Roads: Book 2
Sequel to Slide
Paramedic Pete Adams lived through the year from hell watching his lover, Ash, fall apart, and the precarious balance between work and home is becoming more strained. His heart is always home, with Ash, but the dark side to his job is weighing him down.
Tattoo artist Ash Fagin is recovering from a nervous breakdown triggered by revelations about his traumatic childhood. His battle with mental illness is far from over, but with Pete by his side, he’s feeling good again, so good he doesn’t notice something missing until it walks right into his living room.
Ash believes he’s had enough coincidence in his life, but when a voice from the past comes looking for him, it takes the devastating injuries of the one he loves most to convince him to let a ghost become the family he never knew he wanted.
PETE HAD been busy while I’d been gone. I stood in front of the shiny new door to his apartment and wondered for a moment if I’d come home to the right place. Then I remembered the coarse message he’d sent me a few days ago, telling me in no uncertain terms what a bitch the new door had been to fit. A separate message—perhaps an afterthought—told me he’d left a key on top of the frame.
I reached for it and turned it over in my hand. It was silver and shiny. The old one was battered brass, bruised and familiar. It felt heavy in my pocket as I slid the new key into the lock. I considered the fate of the old key now that the door it belonged to was no longer there. Pete said I pondered the strangest things.
The new door swung open with a whisper. It felt odd after two years with a door that crunched like a gearbox. The new door was like a ghost, all shimmery and silent. I wasn’t sure I liked it.
A wry grin crept over my face. Really? Four days without Pete and you’re worried about a door? I took a tentative step forward. The door closed with a quiet click, and this time, I paid it no heed.
I glanced around the apartment. It was quiet and still. No TV, stereo, or signs of life. That was no surprise. I was a few hours early. Despite hating every moment of the flight between Chicago and Philadelphia, I’d caught an earlier plane home. Pete wasn’t expecting me, but I could feel in my bones that he was home. The invisible cord between us pulled me along, and a minute later, I found him passed out in our bed. He was asleep on his stomach, something he only did when he was alone or too tired to notice. It used to make me uneasy—sometimes it still did—but not today. Today his bare back was exactly what I needed to see. I sat down by his head and brushed my fingers over his stubbly jaw. He didn’t stir, even when I leaned down and breathed in the clean smell of his skin.
His back caught my attention again. I loved his back, perhaps because I so rarely got to see it like this—naked and still. A while ago he’d considered getting some new ink on his back, something small on his shoulder, but I’d refused to do it. I’d draw him anything he wanted, anywhere he wanted—just not there. His back was amazing—smooth, olive-brown, and flawless. It didn’t need anything else.
I leaned down and pressed a soft kiss between his shoulder blades. Dr. Gilbert, the therapist who had the pleasure of dissecting my messed-up brain, told me every week that I should do the things I wanted to do—trust myself to do them—before I overthought them. I’d wanted to kiss Pete’s back for years. Now seemed as good a time as any.
His warm skin felt good, so good I did it again, and again, until he began to stir. I pulled back and waited as his arm fumbled for me, but he didn’t open his eyes. Instead, he rumbled out a chuckle that came from deep in his belly.
“I must be fucking dreaming if you just did what I think you did.”
His voice was gruff and sleepy, but it had been four days since I’d heard it. My chest felt warm. “Open your eyes and see.”
He didn’t answer with words. Instead, he rolled over and pulled me on top of him. I went willingly and kissed him until he needed to breathe. When he pulled away, he noticed how damp my clothes were. I’d gotten caught in the rain on the walk from the L, one of those autumn showers that washed away the humidity and made everything smell fresh and clean. I liked that kind of rain; it felt good on my face. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry to get home, I would have stood in it longer.
Pete shoved me away, feigning irritation, but his sleepy eyes belied his humor. “You’re soaked.”
He blinked a couple of times and rubbed his face like he wasn’t entirely awake. I laid my forehead against his and laughed. It felt so good to be home.
Beneath me, Pete shifted. He was half-asleep, but I knew what he wanted. Since the first time I’d ever laid a hand on him, he’d always been a sucker for skin-to-skin contact. He tugged on my shirt with clumsy hands, and I was more than happy to pull it over my head. He stilled when he had me where he wanted me, and his breathing became deep and even again. I raised my head from the crook of his neck and eyed him. I felt like I needed to get closer, like I could climb inside his skin and still not be close enough. After a moment of deliberation, I reached for the one part of him that was definitely awake.
Pete was the master of the slow, torturous fuck. The way he played my body was something I still couldn’t quite believe. It wasn’t often I caught him in the mood to be on the receiving end, but as I watched him drift in that hazy world between awake and asleep, I knew that now was my chance to indulge him. I worked him over real slow with my hand. He hummed and shifted a few times, but when he came it was with a quiet sigh, and he was snoring again before I’d even let go of his dick.
It was mesmerizing to see him unconsciously unravel. I could have watched him for hours, but as I stared at his beautiful sleeping form, something in the back of my mind refused to rest. I ignored it for as long as I could, but the call in my head was persistent, so loud there was only one way to silence it. I kissed Pete’s chest and lingered over the biggest star he had etched on his skin, the one right over his heart, before I got up and left him. I padded through the apartment and retrieved my sketchbook from the bag I’d dumped by the door. Like fate, the book fell open to the most recent drawing I’d done of the mysterious baby girl who haunted my sketches. I stared at her, like her face could tell me what I needed to know, but the antsy feeling under my skin persisted until I turned the page on her face and my pencil touched clean paper.
Like so many times before, I was lost then, detached from my surroundings until the scratching of lead on the page petered out. Relieved, I felt better as I sat back and scrutinized the unfamiliar face of the young woman. The way I’d drawn her made her seem like a mystical princess. The brief time I’d spent in Philadelphia already felt like a lifetime ago, and in the darkening early evening, it was hard to believe she was the same girl I’d seen this morning. I had no doubt it was her, though. I’d recognize her anywhere. Her image would be imprinted on my brain forever, because she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen.