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When I began the hunt, I didn’t know I’d find her.
Confined to a mental health facility with a rare chromosomal disorder, my little brother began sending me on scavenger hunts to uncover the world for him when we were kids.
When one of his quests brings me to a greasy Connecticut diner, my life is completely altered. Caitlyn, the gorgeous prince slaying waitress, turns down my indecent proposal and ignites my need to conquer her at all costs.
With a reputation for being a billionaire ruthless womanizer, I can’t fault her assumptions. But now I’m on my own quest… to tame my unbridled passions long enough to get this little waitress, artist, and humanitarian into my bed.
As I lay bare my soul to capture her heart, I wonder…am I bringing the world to my brother or is he giving life to me?
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Sundays were pretty lazy days compared to the rest of the week, when I juggled my jobs at the community arts center and Ma’s Diner, took care of my grandma, and worked on various paintings.
On Sunday mornings, I took my gran to brunch in town where she always ordered the same thing — pancakes with strawberries, black coffee, and a glass of water. She’d eat exactly one and one-half pancakes and all the strawberries, slathered in syrup and whipped cream.
These days were great because, apart from being together and doing stuff that didn’t include pill cutters and measuring spoons, we were rebels. If her doctor knew how much sugar she ate on Sundays, he would kill her. Or me. Probably both of us.
Sundays were “FU” doctor and “screw you” mortality days. We used to go to church, but Gran got kicked out for disagreeing with the minister… loudly. She was a feisty, kindhearted eighty-seven-year old.
After brunch, we visited some of her friends at Whispering Pines Home for the Aged. She’d bring flowers and scandalous romance novels, sugar-coated contraband, and her loud, effusive personality. Everyone knew when Eula Darning was in the house. Once, she even started a food fight. I thought we’d be forever forbidden entrance to the hallowed halls of the aged, but it was the most fun any of them’d had in years. In fact, Marcie Grandiere, the meanest of the meanies, died a week later, swearing it was the best time of her life.
My least favorite person at Whispering Pines was Ed, whose dementia was pitiful but also made him a bit scary to be around. Eula and Ed had been an item once when they were in their fifties, but it didn’t last long. He never remembered who we were when we came and always showed us his ass, then called Gran a whore… which made us laugh. His obscenity never offended Gran because she was a hoot and actually loved the raunch. She wasn’t your typical retiring old lady with outdated morals. She had a little black book full of lovelorn suitors who she had laid to waste in the wake of her “livelier days.”
“Honey,” she would say, her fists planted on her hips as her gray-blue eyes twinkled, “I’m not a whore. I was never paid a dime.”
I honestly never knew exactly what to say to that. She was the one who encouraged my painting and pursuit of the arts, even though my teachers thought it a waste of intellect.
I moved in with Gran the day my mom was murdered by my dad. I was five. I couldn’t remember many details other than stark images from that day, so I went mostly by what I was told and the haunting dreamlike memories that randomly poked me in my sleep. A shrink helped me make peace with the horror that often invaded my psyche. Painting helped, and Gran kept me doing things that were batshit crazy. She’d get these ideas in her head, like “wouldn’t it be great if we gave peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the homeless,” which we did. She once ran for mayor, for the hell of it. She campaigned seriously for about a week then gave it up to plant a survival garden in laundry buckets on her screen porch in case of a zombie apocalypse. She also liked to shop QVC. I was constantly sneaking into her QVC account and canceling orders she thought she’d gotten away with purchasing behind my back. She would buy the most random and useless stuff. She had actually become a post office conspiracy theorist because so much of her mail had been “stolen.” She kept me busy, and, my life constantly teetered between mundanity and insanity.
My artwork was all over Gran’s modest ranch style home. I hated to use the word cluttered, but she insisted on displaying all my “masterpieces,” as she would call them. The few she didn’t have mounted on every visible inch of wall space were the ones I happened to sell at the small art gallery in town. While she was slowing down in her old age, her sharp mind had never dulled. She always managed to mention something profound about at least one of the paintings each day.
“Now, this one reminds me of 1939, when my mom took me to the circus. I was afraid of the clowns.” She shivered, the movement causing her short, wispy white hair to flutter around her face. “Who isn’t afraid of those evil little bastards, but I loved the elephants. They seemed so sad and majestic. This reminds me of the elephants at the circus.”
“It’s a waterfall, Gran,” I would gently say, so as not to ruin her moment.
“It’s like the elephant’s sad face,” she would add kindly, making me look at the painting again. Sure enough, you could see an elephant’s face in the flow of blue, gray, and white colors composing the water.