Today is the last day of the Swept Away Valentine’s Day Bloghop! Just as a reminder, I’ll be giving away the following prizes at the end of the hop: 1) an autographed paperback copy of any of my Dreamspinner Press novels (doesn’t include novellas, since those are only in ebook format) OR an ebook copy of any of my Dreamspinner titles (format of your choice); 2) a t-shirt of your choice of my Blue Notes Series covers, including the latest book, “Aria”, and 3) a $10 Amazon gift certificate. I’ll pick three winners on February 18th from among those people who comment on my blog . Be sure to check out all the amazing authors participating by clicking here or on the blog hop graphic to check out the list.
Each day of the hop, I’ve been blogging about the stages of love with excerpts from my published works or works in progress (WIPs) to illustrate each stage. I’ve chosen four stages: 1) infatuation; 2) exploration; 3) commitment; and 4) happily ever after (HEA). Today I’ll be talking about one of my absolute favorite stage, “happily ever after.” It’s also the richest, in my opinion, in terms of personal growth, which only makes it the most fun to write about.
So you’ve made a commitment. What now? That’s when the real work starts. How do you live together? Who does which chores? How do you handle your money? What do you do when you’re tempted by someone other than your committed partner? How do you make up after a fight (because really, you ARE going to fight sometimes)? How do you get through the hard times? How do you share the good times?
There aren’t any answers here. HEAs are ongoing work! I remember when I was little, I would read Harlequin romances or watch Disney movies and wonder: what now? Have you ever wondered why you don’t see the HEA in a movie or read it in a book? Because it’s not a static moment. HEAs are about the security of knowing that the person you love is always there, even if you don’t always feel loving toward them in that particular moment. HEAs are about the day to day, “How was your day, honey?” Or the hug when you’re tired. Or the hot tea in bed when you’re sick. HEAs are about growing old together. Contentment. Sweaty palms? Sometimes, but not that often. Is that bad? No, but HEAs are also about realizing that happiness isn’t about sweaty palms.
Funny, isn’t it, that the toughest excerpt for me to choose is the HEA. I’ve chosen one that’s difficult and unsettling. This is from “The Melody Thief.” It comes late in the story, after Cary and Antonio are committed and living together. Cary goes back to New York and things with his father don’t go well. He’s sorely tempted to revert to his addictive behavior (anonymous sex). The HEA tie-in? Yes, it’s partly the ring Antonio gave him in the excerpt (“commitment” stage) you read yesterday. But it’s more than that. See what you think. -Shira
Blurb: Cary Redding is a walking contradiction. On the surface he’s a renowned cellist, sought after by conductors the world over. Underneath, he’s a troubled man flirting with addictions to alcohol and anonymous sex. The reason for the discord? Cary knows he’s a liar, a cheat. He’s the melody thief.
Cary manages his double life just fine until he gets mugged on a deserted Milan street. Things look grim until handsome lawyer Antonio Bianchi steps in and saves his life. When Antonio offers something foreign to Cary—romance—Cary doesn’t know what to do. But then things get even more complicated. For one thing, Antonio has a six-year-old son. For another, Cary has to confess about his alter ego and hope Antonio forgives him.
Just when Cary thinks he’s figured it all out, past and present collide and he is forced to choose between the family he wanted as a boy and the one he has come to love as a man.
The Melody Thief, by Shira Anthony
Excerpt – Chapter 26
Cary wasn’t sure how he had ended up in front of the bar. All he knew was that he had walked for a good hour into Brooklyn, and he had stopped here. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t seen the place before; of course he had. For as long as he had traveled on his own, he’d always made sure he knew where they were—those dark places that, in the daylight, retreated back into lines of brick and stucco buildings, waiting to come alive once evening fell.
But he noticed them. Even in the sunlight. Even now that he hadn’t given in to that urge for more than two years.
He had passed the bar when he’d taken his morning run the day before. But until tonight, it had been just another gay bar on another dirty street. Now, he felt its call as surely as he still felt the anger that knotted his gut.
A pair of young men walked out the entrance, heads down, unspeaking. Headed where? The quiet alley a half a block away? An apartment? One of the warehouses or run-down parks near the waterfront?
Cary’s feet were rooted to the ground, even as a voice in the back of his mind urged him onward. He wanted to forget the pain of his confrontation with John and escape into the dark, familiar warmth of the sex. It didn’t seem to matter that, hours before, he had gotten off to the sound of Antonio’s voice over the phone. In that moment, Cary realized that the thief—the undeserving usurper and the hallmark of his childhood—still lived and breathed beneath the adult man he had become.
He had known he couldn’t change John, hadn’t he? Or had he really believed that he could? No, he decided, he had known the truth, he just hadn’t believed it. He twisted the ring on his right hand absentmindedly.
And how are you better than him? How is this different, really? Don’t you need this—don’t you want this—the way he craves his booze?
The realization hit him hard, and the chill accompanying it reached his bones and clawed at him.
You’re standing here, wanting this so badly that you’d risk the only happiness you’ve ever known? The man who loves you? The sweet little kid who calls you his “Cary Papà?”
He looked down at the ring. His eyes burned with tears and the thief retreated.
“No,” he whispered into the darkness. “I don’t need this anymore.”
He walked back the way he had come with hot tears on his cheeks.
His face was dry as he reached the bay a few minutes later and stopped to feel the icy wind against his face. The moon illuminated the water, and he could smell the salt on the air. The drone of traffic from the avenue mingled with the sound of the surf as the water lapped at the rocks. In summer, there had always been people walking on the paths by the water, but it was too cold now; even the homeless people who lived in the park were taking refuge in the subways and shelters. Still, the cold did Cary’s mind good. It helped him to focus, to sort out the events of the day.
He walked over to the Ocean Avenue Bridge, then paused halfway across to lean on the railing and take a few deep breaths. It’s time to go home. He’d known it for a few days now, and tonight had clinched it for him. Staying here was doing nothing for either of them.
He thought about his mother. She was doing the best she could for us. It was all anyone could do, right? That’s all you can do about John. What other choice was there? Stay here, with him? And leave behind the two most important people in your life? Nothing’s really changed since you decided to stay in Milan.
“Damn him.” Something had changed. Somewhere along the line, he had come to love his father. In spite of everything. And it hurt like hell knowing he couldn’t do anything more to help him.
Except be his son.
His anger would fade, and John would still be his father. Deeply flawed, like his son, but his father nonetheless.
Time to grow up, Cary Taylor Redding. Time to be a man and forgive.