Trust Release – Love is Not a Cure-All

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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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Joy, Tears, and a Mental Health Day

I have every other Friday off from the day job and typically, I get up around 7 and go right to work on writing or writing-related things.  I have 972,648 things I could be doing but this morning I took a mental health day.  It was sorely needed–the blood tests revealed that it’s not an easy solution of adjusting my thyroid meds and my depression is that I’m just not coping with life at the moment–so I have a lot of work ahead of me.  Hard decisions and changes that have to be made.  But I can’t make those while I’m feeling overwhelmed and fragile so I set them aside.  Instead, I lazed around in bed until 8:30 reading.  I got up, took a shower, and puttered around the house.

Doing chores didn’t feel like an insurmountable task, so I loaded and ran the dishwasher, put a couple of loads of laundry in, and prepped some healthy snacks and breakfasts for the next week.  I put vitamins in little baggies, because I’m always forgetting to take magnesium, which is not good, because I’m chronically low and that contributes to depression and anxiety as well.  For once I felt like I wasn’t rushed or frantic and it felt good to be accomplishing things without a sense of impending doom and panic.

During my puttering, I missed the SCOTUS decision, which makes me a little sad.  But I am too happy about the verdict to let it get to me and the tears are mostly a bone-deep sense of relief and validation. Partly for myself, because life is plenty strange and complicated without the world telling you that your feelings are invalid.  There’s enough bi-erasure out there and knowing that I sat in a weird limbo between having rights and not having them made it so much worse.  It’s a relief to know that I, as a human being, can marry whomever I choose.  And yes, I’m married to a man, and yes, I’d like it to stay that way until we’re dead, but there’s no guarantees of anything and it’s an incredible sense of relief to know that no matter what happens, I’m equal to anyone.

But my joy and tears are also for all of my friends.  For the ones who are planning a wedding in Pennsylvania because Michigan wouldn’t allow them to get married here.  For all of the couples who’ve been waiting to plan the rest of their life until they knew if they had rights or not.  For everyone in the country, who will benefit from this ruling.  Yes, even the haters who are convinced their God will send plagues of locusts and had vowed to set themselves on fire will benefit.  We all benefit.

I am Gay/Straight/Lesbian/Bisexual/Trans I am Human card

My happiness is for my characters too, because although they are in my head and on the page, it doesn’t make them any less real.  Right now Stephen and Russ are celebrating and that thrills me too.

There’s still a hell of a lot to be done.  Both in the wider world and in my own life, but for today, I think I’ll set all of that aside and just be happy.  I’ll read and putter and celebrate with friends and really, who could ask for a better mental health day than that?

Ten Years

Ten years ago I lived in a house with friends near campus while I studied psychology.  I slept in a tiny room that barely fit a bed, desk, and dresser.  I’d recently gotten out of a not-so-serious relationship with a cute boy with tattoos and had gone on a horrible date with a girl.  I was having fun dating and was in no hurry to settle down.

On Friendster (a pre-MySpace, pre-Facebook social networking site), I got a message from a guy who lived a few hours away.  I wish I could remember exactly what he said, but at the time it was so inconsequential it slipped  my mind.  He more or less said, “Hey, saw you lived in the area and that we had some things in common.  Just looking for friends.”

I thought, “Sure, why not?” and messaged him back.  We chatted online for a week or so and in that time we started to flirt a little.  He asked for my number and we talked for hours on the phone.  Although neither of us were looking for a relationship, it was clear we connected well and the chemistry was off the charts.  After a few weeks he asked me out on a date and suggested meeting for coffee.  His picture was cute (he kind of reminded me of Heath Ledger and he had on a vest!) and he made me laugh a lot, so I said yes.  I figured at the very least it would make for a funny story.  I never dreamed about the best case scenario.

When he showed up at the house he was still cute, if less Heath Ledger-ish.  He had short, light brown hair and gorgeous blue-green eyes with long, thick lashes.  He wore jeans and an orange T-shirt and he smelled great.  He sat down in the living room and my roommate/best friend interrogated him.  All 110 pounds of her tried to look intimidating as she brandished her knitting needles and asked him pointed questions in case he was an axe murderer.

Once she deemed him safe enough, he and I walked to the coffee shop down the road.  It was maybe a little awkward initially; first dates always are, but by the time we found a seat on the patio–him with a mocha latte, me with a chai–that eased.  The butterflies in my stomach were from excitement not nerves and I had that fluttery, shaky feeling of infatuation.  We talked for hours, covering just about every topic under the sun, and it never got boring.

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Long after our drinks were gone, we walked back to the house and went in my room.  He sprawled on my bed while I sat in the desk chair and we listened to music and talked more.  Eventually, we kissed.  He swears I lunged forward and attacked him, I swear it was mutual.  To this day we can’t agree who made the first move.

Our first date lasted three days.  I fed him leftover homemade blue cheese mac n’ cheese and we cooked together.  We took walks in the park and I remember sitting in the gazebo with his head on my lap thinking I’d never felt that way about a guy before.  After three days, he headed home.  I was going back to my home town and he had to work.  Best friend and I went to World Market to get beer for her father for Father’s Day and in the parking lot she said, “Sooo, seems like your date went well.”  I laughed and agreed.  I said, “There are only two things I don’t like about him.  He has crooked teeth and a really annoying laugh.” She agreed, but we both decided that compared to the way he made me feel, they weren’t important.

He and I dated for a few months, initially non-exclusively because I was freaked out by the idea of settling down.  Of course, I didn’t actually go out with anyone else, I just liked knowing I had that option.  But by the end of the summer we were exclusive, and in September when we went camping he told me  he loved me.  We were at the picnic table and he stood there, squeezing mustard onto a brat, and looked down at where I was sitting and said, “I think I love you.”

My stellar response?  “Thanks.  I really like you, but I’m not ready to say that back.  I promise I’ll get there though!”  *rolls eyes*

That was pretty much the way our relationship went, him forging forward, me holding back.  But he was patient and eventually we were on the same page.  Oh, and the crooked teeth got fixed once he had dental insurance and the annoying laugh has toned down.  Ten years later, here we are, married and living in an old home with three crazy cats.

We’ve been through some rough things together: fire, theft, car accidents, burglary, health issues, the death of family and pets …  Through it all the one thing that tells me I made the right choice is that every bad day is better with him in it.  Even when I’m mad at him, I am glad he’s there to make me mad.  As cliche as it sounds, he’s made me a better person.  I’m stronger and more sure of who I am because of him.  I’m more, well, me.

We go out to celebrate our wedding anniversary every year–it’ll be 4 years in October–but in some ways I think our first date was more monumental.  It’s where it all started.  Every day I am grateful I answered that message.  That I chose to stick with it and fight past my fears about settling down and growing up.  Because while I don’t necessarily believe in soul mates and I think there are many people we can fall in love with, I do believe that maybe there’s one person who is the best fit.  And thanks to luck, good timing, and a lot of patience on his part, I found mine.

Happy 10th anniversary, sweetheart.  You’re the most patient axe murderer ever!