Sometimes a guy needs a break. Carroll Weir got one--but it wasn't what he expected.
All he dreams of is escaping dreary, damp Skagit, WA, for a warmer climate. Instead, Federal Investigator Carroll Weir is assigned to a cross-agency case involving geoduck smugglers and a very dead Fish and Wildlife Detective.
Sterling Bailey, the regular bartender at the Loft, likes to think of his customers and employees as family since he doesn’t have one of his own. Exhausted and tense, Carroll Weir wanders in one night and one thing leads to another. All in a night’s work, right?
Who murdered Fish and Wildlife Detective Peter Krystad? Does the killer have Weir in his sights? Things begin to heat up between them but Sterling and Weir will have to move past their personal history in order to change the course of their future.
The spark burning between them is hot enough to scald unless they’re careful somebody’s going to get burned.
*HEA No cliffhanger
*Intended for a mature audience, 18+
- 1 Read list
Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Opposites Attract, Sex Buddies Become Lovers
Word Count: 68000
Setting: Washington State
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Sterling’s feet were killing him. He’d been running like crazy all night long. The combination of Valentine’s Day and the bar’s anniversary was a killer. Tonight was wilder than last year. He was going to kill whoever had hired the stripper, candy-gram, what-the-fuck-ever, with his bare hands. He had a few suspects. Or maybe he and the aloof, sexy federal agent sitting alone at the other end of the bar could get together and investigate the case. The fed looked good in his civvies tonight.
Yeah, no. Sterling didn’t date customers. An excellent rule, one that kept him from sleeping with the entire gay population of Skagit. Kept him from dating, because he didn’t do that, either. Dating meant giving up too much of himself. He didn’t see it happening. After fifteen-plus years of having his life under his own control, he saw no reason to change.READ MORE
The bar was so busy he didn’t have time to make small talk. Kevin Smith, one of his part-time bartenders who was smart enough not to have signed up for this shift, stood at the drink station for a while trying to shoot the breeze, but soon enough even he had been driven away by the constant jostling of thirsty revelers and having to yell over the thump and grind of the sound system. At the Loft, Valentine’s Day looked more like Mardi Gras than a traditional candlelit, romantic dinner.
Kevin vanished into the writhing mass of dancing bodies—mostly men, although there were a few women tonight. The stripper was being passed around like a piece of candy. Sterling hoped no one dropped him. He could feel insurance rates rising the longer the guy was in the air.
Hands busy muddling fresh mint, making the twenty-jillionth mojito of the night, he kept his focus on the room. Kent, his door guy, was good, but a crowd like this needed attention at all times.
Something funky about Weir’s body language had Sterling keeping one eye on him while he worked. Weir seemed to be relaxing a little after the second stiff drink Sterling had poured him, until some asshole he didn’t recognize leaned in and blew a fucking noisemaker right in the guy’s ear. Without conscious thought Sterling was in front of Weir, leaning across the bar and grasping the man’s wrists with both hands.
Unseeing brown eyes stared through him. Weir was shivering, but not pulling away. Okay, he could work with that. He’d been a bartender since he turned twenty-one. He had seen and dealt with almost every situation.
Kent forced his way through the crowd, finally making it to the bar.
“Help me get him into my office, then get back out here and confiscate every fucking noisemaker you can find. It’s Valentine’s Day, not New Year’s Eve. And send Kevin up here; he can show off his chops for a bit.”
Ignoring patrons waving for drinks, he came around the bar, moving to one side of Weir while Kent took the other. Slipping an arm around Weir’s narrow waist, Sterling whispered into his ear, “Come back to the office for a few minutes, okay?”
He received a slight nod, and when they stood, Weir turned into him, using Sterling’s body as a shield. Between them, he and Kent edged Weir around the end of the bar toward the small office hidden behind it.
The office was Sterling’s not-so-secret hideaway. He figured he spent enough time in it, he might as well make it comfortable. After he’d fashioned a desk out of a wooden plank and a couple of sawhorses and added a fancy, ergonomically correct roller chair he’d spent way too much money on, as well as a small couch with red faux-velvet upholstery and a plush area rug, the little room had become his refuge. Sterling waved Kent back out to the front.
Weir mumbled something unintelligible. Sterling gently nudged him onto the couch before crouching down in front of him. Taking a deep breath, Weir sagged into the seat, his head lolling against the back cushion. “Well, that was awkward,” he whispered. “I haven’t had one of those in a long time. Sorry about that.”
“What happened? Aside from the jackass blowing a noisemaker in your ear.”
“Slow down a fucking minute. Lemme catch up,” Weir groused.
Sterling figured if the guy was bitchy, he’d survive whatever the little episode had been. Pushing himself to his feet, he stood over Weir, assessing his general bearing.
The guy looked worn out, frayed at the edges. Dark circles had taken up residence under his eyes, and his skin didn’t have the same healthy tone it had the first time they met.
They’d hung out on New Year’s Eve at Buck Swanfeldt’s house, but Sterling had seen him around before that. Probably at Sara Schultz’s place. Weir was good-looking, had the SoCal thing going for him, especially with his outfit tonight. Not the type Sterling usually hooked up with, but good-looking enough. Probably not more than mid-twenties, though tonight he looked older.
“You want some water?” He’d never seen such dark brown eyes with blond hair before. It was… disarming. Weir stared up at him, unguarded for a moment, unaware and exposed. A vein in his neck throbbed. A flicker of some unnamed emotion crossed his face, gone so quickly Sterling couldn’t catalog it.
“Yeah, I’ll have some water.”
Sterling handed over a bottle from the stash under his desk. He was going to assume the “thanks” was silent. Weir took a drink, and the weird silence grew longer, more taut between them. Weir’s knees bumped against Sterling’s shins, and yeah, he was still standing between the guy’s splayed legs. For whatever reason, Sterling still didn’t move. They had gone from panic attack to playing an erotic game of chicken. He was taken by surprise by a surge of heat, low in his groin.
“I don’t think I’m in any state to return the favor, but I’ve heard an orgasm goes a long way toward bringing someone down from a panic attack. Endorphins and shit like that.” Weir waved a languid hand toward his groin.
“Yeah.” He grinned, revealing something else Sterling had never seen before. At Buck’s Weir had been reserved and quiet. The grin changed him; Sterling had a glimpse of a goofy, boyish demeanor Weir hid behind a professional mask. Weir was handsome any day of the week, but the grin elevated him to fucking gorgeous.
It was madness. Pure madness. Faint sounds from the bar penetrated the office. Good-natured yelling, and then somebody bumped up the volume on the sound system and the pounding lyrics of the Arctic Monkeys’ “Do I Wanna Know” drifted into the small room. He did, kinda, want to know. Fuck. He hadn’t been drinking, couldn’t blame this crazy on alcohol.
Weir watched him while he stood there weighing the pros and cons of a blow job. Really, he asked himself, cons? Weir’s expression, still unguarded, sparked with a smoldering heat. They both wanted this.COLLAPSE
I started this series with book four. Then I started at the beginning with book one. Each book is amazing in its own way. I hope there are many more to come. If I had another one to read now, I would be reading it before any other author or series. Thanks so much Elle Keaton. Please keep writing!!!!