Excerpt from A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Certain Age

A Novel

by Beatriz Williams

A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams X
A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2016, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2017, 384 pages

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"You," he says. "You've been acting strange for a while now. Haven't seen you out much. When I do, you're not yourself. And now here you are, freezing to death in a shack in the wilderness—"

"Hardly that. I just wanted a little peace and quiet."

"You can have peace and quiet and central heating, too. What are you doing for food?"

"I've got a little something tucked away."

He shakes his head. "Sisser, Sisser. Let's drive into town and have breakfast. Ham and eggs and hot coffee."

"No, I'll stay here, thank you. I'm not hungry."

"But I've got something to tell you, and I don't want to do it on an empty stomach."

"Yours or mine?"

He grins a wolfish, ecru-toothed grin. "Both."

We are not entirely unprepared, the Boy and I, despite appearances. In the picnic basket next to the dresser, there are a dozen dinner rolls tied up in a napkin, a large flask of gin, a hunk of cheddar cheese, half an apple pie, two oranges, and a sandwich made of thick slices of leftover Christmas ham. Everything you need to shack up for the night in a Long Island attic, except the coal to keep you warm, and really, who needs coal when you have a magnificent self-heating Boy occupying your bed? I bend over and untie the napkin and toss my brother a dinner roll, which he catches adroitly. "Bon appetit. Try not to drop any crumbs on my nice clean floor, will you?"

"This is stale."

There's also a shawl in the basket, the lovely thick crimson shawl of India cashmere that the Boy gave me for Christmas. I settle it over my shoulders and step back to the stove, missing the roof beam by a slim quarter inch. "Tell me why you're here, Ox, and it had better be good."

My brother bites his roll, chews, swallows, and smiles, and when he parts his lips to speak, he says the last thing I'd ever expect to hear from the mouth of Mr. Edmund Jay Ochsner, confirmed and eminently successful bachelor.

"I'm getting married, sis."

"Really?" I fold my arms. "Who's the lucky broodmare?"

"Not mare, sis. Filly. Such a gorgeous, fine-limbed, Thoroughbred filly. The prettiest girl you ever saw. I'm in love, Theresa. I am one hundred percent, head over heels, goofy in love."

"I see." A craving for tobacco strikes my brain, but the cigarettes lie on the floor next to the bed, an inch or two from the sardine-tin ashtray and from the Boy's head resting on the floorboards, and I can't risk drawing Ox's attention in that direction. "Can I assume the poor child feels the same way about you?"

"I hope so. I've asked her father for permission, and he said yes."

"But the girl, Ox. What does the girl say? It's more or less the crux of the whole business, isn't it?"

"Well, I haven't asked her yet. But I think she'll agree." He gnaws another chunk from his bread. "I'm sure she'll agree. She's the sweetest thing, sis."

"And blind, obviously."

"Now, sis—"

"And rich. She's got to be rich."

"Sis."

From the downcasting of his eyelashes, I can see I've hit the nail straight on its bent old head. I say tenderly, "She's got to be rich, hasn't she, or you'd just do what you always do, when the love beetle nibbles."

"No, no. This time I really mean it."

"Of course you do. I'm sure she's a sweet, lovely girl, and her money has nothing to do with it." I pause. "How much has she got?"

"I don't know, exactly." He leans against the wall, on the other side of the roof beam that slopes away from the dresser.

"Oh yes you do. Down to the plug nickel, I'll bet."

The coals have begun to catch on, and the stove is getting hot, though not so much that my icy bones are inclined to step away. Ox is examining the floor now, and his arms are folded, the way he used to look when we were children and he'd been caught in some kind of mischief. The slope of his shoulders suggests confession. "Her father's got a patent on something or other, something that speeds up the manufacture of industrial . . . industrial . . ." He screws up his eyes.

Excerpted from A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams. Copyright © 2016 by Beatriz Williams. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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