Six years ago, Jarrett Kessel helped his best friend’s little brother deal with his family’s rejection when he came out. He saw potential in the tempestuous teenager. Talent. Then, they both moved on with their lives.
Now, the FBI needs Jarrett’s help. Sketch artist Eli Locke is their only lead in finding a killer, but he’s nowhere to be found. Though the Feds are convinced Jarrett is the best way to lure him out, he’s not so sure. Until they show him the web comic Eli has created, with a superhero who bears a striking resemblance to Jarrett.
When Eli gets an email out of the blue from the man who changed his life, he doesn’t even consider saying no to a meeting. Jarrett is even more amazing than he remembers, and the fact that he’s all right being the role model for the one thing that means the most to Eli is just icing on the cake. But the truth about the murder comes out, and even though he had nothing to do with it, Eli wants to run. It’s up to Jarrett to keep him from ruining his life for good, before the killer finds them both and does it first ...
Most of his inbox was crap. He'd deleted four pages of messages not even worth looking at before he hit on one that didn't tout Viagra or solicit him for some webcam scam. That one required a quick "no thanks" back to its sender, and then he was clicking onto the last and most recent page of emails.
The very top one stopped him in dead in the water.
The subject was, "A blast from the past." But it was the sender who made him wonder if he was seeing things.
He only knew one person named Kessel. His first name started with a J, too. But it couldn't be, because the J. Kessel he knew would never be interested in a superhero comic strip.
Shit. What if he's seen it?
There was only one way to find out. But moving his mouse over the email and clicking it open felt like it took an eternity.
His eyes went straight to the signature.
God. It really was him.
Licking his lips, Eli took his time going back to the top of the message. He hadn't seen Jarrett Kessel since he'd graduated, when he'd shown up at the house with Brad the day after the party to congratulate him for surviving high school. He'd given Eli a card with a fifty dollar bill in it, and a note that said, "Hope this buys enough art supplies to last you the summer." Eli had smiled and thanked him, his heart thudding so loudly he was sure Jarrett could hear it.
The next day, he created the Lockeford Files. He'd already been drawing Sovereign for a year, but right then, right there, with the proof that Jarrett's nice guy act hadn't been a onetime freak occurrence, he wanted to do more. He had to share it with the world. And the rest, as people were so fond of saying ad nauseum, was history.
I hope I'm addressing this correctly. There's no clue in the contact information, and I haven't been able to find anywhere on the site that this is really you --
Holy crap. Not only had Jarrett found the comic, he'd spent time digging around. Eli read on.
-- but the name looks pretty obvious, and I can't think of anyone else who could ever draw like you could. So fingers crossed I'm not making a total ass of myself to a stranger.
His cheeks were hot. It was stupid, getting so excited about a compliment from a guy he hadn't seen in years, but Jarrett Kessel had been the first guy Eli had ever seriously crushed on. He'd inspired pages and pages of work. Eli couldn't contain the rush from knowing Jarrett found his sketches distinctive.
A friend pointed your website out to me. I haven't had the chance to look through all the archives yet, but I'll rectify that soon. In the meantime, I'd love to find out what you've been up to. Are you still in the Chicago area? I live and work in Aurora now, so if you're still reasonably local, we should meet up. Call or email, your choice.
Look forward to hearing from you.
Eli read it two more times just to convince himself it was real. As much time as he spent online, he'd never crossed the line to search out what Jarrett might have been doing with his life. Brad stopped talking about him not long after they'd finished their master's programs at Purdue, though Brad hadn't really talked to Eli much by that point anyway, and looking him up felt like such a stalker move he couldn't do it. He'd finally decided seeking out more details would get in the way of his vision for Sovereign. Best to keep the two separate.
And here they were.
But only if he let it.