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These letters are often all that get me through week to week. Even if it’s just random
stuff, nothing important, they’re important to me. Gramps is great, and I love
working on the ranch. But…I’m lonely. I feel disconnected, like I’m no one, like I
don’t belong anywhere. Like I’m just here until something else happens. I don’t even
know what I want with my future. But your letters, they make me feel connected to
something, to someone. I had a crush on you, when we first met. I thought you were
beautiful. So beautiful. It was hard to think of anything else. Then camp ended and
we never got together, and now all I have of you is these letters. S**t. I just told you I
have a crush on you. HAD. Had a crush. Not sure what is anymore. A letter-crush? A
literary love? That’s stupid. Sorry. I just have this rule with myself that I never throw
away what I write and I always send it, so hopefully this doesn’t weird you out too
much. I had a dream about you too. Same kind of thing. Us, in the darkness, together.
Just us. And it was like you said, a memory turned into a dream, but a memory of
something that’s never happened, but in the dream it felt so real, and it was more,
I don’t even know, more RIGHT than anything I’ve ever felt, in life or in dreams. I
wonder what it means that we both had the same dream about each other. Maybe
nothing, maybe everything. You tell me.
We’re pen pals. Maybe that’s all we’ll ever be. I don’t know. If we met IRL (in real
life, in case you’re not familiar with the term) what would happen? And just FYI,
the term you used, a literary love? It was beautiful. So beautiful. That term means
something, between us now. We are literary loves. Lovers? I do love you, in some
strange way. Knowing about you, in these letters, knowing your hurt and your joys,
it means something so important to me, that I just can’t describe. I need your art,
and your letters, and your literary love. If we never have anything else between us,
I need this. I do. Maybe this letter will only complicate things, but like you I have
a rule that I never erase or throw away what I’ve written and I always send it, no
matter what I write in the letter.
It’s always the hands that mess me up. I can never get the fingers right, somehow.
It’s something about the proportions between the knuckles, and the way the
fingers are supposed to curve when at rest. I had an entire sketchbook full of failed
Even at that moment, in the passenger seat of Dad’s F-350, I was sketching out
another attempt. My tenth so far, and we weren’t even to Grayling yet. This one was
the best yet, but the middle knuckles of the last two fingers looked awkward, like
they’d been broken.
Which gave me idea. I glanced over at Dad, who was driving with his left hand,
the right resting on his thigh, fingers tapping to Montgomery Gentry on the
“Dad?” A sideways glance and a raised eyebrow were the only acknowledgement I
got. “You ever broke your fingers?”
“Yeah, broke most of my left hand, matter of fact.” Dad took the wheel with his
right and showed me his left hand. The knuckles were bulbous, the fingers crooked.
“Didn’t get ’em set right, so they’ve always been kinda fucked up.”
The fingers in question scratched at a shaved scalp, the stubble of a receding
hairline whisking under his nails. “Me and your Uncle Gerry were out in the back
forty, riding the fence line, checking for breaks. My horse got spooked by a snake.
He threw me, ‘cept my hand was tangled in the reins. Dislocated most of my fingers.
Then, when I hit the ground, his hoof landed on the same hand, broke the middle
two pretty good. Your Gramps is a hardass, and I knew he’d wallop me good if I
came back without the job done. So I set the broke fingers best I could. There was a
busted fence post, see, way out at the far corner, and Dad’s prize Thoroughbred kept
getting out. Gerry and I fixed the break and went home. I never told Dad about my
fingers, just had my mom wrap ’em for me. Never really healed right, and even now
when the weather’s shitty my hand aches.”
I’d heard the stories of my father’s childhood growing up on the Wyoming horse
ranch that had been in the Monroe family for several generations. Every summer
of my entire life had been spent on that ranch, riding and roping and tagging and
birthing and breaking. Gramps didn’t accept excuses and didn’t tolerate weakness
or mistakes, and I could only begin to imagine what it had been like growing up with
Connor Monroe as a father.
Gramps was a tall, silver-haired, iron-hard man. He’d served in both Korea and
Vietnam before returning to work the ranch. Even as his grandson, I was expected
to pull my weight or go home. That meant up before dawn, to bed past sunset, the
entire day spent out in the field or in the stables, rarely even sitting for lunch. At
fourteen, I was tanned, muscled, and, I knew, hardened to the point of looking older
than I really was.
Dad had been the first Monroe son to pursue a career away from the ranch, which
had caused a decades-long rift between him and Gramps, leaving Uncle Gerry to take
over running the ranch as Gramps got older. Dad left Wyoming after high school,
moving to Detroit on his own to become an engineer. He’d started on the floor of a
Ford plant, assembling truck frames and attending night school until he’d completed
his degree, and eventually he’d been promoted to the engineering department,
where he’d worked for the last twenty years. Despite his decades as an engineer,
Dad had never really lost the wild-edged intensity of his upbringing.
“Why the questions about my fingers?” he asked.
I shrugged, tilted the drawing into his line of sight. “I can’t get these damn fingers to
look right. The last two look messed up, and I can’t fix it. So I thought I’d make ’em
look broken, on purpose.”
Dad glanced at the drawing and then nodded. “Good plan. The relationship between
your angles and curves is off, is your problem. I’m more of a draftsman than an
artist, but that’s my two cents.”
I made a surreptitious study of Dad’s broken fingers again, adjusted the knuckles on
the pencil-rendered hand, making them look misshapen and lumpy, then worked on
the tips of the last two fingers, curving them slightly to the left, zigzagging the fourth
finger to resemble Dad’s. When I was done, I held up the drawing to show him.
Dad cut his eyes to the drawing and back to road several times, examining critically.
“Good. Best one yet. The index finger still looks a little goofy, but otherwise good.”
He punched a button on the truck’s radio, bypassing the commercial that was airing
in favor of a classic rock station. He turned it up when Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”
came on. “I think this summer art camp will be good for you. Interlochen is one of
the best art schools in the country.”
I shrugged, bobbing my head to the beat, mumbling along with the lyrics. “It’s weird
to not be going to the ranch.”
“Gramps’ll miss your help this summer, that’s for sure.”
“Will he be mad at me for not going?”
Dad shrugged. “He’s Gramps. He’s always mad about something or at somebody.
Somethin’ to stew on gives him reason to get up in the morning, I think. He’ll get
“He didn’t get over you moving to Detroit,” I said, spinning my pencil between his
“True. But that’s different. Every Monroe boy since before the Civil War has lived
and died on the ranch. I broke a family tradition going back a hundred and fifty
Conversation faded after that, and I watched the road and the corn fields and the
blue sky spotted by puffs of white, listening to Jimi Hendrix singing “Purple Haze”
and twist the guitar strings into shrieking banshees. I-75 eventually was replaced
by M-72, and I felt myself nodding off. A while later, I blinked awake and Grand
Traverse Bay sparkled off to the left, a dozen sails flashing white in the distance.
“Thought we were going to Interlochen?” I asked, rubbing my eyes. The bay was
“No rush. Thought we’d grab some lunch before I drop you off. Ain’t gonna see you
for a while, you know.”
We ate at Don’s Drive-In, a retro burgers-fries-and-milkshakes kind of place, small
and cramped, red plastic-leather booths, chrome table edges, and black-and-white
checkered tiles on the walls. We didn’t talk much, but then we rarely did. Dad was
a reserved man, and I’m a lot like him. I was content to eat my burger and sip my
shake, worrying internally about spending an entire summer around a bunch of
artsy kids I didn’t know. I’d grown up around silent, hard-bitten cowboys, men who
chewed tobacco and swore and could—and often did—go days without much more
than a grunt or two. I knew I was a talented artist, as capable with pens and pencils
as with paint. What I wasn’t good with was people.
“Don’t be nervous, son,” Dad said, apparently reading my mind. “Folks are folks, and
they’ll either cotton to you or they won’t. That was my mom’s advice to me when
I left for Detroit. Just be you. Don’t try to impress anyone. Let your work stand for
“This isn’t like school,” I said, dragging a fry through ketchup. “I know where I fit
there: alone in the corner, with my notebook. I know where I belong on Gramps’s
ranch. I know where I belong at home. I don’t know where I belong at an arts
“Wherever you are is where you belong. You’re a Monroe, Caden. That may not
mean shit to anyone else, but it should mean something to you.”
“Well, there you go.” Dad wiped his fingers with a napkin and sat back. “Look, I get it.
I grew up surrounded by thousands of acres of open land, all hills and horses, rarely
seeing anyone but Mom and Dad, Gerry, and the other hands. Even school was the
same kids from kindergarten to graduation. I knew everybody in my world, and they
knew me. When I moved to Detroit it was scary as hell. Suddenly I was surrounded
by all these buildings and thousands of people who didn’t know me or give a shit
about whether I made it or not.”
“That’s cause most people don’t make a damn lick of sense, if you ask me. Women
especially. Trick with women is to not try and figure them out. You won’t. Just
accept ’em as they are, and try to go with the flow. Good advice for life in general,
Dad let out a rare laugh, but I didn’t miss the way the corners of his eyes tightened.
Things had been strange and tense around the house lately, but neither Mom nor
Dad was the type to talk about what was bugging them. “I’ve known your mother
for twenty-five years,” he said, “and been married to her for twenty-two. And no, I
still don’t understand her. I know her, I get her, but I don’t always understand the
way her mind works, how she comes up with ideas or arrives at her conclusions or
why she changes her mind so goddamn much. Makes my head spin, but that’s how
women are and that’s how she is and I love her for it.”
All too soon, Dad was paying the bill and the truck doors were slamming and we
were hauling down US-31 toward Interlochen. The ride was quick, and then Dad
was parking and unstrapping my duffel bag from the bed of the truck and handing it
to me. We stood toe to toe, neither of us speaking or moving.
Dad pointed to the rows of tiny wooden cabins. “That’s the cabins. You know which
one you’re in? ”
“Alright then. Well, guess I’ll be going. Gonna be a long drive without you snoring in
the passenger seat.”
“You’re just turning right back around and driving home?” I asked, then immediately
hated how childish and whiny that had sounded.
Dad lifted an eyebrow in reproach. “You’re here for three weeks, Cade. You expect
me to sit on the beach and twiddle my thumbs for a month? Your mom needs me
home, and I’ve got projects to finish at work.”
I felt the question bubbling up, coming out, and couldn’t stop it from emerging. “Is—
is everything okay? With you and mom?”
Dad closed his eyes briefly, breathed in slowly and let it out, then met my eyes.
“We’ll talk when you get home. Nothing for you to worry about right now.”
That sounded oddly like an evasion, which was entirely out of character for my
gruff, straight-talking father. “I just feel like things are—”
“It’s fine, Caden. Just focus on having fun, meeting new people, and learning. Keep
in mind that this is three weeks out of your entire life, and you don’t ever have to
see these people again.” Dad stuck his left hand into his hip pocket and wrapped his
right arm awkwardly around my shoulders. “I love you, son. Have a good time. Don’t
forget to call at least once, or your mom’ll have a hairy conniption.”
I returned the embrace with one arm. “Love you too. Drive safe.”
Dad nodded and turned back toward his truck, then stopped and dug into his back
pocket. He pulled out a folded square of $20 bills and handed them to me. “Just in
“I’ve been saving my allowance,” I said. Dad always expected me to earn money,
never gave it for free.
I stuffed the money into my hip pocket and shifted my weight. “Thanks.”
“Bye.” I waved once, and watched Dad drive away.
I’d spent months at a time away from my parents, lived on Gramps’s ranch for
months at a time. Goodbye was nothing new. So why did this one feel so unsettling?
Promo Tour tomorrow to read Ever’s POV
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jasinda
Wilder is a Michigan native with a penchant for titillating tales about sexy men
and strong women. When she’s not writing, she’s probably shopping, baking, or
Some of her favorite authors include Nora Roberts, JR Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon,
Liliana Hart and Bella Andre.
She loves to travel and some of her favorite vacations spots are Las Vegas, New York
City and Toledo, Ohio.
You can often find Jasinda drinking sweet red wine with frozen berries and eating a
Jasinda is represented by Kristin
Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency.