Love Bytes welcomes author Avon Gale who shares an Exclusive Excerpt of her new release “Whiskey Business”.
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: December 28, 2016
Ryder Waites will do anything to keep the tiny town of Gallows Grove, Kentucky, from vanishing off the map—even sell his family’s whiskey recipe to Bluegrass Bourbon in Lexington. Hopeful that the larger company can provide necessary improvements to the distillery, Ryder aims ultimately to get Gallows Grove on the Bourbon Trail… and bring in much-needed tourism revenue. But to keep producing Hanged Man Bourbon in Gallows Grove, he’ll have to convince company liaison, unbearably stuffy and seriously hot Adam Keller, that he’s worth the investment.
Adam comes from an old-money family, but he’s determined to make his own way in the world. When he’s sent to Gallows Grove, he questions the life choices that led him to a rented room in a funeral home in a town full of macabre-themed businesses. And he doesn’t know what to make of Ryder, the descendant of bootleggers who’s on a mission to save his strange town from extinction. When Adam and Ryder put aside their initial mistrust, the results are as smooth as good whiskey. But after Adam’s assignment ends, he’ll have to decide if small-town life and a future with Ryder is to his taste.
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“Mr. McCrae said something about a room in a funeral home,” Adam said, refusing to back down no matter how hot Ryder Waites happened to be. “Seems fitting in a town called Gallows Grove. I’m sure it will be fine.”
Those odd, mismatched eyes flicked briefly to Willy, who was standing behind Adam. Ryder wasn’t quite quick enough to stop the flare of annoyance, but he smoothed it over with admirable effort. “Should be. We don’t have a lot of people coming or going, so it’s not all that busy.”
Adam was absolutely not going to laugh at that. “Is it close to the distillery?” Probably a good idea to remind Ryder—and himself—why he was there. The distillery. Whiskey. Right.
“Ain’t nothin’ very far away from anything in Gallows Grove, but actually, the distillery is a mite bit of a drive. Why don’t you get your stuff, Mr. Keller, and I’ll show you where the room is? Willy, you’ll call the Mancys and tell ’em they’ve got a tenant won’t you?”
“Sure thing, Ryder.”
“Thanks. Then we can get on over to the distillery, since that’s why you’re here.” Ryder’s voice had the same singsong quality as Willy’s, but the heavier overlay was a drawl, Southern and Kentucky, and it made Adam hard in his suit pants. Fuck his life.
The funeral home was a white Victorian with a wraparound porch and lots of windows, gently lit from within, and a small, tasteful sign that said Ever After Funeral Home in the front. Adam stared for a moment at the sign—weren’t funeral homes generally named after families?—and shifted his bag on his shoulder. He was gripping his suitcase so tightly that his hand was beginning to cramp.
“The Mancys own this place, but they don’t live there. Used to be Janine Mancy lived here and took care of the house, but she died about six years ago.”
“Are you going to tell me she died in the funeral house?” Adam followed Ryder up the few steps onto the porch and tried to ignore the man’s ass in his skinny jeans. The interior of the funeral home was quiet and still, with just the faintest sound of a clock ticking. Adam frowned. A ticking clock in a funeral home seemed unnecessarily macabre. Or maybe it was just mean.
“No way. We don’t make anything that easy for anyone,” Ryder said, with a particular emphasis and a look at Adam, in case Adam was missing the not-subtle comparison. “She was on a vacation in Hilton Head. Died on the beach, reading a book.”
Adam smiled despite himself. “Not a bad way to go, I guess.”
“Definitely not. But she was a hell of a stubborn woman. Refused to even think about putting an elevator in this place, even though her room is up on the second floor and she was ninety if she were a day.” Ryder gave him a sly smile. “They say she still haunts the place. Hope you’re not afraid of ghosts.”
Adam gave a shrug. “I don’t believe in ghosts. Not sure I believe in this room either. Are you going to show me where it is, or were you of a mind to leave me a series of clues and see if I found it on my own?”
“My, Mr. Keller. You are a feisty one.” Ryder winked and started humming something that sounded like “My Old Kentucky Home” as he led Adam back to the kitchen. “You can use the kitchen down here, of course, and there’s a small living room off the main parlor with a television, but I don’t know if it works. And like I said, we don’t have a lot of funerals, so it shouldn’t be a problem while you’re here. But if it is… well, the whole town’ll be in attendance, so I don’t know what to tell you other than stay upstairs or make a casserole and join in the grievin’.”
Adam didn’t know if he was serious or not, so he didn’t respond. He followed Ryder up the back staircase. “Most of the rooms up here are used for storage.” Ryder paused in front of a closed door. “So, old Miss Mancy—that’s what we called her—she used to collect dolls.”
“She did not.” Adam crossed his arms over his chest. “I don’t believe you.”
Without a word Ryder leaned in and opened the door. The curtains were drawn, but there was enough light for Adam to see the pairs of eyes all arranged and staring at the door. He opened his mouth, closed it, and then snorted. “Wow.”
“Yeah.” Ryder closed it and shuddered. “Someone said she started doing it in case there were children at a funeral and they needed something to play with to take their minds off bein’ sad. But, well, if your choice is a dead body or a room full of dolls?”
It was very possible that Ryder Waites and his wacky town had set the whole thing up, but something told Adam it was all genuine. “Must be why they got that television.”
Ryder’s grin was crooked and—ugh—adorable. “Right. Anyway, there’s a bathroom up here, at the end of the hall. Here’s the room.”
Avon Gale was once the mayor on Foursquare of Jazzercise and Lollicup, which should tell you all you need to know about her as a person. She likes road trips, rock concerts, drinking Kentucky bourbon and yelling at hockey. She’s a displaced southerner living in a liberal midwestern college town, and she never gets tired of people and their stories — either real or the ones she makes up in her head.
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