Deserted is the third book in the Auctioned Series, following book 1, Auctioned, and book 2, Stranded.
Gray Nolan had survived a kidnapping where he was supposed to have been auctioned off to the highest bidder. He had also survived being stranded on an island, under siege from a different set of foes, and throughout the hell they’d all endured, their motto had been “Leave no man behind.”
Recovery was different. Gray wanted to be left alone to fight his demons—and to get over the attachment he’d formed for the man who’d saved him more than once. But in a time when darkness threatened to consume him, salvation arrived as he set out to uphold the promise he’d made to a friend. Eight-year-old Jayden stormed into his life, fresh off the streets of Philadelphia, and lit up Gray’s bleak existence.
Darius Quinn had known that Gray was going to close himself in and run away after everything they’d been through. But he was determined to follow and watch over the young man who should have been just a paycheck. Something about Gray prevented Darius from staying in his preferred role of passive observer, and he couldn’t let Gray carry out his last commitment alone.
What started out as a cross-country road trip to guide them home to Washington was quickly turning into a journey with a destination that scared the life out of Darius. He’d never wanted that kind of future before, and now he was gearing up to fight for it.
Gray whipped around toward the entrance of the church and the source of the loud, unmistakably young voice. Could that be Jayden? Hell, it had to be. Those pale brown eyes haunted Gray every night.
The boy stalked down the aisle, aiming for Father O’Malley, and shrugged and smirked when the priest reminded him to keep his voice down in the church. Father O’Malley was amused, and he ruffled the boy’s shaggy hair.
Gray’s heart pounded when he observed the kid. It was Jayden. He had no doubt. Little things came back to him, insignificant mannerisms he hadn’t paid attention to before, but now it was so clear. He remembered how Jonas’s forehead creased and how he’d scratch his shoulder when he was working something out in his head. Jayden was doing the same thing right now. Whatever Father O’Malley said to him made the boy quiet down and think hard.
How did Jayden survive on his own? Gray found himself with a pile of questions that built up quickly. Or rather, the urgency to have them answered increased. Philadelphia couldn’t be an easy city to live in. For chrissakes, the kid was eight.
Gray had avoided one follow-up question for days, though now he couldn’t hold it back any longer. He had to face the reality and come up with a plan to actually help the boy. He did have a place in mind, but what if Jayden didn’t agree? To him, Gray was a complete stranger.
So…what happened next?
Jayden seemed fidgety and restless, and he nodded jerkily when Father O’Malley said something and gestured toward Gray.
Shit. This was it. He was gonna have to tell this little boy he’d lost his only family member.
Gray swallowed hard, struck by a wall of sadness. Jonas was supposed to be here, goddammit. The rage followed so easily. Imagine. Fucking hell. Surviving a whole year with that organization, then getting away, and just when you were granted a taste of freedom…
Jayden walked over to Gray with rapid steps, and he unzipped his coat halfway and pulled off his scarf.
Holy shit, he really looked like his brother. Gray catalogued the traits and couldn’t tear his gaze away. The eyes were the same. More than shape and color; Jayden’s eyes had seen too much too. His face had a bit more roundness to it than Jonas’s had had, but Jayden still had a hint of hardness to his features. His jaw was set, his eyes missed nothing, his shoulders were stiff, and he was white-knuckling that scarf in his hand.
Jayden reached Gray and didn’t hesitate to slump down next to him. “Jonas is dead, right?”
Gray cleared his throat, his mind racing to sort his jumbled thoughts. There was no protocol for this kind of thing. Well, there probably was for professionals.
“Yes. I’m sorry,” Gray said quietly.
“Fuck,” Jayden whispered. He nodded once and looked away. Gray heard him sniffle. “I knew it.” Then he growled and kicked the pew in front of them, eliciting a thump that flew through the church. “I knew he was dead.”
“Jayden—” Gray’s heart broke for the kid, and he carefully put a hand on Jayden’s shoulder. “He talked about you a lot. He tried his hardest to come back to you. It was all he wanted.”
Jayden’s chin wrinkled, and he visibly struggled to contain his emotions.
Wait…this was supposed to be about me, not my writing.
I'm a writey person who loves to write. Always wanderlusting, twitterpating, kinking, and geeking. There's time for hockey and cupcakes, too. But mostly, I just love to write.