|Double Heat by Lynn Kelling|
When Evan and Brennan moved in with their boyfriends, Alek and Luka, they knew things would be complicated, but as their privacy gets eroded, and people around them begin to notice the tangled nature of the four-way relationship, coping becomes a struggle. After Brennan leaves on a brief trip home, and Evan remains behind to enjoy the full attention of both Alek and Luka, the careful balance of things gets thrown off.
Ex-boyfriends surface, haunting Evan and Brennan in similar ways as regret for poor choices threatens their happiness, and the sexual freedom displayed earlier in their lives draws predators willing to use violence, coercion, mind-games and force to take what they want. Though Luka and Alek struggle to protect those they love, it soon becomes clear that the dangers surrounding them will find ways to rush in, trying to take what belongs to them.
“Why isn’t he answering?!” Evan descended straight into panic mode, wanting to tear his hair out. Everything—with Drew, with his worries about being honest with the twins, with his worries about Brennan—twisted into a knot that he couldn’t think around. It was an ache in his chest, pressure squeezing his throat, and a clammy chill on his skin. He became aware, slowly, of other aches in his body, like he’d taken a bad fall or something and had bruises all over. And, bizarrely, there was an ache in his arm. Underneath it all, there was fear. “Something’s wrong. I can feel it. Do you hear me? I can feel it!”
They were all standing in the living room. Carter and Presley both had expressions like they didn’t know what they’d walked into, and now had no idea how to help.
Alek had been pacing when Evan had opened the door. Now, he walked over to Evan and pulled him into a tight hug. “We tried calling him after I got off the phone with you. Then these guys showed up, saying they hadn’t gotten Brennan to answer their calls for the past two days either. And we’d been talking about the store—me and Luka. I can’t remember Drew’s last name, or the car he drives. I should have checked, made sure… I didn’t like what he’d said, or how he’d said it, and… But it doesn’t matter. It was just a weird coincidence. We don’t have any contact with him anymore. It’s been years.”
Luka was standing there, hands on his hips, his mouth tight, his eyes staring at nothing. He looked like he wanted to punch a wall. Presley was trying to talk to him, but Luka was almost unresponsive with the degree of his unease and stress.
“Dude, he’s fine. He’s gonna be fine,” Presley was saying.
“I’ve been trying to reach him all morning!” Luka shouted.
Presley held up his hands, gave Luka a look to get him to calm down.
Luke softened his tone just a little and said, “The first couple times, I thought maybe he’d slept in late or was away from the phone, but it’s been hours and he’d not picking up for anyone. Hailey isn’t picking up either, and we don’t have anyone else’s number. We don’t even know who to try!”
“Listen,” Alek said, keeping his arm protectively wrapped around Evan’s shoulders, but speaking to everyone. Carter was sitting on the couch, looking worried as hell. “We went through this same thing with you, Evan, after you took off when Charlie walked in on you and Bren. Remember? You needed space to clear your head. Right? You didn’t call, or check in, but you were okay. We were losing our minds, worrying, searching for you. But it was okay. You turned up when you were ready to. So will Brennan. It seems Brennan may have the same sort of flight instinct that you do. Listen to your gut. What do you feel?”
“I feel like he needs me,” Evan exclaimed. “And I can’t even look for him! What is he even running from? What could have happened? What am I supposed to do? Fly to Louisiana?”
“Maybe it’s nothing,” Carter said, “and Brennan and this Hailey chick went out to eat or something. If they’re somewhere like a party with a ton of people and noise, maybe they just can’t hear their phones, or have them turned them off.”
“Yeah,” Presley agreed, latching onto the suggestion. “Bren said there were a lot of people wanting to see him. Seems like he was a pretty popular guy down there. He’s probably just busy. If I try to call Carter when he’s got a gig, it’s nothin’ but voicemail for like five hours at a time. You know he’s down there with tons of friends. It makes sense. Plus, y’all have admitted that your relationship is odd. He was telling me before he left how he didn’t know how to explain y’all to any of his old friends. Maybe he’s just dealing with a lot and it was easier to turn the phone off for a few hours than have to take calls from multiple boyfriends.”
The words seemed to work wonders on Luka, who exhaled and appeared to release some terror with the breath. “Yeah. That would make sense, actually.”
“And it has been a stressful morning,” Alek admitted, looking at Evan. Luka wiped at his eyes. It made Evan want to go and hug him. “Maybe it’s us that need Brennan and we’re just a little panicked because we haven’t talked to him much the past couple days.”