Tortured heroes are my vice of choice. Give them to me broken, feeling unworthy of love... then let me watch them rebuild their humanity. It's my favorite kind of story and one that is delivered in spades with Zero at the Bone.
D is an assassin with a code. He kills only those marks who he feels deserve it: murderers, rapists, scum of the earth. But Doctor Jack Francisco definitely does not fit the bill. Unfortunately, D is being blackmailed into taking the job anyway. He's all set to go through with it, but his conscious rears its head at the very last minute.
Jack is a good man who witnessed a terrible crime. He's now in witness protection until the time comes to testify. Things are fine, albeit boring in his "new life" --until D shows up at his apartment with a gun. Jack can tell the enigmatic hitman doesn't want to go through with the job. And when all is said and done... not only does D decide not to kill him, but he ends up making Jack's safety his personal responsibility. The two go on the run. But now not only is Jack's life in danger, the hit is out on D at well.
D is a shell of a man. He has had to turn off his humanity to get the job done. But a traumatic event hollowed him out even before that. He shuns human company. He hasn't even had sex in 10 years. That makes it all the more shocking when he realizes there is something between him and Jack. It starts out as a purely physical thing. But Jack slowly begins to break down his walls and it's such a fantastic thing to watch. Jack sees glimpses of the real D. Parts that the hitman thought long-dead within himself. And those parts begin coming to life again with Jack's love.
The sex is hot, and there is plenty of action, danger, and intrigue. But this story is really about how love heals a man who believed himself irredeemably damaged. And it happens in a way that made me believe in it utterly. I loved the ending, which left me satisfied but kept the door open to return to these characters.
It wasn't perfect. It was long and I felt like it was kind of drawn out in the last 1/3 or so of the book. And the very first sex scene bothered me with its logistical implausibility. But it was really a good book. Thanks to Mandi and Brie for the great recommendation. 4 1/2 stars.