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Devour (Unbreakable Bonds #4)
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Ian Pierce is the chef and part owner of the hottest restaurant in Cincinnati, his chosen family is full of happy relationships, and the scruffy, snarky cop who has been haunting his dreams is one step closer to being in his bed. But everything comes crashing down when the past he narrowly escaped nine years ago comes to a deadly head.
Hollis Banner was enamored of Ian at first sight. He’s kept his distance, knowing the gorgeous, self-confident man is out of his league. Yet there’s no standing aside when Boris Jagger escapes a raid. Jagger’s world has been nearly destroyed and this time, the crime boss is coming after Ian and his friends personally.
Hollis will do whatever it takes to keep Ian safe as they escape to a safe house with a couple of Ian’s overprotective friends. And Ian finds himself in a race to unlock painful memories—memories containing information that could take down the very last of Jagger’s illegal operations forever.
Trigger warning: Flashbacks to abuse could be possible triggers for some.
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Over-the-Rhine during the holiday season held a cheery, urban appeal that drew Ian in. He was already in this little neighborhood frequently because it held some of his favorite unique stores, but the holiday season beckoned him, even when he didn’t have time to window-shop. He loved the crowded buildings that featured different nineteenth-century architecture, loved that people decorated their bikes with Christmas lights, and he enjoyed quite a few of the restaurants tucked into the old structures.
After parking his Volt, he strolled up 14th Street toward Vine where he was meeting Andrei at a sushi bar. He tossed his favorite brown wool scarf around his neck, tugged on the matching beanie, and strode down the sidewalk, weaving through the evening crowds.
OTR was busy for a Tuesday night, but the various weathermen had started warning that a major snow storm was moving into the area despite the fact that it wasn’t yet December. Ian had a feeling that many people were trying to enjoy some time out and about before they were potentially snowed in for a few days.
Not that Cincinnati was prone to blizzards, but occasionally the tri-state area would get hit with a good blast, shutting down roads and closing schools. And no one wanted to get stuck inside when it was prime time to get Christmas shopping done and attend holiday parties.
Even now, snow fell in soft flakes, giving the historic district more of a nostalgic atmosphere. He stopped and lifted his face to feel the tiny stings as they melted on his cheeks.
He’d been working too many long hours, and this was the first night he’d taken off since Thanksgiving. Spending it with Andrei was a no-brainer considering how down the man had been lately. Thinking of the reason why, Ian pulled out his cell phone to see if Lucas had texted him back from earlier. Sure enough, he had. Lucas always responded, but all his answers lately had been nothing more than terse, short sentences. This text held just one word.
Ian had point-blank asked if he would be home soon.
Lucas was running—something Ian was not used to when it came to his friend. Lucas Vallois was the ultimate family man, even though he’d never seen himself that way. But Ian knew he was the force that held their group together, so his long trip overseas had left all his friends feeling off for the holiday. Off and sad, and Ian was still pissed about it.
But then, they were all reeling from what had happened just before the holiday. The culprits behind the fires that had razed some of Lucas’s businesses as well as some of Rowe’s clients turned out to be more of Boris Jagger’s damaged victims. They’d planned to help those kids get home, not turn them in—despite the damage to property and even the death of one of Rowe’s bodyguards. But it had been too late. Lucas couldn’t deal with the knowledge that his actions against Chris Green had brought on the death of their friend, and Rowe’s wife, Melissa. He’d taken off—supposedly to work, but Ian knew better.
Ian’s sleep issues had been out of control as well. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw the twins’ murder and suicide over and over, so he went out of his way to avoid sleeping. Unfortunately, when he finally gave in, he never knew where he was going to end up.
Snow was the only one who’d caught him in the act, calling him a “sleep crawler.” He didn’t walk around like normal sleepwalkers. No, he scuttled around his house like some kind of animal. Ian couldn’t contemplate what kind of messed up inner psyche he had to have to spend his unconscious time creeping around on all fours.
That morning, he’d awakened downstairs in his guest bathroom, curled up on the floor—the door shut. Just knowing he’d hit those stairs while asleep scared the crap out of him. But it made him sad that he’d once again awakened in a safe, contained spot. The last time he’d been in the laundry room. That was the only thing Ian had managed to figure out after doing this for years: he was looking for somewhere safe.
It pissed him off that he had no control over the problem. Luckily, it only happened when his stress levels were through the roof. Like now.
His phone rang, and Andrei’s image popped up on the screen. It was actually a picture of Lucas and Andrei he’d snapped at Rialto one night. They had been looking at each other like each was responsible for the other’s air. He sighed, angry with Lucas all over again, then answered. “I’m almost there. Sorry I’m running late.”
“No problem. I thought I’d go ahead and order your drink. What do you want?”
“Beer is fine. See what they have of the local brews. I’m in the mood to try something new.”