Zero at the Bone by Jane Seville
Published by Dreamspinner Press, 2009
After witnessing a mob hit, surgeon Jack Francisco is put into protective custody to keep him safe until he can testify. A hit man known only as D is blackmailed into killing Jack, when he tracks him down, his weary conscience won't allow him to murder an innocent man. Finding in each other an unlikely ally, Jack and D are soon on the run from shadowy enemies. Forced to work together to survive, the two men forge a bond that ripens into unexpected passion. Jack sees the wounded soul beneath D's cold, detached exterior, and D finds in Jack the person who can help him reclaim the man he once was. As the day of Jack's testimony approaches, he and D find themselves not only fighting for their lives...but also fighting for their future. A future together.
This book is intense! It took me several nights to read it (I so wanted to call in sick to work to finish it...but didn't...barely!) and oh, what a wonderful way to spend some evenings. Jack witnesses a murder in a parking garage and soon finds himself in protective custody, waiting to go on the witness stand to put the Dominguez brothers away. He loses everything--his life in Baltimore, his work as a surgeon that he has spent 14 hours in school to earn, his friends. All gone as is life is put on hold to keep him safe. One afternoon he comes into his safe house to find a stranger with a gun. This is it--he's been found and is about to die.
D is a hit man with an interesting conscience. He has built a vault in his mind that holds all of his emotions, tragedies from his past, horrors that he has witnessed, everything is kept locked up tight. His handler offers him various hits but D has his own criterion for those that he accepts. D would not have taken Jack's hit normally; Jack was a good guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, D finds himself blackmailed into the job when his handler is beaten and a file of photos following D's activities from the last six months surfaces. But when Jack walks into his apartment, D finds that he can't follow through with the hit. He takes Jack on the run with him, trying to keep them both safe until he can find out exactly who he is trying to keep them safe from.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Jack and D go from grudging acquaintances, to friends, to lovers and more. Watching D learn to navigate his emotions and deal with issues that have been locked up tight for years was beautiful and, at times, painful. Jack was so perfect for D...he was honestly curious about D but soon came to care and that caring was so evident. Even when he was rebuffed he kept coming back, peeling away the layers to find the man hidden inside. Jack is also dealing with a lot of heavy emotions as he comes to terms with all that he left behind and the realization that he might never get it back. Together, D and Jack work through the many issues facing them and they are a couple that will stick with me for a very long time. With all that they have gone through, their happily ever after isn't all bright and shiny--there are shadows, things that weigh on them and probably always will--and that reality makes me believe in it all the more.
I have read that the author is working on a sequel for Jack and D...I will be first in line!
This book rates a 5/5.
I purchased this ebook for my Kindle with my own funds.