Two men want Adam Huntington. One wants to love him, the other wants to kill him.
Five years ago, Adam survived an attack by one of California’s most horrific serial killers. The experience scarred him, both inside and out. So to create a new life -- one without the world-known moniker, Adam, the Sole Survivor -- he moves to New York City, where he can be just another face in the crowd.
NYPD Detective Jake O'Malley takes the motto of “Serve and Protect” very seriously in all things, especially in matters of the heart. He’s had enough of cheating lovers and believes in monogamy, respect, and romance. His first date with Adam is a disaster. But when their paths cross ten months later, he asks for a second chance. Despite his large and physically imposing frame, Jake hopes Adam will come to trust and eventually love him.
Todd Eldin sees his muscled body as a finely honed tool, perfect for seducing and killing. When the police begin searching for the killer in a series of sexually sadistic murders, Todd successfully operates below the radar, until he spins a web to catch a more prominent prey -- Adam, the one that got away.
Has Adam finally outrun his luck? Can anyone survive the horrors of being caged, beaten and tortured for a second time? Or will Adam be able to use what he learned in California to save himself and his lover? Who will survive this deadliest of love triangles?
Adam straightened a stack of papers for the umpteenth time. He realigned the stapler with the paper clip holder on the desk, again, his sweaty palms leaving marks on whatever they touched. Get a grip, dude! Adam told himself. He took several deep breaths and let each one out slowly. This helped to calm his racing pulse -- a bit. His eyes scanned the office, again. He took in the tidy space: the filing cabinet with the table lamp on top, the framed degrees on the walls, the small bookshelf filled with reference works on psychology, self-help, group dynamics, and such. Not the most exciting of topics but ones that helped Adam more efficiently run the groups and provide life coaching to the clients. He tried picturing how a first-time visitor would see the sparsely decorated office -- more utilitarian than Architectural Digest.
The only thing of any interest was a medium-sized picture of a bumblebee on a vivid fuchsia Gerbera daisy against a brilliant blue sky and the words “Gravity is Optional!” printed in bold black lettering across the bottom.
The picture was a very personal one, one that Adam had asked an artist friend to create. The words had come to him one night as he’d slept. There had been many nights he’d thought he couldn’t go on. Too much had happened, too many horrible things seen and experienced. In the midst of this torturous psychological whirlwind, his brain had tossed him the curious saying about gravity.
If Adam’s subconscious mind was talking to him, helping him heal from the horror he’d endured, he needed to figure out what it was trying to say. So he’d searched the Internet for clues as to what the phrase meant. He’d stumbled upon some articles that stated the laws of aerodynamics proved the bumblebee should be incapable of flying. While this was more science humor than solid science fact, it had given Adam the key to understanding the phrase. His subconscious mind had been telling him even though things appeared solid and concrete, that wasn’t the only truth. In fact, he was just a small dot on a small planet in a medium-sized galaxy and he could choose how he wanted to live his life, how he wanted to react, how he wanted to feel.
Maybe gravity existed because everyone agreed it did, and maybe the bumblebee flew because he believed he could. What seemed impossible was actually possible because he believed it to be so. Okay, it wasn’t the greatest logic and had little basis in scientific fact, but it had been a great psychological Band-Aid. The phrase had really gotten Adam thinking outside the usual victim box, and it had been vital to his healing. Realizing there was a bigger worldview than the one he had been allowing himself, Adam started looking for new and different ways of viewing situations.
“Okay, that little jaunt to philosophy-land had killed a few minutes.” He leaned back in his office chair and sighed, again. Dude, you’re only putting off the inevitable, he told himself. “What the fuck were you thinking inviting Jake O’Malley up here?”
It wasn’t that Adam didn’t find the detective incredibly attractive. He did. The man radiated sex. It was just that Adam had made a huge jackass out of himself on their blind date and had spent the last ten months studiously avoiding Jake O’Malley. Well, not exactly avoiding him; Adam had seen him out at some of the clubs, but he’d only seen Jake from a distance. Although he’d been careful to stay out of sight, he had to admit he’d taken time to surreptitiously observe the gorgeous detective at play in his natural environment.
What Adam observed had only fueled his confusion. The detective was always surrounded by a group of good-looking friends, but he seemed to stand apart, his eyes scanning the room, as if he were guarding his friends. This apparent protectiveness was sexy as hell. Once or twice, Adam had watched as Jake defused a minor scuffle between inebriated guys, not in an aggressive manner but with humor and a gentle, albeit firm, hand.
So what had made the date such a disaster? he wondered.
At the time, Adam had still been experiencing frequent nightmares and not getting enough sleep. That particular day, he’d really been struggling with his sense of self-worth. Vulnerable was not the best state of mind to be in when going on a blind date!
Adam allowed his mind to drift back to that fateful night. He usually avoided thinking too much about it, because whenever he did the embarrassment always felt dreadfully fresh. Their mutual friend Mark had set them up. He’d really pushed Adam to go out with Jake, telling him what an incredibly hot man the detective was and what a good heart he had, that he was a monogamy kind of guy, not a player and blah, blah, blah. Adam had been intrigued but worried about his own level of readiness. Mark had used some very persuasive skills, also known as nagging, to convince Adam.
* * * *
Adam was overwhelmed with lust when he got his first view of Jake in the restaurant’s bar. Mark had underplayed exactly how gorgeous the man was. The detective was wearing Adam’s favorite combination of colors on a man -- tight black shirt and blue jeans that looked like they’d been painted on. Not only did the shirt caress every muscle of Jake’s amazing torso as it stretched to contain what appeared to be muscles on top of muscles, but it also highlighted his intense azure blue eyes. Jake’s skin looked permanently tanned and his dark brown hair was cropped short, accenting his strong features and sensuous lips. The cleft in the chin was almost too much, causing Adam to instantly start drawing comparisons to comic book superheroes.
Unfortunately, Adam’s lust removed all rational thinking from his brain. Their initial conversation was innocuous, the usual polite pleasantries about the weather and employment. From there, the conversation drifted into areas that Adam always tried to avoid. Jake started asking about his background, and the more Adam tried to be evasive the more pointed Jake’s questions became.
Adam involuntarily flinched at Jake’s final question. “Look, I know I recognize you. You ever done a perp walk? I never forget a criminal’s face!”
The moment Adam dreaded the most had arrived. He so wasn’t ready to come clean about his history as Adam, the Sole Survivor. He was so caught off guard by the turn of the conversation, he couldn’t think of how to get out of the situation and redirect the topic to something safer. He couldn’t even make eye contact, could only stare down at the table as the overwhelming feelings of being deeply tainted and unworthy of being alive washed over him while he told Jake that he’d been abducted and held captive by George Gary Smith, the serial killer who had gruesomely slaughtered seven people.