Award-winning photojournalist Zack Donovan is happy to be alive after being held captive by a band of rebels in Syria. He's not so happy to be on his way back to Chicago to recuperate with his college friends Maddie and Aidan, who are now a couple. The fear while being held prisoner was nothing compared to how he feels about facing the two people who unknowingly broke his heart seven years ago.
Maddie and Aidan are deeply in love, but lately they feel something is missing for them. They'd do anything to make the other happy, but are struggling to figure out what that is. Those problems are set aside, however, when their best friend from college is taken hostage in Syria. After graduation, Maddie and Aidan were hurt by Zack's refusal to ever come home to visit, but he's still their friend and he has no family, so when he's finally free they insist he come stay with them to recover.
Zack's a different man now. He's seen terrible things. He's come to terms with his sexuality and embraced his need to dominate. Maddie and Aidan would be shocked to know the kinds of things he likes to do. A guy like him will never have a relationship like theirs. But when Zack realizes he might be able to show Maddie and Aidan what they're missing, he faces a dilemma. Do something? Do nothing? Pretend everything's fine? Help them if he can? But will showing them what they're missing help save their relationship...or destroy it?
Zack stared out the window of the Boeing 777 as the wheels touched down at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.
He was about to see Maddie and Aidan again.
That should have filled him with dread. He’d been avoiding them for seven years. Now…he didn’t feel anything. After what he’d been through, he’d shut down. Over-the-top emotions had no place in his life. Hopes got crushed, fears got mocked. Hate made you bitter and love made you weak. He was just lucky to be alive. After the things he’d endured, seeing his two old friends, the ones he’d run from with a broken heart and never looked back, was really no big deal.
Broken heart. He almost snorted out loud. Looking back now at his youthful misery, it seemed so…over the top. Whatever.
Not that he was all eager to see them. He just…had nowhere else to go.
Sure he did. There were a lot of places he could go. There was a whole world out there. He could go visit Kate in London, hanging out in her elegant flat. He could go see Jean-Marc in Paris and have some fun in the dungeon he’d introduced Zack to.
He couldn’t go there. Who was he kidding? He was a mess. He’d lost so much weight his skin was hanging on his bones. He was having nightmares and flashbacks. Neither Kate nor Jean-Marc had offered him a place to stay.
Maddie and Aidan had.
Maddie’s emails pleading that he should come to them when he’d finally been released from hospital in Germany must have caught him at a weak moment. He found himself agreeing to come to Chicago and stay with them while he recovered. He couldn’t imagine showing up at Kate’s place in this kind of shape. She was a lovely woman, but probably not strong enough to deal with his shit. Jean-Marc…same thing.
He didn’t want to do this to Aidan and Maddie either, but somehow he knew they were solid and strong enough to deal with this.
His employer had made it quite clear that he wasn’t going to be working for a while. Six weeks of leave to “recuperate.”
But they didn’t understand—he was fine. Well mostly.
And what was he going to do for a six weeks? Jesus. If he wasn’t already whacked, he’d be really out of his mind after sitting around doing nothing for that long.
The plane took forever to taxi to the terminal, then even longer to open the door and let people deplane. By the time he was able to rise from his seat, grab his bag from the overhead compartment and file off the plane, he was antsy and itchy. Maddie had insisted they’d pick him up at the airport. Were they waiting for him just inside this building? Was he going to be able to handle seeing them together…seeing them as lovers, not just friends? Were they going to freak out seeing him like this, after all this time?
Somehow they’d kept his return under the radar. The media had been all over the story, a happy ending story this time compared to some recent events. He’d given a ton of interviews in Germany. He knew they wanted to cover it, the homecoming, the guy who’d survived—but he couldn’t handle that. He wanted to tell the stories—he didn’t want to be the story. He knew at some point he was going to have to face the press once home, ha, even though he was one of them. He just couldn’t do it right now.
So the State Department and Stockton had managed to keep all the plans on the down low, as had Aidan and Maddie.
He rubbed his face as he emerged into the terminal. He tugged a newsboy cap down over his eyes and kept his sunglasses on even in the terminal, in case someone recognized him. As if he was a fucking movie star, or something. He hated the media attention.
He followed the swarm of people toward the baggage claim, his insides tightening up. Everything turned to a blur around him as he tried not to look for familiar faces in the crowd, all the noise around him becoming a muted roar. He focused on finding the carousel displaying his flight number, shoving his hands into the pockets of his new jeans.
For some reason he didn’t want to see them first.
He heard her voice behind him and stopped. His shoulders tightened, but he turned.
Something inside him clamped down on his heart, squeezing it. He looked at Maddie nearly running at him, fuck, so gorgeous it made his throat ache. Her shiny brown hair was still long and straight, hanging below her shoulders. She used to wear her bangs thick and straight across her forehead, but now they were swept to one side. Her smile was as sweet as ever, her cheeks pink, her sapphire eyes shiny. Behind her was Aidan, striding fast, an intense look on his face. Aidan hadn’t changed at all.
Maddie barreled at him, long legs bare in a pair of cut off denim shorts, flat sandals, a loose flowery top in pale grey with pink flowers flowing around her slender torso, tiny straps leaving arms and shoulders bare. Then she was nearly knocking him off balance, her arms going around his waist, her face planted in his chest.
His lungs burned and his throat closed up. His arms closed around her helplessly and he squeezed his eyes shut against the stinging he felt. Fuck. Fuck! He did not want to feel these things. He’d been dealing fine with all his crap, mostly by shutting down. But now he was suddenly terrified he was going to burst into tears.
About Kelly Jamieson:
Kelly Jamieson writes romances with heat that's sweet. Her writing has been described as “emotionally complex”, “sweet and satisfying” and “blisteringly sexy”. If she can stop herself from reading or writing, she loves to cook. She has shelves of cookbooks that she reads at length. She also enjoys gardening in the summer, and in the winter she likes to read gardening magazines and seed catalogues (there might be a theme here...) She also loves shopping, especially for clothes and shoes. But her family takes precedence over everything else (yes, even writing). She has two teenage children who are the best kids in the world, not that she’s biased, and a wonderful husband who does loads of laundry while she plays on the computer writing stories. She loves hearing from readers, so please visit her website at www.kellyjamieson.com.
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