The Slow Burn (Moonlight and Motor Oil #2) - Kristen Ashley
For Mom . . .
Granite and Steel
I miss you.
For Gram . . .
I still wonder what
the poor people are doing.
Thank you for teaching me
what it means
to be rich.
I miss you too.
I GREW UP in a house where we had government cheese.
If you don’t know what that means, it means that you’re in an income bracket where you can look to the system to give you some necessities, like food. And one of the things they gave you was this enormous block of better-living-through-chemistry cheese.
Often, at our farm, we had occasion to sit around our big, rectangular dining room table. Christmas. Birthdays (and there were a lot of birthdays with seven of us in that house). Easter. Or just to play games. Just to be with family.
We didn’t eat filet mignon at these dinners. We had chili. Stew. Pork cutlets, fried potatoes and corn (the corn was also fried, it’s an Indiana thing and we now consider it a treat). Homemade potato soup. Chicken and dumplin’s.
If I wanted to listen to the stereo, I listened to my sister’s.
If I wanted to watch TV by myself, if I could get away with it, I watched the miniscule black-and-white television in my brother’s room.
If they wanted to play a record, they did it on my turntable.
We didn’t have a lot.
So we shared.
In so many ways.
I did know we didn’t have a lot.
The other thing I knew was that we had so much more than many.
On more than one occasion, my grandmother would sit back in her chair at her place at the foot of that table, and she’d watch her family happy to be doing nothing but sitting together and being together.
And on more than one occasion, when she sat back, she did it with this contented smile curling her lips, and she’d remark, “I wonder what the poor people are doing?”
As a child, that always confused me.
It wasn’t until I grew older that I understood I was then, and I am now, the richest girl in the world.
See, when we’re all together, not at our farm in Indiana, but in one of our homes in Phoenix—my brother, my sister, my brother-in-law, my nieces—on occasion my brother or my sister will sit back and ask, “I wonder what the poor people are doing?”
We never forgot what our mother gave us through love and sacrifice when, out of necessity, she moved us in with my grandparents.
She gave us family.
An embarrassment of riches.
Thus, my fictional Daphne Forrester taught her daughters Eliza and Adeline what true wealth really meant.
And it was an honor being in this series to give that through them to my readers.
I hope you enjoy Toby and Addie’s story, the end of Moonlight and Motor Oil.
And I wish you wealth beyond your wildest imaginings.
The real kind.
She Was Going to Be Just Right
Thirty Years Ago . . .
TOBY SAT ON his rump in the middle of the room and stared.
His big brother Johnny was standing by their daddy’s leg and patting it.
Daddy was sitting on their couch, bent over, head in his hands, his shoulders heaving.
He was crying.
Toby had never seen his daddy crying.
“Daddy,” his big brother said, his voice funny.
Their daddy lifted his head, his face red, and looked at Toby’s big brother.
Then he lifted one of his big hands and wrapped it around Johnny’s neck.
“It’s okay, son,” he said, his voice funny too. “It’s okay,” he repeated.
His eyes strayed to Toby.
Toby felt his lip wobble, his belly all funny when he saw his daddy’s face.
“We’ll all be okay,” his father whispered.
Toby didn’t believe him.
He didn’t believe him at all.
This was Tobias David Gamble’s first cognitive thought.
It was also his first memory.
He was three.
And when it came to his dad, Toby’s thoughts on that particular subject would turn out to be right.
Ten Years Later . . .
“She’s ruined him,” Margot snapped.
Toby was about to go in the back door.
It was after school.
His dad and brother were at the garage.
If Toby didn’t feel like working on some car, and sometimes he didn’t, he’d go to his Grams and Gramps’s after school.
That is, if he didn’t sneak out to the mill and pretend he was a fugitive from justice. Or a cop hunting a fugitive from justice. Or a scientist discovering a new kind of moss that would cure cancer. Or a sailor stranded from his ship on a desert island (that had a mill with a water wheel).
Everyone had freaked the first time he’d walked all the way out to the mill to do