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Authors: Ashley John


BOOK: Shelter
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By Ashley John


About This Book


October 13





Fresh from his fourth stint in rehab, Elias James doesn’t have much to live for. His relationship with his family has never been so strained and with no real life of his own, he has nothing to live for. His overachieving twin sister and his ruthless mother's political success as Mayor of Havenmoore has left him empty. Getting high started as an act of rebellion but the addiction soon controlled his every waking moment.


Aspiring writer, Caden Walker, thought he had the perfect life until he discovered his boyfriend in bed with his best friend. Leaving everything behind in New York, he returns to Havenmoore to re-evaluate his life from his parent’s guest bedroom. When his mom offers him a job working for the charity she runs, helping people struggling with addiction, he’s not in a position to turn it down.


Caden never expected to find what he did, but when he is assigned to work with Elias, a reluctant attraction quickly blossoms into something deeper. Can Elias find in Caden the one thing he’s always searched for or will his addiction drag him under once again? Is Caden ready to let go of his New York dream to take a chance on something unexpected? Both men are faced with difficult times of change, but can they make it through the storm to find the shelter?


Copyright © Ashley John


All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.


All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.


For questions and comments about this book, please contact the author at
[email protected]



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For Keri, Lisa, Ceri, Amy, Tee and Sam.

Thanks for having hawk eyes that make me look better.






Staring out into the garden of the Havenmoore Rehab Center, Elias James slid the silver ring back through the right corner of his lip. Piercing through the already healing skin, he felt a shudder of satisfaction when it eased through. He ran his tongue along the metal, a chill of satisfaction shuddering around his slim frame.

His fourth stint in rehab had come with stricter conditions. This time it was court appointed, so he couldn’t just walk through the doors. Getting caught in the backroom of a Chinese takeout place clinging onto the last thread of life, with enough cocaine in the pocket of his skinny jeans to make him look like a dealer, had almost gotten his ass thrown in jail. He was the mayor’s son, so she was never going to let that happen.

Prison would have been a welcome break from sitting around with a bunch of wackos for nine weeks, talking about his feelings and pretending he was a reformed man. As he stuffed the last of his clothes into his denim backpack, he was already thinking about where he could get his first post-rehab fix.

“Elias, your sister is here,” Sandy leaned against the doorframe with her hands in the pockets of her white nurses uniform, “you ready?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe.”

Sandy was one of the few nurses in the place who actually seemed like a normal person. Most of the other nurses seemed to check out the second they put on that uniform but Sandy seemed to shine through it. She was giving him a smile that Elias had seen three times previously. It said ‘
I really hope this is the last time I see you in here
’. Elias wanted to smile back and believe it but he couldn’t. He wasn’t going to promise Sandy something with a fake smile, even if it would make her feel better.

Tossing the bag over his shoulder, he ruffled his short and thick black hair in the mirror, the newly replaced rings and studs cluttering his ears glittered in the late morning sun. His face looked thin, his cheekbones strong under his eyes.

Ellie was sitting in the waiting room, distracted by her cellphone. Ellie was his over-achieving twin sister and even though they shared a face, she actually had a brain capable of retaining knowledge beneath her black angular bob.

“Hey, Sis,” Elias cleared his throat.

All of a sudden, he felt unexplainably nervous. He thought back to the last time he had seen her. Handcuffed to a hospital bed and coming down from the worst high of his life, she was nothing more than a blurry blob crying angrily at the bottom of his bed. For nine weeks he hadn’t been allowed any visitors but he wasn’t sure if she would have come if she were allowed. He knew she cared but her eyes told him that she was at the end of the road with helping him out. She was a doctor, so she understood addiction better than most but she had never been able to fix her own brother.

Elias’ battered sneakers on the tiles made her look up from her cell, a frown already tightening her strong features. Hazel eyes danced over Elias’ scruffy clothes, piercings and unclipped facial hair, with the same look of displeasure he had grown to expect.

“Elias,” she pulled him into a quick hug and kissed him fleetingly on the cheek, “good to see you.”

Ellie’s eyes told a different story. He knew all too well what she really wanted to say. She would want him to promise that he was clean and that he was going to stay that way. Just like Sandy, he couldn’t give her that fake promise. At twenty-six, Elias knew that the second chance boat had sailed by him many times and he had missed the last pick-up more years ago than he could remember.

“How was it?”

“Oh, you know, the usual. Lots of sitting around in circles talking about why our childhoods have fucked us up. Nothing new. Have I missed much?”

She pursed her lips, almost angrily. Despite being twins they were polar opposites in most ways. Ellie had always been the brains and Elias had been the trouble. Being stuck in her shadow meant that his mother barely noticed he was there. His father had predicted what was coming and he got a ticket out when he died in a car accident four months before the twins were born.

With a mother who didn’t care and a father who he wasn’t allowed to ask questions about, he failed most of his classes and left high school without a diploma, instead choosing a lonely and empty life of drugs and homelessness. Ellie, on the other hand, was on track for Tufts University of Medicine to become the brightest of shining stars.

“Mom apologizes for not coming,” Ellie forced a smile.

They both knew she hadn’t. Elias’ relationship with her was almost nonexistent. If she couldn’t throw money or her status at a problem, she wasn’t interested in trying to fix it. Ellie was closer to her but he doubted they knew each other beyond their mind numbing chats about work, money and success.

“Don’t tell me, she’s busy?” he filled out the discharge papers.

“She’s stuck in a meeting with the chief of police at the station all day.”

Elias knew she was probably hiding out in her office so she didn’t have to face her problem child.
Why break the habit of a lifetime?

“It figures,” Elias gritted his jaw.

Had he really expected her to show up? It was her meddling that got him locked up in rehab again.
Anything to keep me a secret from the mindless residents of Havenmoore.

“You know what she’s like,” Ellie’s eyes were glued to her phone, “she’s a busy woman. So am I. I’m needed back at the doctor’s office in an hour so can we make it quick? I’m using my lunch hour early to pick you up.”

Without any goodbyes, Elias and Ellie headed straight for her car. She didn’t even try to hide how much of an inconvenience he was anymore. He didn’t care. He would tell her to drop him at the bus station so he could get the cheapest ticket out of Havenmoore and hopefully out of the state.

“What’s next for you?” Ellie asked, “Are you going to stay clean?”

“I’ll get out of town and see where I land.”

“And find the nearest dealer?” her knuckles squeezed the steering wheel, “I don’t think so, Elias. You know you have to stay in Havenmoore as part of your plea deal. You can’t just leave the state. Maine is your home.”

He knew that but he had been hoping Ellie hadn’t remembered. If he travelled far enough south they’d eventually give up looking for him. A homeless drug addict wasn’t going to be at the top of the most wanted list.

“Fuck the plea. Just drop me at the station and I’ll be out of your way in time for you to grab lunch.”

They drove through Havenmoore in silence and it didn’t take him long to realize she wasn’t taking him to the bus station next to the mall on the edge of town.

“Mom’s got you an apartment over the bakery on Stanley Street,” Ellie sighed, “I didn’t want to tell you because I knew you’d freak out. If you leave, you’re only going to make things worse for yourself.”

“An apartment?” he laughed, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“She wants to help.”

“All that woman wants is to keep her reputation intact.”

This was typical of his mother. He had been sleeping rough for the past years, catching nights on sofas whenever he could. His mom had never once tried to help him out, unless she was getting something out of it. Her son going to prison would lead to somebody hearing about it but she could keep another stint in rehab under control.

“This is her way of helping,” Ellie said, “she didn’t have to put a roof over your head. You should use this as your chance to start fresh, Elias. Nobody wants to see you falling into that black hole again.”

That black hole was all he had known for nearly a decade. Cocaine was his family, his lover and his best friend when he wanted it to be. Even on a sober and clear mind, it was all he could think about.

Ellie pulled up outside of the tiny bakery on the corner of Stanley Street, the smell of fresh bread thick in the air. Peering up at the small red brick building, he saw an even smaller window.

“It’s a six month lease,” Ellie joined him in looking up, “the rent’s paid until the end of the lease. Gives you enough time to get on your feet.”

Enough time to figure out how to get out of Havenmoore.

Ellie dropped the keys into his lap along with a basic cellphone. Without saying a word, she twisted back in her seat with a glance at the delicate diamond-encrusted watch on her slender wrist.

“You’re not coming up?” he asked.

Had Elias expected that they’d go upstairs and chat with a cup of coffee? Even the thought of the normality made him ache for what he had never known. They may not have had that tight of a relationship but they had a bond neither of them acknowledged and he knew she felt it too. It was as though they’d always known what the other was thinking, even if they didn’t want to listen.

Elias had given up on that bond ever physically returning. They were both two different people on different paths as they headed towards their thirties. Even if he tried to hide the slight disappointment, she would know what he was thinking.

“Ten minutes and then I really need to get back.”

They headed towards a hidden green door in the dark alley beside the bakery. The smell of the bread was masked by the smell of the dumpsters. Elias was more used to the dumpsters.

Jiggling the single key in the rusty lock, the door finally opened onto a plainly decorated staircase that led to the apartment directly above the bakery. The apartment was small but clean in decoration. Simple furniture filled the space, some of it looking like it had come from one of Havenmoore’s nicer thrift stores. It had all of the basics for what any normal person would need when they are starting up on their own for the first time. For Elias, it was a reminder that his mom may have put a roof over his head but she hadn’t taken the time to decorate it. It screamed that it had been blindly picked by one of her many assistants because even if she didn’t care what happened to Elias, her lavish tastes wouldn’t have allowed her to even go to the cheap section of IKEA.

“It’s nice,” Ellie nodded as she looked around, “cozy.”

“Yeah,” Elias shrugged, not really caring what it looked like, “not compared to your place.”

Ellie now had the huge, six-bedroom house on the outskirts of town. They had grown up there with their mother, not that the mayor was ever there. He remembered a constantly revolving cast of nannies and cooks, none of them sticking around to work for such a needlessly strict, yet distant employer.

“I work hard to pay my bills,” there was a dig in her voice, “maybe if you worked a job, you could upgrade. You’re always looking for a free ride.”

Aspirations had never been something Elias had been interested in. With no high school diploma, who would employ him? All of his convictions and stints in rehab would show up as red flags on his record. Elias would struggle to get a job scrubbing toilets in a fast food joint.

“Would you hire me?”

Ellie didn’t answer. She headed over to the kitchen, opening up the fridge. It was filled with fresh fruit and vegetables. Elias already knew they’d probably go straight in the trash, untouched. Cooking was another thing he had never learned.

“All of this stuff is new,” she ran her fingers across the sparkling stainless steel washing machine, “must have cost her a couple of thousand dollars.”

“A small price to pay to keep me under her nose so that I don’t ruin her perfect life. The town square is filled with apartments smaller than this one but they’d be too close to her office. Here, I’m far away enough that she doesn’t have to deal with me on a daily basis.”

Ellie sighed and pinched between her brows. One quick glance at her watch told Elias that they weren’t going to sip coffee. The thought was almost amusing.

“I need to go,” she said, “Mrs. Doris is coming in at four. Just
out of trouble, please?”

Elias collapsed on the couch, his tongue flicking against the lip ring, “I can’t promise that.”

“Promise me you’ll try,” her hand lightly brushed across the top of his head, “if not for you and if not for me, for your nephew. Kobi talks about you all the time and for some reason he adores you. He looks up to you and one day he’ll be old enough to know that his uncle is an addict and a criminal and it’ll break his heart.”

Just the mention of Kobi made a fist tighten around his stomach. Kobi was the only person in his family that he still had a meaningful connection with, even if he was only six-years-old. He looked at Elias with innocent eyes, not caring about his constant mistakes.

BOOK: Shelter
8.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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