Never Let Go by M.L. Rhodes
#1 Bestseller at Amber Allure
5 Hearts from The Romance Studio
5 Angels from Fallen Angel Reviews
5 Roses from My Book Cravings
5 Kisses from TwoLips Reviews and a Recommended Read
Recommended Read from Joyfully Reviewed
Will McLaren and Ethan Gallagher first met in high school. Ethan—sophisticated, cocky, and full of wild daring—was everything bookish and quiet Will was not. Yet they’d instantly connected and forged an unlikely friendship that had carried them through their teens and well into adulthood. Even as teenagers, though, they’d always kept secrets from one another…hidden bits about their lives and desires they feared could destroy their friendship.
As adults, the secrets have become heavy burdens to bear, forcing them to keep their distance from one another and make up stories to hide the truth. Then, in an unguarded moment, Will lets his slip. His revelation explodes into a night of unexpected passion that stuns them both.
When Ethan disappears the next morning, Will blames himself, and as the months pass with no word, he’s convinced he’s driven away his best friend. He forces himself to move on with his life and try to forget.
But three years later Ethan shows up again, only a shell of the vibrant man Will once knew, and mysteriously evasive about where he’s been. When Ethan makes a confession of his own, can the two men recapture the friendship they’d once shared, and maybe even build something more powerful? Or will the hurts and deceptions of the past tear them apart for good?
Release date: June 23, 2007
Length: Extended novella (35K words)
Available in ebook formats at: Amber Allure, Kindle US, Kindle UK, Fictionwise, ARE, and other online ebook stores
Available in paperback at: Amazon.com as Always (anthology that contains both Never Let Go and Hearts & Bones).
“All right, time to confess,” Ethan told him, as he got Will’s large form turned so his head was on the pillow, then lifted his legs up onto the bed. “Something or someone has gotten you in a funk or you wouldn’t have tied one on like this. So talk. What is it?”
“Nothin’. I’m fine.”
Ethan studied Will’s guilty expression, pieced it together with the fact Jessie had just gotten married and Will’s unrest had started somewhere between the rehearsal last night and the wedding today…and decided in a heartbeat what it was. He smiled. “Who is she?”
“You’re jonesing for some woman, aren’t you?”
“No!” Will said, a little too quickly and defensively.
“Was it someone at the wedding? One of Jessie’s friends? Maybe one of the gals who stood up with her?”
“There’s no woman,” he said, turning his head away.
Ethan tugged off Will’s shoes and socks, then unfastened his belt and pulled it off also. He didn’t bother with his fitted white shirt. Will had shed the black tuxedo jacket, yanked off the silk bowtie, and unbuttoned the first few buttons on his shirt the moment they’d hit the hotel bar.
“Come on, ’fess up. Does she know how you feel?”
“I told you, there’s no woman. I don’t want to talk about it.” Will’s voice was muffled since he was scrubbing a hand over his face beneath his glasses as he spoke. Then he dragged his hand through his hair as well, leaving the dark thatch of it standing nearly on end.
“Okay…” Ethan sat on the bed next to him. “Since you’re clearly in denial, let’s just call her your ‘secret lover’ then, shall we? So tell me, Dr. McLaren, have you told her you’re crazy about her? Or, as usual, have you been too quiet to speak up?”
“You’re bein’ a pain in the ass,” Will mumbled.
“And rightly so, apparently, since it seems you’d continue wallowing in secret lust if I wasn’t here to pry the details out of you and offer my support. So here’s my take… Knowing you as I do, I suspect you’ve had a hard-on for her from a distance for a while now. But for whatever reason, you haven’t made a move yet, preferring instead to suffer in silence instead of just telling her how you feel. How’m I doing so far?”
Will wouldn’t look at him.
“Mm-hmm, that’s what I thought. All right, Mr. Strong and Silent, why haven’t you gone for her?”
Will finally turned his head and looked up at him with something akin to hungry desperation in his gaze. “I can’t,” he finally said with a hoarse sigh. “Off limits.”
Will’s pain radiated off him in waves, causing Ethan to suddenly feel bad he’d pushed. But at the same time, if Will was this upset, it sounded as if he needed to talk and get it off his chest.
“Off limits for professional reasons?” he guessed, wondering if Will had fallen for one of his biology profs during his grad program at UNM. But if that were the case, now that he’d finished school, it shouldn’t matter.
Or maybe…oh, shit. He winced, hoping like hell Will hadn’t fallen for a married woman.
“For friend reasons,” Will said.
A rush of relief shot through Ethan that it wasn’t for “wedded” reasons. He didn’t think he would have been able to stand seeing Will in a painful dead-end like that.
“As in you’re already friends and don’t want to risk screwing things up by becoming lovers?”
“Told you…I don’t want to talk about this.”
Will looked even more pained now, if it were possible. From the thin slip of moonlight shining through the window, Ethan could see his agony. Damn. Whatever was going on, it was really tearing him up. A vise squeezed Ethan’s chest. He hated seeing his friend like this.
A thick, dark hank of hair had fallen over one of Will’s eyes. Ethan struggled against the sudden, tender urge to reach out and brush it back.
It must be seeing Will hurting that was causing these little chinks in his armor tonight. Usually he had better control, not even allowing himself to think such things, much less have to fight back the craving to act on them. If he had nothing else to show for his life, he’d become an expert over the years at keeping a tight rein on his emotions and personal desires, presenting whatever external façade was necessary, no matter how he felt inside.
“Will,” he said, keeping his voice soft, “it’s obvious you’ve got it bad. And I understand where you’re coming from with the friend thing. I really do. But you look miserable, and if its eating at you that much, you have to just tell her.”
“Look, if it hasn’t already, your silent longing for her, wanting more and not getting it, is going to affect your friendship anyway. It’s better to just be honest.”
Will’s troubled gaze burned into him. “Jess said…” He hesitated.
“What’d she say?”
“She said…something similar.”
“She’s a smart gal, our Jess.” Ethan sighed. “Look…are you in love with this person?”
Will didn’t answer, but he squeezed his eyes closed for a moment, as if it hurt to even think about it.
Oh, yeah, he’s in love.
Damn, this was harder than he’d ever thought it would be. He’d always known one day Will was going to find someone. And that was as it should be. But a part of him deep down inside felt raw and empty at the thought of a woman claiming Will’s heart. His own selfish feelings didn’t have a place here, though. He owed it to Will to be supportive.
“Will, maybe telling her is worth the risk. Yeah, it’s possible it might do something weird to your friendship if she doesn’t feel the same way about you. But if you have strong feelings, you shouldn’t hold them inside. That’s not being fair to yourself. If this person is who you want, don’t let the opportunity pass you by. Just…tell her how you feel.”
“You make it sound so easy.”
“No. It’s really not.” Will spoke so softly it was barely a whisper. His gaze was still focused on Ethan, but the intoxicated haze that had been in his eyes earlier had disappeared, replaced by that tortured, hungry look again. “It’s complicated. It’s…very…complicated.”
“In what way?”
Will didn’t answer.
“Come on. Talk to me. Maybe I can help. In what way is it complicated?”
A long, silent moment passed with Will’s intense gaze piercing him. Then his hand came up to cup the back of Ethan’s head and he was both pulling Ethan toward him and rising to meet him at the same time.
“In this way,” Will breathed, a split second before their lips touched.
A Joyfully Reviewed Recommended Read!
“Simply put, Never Let Go is an incredible book. M.L. Rhodes’s deep characterization made it easy to care about both Will and Ethan, and I was very moved by their deep love for each other. They face serious obstacles in the story, but I never stopped rooting for them. Each step in the story brought me closer to the characters. I laughed, cried, and rejoiced right along with them as the book unfolded. One of the best things about the story was the way Will and Ethan grew and changed. Ethan begins the story self-assured and outgoing, but after his ordeal emerges much different. Will starts out shy and biddable. Near the end, they had somewhat of a role-reversal, and yet they were still essentially the same men they had been before—just with more facets. This is my first book by Ms. Rhodes, but it certainly won’t be my last! Never Let Go is a sweet, hot, vastly enjoyable story of finding love, losing it, and finding it again. I definitely recommend this book. It will leave you believing in second chances.”
–Cassie, Joyfully Reviewed
5 Kisses & A TwoLips Reviews Recommended Read!
“Never Let Go by M.L. Rhodes is an emotional story that had me crying in my chair. I fell in love with Will and Ethan and my heart broke for the devastation they both suffered during Ethan’s absence. Will’s love for Ethan is never in any doubt, but his pain is so gut wrenching that the only way he can survive is to harden himself against Ethan when he comes back. Ethan’s life has never been easy, in fact, his past is full of pain, but he is willing to endure more in order to secure Will’s heart again. I don’t believe any reader out there will be able to read this fantastic story with a dry eye! And there’s one particular super-hot, BDSM man-on-man love scene that will leave you breathless!”–Tara Renee, TwoLips Reviews
5 Hearts! “Never Let Go is an amazing book about two men who love each other and consider themselves family. They are very well-written characters, with their lives explained perfectly. There are twists and turns in this book that I found unexpected, but fascinating to read. As they start to learn more about each other, the two men have HOT sex, which I found to be fabulous… The plot was perfect; I did not find a single bump or misstep in the entire book. Ms. Rhodes has an incredible ability to tell a story and I LOVED this one immensely. I highly recommend Never Let Go to everyone. You will love it.”
–Marcy Arbitman, The Romance Studio
5 Angels! “M.L. Rhodes has once again created a poignant and heart wrenching story with two very real-to-life men who draw on the reader’s heart strings. On the surface, Ethan is a happy-go-lucky, popular guy, but in reality his real life is much darker than that. Will is one of the few people who realizes the difficulties to Ethan’s life and, even as a young man, he does whatever he can to help Ethan. Loving Ethan is just an extension of his friendship and he will do whatever he can to see that Ethan is happy, even to his own detriment. When Ethan and Will come together, a torch is lit within them that even time can’t extinguish. Thanks go to M.L. Rhodes for another delightful story.”
–Teresa, Fallen Angels Reviews
4 Stars! “Never Let Go by ML Rhodes is a m/m romance that delivers. Great pacing, sexual tension and a love story come together to make Never Let Go a terrific read.
What an emotional, heart-warming story of two men who must get over the secrets in their lives to connect with one another in love. The characters have depth and intensity that make you fall in love with them. Will is fascinating as he goes from an uncertain younger man to a take-charge lover with the power of forgiveness. And Ethan starts out as a man who wants it all but knows he can’t have it to a person willing to change and accept the love waiting for him.
The pacing is great, the descriptions detailed, and the storyline both believeable and interesting. I definitely recommend Never Let Go. 4 Stars, a keeper.”
–Raven, Pulp Fiction
5 Roses! ”M.L. Rhodes has a way with words that draws you in immediately. I loved this story. Loved the friendship Will and Ethan shared, the pains, the ups and downs of life, and the secrets that all of us have held back from the one we love. I look forward to reading more by this author!”
–Nicole, My Book Cravings