Lasting Friendships with Melanie Hansen + Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

September 28, 2015

lasting friendships

Hey, everyone, I’m Melanie, a frazzled and busy mom of two preteen boys (Lord, give me strength!). My little family is also about to face our 8th Navy move in 15 years, so things are a little hectic at the moment. But today I’m so excited to talk about my recent release with Dreamspinner Press, Signs of Life, the second book in my Resilient Love series! I love Kai and Jeremy with all my heart; they are very, very special to me. Sometimes, very rarely, a story just flows, and writing it is easy and natural; that’s how Signs of Life was for me. Despite the heavy themes of grief and loss, something I really want readers to take away from this book is the delight Kai and Jeremy both take in their friendship with secondary characters Loren and Jase. That’s what I would like to talk about today in this post, the dynamics of their friendship, and I’m also going to share a deleted scene and an exclusive excerpt with you.

Along with the romantic relationship enjoyed by the main characters in Signs of Life – Jeremy Speer and Kai Daniels – a major element of the story is their friendships with others. In real life no couple in a healthy relationship exists in a vacuum, and in my stories, I try to weave in secondary characters who are very important to the main couple. We all have friends who fulfill various needs in our lives separate and apart from our significant others, and my book characters are no different.

Jeremy and Jase
Jeremy Speer and Jase DeSantis (my romantic lead from Everything Changes) are high school friends and lovers who reconnected as adults. They have some history, but they hadn’t been all that close in recent years. When Jeremy’s husband is fatally injured in a car accident, Jase is the first one Jeremy thinks to call, and Jase, being the innate caretaker that he is, drops everything to be there for him at Brent’s death and the immediate aftermath.

This deleted scene gives you a glimpse into their relationship, and how important they are to each other. Their friendship is one of the foundations of Jeremy’s character development, and although this scene didn’t make it into the book for several reasons, I love it, and I wanted to share it:
Jeremy couldn’t even count how many times he’d stumbled out of the guest bedroom in the middle of the night to find Jase already up, wrestling with his own demons. Jase would never talk about the war with him, though, his eyes haunted and full of pain.

One particularly bad night, wanting and needing some physical forgetfulness, Jeremy made a clumsy sexual advance, pushing Jase back into the cushions of the couch and kissing him with a sort of panicked desperation. Jase cupped Jeremy’s face in his hands and responded briefly, letting Jeremy deepen the kiss, but when Jeremy reached between Jase’s legs to touch him, Jase caught his hand, kissing the palm and squeezing his fingers before gently pushing him away.
“Jase, please, I need you,” Jeremy begged, clutching at him. Jase disengaged Jeremy’s hands again and knelt on the floor at his feet, resting his hands lightly on Jeremy’s knees.
“No, babe, this isn’t what we need from each other right now,” Jase said softly. “Not like this.”
In an agony of embarrassment, Jeremy pushed Jase away and stood, bracing his hands against the nearest wall and breathing deeply, trying to find some control over his emotions and losing the battle. He felt Jase come up behind him and wrap his arms around his waist, anchoring him as Jeremy fell apart once again. He turned and buried his face in Jase’s neck as he sobbed, “I just miss him so much.”
Jase rocked him, rubbing his hands up and down Jeremy’s back, kissing the top of his head over and over as they rode out the storm together. Afterwards, weak with emotional overload, Jeremy let Jase lead him to his bedroom and pull him down onto the rumpled bed. Jase spooned up to Jeremy’s back and held him close as he whispered, “One day at a time, bud. One day at a time.”
Jase’s words, so simple yet so powerful, struck Jeremy like nothing else had. One day at a time. He didn’t have to worry about how he’d get through next month, next week or even the next fucking day. All he had to do was get through this day, and he needed to stop trying to use people, or drugs, or alcohol, to do it. If Brent could see him now, a sad, defeated and broken man, he’d be devastated.
For weeks Jase had been touting the benefits of yoga, so Jeremy tried it a few times, deciding it wasn’t for him. But running…running calmed him, focused him, quieted the noise in his head like nothing else could. He and Jase ran together as much as possible, and soon Jeremy was outdistancing him, running for hours, coming back to the apartment in a pleasant state of physical and mental exhaustion. He started sleeping better, and it was becoming easier to ride out the bad days.
Jeremy had learned to exist, and that was more than he could have hoped for a year ago.
When Jase got home from work one night, Jeremy told him that he was finally ready to move on. There was a flash of relief in Jase’s eyes, quickly masked, even as he protested that Jeremy could stay as long as he needed to.
“I have, Jase,” Jeremy said quietly. “I’ve stayed as long as I needed to. It’s time for me to make my own life and leave you to yours.”
“Will you move to your Coronado house, then?” Jase asked. They were sitting on Jase’s small balcony, sipping cups of coffee.
“No, I don’t want to live in San Diego anymore. Too many memories. I need a fresh start, a totally fresh start.”
“Where will you go? I assume back to Florida isn’t an option, for the same reason.”
Jeremy nodded. “I asked my realtor to look for listings in Northern California, and she actually stumbled across this.”
He pulled a folded piece of paper out of his jeans pocket and handed it over. Jase perused it with a raised eyebrow.
“Bend, Oregon?”
“Yeah. The city isn’t too big, but it’s big enough. And the running trails are supposed to be superb.”
“So you’re going to go up there and isolate yourself in this cabin in the woods – which is a fucking awesome cabin by the looks of it. ‘A Jacuzzi on the wraparound porch,’” he quoted from the listing using his best Robin Leach voice.
Jeremy shrugged, fighting a small smile despite himself.
“Fuckin’ moneybags,” Jase said without heat, tossing Jeremy’s paper back to him. Jeremy shrugged again. It was true enough.
“Jere,” Jase began tentatively. “I’m only saying this because I love you, man. I understand the fresh start, I do, but are you sure isolating yourself like this is the answer? How are you –“
“How am I ever going to meet someone?” Jeremy finished bitterly. “I don’t want to meet anyone, Jase. I had everything I ever wanted, and now he’s gone.”
“So you’re just gonna live the rest of your life alone, without companionship, without intimacy?”
“You mean without fucking? Oh, I expect that someday I’ll want to fuck. In fact, I already tried that once and got shot down.” Jeremy let his eyes travel with deliberate crudeness over Jase’s body, fury boiling through him.
“Jeremy,” Jase said earnestly, ignoring the insolent look, “you feel this way now, and I understand it –“
“Do you? Do you understand it, Jase? How can you possibly understand a goddamn thing about the way I feel? Stop shoving bullshit up my ass and let me live my life the way I fucking want!”
Now Jase was as angry as Jeremy had ever seen him, and he stood up and towered over Jeremy.
“And you don’t understand a fucking thing about me, Jere,” he hissed. “How I watched the man I love be blown into pieces right in front of my eyes, how I worked through my tears to keep him from bleeding to death right then and there. How I felt when I learned his heart had stopped twice on the way to Kabul. Fuck you!”
“But he’s alive, Jase, so fuck you!”
They were both breathing hard, staring each other down.
“Yes, he’s alive,” Jase finally whispered. “But he doesn’t want me. He’ll never want me. In a way he’s as lost to me as Brent is to you. I’ll have to watch him fall in love, and get married, maybe have children someday. I’ll have to watch him be happy with someone else. And that will fucking kill me.”
Jeremy watched the agony that suffused Jase’s face, and he set aside his own self-absorption long enough to come to terms with the fact that yes, maybe there were differing degrees of loss, but loss is still loss. He reached out and took Jase’s hand in his, squeezing his fingers.
“Jase,” he said gently. “I’m sorry. I truly am.”
Jase blinked back tears, then squeezed Jeremy’s hand in return and sat back down.
Jeremy blew out a breath. “I’m not ready for anything else, and I don’t know if I ever will be. If I even want to be, Jase. And besides, I don’t see you taking your own advice. Since I’ve been here, I haven’t seen you go on a single date.”
“I’m not ready either,” Jase said ruefully. “But at least I’m open to the possibility. I’m sorry I brought it up, but I’m worried about you. You’re just going to go stick yourself in BFE, man, and I don’t think that’s right.”
Jeremy opened his mouth to argue, and Jase held up his hand. “But it’s your life, babe. I’ll leave you to it. And I hope you know I’ll always be here for you.”
Later that night, Jeremy packed up his belongings as quietly as he could and stole out of the apartment, not before leaving Jase’s spare key on the counter along with a note: Thanks for everything.

Kai and Loren
Kai and Loren have a slightly different relationship than Jeremy and Jase do. They met as adults, each carrying some emotional baggage, and have been extremely close for eight years. They do most everything together, such as camping and hiking, or simply hanging out. Their friendship also contains an element of sexual intimacy, although Kai hates to classify Loren as a “fuck buddy” – he’s so much more than that.

They aren’t in love, but they love each other very much. Loren is Kai’s emotional support, the one he goes to when he has a problem he needs to talk out, or when he just needs a shoulder to cry on. When Kai first meets Jeremy, things are pretty rocky between them, so Kai turns to Loren more than once for a sympathetic ear and, yes, some plain talk. Loren isn’t afraid to call it as he sees it because he cares about Kai’s well-being. In this exclusive excerpt from Signs of Life, Kai has just had another upsetting encounter with Jeremy:

“You’d think he could have shared that little tidbit of info with you before he let you suck his dick,” Loren said caustically, looking up at Kai from his sprawl on Kai’s couch. It was a couple of days since the evening at Jeremy’s house, and this was the first time he’d been able to pin Loren down to talk about it.
He handed Loren a freshly opened beer and then plopped down beside him, taking a huge slug of his own.
“Honestly I think the whole evening took him by total surprise, from issuing the dinner invitation in the first place to the sex. I don’t think he’d planned it, Loren, in order to spring his ‘conditions’ on me after he got his rocks off at least once.”
“You’re nicer than I am, Kai. I’d have told him to get bent.” Loren drank some beer and then grabbed the TV remote, flipping on the TV and mindlessly scrolling through the channels so fast it made Kai dizzy.
“No, you wouldn’t have,” Kai retorted. “Jesus, the dude has suffered almost unimaginable loss. You can’t blame him for being closed off, cautious of letting anyone get close to him again.”
“He treated you like shit at the club, and what he did the other night wasn’t a whole lot better, Kai. Handing you your clothes and pushing you out the door like a john who was getting rid of a trick. Don’t let him use his loss as an excuse to be an asshole.”
“Would you turn that shit off?” Kai wrestled the remote away from Loren and clicked off the TV, throwing the remote into the chair the farthest away, knowing Loren was too comfortable and lazy to get up and go after it. “I want to talk to you about this!”
“The more you tell me, the more I want to go kick the dude’s ass,” Loren grumbled, but sipped his beer and looked at Kai expectantly. “So talk.”
Kai took a sip of his own beer, marshaling his thoughts. “He told me that the night at the club was the first sex he’d had since his husband died. When did we go, about two and a half, three months ago?”
“Something like that.”
“And he said his husband died more than two years ago. I’m the first one he’s even tried with since he lost his husband.”
“You think that makes me feel any better?” Loren asked. “To know you’re basically his rebound, his stepping stone from ‘unimaginable loss,’ as you said, back to the wild and wonderful world of dating and sex?”
“He’s got to start somewhere, Loren,” Kai said quietly. “You know I’m tough, and resilient, and obviously now I know the score. I think I can be good for him, and I won’t let him hurt me.”
Loren set his beer down on the coffee table and took Kai’s from his hand, putting it down next to his. “I know this will fall on deaf ears because you really can’t seem to help yourself, but you don’t have to save the world, Kai. You don’t have to be his little experiment boy.”
Kai sighed and leaned his head on Loren’s shoulder. “It’s not just that. I really like him, Loren. I don’t know why, exactly, but I do.”
“I know why. Because you want to fuck him,” Loren said.
Kai didn’t answer, and Loren heaved a sigh of his own. “Okay, have fun with that. Get laid, have a great time. But if he breaks your heart, so help me, I’ll break his goddamn face.”
Loren’s voice was fierce, deadly serious, and affection for him clogged Kai’s throat for a minute, making his own voice hoarse as he replied, “I know you will, man.” A short silence fell and then Kai asked, “Don’t you ever get tired of putting my broken pieces back together?”
Loren put an arm around him and hugged him close, kissing the top of his head. “Never,” he vowed in a whisper, then shoved Kai away and lunged for the remote, laughing at Kai’s curses, both of them letting the emotional tension relax into the comfort of easy friendship.

As a military brat and now a military spouse, building lasting friendships have been an ongoing challenge for me my entire life. My childhood and high school years were filled with transfers, both my family’s and my military friends’ families. Sadly, I’m not in touch with anyone from back then, even with the advent of social media.
During my 15 years as a Navy spouse, in each of our duty stations I’ve found that other military spouses hesitate to make friends with each other, because we’re eventually going to leave anyway. Oh, we’re friendly enough and we have our kids in common, but there’s nothing lasting about it. I think that’s partly why I’m fascinated with the idea of exploring close friendship in my stories.

More recently my online friends have become precious to me, because I can “take” them with me everywhere I move to. In fact, when we face another Permanent Change of Station within the next several months, and it’s such a relief to know that I don’t have to worry about losing touch with “my girls.” They’re always a tweet or a FB message away!

 

*Giveaway*

I’d love to hear about your experiences with friendship, the longest-lasting one you’ve had and why you’re so close. Please share in the comments! 2 lucky winners will be given a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift cards!

 

meljhansen@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/MelJoyAZ

http://www.melaniejhansen.com/

Signs of Life at Dreamspinner Press

SignsofLifeFS

11 Responses to “Lasting Friendships with Melanie Hansen + Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway”

  1. Milica says:

    I have only a few people around me that I can call true friends…and that’s fine by me,because,even though I’m not exactly an introvert,I have a problem with opening up to people and trusting them. Well,it’s not exactly a problem,it’s just who I am.

    My longest lasting one is with my friend who I met 17 years ago,and we’re still going strong despite the distance (we don’t live in the same place for 6 years now),but my dearest friend is a girl who I met 4 years ago,and who is like a sister to me…I think the foundation of our relationship lies in the fact that she is someone that needs to be taken care of,and I am a natural nurturer – taking care of the other people is in my nature. And although she is my best friend,we are opposite of each other in many ways. And that is why I say she is like my sister – no matter how much we’re different, she is like my family now,so in the end we’re always going to be solid…

  2. Angela says:

    Congrats on the release of Signs of Life and a happy release day :) I pre-orderd the book and already downloaded it on my ereader and i look forward in reading it. I was so happy to read that we also get to see Jase and Carey in this book.

    As for your question My best friend is my sister, when we were little we fought like cats and dogs but luckely that changed when we grew up. I do have a few other friends but my sister is the one i go to when i need advice or when something funny happens. I feel that we are so close because we share our childhood and we just get each other.

  3. Sara says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the excerpts with us readers!

    I’m a loner at heart and also an extreme introvert, combine that with a job dealing with a lot of people every day, it leaves me with a significant need of being left alone toward the end of the day, and at times even the weekends. I also find it difficult to stay in touch with a lot of different people, which leaves me with just a few close friends. The closest of those nowadays being family member: my mother (it only took me forty years to get there :-) , my brother and my husband. Then a I have a female friend that I have known for almost fifteen years – we got to know one another when we had our first children. I don’t really want or need a lot of friends, just these few close ones, who are very dear to me.

  4. Trix says:

    I’ve always been lucky to have a very close relationship with my mom; I really feel I can talk with her about anything. I had some “mean girl” experiences in middle school that made it hard for me to trust female friends until college or so, but I do cherish my college friendships even though both my best college friends live far away…

  5. Melanie Hansen says:

    Hi Milica!

    I too have friends who fulfill specific needs in my life, even if we’re opposites in all other ways! Also, I think the older we get, the more we end up celebrating and valuing our unique differences rather than being bothered by them.

    Thanks so much for sharing!
    <3 Melanie

  6. Melanie Hansen says:

    Yay, Angela! I’m so happy you’re looking forward to reading Signs of Life! Jase plays a pretty significant role in the book, so I hope you enjoy :)

    My sister and I are very close, too, but didn’t get that way until adulthood either. We didn’t fight much as kids, just didn’t have a whole lot in common. But as adults we’ve found common ground in our marriages, and our sons. It’s awesome.

    Thanks so much for sharing!
    <3 Melanie

  7. Melanie Hansen says:

    Hi, Sara!

    I totally agree with you that a few close friends can mean more than a whole lot of acquaintances. I’ve never had a huge circle of friends either, and it’s been only recently that I feel I’ve found my soulmates.

    I also hate talking on the phone with a passion and unfortunately that led to losing touch with people I otherwise might have stayed friends with. The advent of texting and social media has all but eliminated the need for phone contact, and that is such a sigh of relief!

    Thank you so much for sharing!
    <3 Melanie

  8. Melanie Hansen says:

    Hi Trix!

    I definitely know how hard it is to maintain long-distance friendships, but the advent of social media has certainly helped with that. It’s great that you’re still in touch with college friends, even if they don’t live close.

    I’m also very close to my mom. For a long time she was my best friend and confidante, and I did talk to her about everything. We’ve grown apart recently, which is sad, but it has more to do with a change in my belief system, which clashes with hers. I still love her to death, though!

    Thank you so much for sharing!
    <3 Melanie

  9. Carolyn says:

    Ah, long standing friendships are wonderful (in fiction and real life). My oldest friend and I met in high school. Well, we actually met in junior high (we even have the picture to prove it), but neither one of us remembers the other at that party of a mutual friend. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore and she was a freshman that we met. The first time we spoke on the phone, she ended up listening to me breathing because I’d fallen asleep. We have had ups and downs (and almost irreparably broke), but we are true friends who are always in each other’s corners and have fun and talk about both the deep and shallow of life equally. I can’t imagine my bond of friendship with anyone could ever be as strong. I don’t see her as often because of life, but one day we promised to be very old ladies together, and we don’t break promises to each other, so it must happen!

    Thank you for sharing your book and giveaway with us, Melanie, and all the best on its success!

  10. Melanie Hansen says:

    Thank you, Carolyn :)

    I love stories like yours, of friendship that’s lasted through thick and thin. I truly envy you that!

    Thanks for sharing!
    <3 Melanie

  11. Lisa Sullivan says:

    Hi Melanie!
    First off; SIGNS OF LIFE was AMAZING!
    Secondly, my best friend is my twin sister Jill. We even bought a house together. We are very different, yet very similar. We are each our own person; which our parents encouraged. (We stopped dressing alike when we were 5.)We just click!

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