Gilded Craving - Olivia Jaymes


Ryan Beck loved his family - his sister, his mother, his father. Hell, he even loved the current family dog, a laidback mutt named Chance that his mother had rescued from a shelter.

But loving his family didn't mean that he wasn't aware that he and his parents were extremely different people. They were a million miles apart in their worldviews so he'd always found it best to spend as little time as possible with them now that he was an adult. For the most part he managed fine, limiting contact to Christmas and maybe the Fourth of July.

His younger sister Liza, on the other hand, he loved spending time with, but as grown-ups with busy lives they didn't get to hang out with one another very often. It didn't help that they lived in different states. Even finding time for a chat on the phone was difficult, which was why he was talking to her during a regular workday on the way to question a witness. His friend and work partner Luke Brewster was driving the car and playing with the radio, trying to give Ryan a bit of privacy, which was basically impossible in the enclosed space.

"I just don't think that I can make it," Ryan said, juggling his phone and a paper cup filled with scalding hot coffee. He hadn't slept well the night before but that wasn't anything new. "I'll send a nice gift."

Liza had told him that she was throwing a huge party for his mother's sixtieth birthday, and of course, she wanted him there.

"What's your excuse this time?" Liza challenged, impatience in her tone. "Work? A last-minute colonoscopy? Drug rehab? Your excuses are getting increasingly lame every time, big brother."

Had Ryan's excuses become more unbelievable? He'd put some time into thinking of them but his sister had caught him off guard this morning. He'd have to do better going forward. Liza was too smart for any of his half-assed efforts.

"I'm very busy," he explained. "There's always a crime to be solved and bad guys to put behind bars."

"Then they can wait one night," Liza replied promptly. "They'll be there when you get back."

"I really–"

"Don't even go there. I'm tired of all of this. I get it. You and Dad argue. Mom makes you feel guilty. Whatever. They're our parents and it's Mom's damn birthday. So you're going to be there or I'll hire two big thugs to kidnap your ass and drag you here. And you know I'll do it too, so just deal with it."

It was much more than arguing and feeling guilty. Of all people in the world, Liza should understand that. She'd been a witness to most of it.

"You know it's not that easy."

"I know that you're a grown ass man," she shot back. "But you're not acting like it. The very definition of adulthood is doing shit you don't want to do. I'm sure it's easier to ignore your family, but is that who you really want to be?"

He really didn't want to go. Every time he was home, he argued with his parents. They hated his job and almost everything else about his life. If his dad had his way, Ryan would have done exactly as he was told and lived by the Beck family rules.

I wasn't going to do that. Ever.

"I may be a grownup but I don't get treated that way when I go home," he replied defensively. "Mom and Dad act like I'm a child that doesn't know not to play in traffic."

"Just ignore it. That's what I do. You take everything far too personally, Ryan. That's the way our parents are and they aren't going to change. Were you planning to never see them again?"

No...but he'd been hoping for far bigger chunks of time between visits. The fact was it made him crazy to have to admit that this was one conundrum that he couldn't solve.

The Mystery of the Beck Family Craptastic Attitude. Why couldn't Jack and Patricia Beck respect his decisions and butt out of his life?

"Of course not, but I do have a demanding career, Liza. I can't just fly off whenever I want to. People depend on me."

"I'm depending on you too. I want you to be there at the party and make a toast for Mom's birthday. I don't want to pull the guilt card here but you have to know without me saying it out loud that Mom would be heartbroken if you weren't there."

It really all came down to that. Hadn't