Today I am so pleased to welcome J.E. Birk to Joyfully Jay. J.E. has come to share an excerpt from her latest release, Depending on You. She has also brought along a copy to give away! Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
I’m so thrilled to be here on the Joyfully Jay blog today! My novella Depending on You recently came out, and I’m honored to be sharing an excerpt with you today.
This is one of my favorite parts of the book. It’s the part where Benjy and Kyle discover they have something in common besides beer showers in steakhouses: Brandon, an eight-year-old boy. Brandon is Kyle’s patient, and he ends up being part of Benjy’s social work internship. Both Benjy and Kyle become incredibly invested in Brandon’s care…though neither is quite sure if Brandon is bringing them closer together or pushing them away from each other.
DOWN IN the cafeteria, Benjy and Brandon were eating salads. Kyle made a mental note to give Benjy a huge fist bump for that win—he wondered how Benjy had pulled it off. “Hey, guys,” he said, pulling up a seat next to Brandon.
“Dr. Penners!” Brandon grabbed at Kyle’s shirt-sleeve excitedly. “Is Gramps gonna be okay?”
“He’s going to be fine, champ. Just needs a little time to rest and get better.” Kyle took a deep breath. “The thing is, you need somewhere to stay while your grandfather’s in the hospital. So Benjy and Alex are going to find you some nice people to stay with while he gets better.”
Benjy’s eyes narrowed—and Brandon’s widened. “I have to go live somewhere else?”
Kyle shook his head quickly. “Not forever. Just for a little while so that your grandfather can get better.”
“When will that be? Will it be before Christmas? It can’t be Christmas if Gramps isn’t there!” Kyle did the math quickly in his head and patted Brandon’s shoulder. “It should be before Christmas, Brandon. It’s just so that there’s someone to take care of you while your Gramps is getting better. It won’t be very long at all.” Brandon seemed to relax at those words, but Benjy’s eyes stayed narrowed.
“Brandon,” Benjy said slowly, “you see those cookies over there? I know for a fact they make some that are sugar-free. Why don’t you go over and ask the cooks which ones they are? Get one for each of us.” He pulled a few dollars out of his wallet and pushed them over to Brandon. Kyle thought about protesting that he’d pay—there was no way Benjy had extra money to throw around—but the way Benjy’s eyes were fixed so sharply on him stopped him from saying anything.
As soon as Brandon was away from the table, Benjy leaned as far as he could toward Kyle. “We can’t put that kid in emergency placement,” Benjy hissed.
Kyle raised an eyebrow. “Your boss thinks it’s a good idea.”
“Well, he’s wrong. Any other kid? Sure, he’d probably be fine. It’s only for a little while. But Brandon told me how bad his diabetes is. Says he’s been sick a lot, and his grandfather watches every bite of food he puts in his mouth. You think the people in an emergency placement home are going to do that?”
“I take it you think they won’t.”
Benjy shrugged and leaned back slightly. “Who knows? Maybe. But most of those places have more than one kid at a time, and not everyone’s going to take the time to learn Brandon’s precise dietary restrictions. Hell, I’m not even sure I should have sent him to get a cookie.”
“It’s fine,” Kyle told him. “As long as it’s sugar-free, and we only let him have one. I would have stopped you if it wasn’t.”
“Great. You going to be in his emergency placement home?”
Kyle sighed. “Look, I know Alex. I trust him. If he says he can find Brandon a good place, he will. And there aren’t exactly a lot of choices here. Brandon doesn’t have any other family, and his grandfather needs to rest if he’s going to get well.”
Benjy seemed to deflate slightly. “He seems like a really nice kid,” he murmured. “I don’t want anything to happen to him.”
Kyle nodded. “Me neither. I promise you that. Listen, let’s bring Brandon up to Alex, okay? I’ll make sure Alex knows the severity of Brandon’s condition. You’ll be there to help find a placement that’s right. And don’t you trust Alex? You work with him.”
Benjy stared vacantly into his salad. “It’s not Alex I don’t trust,” he said softly.
It all started with a diabetic kid who wouldn’t stop eating cookies. And a best friend who’d just announced his bisexuality and hit on everything that moved. And a kind pediatric nurse with an amazing rack, a lying ex-boyfriend, and a nasty case of the chicken pox.
But mostly, it started at table 42.
When Benjy Moreland almost collapses during his restaurant shift, Dr. Kyle Penners wants nothing more than to take care of him… but if there’s one thing former foster kid Benjy values, it’s his independence. A dying man and a sick little boy force Kyle and Benjy to work together, and both of them have to make some important choices about what it means to depend on someone.
J.E. Birk has been telling stories since she could talk and writing them since she was introduced to the alphabet. She hails from Colorado, where you can usually find her skiing, training for a 5K she won’t end up running, or trying to figure out why a good strong housecleaning never lasts longer than two days. Occasionally @jebirkwrites will say something on Twitter.
J.E. has brought a copy of Depending on You to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Tuesday, February 24th at 11:59 pm EST.
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