Six years ago, Brian Harrison helped save the life of Jackie Vasquez, and he’s never really forgotten him. After the rescue, Brian ended his employment with Jackie's uncle Luki and left the US for England, aiming to distance himself from the confused feelings—not lust, but not brotherly—that then sixteen-year-old Jackie engendered. Now Jackie has become a man, and when they meet again by chance, lust with a dose of D/s rope kink is definitely on the list of possibilities. As they get to know each other, though, lust shows every sign of growing into love, deep and true.
When Jackie moves to London for graduate studies in criminal psychology, he and Brian hope they’ll be able to enjoy each other's frequent company. But they haven't factored in the claim Brian's police job with Scotland Yard will make on his time, especially when the “Gaslighter crimes” sap investigative resources. An abandoned aide dog named Soldier leads to a breakthrough clue, and a chain of discoveries fall like dominoes. As Brian rushes to beat the criminal’s game before it escalates to true terror, he comes to an undeniable conclusion: Jackie Vasquez, the man he loves, is in mortal danger.
BRIAN HARRISON had been living in London, England for the last five years, and he hadn’t been back in the States at all during the latter half of that time. As he drove a rented Sonata south on Interstate 5 through Seattle, he reflected on the similarities and differences between his home places. He hadn’t been born in Washington State, but had grown up in the Portland area, and the climate there wasn’t much different than Seattle. It rained, it stayed cloudy for weeks at a time, the wind blew, and damp cold could creep into a person’s bones on December days like this one. Not unlike London. Very much like Edmonds, a smaller city about twenty miles north of Seattle, where he’d spent Christmas Day with Kim, his mentor when he worked for Vasquez Security, and her growing family. The last time he’d seen them Ramona, Kim’s firstborn, had been only weeks old. Now she seemed half-grown, a little schoolgirl somehow both too polite and too lively to be contained.
Brian had enjoyed the day with them, and he slept well in Kim’s guest room overnight. But it had been a strange interlude for a single gay man, a lawman of sorts, whose homelife involved quiet nights and modest amounts of Scotch whiskey, and whose only intimate encounters involved rope or leather, sometimes both, and always required some man’s willing submission. Having arrived at Kim’s house after spending Christmas Eve and morning with his parents in Portland, Brian had started to feel by the time he’d merged onto the freeway on the twenty-sixth that he’d fallen into a surreal movie where nothing quite made sense, like Johnny Depp in Dead Man. Or maybe not quite that sinister, but disorienting nevertheless.
He hit the radio button and smiled when vintage blues flowed from the speakers. Appropriate, he thought. It seemed just the kind of music Luki Vasquez would listen to, or even absently sing along with in his raspy but admittedly sexy voice. Until that moment, Brian hadn’t realized how much he truly looked forward to seeing Luki at the end of the morning’s drive—and Sonny James too. Not so many years ago, Luki had been his hero, a teacher, an example showing him how to be the kind of man that stood between innocence and ill intent. Brian still looked up to him—knew he always would. And Sonny, well…. Sonny had strength of a whole different type, and he knew a bit about the world. Knew how to love, for sure. The two of them together, Luki and Sonny, formed the only marital unit Brian had ever envied.
He recalled Luki’s voice over the phone the previous evening, a chance conversation, really. Luki had called Kim to wish her well on Christmas, and Kim had passed Brian the phone with a grin. The genuine warmth in Luki’s voice surprised Brian, coming as it did from a man who could freeze the blood in a person’s veins with a single glance of his pale blue eyes.
“I don’t want to take away from your time with Kim,” Luki had said, “but if you can get down this way, we’d love to see you.”
Brian had planned to leave Kim’s in the morning regardless—her family had their own plans for the afternoon, but his flight didn’t leave from Sea-Tac until the wee hours of the next day. It would be a lot of driving to the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula, but doable, and Brian said so. “But,” he’d added, “aren’t you tired of company by now? I know you always have a crowd for the holidays.”
“Hell, no, Brian!” Luki had chuckled. “Truth is everybody’s tired of eating around here, and the house will be almost empty by tomorrow. But I’ve still got lots of food. I’ll feed you well—that’s a promise. Come on down.”
How could anyone refuse a famous Luki Vasquez feast, even one consisting of leftovers?
So Brian continued south until the junction with SR 16 west in Tacoma, and headed over the Hood Canal Bridge. He’d cross the slender Kitsap Peninsula, then take the Narrows Bridge across the sound to the Olympic Peninsula where Sonny’s house had, more than five years ago, become the Vasquez-James home. The sky hung low over the canal, drops materializing on Brian’s windshield as if the fog wept, and that triggered an uneasy memory—the one Brian had been avoiding since he’d first heard Luki’s voice the night before.
The memory of Jackie Vasquez.
When Brian had helped Luki find and rescue Jackie six years ago, the young man had been traumatized. He’d leaned into Brian—practically a stranger—for support, as if by instinct. Maybe because Brian, though young and fairly inexperienced at the time, had the dominant nature he now supposed he’d been born with, and Jackie had the makings of a born submissive. Whatever the reason Jackie turned to Brian, he hadn’t been conscious of it; that much was clear. Jackie had barely been aware at all. Tears had formed in his eyes just like the drops on the Sonata’s windshield, and then rolled down without a sound, as if the young man didn’t even know they were there.
Jackie had been the whole reason Brian had left Vasquez Security and fled to London for an education that would launch his career in British intelligence.
Six years earlier, Hawaii
FROM THE moment Brian saw Luki’s nephew, standing under the Hawaiian sun amongst the small crowd that had just witnessed Luki and Sonny’s wedding, he couldn’t bring himself to look away. He tried—glanced side to side to see who was watching, saw the look Sonny James gave him—a warning? The thing was, Jackie was a beautiful young man—no denying that—but how young? Brian thought he looked like no more than a teenager; he laughed like a very young person and seemed shy and sweet. But then, when Jackie turned and met Brian’s eyes, Brian would have sworn those eyes had seen centuries of pain, and with a sober look on his face, Jackie looked years older.
Not able to stop himself, Brian walked across the ancient, eroded lava that formed the ground on which Sonny and Luki had just said their vows, and held out his hand to the young man who had him confused—his emotions as well as his mind. He felt drawn, but what he felt wasn’t exactly the sexual pull he’d often felt when he spotted a likely partner. He didn’t understand the attraction, couldn’t put his mental finger on what it meant, but he couldn’t deny it either.
It was true, Brian admitted, Jackie’s unusual beauty was hard not to look at. His dark hair had a strong red cast, and his face was sprinkled with surprising dark freckles. His wide, almond-shaped gray eyes shone like polished silver. He would catch anyone’s eye.
“I’m Brian,” he said simply when he’d reached his destination directly in front of the young man.
“You work with my uncle Luki,” the young man said as he took the hand Brian offered and shook it briefly. “I’m Jackie Vasquez.” His manner seemed smooth, adult—until he giggled.
Brian saw Luki eyeing him from across the open space. That look was easy to figure: icy cold and calculating. Taking that as a heads-up, and the giggle as a clue, Brian realized his first impression was the right one—Jackie was young, jailbait if Brian’s intentions had been sexual. They weren’t—at least he didn’t think so—but it wouldn’t be wise to assume Luki knew that. And probably it wouldn’t be wise to test himself, either.
Brian casually stepped back a pace, widening the distance between them. “I’m glad to meet you,” he said, and then his search for a safe topic landed on the weather, as it so often does. “It’s a beautiful day, a beautiful place—and it was a beautiful wedding, wasn’t it?”
“Which is perfect,” Jackie said, smiling. “’Cause Luki and Sonny are beautiful together.”
Brian smiled back and made small talk for a couple of minutes, making certain he didn’t touch the young man again—that handshake had been electric, though in an odd way. Brian felt like the touch communicated a sense of fate, as if they had been destined to meet. Still, as young as Jackie was, Brian thought it would be best to avoid any miscues that might lead the young man or his uncles to get the wrong idea. As soon as he politely could, he took his leave, and until the newlyweds drove away and the gathering disbursed, he fought Jackie’s constant—undoubtedly innocent and unintentional—magnetism.
Probably, he thought, I’ll never get that boy and his gorgeous eyes out of my mind.
But after the reception, Brian went into Honolulu and found a club. Deliberately, he found a man who looked nothing at all like Jackie, and—though he was still new at the art of being a Dom, successfully coaxed the stranger’s submission until satisfaction rained down on them both.
Back in Seattle the next day, he dropped Kim—Luki’s number one agent and Brian’s direct supervisor—at her home, retreated to his own tiny apartment in Fremont, and picked up the afghan he was crocheting. He noticed that the silvery-gray yarn came close to matching Jackie’s unforgettable eyes.
I should forget I ever laid eyes on that boy, Brian thought, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to do that. Yet after giving it some thought, he realized that noticing Jackie’s remarkable looks and presence wasn’t the same as lust. He could and did forgive himself for appreciating beauty where he found it.
Nevertheless, Brian had done his best to keep his thoughts away from the young man. But those eyes, that thick, floppy, dark red hair, the giggle, dammit. Jackie remained an enigma—and perhaps that explained why he crept into Brian’s dreams no matter how insistently he barred him from his waking thoughts. The dreams seemed benign, though sometimes strange; Brian didn’t wake up feeling like a pedophile or some other monstrous kind of person. He understood that some connection had been forged instantly when he and Jackie met, although he had no way of knowing if Jackie felt its existence too. He still couldn’t begin to fathom the nature of that link. It wasn’t lust, wasn’t brotherly, and it couldn’t be friendship—they didn’t even know each other. Whatever the reason, though, Brian had seen Jackie so many times in his dreams he could count the dark freckles on his expressive face.
Kim had called him one night a couple of weeks after they’d returned from Hawaii and explained that, because she had just given birth to her darling baby, Ramona, he was going to have to fill her shoes on a job. That would mean working directly under Luki Vasquez—a man Brian virtually idolized. At first, getting the chance to get close to the boss so early in his own career with Vasquez Security had seemed like a golden opportunity. But short days later, when he learned that Jackie Vasquez had disappeared, the case became a grenade planted in Brian’s heart.
When he heard the words, “Jackie’s gone,” Brian knew he would stop at nothing to get Jackie safe. His strange attraction no longer mattered. His devotion to his job and admiration for his employer meant nothing. All that mattered was finding Jackie and rescuing him—before his life or his sanity got wasted. Even if he, Brian, would never see the young man again, he’d be able to live in peace knowing Jackie remained alive and in the world in every sense.
In the days that followed, Brian lived out each moment in a deep hell. Faith was his byword—not faith in someone or something, but faith in the outcome. They would find Jackie before it became too late to save him. He’d come through it okay. That insistent blind faith—and the knowledge that Luki Vasquez headed up the search—functioned as his arsenal against the doubt that claimed equal time, equal territory in his mind. With doubt came terrible fear, yet in the end they had prevailed, as Brian’s heart had known they would. They found Jackie in Titus Crane’s remote private prison on a hot summer day in the arid Umatilla.
Brian’s resolve to leave Jackie alone had not lessened. Though at times he still felt very young and inexperienced, at twenty-two Brian was a man in the eyes of the law. Even more important, his own code said a young man not yet seventeen, and traumatized to boot, was off-limits. He wouldn’t forsake that. He couldn’t, wouldn’t betray his own honor.
But immediately after they had brought Jackie out safe, when Jackie sought shelter from his own pain behind the shield of Brian’s strength, Brian had let him lean. Brian let himself shelter Jackie even though he saw the looks that Jackie’s brother Josh shot him from the other side of the room. Even though he knew Luki’s old uncle Kaholo was watching every touch. Brian could handle it—he could let Jackie need him and not entertain anything that resembled lust. It was like receiving submission without dominating, and it was innocent, perhaps even pure. And the need was brief.
Only hours after Jackie’s rescue, arrangements were made for him to go to a better medical facility, a place where he would receive the care he needed. Josh would stay by his side and Kaholo too, so he could “keep an eye out,” as he said.
Once Brian shook off the nonstop tension of the hunt for Jackie, he made a decision to keep things as kosher as they should be. He trusted himself not to pursue Jackie—and not even to lust for him—knowing he was both young and wounded. Still, he would avoid any chance for temptation to arise, and any chance that anyone, including Jackie, would misinterpret his interest.
He told Luki, “I love working for you, boss, but I just can’t anymore.”
He’d tried to tell Luki that his leaving was because of the very unpleasant feeling he’d endured when he’d believed he’d shot someone dead that very day. Luki acknowledged that as valid, but challenged, “But that’s not the only reason, is it?”
And it wasn’t. The job—this case—had been demanding, and Brian had learned as much about his own capabilities under fire as he had about Luki. In the final confrontation—a shootout—not only had Brian nearly killed, he’d nearly been killed himself. He had Luki to thank for his life, but in the final tally, Brian had contributed a lot to secure Jackie’s rescue. He’d proven himself a capable, if still inexperienced, agent.
Yet, by the time they’d found Jackie, rescued him from that sociopath, and delivered him to a doctor’s care, Brian had known beyond doubt his career at Luki’s agency had to end.
Unable to deny that Luki Vasquez saw straight through him, Brian had picked up Jackie’s case file. On top, Jackie smiled back at him from a photo, all freckles and youth, but even there his eyes were full of the ghosts of his many wounds, all the abuses levied against him in the space of so few years.
Jackie: a boy, yet a soul of a thousand years.
He’d turned the picture toward Luki and smiled. “He’s sixteen, boss. I told you, I thought at first, when I met him, he was older. I didn’t have my guard up, if you know what I mean. I’m twenty-two—and I’m in love with him.” Brian knew that wasn’t exactly true, but he had no other way to explain it. He shook his head, and stated the obvious.
“I can’t stay.”
Present Day, Olympic Peninsula, Washington State
BRIAN HAD stopped in Port Clifton for a couple of gifts for his hosts: a huge bouquet of red and white lilies accented with ferns, salal, and baby’s breath; a six-pack of Full Sail Amber Ale; a bottle of 2009 La Lagune, Haut-Médoc—a fine cabernet from France, the merchant said—and Batdorf and Bronson’s Sulawesi Toraja coffee, which the label promised to be earthy and sweet with hints of pineapple and black pepper. He hadn’t planned on so much, but he hadn’t been able to decide if Sonny would love the rich colors of the flowers more, or his favorite ale, or if Luki would get more pleasure out of the fine French wine or a special coffee. He knew it could be seen as an embarrassment of riches, so to speak, but he hoped his friends would understand.
As he approached the door, he faced the more immediate problem of how to knock while juggling it all, but he needn’t have worried. Sonny must have seen him stumbling from his car, and he swung the door wide just as he arrived.
“Come in,” he said, and calmly unburdened him, laying the presents carefully aside so he could wrap his long arms around Brian in an enthusiastic hug, which he obviously considered a proper greeting. He let go and backed away a step. “Good to see you!”
The wonderful thing about Sonny, Brian thought, was that he never would have said such a thing if he didn’t really mean it. Brian’s own smile grew, and he nodded. “You too,” he said. “I brought you flowers and beer.”
“Thank you!” Sonny laughed. “Such wisdom in one so young.”
“And coffee and wine for Luki,” Brian added, having no idea what else to say or why he was stating the obvious.
Luki strode up just then, apron clad, and chestnut curls—sprinkled now with silver, Brian noticed—in disarray. “Perfect,” he said. “What Sonny said—wisdom!”
Luki’s face seemed so familiar yet transformed somehow. He didn’t grin, but he smiled a little, and joy fairly danced in the pale eyes that most often used to seem so cold. Brian knew Luki had survived a nearly fatal bout with lung cancer—in remission less than a year—and he thought maybe that had given him some gift of contentment. But after Luki thanked him and gave him a quick hug, Brian saw his gaze settle on Sonny, and he recognized that the true source of Luki’s joy was his husband, and the love that had deepened through the years they’d spent together.
Distracted by the familiar wave of envy he always felt in the presence of this couple, wishing he could somehow express it, Brian missed much of what Sonny said as he followed them to the kitchen. He tried to marshal his attention back to the present, and caught Sonny saying he didn’t think he’d ever seen lilies so red. Brian nodded, and murmured agreement, but then he caught movement out of the corner of his eye.
He turned toward the motion, and there he stood: Jackie Vasquez. All grown up, and apparently fresh from a shower. December sun poured through a window at his left, and it lit the red in his hair, making it smolder despite being darkened with damp. Brian hadn’t noticed before that Jackie’s gray eyes were like a warmer version of Luki’s blue, very pale, and similar in size and shape. Perhaps it was a trait traceable to Luki’s father—Jackie’s grandfather. But there the similarity stopped. While Luki’s pale eyes shone in contrast to his brown skin, Jackie’s somehow harmonized with his general pale, dark-haired, dark-freckled coloring—though the effect seemed to Brian no less singular.
After a few seconds, Brian realized that while he had been standing analyzing the evidence of a common gene pool between the two remarkable-looking men, Jackie had actually been speaking to him.
“Jackie,” Brian said, then thought to add, “Um, it’s good to see you again.”
“You seem surprised.” Jackie absentmindedly scratched at the center of his chest, which was bare and still damp, and where fine russet hairs formed a diamond between healthy, smooth pecs that clearly belonged to a man. Nothing boyish remained in Jackie’s physique, though he still had what might be called a boyish smile, or youthful, at least.
“Yes,” Brian nodded. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. I had no idea you would be here.”
Luki spoke up. “We didn’t expect him to be here, Brian, or I would probably have mentioned it on the phone. He was supposed to fly out yesterday.”
“I got bumped,” Jackie explained, and shook his head, apparently unhappy with the airline. “So the uncles agreed to put up with me for another day, and Sonny said he’d drive me to the airport tonight.”
Brian felt a little tongue-tied, which wasn’t a familiar feeling at all. He nodded.
Jackie squinted and cocked his head to the side. “I mean it, though, Brian. I’m glad to have a chance to talk to you. I… I don’t remember things clearly from… but I know you did a lot, and I’ve always wanted to thank you in person.”
That shook Brian’s tongue loose, and he said, “Jackie, there is nothing at all for you to thank me for. I’m glad I was there and was some help. I’m grateful you came through okay.”
Brian saw color rise in the pale skin between the freckles of Jackie’s cheeks. Jackie bit his bottom lip—very reminiscent of his Uncle Luki—and then looked away. He glanced back, said, “Well, I’d better put clothes on… I mean, a shirt. You know.”
Brian heard Sonny giggling. A delightful and always unexpected sound.
“Hurry up, Jackie,” Luki said. “Food’s on the table.”
THE BRUNCH Luki had laid out overflowed the counter, where they filled their plates before carrying them back to the table—Brian’s piled high with things he had to taste right away—no way he could wait to try them on his second pass. Perfect eggs, some kind of coffee cake, tropical fruit, ham, roast pork, crispy fried rice, some kind of white roll that was just a tiny bit sweet and very soft, hot, dark coffee, juice, all the trimmings and fixings, and more.
“My God,” Brian said, staring at his plate and wondering exactly how to make a start. “I may never have to eat again, boss.”
Luki looked secretly pleased, but he didn’t smile. “You’ll have to, though. You’ll not be leaving before dinnertime, right?”
“Right,” Brian said, trying to look put upon. “My flight isn’t until 2:00 a.m., so I thought I’d leave around 10:00-ish. Should give me enough time.” Remembering Jackie had said something about Sonny driving him to the airport, he turned to the young man and asked, “What time is your flight?”
Jackie nodded and raised his eyebrows until he’d chewed his last bit enough to swallow it, then said, “Right around the same time. I think 2:25, or close. Maybe I can catch a ride with you, and save Sonny the trip?”
The idea made Brian inexplicably a little nervous, but he’d been trying to decide whether to offer and was glad he didn’t have to. “Yes! No sense going the same place at the same time in two cars. I’ll be happy to have company on the drive, too.”
Jackie flashed him a smile, which certainly seemed genuine, and quickly looked down—demure in a way that lit a low burn in Brian. Taking a deep, cool breath, Brian turned his attention back to his food, and focused for the rest of the meal on the conversation, much of which consisted of him answering questions from Luki and Sonny.
“So you’ve started working for Scotland Yard,” Luki said. “Kind of exciting?”
“Yeah….” Brian hesitated but decided to be honest. “No, not to speak of. I’m not police staff at the moment, in the office searching databases, comparing profiles to unsolved cases, digging for history on persons of interest, stuff like that. Pretty tedious. But every once in a while I get to accompany officers to a location and work outside, and I’m hoping to be an officer soon. In October I met the five-year-residency mark, and was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK. I’ve applied, passed all the initial tests and requirements, and am on a list for hire.”
“Excellent. And I’m sure you’re really good at what you do with the computers, but if you ever need a reference for a field job, you know I’ll be happy to give it.”
Brian chuckled and answered with a smile. “Reality is, I’ll probably still be knee-deep in data searches as an officer, but at least there’s potential. Anyway thanks, Luki. I’m counting on your generosity on that reference.”
To his surprise—and apparently everyone else’s, judging from reactions around the table—Jackie piped up and objected, turning cherry red with either vehemence or embarrassment. “Why would he have to be generous? You’re a fabulous agent! You saved my life… or helped. A lot.”
Brian’s jaw dropped. He hadn’t expected to see any kind of emotion from Jackie, but especially not over this. And he hadn’t expected to find his emotional excitement sexy. And he found it confusing, anyway. He almost asked, I thought you didn’t remember anything, but never got a word out before Luki smoothed things over.
“Jackie’s read all the case file, all my notes, all the police reports. Part of his therapy, once he’d recovered a bit. And he’s asked Kaholo a lot of questions, and drilled me like a professional interrogator.”
Brian saw Luki turn and give Jackie a wink, which was typical of the older man’s kindness and clearly eased Jackie’s tension. In turn, Brian found himself able to breathe easier and smile at the quip.
“So, he knows all about your very capable comportment on the job, Brian,” Luki concluded. “And he’s right, no need for me to be generous.”
“Comportment?” Sonny said.
“Yes,” Luki said, almost but not quite smiling. “Comportment. I went to college.” He leaned sideways and smacked a kiss on Sonny’s ear, making Sonny giggle, and Brian understood that the exchange continued some well-used private joke. He glanced at Jackie, and noticed the young man gazing at the two of them in a way that seemed wistful. Which matched, inexplicably, the way Brian felt.
He couldn’t explain why seeing Luki and Sonny so in love, still, even more than ever after all the time they’d been together, affected him the way it did. He hadn’t ruled out that someday he might find love, find a man he wanted to have around for a good long while, if not a lifetime, but he didn’t seek such a thing, didn’t feel lonely in his life, didn’t pine for that somebody to turn up anytime soon.
As if reading his thoughts, Sonny asked, far too casually, “So that’s work, Brian. What about other stuff. Is there someone special in your life these days?”
“Me?” Brian asked in fake surprise. “No. I don’t have a boyfriend or anything like that.” Then, in an effort at levity, he raised his brows and added, “I have a club, though.”
He garnered weak smiles in return but no laughs, and he fell silent with everyone else. They all seemed to be concentrating on their food for the moment, Luki and Sonny quite comfortably, Brian a little self-consciously, and Jackie noticeably blushing again.
After a minute, Luki asked, “More coffee, Brian?”
“Yes,” Brian said, “but let me get it. You don’t have to wait on me.” He got up and walked around the table, filling Luki’s coffee, then Sonny’s, and then Jackie’s. He found it hard not to put his free hand on Jackie’s shoulder, and oddly he didn’t think Jackie would mind, but he made it a point never to take uninvited liberties, so he restrained himself, only retuning the younger man’s offered smile.
Their meal finished, they all bussed dishes, then Brian helped Sonny stow leftovers.
“Don’t think I don’t see what’s going on,” Sonny said, with no preamble.
Brian actually felt himself start to blush, but he clamped down on his emotions and played it cool. He hoped. “What?”
“He’s a wonderful guy. And he’s all grown-up, now.”
Brian said nothing, wrestling with some unruly plastic wrap more viciously than necessary.
“Jackie, I mean,” Sonny clarified, though he obviously was aware Brian knew.
After stowing the covered dish in the fridge, Brian stepped back, put his hands in his pockets, and decided not to even try to be coy. “I know, Sonny. And you’re right—I can’t help but be conscious of him when I’m in the same room. It’s the same feeling I had when we first met, that we have some connection we don’t know about. Only now, he’s obviously… an adult. So there’s another… dimension to it. I… I don’t know,” he finished, aware that it sounded lame.
“I don’t know, either, Brian,” Sonny said, wearing an easygoing, practical look that Brian recognized. “But that’s just it. You never know. I know you have your club, and that meets your needs for now. But maybe keep an open mind?”
Brian worked up the nerve to ask his question—one he really needed the answer to, but was afraid of what it might be. “Um. Well, Sonny. My kink.”
When Brian paused, Sonny inserted, “Yes, control. Domination. On the lighter side, though, if I’m not mistaken. Ropes, maybe?”
Brian chuckled. “Damn, Sonny! How do you do that? Yes, that’s it exactly.”
“And you’re worried.”
“Yeah!” Brian huffed out a somewhat frustrated breath. “I mean, I know Jackie… I remember what he wrote in his e-mails, and things. And…. Well, frankly, I have enough experience to know a sub when I see one, usually. But….” He stopped, trying to compose his thoughts, so he could speak them clearly. “He’s been hurt, right?”
He waited, but this time Sonny didn’t rescue him from the need to express himself, only glanced at him, gave him a quick nod, then returned to wiping down the counter.
Brian sighed, then struck out into dangerous territory. “He interests me, and honestly I think I interest him. But I’m afraid that if we were to get together, it wouldn’t be good for him—he might be hurt. I don’t want to be part of that.”
“I’m glad to hear that, Brian.” Sonny hung up the dishtowel, then leaned back on the counter. “But not surprised. You’re a good man, I think. Do you want advice?”
“Please,” Brian answered.
Sonny scratched at his chin thoughtfully. “I’m not really in the habit of giving it, but okay. First, don’t put the cart before the horse. Foresight is good, but why worry about something that doesn’t quite look to be happening yet?”
“Right,” Brian said, feeling a bit foolish.
“There’s no reason to feel foolish—it’s good that you care enough to think about these things. I’ll give you a little information: Jackie has come a long way since sixteen. He’s worked very hard to understand himself and put the things that happened to him in some kind of context. He’s strong and bright, and yes—adult. Anything more is for him to tell you, if he wants. So I suggest you talk to him, and maybe listen to him. If something develops between you, trust him to know what he wants, and trust yourself, too.”
Brian smiled. “Thanks,” he said quietly, because he knew what Sonny said was not only right, but should have been obvious.
Sonny slapped him on the shoulder in a friendly manner, and said, “I hear Luki calling the dog for his walk. We should all go, get outside while it’s not raining.”
BY THE time they’d been outside fifteen minutes, Brian thought his nose was going to freeze. Despite the lack of rain, the wind off the straits was bitter cold and cut right through every layer he wore, including the heavy quilted jacket Sonny tossed at him on the way out the door. It seemed everybody else, humans and dog alike, were used to it, or possibly were hardier than Brian, so he tried to maintain. Finally, though, he decided to bear the shame.
“I’m freezing,” he shouted over the wind, shivering so hard he stuttered. “G-g-going back inside!”
To his surprise, Jackie—who hadn’t seemed cold at all, said, “I’ll come with you.”
They trotted back together, and Brian held the door for Jackie and followed him in. He headed for the fire. Jackie headed for the coffee pot, and came back with two steaming mugs.
“Cream, no sugar,” he said. “Right?”
“Yes, perfect. Thanks.” Brian realized that meant Jackie had paid close enough attention at breakfast to have learned how he liked his coffee. And apparently, he’d also taken an interest in his chatter about work, though he’d said nothing at the time.
As they sat down in chairs on either side of the fireplace, which, with a glass-faced insert, cast a great deal of heat, Jackie asked, “So you said you work with profiles—do you meet with the profilers at all?”
“Uh, yeah. Not as routine. I’m a criminologist, they’re psychologists. Occasionally the twain do meet.” Brian knew some people had a romantic idea of profilers, but he somehow didn’t see Jackie as likely to be one of those people. “Why do you ask?”
“Forensic psychology,” Jackie said. “That’s my field of study. I’ll graduate with a BA this spring, then on to graduate school. I’ve considered several areas, but I’m most interested in profiling work.”
“Oh! I had no idea you were interested in the field at all.” Brian hesitated to ask the question that came to mind, but decided it would either be a start on honest discourse between them, or else reveal limitations—even if he didn’t want to see them. So he took the chance. “Do you mind if I ask how you chose that major?”
“No, I don’t mind. I’d like you to know in fact.” Jackie seemed very confident, very plainspoken. It surprised Brian a bit, but pleased him. “You know a bit about my past,” Jackie went on, “and you’re probably guessing that may have led me in this direction. If so, you’re right.” He stopped to shine a heart-stopping grin Brian’s way, chuckled, then continued. “I spent years in therapy. I worked hard at it, and somewhere along the way I became convinced that the more I understood about how a mind like my father’s or Titus Crane’s or even Marcone’s works, the better my perspective would be. I won’t mince words, I’m pretty smart, so I learned a lot, and it did help. I discovered I liked the field of psychology, but I don’t think I’ll do well, myself, if I’m trying to treat people. Forensics just seemed perfect.”
It seemed amazing how not shy Jackie seemed when he spoke in his element. It transformed him, somehow, though it didn’t detract from the beautiful understated quality of the young man’s personality—which was the cornerstone of Brian’s attraction to him. That’s what he was marveling about inside as he sipped his coffee. “So why profiling in particular?”
Jackie seemed to be giving the answer serious thought, so Brian waited. Finally, Jackie spoke up. “The field has a lot of aspects that interest me, also the prospects for employment are pretty fair, these days. But the thing I think I’ll most enjoy is that it’s always new—no two minds are alike. Every profile will be a brand-new puzzle. You see?”
For no reason Brian could put his finger on, that response delighted him. He’d known Jackie had depths that would surprise anyone who happened to gain access, but he’d never expected this focused mind and self-awareness—and especially this willingness to share what he discovered about himself.
For the first time, Brian began to realize that whatever the nature of the pull he’d first felt from Jackie, and over and above the sheer sexiness of the young man Jackie had become, Jackie’s submission, should he ever be willing to give it, would be a most singular gift.
JACKIE VASQUEZ knew he struck people as an enigma. In fact, he recognized the trait in himself. How exactly does one explain or categorize a man who’d lived through several nightmares before the age of seventeen, yet counted himself as one of the luckiest people on earth? A young man still, who had experienced things in life beyond the most horrific dreams of some old men? A man who had once been a jumble of confusion and even self-hatred, who now knew himself thoroughly, affirmed himself as the person he was born to be—unaltered at the soul?
Talking with Brian, he saw doubt, worry, and caution give way to interest, perhaps even some sort of admiration. He’d seen the change before, but he’d never met anyone on whom interest looked so becoming. Although Jackie didn’t remember their previous encounter much, he did remember how he felt about Brian afterward, when he’d recovered enough to explore his feelings. Or perhaps, not so much how he’d felt about Brian, but about Brian’s presence. The man stood like a rock in his memory, in silhouette and shadow, but solid and safe and capable, so Jackie had no trouble believing he’d clung to him in the aftermath of terror. Maybe if Luki had been around, Jackie would have turned to his uncle instinctively instead, but Luki’s injury had kept them apart. While he’d been grateful for the others—Sonny and Kaholo and especially his brother Josh—he’d treated Brian as a natural harbor.
Now, Jackie saw with a few more years and life experience behind him, and judged Brian to be unchanged, still the rock in the tide, but perhaps even stronger, his foothold deeper and more secure.
“So, anyway, Brian,” he said, ending a not uncomfortable lull in the conversation. “I’m looking forward to the ride to airport. I want to hear more about your work, and London, and whatever. But,” he gestured toward the window, “here comes Sonny and Luki and Bear. I’ll get more coffee on.”
He rose, but before he turned toward the kitchen, he faced Brian and leaned forward, kissed his cheek swiftly and softly. He intended to step away, but Brian caught first one of his hands, and then the other, and held them both in one hand.
“Jackie, thank you for that. But what I’d like even more is if you were to kiss me—” Brian lifted the index finger of his free hand and touched his own lips. “—just here. Will you?”
“Yes,” Jackie whispered, and without any conscious decision to do so, added, “Yes, sir.” He leaned forward and touched his open lips to Brian’s, found them soft when he added a bit of pressure, and sent his tongue darting just inside for a taste. They broke the kiss together, but as it ended, Brian sucked and then nipped at Jackie’s bottom lip.
Brian smiled, and after he let go of Jackie’s hand, stroked once over Jackie’s shoulder and arm—a comforting touch, Jackie thought. “Thank you, Jackie,” Brian said, his eyes sparking with something like mischief. “That was lovely.”
I received a copy of A Shot of J&B by Lou Sylvre recently and wound up liking it so much more than I expected! It turns out that Jackie and Bryan are perfectly suited for each other. Jackie with his horrific past needs a strong man and Bryan is just the perfect mix of strong and caring to fit the bill. Bryan likewise needs someone just for him and Jackie is happy to oblige. Bryan finds his work for Scotland Yard consuming most of his time and rarely sees Jackie, even though he is in graduate school in London. The two worlds come crashing together in a way that threatens Jackie yet again, but of course Brian saves the day. I loved the way Lou took a potentially sad animal situation and turned it into something positive and happy. My only caveat would be it might be helpful to have read the books in the Vasquez and James series, as this is the next generation of Vasquez Security.
I've tried to finish this book, it just fails to maintain my attention. I bought this Mar 2015. I'm determined to finish before 03/2016. I've read all the books by this author and found them to be well done. I've looked forward to Jackie andBrians story but found this one dull.
This is a spinoff of the popular Vasquez security series. A Shot of J&B takes up after book 3. You do not have to have read any of the previous books to enjoy this at all. I will say I am one of the few that hasn’t read the others ( but I will as soon as time permits… even more so now that I had a taste) If you don’t like spoilers and want to read the other books I think you should do so before reading this book. I on the other hand love a bit of spoiler it just makes me want the other book more.
I love the title A Shot of J&B and love when titles are worked into books. This one is spot on! I love the double entendre and how that too is carried on throughout the story. This story has a little of everything from sexy men, new love, new jobs, bondage, D’s, and even some mystery and suspense. You would think this would be too much but it’s a perfect mix of it all and some hot man-sex as well.
So if you are like mystery and suspense, BDSM, new adult, hot sex, or romance…here ya go…all rolled into one!
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