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Avery Adams, Kane Dalton
Born to a prestigious political family, Avery Adams plays as hard as he works. The gorgeous, charismatic attorney is used to getting what he wants, even the frequent one-night stands that earn him his well-deserved playboy reputation. When some of the most prominent men in politics suggest he run for senate, Avery decides the time has come to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. With a strategy in place and the campaign wheels rolling, Avery is ready to jump on the legislative fast track, full steam ahead. But no amount of planning prepares him for the handsome, uptight restaurateur who might derail his political future.
Easy isn’t even in the top thousand words to describe Kane Dalton’s life after his father, a devout southern Baptist minister, kicks him out of the family home for questioning his sexual orientation. Despite all the rotten tomatoes life throws his way, Kane makes something of himself. Between owning a thriving upscale Italian restaurant in the heart of downtown Minneapolis and managing his long-term boyfriend, his plate is full. He struggles to get past the teachings of his childhood to fully accept his sexuality and rid himself of the doubts brought on by his religious upbringing. The last thing he needs is the yummy, sophisticated, blond-haired distraction sitting at table thirty-four.
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The elegantly decorated hospital room looked regal and stately, much like the man lying in the bed in the center of the room. Kane Dalton entered in almost a dead run, moving as fast as his seasoned legs could carry him. Worry etched fine lines into his face. He paid no attention to the luxury surrounding him. Instead Kane’s panicked gaze focused only on the man lying on the gurney with tubes and wires attached to several machines. Avery Adams had his eyes closed, taking short shallow breaths. He looked lifeless and pale, a far cry from the exuberant man Kane had grown to love beyond any measure of reason.
The tears that threatened finally broke Kane’s resolve and spilled over, running down his cheeks. Thank God he’d made it there in time. Avery slowly turned his head, opening his eyes to look at Kane. Their gazes met and his heart lurched in his chest. The mental prayer replaying over and over in his head exalted its chorus, begging God to keep Avery safe and there with him for a little while longer.
Avery never lifted his head. Instead, he let those amber eyes pierce Kane’s soul, just like they always had. For the briefest of moments, the world slowed, and he took the steps separating them. Kane wasn’t sure of all the details, only that Avery had collapsed in his office surrounded by his staff, one of them being their daughter. She’d given him just enough bits and pieces of information to know the problem had to do with Avery’s heart, a long-diagnosed concern. Kane hadn’t hesitated; he immediately dropped everything and drove himself to the hospital, not waiting for a driver to pick him up. His greatest fear now played out right in front of him.
They both ignored the hospital staff working feverishly to prepare Avery for emergency surgery.
“Baby, don’t cry,” Avery whispered as Kane clasped his hand.
“I’m not,” Kane replied, searching Avery’s handsome face. Kane willed himself to remember every single detail of this moment. A forever frustrating piece of Avery’s hair had fallen down across his forehead. This particular piece of hair could never fully be tamed. Kane absently lifted a finger, moving the strand back with the others. It was a move he’d done a thousand times over the last forty years, but for some reason, this time the simple gesture caused the tears to fall with a little more force as his gaze landed back on Avery’s.
“Give me a minute, please,” Avery said to the room.
“Sir, we have no time. They’re waiting for you in surgery” a nurse said, ignoring Avery completely.
“It wasn’t a request.” The force with which Avery said the words was in direct contrast to the pale older man lying in the bed. Every eye in the room turned toward him. Only the nurse had the nerve to answer.
“You have one minute before you’re transported upstairs, sir,” she said before she hurriedly shooed everyone else out of the room. Avery’s eyes never left his.
“Kane, I’m going to be fine. I’m not ready to leave you, honey,” Avery said, his voice back to the loving tone he always used with Kane.
“You don’t know that.” Kane leaned in, bringing his face close to Avery’s, placing a simple kiss on his slightly parted lips.
“I do know it. I love you. I don’t want to leave you. Forty years isn’t long enough. I need at least another twenty,” Avery whispered, and Kane’s tears fell, dripping down onto Avery’s face. Kane used the pad of his thumb to wipe them clean, but the effort was made in vain. The flow never stopped.
“I love you,” Kane whispered.
“I don’t regret anything. You made me the man I am today,” Avery whispered.
“You made me whole,” Kane replied.
“Kiss me before I go in,” Avery requested, his voice weaker now than only moments before. Kane kissed him, meeting Avery’s small swipe of the tongue with one of his own.
“Sir, we have to get you upstairs,” the nurse said from the doorway. Kane stood when he saw Avery might fight for another minute. He never released his grip on Avery’s hand.
“You fight for me,” Kane said, trying to put on a brave face.
“Take care of our family. Make sure our grandbabies know how much I love them.”
“Don’t…” No more words would come. They both knew the gravity of the situation. Severe heart disease ran throughout Avery’s ancestry. Avery had lived longer than any male in his family tree, but the odds were stacked against him. They both knew, at any point, time could run out.
“I love you, always,” Avery said, his eyes still holding Kane’s as they began to wheel him from the room.
“I love you, always.” Kane forced himself to move and bent in to kiss his husband again. He willed himself to remember every detail of their tender kiss before Avery was pushed out from underneath him. He watched as they wheeled him away. Watched as the door closed with a firm click, and he still stood there staring at the thick oak wood. His life had just been pushed through that door, and now the helplessness was setting in. He could feel his body begin the slow steady tremble as he scrubbed his hands over his face, wiping away the tears in frustrated swipes. If only Avery would have eaten better. Stuck to the diet Kane had no problem sticking to. If Avery wouldn’t have stolen those bites of cake and if Kane hadn’t turned a blind eye… If Kane had made Avery walk more, work less, and disciplined him harder for straying off course. If only.
“Here, Daddy.” Kane looked up, surprised to see Autumn standing in front of him. He hadn’t heard her enter the room. She held a handful of tissues, and he accepted them, wiping at his face. He took the minute to pull himself together. He had to remember his children before he allowed himself to break down completely. Avery’s only request had been to take care of their family, and their children needed him to be strong.