Hello! I’m Chris Scully. I’m thrilled to welcome you to my blog tour for Back to You, my new romantic suspense novel. Join me at various tour stops, where I’ll be sharing some background on the novel and the characters, my thoughts on writing, and more. Comment on each stop to be entered in a drawing for a $20 Riptide gift certificate. Thanks for joining me on the tour!
About Back to You
Journalist Alex Buchanan has come home to the remote British Columbia town he grew up in, but only because his estranged father is dying. For Alex, the homecoming holds a mix of memories, mostly bad. The only bright spot is reconnecting with Benji Morning, the childhood friend he never truly forgot. As boys, the strength of their bond had frightened Alex. But now that he’s confident in his bisexuality, he’s drawn back to quiet, soft-spoken Ben.
Ben isn’t the same boy Alex left behind, though. His life has been overshadowed by the disappearance of his sister two decades earlier, and now a new break in the case threatens to undo the peace he’s worked so hard to attain.
As Alex struggles to repair the relationship with his father before it’s too late, he finds himself caught up in a twenty-year-old mystery, a story he never expected, and a shocking truth that could affect his and Ben’s future together.
Available now from Riptide Publishing. http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/back-to-you
About Chris Scully
Chris Scully lives in Toronto, Canada. She grew up spinning romantic stories in her head and always dreamed of one day being a writer even though life had other plans. Her characters have accompanied her through career turns as a librarian and an IT professional, until finally, to escape the tedium of a corporate day job, she took a chance and began putting her daydreams down on paper.
Tired of the same old boy-meets-girl stories, she found a home in M/M romance and strives to give her characters the happy endings they deserve. She divides her time between a mundane 9-5 cubicle job and a much more interesting fantasy life. When she’s not working or writing (which isn’t often these days) she loves puttering in the garden and traveling. She is an avid reader and tries to bring pieces of other genres and styles to her stories. While her head is crammed full of all the things she’d like to try writing, her focus is always on the characters first. She describes her characters as authentic, ordinary people—the kind of guy you might meet on the street, or the one who might be your best friend.
Although keeping up with social media is still a struggle given her schedule, she does love to hear from readers.
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To celebrate the release of Back to You, one lucky winner will receive a $20 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on June 17, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!
There are people in your life who stick with you forever.
You might forget them for a while or push them to the back of your mind, but they are written on your skin like a tattoo, etched in your bones, in your blood, your very breath. They hold on and never let go. So much a part of you that you don’t even know they’re there.
Benji Morning was that person for me. It was why, twenty years after I’d last seen him, I was driving east along Highway 16, awash in recollections of that long, hot, bucolic summer of 1996 that had ended in such turmoil, instead of heading for the hospital. It was the summer I first felt those then-uncomfortable feelings that would define the rest of my life, the summer Benji’s sister ran away, the summer my once-happy family finally fell apart for good.
Twenty years apart is a long time. I don’t mean to give the impression that those years have been shit, or that I’ve been pining for the awkward, redheaded boy I once knew. There’s nothing shorter than a thirteen-year-old boy’s attention span, and by the beginning of ninety-seven, I was settled in a new school in Seattle, with a new group of friends to entertain me, girls to chase, and memories of our life in the wilds of British Columbia, of Benji in particular, fading faster than a pair of newly purchased blue jeans in the washer.
Life goes on, whether we want it to or not.
These were the thoughts flitting through my mind as I headed further into the Bulkley Valley in my rented Ford Explorer, the majestic Hudson Bay Mountain in my rearview mirror. It was only the first week of November, but the peaks were snowcapped and ready for ski season to begin. I wished I could blame my strange mood on the jet lag, on the altitude, on the fact it had taken me eighteen hours and four planes—each one successively smaller—to get here from New York, but I couldn’t. I’d been on edge since my sister, Janet, had called four days ago to say Dad was in the hospital, dying, and could I please come because he wanted to see me.
I’d like to say I booked the first flight to BC, but I didn’t. Dad certainly hadn’t wanted to see me at any point in the intervening years. We talked once or twice a year on the phone—brief, impersonal conversations—but I hadn’t seen him since shortly before I’d started grad school more than a decade ago. As far as I was concerned, he’d abdicated all parental responsibility the moment he let us go without a fight, and to be honest I was happy with that arrangement.
No, it wasn’t Dad, or even Janet, who’d brought me here. The truth was a little less flattering. In the end, it had been Brad, my editor, who had convinced me that it would be good for my career to chronicle my reunion for the Journal, the magazine that employed me.
But the minute I landed in Smithers this morning and got behind the wheel of my rental, it was my childhood friend Benji Morning who’d consumed my thoughts. Rather than calling Janet and going immediately to the hospital to see my dad, I turned in the other direction. Toward the place I’d once called home.
It was a compulsion I couldn’t ignore.
Truthfully, I hadn’t thought of Benji in years. I hadn’t let myself. I’d been far too busy growing up, having fun, working my ass off to build a name for myself as a journalist. And being away from him, from the intense connection we’d shared as kids, was easier.
Now everything was coming back, as if it all had happened only yesterday, and spawning this jittery, gaping hole in the pit of my stomach. The sensation only grew stronger the closer I got to Alton. I couldn’t explain it.
I needed to know where Benji was. What he’d done with his life. And if he was still in the area, I wanted to see my old friend again. If he would still speak to me, that was.
I should have stayed in touch. I should have swallowed my pride, reached out, and begged forgiveness for ignoring him so long.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda, as my ex-wife was fond of saying, usually with an exasperated roll of her eyes.
In hindsight, I suppose I could have Googled him, or found him on Facebook like any other long-lost friend, but I was already in motion, driving the extra hour east purely by instinct, as if Benji were my true north and I the needle on a compass.
Finding him was a long shot—it had been twenty years since Mom, Janet, and I had left BC, and the Mornings could have moved away—but folks in these parts never tended to go far, and my gut instincts, the ones that had served me well in my career, were too strong to ignore.
An early-winter mist hung low in the sky, stretching across the valley and only emphasizing my feeling of isolation as I drove. The Trans-Canada Highway unwound before me, not really a highway at all, but a two-lane, lonely blacktop carved out of the endless forests that pressed in on both sides. Most of the old growth is gone now, and what remains is tall and spindly, but make no mistake—this is pure wilderness; as dangerous as it is breathtaking. There are stretches, like this one, where it’s possible to drive for hours with no sign of civilization, and the vast emptiness was a little unnerving to my suburban senses. As a kid, the woods, the lakes, the abandoned logging camps and mines that dotted the region had been the best sort of amusement park, but I’d been gone a long time—replaced the towering lodgepole pines and Engelmann spruce with skyscrapers.
The rhythmic swoosh of the windshield wipers as they battled the falling mist was a comforting balm to my nerves. On my right, a weather-beaten billboard, nestled against the encroaching forest, made my skin crawl with gooseflesh as I passed: Hitchhiking—Is it worth the risk?
I shivered and turned the heater up another notch, mentally cataloguing my impressions for later. Brad would appreciate the local color when I filed my story.
With each passing mile, the memories grew thicker, swarming around me like gnats I couldn’t swat away. The burning sensation in my chest increased, and I reached for the roll of antacids I’d bought at the airport—definitely shouldn’t have had that last glass of airport wine at the stopover in Vancouver.
Finally, another sign leapt into view: Welcome to Alton. Pop. 3,200
Unlike the larger, regional center of Smithers, with its quaint chalet-style architecture and overpriced gastropubs for the ski crowd, Alton was a blue-collar resource town. It was nestled squarely between the two princes—Prince Rupert to the west, and Prince George to the east—in the midst of a bounty of natural resources. In its heyday, residents had flocked to work at the Hummingbird or Europa Mines, or at one of the many sawmills in the area.
My heart kicked as I saw the low, green slope of Mount Roddick to the north and the needle of its familiar radio transmission tower. I was close. That rocky terrain and thick woods had been my backyard, my playground, and Benji my fellow explorer.
A few minutes later, on the outskirts of town, I turned off the highway and onto a rural side road, surprising myself by remembering the way. A quarter mile after that, I made another left onto North Star Lane, and the pavement became oiled gravel that crunched beneath the tires. Back in 1996, there had been only two houses on this short, dead-end street—ours and the Mornings’. Benji and I had had the run of the place, zipping back and forth to each other’s house, playing one-on-one shinny in the street without having to worry about cars interrupting our game. The story was that some long-ago developer had bought the whole parcel, intending to build an exclusive enclave, only he’d gone bust after the first two slipshod houses.
Now as I slowed to avoid kicking up gravel, I saw someone had built an ugly chalet-style A-frame on the once empty lot at the end. My haze of nostalgia evaporated at the unwelcome reminder that not everything would be the same as I’d left it.