Title: Ghosts (The Power of Zero #2)
Author Name & Publisher: Jackie Keswick (Dreamspinner Press)
Publication Date & Length: February 10th 2016 – 119 pages
Jack Horwood doesn’t do families. Or Christmas. From the time his mother sold him to her pimp to the moment he walked out on the man he loved, Christmas has always been about change and painful choices. This year seems no different. Helping Daniel and Nico recover from their imprisonment and hunting down those responsible puts Jack in a frame of mind he doesn’t want to inflict on anyone. Least of all Gareth and the tentative relationship they’ve started to rebuild.
But Gareth, for whom Christmas is all about new beginnings, won’t let Jack take the easy way out. He makes him face his ghosts instead. Even when said ghosts invade their bedroom.
When Daniel’s parents are found, Jack is determined to settle the matter without involving Daniel at all. But fate decrees otherwise, and it’s Gareth who helps him finally understand that the strongest bonds are those forged together. Once he gets that, Jack can step up and make a decision designed to lay his ghosts to rest—for good.
This was really a sweet story. My main complaint is that there were unanswered questions for me throughout the story and they were not really resolved.
I really enjoyed the dynamic between Jack and Gareth. Jack is super lucky to have a partner who knows his moods and triggers as well as Gareth does. I really enjoyed their banter and I liked the secondary characters who helped push and pull Jack in different directions.
Then you have the two boys whom Jack is so protective over. Daniel and Nico are not super prominent in this story, but they had enough of a presence that I knew they were there. I wish that we had more about Daniel’s feelings and thoughts during his section of the story. I felt that Nico was more the focus of that and wished that Nico’s issues were more back burner.
Finally, while I enjoyed the outcome, it just seemed rushed and I didn’t really feel that we learned too much about Jack’s ghosts.
The soft touch woke Gareth from his doze. He lay as he’d fallen asleep, diagonally across the bed, a stack of pillows under his head. The lamp glowed on the bedside table, and outside the window inky blackness proclaimed the lateness of the hour. Jack was stretched out beside him on top of the quilt, head propped on a palm, while his fingertips traced the scar on Gareth’s shoulder.
Jack’s voice was as soft as the touch of his fingers. His gaze was so intent, Gareth could practically hear thoughts and memories chasing each other in his lover’s head. Despite training, work, and vigorous sex, the deep shadows under Jack’s eyes still spoke more of sleepless nights than physical exhaustion, and Gareth wished Jack would just share what bothered him.
But sharing his troubles had never been Jack’s way.
“It’s been almost ten years,” he said softly. “Plenty of time to forget about it.”
“December 23,” Jack replied, voice a mere breath. “The last day of our tour.”
Understanding lit Gareth’s mind. Not so much at Jack’s words, more at his tone of voice. “December 23,” he mused. “Also the day you left the Army. Why am I starting to think that was not a coincidence?”
Jack didn’t answer, and that in itself was answer enough.
Gareth sighed and sat up. He didn’t know why the idea of a big family Christmas, on top of everything else going on in Jack’s life, had triggered such an intense bout of soul-searching. He only knew he had to do what he could to stop it. Jack walking out on his chosen career and family eight years ago had been a painful blow. Jack walking out on him—them—now would be worse.
Please, don’t let me fuck this up! The silent prayer was a heartfelt plea, and Gareth took a moment to firm his resolve and let it steady him. He straightened his spine and drew a deep breath. “May I ask where you put it?”
“Don’t ‘what’ me, brat. Your letter of resignation.”
Shock turned Jack’s face perfectly white. His mouth opened and closed several times before brain and vocal chords connected into a stuttered “My what?”
“So you’re not planning to walk out on me tomorrow?”
The horrified indignation in Jack’s voice soothed Gareth’s nerves. He reached out and closed a hand around Jack’s bicep, pulling him up so their faces were level. “Then talk to me,” he implored.
Jack’s gray-green eyes were fringed with long, dark lashes. He could hide very effectively if he chose. Right then, he didn’t flinch under Gareth’s scrutiny. His gaze was steady, as was his voice. “I screwed up, and it almost cost you your life. I need to remember “You also saved my life that day. You need to remember that too.”