Aces Up

by C.J. Baty

Stiles Long emphatically did not want his lover, Michael O’Leary to go on the assignment he had been given. He didn’t care that Michael was an amazing poker player or that his commander thought Michael was the perfect man for the job. He almost lost Michael once. He couldn’t go through that again.

Michael needed this. He needed to prove that he was able to take care of himself. He didn’t need Stiles to take care of him. He needed to be Stiles’ equal. The poker game in Durango, Colorado was his chance to prove that. The fact that Stiles didn’t want him to go didn’t matter. Michael had to do this.

Lizzie Ferguson was Stiles partner in the Pinkerton Agency. She was a good agent. That didn’t mean, she had to like being dressed in satin and lace, showing way too much of her body to total strangers. Lizzie knew there was more going on at Maverick’s Saloon, and it might just cost her life.

None of them suspected that a simple poker game would turn into a deadly nightmare. If the three of them weren’t careful, one of them might just end up the next victim.

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Excerpt:

“NO!” Stiles shouted.

The idea that McCullough, the head of the Pinkerton Agency in St. Louis, would even entertain the idea of Michael O’Leary on an assignment was absurd. Stiles couldn’t let his lover be put in this kind of danger.

“The poker game at the Maverick Saloon in Colorado will be the perfect time for O’Leary to try out his wings. Stiles, he’s an excellent card player and from what I’ve been told by the New York office, he handled himself quite well in that situation.”

“Handled it quite well? He was nearly killed by that lunatic Father Francis!” Stiles knew he was still shouting at his superior, not to mention his actions were out of line.

McCullough leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms, and waited patiently for Stiles’ rant to be over.

“Shit.” Stiles mumbled.

“Are you finished?” McCullough asked.

Stiles could only nod. He felt his face flush.

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“Would you care to give me a logical explanation why O’Leary shouldn’t go on this assignment?”

The calmness in McCullough’s voice and posture unnerved Stiles. The man could have reprimanded him, yet he was patiently waiting for a reply.

There was a possibility that McCullough suspected the relationship between Stiles and Michael. He had never asked outright, and Stiles hadn’t offered. Things were different in this country than they had been in England. There, he had lived under the constant cloud of threat for being a man with his desires. This was different. Michael was his everything.

“Michael is more than a friend to me,” Stiles offered.

“And?”

“I could have lost him in New York — I can’t go through that again.”

“Stiles,” McCullough’s face softened as he leaned forward and continued. “That’s a personal reason… One you are entitled to have and is no business of mine or the agency. Do you have any tactical reason why O’Leary couldn’t do the job?”

“He’s not a trained agent,” Stiles blurted out, though he was weakening.

“Neither were you on your first assignment,” McCullough replied, then smiled. “I believe you did just fine. You’ll be there. Lizzie will be there, and you’ll have extra backup. Michael O’Leary is the man for this assignment.”

 

Hours later, Stiles resigned himself to the fact that he wasn’t going to change McCullough’s or Michael’s minds. It didn’t ease his own mind, his conscious, or his agitation with Michael, who was more than excited to be involved in the case. His constant happy rambling as he packed was annoying, to say the least.

“Have you finished packing?” Michael asked.

Stiles didn’t answer.

“Do we need to pack riding clothes? I imagine there may not be enough carriages in Durango for the number of people flooding into the city.”

Stiles poured himself a whiskey from the decanter on the dresser. He sipped at it slowly but still didn’t answer.

“I think it will be warm enough to sleep naked,” Michael snickered.

Stiles perked up at that statement. “What did you say?”

“Finally, I have your attention. Are you going to be angry with me during the entire assignment, Stiles?”

Stiles sat in the chair by the fireplace in their bedroom. Michael crossed the room and kneeled at Stiles feet. He placed his hands on Stiles knees.

“Talk to me, please,” Michael said, his face earnest and open.

Stiles looked into his lover’s warm eyes.

“I don’t want you to go to Durango. I know I can’t stop it, but I still don’t want you to go.”

“It’s just a card game. There’s nothing dangerous about that.”

Stiles placed his hands on Michael’s face, palming it tenderly.

“We are talking about more than a quarter of a million dollars. People have killed for much less than that. Card sharks, tricksters, con men, just to name a few, will be out to win this pot. We have no idea what they will do to win.” Stiles kissed Michael then rose from his chair.

“Once we board those different trains to Durango, communication between us will be difficult,” Stiles pulled shirts from the bureau drawer, placing them in his valise as he talked.

“We won’t be staying together either.”

“Ah…” Michael murmured.

“You’ll miss me being close by. No fucking until the case is over. I think we’ll live through it,” Michael chuckled.

Stiles carefully undid the buttons on Michael’s vest. He was dressed properly even at this hour, always neat and tidy. Stiles loved to rumple the man. Michael pushed his hands away.

“I’ll do it,” he grinned wickedly. “You always make such a mess of things; besides, I know you’d rather watch me.”

He was right, of course. Stiles did enjoy watching as Michael removed each article of clothing neatly laying it aside. It reminded him of the first time he’d seen Michael undress. It still drove his lust higher, though now it was tempered with the love he had found with this remarkable man.

For now, he shut out all his worry about the upcoming assignment. Now, he concentrated completely on making this moment one to remember. He had no idea Michael had plans of his own.

COLLAPSE

Continuing stories of Stile Long, Pinkerton Agent and his agent partner, Lizzie Ferguson. Stile's lover, Michael O'Brien is on his first assignment for the Pinkerton's.

About the Author

CJ Baty lives with her very patient husband and two encouraging adult children. The recent move to include a second home in Tennessee has fulfilled one of her life long dreams. The mountains have always provided her with inspiration and a soothing balm to the stresses of everyday life.

The dream of writing her own stories started in high school but was left on the back burner of life until her son introduced her to Fan Fiction and encouraged her to give it a try. She found that her passion for telling a story was still there and writing them down to share with others was much more thrilling than she had ever expected. Publishing her own stories has been a highlight in her life. It just goes to prove, you are never too old to follow your dreams!


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