Saturday, December 13, 2014

Rival Within - Wee little Tease :) NFWS

Officer Thomas Webber made a vow of marriage to his wife, a vow to his God to resist temptation, and a vow to uphold the law. But when Tom is forced to shelter a dark-haired stranger from the tornado raging over the county, long suppressed desires are brought to the surface and he is powerless to resist.

Ben Parker has hidden his true nature his whole life. The laws in 1952 are very clear, and to expose himself would mean rotting in jail, shunned or worse, a possible death sentence. Unable to find a job, he turned to crime. Seven years later, he’s still angry and tired of hiding who he really is from the world. After meeting Thomas, Ben can envision himself settling down for the first time. The only problem is, he’s already forced Thomas to break the law and become his alibi. And then there’s the little obstacle of Tom’s wife, family, and commitment to the town of Ramer.

Ben knows what he wants, but in order to get it, Tom will have to turn his back on society and the vows he’s made if they are to find the happiness they deserve.

Coming to Dreamspinner Press December 29th
Available for pre-order HERE 


To all those who have struggled to find their place in this world. This book is for you.

Teaser:
Heat and friction and male and…. Damn, Tom was so lost to the pleasure rippling through his body. His mind reeled, fought, and balked, but his body kept reacting to Ben’s ministrations. The sensations overwhelmed him—the calluses sliding along his length, the feel of Ben’s cockhead sliding against his own, the man’s breath, tongue, and lips against Tom’s neck, the heavy weight on top of him. He was helpless against the onslaught, a wild animal, acting on instinct, need, want.
He thrust into Ben’s fist, moaning wantonly. He was so hard. So very fucking hard he couldn’t think beyond the pleasures of the flesh, his need for release.
Weak.
Doomed.
Tom stretched his arm out, and his fingers brushed against cold steel. Gun. The gun he kept beneath his pillow. The weapon he kept close at night to protect his family. His wife. His son. Dear God, he was rutting against a man—a criminal—in his marital bed.
No!
As the gravity of what he was doing, the sin he was committing in the very bed where his son was conceived, set in, Tom wrapped his hand around the gun, his finger against the trigger as he pulled it from beneath the pillow. In a split second of clarity, he weighed his options. Press the weapon to his own depraved head and squeeze… end it. Instead he pulled the hammer back and pressed the barrel against Ben’s head.
Coward.
Ben went dead still; Tom couldn’t feel Ben’s breath or the rise and fall of his chest for long, drawn-out moments. After what felt like an eternity, the battle of right and wrong still waging within Tom, Ben slowly released his hold on their cocks and lifted his head. Wary dark eyes looked at Tom with confusion and question. The expression on Ben’s face almost stripped Tom of his resolve to do the right thing, but he squashed the feeling. He refused to give in to his desires.
“Get off me,” Tom demanded, his voice surprisingly even.
Tom kept the gun trained on Ben as he slowly slid off the bed and raised his hands.
“What the hell?”
Tom choked down the disgust when his hard cock throbbed at the sight of Ben standing there with his pants open, erection straining upward. He needed this man gone, needed to take control of the situation and of himself, something he couldn’t do with the temptation standing before him. He was weak. He knew in his gut if he allowed Ben to stay, they would be fucking, marital bed and family be damned.
“Get out,” Tom ordered as he pulled himself to a sitting position and steadied the gun with his injured hand to keep it from shaking. “Get out of my house, off my property, and out of my town.”
“Tom—”
“I said get the fuck out! Now!” Tom roared.
Ben fastened up his pants and adjusted his shirt, never taking his gaze from Tom.
Please! Please just go. Goddamn you, please! Tom silently pleaded.
“This isn’t over,” Ben warned, then turned and left the room.
Tom kept the gun trained on the empty hallway long after he heard Ben’s footsteps move through the house, the front door open and close, and the distinct sound of boots tromping down the porch stairs. He held it at the ready long after everything was silent, until his arms began to shake so hard he could no longer physically do so.
Easing the hammer back into place, Tom stared at the gun as it slipped from his fingers and hit the floor with a thud. Ben was right. It wasn’t over, because Tom was too fucking weak, too much of a coward to end it.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A MAULED teaser

Because I'm feeling a little festive with all the holiday happiness in the air... Here's a sneak peek at what Mac & Gunny are up to:
~Hugs~
Jo

“Hey, Gunny! You’re never going to guess who I was just talking to.” Mac stopped dead in his tracks when he entered their home gym. Gunny was standing near the weight bench doing overhead military presses in nothing but a pair of nylon shorts. His muscles were bulging from the effort, sweat rolling down his impressive chest.
“Who?” Gunny grunted, still working the weights.
“Doesn’t matter,” Mac groaned. And it didn’t. Hell, the world didn’t matter, not when Gunny looked like that. Mac stepped up to Gunny as he extended his arms over his head. “Hold that pose.”
“What?” Gunny asked, sounding confused, but he held still.
Perhaps it was the lust Gunny had to see in Mac’s eyes or the fact that Mac was leaning in to chase a droplet down Gunny’s chest that made him smile knowingly.
“You’re interrupting my workout.”
“Oh hell, I’m about to work you out all right,” Mac assured him and ran the palms of his hands over Gunny’s hard pecs, across his shoulders, and along his biceps. He then gripped the bar, helping to hold it as he nipped at Gunny’s chin.
“Promise?” Gunny chased Mac’s lips as he brushed them along Gunny’s cheek.
“It’s a guaran-fucking-tee.” Mac pressed their mouths together, demanding entrance with his tongue. Gunny opened to him. He never denied Mac.
The kiss went on, hot and wet and so damn good, until their arms began to tremble and they were breathless. Mac ended the kiss, licking the last of Gunny’s flavor from his lips, then helped him set the bar on its brace.
“I guess I better shower, then,” Gunny suggested and shook out his arms.
Mac grabbed a towel from a hook and tossed it at Gunny. He caught it easily and swiped it across his damp face.
“That’s cleaned up enough,” Mac murmured and snatched the towel away. He slid his arm around Gunny’s slick back, stepping close once again. “I like you like this. Remember that time we snuck off from morning PT?” Mac released Gunny and stepped back. “Oh shit, that reminds me. I came in to tell you about the phone call I got before you distracted me.”
Gunny flexed his biceps. “Yeah, totally my fault. It’s the guns.”
“Stop that,” Mac grumbled and swatted playfully at Gunny’s impressive artillery. “So as I was saying, Captain Walker called. He wants us to go to DC. A lot of shit’s been going down since the repeal. He wants us to come and speak at a conference.”
“Speak about what?”
“Do you not ever listen to me? The repeal. You know, how I can tap your ass and still take out an enemy from two thousand yards.”
“I’m pretty sure that isn’t exactly what the brass had in mind,” Gunny chuckled.
“Maybe not exactly those words, but same meaning.”
Gunny froze, his eyes going wide. “Did you say we?”
“Yup.”
“Oh hell no! I am not talking in front of a bunch of strangers. You’re the chatty one—you do it.”
“No prob. I’ll do it. All you have to do is stand there and look purty.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not real good at that either, not with this mug.”
Mac rolled his eyes at just how ridiculous Gunny could be. But it was one of the things he loved about the man. Gunny had no clue how incredibly sexy he was. Good damn thing too or he might’ve actually considered what Cap had said at their exit ceremony: “Is this the best you can do?” Mac might like to act all tough and gruff. Hell, he was when the situation called for it, badass-take-you-out-machine, even. But it was no secret Mac was a pile of mushy love-struck goo when it came to Gunny.
“So I was thinking,” Mac continued without commenting on Gunny’s concern. “We go to DC, give our”—Gunny raised a single brow—“okay, my little speech, then we take us a little vacation.”
Gunny grabbed a cold bottle of water out of the minifridge and held it up. When Mac nodded, Gunny tossed it to him and then grabbed one for himself. “I don’t want to vacation in DC. It’s not really what I’d call a relaxing, fun kind of town.” Gunny leaned against the wall and opened his water.
Mac found himself distracted from the conversation again when Gunny tipped the bottle up, his throat working as he gulped the water down. Gunny swallowing down other things flashed in Mac’s head, and his cock twitched. Unable to resist such a temptation, Mac went after that sexy throat, nipping it and then swiping his tongue from Gunny’s Adam’s apple up to just below his ear, tasting the salt of his skin. Gunny groaned, the deep husky sound going straight to Mac’s groin.
“I had this idea,” Mac murmured against Gunny’s warm flesh.
“Let me guess, it involves lube and me sweating even more.”
“Yes, that’s the immediate plan,” Mac agreed. He grabbed Gunny’s hips, pulling him toward the weight bench. Mac sat and encouraged Gunny to straddle him while Mac continued to lick and taste, hands roaming over Gunny’s muscular back. “But I was talking about our vacation. After DC, I think we should finally take our honeymoon. What do you think of New York City?”
“Crowded and smelly,” Gunny moaned, tipping his head to the side to give Mac more room to explore.
“True, but they also have a few of those clubs you’ve wanted to check out, and I’ve been dying to see you in those leathers I bought you.”
“I think I like both your ideas.” Gunny thrust hard against Mac’s groin, emphasizing his meaning.


 A Free Novella coming soon to Dreamspinner Press

Friday, November 28, 2014

Rival Within - Want to read the first chapter?

Officer Thomas Webber made a vow of marriage to his wife, a vow to his God to resist temptation, and a vow to uphold the law. But when Tom is forced to shelter a dark-haired stranger from the tornado raging over the county, long suppressed desires are brought to the surface and he is powerless to resist.

Ben Parker has hidden his true nature his whole life. The laws in 1952 are very clear, and to expose himself would mean rotting in jail, shunned or worse, a possible death sentence. Unable to find a job, he turned to crime. Seven years later, he’s still angry and tired of hiding who he really is from the world. After meeting Thomas, Ben can envision himself settling down for the first time. The only problem is, he’s already forced Thomas to break the law and become his alibi. And then there’s the little obstacle of Tom’s wife, family, and commitment to the town of Ramer.

Ben knows what he wants, but in order to get it, Tom will have to turn his back on society and the vows he’s made if they are to find the happiness they deserve.


In celebration of Rival Within finally making it to the coming soon page, I thought I'd tease you with the first chapter....yes I know I'm a tease heheheh  :) 


“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.
That’s what this storm is all about.”
~Haruki Murakami~


Excerpt:


Chapter One
Ramer, Tennessee April 5, 1952
Big blue eyes full of sadness and innocence stared up at Officer Thomas Webber, eyes reminiscent of a time before the harsh realities of the world had left their marks, scarring them. The same untainted eyes that had once stared back at Tom in reflection now belonged to his son.
“Why can’t I stay with you, Pa?” Tommy cried.
Tom pressed his palm against his son’s cheek and brushed away a tear with his thumb. “I need you to stay with your ma. You’ll need to be a big boy now and look after her for me.”
“But I don’t wanna go! Please! I wanna stay with you.” Tommy continued to cry, the tears streaming down his reddened face.
The sounds of Tommy’s distress, his damp cheeks, and pitiful pleas caused Tom’s chest to clench painfully. His son, barely into his fifth year of life, wasn’t old enough to understand the dangers of the coming storm. There was no way in hell Tom would put his boy in danger. Thomas Junior was his pride, his heart, his true happiness.
Marna, Tom’s wife of seven years, tried her best to comfort the boy, running a soothing hand down Tommy’s back and speaking in low, reassuring tones. Tommy shrugged off her touch, refusing to have anything to do with her. The child wanted his father and would not be placated. Marna was a good mother, a good wife, and a fine woman. His stomach roiled with guilt as he watched the struggle before him. Tom pushed away the all too familiar guilt as he watched the struggle before him. Marna took second fiddle to her son in her husband’s heart and also to her husband in her son’s heart. She deserved better. Marna deserved a real husband, a loving one, and a loyal son. Instead….
No, he wasn’t going to think of such things now. He’d done what was expected of him, what was right by her. He’d provided a good home, plenty of food on the table, and a strong hand to lead the boy. It wasn’t perfect—marriage often wasn’t—but she could have done much worse for herself than a man who provided for her yet didn’t love her. At least that’s what Tom repeatedly told himself.
“Boy,” Tom scolded harshly and hated himself for it. “Listen to your ma. It’s too dangerous for you to stay behind. Now give me a hug and do as I say.”
Tommy tried to stifle his sobbing, tried to do as he was told by covering his mouth with his hand, but his grief came out as muffled hiccups, the tears impossible to stop on demand. Tom’s heart broke for his little guy. He was such a good boy.
“Y-y-yes, Pa,” he finally managed.
“Be brave for me.” Tom ruffled his son’s unruly curls.
“Yes, Pa,” Tommy whispered and hugged Tom’s waist tightly.
Tom held his son and looked to his wife, who met Tom’s gaze expectantly as she so often did, no doubt waiting for the same kind of affection and tenderness Tom bestowed upon his son. Simple emotions, deserved ones, and yet, try as he might, Tom couldn’t muster true affection and tenderness for his wife.
“I spoke with your dad. He’ll pick you up at the train station, so no worries,” Tom told his wife. “I’ll ring once the storm has passed.”
As Tom had seen too many times to count, Marna’s eyes filled with tears born of disappointment, but they did not fall. She nodded and, like the dutiful wife she was, took their son’s hand and led him to the train.
Some days Tom truly hated himself. As he turned away without so much as a wave for his family, he knew today was one of those days.


Tom stared out the rain-streaked windshield as lightning burst and crackled in the black sky. The brilliant flash lit the stark trees, the naked branches on either side of the lonely country road like withered fingers and claws grasping for the light, railing against the oncoming storm. Tom shivered.
Pushing down the uneasy feeling, Tom zipped his yellow rain slicker, pulled the hood over his head, and stepped out of the car. The county was under a severe thunderstorm warning, and the possibility of a tornado was high. It had been raining for hours; an early warming trend had melted winter’s snow and left the streams and rivers overflowing. This newest weather pattern caused them to swell further and wash out bridges and roads. Tom considered the black sedan with no license plate before him with a critical eye. He noticed the dent on the right side of the bumper, the crack along the back windshield, and the discoloration of rust along the edge of the trunk. He took in the minute details, all the while wondering what the hell this yahoo was doing out here on a night like this. He figured it came down to being lost, a fool, or up to no good.
Cautiously Tom made his way along the vehicle. A prickling sensation caused the hair on the back of his neck to stand on end, and he reached through the slit in his raincoat and unsnapped the strap securing his service revolver. His hand hovered close to the butt of the gun. Using his other hand, he trained the beam of light from his flashlight into the car and swept it across the interior, then on the lone occupant.
“Evening, Officer.” The stranger’s voice was deep and whiskey smooth with a hint of a northern accent.
Not from around these parts. Tom wouldn’t have forgotten that seductive voice or the face that went with it. The man’s cheekbones were prominent on his thin face; dark brows and liquid brown eyes glistened in the light. His dark brown pompadour was slicked back—not a hair out of place—the slight scruff on his jaw and chin giving him a roguish appearance. A thin scar ran from his temple down his cheek, curving at the tip of his full upper lip, curling it into a sly grin. Tom brushed his thumb over the butt of his gun as another warning of caution furled in his gut.
Dangerous flashed in Tom’s mind.
“Not the best of nights to be out,” Tom drawled.
“No, sir. Highway’s been shut down about a mile back,” the stranger said with a slight nod toward the direction from which he came. “I was forced to take a little detour.”
“Won’t be makin’ it through Ramer tonight. Bridge is washed out. You’d best be turnin’ around and headin’ back the way you came.”
“Damn.” The stranger rubbed a hand across his chin.
Tom studied the man carefully, his gut telling him to take the stranger into custody, but with the power out, phone lines down, and flood waters rising, the last thing Tom wanted was to have to deal with a prisoner. Tom hesitated for a moment, trying to get a read on him, but it was difficult with the permanent smirk and his demeanor: calm, almost nonchalant. All Tom had was gut instinct. He stared for a second longer before deciding the best thing to do was get the stranger’s name and cut him loose. He’d do some inquiring after the storm broke.
“Can I see some identification?” Tom asked politely.
“Well now, there is the first problem,” the stranger muttered with a shrug. “I’m afraid I’ve misplaced my wallet.”
Lightning cracked open the sky in an impressive display of light and power, and a loud boom of thunder shook the ground. The man before him didn’t flinch or react in the slightest.
Tom stroked the butt of his gun again when his unease grew, a nervous habit, but he forced himself to stay calm. “Anything with your name and address on it will suffice. Car ownership—”
As the stranger reached toward the passenger side of the car, Tom’s beam of light glinted off steel gray beneath the stranger’s brown leather jacket.
Tom shifted his stance and pulled his gun. “Hands where I can see them. Do it. Do it now!”
The stranger lifted his hands slowly and turned his head back toward Tom. “Hey, hey, easy there, Officer. Was just going to grab the info you asked for,” he said with a wink.
The son of a bitch was smiling and winking. He didn’t appear to be rattled in the least that one slight squeeze, a twitch of a finger, and a bullet would explode between his eyes. Tom ignored the spark of irritation the man’s blasé attitude ignited, instead finding that cold place within himself when it dawned on him this man was no stranger to the gun. Tom’s focus narrowed as his finger ghosted over the trigger.
“With your left hand, reach out and open the door,” Tom called and took another step back. As soon as the suspect complied, Tom added, “Now, keeping your hands where I can see them, step out of the car.”
“It’s raining,” the stranger complained. “I might melt.”
In small town Ramer, population one thousand three hundred and sixty-nine as of last week when one of the locals popped out twin boys, they had little crime. The worst Tom had seen in his ten years as an officer was a drunken brawl down at the little dive bar on the outskirts of town and two summers ago when a couple local teens went around vandalizing cars and stealing tires. He’d pulled his gun before, but had never actually pointed it at another human being. He was proud and yet shocked his hand was steady, considering that the danger radiating off this stranger had him nervous, agitated, and to be quite honest, more than a little scared.
“Step out of the car now or I will put a fucking bullet in you,” Tom barked as a clap of thunder boomed, seeming to give his words even more power.
Once again the stranger gave no outward appearance that the noise, the pissed-off cop, or the situation in general bothered him in the slightest. He did eye the gun briefly before he shrugged one shoulder and did as he was instructed.
“Face the car and lace your fingers behind your head.”
Tom unzipped his raincoat, slid the flashlight through the loop on his belt, and grabbed the cuffs. With the gun sited on the back of the man’s head, Tom attached the cuff to one wrist, tightening it before he returned his gun to its holster. He grabbed the man’s other wrist at the pressure point and wrenched it down.
“Oh, baby, I like it rough,” the man purred.
Tom gritted his teeth as he secured the jokester’s other wrist, then grabbed the back of his jacket, curling his fingers in the soft leather and pulling him back roughly. “Let’s see how you like it over the trunk of the car, smart guy.”
“Mmm, like it rough, do you?”
Tom refused to respond to the taunt. He shoved the bastard toward the back of the car and forced him to bend. Actually, Tom had a sneaking suspicion force was a relative term. He felt the hard muscles beneath his hand, and had the man not gone passive, Tom would have had a difficult time manhandling him. Tom kicked the stranger’s feet apart, but didn’t release his hold on the jacket. Tom couldn’t shake the feeling that he had his hands wrapped around a deadly animal who was merely playing with its prey—a belief hammered home as Tom patted down the muscular calves and thighs.
The wind gusted and the heavy downpour forced the suspect to close his eyes as he lay across his car, cheek against the trunk, but his smile never faltered. Something about the man, perhaps the danger, the arrogance, or maybe his calm, unhinged Tom, and he found himself wanting to slap that smug smile off the bastard’s face and leave him cuffed and bleeding in the ditch. Tom hated to lose control—he couldn’t afford to lose control, ever. One look, one curl of lip, had Tom fighting to keep himself composed.
Tom slipped a hand beneath the leather jacket and groaned when he came in contact—not with the gun he had suspected—but what felt like a flask. He snatched it out, and it was in fact an ornate steel-gray flask. He threw it aside angrily. Tom found nothing else on the man other than a Zippo and half a pack of Lucky Strikes.
Without another word, Tom grabbed the scruff of the man’s neck, pulled him upright, and pushed him toward the cruiser. “Have a seat,” he growled as he opened the back door.
“Is there a problem, Officer?” the man asked innocently as he slid into the backseat.
Tom slammed the door and stomped back to the sedan, cursing the entire way. He should be sitting at his desk, feet propped up, with a glass of Old Crow in his hand as he rode out the storm, but no. He was out in the rain, dealing with a smart-mouthed stranger with thick, bulging muscles and a perpetual smirk.
A quick search of the sedan left Tom scratching his head. It was empty, not so much as a candy wrapper on the floor. He snatched the keys from the ignition, rolled up the window and locked the doors, then checked the trunk. He found a small green duffel bag containing clothes and a single-action Colt, but again, nothing that would help identify the stranger. He took the duffel and slammed the trunk. The wind increased and the rain changed to hail that stung Tom’s cheeks.
Time to go batten down the hatches.
Tom threw the bag into the passenger seat as he slid into the cruiser. “How is it you have no identification?” he asked the stranger, looking at him in the rearview mirror.
“I told you I m—”
“Misplaced your wallet,” Tom finished for him disbelievingly. “Unfortunately, or fortunately—whichever way you choose to look at it—Mother Nature is forcing me to take you in.”
“I’ll have to thank her, I’m sure.” The seductive lilt in the stranger’s voice went straight to Tom’s crotch. The tingling sensation irritated him for reasons he refused to think about at the moment. Grudgingly, Tom pulled out onto the road.
Tom had been born and raised in Ramer. He’d learned to drive on this very road, had been patrolling it nearly every day for the last ten years, and still as he got them going down the road, he had a hell of a time keeping his bearings. With gale-force winds, heavy rain, and flooding, it took twenty white-knuckled minutes to drive the mile stretch back to the station. The instant he had the car in park and cut the engine, Tom blew out a relieved sigh. He pried his fingers from the steering wheel and scrubbed them across his face.
“I’m impressed.”
Tom jerked when he heard the stranger’s voice; he’d forgotten he had a passenger, the road and weather demanding his full attention. Tom looked to the silhouette behind him in the mirror; it was too dark to see the man’s eyes, but Tom could feel them boring into him. He had to clamp down on the shiver that threatened. He ripped his gaze away, grabbed the duffel, and stepped out of the car. Tom stood with his hand poised on the back door handle, the wind whipping, rain stinging his cheeks, but he ignored them. He needed a moment to calm himself. He rolled his shoulders and huffed out a breath before opening the door.
“Let’s go,” he demanded as he grabbed the man by the bicep and tugged him from the car.
Strands of the stranger’s hair covered his eyes as the rain streamed down his face. Anger flashed across his features, his brow dipping into a deep scowl; he pursed his lips but caught himself quickly, and the smug smile once again reemerged as Tom manhandled him. It was the first crack in the guy’s calm façade. Tom didn’t give the ire a second thought as he was beyond irritated himself. He was pissed off at the whole situation, especially as it brought all the forbidden desires he had buried long ago back to the surface. Why now? Why did they have to come back and haunt him?
With the wind now blowing nearly sideways, Tom fought to keep his feet on the rain-soaked walkway and his hand securely on his prisoner. Tom had sent his partner and the only other officer in Ramer, Frank Compton, home to his wife and kids hours ago. There had been no reason for them both to be at the station, and Tom knew had he not sent Frank on his way, he’d have had to listen to him fret and fuss until Tom considered shooting him. Now as he pushed the cuffed man through the door of the dark and deserted station, Tom wished Frank were there. He wasn’t afraid of what the stranger would do to him—although he supposed he should be—but instead, Tom was afraid of what he would do to the stranger.
Tom slammed the door behind them, then spun the stranger around and shoved him against the door. “Don’t fucking move,” Tom growled against the man’s ear.
“You know, Officer,” he said in a singsong voice. “You really have to learn to relax a little. Why are you so upset with me? I’ve done nothing but lose my wallet.”
“Because you—” Tom snapped his mouth shut and closed his eyes against the dizzying wave of nausea. Yet even with the unpleasant sensation the guilt evoked, his body thrummed as he breathed in the man’s heady scent. He needed to get away from this temptation… this… this….
Goddammit! I will not give in to such depravity. I won’t!
Straightening, Tom took a step back and squared his shoulders. “I apologize, the storm has me a little unsettled,” he said neutrally. “Please stay where you are, sir, while I get a lamp lit.”
“You got that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing going on, don’t you?”
“Never saw it. I don’t go to the picture shows,” Tom admitted.
“Probably don’t read much either,” the man muttered under his breath, but Tom heard it and chose not to respond.
Tom spun on his heel and stomped to the cabinet, a task easily done in the dark without tripping over anything. The room was small, housing three desks, a couple of filing cabinets, and a single holding cell. The place was kept warm in the winter by an old potbellied woodstove, and a single ceiling fan fought the heat in the summer. It was nothing fancy like they had up in Nashville, but Tom wouldn’t trade a single thing with them city folks. They could keep their big fancy precinct, new cars, and modern weapons, as long as they kept their crime rate too. Ramer was a damn fine place without any of that mess—perhaps a little backward, a little remote, but the people were good and honest for the most part.
With a shaky hand, Tom grabbed the box of matches and fumbled to pull one out. God, that was close. It had actually been on the tip of his tongue to blame the stranger for the wayward thoughts he inspired in Tom. What the hell was wrong with him?
He turned up the wick on the lamp and lit it, filling the small room with warm light. He blew out the match and took a deep breath, exhaling slowly for good measure. He turned around to face his tormentor and groaned.
Much to Tom’s dismay, the extra deep breath did little to calm his nerves, and he had to force his feet to move steadily back to the stranger, who watched Tom intently the entire time. Those dark, intense eyes were like a stroke of fire to Tom’s tingling flesh.
Without a word, Tom grabbed the man’s bicep and tugged. The stranger didn’t say a word, nor did he resist, allowing Tom to pull him along until Tom opened the holding cell door and ushered him in.
Dark eyes shot upward, widening in alarm as the gusting wind caused the old building to groan and creak. “You’re not actually going to lock me in a cell with a tornado about to hit, are you?” He glared at Tom.
“Just till I figure out what the hell I’m supposed to do with you.” Tom gave the man a slight shove, getting him moving, then quickly shut the door and locked it.
“I know what I’d like for you to do with me,” the man grumbled. At least it’s what Tom heard, although he couldn’t be sure it was what the man actually said or just his messed-up mind projecting crazy thoughts.
Tom turned away, hiding both shock and desire, shrugged out of his raincoat, and hung it and his cap on the coat-tree near the door.
“Could you at least unfasten these cuffs?”
“Sure,” Tom agreed, strolling back toward the cell and pulling his keys from his pocket, twirling them. “As soon as you tell me your name and why you’re here in Ramer, I’ll consider it.”
“It’s Ben, and I told you, the highway is shut down,” Ben said in exasperation and turned his back slightly, exposing the cuffs. “Now do you mind?”
“Ben what?” Tom stepped closer to the cell and met the man’s eyes, searching for any hint of deception.
“Parker. Benjamin Parker,” he responded evenly, holding Tom’s gaze. “I’m a thirty-two-year-old salesman from Toledo, Ohio. Never been married, no kids, no commitments.” Ben licked his lips as he raked his eyes up and down Tom’s body. “What about you, Officer? You got anybody waiting at home for you?”
Tom clamped down on the shudder that threatened and refused to acknowledge the suggestive note in Ben’s voice. “Turn around and put your wrist to the bars.”
As Tom unfastened the cuffs, he noted the heavy calluses on the palms of Ben’s hands as well as the numerous small wounds and old white scars covering his fingers and knuckles. Salesman, my ass. Tom stepped back quickly, trusting Ben even less now that his hands were free, and shoved his keys into his pocket.
“Thanks,” Ben said, rubbing at his wrists. “Would you mind doing me one more favor?”
“Ask.”
Ben cocked an eyebrow at Tom’s clipped tone, his smile growing. “Could I get a towel or something?” He opened his coat, pushing it over his shoulders and slowly letting it drop to the floor. “I’m a little wet.” He smirked.
Tom would not look at the way Ben’s damp dress shirt clung to his muscular chest or the way his erect nubs were visible through the white material. Tom ripped his gaze away from the tempting sight before him, but it hadn’t been quick enough. A deep rumbling chuckle proved Ben hadn’t missed Tom’s momentary lapse. Shit!
Cursing himself for a fool, Tom rummaged around in a small closet until he found a towel. “Here,” he grumbled and threw it toward the cell.
Ben snatched it easily. “Thanks.”
Tom’s only response was a curt nod without looking toward the cell as he dropped down in the chair at his desk and grabbed the phone. “Hello?” He tapped the receiver several times even though he knew it was useless. The phone lines had gone down before he’d sent Frank home, and the storm had only increased in strength. He’d have to think about taking cover soon, but the thought of being confined in the small cellar with Ben scared him more than any act of Mother Nature. With a huff, he slammed the phone receiver down and scrubbed his hands over his face. He leaned his elbows on the desk and held his head in his hands.
Why? Why was this happening now?