As he approaches his twenty-second birthday, the three-year anniversary of the brutal attack in an alley that nearly cost him his life in a few different ways, Jaye Larson thinks he’s left behind the ghosts from his years spent incarcerated, but when he’s delivered a mysterious letter with terrifying implications, old monsters rear their ugly heads. His normal new life in remote Zus, Alaska, with his lover, Dixon Rowe, the heart of a found-family that supports Jaye in ways he’s never before dreamed possible, is threatened by old deals and ties he begins to fear may never be broken. While old alliances strive to draw Jaye backward, Dixon and the rest of their family are called to step up to keep him steady. When the letter turns out to be just the first clue in a chain leading both Jaye and Dixon back inside the walls of the Federal Corrections Institute of Sheridan, Oregon, all of them are left facing carefully-held secrets and terrible new truths that refuse to be ignored. (M/M)
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Dixon made the coffee and carried the steaming mugs back to bed where Jaye was curled up on his side beneath the blankets. A new fire was banishing the morning chill. Soon, they would have to get ready for work, but there was some time to talk first. Jaye was glad. There were things he needed to know.
With his head nestled in a pillow, and most of his drowsiness shaken off, Jaye mentally shuffled the stack of notes he’d privately taken while scrutinizing Dixon’s behavior since he got home the night before. He’d already pieced together some of what Dixon was about to say, but was eager to learn how the pieces would fit together.
“He called you, didn’t he?”
“Yeah,” Dixon admitted.
“And what’s the verdict?”
“You don’t want to know what he had to say?”
“Not really. I know him pretty well. You don’t. This was more about you and him than me. But I do want to know what you plan to do next, because I can tell you’ve decided.”
Dixon sat heavily on the side of the bed and cupped his hands around his favorite porcelain mug. It had a hand-painted moose on the side and a chip on the handle. Jaye steered clear of using it if there was a chance Dixon might need it. But if Dixon had already gone to work, sometimes Jaye used it specifically because he knew how much Dixon loved it.
“He was different than I expected,” Dixon muttered, like he would have rather been getting a root canal than talking about this. “And not. I don’t know. I mean, I get the whole doesn’t-take-any-shit thing. He’s gotta project an image, after all. But I didn’t think he’d…” Dixon shifted restlessly, tucking one leg under the other.
“He needs to talk to you.”
Jaye breathed out a laugh and sat up. “I fucking know that. Yeah.”
“No, I mean the whole thing. I’m sure there’s a favor involved here somehow. He didn’t get into it. But I’m pretty sure that to him, getting to talk to you and making sure you’re okay is the whole point. He was…” Dixon exhaled heavily and rolled his head on his shoulders. When he started to talk again, he gestured with his hand, getting more agitated. “He really laid into me so I understood I would never have met you without him. He says I owe him for that. And what he wants to even the scales is to talk to you.”
With wonder, Jaye guessed, “And you’re going to let it happen, aren’t you?”