Cover Artist: Garrett Leigh
Forced into early retirement from his career as a SWAT officer for the city of Detroit, James Deacon knew that when he failed it would be a fall of epic proportions. He’s been living life by the tips of his fingers for over twenty years, and his new gig organizing a group of misfit military types into a functioning team—including his reluctant ex-fiancée—won’t return him to stable ground anytime soon.
Trevor Barrow has been on the move for the last seven years—hitting the road when relationships became too real or too much work. He’s home now, working in the hazardous world of bike messengers in the Motor City, and the only one of his eight siblings who knows he’s returned is his sister Cat. It’s not as if reconnecting with them matters anyway, because it’s likely he’ll be gone again soon.
Both men are lugging some heavy baggage, but when they chance upon each other in a dive bar it’s hard to deny their flaws are more like symbiotic quirks. Trevor’s backpedaling instincts and Deacon’s dance-dance party past may just be intersecting at a time when things are about to get explosive in Detroit.
I sleep little, read a lot. Happiest in a foreign country. Twitchy when not mentally in motion. My name is Sam, not Sammy, definitely not Samantha. I’m a pretty dark/cynical/jaded person, but I hide that darkness well behind my obsession(s) for shiny objects. I’m the macabre wrapped in irresistible bubble wrap and a glittery pink bow, I suppose.
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Deacon paid for their last-round of drinks and they stood at the bar as the lights clicked on. He reached out and swept back a lock of Trav’s fringe, letting his fingers linger against Trav’s sweat-slick skin.
“You gotta let me take you home,” Deacon said.
Trav scoffed and took a drink of his beer. “Worst pick up line ever.”
“I thought the worst was saying that I’d never seen you at Honest John’s before?”
“Yeah. You’re pretty bad all around.”
But instead of feeding Trav another line, Deacon made the conscious decision to give an honest reply. “Dating’s just not my scene.”
Trav tipped his head and studied him. “You know what? I don’t know if I’m supposed to believe you and be reeled in by how unconventional you are, or if this is all a game for you.”
He shrugged. Already he knew there was little he could do to sway Trav either way—Trav was perceptive. “I’ll give you time to decide that for yourself. In the mean time, though, I’m serious. Let me at least ride with you in the cab back to your place. I don’t live far from you and it will make me feel better to know you’re safe.”
“I ride a bike in downtown Detroit for a living, James. Pretty sure I can handle myself.”
Deacon’s lips curled into a smile at both Trav’s use of his first name and his brash confidence. “I’m positive you can.”
“Well, then… What? That doesn’t…” Trav pursed his lips together in a thin line and left the remains of his trailing thoughts unsaid. Trav took another swig from his beer, emptying the cup and setting it on the bar. “Whatever. Yeah, you can take me home. But I’m not inviting you up. Got it?”
Deacon would take it. He held out his hand and waited for Trav to decide it was okay to take this one small step. When Trav’s fingers curled around his after only a heartbeat of hesitation, Deacon worked through the lingering crowd to the front door, unable to wipe the triumphant smile from his face.
The ride back into the city didn’t take as long as it had to get out to Ferndale. The city became a ghost town after a certain time of night. And they’d passed that threshold hours ago. They rode in silence, with hands still touching if not intertwined, and when they pulled up to the Park Shelton, Deacon paid the cabbie and got out with Trav.
It took a moment for Trav to realize what had just happened. He watched the cab drive away, glared at Deacon, back down the road, then put his hands on his hips. “Whoa. Whatcha doing getting out of the cab? I distinctly remember not inviting you up.”
“Huh,” was all Deacon said as he pointed at the cab disappearing around a corner. “But there goes my ride.”
“I’m not a first date slut.”
Deacon groaned playfully, but his heart skipped a happy beat to hear Trav considered this a date, too. “You're not going to make me count out dates or something like that, are you?”
Trav’s fingers drummed against hips as he seemed to be considering his options. Yet barely restraining a smile at the same time. “Just for that response? Maybe.”
Deacon dropped to his knees on the sidewalk, and raised his clasped hands to the heavens, pleading to Trav in an overly loud voice, "Please, Trevor Barrow! What do I have to do for you to let me up to your apartment, Trevor Barrow? I just want to watch the History Channel or maybe So You Think You Can Dance, Trevor Barrow. I promise I have nothing lewd or lascivious—”
A group of female college students walking by giggled at his display, providing a running commentary as they eyed the scene unfolding on the sidewalk. “Dude, Trevor Barrow, you should let him up.” Then, “He's cute. He can come back to my place.”
Deacon couldn't have planned his public begging session better.
Trav blushed and laughed out loud. “Alright. Off your knees.”
“At least for now!” one of the girls yelled as they turned the corner.
Trav sighed, offered his hand and pulled Deacon up toward the front entrance of his apartment building. “You're going to give me a reputation, Deacon.”
“I earn every reputation I give.” Deacon smirked and held the door open for Trav once he’d swiped his key card.
“Where did the tears suddenly disappear to? The histrionics?”
He shrugged. “I got my way.”
Trav stopped in the doorway and looked up at Deacon wide-eyed. “Holy shit. You really are certifiable.”
Deacon ran his finger along Trav’s jawline, wanting nothing more than to kiss Trav. But whether Trav wanted to believe it or not, what happened between them next was up to Trav. “Cat’s completely right. She just should have waited for you to find that out on your own.”
Trav shook his head, his voice laden with sarcasm, but his stunning eyes crinkled at the corners in silent laughter, “Yeah, like that would've taken me long.”
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