Release Blitz: Bring Me Home by Nicola Haken
Bring Me Home
by Nicola Haken
Release Date: October 11, 2021
About Bring Me Home
Hugo Hayes has it all; the voice, the money, the looks. Adored by fans all over the world, there’s nothing more he could ever wish for. Or so it appears. But no one sees what happens off stage. Nobody knows where he came from, what he goes through, where he’s heading…
Except the girl he left behind. She’ll know. She always did.
Helen Jenkins is starting over. Back on the diet and heading for a career change, it’s time to stop wallowing in the past and give up missing the best friend who traded her in for fame and glory eight years ago. Harder than it sounds when his image and voice seem to follow her wherever she goes…
Harder still when he appears at her front door one rainy spring night.
Hugo is falling. After all these years, will Helen still be prepared to catch him before the inevitable crash? Or has he lost the only home he’s ever known, forever?
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An Excerpt from Bring Me Home
I didn’t remember falling asleep but a knock on my door startled me so much that my body jerked awake with a throat-ripping snort. Attractive. No wonder I was single. Squinting through one eye, I made out the time in the corner of the TV. It was after midnight. Who the hell knocked on doors after midnight? Deciding it was probably a takeaway courier with the wrong address, I closed my eyes again, too comfy to get up off the settee and make my way to bed.
They knocked again.
“For God’s sake,” I said through gritted teeth. My arm dropped off the edge of the settee and my hand landed in something cold and sticky. “Ugh, what the…” Rolling over, I looked down at the remnants of my chicken dinner from earlier. It served me right, I told myself as I pulled my gravy-coated fingers away, for being a lazy cow.
“I’m coming!” I barked, swinging my feet onto the floor. “Jesus.” I plodded over to the door like a zombie, keeping my sticky hand in the air, fingers curled like a set of claws. With the other, I twisted the key and pried the door open, but didn’t remove the safety chain in case I ended up as the victim in a Netflix murder documentary.
With a disgruntled huff, I peered out into the open gap. “I didn’t order any-” Hugo…
I slammed the door closed. I didn’t mean to. Or maybe I did. It happened instinctively, like a reflex. For eight years I’d thought about him, held imaginary conversations with him, longed for him. I’d watched him bring joy to millions, the kind of joy he used to give only to me. I’d only been able to see his smile on a screen, hear his voice through a speaker, all the while wishing I could feel his fingers in mine just once more, inhale the scent of him so I could remember not to forget it. And now…he was here. At my door. Right there in the midnight darkness getting soaked by the spring rain.
And I couldn’t bear it.
He knocked again and I felt it against my forehead, which was now pressed against the door. We were separated only by a bit of wood and PVC. Our skin was almost touching. I could practically feel him as I imagined the door disappearing and his hand making contact with my face.
It felt like I couldn’t breathe but I knew I was because I could hear it. Loud and fast. My mouth had dried. Jaw wouldn’t close.
“It’s, uh, pretty wet out here.”
Right. Rain. He was outside. I was inside, which is where he wanted to be. Door. Open the door. Fuck. With a deep breath, I slid the safety chain across and prepared to stare the cause of my eight years of grief and disappointment in the eye. The scene seemed to play out in slow motion, like I was watching it happen to someone else in a movie. As the door opened, Hugo lifted his chin from his chest, moulded his lips into a small smile. My smile.
“You got old,” I said, hating that the last word cracked as it left my mouth.
His head cocked with a silent chuckle. Truthfully, of course he looked older, but he was still undoubtedly Hugo. He’d filled out a little in the chest and upper arms, though still a slight man. Slender. I didn’t need him to strip out of the floral suit he was wearing now to know how toned his tattooed body was underneath. I’d seen it enough times on social media.
I only realised I still hadn’t invited him in when he started rubbing his hands together. “Sorry, um…” I stepped to one side, extended my arm.
“Thanks.” The atmosphere felt so formal. Awkward. He looked like my Hugo, yet it felt like a total stranger had just walked straight into my living room, Chelsea boots snapping against my scratched laminate floor. Flustered, I rubbed my hand over my flushed face, regretting it instantly. “Ah, shit.”
“What’s wro-” Hugo cut himself off after spinning around, his eyes narrowing as he studied my face. “What is that?”
I tried to hide it with my other hand while I rushed to the kitchen, but there wasn’t much point. He followed me, watched me intently as I grabbed at the kitchen-roll and started scrubbing at my cheek. “Hours-old gravy,” I admitted. “There was a plate…I wasn’t expecting you… It’s…” I stopped talking when I caught him grinning. He seemed to be enjoying something about the sight in front of him.
He stepped closer, leaned in. His face inches from mine, my body froze. “Is that…broccoli?” He said the word with amazement, like he still knew me. How could he? We were strangers now. “You know, I’ve heard if you cook it with a little oil, it makes it easier to scrape in the bin.”
I couldn’t see my face, so I checked out my sticky hand instead. Sure enough, there were flecks of green poison dotted on a couple of fingers. “I’m on a diet,” I said, side-stepping away from him to get to the sink. I used the cold tap to wash my hands, relished the coolness on my overheated skin. I dampened some more kitchen-roll and patted my face. It didn’t offer as much relief as I’d hoped.
“You don’t need to be. You look beautiful.”
Dammit. In my head, I was angry with him. I wanted to yell and scream. Maybe even punch him. He left me. Didn’t even call. He couldn’t just come back and say sweet things like we were eighteen again.
But…I’d left him, too. I’d stayed. I’d gone to university. I hadn’t stuck by his side, kicked his foot when he needed it, like I promised.
I couldn’t look at him, eyes locked on the sink. “Don’t flatter me, Hugo.” It was all I could think of to say, and a pretty pointless thing at that. Hugo didn’t say things he didn’t mean. His brain didn’t work that way. Though I wondered if he still had rain in his eyes because I did not look beautiful at midnight in crumpled work clothes with smeared makeup, hair escaping from my bobble, and half a chicken dinner over my face.
I caught his reflection in the kitchen window, which acted like a mirror under the halogens. Our eyes met. We stared at each other, but neither one of us moved. A thousand questions fired like bullets in my head. One after the other, they kept coming, creating a band of pressure that felt like it could crack my skull any moment. Yet, when I parted my lips, no words came out.
“How’ve you been?” he asked, his voice calm and polite, like someone would be if they were making idle chitchat with the old lady behind the Post Office counter.
I scoffed, shook my head. Couldn’t help it. “Great,” I said, equally polite…and maybe a little pissed off. With him, myself, I didn’t know. “You?” As if I needed to ask. The whole fucking world knew how he’d been. We got daily updates on Twitter Trends.
I’d broken eye-contact because it hurt to see him, but I heard him sigh. That hurt, too. “Turn around, Heli.” With a single word, he’d made my heart stop beating.
Heli. He’d been the only person to ever call me that. He’d invented the nickname in primary school, and I smiled as I remembered the proud grin he’d worn the first time he used it. Helen Helicopter. Being seven, or so, I took offence and pushed him into the play tyres behind our classroom.
Soon enough, my smile faded, though I did turn around. “You stopped calling.”
He dropped his head, appeared to focus on the tip of his shoe making circles on the tiled floor. “I know.”
About Nicola Haken
Born in Manchester, England, Nicola Haken is an author of multiple genre-hopping romance novels, including Bring Me Home, Broken, and Goodbye, Kate. She lives in Rochdale with her husband, four children, and a menagerie of pets, is addicted to Pepsi Max and chicken nuggets, and wishes Harry Styles was her best friend.
Like one of her characters, Hugo Hayes, Nicola is autistic, and has battled with her mental health her entire life – winning every time...eventually. With two of her kids also on the spectrum, life can get pretty…interesting!
When she’s not locked in her office playing with her imaginary friends, she can usually be found reading, binge-watching boxsets, or belting out great songs and pretending she doesn’t sound like a cat in distress. Oh, and if the kids ever ask, she moonlights as the Pink Power Ranger while they’re sleeping…
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