We’re so pleased to welcome author Logan Meredith to TNA today, on the tour for her new novel, Expanded Hearts.
Hello all. My name is Logan Meredith, and I appreciate the opportunity to introduce Expanded Hearts, the second book from my Heartland Series, on The Novel Approach.
I’ve always considered writing a therapeutic exercise. Romance and fantasy is my escape from the real world, and for years was my coping mechanism for anxiety. When I introduced Victor Mascari in Healed Hearts as Seth’s psychologist, I wanted to show the transformative power of therapy. From very early on I felt a connection to Victor and knew he’d eventually demand a story of his own. It wasn’t until Expanded Hearts was completed, however, that I realized why Victor’s character was so special to me.
When I was fourteen, my height reached six feet, my chest was ironing board flat, and my sexual orientation was shaping up to be something decidedly non-straight. (I now identify as pansexual). My dad’s job moved us around a lot, so in addition to being awkward as hell, I was perpetually the new kid. Blending in when you’re a head taller than everyone else is impossible and dating—forget about it! I didn’t have the confidence to flirt with boys, let alone girls. When I made the mistake of telling one of my friends about my confusion, she started a rumor. I think if she had today’s vocabulary, she might have accused me of being transgendered, but she picked a number of other hurtful words to describe my masculine appearance and attraction to girls.
By the end of that school year, I’d largely learned to ignore the stares and inappropriate questions. In retrospect, I doubt the rumor persisted beyond a few weeks. But I’ll never forget what it felt like to have the spotlight thrust upon me during the absolute most vulnerable, awkward, and confusing time in my life. It’s a very jarring feeling to be an object of mass ridicule. Even after my dad’s job moved us to a new city and I got a fresh start at a new school, the paranoia stayed with me and my fear of being mocked limited me from exploring both my sexuality and creativity for years.
Victor Mascari is no stranger to that feeling and its scarring impact. His sleepy little California community was outraged and his father vilified following the drunk driving accident that ended the life of Victor’s classmate and her mother. He, his mother and his sister were all guilty by association. Victor couldn’t wait to graduate high school and escape his family’s shame.
A quarter of a century later and now forty-three-years old, Victor has overcome his adolescent trauma. He finished his doctorate and has a thriving private practice in addition to his work counseling prisoners. He has made a life with his partner of eight years, Derek Jameson and the two just moved into their dream home.
Two out and proud men living together is still rare enough in the Indianapolis suburb of Fishers that Victor expects the occasional sly, curious glance. Derek, at six-feet tall and 230 pounds of pure muscle, is already a head-turner. Add to that the peculiarity of an interracial relationship and a thirteen year age gap and those curious glances escalate to gawking pretty quickly when they are together.
Victor does his best to ignore strange looks from strangers, but that is harder to do when the scrutiny is coming from their friends and family. Indiana’s marriage equality fight dominates the conversation and it seems everyone Victor knows expects that he and Derek will want to take that step and settle down. Only they’ve never wanted a conventional relationship—marriage, kids, or even monogamy. Or at least it’s clear that Derek doesn’t. Victor becomes preoccupied with his doubts and old, familiar fears come back to haunt him.
When Derek brings home Antonio, Victor is completely smitten with the whip smart, and charmingly naïve much younger man. Too smitten, in fact, and his infatuation with Antonio and the reevaluation of his and Derek’s commitment is upsetting the delicate balance of their happy life.
Through a client, Victor learns that Antonio is in real trouble, and feels compelled to help. Before long, the risk averse Victor is gambling everything he holds dear—his relationship, his career and his reputation—to make sure the troubled man is safe and sound.
Victor finds himself in the midst of another scandal—this one completely of his own doing. He must decide once and for all what he really wants, and determine if the very public consequences are worth what it will take to keep it.
Please enjoy this excerpt from Expanded Hearts available now from Dreamspinners Press.
About the Book
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Book One: Healed Hearts
Length: 224 Pages
Category: Contemporary, M/M/M Romance
Release Date: 12 August 2016
Purchase Links: Dreamspinner Press || Amazon || All Romance eBooks || Barnes & Noble || Kobo Store
Blurb: Psychologist Victor Mascari and his partner, spa-owner Derek Jameson, have been together eight years, but their relationship is still evolving. Derek distrusts monogamy because of his parents’ messy divorce, but as marriage equality advances, Victor’s doubts about their open relationship are growing. He doesn’t necessarily want a legal union, but he’s increasingly concerned about how others view them.
When Victor comes home to find Derek with another new conquest, he’s annoyed… at first. As he gets to know Antonio, Victor discovers the young man is intelligent, self-assured, and charming. This time, it’s Victor who is intrigued by someone else and Derek who thinks Victor’s interest is crossing the lines they’ve agreed on. If Victor wants to keep Derek, he’ll have to let Antonio go.
But Antonio is in real trouble and has nowhere to turn. Victor and Derek take him in, and it soon becomes clear how well he fits into their lives and how strong the bonds between all of them are growing. A committed relationship between three men—all very different in age and background—is enough of a challenge, and then the horrifying secrets of Antonio’s abusive past emerge.
Victor sat in his car a long while, weighing the options. He needed to get home to Derek and Angela. He had family waiting for him, but a lobotomy couldn’t have removed his last image of Antonio. He had looked terrified. And he was in all probability homeless. Peter hadn’t had a chance to explain further, but something about the certainty in his voice stuck in Victor’s brain. He’s in trouble. Antonio is in trouble.
On the way home, he detoured past Charlie’s. It was early, and the parking lot was practically empty. Victor sat and waited with the car running in the far northwest corner of the lot. It was crazy to think Antonio would be there, but he waited for a sign—something to tell him what to do. He got out of his car, walked six steps toward the entrance, and then turned back—twice.
It was so fucked up. He couldn’t keep obsessing. He didn’t even know what he would say when and if he found Antonio. He didn’t want Peter to know anything about him. He most certainly did not want to reunite them. No. He wanted to know that Antonio was okay so he would stop thinking about him. It had to end.
He climbed out of the car for the third time and walked into Charlie’s. The dark glass door shut behind him. He waved to Troy, one of the bartenders he had chatted with before, and he approached the long wooden bar, grateful that it wasn’t crowded.
“Victor,” a familiar voice called. He turned around to see Seth Ray drinking with a beautiful brunette and a handsome redhead. He assumed their identities from Seth’s descriptions and approached with a friendly smile. “Hello, Seth. How are you?”
Seth introduced him to his boyfriend, Jude, and his best friend, Sarah. They were celebrating Seth asking Jude to officially move in. He shared a drink with them, bought a round to wish them the best, and then excused himself to the restroom. It was not exactly kosher to socialize with clients, and he was skirting enough ethical lines as it was.
“Hey, Victor.” Jude approached as he washed his hands. “I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done for my family.”
Victor nodded, although his eyebrow peaked at Jude’s use of the word family. Seth didn’t have a family. His mother had been killed and his father abandoned him at a young age. As far as he knew, the term family was presumptuous on Jude’s part.
“Jimmy is doing so great. His wife had a baby boy on Christmas Day,” Jude continued. The picture Jude held up and the crooked smile he shared with his brother brought some clarity to Victor’s question. Jude was referring to another former client of his, Jimmy Murphy.
“That’s wonderful,” Victor said as he looked at the picture of the newborn on Jude’s phone. “You must be Jonah’s brother, then, as well.”
Jude laughed with a nod. “Small world. How do you know Jonah?”
“Yes, my partner… er, boyfriend, Derek, is his partner… umm, business partner.” Victor laughed at his fumbled explanation. That’s why same-sex marriage needed to exist. Boyfriend was too casual and partner was too confusing. Husband would be simple. Hell. Even fiancé was an improvement.
Jude beamed at him. “Oh yeah. Derek is awesome. I’ve met him a few times at Jonah’s.”
Victor nodded and moved to leave the restroom. With a hand on the door, he turned back to Jude, who was staring at him and clearly wanted to say something more.
“I love him,” Jude said solemnly. “I really love him. I know he’s the man I’m going to marry.”
“I can tell.” Victor smiled. He was happy for Seth. Jude was obviously over the moon for him, and although he couldn’t confirm it for Jude, Seth had confessed to feeling exactly the same way.
In his head he knew his love for Derek had matured beyond that new, overpowering-infatuation stage. Jude’s comment made him miss that feeling. He envied the kind of elation that falling in love inspired—the feeling that compelled you to confess it out loud to near strangers in men’s restrooms. If he and Derek had met in a time when same-sex relationships were gaining so much acceptance that marriage, and even children, weren’t a pipe dream, would he feel different about the importance of marriage or monogamy in his life? He honestly didn’t know.
He approached the bar, queasy about what he needed to do, and waited for Troy to attend to him.
“Hey there. Can I get you another round?” Troy pulled a beer glass down, ready to pour another of his last order.
“No. Actually I do want to leave a message for Antonio, though. Can I do that?”
“Man. I’m sorry. But Tonio quit. He was in the other day picking up what Charlie owed him. Not sure if he’ll be back in or not.”
Victor absorbed Troy’s information like a kick to the gut. Antonio was gone.
Victor left the bar and, lacking all ability to think clearly, drove the neighborhoods around Charlie’s looking for signs of Antonio. The streets were abandoned, except for a lone dog-walker. He circled aimlessly and then gave up and returned home.
“You’re home late,” Angela declared as he entered. Victor looked at Derek, who glanced up from his book to give a noise of agreement.
“Sorry.” Victor followed his nose to the kitchen, where his mother’s marinara recipe simmered in a large pot. He lifted the lid and wafted the aroma toward him. Good lord. How he missed homemade Italian food. Luckily Angela was a stellar cook, and by the looks of their freezer, she was leaving them frozen containers of his favorite dishes. He sampled the sauce. “God, sis. This is heaven.”
“Well, Mama would kill me if I let her boy go hungry.”
Victor doubted her cooking had anything to do with his mother. Angela had been acting strangely since she arrived. She avoided Victor’s questions about her personal life with uncharacteristic creativity, but the way she kept a tight hold of her phone suggested there was someone. She stirred the marinara and giggled as she checked her texts. First Jude and Seth. Now Angela. He was surrounded by new love.
He shared a look with Derek and knew in his heart that what they had was so much better. They still had passion. It might be tempered by everyday life from time to time, but he still craved Derek’s touch. Derek caught his stare and smiled. He winked at Victor like he could read his dirty mind when Angela’s giggle broke their connection.
“All right. Who is he?” Victor asked.
“Yeah, Angela. Tell us who has been putting that smile on your face with those text messages?” Derek said.
Angela blushed and then checked the clock. “Oh goodness. I need to get the meatballs going. Victor, shoo. I can’t work with you hovering.”
Victor laughed and made his way out of the kitchen. Derek gave a resigned shrug, and Victor leaned over to greet him with a kiss. Derek grabbed Victor’s neck and attempted to recapture their earlier moment with his tongue. As he pulled away, Derek licked his lips, no doubt tasting the hops from the beer he had earlier. “Stop for a drink, sweetheart?” Derek’s tone wasn’t accusatory. Just curious. Stopping for a drink wasn’t part of Victor’s regular habit.
“Yeah. I ran into a client.” Victor bit his lower lip at the half-truth. He wasn’t a good liar, and Derek’s expression reflected his concern. He looked at Angela in the kitchen and back to Victor with a twisted smile. Then he turned back to his book.
Feeling guilty, Victor sat alone in the chair rather than snuggling up next to Derek on the couch. Lying wasn’t who he was. It wasn’t who they were.
He rested his eyes and thought about the type of relationship Jude and Seth seemed to have. They used to be like them—stupid, head-over-heels in love. They shared everything back then. Every doubt. Every thought. He never would have kept a secret. Why? When Derek’s love was constant and he always listened. He never judged Victor for his thoughts or fears.
He looked to Derek, and the realization hit him. Derek was still that person.
“Hey babe,” Victor asked. “Can I talk to you in private for a minute?”
Derek sat his book down and followed him to the bedroom.
“Is everything okay?” Derek asked, obviously concerned as he shut the bedroom door and took a seat on the bed.
“Yeah, I need to tell you I went to Charlie’s tonight to see if I could find Antonio. I did run into a client, but I thought you should know why I went there in the first place.”
“You did what?” Derek’s voice peaked with irritation and disbelief but didn’t rise to anger.
“I needed to make sure he was safe.”
Derek heaved an unhappy sigh. “Vic, I thought we’d moved past this.”
“I’m sorry. I did only want to make sure he was okay, but he’s not working at Charlie’s anymore, and I’m very concerned.”
“Victor, you barely know him. Why are you so worried? Wait. Have you been seeing him behind my back?” Derek’s eyes sharpened, and Victor felt the drop in temperature.
His heart pounded with the anxiety of having made the wrong decision. “No. I can’t explain it. I’m sorry, but I promise I haven’t seen him. I don’t want to keep secrets from you.”
“So you…. Never mind.” Derek shook his head. “Fine. I guess thanks for telling me. He was really good in bed. I’m sure he won’t disappoint.”
“Derek, please don’t think the worst of me. It’s not about that anymore. I wouldn’t do that without you. I’m worried. I want to go back to the time where I tell you how I’m feeling and we talk about it. You used to trust me. Please trust me.”
Derek’s silence became unbearable. He lowered his head, massaged his temples, and took deep breaths. “So what is the plan, then? We’re going to find him and help him? How?”
“I don’t expect you to….”
“Oh no. You do this, then we do this together. You say we need to find him. Let’s find him and make sure he’s okay.”
“Are you sure?”
“Not even a little, but I’m sure that I need this guy out of your head. You’re telling me something is wrong here, and I know you well enough to know you can’t let that go until you make sure he’s okay. So what’s the plan?”
“I love you.” Victor sighed and threw his arms around Derek. That went better than any scenario he could have imagined. Although Derek’s less-than-enthusiastic hug back wasn’t reassuring.
“I love you too. But Victor, we can only do so much. We don’t know this guy from Adam. You understand that. Right? He’s not your patient. He hasn’t asked for your help.”
Victor held on to Derek, unable to look him in the eye. Not only was Antonio not his patient, but Peter was. He was walking a very uncomfortable line. He pulled back and nodded his silent confirmation as Angela called them to dinner.
About the Author
Logan Meredith began writing as a teenager when beautiful boys started keeping her company at night. Unfortunately, the voices she heard were imaginary, and their conversations resulted in horrible insomnia. They only let her sleep when she started typing their words down. Thankfully, being awkward as hell and a head taller than anyone else in the school afforded plenty of spare time for writing.
At first, she tried to make them play with characters from her favorite television series or books. She found her lost tribe with a ravenous, crazy group of fanfiction lovers online and started sharing her stories publicly. Then something amazing happened—new characters arrived and started demanding their own stories. Only they wanted their own world to play in, and they wanted to find their true loves. So between her day job and making time for her family, she tries to keep up with the demands from her beautiful men for their happily ever afters.
A native of San Antonio, Texas and a graduate of the University of Texas-San Antonio, Logan currently resides in Indianapolis, IN. In addition to writing, she spends her time reading and re-reading her favorite books, cheering for the San Antonio Spurs, playing Words with Friends, and procrastinating pretty much everything else.
Logan is a proud member of the LGBTQA community and vocal advocate for mental health awareness, suicide prevention, and marriage equality campaigns.