Release Date February 2011
Cover Artist Deana C. Jamroz
Jack Torres has been harboring, zealously nurturing a hidden guilt for three
years. This mire of emotions has hardened his heart and his want to reconnect to
the living world, keeping him isolated and unapproachable.
Brant Teller is a chance encounter Jack keeps from growing physically violent
in a crowded nightclub. Parting ways, Brant doesn't expect to see the brooding,
silent officer again. Yet when a domestic violence call brings the surly officer
right to his ER, Brant takes a chance. What begins as a Sunday of football has
the possibility to become so much more. If Jack will open himself up enough to
release the agony of his own personal nightmare.
Jack followed the gyrating mob of bodies on the dance floor, idly rolling the glass on the table between his fingers in utter indifference, feeling the ice tap at the glass more than hearing it. Some of the crowd was in skintight leather, others in denim or silk. All were men. None appealed to Jack. He hadn’t danced with one, not that many hadn’t asked or plied their way into a hello with a drink. It didn’t matter in the least to him. He wasn’t there to cruise or to be picked up.
He should have been having a good time. He wasn’t.
Thumping bass music vibrated the floor, the plastic seat under his ass, even the air with the lights swinging and sparking to the rhythm. The blaring cacophony was enough to give a person epilepsy. His cousin, Trevi, had dragged him to Slick’s, and he really wished he hadn’t. Turning thirty was total bullshit in his book. Especially when doing it alone.
Hell, Trevi was having a better time than Jack was, dancing, uncaring that his partners were men. His cousin was a party animal. He could find a pack of hyenas and have a good time. He’d kept an eye on his younger cousin, but figured if he wanted to play in this pool for whatever the bounty, then he’d better be prepared to pay at the door. So far, Trevi had managed to avoid any real issues, and Jack was losing interest in keeping tabs on him. Might be why he hadn’t been back to the table in a dog’s age. Maybe Trevi had figured it all out. Maybe. He wasn’t holding his breath.
Jack lifted his glass to slurp down the latest concoction that had been set before him. He hadn’t had to order one drink yet. He’d lost count, and had quit bothering to thank the sharks swimming in ever-tightening circles for their largesse. If they wanted to toss drinks his way, let them. He didn’t have to work for another three days. Jack could get wasted in a swan dive of FUBAR proportions. And he was certainly considering doing just that.
“Damn it, Ryan. I said leave me alone.” Someone jostled his chair, but he ignored the bickering couple.
“But, babe, it was a one-time deal.”
Petulant whining. Yeah, that’s a real man there, folks.
A body slammed into Jack, splashing his drink over his hand. He set it down and stood. Probably something he shouldn’t have done since he was half-lit like a Christmas tree, but no one started shit around him.
At six-three he wasn’t huge—there were bigger men in all ways than him. But woe be to the one who dared to meet and keep his gaze.
“What’s the deal?” His voice was low, yet still easily heard over the pounding of the music.
“None of your business.”
Jack assumed the belligerent ass was Ryan, his counterpart, as of yet, unnamed.
He stared the dickhead square in the eye. “It becomes my business when you start getting physical.”
The man who had obviously been determined to end whatever was going on took Jack by surprise. He wasn’t some little twink, but a specimen of gorgeousness in a dark blue, skin tight t-shirt and ass-hugging denim. And was apparently the one who had plowed into Jack. It was more likely he’d been shoved, taking in their faces.
“Brant, seriously. He didn’t mean shit.”
“Obviously, neither did I if you let him do you.”
“You were late!”
“Don’t fucking pin it on me. You shouldn’t have let the ass suck you off!”
Jack had heard enough and was sure he didn’t need to know more. He was ready to avoid a lover’s spat, but that was when Ryan went a little too far. Thrusting a hand out, he wrapped unforgiving fingers around Brant’s throat, yanking him bodily forward. He wasn’t a lot taller than Brant, but did outweigh him with muscle that looked gifted by barbell.
Ryan gave Jack a smug look. “Sorry for disturbing you.”
Brant growled. “Let me go, you asshole.”
“Sorry. Can’t hear you.” Ryan began to step away, as though this was nothing unusual between the two. But by the flare of anger in Brant’s eyes, it was.
Jack heard his request clearly. He reached into his back pocket, aware Ryan had already dismissed him. Opening his bi-fold in clear view, he calmly but clearly ordered, “Let the man go, Ryan.” The flicker of his badge was unmistakable in the shimmer of the glittering lights.
A small gathering had quieted to watch the drama, but the club patrons were mostly oblivious. For that, Jack was grateful. He wasn’t on the clock and he was halfway to drunk. Just what he needed going on a report.
Slowly, Ryan’s fingers flexed, as he stood nearly eye–to-eye with Jack. Brant was right at six feet at a guess, and sleek as a leopard. Sinewy strength that, at the moment, was held frozen as Ryan debated pushing harder for domination.
Seconds crawled by until he relinquished Brant’s throat. He lifted a snarled lip at Jack, a “this round” silent challenge in his expression. Stepping away, he spun and disappeared into the crowd. Jack waved his hand. “Go,” he mouthed, and like a gun had been shot, the crowd vanished.
Jack slid into his chair, scouring the crowd for Trevi. He was done. Ready to get his ass home and in bed.
“Thank you.” Brant stood at his shoulder.
“Don’t mention it.”
“I don’t want to impose, but can I sit for a minute?”
Jack raised his gaze and noted the other man still looked shaken. “Sure.” He motioned to a chair at his side. “Is he like that all the time?” he asked, once Brant was seated and breathing calmly.
Brant shrugged, leaning on his elbows on the table, avoiding the slopped over liquor of Jack’s drink. “Not sure. We only dated a few weeks.” At least it was clear Brant had no intention of continuing with the jackass.
Glancing at him, Jack had the oddest notion he knew this man. Probably from the too many “whatevers” he’d had to drink. A fresh something slid onto the table, the waiter motioning across the room.
Lifting his eyes, Jack spotted the gift giver; a decent-looking businessman with steel rim glasses and a cute smile. He dipped his head in thanks, but didn’t touch it. “Fuck.”
“Tell me to kiss off if you want, but who pissed in your Cheerios?”
Jack snorted. “Here.” He offered Brant the fresh drink. “Enjoy.” He stood from his seat. “If another black haired mongrel that looks like me shows up, tell him I went home.”
“What’s your name?” Brant asked quickly, green eyes expectantly focused on him.
“And the mongrel?” Brant asked with a light grin.
“My cousin, Trevi.”
“I can do that. And thanks, Jack.”
“No problem.” He gave Brant a final once-over, stumped at the sense of recognition and knowing he was too drunk to really put it together. He walked outside to the cool autumn breeze, inhaling deep to help clear the alcohol fumes in his head. His ears were practically ringing from the insane volume inside. Taking his time, he walked to the side of the building, ready to find a cab.