Excerpt: On the Wilde Side

Excerpt: On the Wilde Side

Two Wilde Family Novellas


Texas, the El Sueño ranch, July 2014

It was midnight, and General John Hamilton Wilde was drunk.

Not just drunk.

Drunk as a skunk, in Texas parlance, though if he could still come up with a word like parlance, maybe he wasn’t quite drunk enough.

The thought called for another drink.

John Hamilton reached for the crystal glass half filled with Jack Daniel’s finest Kentucky sour mash whiskey.

Good man, Jack Daniel.

But the glass wasn’t half filled. It was close to empty.

“Damn,” he said, reaching for the bottle.

It wasn’t doing much better than the glass. Only a couple of inches of ol’ Jack left.

In that case, he decided, raising the bottle to his lips, to hell with the glass. Might as well drain it straight from the source.


That was much better.

The whiskey went down like silk.

He just hoped to hell there was another bottle in the house.

Odds were there would be.

One of his sons managed El Sueño now, but the place still belonged to him. To four star General John Hamilton Wilde. He owned it, by God, lock, stock and barrel. Jacob had the power to buy and sell livestock, lease out the oil rights, hire and fire ranch hands, cooks, maids, the small army that kept a ranch the size of a small kingdom going, but the boy would surely not be foolish enough to have made any changes in how the house itself was stocked or furnished.

The boy?

His son was far from boyhood. He had a wife and a child.

A wife and a child.

Such a nice, simple equation. One wife. One child.

John Hamilton took another sip of ol’ Jack.

Not three wives.

Well, two wives. Plus one if you got hung up on technicalities.

No technicalities about how many children he had.

He had six.

He had four.

He had six plus four and that equaled ten…and goddammit, if he could add up those numbers, he definitely wasn’t drunk enough.

“Shit,” John Hamilton Wilde said, and he rose to his feet, took a second to get his footing, staggered across the porch, yanked open the back door, went into the big den with all those dead, dumb animals staring glassy-eyed from the walls. They were his father’s trophies, not his; his kids—his six kids—used to plead with him to get rid of those pathetic heads and he’d always said no, he wouldn’t, they were his father’s, and the house, the entire ranch, in fact, belonged not just to whatever generation presently occupied it, but to all the generations that had preceded it…

“Pure and utter bullshit,” John muttered.

He reached up, wrapped his hands around the rack of a bull elk dead probably seventy, eighty years, and yanked hard. The thing didn’t move. John Hamilton grunted, set his feet apart, yanked harder. His face reddened; sweat popped out on his forehead. The damn thing still wouldn’t move.

He stood back, breathing hard.

The elk was as unmovable as the man who’d killed it.

“Tomorrow,” he told the dead beast.

Then he turned his attention to the cabinet on the far wall and, yes, there was a full bottle of Jack’s inside.

It was a beautiful sight, all that excellent whiskey just waiting for him. After all, only the best would do. He was an officer and a gentleman. He was General John Hamilton Wilde, four-star General John Hamilton Wilde, leader of men, West Point graduate. Mustn’t forget that West Point graduate thing despite the fact that he wasn’t the one who was supposed to have gone to the Point or gone into the army as a lieutenant or climbed the ladder to the top.

He wrenched open the cap of the whiskey bottle, tilted the bottle to his lips. Took a long- but-not-long-enough swallow. Wiped the back of his hand over his mouth and collapsed into a big leather chair.

The chair was another legacy from his old man.

Jesus Christ. His entire life was a legacy from his old man.

The general took another drink. And another. He thought about his sons.

“Jesus,” he whispered, the word more a plea than an oath—except even bombed, he knew damn well that not all the pleas or prayers in the world could help fix this screw-up.

The cat was out of the bag. The beans had been spilled. However you wanted to phrase it, his secret was a secret no more.

He had five sons. Five sons. Five grown men. Good-looking. Healthy. Successful. Jacob. Caleb. Travis. Luca. Matteo.

And he had daughters. Five daughters. Hey, why not keep the numbers balanced? Five beautiful, bright girls. Not girls anymore, though. They were women. Emily. Jaimie. Lissa. Alessandra. Bianca.

Two sons and two daughters in Italy. Three sons and three daughters in Texas..


They were here. All of them. His sons. His daughters. They were here, at El Sueño, and the decades-long nightmare that had started on a high school football field, of all places, on a fall evening a million years ago, was finally turning into reality.

That rated another drink. Then another. And the memories came flooding back, because time could never erase them.