Four years ago, Mack Schwartz made a decision that would alter the course of his life. Little did he know that walking away from the man he loved was only the beginning of a downward spiral. Since then, he’s become nothing more than a puppet, his son Daniel at the helm, turning Mack’s life not only upside down, but inside out.
Against his better judgment, Jeff Endsley didn’t put up a fight when Mack walked away, although his absence left a gaping hole in Jeff’s life. Now that Daniel has convinced Mack to sell Moonshiners and leave Coyote Ridge behind, Jeff isn’t sitting back and letting him make the decisions anymore.
This book will definitely have your emotions all over the place, but the biggest one is rooting for Jeff and Mack. Such a great love story and all the heartache and heartwarming feelings are worth it.
Mack (Walkers of Coyote Ridge, 8) - prologue
Staring at his phone, Michael “Mack” Schwartz felt a cold chill slither down his spine. The kind caused by tragedy, loss, anything that resulted in emotional devastation.
Daniel: We need to talk. Today.
“Everything all right?”
Jerking his attention away from the cell, Mack looked up at Jeff, forced a smile. “Yeah. Of course.”
Mack could see the doubt, the concern in Jeff’s hazel eyes. It seemed to be there all the time now, and Mack wondered if he felt it, too. Something was about to happen, something that would change the course of their lives forever. Which, honestly, sucked major ass, because Mack was too damn old for this shit. Granted, age was merely a number, not a barometer. At fifty-two, he honestly felt as though he’d just started living his life.
Only shit had gone awry a couple of months ago, back when Mack had stupidly inquired about Alluring Indulgence Resort. He’d been curious, no reason to deny it. And his curiosity had turned out to be the sparks that would soon burn his world to the ground. Since that night at the resort, rumors had begun to spread through Coyote Ridge, rumors claiming Mack and Jeff were together, something they’d done well to hide for the three years they’d been dating.
It wasn’t that Mack gave a shit who knew, but he knew they had to keep it on the DL because Jeff was in the public eye, the sheriff of Coyote Ridge. It was an electable position, which meant Jeff had to appeal to the masses or he risked losing the career he’d worked so hard to establish. The thought of Jeff going down in those flames … it caused an ache Mack wasn’t sure he could deal with.
“Well, I’ll see you tonight,” Jeff said softly, stepping toward him.
Mack knew he was waiting for a kiss, so he reluctantly offered one because sending him off into the dangers of his job without it was like telling the man he didn’t care, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
After Jeff left for work, Mack locked up the man’s house, got in his truck, and headed for Moonshiners. For the first time in a damn long time, he dreaded the thought of going into work. Not only because he knew he would garner a few stares since people were now curious as to what he was doing behind closed doors, but more so because he knew he would have to deal with Daniel. Anytime his son demanded they talk, it never ended well. For the past thirteen years, their relationship had been on rocky ground. Ever since Daniel learned that Mack was gay, a secret Daniel’s mother had promised to keep. Not that Mack blamed her for telling the boy the truth. It wasn’t her fault even if she’d gone about it the wrong way. In a perfect world, Mack would’ve been the one to tell him.
But they all knew the world wasn’t perfect.
Not even close.
When Mack pulled into Moonshiners, the parking lot was empty as usual this early. He drove through the gravel lot and parked at the back, using the rear entrance to get inside. As he went through, flipping on the lights, his gut tightened into knots. He wanted to call Daniel, to tell the boy he didn’t have time to talk tonight, but it would’ve been a lie, and Mack had made a point not to lie to the kid. Not ever again.
He made a detour into the small office he rarely used, unlocked the safe, and retrieved the cash box he kept inside. He transferred some of the bills to the register he kept beneath the bar, then turned on the credit card machine so it would be ready for the customers once they came in. He was about to head to the stockroom to unload yesterday’s delivery when there was a pounding on the front door.
Dread made his stomach churn, but he forced his boots to carry him to the door. Using the key tethered to his belt loop, he unlocked the door, pushed it open. The glare of the setting sun backlit Daniel, casting his face in shadow as the boy stepped inside. Mack didn’t need to see his face to know he was angry. It was etched into the tense lines of his shoulders, the clenched fists at his sides.
“Hey,” Mack greeted softly, not bothering to lock the door behind him. He got the feeling Daniel wouldn’t be staying long.
Daniel spun around to face him. “Why’d you do it?”
Mack stopped, met Daniel’s blue stare. “Do what?”
“Make a mockery of yourself?”
The heat in his son’s words threatened to singe Mack’s beard, but he held his ground. “You’ll need to be more specific.”
“You think it’s funny that the whole town thinks you’re an abomination?”
Mack frowned, but his throat was too tight for any words to escape.
Daniel pivoted away from him, marched toward the bar only to stomp back toward him.
“I don’t even live here and I’m up to speed on the fact that you’re a laughingstock in this town. You and the sheriff, Dad? You just couldn’t help yourself, could you? Couldn’t simply keep that shit locked up tight. You had to go and let the world know.”
Mack’s shock turned to anger, but he held on to it. Daniel had every right to be angry with him.
“It ends now,” Daniel demanded, his eyes blazing with hatred. “If you want a relationship with me, this bullshit with the sheriff ends now. Tonight.”
Mack swallowed past the lump in his throat.
“You owe me this,” Daniel insisted. “You lied to me growing up, then I had to hear it from my mother. She didn’t bother to sugarcoat her thoughts on it, either, Dad. You’re an abomination. Soiled and dirty and you used her.”
Used her? Mack was confused. He’d never used Meredith. Granted, he’d done his best to love her, but he’d never been able to do it. Not because she wasn’t worthy but because … because Mack had always known deep down he couldn’t love a woman. He wasn’t built that way. And yes, he had failed her epically, but he’d done right by his son. Truth was, he loved Daniel more than he loved himself, and the only thing he’d ever wanted was for his son to be happy.
“If you don’t end it with him, you’ll never see me again,” Daniel seethed.
“Daniel, please don’t—”
“I mean it. End it with him so this town stops thinkin’ you’re some sort of deviant, Dad. You owe me that much.”
Inhaling deeply, Mack tried to relax even as his heart constricted in his chest. If he didn’t know better, he’d think he was having a heart attack. But this wasn’t a cardiac event that could be detected on a machine. After all, broken hearts couldn’t be seen on an X-ray or an MRI or whatever machine they used to check out that vital organ.
Daniel took a step closer, locked eyes with Mack. “Prove to me that I mean more to you than anyone else.”
“Okay,” he said softly.
Daniel’s eyes narrowed. “You’ll break it off with him?”
“Tonight. I don’t want to find out you’ve spent another night with him, understand?”
“But don’t think for a second this makes up for the hell you’ve put me through,” Daniel said, his voice rough with his anger.
“I don’t,” he assured his boy. “And I’m sorry.”
“You should be. But I promise, you’ll be making this up to me for a long damn time.”
It would be years before Mack truly understood how sincere Daniel was about that promise.