Just to Breathe

Celebrate Best Friend Day

justtobreatheNico Allegretti has been best friends with Matt Barnes since kindergarten. There is no one more important to Nico than Matt, and while he’s known for years Matt is the one for him, he’ll never tell him. He won’t risk ruining their friendship.

On his way to meet Matt at the restaurant, a case of mistaken identity ends with Nico in the trunk of a car. When he’s released, his kidnappers give him twenty-four hours to give them what they want. The problem is, Nico has no idea what that could be.

Not knowing what else to do, he turns to Matt, who is a cop. Together they go into hiding while looking for clues. Being kidnapped doesn’t change Nico’s resolve to not let Matt know how he feels, but hiding in a small cabin together makes it hard to ignore. Matt’s small touches and compliments must mean nothing. Had Matt felt the same, he’d let him know by now … right?

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Contemporary Gay Romance: 15,392 words

JMS Books :: Amazon :: books2read.com/JustToBreathe

Excerpt:

Two hours later, they sat in the interrogation room at Halsworthy’s police station. Joyce, Matt’s mom, had fussed over him. Robert, Matt’s dad, had grunted and inspected the photographs taken of the cut at the back of Nico’s head and the swelling on his face. David, Matt’s brother, had crossed his arms over his chest and glared at Nico without saying a word. Nico didn’t know what he’d done, but David had never liked him.

Okay.” Matt put a recorder on the table. “Tell me, from the beginning, what happened.”

Nico took a deep breath and was about to speak when the door banged open. Amber, Matt’s younger sister, burst into the room. “My God, Nico! Mom called me.”

Nico looked past Amber to where Joyce was standing. Robert appeared behind her, and it didn’t take more than a second or two before David also appeared. He sighed and glanced at Matt, who shrugged.

Nico loved Matt’s family, maybe not David as much as the others, but sometimes it was a nightmare that all of them were cops.

Hi, Amber.”

She glared at him, her hands on her hips. “Who did this? I’ll catch them. Is it a hate crime? Gay bashing?” She whirled around and looked at the rest of the family. “In Halsworthy? I will not stand for it!”

Easy.” Matt rubbed his face. “Nico was about to tell me how it all happened.” He gestured at the recorder.

Amber nodded and pulled out a chair. “Amber Barnes present for the statement.”

Joyce Barnes present.”

Nico shrunk back into the chair.

Robert Barnes present.”

David Barnes also present.”

Matt’s sigh was loud. “Seriously, guys, can’t you wait outside?”

No, I want to hear this.” Amber glared at him. “You might think you have some kind of exclusive right to Nico, but he’s part of our lives too.” Her blue eyes caught Nico’s. “He’s family.”

A lump formed in Nico’s throat. Being part of the Barnes family was a curse and a blessing, and while he’d hoped they’d all wait outside, he was glad they had his back.

Fine. What happened, Nico?”

Nico pursed his lips. “I exited my apartment at around ten past six, I was to meet Matt at Taverna.”

Oh, you were going on a date?” Amber grinned at him.

No, it was—” He glanced at Matt, who was smiling at him. “—for my birthday. Anyway, I walked down Church Lane and crossed over the parking lot when someone grabbed me from behind. There was a blow to the back of my head, and before I knew what was happening, a man pushed me into a trunk of a car. A black car.” He scrunched his face and glanced at Matt again. He didn’t know shit about cars, if he remembered what color someone’s car was, he was pleased with himself. Brands and models and stuff never registered.

And then?” The anger was clear in Matt’s voice.

We drove for a while. It was dark, and my head hurt, so I didn’t keep track of turns and stuff. I should have, right?” He looked at everyone in the crowded room. “Maybe it’s in the kidnapping 101 handbook?” He’d meant it as a joke, but it came out in a whisper.

Amber was glaring, David had once again crossed his arms over his chest, Robert was frowning, Joyce looked ready to cry, and Matt’s eyes were burning in a way that sent a shiver down Nico’s spine.

There is no handbook, and I found you so it doesn’t matter. What happened next?”

It wouldn’t surprise Nico if there was a handbook for what to do if kidnapped. “They dragged me into the warehouse.”

Matt interrupted by stating the address of the warehouse. Nico assumed for the sake of the recording since everyone already knew where Matt had gone to get him. He nodded for Nico to continue.

I don’t know. It was empty, had that chilly warehouse air, and the strip light over the door was flickering. There were no other lights on.”

David made a frustrated sound. “What did they do and say?”

Oh… Nico nodded. “The man with the gorgeous cheekbones and serial killer eyes pushed me onto a dirty plastic chair. A white one, the kind you see in cheap cafes. You know the ones? Ugly?”

Matt nodded. “I know the kind.”

David shook his head. “What kind of chair is irrelevant. Continue with the statement.”

When Matt growled, Nico enjoyed it, when David did, not so much.

Amber shook her head. “The man with the gorgeous cheekbones, have you seen him before?”

Eh… I don’t think so, but I’m terrible with people.” He believed he’d remembered the cheekbones, though. At least, if they’d talked.

Ethnicity? Tattoos? Anything standing out, a missing finger?”

A missing finger?” Nico gaped at Amber. “Are there many kidnappers with missing fingers?”

No, but you’d remembered if he had, right?” She grinned, which had David scoffing.

I don’t know. I wasn’t looking at his hands.” Nico tried to picture the man and shuddered. “I think he was white.”

You think?” David made an unimpressed face.

It was dark, his hair was short, his cheekbones high, his lips full, his eyes had a touch of serial killer to them, his skin fair.” Nico rubbed his forehead. “If I’d have to guess, I’d say he was Russian.”

Oh, now you even have a nationality?”

He scowled at David. “No, I said if I had to guess.”

Guys.” Amber shot David a glare. “Then what happened, Nico?”

Nico focused on her. “They slapped me around some, kept asking about where it was.”

Where what was?”

I have no idea. I told them I didn’t know. Over and over, I told them. Then they said they knew my uncle had moved it here, and that I have twenty-four hours to think it over.”

A suffocating silence spread throughout the room.

They’ll be back?” Joyce looked around, meeting everyone’s eyes before focusing on Nico. “They’ll come for you again?”

Nico shrank. “I don’t know… I guess… Maybe. But I don’t have an uncle living here.”