Kanye West's "Heard 'em Say" blasting through his earbuds. He wiped sweat from his forehead, not caring that he'd probably smeared grease on his face, then adjusted his light and started to lift the wrench. A glimpse of his watch surprised him. Crap! Walt said he'd probably stop by before one, and it was after that now. He'd have seen that Reeve was under the car, wouldn't he?
Walt Stenten owned the Shell station out by the highway. Reeve had pumped gas through high school and after he graduated had gone to work for him full-time. It wasn't like they were friends, exactly; Walt was probably Reeve's parents' age, maybe forty-five or fifty or something like that. He was this short guy built like a box, who kept his hair in a buzz cut and had crinkles beside his eyes from squinting. They hardly talked at all, and when they did it was mostly stuff like, "Start with the oil change, then let's take a look at the brakes on the Hargers' Voyager."
Reeve had been working on his own car, a '55 Chevy Bel Air. Not a convertible; that would have been even cooler. This was a sedan, but it was in awesome shape considering. Getting parts was the hard thing. Walt had been helping him with that.
Reeve reached down to his waist and turned off his iPod, so he'd hear when Walt did come. The garage door stood open to give him better light to work by, so Reeve knew he wouldn't go to the front door or anything.
Talk about timing: he heard footsteps coming up the driveway. Grinning, Reeve laid down the light and his wrench, then gave a push with his heels to send the creeper shooting out from under the side of the Bel Air. He spun on the wheels and, still on his back, zipped out to the front of the garage, the bumper rearing above him.
Since his eyes had adjusted to the dim light under the car, the brilliant sunlight blinded him for a moment. All he could see was a dark silhouette against the white-hot background.
"Walt?" he said, hearing his own uncertainty. He blinked a couple of times, thinking it was weird that Walt hadn't said anything or moved.
One more blink, and he could see again. Only it wasn't Walt standing there. It was that freak Rob Owen. And—shit!—he had a rifle slung over his back, a pistol jammed in his waistband, and he was holding another rifle loose in his arms.
His hair was matted and dirty. Was that blood spattering his face and the front of his T-shirt? He stared at Reeve, his face expressionless except for his dark eyes, which burned. He was crazy, everyone knew that. But this this was horror-movie crazy.
Reeve heard himself start to say, "What the ?" when the barrel of that rifle lifted and took aim at his head or maybe his chest. Owen sighted down it, and, as if time had slowed down, Reeve actually saw a finger tightening on the trigger.
I'm dead, he thought incredulously.
And then, God, a body flew out of nowhere just as the first deafening boom sounded. Slam! Somebody came down on top of him, pushing the creeper backward.
Boom! Another shot.
It was deadweight on him. Completely panicked, Reeve shoved the body off him and propelled himself under the car with a scramble of heels and hands.
Walt. God, that was Walt, he realized in horror. Walt, with blood spilling from his mouth, and his eyes.
Reeve came out the back of the Bel Air and leaped off the creeper, crouching behind the bulk of the car, straining for any sound at all.
Nothing. Damn it. Nothing.
He measured with his eyes the distance to the door going into the house, and knew he had to try for it. His heart was trying to slam its way out of his chest, and he wasn't sure he could hear over the thunder in his ears.
Still crouching, he threw himself forward, up the two steps, turned the knob, yanked the door open and all but fell through, into the kitchen. He didn't hear a gunshot, didn't see anything. Hand shaking, he pushed the stupid-ass little button lock that wouldn't keep out anyone, then ran for the phone. It took him three tries to dial 911.
The operator had already answered, her voice faraway and tinny, when Reeve heard another gunshot. Not right out in front; maybe a couple of houses away.
"Somebody's shot," he babbled. "God! I think he's dead. My address."
"I have your address, sir. Do you see the gunman?"
"No!" he screamed. "I don't know where he went! Just hurry. Tell them to hurry."
Then he dropped the phone and ran for the bathroom. He'd pissed his pants. He couldn't let anyone see. No one.
Somehow he got himself cleaned up, grabbed jeans from his bedroom and raced for the door to the garage again, still hopping to get the jeans on and buttoned.
Somewhere, sirens had started. Not one, but several.
God. He wanted to go out and see if Walt was alive, but he was too freaking scared to do it. Walt might be bleeding to death, after sacrificing himself to save Reeve, and he didn't have the guts to go back out into the garage.
He'd never learned first aid anyway.
Oh, sure. Good excuse.
The sirens screamed right outside. Doors were slamming, feet pounding up the driveway.
Reeve wiped tears from his cheeks and stood up. He had to go out there. He had to explain.
I'm the one Rob Owen hated. It was supposed to be me lying there bleeding my life away. Not Walt. Me.
The whole damn town was a crime scene.
David Owen had just pulled off the highway and crossed the bridge into Tucannon. Incredulous, he braked to a stop in the middle of the road, not even looking to see if there was another car behind him.
Not only a crime scene, he saw, a thriller-movie crime scene, bigger than life. And this wasn't any town, it was his hometown.
Dear God. He'd known, in one way, since his mother's phone call nearly five hours ago telling him Robbie had taken Dad's guns and killed some people, then himself.
"I saw his body," she'd said, her voice shaky. "He's dead.
"Is that all you can think about?" he had asked sharply. "How many is 'some' people? Who else died?"
She either didn't know or couldn't say. David had a number now; before he'd reached the summit at Snoqualmie, an hour out of Seattle, the massacre in the tiny Eastern Washington town of Tucannon was all newscasters could talk about. Five people were dead, plus the gunman, and two more clung to life at St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla. More were wounded. Victims had yet to be identified.
This had been coming for years, in David's opinion. His parents hadn't listened to reason, his mother even less so than his father. All they could see was that Rob was sick. They ridiculed any suggestion that he could be a danger to anyone.
David had turned the radio on compulsively every half hour during the drive across the bleak, empty center of the state and again as he passed Walla Walla and the basalt outcrops gave way to rolling hills covered with vineyards or wheat. As he sat there now, staring in shock at the police cars with flashing lights blockading side streets, the TV news vans clogging Main, the clusters of people hugging each other out on the sidewalks, the commercial jingle on the radio ended and a newscaster declared gravely, "Today, tragic news from Whitman County, Washington. Townsfolk in little Tucannon were gunned down by a man known to all, raised by his parents."
In a violent gesture he rarely allowed himself, David hit the button to turn off the radio.
A man known to all. Robbie, the big brother he'd adored and shadowed when they were children.
He made a guttural sound. No, that Robbie had been gone for a long time, drowned out by the voices he heard in his head.
Tucannon should have been sleepy at seven-thirty in the evening, with August heat lingering and the sun still a couple of hours from setting. Kids out on bikes, neighbors on porches, most of the businesses closed. But it looked as if nobody had gone home today. People congregated outside the storefronts along Main, as if they'd been there ever since they rushed out to hear what others knew, then clung together in shock. Maybe they weren't being allowed to go home.
Traffic crept the half a dozen blocks past police cars, lights rotating, that blockaded Maple, Sycamore and Elm. Inching forward, David looked with disbelief at faces wet with tears. Faces of people he knew.
As a King County deputy prosecuting attorney, he had seen plenty of crime scenes and always succeeded in maintaining the necessary dispassion. What horror or revulsion he felt stayed hidden well enough that he'd acquired a reputation. "He's a calculating son of a bitch," he'd overheard another assistant prosecutor say, and David had taken it as a compliment. On the job he never betrayed emotion unless it served a purpose.
But this. Shock washed over him in icy waves and he turned off the air conditioner. Until now, nothing he'd heard had seemed real. Knowing intellectually and seeing his hometown transformed by horror were two different things.
Robbie did this.
Robbie is dead.
Had Robbie looked around in the end, seen what he'd done and remembered that those people lying lifeless at his feet were friends and neighbors? Or had he still been enmeshed in madness and thought death was his only escape from Satan's creatures—who would not stay silent however he pleaded?
As cold as if the damn air-conditioning were still on, David thought, It doesn't matter. They would never know whether Robbie had been obeying his voices or trying to silence them. What he'd done was so terrible nobody would care.
Except Mom, who would be bereft without the son who had been at the center of her life.
David was able to turn onto Poplar, but Third, Fourth and Fifth were all blocked. Finally, at Sixth, he pulled up to the sawhorses and rolled down his window.
God, he wanted to wake up and discover he'd been having a nightmare.
Posted January 2, 2013
WOW...When I decided to read A Hometown Boy, I was expecting the story to be focused on a sweet romance that occurred from some sort of tragic event. I mean look how sweet the cover is!! What I got...TOTALLY. BLEW. ME. AWAY. I was so not prepared for such a powerfully emotional story. It is so well written and immediately captured and held my attention till the end. I could go on and on, but I will try to keep it short and I will try not to give away any spoilers. :)
The book starts out the day of the tragedy and is told through several character's POVs. The beginning was both sad and disturbing to read because this type of thing happens far to often in society today. It showed how so many lives are affected and made me think about how not only the victims and their families suffer but also how the family of the killer suffers and in this case, how Robbie suffered as well.
Up till this story, I never really gave much thought as to how the family of the killer suffers just as much, if not more in certain cases. They not only have to deal with their own personal grief but at the same time are grieving over the hurt or loss of any victims and dealing with the guilt and responsibility they feel~as well as other peoples harsh treatment towards them. It was truly a heart~breaking read and I felt for each of the characters. I didn't think it was possible for me to feel badly for Robbie, but I did. The scenes when David sees Robbie's apartment for the first time and then David's words at his funeral and Robbie's self-portrait~had me in tears.
I definitely sympathized with David and Acadia right form the start. I just loved them together. The scenes where they remembered their childhood growing up were so sweet. And I loved how their romance grew out of friendship. Acadia was such a great character.
I loved the way she was able to see past the tragedy and support and defend David while she herself was also grieving. Because he so needed her and he tried his best to comfort her in return. I thought Janice wrote David's character so well. He was trying to take care of his mother while trying to hold everything together. Loved him!! So, of course, I wanted David and Acadia to get their HEA. lol :)
A Hometown Boy showed that even out of the worst tragedy, some lives can be changed for the better. Even though the ending was great~I would have loved an epilogue to show the characters a few years later. I definitely shed more than a few tears but there was also romance, friendship, healing, forgiveness, some laughter and a HEA that left me with a good feeling at the end.
I will definitely be looking for more from Janice Kay Johnson and I cannot highly recommend this book enough!!
***This may sound corny, but I have no other way to describe my feelings about this book but to say that I truly feel that I am a better person after reading A Hometown Boy. This book changed the way I define exactly who the victims are in tragedies because they have so very many different faces and there are so many different forms of suffering.***
Best Of The Best rating!!
***ARC obtained per NetGalley and Harlequin~Thank you!! Mariann at Belle's Book Bag
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Posted December 30, 2012
David Owen is a prosecutor in Seattle. He rarely, if ever, returns home to the small town that he grew up in. It is easier to avoid his mentally ill brother and his mom, who has always put David's brother's needs above his. It is even harder since his dad passed away. Acadia Henderson hasn't been home to see her father in years. Even though she moved away with her mother after their parents divorced when she was 13, she has still considered this small town home, spending her summers there when she was younger, though she is still resentful that her father didn't fight harder for her to stay with him. When tragedy strikes, David and Acadia, who haven't seen each other in 16 years, are forced to both return home at the same time. David's brother is dead, Acadia's father is dead, along with several other neighbors and friends. No one ever thought anything like this could happen in their small town. No one was prepared when it did.
David arrives home to his distraught mother who is in a state of shock, crime tape barring them from entering his brother's basement apartment and his father's den, where the guns were kept. As he drives through the small neighborhood there is more of the same. Charlie Henderson's porch is blocked off with crime tape, as are some of the other neighbors. No one knows how this could have happened. Acadia, who is a nurse in California, arrives home to her father's house, a house she hasn't been to in years, a house that for the first time ever does not have her father in it. David see's her get out of the car, and she notices him looking at her also. Despite the tragedy that has brought them home again at the same time, she can't help but remember the crush she had on David for years when they were young, remembering the summer they spent together. The feelings are still there, even though she hasn't thought about it in years. David is surprised to see Acadia. He should have known she would come. Seeing her again stirs up feelings in him also. Yet there is this vast wall of guilt and tragedy that stands between them now. The town is angry at David's mother and at him because of what his brother has done. David understands this, though it doesn't make it any less difficult to endure. They blame the family, even though the family wasn't at fault. The only one who doesn't blame them is Acadia. In fact, she stands behind David and his mom as they all go through the aftermath of death and tragedy together.
David and Acadia begin to spend more and more time together as they go through the necessary steps that must be taken after a loved one dies. They find out that the same feelings that were there when they were teenagers are still there, and are even stronger. They are also a great source of support for each other during this time. In fact, it is Acadia's support that helps the townspeople to begin to forgive, and begin the process of healing. As the funerals end, and all the arrangements have been sorted out, David and Acadia must decide where there relationship will go from here. Is this just another summer fling, or is it something real, something that can last a lifetime?
A Hometown Boy is a story of tragedy, death, grief, anger, mental illness, love, forgiveness, and healing. In light of recent events, I was hesitant to read it, but I am glad I did. Not only did I relate and comprehend the hurt and anger of the victims, but I was also able to relate to the family of the one who caused the tragedy, who in reality, were victims themselves. That really gave me something to think about. I think that it is too easy to overlook the family of the perpetrator. They are people that are filled with sorrow, guilt, and shame because of what their loved one did, but also grieve not only the lives of those their loved one took, but also the loved one that they lost. Acadia is amazing in this story as she leads the way to reconciliation and forgiveness, a characteristic her father would have been proud of. This is a story of people who in the midst of tragedy, experience families and friends brought together again, witness relationships being healed and restored, and experience love as it blossoms and grows. This thought-provoking contemporary romance is more than just a sizzling story, it is something that inspires you to think about your belief system and your reactions, and just how those reactions effect the people around you.
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Posted July 23, 2014
Posted February 18, 2013