Ten Days in August is the story of Hank, a New York City police detective, and Nicky, a female impersonator (a drag queen in modern parlance), but both of these characters are a lot more than that, too. I wanted to share an excerpt in which they get a little further below the surface. This scene occurs shortly after Hank, who is naturally suspicious, followed Nicky to his sister’s home in the Lower East Side tenements, and walked into a crisis. After helping, Nicky and Hank, who still don’t quite trust each other, confer while sitting on the steps of a church on a very hot day:
“This is what I come from,” Nicky said. “My parents came here from Ireland during the famine. They had nothing when they left and even less when they arrived. We lived in a tenement just like Brigid’s. I was born after the war, but my father is no war hero. He is a failed farmer who drank to forget his failures. Since he is not at the church now, there’s no telling where he is, though I imagine he found a saloon to drown in.” Nicky took a deep breath, unwilling to look at Hank for fear of what might be on Hank’s face. “My mother never quite recovered after she had my younger sister, and she died on a hot day not unlike this one.”
“I’m sorry,” said Hank.
“This city. When I was a boy, my father would talk about all the opportunities in America. What opportunities? To be crowded into a dark tenement? For a little girl to not get a chance at life because her family has nothing? There are men who come to Bulgaria who have everything. Money, fancy clothes, huge houses. They pay men like Charlie to take care of their needs and then go back uptown to their gold and their wives. They are privileged above all else, but today, my niece died because she could get no relief from the heat.”
“Yes. I know.”
And Hank did know. Hank was a queer police officer, that was plain. His investment in the case was likely due to his own intimate familiarity with the world Nicky occupied.
This was not to mention his years as a police officer as he worked up the ranks, during which time he’d probably witnessed things Nicky could not even imagine.
“New York is a city that will bleed you dry,” Hank said. He wiped his face with his handkerchief again. “And yet I would not live anywhere else.”
“No. Nor I.”
They shared the silence for a few moments. A horse pulled a cab up Henry Street, blowing out breaths like a steam engine did puffs of smoke. The heat bore down on them, wet and oppressive. The street stank of mold and rotting meat. There was a haze over everything, like they had taken up permanent residence in a cloud close to the sun, slowly baking. Nicky had already sweat through his shirt, his waistcoat was damp, and his coat now lay on the step beside him, for all the good taking it off did. Hank was similarly damp, sweat dripping off the ends of his dark hair and pooling at his collar. He put his hat, the dusty brown bowler, on the step beside him, near his own coat, and stared forlornly at the street.
“In all my life,” Hank said, “I cannot recall a week like this.”
Nicky couldn’t either. He wondered even if the one good thing about it, currently sitting beside him, was like an imagined oasis in the desert.
“Is your brother-in-law still talking to the people from the funeral parlor?” Hank asked.
“Yes. He does not have much. He owns a shop, but they only make enough to get by because there are so many mouths to feed. Brigid works a few days a week at a shirt factory near Washington Square. They trade off watching the kids, or my father watches them if he’s sober, but sometimes Brigid’s oldest daughter Lucy works at the factory in her stead. Lucy is twelve.” Nicky’s heart squeezed. He could feel his grip on everything slipping away, but if he couldn’t keep holding on, he’d fly to pieces.
Hank reached over and briefly rested a hand on Nicky’s knee. Then he withdrew his hand again.
The small gesture did more than Nicky could ever express.
“I need to go to my precinct house this afternoon for an hour or two,” Hank said softly, his voice low and close to Nicky’s ear. “But I will stay for as long as you need me.”
It was all Nicky could do not to cry. He pressed his fingers to his eyes as if he could keep the tears at bay and he nodded. “Thank you.”
Hank took one of Nicky’s hands and held it between both of his. It was too hot to touch, and Nicky’s hands were slimy with sweat, but Nicky couldn’t pull his hands away. He looked up at Hank and their gazes met. They simply stared at each other for a long time. “You’re welcome,” Hank said.
Blurb: Ten Days in August
From the Lower East Side to uptown Manhattan, a curious detective searches for clues on the sidewalks of New York—and finds a secret world of forbidden love that’s too hot to handle…
New York City, 1896. As the temperatures rise, so does the crime rate. At the peak of this sizzling heat wave, police inspector Hank Brandt is called to investigate the scandalous murder of a male prostitute. His colleagues think he should drop the case, but Hank’s interest is piqued, especially when he meets the intriguing key witness: a beautiful female impersonator named Nicholas Sharp.
As a nightclub performer living on the fringes of society, Nicky is reluctant to place his trust in a cop—even one as handsome as Hank. With Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt cracking down on vice in the city, Nicky’s afraid that getting involved could end his career. But when he realizes his life is in danger—and Hank is his strongest ally—the two men hit the streets together to solve the crime. From the tawdry tenements of the Lower East Side to the moneyed mansions of Fifth Avenue, Nicky and Hank are determined to uncover the truth. But when things start heating up between them, it’s not just their lives on the line. It’s their love…
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Kate McMurray is an award-winning author romance author and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She is currently president of the New York City chapter of Romance Writers of America. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
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