Been slammed editing and trying to get this book done, so it’s been a while since I’ve hosted any writers on Writer Wednesday. Today I’m featuring Icy Snow Blackstone, talking about her new book Tuesday’s Child.
What would you do if, after twenty years, your father suddenly declared he wasn’t your father and wanted you to stop using his name?
That’s the problem facing Grace McAllister in Tuesday’s Child. Grace hasn’t seen her father since the night she and her mother left Temple, Georgia when she was five-years-old. Now, with his death, Benjamin Troup McAllister performs his final act of cruelty by denying his paternity.
Grace’s first thought is to return to her California home and put it all behind her, but Mayfield Donovan, a childhood bully suddenly turned ardent suitor, convinces her to try to discover her real father’s identity. When Grace agrees, she doesn’t realize their search will put another friend in deadly danger and also open up a very unpleasant can of worms for both her and May.
Back in the 1990’s, I wrote a novel titled Jericho Road which was set in the Vietnam era. In Tuesday’s Child, I return to he same town, for another look after forty years. One of the characters from Jericho Road is still around and he makes a small but very important appearance in this story also.
What May and Grace discover in their investigations will come as a shock and it’s going to take some determination and extreme soul-searching on each’s part for them as they face the truth of what they’ve found…
Let’s take a look at the trailer…
Grace McAllister has neither seen nor heard from her father since her mother left him twenty years before. Now, Benjamin Troup McAllister is dead and Grace is invited to return to Temple, Georgia, for the reading of his will. She’s in for more than the culture shock of a small Southern town, however, for not only does she inherit nothing, but her father’s will also denies his paternity. Enlisting childhood friend Mayfield Donovan, Grace attempts to find her real father. As they sift through the facts of her mother’s life and the men who loved her, they uncover a tale of revenge, deception, and murder, and discover a truth neither wants to believe or accept…
“Since everyone’s present,” Jefferson Simmons smiled at us as if we were at a church picnic instead of a will reading. “We may as well get started.”
There was a loud sigh from somewhere. I couldn’t tell which of the eager heirs it came from…Ben…Sammi…Abigail? I’d been introduced to each but it was a brief and tentative thing. We’d all gone straight to the library to wait the lawyer’s arrival and sat there, not speaking.
He’d been punctual, coming through the door just as the clock in the foyer began striking nine. There were shakings of hands with Ben, a gentle pat on Abigail’s shoulder, a hug for Sammi, and another for me. Then he sat at the huge mahogany desk dominating the room, made his announcement and pulled a manila envelope out of his valise. While he made a big show of placing it on the desk and breaking the seals, holding it up and saying, “Please verify that this hasn’t been opened as per Benjamin Troup’s instructions.” I leaned my chin against my hand and let my gaze rove idly around the room.
This was a genuine library, just like they showed in the movies…books on four walls, the only break in the monotony of the shelves being the door entering from the foyer, and two large windows on the outer walls. There was a large, ornate light fixture overhead that missed being called a chandelier by just a fraction, and little tables with reading lamps placed strategically. Most the chairs had been drawn up to the desk. They were big and comfy and it made for a crowded arrangement. I tried to imagine myself as a child curling up with a storybook in one of those chairs. It didn’t work. The volumes on the shelves were too thick. None of them looked as if they’d hold any interest for a kindergartner.
A large fireplace intruded on one inner wall, and above it was a portrait. Sammi had whispered to me, “That’s Daddy,” when we came in, and all I could think that if any man looked less like one wanting to be called Daddy, it was the subject of that painting. She’d also said it was done a couple of years after Mama and I left, so perhaps that was why there was such an aura of anger and pent-up emotion in the painted face. Benjamin Troup McAllister was handsome—don’t get me wrong about that—but he looked belligerent…forceful…a man who wanted things his way, and perhaps was cruel when he didn’t get them. Maybe that’s why he looked as he did, because something had happened that he couldn’t prevent…his wife had walked out, never to return. And the artist had captured what he thought he’d kept well-hidden. The painting was a three-quarter, showing him sitting in a chair, possibly the high-backed one behind the desk. It looked like a throne and he was the king occupying it…tall, blue-eyed, dark-haired, and furious that his queen had abandoned him.
“I, Benjamin Troup McAllister, Junior…” Mr. Simmons’ words broke into my thoughts. Funny, I’d never thought of my father as being named after someone. Perhaps that’s why everyone used his full name, to differentiate from his own father. “…being of sound mind, do this day set forth in this last will and testament, the distribution of my monies and properties and also certain admonitions to be put into effect after my death…”
God, that sounds ominous! I hoped he hadn’t put in some weird stipulation like I had to live at McAllister Place for a year and a day to get what he’d left me.
“…to my beloved wife, Abigail Marsh McAllister, I give permission to continue to live in the domicile called McAllister Place…”
Now that’s generous. Would she be kicked out with just the clothes on her back if he hadn’t written that? I glanced at Abigail. She was a small woman, and slender, face what another era would’ve described as piquant with a slightly tip-tilted nose. Blonde, blue-eyed, slender…with a shock, I realized she reminded me of my own mother. So, dear ol’ Dad was a repeat offender, marrying a second woman who reminded him of the one who got away? I hoped he hadn’t made her pay for what Mama did.
Clearing his throat, Mr. Simmons look back at the papers in his hand. “To my son, Benjamin Troup, III…”
Ben perked up as he heard his name. He’d been sitting there fidgeting, obviously not wanting to be here, and just as obviously wanting to leave. Perhaps that was the reason for his haste and rudeness before. I wouldn’t be surprised if as soon as his portion was finished, he jumped up and ran out. Abigail reached over and placed a hand over his, patting it. That made him look at her, return the pat, and the impatient movements subside. For about two seconds.
“…I leave an allowance of $20,000 a year, and the admonition that he spend it wisely, for there are to be no advances. The estate will also continue to pay the insurance on the Corvette he now drives, though the title is to stay in my wife’s name with the stipulation that use of it be taken away permanently if he get any citation for a traffic violation more serious than a parking ticket…”
“… I also am providing enough funds to pay his tuition to Mercer University and the Walter F. George School of Law, including matriculation fees, books, dormitory charges, and meals, plus he is to pledge to Kappa Alpha fraternity…”
Ben’s face darkened at that, lips saddening compressing. So Ben Three wasn’t really wild about an extended university stay? Becoming an attorney? Or the frat?
“…providing he maintains at least an A- average in all subjects. At the end of any quarter in which he has any grade lower than that, funds will be terminated immediately.”
Ben stiffened. He started to get up. Abigail’s hand on his kept him in his chair. He sat there in frustrated silence, pinned by that deceptively small grip on his fingers while he was further told that he was being given 24 per cent of the remaining shares in all companies.
That did it. He was on his feet, wrenching his hand from Abigail’s before Simmons could finish.
“That’s bullshit! Twenty-four per cent? Does that mean Sammi gets more than I do? What the fuck, Jeff! Hell, I’m his only son. I should be the one getting the larger share!”
“Benjie…” Abigail reached up, catching at his arm. He shook her off.
“No, Mom. I’m sick of this. He ran my life while he was alive and now he’s trying to run it from the grave! I don’t want to go to Mercer, I don’t want to be a KA, and I damn sure don’t want to be a lawyer!” He was around the chair, pausing at the door to look back. “I’m contesting it, Mr. Simmons. I’m getting my own attorney and fighting that damned thing!’
Then he was gone. Footsteps clattered, doors slammed, a car engine roared into life and wheels screamed. Then silence prevailed, shocking and embarrassed. Abigail said, quietly, “He’s upset. Can anyone blame him? Please, Jefferson, hurry on and let’s get the rest over with.”
Sammi was next on the list. Samantha. A sweet kid, from the brief conversation I’d had with her. Sixteen, a feminine version of her brother. “To my daughter, Samantha…” She sat up straighter as the lawyer spoke her name, biting her lip and looking anxious.
I looked around. No one left except moi. Oh Lord, after seeing how he treated the two children who’d lived with him, what was in that document for me?
“And last, but not least, there is the matter of Grace Stephanie McAllister…”
The matter of…? I tensed, turning my attention to the man behind the desk. He had stopped, was rapidly scanning the rest of the document and scowling. He looked up, met my eyes, and looked away. “I… Grace… I’m not certain I should read this aloud. Perhaps you could stop by my office? And we can—”
“Nothing doing,” I said, realizing I sounded like Ben. “Do it here and now, Mr. Simmons, and let’s get it over with.”
“Very well.” He didn’t look too happy about that. “But first, let me say I had no idea what this will contained.” With that he cleared his throat once again, more out of nervousness this time, “…the matter of Grace Stephanie McAllister…” hesitated an instant, then continued. “If you are present at this reading, as I imagine you will be, out of curiosity, if nothing else…”
You got that pegged right, Daddy.
“…I leave you… Nothing.”
What? I visibly jerked. Nothing? I came all this way for nothing? Abigail’s head came up. She looked shocked. Sammi was staring from the lawyer to me.
“Though my name is on your birth certificate, you are not my daughter…” Mr. Simmons plowed on, not looking anywhere except at the will now. “This fact was confessed to me by my first wife, Miriam Baker McAllister the night she left my home forever. Your mother was pregnant when I married her, though I was unaware of that fact at the time. I was led to believe your birth was a premature one. From the moment I learned this until now, I have paid not one cent toward your upbringing and don’t intend for you to ever get a penny of my estate. Let this document be my official acknowledgement of Miriam’s duplicity and her daughter’s illegitimacy. I also wish you, Grace McAllister, to no longer use my name. Funds have been set aside for you to legally have it changed to your mother’s maiden name. I suggest you do this immediately.” There was a slight pause, then he read the last words in a hasty mumble. “So signed and sealed this day and in the presence of these witnesses, Benjamin Troup McAllister, Junior, August 2, 2011.”
The silence after that last word trailed away was, to use a familiar cliché, thunderous. My ears seemed to ring. I could feel my face getting hot, then cold, and my vision clouding. I wondered if I was about to faint. I didn’t feel as if I could move. All I could do was sit there, thoughts whirling around and colliding against each other in my head. He wasn’t my father…but she said I looked like him…she admitted it…pregnant before they married…Did that mean my mother slept around? Or had it been one of those accidents and my real father wouldn’t marry her and Benjamin Troup was there and handy and wanted to… I…oh God… And now everyone knows…
Tuesday’s Child is available from Class Act Books.
Icy Snow Blackstone is the pseudonym of Toni V. Sweeney. She is also the author of Jericho Road, Bargain with Lucifer, Brother Devil, and Gypsy Charm, romances all set in the South. Her paranormal romance The Irish Lady’s Spanish Lover will also be released by Class Act Books later this year.
I love Toni/Icy Snow’s voice, and I can’t wait to check this one out.
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