A tomcat, a psychopath, and a psychic walk into the desert to rescue the men they love…. Can everybody make it out with their skin intact?
PI Jackson Rivers and Defense Attorney Ellery Cramer have barely recovered from last November, when stopping a serial killer nearly destroyed Jackson in both body and spirit.
But their previous investigation poked a new danger with a stick, forcing Jackson and Ellery to leave town so they can meet the snake in its den.
Jackson Rivers grew up with the mean streets as a classroom and he learned a long time ago not to give a damn about his own life. But he gets a whole new education when the enemy takes Ellery. The man who pulled his shattered pieces from darkness and stitched them back together again is in trouble, and Jackson’s only chance to save him rests in the hands of fragile allies he barely knows.
It’s going to take a little bit of luck to get these Few Good Fish out alive!
“Sh….” Ellery slicked his hair back from his face and whispered to him as he collapsed limply, Ellery’s long limbs sheltering him from the cold outside their little bed.
“Sorry,” Jackson said, blinking hard, irritated at himself for losing sight of his plan. He was supposed to keep control, dammit. He was supposed to blow Ellery’s mind, not get swept away in the sexual tide himself!
“For what?” Ellery asked tenderly.
“Was trying to make it holy,” Jackson told him, lost enough to tell the truth.
Ellery struggled out from under him, pushing Jackson to his side while Ellery rolled over to face him. “Tell me this wasn’t!” he demanded.
Jackson grimaced. “Do you have to?” he asked. “I mean, if our sex is holy and shit, doesn’t that mean you don’t have to go?”
“Nobody is holding a gun to my head! Goddammit, Jackson, do you not get why I have to do this?”
“Aren’t you too late to go this week?” Jackson asked hopefully.
Ellery laughed, grim satisfaction in every syllable. “I set the alarm early so we could have breakfast.” He glanced over his shoulder. “And you know what? We still can.”
Jackson grimaced. Dammit. “But….”
Ellery’s expression softened, and he reached out to brush Jackson’s cheekbone with his fingertips. “Baby, why does this bother you so much?”
Jackson scowled. “Because if you’re thanking God for me, God’s going to show you what a mistake that is, and I like it here.”
With a groan and a heave, Ellery rolled off the bed. “There is no talking to you about this! Now get in the shower, and I’ll make pancakes. And no! You can’t wear jeans!”
“But you said I didn’t have to get out of the car!” Jackson hollered, finding a clean set of boxers in the dresser Ellery had set aside for him.
“I lied! You at least have to visit the outside, dammit!” Ellery grabbed his sleep pants and his sweatshirt from the folds of the covers and started dragging them on.
“But won’t I burst into fire?” Jackson asked, only partially kidding. His past… oh God. His past wasn’t checkered, it was chicken-pocked! “I mean, won’t you get kicked out and excommunicated if you show up with me next to you?”
“No, Jackson, they’ve got a big ol’ reformed-slut alarm that sounds as soon as you step foot on the ground, and then a force field shoots up, separating us and catapulting you to purgatory for the length of the service. After your first six visits, they give you the option of walking there on your own while a sorcerer whispers arcane words and tries to set me up with a doctor, because that’s just how Jews roll.”
Jackson stared at him, cheeks flushed with color, fine brown eyes sparkling with righteous anger, and like it usually did, the thing in his chest melted into a gooey little puddle.
“I can see your sarcasm is functioning well this morning. Isn’t that going to taint the pancakes?”
Ellery struggled to keep his mouth firm. “I can make my pancakes both strawberry and sarcastic. But if you want whipped cream, you’re going to have to shut up, get dressed, and let me have this. Understand?”
Jackson let out a sigh. “If I see anybody there in jeans, I’m not wearing slacks next time.”
“That, too, is understood.”
“And if anybody gives you shit about the gay—”
“We shall find a temple that has no shits to give. Also understood.”
“If you find someone there who’s better than me….” He scowled and stared at the picture of them Ellery had put up on the end table, Jackson looking uncomfortable in his best dinnerwear and Ellery smiling charmingly for his father, who was perhaps the dearest man Jackson had ever met. The picture had been taken outside Ellery’s parents’ house in Boston over Thanksgiving, and while Jackson could say for certain it had been a good time, every single memory he had seemed to be tempered with the stomach-churning anxiety he was dealing with now.
An Ellery Cramer and a Jackson Rivers did not make sense in any way, shape, or form. The longer they were together, the more Jackson looked for the chapped, palsied hand of fate to try to rip them apart. And every time Ellery said he was being ridiculous, Jackson had to walk away, because the fact was, he had almost died—twice—since the two of them had gotten together in the summer.
If that wasn’t God trying to tell Jackson the facts of life, Jackson didn’t know what was.
So Ellery going to temple out of some sort of weird deal he’d made with the big guy—on the one hand, it never hurt to suck up to the person in charge.
On the other hand, Jackson was a fan of the old Irish saying “May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.”
In this case, he would just as soon nobody, God or devil, even knew he was on the planet. He’d had forces bigger than he was meddle in his life, and he had the layers of scar tissue to show he’d barely survived.
“If I find somebody who’s better than you,” Ellery snapped, bringing him to the present, “I’m not the one he’ll be hitting on.”
Jackson scowled at him. “You’re being stupid.”
Ellery’s thin lips curled up into a smile. “So are you.”
“Fine. Fine, I’ll go. I’ll even be a grown-up. But Ellery, those had better be some damned good pancakes.”
Ellery rolled his eyes and grabbed his robe, swanning out for his exit, singing “My pancakes bring all the boys to the yard…” as he went.
After he left the room, Jackson allowed himself a fond smile. God, he really was being ridiculous. Who over the age of twelve pitched this big a fit over church, or temple, or whatever?
But as he jumped in the shower and started to wash, he just couldn’t shake the unease that knotted in his stomach.
For much of his life, things like food, shelter, basic safety—things Ellery had taken for granted every day of his life—had been dreams to Jackson Rivers. Now, living with Ellery in his posh American River Drive house with cavernous rooms and real wood floors, Jackson had food and shelter and, God help him, emotional safety on a daily basis.
He was just waiting for God to stop helping him and rip it all away.
But Ellery seemed to think Jackson was worth keeping. Jackson wasn’t going to dissuade him, because frankly, that hadn’t worked at the beginning of their relationship, and after what had gone down before Thanksgiving, it certainly wasn’t going to happen now.
A few lines from Fish Out of Water explains it best…
Very slowly, he turned his head and saw that Ellery’s mother was pushing the red button on his morphine drip, and he smiled dopily at her.
“You’re not supposed to do that,” he said, knowing his eyes were at half-mast and not caring.
“Darling, what use is being shot if you’re not stoned to the fucking gills?”
There was something very wrong with this woman. Something amok. But Jackson was out of pain and—
“Ellery…,” he mumbled. “Don’t let him get shot.”
She stood over his bed and smoothed back his hair, much like her son had. “Sweet,” she said, as though he’d argued with her. “My family doesn’t much do sweetness. I think this is a good trait in someone marrying in.”
“You’re evil,” he said. “Pure Satan.” And then he giggled, because hey! Who didn’t need six or eight doses of morphine at the same time? “No bullets for Ellery.”
“Darling,” she purred, “why should you get all the fun?”
“Wha’s your name?” It seemed like he needed a better one than Satan.
“Taylor,” she told him, raising a sculpted eyebrow.
“Imma call you Moostifer. Boosimer. Lucy in the Satan tree with diamonds!”
She laughed then, and her image went all red with little horns and a pointed tail and a goatee.
Then it split into a thousand different pictures of Ellery’s mother, Lucy Satan, laughing her ass off.
And then he fell asleep.
When he woke up, evening was lowering. Lucy Satan was stretched out daintily, dozing on a cot, her ankles crossed above her unshod feet and three or four pillows under her head.
Alex was fixing Jackson’s medication.
“Whoo, boy,” Alex said, seeing him waking up. “Someone sure did want you out of it. I don’t even think you can reach the button.”
“It’s her,” Jackson said sourly. “Lucy Satan. She’s evil.”
“Mrs. Cramer? She’s an angel!”
In the first book of Fish Out of Water, we are introduced to Ellery Cramer’s mother.
She is… formidable.
Jackson—who is very comfortable with strong women—is not comfortable at all with mothers.
His own mother was a complete and total loss. His second mother—Jade and Kaden Cameron’s mother, who took him in and helped him survive adolescence and taught him about family—lived just long enough for him to venerate her, placing her on a pedestal and no other woman could compare.
Ellery Cramer’s mother—for all her money and her different circumstance—is very much like Toni Cameron.
She is practical, smart, mercilessly exacting when it comes to the behavior of the people she loves, and ruthless about protecting anybody coming into her family circle.
Jackson is terrified of her.
By the time book three rolls around, her identity as Lucy Satan is firmly established. She’s listed under Lucy Satan in Jackson’s phone, and when he particularly wants to get under Ellery’s skin he calls her that to Ellery’s face. (“My mother’s name is Taylor!”)
But the minute things go wrong, she’s the first person on the call list.
I gave her big shoes to fill—Toni Cameron is Jackson Rivers’s ideal, and to make matters harder, Toni has passed on. There’s no time to examine her for faults and defects (as we often do to our parents in our twenties and thirties) and come to the conclusion that everybody is human and even the ideal parent is going to have some glitches.
So it’s important that she lives up to Toni Cameron’s memory—and that, when we see her be human, and Jackson, bless his broken little heart, has to realize that he still loves this woman like the mother he deserved, even when she’s not perfect.
And Taylor, Goddess love her, is just fine being larger than life.
In fact she’s ready to embrace her role in Jackson’s life with all the power at her command.
“Do you have backup?” she asked sharply.
“Getting some now,” he said. “Guy who got taken with him has a friend in special ops. Going to contact him, make a plan—”
“Not alone,” she snapped. “You are not to go in alone—”
“Mrs. Cramer….” And to his horror, in front of Sonny, his voice broke. “I gotta get him back. You know that—”
“Not alone, Jackson. Is that understood?”
“We’ll get him back, ma’am,” he rasped. “I promise.”
“Unless my son is dead, you are to call me Lucy fucking Satan, do you understand? And even then, calling me Mrs. Cramer is right out.”
Mother, knitter, author, wife, fur-baby wrangler, dreamer–Award winning writer Amy Lane writes romance because the voices in her head are real and she wants them to be happy at the end.