A Red-Tainted Silence

Carolyn Gray

I'll never forget the first time I saw him--the wild shock of black hair, the beautiful blue eyes, the full lips with that perfected pout. Such a diva, even from the beginning. I was entranced, smitten, mesmerized. He had the face...
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I'll never forget the first time I saw him--the wild shock of black hair, the beautiful blue eyes, the full lips with that perfected pout. Such a diva, even from the beginning. I was entranced, smitten, mesmerized. He had the face of an angel, and the voice of one, too--and almost from the start I began the pattern of losing Nicholas. I was good at that--I guess I never believed I really deserved him, what he would bring to us both. What we would experience, because of him. What we could be, because of him. What I could be because of the strength and belief he had in me.

Denial denial denial.

Damn, I was good at that. But I was going to have to get good at trust and acceptance, if I wanted to keep him.

  • Note:This book is a homoerotic love story. It contains sexual acts that may be offensive to some readers: male-male sexual practices.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw him -- the wild shock of black hair, the beautiful blue eyes, the full lips with that perfected pout. Such a diva, even from the beginning. I was entranced, smitten, mesmerized. He had the face of an angel, and the voice of one, too. And almost from the start, I began the pattern of losing Nicholas. I was good at that. I guess I never believed I really deserved him, what he would bring to us both. What we would experience because of him. What we could be because of him. What I could be because of the strength and belief he had in me.

Denial denial denial.

Damn, I was good at that.

* * * * *

Murrieta, California -- The Past

“Thanks for taking us, Brandon.”

“No problem,” I said, glancing at my cousin Jenny. She sat in the front seat of my Volkswagen, her three friends giggling in the back seat. Every time I looked in the rearview mirror, one or all three of them would look at me, then go into another giggle fit.

Ninth graders.

“This is for a class, right?” I asked Jenny, trying to ignore her friends.

She nodded. “Yeah. We have to see two plays a semester and write a report. Turn here.”

“’Kay.” I glanced at the rearview mirror again, and once more her friends looked at me, then burst into laughter. I sighed and glanced at Jenny. She rolled her eyes.

“Sorry about the idiots, Brandon.”

“Hey, we’re not idiots.”

“Is it our fault your cousin is so cute?” the redhead said.

“Yeah, you could’ve warned us,” the third one said. “He’s hot.”

Fits of laughter again. My face burned and I shifted uncomfortably, wishing I was anywhere but around these girls. Later, I would look back at that moment and realize my reaction to female attention never did change. As Dream took off, those same friends of Jenny’s were even more unmerciful whenever I happened to be around them. I was theirs they’d claim. I, the Brandon Ashwood, actually took them to a play. They knew me.

Jenny told me later one of them -- or maybe all of them -- claimed to have been my girlfriend for a time. They were all cute, I guess, but definitely not my type. I didn’t refute their claims, though. It came in handy, having a lot of “former” girlfriends when fans went digging into my past. And dig they did.

I glanced at Jenny again and she shrugged. She mouthed “sorry,” then winked. I grinned back. It wasn’t her fault, after all, that they thought I was cute (though as skinny as I was then, I sure didn’t see what they saw).

More hushed talking in the back. Things like “You ask him” and “No, you, you’re the one who wants to know.” I took a deep breath and tried to make myself relax. This was going to be a long, long evening.

The dark-haired one -- Missy -- finally said, “Is it true you dropped out of school, Brandon?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Last year.”

“Why’d you drop out?”

“To play music.”

More hushed whispering. Snatches of “He’s so quiet” and “Doesn’t say much” and “Yeah, but he’s cute.” Jenny snickered at me. I vowed to get even with her for this. I sighed again -- I’d cornered the market on that this evening, it looked like.

“Oh, wow, cool. What do you play?”

“Guitar, keyboards, drums.”

“Wow, all that? That’s awesome. You have a band?”

“More or less.”

“Their singer has mono,” Jenny said.

To tell the truth, it was worse than that. Reggie, lead singer for our band, Ashwood, was seriously unreliable. Good, but unreliable. I’d had to cancel several gigs I’d worked hard to put together, including that night’s. The mono incident was the last in a long string of reasons why things hadn’t been going so well. I was beginning to wonder if I’d made a mistake by dropping out of high school. Not that I missed it; I wasn’t that good of a student, except in band and math.

It looked like I’d just traded homework nightmares for other, even more complicated worries. First Reg broke an arm, then broke up with his girlfriend -- he was useless for a month after that -- and now, mono. So he claimed. I didn’t know for sure; he hadn’t shown up for rehearsal in over five days, or called. If it’d been just me who had a say in the matter, I would’ve fired him months ago.

As it was, here it was a Friday night, and no gig, another missed opportunity. So when my cousin had called, begging me to take her and her friends to the high school to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, I had no reason to refuse. Besides, I like my cousin Sprout. I still call her that. Like me, she’d inherited the blond hair, green eyes, and the long and lean genes that somehow had skipped our mothers. Sprout and I could’ve almost been twins.

“I don’t care if he is. He’s adorable.”

“Adorable? He’s beautiful!”

“And his voice, too. It’s so sexy. He should’ve been Joseph.”

“Probably thought he’s too short. You sure he’s gay?”

I choked, then glanced in the mirror, but for once the girls didn’t catch me. Who were they talking about?

More laughter in the back. “Oh, yeah. They broke up, though. They went to the senior dance together and got kicked out and that was that.”

“That’s sad,” Jenny said, glancing at me.

I jerked my gaze back to the mirror. Missy was nodding her head. “What’s sad is he could have any girl he wants, and he doesn’t want them.”

“Why would a guy want to … you know … another guy, anyway?”

Who were they talking about?

“I mean, how do they even … you know … do it?”

Another fit of giggles. I gripped the steering wheel and swallowed hard, wondering what all I’d missed while my thoughts wandered. My face burned as the conversation continued as if I weren’t even there -- or maybe because I was there. I let my breath out in a whoosh. Jenny looked at me, her eyes showing a curiosity that made me uncomfortable. She kept looking at me like that. I looked back at the road.

“Um, who are you guys talking about?” I finally asked, cursing myself.

“The guy who plays Jacob.”

“Nicholas Kilmain.” All three girls in the back sighed.

And that was the first time I heard his name, in a car full of giggling, sighing ninth-grade girls. In the coming years, I’d see a lot of that kind of behavior directed toward Nicholas. I’d watch him eat it up and run with it as I drowned in horrible want and envy, but right then I had no idea how Nicholas Kilmain would irrevocably change my life. Would I have done anything different if I’d known? Would I have dropped the girls off, disappeared for two hours, and missed the most important revelation of my life?

As I write this now, and watch Nicholas as he sleeps in his hospital bed, I have to answer no. No, despite all the pain and heartache … No. I wouldn’t have done anything different, at least not about the early years. Later, though …

I pulled into the high school parking lot and after a few minutes of searching finally found a spot. The lot was jam-packed with cars. All for a high school play? I got out of the car and looked around as I held the seat for the girls to get out. They were giggling again about something and, arms linked, headed for the auditorium. I locked my car and followed, realizing then that Jenny had stayed behind.

“What’s up, Sprout?” I asked her, looping my arm around her shoulder. I really liked Jenny a lot -- over the years she would time and again be the one I’d turn to whenever things got really rough. No other woman knew me like Jenny did. Not even my mom.

“Not much. You okay, Brandon?” she asked, sliding her arm around my waist.

“Yeah. Why do you ask?”

She shrugged as we followed after her friends. Missy looked over her shoulder, a wistful expression on her face.

“Watch out, Missy has the hots for you.”

I grimaced and pulled her closer. “Missy’s out of luck. You’re my date tonight.”

She laughed. “Don’t worry, I won’t let her sit next to you.”

“Thanks. So why’d you ask if I was okay?”

She shrugged again. “I don’t know. Mom says things aren’t going so well for you. She’s worried. She thinks you guys should fire Reggie.”

I grinned. “Yeah, my mom’s told me that a lot lately.”

“So, why don’t you?”

Now it was my turn to shrug. “Finding a decent singer is hard. It’s everything. Reg has a great voice, but --”

“But he’s never there.” She paused. “I have a confession to make.”


“I have an ulterior motive for asking you to take us tonight.” We joined the end of the line, and I dropped my arm from around her shoulder. We stood a few feet from her friends. Their heads were bowed over a program. Giggling again.

“And what would that be?”

Her eyes danced. “I want you to hear this guy. Nicholas Kilmain. He’s incredible, Brandon. I just know he’d be perfect for your band.”

Copyright © Carolyn Gray


Customer Reviews

A great story that touched me deeply and kept me there waiting for more. Review by Shirley
This books is amazing! At first, I was hesitant since the blurb didn't tell you what it was really about, but since I had chosen it for a challenge I decided to give it a go. And boy was I glad! It had all the elements I look for in a book. Great characters, both vulnerable and real. With their own insecurities and struggles and supporting characters that added to their stories and made the situation more believable. Of course, their sexual chemistry was hot and their relationship was flawed which endeared them more to me. The drama and the plot were very deep, bringing to the surface a whole lot of emotions and suspense. At times, I was even biting my nails. It kept me guessing all throughout.

The writing was exceptional. It conveyed every emotion, every joy and felt right there. In the hospital, in the street, at the cabin, just there. At first, I was weary of the back and forward of the story, but by half of the first part I understood that it added to the whole understanding of Brandon's frame of mind. The pacing and the way the author brought to an end the first part, just about killed me. It was brilliant. I was glad I never felt overwhelmed with all the details and that their story was spaced out enough that I could really appreciate what they went through, were going through and how they had changed and improved.

A great story that touched me deeply and kept me there waiting for more.
(Posted on 1/10/2014)
Emotional Rollercoaster Review by Ashley E
This book started out as a four star for me, but as I read it just kept getting better. No way I could just leave it at 4, or even 4.5. It's too damn good for that.

I'll admit that I was prepared not to enjoy this when I hit the first chapter and was immediately thrown into a flashback. Flashbacks are a killer for me, because I think there's so many better ways to introduce backstory, but in this case it really was necessary and was amazingly well done. I found myself fully invested in both storylines, past and present, right up until the moment they finally collided.

This book was an absolute emotional roller coaster. Every time I thought things were starting to look up, something else busted through the door to screw up Brandon and Nick's lives. To some people this book probably comes across as way too angsty, but I find a lot of cathartic relief in it. Sometimes life just throws everything at you, and it sucks. And watching their journey from such broken people to a brilliant hope of something better and stable and healthy was just beautiful.

The first part of the book is really just an emotional journey, discovering the characters and revealing all their flaws and quirks. The second part focuses in on the mystery and ramps up the tension that had been there the whole time, but they weren't capable of coping with yet. Who is behind the whole mess? The answer shocked me. At one point I even thought, maybe.... But no, no way, couldn't possibly be him. Even with that inkling, I still could hardly believe it. Yet it fit so right. Felt like I should have known all along!

Basically, if you're the type to want to smack a character because, my gosh, he cries all the freakin' time, then don't read this book. But if the healing process and all the trauma and hurt that comes with it doesn't bother you, please read it. You won't regret it.

I will say, I'd love to see a quick snippet set a couple years in the future, just because seeing how much they've grown and recovered as a couple, and the whole cast as a family, would be amazing. But the epilogue still wrapped things up nicely and shows that even if things aren't perfect now, they're still striving for their happy ending and they're never going to let anything get between them this time.

Oh! I don't normally do this, but this song fits so perfectly for this book, especially Brandon. So if you ever find yourself reading this, check out Demons by Imagine Dragons, as well.
(Posted on 10/9/2013)
great read Review by Christina
Great love story about men who have been through a lot, and still manage to come out whole, and together the plot was good had me reading page to page I was so into the book I did not want to put it away, But I had to sleep sometime. After all Nick, and Brandon had been though any would be emotional I laughed cried then got mad page after page. after all who wouldn’t do anything for the person they loved , and who would want to live off of there friends I know I wouldn’t.

I found Nick to be Selfish, and what mad me angry with the book was when Jon sided with Nick when he was suppose to support his brother he abandons him. I did not know who the bad guy was, and was shocked to know the person that is suppose to love you is betraying you, over all it was a great book it is definitely one of my favorites.
(Posted on 3/28/2013)

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