The Roosevelt, Book 2
Some heroes wear capes. Some prefer sensory sacks.
Emmet Washington has never let the world define him, even though he, his boyfriend, Jeremey, and his friends aren’t considered “real” adults because of their disabilities. When the State of Iowa restructures its mental health system and puts the independent living facility where they live in jeopardy, Emmet refuses to be forced into substandard, privatized corporate care. With the help of Jeremey and their friends, he starts a local grassroots organization and fights every step of the way.
In addition to navigating his boyfriend’s increased depression and anxiety, Emmet has to make his autistic tics acceptable to politicians and donors, and he wonders if they’re raising awareness or putting their disabilities on display. When their campaign attracts the attention of the opposition’s powerful corporate lobbyist, Emmet relies on his skill with calculations and predictions and trusts he can save the day—for himself, his friends, and everyone with disabilities.He only hopes there isn't a variable in his formula he’s failed to foresee.
I gave Darren a tour of our apartment with Emmet, showing him where everything was, making sure he knew he was welcome to anything he needed. “I put fresh sheets on the bed, folded the way you like them. I remember how, I think, from when we were roommates. If they aren’t right, I know you’ll fix them, but I tried to get them close.”
Darren smiled, his nostrils flaring. He signed thank you—it was his kind of signing, which I don’t know a lot of, but I knew the Darren thank-you sign.
“You’re welcome.” I gestured to the room. “I put towels on the bed too, for when you want to take a shower. Emmet will give you a tour of the bathroom, because he has more rules about how it should be used. But there aren’t any rules about my room. I put all my things away so it wouldn’t be cluttered. Emmet helped me autism-proof it, but if something bothers you, don’t hesitate to tuck it into the closet or whatever you need to do. You know me. I’m not going to mind.”
Darren stood still for a long second, no reaction, no movement. Then he signed, his gestures quick and jerky, his body rocking as he punctuated each hand flick with a soft moan.
He must have been speaking to Emmet, because Emmet answered in the same sign. He seemed a little flustered to me, but I didn’t know why. Eventually he turned to me, his gaze fixed on my shoulder. “Darren would like to hug you. I told him it was okay so long as it wasn’t a boyfriend hug.”
I blinked, first at Emmet, then at Darren. But Darren doesn’t hug anyone, I wanted to say, though of course I didn’t. I only nodded. “Sure.” Then I stood still while I waited to experience a Darren hug.
I tried to think if Darren had even touched me before, outside of accidental brushes of hands as we’d exchanged objects or passed each other in hallways. I couldn’t think of any instance where that had happened. He was so touch averse, worse than Emmet. I wondered what I had said that had made him want to hug me, and why.
He approached me slowly, someone working up to a challenge. Darren was almost as tall as me, if he stood straight, which he normally didn’t. Normally he didn’t stand at all, preferring to sit on a couch or in a chair. Now he was before me, as if he were about to take me in his arms and lead me in a waltz, and I felt flustered. Darren was handsome, with dark hair and a pretty face, with sweet eyes. It was easy for people to not notice, to only see the external expressions of his disability, the way his body folded in on itself, the way it flattened him out and made him seem different than people on the mean. Right now, though, all I saw was a handsome young man, and I understood why Emmet had been unwilling to say yes.
Darren opened his arms and wrapped them around me like a vise. I couldn’t hug him back, because my arms were trapped, pressed against my chest and rendered useless. His grip was rigid, controlling every element of the hug. If it were Emmet hugging me, or someone on the staff, or David, I’d have put my head on their chest and relaxed into the embrace. Something told me not to do this with Darren. It occurred to me his pinning my arms hadn’t been an accident. For Darren hugging me meant just that, him hugging me and not the reverse. He could pin me, but not me him.
So this was a Darren hug. I’d never seen this before, let alone experienced it. I had a feeling few people had. I went soft inside, letting the privilege of my initiation sink in.
When he released me, he didn’t look at me, but I smiled at him, biting at the side of my lip. “Thanks, Darren.”
He made a thanks sign at me, and then he went into my room and closed the door.
Emmet hadn’t shown him the bathroom, which I worried would be a problem. But Emmet took my hand and led me into our bedroom. Immediately he drew me into his arms, embracing me in his own kind of awkward, though the tension in his touch made me touch his face, kiss his cheek.
“Emmet, are you okay?”
His hands on my back gripped my shirt. “I don’t enjoy seeing other guys hold you. Even if it’s Darren, who I know only likes you as a friend. It makes me feel tight and scared inside.”
Emmet was jealous. The thought made me melt into goo as I rushed to soothe him. “Oh, Emmet. I could never love anyone but you, ever. No matter who held me.”
“I know, but it’s not fun seeing other people touch you.”
I nuzzled Emmet’s jaw—carefully, so as not to stimulate his senses in a way that would make him uncomfortable. “You can touch me now. Wherever you want to.”
“Take off your shirt, Jeremey.”
I took it off, handing it to him when I was finished. He carried it to the hamper and tucked it neatly inside. “I’ll wash it with my clothes and return it to you.”
I didn’t give a damn about my shirt, but I nodded. “Thank you.”
Emmet stared at my neck, but I knew he was also looking at my entire torso, admiring it. Thinking of what he wanted to do to it. To me. I bit my lip, the same place I had when I’d smiled at Darren, except now I wasn’t smiling, not at all. Now I was breathing long and slow, waiting for Emmet.
“Touch me,” I whispered, when I couldn’t wait any longer.
He put his hand in the center of my chest, splaying his fingers. I shut my eyes on a gasp and a breath, then opened them and watched as Emmet ran his fingers up and down, painting invisible lines across my skin with the pads of his fingers. My belly quavered, and eventually I had to clutch my fingers against the door to keep myself still for him.
“Is my touch too soft? Too hard?” he asked, fingers slowing to a halt at my belly button.
I shook my head, watching his hand. “It’s all good. I like it. All the feelings.”
“Do you want me to touch you more? Maybe without your pants?” His fingers tightened into a brief ball. “Maybe while I kiss you?”
I tilted my face toward his mouth as he kissed me, moaning and canting my hips into his hand as he fumbled with my jeans. I had to help him with the jeans, and the kiss was clumsy because he was doing two things at once. Nobody’s ever going to mistake our make-out sessions for porn shoots or movie moments. I don’t care, though. He had his hand on my dick, and his mouth was on mine, and during the whole of it, I was in his arms, and he mine. I surrendered to the feel of him, the comfortable, safe space that was Emmet Washington.
5 +++ Stars
I've been waiting, hoping and wishing for this book for a long time. I loved Carry The Ocean and I couldn't wait to get to revisit Emmet and Jeremy. These two young men are so special and Heidi didn't disappoint with their follow-up story. Emmet and Jeremy are so different and they have such unique and distinct personalities and traits, and it just absolutely amazes me that both of these characters are written by just one author.
The love that Emmet and Jeremy share continues to grow deeper with each passing day. Ms. Cullinan manages to recapture the chemistry and connection Jeremy and Emmet shared in book one. The challenges they are met with are so sad and Heidi touches on such an important subject matter. Just from my own personal experiences, I know how tough it can be to navigate the mental health system. It's help you desperately need or rather require, yet more often than not it is too expensive and/or out of reach. I loved watching Emmet, Jeremy and their friends get fired up and take on the legislation.
This was an excellently written story with lovable characters, both the main and secondary ones. I absolutely adored this book. Heidi took me on an emotional rollercoaster and had me mentally ping ponging from laughter to anger to sadness and back again. This was a beautiful story of love, community and family. I can't wait to see what the future has in store for The Rosevelt and its tenants. Highly recommended!!
*Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn’t a requirement.*
Love Doesn’t Make Depression Go Away
An important element in Emmet and Jeremey’s relationship will always be the factor of Jeremey’s depression and anxiety. In Shelter the Sea, Jeremey’s depression intensifies, which can be common for someone in his stage of relationship and life development—but of course it can also happen to someone with major depressive disorder for no discernible reason at all. And so because Emmet is Jeremey’s partner, he must learn how to manage how Jeremey’s intensifying depression relates to his own life.
Being the partner of someone with depression can be a challenge, and handling that mantle improperly can inadvertently make the loved one’s burden worse. In Emmet’s case, he also has his own unique needs to consider, meaning the situation is even trickier. Part of the reason I wanted to show this chapter of their story was to let the reader see how the two of them navigated this aspect of their relationship, but it was also to drive home the reminder that for people with depression, falling in love doesn’t magically make their depression leave.
My partner struggles with depression (and is open about his issues), and we learned a number of lessons the hard way when he was first diagnosed. For the longest time I kept trying to fix the situation, to help him, to make his sadness go away, and he wanted it to go, so he let me try. It’s an irresistible impulse for many partners of people with depression, because it’s almost physically painful to see someone you love be swallowed by a black hole you can’t see, touch, or fight in any way. The hard lesson all of us in that position eventually have to learn is to be supportive, not invasive. We can stand beside the black hole, and we can send in love and support and maybe the occasional load of supplies, but we can’t go inside. It’s not our depression, it’s not our battle. It’s not ours to fix.
I wanted to let Emmet struggle with this issue, but I also wanted him to be smarter than I was and get to the better path faster—because at the end of the day Emmet would say he’s smarter than I am, and he would be correct. I hope you enjoy reading how Emmet and Jeremey find their way to the next phase of their happy ever after together, and all the new aspects that make of that journey.
Carry the Ocean + Shelter the Sea signed paperbacks and Roosevelt Blues Brother kit (black fedora and skinny tie)
Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn't writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.