by Daniel Palmer

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The answer to a parent’s prayers becomes a nightmare in this “emotionally gripping” thriller of domestic suspense from the author of Stolen (Publishers Weekly).
Gage Dekker still blames himself for the car accident that claimed the lives of his first wife and young son. Then he meets Anna, who understands that kind of grief all too well. Within a year, they are married and soon ready to become parents once more. But a miscarriage brings new heartbreak—until fate brings them Lily. Young, pregnant, and homeless, Lily agrees to give her baby to the Dekkers in exchange for financial support.
With his wife happy and his career thriving, Gage feels a renewed sense of hope. But something isn’t right once Lily enters their lives. At work and at home, Gage is being sabotaged, first in subtle ways—then more sinister. Every attempt he makes to uncover the truth only drives a wedge between him and Anna. And even as he’s propelled toward an unthinkable choice to save his marriage and his job, Gage discovers the most chilling revelations are still to come.
“If you’ve somehow missed reading Daniel Palmer, it’s time to—pardon the pun—get Desperate.” —Harlan Coben

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786033829
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 04/28/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 337
Sales rank: 83,335
File size: 976 KB

About the Author

Daniel Palmer is the author of numerous critically acclaimed suspense novels, including Delirious and Desperate. After receiving his master's degree from Boston University, he spent a decade as an e-commerce pioneer before turning his attention to writing. A recording artist, accomplished blues harmonica player, and lifelong Red Sox fan, Palmer lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children. Visit him online at

Read an Excerpt




Copyright © 2014 Daniel Palmer
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7860-3382-9


The only thing unusual about the bus stop was the crying woman sitting on the yellow-painted curb. Her hands were covering her mouth, and even with all the traffic whizzing down Massachusetts Avenue, I could still hear the muffled sobs. It was the beginning of August, and a warm breeze carried with it the sweet scent of marigolds mixed with pine. I was carrying a brown paper bag with a carton of General Tso's chicken steaming inside. Stapled to the front of the bag was an order slip with just my name, Gage Dekker. No phone number or address supplied; the gang at Lilac Blossoms and I were that close. In fairness to my heart, the bag also contained a carton of steamed broccoli, brown rice (not white), egg drop soup, and some vegetable medley thing that came with the squishy tofu Anna loved.

It was Anna, my wife, who stopped, stooped to the crying woman's level, and asked, "Are you all right?" What Anna was really asking was, "Do you want our help?"

The woman looked up at Anna, her eyes veined as though layered with bloody spiderwebs. She was breathtakingly beautiful, like a runway model: high cheekbones, a translucent complexion, and almond-shaped brown eyes perched below two perfectly arched eyebrows. Her face was a delicate oval, framed by dirty-blond hair, which hung limply over her shoulders in long, straight strands. As for her age, I'd have said late twenties—a decade my junior—but her denim jeans, ripped at the knees, along with the accompanying jean jacket, suggested a younger woman. A girl, really.

"Are you okay?" Anna asked again.

The young woman sucked in a heavy breath, pushed a thick band of hair away from her eyes. She sniffed twice, rubbing the underside of her nose with the back of her hand, flashing me her chipped (and chewed) fingernails.

"Yeah, I'll be all right," she said. "Thanks."

Anna sat on the curb beside her. I kept standing, marveling at the depth of my wife's strength and compassion. She connected while I just watched like a spectator in the stands. It didn't surprise me; Anna had done the same for me.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Anna asked, reaching out to touch the woman's shoulder with her well-manicured hand.

"I'm fine, really," she said.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"You're not from Planned Parenthood, are you?"

Anna looked up at me. The flicker in her eyes registered something important, or the possibility of something important.

"I'm sorry, I don't understand," Anna replied.

The woman exhaled a weighty breath and shook her head. "Sorry, bad joke. Look, since you asked, I just told my boyfriend that I'm pregnant and he went nuts, made this big scene, and just drove off. I guess he left me stranded."

Something passed between Anna and me, a look we'd shared on any number of occasions. It was the look she gave me every time we saw a pregnant woman or a mother with her baby, the look that said: Why can't we have what they have?

"How come your boyfriend was so upset?" Anna asked.

The crying woman's laugh was spiked with anguish. "I guess 'cause I don't know if it's his," she said.

I studied Anna carefully, gauging her gestures and mannerisms to get a lock on her emotions. In the six months we'd been married, we already had been to couples therapy. In fact, everything about our union was accelerated, but that wasn't uncommon in extreme situations like ours, the marriage counselor had explained. In those half-dozen sessions, I'd learned all about active listening. About checking in. Making sure Anna knew I was there for her. In truth, we had gone to therapy proactively, before we had any major issue to address. Figured it was a bad idea for two grieving parents to join their lives without having the tools to make the marriage work. Anna likened it to moving into a house without checking to see if there was a roof.

"Do you have any place to go?" Anna asked.

"I'm going home, unless that asshole won't let me back in."

Anna stood, brushing bits of sand and gravel from the back of her skirt. She found her wallet from within her purse, took out a business card, and hesitated before offering it to the young woman. Anna was a management consultant. She worked out of the house and traveled a lot on business. She was accustomed to passing out her card with our home address on it to strangers, but with this young lady she had hesitated. This wasn't about business. No, this was a personal matter, and Anna knew giving out her card was as much about Anna trying to remediate her own troubles as about offering to help this young woman.

"Please take my card," Anna said. "My name is Anna Miller and this is my husband, Gage. If you ever need to talk to someone, you can give me a call. Okay?"

I knew what Anna really wanted to say. I could read between the lines, no different than learning a new language. Anna's eyes spoke of hope; her hands, each trembling slightly, spoke of desire; her skin color, flush with a rush of blood to the head, spoke of divine intervention. Our hopes and dreams could be answered in the form of this girl.

"Thanks," she said, taking the card from Anna. "My name is Lily."


She'd always be the crying woman to me.


We didn't intend to grow our family through adoption. We weren't even planning to get married or have kids, at least not right away. But I knew from past experience that plans and reality were not always one and the same. On our wedding day, Anna and I laughed, and said we'd had a five-year relationship in less than one year's time.

We went out on six dates before we made love. Six months later we were essentially living together. Three months after that, we got married in a private civil ceremony. No family, no friends were in attendance. It was a mutual decision. We wanted to celebrate each other but didn't want to explain our reasons for rushing into matrimony. A few months before our wedding, a few days after Anna missed her period, she had gone to CVS in Arlington Center, bought an EPT, peed on the stick, and showed me the word PREGNANT. We were going to become parents again. It was both terrifying and elating, and we needed to experience those feelings in private.

I held Anna in my arms, the two of us kneeling on the tiled bathroom floor. Even though I was happy, I felt a stab of guilt. I didn't share this with Anna. This was a time for us to celebrate. But secretly, I felt I had betrayed the memory of my son, and wondered if Anna felt anything similar in regard to her son, Kevin.

How quickly did our elation come and go? Two weeks and seven hours. That was when Anna, her voice strangled by tears, called me from a hospital in Seattle. Anna, a self-employed and highly sought-after management consultant, was traveling on business, finalizing a significant new contract, when the bleeding started. I didn't get all the words, but enough to paint a vivid picture in my mind. Alone in a hotel bathroom, trying to breathe away the throbbing pain in her abdomen, reaching down between her legs and having her hands come away covered in blood. I found out later she took a cab to the hospital. I was crushed to think of her desperate, panicked, and so alone.

When Anna came home, everything was different. I could see it in her eyes. We wouldn't try again, even though her doctor in Seattle said we could give it a go as soon as Anna felt emotionally ready. But Anna wasn't ever going to be emotionally ready. That was what her eyes told me. But the experience had awakened in her a strong desire to become a parent again, as it had with me. It also brought us closer together as a couple and made me realize this was the woman I wanted to marry.

The day Anna decided she wanted to adopt was early springtime, a cool and crisp morning with a blanket of fog low enough to kiss the ground. She had emerged from the shower, towel-drying her shoulder-length dark brown hair. She flopped down on the bed in her plush and fuzzy bathrobe and looked up at the ceiling.

"I've had enough loss, Gage. I can't risk getting pregnant again," she said. Tears lined the bottom of her eyes.

I climbed onto the bed and lay down beside her. Our eyes met. My mind flashed on an image of my first wife, Karen. Anna looked nothing like Karen. My therapist told me this was all intentional on the part of my subconscious. I said it wasn't subconscious at all. I couldn't be with a woman if every day she reminded me of my first great love.

In truth, I hadn't noticed Anna right away. She was new to our grief group, which met on Tuesdays in the basement of a nearby Unitarian church. Her blank and unreadable face didn't draw me to her, but she was clearly attractive—later I'd say gorgeous—tall and longlimbed, athletically built, with alluring brown eyes, a prominent nose, and a beautiful olive complexion. Unlike most of us at group therapy, Anna kept to herself. But one evening while filling our Styrofoam cups with coffee, Anna had smiled at something I said and I felt my heart quicken.

Was it attraction? Could I be interested in another woman? It had been four years since the accident that had claimed the lives of my wife and son. Was it too soon to have this feeling? But I felt it—a powerful tug on my heart from just one simple smile.




Anna had experienced a similar loss with the death of her son, Kevin. After this new loss we agreed on two things: we wanted to parent a child, and we wanted to adopt. A few days after we made the major decision Anna said, "I don't want to use an agency in the traditional sense."

Again, we were in bed and I propped myself up on elbows to look at her. "How else do you adopt a child?" I asked.

"I've been doing a lot of research," Anna said.

I wasn't surprised. Anna was on a mission to have a baby, and I was in lockstep on the journey with her. She was also very practical and methodical in her business dealings, and these attributes carried over into our new quest. She felt her age, thirty-eight, and wanted to have a baby as soon as possible. It was like a thirst that had to be quenched.

"We can skip the agency and do a direct adoption with a birth mother. Technically direct adoptions aren't legal in Massachusetts, so we'll eventually have to hire an agency to facilitate, assuming we find a willing birth mother."

"Why go that route?" I asked.

"Direct adoptions are much faster than agency adoptions. At least, that's what I've read online. But it does require a lot of extra effort. We'll have to use our enthusiasm and initiative to find a birth mother. It might take some luck, but from what I've read it'll definitely take a lot of work."

"Do we take an ad out on" I asked, smiling.

Anna gave me a funny look. "Actually, you're right about taking out an ad, sort of," she said. "We have to make a profile on a website that birth mothers search to select potential parents."

"So we make a profile and then the birth mothers contact us?"

"Like I said, it's faster than going through an agency. I want this, Gage. I need it," Anna's eyes were wide with exuberance, her hands wringing mine like they were dishrags. "My heart hurts. It literally aches with this longing."

We both lay quiet on the bed. "Do you think I'm turning my back on Max?" I asked. It surprised me to hear myself voice this fear aloud, but relieved me too.

"You mean by adopting?" Anna asked.

"Yeah," I said. "Do you think I'm betraying his memory?"

Anna nestled into my chest.

"I think we'll never heal," she said. "But I don't want to give up my dream to become a mother again. I want to raise a baby. I want to see my child grow up, play sports, have friends, learn an instrument, go to a dance or on vacation. These are all the things I can't do with Kevin anymore, but it doesn't mean I can't ever do those things again."

"The obligation of the living is to live," I said.

Anna sat up, looking impressed. "Did you just make that up?"

"No," I said with a little laugh. "My therapist did."

For the next few weeks Anna and I were on a mission to make the greatest, most compelling, most desirable profile on, the largest registry of parents seeking to adopt.

This was, I soon discovered, a very competitive process. Yes, it's all about giving a child your complete and total unconditional love. And yes, it's also about expressing sincere gratitude for the gift, the true blessing of the birth mother who makes possible the completion of a family. But at the end of the day it's also about being picked from tens of thousands of would-be adoptive parents, so you've got to put your best foot forward. Anna and I wrote draft after draft of the birth mother letter until every single word conveyed the spirit of our family and the reasons we've decided to adopt. I'd learned that this letter was extremely important in the adoption process, not unlike a cover letter from a job applicant. It set the tone for the rest of the profile.

After the letter, we completed the profile information. We listed our education (BA for me, MS for Anna), occupations (Director of Quality Assurance at Lithio Systems for me, self-employed management consultant for Anna), ethnicity (Caucasian for us both), religion (Unitarian for me, Presbyterian for Anna), smoking (no for both), years married (one), preference for a child (baby), and special considerations. Were we willing to consider an adoption with an open grandparenting arrangement? I said sure, but Anna said not so sure, so we decided not to list any special considerations.

The process of creating our profile offered us both the opportunity for some serious self-reflection, something neither of us did much of since we stopped attending grief group. For Anna, it rekindled a desire to start painting again. Prior to Kevin's death, Anna would paint murals in the hospital rooms of extremely sick children near her former home in Los Angeles. Soon after we started dating, she showed me samples of her work—pictures the parents of the children had posted on social media—and it was truly breathtaking. She could paint a jungle, a moonscape, or an underwater scene with such vivid detail, it was like being transported there.

Her passion to paint, inspired by her mother's artistic streak, was partially responsible for her becoming a business consultant to top retail clothing brands. Anna had graduated with honors from San Diego State University, carrying a dual major in art history and business. After graduation, she moved to LA on a whim and got involved in the world of high fashion as a PR flack and quickly climbed the ranks. From there, the jump into running a successful retail consulting business was ten years and various jobs away. Uniquely skilled for her line of work, Anna could critique a balance sheet as cleverly as she could a window display.

It took nearly a week of steady effort to complete our profile. We identified our favorite things from a preset list of categories. Mine included sweet tea, Twix, Rock'Em Sock'Em Robots. Some of the items Anna had selected were Dr Pepper, Skittles (never liked them myself), and her Strawberry Shortcake doll.

Pictures for the photo album section of the profile presented us both with a bit of a conundrum. Prospective birth mothers would want to know what we looked like. Anna and I had a few photographs of the two of us together to share, but most of my pictures included Max or Karen. Most of Anna's pictures, what she had on her smartphone, included both Kevin and her exhusband, Edward. Soon after we started dating, I'd given Anna a surprise gift. I'd used Photoshop to take Edward out of one of the pictures with Kevin and had the doctored image framed so Anna could hang it up in her office. I was more than happy to delete her ex from the photograph, but I'd rather have him deleted from the planet.

Edward was good-looking in a California businessman kind of way; I had no trouble seeing Anna's attraction to him. Perpetually tan skin, dark hair, strong jaw line and teeth whiter than the whitecaps off the coast of Santa Monica where they used to live. He didn't look like a rapist, but that was what he was. Six months after Kevin's death, Edward forced himself on Anna because she was too depressed to have sex with him. The bastard raped his own grieving wife.

Anna never reported the crime. She was mourning the loss of her only child to a rare blood disease and couldn't endure more pain and emotional turmoil. Instead of charging Edward with rape, Anna left him in the dead of night—along with the home computer containing all of their family photographs. She hadn't been in touch with Edward since and, despite my urging to at least get more pictures of Kevin, showed no desire to revisit that part of her past.

So we made our profile with the photos we had, and Anna kept an online journal to show we were active on the site. When we met the crying woman, the profile had been a part of our lives for two months, our version of Geppetto's wooden puppet before it turned into a real little boy. Anna had a few contacts via the site, e-mail exchanges with prospective birth mothers, but nothing that led to a face-to-face meeting.

This was our life, playing the waiting game. I went to work at Lithio Systems, a manufacturer of lithium ion batteries located in Waltham. Anna went to work in her home office, or she'd travel on client business. She was working hard to reestablish client relationships neglected in the aftermath of all she had endured. Each morning brought renewed hope that we'd find a willing birth mother, and each night we went to bed with a hole in our hearts that could be filled only by the presence of a child. And so we waited and wondered when he or she was going to come home. Meanwhile, we did that thing living people were obliged to do. We lived.


Excerpted from Desperate by DANIEL PALMER. Copyright © 2014 Daniel Palmer. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Desperate 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Zuni More than 1 year ago
I just completed Desperate, I have not read a book lately that has really kept me from going to bed, this is that book. Daniel Palmer delivers yet another FANTASTIC thriller. DESPERATE is a book that has a great storyline, well developed characters and just darn good writing. The best recommendation I can give is : Read DESPERATE( just make sure that you set aside plenty of time, you will not want to put it down.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I want to begin by stating that I received an advanced copy from the Author, Daniel Palmer with the only request being that I read the book and write an honest review. I love Tuesday’s because I can go into my local Barnes and Noble and see what new and exciting books are released. Tomorrow Desperate is released. Desperate is the newest addition to the books Daniel has written; Stolen, Helpless, and Delirious (in no particular order). The common theme running in Daniel’s books are what would happen if this happened to an ordinary person. Daniel introduces the problem, the problem morphs and things become complicated, and the resolution. I think that is the easiest way to “boil down” the style. In each of his books the problems are very real, in fact they are possible, not farfetched or hard to believe. The problem or problems really could happen and as things unfold the problems that follow are also very real and not farfetched. It’s the believability that allows readers to buy into the book. Sure I also like stuff that is harder to believe, but it’s the believability that allows me to enjoy the ride. Desperate does not disappoint it is an exciting read that will keep your attention throughout with twists and turns, and a few left turns thrown in that leaves you wanting more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put this book down. The ending was fantastic!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not sure how this book gets so many 5 star ratings. It was so poorly written I found myself skipping pages at a time just to get to the ending. Even with jumping through the pages I was able to follow the ridiculous plot. Yes, the ending has a good twist, but not worth reading the entire book. I was looking for a new author to read, I will be passing on Daniel Palmer.
Twink More than 1 year ago
Daniel Palmer is a new to me author. I picked up his latest book - Desperate - on the strength of Harlan Coben's blurb - "If you've somehow missed reading Daniel Palmer, it's time to -- pardon the pun -- get Desperate." Gage Dekker tragically lost his wife and son in an auto accident. It is at a grief group that he meets Anna, a woman also mourning the loss of a child. The two eventually marry and the thought of a child together is raised. With miscarriage and a lengthy adoption wait, their hopes for a new family together seem destined to not happen. But when they come across Lily, a pregnant young woman crying at a bus stop, it seems like fate has stepped into their lives. Lily does not want her baby and the Dekkers desperately do. But can you want something so much that you become blind to those niggling feelings of misgivings? In the beginning it seems like Lily is an answer to their prayers. But then Gage does begin to listen to that little voice at the back of his head. But not Anna.... The 'everyday person put into extraordinary circumstances' premise is a favourite of mine. Palmer does a good job building on this style. The small things become larger until Gage himself is in a desperate position, with his life careening out of control. Palmer's novel is built on plot and action, not on character development. The characters are somewhat one dimensional, despite the emotional baggage they are carrying. But is the plot that is the strength of Desperate. Palmer adds one twist after another, dizzying the reader with the direction the story takes. Palmer did definitely catch me unawares with many of the turns the book took. Some of them are a bit contrived, but add a grain of salt and you 've got a great thriller/suspense book for your beach bag this summer.
quaintinns More than 1 year ago
ow, not sure where to start, as DESPERATE has so many twists and turns, you are not prepared for what comes next, and more importantly questioning each person (are they real, fake, an illusion)? What is true and what is a lie? A skillfully crafted mystery filled with suspense and intrigue! First, Daniel Palmer knows how to create a plot(s). For there to be a story, something has to move or change from point A to B. DESPERATE was A to B and back ten times. An intense page-turner you cannot put down-- utterly unpredictable! One obstacle after another. Readers may think this read another Hand That Rocks the Cradle; however, so much more-drug dealers, murder, and corporate espionage. Secondly, Peter Berkrot, the narrator of the audiobook was outstanding---his voice was the perfect match for this chilling thriller. Buy the audiobook-you will not be disappointed! DESPERATE: Feeling, showing, or involving a hopeless sense that a situation is so bad, as to be impossible to deal with. An act or attempt— tried in despair, or when everything else has failed; having little hope of success. Extremely bad, serious, or dangerous. (Adjectives describing this entire book—at every corner). The main character Gage, blames himself for the car accident that claimed the lives of his first wife and his seven-year-old son, Max. He is on Adderall, and yes, addicted (a drug for ADD) — even though he does not have ADD – it helps him put his grief aside, in order to concentrate. (loved his sarcasm) Gage Dekker works at Lithio Systems, a maker of lithium-ion batteries in Waltham, Mass., doing quality assurance for a revolutionary new product. The loss of his seven-year-old son and first wife to a drunk driver still haunts him, but he’s tried to move on with a new spouse, Anna, a self employed management consultant. Gage meets Anna at the grief support group and shortly thereafter they marry, as they both bond over their grief. She yearns for a child as she lost her son, Kevin (from a rare blood disease), and they are not able to have a baby--so they begin a long adoption process. In walks Lily—young pregnant, and homeless (so convenient). She says her boyfriend does not want the baby, and kicked her out. Gage and Anna offer her an apartment in their home, and take her under their wing, offering financial support. She agrees to let them adopt the baby. The truth behind Lily’s offer is both complex and logical--hold on to your seat, as you get ready for the ride of your life! However, Lily does not care for Gage, and the set-up begins, making him look bad in front of Anna. He feels there is something wrong with this woman, and begins suspecting her and questioning every move as things go missing. He senses danger; however, his wife is so happy, as she feels fate has brought them their much wanted baby. When you think you have solved the mystery, Palmer pulls out another, and another twist, which makes you wonder how criminals seek their victims. How do they find a way into these lives and begin to destroy them piece by piece? DESPERATE, told from Gage’s voice, offers readers an inside view into his fear, frustration, thoughts, and desperation. In a beguiling tale of deception and betrayal—where nothing is as straightforward as it appears to be—
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This books starts out suspensefully but quickly slides into the realm of the ridiculous. Not even cheesy enough for a beach read. Just plain awful.
busymomoftwo More than 1 year ago
Desperate is the latest technical thriller from Daniel Palmer and I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy to read. The book did not disappoint. Desperate was a real page turner, that I simply didn't want to put down. Fortunately for me, I was on a four and a half hour flight, so I had time to read most of the book uninterrupted (other than by the beverage cart stops). Of course, when I arrived at my destination, I wanted to just focus on finishing the book but my schedule forced me to wait until later to finish. Daniel Palmer does a nice job developing the characters. Gage and Anna are a couple that you can't help but care for and cheer on in their desire to become parents again. Of course, since the story is told from Gage's perspective, he is the one that you get to know best, but Daniel Palmer does a great job developing the other characters too - Anna, Brad, Lily and Roy. Sometimes, when reading thrillers, I wonder to myself, which is more scary - the events happening in the story or the fact that someone came up with this idea for a story. This story was no different. With all of the twists and turns, it makes you wonder how could the characters have discerned happenstance from plot. There were some really good twists and turns in the story and as each became apparent, I found myself asking "really?". The book started slower than some of the other books I have read by Daniel Palmer, but once it got moving, it was non-stop. I would recommend Desperate to any lover of thrillers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow - this book is one of the best books I've read. One quote stands out in the book - ONE SIMPLE ACT OF KINDNESS CHANGES OUR LIVES - and such it does for a young woman so wishing for a child. But what lies under this storyline will keep you turning the pages as nothing is as it seems in the lives of this young couple. And with all the twists and turns - the ending will leave you breathless - and yes as it should end. What a great book by a great author!
LC112648LC More than 1 year ago
Desperate ... One of the best books I have read in a long time from the first page to the ending! Highly recommend! First book of his I have read and am looking forward to reading more by him!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You think you have it figured out, but you are probably wrong. Great story with a surprise ending!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pretty good story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Susan Beamon More than 1 year ago
This book has more twists and turns than the average maze, and finding the ending is just as confusing. Every time I thought I had a handle on what would happen next, I was proven wrong. Nothing followed conventional paths in this thriller. Saying more would spoil the story for a reader in search of the new and different.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a thilling read ! So good that take out food was all my family had for two nights in a row! Keep them coming mr palmer,you have a wonderful story telling tallant!!!!!!!!!