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.