Over the last year and a half, I’ve developed an intimate relationship with grief and loss. Among several passings of family, friends, and colleagues, my family lost our beloved grandmother last year, and my amazing uncle at the end of last month. A few evenings ago, I attended the memorial for a friend who we lost to cancer at the end of February, and I was struck by something one of the speakers said. Our friend had been a long-time and well-known member of the folk dance community in Seattle. The speaker talked about the “village” coming together to help the family both financially and in any way to help ease his journey to whatever was next for him. Up until and through the night he died, the village came out to sing, play music, and bring food and relief to him and his family. Her comments reminded me about the village I had for each loss. Our family rallied around both our grandmother and my uncle as they declined and left us. Friends in the acting community came together to offer support to each other for the fairly sudden losses of two of our colleagues in the last year. And the village came together to throw one hell of a wake for our dear friend in the dance community. He said to “Dance every day,” and that evening, we danced in his honor.
Over the course of the last year, I considered the loss of my grandmother and the impending loss of my uncle while writing Saving Parker. Our protagonist, Parker Rice, is dealt a difficult hand. His father died a hero in the military when he was eight, and his mother never got over her husband’s death. Parker further deals with the loss of his mother, first emotionally when she refuses to protect him through a parade of physically abusive men culminating in the worst of them, Earl, taking her away physically. Alone and closed off, he has a hard time trusting anyone. As the novel continues, Parker suffers more losses, but he finds a village of people ready to lift him up. People who would do anything for him and believed in him even in his darkest hours. Parker discovers the mechanisms to deal with each loss and push forward to improve his life and situation with the help of his friends and the man he finds to love.
The fifth installment of the Rain City Tales, Saving Parker, is now available for download on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. Saving Parker follows Parker Rice, an abandoned and abused thief who needs a second chance, and the attorney with the unconventional family, Anthony Swifson, who falls hard for him but can’t reconcile the eleven years between them. Stay tuned for Rain City Tales Book 6: Song of Salvation due out in July 2019.
You can order the first Rain City Tales story, The Officer’s Siren, here, Rain City Tales 2, Past Secrets Present Danger, here; Rain City Tales 3, I’m Yours, here; and Rain City Tales 4, The Wedding Weekend, here. Checkout Brent’s website for more details on upcoming books.
Sunlight streamed through the open blinds of the window, shining against Parker’s closed eyelids. He turned and opened them with a groan. The events of the prior evening flooded his thoughts, and he endured another round of shivers. Even with Anthony’s assurances, Parker didn’t believe for a moment Earl wouldn’t be back.
With a deep breath, he collected his wits and pushed himself up to sit, dangling his legs off the bed. He stared out of the window, taking in the blue sky and the clouds pushing their way across. A cool breeze blew in through the open window, and Parker tugged the blanket around his shoulders. He rose and closed the window, staring across the lush, green lawn to the guest house. A few windows stood open, but he saw no sign of Anthony.
Turning away, he let the blanket fall. He pulled on the boxer briefs next to the bed. Shuffling into the bathroom, his feet met the cold, tiled floor. With a flinch, he stepped onto the small rug and stared into the mirror over the sink. An angry, purple bruise adorned the spot between his collarbone and the left side of his neck. He turned and found four more between his neck and shoulder where Earl’s fingers had dug in. The rest of his bruises from the prior week’s kicks had largely disappeared, but the fresh marks heightened Parker’s anxiety that his mother’s boyfriend would return to exact revenge for the arrest and the injuries.
A soft knock at the door drew his attention. Anthony’s voice filtered into the bedroom. “Parker? Are you okay?”
“Fine,” he called and shuffled back to the bed. He grabbed the T-shirt he’d worn the prior evening and pulled it over his head. “You can come in if you want.”
The bedroom door opened to reveal Anthony in a long-sleeved pullover and jeans. “How are you doing this morning?” He stepped inside, but kept his distance, his gaze raking over Parker’s legs.
Parker sat on the bed, staring at the floor. “I’m fine.” He felt the wall of his defenses go up. Even if Anthony never laid a hand on Parker, he would still abandon him like all the others. He fidgeted with his fingers.
“You don’t look okay,” Anthony replied, his voice soothing and patient. “Want to tell me what you’re thinking?”
With a shake of his head, Parker pushed onto his feet. “I should get a shower.”
“Parker.” Anthony’s voice hardened. “Please sit down and tell me what’s going on.”
The tone brooked no argument, so Parker returned to the bed. He continued to stare at the floor but said nothing.
Anthony stepped across the room and sat on the edge of the bed. Though within reach of Parker, he kept a respectful distance between them. “You’re thinking about Primack, right?”
Parker nodded, not wanting to discuss the situation but also not wanting to lie. After Anthony had stuck up for him and decked Earl, Parker had enough respect for the attorney not to withhold the truth.
“I’m not sure how to convince you that he can’t hurt you anymore, but can you trust me to follow through on my promise?” Anthony’s calm voice and soothing tone broke a hole in the brick wall Parker had erected.
A breath caught in Parker’s throat. “Trusting guys hasn’t worked out for me.”
With a sigh, Anthony brought a hand to his shoulder, the now familiar gesture adding a modicum of comfort. “I understand. It takes time to build up trust, but I think we’ve both gotten off to a good start. You saved my life last night.”
Parker hazarded a glance at Anthony. “I couldn’t let him hurt you.”
Hesitating, Parker considered why he’d rushed to Anthony’s defense instead of fleeing the house. He’d never been able to protect himself, but the thought of Earl hurting Anthony stoked an anger he’d never experienced before. This man who hadn’t turned him in to the police, who’d fussed over his bruises and had taken him to the hospital, and most importantly, who’d defended him from his abuser. Anthony cared like his dad had cared.
But even his father had abandoned him.
The barrier he’d erected sealed again, shutting Anthony out, and Parker dropped his gaze. “You’re a nice guy. It wasn’t a big deal.”
Anthony frowned. “Yeah, it was. You put yourself in danger for me. Like it or not, you’re stuck with me, at least until we can get you into college.” He removed his hand from Parker’s shoulder. “In the meantime, I’ve made us breakfast.”
Parker’s traitorous stomach rumbled its approval.
With a chuckle, Anthony strode to the door. “Come down when you’re ready. I’ve got biscuits and gravy with poached eggs and link sausages. Sound good?”
After another stomach rumble, Parker sighed. “I’ll be down in a minute.” Once Anthony had left the room, Parker tugged off the T-shirt and moved to his duffle. He couldn’t trust Anthony not to abandon him. Just finish your sentence and move on. Story of your life.
Brent Archer began writing in 2011 at the nudging of his cousins. His first story sold, and he was hooked! Keep up with Brent Archer and his current releases at his website, and follow him on Twitter: @brentarcherwrit.