Dorran is finally getting over finding a dead body, getting shot, and having to share his apartment with a ghost. So of course, things start going wonky. Dorran and Eli’s relationship hits a rough patch when Eli refused to let Dorran see his apartment, Francis the ghost is getting cheekier and stronger, and even worse, Dorran’s brother is arrested for killing his pregnant girlfriend. Dorran has no intention of sticking his nose into the investigation—except that’s exactly what he ends up doing.
The sheriff in charge of the investigation has already pegged Chris as guilty, and he’s not going to look any further, so it’s not Dorran’s fault if he has to do the man’s job for him, right? With a recalcitrant Eli and some help from Francis, Dorran starts looking for the real murderer. What’s the sheriff hiding? And what on earth is happening with Francis suddenly being visible?
Chris’ life is in danger, and Dorran isn’t going to let his brother pay for a crime he didn’t commit.
Dorran sighed and stared at the kitchen sink. The pile of dirty dishes in it was higher than the last time he’d visited, although he supposed he should be grateful. It meant his mom was eating, right? She’d looked thinner when she’d opened the door earlier, but maybe Dorran hadn’t seen her well. He did tend to avoid her when she was drunk, which was most of the time.
“God, this place is a mess,” Bettany said. She pushed back a strand of hair that had escaped her tight bun and glared at the kitchen.
“You can’t tell me you expected anything else.”
“Well, no, but I can’t help but hope every time.”
Dorran knew she wasn’t only talking about the state of the kitchen. He’d given up hope that their mom would sober up a long time ago, but Bettany hadn’t. Sometimes, he wished he could be more like her. Then he visited his mom, and he was glad he wasn’t. Hope hurt. He didn’t like hope. He tried not to let himself feel it, not for anything or anyone.
“I guess we should start,” he said, trying to distract himself.
Not everything was bad in his life. Actually, a lot of things were good. He had a job he liked, and while he’d never get rich, he was doing well enough. He had a boyfriend, the same boyfriend he’d been in love with since he was a kid. He and Eli had been apart for ten years, but now that they were together again, Dorran hoped it would be forever. Well, he didn’t hope it since he didn’t let himself do that, but he was pretty sure Eli wasn’t going back into the closet, and that was the only reason Dorran had broken up with him the first time around.
There was also the matter of sharing an apartment with a ghost, but Francis was usually well-behaved. He had the tendency of groping Dorran, and Dorran was pretty sure he liked to watch when he and Eli had sex, but he’d learned to make his peace with that.
But all of that became unimportant when Dorran had to deal with his mother.
He loved her, but at the same time, he didn’t. She’d always been a drinker, and he’d always felt it was somehow his fault. Not that she’d ever told him that, not in as many words. But he’d been a surprise baby, and from what he knew, his father hadn’t reacted well. He didn’t doubt his parents had already had their own problems, but his birth had turned things bitter for them, and the fact that his father had died meant his mother would never make her peace with him.
And that left Dorran feeling ambivalent about her and her alcoholism. He understood why she drank, but despised her for doing it. He hated having to deal with it, but he did it anyway because she was his mother and he felt he had to. There was no winning in this situation. He’d learned that a while ago.
Dorran closed his eyes at the sound of his mother’s voice. He and Bettany met once a month to clean up the apartment their mom lived in, but he knew Bettany saw her much more often. She was also the one who bought their mom food and made sure her bills were paid. So why was their mother calling him instead of Bettany?
“Go. I’ll start washing this stuff,” Bettany said. She was already rolling up her sleeves, and Dorran knew there would be no convincing her of going to see what their mom wanted in his place.
He sighed and went. If he didn’t, his mother would just start yelling louder.
She was in her recliner in the living room, exactly where she’d been when Dorran and Bettany had arrived. She wasn’t drinking—she knew better than to do that when they were there—but the room still stank of alcohol and cigarette smoke. Dorran wrinkled his nose and wished that opening the window would help, but he already knew it wouldn’t, and he didn’t want to have to listen to his mom whining that she was cold. “What?” he asked.
She looked up at him. “Christopher called me.”
It took Dorran a second to realize she was talking about his older brother. Christopher was going on forty-four by now, but Dorran hadn’t seen him in years. He’d always known Chris was uncomfortable with Dorran being gay, and he hated what their mother had become. He wasn’t surprised Chris had run, even though he wished he hadn’t. They were brothers, even though Chris was fifteen years older. The age difference meant they’d never been close, though, so Dorran wasn’t actually hurt by Chris’ disappearing act.
“You mean my brother?” he asked, just to be sure.
Dorran wasn’t sure what to believe. He wanted to trust his mom’s word, but he knew better. Besides, Chris had left in part because of her, so why would he call her out of the blue. “What did he want?” He might as well ask.
“He said he’s going to be a dad.”
Dorran managed to keep the snort in, but it was a close thing. Chris, a dad? Unless he’d changed a lot since the last time they’d seen each other—and Dorran supposed it was possible since it’d been ten years, give or take—there was no way Chris wanted to become a father. Dorran didn’t think he’d ever seen his brother with the same woman twice. Of course, that didn’t mean he hadn’t managed to get one of them pregnant, but if he had, Dorran couldn’t imagine him sticking around, much less calling their mother to tell them about it.
“That’s nice,” he said, picking up the empty bottles next to the recliner. God, he wished he could be anywhere but there.
“I already have grandkids.”