So. What happens when you take an ornery box of novelty bubbles and add one less than coordinated author working past her bedtime? Major boo-boo’s, that’s what! But not even a slight concussion can dim my excitement about RainbowCon – and about the fantastic new book I have coming out with the extremely talented Lex Valentine just in time for RainbowCon!
When Lex approached me at the beginning of the year with the idea for a co-written serial, set in a dystopian America where the war between the “haves” and “have nots” has turned literal, I got excited. When she mentioned she’d like to write about James Bond-esque heroes, I got even more excited. Then she added the magic “word” BDSM, and I was SO there, you have no idea!
So, coming to an e-reader near you, mid-April (this’ll probably be on me – my head incident has me a week behind on everything…) is Partners, Book 1 in the Shadows & Kink world. I hope you will all love it as much as Lex and I do! AND I really hope you’ll come see me at RainbowCon – get some novelty bubbles (I promise, the blood was only on the outside of the one box, and I didn’t use that one!), check out one of my other M/M titles (I’ll have coupon-codes so you can purchase the ebook from me and download directly from Ellora’s Cave – how cool is that?), and get the chance to pick up all sorts of cool, fun stuff!
In the meantime, check out our boys, Ian and Travis. They. Are. Awesome!
TDA agents Travis Wilder and Ian Hawke are fuck ups. As members of an elite agency that battles terrorism in a world that has lost its political, economic and even social infrastructre, the agents are highly trained to find and neutralize dangerous terrorists. But neither Travis nor Ian have been able to complete a mission successfully in recent months. Travis has a penchant for killing his targets while Ian beds them. In an effort to save his two best agents, their handler makes them partners. However, making these two men live and work together forces issues from their pasts to the surface.
Ian, with his upper-crust British accent and flirty behavior is everything that attracts Travis and repels him at the same time. For Ian, the taciturn, domineering former Force Recon officer represents a temptation he knows better than to succumb to. But working and living together builds a unique bond between the two. As sexual tension spirals higher between them, as their secrets and kinks are revealed, their need for each other becomes undeniable. They’re two broken men forced into a partnership neither of them wanted…a partnership guaranteed to be their salvation or their destruction.
(Highly UN-edited, so bear with me)
Coming off a less than stellar mission, Travis finds Agent Ian Hawke, lying in wait for him. His first impression is less than fantastic.
The locker room at the gym stood empty. Travis smiled a little. Nothing like the dinner hour to clear a building of his gossipy co-workers. He stripped off his clothes, stuffed them into a plastic laundry bag and shoved them into a corner of his duffle. Stepping into the hot water he showered off the grime and blood of the botched mission, but not the wary sense that this third mistake would cost him. The tension in his gut tightened. He shut off the water and a sound so slight he might have imagined it had his SIG in his hand in a split second, the barrel poking around the tiled corner.
A man in a tuxedo stood there, one dark brow cocked up as his gaze slid with obvious admiration over Travis’ naked, wet body.
“Well, when Harris sends me to do his dirty work, the view isn’t usually this fascinating,” he murmured in a cultured British accent.
The accent gave him away. Travis knew of only one operative who had one. He’d never met or seen the guy, but he’d heard the gossip, just like he’d heard the gossip about himself. Ian Hawke had had a run of bad luck missions just like Travis, only in Ian’s case he wasn’t killing his targets. He’d been sleeping with them.
Travis didn’t believe in keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. He had a limited supply of friends and family and he distanced himself from them because of his enemies. His enemies…well, the truth of the matter was, he figured he had too many of those to keep tabs on. He just generally subscribed to the idea that anyone could be out to get him and he never let down his guard. The shrinks at TDA had labeled him as paranoid. He considered that a good call on their part. He couldn’t fathom sleeping with a target the way Ian did. His paranoia wouldn’t allow him to get that physically close unless it was to kill.
“I thought I was in trouble when Harris sent me to find you, but instead I’m getting a reward.”
The husky, flirty sound of Ian’s voice sent an unwanted frisson of awareness down Travis’ spine. It had been a long time since anyone had made his libido stand up and take notice. He didn’t appreciate it noticing an operative with a rep for fucking anything that moved.
Grabbing his towel, he wrapped it around his waist without setting down his gun. He stalked to his duffle to dry off and get dressed, completely ignoring Ian’s admiring gaze and his flirty comments, but not turning his back on the guy either. His SIG stayed within easy reach and he knew Ian had noticed. Not that he cared. He didn’t trust anyone including a fellow operative.
By the time he buttoned his fly, Ian had come closer. Under the guise of tying the laces on his boots, Travis snuck a good look at the other operative. At first glance, he’d seemed almost slender and on the small side, but looks could be deceiving.
Travis held back a snort at thinking of the guy as smaller, but in the context of Travis’s six foot four-inch fame, most men were smaller. However, Ian Hawke stood at least six feet tall which couldn’t be mistaken as small by any stretch of the imagination. The illusion of being much smaller came from his build. Ian had the lean build of a swimmer. He moved with a liquid grace that Travis had only ever seen a gymnast or ballet dancer exhibit. The cut of his tuxedo screamed designer label, custom tailored, and Travis knew it hid the other man’s muscle and strength.
With his flirty demeanor and pale eyes filled with what could only be termed a hot expression, the man broadcasted his sexuality loud and clear. Not that Travis had any objection to the Brit being gay. He swung that way himself with a one notable caveat. Besides being gay, Travis had a penchant for leather.
Unable to stop himself, he quickly glanced at Ian’s crotch. Standing with his hands thrust deep into his pockets, the black material of his trousers stretched over a prominent bulge that Travis found he couldn’t ignore. Not that he let on to Ian that he’d been looking. The untangling of a stubborn lace gave him a great cover.
When he finally stood and jerked a thermal Henley shirt over his head, Travis discovered that Ian’s bottom lip had taken up residence between white, even teeth. A slight flush stained the other man’s cheekbones too. Somehow, Travis had the notion that Ian could have controlled his reactions better if he’d wanted or needed to. Why the man had chosen to show Travis what appeared to be a genuine appreciation for Travis’s body was anyone’s guess. But Travis didn’t deal in guesswork. He dealt in absolutes.
“You said Harris wanted to see me?” he asked, his voice gruff as he hid his own untoward interest in the other operative.
Broad shoulders shrugged, the movement slow and refined. “I didn’t. I said he sent me to find you. However, it appears I now owe him one.”
Travis drew a breath and counted silently to ten. He might find himself inexplicably attracted to Ian Hawke, but he wasn’t about to let the guy know that, not when he couldn’t even get a straight answer out of him.
“Did Harris send you to find me because he wants to see me?” Travis tried to hide his annoyance but the effort was token at best.
Ian’s dark brows rose. Travis tried not to think what a great contrast the man’s pale skin made with his swathe of dark hair.
“He wants to see both of us. I know why he’s requesting your presence in his office. I was with him when he viewed the feed of the mission you just completed.”
Ian’s impressions of Travis are a little more favorable…
Their evaluation in hand to hand combat was…interesting.
Roven had decided to test them individually before setting them loose on each other. Travis went first, to Ian’s eternal gratitude. He needed some time to drag his mind back from the fucking unnecessary guided meditation.
Travis proved to be a more than competent fighter. He met Roven’s basic boxing moves cleanly, and even showed more than a bit of ability to improvise when the trainer started to ignore the rules of polite combat. Ian heartily approved because, if he or Travis ever found themselves in a situation where physical combat was necessary, he sincerely doubted their opponents would be concerned with fighting fair.
Travis’ technique was all clean lines and efficient movements. Economical. There was a kind of stark grace to it that Ian couldn’t help but appreciate. The gleam of sweat on Travis’ shoulders and the way his tense body accentuated every curve of muscle didn’t hurt, either. And it was a brilliant distraction from the hissing that had started in the back of his brain during his meditation.
So, yeah. He wouldn’t bitch too badly about letting Travis have his back. Particularly since it was day one of their training, and he expected the Cowboy would rapidly improve with the intensive practice.
Then it was Ian’s turn. He’d thought he’d gotten himself back under control. He’d thought he’d purged all memories of poor, virginal Del from his mind. He’d been ready to face the trainer right up until the man opened his mouth.
“So, I’m not sure if you just had the most successful meditation I’ve ever seen, or the least.”
Ian blinked—the only outward reaction he’d allow himself— and cocked his head questioningly.
Roven paused in his emotional torture to inflict a little physical irritation, checking Ian’s impact helmet and the tape on his knuckles before speaking again.
“I’ve just never seen someone come through the entire thing so tense. You were practically vibrating there at the end.”
“I’m not a particularly introspective man,” he answered, lifting his hands for the customary fist bump before they started.
Rovan shrugged and took up a defensive stance. “If you say so, Hawke. You looked pretty deep under to me, though. Deep under something not so nice.”
Later, Ian wouldn’t be able to explain why those words tripped the trigger they did, but by the time he and Roven were done sparring, he was drenched in sweat, dripping blood from a gash over his eyebrow and a split lip, and ridiculously thankful that the physical pain was helping to relieve some of the emotional crap floating around in his head now. Each drop of blood seemed to drain a drop of tension, of poison, from his body.
He looked bad by the end of the match, no denying that. But, to his infinite satisfaction, so did the trainer.
“Feeling better now?” Roven asked, swiping his bloody chin with the back of his hand.
Yes? No? He couldn’t say it was “better”, but Ian was feeling something. He didn’t know whether to be grateful that he still had the ability to feel, or pissed that he was still not the perfect fighting machine.
“Okay,” Roven said, after indulging in a long, searching look into Ian’s eyes. “You both clearly know your way around a fight, but at this point I don’t think you’re equally matched. So, tomorrow after meditation I’m going to set you up on some equipment first.” He gave Ian a look. “Give you the chance to work off some frustration, then see what happens when you spar against each other.”
Ian went out that night.
He smiled politely when Travis mentioned dinner, declined, and locked himself in his room until it was late enough to hit Hasteings without being unfashionably early. When he emerged, wrapped in black leather, mascaraed and be-glittered Travis was, oddly enough, planted in front of the ridiculously large television…playing a first-person shooter video game.
“Don’t you get enough of that in real life?”
Travis looked up and Ian had the pleasure of watching the man’s eyes go wide, then wider, as they took in his club gear. He shook his head, and those full, tempting lips flattened in what could only be a disapproving line.
“Mindless, harmless fun, Hawke. We all need some of that.”
“Indeed we do, Cowboy.” Oh, the man did not like that nickname if the narrowing of his eyes was anything to go by. “In fact,” he hurried on, moving toward the door, “I’m off for some mindless fun right now.”
He paused and gave Travis another long look. Faded jeans worn almost white at the seams hugged thick thighs and cupped a promising bulge between them. An even more faded olive drab t-shirt strained against the width of his shoulders and chest, while falling looser around his waist.
He wouldn’t fit in at all, still…
“You could join me.”
Now Travis’ eyes went so wide they reminded Ian of a cartoon character. And, honestly, he didn’t want Travis to come—at least, he didn’t think he did—so there was no way he was disappointed when the Cowboy wordlessly shook his head no.
“Ah, well, then. Don’t wait up.” With a cheery, if somewhat phony, smile, Ian slipped through the door and away from the ambiguous lure of a night at home with his…roommate.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: When not working the EDJfH (Evil Day Job from Hell), obsessing over whether her parents are getting enough to eat, obsessing that her kid is sexting the boyfriend, making coffee, drinking coffee, or feeding the two cats who allow her to live with them, VJ can be found reading or writing erotic romance – either solo as m/m author VJ Summers, or as the short half of the “Violet Summers” writing team (the tall half is Sierra Summers). You can find her books at Changeling, Phaze, Liquid Silver and Ellora’s Cave.