Forgotten Desserts

an excerpt

Chapter One



The annoying blare of the damn alarm went off well before the sun commenced its climb into the dark sky.

"Oh, would you shut the hell up."

Dylan MacGowan smacked the sleep button a couple of times. This was the final round and he couldn't shut it off until he pressed a different button. The last thing he'd expected was to wake up the week before his thirty-fifth birthday back in his childhood home above his grandfather's neighborhood bakery.

With the nasty sounds silenced, Dylan released a groan of frustration mixed with exhaustion. He pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes, gritty from the lack of sleep. When he opened them, he could barely make out the ceiling of his boyhood room. He remembered when he'd covered the walls with posters of hot male athletes and singers. A way for him to study the male body he found himself attracted too, but, at the same time wanted to try and hide his attraction from his grandparents. They'd raised him after his mother left him on their doorstep when he was barely three. He didn't want to disappoint them.

Of course, his attempt didn't work.

Nothing could be hidden from his grandparents. They knew all and could see all. Perhaps even through the walls. He swore his grandmother had special powers.

His grandparents asked him if he was gay before he could gather the courage and the nerve to come out. They accepted and loved him, which had strengthened him when it came time to face the harsher realities of life outside the bakery. Nothing had changed in their relationship.

"Dylan! Get your arse moving, boyo," Patrick 'Paddy' MacGowan called out. The Irish accent remained strong within his grandfather's voice. "You're living here. You can help in the bakery. I don't want to find you huddled under the covers. You can't be moaning and pouting and 'poor me'. I'm not gonna take it from you, boyo."

"I'm not staying here permanently, Daideo. Just need a place to stay while I take some time to get my life figured out."

The door opened with Paddy appearing in the doorway. The hall light backlit his frame. "All of that hasn't been decided yet."

"Daideo--"

Paddy held up a hand and shook his head. "I know you need your space, but this is your home. Forever. There's no rush to be making decisions. We'll discuss this later."

Dylan studied his grandfather. The once powerful frame was thinner, almost gaunt-like in appearance. Tanned skin lightened, wrinkled, and speckled with dark spots. His grandfather moved a bit slower. His hands swollen and gnarled with arthritis. Something had happened to Paddy's health, but they hadn't had a chance to talk since he'd arrived later than expected. They went straight to bed because Paddy never opened the bakery late.

"Get your arse up, boyo. There's no reason for you to be pouting over your man."

"I'm not and he isn't my 'man' anymore. He definitely isn't worth any wasted time."

"What happened?"

"The short version?"

"Sure."

"I discovered he's a cheating bastard and called him out on it. He had the nerve to fire me from our restaurant. Then kicked me out of our home. Everything I worked for and love is gone in one fell swoop."

"Any type of cheating bastard isn't worth one second of your thoughts or an ounce of your worry. He doesn't deserve you." Paddy hit the switch to turn on the light. The lamp illuminated the room and flooded Dylan's eyes.

Grabbing the pillow, Dylan shoved it over his face and groaned. "Didn't need that to wake up."

"Stop whining, boyo. Get your arse outta bed."

Dylan lowered the pillow to glance at his grandfather. "Perhaps there should be a little time for me to feel broken, hurt and pitiful."

"Don't even try to make up excuses. You're getting up."

"Daideo--"

"I don't know all this gay stuff, boyo. I accepted who you are, along with your maimeo, when you told us how you felt about boys."

"It isn't 'gay stuff'. It's plain old everyday relationship crap. Not every relationship is perfect like what you had with maimeo."

"Our marriage wasn't perfect, boyo. Your maimeo and I had some pretty good rows." Paddy scoffed and shoved a hand through his thinning white hair. "There's nothing perfect when it comes to relationships. It's something you always need to work at and compromise throughout your life together. Two lives are coming from different points in their stories and you need to figure out how to mesh them together. Things don't always want to fit. Even when they do, you often need to pick apart the knots and realign them while you grow and change as a person and couple. Doesn't mean you stick your head in the ground and give up. If you do that, then everything is lost, not just a relationship."

"I don't know what else I'm supposed to do because I thought we did everything right while together," Dylan said. "Only I found out none of it mattered to him. I feel bruised and battered from the way he treated me. As if I was nothing, and this caused him to cheat."

"There's no reason or excuse for anyone to explain their cheating except to put it all on their own selfish behavior."

"True."

"As for your maimeo, I loved my Jolene since we were teenagers. I'll love her until the day you put me in the ground next to her. She's the love of my life and the only one who holds my heart. It's always been our wish you would find the same type of love."

Beloved memories filled Dylan's thoughts. Watching his grandparents dance through the kitchen or the empty bakery at the oddest of times to either a playful Irish jig or a romantic ballad, their laughter, and those gentle touches shared by lovers. Thanks to them, he believed he knew everything about love and marriage. He'd had the perfect example. Then he found out how he knew absolutely nothing.

"There are times I wished for the same thing. Didn't happen this time."

"Doesn't mean it won't happen next time. Until then…" Paddy tapped the doorframe. "Work is a proper thing to keep your mind busy."

"You always say that."

"I'm always right. Now get your arse up and get over here."

"Okay. Okay." Tossing his pillow to the side, Dylan rolled out of bed, stubbed his toe against a suitcase and hopped. "Ow. Damn. Crap." He smacked the offending suitcase and shook out his hand when his fingers stung. "Can't win for anything. I swear!"

With a laugh, Paddy held out his arms. "Give me a good hug. I barely got one when you rolled in last night."

Disgruntled, Dylan stepped into his grandfather's welcoming bear hug. "Thank you, Daideo. For everything. For letting me come home."

"There's nothing to thank me for. You're always welcomed home anytime. You are my family, my grandson, and a part of my heart." Paddy pulled back a bit and framed his grandson's face between his swollen hands. "This is your home. Always. Since you were a little boy. That will never change."

"I know."

"Then why haven't I seen you? Hmm? It's been too long since you stayed for any length of time. Not since…"

"Maimeo's wake." Dylan winced at the slight dig of pressure. "Things were busy with the restaurant."

Paddy finally released his grandson. Then he waved a finger at him. "Not a good excuse, boyo. Try again."

Dylan tried not to focus on the thickened finger and what those inflamed joints meant to his grandfather's life and work. "Theo and I were always busy, with the restaurant, social crap and other stuff. Even on holidays, we rushed from one place or another to make sure we were seen and heard. There's never the chance…"

"More like Theodore didn't wish to step foot in this small town. One time I met him and never saw him around here again. My wee bakery was no good for the likes of him and his puffed-up self," Paddy said with a snort of contempt.

"Yeah, that's the other reason we never returned. He always made sure to schedule something when I mentioned wanting to take a trip home to see you."

"Sounds like something he would do. You know I didn't like your partner very much. A bit snobbish with a permanent stick up his arse."

"Nailed it in one shot. As always." Dylan hid a laugh at his grandfather's perfect description of Theodore Rally. "Took me a little longer to figure it out."

"Eeh. A heart's love can blind you. You learned the hard way." Paddy patted Dylan's cheek. "I know this isn't how you expected to spend your birthday, boyo, but we'll make the best of it. Sound good?"

"Just what I need."

"You can start with giving your old daideo a hand downstairs. Do you still know what you're doing with a pile of dough?"

"Aye, I remember everything you taught me," Dylan said. "You do know that culinary school helped me learn a little bit more."

"Yet you did nothing with your newfound skills and training. Why would you choose to become nothing more than an unappreciated pastry chef?"

"I wasn't underappreciated. I had a part in the restaurant."

Paddy waved away the lost reasoning Dylan tried to hold true. "Other than your money, you had no real position there. Theodore created a so-so restaurant to make himself feel all big and proud. Hell, he damn well insisted on throwing all your funds into building that place."

"Daideo--"

"Other than your pastries, there's nothing I recommend coming from his so-called skills in the kitchen." Paddy planted hands on well-padded hips. "I taught you better, boyo." He moved his hands away and rubbed his knuckles.

"I know you did." Dylan scuffed a bare foot against the area rug providing some cushion from the hardwood floor. "I didn't listen. Daideo--"

Paddy waved away his concern. "A touch of arthritis on this chilly morning. Always happens when the seasons change."

"Do you have medicine?"

"Every day and then some along with other treatments." Paddy mumbled a few choice words.

Knowing he should drop the questions for now, Dylan grimaced at his grandfather's mumbling. "It's obvious I learned my lesson pretty darn well. Everything I have stuffed in this room and the rest in my car. Not much to my life." Dylan studied the pile of suitcases he'd brought up last night. The rest of his belongings were scattered in boxes stuffed in the trunk and backseat. At least he could keep his precious Infiniti QX50 since he'd paid it off the previous year. "Guess this is something else I need to fix up along with my personal life."

"Are you going to go back?"

"No, I'm done with that place. No matter what he tries to convince me to do, I'm not going back. I'm over and done with that place and with him." Dylan dropped back on the bed. "I came home with everything I considered mine. Hopefully he doesn't fight me over anything because I don't want to get into one of those arguments with him. I'm here until I can straighten out my life. Perhaps I'll find something more suitable to my skills. I might even find someone better to take care of my heart."

"Until then, you create your fabulous pastries for our bakery. Everyone will love them. I always told you this bakery will be all yours when I pass. Your grandmother and I would have things no other way. If…"

"I know of your plans to close if I don't." Dylan rubbed a hand over his neck. "You mentioned it a couple of times when we spoke."

"Something else for us to discuss later. Early mornings aren't the time for such deep conversation. Not when we have dough ready to be molded, shaped and baked." Paddy patted his grandson's shoulder and returned to the door. "Get dressed and come downstairs. We have work." He glanced over his shoulder. "Good to have you home, boyo. It's been too long."

Dylan gave his grandfather a small smile. He fell backward on the bed with a full body flop. "What a way to spend the week before my birthday."