A | A

Sunset on Turtle Lake

Sunset on Turtle LakePride Publishing
ISBN eBook: 978-1-78651-515-5
Genre: Contemporary, Gay
Book Length: Novella (20,000 words)
Early Release Date: October 11, 2016
General Release Date: November 22, 2016

Order ebook at Pride Publishing | Read an Excerpt

Winter isn’t the only chill in the air on Turtle Lake.

When Sam Burgman’s mother, Gloria, nears the end of her battle with cancer, Sam makes the hard decision to leave his job as a corporate lawyer in Miami to take his mom home to Turtle Lake, Minnesota.

Ian Mendoza takes his job as Gloria’s caregiver very seriously, but unlike the assignments he’s taken in the past, Ian fails to maintain a professional distance when it comes to Sam. Unfortunately for Ian, Sam refuses to open his heart despite their mutual attraction.

Born and raised in Miami, Ian isn’t prepared for the frozen landscape that is Minnesota in the winter, but the chill he wants to erase is the one coming from Sam.

Reader Advisory: This book deals with maternal illness/death.

Excerpt

Sam Burgman stared at the looming black clouds out of his twenty-third-floor office window. Usually he loved watching the weather roll in, but the approaching storm merely foretold the emotional turbulence that was to come.

According to Ian Mendoza, his mother’s caregiver, Gloria Burgman only had a matter of weeks, perhaps a month, before she succumbed to the cancer that was eating away at her already fragile body. Sam didn’t care what anyone said—watching someone you love suffer was worse than watching them die.

The streak of lightning that lit up the sky felt as if it had found its way to Sam’s heart. There was no path to redemption for him. His mom had one person in the world who should have known what was happening, who should have been there, and Sam had failed because he’d been too busy to make frequent trips home. It hadn’t been until the doctors had confirmed his mom’s stomach cancer that she’d told him she’d been having issues for quite some time. Worse, since she’d already fought a battle against breast cancer ten years earlier, she’d refused treatment for her current illness. Sam had been so angry with his mother for refusing to fight that he’d done the unthinkable and had moved her from their family home north of Bemidji to Miami. She hadn’t taken the move easily, but, at the time, Sam had believed he had little choice. He was in the middle of a high-profile trial, and walking away hadn’t been an option. He’d hired a live-in nurse to care for his mother and had gone right back to his usual schedule of long hours and non-existent weekends while his mom grew sicker.

A quick glance at his computer screen told him he’d already missed his mom’s bedtime. It wasn’t unusual for him to go days without seeing her when he was working, but that wasn’t the case this time. He simply couldn’t bear to go home, as if not seeing it would keep his mom from withering away in the luxurious Miami apartment they shared.

Sam hated the fact that Ian had become a better son to his mom than he was, but it was the truth. On several occasions, he’d stormed out of the apartment because Ian had been able to ease his mom’s pain when Sam hadn’t. Sam didn’t know what he hated worse, being jealous of the bond Ian had formed with his mom or being so attracted to Ian that he had trouble sleeping at night.

The guilt that seemed to be his constant companion lately drove him to pick up the phone.

“Hello?” Ian answered.

“It’s me. Just calling to check on Mom. Did she have a good day?”

A few seconds ticked by before Ian answered. “She spent the afternoon talking about the lake again. I think most of the time she believes I’m you, which is fine except I think you’ll regret not hearing the stories she remembers in those brief periods.”

Sam rubbed his forehead. The fact that his mom often mistook Ian for him said it all. Ian looked nothing like him. Sam had the same Nordic-coloring as his father and grandfather, while Ian’s mixed Latin heritage was also evident.

“It’s hard,” Sam finally said.

“I know, but someday you’re going to wish you had those moments back.”

Yeah. Sam was at the point that his guilt clouded every aspect of his life. Moving his sick mother to Miami had been a huge mistake, one he doubted he’d ever forgive himself for, but now that she was at the end of her life, he’d decided it was time to face the truth of what was happening. “Do you think she’s well enough to take the trip back to Minnesota? Christmas is next week, and I would love to give her one last holiday in our old house.”

“I think she’s coherent enough to get there, but it depends on how long you plan to stay whether or not she’ll be healthy enough for the return trip,” Ian said.

Sam’s throat seemed to grow thick as suppressed emotion fought to surface. “I didn’t really plan to bring her back. I’ve got some vacation coming, I thought I’d talk to my boss about taking it all. I know it won’t make up for taking her away from home in the first place, but I’m hoping it’ll help ease her pain, now that her time is coming to an end. The problem is, I don’t think I can handle it on my own.” Sam didn’t know why he couldn’t just come out and ask Ian to accompany them on the trip. Maybe it was because he knew so little about his family. It was a damn shame, really, another of his faults. Despite Ian living in his apartment for the last three months, he’d done everything possible to avoid being in the same room with the gorgeous man.

There was too much going on in his life to become distracted by the pleasure he knew Ian would willingly provide. Not to say Ian was a slut, because, honestly, he didn’t know enough about him to make that determination, but he wasn’t blind. Sam noticed the way Ian’s gaze tracked him whenever he was in the room. The two of them had come close to hooking up one evening a couple of months ago.

During one of his weaker moments, Sam had broken down while discussing his mom’s deteriorating health. Ian had done what seemed to come naturally to him and offered support. The situation had quickly escalated and they were both half naked by the time he’d come to his senses. He’d apologized profusely for his actions and had tried to avoid Ian since.

“Did you hear me?” Ian asked.

“Ummm, no. Sorry. What’d you say?”

“I said my sister will understand if I’m not here for Christmas,” Ian said.

Sam knew it was a risk to have Ian to accompany them on the trip, but trying to find another nurse who would care for his mom the way Ian had wouldn’t be possible. Not only did his mom require medical attention he wasn’t comfortable giving, but he often became too emotional to be around her on her bad days. Ian handled Gloria perfectly.

“You’ll need to make special accommodation with the airline so we can get her onboard first,” Ian reminded Sam.

“I know. Do you think I should get first class?” Sam asked.

“To be honest, I don’t think she’ll be aware of the difference.” Ian cleared his throat. “I’m not trying to dissuade you from taking her. I think it’s the best gift you could possibly give her,” Ian clarified. “I just need you to be prepared for what might happen once she’s back in the home she loves.”

“One thing my mom drilled into me growing up. You can’t let fear keep you from doing what’s right. Sure I’m worried about what might happen, but I can’t let that stop me.” Sam was nowhere near ready to say goodbye to his mom, but soon the inevitable would happen whether he was prepared or not.

Ian was quiet for several moments. “Okay. Just tell me when you want to leave so I can have everything ready.”

“I’ll check flights before the end of the day.” Sam made a mental note to call Jim Weatherly, the man he’d hired to look after his family home. Sam wasn’t sure what the weather was like in Turtle Lake. Hell, they could be flying into a blizzard for all he knew.

“Sounds good. Give me a call when you’re leaving the office, and I’ll warm up dinner for you.”

It sounded too domestic for Sam’s comfort. He could easily see himself getting used to Ian taking care of him and that wouldn’t do. As much as Sam liked him, Ian would be gone as soon as his mom’s condition progressed to the point where… No. Sam shook the dire thought away. “I pay you to take care of my mother, not me.”

“Suit yourself,” Ian mumbled prior to hanging up.

Sam set down the phone. Turning back to the window, he pictured a roaring fire ablaze in the huge stone hearth of his family home. The old timber house had been built by his father and grandfather shortly before his mom and dad married. Although his dad had continued to expand the house, the original structure was still intact and well-cared for. He couldn’t help but wonder whether the familiar landscape would be good for his mom or not. He had no doubt she would love being surrounded by her things again, but with those possessions also came memories of the man she’d loved and lost. Hell, it had been nearly eight years since his dad’s untimely death, and Sam still hadn’t dealt with his feelings of loss. Maybe that was the problem. What if I’m incapable of processing real emotions?

Paula, one of the paralegals at the firm, knocked on his open door. “I have the research on the Young case if you have time to go over it?”

Shit. Sam shook his head. “Sorry, Paula. I need to see if Mr. Chessler is available. I have to take a short leave of absence, so the Young case will probably be reassigned.”

The pretty young woman bit her lower lip. “Your mom?”

“Yeah.” It had been hard for Sam to keep the news of his mother’s failing health from the people he worked closest with, so he didn’t begrudge the question. “I want to take her home for the holidays.”

“That’s nice,” Paula said.

Maybe. Sam wasn’t so sure. He opened his bottom desk drawer and removed a small wrapped box. “In case I don’t see you before I leave, I bought you a little something for Christmas.”

Paula readjusted the stack of files in her arms before taking the present. “Thank you, but you know you didn’t have to do that.”

“Yeah, I did, and we both know it. You’ve saved me hours of work lately, and I wanted you to know I appreciate it.”

“Should I open it now?” Paula asked.

Sam shook his head. He’d always been uneasy when it came to buying gifts for women. Other than his mom, he simply didn’t know enough about them to be able to understand what type of presents they would enjoy. He’d ended up getting Paula a designer scarf because he’d noticed her wearing one on several occasions. “Not necessary.”

Paula put the thin box on top of her files. “Well, thank you, and I hope your visit home goes well.”

“Me, too,” Sam replied.

* * * *

As Gloria slept peacefully on the opposite side of the room, Ian quietly packed a small suitcase for her. When Sam had moved her to Miami, he had intentionally left most of her clothes behind, which meant she would have plenty of warm pants and sweaters on hand once she arrived home.

Ian heard the front door open and close as he finished packing Gloria’s favorite nightgowns. He glanced at his watch before sitting the suitcase just inside the closet. Sam was later than usual. Ian hadn’t mentioned their trip to Gloria because he felt Sam should have the pleasure of watching the older woman’s face light up with joy, but she hadn’t been able to stay awake for that to happen. He made his way down the hallway of the impressive penthouse toward the sounds coming from the kitchen.

Sam was standing with his hands braced on the kitchen island and his head bent low to stare at the gleaming surface.

Ian couldn’t believe how tired Sam looked. “Rough day?”

Sam lifted his head. “Yeah. Things didn’t go well when I told my boss that I needed to take some time off. He suggested I go home and think about my future with the firm.”

Ian opened the warming oven and removed the plate he’d prepared for Sam earlier. “That sucks.” He set the food in front of Sam. “What’re you going to do?”

Sam shrugged. “I don’t know. Other than taking that Friday off to move Mom here, I haven’t had a single vacation in almost two years. My contract says I’m entitled to three weeks a year, so, by my estimate, they owe me at least six weeks. If I wanted to be a bastard about it, I could file for Family Leave with human resources and take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave without the firm firing me.”

“Why would that make you a bastard? That law was put into place for a reason.” Ian pulled a beer out of the fridge. “You want one?”

Sam glanced at Ian before shaking his head. “I think I need something stronger.”

“Wine or bourbon?”

“Bourbon,” Sam replied. “If I file for leave, they won’t be able to fire me, but that doesn’t mean I’ll go unpunished for going against their wishes. Hell, I’ll probably be doing divorces and bankruptcies for the next three or four years.”

“You’re a good trial lawyer. If you’re not happy once you get back, look for another job.” Ian plopped four cubes of ice into a glass, followed by a double shot of bourbon.

Sam pushed his plate of food across the island before moving to slide onto one of the bar stools. “I appreciate the dinner.”

“I told you, I have to make it for me and Gloria anyway, so it’s no trouble fixing you a plate.” Ian hopped up to sit on the kitchen counter across from Sam. He’d noticed on more than one occasion that Sam got nervous if he sat too close. “Did you have a chance to call the airline or would you like me to do it?”

“My secretary handled it. We fly out first thing Thursday morning. That’ll give me tomorrow to reassign a few things and get my files in order.” Sam cut a piece of roast beef.

Ian watched as Sam’s mouth closed over the bite of food. His body heated at the simple action, taking his attention away from the subject at hand. How many nights had he lain in bed wondering what it would feel like to have that mouth wrapped around his cock? His dream had nearly come true a couple of months earlier, but Sam had called a halt to their passion just as things between them started to progress. Since that night, Sam had barely looked at him.

“Ian?” Sam prompted with another forkful of food poised in front of his mouth.

Ian blinked. “Yes?”

“Please don’t stare at me like that. I’ve already told you, I can’t get involved with you.”

“Right.” Ian jumped down from the counter. “So you know, I didn’t say anything to Gloria about the trip.” Beer bottle in hand, he headed out of the kitchen. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Ian?” Sam called.

“Yeah?”

“It’s nothing personal. It’s just not a good idea. My mom needs you too much for us to mess that up.”

Ian took a gulp of his beer. He wanted to tell Sam that what Gloria really needed was the attention of her only child, but it wasn’t his place. Sam was right about one thing, if the two of them got together and something went wrong, Ian would have no choice but to walk away from his job because he had already fallen in love with his employer. Instead of trying to answer, he gave Sam a sharp nod.

Ian made his way to his small bedroom. He’d phoned his sister earlier in the evening to let her know he’d be out of town for the holidays and to ask about his dad. Maria had seemed upset at the prospect of not seeing Ian for Christmas and had told him his nephews, Kyle and Patrick, would be especially upset when they heard the news. He’d promised to bring his nephews something special from Minnesota before, once again, asking about his father. Maria had confessed that not much had changed. Although the news that his father was still withdrawn and surly hadn’t surprised him, he felt bad for his big sister.

The death of Ian’s mother, Claudia, four years earlier had come as a shock to everyone who had known the active fifty-three-year-old. No one could have predicted the fatal brain aneurism that had taken Claudia’s life while her husband was at work. Certainly, no one in their family blamed Ian’s father, Joe, for his wife’s untimely death, but Joe had taken a shitload of guilt and piled it on himself. Joe had never been the kind of father who openly lavished affection on his children, but after Ian’s mom had passed away, Joe could barely spare a word of greeting for his two kids.

Ian finished his beer. He set the empty bottle on the television stand before pulling his suitcase out from under his bed. He’d hoped to drop by and spend some time with his sister’s family, but it didn’t appear that that would happen. It would’ve done Sam some good to look after his mom for a few hours on Christmas Day. Ian hadn’t missed the way Sam shied away from caring for Gloria, and it may be an asshole move to force Sam into the situation, but Ian was certain it needed to be done.

Ian didn’t know for sure how much longer Gloria had on Earth, but he did know Sam had very little time left to come to terms with what was happening to her. Ian would have given anything for a few more minutes with his mom to say goodbye, and he didn’t want Sam to miss out on that gift.

Following his normal routine, he nabbed a fresh pair of pajama bottoms out of his drawer. With his bedroom next door to Sam’s, it was the only time of day he could touch himself without fear of being overheard.

Wandering down the hall, he stopped just outside Gloria’s open door. Sam, with his hands in his pockets, stared down at his mom.

“Everything okay?” Ian hadn’t heard Gloria wake up through the monitor he kept beside his bed, but anything was possible.

Sam glanced over his shoulder. “She’s fine. I was just checking on her before turning in for the night.” His gaze went to the bundle of green plaid material in Ian’s hand. “You taking a shower?”

Ian nodded.

“I’m sorry about earlier.” Sam turned away from Gloria. “I’ve got a lot on my mind right now, and I know I don’t always handle things with a lot of tact.”

“You’re fine.” No matter how much it hurt, Ian didn’t begrudge Sam’s decision to keep things platonic between them. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

“I’ll probably go in early, so if I miss you, I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

“Okay,” Ian mumbled as he turned back toward the bathroom. On average, he spent less than an hour in Sam’s company each day. He still had no idea how the hell he was going to spend full days with him once they arrived in Minnesota.

Once Ian had made it to the bathroom, he stared down at his betraying erection. “Something tells me this situation is only going to get worse.”