Hi, everyone! I’m so excited to reveal the cover for Book 2 of my Spectrum Nights series, See My Words, releasing from NineStar Press on April 24th! It picks up right where Pieces of Me left off, and I’m including a good bit of Chapter 1 here exclusively for LoveBytes readers. I hope you enjoy!
Since See My Words cannot be read as a standalone, I’ll give away a copy of Pieces of Me to a winner chosen from the comments! I’d love to know if anyone’s from or ever visited Arizona before, especially Sedona, which is where a lot of See My Words takes place.
Thank you, Dani and LoveBytes, for hosting me today. I’ll see you next month!
See My Words – Spectrum Nights Book 2
Successful underwear model Scott Ashworth is lucky–his attack at the hands of an unknown assailant will leave no visible scars. His professional goals are still within reach, and best of all, his stepbrother Rylan Mahoney is back in his life, their teenage infatuation at last getting the chance to deepen into something more. Thrown together by the circumstances of Scott’s injury, Rylan’s long-dormant feelings for him are quickly rekindled, though he’s haunted by the memory of Scott’s sudden disappearance on the night of his eighteenth birthday and the six missing years that followed. Rylan listens to his instincts and pushes Scott for the truth, a firm believer in the maxim that secrets lose their power once they’re shared–but resurrecting old demons almost always comes with a price. Before he knows it, Scott’s life is spiraling out of control, his toxic insecurities welling up to threaten the fragile relationship he’s building with Rylan. Learning to let go of the past and believe in himself will be Scott’s greatest challenge, or else he risks losing Rylan forever this time.
“For what it’s worth, I’m really glad you’re here, Ry.”
Scott brushed their lips together, and without another word, let go of Rylan and turned to run lightly down the VIP stairs.
“Me, too,” Rylan whispered to the empty room, sighing. His eyes were burning from emotion and fatigue, his body throbbing from Scott’s kiss, his touch. He sank down onto the couch they’d just been lying on, running his hand over the still-warm leather and quirking his lips ruefully.
Things hadn’t changed much in six years.
It wasn’t just Scott’s beauty, his sheer physical appeal—Rylan had never been quite that shallow. But layer their explosive chemistry on top of that vulnerability in Scott’s eyes, the loneliness Rylan suspected he didn’t let many people see…and he was lost.
So much for holding you at arm’s length, huh?
Shaking his head and vowing to do better, Rylan grabbed his camera and backpack before trudging down the stairs himself. A quick glance toward the main stage revealed Sheer Blyss wrapping up what looked like a comedy routine, some oiled, muscular go-go dancers in thongs lifting her to their shoulders to carry her away.
The crowd was definitely thinning, but Lance was still ensconced with his posse over in one corner, the amount of pitchers, bottles, and glasses on the tables in front of them attesting to the hangover they’d be feeling later. Corey was nowhere in sight, and neither was Teena.
Not all that disappointed at having missed the last show, Rylan picked his way along the edge of the dance floor toward the club entrance. What a night. What a confusing, exhilarating night. Outside it was warm, and the dry desert air smelled of orange blossoms. He took a deep, cleansing breath, striving for calm. The best thing to do was let things with Scott unfold in their own time, in their own way. He snorted to himself. Easier said than done, as tonight had made painfully clear.
Rylan squared his shoulders and straightened his backpack, scuffing along the pavement next to the parking lot. The short walk to the light rail station wouldn’t be so bad, even if he’d much rather be riding in Scott’s little convertible right now. He should have taken him up on his offer—
A piercing scream rent the air, and Rylan jumped in shock, stumbling over his own feet as he whipped his head around looking for the source of the sound.
“Help!” came another cry. “Oh my God, I need help!”
Without thought, Rylan took off at a sprint toward the inner depths of the parking lot. The desperate shouts got louder as he rounded a couple of cars, and Rylan skidded to a stop when he saw a woman crouched next to a figure crumpled on the ground.
“Ma’am, what’s wrong?” he called, not wanting to approach blindly without some idea of the situation. A few other people ran up, and Rylan recognized one of them as Jerry, the club bouncer. He slumped with relief, turning away. Let the pros handle it.
“This man, he’s hurt!” the woman was babbling, and Jerry triggered his wireless earpiece with his finger as he strode over to kneel next to her.
“It’s Jerry. We have some sort of situation in the west parking lot. I—Jesus Christ! Scotty!”
“What?” The name cut through Rylan like a hot blade, and he whirled around before shoving through the growing crowd to stare down in disbelief. It was Scott, half on his back, half on his side, a horrifyingly large pool of blood spreading from under his head.
“Oh my God.” Rylan collapsed to his knees next to him. “What happened to him?”
Jerry was shouting at someone, ordering them to call 911.
“Is he breathing?” the woman sobbed, clutching a shivering black poodle. “I don’t think he’s breathing.”
No. Rylan felt a shaking start deep inside and spread outward, until his whole body was trembling so hard his teeth started to chatter uncontrollably. Jerry pressed unsteady fingers to Scott’s neck. “He’s got a pulse. He’s breathing.”
Through his tears, Rylan could see that Scott’s chest was indeed rising and falling, and all he could do was whisper, “Thank you, God. Thank you, God.” A warm hand landed on his shoulder, and Rylan started so badly he almost lost his balance.
“Rylan, what happened?” Chris squeezed his shoulder as he knelt down next to him, taking in Scott’s crumpled form.
“Somebody hit him with something!” the woman interrupted in a voice high-pitched with shock. “I was walking my dog, and I saw this guy about to unlock his car, and some other guy ran up to him and bashed him in the face! He hit his head really hard on the ground, too.” The woman buried her face in the dog’s fur. “Oh my God. He went flying backward and—”
“Head wounds bleed like a motherfucker,” Chris said tersely. “We need to put pressure on the cut if we can find it.” He yanked his T-shirt off, wadded it up before hesitating. “I don’t have any gloves.”
Rylan elbowed Jerry aside and took his place at Scott’s shoulders. “I’ll look for it.”
“Rylan, the blood. You don’t have to put yourself at risk. The paramedics will be here any minute.” Chris put his hand on Rylan’s arm, and Rylan knocked it away.
“I said I’ll look for it.” He plunged his fingers into Scott’s blood-soaked hair, feeling along his scalp, until he discerned a ragged gash above his ear. “Give me the goddamn T-shirt.” Chris shoved it at him, and Rylan pressed it hard to the gash, trying not to jar Scott’s neck.
“Where’s the fucking ambulance?” he screamed, and he looked up into the crowd, enraged to see how many of them were just standing there, filming on their phones. “Tell me somebody called a motherfucking ambulance!”
“Easy, man,” Jerry murmured at his shoulder. “Travis just radioed me that the cops and paramedics are on their way.”
Rylan crouched next to Scott and stroked his temple, his jean-clad legs soaked through with Scott’s blood, and prayed like he’d never prayed before. It seemed like hours but it had to have only been a few minutes until he heard sirens followed by the sound of booted feet running toward them.
He moved back, collapsing down on his ass and watching through his tears as the paramedics and EMTs worked over Scott.
“Probable mandibular fracture,” one of them called to another, who was relaying information to someone through a cell phone. “Patient unconscious and unresponsive. Crepitus, malocclusion appear to be present.” She probed inside his mouth carefully with a gloved finger, her voice clipped and clinical. “There is active intraoral bleeding and edema also present.”
A neck brace was clicked into place before they carefully rolled Scott onto his side and then to his back again on top of a rigid board.
Rylan let out a gasp as the first paramedic, her hands sure and swift, used some sort of blade slipped between Scott’s teeth to ease a breathing tube in. A bag was attached, and another paramedic started to squeeze it rhythmically.
“He can’t breathe?” he choked out, and he felt a strong arm come around his shoulders.
“It sounds like he has a broken jaw,” Chris said. “If so, it’s possible the muscles aren’t strong enough anymore to keep his tongue from blocking his airway. Plus there’s a lot of blood in his mouth. They’ll breathe for him until they make sure he’s breathing okay on his own.”
“You a doctor, man?” Jerry asked, sounding as shaken as Rylan felt, and Chris shrugged.
“No, just a photojournalist who was embedded with a combat unit in Afghanistan for several months. Saw a couple of bullet ricochets to the face. Not enough velocity to kill, but it sure as fuck could mess a guy’s jaw up pretty good.” Rylan and Jerry flinched in unison, and Chris tightened his arm around Rylan, remorse in his tone as he said, “Aww, shit, I’m sorry, guys. I didn’t mean to be so blunt, and that was uncalled for. I know that’s your friend over there.”
They sat in silence for a minute, watching, until Jerry demanded, “What the fuck they doing to him now?”
Chris glanced over. “Stabilizing his jaw with a bandage wrapped around his chin and head. It’s kind of like a splint.”
The paramedics started an IV, and Scott was lifted onto a stretcher and wheeled to the waiting ambulance.
Rylan turned and buried his face against Chris’s bare chest. “Will you drive me to the hospital, please?”
“Of course.” He helped Rylan to his feet. “I’m over this way.”
They followed the ambulance as best they could, and when they reached the emergency room entrance, Chris dropped him off. “I need to run home and get another shirt, and I’ll bring you some sweatpants to change into. Be back in a few, okay?”
Rylan wanted to tell him he didn’t have to come back, that he could handle it, but at the moment, he wasn’t sure he could. Seeing Scott, always so larger than life, now battered and broken, made Rylan feel like he himself could shatter into a million pieces at any moment. If there was any kind of bad news to come, he selfishly didn’t want to be alone.
“Thanks,” he croaked. “I appreciate that.”
Chris nodded before roaring away. Rylan hurried through the doors into the ER, a couple of horrified gasps echoing around him.
“Sir, you okay?” asked a man sitting in one of the rows of plastic chairs, his wide-eyed gaze fixed on Rylan’s legs.
“Not my blood,” he said tersely as he strode to the admitting window. A few minutes later, he was ensconced in a plastic chair of his own, his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. Wait. Of course he had to wait.
“Rylan, baby!” An unmistakable voice, and Rylan looked up to see Teena—no, there was no trace of Teena in the man who rushed toward him, no sparkly dress or fabulous makeup, no bad-ass attitude or snarky words. Just a friend wearing jeans and a sweatshirt and a terrified expression on his face.
“Hey,” Rylan said, accepting Minh’s fervent hug with gratitude. “There’s no word,” he said, forestalling the anxious questions he could see welling up on Minh’s lips. “I’ve asked a couple of times, and the receptionist lady won’t tell me anything.”
“Well, I’ll get that bitch to tell me some-mahfuckin’-thing,” Minh snarled, and before Rylan could stop him, he’d headed toward the admitting window. Some loud words and wild gesticulations later, Minh slunk back, looking abashed.
“That lady don’t give no fucks,” he muttered, and Rylan huffed out a mirthless laugh.
“Yeah, I’m sure she’s used to shutting down hysterical people in her waiting room,” he said drily. “Which is why I’m just sitting here staring at nothing!” His voice rose in spite of himself, and Minh slid an arm around his shoulders.
“Hush now,” he soothed. “Scotty’s tough, and that man been through way worse things than a lil’ ol’ punch to the face.” His tone held a determined cheerfulness, and Rylan heaved a ragged sigh just as Minh dropped his arm and sat back, his eyes narrowed.
“Y’all way more to each other than just ‘old friends,’” he said, “which is all Scotty will tell me about you.”
Rylan stood and stretched, wincing as his lower back and ass protested the hard plastic they’d been subjected to for the last half hour. “Would you believe we’re stepbrothers? His mom married my dad when we were teenagers.”
“Get the fuck out,” Minh sputtered, a look of utter shock on his face. “Really?”
Rylan told him the CliffsNotes version of their relationship, leaving out Heather’s final revelations, saying only, “His mom pretty much drove him away, and I hadn’t seen or heard from him in six years when I ran into him at Pride…oh Jesus, was it only three days ago?” Three days that seemed like a lifetime already.
“Were y’all in love?” Minh asked with characteristic bluntness. “’Cause there’s way more here than just family bonding.”
Rylan looked at him. “I was, yeah,” he admitted quietly. “Or at least as much as a sixteen-year-old boy can be. We’d started sleeping together at the end there, so there was a lot going on that we didn’t get a chance to figure out. Not before he—”
Minh nodded his understanding, and Rylan went on, his voice tentative, “How long have you known him?”
“Can you tell me—”
“No.” Minh’s face was implacable, although his tone was gentle. “That isn’t my story to tell, baby. If he wants you to know, he’ll be the one to say it. Aiight?”
Rylan sat back down in the chair. “Fair enough. I’m so glad he had you for a friend—”
“Hey.” Minh put his arm around him again. “I’d die for Scotty, and he for me. But we’ve never been in love, never crossed our minds to try for anything like that.” He gazed up at the ceiling for a moment, as if debating with himself. “He told me one night, a long time ago, that there’d been a boy once. A sweet, kind boy who made him believe there’s good people in the world, even when he’s surrounded by nothing but ugliness.”
Rylan scrubbed at his eyes with the heels of his hands, holding back a sob.
“I had a feeling that boy was you, from the first moment I saw you with him.”