Cathal Kinnery is an arrogant, overeducated jerk, and Damon Eglamore is not afraid to tell him so. But Damon married Cathal’s best friend, so they have an uneasy truce. Then she passes away. Now they’re stuck together in close quarters, trying to honor her memory without shouting at each other all the time.
At first, they have no idea how to move forward. Damon is a chef, but all his favorite recipes remind him of his late wife. Cathal would love to start tomcatting around town again, except for that annoying promise he made to his best friend about looking after Damon.
Then Damon’s son comes to them for help, convinced the only way to win over his first crush is a gender-bending Shakespeare production. After that, Cathal talks Damon into taking up baking as a new way to use his talents. Next thing they know, they’ve begun a new life working as a team instead of jumping at each other’s throats. But can they trust each other long enough to make it last, or will they fall into old bad habits again?
|Publisher:||Ninestar Press, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.66(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Cathal Tries to Keep His Promise, even though Who in Their Right Mind Eats Fish Heads; Damon Is Clearly beyond Help.
MARCH 15TH, 2016
"I'm Henry the eighth, I am, Henry the eighth, I am, I am ..."
Damon told himself the worst part of all of this was that Cathal couldn't sing.
It wasn't true, but he could pretend.
"Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the feast of Stephen ..."
Christmas was three months ago. Damon wanted to tell Cathal so, but that required sitting up, then getting out of bed, then walking over to the door, and then using his voice.
Cathal held the last note. Then silence.
Maybe he was going away. Not likely, but Damon could hope.
Nope. Cathal knocked — lightly, like a hotel maid. "Help me, Damon Eglamore, you're my only hope!"
He did a horrible Carrie Fisher impression. Another thing Damon wanted to say. But, again. Not happening.
Cathal groaned in disgust. Damon knew he was rolling his eyes, too. You could hear it. Somehow.
"For fuck's sake, Damon," said Cathal in his normal voice. If you could call it a normal voice. He sounded like he was about to deliver a lecture. "You can't stay in there forever. Food. It's awesome. So are showers. And kittens. And ... I don't know, fucking ducklings or something."
Cathal let out another sigh, but this one was quieter. What Damon heard coming out of his own mouth. There was a quiet thunk, like Cathal had rested his forehead against the door. "I don't even know why I'm doing this."
You and me both.
Cathal moved away — Damon knew because Cathal shuffled his feet like he was going to grab your arm to shock you.
Damon put a hand over his face. Maybe he could go back to sleep.
The real reason Damon hadn't eaten anything was the same reason he hadn't gone through the photos on his phone or the pile of cards they'd brought home from the hospital and the funeral. His mind was a minefield, triggered by anything even slightly familiar, and cooking was all about familiar. It was his pride at Stephen's — making pancakes that reminded people of their grandmothers, cooking hash browns so crispy other cooks wept to taste them. And everything he cooked, he cooked because Era liked it. Damon had spent the last sixteen years learning whatever could bring even the slightest smile to her lips.
Not to say that he hadn't cooked for himself alone. When Era was gone, at a literature conference or a writing retreat, he missed her, so he made food that reminded him of her. Fettuccini Alfredo, the same recipe she ate between shifts at Stephen's when she still worked with him. Spaghetti carbonara with extra parmesan, since she dumped almost a whole shaker's worth on hers. Minestrone soup with tagliatelle instead of shell pasta, since it didn't lose its bite when you reheated it. Everything the way she liked it.
Maybe he should have kept his job. Going back to work and thinking of different things to make out of leftovers for family meal before service kept him sharp. Here, he didn't have limitations to work with. His pantry and fridge were overflowing with raw ingredients, since all of their mutual friends came from the restaurant business, and they thought Damon was going to cook his way out of this.
Except that cooking wasn't an out for him. It was the only thing he'd ever been any good at.
Still. He could at least clean the fridge. The last thing he needed was mold.
WHEN CATHAL CAME down the stairs later that morning, after an unsuccessful attempt to get Damon to leave his room and an even more unsuccessful attempt to get anything done besides flicking through pictures of Era on his phone, he almost didn't notice that something was different.
The walls had always been covered in pictures, and some of them were still there. Every one of Felix's school portraits, from preschool to sophomore year, were arranged in neat rows leading to the downstairs bathroom. But the rest of the walls were bare. Gone was Damon and Era's wedding portrait. The three pictures of Era walking at graduation for her bachelor's, master's, and PhD. The single picture of Damon and Era together when they were working at Stephen's, a few months after they first met and before they even started dating, when Era still referred to him as "that weird dishwasher who never talks — okay, now he talks, but he's still pretty weird."
Not a single picture of Era, or any of Damon, since he only suffered pictures if she was with him. Just Felix.
Frowning, Cathal looked into the living room. The decorations were the same: the couch was still covered in a hideous Easter egg slipcover, and stuffed rabbits and ducks were scattered about, remnants of the last holiday Era would ever decorate for.
Cathal stepped on that thought immediately. He looked up over the couch, where family portraits had once hung — one for each year of their marriage. But they were gone as well. The only picture that remained featured a line of varicolored bunny butts. Again, for Easter.
Cathal walked back out into the hallway and went upstairs. Here, too, the pictures of Era with different generations of students were gone. Even the last. Now, the only piece of decoration that remained was a truly horrible watercolor of mermaids, hung on the wall between the master bedroom and Felix's room. The whole house looked like a lot for sale decorated by the world's tackiest interior designer. In other words, if Era had ever been allowed to furnish someone else's home.
Swallowing hard, Cathal looked at Damon's bedroom door. It was still closed. So where had all the pictures gone?
Then a loud bang sounded from the kitchen, and Cathal nearly jumped out of his skin. Felix was at school, so apparently Damon was up after all. And he had some shit to answer for.
The kitchen was in total disarray. A pot bubbled on the stove, containing who-knew-what, and the garbage can was full of vegetable peelings. A cutting board with half an onion sat on the table. Damon stood in front of the food processor, frowning around the finger stuck in his mouth.
"Did I come at a bad time?" Cathal glanced around. "Are you having a dinner party I wasn't aware of?" He had meant to be angry, but now he was confused.
"Don't be dramatic. People gave us food. It was about to go bad." He licked the glop off his finger, frowned, and shook salt into the food processor.
"So ... this is what you're doing. Two days locked in your room, and now you're ... cooking."
Damon's expression didn't change. "You usually bitch about stupid questions. The food was going bad, and you can't cook. So here we are."
Cathal shook his head sharply, putting aside the irrelevant questions. Usually he was better, since science required sorting through the noise to find the signal. But Damon always short-circuited that. "What did you do with all the pictures?"
Damon didn't answer for long enough that Cathal almost repeated the question, this time bubbling over with rage.
Then Damon put his hands on the counter, like that was all that was holding him up. His face was still as emotionless as a mask in a museum. "You've been bitching at me to come out of my room, and I couldn't do that while they were all up there." He might as well have been explaining his decision between one color of wall paint and another. "I can't have her everywhere I look. I can't. So I put them away." He looked over his shoulder at Cathal, and his eyes were as empty as his voice. "It's my house. I can do what I want, and what I want is to spend thirty goddamn seconds thinking about something besides her. Do you have a problem with that?"
He ran the food processor again, drowning any chance for Cathal to point out how stupid that was. Damon sampled the gook and nodded this time.
Cathal wanted to walk out with his hands in the air, but ... "All right, what is that crap?"
Damon turned to him, surprised. "It's cashew butter. Like peanut butter, but with cashews."
Cathal stared in horror. "What is wrong with you?" But he left before Damon could say anything.
CATHAL PARKED HIMSELF on the couch — he wanted to intercept Felix when the boy got home, since he wasn't sure what kind of mood Damon was really in. If he could, he wanted to shelter Felix from Damon's raw grief.
Felix came through the front door right on time, a frown on his lips and his nose in the air. Cathal slipped out of the living room to block the way to the kitchen. "What's that smell?" Felix asked, his voice suspicious.
Before Cathal could say anything, though, Damon stuck his head out. "I'm making dinner."
Cathal waited for the other shoe to drop.
But Felix just let out a heartfelt sigh. "Oh, thank Mozart. Cathal's not cooking."
Cathal flicked the lobe of Felix's ear and went upstairs. Disaster averted. Maybe.
CATHAL ALLOWED HIMSELF to get lost in research. Before things got so dire with Era, he'd been working on his second book, but first, he had to get his feet wet in academia again. How strange. March already, and he wasn't buried in midterms to grade and research projects to approve.
While reading, he lost all sense of the outside world, and that was the only reason he screamed like a little girl when Damon knocked on the door. Really.
Damon's lips twitched, though he was far from smiling. "That never gets old. There's food, if you want it."
Cathal remembered he'd never gotten anything to eat. His stomach answered for him.
FELIX WAS SEATED at the table. One hand tapped a rhythm on his knee, but Cathal wasn't sure if that was nerves or his usual fidgeting. Felix was never much for sitting still, unless he was reading music. He grinned at Cathal, but it lacked its usual luster.
Cathal was the cool uncle, not the feelings uncle, so he sat across from Felix and asked, "How was the first day back? Catch up with your friends?"
Felix twitched like he'd been goosed and glanced away, his expression turning guilty. Cathal glanced at Damon to see if he'd caught it, but by all accounts, Damon was focused on the food. Oh, well. Cathal could take charge. Especially if it involved making Felix squirm.
Felix's grin returned, albeit forced. "I mean, it was weird. Even my physics teacher was nice to me. But it was good to see my friends again. There's, um, some new kids that everybody's talking about, so that was good. Took the focus off me, I think."
"Are they talking because they're new or because they're interesting?" Damon set three plates on the table, one in front of each of them.
"They're twins, for one thing. And one of them's an insanely talented violinist. Rumor is they got kicked out of their old school, and I guess I believe it, because the other one is a real jerk." He cleared his throat, looking at the far wall instead of at either of them or his plate. "The violinist seems nice, though."
Cathal barely heard Felix. He stared at the food, and the food stared back. It looked like a piece of savory pie, complete with flaky crust and filling that smelled like bacon and eggs. Not that Cathal knew enough about food to be able to tell much by smell.
The only thing that really mattered, though, was the fish head resting against the edge of the crust — empty, dead eyes looking right at Cathal. "Damon. There's a fish in this pie."
Damon didn't bat an eye. "Yes."
"Damon. There is a fish in this pie."
"That's because it's stargazy pie. You put the fish heads on top to flavor the eggs. I've always wanted to make it, but I never had any whole sardines before." Damon picked the head off his piece and licked away the filling stuck to it before setting it aside.
Cathal looked at the ceiling because he did not feel like looking into the eyes of the wall ornament that surely awaited you in hell.
"That is kind of weird, Dad." Felix watched with a combination of fascination and disgust.
"Try it," said Damon.
Cathal put one hand up against the side of his face, blocking his view of Damon. He picked the fish off his pie and hid it under a paper napkin. Once the food wasn't judging him for every bad thing he'd ever done — and that was a long list — Cathal decided he was too hungry to leave it uneaten. And the pie itself was rich and luscious, with chunks of fish and bacon throughout. Comfort food, with a side of existential dread
Damon's cooking was about the only thing Cathal couldn't take hell out of him for.
Still. One had to have standards. "Damon, I make allowances for your state of mind, but I draw the line at recreating Dante's Inferno with pie crust."
Damon shrugged, which only made Cathal madder because Damon clearly knew this was weird. "I couldn't even if I wanted to. I used up all the sardines."
Cathal decided to excuse himself before anything else could happen.
DESPITE HIS LATE night of work, Cathal set an early alarm. He wanted to make sure Felix, never an early riser, made it out the door. He'd expected to find the house quiet, but heard noises in the kitchen and went to investigate, hoping he wouldn't find Felix making breakfast. Despite his father's best efforts, Felix was almost as hopeless as Cathal, absent-minded and apt to let things burn.
But Damon was down there. He'd set up a number of small bowls with toppings and was whisking eggs. "I'm making omelets," he said to Cathal's unspoken question. "See if Felix's awake, won't you? I knocked on his door, but he hasn't come down yet."
Cathal blinked at this. Should he take umbrage at being ordered about? Taking umbrage was fun.
But he decided against it. If Damon was getting better, he could leave without feeling like he was slighting Era.
So he went up and got Felix, who was actually up and cleaning his flute. "Your dad's making breakfast," Cathal said, leaning in the doorway.
Felix looked up, surprised. "Really? He never makes breakfast at home."
This was true, since Damon liked to work during breakfast. He was not a late-night man; he never slept in past seven, another thing that made him abhorrent. Morning people existed only to make the rest of the world feel bad.
"Well, he is now, and if you want to eat, you'd better get your butt downstairs." He left before Felix could reply. He didn't want to give himself a moment to consider how strange this all was — not Damon making breakfast, but talking civilly with him. Then again, they'd never had to work together for the sake of someone else.
His throat tightened, but he made himself swallow.
In the kitchen, Damon swirled a pan, frowning at the eggs coating the bottom like Cathal frowned at student papers. "Perfect timing," he said, setting the pan back on the fire.
"These are normal, right?" Cathal sat at the table to resist the urge to peer at the ingredients in the bowls. "No fish heads?"
"They're omelets, Cathal," said Damon, but absently. "You want cheese in yours and nothing else, right?"
Cathal wondered when, exactly, Damon had learned how Cathal liked his eggs and decided not to question it. He knew how Damon took his coffee, after all — black and tasteless and bitter, like his resting bitch face. Maybe it happened like osmosis. Or dry rot.
Cathal realized he hadn't answered. "Yes."
This was all getting too strange.
Felix came downstairs, still in his pajamas. He peeked over his dad's shoulder as Damon used his spatula to make a perfect trifold. "This is not yours," said Damon without looking at his son.
"Mahhhh," said Felix. "I'm hungry."
"Yours is next. Don't be impatient, or I'll make Cathal another one and make you watch him eat it." But that was teasing. "Give this to him and sit at the table like a civilized boy."
Felix stuck out his tongue, but he took the plate and sat next to Cathal. Cathal seized the omelet before Felix could eat it. He didn't usually eat breakfast, but he'd had a busy night using his brain, and that burned calories.
Damon made Felix an omelet with peppers and ham and cheese, and then he joined them at the table.
"Aren't you going to have one, Dad?" Felix looked up from his already finished omelet. His father didn't respond, just took Felix's plate and got up to make another one. Felix looked at his father's back, perplexed.
"I don't like to eat when I'm cooking."
Felix frowned, but he didn't argue with his father, and, blessedly, they all shut up for the rest of breakfast.
Once Felix left for school, Cathal leaned against the counter. "So instead of starving yourself to death inside your room, you're doing it in the kitchen?" He kept his voice light.
Damon didn't look up from scrubbing the inside of a pot, although his jaw tightened. "I haven't felt like eating."
Cathal frowned. Damon was not taking the bait, and Cathal could only deal with Damon by making him so angry he lashed out. Yet another reason Cathal never should have made that promise.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Death of a Bachelor"
Copyright © 2018 M.A. Hinkle.
Excerpted by permission of NineStar Press, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A lovely, sweet, wonderful romance that matched all of my preferences. I am an unbelievable sucker for romances that are slice-of-life and character driven, rather than being spurred by exterior conflicts, and this novel hit every single one of those buttons. I charged through the last half of the book in one sitting, and given how slow a reader I often am, that is incredibly high praise. Beautiful banter, warm character interaction, and a small world that I felt completely immersed in. I loved it.
What a special story! M.A. Hinkle drew me right in with a terrific set up between Cathal and Damon, and then continued to tug on my heartstrings through the whole thing. A slow-burn romance of the best kind, where we know they've gotta get together? And we look for clues through the whole story... and constantly wondering, "will this be the time they finally get together?" It was perfect. A fantastic cast of supporting characters, and I see the sequel of Felix's friends' story has already been published Diamond Heart. A very talented author, I'm looking forward to whatever M.A. Hinkle brings us next.