CONNECTION by Brigham Vaughn
Date: October 2015
Details: Equals Spin-off
Received from author
After a lifetime of being told he’s worthless, shy, sheltered Evan Harris is forced out of the closet and kicked out of his home. Friends in Atlanta give him a place to stay while he gets on his feet, but despite his eagerness to explore the city, it isn’t exactly what he expected.
Thank you for having me here, Helena!
This is a scene from fairly early on in the story, after Evan is kicked out of his house. By the time he arrives at Russ and Stephen’s place, he’s exhausted, overwhelmed, and a little terrified.
“You made it,” Russ said with a relieved smile, as if he’d been worried about Evan. No one ever worried about Evan.
“I think so,” Evan croaked.
Russ laughed as if he’d said something funny and held the door wide open. “Come on in.”
Evan followed, trying not to gawk at the fancy kitchen and perfectly decorated … well, everything. It looked like the kind of place you’d see in a magazine, but comfortable. He blinked dumbly when he realized he’d missed what Russ said. “Sorry. What was that?”
“I asked how the drive here went.”
“Um, okay, I guess.” Evan shrugged. He recalled an endless feeling of panic at the overwhelming sprawl of Atlanta and the confusing tangle of highways leading into Midtown, but not much else.
Stephen stepped out of another room, smiling as he held out a hand. “Hello, Evan. I don’t think we’ve officially met. I know you were there when I buried my father, but to be honest, I was so focused on that, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to anything else around me.” His tone was apologetic, as if Evan might be offended that Stephen hadn’t noticed him before.
Evan had been a pallbearer for the funeral, and it was true Stephen had seemed to look right through him, but he hadn’t taken offense to it. Evan was used to people looking through him. He was quiet and introverted, and even the school bullies, who picked on the noticeably weird kids, had left him alone.
The real question was why would a guy like Stephen notice him? He flushed when he realized Russ and Stephen were both staring at him. “It’s nice to meet you, too,” he mumbled. “And thanks for letting me come here. I—I didn’t have anywhere else to go.” His eyes stung with tears when, once again, it hit him how alone he was. Dependent on a couple guys he barely knew. Sure, he and Russ had texted and talked on the phone a handful of times since the funeral, and he felt like he could trust him, but how well did Evan actually know Russ?
“Hey, it’s okay, Evan.” Russ patted his shoulder and squeezed. The touch was innocent enough but it made Evan feel warm all over and the panic subside a little. “Come on, let’s sit down and talk,” Russ coaxed as he let go. Evan sucked in a deep breath. “You want something to drink? Beer? Something stronger?”
Stephen glanced at Evan. “Are you twenty-one?”
“Uhm, not until the end of February,” Evan admitted.
“I think under the circumstances we can ignore a few weeks.” Stephen shot him a smile that made him feel a little weak in the knees. Technically, he was probably old enough to be Evan’s father, but he sure didn’t look like any older man Evan had ever seen. Guh. He made Evan a little woozy just looking at him. “I wanted to be sure you weren’t … quite as young as you looked.”
Despite his discomfort, Evan managed a small joke. “Sixteen?”
Stephen gave Evan a rueful smile. “No, Russ mentioned you’d been working at the funeral home for a few years, so I assumed you were an adult, but I wanted to be sure. I know you still lived at home.”
Evan sighed, all the air going out of him and making him feel like a deflated balloon. “I was only living there until I could save up enough to leave Putnam.”
“You want to tell us about what happened today?” Russ asked.
“I guess.” Evan shrugged.
Russ fixed him a rum and Coke—the only drink Evan could think to ask for—and he sat on one end of the fancy L-shaped sofa, feeling horribly out of place.
He took a sip of the drink—strong enough to make his eyes water—and stared down at the glass. He peeked up through his lashes as Russ sat down next to Stephen on the other section of the sofa, watching them surreptitiously. Stephen draped an arm over Russ’s shoulder, and Russ rested an elbow on Stephen’s bent knee. They were so casual about it, so comfortable touching each other.
He raised his head, staring wide-eyed at Russ, who gave him a sympathetic smile. “You don’t have to, but if you want to talk about what happened …”
Evan didn’t. Not at all, but since they were letting him crash here, he figured it was the least he could do. He took another gulp of his drink before he began, hoping the liquid courage would do its job. “Um, so there was this casket sales rep,” he explained, thinking back to what had happened earlier that day.
We first met Evan in ‘Partners’ when he worked in the funeral home and Russ (from the Equals Series) befriended him. Evan is gay and has been hiding the fact from his family and the town he lives in. When his secret is revealed his father kicks him out of his home and in his desperation he turns to Russ who doesn’t hesitate but immediately offers him a place to stay in the apartment he shares with Stephen.
Jeremy is Stephen’s ex and has been trying to rebuild his life after a devastating car crash left him alone, scarred and with permanent injuries. In the process he has become a bit of a recluse. He goes out to work but doesn’t have a social life and doesn’t believe he’ll ever be in a relationship again now he’s as damaged as deems himself to be.
Neither man has a whole lot of confidence. Both view the world and their place in it with suspicion. Evan would like to hope but doesn’t believe his dreams could ever come true while Jeremy has all but given up on hope and just tries to make it through his days without giving into despair.
When the two men meet, they engage in what can best be described as a slow and tenuous dance. The attraction is strong on both sides but neither man believes that the other could possibly feel the same. Throw in Jeremy’s hang-ups about his scars and limitations and a coming together appears very unlikely, until….
No, you’ll have to read the book J
I adored this story. Both Jeremy and Evan touched my heart. I was constantly torn between wanting to wrap them in my arms to keep them safe and make them feel loved and wanting to slap them around the head for not communicating more honestly with each other. To say I got emotionally involved in this story would be a gross understatement.
I love that there are no stereotypes in this book; the seemingly weak and defenceless may be stronger while he who appears self-assured and world wise may the one with most insecurities and lessons to learn. No typical stronger character ‘healing’ or strengthening someone weaker. This is much closer to reality; two men with issues, fears, and insecurities find each other and have to find a way to be together without crushing each other or themselves. These men are beautiful in their flaws – maybe because of them. Their journey so far has been breathtaking, engrossing, at times heartbreaking but ultimately beautiful and uplifting. But of course this is only the first part of Jeremy and Evan’s story. When we leave them we are allowed to hope they’re on their way to a future together but given their pasts and the realistic way in which the author tells their story, I have no doubt they’ll be running into another obstacle or two before they get there. And I’ll be with them, every step of the way.
To summarize: I adored this story. I’m in awe of the way in which Brigham Vaughn managed to portray these two damaged men without turning them into weak or boring characters. I loved the way we’re allowed to see Jeremy and Evan’s strength, even when they’re at their weakest. And I’ll never stop admiring this author’s use of the English language – her sentences are a thing of beauty and something I can only aspire to. In short, Connection, like the Equals series it sprang from, comes highly recommended.
The Equals Series:
Click on the title for my thoughts on the books:
About the author:
Brigham Vaughn is starting the adventure of a lifetime as a full-time writer. She devours books at an alarming rate and hasn’t let her short arms and long torso stop her from doing yoga. She makes a killer key lime pie, hates green peppers, and loves wine tasting tours. A collector of vintage Nancy Drew books and green glassware, she enjoys poking around in antique shops and refinishing thrift store furniture. An avid photographer, she dreams of traveling the world and she can’t wait to discover everything else life has to offer her.