I’m thrilled to be back at Fresh Fiction today celebrating my newest release—and this is a special one to me. A follow-up story that I never thought I’d write. In fact, the follow-up to my very first published book. Where HEARTS IN DARKNESS was about two strangers finding acceptance and belonging while trapped in a pitch-black elevator, LOVE IN THE LIGHT is about that couple learning to trust the love that they found.
For the past five years, the most frequently asked question I’ve received is whether I’d ever write a follow-up to HEARTS IN DARKNESS. And for a lot of that time, the answer was no. When I finished that book, that was all there was of Caden and Makenna’s story. I knew things that happened to them after the book ended, but there was no story. When the story idea finally came to me, it was exciting, but also scary. Because by then, HEARTS IN DARKNESS had had a lot of readers and it had a super unique premise (two strangers trapped in a pitch-black elevator) that would be hard to follow. But once I knew what the story was, it wouldn’t leave me alone. I knew I had to write it. I just hoped it would be good enough to do justice to the first.
The result was LOVE IN THE LIGHT, which is quite possibly the most emotional and heart-wrenching story I’ve written. My Hard Ink series book HARD TO HOLD ON TO would be a close second, maybe because both of the book address a particularly heart-wrenching topic—PTSD.
In LOVE IN THE LIGHT, hero Caden Grayson is a paramedic who, as a fourteen year old, was badly injured and scarred in a car accident that killed his mother and brother and left his father an empty shell who shut Caden out. Caden’s relationship with heroine Makenna James forces him to open up emotionally in a way he’s never really done before, and that brings all kinds of things to the surface that Caden thought he had under control.
One of my biggest worries while writing LOVE IN THE LIGHT was that readers would get frustrated with Caden’s issues. He suffers from anxiety, claustrophobia, panic attacks, and depression. Some of that was clear in the first book—after all, he’s the one claustrophobic in that elevator, not the heroine—but seeing his issues within the framework of the sexy fantasy of the elevator is different from living with them in a long-term relationship. But I couldn’t make Caden just get over himself. That wouldn’t have been true to what he was going through. And I couldn’t make Makenna’s love somehow able to magically cure him. Caden had to do the hard work, and it was really emotional and challenging to write.
Between the time that had passed since the first book, reader expectations, my own expectations, and the challenges of writing about their relationship and Caden’s issues, releasing LOVE IN THE LIGHT was admittedly intimidating to do. But sometimes I think we have to do the things that scare us—that’s how we grow, keep ourselves challenged, and do creative things we might not otherwise have done.
Here’s an excerpt from LOVE IN THE LIGHT that offers a window into the hero’s journey:
The ninety-minute ride flew by, probably because Caden wasn’t looking forward to confronting what he had to confront.
The investigation file listed a mile marker, which was the first piece of information he had to narrow his search, and there were also pictures of the accident itself. He’d seen them—and the whole file—before. When he was sixteen, he’d found the file and read it cover to cover, needing every gory detail like a junkie needed a fix. Caden had thought knowing would help, but it had just provided fodder for his subconscious to twist into nightmares and guilt and fear.
So he didn’t spend a lot of time looking at the photographs now—except to take note of the fact that the ditch and field where the car had landed were immediately after a long line of trees, which was part of what had kept anyone that night from seeing the over-turned car for so many hours.
First, Caden saw the mile marker, and then he found the tree line. He pulled the Jeep onto the side of the road. Sitting in the driver’s seat, Caden surveyed the scene, but beyond his knowledge of the photographs, not a thing there looked familiar. And why would it? The accident had occurred late at night and, by the time daylight broke, Caden had been out of his mind.
Taking a deep breath, Caden got out of the Jeep and walked around to the grass. The irrigation ditch was still there, creating a deep slope downward just a few feet off the edge of the road. He climbed into it. Stood there. Crouched down and placed his hand against the frozen earth where two people he’d loved had died.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you, Mom and Sean. I’m sorry I lost you. I love you. And I’m trying so damn hard to make you proud.
Closing his eyes, he let his head hang on his shoulders.
A tractor trailer roared past, and the sound of it was familiar enough to send cold chills down Caden’s back. But Caden wasn’t trapped in that car. He wasn’t. Not anymore.
He rose to his feet and looked around for one last minute. There weren’t any ghosts there. There weren’t any answers there. The past wasn’t there.
The realization brought both relief and frustration. Relief that he’d come to this place and found it to be…just a place. Just an ordinary roadside sitting under the winter gray sky. Frustration because going there hadn’t brought him any closer to figuring out how to close the door on the past.
What else could give him any sense of closure?
Back in the Jeep, he flipped through the investigation file. A name caught his attention. David Talbot. The paramedic who’d been the first person Caden was aware of on the scene of the accident. What Caden most remembered about the man was the kindness of his voice, the reassurances he kept offering, the way he explained everything that was happening even though Caden hadn’t really been capable of following it. The man’s words had helped ground Caden after a long night of not knowing what was real, and Caden had always been convinced that David Talbot was the only thing that had kept him from going insane. And staying there.
Holy shit, why hadn’t Caden thought of Talbot before? Would the guy even be around? Maybe it was a long shot after fourteen years, but Caden’s gut said there was something to this idea. It certainly couldn’t hurt.
A quick search on his smart phone revealed that Talbot’s firehouse in Pittsville was only a few minutes away. Caden made his way there not knowing what to expect, or whether he should expect anything at all.
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Thanks so much for reading!
Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over twenty books in contemporary and paranormal romance and romantic suspense. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.
Two hearts in the darkness…
Makenna James and Caden Grayson have been inseparable since the day they were trapped in a pitch-black elevator and found acceptance and love in the arms of a stranger. Makenna hopes that night put them on the path to forever—which can’t happen until she introduces her tattooed, pierced, and scarred boyfriend to her father and three over-protective brothers.
Must fight for love in the light…
Haunted by a childhood tragedy and the loss of his family, Caden never thought he’d find the love he shares with Makenna. But the deeper he falls, the more he fears the devastation sure to come if he ever lost her, too. When meeting her family doesn’t go smoothly, Caden questions whether Makenna deserves someone better, stronger, and just more…normal. Maybe they’re too different—and he’s far too damaged—after all
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