Lately, life is both sweet and sour for intelligence operatives Mark Vincent and Quinton Mann. The sweet is they’re settling into a relationship; Mark has found a condo in Alexandria with the help of Quinn’s mother, Portia; and Mark and Quinn are looking forward to spending the holidays in the Caribbean.
As for the sour, something shadier than usual is going on at Langley. Useless missions and sleepless nights are leaving Quinn exhausted, and then Portia’s life is threatened. When Quinn discovers the accident was no accident and the egomaniacal Senator Wexler is involved, he’s out for blood.
To this point, Mark has stayed out of Quinn’s CIA business. But hurting Quinn and those he loves isn’t on the table, so at Mark’s instigation, they set out together to deal with Wexler. The only catch: it’s the first time Quinn will see Mark at his deadly best, and Mark isn’t sure how his lover will react.
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Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 36-45
Protagonist 2 Age: 36-45
Tropes: Alpha Character, Badass Hero, Hurt / Comfort, Enemies to Lovers
Word Count: 128416
Setting: Washington, DC, Costa Rica, Maryland
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
QUINTON MANN and I were having a late dinner at Raphael’s. The posh Italian restaurant had sort of become our place, and we dined there at least twice a month, in the shadowed alcove that had also sort of become ours. That was where we’d sat back in February, when Quinn had bought me dinner for my birthday.
This time he ordered stufato dei pesci, Raphael’s version of bouillabaisse, with a side dish of linguine, and he talked me into parmigiana di melanzane.
“I don’t eat purple vegetables, Quinn.”
“Eggplant is good for you. Besides, you don’t have enough roughage in your diet.” He brought his napkin to his mouth.
“Excuse me? How do you know how much roughage I eat?”
“I have my ways.” Above the napkin, his eyes were green with laughter. He was teasing me.READ MORE
“Bastard.” It was said without heat; I liked that he teased me. My cock twitched.
“Mark. I’m cut to the quick!”
“Sure you are. And I’m just brokenhearted about it.”
“Well, so you should be.” He refilled his wine glass and raised the bottle. “Mark?”
He looked thoughtful, but he didn’t hassle me. Unlike Ed, my idiot partner. I’d told him once I went easy on the sauce, and I nearly had to knock him on his ass when he kept insisting. And then, of course, he went down to South America and got dead.
The waiter approached and whisked away the empty antipasto platters. “Are you done with your salads, signori?” At our nods, he took them as well. “Your dinners will be out shortly.”
Quinn reached for a breadstick and opened his mouth to say something when a warm, female voice interrupted.
“Hello, Quinn. I didn’t expect to see you here!” It was Lieutenant Colonel Francis, the Marine who worked at the Office of the Inspector General. She did a good job, and if she’d been a man I’d have tried to get her to leave the military and come work for the WBIS.
“Abigail. I might say the same thing.”
Abigail? I arched an eyebrow at my lover, and he looked puzzled. Ah. So in spite of her looks and intelligence, I didn’t need to consider her a possible rival.
“Mann!” Major Jonathan Drum II didn’t appear too pleased to see him. Did he have something against the man having a decent dinner?
“Hello, Drum. You both know Mark Vincent, don’t you?” Quinn was so polite.
Drum turned his glare on me. “What’s he doing here?”
I looked down at the table, at the breadsticks, the wine glasses, the cutlery, then back up at him. “Having dinner? That is what one does in a restaurant, Major.”
Under the table, Quinn nudged my ankle with his foot, indicating he didn’t want me to start anything.
Drum, on the other hand, seemed to be itching for a fight.
“I’m going to get you, Vincent!”
“And my little dog too?”
Drum ignored that, although both Quinn and the lieutenant colonel bit back laughter. “I’m going to nail your ass to the wall!”
“It was your fault, what happened to me in Paris!”
“I thought you didn’t remember what happened in Paris.” This time Quinn kicked my ankle, and I gave him an injured look.
“You were behind it! I don’t know how, but it was all your fault! You’re a sociopath!”
I was no longer amused, and my chair scraped back as I prepared to rise and beat the shit out of him. Drum had been calling me a sociopath for years, and it was getting old. Just because I did my job well—
“Abigail, I think you’d better get your dinner companion out of here. I don’t know how long I can keep Vincent under control.” Quinn had his hand on my arm, as if he really was preventing me from lunging at the major, tearing off his head, and using it for a bocce ball.
“Jesus, Mann, how can you even bear to be in the same room with Vincent, never mind at the same table?”
“I hardly think that’s any of your business, Major.”
“If word gets out—”
“But it’s not going to, is it, Drum?” I wasn’t going to let him threaten my lover.
He stared at me. His eyes grew wide and his face took on a sickly shade of green. “What…? You….”
Yeah, believe it, Drum. I’ll shoot you where you stand.
The maître d’ came scurrying to our table. “Is there a problem, signori? Lovely signorina, what may I do to assist you?”
“Nothing. I apologize for the disturbance, signore. Let’s go, Jon. I told you I’d rather have Thai tonight.”
“Friiitttzzz!” He seemed to have recovered himself because the whine was back in his voice.
Lieutenant Colonel Francis gave an almost unnoticeable wince at the sound. “I hate when he calls me that!” she muttered. I couldn’t blame her—I hated that nickname for Francis myself, but fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about it—but maybe she wasn’t WBIS material if she was willing to put up with him. “You know you won’t be comfortable in the same restaurant as Vincent, and I’m not going to be comfortable if you spend the entire time we’re having dinner glaring at him. I’m sorry, Quinton.” She studied me for a moment. “I wonder what your two agencies are up to. Let’s go, Jon.”
She looped her arm through his, and he barely contained a flinch. Had the lieutenant colonel let him feel her claws?
Quinn watched as she practically dragged Drum out of the place; then he shook his head, but before he could say anything, our dinners were brought out and placed before us.
“Would you like some grated cheese, signori?”
“Ah, let’s live dangerously! Knock yourself out,” I told the waiter, and he sprinkled cheese over my dinner like snow.
Quinn laughed. “All right, why not? I’ll have some on my pasta.” He signaled when he was satisfied with the amount.
“Buon appetito.” The waiter left us.
I picked up my fork. “Y’know, Quinn, I wish I knew what Major Drum has against me. I’m really a nice guy.”
“You are, Mark.” He appeared to be categorizing the shellfish in his stew. “Did you notice he mentioned your ass? He does seem to have a fixation with it. Quite frankly, I think there’s a latent lust for you under all that hostility.”
I started choking on my eggplant parmigiana. “Oh, Jesus, I’m going to have nightmares over that for months!”
“Well, if you do have nightmares, I’ll just have to wake you up.” He frowned for a second. I wondered if there was something in his meal that didn’t please him, and I started looking for our waiter. But then Quinn fished a mussel out of the bowl before him and loosened the flesh from its shell with one of those tiny forks. He tipped his head back and let the contents of the shell slide into his mouth. He swallowed thoughtfully before touching his napkin to his lips. “What would be a good way to wake you up, babe?”
As if he didn’t know. I growled at him and forked up a bit of eggplant.
“Are you free next weekend?” His foot went back to rubbing my ankle. “I’ve got tickets for the Phantom on Saturday evening; I can give them to Mother if I have to, but I’d rather not. I promised you.”
“Yeah, I remember.” When he’d taken me to this restaurant for my birthday, almost seven months before. “I’ll check my schedule.” But I intended to make sure I was free.COLLAPSE