Title: See My Words
Series: Spectrum Nights, book 2
Author: Melanie Hansen
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: April 24
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Genre: Romance, angst, family drama, friends to lovers, hurt/comfort, model (ish), Photographer/photojournalist, reunited, step brothers
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 disappearance on the night of his eighteenth birthday and the six missing years that followed. Rylan 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 Scott knows it, his 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.
See My Words
Melanie Hansen © 2017
All Rights Reserved
Scott stared at the image. All three of his half-brothers were sitting at one of the bar’s high tables, Donna standing behind them with her arms around their shoulders. They were clustered close together, leaning on each other, beaming.
“Whoa, they’re so big. And they look really happy.”
“When was this taken?”
“Right before I moved out here. In fact, I stopped in Pace on the way just to see them.”
Scott tore his eyes away from the picture to stare at Rylan. “So you’re still in touch with them? With the boys?”
Rylan nodded. “I am, yeah. We’re friends on Facebook, and we text sometimes. They’re great kids.”
Scott was silent for a moment. “What about the baby? Cara? Is she—”
“Still with Heather? Yes.” Rylan’s voice was soft. “The picture you saw that first day in my apartment? That was the last time I saw them, when I went up to visit Cara before finals.”
“So you talk to—her? Heather, I mean.”
“Sometimes. Not often.” Rylan touched the scar on his cheek almost absently, and his eyes took on a haunted look. “When she and my dad split up, Scott, it was…ugly.”
Scott’s stomach roiled, and the puree he’d just drunk surged back into his throat. He grasped Rylan’s wrist, drawing his startled glance.
“Did Heather give you that scar?” he demanded. “That fucking bitch—”
Rylan gasped. “No!” he exclaimed. “She’s never, ever touched me.”
Scott released him, studying the scar before tracing it lightly with his thumb. It was high on Rylan’s cheekbone, small, but white and jagged.
“You can’t tell me that’s always been there, Ry. I would have noticed it before.” Would have noticed it back when he used to map every inch of Rylan’s face with his lips as they lay entangled together in his narrow bed. “Who did this?”
A pause. “My dad.”
The answer was so unexpected that Scott reared back in disbelief. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he croaked. “Bob—hit you? Bob?” He couldn’t wrap his mind around it. Gentle Bob, who adored his son beyond reason, hit Rylan so hard he’d left a fucking scar? “What the hell happened?”
Rylan wrapped his arms around himself, hunching over. “While my dad was gone on one of his over-the-road jobs, Heather went out with her friends one night, got drunk, and brought home a man. But this time the dude didn’t fuck and run; he stayed for the weekend.”
“Holy shit. And your dad caught them.” Scott’s voice was hushed.
Rylan gave a jerky nod. “He walked in on them, in bed. I could hear them through the wall, and I’ll never forget the anguish in his voice as he demanded to know what exactly it was he was seeing. Heather was pleading with him, and the other guy was trying to tough it out. Lots of yelling, lots of crying—”
Rylan surged to his feet and started to pace. “The other dude finally left, and my dad and Heather kept fighting. I could hear them in the living room. I was gonna stay the fuck out of it until I heard Cara crying. So I went out there.”
Rylan’s chin trembled, but he pressed his lips together, breathing hard through his nose until he regained some control. “Heather was on the couch bawling, and Cara was wrapped around her leg. My dad was losing it, and when he saw me, he got up in my face. ‘Has this happened before, Rylan?’ I had no fucking clue what to say, and I guess my hesitation was his answer, because the next thing I knew, I was on the floor, my cheek on fire.”
He touched the scar, his eyes awash with the tears he was refusing to let fall. Scott ached to take him in his arms, but instead he jammed his hands in the loose pockets of his sweatpants, his fists clenched.
“My dad stood over me and screamed, ‘How many times? Why didn’t you tell me?’ He just kept saying that,” Rylan went on hollowly. “I had a cut on my cheek from a ring he was wearing. Blood was everywhere, dripping from my chin, getting in my mouth—” He licked his lips as if remembering the rusty taste on them. “—and all I could do was say, ‘I’m sorry, Dad.’”
“Jesus.” Scott’s curse was heartfelt.
“He was hurting, Scott, looking for someone to blame, and I was there. I was right there.”
“Why the fuck didn’t he blame the one who deserved to be blamed?” Scott snarled, taking his hands out of his pockets and slamming them down onto the couch cushions.
“He told me later that blaming her was too much like blaming himself, that he didn’t want to think about it being his fault. He wanted it to be someone else’s fault, even mine. After he hit me, he left and drove away. Heather helped me up, washed the blood off my face, and glued the gash shut with this liquid skin stuff she had. She wasn’t crying anymore, and she seemed really calm. It helped me calm down.”
His shoulders were so bunched and tense Scott couldn’t help but get up to put his hand on Rylan’s back, gratified when he seemed to take comfort in the soothing touch.
“What happened then?” he whispered, stroking the nape of Rylan’s neck with his thumb.
A quiver ran through Rylan’s body. “She put Cara to bed, and then we sat out on the porch together the rest of the night. Sometimes quiet, sometimes talking a little.” He heaved a sigh. “I think she really loved my dad, Scott, but for some reason couldn’t keep herself from sabotaging everything. She was devastated, but at the same time seemed almost relieved it was over, as weird as that sounds.”
When you don’t feel you deserve anything nice in your life, it scares you to death when you actually get it. It was a feeling Scott was all too familiar with, and he winced as an unwilling sympathy for Heather churned in his gut. He didn’t want to feel sorry for her, didn’t want to—understand her.
He shoved the thought away, concentrating instead on what Rylan was saying.
“We didn’t see my dad for about a week. Heather seemed okay on the outside, but I could tell she was slowly falling apart on the inside. I recognized the signs.” A shadow flitted over his face, and he clenched his hands into fists. “My own mom, you know? I couldn’t go through that again, and I felt so fucking helpless, so I went to Donna.”
Scott gave a quiet snort. “That woman is a force of nature.”
Rylan quirked his lips. “That she is. She drove over to the trailer, packed up the kids’ stuff, and took all four of them to her house. Told Heather they’d be safe until she got her shit together. She didn’t protest it, didn’t fight. When my dad came for me after a few more days, I left with him. Left her alone.”
“You’d done all you could, Ry. You know that, right?”
“I left without a backward glance,” Rylan said bluntly. “I was so fucking drained. By you, by her…”
Scott flinched, but Rylan went on, “My dad needed me. I walked away so I could save what was left of my strength for him.” His face was expressionless. “And for myself. I’d gotten a full scholarship to the University of Miami, but there was still a third of my senior year to go. I needed to concentrate on my grades and my own future. You were gone, the kids were safe with Donna, and there was nothing else I could do for Heather.”
The sun shimmered off the nearby buildings and bounced in through the windows, hurting Scott’s eyes and making him feel light-headed.
You should have been there, you stupid fuck.
As if reading his mind, Rylan murmured, “You being there wouldn’t have changed a thing, Scott. Heather would have still done what she did. You know that. It was only a matter of time.”
“But if I’d been there, maybe I could have deflected Bob’s anger onto me. Could have taken that blow for you, saved you that heartache at least.”
So much fucking heartache.
Rylan’s face softened. “It is what it is, Scott. Your mantra, remember?”
“Fuck mantras. I should have been there.” He slid his hand down to Rylan’s shoulder. “Were you and your dad okay, after what happened?”
“Yeah. He got us a tiny apartment not far from the school. It took a while, but we got everything sorted out. By the time he—died, we were more than okay.”
Scott relaxed a fraction. “Good,” he whispered hoarsely. “That’s good.”
Rylan patted Scott’s hand once before releasing him. “Ugh, I guess I’d better go take a shower, get ready for the club. There’s a big bachelorette party tonight, and Corey wants lots of pictures.”
“Yeah, okay.” Scott wiped a stray tear away with rough impatience. “If you need to go—”
“Can I take your car, or do you need it? I don’t mind taking the bus.”
Scott started to tell him to take the car, but the thought of the long, lonely night stretching before him made him say impulsively, “If you can wait a few minutes, I’ll drive you. Maybe stay for a drink.”
Rylan lifted an eyebrow. “Really? That’d be great. I know everyone would love to see you. People are always asking me how you’re doing.”
Scott didn’t know how true that was, given how silent his phone had been for the past three weeks, but he didn’t say anything, just headed for the shower. Afterward he pulled on a pair of jeans and an aqua-green silk T-shirt, standing in front of his full-length mirror and looking himself over, suddenly unsure.
“You’re beautiful as ever, Scott.” Rylan’s quiet voice came from the doorway.
“No. I don’t feel like myself at all.” Scott tugged at the loose material of his shirt, a shirt that used to mold itself to his ripped torso like it was painted on. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. People don’t need to see—”
Rylan came behind him and put his hand on Scott’s shoulder. “You’ll be the most gorgeous man in the room. Trust me.”
Their eyes met in the mirror, and Scott gave him a shaky smile. “I think you’re biased.”
Rylan chuckled. “I’m a photographer. I can’t be biased.” His voice was gently teasing. “Don’t believe me?”
Scott shrugged, and Rylan reached out and threaded their fingers together. “The camera doesn’t lie, Scott. Let me show you.” He turned to walk out of the room, tugging Scott after him and making a quick stop to snag his camera from the couch before leading him to the balcony.
The sun was low in the sky now, bathing everything around them in a soft, golden glow.
The camera whirred, and Rylan glanced at the screen, making a few quick adjustments before starting to shoot in earnest. Scott lost himself in Rylan’s quiet directions, first leaning back against the railing and then turning to prop his elbows on it while he gazed into the distance.
“Here, come see.” Rylan beckoned to him, and Scott walked over to gaze down at the digital screen in awe. The waning light kissed his face, throwing his cheekbones into sharp relief, the light scruff on his chin emphasizing his full lips. The soft green of his T-shirt reflected the fading radiance of the sun and made his eyes stand out like jewels.
“No filter, Scott. Just you. And you’re fucking gorgeous.”
Scott quirked his lips in a rueful smile. “You probably think I’m the vainest son of a bitch you’ve ever met, don’t you?”
“Never. There’s nothing wrong with needing some reassurance, especially after the trauma you’ve been through.” Rylan held up the camera. “I can tell you you’re beautiful, but sometimes you just have to see the words. See what I see.”
The lump in Scott’s throat threatened to choke him. “Sweet Ry,” he whispered. “Thank you.”
They smiled at each other, and Scott leaned in. Rylan lifted his face for the kiss, his lips parted, but Scott turned his head so his mouth grazed Rylan’s temple instead.
“Let’s go to the club.”
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The bottom line with Scott is Heather pretty much broke him. Having heard all his life he’s a worthless piece of nothing has completely and totally ruined him. He needs help. Unfortunately it takes hitting rock bottom – again – for him to realize he (and Rylan) can’t continue the way their going. Their relationship is cyclical and dangerous. I do believe they are soul mates. I do believe they love each other and need each other (in a healthy way) but it is hard to watch them struggle through the relationship until it breaks and Scott realizes he just needs help. It hurt to see Rylan blind to his enabling of Scott’s behavior. He is the right person for Scott and can see through to the heart of Scott but he wasn’t helping Scott get what he needed to heal. I loved seeing the beginning of the healing. I love the growth and maturity of both men and their discoveries off the direction they want to take their lives. I believe they have what it takes to be happy together forever and I hope we see more of that.
The supporting cast was great – even the antagonists (and there were a few). Corey made me grind my teeth repeatedly …his characterization as a peddler of the beautiful ones is true to life and I hated it. Minh is as fierce and fabulous as in PoM and Chris surprises us by being a rock steady, complex and amazing man.
I still have some questions that need to be answered and there are a couple of dangling plotlines that need completion so I’m hoping we’re not done with this cast of characters.
Also in the Series
Release Date: January 16, 2017
Format: ePub, Mobi, PDF
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Warning: Underage sexual interaction, mentions of abuse, cliffhanger ending
Deep in the heart of the Florida Panhandle, Scott Ashworth’s bleak life stretches out before him with not much hope for the future. His hardscrabble days are brightened by the arrival of a new stepbrother, Rylan Mahoney, who quickly becomes the friend Scott so desperately needs. Their relationship has just started to deepen into more, when during the course of one terrible night, what Scott overhears sends him fleeing from his home, never to return.
Flash forward six years, and Scott is now the hottest club host on the Phoenix gay scene. He takes what he wants, does what he wants, and does whom he wants. It’s a good life, but the journey to local popularity and fame wasn’t an easy one. For all that Scott’s looks are a blessing, at the same time they’re a curse—the source of his alcoholic mother’s inexplicable hatred.
Rylan dreams of photojournalistic glory. He’s in Phoenix looking for the story of a lifetime, but the project isn’t coming to fruition. Needing rent money, he accepts a gig at Phoenix Pride hawking lewd lollipops and edible condoms…all while wearing gold lamé hot pants and a matching bow tie. When Rylan’s house keys and street clothes go missing after his shift, he’s desperate, until a stranger in a convertible stops to help.
The man is absolute sex on legs, and Rylan is jolted when he recognizes him—his stepbrother Scott Ashworth, long missing but suddenly larger than life. Reunited after six years apart, Scott and Rylan are determined to put their past behind them, but fate intervenes and leaves their future in jeopardy once again.
Pieces of Me
Melanie Hansen © 2017
All Rights Reserved
“I hate you, Ashworth!”
Rylan was gasping for breath, feeling like knives were stabbing into his side. His legs were rubbery from exertion, and sweat was pouring from him.
Scott was dripping wet too, his body glistening with an all-over sheen, but he wasn’t even breathing hard…damn him. He’d run—run—up to the summit and back down…twice…while Rylan was still struggling to reach the halfway point.
“Channel that hate, Mahoney,” Scott called out to him, laughter in his voice, “and use it to climb! Deep breaths in, blow it out. Keep that oxygen flowing!”
Rylan wanted to snarl at him, tell him to shut the fuck up, but he couldn’t spare the breath. The heat was making black spots dance in front of his eyes, and he stopped to drink some of the water Scott gave him at the trailhead. His camera felt like a deadweight hanging around his neck, and more than once Rylan was tempted to fling the fucking thing over the side of the mountain. Why had he agreed to this?
“It’ll be worth it at the top, Ry,” Scott coaxed, jogging lightly in place while he waited for Rylan to finish drinking. “Stunning panoramic views of the Valley. It’s gorgeous.”
Rylan capped his water and put it on the ground, bending over at the waist to prop his hands on his knees, letting his head hang while he caught his breath. “It better be worth it, or I’ll push you off,” he threatened, biting his lip to hide a smile when Scott laughed. He looked up just in time to see Scott snap a picture of him with his phone, and Rylan straightened indignantly.
“What the hell? Delete that!” he demanded, only imagining how wrecked and disgusting he was right now. In contrast, Scott was absolutely mouthwatering, all golden brown skin and ridged muscle, his tank top long since shed and tucked into the waistband of his shorts, which rode low on lean hips. All Rylan could think about was kneeling at his feet to lick up every drop of sweat coursing over his incredible body.
Shit. Hiking with a boner would make things even more difficult.
“I’ll delete it if you keep walking,” Scott taunted. “Otherwise, it goes straight to my Instagram for everyone to see. And what a sight you are,” he teased. “Red-faced and drenched, like a little drowned rat.”
“I’ll get you for this—” Rylan growled, lunging at Scott, who danced easily out of reach.
“So many awesome filters I can use,” Scott called back over his shoulder as he moved on ahead. “So many captions begging to be written. Come get me, Ry!”
Rylan lurched after him, focusing on Scott’s voice, on his mock threats, his gentle encouragement, until at last…at last…they emerged from the shadow of the trail onto the summit. Rylan didn’t even bother to look at the views, just staggered to a small outcropping of rock and collapsed down onto it, his legs shaking.
Several people milled around at the top, taking pictures, drinking water, laughing, and high-fiving. Scott headed toward a small group to fist-bump a guy whom Rylan recognized as one of the go-go boys at the club, a skilled pole dancer whose flexibility while wearing a miniscule Speedo had drawn quite a crowd.
After a few minutes, though, Scott left them and flopped down on the ground next to Rylan’s feet, reclining back on his elbow in the dirt, one knee drawn up. “You made it. I’m proud of you,” he said sincerely. “It’s not an easy climb for a beginner.”
Rylan pouted. “Tell me about it,” he groused. “My legs feel like spaghetti, and I’ll probably have to slide back down on my ass.”
“Now that would be a waste of a mighty fine ass,” Scott drawled, craning his neck back as if he was trying to get a glimpse of it.
Rylan was enjoying the harmless flirting, and he playfully flicked some of his water in Scott’s face. They shared a smile, and Rylan reached down to put his hand on Scott’s shoulder, giving it a squeeze.
“Thanks for helping me,” he said softly. “I would have quit long ago, but you challenged me to make it.”
“I’ll have to remember that threats to your vanity work on you,” Scott said, grinning. “Makes you putty in my hands. But you’re welcome.”
We meet Scott as a teen. And his home life is just flat out horrible. His mother is a miserable piece of sh!t. She is bitter about her life so naturally she’s blaming it all on her son. Even after we discover why she has a misguided sense of hatred for him, I still think she’s a wretched human being. The times she was verbally and softly physically abuse to him were really, really hard to read. My heart just ACHED for Scott. His ‘friends’ are horrible too. He hides it well. He’s become a stone wall that can’t be touched. His strength of character despite everything he’s suffered was astounding. Deep down, he’s still a great guy that is capable of caring so deeply for anyone that just gives him a chance and gets to know the real Scott. It isn’t easy, but Rylan breaks through his walls and they become friends…real friends that stick up for each other and take care of each other, which Scott desperately needs. I was devastated for both boys when Scott leaves.
When they meet again 6 years later, Scott has perfected his devil may care protective layer and become the hot commodity of a hoppin’ night club. He leaves broken hearts in his wake and just doesn’t care. It doesn’t take Rylan long to get past that façade to uncover Scott’s pain…and it is a living, breathing thing. My heart broke for him all over again. Rylan is still the rock steady, ever understanding friend that Scott needs if he will just let him be that friend. It’s a struggle but both men will be better for it in the long run. As we learn what Rylan was suffering when meeting the Ashworth’s, I was amazed at his unselfishness in becoming Scott’s friend. And maybe he was able to become his friend because of his experience.
This book does end in a major cliffhanger but thankfully I discovered it as book 2 is releasing so I can dive right in. There are still so many questions left unanswered from the 6 year time period they were apart and I can’t wait to get those answers.
Meet the Author
Melanie Hansen has spent time in Texas and Florida prisons…for work. She’s been in a room with a 17-year-old mass murderer who was also one of the most soft-spoken and polite teenagers she’s ever met. After a 13-year career as a court reporter, she can tell many stories both hilarious and heartbreaking.
She grew up with an Air Force dad, and ended up marrying a Navy man. After living and working all over the country, she hopes to bring these rich and varied life experiences to her stories about people finding love amidst real-life struggles.
Melanie left the stressful world of the courtroom behind and now enjoys a rewarding career transcribing for a deaf student. She currently lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.
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