Hi, I'm Topher Carlisle: twenty-one, pretty, and fabulous. At least, that's what I keep telling myself. But let's get real. Walking the fake-it-til-you-make-it road to independence and self-respect isn't easy. Especially since my mom's a deadbeat alcoholic, and most of my family expects me to turn out just as worthless. Oh, and I'm close to losing my college swimming scholarship, so let's add "dropout" to the list.
My BFF has invited me to stay at her beach house on the shore of Lake Michigan. That'll give me one summer to make money and figure out what I want to do with my life. So of course I decide to have an affair with my BFF's married, closeted dad. Because that always works out.
Now I'm homeless, friendless, jobless. Worthless. Just like my family expects, right? Except there's this great guy, Jace, who sees it differently. He's got it all together in ways I can only dream of-he's hot, creative, insightful, understanding. He seems to think I don't give myself enough credit. And if I don't watch out, I may start to believe him.
|Publisher:||Riptide Publishing, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.73(d)|
|Age Range:||1 - 17 Years|
Read an Excerpt
By Amelia C. Gormley, Carrie White
Riptide PublishingCopyright © 2014 Amelia C. Gormley
All rights reserved.
Why must you wallow in all your delusions?
Nail yourself to the cross at least once a week
Well you've got some nerve to lay all your demons at my feet
Far too used to expecting so much from me
—Casey Stratton, "Sacrifice"
God, the lake looked good.
No. Good didn't cover it. Awesome, amazing, some other superlative the English language hadn't invented yet. All of that. I wanted to be in it. I wanted to cleave through the water with distance-eating strokes. But it wasn't warm enough yet, not without a wet suit, and I didn't have one of those. I'd have to spend the next month driving to the aquatic center up in Holland to do laps. I absolutely needed to be in top shape when school started again in the fall; my swimming scholarship was hanging on the line. It might only cover half my tuition, and none of my books or living expenses, but losing it would catapult returning to school in the fall out of the realm of "difficult" and into "no fucking chance."
But if I could train here, where my eyes didn't burn from chlorine fumes and I could smell honest-to-God seaweed ...
Jesus, I was gonna love staying with Mo and her family, especially once I could get into the water.
Speaking of Mo ... I turned back to trudge up the beach toward the blanket she'd spread on the sand. It was sunny, but also windy and cool, especially this close to the water. We were both in long sleeves and jeans. Michigan had a way of flipping spring into summer like a light switch, so within a few weeks it could quite possibly be sweltering.
"Quit pouting," Mo said as I sighed in yearning. I dropped onto the blanket beside her and looked back at the water. "It's only a few weeks, then you can freeze your balls off to your heart's content." I gave her a dirty look. She was stretched out with a book, her freckled face covered in a sheen of SPF three gazillion. She shrugged off my glower and closed her book, grinning at me. "So, what do you think?"
"I think you lied, Mo."
It was my turn to grin. "You said your family wasn't rich."
She narrowed her eyes and tossed her head, the lavender and teal chalk tones in her strawberry-blonde hair flipping like a rainbow in motion. "We're not rich. Just, you know, comfortable. We inherited the beach house from my dad's parents. I won't say we're living hand-to-mouth, but it doesn't make us wealthy."
Just wealthy enough to have two households, a vacation home, and the luxury of never wondering how they were going to pay for tuition. Her dad was a tenured professor at MSU and kept a house in Lansing. He drove to the other house in Ann Arbor to be with his wife—a pediatric surgeon at the U of M hospital—and only daughter on the weekends and during school vacations.
I didn't point that out to Mo, though. She rocked her white liberal guilt pretty hard sometimes, and got very uncomfortable thinking about the advantages she had in comparison to my clusterfuck of a family and financial situation. And hey, I certainly wasn't going to complain that my BFF's family was loaded, not when they were putting me up in their beach house for the summer so I wouldn't have to worry about rent or food. I could just concentrate on finding a job, saving for tuition, and figuring my shit out.
"I got no problem with comfortable," I said with a careless shrug.
We fell quiet then, the only sounds the wind and the waves and the screeching of seagulls. I was definitely grateful to Mo and her family for making this offer. She wouldn't be spending the whole summer here with me; she had a job counseling at a summer camp up in Traverse City, and would only be home every other weekend, but that was actually a good thing. We'd tried being roommates briefly, and had discovered that we were much better friends when we weren't in each other's back pockets all the time. In the beach house up on top of the dune behind us, I'd opted for the cozy attic bedroom, with its own little three-quarters bath and huge half-moon window overlooking the lake, rather than the one on the second floor that shared a bath with Mo's room. It was perfect. We would be together, and yet not so closely or constantly that we got sick of each other.
I was looking forward to getting settled in. Maybe this evening I'd set up my keyboard and practice for a while. I knew Mo wouldn't mind if I played and sang a bit, and her dad wasn't supposed to arrive for another day or two. Of course I might have to stop playing once he got here, even if I kept it quiet in my room. My family had always complained because they could hear me through the heating vents, despite the fact that I was down in the basement.
Mo shook herself, breaking our silent camaraderie. "Oh, I almost forgot. Your phone rang when you were down by the water contemplating insanity." She pointed to the cheap Android I'd left on the blanket. I frowned at it, reluctant to pick it up. Aside from Mo, the only people to ever call me were my family, and that was rarely a good thing.
Finally I dropped onto the blanket beside her and sighed when my sister's name came up on the caller ID. Thumbing the callback button, I made a mental wager with myself as to how long it would take Colleen to disregard or casually insult me.
"Family drama incoming in three ... two ... one ... Hey. You called?"
"Hey, Topher. I was wondering when we could expect you in Flint, to stay with Mom for a while."
"Hi, big sis! Nice to hear from you! College is great! Swim season went well!" That wasn't really true, but whatever. "I got great grades on all my finals." That one was true, but it wasn't going to change the mess I was in now. "Thanks for showing such a keen interest in my life and well-being! It's sotouching to know you care."
"Oh. Sorry. Hi." Wow, she actually sounded embarrassed at being called out. I didn't expect it to last long, though. "So, you're doing good?"
"I'm getting by. I need to train this summer—next season is going to be important if I want to keep my scholarship—and I'm looking for a job to help cover tuition, but other than that, I'm okay."
"Oh. Good. Good. I've been working hard, too. Trying to save up for a vacation this year. My new boyfriend Terry wants to go to Hawaii, and I want to go with him."
"Hawaii sounds fun," I said noncommittally. Her duty to pretend to care about my life having been discharged, I knew exactly where this conversation was headed next.
Colleen didn't disappoint. "So, anyway, yeah. Mom. Helping. When can I expect you?"
I gripped a fold in the blanket in my fist. "Hmmm, I dunno. What's the weather in Hell looking like? Any ice storms lately?"
"Topher, don't be a dick. She's having a hard time getting around. I have to work all summer; I don't get summer break like you do, and running her errands takes up a lot of my time. You're not doing anything for almost four months. The least you could do is come help out. I would really love to take a vacation sometime this summer."
"Oh, hey, did I just do the time warp back into last year? Because, damn girl, if this conversation isn't giving me déjà vu all over again. The answer was no then, and it's no now." I grimaced at Mo. "And I'm not doing nothing over the next four months, thanks. I just told you, I need to train. A lot. Not to mention get a job."
"They have a Y here in Flint, you realize."
"And yet the answer is still no."
"God, you're such a selfish little prick. This is family."
"Your family. Not mine. My association with Frederica ended when she took a truckload of pills, knowing I'd be arriving the next day to find her body."
"Not this again." I heard her growl on the other end of the line. "Right, it's all about you, isn't it? She can't even get sick without you trying to make yourself the victim. She had a stroke and collapsed and spent a day and a half on the floor nearly freezing to death, and you still have to make it all about you and your self-centered fucking drama."
I shook my head firmly, even if she couldn't see it. "It wasn't a stroke. I know what I saw." I rubbed my forehead, where a headache was beginning to twinge. How many times were we going to have this fucking discussion?
"It wasn't a suicide attempt!" Colleen practically shouted in my ear. "She's too fucking melodramatic to do it that way, okay? If she'd been planning to kill herself, there would have been notes and she would have been giving shit away left and right, writing wills, making grand gestures."
I slammed my fist down on the blanket, grateful for the sand beneath that prevented the little tantrum from hurting. "That was her grand gesture. You don't know the way she thinks, Colleen! She never played the head games with you like she did with me. Why would she need to leave a note when she could arrange to have her funeral while everyone was home for the holidays already? She was putting on a show, and we were all cast in the roles of the grieving loved ones."
"She said she didn't try to kill herself!"
"No. She said she didn't remember trying to kill herself. Which is Frederica code for Yeah, I did it, but I'm not going to cop to it, and hey, isn't brain damage a convenient fucking excuse!" Damn it, now I was shouting.
Colleen heaved a long-suffering sigh and pitched her voice lower, adopting the tone that said she was trying to make herself the reasonable one. "There are a lot of other reasons things could have looked the way they did."
"She didn't want to be lying there alone, undiscovered, eaten by her damned cats. She knew I was coming that day." I was jabbing my finger violently in the air, like I could point it in Colleen's face, and made myself stop. "But you go ahead and pretend you're some brilliant forensic detective in your own little episode of CSI. Stage a recreation to prove how the way things look like they happened isn't the way they really happened. Convince yourself that there was some perfectly good, completely coincidental reason for her to have had a sixteen-ounce drinking glass full of pills spilled on the floor beside her."
I glanced over to see Mo looking at me with gentle sympathy. She knew the whole story, of course. We'd met the semester before that incident, my freshman year, and bonded pretty much instantly. When I'd held my vigil in the ICU during Christmas break, I'd spent a lot of time talking and texting with her.
"... But you weren't there, Colleen," I continued, clinging to Mo's understanding gaze. "You didn't see the scene. You didn't find her lying in a pool of her own puke. You weren't the one in the ICU that first night, with the nurses telling you not to wait too long before making the decision to pull the plug. If Frederica's having trouble getting around, it's her own fucking fault. She's pulled my leash for the last fucking time."
"Topher ..." Colleen groaned, and I could practically hear her making the effort to rein her temper in. "Even if you were right—and I lived with her four years longer than you, so maybe I know a bit more than you think about how she operates—she's sick. Okay? If she tried to kill herself, it's because she's sick. You can't hate her for that."
Oh lovely. Now it was time for a recitation from the Enabler's Handbook.
"I don't hate her." I busied my fingers trying to pick grains of sand off the dark blanket. "Hating her would require caring about her, and I don't. Not anymore. She's toxic, and I need to protect myself."
She was silent a moment. Then: "You better hope you don't ever need help from the family."
"Don't worry, sis. I learned long before puberty not to expect anything from this family." My mouth twisted bitterly and I hung up before she could take another opportunity to tell me what an awful person I was. It was the same old refrain, and I'd heard it all before. Topher, you're so self-centered. Topher, you're too dramatic. Topher, you just want attention.
Feh. They used those insults to try to make me feel guilty so I would do what they wanted me to do. I had to remember that. I was doing what was healthy for me. Protecting myself. And that didn't make me a bad person.
I sat beside Mo silently, staring out at the waves crashing against the beach as I tried to convince myself of that once again.
Thanks, Colleen. Way to fuck up a nice afternoon.
Mo didn't press me to talk. She knew I'd open up in my own time. I wasn't even close to manly enough to stuff down my feelings about shit. I wore them on my sleeve, and yes, that had gotten me my ass kicked regularly throughout my school years, thanks for asking.
After a while, she asked softly, "What do you think your mom will do if you go see her?"
I scrubbed my hands down my face. "Same thing she's always done. Try to make me as sick as she is."
She tilted her head and looked at me, waiting for me to clarify.
"She just ... ever since I was a little kid—and by that, I mean, like, six years old—my job was to comfort her and make her feel better, you know? And probably at least some of that was my fault, because I was just one of those really oversensitive, overly empathetic kids who would do stupid things like bawl in sympathy with a cartoon character who was being picked on."
I picked up a handful of cool sand and let it trickle through my fingers. "So whenever she got drunk and went on a crying jag, or just got into one of her woe-is-me-everything-is-horrible-nothing-will-ever-get-better riffs, I was the one who heard about it. I'm the one who spent hours and hours crying with her, telling her it would be all right, that she wasn't a horrible person, a horrible mother, et cetera. And eventually she'd pass out, and then it would be fine until the next time. And she'd just ... suck me in. Every damn time. I couldn't not try to make her feel better. I had to try to fix it for her."
"She never got help?"
I shook my head. "Her late husband kept offering to send her to rehab, but she always refused. She doesn't get drunk anymore because she says she can't handle the hangovers, but it doesn't stop the other behaviors. She's just a bottomless pit, emotionally speaking. She doesn't want to be reassured, she just wants attention and pity." My last shrink had called that "narcissistic supply." Like I was a drug dealer helping her get her fix. It was either cut her off or stop caring about everyone and everything so I wasn't left wide open.
Mo nodded and massaged my shoulder. We fell silent again, and she drew me against her and let me rest my head on her shoulder while she rubbed my back.
"You know what really makes me feel like a selfish asshole?" I said at length, as the afternoon began to age toward evening. "There was a while there in the hospital when she was starting to improve ... and I didn't want to believe it. I cried when they told me she was out of the woods, and not because I was happy. I had accepted it, you know? Years before, really. Around the time I was fifteen or so, when she made a big production of telling me she had lumps and that she knew it was cancer even though all the doctors told her they were just cysts, and if it was cancer, she was just going to let herself die since she couldn't stand to lose her breasts. That's when I accepted that she was going to die. I knew someday she'd drink herself to death or kill herself, and, then, once it seemed like it'd finally happened, I was okay with it. I was fucking relieved. I just wanted it to be over with, you know?"
"I don't think that makes you selfish, Topher." Mo's voice was gentle, and I found myself thinking, not for the first time, that she would make a damned good therapist once she finished her degrees in psychology and social work.
My eyes stung, and I wiped them on the back of my hand. "I wished her gas hadn't been shut off the week before. I wished for once she'd managed to be a responsible fucking adult and pay her bill on time. Core temp of, like, eighty degrees, can you believe that shit? If she hadn't gotten hypothermic lying there on the floor overnight, it would have been game over. That's the only thing that kept the brain damage in check, and I wished it hadn't happened. What do you think Colleen would say if I ever admitted that?"
She squeezed my hand without a word. Eventually, I laced my fingers with hers and squeezed back. After a moment I shook off my bout of self-indulgent moping and straightened up, trying to be a good guest.
"So, what's the nightlife like around here?"
She shrugged. "Well, there's a really good theater company here in town. I thought we might go see a show or two this summer. And I expect we'll head over to the club at the Dunes at least a couple times while you're here. I mean, you can't tell me you don't want to party and check out the action at a famous gay resort. Other than that, I suppose we'll drive into Grand Rapids if we want to hit some different clubs."
Excerpted from Saugatuck Summer by Amelia C. Gormley, Carrie White. Copyright © 2014 Amelia C. Gormley. Excerpted by permission of Riptide Publishing.
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
Saugatuck Summer, Amelia C. Gormley Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews I've read and enjoyed Amelia's co authored books - The Professor …. – sexy but short – and at first assumed this was also a short. It's not, its a great length at 326 pages, and lets the reader get fully immersed into Tophers problems...and boy does he have them! At first I found him irritating, he's the narrator and he's quite snippy, and in-your-face gay, but as we got to know him better I felt this was a long held defence mechanism, sort of get in first and premept the critisisms. The more the story goes on the more we learn about just how difficult his life has been, his family are not supportive, he's been pushed from pillar to post, constantly critised even before they knew he was gay – that's just one more stick to beat him with, and he seems to have spent so many year on medications and in therapy that this is what passes as normal for him. I really felt for him - underneath the bravado was a scared biy just wanting to be happy. Then there's the problem of the affair with his friends dad...that has disaster written all over, but we see how it plays out, unintentional and not pre-emtped by him, and I felt once again for poor Topher, no family support, now no best friend and place to live for the summer either. Luckily though there's some people who can help, and the delicious Jace...I loved him, he was so understanding – knowing when to push and when to sit back and listen, and not afraind to apologise when he got it wrong. It's a very emotional read, happy finally – for a while anyway – but its a long, tearjerking haul to get there and so many things to mull over. So much drama, so many lives affected. It's not just a sweet, sappy romance but a deep thinking, emotionally dark at times read. If you like books that are more than one person falls in love with another, want people with real problems, life with its ups and downs then ths book is for you. Stars: five. Arc supplied via Netgalley.
In the world of m/m books Ms. Gormley, with just this one book, has set herself apart from the pack with her deeply emotional and intimate characterizations that compel you to keep turning the pages. She digs deeply into each character's psyche and ends up with a cleverly crafted story full of emotional intensity, decisions with realistic ramifications, and a cast of characters with fully fleshed-out personalities that have you rooting for some and wishing evil on others. It's an emotionally draining book that makes its characters work for their HEA. Ultimately it's an uplifting story about one young man's rising above adversity to become the best he can be, warts and all. To say that Topher's childhood was bad would be an understatement. From his mother's emotional and physical neglect, to sexual abuse from a family member, to his entire family's constant put-downs and their destruction of his dreams and self-confidence we're left with a young man who's a bit touchy when having to deal with emotions and who often trades sex for affection and to boost his ego. After years of therapy he's still a man with lots of issues and no real plan for his future. He's an isolated soul with only one close friend, Mo, who lets him stay at her family's beach house while he gets back on his feet after yet another family drama dragged him under yet again. His indecisions lead to a very poor choice involving Mo's closeted father which ends with big emotional fallout and becomes the impetus to truly changing himself. His introduction to, and the deeply sensual and eye-opening encounter with the sexy Jace, also encourages his change in how he sees himself and what he wants out of life. Where the first half of the story finds a still damaged and lost soul, the second half has him taking control of his life and battling the demons from his past head-on. I was cheering him on every step of the way and happy he had someone as understanding and supportive as Jace standing beside him as he finally addressed the hurts and sins of his family and found a new family in Jace and the close-knit group of friends he found in this beachside town. Topher is a larger than life character who could be overly dramatic one minute and charming the next. He could admit his faults and knew when he did wrong but it was hard to stop the cycle of self-destruction that became ingrained in him courtesy of his family. I applauded his finally taking control though and found it a heroic moment which left me misty-eyed and proud of his truly becoming an adult. Jace is super sexy and supportive. He's got some baggage of his own but was always there for Topher, pushing him to follow his dreams and giving him the confidence he craved and had been searching for. Their scenes are scorching and earth-shattering and I become sweaty just thinking about them. More than just sex, they made a deep connection where Topher was able to see himself as something more, a man worthy of love and happiness. Jace had an old soul and was wise beyond his years and his softly spoken support was just what the doctor ordered. The other denizens of this beachside town that Topher slowly came to count on and call friend were just as supportive and didn't take any of his melodramatic crap. Each forced him to stop hiding and to stop spinning in circles, they gave him the tools to face his future head-on. I enjoyed each and every one of them and hope to see more of them in the future.