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Big, burly CEO Abe Behr is dismayed to discover someone—possibly a family member—is stealing from Behr Construction, which primarily employs Behr relatives. Abe takes the unprecedented step of hiring an outsider, likeable CPA Jeff Mason, to go over the books and help find the culprit. They are drawn to each other as they talk to workers, including Abe’s two younger brothers and their shifty cousin.
Since he has sacrificed romance all his life to build the business, Abe’s surprised by his feelings for the handsome Jeff. He’s even more shocked when they are confronted by bigotry in the Sierra Nevada foothills community, which is being inundated by gays moving from the San Francisco area. As he and Jeff get closer, Abe must come to grips with coming out to a family and community that aren’t very tolerant. Fortunately, being the head Behr helps him find his footing and grab onto love when it bites him.
“You ever come up the bank to sit under my tree? Looks like a much more comfortable place to fish. Not as rocky at any rate.” Jeff took a drink of his beer as I again scrambled to keep up. “My dad called it the Fishing Tree. He seemed to think fish congregated off the shore there.”
We sat in silence. It was my turn to talk. I’m pretty good in business situations. Not so much in social ones. At social events, mostly I hold up walls. Shake hands. Grunt a lot. Let others carry the conversational load.
Lorraine set our meals in front of us. The full burger with everything for him. The grilled mountain trout and steamed vegetables for me.
“You do a lot of fishing?” I managed after a long silence.
“Not really.” He gave a self-deprecating laugh. “My dad said fishing couldn’t be taught. He said it was something intuitive. I never had any idea what I was doing. So I never saw any use in fishing. I never saw any fish either.”
Again, silence as I processed and caught up. “It’s not rocket science. You figure out what kind of fish you want. Where it lives. Lure it to you. Then catch it.”
He looked skeptical and almost self-conscious. “It can’t be so easy,” he said with a little laugh.
“What about the different rods, lures, tackle, stuff?” He looked so serious, as if I were missing the point. As if I didn’t understand. He was right. I didn’t.
“Look. You can catch fish with your bare hands. If you want to. The extra stuff is just extra stuff.”
“If you say so.” He shook his head, a smile still on his lips. “Have you ever caught a fish with your bare hands?”
I lifted my hands and looked down at the mess that were my paws. Calluses, nicks, cuts, punctures, blunt fingers, the bandage now off the one with the splinter. These were the hands of a man who’d framed houses as a tall, rangy preteen and had lived in construction ever since. Could I catch a fish with my bare hands?
“Yeah. All it takes is absolute stillness and patience.” I sighed. “Not a whole lot of people have both together. Somebody once told me it’s all about Zen.” Somebody else said the only reason I could do it was because I was too stupid to know it was impossible.
“Zen.” His tone said he was surprised I knew such a word.
“You know, like the Eastern religion,” I answered. “Though why we still call it Eastern is beyond me. It’s really Far West, not Far East to us.” I was grumbling and rambling. Avoiding for some reason.
He rattled me. Nobody ever rattled me. I’m Abe Behr, the big Behr.
He was studying me as intently as I was him. He appeared too beautiful, too perfect, too unscarred. I just hoped his accountant skills were as perfect as he looked.
“What kind of fish you want to catch?” I asked. Staring at him wasted our time.
He pointed his fork to my plate. “How about that? It’s good, right?”
“Trout,” I agreed. “Lots of different kinds of trout.”
He looked like he’d never eaten any in his life.
“This is trout from our lake. Have a bite.”
He’d finished his burger but didn’t make a move on my fish. His expression was split between wanting to dig in and reluctance to do so.
“Just taste it,” I growled. “It won’t bite.”
His eyes snapped up to meet mine. His puzzled stare asked if the stupid bear had deliberately made a joke or not. Then he gave a happy, hearty laugh, and his fork raided my fish.
“So? What do you think?” I asked after he swallowed.
“I think you made a great joke,” he said with twinkling eyes. “And the trout is delicious. Is this why you threw your catch back? Did you know you’d get it cooked perfectly here at the cafe?”
“Naw. I was stalking the pie. Fish was a bonus.”
“They have good pie here?”
“Wait and see.”
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Character Interview with Abe Behr from Behr Facts
1. Now that you’ve gotten together, what comes next?
Time off. I’ve been the head of Behr Construction since I was in high school. While I love the business, I’m tired and want to just go somewhere with Jeff and relax for a couple of months—or as long as I can stand not working. Maybe I can even talk Jeff into doing some fishing, maybe off the Baja or somewhere in the Caribbean.
2. What was the hardest thing for you to overcome that you didn’t expect to be an issue?
Letting go of the reins and having someone come in to look over the company books. I’ve kept tight-fisted control for so many years, this was a clenched-teeth kinda deal for me. I thought before I hired Jeff that getting the paperwork off my desk and into someone else’s hands would be easy. But no.
3. Who or what makes you laugh out loud?
Jeff and desserts, in that order. He’s sweet and so are they. He can say something that makes me crack up even if I’m in a crap ass mood. And desserts? Bud at the Rock Bottom Cafe makes pies that one bite and I’m so happy, I laugh. So, yeah, both Jeff and pie.
4. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Truthfully, I’ve never met an ice cream flavor I haven’t liked. If you upend the quart over a slab of pie or as a side to cake, you don’t need a favorite. It’s enough you’ve got the ice cream. ‘Course there’s something to be said for chocolate, so a lot of dark chocolate chocolate chunk might be right up there next to God.
5. What movie will you watch over and over again?
Now you’re getting personal. I speak Spanish, like most California-born and raised kids do, so I watch a lot of what other people call foreign films. One of my favorites is “Strawberry and Chocolate,” now that you’ve got me thinking about ice cream flavors. I like it and “Blind Side,” which has nothing to do with dessert but has to do with my favorite sport, football.
About the author:
Pat Henshaw, author of the Foothills Pride Stories, was born and raised in Nebraska and promptly left the cold and snow after college, living at various times in Texas, Colorado, Northern Virginia, and Northern California. Pat enjoys travel, having visited Mexico, Canada, Europe, Nicaragua, Thailand, and Egypt, and Europe, including a cruise down the Danube.
Now retired, Pat has spent her life surrounded by words: Teaching English composition at the junior college level; writing book reviews for newspapers, magazines, and websites; helping students find information as a librarian; and promoting PBS television programs.
Her triumphs are raising two incredible daughters who daily amaze her with their power and compassion. Fortunately, her supportive husband keeps her grounded in reality when she threatens to drift away while writing fiction.
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