Today we have Libby Drew on the blog to talk about Secrets of Neverwood. Her name is familiar to me since I've reviewed Paradox Lost and Bending the Iron and hosted her on the blog previously. I would like to thank Libby for taking the time to share her new story with us today and gifting a copy of this anthology to a lucky commenter!
Thanks so much for having me! Please enjoy this exclusive excerpt from The Lost Year, book three in the Secrets of Neverwood trilogy. As the oldest foster brother to return to Neverwood, Devon had a difficult time finding his place in his new family. Things have since settled with Cal and Danny, but a new mystery is unfolding...
Two hours later they crossed the Third Lake Washington bridge and entered Seattle proper. Devon swung into the first decent-looking hotel he found and pulled in between a trailer and a minivan. The place had better not be full. He’d had his fill of driving, even if it hadn’t been a terribly long stretch. Irregular sleep patterns and the emotional ups and downs of the past day had wrung him dry.
Nicholas slept on, oblivious, and with no witnesses to call him out, Devon let himself look. Lamps on the hotel’s postage-stamp balconies provided just enough light to make out Nicholas’s relaxed features. Curled onto his side, arms wrapped around himself, he seemed much younger than he was—a bit like a runaway himself. Worn down by the past year, more cynical than when he started, but still so filled with purpose that it made Devon’s chest ache.
Devon touched his arm. “Nicholas.”
Not even a change in the cadence of his breathing. Holding his own breath, Devon placed two tentative fingers against his cheek. “Nicholas?” he whispered.
The touch wakened him. His eyes fluttered open, fixing on Devon, and he made a low, contented sound. Devon’s breath left him in a rush. His whole body pulsed in time with his heartbeat. He smoothed his fingers upward, cupping Nicholas’s face in his palm. The gesture was unmistakably sexual, and when Nicholas’s eyes widened in surprise, Devon jerked away. “We’re here,” he said gruffly.
“The hotel where we’re staying because I’m not sleeping in your car. That’s where.”
“Jesus.” Nicholas stretched. “Didn’t you ever camp out as a kid?”
“You’re forgetting I camp out all the time. That’s why, when they’re available—” he jerked a thumb at the hotel, “—I prefer a bed.”
The clerk at the desk took Devon’s credit card and fulfilled his request for a double room, though her eyes drifted more than once to where Nicholas leaned sleepily against the wall. “Anything else, Mr. McCade?” she asked as she handed over two keycards.
“A wake-up call for seven please.” He looked to Nicholas, who gave a stiff shrug.
The room matched every other cookie-cutter hotel Devon had called home over the years. Garish bedspreads, too-small coffeepot, and harsh fluorescent bathroom lights rounded out the décor. He made a brief circuit, checking to make sure coffee had been stocked alongside the machine. His internal debate for a good-night shot of caffeine ended as soon as Nicholas pulled his T-shirt over his head. “I think I’m going to shower before lying down.”
Devon wasn’t going to torture himself with that peep show. “Sure. I’m just going to—” He waved at the bed. “I’m tired. Gonna go to bed.” His one consideration to that goal was to remove his camera from his bag and set it carefully on the desk. Nicholas tilted his head as Devon ran a finger over the dials and buttons.
“You love that thing, don’t you?”
He’d been accused of harboring unnatural feelings for his equipment before, but the tone of Nicholas’s statement didn’t make him defensive as it normally would’ve. “I guess I do. It’s part of who I am, after all.”
“You take it everywhere?”
“Because I never know when I’m going to see something I don’t want to forget.” Like right then. He’d have given anything to be able to capture Nicholas at that moment. Bare-chested, one arm braced above his head on the bathroom’s doorframe, backlit with white light. The man took his breath away.
Nicholas grunted an acknowledgement, shot Devon a half-smile, then disappeared into the bathroom. When Devon heard the water start to run, he stripped down to his briefs and crawled between the sheets of the bed farthest from the bathroom. The shower hissed for several hypnotic minutes until his mind drifted exactly where it shouldn’t have. To images of what Nicholas might be doing under the spray. And how he might look, hot water slicking his skin.
Cursing, Devon rolled onto his side, closing his eyes as the water finally shut off and the bathroom door opened. Soap-scented steam filled the room. He heard a zipper being pulled, the swish of fabric shaken out, and the creak of springs as Nicholas claimed the other bed. Less than three feet separated them.
Devon swallowed past a dry throat. “Good night.”
Nicholas didn’t answer, and Devon felt a prickling on the back of his neck, very different from Audrey’s omniscient presence. The air hung thick with expectation. He turned over, gaze drawn against his will to the man lying a few feet away.
Enough light leaked through the curtains to illuminate Nicholas’s pale eyes. Bare-chested, hair still damp and tousled from the shower, he looked sinful. He cupped his hand under his cheek and returned Devon’s pointed gaze. Rocked with lust and indecision, Devon floundered for the courage to speak.
The moment stretched, and finally Nicholas’s mouth curved into a sad smile. “Good night, Devon,” he whispered. “See you in a few.” He rolled onto his stomach, pushing both hands beneath his pillow.
Despite his nap, he fell asleep quickly, leaving Devon to his insecurities and fantasies.
Is this the last you’ll read of Neverwood? Not even close. While Cal, Danny and Devon may find their happy endings in these first three stories, there are many men who will search for love and adventure within these walls. But those are future books…
Three foster brothers are called home to Neverwood, the stately Pacific Northwest mansion of their youth. They have nothing in common but a promise to Audrey, the woman they all called mother—that upon her death, they would restore the house and preserve it as a home for troubled boys.
But going home is never easy.
Cal struggles to recover from past heartbreak, while Danny fears his mistakes are too big to overcome. Devon believes he may never break down the barriers that separate him from honest emotion.
On the path to brotherhood, they discover the old mansion holds more than dusty furniture and secret passageways. Audrey’s spirit still walks its halls, intent on guiding “her boys” toward true love, and an old mystery stirs up a new danger—one that could cost the men far more than just the house.
Secrets of Neverwood #1—One Door Closes
Secrets of Neverwood #2—The Growing Season
Secrets of Neverwood #3—The Lost Year
Libby Drew glimpsed her true calling when her first story, an A.A. Milne /Shakespeare crossover, won the grand prize in her elementary school's fiction contest. Her parents explained that writers were quirky, poor, and often talked to themselves in supermarket checkout lines. They implored her to be practical, a request she took to heart for twenty years, earning two degrees, a white-collar job, and an ulcer, before realizing that practical was absolutely no fun.
An avid supporter of gay rights, Libby donates her time to the Trevor Project and organizations that work to support marriage equality.
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