To some who know him, Jax -- under the name Jackson Martin -- is a reputable restorer of antiquarian books. To others, in various guises, he's a man who double-crosses thieves, relieving them of what wasn't theirs to begin with ... although he doesn't return the stolen goods to their original owners. That isn't his thing.
When he's hired by Donovan, a book collector, to restore a damaged atlas, Jax meets the young man who runs Donovan's side interest, a no-kill animal shelter. Noel is wary of Jackson for reasons he can't explain. It doesn't stop him from finding Jax interesting ... an interest Jax returns despite knowing it will go nowhere.
Then Keegan, Jax's mortal enemy, appears bent on killing him. Will Jax be able to stop him before that happens? And will what he and Noel learn about each other end their budding relationship before it can become something more?
When Jax got home, he showered and went to bed, awaking eight hours later to bright sunshine coming through the window. He stretched lazily, decided it was time to get up, and did so. When he looked in the bathroom mirror he figured he must have been more tired than he'd thought when he'd arrived at the condo as Mick's face stared back at him. Not that it was a problem. He knew himself well enough to know he wouldn't have gotten onto his private elevator if anyone had been around to see him.
He changed his look, becoming Jackson a.k.a. Jax, shaved, got dressed and went into the kitchen to fix a late breakfast. Or early lunch, he decided when a glance at the clock told him it was almost eleven.
After he ate, he went into his office behind the living room. The first thing he did after getting online was check for news stories on the jewelry store robbery. He smiled when he saw that Patterson and his accomplice had been apprehended. They had been filmed leaving after the robbery by the camera outside the store, just as he'd planned. He laughed aloud when the report said that the police didn't believe Patterson's claim that a third man had taken off with the sizable haul from the robbery. Some of the fingerprints lifted from the car belonged to one Calvin Morse, a known burglar. When he was located, he denied any knowledge of the robbery before stupidly, in Jax's opinion, trying to escape by jumping off his second floor balcony. Guilty conscious about something, apparently. His body was now lying in the morgue, waiting for the next of kin to identify it. No trace of the jewelry was found on his person or in his apartment.
Satisfied that he had, as always, pulled off the perfect double-cross, Jax went into his business email. "Not that I want to work, but I do have to keep up appearances," he said under his breath. That wasn't quite the truth. He liked taking a damaged book and restoring it to its original pristine condition -- or as close as was possible.
There was only one email, from a man by the name of Donovan Hayes.
Mr. Martin, it began. I am in need of your expertise. I purchased a book which, unbeknown to me at the time, had significant damage to two pages. If you are available and interested, please call me.
No description of the damage? Usually people will over-explain what turns out to be something quite easy, if time consuming, to repair. Well, Mr. Hayes, let's see if you're legitimate, first.
He always did a thorough check on a potential client who wanted his services. It wouldn't do to walk into a trap because he was too trusting. It had happened once, when he had first set up his business, many years ago. He managed to escape unscathed, and had learned a valuable lesson in the process. Not all collectors were as honest and aboveboard as one could hope. But then neither am I, except when it comes to my business. Then I'm scrupulously honest.
Two hours later, he was certain the man was legitimate. At that point he called him to find out precisely what Hayes needed him to do.
"As I'm certain you know," Hayes said once Jax had introduced himself as Jackson Martin, "I'm a book dealer with my own well-respected bookshop, and a collector of rare and antiquarian books."
I didn't until I researched you. Jax refrained from saying that aloud. He already had the feeling, just from the tone of his voice, that Mr. Hayes was one of those people who thought everyone would know who he was the moment his name was mentioned. Instead, Jax lied, replying, "Your name is familiar to me."
"Very good. Now, to my problem. I bought several cartons of old books at an estate auction. Most of them will go directly onto the shelves of my shop. I expected that. I'll make enough off them to help defray the cost of the two I was after for my personal collection."
"I'm presuming from what you said in your email, that you didn't discover one was damaged until you got it home."
"Yes. The atlas." There was a pause before Hayes continued. "I'll admit, I was a bit precipitous in buying it without giving it a thorough examination first. However the previous owner assured me that it was in close to pristine condition and from what I did see of it, he was correct. There was another bidder and I was determined to get my hands on it rather than let him outbid me."
"A true addict," Jax said with a small laugh.
"That I am," Hayes replied.