Avery Wagner quit ghostwalking when he lost his beloved anchor to cancer. Now teaching others who have the ability, he's beginning to live again -- but he's not looking for another lover, not now, maybe not ever.
But then he meets Jameson ... younger, talented, dedicated, almost perfect, even though his mouth sometimes opens ahead of his brain. And Jameson wants Avery desperately, though he'll settle for friendship if he can't have more.
When an emergency demands they work together in the field, Avery discovers just how perfect Jameson is. But he had a perfect love once before, and he's scared to even consider that he might have a chance at another. Can he trust Jameson with his newly healing heart?
"You need to stop giving me cheesecake."
Jameson shook his head, set the dessert down, and took a seat. For the third day in a row, he'd found Avery sitting by himself in the corner of the cafeteria at lunch and made a point of picking up the cheesecake to bring to him.
"No. You like it. And watching you eat it is one of life's great pleasures."
Avery blinked, and his expression became neutral. He took a breath and pushed the cheesecake away just a little as he fixed Jameson with an intense stare.
"Listen, Jameson, I don't know what --"
Jameson held up a hand, knowing what Avery was about to say and not wanting to hear it. Yes, he felt something for Avery. But he knew Avery wasn't in any sort of place to reciprocate, which was fine.
"Friends, Avery. Just friends." It was a total lie, because Jameson wanted to be much more than just friends. But he knew better than to hope for more, and he'd take what he could get.
Avery eyed him suspiciously. But when he picked up the cheesecake and took a bite, Jameson knew he'd won.
"I don't think that's a good idea," Avery said between one bite and the next.
Jameson squinted. "Is it because of our age difference?"
Avery almost choked on his bite, but he managed to swallow and then took a drink from his water bottle. "What?"
Jameson shrugged. "Some people think eighteen years is a lot."
Avery narrowed his eyes. "I might be forty-one, but I look twenty-five. I'm going to live for a hundred and twenty years at least. What do I care about eighteen years?" He reached for his coffee and lifted the mug to his lips, but his gaze turned into a glare. "How do you know my age?"
Jameson flushed and stabbed at his lettuce. He'd been trying for healthy today, and the Cobb salad looked good. He stuffed a forkful into his mouth and then tucked the bite into his cheek and muttered, "You're in the database."
"You looked me up."
It wasn't a question, but Jameson thought he should respond. "Uh, sorta."
"Sorta?" Avery repeated incredulously. Jameson sat up straight at the way Avery's tone went cold.
"I just, you know, peeked. Which was completely wrong of me, and I closed out as soon as I pulled up your file, but I did notice your birthday." Jameson knew it was wrong, but he hadn't been able to stop himself. He wanted to know more about Avery, and Avery himself wasn't that forthcoming.
Avery put down his half-finished cheesecake. He didn't say anything as he started to pile his garbage on the tray. Crap.
"Avery, I apologize. It was a shitty thing to do, and I take full responsibility. If you don't want to be friends with me, I'll understand and accept it. I'll stop pushing." Jameson took a breath and went for broke. "I wanted to know more about you, but I should have asked instead of snooping. I swear, as soon as I pulled you up, I closed it down."
Avery squeezed his eyes shut and still didn't speak. But he was no longer trying to leave. Jameson didn't let hope take root. He'd gone too far, and he knew it.