Title: A Little More Hope
Series: Hot Property #2
Author: Pauley J. Ray
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: 07/18/2023
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Genre: Contemporary, Age-gap, Alpha Males, Businessmen, Physical Assault, Coming Out, Sexual Discovery, Hurt/Comfort, PTSD/Post-traumatic stress, Slow Burn
After a vicious assault leaves him a virtual recluse, businessman Mason Wilder escapes to his friend’s beach house in the small seaside town of Melrose Bay to heal and come to terms with the shadow of the man he has become.
When Ashton Michaels, wanderer, surfer, loner, unexpectedly inherits a rundown shack of a house, he must decide: keep running from his disastrous past relationships or return to the place he loves, finally put down some roots, and learn to live life with all its consequences.
After a chance encounter with his elusive next-door neighbor, Ash can see Mason is hurting and it releases his protective, caring side and he knows he’ll do anything he can to aid the handsome, broken man in such desperate need of help.
Mason initially resists the offer of help from Ash, but the guy is persistent and for reasons he can’t figure out, Mason feels drawn to him. When Ash decides to keep and renovate his new home, impulsively Mason joins him and in the process of rebuilding the house, Mason begins to rebuild his life and confront his fears.
He must also learn to come to terms with his unexpected attraction to a man for the first time in his life. Ash is a solid, comforting, and caring presence and offers Mason everything he’s been searching for since his brutal attack.
Ash is falling hard for the quiet and troubled man he’s spending all his time with but is worried the past will only repeat itself and Mason will leave him all alone like everyone else.
Can Mason finally put his demons to rest to move forward with his life and will Ash be able prevent his fear of being left behind from ruining his chance at love?
A Little More Hope
Pauley J. Ray © 2023
All Rights Reserved
A single word encompassing a whole world of images and feelings.
Cozy nights in front of the TV.
Being held in the arms of a loved one.
Safe. Something I recognized with bone-deep certainty I’d never feel ever again.
Rinsing the suds from my body along with my dark thoughts, I shut off the water and opened the shower door, cooler air filling the stall, setting off goose bumps along my skin. Grabbing the nearest towel and carefully drying myself off, I hissed at the tenderness in my muscles as I bent to rub my legs, the pain from my damaged ribs a constant ache in my side.
Shit, I was a mess.
After padding into the bedroom, I dressed carefully in clean sweatpants and a T-shirt, mindful of my injuries. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone, least of all Gabe, who’d already seen me at my worst. I wasn’t going out and hadn’t since the first day I’d gotten out of the hospital, so who cared what I wore?
Running my fingers through my damp hair to settle the too long strands in place, I emerged from the bedroom to see Gabe in the kitchen, his jacket now hanging on the barstool. He’d pulled a couple of plates from the cupboard and set them out on the countertop, ready for the food.
When I reentered the living area, Gabe pressed a couple of buttons on the microwave. “You were in there awhile, so I decided to give them a reheat,” he said by way of explanation. When the bell pinged, he retrieved the two sandwiches, and unwrapping them from their paper packaging, placed them on the plates.
“Sorry,” I mumbled, “I didn’t realize I’d taken so long.”
He shrugged. “No problem,” and he gestured with his head as he picked up the plates. “Go sit.”
I carefully sat down in my favorite black leather armchair as he handed me my sandwich before he settled on the sofa to my right.
We sat together in silence. He was waiting for me to speak, but I didn’t have much to say. To give myself thinking time, I picked up my food and took a large bite of my sandwich. The sweetness of the salt beef slid over my tastebuds before the bitter sauerkraut came after. After days of nothing, the simple meal tasted delicious.
“So?” Gabe’s tone made me inwardly groan.
Putting down my sandwich I gave him a direct look. “I’m fine. Okay?”
He scoffed. “So fine you’ve not left your apartment in over a week?”
I sighed. I’d been doing a lot of that lately.
“Look, Gabe.” I stopped talking, as whatever I said next would be a lie. I wasn’t fine, but I wasn’t sure how to go about fixing my mess, or how to express my thoughts clearly enough to tell him so.
I wasn’t sure about anything anymore.
Sitting forward on the edge of the sofa, Gabe gave me a sympathetic smile. I fucking hated it. “Look, I know it’s a struggle, and I get it.” He held up his hands. “And I’m not trying to patronize you.”
I gave a slight head tilt, in appreciation of him saying so.
“But you can’t continue on this way. You do know that, right?”
Deep down, I did, but any decisions about how to move forward with my life were all so muddled in my mind that I struggled to find a way out.
“I do,” I replied. “But it’s hard. There’s so much noise in my head, but I can’t work out how to make it stop.”
“Maybe you should take a break for a while, get a change of scenery.”
I frowned. “Change of scenery?”
“Yeah, get out of the city for a bit. Relax.”
“Relax?” I kept repeating him, but for some reason, his words weren’t registering.
“Is there an echo in here?” he deadpanned. “Yes, get away, relax.”
Hmm, maybe. I’d not thought about leaving the city, preferring to barricade myself inside my apartment behind a solid closed door where no one could get to me. But leaving my sanctuary meant being exposed, being vulnerable, and I wasn’t comfortable with the concept at all.
Regardless, I mulled his comments over, and in theory, I agreed my current situation wasn’t healthy, and I’d reluctantly admit to going a little stir crazy, but venturing out into the city unnerved me. All the noise and the people, the narrow side streets and alleyways made me shudder inwardly. But going somewhere quiet, somewhere peaceful, away from everyone and everything currently reminding me of my assault?
“Where would I go?” I asked, unable to recall the last time I’d not worked in the office twelve or more hours a day, at least six days a week. Even if traveling to inspect a construction project in another city, I’d be on-site all day and ordering room service in the evening. I’d never had any time at all to relax and unwind.
Despite being the partner in charge of our luxury eco hotels and resorts, I didn’t have any clue where to go now.
“I have the perfect place,” he replied, answering my unspoken thought.
“Oh?” I waited expectantly for him to elaborate.
“I’ve a house a few hours up the coast in a small community, so not too many people to contend with. The place is perfect. On the edge of town and overlooking the sea, there’s even direct access to a beach only the locals tend to use.”
I stared at the man on the sofa opposite me. Gabe, who thrived on excitement and adventure, who loved nothing more than immersing himself in all the activities a major city had to offer, and I mean all, had a second home, a beach house in a quiet coastal town?
“You have a beach house?” I sputtered, incredulity clear in my voice. “Somewhere… quiet?”
Gabe snickered, “Glad to know I can still surprise you, but yep”—he held up his hands—“guilty as charged.”
A dark shadow crossed his face, making me frown. When the penny dropped, I could have kicked myself. Of course, this was after his split with Karl and David.
“Sorry, I should have thought.”
He waved my apology off. “It is, what it is,” he stated far too blandly, making it obvious, despite being over two years since their split, the wounds remained painfully open. “I needed somewhere to regroup. To sort my head out. My assistant told me about the place. Apparently, her mom and dad love it, so I thought ‘what the hell’ and went to check it out.”
“I’m guessing you liked what you saw?”
A genuine smile crossed his face this time, one actually reaching his eyes. “I did, and when the house I rented came up for sale last year, I bought the place.”
Gabe stared at me squarely. “So I do know something of what I’m talking about. Okay, the scenario’s not the same as yours, but I understand the need to get away and work through your trauma at your own pace, and with minimal distractions. To remove yourself from familiarity to regain some semblance of order and control over your life.”
He’d hit the nail smack bang on the head, as that’s exactly how I felt.
“It’s yours if you want it,” he said, and I instantly wanted to grab this lifeline he offered and so badly needed. As if sensing my mood, he sat back and shoved his hand into his pants pocket, and pulling out a single key, he placed it on the coffee table between us. “I got an extra one cut,” he explained. “I’ll email you the directions this afternoon.”
“You’re so sure I’d go?” I asked, picking up the paper.
“Hell, no, but I like to be prepared.”
“Thank you.” Some of the tension I’d carried around the last couple of weeks melted away. “Really, thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” he replied simply as he pointed at the food on my plate. “Now eat. You look like a scrawny ass chicken for fuck’s sake.”
Meet the Author
Pauley J Ray has been making up stories in his head for as long as he can remember, and now gets to write those stories down in his own gay romantic fiction, involving sexy, complicated, and flawed characters searching for their happily ever after.
When not writing, he loves meeting up with friends and can’t wait to get outdoors with his husband, hiking, camping and traveling to new and exciting places as often as they can.
He feels extremely lucky to be able to sit at his laptop, all day, every day, creating the heartfelt, angsty and passionate romance books he himself loves to read.
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