Author: Xio Axelrod
Release date: June 27th, 2017
Publisher: Xio Axelrod LLC
Print ISBN: 9780998931523
As a nineteen-year-old, wunderkind doctoral candidate, Ian Waters had little interest in social interaction. Books were his companions, and that had suited him just fine. Then a hurricane named Jessen Sørensen blew into his life, throwing Ian off his axis.
On the cusp of rock stardom, Jessen had burned brightly, and Ian had fallen heart-first under his spell. But Ian soon learned he was only a temptation, a pit stop on the road to the rocker’s dreams, and Jessen was gone as quickly as he’d come. Ian buried his heartache in academia, the only home he’d ever known.
When Ian encounters Jessen at a party, the seven-year separation seems insurmountable. There’s too much pain, too much distrust. But Jessen declares he has a new dream, and that’s a life with Ian.
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“Aren’t you going to invite me in for a nightcap, or whatever?”
Ian arched his brows. “I wasn’t, actually. No.”
“Ouch.” Jessen flattened his hand over his heart as if mortally wounded. “I’m surprised by how rude you’ve become, Ian.”
Before he could react, Jessen slipped the keys out of Ian’s hand and jogged up to the door. He chose the right key on his first try, because of course he did, and strolled into Ian’s home like he belonged there.
Which he most certainly did not.
This was so fucked up, but Ian followed him inside and flicked on the lights.
Jessen whistled. “Fuck, Ian. This is beautiful!”
And it was. Ian had painted the walls of the main living space in Wedgewood blue, true to the period in which the house was built, and it set off the pristine, white wainscoting beautifully.
A large bay window let in plenty of light during the day and provided a comfortable reading
spot at night. Oversized furniture in cream twill made up the bulk of the seating.
He’d transformed the formal dining room into a makeshift A-V suite, which housed his iMac and his Mac Pro, plus his other editing equipment. Unconventional, but it suited him.
“This is really nice, Ian,” Jessen murmured, turning to him. “I’m really happy for you.”
There was awe in his voice and reverence.
Ian suppressed the wave of pride that swept over him. Jessen was the only person he’d told about his tumultuous childhood, his deadbeat father, and disturbed mother. He was the only person he’d told about his dream of owning a beautiful home and planting roots in a community.
Most people never asked about the family of a prodigy, as long as the prodigy kept producing.
Siv knew a bit about his wrecked childhood, but only Jessen knew it all. Every dark and dirty detail.
Ian had told Jessen everything one night, overwhelmed by the emotions spilling over him after their first time having sex. Making love. They’d done a lot before then, just about everything, but it wasn’t until that night that they’d gone all the way.
Ian had given Jessen his all, every little bit of himself. Had spilled his heart and soul to the man who had cracked open his hard shell for the first time in his life.
And then he had woken up one morning to an empty space in the bed next to him, and a note on the floor.
He still had the note.
Those two words had splintered Ian into a million indiscernible pieces. Pieces he was still trying to fit back together.
And there stood Jessen Sørensen, in his fucking dining room, glowing like he kept his own
personal sun somewhere behind his rib cage.
“Do you have any coffee?”
“Could I possibly get a cup?” A smile danced at the edges of his sinful mouth.
Jessen laughed. “Please?”
“There’s a Char-bucks on the corner if you want coffee. I am not making you coffee, Jess.”
“Aww,” he pouted prettily. “Why not?”
“Yeah.” Jessen was grinning. No, he was smirking.
The bubbling volcano in Ian’s belly erupted.
“Who the fuck do you think you are?”
The blonde’s eyes widened and the smirk melted away. “I…”
“Seven years, Jess. Seven. Fucking. Years. You walked out of my life in the middle of the
goddamned night, no goodbye, nothing. Just ‘I’m sorry’ scratched on a piece of brown paper bag.”
“I know, and I…”
“Shut the fuck up.”
To his credit, Jessen did shut the fuck up.
To his credit, Ian wasn’t screaming. Yet.
He turned on his heel and stalked into the living room, throwing himself onto the couch. It was big and plush and the first piece of furniture he’d purchased for the house.
He felt like his safe haven had been invaded by the enemy from his heartbroken past.
Ian’s chest heaved. There was so much he wanted to say, so much he’d bottled up and walledoff. And Jessen was right there. Right there.
The other man entered the room slowly, carefully. He sat on the coffee table across from Ian.
No one sat on the coffee table. It was an antique that had come with the house and Ian was
proud of it. But he didn’t give a shit right then. Fuck the goddamn coffee table and the man
sitting on it in his five-hundred-dollar skinny jeans.
He wanted Jessen gone, and yet he was terrified to let him go.
“What do you want me to do?”
Ian blinked up at him, confused by this all-too-sober sounding Jessen. “What do you mean?”
“If you want me to leave, I will leave. Right now, just say the word. If you want me to give you some time, I will.” His gaze softened. “If…if you want me to stay, I’ll stay.”
“What if I wanted you to leave Philly and never come back?” Ian eyed him carefully. “Would
you do that?”
Jessen looked pained, but he nodded. “Eventually.”
“What if I wanted you to go back in time and fix what you broke, could you?”
“God, I wish.” He’d choked out the words.
Ian frowned. Studying Jessen, he noticed a slight hunch in his shoulders. There were dark circles under his eyes. He seemed smaller, dimmer. It was confusing, conflicting with the mental image he’d always carried.
“Why are you here?”
Jessen exhaled and rested his elbows on his knees. He knit his fingers together and faced Ian, his expression more serious than Ian had ever seen.
“I owe you an apology.”
Ian snorted, he couldn’t help it.
Jessen’s smile was slight. “I know, seven years too late, but…I hope…I was hoping…”
“What? Thought you’d pop back up, bat those pretty eyes of yours, and I’d bend over for you?”
“You still think my eyes are pretty?”
“That’s what you focus on?”
At least he had the grace to look contrite. “Sorry.”
Jessen’s expression morphed into a mask of regret. “Yes, God. Yes. You have no idea how sorry I am. I ran away, Ian. I ran away from you, and I’ll never forgive myself. Even if you somehow find a way to forgive me, I’ll never forgive myself. I hurt you.”
“You hurt me?”
“I know I did.”
“No, Jess. You don’t know shit. You didn’t just hurt me, you broke me. You fucked up an already fucked-up kid.” Ian ran a rough hand through his overgrown hair. “I could barely function after you disappeared. I missed classes, had to postpone my exams, I was a total wreck when you fucked off and out of my life.”
Ian was shaking, his jaw trembling so hard his teeth chattered. And he was pissed because it shouldn’t affect him this much anymore, not so many years after the fact. He was beyond this pain.
“Fuck, Ian…I’m so…” Jessen reached out as if he were going to touch him and Ian pressed himself back into the cushions.
He could not let that happen.
“I’m so sorry. God, that sounds lame. Even to me.”
“Because it is lame. Sorry? Sorry was seven years ago. Six, maybe. I’d even give you five. But now?”
Jessen nodded. His gaze flicked toward the door, and Ian panicked.
The thought of letting him walk out in the middle of this long overdue conversation was almost paralyzing.
Jessen’s gaze snapped back to his. “What? No, I…”
“You were thinking of leaving.”
He nodded. “Yes, but only to give you some space. I had no idea I’d cause…I didn’t think
“You thought I was over you.”
Jessen’s jaw hung open, his eyes wide. For the first time since he’d first met him, Ian saw fear in Jessen’s eyes.
Ian wanted to pretend. Wished he could. He wanted to lie, but even after so long he knew it
was pointless. He was an open wound where Jessen Sørensen was concerned. He could never hide the bleeding from him.
“No, Jess. That’s the problem. I’ll never be over you.”
Xio Axelrod is a USA Today Bestselling author of love stories, contemporary romance and (what she likes to call) strange, twisted tales. She also writes erotica as Xio Nin.
Xio grew up in the music industry and began recording at a young age. When she isn’t writing stories, she can be found in the studio, writing songs, or performing on international stages (under a different, not-so-secret name of course).
She lives in Philadelphia with one full-time husband and one part-time cat.
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