Friends since they met in school, Ashton and Brighton soon become much more. Ash and his aunt are Brighton’s haven away from his mess of a family, and when Ash enlists in the Army, Brighton learns to endure his long absences and eagerly awaits his return from missions.
Until one day Ash doesn’t come back, and Brighton thinks his greatest fear has come true.
Months pass and Brighton grieves for Ash, not knowing that a terrible misunderstanding sent Ash running, unable to cope when he thought Brighton had betrayed him. Even after an emotional reunion, their relationship isn’t the same—Brighton is now responsible for his young niece, and he’s having a hard time rediscovering the trust he once had in Ash. Ash must still tend to his mental health, but before he can, he’ll have to deal with a past secret that puts all their lives at risk. With so many forces determined to tear them apart, can Brighton and Ash hold on to each other and never let go?
Usually when I start a story, I begin with the characters, a few times it’s the setting or a particular situation. Never Let You Go started with the prologue. I had a clear vision for how this story was going to start. That vision of Ash seeing Brighton and then turning to walk away when he jumps to a conclusion, is what drove the entire idea. That in turn helped me develop Ash and Brighton. It told me a great deal about Ash, his history, and just how broken he felt at that moment. Brighton and the hurt and pain he carried with him came into clear focus as well. That isn’t how I usually do things, but for this story I think it worked very well. Though I will confess that I’m not someone to let go of a story idea no matter where it comes from. Inspiration can be both fleeting and amazing at the same time. I like to think that the important thing about inspiration is to wrangle it once it strokes and not let go. I’m certainly glad I didn’t let go of that initial vision for Never Let You Go.
“You know, you need to get out once in a while,” Raymond said as he came out of his bedroom. “Do you realize it’s been eighteen months since they told you about Ash? He’s gone and isn’t coming back, and you need to find someone to share your life.” He leaned closer. “And don’t say that’s what you have me and Violet for. You need someone to love and love you in return.”
“I had that once, and I don’t know if I can ever have that again.” Brighton knew what it felt like to have someone who was the other half of him. “Besides, Violet is still settling in and I need to concentrate on her. Allie asked me to take care of Violet if anything ever happened to her, and I intend to do the very best that I can.” He knew the answer was a cop-out of sorts and that he was hiding behind his niece, but he wasn’t ready to date yet. “So you go on out and have a good time.” He did a double take on Raymond’s outfit. He wore a pair of jeans that had to be two sizes too small and a shirt that showed off his arms. “Where are you going?”
“To Rose’s for coffee.”
“Don’t you think you’re a little overdressed… or underdressed, in this case? God, you don’t want to cut off circulation to your bits. And this is Biglerville.”
“The guy I’m dating is from LA. His name is Ethan, and he’s Justin Hawthorne’s assistant. So he’s used to being around people who are really cool and interesting and….” Raymond shifted his gaze to the floor.
“You are not allowed to be unsure of yourself. Go back in there and change. Let this Ethan see who you really are and he’s sure to like you. And if he doesn’t, I’ll show up at his house and kick his ass.” Brighton pulled Raymond into his arms. “Now go ahead and change. Just be yourself.”
With a smile, Raymond went back into his room while Brighton returned to making dinner.
“Violet, please turn that down a little.”
She lowered the volume, and Brighton cut up some lettuce to make them each a small salad. He was really blessed that Violet loved vegetables, though if he asked her what she wanted to eat she’d tell him bacon. That girl would eat bacon for each and every meal if he let her. He opened the door to the refrigerator and pulled out some chicken he’d already cooked and began cutting it into small pieces, along with a little celery and some herbs, as well as chopped nuts.
“Is this better?” Raymond asked, and Brighton nodded.
“You look great. The slacks are nicer than the tight jeans, and I like that shirt. The green is great on you.” Brighton watched as Raymond pulled on his shoes and got ready to go. “Take an umbrella. You’re going to need it.”
Raymond looked out the front window, groaning as the rain lashed the glass.
Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled, sending Violet off the sofa and into his arms. He set aside what he was doing, lifted her up, and took her back to the sofa. “It’s just thunder. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” He sat down with Violet on his lap and turned to Raymond. “Just wait a little while. This isn’t going to last long. When are you supposed to be there?”
Raymond checked his phone. “Fifteen minutes.” He shoved it back in his pocket. “The one time I’m ready early and I’m stuck waiting until the storm lets up.”
Brighton patted Violet’s knee. “Why don’t you go get the really big umbrella for Uncle Raymond? That way he won’t get wet.” He smiled as Violet hurried to the closet and brought over the black-and-white umbrella. She jumped when the thunder rolled again, but handed it to Raymond and then sat next to Brighton once more. “Do you think you can sit here while I finish making you something to eat?” He tweaked her nose, and she nodded slowly.
The storm was already moving on and the thunder sounded less sharp. Raymond took the umbrella and headed for the door to the stairs. “I’ll see you later.” He waved, and Violet waved back. Raymond closed the door behind him, and Brighton stood to return to the kitchen.
Violet laughed as one of the characters on her show did something funny. He adored that sound. She’d been with him for six months now. His sister had developed cancer, and by the time they diagnosed it, she was beyond help and lasted only a few more weeks. The strain she’d had was nasty and had left none of her untouched. At the end she’d been little more than skin and bones. One of the hardest things Brighton had ever had to do was take Violet home with him as she cried for her mother while he was barely able to hold himself together. Thank God Raymond had come to stay with him the year before.
Just like when Ash walked out of his life for the last time to take his assignment. Ash had promised it would be his last one that his time was up after that. It all turned out to be true, though not in the way either of them had hoped at the time.
Andrew grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. Since then he has lived throughout the country and traveled throughout the world. He has a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and works in information systems for a large corporation.
Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing) He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful, historic Carlisle, Pennsylvania.