After filing charges that put his abusive ex-Dom behind bars, Jesse Turbul relocates across the country, hoping to escape his past—but, of course, it's never that easy. When Jesse meets third-year law student Aadon at the library where he works, their mutual attraction is instant and obvious.
Despite the sparks, they just can't seem to make it work. Aadon is mired in guilt over his inability to help his older brother, damaged by events far too similar to to Jesse's past. Jesse is stuck in his own desperate wish to forget the painful shadow that continues to threaten him and any hope of a happy future.
The only way to move forward is for Jesse to acknowledge he's broken and for Aadon to accept he can't make him better.
Excerpt: Jesse watched his date for a while, waiting for the blond head to lift. Only when Mike came to the table a few minutes later did Aadon look up. He glanced at Jesse, turned to Mike and placed his order, waited until Jesse had ordered and Mike had left before quietly excusing himself from the table.
Jesse waited a long time, much longer than it would take for Aadon to use the facilities, before following him.
The heavy restroom door swung open on silent hinges, and the peculiar smell of a bathroom trying too hard not to smell like a bathroom engulfed him. Jesse drew in a silent breath and stepped inside.
Aadon leaned on the counter by the sinks, his back to the mirror.
“I’m sorry.” Jesse tried to make the apology light, tried to see into Aadon’s shrouded eyes.
Finally, Aadon looked at him. “Why?”
“I got a little defensive.” He held up his hand, finger and thumb an inch apart, sheepish smile on his face.
Aadon stifled a groan. How could he be so fiery one minute, and this…adorable the next and not know how crazy it made him? He pushed himself off the sink and closed his hand around Jesse’s fingers, closing the space and kissing the fingertips. “Maybe that’s the point. As long as you feel you have to defend yourself around me, I have to be careful.” He closed his eyes, kept his lips pressed to his warm fingers.
God this was hard. He wasn’t doing Jesse any good, wanting him this bad, knowing he couldn’t—shouldn’t—and knowing he wouldn’t be able to resist much longer. He shouldn’t still even be with him. It was too much. He just wasn’t what Jesse needed.
Jesse felt the churning sensation in the pit of his stomach even before Aadon spoke again and yanked his hand free, mouth open, ready to fill the void before Aadon could speak. Before he could say what Jesse knew he was about to say. He was too slow.
Aadon took his face in both hands, tilting it up and looking into his eyes. “As long as I have to be that careful, this can’t work.”
“Because I don’t want to be careful, Jesse,” Aadon went on, overriding his faint protest, passing a thumb over Jesse’s lips and backing him up against
“Then don’t.” The words warbled out past Jesse’s pulse fluttering in his throat. He swallowed hard. “Don’t be careful.” Aadon’s toned body pressed his against the cold metal. The rush of fear and excitement mingled, and he knew he’d lost the ability to tell which was which. He didn’t know if he cared.
“If I’m not, I could do more damage than Anthony ever did.” Aadon’s palm caressed his cheek, his fingers slid into Jesse’s hair, and he kissed; a light strike of his lips and tongue, there and gone too quickly to capture, but expertly bringing him back down to where he could almost breathe normally. The rush faded, and Jesse wanted it back.
He gripped the front of Aadon’s shirt, preventing him from moving away. “You’re not anything like Anthony, and I’m not who I was then.” He never would have demanded Anthony answer his desire like this. Kissing Aadon firmly, not hard or angry, just without compromise, Jesse closed his eyes, willed the other man to understand. He needed this so desperately. Needed to know he was wanted, desired. Needed to know Aadon could look on him as a man and not a shattered thing.<
A soft groan welled in Aadon’s throat and spilled out into Jesse’s kiss.
Jesse couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, and his fingers tightened to fists