Ellora’s Cave, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4199-1057-9
Contemporary Erotica, 2007
Today he was going to lay her to rest. It was the reason he’d come here. The compulsion to look at this house was a bit like visiting her grave. This was the last place he’d seen her. For him, the future as he knew it had ended here. He needed to let it rest here.
He’d only had her for little more than a spring. She appeared in his world in late January, disappearing from it in early July. One golden spring when his life had been complete. In the arrogance of youth, they hadn’t been aware the relationship consuming them was the rarest of gifts. A pure expression of a dominant and his woman. She’d created hungers in him that he’d planned on exploring for a lifetime. His perfect, precious Jill. Freely, she’d given him her soul and the price had only been his life. Then she was gone as abruptly as she’d arrived in his world.
When he pulled up to this house that evening, he could feel its emptiness even before he stepped out of the old pickup. Walking up the short path was a baffling pain he couldn’t understand. The house was dark when there should have been lights smiling at him through the windows, not shadows that faded to blackness. Some part of him had known her soul was not here anymore. He hadn’t knocked, just kicked the door in. He’d wanted to believe he was panicking because he sensed danger. Not because he sensed nothing at all.
There were bits of her and her father everywhere but empty closets were as final as a suicide with no note explaining why. Eventually he had to accept that they were gone and he didn’t even have the closure of a “goodbye” to hang his grief on. He’d never known silence could be vicious.
He’d shaped himself into the king of the gladiators as ruthlessly as any man who’d walked the blood-soaked dirt in the original Coliseum. Holdin had poured out his soul on a thousand fields of honor and still she’d not come back.
He couldn’t convince himself that she was dead. Her spirit still walked this earth or he’d have felt her leave. Their connection was that strong. But it was time she was dead to him. He had to find the strength to let her go. For fifteen years he had battled this moment. Now that it was here, the pain filled him with a darkness he couldn’t fight his way past.
Watching the children play, Holdin’s big body shuddered as he let soul-wrenching sorrow wash through him. What would their children have looked like? He turned away from the thought as it sliced a new piece of his soul off into the abyss. His future was not her future. It never had been.
I’m starting to suspect that Gail Faulkner must have listened one too many times to the original soundtrack of Titanic while she was writing In His Keeping.
There is nothing wrong if Ms Faulkner fancies herself the literary equivalent of a James Horner epic theme, but such grandeur is probably best for fantasy stories or medieval romances where such high melodrama will be right at home. In a contemporary story featuring two twits who broke up just as he moved on to become a professional football player and are now reconnecting again, BDSM-lite style, such melodrama is laughably out of place. At the end of the day, I’m glad that Holdin Powell and Jill get to reconnect and he gets to meet their kid Drifter – yes, his name is Drifter, the poor kid – but an entire novel of such overwrought prose is too much for me.
“My father was a bad guy on the run from worse guys. That’s why we moved around like we did. When I walked in the door after the Fourth of July fireworks show, he already had the car packed. We had to leave. I didn’t want to but I was terrified. Nineteen exhausting hours later and two states away, we had an accident. The car flipped and burned with my father in it.
“By the time rescue people got there I was the only person to take to the hospital. I was in a coma for fourteen days. There was no identification on me, the car and everything in it had burned. The car’s VIN number showed it was a stolen vehicle from New Orleans. No one had any way to figure out who I was. The only thing they had to go on was the necklace I was wearing with the name Jill spelled out in the charm. Also, I was pregnant.” Jill’s hand went to the neckline of her T-shirt and she smiled softly as her fingers traced the charm beneath the cloth.
Jill continued. “I woke with no memories. Everyone expected my memories to come back at some point but they didn’t. I wanted to keep my baby so the kind people at the hospital made my approximate age eighteen and put me in a program the city had for inner-city pregnant teens. Since I had no previous identity, I had to get a GED in the months before Drifter was born and qualified for technical education. I became a dental hygienist, a success story for the program and its funding.”
See what I mean? Who talks like that in real life?