Welcome South, Brother--the slogan of WSB-TV, Channel 2 in Atlanta.


What would you do if you were 22-years-old, a new college grad with your whole life ahead of you, and you received a letter from your brothers telling you your father has had the first of several massive strokes? And then they tell you they’ve also decided you’re the one to take care of him?


That’s what Nicolo Liguori faces in Runaway Brother. Being the next-to-youngest Liguori (baby brother GianGiacomo is only twelve) and having no current girlfriend and no responsibilities, Nick is chosen to be Papa Luigi’s caregiver because his three brothers don’t want to disrupt their own steady and settled lives. Because he loves his father and because Luigi is his only living parent, Nick, like a good son, accepts the life his brothers have laid out for him. Setting aside his hopes of heading up his own jewelry outlet for Liguori and Sons Gems, he goes to work in the family business, coming home each night to the Liguori mansion. His life is accounted for to the second. Secretary Karen knows where he is at each and every moment, and if Karen doesn’t, his father does. And that’s the life Nick lives…for eleven years…wearing what he’s told to wear, seeing the clients he’s supposed to see, eating the meals he’s supposed to eat…and being at his father’s beck-and-call when he’s away from the office.


And then Papa passes away, and suddenly, Nick’s free…


…or is he?


Brothers Carlo, Marco, and Pietro expect him to carry on as usual, return to work, and keep living in the family mansion, and it looks as if Nick’s doing just that…until one morning, he leaves the Liguori home and doesn’t show up at work…and no one can find him anywhere…



I imagine everyone at one time or another has wanted to just chuck it all and disappear. Nick Liguori does just that. Assuming another persona, that of Nick Liege, itinerant biker, he hops on a Harley and heads South…and soon is knee-deep in a life he’s only seen in the movies and on TV. In the little town of Oceano, Georgia, Nick runs (literally) into a pretty girl named Sidney and a tank masquerading as a horse named Shazam. His bike is wrecked, he’s stuck until it’s repaired. And while the Harley sits in Marshall’s Repair Shop, waiting to be fixed, the man who’ll come to be known as “Sidney’s Yankee” is about to learn about life and love in the Deep South.


There's a lot of fun and definitely some games, for the girls are certainly Daisy Dukes. Nevertheless, soon Nick’s having run-ins with a couple of “good ol’ boys,” Shazam is as overt as a human in his dislike of the interfering Yankee, and then there’s Sidney herself…Motorcycles, Arabian horses, a feisty Southern Miss, an ex-boyfriend named “Bubba,” and a rival rancher all join forces against Nick, while back in New York, the police officer assigned to the case is turning a surprisingly sympathetic eye to finding the runaway brother.


This was a fun book to write. I enjoyed researching motorcycles and the history of the Arabian horse, and also of dredging into my memory for the Southern customs I’ve left behind and now had to revive. Oceano is one of those small towns where they actually roll up the sidewalks at night. The "big" thing to do on Saturday night is a barn dance with a local band, and the "in" place is a roadhouse called "Beauregard's," on the edge of town. One of my favorite scenes is of Nick sitting at the dinner table with Sydney and her grandfather, listening attentively as they explain to him about hoecakes, collards, and grits, and his statement that “This is the first time I’ve sat down to a meal that came with eating instructions.”


Runaway Brother does some gentle ribbing at the Dukes of Hazzard, My Name is Earl, and Hee-Haw, as well as some of the ideas most people north of the Mason-Dixon line still have about the South. But it’s all in fun, and I think the readers will enjoy it.


EXCERPT:


The track was getting narrower, barely two ruts now with a width of slender, wiry grass separating them. He slowed the bike. Don’t want to get that stuff caught in the spokes and stall the engine.


From far off to his right came a faint sound as if someone was beating a drum.


Nick raised his head, looking around, then gave a loud sigh of exasperation. Okay! So I’m lost! He’d just follow the road to wherever it went, probably to some farmer’s front yard. When he got there, he’d apologize, turn around and get himself back to the main drag. If he could find it.


A broken branch loomed ahead, and he turned his attention to it, guiding the bike around it. The drumming came closer.


A second branch and several twigs littered the roadway. Nick was so concerned with maneuvering around them he didn’t see the horse sail over the fence, wasn’t even aware it was there until he looked up and found the white shape almost directly in front of him.


He jerked the wheel to the right, forgetting to apply the rear brakes first. The bike skidded, its back wheel rising off the ground as the front one stopped rolling. He had a brief vision of the animal leaping forward, its rider clinging to its back, wide, frightened blue eyes, flying blonde hair...


The motorcycle went off the road, sliding into the ditch and running up the other side, the front fender striking one of the fence posts. It bounced and rebounded, and Nick went flying over the handlebars, flipping in mid-air and hitting the same post with his back. The bike wavered a moment, then toppled onto its side. Nick slid down the post, landing upside down in the ditch, his shoulders crushing coffeeweed into an aromatic mass.


The pounding hooves stopped. He heard running footsteps, opened his eyes and saw someone running toward him. He closed them again.


“Are you hurt?”


This time when he opened his eyes, he was staring at the upside-down face of a very pretty girl, at least she’d have been pretty if her face wasn’t screwed up into such a dismayed scowl.


Am I hurt?” He managed a growl as he slid further into the weeds and rolled over. “I just hit a fence and got tossed into a ditch! What do you think?” Clambering to his knees, while she plucked ineffectually at one arm, he jerked out of her grasp. “I can get up by my— Ow!”


He’d gotten upright, took a step, and his leg buckled, turning at the ankle. He sat down a little quicker than he intended, back into the weeds again as he ran a hand down his boot to touch his ankle. He could feel angry throbs of heat pulsing through it.


“Maledicta quella ferita!”


“Here.” She slid into the ditch, offering a hand. Reluctantly he took it, being careful not to put too much weight behind it as he let her pull him to his feet. He could see she was worried and he really wasn’t hurt all that bad, but he was angry because she’d been so reckless.


She began to brush bits of leaves and dirt off his shoulders.


Jerking away, he demanded, “What the Hell’s the matter with you? Jumping in front of me like that! If I’d hit that horse—”


“What are you doing riding this road? This is private property.”


Did that mean she knew the owner or—God forbid—she was the owner? Couldn’t be. She was too young, not more than seventeen surely, small, short, blonde, and that voice... Crystallized honey with a scratchy undercurrent. A real Southern accent, not like the ones he’d heard on TV or in the movies, and most definitely not in New York City!



She was too pretty for him to pretend to stay angry at, so he toned it down, answering her question. “I got lost. I only wanted to find the end of the road and turn around.”


“You have a way to go. The house is about a quarter of a mile that way.” She nodded toward a group of pines thrust into the road, hiding the rest of it from sight. Nick looked in that direction, then back at her. She, in turn, looked at the motorcycle, still on its side in the weeds. You seem okay. Is that hurt?”


He limped over and inspected it. The front fender was smashed and ripped upwards. The tire has an impact-split in it and the spokes were bent and twisted. That isn’t too bad, he told himself. Jojo had given him a basic tool set and a crash course in Motorcycle Care 101. I can straighten the spokes and the fender. Get a new tire and be on my— Hold it! The headlight was smashed, hanging out of the socket like a dislocated eyeball, and the clutch cable... Somehow it had been severed.


Nick got down on one knee, feeling under the bike. His hand came away wet. He sniffed at his fingers.


Gasoline.


Merda! He pulled off one glove, exploring gingerly. Something had punched a hole in the gas tank and gasoline was pouring into the grass. He had no idea how, but it didn’t matter. What did was that he wasn’t going anywhere as long as that hole was there.


“Well?” She appeared to be awaiting his diagnosis.


He wiped his fingers on the seat of his jeans. “Gas tank’s got a hole in it, clutch cable’s severed. Is there a motorcycle shop around here anywhere?”


“No, but Marshall’s in town can probably repair it. He does everything from lawn mowers to farm machinery.”


Oh Lord, deliver me from small town handymen! He was about to tell her he didn’t want Marshall touching his bike when he realized, What else am I going to do? Do you have a better idea, Mr. Runaway?

“So which way is town?” He straightened, looked around as if expecting to see the city limits a few feet away.


“Too far for you to push that thing,” she answered, gesturing at the front wheel. “Not with it twisted like that.”


“What do I do then, Miss Not-So-Helpful? Since this is your fault—”


“My fault?” Hands went to her hips. And deliciously slim ones they were, too. Nick had a moment to think she looked anything but angry, though it was apparent she thought she did. Cute, maybe. Hell, he might even say adorable with those blonde wisps floating around her face, but angry? Nope! “Who’s the trespasser? Who had his head down, studying the ground when he should’ve been looking straight ahead?”


“You weren’t ahead of me,” he countered. “You and that white tank of yours jumped a fence and came in from the side.


She stared at him, taking a deep breath and getting ready for some type of vitriolic response. Memories of The Dukes of Hazzard and how the Duke Boys always verbally got the best of Boss Hawg came into his mind. Well, this Daisy Duke wasn’t getting the best of him. He wouldn’t allow it.


“Never mind. Just let me get the bike upright and point me in the right direction, and—”


“I’ll do no such thing.” That made him stare at her, wondering if she was going to walk away, mount her white steed, and leave him stranded knee-deep in Kudzu or whatever-the-Hell these weeds were. “I’ll ride back to the house and get my grandpa’s truck. We”ll put the motorcycle in it.”

She clambered up the bank, running toward the horse now was grazing on the other side of the road. Catching the reins and a handful of mane, she swung into the horse’s back—very gracefully, he noted—then turned the animal’s head and trotted it back to him.


He liked the way the jolting gait made her breasts bounce under the jersey tee. Damn, they’re perky little things! Che pezzeta saporita! He forced himself to hide his appreciation. Barely stopped his tongue from coming out and licking his lower lip. Hoped he wasn’t drooling.


“You stay right there,” she told him. “I’ll be back in a jif!” She kicked the horse in the ribs and sent it galloping down the road.


He liked the way her butt bounced, too.


They dodged a tree limb, took the turn and vanished from sight, though he heard the sound of hoofbeats for a few minutes more.


Nick turned his attention back to the V-Rod. It hadn’t moved. Did he expect it to get up and limp over to him like a dog with a hurt paw, whimpering for sympathy? Shaking his head, he leaned against the edge of the ditch, back against a fencepost.


Welcome South, Brother!



Runaway Brother is available in trade, Epub, and Mobi from Class Act Books. http://www.classactbooks.com/Runaway-Brother-by-Icy-Snow-Blackstone-Trade_p_308.html

8 comments

  1. Tami Brothers // September 18, 2011 at 2:25 PM  

    Sounds like a great story. I'm adding it to my wish list.

    :)

    Tami

  2. Mary Marvella // September 18, 2011 at 4:37 PM  

    Toni, this sounds like my kind of story!

  3. Barbara Monajem // September 19, 2011 at 8:10 AM  

    LOL. Very entertaining. :~)

  4. Pamela Varnado // September 19, 2011 at 8:38 AM  

    Okay Toni, you've got me hooked!!! This sounds like a wonderful story and I can't wait to read it. Loved the excerpt.

  5. Nightingale // September 19, 2011 at 11:26 AM  

    I'm a day late, but I love this cover! Especially the horse of course. Great excerpt. I think Icy Snow has another winner here.

  6. Judy // September 19, 2011 at 12:41 PM  

    Great fun, Toni! As usual, you've come up with something interesting and a good read...Good luck with it!

  7. Mary Ricksen // September 19, 2011 at 1:33 PM  

    Wonderful Toni, truly wonderful. What I wouldn't give for half of your imagination!

  8. Josie // September 21, 2011 at 10:20 PM  

    Toni,
    Such a fun story. Fabulous, as always, Toni.