RELEASE DATE: 24 July, 2015
GENRE: Gay Romance, Gay Contemporary Romance, Angst, Loss to Love
After years of physical and mental abuse, Tommy Chadwick finally finds the strength to leave Colin, his tormentor. But Tommy soon finds that escaping his violent boyfriend was only the first step on his path to recovery.
Now he must overcome feelings of worthlessness in order to rebuild his battered self-esteem.
Tommy’s lack of self-confidence prevents him from going out… at first, but then has him ricocheting from one man to another, desperately trying to please them in his search for love and acceptance.
After being rejected on New Year’s Eve, and then beaten after leaving the gay bar, he agrees to accompany his best friend, Sarah, to a martial arts club. There Tommy meets Marcus, a strong older man, who at first becomes his friend, introducing Tommy to new interests, and later, tentatively asks him on a date.
Will Marcus be the man to help Tommy put his past behind him and fall in love for real?
TWO YEARS, ten months, nineteen days. That was how long I’d been here. But today was different. Today I was leaving. My life was no longer worth living, and if I didn’t change it, I thought I might die, whether by his hand or my own.
I’d met Colin Woods in June 2004 on MySpace. I’d been nineteen then and reasonably happy in my own skin. But the fishing port of Grimsby wasn’t the best place in the world to try meeting other men. It didn’t have much to offer the GLBT community, and most people either went out of town or used online dating and chatrooms. I’d opened an account on MySpace, and within a few weeks I’d connected with Colin. He lived close to Grimsby, too, in one of the villages not far from the outskirts, and we met just days after our online introduction. He’d seemed so different then.
I jumped and glanced over my shoulder as I heard a sound outside. Our neighbor, slamming his car door. I let out a shaky sigh of relief and continued stuffing my clothes into a bag. My hands trembled, and I tried talking to myself in my head. You’ve got time. He won’t be back for hours. Calm down. Don’t forget anything important.
I fastened the bag and grabbed another smaller one which I took into the bathroom to collect my meager amount of toiletries. Then back to the bedroom for my CDs. Half an hour at the most and I’d be out of here. Free. Safe.
A few more minutes passed. I thought I had everything, but I took another look around to make sure. If I left my wallet or car keys, I’d be fucked. I patted my pockets and found the keys in my right, front, jeans pocket and my wallet in the back pocket on the same side.
I picked up the smaller bag again and shoved in a few odd socks which were on the floor next to the bed. Every moment that passed was a moment too long, and I tried to hurry up. The silence in the flat was so loud my head pounded with it. Then in an instant it was shattered by the front door flying open and crashing against the wall. The bag I was holding fell from my hands, and items scattered across the floor. I took a step back as Colin appeared in the doorway, eyebrows raised.
“I… um… I thought you were g-going fishing,” I stammered.
“I was, but you have to fucking ruin everything as usual,” he growled. “I rang you at work. You know, your place of work where you went two hours ago. Only you didn’t go there, did you? They said you booked time off!” He bellowed out the last sentence, and I flinched. “So tell me, Tommy. Why would you take time off work and not tell me? Why are you here, packing stuff into a bag, ruining my fucking day, when I should be out fishing with my mate?”
“I’m leaving,” I said in a small voice. Maybe he’d let me go. Just maybe he’d be mad enough to think it wasn’t worth it anymore. I’d ruined his day, after all. I could imagine the words coming out of his mouth, and I prayed silently he’d say them. Fuck off, then, Tommy. I’ve had enough. Get out of my sight, and take all your shit with you.
“The hell you are. Get that stuff unpacked right now.” He clenched his fists at his sides, and his jaw twitched. I was impressed he hadn’t hit me yet. “Actually, I changed my mind. Leave that. First you can tell me exactly what you thought you were doing. Haven’t I said a hundred times you’ll never leave me? I won’t fucking let you leave. You have nothing without me, anyway. No one else would want you, useless fucking waste of space that you are.”
“I… I’m sorry. I thought I’d….” I racked my brains desperately for the right words—words which might not result in me being forced to take more time off until the bruises faded. Usually he avoided my face, but if he was really mad he seemed to want to pummel the features he repeatedly told me were a turn off to everyone except him.
“You thought what? I’d let you go, just like that? You thought you’d sneak off like the fucking little coward you are while I’m not here?” He stepped closer, and I gulped, my mouth dry with fear. I knew it was going to be a lot worse than it had been before. I’d never really done anything before to deserve it. Tiny little mistakes—an item put away in the wrong place, his dinner later than he demanded, something not done quickly enough or the way he wanted. Here I was packing, intending to leave and daring to make my own decision. He’d beat the shit out of me.
I took a step back and came up short when I bumped against the wall. Colin lifted his hand, and in a second he had fastened it around my throat.
“You’ll never leave me, Tommy. Do you hear me? I’ll make sure of it.”
I tried to swallow the saliva which suddenly pooled in my mouth in panic, but his grip was too tight. I couldn’t move, and my airway was restricted. I’d been in this position once before, and it had terrified me. I’d thought he was going to kill me. I attempted to breathe in through my nose and closed my eyes as I waited to either pass out from lack of air or for his first punch to strike me. He’d probably go for my stomach to cause maximum discomfort while I struggled to draw in a breath. But the punch never came. The doorbell rang.
“Who the fuck is that?” Colin hissed. He let go of me, and I sucked in a breath and instantly choked. I clamped a hand over my mouth and struggled to stay quiet as I gasped and spluttered. Colin went to the window and peeked through the gap in the curtains. “It’s a fucking copper. Is this your doing?”
“No,” I whispered and shook my head.
“Get rid of him.” He grabbed me roughly and propelled me out of the room to the front door of the ground floor flat. Then he retreated into the kitchen.
I put my hand on the door handle and gripped it tight. My heart pounded so loud I could feel my chest vibrating and hear my blood rushing in my ears. I might still have a chance. If I could do this right, just maybe….
I pulled the door open. The policeman towered over me. I was five feet eight, and he must have been well over six feet. His feet were on the doormat, at least four inches lower than the hall floor I stood on, and still he looked down on me.
“Thomas Chadwick?” he asked. Pale blue eyes looked into mine.
“We had a call asking to check on you. Is everything all right?”
My whole body was shaking. My knees felt as if they might give way under me at any moment, and I gripped the door handle tighter in an effort to support myself. I shook my head fractionally and licked my lips. I felt tears welling up in my eyes, and I let them spill over.
“Will you help me?” I whispered.
“That’s what I’m here for.” The copper gave me a smile, and relief flowed through me. I blinked rapidly and took a step aside to let the man into the flat. He dwarfed the tiny hallway, and I finally let go of the door and walked ahead of him a few steps, my eyes on the floor. Colin appeared in the kitchen doorway, and I halted.
“Mr. Woods?” the policeman inquired from behind me.
“I understand there’s been some trouble.”
“Not that I’m aware of.” Colin responded arrogantly.
“It seems Thomas, here, wishes to leave the premises. Could you confirm that, Thomas?”
“Yes,” I said quietly. “I want to leave.”
“And you have somewhere to go?”
“Yes.” I raised my eyes just enough to see Colin’s hands curl into fists again, but I didn’t look at his face.
“Get your things together while Mr. Woods and I have a chat.”
Colin backed into the kitchen again, and the policeman followed. He closed the door behind them, and I flew into action. Relief made me shake more than I had when I feared he might catch me. I checked the bathroom and bedroom again and finally the living room. I had a few books and DVDs in there, but not much. Most of it was in the huge bag on the bedroom floor. I grabbed my boots and leather jacket, put them on and moved everything into the hall. I checked again to make sure I had the keys to my car, removed the key to the flat from the bunch, and placed it on the small table by the door.
I could hear voices coming from the kitchen, but I couldn’t make out the words. They were quiet and calm, and I marveled at Colin not yelling. He probably didn’t dare. That policeman was bigger than him, too, and didn’t seem inclined to take any nonsense. I waited another minute, and the door opened. The copper stepped out, followed by Colin.
“I want my ring back,” Colin said, sounding almost sulky.
I looked down at my right hand. On the third finger, I wore a heavy silver ring with a square onyx stone set in it. When he was being nice, Colin told me it meant we were engaged. He’d bought it with the money he got from selling my guitar. I’d begged him not to take the instrument, but nothing I said ever made any difference to what he did. The guitar disappeared—it had been the last thing my dad bought me before he found out I was gay and disowned me.
I slipped the ring off my finger and took one last look at it. I hated the thing. It wasn’t my style at all. I’d been so pathetically happy when he gave it to me. He’d told me how much he loved me and that he wanted us to be together forever. In a fit of bravado fueled by bitterness, I threw it at him. It bounced off his chest, fell to the floor and rolled away somewhere. I didn’t look. I picked up my things and stepped outside into the crisp spring morning. The policeman followed me and closed the door.
“Do you have transport?”
“Yes, that’s my car.” I pointed to my much loved Mini, which I’d somehow managed to hang onto. Colin hadn’t taken everything from me. I hadn’t been able to drive it for six months because he wouldn’t let me pay for road tax, but it was still mine. “I… um… the road tax is out of date,” I told him, and then continued in a rush, “I have a new disc in my wallet. And the front number plate’s broken. I’m going straight to a garage to get a new one, I promise. Is that okay?”
“It’s fine, Thomas. I’ll make a note of your registration number, just in case.”
“Thanks. Thank you so much. How did you know to come here?” I asked.
“We had a call from a young lady. Miss Stevenson.”
I smiled. Sarah Stevenson was my best friend—my only friend. She’d stuck by me even when I shunned her at Colin’s request. He hated me having any interests besides him, and he wouldn’t allow me to have anyone in my life I might care about. I’d kept in touch with Sarah by emailing her from work when I got the chance, but I never told her what was going on. I made one excuse after another as to why I couldn’t see her. When I eventually told her I was leaving and that things were shit, without going into any detail, she invited me to move in with her and her mother until I got everything sorted out. She must have guessed I was in trouble. Their home had been my refuge when my dad kicked me out, too.
“Thank you,” I said again. “You saved my life.” I meant it literally, but the copper just nodded and smiled. Whether or not he believed me, I didn’t know, but I bet he’d seen similar things plenty of times. I wondered if there were many instances of men being treated like this, or if I was the only one. You hear about women being beaten and abused all the time, but men… maybe I really was the pathetic coward Colin told me I was. I shivered and hung my head. I just wanted to get away.
“It might be a good idea for you to get out of town for a few days if you can,” he said.
“I was planning to.” I intended to take off to one of my favorite places in the country. The Lake District was almost two hundred miles away, and I could spend a few days there, knowing I wouldn’t have to keep looking over my shoulder. “I’m going to Cumbria,” I added.
“That’s good. If you have any trouble when you come back, or in the future, remember you can call us any time.” The policeman stood watching while I shoved my things into the backseat of the car and fumbled the new tax disc from my wallet. I’d bought it a week ago when I got paid, and I’d been praying ever since that Colin wouldn’t check my bank account and ask what I’d used the money for. I’d drawn cash and bought the tax from the post office, rather than risk buying it online and leaving a paper trail.
Something occurred to me as I closed the car’s passenger door and went around to the driver’s side to get in. The policeman hadn’t seemed in the least surprised or upset that he was called to a situation with two men. I supposed they had rules to follow. They couldn’t really discriminate against a member of the public, or it would soon be in the papers and they’d be hauled over the coals for it.
“Is something wrong?” the man asked.
“No, just… thanks again. I’m really glad you came.” I slid into the car, pushed the key into the ignition, and remembered to put my seatbelt on. He was still watching, and I didn’t want to fuck up with something silly. I pulled the door closed and adjusted my mirrors. I started the engine, reversed off the drive, and turned to face the main road. Freedom was just around the corner.
My heart continued to pound as I drove, and I had to keep wiping my hands on my jeans to prevent the sweaty palms slipping on the steering wheel. I drove the four or five miles into town and found a garage. I hovered anxiously while one of the men made up a new number plate for me and fixed it to the car. I kept telling myself, over and over: I’m five miles away. He doesn’t have a car. He doesn’t know where I am. He can’t possibly catch up with me.
The mantra didn’t help, even though every word of it was true. There really was no way Colin could find me right now, but in my head it was only a matter of time before he walked into the garage and stopped me. The minutes stretched out, and by the time the number plate was done, I’d been there for more than twenty. Twenty long minutes. I paid the man, jumped into the car, and drove off, looking in every direction. I couldn’t see him anywhere, and I blew out a long breath as I set off across town toward the motorway which would take me west and put enough distance between Colin and me that I could stop worrying for a few days.
Another fifteen minutes passed, and I left the town behind. I was about to join the motorway when I realized I hadn’t filled the car with fuel, and I pulled into a nearby service station. I filled the car’s tank and went into the shop to pay and grab some snacks and a drink for the journey. I stared at the array of sandwiches, crisps, and treats, unable to remember what I liked. My brain didn’t seem capable of this small task. I was filled with anxiety and exhilaration, my lack of confidence in myself temporarily pushed to the back of my mind. I was free—almost—and I wondered if this was how a person let out of prison might feel.
I picked up a pack of sandwiches, a chocolate bar, and a can of drink. I wasn’t aware of the choices I made. I paid for them along with my fuel and went back to the car. My four-wheeled pride and joy was the only thing I had left from before, and suddenly it seemed the most precious thing in the world to me. It had survived, just as I had.
I slammed the door closed, pulled away from the fuel pump, and parked at the far side of the service station. I was shaking again, and the minute I cut the engine, tears fell. Mostly it was relief. I folded my arms on top of the steering wheel and laid my head on them. I sobbed, not caring if I was loud enough to be heard outside the car. All the pain and fear I’d held onto for so long began to pour out of me, and I howled like a baby.
I’d been hurt physically plenty of times—punched in the stomach and the back. One time he’d kicked me in the head, and another he’d pushed me to the ground and stomped on my arm. The heel of his boot had broken my wrist. He’d pinched and bitten me during sex and sometimes fucked me so hard I bled. But none of that had been as bad as the mental torment—the constant fear of doing something wrong and upsetting him. He’d seemed to gain pleasure from making me cry, and he’d gradually stripped away any confidence I had in my looks and my ability to do anything. He’d kept me in a never-ending state of desperation which my tortured mind thought was love for him. There were times I’d looked at the large bottle of Paracetamol in the bathroom cabinet and wondered what it would be like if I swallowed them all and let myself go to sleep. It would have all been over long ago, but as bad as it had been, I hadn’t been able to bring myself to throw my life away. A tiny part of me had held onto the hope I’d find a way out.
Eventually I raised my head and wiped my face on my sleeve. My eyes were sore and swollen, my nose was running, and my tears had dripped onto the leather steering wheel and down onto my jeans. I looked at the small wet patches on my knees in bemusement. I felt wrung out, as if I’d cried out every drop of fluid inside me.
I leaned back in the seat and picked up the drink I’d bought. It was Lilt, something I hadn’t drunk in years. I opened it and gulped half the contents before the sharp tang of pineapple and grapefruit made me stop and suck my breath in. I finished the drink more slowly and then dared to take a look at myself in the rear view mirror. My eyes were red and as puffed up as they felt. My cheeks were pale and streaked with still-drying tears, but I appeared different from the way I usually looked. I’d barely even glanced at myself in the mirror in a long time. I’d hated the expression in my eyes. They’d looked dead and hopeless, as if I had nothing to live for. Then a week ago I had looked at myself, and it gave me a kick in the teeth more painful than anything Colin had ever done to me. I hadn’t wanted my life to be over at twenty-two.
“I’m free,” I said aloud and then repeated the word in wonder. “Free.”
I started the car again and drove out of the service station. The motorway lay ahead, and as soon as my wheels rolled onto it, I pressed down harder on the accelerator and reached down to turn on the radio. The little old Mini didn’t have a CD player, but I planned to change that as soon as I was back on my feet.
I didn’t recognize any of the songs, and it made me realize how out of touch with everything I was. All I had in the way of music was a dozen CDs Colin had bought for me. I liked them, but they were his choice, not mine. I had nothing left of my own from before I knew him. Nothing except my car, the clothes on my back, and the contents of two bags. It was time to start learning what was out there again.
Louise Lyons comes from a family of writers. Her mother has a number of poems published in poetry anthologies, her aunt wrote poems for the Church, and her grandmother sparked her inspiration with tales of fantasy. Louise first ventured into writing short stories at the grand old age of eight, mostly about little girls and ponies. She branched into romance in her teens, and MM romance a few years later, but none of her work saw the light of day until she discovered Fan Fiction in her late twenties.
Posting stories based on some of her favorite movies, provoked a surprisingly positive response from readers. This gave Louise the confidence to submit some of her work to publishers, and made her take her writing “hobby” more seriously.
Louise lives in the UK, about an hour north of London, with a mad Dobermann, and a collection of tropical fish and tarantulas. She works in the insurance industry by day, and spends every spare minute writing. She is a keen horse-rider, and loves to run long distance. Some of her best writing inspiration comes to her, when her feet are pounding the open road. She often races into the house afterward, and grabs pen and paper to make notes.
Louise has always been a bit of a tomboy, and one of her other great loves is cars and motorcycles. Her car and bike are her pride and joy, and she loves to exhibit the car at shows, and take off for long days out on the bike, with no one for company but herself.
Louise Lyons can be found at:
- Website: http://louiselyonsauthor.wordpress.com/
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/louiselyonsauthor
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/louiselyons013