Trust Release – Love is Not a Cure-All

Cover Final

I am so excited to share “Trust” with you. I adore Evan and Jeremy and telling their story was wonderfully challenging for me as a writer. “Connection” and “Trust” both required a lot of research to get the details right. In addition, taking two bruised and battered men and bringing them to a point where they were healed enough to have a realistic and healthy HEA was an interesting struggle.

Love is amazing. It’s one of the best things out there as far as I’m concerned. But it doesn’t conquer all. It doesn’t fix gaping wounds.  In some cases, it can bandage them enough to allow time and proper treatment to heal them. It can inspire a person to work harder, be better, fix their own problems. But on it’s own it is not enough.

You’ll probably never read a book of mine where love is the cure-all. The idea that humans must heal themselves is too deeply rooted in my beliefs. Sure, I’ll write characters who make decisions I’ll never make. I will write awful, abusive characters like Evan’s father Jimmie. I’ll write horrible, neglectful characters like Jeremy’s parents, Kevin and Barbara.

But I won’t write main characters whose lives are magically fixed by love. That’s too easy and too unrealistic; it’s not what romance is about to me. To, me the beauty of a story lies in the struggle. Characters learning and growing and changing is what fascinates me.

It took me nearly 145,000 words and the better part of a year (in the story) to get Evan and Jeremy to a point where their HEA felt believable to me. Evan seeing past Jeremy’s scars didn’t cure Jeremy’s discomfort with them. However, it allowed Jeremy to work with his therapist to come to terms with them. Would Jeremy have done it without Evan’s love? Probably not.

Would Evan have been strong enough to tell his mother how he deserved to be treated if not for Jeremy’s love? I doubt it. But Jeremy’s love didn’t cause that, it merely created a safe place for Evan to flourish and grow.

Looking further out, I could argue that Russ and Stephen’s love for Evan and Jeremy was equally crucial for their growth. Because romantic love is only a part of what these men were looking for. All four of them were searching for love and connection. For family and trust and equality. And, in the end, I think that’s what all human beings are searching for.

We want to surround ourselves with people who love and support us. Who create the kind of environment where we can become the best possible versions of ourselves. Who love us, but know that we are the ones who need to do the real work. Who give us that opportunity and are proud of us when we achieve it.

Who love us and let us grow.

Summary:

Evan Harris thinks his relationship with Jeremy Lewis is going well.  But when Jeremy bolts, Evan is left nursing a broken heart. Jeremy loves Evan, but his inability to trust holds him back from facing his past head on and building the future he desperately wants. Evan’s patience is at the breaking point, and he struggles to decide if Jeremy deserves another chance.

Evan Harris thinks his relationship with Jeremy Lewis is going well.  But when Jeremy bolts, Evan is left nursing a broken heart. Jeremy loves Evan, but his inability to trust holds him back from facing his past head on and building the future he desperately wants. Evan’s patience is at the breaking point, and he struggles to decide if Jeremy deserves another chance.

Scarred by his own parents’ treatment of him, Jeremy doesn’t trust Evan’s mother’s motives when she reappears in Evan’s life after his father lands in jail. The ensuing disagreement about his concerns puts further pressure on their developing relationship.

Unless Jeremy can learn to trust and Evan can let go of past hurts, they’ll miss out on the relationship they’ve both been searching for.

Excerpt:

Jeremy wrestled his shoe on and stood. He swayed on his feet for a second as his skin went chalky again. Evan reached for him, but Jeremy shook him off. His anger seemed to dissipate as his shoulders dropped and his voice softened slightly. “Look, it’s time you find out what the rest of the world is like. Go meet guys, go be young and stupid.” He ran his thumb across Evan’s cheek, his smile sad and wistful. “Just not too stupid.”

Evan stared at him. “And what will you being doing?”

Jeremy’s voice came out gruff. “Feeling lucky I was your first for a few things.”

“Don’t do this, Jeremy.” Evan hated the way he sounded, like he was pleading with him. He wanted to drop to his knees and beg Jeremy to stay, but he was afraid that would only make things work. That it would make Evan seem weak in Jeremy’s eyes. “Please.”

“I can’t be the guy you’re looking for,” Jeremy murmured. “You have no idea how much I wish I could, but it’s not possible.”

“Why?” He winced, hating the way his voice cracked. “I don’t understand.”

“I’m too … damaged and I have too much of my own shit to deal with. I can barely manage to give you a handjob much less anything else. I’m not able to be what you need. I’d be a shitty boyfriend.”

Evan straightened and brushed away the tears. “What if—if you didn’t have to commit to me and we … we slept together. It wouldn’t have to mean anything. Give me rules about where I can touch you. You can keep your pants on. I don’t care.” Right then, he wanted anything, whatever Jeremy would give him.

Anything but losing him.

“I’m in no shape for sex and you deserve a hell of lot more than a cripple for a lover.” Jeremy’s voice was surprisingly gentle. “And let’s be honest, it’s more than sex, isn’t it? You want the rest too. Wouldn’t it hurt you to wonder why you weren’t good enough for me to commit to?”

Evan flinched. “I wouldn’t,” he protested, but he knew he was lying.

“You would. And I know I’m hurting you now, but it’ll hurt a lot less than some half-assed non-relationship.” Jeremy brushed Evan’s hair off his forehead. “I care about you, Evan, way more than I should. What happened last night was a mistake and we can’t repeat it.”

“Wasn’t it good?”

“It was perfect.” Jeremy sighed, the corner of his mouth twisting up in a sad smile. “But that makes it worse, right? I can’t give you what you need and it’s going to end badly if we continue. The last thing I want to do is hurt you, Evan.”

“You already have,” Evan whispered.

“Oh, kid.” Jeremy wrapped his arms around Evan and he collapsed gratefully, his cheek against Jeremy’s shoulder. “I know. And I’m sorry.”

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Flash Fiction Monday – Empty Room

 

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Josh glanced over his shoulder, the garden hose hanging limply from his hand, the newly-planted hydrangeas forgotten.  A few yards away, Pete stood in an all-too-familiar stance. Josh had been seeing more and more of it lately. The crossed arms and bowed head had come to represent all of the problems in their relationship.

The bickering and snarky comments had been out of control lately and Josh swallowed past the thickening in this throat as he thought about all the nights he’d gone to bed alone lately. Pete had either fallen asleep on the couch or come to bed in the wee hours of the morning. If Josh tried to stay up late so they could go to sleep together, he’d invariably nod off and wake to find the room empty and dark.

He couldn’t remember the last time they’d fallen asleep in each other’s arms or made love. Hell, Josh would have been happy with a quick and dirty blowjob, but any sort of intimacy had fallen completely by the wayside.

“I think your shoe is about to get more water than that plant, Son.”

Josh jerked, nearly spraying his father with the hose.  He reached down and turned the valve on the nozzle off before he met his dad’s gaze. “Sorry.”

“I won’t bother to ask if something’s wrong, because I can tell there is. So tell me what it is.”

There was no hiding from the probing gaze of a well-decorated police captain, even if Josh had wanted to, so he sighed and gave his father a helpless look. “Pete and I … we’ve been struggling lately.”

“I can see that. At first I chalked it up to the new house, but I think it’s more than the stress of moving and renovations, isn’t it?”

Josh nodded and thought of the specifications they’d given the real estate agent when they’d been house hunting: at least three bedrooms and a big backyard. He thought of the room next to the master bedroom, carefully decorated with gender-neutral décor that was supposed to both soothe and stimulate a baby’s developing brain and his chest ached.

He and Pete had been ready weeks before the delivery, bags packed with diapers and little onesies. The stuffed lamb Pete had chosen the moment the birth mother had picked them was carefully tucked inside.  So was the tiny hat with bear ears Josh had found one day while he was on a lunch break and hadn’t been able to resist.

They’d waited on pins and needles, desperately praying for a healthy pregnancy and easy delivery.

And then the call came from the intermediary at the adoption agency telling them the adoption had fallen through. She’d used words like disruption and termination of adoption, but all Josh could hear was that someone had taken his future son or daughter from him. They’d both known it was a possibility, but the reality was far worse than he’d ever imagined.

Pete had been equally affected, but more resilient.  Willing to give it another shot. Josh had struggled with the idea, and by the time they were both on board again, cracks had begun to form in the relationship.  Sometimes Josh thought it was just as well there hadn’t been any matches for them. The last thing he wanted was to bring a child into an unhappy home.

“Go talk to him, Joshua. Your husband needs you right now. Whatever is causing this, it’s better to talk and work through it. I’ll finish up this landscaping.”

Josh nodded again. Family and friends had come over to help them plant flowers around the perimeter of the house and lay a stone patio behind it. He felt vaguely guilty as he handed the garden hose to his father and strode over to his husband. But his dad was right. His relationship with Pete took precedence. Everything else could wait.

“Pete?”  His husband flinched as Josh settled his hands on his hips, feeling the sun-warmed denim and soft cotton T-shirt.  Josh rested his chin on Pete’s shoulder. “Can we talk?”

“About?” Pete’s tone was wary.

“About the fact that we’re both hurting over the fact that we lost the baby. And that trying again has been hard as hell on both of us and I haven’t dealt with it well.” Pete was silent, so he continued. “I want a family with you, but not at the expense of losing you.”

Josh straightened as Pete turned in his arms and gave him a tremulous smile. “I don’t want that either. And I know I’ve been a miserable son-of-a-bitch lately. You’re right, it has been hard, but losing you isn’t what I want either.  How about we talk more tonight once everyone’s gone? We’ll get this figured out.”

Josh couldn’t speak so he dipped his head to brush his lips over Pete’s. It was brief and chaste, but after months of chilly indifference, it heated his blood. He pulled back, but kept his arms around Pete, needing the closeness. “Sounds good to me.”

Against Josh’s leg, Pete’s phone vibrated, startling them both. Josh reluctantly stepped back to allow him to answer it. Pete’s eyes widened as he started at the screen and he held out to Josh, who gave him a questioning look before taking the phone.

Linwood Adoption Agency flashed before his eyes and could only think of one reason they would be calling on a Sunday afternoon.

With shaking fingers, he thrust the phone back at his husband. “Well, answer it.”


Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics! We have a new author named Kelly Jensen joining us, so be sure to check out her flash fic this week!

I look forward to seeing you next Monday!

 

Flash Fiction Monday – Ebb and Flow

 

Ebb and Flow

The late-afternoon light made the apartment glow. It was peaceful, almost romantic. Luke had noticed it just before he opened the door to let Joshua inside. It was an idle thought, fleeting and soon forgotten. Thoughts of the light and the ambiance had flown from his head the moment he’d seen Joshua. He couldn’t take his eyes off the guy he’d been dating for a few short weeks. They’d tumbled onto the bed, desperate for each other. Luke had never felt more aroused, more tightly strung and anxious for an orgasm.

When he’d felt Joshua’s lips on his inner thigh, he’d had to grip the sheets below him, afraid he’d explode before Luke got anywhere near his cock. His brain was so muddled and fuzzy from arousal; the sharp sting on his left thigh didn’t really register as pain. It wasn’t until Luke pulled back and Joshua saw the blood and the knife that the fear hit. It hit with the force of a wrecking ball at the glint in Joshua’s eyes. He attempted to scramble away, but the searing pain in his thigh made his head swim. Joshua knelt over his chest, trapping Luke’s arms against his sides and immobilizing him.  Joshua leaned in and Luke’s guts turned to ice water as he realized that in all probability, he wouldn’t survive whatever Joshua did next.

A strangled “help!” burst from Luke’s lips and he managed to repeat his terrified plea a handful of times before Joshua’s hand clamped over his mouth.

“Don’t ruin this,” Joshua hissed. “It was going so well.”

Luke’s heart pounded in his chest and he struggled helplessly beneath Joshua. The betrayal was beginning to sink in. A strange lassitude flowed over him, thick like honey or molasses, making his tongue unwieldy and his limbs feel heavy.

The tip of the knife neared his throat, and his closed his eyes, unable to look at the man he’d been falling for.

I’m going to die, he thought again.

The sharp wail of a siren in the distance made Luke’s heart leap with hope. His eyes flew open and he caught a fleeting glimpse of fear in Joshua’s eyes. As the sound got closer, Joshua scrambled back and the knife clattered to the ground.

Luke felt a sense of relief as Joshua vanished from his vision. The sound of the door opening and slamming shut made him brave enough to weakly shout for help again.  He struggled to get up, weakly trying to push up with his elbows. Exhausted, he collapsed on the bed, his head hanging off the edge, too tired to struggle anymore as his voice faded to a whisper.

The siren faded into the distance as the blood seeped from the wound in Luke’s thigh, soaking through the sheet below him. He stared at the wall behind him, everything fuzzy and upside down.  He heard a noise in the background he couldn’t place, and two feet entered his vision.

Joshua or someone else?

Luke wavered between fear and hope, before his eyes closed and he went limp.


 

Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics! I really enjoyed Helena’s this week.

I look forward to seeing you next Monday!

Brigham’s Recommendations – “Blue Steel Chain” by Alex Beecroft

Summary:

At sixteen, Aidan Swift was swept off his feet by a rich older man who promised to take care of him for the rest of his life. But eight years later, his sugar daddy has turned from a prince into a beast. Trapped and terrified, Aidan snatches an hour’s respite at the Trowchester Museum.

Local archaeologist James Huntley is in a failing long distance relationship with a rock star, and Aidan — nervous, bruised, and clearly in need of a champion — brings out all his white knight tendencies. When everything falls apart for Aidan, James saves him from certain death . . . and discovers a skeleton of another boy who wasn’t so lucky.

As Aidan recovers, James falls desperately in love. But though Aidan acts like an adoring boyfriend, he doesn’t seem to feel any sexual attraction at all. Meanwhile there are two angry exes on the horizon, one coming after them with the press and the other with a butcher’s knife. To be together, Aidan and James must conquer death, sex, and everyone’s preconceptions about the right way to love — even their own.

Review:

I enjoyed all three of the books in the Trowchester Blues series and I’d recommend all of them. The writing is beautiful and a handful of times I stopped just to ponder the way the writer chose to word something.

The third book stood out to me in particular though.  The first two books were excellent, but “Blue Steel Chain” resonated with me on a deeper level. Aidan’s relationship with Piers-his sugar daddy-is truly, gut-wrenchingly horrible. And the more you learn about it, the worse it gets. That being said, none of Aidan’s experiences seem written for titillation, but strictly to further the plot.

James’ previous relationship with Dave-the rock star-is less abusive, but still very painful. At times, it was frustrating to see James’ struggle to move on, but his journey to understand that he deserves better from a partner was very interesting.

Aidan’s escape from Piers and Piers’ pursuit of him kept me on the edge of my seat, but what really sold this story for me was the way the relationship between James and Aiden developed.

They seemed so perfect for each other, until the sexual tension began to rise. It’s still relatively rare to read about ACE characters, and I’ll be the first to admit that the idea of asexuality is something I’ve been actively working to wrap my brain around. This story gave one of the best explanations that I’ve read thus far and did it in a way that didn’t feel preachy. Aidan’s understanding of himself and James’ understanding of his new partner was very well-written. It was a natural evolution for the characters and thus, the reader.

Was the sexual tension off the charts (particularly from James’ perspective)? Yes. Was I disappointed that their sex life didn’t go the way a typical romance does? Not at all. The way they were able to work together and find ways to have a relationship despite the differences in their sexualities. The compromises they made were satisfying to both of them and I loved the way the story wrapped up.

This story was the perfect blend of dramatic action and touching romance and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Buy Links:

Amazon

Riptide Publishing

Flash Fiction Monday – Fairy Tales

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Prince Augustus buried his head in his hands, fighting back the wave of anxiety that swept over him every time he caught a glimpse of them. Every morning when he woke up, he prayed that they’d return to their normal skin tone, but every day the blue hue and icy coldness deepened and spread further. The color moving up his legs and torso had been easy enough to cover, but his hands were more difficult to hide. It had been an unseasonably cold spring, and he’d worn gloves as long as he could, but a sudden warm spell had swept across the kingdom and he was starting to get odd looks from the castle servants—not to mention his father, the king—every time he wore the heavy, black leather gauntlets.

He’d been researching like mad, searching every book in the castle library and consulting with the royal doctor, who’d pursed his lips but agreed to keep it a secret from King Weston.  But nothing they tried seemed to be working.  Augustus had even gone to the fields to spend the day in the sun, hoping that the heat would cure the spreading ice, but nothing had done the trick.

The secret had isolated him from his family and his fiancé, Princess Luciana. Truth be told, he wasn’t heartbroken over that. At best it was an arranged marriage. At worst  … well, he didn’t want to think about that either.  He’d rather spend his time with his men at arms than with his bride-to-be, something he knew wasn’t entirely normal. Especially not for a prince.

“Augustus!” The sound of his name being bellowed across the fields made his head snap up and he caught sight of Sebastian, one of his knights and his best friend barreling toward him on his chestnut charger.

He scrambled for his clothes, snatching them up in his haste to cover the embarrassing hue of his skin.  “Go away, ‘Bastian” he shouted. “Is it too much for a Prince to have a moment alone?”

But Sebastian pulled his heavily muscled horse to a stop in front of him.  Its skin steamed in the cooler air and he wondered how hard and fast Sebastian had ridden it.  He’d managed to tug his pants on, but his shirt still lay in a tangled heap on the ground and there was no hiding his skin.

Sebastian slid to the ground with a heavy thud, letting go of the horse’s reins. It wandered away to munch on grass as he stared open-mouthed at Augustus.  “August, your skin  …” he whispered. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Augustus closed his eyes in shame before opening them to look his friend in the eye. “I’m sorry, ‘Bastian. I didn’t know what to say. Something’s wrong with me and I don’t know what’s caused it or how to treat it.”

“You really don’t know?” Sebastian stepped closer, the heat of his body warming Augustus’ chilled skin.  “You’ve never heard the legends?”

He shook his head. “Legends? I don’t understand.”

“Just trust me,” Sebastian whispered.  Before Augustus could react, he felt the press of ‘Bastian’s lips against his. They both shuddered and, involuntarily, Augustus’ hands reached up to grip Sebastian’s leather tunic. He smelled of sweat, leather, and horse and the scent did something to Augustus that the flowery scent of Princess Luciana’s perfume had never done.

“What are you doing?” he asked in bewilderment as their lips parted, but he didn’t pull away from his friend in horror like he knew he should.

“Look at your hands, August,” Sebastian whispered.

Augustus looked down to see the normal rosy brown hue returning to his skin, the icy cold and blue color retreating like the snow in spring. “What? I don’t understand  … how did you …?”

‘Bastian’s impish grin was so familiar it made Augustus’ heart ache. “You really don’t know the legends then. You’ve been cursed. We’ll have to speak to my mother to discover who placed it on you, but don’t you know what always cures a curse? Think about all of the fairy stories your nurse told you as a child.”

Sebastian thought about it for a moment, then his face split with a wide grin.  His heart felt light for the first time in months. “True love’s kiss.”

“From a handsome prince—or in this case a knight.” ‘Bastian winked at him. “Come. As you well know, my mother’s powers as a healer and wise woman are legendary. She’ll have a solution for us. One even your father will be able live with. Happy endings aren’t just for fairy tales, you know.”

Dazed and disbelieving, Augustus finished dressing and hopped up on the chestnut stallion behind Sebastian.  As the horse’s hooves thundered over the ground, he buried his head against ‘Bastian’s neck and allowed himself to hope.


 

I went a little over the word count again, but I was very pleased with the way the flash turned out.

Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics! Theo’s is fantastic!

I look forward to seeing you next Monday!