Mason's Run, page 1
A Twin Peeks Bookstore Romance
About the Author
I've escaped a past that would have destroyed most men. I was used, abused and sold for sex from a young age by those who should have protected me. An unexpected moment of compassion from a stranger gave me a chance at a new life.
Though I've started over, my scars run deep. I'm an LGBTQ graphic novel writer and artist with a huge following, but I'm terrified of the world, and of my tormentors finding me.
When I discover that the stranger who has saved me from a life of abuse is the same man who has finally awakened my body to desire, I realize the truth: Can I ever really be free if I'm still afraid of my past and the people who have shattered me?
Serving as a medic in the Middle East, I felt the life of my fiancé slip away under my hands and was powerless to stop it. Discharged with physical and emotional wounds I can't heal, I go home to my crazy, geeky family and try to learn to live with the damage.
Pain and grief lead me to some acts I'm not proud of, including paying strangers for sex. I'm determined to keep it strictly business with no emotions involved, but when I discover that Mason Malone isn't a high-end escort, but a battered young man who has been forced into a life of pain and degradation, I'm frozen in indecision. Then the man with the raven curls and blue-gold eyes whispers, "Please..." and the barriers I’ve built around my heart shatter.
Years later, fate brings us back together. He has a new name and career, but I’ve never been able to forget those eyes. Mason, unfortunately, doesn't recognize me. Every day I find myself more and more drawn to him, but I'm terrified of what will happen when my secrets are discovered.
As both our pasts threaten our future, can we find a path to redemption? Or will the discovery of the truth create a chasm too wide to bridge? Can love and forgiveness overcome soul-shattering pain?
Copyright 2019 Mellanie Rourke
Cover Art by Reese Dante
Edited by Ann Attwood Editing and Proofreading Services
Developmental Edit by Heidi Ryan
Cover content is for illustrative purposes only. The person depicted on the cover is a model.
“Crossroads Gin” band name used by permission of Rhys Ford.
Copyright © 2019 Mellanie Rourke
All rights reserved.
This book is dedicated to my amazing family - My darling Leo, All my love. All my life.
Kiki - my awesome sister, who never let me give up on writing! This book wouldn’t have happened without your lifelong support.
For Jake and Angel - Thanks for putting up with a mom who writes gay romances. Love you all!
Please be aware that this book deals with PTSD, major anxiety issues and sexual abuse, including rape, the aftermath of child molestation, and human trafficking.
If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, or physical or sexual abuse, please reach out to the wonderful people at the National Human Trafficking hotline. They support over two-hundred languages and are a nationwide support system. 1 (888) 373-7888
If you are considering suicide or self-harm please reach out to the support available at the Trevor Project. You can call or chat 24/7 at 1 (866) 488-7386. You can also text the word “start” to 678678 to start a conversation with a counselor.
Eight years ago
The deep boom of artillery reminded me of the movie Jurassic Park as the Tyrannosaurus Rex got closer and closer, the kids would see water in the puddles shake with each step the monster took. As the ground rumbled beneath our feet, I imagined the monster getting closer and closer, only this time it was the man-made monster of artillery fire, not a dinosaur.
Rounds landed close enough to spray us with dirt and rocks, even hidden as we were between the sun-bleached house and a stone wall. Beyond the wall, the war-ravaged farms and village were broken only by occasional colored vegetation. My eyes watered and turned the scene in front of me to a bleary smear of reds, yellows, and browns.
We'd come to this small community in Afghanistan, to a supposedly "safe" landing zone to pass out medical supplies and food to villagers who had been cut off from the outside world for almost six months. We'd only been on the ground about an hour when we'd come under fire from insurgents.
Mack – James Macklin, my best friend and lover of almost four years, peered around the corner of the building, taking careful aim at our attackers before picking off one of the men intent on killing us. His gray eyes twinkled at me with mischief, totally out of place in this hellhole as he ducked back around the edge of the house.
The building we sought cover behind was a single-story affair, its walls chipped and bullet-ridden, its gaping windows dark and empty. Whoever had lived there before the war had long ago sought someplace safer.
We were caught in a space between the house and a low stone wall, ducking out to take shots at the insurgents that had us pinned down. A single lucky artillery hit had taken out the chopper, and our commanding officer with it. As soon as the attack started, we’d lost track of the other members of our team, their radio silence making me fear the worst.
As return fire pinged into the wall and knocked chips of stone into the air, the fragments rained down on my helmet. Mack grinned at me, that devil-may-care smile that made me fall for him the day we'd met in basic training.
We'd hit it off right away. It helped he was a little older than me, a little more experienced (in many ways) and we'd found we had a lot in common: computer games, science fiction, comics, and, oh yeah, hunky men in uniform.
Mack went through pilot training, while I studied to become a Navy medic. When he’d been deployed to Afghanistan before me, I'd been worried out of my head. Yet strangely, when my own deployment orders came just a few weeks later, all I felt was relief. At least maybe we'd have the chance to watch each other's back.
When we were both assigned to the same Combat Aviation Brigade a year earlier, I got down on my knees and thanked God, the Powers that Be, and the Naval Command that we were together. The countdown was on. We only had a few more weeks and we'd both be headed stateside. We were both done with the Navy and ready to make a life together back home.
We had already made plans for our lives post-military: Mack was moving to Ohio to be with me. His only family was a sister in Seattle he wasn't close with, not after she'd tried to "pray the gay away" when he came out to her. My sprawling family, on the other hand, had taken Mack in with open arms. Once they knew we were serious, my pa
Even my brothers and sister, who had given him a hard time at first, had backed off. He'd been home with me on leave a couple of times, and we were excited about building our lives together in a world unconstrained by "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
"ETA?" I asked, taking my turn to fire off a few shots from around the corner of the building. I figured I was more worried about getting us out of this alive than whether I'd sacrificed my protection under the Geneva Convention. I didn’t think these guys had read it anyway.
He keyed his radio, listening.
"Ten minutes out," he said, his grin intensifying. "Ten more minutes to give us a chance to pop these bitches."
"Better watch that mouth," I snarked back at him. "Mama D or Mama K find out you called them that, they'll take your ass down hard." Diana and Kyra Devereaux (Mama D and Mama K respectively) were my parents, and they'd both threatened to put any male in our family who used the term "bitch" on their butts. Since they both held black belts in Tai Kwan Do and Karate, we knew they'd do it, too.
"Who's gonna tell them?" He grinned back, "You--" Mack sprang forward suddenly, knocking me to the ground and grinding something into my hip.
"What the fuck, Mack!" I yelled, startled and angry. This was no time to be screwing around. He rolled away from me, his torso against the stone wall. I reached over and grabbed him, pulling him back behind cover.
His eyes were wide as he looked at me, the blood draining from his face. His normally dark gray eyes seemed almost silver in the afternoon sun. His rifle fell from his fingers.
"Mack?" I said, questioningly. Mack never dropped a weapon.
"Lee…" he wheezed, looking down. A bloodstain began to spread across his chest. "I don't think... the moms will... have the chance..." he got out as he slid down the wall. His eyes flew open wide, focusing on something behind me. A sharp cough came out of his mouth, and blood splattered us both.
"Look—!" he got out, trying to shout a warning before he collapsed.
"Mack!" I spun around to see the shooter who had crept up behind us. Almost without thought, I took him out. The bullet hole between his eyebrows was small, but so damn effective. I scrambled over to my fallen lover, ripping supplies out of my pack and desperately trying to stem the alarming flow of blood from his chest.
"Lee," he wheezed again, his hands scrabbling at his chest.
"Shut up, asshole! I've got this!" I smacked his hands away and ripped open bandages to press down on the wound in his chest. Helicopters approached our location; the thud of the rotors audible even above the explosions around us.
"They're on their way, Mack!" I yelled. "Evac will be here soon, just hang in there!"
I wiped the blood away from the entry wound and slapped an Asherman seal over the hole in his chest. I felt for his pulse and cursed as I felt it stutter under my fingers as his heart desperately tried to pump blood he didn’t have.
"Lee," he repeated, whispering this time, his face pale except where a splatter of blood had smeared across his chin, and his usually stormy-gray eyes washed out by the unforgiving sun.
"Love... you..." he gasped. His body slid down until he lay face up, staring into the bright sky. "Love..." Then his eyes fixed, as if on some distant sight. I watched in horror as his pupils dilated wide.
"No!" I moaned as his hands went slack, falling backward against the ground. The heart that I loved above all others stuttered and went still beneath my touch.
"No!" I screamed, beginning chest compressions on his prone form. I felt my heart breaking in my own chest, knowing he was gone, but unable to give up. My heartache didn't last long. I felt more than heard another loud thud as artillery shells landed nearby and the world exploded around us. First a roaring and searing white light, then, blessedly, blackness and silence.
Eight years ago
Ricky and Dreyven had my life by the balls, and we all knew it.
Ricky Taylor was my uncle, or that’s what the harried social worker claimed as she dumped me off at his apartment with a backpack and a trash bag half filled with dirty clothes. Mom had died chasing her next high, and the cops had busted me a few weeks ago lifting some candy bars and a bag of chips from a Supermart after the landlord had kicked me out of our tiny apartment when they found her body.
A couple of weeks on the streets, and I thought I knew how bad things could get. I was cold, hungry, and scared, but I didn’t understand that no matter how bad you thought things already were, that they could always get worse. As I’d stood in the hallway of the run-down apartment building, I’d been terrified at first, afraid Ricky would turn me out, and that I’d end up back at juvie, or stuck in the foster system somewhere.
Sometimes I wondered what he’d seen when he’d looked at me that first time. I was a short, skinny twelve-year-old boy, half-starved even when my mom had been alive, because every cent she got her fingers on ended up going into her arm, not groceries. My long, curly black hair was a matted mess. Child Protective Services had tried to cut it, but I’d fought them tooth and nail. In the end it was a small victory, but I’d kept my hair. It had always been important to me, because it was the one thing that still linked me to Mom... I didn’t even have any pictures of her. Before she had gotten so deep into drugs that she didn’t even know I was there, she would brush it out for me at night, her fingers moving through my hair, working out any knots or tangles.
So I’d stood outside my uncle’s door, gripping my meager belongings tightly and staying as far away from the CPS worker who had tracked him down as I could manage.
It seemed to be my hair he’d stared at most, standing in the doorway of his trashy apartment, his paunch overlapping his belt, pants dirty and worn, a cigarette hanging from his mouth. I tried to brush it back from my face, but it kept falling forward into my eyes.
“You look just like Navi,” he growled, eying me warily, but finally opening the door. I’d had a flash of hope when he said that. Navi – Navarette – Malone had been my mom. She’d told me the only one who had called her Navi was her brother. She had never told me why she had run away from home so young, but it didn’t take me long to figure out.
The words the CPS lady said hadn’t stayed in my brain, but whatever she’d said seemed to convince Ricky I was his blood. I remembered thinking maybe a couch and a blanket or even the floor and food in the kitchen was heaven after surviving on the streets. Heaven had quickly turned to hell as Ricky began molesting me almost as soon as the door shut on the CPS worker.
At first, I’d been so relieved when he let me stay, I was grateful. I remember throwing my arms around him and hugging him after the CPS worker left, promising to do anything he told me to, promising I’d be good. I didn’t know enough then to realize that the smile that crossed his face hadn’t been a good one. He just told me I needed to wash the stink of the street off me and to go take a shower. I couldn’t really argue with him – I smelled, and I knew it.
He led me into his bathroom and showed me where everything was, then said he’d be back in a minute with some towels. Washing the dirt and grime of the last few weeks off me had felt like heaven. I hadn’t realized how much of a luxury being clean was. This was a new beginning. I’d have another chance at a family, even if he was an uncle.
When Ricky came back, he brought more than just towels, he also brought his buddy, Dreyven, and his video camera.
Ricky, it turned out, was the reason my mother had run away from home so young. He had started molesting her when she was thirteen. He laughed and held me down as he and Dreyven took turns fucking me that first time, telling me how his mother hadn’t believed Navi when she tried to tell her he was sneaking into her room at night and called her a trouble-making whore.
Ricky and Dreyven were pimps who ran a stable of prostitutes whose looks ran to the exotic. Asian women, beautiful men, and now, me.
Where Ricky enjoyed fucking beautiful things, Dreyv
Once Ricky got over the novelty of raping his nephew, he began pimping me out to any pedo with a buck he could find. He also enjoyed making videos, something Dreyven had gotten him into. Dreyven had taped everything he put me through, and, apparently, the two of them made quite the living from me. We ended up moving to a nicer apartment in a slightly better area of Milwaukee.
Neither tears, nor pleas, nor whatever small fight I was able to put up, did anything more than amuse or irritate them. I was eleven years old and maybe sixty pounds soaking wet. I knew my only chance was to run.
I found my first chance within a week. Ricky wasn’t used to having a kid in the house, or keeping someone locked up, so it didn’t take long to find the opportunity. I ran until I couldn’t run anymore, then found an alley to sleep in, curling up behind a dumpster. I woke in the middle of the night to a sharp pain in my ankle and screamed at the rat that had sunk its teeth into my leg. I jumped up and ran from the alleyway, across the street and right into a beat cop.
The cop had short, dark hair, tanned skin, and kind grey eyes, but I was in no mental place to appreciate that. I screamed and writhed in his grasp, desperate to escape, begging him not to send me back to Ricky and Dreyven, but he outlasted me, and after a while, I just hung in his arms, distraught, tears running down my face.