Before Aidan found his love, in that nebulous period before the College Rose Romances start, Aidan had a broken heart. Broken by Michael. His response was to search out meaningless encounters—pleasure. He used two boys from his lit classes for that purpose. Both closeted. I assumed, initially, that the two characters were a lot alike.
Oh, how wrong I was!
I couldn't write Andrew at first. Lawrence (Rory) insisted on pushing his way in. Then, when I was deeply stuck in writing Becoming Rory, Andrew's Prayer came, all in a rush. Drew is the sort of character I really like. We see a bit of him in the first two books, enough to get a picture of who he is and what he is. And I love showing everything that's underneath those impressions.
Because readers of the first two stories probably don't like Drew very much. Unlike Lawrence, who was very much in the background, Drew is up front. He's taking money to talk to reporters and give up the goods on Aidan. He's pushing Steven to join him in the tunnels and drown his sorrows in Drew's body in just the way that Aidan had. He's not a character that you wanted to like.
Yet, inexplicably, you find out very fast that there is a whole lot of unexpected in Andrew Tuttleman. And, of all my characters, a whole lot of distance to travel. Because Drew doesn't even believe love exists. Not romantic love. Not what Aidan and Steven were desperately searching for.
Finding that place where he could believe in love wasn't easy for Drew. And indeed, that's the joy of Andrew's Prayer, discovering that capacity and desire for love that he didn't even realize he had. To give you some hope for Drew, I'd like to share a little extra I wrote for the story, that pairs up Drew with one of my favorite side characters, the ever delightful Melinda Marie.
Author Extra - Andrew's Prayer
“Don’t run!” The young girl in her bright yellow sundress skidded to a stop. “Why not, Mr. Tutty?” Drew smiled at her, running to catch up and hold her hand. His other hand held the sunflower he’d given her earlier. He’d promptly taken it back, proclaiming that the park was not a safe place for the flower. At least not in the tender young hands of Melinda Marie. Melinda, for her part, adjusted the wide, wavy brim of her equally yellow hat. “Last time we sat over there.” Nodding, Drew bit his lip, his eyes on the tree line. “Remember the scary man, Melinda?” She turned on a full-fledged pouty face. “Yeah, me too.” He pointed over to a shaded spot in the central green. “How about over there. There’s shade, and we could see the ducks.” “I want to feed the ducks, Mr. Tutty.” Melinda stressed the word feed like it was far more important. A chuckle was Drew’s only response. “Daddy would take me!” “Shh, Mel. Your dad will let you feed the ducks once he gets here.” She stomped once, but followed where he led, gripping his hand tight. When they got to the tree, Drew sent a quick text to let her dad know where they’d be. “When is Gram Tutty gonna be well enough to read me a story?” Heart frozen, Drew knelt down beside the little girl. “Soon, I hope. What does your daddy tell you to do when you want someone to get better?” “Think good things about them and pray. But you don’t believe that.” He let out a long sigh and brushed his fingers against the girl’s cheek. “Sometimes it’s so important that you have to do it and just hope you believe enough.” Melinda Marie leaned against the tree. “I like Gram Tutty. She tells funny stories. She’s going to get better, isn’t she?” A rich voice answered. “We can hope. We can pray. And we can be there for her whether she gets better or not.” “Daddy!” Melinda grabbed a jean-clad leg and hugged tight. Grant was handsome. Blond hair brushed and golden, cheeks warmly red. He was fit and gorgeous and looked just a tad out of place in the brilliant white of his dress shirt. His tie was abstract, silver and a blue-green that made his eyes sparkle. The red in his cheeks spread as Grant leaned forward and touched his lips to Drew’s. It was chaste and sweet and it still sent a tingle all the way to Drew’s toes.
Steven's Heart wasn't supposed to happen. Not exactly. My original concept for the first book required that Sammy, Aidan's love interest, get jealous. Over the course of the story, this blossomed to a love triangle, and eventually the balance tilted in such a way that I had serious conversations with my editor over whether to abandon the original romance and go with Steven. He was light and hopeful and romantic. He was exactly what you hope for in a romance—readers loved him.
While many readers never forgave me for it, I stuck with my original concept. Thousands of words of the romance between Aidan and Steven were chopped to make the balance of the romance work better, to allow Sammy to shine more. I still believe that ultimately, Aidan made the right choice. I still agonize over whether there's some nugget of story I could have shared to help readers understand what was in Aidan's heart—and to see the depth of the love in Sammy's.
After I finished Loving Aidan, I knew the story couldn't end there. Too many readers had invested in Steven, and they wanted to know what happened. I wrote Steven's Heart. It's a gut-wrenching, angst filled story. But I love Steven more than any of my characters, because he pulled a gotcha on me. There's a surprise midway through the book. And Steven never told me. Even though he left little hints even in Loving Aidan. I love when characters live like that.
There's a moment early on where Steven's confused. He loves Aidan. But he has these feelings for Michael, and he's not sure what to do with them. When the story had its original release from Torquere, I wrote a brief extra where Michael's sister Adrienne gives him some advice. In the book, this scene would fall between chapters four and five.
Author Extra - Steven's Heart
Steven watched from the hall. He didn’t dare go in. Not with Sammy inside, holding Aidan’s hand tight, oblivious to the tortured man staring at them through the window. Steven worked a bit of his bottom lip against his teeth and shut his eyes tight.
“His prognosis is better than Michael’s,” whispered a voice from just behind his left elbow. Addy’s voice.
Steven nodded, swallowing hard. She was right. Aidan was going to be okay. Which meant Steven didn’t really have a reason to watch. Except that he did. A reason that made Sammy sitting there with Aidan feel like someone had shoved a hot poker through Steven’s heart. He turned his head rather deliberately from the window before opening his eyes.
“Hard to see them like that?” asked Addy.
Steven grunted an answer that might have had words. Even Steven couldn’t be sure what they were supposed to be. He stared down the length of hall. Monitors and chairs and carts, even beds clustered against the walls. Somehow those details were easier to think about.
Addy touched his elbow lightly.
“You’re very confused, aren’t you?” asked Addy.
Steven glanced down at her. Adrienne Rossier was dressed, primly, professionally. She was always dressed like that. Knee length gray skirt, professional jacket, low cut but not too low, and the obligatory strand of pearls. It made her eyes sparkle and stand out. Did Michael’s stand out that way? Were they the same brilliant mix of blue and green? Steven wanted to know and it wasn’t just confusing. Steven let out a heaving breath, slowly, trying to imagine himself on the water. He glanced at Aidan’s door, and then back down the hall toward where he knew Michael was waiting for him.
“It’s too soon,” he whispered, so soft he was surprised when Addy responded.
“Mika likes you.” She managed a smile. “Rather a lot, I think.”
Steven didn’t look at her, his gaze was still fixed at the end of the hall. “You’re leaving, aren’t you?”
“He has you. The doctors agree. Right now, you’re helping him more than I am.”
“It’s all arranged. The doctors and nurses have word. You, and Aidan if he wakes up. But it’s mostly going to be you.” Addy’s grip was strong as she grabbed his arm and turned him. “You take care of him.” Her cheek was glistening in a trail from the outer edge of her eye down her cheek.
Steven looked over her head at Aidan’s door and then back down the hall. His gut started to twist, whether over Aidan or Michael he couldn’t be sure. Probably both. That would be about right for him. He thought about Michael for a moment. Bits of black hair sticking out from tight bandages. Pale skin bruised to almost black. Long fingers. Fingers that felt so right in his hand and so good when they squeezed his.
“What if it gets serious?” asked Steven, brutally pushing aside the feelings that wanted to erupt as a tear formed in his eye. Feelings about Aidan. He couldn’t have Aidan. He’d never have Aidan again. Aidan chose someone else. Addy seized his chin, and forced him to look at her. “I’d love that,” she said. Then she patted him lightly on the cheek and slowly walked away, her heels clicking against the tile with every step.
When Loving Aidan was first released, one of the pieces that didn't fit into the story was the actual scene where Aidan met Sammy. The scene is referenced in the story. As readers we know what happened—that when Aidan moves in Sammy protects him somehow. But as readers we never experience it.
I wrote the scene where they meet as an author extra to share with readers, and while the blog where it was originally shared is, I believe, long since gone, I am happy to share it here again.
Author Extra - Loving Aidan
Aidan turned onto the narrow service road that led to the dorm. He pulled up near the building and onto the grass. This early there weren’t many students about yet. Aidan stepped out of the car, wincing a little at the sudden heat. He was dressed as he always did in a long sleeve shirt and a buttoned waistcoat. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and lightly dabbed at the sweat that had immediately broken out on his forehead.
“Oooh. Hey, guys, here he is. Our resident piss-ant fag.
Aidan turned and gave the line of lounging young men a glance. He conceded only a single raised eyebrow as he passed them by, ignoring the ongoing catcalls. He should report them. But nothing was ever done about it. Instead, he entered the small residential office at the side of the building. A student asked his room number, and more numbly than really warranted at this early hour offered him his key. He took it and looked at the label. Samuel Riley.
“This isn’t mine,” he said to one of the students handing out keys.
The perky young woman glanced at it quickly. “Oh, sorry. That’s your roommate’s key.” She ruffled through the box. “Ah, here it is. Sorry about that,” she said, taking the key back from him and handing him another.
“Thanks,” he muttered, and turned to leave, barreling into a very tall young man. He looked up and all he could think of was dark. The man’s skin was charcoal black, and slick from the heat. Aidan stammered a quick apology automatically.
“Ain’t no skin off my teeth,” said the man with a smile, his cheeks showing deep dimples.
Aidan was sure his heart was going to stop, and he quickly looked at the ground to hide the red in his cheeks even as he hastened his way to the door. He was hit immediately with another catcall. The row of young men stood idly by cars still stuffed with boxes. The staff would help people later on as more keys were picked up, and they were waiting, as they always did. Most of them wouldn’t carry a single box of their own.
Aidan did not glare, though he wanted to. Instead he went to his car and pulled out the first box.
“Showing off that ass? You maybe want som—” the young man yelped suddenly.
Aidan turned to see the man he’d run into in the office staring down the row of young men.
“Have a problem with him?” asked the man.
“Come on, Sammy, kid’s a fag. Look at him!”
And Sammy looked. Aidan was being given a thorough once over. Sammy chuckled, showing his dimples again and slapped the other man on the shoulder. “Don’t know what you’re worried about. His eyes are on me.” Sammy stripped off his shirt, stuffing it into a back pocket where it hung loosely against his leg. “See?”
“Sammy, he’s looking at you!”
And Aidan was. His eyes were locked on Sammy, on perfectly chiseled abs, gazing across the broad, smooth chest.
“Has taste,” said Sammy with a grin, showing dimples again. “Clearly you lot of cowards got nothin’ to worry about.”
Sammy walked away from the row of young men and stepped up to Aidan. “Need some help?” he asked.
Numbly, Aidan nodded.
Sammy smiled, clapped him on the shoulder, and took the box from his hands. “Let’s get these boxes upstairs.”
Aidan gulped and softly murmured a thank you.
“Ain’t no problem, roommie.”
Aidan’s eyes widened. Sammy. Samuel Riley. Dear God, this was his roommate.