Chapter One


STONE JACKSON ducked into the aggressive air-conditioning of the Miami Imperium Hotel and felt his skin tighten in the sudden cold. He’d been warned, of course, but holy hot plate, it was a cooker out there.

“Welcome to the Imperium, sir. Is this your first time with us?” a busty, Jayne Mansfield blonde purred at him, her chestular region exploding from the confines of a hotel employee blazer. He searched the ample acreage for a nametag. Brittnay? Were all the hot girls named that?

“Hi, Brittnay. What gave me away?”

“Nobody wears wool in South Beach. Not in July.”

“Just got in from a job in London. Haven’t had time to change into my luau shirt and Bermudas.”

“Oooh. Sounds yummy.”

“Registration desk?” he asked, tiring of the game.

“To your left, just beyond the fountain and palm trees.”

Because all hotels needed thirty-foot-tall live palm trees in their lobbies. He strolled toward them…. Jesus. Live parrots squawked among the palm fronds. He opted to go around the whole disaster and spied a registration desk.

A blessedly more demure college coed checked him into his suite on the executive floor, and he tuned out while she explained how to use his keycard to gain access to the restricted floor. This was not his first rodeo.

Credit card recovered and key in his pocket, he headed upstairs. Good Lord willing, his trunk had preceded him to the room. The specialized gear he traveled with required a crap-ton of paperwork and Customs preapproval and had to be shipped ahead to most of his jobs.

The first thing he saw when he stepped into his room was the big brushed-aluminum trunk parked in a corner of the living room. Praise the Lord and pass the potatoes.

Surprisingly, the suite wasn’t a cesspool of overstarched linens and stains that made a person imagine all manner of depravity. In fact, it had a sleek, modern sensibility. Smart up-lighting and indirect down-lighting created sexy pools of light and shadow. Dark gray slate, frosted glass, pale blue upholstery. All in all, not bad. Although the wet bar in the living room was pitifully stocked. He would have to get that fixed at the earliest opportunity.

He shed his Savile Row suit and unbuckled the leather shoulder holster. After peeling down to his spandex trunks, he unpacked quickly and donned the promised Bermuda shorts. Holster back on, then a custom-tailored Hawaiian-print shirt made to fit over both the weapon and his muscular shoulders.

Without warning, jet lag slammed into him, and he felt like hell on broken wheels. He probably ought to shave. He fingered his jaw and felt rough stubble on it. But damn, he needed a stiff drink. Jack Daniels, come be my bitch. Scooping up his room key, he headed downstairs to the bar he’d spotted on the way in.

It had more of an S&M vibe than he’d anticipated, with lots of black leather and chrome, and was about three-quarters full. Not even 6:00 p.m. yet. Must be a happening joint by ten. More to the point, it had whiskey, and lots of it. He bellied up to the bar and got ready to make out with a Jack on the rocks.

Another man swung onto the barstool beside him. Ordered some drink called a Derby. Stone watched the bartender mix it in minor disbelief. Who the hell paired whiskey with lime juice? And Grand Marnier and vermouth? The customer, a stupidly good-looking preppie type, sipped it in appreciation.

Stone shook his head. “My granddaddy would take you out back and shoot you for doing that to perfectly fine sour mash whiskey.”

“Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it,” the guy popped off.

Stone’s grin widened as he assessed the newcomer. Quick on the comeback. Bit of a smartass. Had the whole Captain America thing going, though. Clean-cut, close-shaven, square-jawed, and blue-eyed… a walking milk commercial missing only the white mustache. Totally not his type.

Cap surprised him by ordering two more Derbies and pushing one down the mirrored bar at him. “Go ahead. I dare you. Live dangerously.”

Stone grunted in wry humor. Bastard had no idea how dangerously he usually lived. “Thanks for the drink. What’s your name?”

“Christian Chatsworth-Brandeis.”

“Jesus. Were you born with a poker up your ass to go along with that name?”

To his credit, the guy laughed. “Pretty much. Where do you hail from? A cattle ranch in Texas?”

“It was a dairy farm. Georgia.”

“My condolences.”

“For what?”

“Losing the war?” prep school offered.

“Hey. The War of Northern Aggression is only at half time. Whenever you lily-white Yankee sissies are ready to go for round two, bring it.”

“Want another Derby?”

“Nah. I’ll stick with my Jack on the rocks. But thanks for broadening my horizons.”

“You got a name?”

“Stone Jackson.”

“Wow. And you picked on my name?”

“Dad’s a Civil War history buff. We lived near Atlanta. Last name Jackson. Mom wouldn’t let him name me Stonewall. Stone was as close as she’d let him go.”

“Were you this big as a kid, or did you get beat up a lot?”

He shrugged. He’d gotten beat up a lot but not because of his name.

They nursed another round of drinks in silence. Somewhere near the bottom of the third Jack on the rocks, it occurred to Stone that he hadn’t eaten in twenty-four hours or slept in a solid thirty-six. Tossing back a bunch of booze maybe hadn’t been the smartest thing he could’ve done. High body mass would only buy him so much relief from the alcohol. “Shit. I need to get something to eat.”

“Can’t hold your booze, Georgia? Big, beefy guy like you? Tsk-tsk.”

He told Christian Chatsworth-Brandeis precisely what he could do with himself. And without slurring his syllables, thank you very much.

“You staying in the hotel?” Christian asked, grinning.

“Yeah. Key’s here somewhere.” He fumbled in his pocket.

“Bartender, I’d like room service to send two porterhouse steaks and a bottle of your best Jack Daniels up to—what’s your room number?”

“Room 2306,” Stone supplied.

“To room 2306. All the trimmings. Salad, baked potatoes, and garlic bread. Double bread.”

“I thought no one ate carbs anymore,” he commented.

“Helps soak up the booze.”

“I’m not drunk.”

“You’re gonna be if you don’t get some food in you soon.”

“Look. I don’t need a babysitter.”

“Never said you did. Just helping out a fellow traveler.”

A fellow traveler, huh? They walked across the lobby and waited for an elevator. “Where are you visiting from?” he asked Christian.

“Washington, DC. You?”

He frowned. “Nowhere, actually. I travel from job to job pretty much nonstop.”

“What do you do?”

He shrugged. “Consultant. Follow around a lot of guys in suits. Don’t do anything most of the time. You?”

“Aide to an important person who shall remain nameless.”

“Like a secretary?”

Christian pulled a face. “It’s a little more involved than that. I advise on various decisions, interface with media outlets, write speeches, solve crises, whatever my boss needs.”

“You wipe his ass too?”

“Play nice. Speaking of asses, let’s get you to your room before you make one of yourself.”

He’d had just enough liquor to lose that thin patina of civilization his new boss had worked so hard to paint onto him after he got out of the military. “Are you propositioning me, Christian Chatsworth-Brandeis, aide and ass-wiper extraordinaire?”

The elevator arrived, dinged, and slid open, and Christian gestured politely for him to go first. But old habits died hard. While the other man reached for the button for the twenty-third floor, Stone moved to block the doorway with his big frame. Christian was tall and obviously worked out, but he lacked the bulk of someone who’d relied on his muscles to stay alive for a long damned time.

As the elevator slowed for the twenty-third floor, Christian leaned forward from behind him and murmured in his ear, “For the record, I don’t wipe anyone’s ass after I’m done with it.”

Something hot and hungry leaped in his gut. It had been a long time. A very long time. His job required total concentration, and his clients paid for no less. But the new gig didn’t start for another day. He’d come in early to get the lay of the land and sleep off the jet lag so he’d be on his A game tomorrow. But he could go for a game with Christian Chatsworth-Brandeis—

“You just going to stand there, or are we getting out?” Christian asked. Bastard sounded amused. He knew he’d thrown Stone off-balance with that totally un-milk-commercial comment.

“Was just checking the hall to make sure it was clear.”

“Are you afraid to be seen with me? This is Miami, dude. And South Beach, to boot. No one thinks twice about that sort of thing around here.”

Stone frowned impatiently. “That’s not it.” It was just that he’d been in the personal-security business for so long he couldn’t get off an elevator any other way.



CHRISTIAN ENJOYED the view as Stone exited ahead of him. The man was built like a gladiator. Even better, he didn’t seem to have a dumb-jock mentality to go with all those muscles.

They stepped into Stone’s suite, and the first thing Christian noticed was a big aluminum trunk standing in the corner. “What’s all that?”

“My equipment.”

“You in a rock band?”


“Major S&M dungeon master?”

“Wishful thinking?” Stone shot back.

Christian grinned. He wasn’t opposed to kink, but if anyone was going to be in charge, it would be him. Stone didn’t strike him as the type to give up control, and Lord knew he wasn’t.

The steaks arrived quickly, and a waiter batted his eyes at Stone as he wheeled in the table and set it up. Christian mentally snorted. Jackson was way too much man for that kid to handle.

They ate mostly in silence. Stone didn’t seem inclined to talk about himself, and Christian had little success drawing him out. Which was unusual. His smooth blue-blooded manners usually worked on everyone.

Near the end of the meal, he finally came right out and asked, “Why don’t you want to talk about yourself? I’m curious to know more about you.”

Stone laid down his knife and fork and stared at him intensely enough to actually make him uncomfortable. He finally growled, “Be careful what you ask for.”

“Why? Are you an axe murderer?”

A shrug. “An axe would not be my weapon of first choice. Too much blood spatter. Hard to clean up after.”

Oh. Kay. Was this guy really that dangerous or just putting on a tough-guy act? Posers tended to piss him off. He leaned back, laying his napkin down. “You gonna show me your gun?”

“You wanna see it?”


Stone just shook his head. “If that’s a come-on line, it’s a bad one.”

That made Christian sit back harder in his chair, reassessing. Not interested in a cheap hookup, was Stone? Huh. He didn’t misread men’s signals often. Surely a guy this hot wasn’t… awkward… about sex, was he? Hell, it was the twenty-first century. Same-sex marriage had been legal for a while, and sodomy laws were history. He wasn’t particularly prone to casual sex, personally, but this man had an interesting vibe about him. It was dark and hot. Intense. Not his usual brand of slick Washington politico.

“What do you want from me, Christian?”

Not many people called him by his full name, but he liked it in Stone’s mouth. Bemused, he turned his attention to the actual question attached to his name. What did he want?

“Undecided,” he finally answered.

Stone stood from the table, and he matched the movement as Stone announced, “I’m jet-lagged as hell, a little drunk, and you make me laugh. Would I get off on fucking you hard? Yeah, sure. But I don’t have the time or the patience for drama and sophomoric relationship bullshit.”

“Neither do I.”

Their hard stares met. They understood each other, then. Sex. Hot sex. Maybe even rough sex. No strings attached. Two ships passing in the night. Christian abruptly had such an intense hard-on he could barely stand upright. A quick glance down revealed Stone was in pretty much the same state.

They didn’t kiss so much as they collided. Stone was no slender, lithe, dancer type. But then, neither was he. Stone’s frown as they ripped each other’s shirts off made it pretty damned clear that he wasn’t Stone’s usual type either. But there was something challenging about this man. Something that made him want to bring Stone Jackson to his knees.

Then Stone grabbed his hair, yanked his head back, and bit his lip.

“What the hell?” he exclaimed.

“You’re telling me you like it easy and sweet?” Stone growled.

He grabbed the back of Stone’s neck, pulled his head forward, and bit back. “Not bloody likely.” Jesus, this man was like a brick wall, all hard planes, sharp angles, and bulging muscles. Rock-hard muscles. And scars. At least a half-dozen bigass, half-gutted-at-some-point-in-the-past scars. “You look like you’ve been through a war zone.”

“Couple of ’em,” Stone muttered against his mouth. His razor stubble grated on Christian’s face. And it was sexy as hell. This was a man’s man, and he was about to have all of him.

“Soldier?” Christian murmured.

“Something like that.”

“What else is like a soldier?”

“Do you always talk this much?”

“You gonna do something to shut me up?” There was an aura about Stone that brought out the testosterone in him. More than simple one-upmanship. A need to challenge and subdue.

Stone laughed darkly, and actual intimidation flickered through Christian’s gut. Was he in over his head with this guy? Just what kind of baggage did a man with that many outward scars carry around on the inside? Did he have the balls to find out? Something daring—reckless, even—flared in Christian’s gut. While the little voice in the back of his head shouted at him to avoid Stone Jackson like hell, a raging fire in his belly urged him on.

He’d never had sex with a man like this and probably never would again. It would be raw and pornographic and likely leave him wrecked for a long damned time to come. But he would regret it for the rest of his life if he walked away from this moment. This man. This one-night stand.

Eyes narrowed, he reached for the buttons of Stone’s ridiculous khaki shorts. His knuckles brushed against an erection large enough to give him pause. Yup. A man’s man. His belly quailed a bit at the notion of absorbing all that hardness one way or another. Or maybe he’d do the taking and let Stone hang, hard and unsatisfied on his knees. Although the little voice frantically warned him that taunting this man would not be a good idea. Payback would be an absolute bitch.

A bitch he’d never experienced before. He was all about managing every situation. He liked predictable. Liked order. Some folks even called him OCD. He might cop to being a bit of a control freak. But his life had no surprises. Even in sexual encounters, he made sure everyone had a good time, but he called the shots.

Yet somehow it was his trousers that were suddenly unzipped, his balls being cupped by a big callused hand plunged into his briefs while Stone’s hard thumb rubbed knowingly across the head of his cock. Lust exploded through him. Holy shit. His hips rocked forward hungrily, and Stone pulled his dick through the flap in his briefs, grabbed it in a firm fist, and actually dragged him across the room by it. How in the hell he ended up on his knees with his face in Stone’s crotch, he had no idea. He was the taker, not the giver.

He’d wondered idly from time to time what it would be like to bottom. But the guys he dated were usually so intimidated by his job, his family name, his status and general class, that they seemed to expect him to take charge and do the honors. And he didn’t hate topping. Truth be told, he’d never thought to question how he liked his sex. Not until this dark, dangerous alpha male blasted into his life.

Fascinated by the possibilities, he stood, reaching for Stone’s shorts. But then Stone kissed him roughly, all but sucking his tongue free of its moorings. It hurt a little and turned him on ferociously. Shocking realization broke over him that he’d never made love to a man like this before, a man who would take charge and do exactly what he wanted, who would fuck him balls to the wall and leave him begging for more.

The emotional risk inherent in giving up control to this man skittered through him. What if he liked bottoming? What if he wanted more of the same? Where in the hell would he find another man like this? He shouldn’t do this. Yet his trousers shimmied down around his ankles, and he let himself be shoved down, headfirst, over the back of the sofa, his face buried in the seat cushions, and ordered to stay.

Stone disappeared for an endless, outrageous minute while Christian stayed exactly where he was, scared of what this man would do to him, amazed as hell that he was putting up with being ordered around like this, and so excited that his body quivered with it. Stone returned, his hairy thighs brushing lightly against Christian’s ass. Muscles Christian hardly knew he had convulsed, completely out of his control.

A hand milked his cock from behind until he was dripping with precum, his balls so tight they felt as if they would explode any second. He lurched when a big, blunt finger circled his anus, smearing something goopy and vaguely warm on it. And then, Jesus H. Christ. A finger dipped inside his rectum. He lurched away from the invasion, his hipbones slamming into the sofa frame, but not far enough to escape that probing finger.

He’d bottomed a few times a very long time ago, when he was first experimenting with his sexuality. They’d been furtive, fast encounters with other teenage boys. Nothing at all like this. Apprehension coursed through him. And yet his cock was jumping and jerking wildly, his glutes clenching and unclenching, and he was letting a dark, dangerous stranger spread his ass cheeks and lube him up some more.

And then the blunt head of that huge, rock-hard cock rested against his entrance, both a promise and a threat. Fear of the unknown swept over him, along with burning desire to know what lay beyond it.

Whatever madness had overcome him before swept forward now, stealing his breath and what little remaining sanity he had. He wanted to be impaled. Wanted to be plundered and taken and possessed by this man. His limbs went weak, his breath grew so short he panted, and his fists and teeth clamped down on the sofa cushion.

“If you don’t relax, you won’t be able to take me,” Stone muttered. He eased that big finger through Christian’s clenched muscles again. He slid it deeper this time, filling him up and then retreating almost all the way out. Again, he stroked him with appalling intimacy.

Christian felt an orgasm building. Ripples of insane pleasure were building deep inside him, tucked up high above his balls as Stone worked the hot spot he’d only worked on others before. No wonder his partners were addicted to sex. He was dying already.

“Jesus, you’re tight,” Stone ground out. “I’m going to have to be careful.”

It was good to know Stone was having restraint issues too. Thing was, he rather wanted Stone to tear the hell out of him at this point. His hips pumped of their own volition as his control slipped yet another notch. Sex. He wanted sex and lots of it. Right now.

Stone splayed one hand on the base of his spine, pinning him down. The strength in Stone’s palm was astonishing. Christian was not a small man, and he worked out often. And yet Stone held him still with casual ease. More of that strange intimidation/attraction tore through him.

Stone took a step forward, his thighs shoving Christian’s wider apart. He was at the man’s mercy now. Loving it and hating it, he swore in a steady stream. That rock-hard cock was back at his hungry opening, poised for the coup de grace. He felt Stone tense against him…

…and freeze as a phone rang.

“Not mine,” Stone snapped, stepping back. “Do you have to get that?”

Son. Of. A. Bitch. It was his boss’s personalized ringtone. The one person on earth whose calls he had to take day or night, rain or shine, about to be epically fucked or not.

He jerked up off the sofa, yanked at his pants, and fished around in the pocket. “Yes, sir,” he answered, trying his damnedest not to sound out of breath and failing.

“Did I interrupt your workout?” Senator Jack Lacey of the great state of Texas drawled. “Or is she a hot little number willing to put out?”

It was no secret he was gay, but Lacey insisted on trying to convince Christian to take up pussy-pumping as a hobby. Hell, tonight he was apparently the hot little number willing to put out.

“What can I do for you, sir?” he asked, ignoring the man’s questions.

“I need to go over the itinerary with you for this damned fund-raising blitz Jill put together. No way in hell am I making some of these appearances she’s got booked for me.”

“Why don’t you take that up with your wife, sir?” He did his best to stay out of the raging battles Jack and Jill Lacey engaged in behind closed doors.

“Bitch isn’t coming to town until Friday. Some gardening shindig came up in Texas, and she flew out to attend it. Left me to do all the goddamn glad-handing with a bunch of blue-haired Jews come South to die.”

Christian winced. His boss was nothing if not an insensitive racist. He actually wouldn’t vote for the man, were he a citizen of Texas. But Jack Lacey was a powerful senator in Washington, and as a member of his staff, Christian had gotten a chance to help draft landmark legislation on federal prosecution rules. Privately, Christian hoped to parlay that into a job at the Justice Department sooner rather than later. But until then he was stuck wiping this jerk’s proverbial ass.

He looked around the living room for Stone, but he was nowhere in sight. Probably stepped into the bathroom to relieve that massive hard-on of his. Lucky bastard.

It was beginning to look like he’d get to tuck his erection in his pants, trot down the hall like an obedient lackey, and spend the next two hours explaining to his idiot boss why this series of public appearances in Florida was good for his entire national political party and would gain him favors, donations, and endorsements in his own campaign for reelection.

He yanked on his shirt, buttoned it angrily, and tied his tie with jerky movements, using the mirror behind the bar to straighten it and comb his hair. Nope, he didn’t look like a man who’d been on the verge of the fucking of his life.

Although as he walked down the hall, lube squished around sexily in his drawers, reminding him in no uncertain terms of what had almost been. His intensely dissatisfied dick leaped to attention eagerly. Down, Tonto. No Lone Ranger for you. Irritated and uncomfortable, he pasted on a pleasant expression and knocked on Lacey’s door. Sometimes he really hated his life.