The Brothers Grime: Jack

Z.A. Maxfield

Grime and Punishment The Brothers Grime is Jack Masterson's way of helping people in crisis after disability ends his career as a firefighter. Jack's people get to a scene long after the physical trauma ends. They don't solve c...
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Grime and Punishment

The Brothers Grime is Jack Masterson's way of helping people in crisis after disability ends his career as a firefighter. Jack's people get to a scene long after the physical trauma ends. They don't solve crime or rescue the victims. They help people move on. The new job is all Jack wants or needs, until he gets the call about old flame Nick Foasberg's suicide.

Ryan Halloran's cousin Nick has been on a downhill slide for a long time. Despite that, Ryan does everything he knows to help. Ryan only understands part of what happened between Nick and Jack in high school, but after Nick's suicide, Ryan agrees both he and Jack need closure. They work together to clean the scene and despite the situation, heat flares between them.

Jack is keeping a painful secret and fighting his attraction to Nick's lookalike cousin, Ryan. Ryan calls himself a magnet for lost causes and worries Jack might be the next in a long line of losers. Despite his misgivings, despite the past and the mistakes they've both made, Jack gives Ryan something to look forward to, and Ryan gives Jack a reason to stop looking back, in Grime And Punishment.

Jack couldn’t say exactly how he ended up sitting at Dave Huntley’s mother’s kitchen table, drinking coffee from delicate, gold-embossed teacups. When she brought out a bag of shortbread cookies and turned the whole thing into a teddy bear picnic, he pinched himself discreetly.

Because he didn’t want to think about Nick, his thoughts settled on Dave.

This is where Dave comes from.

This explains so much.

Karen’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “What Jack is saying, I think, is that while you might be able to clean the room yourself, it might be better—emotionally speaking—to have a third party come in.”

Ryan slid a glance Jack’s way. “Is that what Jack is saying? That I might be emotionally scarred by cleaning my cousin’s blood from the tub, and he won’t?”

She bit her full lower lip. “Jack, I believe what Ryan is saying is he’s worried—”

“I heard him.” Jack sighed. I’ll have to ask Dave if his mom is a marriage counselor. “We both knew the deceased.”

The phone rang, and Karen left them alone while she answered it.

For a couple of minutes, silence consumed them. Jack heard the number on the stove clock flip over from 10:56 to 10:57. Then 10:58.

“Why are you here?” Ryan finally asked.

“To bid the job like everyone else.”

“Right.” Ryan’s tone of voice indicated he didn’t buy it. He’d wrapped his arms around himself.

Jack put his cup into the saucer none too gently, then pushed it away. “Christ. I should not be using something as fragile as that.”

Ryan’s lips curved into a faint smile. “They’re pretty, though.”

God. Pale skin, pale brows. Freckles dusted the bridge of his nose and were scattered by the thousands over his forearms where he’d pushed up his sleeves.

Eyes the lightest shade of blue, like shadows in the snow.

Ryan was so like Nick. Yet…they were as individual as snowflakes.

Where Nick Foasberg had been built brutal in the way of Irishmen with the blood of Vikings in them, Ryan had softer edges. He was all lean muscle mass and just as tall as Nick, but he wasn’t keen like Nick had been. He wasn’t sharp or hard.

Ryan’s body language said he had nothing to prove.

He was intelligent. That much was clear. Was he a Foasberg? Or a cousin with a different name?

Jack said, “Look, you don’t know me, but—”

“I know of you.” Ryan’s gaze locked with his. “I know what Nick did to you. I was there.”

Jack’s heart dropped like an elevator with a broken cable. “You—”

“I know he humiliated you. How he and his friends beat you.” His gaze was searching. “What did you think would happen when you asked him to senior prom publicly, when you made a circus out of it so everyone knew you had a thing for him?”

Jack’s heart contracted. “I don’t know.”

I didn’t expect my best friend—who was also my fucking lover, goddamn it—and six other assholes to beat the hell out of me. I didn’t expect I’d barely escape being sodomized with a broom handle because someone called the cops.

No, sir. I did not expect that.

Ryan’s hostile expression turned to one of pity. “I would never condone what he did. Violence is wrong. But you should have gone to him in private. Told him you were gay. Talked to him about it. He was your friend. He would have understood. But he felt cornered when you did your whole rose-between-the-teeth thing. He was desperate.”

“You’re seriously going with that?” Despite years of practice controlling his reaction to Nick’s betrayal, Jack’s voice rose. Ryan clearly remembered things differently than he did. “Gay-panic defense?”

“No. Never.” Ryan’s fists tightened in his lap. “But I’m certain he never meant the situation to get so out of control.”

More minutes of silence—measured by the mechanical sound of numbers flipping—ticked by.

Jack felt bone tired already, and it was still early. “What the hell happened to him?”

“He killed himself.”

“I know that. I guess I meant…do you know why?”

“Things haven’t gone well for him for a while.”

Jack sat back. “I didn’t know.”

“You heard the Foasbergs lost the dealership, right?”

“Yes.” Foasberg Chevrolet had been their family business for about eighty years. Jack heard they lost the dealership when GM restructured after the bailout.

Jack took a cookie to give his hands something to do. “That was a nice place.”

“He tried to keep the service bays open for a while, after. Tried to get a different franchise. It finally closed, and they sold the land. The market was shit, and they pretty much lost everything.”

“I didn’t know.”

“After that, things just”—Ryan lowered his lashes—“went downhill.”


“I’m sorry.” Karen reentered. The heels of her shoes tapped briskly on the tiled floor. “I have to go pick up a friend whose car quit on her.”

Jack rose to leave. Karen picked up her purse from the kitchen counter.

She must have realized leaving meant Ryan would have to face going back to his house alone, because suddenly she turned to him. “Ryan, you could stay here and finish your coffee. I won’t be very long. You can make yourself at home until—”

“I couldn’t.” Ryan stood up. “I’ve abused your hospitality enough today.”

“But you shouldn’t have to go back there, not when—”

“It’s fine. It’s not like I can unsee the scene.”

Ryan started toward the door. Jack and Karen followed.

Jack wasn’t ready to give up on the job just yet. “Mind if I come with you? I could give you a quote.”

“I told you—”

“I understand, Ryan. I really do. If you know how to clean and disinfect and dispose of waste materials, then you’ll be able to save money if you do it yourself. But you might find it’s more emotional than you imagined and change your mind. Even if you don’t use Brothers Grime, my bid will give you a ballpark idea of what any reputable firm would charge you for the job.”

Karen smiled. “All right. That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it, Ryan?”

“Yes.” Ryan didn’t look Jack’s way.

“Excellent.” Karen pulled Jack into a hug before he had a chance to make that impossible. She did the same for Ryan, and he welcomed her. “I’m so sorry I have to leave. Expect me to stop by later with food.”

“You don’t need to go to any trouble.”

“It’s no trouble.” Karen practically shook him. “I’ll worry about you.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Ryan smiled.

“Jack, it was a pleasure meeting you,” she said.

“You too, ma’am.”

She closed the door behind them, presumably because she had to go through the house to get to the garage. A minute later, the heavy steel door rolled up, and Karen’s import sedan backed down the driveway. Still awkward around Ryan, Jack waved from the porch as she sped away.

Then they headed toward Ryan’s place, the final stop on Nick Foasberg’s short and troubled journey through life.

Copyright © Z.A. Maxfield


Customer Reviews

Slow and Sweet Review by Ashley
Jack is such a bitter bastard, and I loved him right from the start. Irresistible, he was. Ryan, on the other hand, is a softie. He works as a nurse at the hospital and has a certain confidence to him, but faced with the suicide of his cousin and roommate, Nick, even if he didn't like him, he's feeling particularly vulnerable. The two were a great mix.

The story is slow and on the sweet side. But the boys certainly have the chemistry going on. The high point for me was really seeing Jack recover finally from his emotional damage from Nick. With the rather misdirected help of friends and family and loving from Ryan, he manages to pull himself to a better place.

There isn't a firm HEA here, but I was plenty pleased with seeing these two admit to being boyfriends. I'm putting book 2 on my list!
(Posted on 1/16/2014)
Recommended Read Review by Hannah
Good story, gives you all the background history. Interesting company, you know they are out there, but I can not recall seeing their Ad's. I loved the "Because life is not a fairy tale".
byline...very imaginative.
The story addressed Jacks attraction to Ryan's looks in comparison to his cousin. I still felt the comparison remained throughout the entire story.
It was weird.
Im looking forward to Dave's story. Dave must have a story.
(Posted on 1/7/2014)
Great start to the series! Review by Debra E
Jack Masterson is one of the owners of Brothers Grime, a crime scene cleaning company. A former firefighter who suffered a career ending injury on the job, he sees this as his way to continue helping people through a traumatic time. Jack bears the scars of that injury, but is also deeply scarred by a brutal betrayal by his former best friend and first love Nick 15 years earlier. He has never gotten over Nick and has never revealed Nick’s secrets. The closest he has been with anyone since is with Dave Huntley, another high school friend and closeted cop, who is seemingly happy to remain friends with benefits.

When Jack gets a call from Dave telling him that Nick has committed suicide, old feelings that have never been dealt with rise to the surface. Jack meets Nick’s cousin Ryan, who looks like Nick, but that’s where the similarities end. Jack and Ryan bond during the cleanup of the scene, but those closest to Jack, who saw him through Nick’s betrayal, are uneasy about allowing Jack let the relationship go any further. Even Jack has to wonder if he is just using Ryan as a replacement for Nick and must confront the person he has become and who he actually wants to be.

This entire story takes place over the course of a few days. While the attraction between the two men is instant, this is not a case of insta-love. Both men have reasons to not be involved, and when Jack’s overly aggressive cousin Gabe and best friend Dave get involved, he realizes how deep Nick’s actions affected not only him, but those who love him.

Z.A. Maxfield packs a lot into this short book, with complex secondary characters (especially Dave) and a lot of issues that could have made for an angst heavy book. I particularly enjoyed Jack and Ryan’s “first date” which was filled with humor and a glimpse of what the two men could have together once they put aside their grief and Jack accepts that he can be happy in a relationship again. While I thoroughly enjoyed the story, I think the emotional impact it could have had would have been stronger had there been a little more time to explore Ryan and Jack’s issues. Since this is only the first in the series, I hope that there is more follow-up for the two.
(Posted on 9/27/2013)
A really enjoyable book. Looking forward to the next in the series! Review by NicStar
A great book! I am already looking forward to whatever the next book in The Brothers Grime series is! I hope it is soon!

The first 20% of this book had me a bit confused, introducing characters at a rapid rate and delving into the world of crime scene clean up. But as Jack's company's logo says "Life is not a fairytale." I guess I was a little surprised at the depth of information provided (not for the squeamish but if you can stand watching CSI you should be ok!).

By this point of the book I would also expect to have a clear understanding of the two main characters and started to see them interacting. However at this point, Jack is having casual hook-ups with his in-the-closet cop friend Dave and Ryan isn't very much in the picture.

Jack is part-owner of the clean-up company and the plot revolves around him gaining closure by personally cleaning up the scene of his ex-boyfriend's suicide. The ex happens to be Ryan's cousin and the deed occurred in Ryan's home. Ryan also wants closure by assisting in the cleanup. I must say this all seemed a bit odd but anyway, it got Jack and Ryan together.

Jack has been severely hurt in the past, both emotionally and physically. He still bears scars and has never allowed himself to trust and have a proper relationship. Ryan seems to attract people who need help, such as his cousin Nick. They both need to overcome their issues if they are to have their happy ending.

One of the big problems is concern(mainly by Jack's friends) that Jack's attraction to Ryan is based on his likeness to Nick. Luckily this is not a problem for Jack who clearly sees Ryan as his own man. "Ryan was so like Nick. Yet...they were as individual as snowflakes.". He just needs to convince Ryan of this. "He was going to have to prove it was Ryan's heart, and not his face, that mattered."
This book had wonderful characters including a cute cat, and although filled with gory crime scenes, contained lots of humour. The only downsides were minor - I didn't understand what attracted Ryan to Jack, it was maybe a bit too insta-love and I wanted to know more about Dave's background to understand him better.
(Posted on 5/9/2013)

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