Sure the danger that dogged their steps in Los Angeles has finally passed, Brian and Jackie seal their hopes for a new beginning with a New Year’s Eve kiss. Though Brian’s trauma at the hands of criminals has left its mark, they do their best to leave troubles behind and enjoy a Scotland honeymoon. The ancient city of Glasgow offers nightlife, historic sites, long walks through snowfall, great Scotch whisky, a cozy fireside — and a blazing hot private encounter with a cool, cool ghost.
But every time somebody wins, someone else loses. When Brian helped State Department cop Jesse Douglas take down a crime ring, a rogue FBI agent lost everything. She blames Brian, and with the help of false identities and very good skills at disguise, tracking him and Jackie down in Scotland poses no problem. When a final encounter in the Highlands turns deadly, the key to keeping Brian alive lies in Jackie’s hands. With everything he loves at stake, can he call up love, courage and confidence in time to take that single, vital shot in darkness?
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Copyright ©2021 Lou Sylvre
To most people, it might not seem possible that a month could go by while a newlywed couple hardly spoke to each other. But as Jackie sat in his great-uncle Kaholo’s Nebraska living room staring out the bay window while, outside, December shed snow all over its last abbreviated afternoon, he reflected that this was exactly what had happened to Brian and him.
That truth didn’t surprise him in the least. The last crazy weeks had only been a continuation of the chaos that had started long before their wedding. The events they’d begun by calling “the Espen case” and ended up calling “the mess with that asshole Vintner” had started weaving its sticky web in and around Jackie and Brian’s lives almost a full year earlier. The day Brian walked into Vasquez Security, Incorporated’s Los Angeles office to take on the role of branch manager, he’d walked into the first ropy but invisible strands of disaster.
If only Brian had known what was to come, maybe he would have turned back around and walked out.
No. He wouldn’t have.
Jackie almost laughed at the notion as soon as he thought it. Brian had been hired by Jackie’s uncle Luki, who owned the company, to do a job. He just wasn’t the kind of guy to renege on a commitment once he’d made it.
Probably why he stayed with me.
Yeah. Their love story hadn’t been a bed of roses either, even though Brian had a funny habit of bringing the fragrant blossoms home and sticking them all over their apartment in vases in an effort to romance Jackie, his chosen lover and submissive. And now… husband. He’d tried so hard to get Jackie to take his marriage proposal seriously, but Jackie had artfully dodged it for months. Perhaps that was understandable, in light of everything else that was going on.
Jackie had relocated to Los Angeles to be with Brian, and the city’s devil Santa Ana winds — and the memories and associations they held for a once-fragile Jackie — had assaulted him from day one. LA had not been kind to him when he was a homeless teen, and it continued its mean tradition now, almost a decade later. He’d witnessed a kidnapping, and the same day had an accident that set him back on his heels physically and mentally, then as soon as he recovered, another one. And then an amputation. The months and months of disbelief and hurting and healing and grief that followed remained in Jackie’s memory a strange nightmare, as if the time then had been a living thing.
And it hadn’t been an easy time for Brian either. But, even then, long before any vows were said, Brian had certainly made a commitment to himself to be the lover, the Dom, the man Jackie could count on. And he had stayed, remained steady at Jackie’s side even when Jackie had tried to shut him out. He’d cried, he’d loved, he’d cajoled and comforted. He had failed, at times. In an odd twist, sometimes broken Jackie had led Brian out of darkness.
But when Jackie’s chips were all in and he desperately needed a win, Brian had come through and played the best cards in his deck. He’d shown Jackie love, wrapped him in safe, careful knots, and set him flying in joy.
”Look,” he’d said. “You’re beautiful. I want you to see it. I want you to know.”
Jackie had seen, and his love for Brian, already spreading wide, had grown deep roots that, he liked to think, helped them both hold steady when the shit started hitting the world’s biggest fan.
The shit — the detritus of the Espen-Lieb-Vintner disaster — had been lying littered over their lives in Los Angeles. The Thanksgiving holiday break they’d taken in Colorado, complete with everything from a private night of fun kink, to a relaxed and joyful family dinner, was like fresh air. Maybe it made them a little high, because they got married while they were there.
Cue the giant fan.
The Colorado fairy tale ended, and the nightmare of the next few weeks began. Jackie hadn’t been with Brian — first his new leg needed fixing, then he’d been taken into hiding for safety. But Brian had almost constantly faced imminent danger, and Jackie’d hardly slept.
For weeks he’d worried, while Brian, on his own in LA, went undercover as an informer for the feds, at the same time pretending to work for Vintner, who could vie for the title of “nastiest piece of criminal shit Jackie had ever encountered.”
Then came the day the tide of trouble had turned to crisis, when Brian had been taken off the streets at gunpoint to be Vintner’s “guest.” The police sting went all wrong, but that same day Vintner’s organization imploded. Shot point blank and carrying the bullet in his abdomen, Brian escaped through LA’s network of tunnels. While Jackie’s uncle Luki helped the law bring down Vintner aboveground, Brian had hung on to consciousness in the hidden corridors underground and somehow done what was in front of him to do — bring a bad man out of the tunnels to face justice and shepherd a remnant of Vintner’s trafficking victims to safety.
That, Jackie thought, was courage.
But that hadn’t been the worst of it for Jackie. Because an ambulance took Brian away — in custody, as if he was the criminal, and Jackie waited for hours in what might have been the coldest, harshest surgical waiting room ever, at County-USC hospital. He got word that Brian was safe, out of surgery, recovering, and he breathed. But he couldn’t see him. Brian was in police custody — a jail inmate. Jackie hadn’t cried then, nor when Sonny hugged him and took him “home” to a hotel room. He’d figured he was just too tired and burnt to cry, yet his wet pillow and sore eyes told him he’d cried in the night.
As if he’d been keeping his tears secret even from himself.
It would have been difficult — impossible — to pretend all that hadn’t happened. If he could have, though, he would have jumped at the chance. Now that it was all over but the shouting, as they say, it felt impossibly heavy.
All of which was why tonight — New Year’s Eve — with its implied celebration of fresh starts, seemed like an extraordinary gift…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lou Sylvre loves romance with all its ups and downs, and likes to conjure it into books. The sweethearts on her pages are men who end up loving each other — and usually saving each other from unspeakable danger. It’s all pretty crazy and very, very sexy. As if you’d want to know more, she’ll happily tell you that she is a proudly bisexual woman — a mother, grandmother, lover of languages, and cat-herder — of mixed cultural heritage. She works closely with lead cat and writing assistant, the (male) Queen of Budapest, Boudreau St. Clair. She lives in the rainy part of the Pacific Northwest, and hearing from a reader infallibly brightens the dreary weather. Find her through her links listed here, or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.