Chapter One

 

EVEN IN the air-conditioned interior of Adam’s sprawling desert estate, the Las Vegas sun was oppressive. Late afternoon rays slanted through the blinds. They fell in even bands across the dove gray leather of the sofa, heating his bare skin.

He’d made the right decision to forgo anything more than boxer briefs for his Sunday laze.

When the doorbell echoed through the two-story, open-concept living space, he frowned. Pushing to an elbow, he shut off the Raiders game. The chime sounded again, this time ringing out three times in quick succession. He chuckled. Only one person pounded on his bell with such ferocious impatience.

Kyle Bryant, his manager and longtime friend.

After bouncing to his feet, Adam hustled to the front door and threw it open. The grin splitting his face sank into a scowl. Kyle wasn’t alone.

Shorter than Adam’s six-foot-three-inch height by a solid half foot, Kyle was still taller than the man beside him, who couldn’t be more than five and a half feet tall and a buck-thirty soaking wet.

“You forgot, didn’t you?” Kyle rolled his eyes, gave Adam’s shoulder a shove, then barreled through the door. “If I go out of my way to play errand boy, the least you can do is make a note somewhere. Put a stickie on your goddamn mirror. Something.”

Adam squinted an eye and glanced from Kyle, who’d made his way into the kitchen and had his ass in the air as he rummaged through the refrigerator, to the man still standing on his front porch. What had he forgotten? It was Sunday. His one day of semirest. Why would he agree to whatever the hell this was?

A pink flush colored the new guy’s cheeks as he shifted from one foot to the other. Gorgeous green eyes bugged behind a pair of vintage browline glasses. He clutched an overstuffed duffel bag against his chest, and a large suitcase sat at his feet.

It was the luggage that finally flipped Adam’s mental switch. Kyle had mentioned something earlier in the week about receiving a recommendation for someone to take over as his new personal assistant. He’d been without a PA for a couple of weeks now, after his last one got engaged and fled Sin City in favor of finding a place better suited to raising a family. Hiring a new one hadn’t topped Adam’s priority list—mostly because few things did unless they were related to his training—but Kyle didn’t favor letting the position sit vacant for long.

Admittedly, Adam was forgetful on a good day and downright obtuse on his worst. Without someone else in his life to keep his schedule and maintain the bare necessities of his existence, he became an albatross around Kyle’s neck. Which explained the luggage-wielding stranger on Adam’s porch.

To save his own sanity, Kyle had taken it upon himself to locate and hire a replacement. Adam had declined any interest in the selection or interview process. He trusted Kyle’s instincts, and if Kyle deemed this awkward young man worthy enough to keep his ass in line, he would too.

Kyle resurfaced with a Styrofoam to-go box in one hand and a beer in the other. “Aren’t you gonna invite the kid in? Or do you plan to make him stand in the hundred-and-ten-degree heat until he passes out on your front stoop?”

Adam narrowed his eyes. “That’s my dinner. Why don’t you put it back where you found it before I have reason to make you?”

“Threatening the defenseless old man in charge of your career is hardly a wise move.” Kyle headed for the living room to eat his prize, rather than the kitchen to put it away. “Let the kid in and close the damn door. My balls are sweating.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” Adam pinched his brow. “My career’s over, anyway.”

Which was true. Mostly. He had a fight coming up to defend his middleweight title. If he lost, that was it. Thirty-eight was near geriatric in the world of mixed martial arts, after all. Retirement was a logical next step. The only problem was, he had no clue what to do with his life if he quit fighting.

He rolled his shoulders. Now wasn’t the time to worry about that. He’d worry when he lost, which he had no intention of doing. Not yet, at least. He turned his attention to his new personal assistant and gestured toward the bag at his feet. “Need help with that?”

“Ah, no, I’ve got it, but thanks.” The man’s voice broke midsentence, and if possible, his cheeks flared a deeper crimson. He ducked his chin, lifted his mammoth suitcase, and scurried over the threshold.

Adam suppressed a sigh and closed the door. He was used to people’s fear. It was part of the package. Early in his career, following a brutal welterweight title fight where he’d KO’d the previous champ in the first thirty seconds of round one, he’d received a nickname—the Beast. Although it didn’t suit his true personality, he’d bent to the expectations it demanded and adopted a public persona befitting the name.

Hoping to ease the man’s apprehension, he offered a soft smile and stuck out his hand. “Since Kyle’s too busy eating my dinner to introduce us, we’ll have to handle the deed ourselves. Name’s Adam. What’s yours?”

The guy dropped his suitcase with a thud, winced, then took Adam’s proffered hand with a small, clammy palm. “Beauregard Wilkins, Mr., ah, Mr. Beast, sir.”

Stifling a laugh to conserve the poor man’s dignity, Adam widened his grin instead. “Just Adam. No ‘Beast’ among friends and definitely no ‘Mr.’” He folded his arms. The act reminded him of his shirtless, pantsless state. Perhaps the excessive blushing was less about dread and more about unease. Meeting your new boss in his underwear would be a tad uncomfortable, after all. “So, Beauregard, eh? Haven’t heard that one in a while.”

“Ah, actually, I prefer Bo.” The tips of Bo’s ears pinked. “If that’s okay, sir.”

Adam held up both hands. “Hey, it’s your name, kid. I’ll call you whatever you want me to call you, as long as you quit saying ‘sir.’ I may be at least two decades your senior, but I prefer not to be reminded of my old age within the comfort of my own home.”

Bo swallowed, the bobbing lump at his throat belying his attempt at a calm, collected appearance. “It’s not two decades, and I’m not a kid. I’m twenty-five.” A hint of emotion, bordering on anger—or at the very least, frustration—flickered to life in his eyes. “I won’t call you ‘sir’ if you don’t call me ‘kid.’”

The set of Bo’s jaw and sureness of his words warred with the quiver in his voice. But damn if the contradiction of it all didn’t send an unexpected zing of lust straight into Adam’s groin. Especially with that hint of underlying courage and control despite his apparent nerves.

Nope. Not happening. Hooking up with an employee was never a good idea. Plus, Adam didn’t do serious or long-term. He did short flings and one-night stands, neither of which would be advisable with someone he’d have to live with afterward. Literally live with. In the same house.

It didn’t matter how adorable Bo was when he got grumpy or how much his lean frame and glasses totally did it for Adam. He was off-limits. A hard no.

Clearing his throat, Adam gave a curt nod and hid his smile. “Seems like a fair trade and a reasonable request.” He nearly lost it when Bo arched a brow in response. The zing in his balls turned molten, and his dick twitched. Clothes needed to be bumped up the priority list. “Want me to show you where you’ll be staying?”

“Yes, please.”

Adam motioned toward the luggage at Bo’s feet. “You sure I can’t grab a bag?”

“No.” Bo shook his head. He snatched up the suitcase, which was nearly the same size as him, and straightened his shoulders. “I’ve got it.”

“Fair enough.” Adam gestured Bo forward. “After you.”

When Bo hobbled toward the stairs with his burdens, Adam coughed to hide a chuckle. Damn, this man was dangerous. He was adorkable in all the best ways. Pretty much Adam’s catnip in walking, talking form.

A low groan slipped past Adam’s lips when he mounted the stairs after Bo. Staring him straight in the face was one of the most delicious asses he’d ever seen. It was like someone had hand-picked Bo from a catalogue with all Adam’s major weaknesses in mind.

Glasses. Slender but fit. Shy and awkward but with a spark of underlying fire. And that butt. Oh my God. Nothing quite got him like a nice round ass on an otherwise slim frame. The only thing missing was a passion for books.

Then again, if the beads of sweat breaking out on Bo’s brow spoke anything to the weight of the suitcase he lugged behind him, there was a good chance it held more than clothes.

Deep, rumbling laughter sounded from the living room. Adam tore his attention from the eye-level temptation and narrowed his gaze.

Kyle winked and threw a finger gun Adam’s direction when their eyes locked.

That bastard.

It appeared someone had hand-picked Bo for him. Someone who, despite being his manager of all things, couldn’t grasp the concept behind Adam’s refusal to date. Relationships only got in the way of success. He couldn’t focus on his career—the very thing keeping food on both their plates—if he was gaga over some sexy little twink like Bo.

If his father had taught him nothing else, at least he’d instilled a sense of propriety.

“Everything okay?”

The note of concern in Bo’s voice drew Adam’s glare from Kyle. He softened his gaze before landing it on Bo. Any sign of the previous determined irritation had fled, replaced by pinched brows and a pout.

“Yeah, everything’s fine.” Adam smiled, willing his features neutral. “Your room is the second one on the left.”

Bo nodded and returned to his slog, the suitcase banging against the uncarpeted wood as he tugged it up the stairs.

Before ascending out of view, Adam flipped Kyle the bird. He rolled his eyes when a cackle met the action.

He was so totally screwed.