Malcolm Harding yearns for freedom, for the ability to make his own choices and even his own mistakes. Instead, he’s forced to give up college to care for his mother in her secluded home in the windswept California town of Cambria. Miriam’s mind is slipping into the abyss of Alzheimer’s, and she’s becoming increasingly unpredictable and violent. Unfortunately, under the terms of his father’s will, Malcolm cannot institutionalize her or place her in assisted living.
Yet something else keeps him with Miriam—he is desperate to learn the fate of the three beloved horses he left in her care during his one and only college year. But Miriam can’t, or won’t, tell him what she did with them. She calls Malcolm a beast and seems intent on crushing his spirit, if not his mind and body as well.
Gilby McCall is a personal chef with the unusual job of preparing meals for an Orthodox Jewish couple. But soon the work becomes intense and alarming when they pile extra duties on him. When he is suddenly fired, Gilby accepts an invitation to take part in a cooking contest in Las Vegas. Before he leaves, however, Fate brings him to Cambria, where he meets the handsome, mysterious Malcolm Harding.
Although both men clearly have secrets and personal problems to overcome, they are strangely drawn to one another. Yet before they can explore the possibility of a romantic relationship, sinister forces intervene, revealing the beasts hidden deep within themselves...
“You’re kidnapping me.”
Malcolm Harding gripped the wheel of his trusty Prius. God. It was going to be one of those days.
“No, Mom. I’m not. I’m taking you to the hairdresser’s.”
“No, you’re not. You’re kidnapping me!” Miriam Harding reached across the small space between them and grabbed the steering wheel.
“Mom, please!” He tried to steady the vehicle and narrowly missed hitting a car coming from the opposite direction on icy Moonstone Beach Road. The other driver honked him.
Malcolm panicked. The early winter mornings were dangerous for drivers in the Northern California seaside town of Cambria. He took his foot off the brake so he wouldn’t go into a full-scale skid. His mother kept slapping at his arms and face. Not for the first time in his life, Malcolm was afraid of her. She’d accused him of many things, but this time she was out of control.
She jabbed fingers at the dashboard, and the radio suddenly blared. Of all the stations and songs to come on, it just had to be Kost’s nonstop Christmas music that started each year on November 15.
“Oh the weather outside is frightful,” Bing Crosby warbled.
Malcolm turned off the radio. It wasn’t exactly cozy and warm inside the car, either.
Miriam punched at the horn, a frenzied look on her face. He managed to loosen her grip, but somehow she got hold of the wheel again. The Prius swerved and skidded. Malcolm’s mouth fell open in a frozen scream of horror as he almost careened into a senior citizen’s day care van. The other driver honked at him as he veered sharply, almost going over the soft shoulder of the narrow road and heading right into the ocean…