Please welcome Parker Williams with
Links In The Chain #3
Can two hearts stained by past pain find healing together?
Tom Kotke held his husband of twenty-five years on the day he died and spent nearly a year adrift. Determined to force Tom back into the world, his family takes him to the Park View Diner, where he meets young stained-glass artist Aiden Dawson. For a brief moment, Tom doesn’t think about his deceased husband—a terrifying prospect.
Slowly, Aiden draws Tom out of his shell and helps him feel alive once more. But Tom isn’t the only one who’s suffered. Aiden fears no one sees beyond his wheelchair. Even if Tom can convince him he’s different, they’ll still have to overcome their age difference and a secret that could destroy their future together.
Note from blogger: Author states that this could be read as a standalone, but as someone who's read all three books in this series, I would advise against that. It is helpful to have read the first two books as the characters from those make appearances here.
This book has roughly 67,000 words. Genres are: M/M, Romance, Gay Fiction, Hurt/Comfort, Loss, and Second Chance at Love.
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There is a moment, just as twilight gives way to total darkness, when everything over the lake is still. It’s like the world is holding its breath, waiting to see what’s going to happen. It’s during this one, singular moment when I feel… free from the memories. Of course, like they always do, they surge back when I realize I can’t cling to that magical second any longer.
In October, Brian and I bought a cabin near Crivitz, Wisconsin. A quiet, peaceful tract of land where we could lay together and love each other as much as we could. I had a company come in to fix it up, so after we shared Thanksgiving dinner with our family, we could pack up our things from our home in Milwaukee and move into the cabin. The place was beautiful, but I don’t know how much of it Brian really saw. Each passing day he got weaker and weaker, and each day I wished I could freeze time.
When January came around, we went home to Milwaukee for a little while. Brian told me he wanted to go back and say goodbye to our friends and family. The trip was awful, what with my mother and father spending hours locked away with Brian, and him wanting some alone time with my brother, Robert, and his lover, Galen. After finally meeting with Lincoln and Noel, Brian also asked to go to Lincoln’s diner alone so he could sit and talk with Noel. It hurt me to have him away from me, but I understood his need to be by himself for a time. It still sucked.
I remember the night clearly. There was a haze over the lake, and the clouds obscured the moon. Around us, the night air filled with sounds, like the animals were doing whatever it took to make Brian happy. We sat there, holding hands in our little bit of paradise, where nothing bad could happen. Only… it could. Brian wanted to stay here because he didn’t intend his last days to be spent being fussed over by our friends and the family we’d created. The thought that they pitied him made his heart hurt, because Brian was the healer. He needed to make everyone else feel good. And now it was he who needed the healing, but we both knew it wasn’t going to come. The doctors had given him less than a year. He swore to me that he would prove them wrong, and he did. Being the fighter he was, Brian stretched it out to five. But every hourglass runs out eventually.
One night, just as twilight was giving way to total darkness, he reached for my hand.
“I love you.”
My throat seized. I knew what he was doing, but I wasn’t ready. Not yet. “I know.”
“You have to let me go.”
I jumped out of the chair and spun to face him. “How the hell do you expect me to do that? Since that first day in college, I have been in love with you.”
It was true. When this young Asian man knocked on the door to the dorm room, my tongue stopped working. He was so goddamn beautiful, it hurt to see him and not be able to touch his flawless skin. But that was 1993, and things were still kind of closeted. Hitting on your roommate was probably the stupidest thing you could do, despite what the porn videos said.
“I’m Brian Chen.”
His voice sent ripples of pleasure through me. I was hit hard by lust and longing, and the only thing I could think of was that it would be a very long four years.
“Hi. I’m Tom Kotke.”
He held out his hand, and after I took it, I was reluctant to let go. He smiled at me, showing off pearly white teeth, with one just a little crooked. I wanted to kiss that mouth and let my tongue explore that tooth. I’d never had sex before, but right then I wanted to drop to my knees and show this man the pleasure one guy could give another. Or, at least what I’d seen in porn.
He chuckled. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Tom Kotke. Might I have my hand back?”
It was then I realized I still held his hand in mine. I let go of it, instantly regretting having done so. “I’m sorry.” I worried that now he’d think I was some kind of freak. “I’m not a weirdo.”
And saying that out loud seemed to prove the opposite.
He gave the barest of smiles. “No, I never thought that.”
And that was our first meeting. Over the next two months of living together, Brian spent every night at home, in front of his laptop. Secretly I was grateful for that fact, because seeing him with another person would have hurt. It wasn’t too much longer before I had to admit to him that I was gay, because having him be uncomfortable around me was definitely not what I wanted.
“I figured that out when you held my hand that first day. If I’m honest, I wish I hadn’t said anything and you had continued.”
His grin slid into place, and my heart went pitter-pat. “Yes, Tom, I’m gay as well.”
And that sealed the deal for me. I was in love with him.
Before those memories could swamp me, a wheezed breath dragged me back to the here and now.
“I watched you every night, pen in your mouth, as you worked on one paper or another. I dragged you up to bed on nights when you told me you needed five more minutes. I sat in the audience as you stood up there, diploma in hand, and told our class that they were responsible for the world they were entering. That they had to choose kindness over money. And the day I asked you to marry me….”
“And I said no.”
I couldn’t swallow past the lump in my throat. “You said no.”
He quirked his artfully plucked eyebrow. “And why did I say no?”
“Because you didn’t want me to have to choose between you and a career. You thought you were doing good by me.”
“And I was wrong. The day you slid that ring on my finger, I finally understood what it meant to be whole.”
“Okay, first off, what’s your name?”
“Thanks for coming. Are you nervous?”
“Well, we’ll make this as painless as possible.”
I appreciate that.
- What is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear? That people will never see me as anything more than the sum of my legs. It’s funny, you know? People who are supposed to teach their kids manners, never seem to have an issue demanding to know what’s wrong with me, as if I’m contagious or something.
- What is your most prized possession?
Ugh. Okay, don’t tell Livvy I said this, but my sister. She’s been everything to me since I told her I was gay. She was young, and sure as hell wasn’t ready to be saddled with a surly teenager who was feeling sorry for himself. The thing is? She was ten times the parent either of my real ones were. She took a job she hated, because she needed to care for me and, like a typical kid, I never really appreciated it. Now that I see what she went through, though? Yeah, she’s my damn rock.
- What do you enjoy doing on your day off?
I work with stained glass. If I’m not at the studio working, I’m online researching new techniques, or finding new materials to work with. It’s exhaustive, but hella fun.
- Your best childhood memory?
Oh, geez. Okay, I’ll be frank with you; I don’t have many good memories. Now, I’m sure I’m not seeing them because I got tossed away like yesterday’s trash, but we were never really a tightknit group. I’ve often wondered how Livvy and I could come from our parents, yet be nothing like them. Then I realize that the reason I’m not is because of Livvy. She kept me on an even keel, and showed me love and patience.
As for the best memory with Livvy? That’s easy. She waited until we were all out, then she went and made these chocolate chip cookies I really, really wanted to try. When we got back that night, she smuggled me into her bedroom and gave me a tray with the cookies and a mound of soft ice cream over the top. They were damned amazing!
It was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for me. It was also why, when I had to tell someone I was gay, I went to her instead of anyone else.
- Where do you hope to be in five years?
Oh, that’s an easy one. I want to be successful as a stained glass artist. Well, at least enough so that I can live on my own. See, Livvy has done everything for me, and I want her to be able to have a life too.
“I think those are some great answers. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.”
That’s it? Really? I’m done? I thought it was going to be a lot worse than what it was.
“Nah, we’re pretty easygoing. Oh, and I really liked your story.”
Story? What? Wait. Is something going to happen to me in this story? Tell me!
“Sorry, it’s something you’ll have to wait to see. Let’s just say, I think you’ll be happy with it.”
“Have a nice day, Aiden.”
Meet the author:
Parker Williams began to write as a teen, but never showed his work to anyone. As he grew older, he drifted away from writing, but his love of the written word moved him to reading. A chance encounter with an author changed the course of his life as she encouraged him to never give up on a dream. With the help of some amazing friends, he rediscovered the joy of writing, thanks to a community of writers who have become his family. Parker firmly believes in love, but is also of the opinion that anything worth having requires work and sacrifice (plus a little hurt and angst, too). The course of love is never a smooth one, and happily-ever-after always has a price tag.
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