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Torch (Unbreakable Bonds #3)
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Nine months ago, Rowan Ward thought he had it all. Now he’s fighting to pull his shredded life together, buried in work and battling the kind of grief that destroys a man’s soul. When fires spring up around Cincinnati threatening Rowe’s friends and clients, he’s thrilled to find his old Army buddy, Noah Keegan in town. They were a hell of a team when they served together, so in-sync, it was rumored they could read each other’s minds.
Noah thought devoting his life to the Army would be enough. Then he realized he had no family and only one friend he cared about. When his enlistment was up, he found himself standing on Rowe’s doorstep, looking only for friendship but secretly hoping for more. He needs to know if their one unbelievable night together years ago wasn’t a mistake.
Caught in a dangerous game of fire and bullets, neither expects the inferno of emotion that ignites between them. One Rowe isn’t prepared to accept. One that could break Noah
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Fuck, he was getting old.
Well, maybe he wasn’t really old, but watching all the tiny women scurrying around Lucas’s new nightclub in their barely-there outfits, trying to catch the eye of a bunch of overdressed men…ah hell, Rowe was definitely feeling old even if he wasn’t yet forty.
Leaning against the low wall overlooking the main dance floor, Rowe sipped his drink—at least the bourbon was older than him—and tried to relax, even if it wasn’t his kind of place. His best friend had a talent for high-end, trendy clubs that served complicated drinks and played loud, obnoxious music, but this…this was familiar.
Aptly named The Warehouse, the entire club had an industrial feel to it with its exposed metal beams, concrete floor and bare pipes. Even the music perfectly matched, the classic industrial tunes blasting from the speakers. The club reminded Rowe of the places he’d hit with Snow and Lucas while in the Army and the few years they’d lived in Baltimore together.
A smirk curled one corner of Rowe’s mouth. Lucas was getting nostalgic now that he was closing in on forty as well.
Tonight was the exclusive grand opening—an invitation-only affair that quickly became the hottest ticket in town. Lucas had given some of the local radio stations a handful of tickets and Rowe had listened for weeks to the strange antics they demanded of people in order to win one.
Of course, those tickets didn’t get a single one of them up to the second floor. Lucas had created that guest list personally, and as far as Rowe could see, it included only their family, friends, and some close business associates. And, oddly enough, Geoffrey.
Lucas had filled Rowe in on the special task Geoffrey had helped them with when it came to tracking down Dwight Gratton, the man who murdered Rowe’s wife Melissa and nearly killed both Ian and Snow. Rowe was willing to guess this was Lucas’s attempt to show gratitude. If Geoffrey’s hang-dog expression was anything to go by, it wasn’t working very well.
Rowe watched the delicate man approach him with his martini glass in hand. He was pretty in a big-eyed, elfin kind of way that left Rowe feeling like he was a slow, clumsy troll.
“You’re a friend of Snow’s, right?”
“Any chance there’s trouble in paradise?” he asked, his voice lifting with desperate hope.
“Between Snow and Jude?” Rowe’s gaze drifted over to the pair in question where they stood on the deck. Jude and Ian were in animated conversation and Snow stood quietly, his eyes on Jude and his hand resting on the man’s back as if he just needed to be touching him. “Nope. Sunshine and roses.”
“But it’s been nearly a year.”
“Still in love,” Rowe said, though he’d never expected to say those words about Snow. But once Snow had given his heart, he’d been all in and would be for life. Hell, he’d bought a damn home with Jude after only a few months.
Geoffrey groaned loudly, slouching against the low wall as well. “It’s not fair.”
“Yeah, they’re nauseating to be around.”
The young man gave him the evil eye and started to walk away, but Rowe grabbed his shoulder and turned them both so that they were staring down at the writhing crowd on the first floor.
“Look down there,” Rowe instructed.
Geoffrey huffed and stood silently for a minute, his gaze shifting over the people.
Rowe leaned closer so he could speak directly into Geoffrey’s ear. “Did you notice that eventually everyone looks up here? They’re looking at you and wondering who you are, how you know Lucas Vallois, and why the hell you’re so special. Right now, every last person down there wants to be you.”
When Rowe pulled away, he noticed that Geoffrey was standing a little straighter, his chin lifted and his shoulders were back. Yeah, he got it now.
Geoffrey glanced over at Rowe, a wicked grin on his lips. “Oh, you’re good. You’re very good.”
“Go get ’em, tiger. I think you’ve got your pick tonight.” Rowe patted him on the shoulder, feeling the slim, delicate bones. “You should come in to Ward Security, take a self-defense class. First one’s free.”
Nodding absently, Geoffrey headed toward the stairs.
Rowe wandered to an empty pub table half hidden in the shadows. The placement allowed him to see most of the second floor, and be away from anyone who might want to engage in painful small talk. By his count, he needed to stick around for another thirty minutes and then he could slip out. It had become a complicated dance with his friends. He didn’t want to be out. He didn’t want to be social. It had been nine months since Mel’s death and he didn’t want to date—couldn’t imagine dating—not that they had started pushing about that, but it was coming.
For now, he showed up to most things they invited him to and worked to hold the smile on his lips. As long as he put forth a little effort, they stayed happy and didn’t nag him about not locking himself away in his house with his dogs, shunning daylight like some clichéd vampire. He was grateful and he did enjoy himself, but after a couple of hours, what had once been fun became work. Nothing was quite as fun without Mel’s laugh and mischief. But then, nothing would be quite as fun as it once was without her.