by Amanda K. Byrne
(Hidden Scars, #1)
Publication date: September 22nd 2015
Genres: Adult, Contemporary
Sometimes the past won’t stay where it belongs.
Sara’s number one rule of dating: closed off, secretive men need not apply. Years of therapy helped her move past the damage done by her emotionally abusive boyfriend, and she’s ready to date again. Someone funny, laid back, and easy to talk to. All things her coworker Taylor isn’t.
Taylor’s quiet. Too quiet. He operates in permanent stealth mode, and he hides his secrets as well as Sara does. She doesn’t want to be attracted to him, but after a night spent in a hotel room together, trapped by a blizzard, she can’t deny there’s a fire-hot connection between them, waiting to ignite. Their working relationship inches closer and closer to friendship, until one day she gathers her courage and kisses him.
It’s the match Taylor was waiting for.
She hesitated in the middle of the room, and he kept going, walking to one of the small booths toward the back. He slid onto the bench with a view of the entrance, watching as Sara made herself comfortable on the opposite side of the table. A server came over immediately, and he ordered without thinking. “Jameson’s and water.”
“Bombay and tonic.”
Then they sat there, staring at each other, the muted sounds of the bar filling the space between them.
He felt like he was back on his first date when he was fourteen. Tammy Clare had finally agreed to go out with him, and he’d taken her to Joe’s, the neighborhood diner. It had been
awkward. His tongue had been tied in knots, and most of the meal passed sans conversation, which he’d since learned was necessary for a date. Conversation. He needed a topic, something innocuous. Something that wouldn’t bore him to death. Unfortunately, everything he wanted to know about her ventured into the get the fuck away from me, I’m not telling you anything category.
Sara blinked first. “Why are we here?”
He almost sighed with relief. “Here, specifically? I was just following you.”
She made a face, and he relaxed another fraction. That was the Sara he’d seen around the office. “Don’t be an ass. You practically wear a neon sign that says do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars. I’d be surprised if you didn’t tell me to go directly to jail.”
Something uncoiled inside him, and he chuckled. He relaxed even more at her surprised look. So his smile, his first genuine smile in what felt like days, stayed in place. “Honestly? I don’t know. I got used to you popping in every other day or so and when you didn’t, it felt weird.”
“And what, you followed your instincts?”
He shrugged. “Pretty much.”
One brow shot up, mouth pursing as she studied him. “Huh.” She glanced up as their drinks arrived. “Could I get an order of sweet potato fries?”
“No problem.” The server bounced off to fill the order, and she stared after him. “God, he can’t possibly be old enough to serve liquor. And no one should be that cheerful, working in a bar. It’s unnatural.” She sipped her drink, keeping her gaze on the table.
French fries. Again. She’d ordered fries with her sandwich, that night in the hotel. The movie she’d been watching. It was as good a topic as any. “LA Confidential. You said it was one of your favorites. Got any others?”
Her drink sloshed as her hand jerked around it. “Oh. Um. Memento. Chinatown. The Lives of Others.”
She drank deeply before answering. The level of liquid in her glass was below the halfway point when the glass came back down. Her cheeks were flushed, eyes bright and animated. “It’s the story. It has to have a good story, otherwise why would I want to spend two hours or more sitting in the dark? They…make me think. They let me into someone else’s world, a believable world, not one populated by morons who think shit jokes are funny.”
Her fries arrived, and she worked her way through the basket, the pauses in the conversation growing less awkward as she told him about her favorite movies, moving on to books and reading, her preferred hobby. There was an entire wall in her dining room, she said, lined with boxes of books. She was thinking built-in shelves, once she got around to painting the damn place.
She sipped her drink and sat back, nudging the basket toward the middle of the table.
“God, I’m awful. I swear I’m not normally this self-centered.” She waved a hand at the fries.
“Help yourself.” Propping her chin on her hand, she looked at him, the wariness and reserve finally gone from her expression. “Now you know what I do with my free time. What about “Spend a lot of time outdoors. There’s plenty of hiking around here. Skiing, too.” He reached for a fry. “Haven’t caved to peer pressure yet and gotten a bike, but I’m thinking about “Do you hike with a group? My friends aren’t all that into nature, so the most they’ll do is walk one of the trails out at Forest Park. Trying to talk one of them into anything more strenuous requires bribes.”
He shook his head. “A buddy of mine sometimes goes with me, but I go alone a lot of the time.” He told her about some of his favorite trails, and she pulled out her phone to note a couple he mentioned that were fairly easy hikes that would have a good number of hikers in decent weather if she went by herself. Hiking. Something they could do together. He made a mental note to ask her in the spring, when the weather improved.
She tucked the phone back in her purse. “Hate to say it, but I need to get home.” She signaled to the server for the check, then slid her gaze to Taylor. “Thanks,” she said quietly.
“This was fun.”
If she’s not writing, she’s reading, drinking hot chocolate, and trying not to destroy her house with her newest DIY project. She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, and no, it really doesn’t rain that much.
You know these. The things where you dart furtive glances around, making sure no one can see you indulging in your…Guilty pleasure.I’m pretty up front about my likes and dislikes, but I’ve got a few that I’m not all that keen on revealing for the teasing and/or lectures it might get me.Like movie theater popcorn. This stuff is sooooo bad for you, with its fake butter and double count of your daily ration of salt, but sometimes I just have to have it.Or Thirty Seconds to Mars. The band has plenty of eager and vocal fans, but I’ve kept my fandom under wraps (until now). Why? My friends are music snobs. I’m kind of a music snob. And the BF is one of the biggest music snobs I know, but at least for him, it makes sense (he’s a classically trained musician). The sound of Thirty Seconds to Mars is too slick and overproduced for me to really take them seriously, but I like them anyway.Reruns of The Hills falls on the list, too. When it was still on MTV, I was much, much better about going to the gym. I’d climb on the elliptical machine and stay there until the episode was over, and I got deeply invested in the pseudo-relationship between Lauren and Brody. Like, I was really disappointed when they couldn’t work it out and get back together.This last one is going to make me sound like a total snob, but I can’t help it. I am a film snob. I have a membership to the Seattle International Film Festival, and I go every year. Foreign films are my jam. And while I’ll happily watch good action movies (you know, the ones with an intricate plot, fast pace, and preferably starring Andy Lau), I sometimes need to watch a particularly bad action movie. Ones with unnecessary explosions, fight scenes that go on forever, and ridiculous, over-the-top plots that are so far off the plausibility scale it’s laughable.Are you game to admit your guilty pleasure?
We’re all familiar with the alpha hero – the badass who doesn’t take crap from anyone, who never hesitates in the face of danger, who’s overbearing and bossy and uber-protective of the heroine. And we know beta heroes, too. They’re the sweethearts, the nice guys, the ones who make you laugh and make you feel treasured, who are kind and smart and basically the one you’d take home to your parents.When I wrote the first draft of Hidden Scars almost three years ago, most of the heroes I’d written to date (or the ones I liked the most, anyway) were beta heroes. There’s something about alphas that just turn me off, and while I’d written one or two before, they weren’t my favorites.Then came Taylor.Taylor sort of defied classification. He was quiet. That was his thing. He understood the value of silence, and he understood Sara’s need to come to him. So he couldn’t be an alpha. But he also had this fierce need to protect not just her, but his family, and he had no qualms about taking decisions out of her hands if he thought it was best for her. Those aren’t exactly beta qualities.Enter the gamma hero. He’s a mythical combination of alpha and beta, and sometimes, if you’re really lucky, he’s got the best characteristics of both. And Taylor certainly qualifies. There’s no doubt he’ll take charge when he has to, but the most important thing to him is giving his woman what she needs. If that’s standing aside so she can fight her demons on her own, he will. If it means taking care of her, he’s all over it. And if it means telling her how much she means to him, well, he’s not afraid to do so.What’s your favorite type of hero?
***There’s something about seeing romance on the big screen that just makes you feel all mooshy inside (in a good way!) In Hidden Scars, Sara’s a bit of a movie snob, and, well, so am I. It takes a lot for a romantic movie to land on my favorites list. These ones all hit the mark and then some.Before Sunrise/Before Sunset - Jesse and Celine meet on a train to Venice in Before Sunrise and, unable to afford a hotel room for the night, spend the hours walking around the darkened city, talking about everything under the sun. Before they go their separate ways the next day, they make a desperate and heart wrenching promise to meet again in six months – without exchanging contact information. In Before Sunset, they meet again years later completely by chance, and find what drew them together all those years ago is still there, and still strong. Before Sunset has one of my favorite endings ever: Jesse’s only in town for a day, and as they’re sitting in Celine’s apartment, she says, “Baby, you’re gonna miss that plane.” And Jesse just smiles and says, “I know.” Swoon. I love these movies. This is love at first sight done right, in my opinion.(500) Days of Summer - Confession time: I have a bit of a thing for Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Tom falls for Summer, a girl who doesn’t believe true love exists. This movie was all the things: cute, smart, genuinely funny (I particularly like the scene where Tom is breaking all the plates he owns by throwing them on the floor), sexy. Tom’s both a goof and a serious dude, and the way their relationship plays out made me sigh. Plus, it’s got a great tagline – This is not a love story. This is a story about love.Anne of Green Gables - So it’s not actually a movie. But this miniseries (and its sequel) would stop me and my girlfriends from changing the channel every time PBS reran. You might think Anne of Green Gables is the story of how Anne works her way into the hearts and minds of the town of Avonlea, but there’s an epic romance at its heart: Gilbert and Anne. From the moment he calls her Carrots to the day she agrees to marry him, theirs is one that will burn itself into your brain, and I promise, if he’s not already, Gil will be your new movie boyfriend.North and South - Two words: Richard Armitage. Wait, you need more? Seriously? Again, a miniseries, not a movie, but the way that Thornton looks at Margaret is just…no words. I have no words. And the ending. OMG that ending! Go. Go watch this now. You can thank me later.Simply Irresistible - Sarah Michelle Gellar plays Amanda, a chef saddled with a failing restaurant when she meets a Tom, adepartment store executive (Sean Patrick Flannery). It’s not the greatest movie in the world, but it’s fun, and it’s really fun watching Tom fall for Amanda despite everything he does to prevent it. Also? Sara Michelle Gellar’s wardrobe in this movie was pretty awesome.What are some of your favorite romantic movies?
Music plays a big part in my writing process. I love creating playlists for my stories, and while I can’t actually listen to them while I’m writing (I have a tendency to sing along whenever I’m listening to, well, anything), I’ll play one when I’m gearing up to dive back into my latest work in progress.So it’s a little strange that I didn’t create one for Hidden Scars. It happens; sometimes I don’t need the musical inspiration, and that’s what happened with Hidden Scars. The story just poured out, and by the time I even thought of putting together a playlist, I was more than halfway through and barreling toward The End.I’ve been thinking about theme songs lately, though. Books deserve theme songs, yeah? A song that whenever you hear it, you automatically think of a particular book. Like Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance.” Whenever I hear that song, I think of Leisa Rayven’s Bad Romeo. Or my debut, One Night in Buenos Aires. I hear Neon Trees’ “Sleeping With A Friend” and I automatically think of Drea and Joe.Finding a suitable song for Hidden Scars was a bit of a challenge. There’s plenty of musical references in the book itself – Sara listens to metal and “angry music” to help calm her down. Think Rage Against the Machine, Lostprophets, Sevendust, Royal Blood. But anger didn’t fit the tone of the story. I needed something a little angsty (because ANGST) and a little sad.You might have heard X Ambassador’s lead single, “Renegades”, but it was another song from their debut that struck the right note, so to speak. “Unsteady” might be about about family and the struggle to keep it together, but it resonates just as deeply with Sara and Taylor’s story. They’re both a little unsteady, but as long as they’ve got each other, they can face anything thrown at them.
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