Saturday, October 17, 2015

Saturday's Series Spotlight: MIA Case Files by KC Burn

Wolfsbane #1
Agent Lachlan Carmichael has a job to do. A portal is open in Rothburg, and this time the Umbrae passing through it are creating werewolves. He needs to close the portal, even if it means losing two-thirds of the people possessed by the Umbrae.

So what if Adam Farelli, the town's screw-up, is the sexiest man he's ever seen? Carmichael's been content to live with 'don't ask don't tell' for most of his life. A gorgeous, shiftless layabout isn't going to convince him to step out of the closet.

But when Carmichael needs Adam's help to close the portal, he's unable to resist the temptation Adam represents. But his lies and lack of trust put Adam in danger when one of the werewolves, obsessed with Adam, kidnaps him. Even if Carmichael can save the man he's grown to love, he's going to have to convince Adam to forgive him.

Blood Relations #2
Agent Cooper Wallace doesn't expect to meet the love of his life while hunting an Umbrae-possessed vampire. Nor does he expect a scorching one-night stand to lead to a lasting relationship. Meeting Frazer Nyland challenges a lot of Cooper's expectations, though. Unfortunately, Cooper also doesn't expect his investigation of missing men to lead him to Frazer's home town and the discovery that the disappearances can all be connected to Frazer.

The police suspect Frazer is a serial killer. Cooper's agency suspects Frazer is a vicious, bloodthirsty vampire. Cooper is determined to prove them wrong, despite an obsessive cop who'll stop at nothing to take Frazer down. But the clues mount up, and Cooper begins to believe Frazer might be the killer. The realization comes too late, because Cooper's already done the unforgivable -- he's fallen in love with an Umbrae.

If Cooper does his job and closes the Umbrae's portal, at best, he will destroy Frazer's memories of their love. At worst, Cooper's action will kill Frazer. Can Cooper do what's right and save the lives of nameless, faceless innocents if the price is the death of the man he loves?

Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Male/male sexual practices.

Craving #3
On a mission tracking down werewolves, a mishap disables Agent Brandon Ellison, rendering him unfit for field duty. Unable to deal with the repercussions of the accident, Brandon moves away and Oliver Cardoso not only loses his partner, but his lover. Years later, when Brandon returns as head of MIA’s Research and Development team, the hurt, guilt and blame fester into jealousy and professional rivalry, making working together almost impossible.

When an equipment failure almost kills Oliver, it appears as though Brandon’s executing some sort of revenge. Determined to find out the truth, Brandon invites himself along on his first mission in years, with Oliver and his new partner. With an elusive portal and the Umbrae creating a previously unknown creature, hundreds of lives, including Oliver’s, are at stake. Although their attraction hasn’t waned in the intervening years, putting aside their differences creates a potentially fatal distraction and falling in love again might destroy them both.

Wolfsbane #1
Adam hummed to himself as he walked into the coffee shop. He grinned at Susie, the girl with whom he shared his shift today. He didn't have any true friends left in Rothburg, but Susie was a decent person. They got along rather well, and she didn't treat him like the village idiot, the way most of the townspeople did.

Susie smiled back. “Hey, you're in a good mood,” she said as she lifted the counter to let him into the back room.

“Yeah, doing okay,” he replied as he set his skateboard out of the way. He had a few minutes before his shift started, and he wanted to contemplate his elated mood. Technically there wasn't a good reason for it. After all, he'd come close to being squished. Not for the first time, by any stretch, but this was the first time he'd been buoyant, excited. The guy behind the wheel—the reason for his euphoria—couldn't have been as good-looking as he'd seemed through the tinted windshield. Probably wasn't gay, anyway.

If anyone who lived or visited this parochial, hidebound little town was gay, they'd hidden it well. Better than Adam did. Of course, Adam hadn't tried to hide at all after high school.

It was one of the reasons he'd left and why a number of the inhabitants treated him like a leper. Like the gayness would rub off or something. They tolerated him for the sake of his parents, but Adam knew damn well that some of them had entertained the notion that his parents' affliction was somehow his fault, that he'd brought it on them by being a deviant.

So even if the sexy yet shitty driver lived up to the promise of good looks live and in person, it wouldn't matter. Adam would be left to gape from afar. If he didn't want to get beaten up, that was.

Adam slipped his apron over his head and smoothed it down. Good thing he was wearing jeans today, because he was still half hard from his encounter. He'd heard adrenaline sometimes did that, but having his dick sproing after his near-death experience was unexpected. Probably had more to do with the guy behind the wheel than anything else.

Since it would be an hour or more before the rush began, Adam took his time in the back room, hoping that his erection would subside more before he had to go out and face the public. What he needed was a distraction. Otherwise he'd never stop thinking about that guy long enough to deflate.

The bell above the door tinkled as he emerged from the back room, but he didn't pay any attention. Susie could handle whoever walked in. Or so he thought until he heard Susie gasp. Had her ex showed up again?

Adam looked up, and he couldn't even get a gasp out.

Him. The guy from the SUV. The guy who'd almost run him over. The most heartbreakingly gorgeous man he'd ever seen. If anything, the windshield had protected Adam from that devastating sight. Sexier and better-looking than anything Adam could have imagined, Susie's reaction was no surprise.

Tall, much taller than he'd expected, and muscular. Six-two, at least. Black cotton encased a spectacular torso like a second skin. Bright blond hair, a touch too long to be military, topped the square face.

Oh. Oh my. Adam's breath came back. He bit his lower lip to hold in the whimper wanting to escape. Desperate to take a peek at the package surrounded by black jeans, but given the disparity in their sizes, Adam didn't dare. The blond could kick his ass without spilling his latte if he caught Adam checking him out. Instead he glanced at the other man. The sharp suit gave the older man an official air, but an official of what, Adam couldn't quite guess.

However, neither man was from Rothburg—he hadn't spent enough time away from town to lose that innate sense.

“I'll take this one, Susie,” Adam said, unable to help himself.

“You don't say,” Susie said with a smirk. “They're kind of out of place here. Friends of yours?”

Oh, if only.

“Nope,” Adam replied. But that didn't stop a guy from hoping. His cock twitched as he watched the two men scan the interior of the coffee shop and its patrons as they casually made their way to the counter. Neither of them had looked his way yet, and Adam prepared to paste on his most gracious customer-service smile, all the while telling his overeager prick to ease off. He really didn't want to be sporting wood at work.

Who were these two, anyway? The blond hunk's demeanor screamed military, but his companion's didn't. Yet they both had the same indefinable quality that told Adam they were there for a common purpose. Which wasn't to get a coffee.

Adam didn't much care why they were there. He'd get the sexy bastard coffee and whatever else he wanted. As his cock leaped up to agree, Adam clutched the counter. A raging hard-on might be a little more friendly than most people expected from good customer service. He felt his smile get a bit tighter and hoped Susie hadn't noticed his reaction.

The other patrons eyed the two strangers as well. Anyone would think they'd never seen a stranger before. Unless lust punched everyone here in the gut like it had Adam. Somehow he couldn't quite see old Mrs. Jenkins overcome by lust. If he ever did see that, he'd have to scrub his eyes out with acid, because yuck.

Okay, good. That horrific thought made his jeans less constricting.

Finally the two men completed their lazy approach to the counter.

“Good afternoon. What can I get you today?”

The good-looking, older man ignored Adam while perusing the menu overhead, but the gorgeous blond dropped his gaze down to Adam and opened his mouth to order. Adam was able to pinpoint the exact moment when recognition struck in those…oh, God…stunning blue eyes, the exact shade of lapis lazuli, Adam's new favorite color.

An adorable flush stained prominent cheekbones, and kissable, mobile lips worked around words that wouldn't come out. Adam stared, mesmerized. Am I drooling? His unintentional yet self-imposed celibacy had now lasted about a year and might account for his lust. Or was he in the presence of a mind-blowing specimen of manhood?

“Large coffee,” the blond stuttered.

“Anything in it?”

“Like what?”

Oh, nice. Adam had flustered him. He hoped it was for the same reason he flustered Adam. Could he—should he—hit on this guy in front of his companion?

“Cream, sugar?” Adam made sure his tone was devoid of sarcasm, tempting as it would have been with anyone else. Wasn't enough to save the blond from further embarrassment, as the blush heating his cheeks got stronger.

“Oh, sorry. No. Black is fine. And, uh…I'm sorry about earlier.” Big-and-Sexy was having difficulty meeting Adam's eyes.

“No problem. It's forgotten. Anything else?” Jesus. Had that sounded as suggestive to anyone else as it had to Adam's ears? Maybe it had, given that the blush somehow intensified. Apparently his mouth had already decided to try a gentle come-on, without his brain's consent. While Adam wondered if he should be more overt, the blond's friend broke the moment.

“A medium latte, please.” The older man gave him a pleasant smile and a nod. He'd clearly recognized Adam, but then, he'd already apologized for the near mishap and undoubtedly didn't feel the need for any further discussion of the matter.

“I'll go get a seat,” the blond said before he slipped away, still unable to look at Adam.

“I can bring you your drinks,” Adam said as he made change for the older man.

“Thanks. That would be great.”

The older man followed his companion to a table in the corner. Both appeared relaxed, but Adam was sure that wasn't the case.

His curiosity stabbed him. Something odd was going on here.

Susie returned from busing a few tables. “Serving them too?” She winked. “Find out what they're doing here. Or, better yet, how long they're staying in town.”

“They're staying in town?” Adam strove for nonchalance but feared he'd failed miserably. “How do you know?”

“The bed-and-breakfast was expecting two visitors today, staying for an unspecified length of time. Maybe they're businessmen looking to invest or something.”

Just a week ago, Rothburg had been crawling with strangers, and the only accommodation within the town proper, the Sleepytime Bed-and-Breakfast, had been filled to capacity. Most of the surrounding area motels, as well as the campground of the nearby park, were too. The sensational riot of color during the autumn turning of the leaves brought tourists flocking every year. But the season was over, and the town was bracing itself for winter's onslaught.

Summer and fall might be busy tourist seasons, but they meant more money for Adam. The slowdown in work would be nice if it didn't mean tightening his belt. Grateful as he was for the job in the café, it could never make up for the hours he worked in the park and campground. In the off-season, even the hours available at the café were reduced.

The two men weren't tourists, for damned sure. Purpose coiled through them, and Adam was certain they weren't harmless businessmen. He couldn't believe Susie had made the suggestion, but then, maybe he was seeing things that weren't there. Adam shook his head. He had a job to do. Hastily he prepared the two beverages and took them over to the men.

Deep in conversation, the older man said something the younger was not pleased by. As soon as Adam approached the table, they stopped midsentence. The only thing he'd had a chance to hear was the blond telling his companion, “No,” in an emphatic manner. Well, that wasn't going to satisfy any of the town gossips. Adam couldn't work up any remorse, though, since he'd spent so much time as the subject of gossip. Besides, he had other things to worry about—his dick was paying too much attention to the blond, more than was healthy.

Adam pasted on another bright smile as he placed drinks on the table. He made sure to make eye contact with both men as he did so, although those sexy blue eyes didn't meet his for more than a second before avoiding him. Well, that told the story right there. Not interested. Too bad Adam could—oh shit—smell him. Clean, musky male under the scent of soap. Irish Spring, maybe.

The wattage of his smile dimming, Adam spoke again. “If you two gentlemen will be in town for any length of time, we have great lunch specials every day. And we're open until eleven each night.”

Blond-and-Handsome looked at him, finally, an unpleasant expression marring his handsome face, blue eyes challenging Adam to…something. “Why? What do you mean by 'in town'?”

Uh, gee, what could he possibly mean by that?

“Carmichael! Enough.” Apparently his companion thought he was out of line too.

Carmichael. Interesting name. First or last, Adam wasn't sure, but now he had a name to go with the face. Also interesting was the way Carmichael subsided under the exasperated scolding. His gaze dropped away, and he studiously ignored Adam once more. One more indicator Adam wouldn't be keeping this one company while he was in town. Too bad. The best ones were always straight or taken. Time to beat a strategic retreat.

“Well, if you need anything else, let me know. My name is Adam.” He couldn't resist giving Carmichael one last bright smile, but the effort was wasted with the man refusing to look in his direction. Adam shrugged and returned to his post behind the counter, hoping he could ignore his attraction until the men left.

“What the fuck was that about, Cardoso?” Carmichael was pissed but retained enough decorum to keep his voice low. He might be the junior partner, and younger, but that didn't give Oliver the right to talk to him like a bratty kid.

“You can't antagonize the natives, you know. We're going to need their help.”

“Not his.” He was certain. The kid had to be too young and irresponsible to know anything useful. Carmichael really, really didn't want him to know anything useful.

“You don't know that. In fact, he might be just what we need.”

Need. Yes, need. Carmichael curled his fingers into fists. “What? No! How can you say that?”

“It's like I told you—we stick out. That's what the kid meant. Look around.” Oliver flicked his gaze over the rest of the people seated in the café. Unwillingly Carmichael copied him, even though he'd assessed every single person in there as a potential threat as soon as he walked in.

“Every person here knows damn well we don't belong,” Oliver continued.

Yeah, Carmichael knew it too. Feeling all those eyes on him had made him uncomfortable, which was saying something, considering he was having inappropriate, lustful thoughts about the barely legal kid who'd not only served them coffee, but whom he'd almost flattened in the road not ten minutes ago. Guilt, lust, and embarrassment combusted into a volatile mix of emotions he hadn't experienced since he'd left home to join the army ten years ago. Felt like he was back in basic training, wondering if he had what it took.

Carmichael stole a peek at the kid—Adam—out of the corner of his eye and was treated to the sight of him laughing at something his coworker said. At the twitch in his groin, Carmichael brought his attention back to Oliver. No way was this kid going to break him.

“Fine. Sorry. How did you want to start?” Most times he got the answers he needed by roughing people up. This time, and in this place, that tactic wasn't going to work. But he didn't know if he had the finesse to get answers any other way.

“I told you this wouldn't be easy. No one's going to want to give us the answers we need. I think we could use Adam's help, if he's willing.”

Carmichael's jaw locked. Oliver couldn't be serious. Why Adam, of all people? There had to be someone—anyone—else. He looked suspiciously at his partner, wondering if Oliver had come up with this ridiculous suggestion to torment him. Maybe he hadn't hidden his attraction as well as he'd thought. No, that couldn't be it. There was no good reason for Oliver to want Adam's help if he thought his presence would prove a distraction.

“Why him?” Carmichael knew there was only so much resistance he could put up before he had to come out and tell Oliver why he didn't want Adam's assistance. God help him, if Oliver didn't know he was gay, Carmichael wasn't going to tell him.

“Because he's the only one who, despite knowing we don't belong, hasn't given us any weird looks.”

“Well, he should! We—I almost ran him over!” The effort required to keep his voice low became greater. “He should be more suspicious and hostile towards us than anyone. And if he's not, he's an idiot.” Hmmm. That might be true. Adam had done nothing but smile at them. Carmichael couldn't believe anyone with their full faculties could shrug off an incident like that so easily. Someone a few cards short of a deck wouldn't be of any help to them.

“Stop,” Oliver warned him. “Listen up. We need to get to the bottom of these disappearances, and soon. A friendly contact is the best start. There's nothing to say we won't find someone else, someone more appropriate for what we want. But right now a kid working in a coffee shop might like to make a few more bucks, you know?”

Carmichael bit his lip. Oliver was right. Everything since they'd arrived in Rothburg had thrown him off balance. He was so far off his turf, he was surprised he hadn't drowned. They did need help, but spending time with Adam was going to test his control like nothing ever had, not even the communal showers in basic, filled with wet, fit, naked men.

An image of Adam, dark hair slicked back, water streaming down his lean torso, slipped unbidden into his mind, and Carmichael let out a rather undignified squeak as he crossed his legs to hide the sudden bulge in his jeans. At least Oliver ignored the sound, because the reason behind it didn't bear explaining.

“Fine, do whatever you want.” Carmichael gave in, not at all gracefully.

Blood Relations #2
Frazer parked his silver Honda in front of Bar None and turned off the ignition. Maybe not the most original name in the world, but he’d heard the place was decent. Supposedly catered to a slightly older clientele than the clubs he frequented. Not that he was too old for the clubs -- yet -- but if he wanted something lasting, he wasn’t going to find it with a back-alley blowjob.

Becca had told him to shake it up, and he was going to try. An hour out of his usual stomping grounds better be worth his time. Sometimes older guys were worse than the young ones for banging anything with a dick. Not too damned old and not on the prowl -- that’s all Frazer asked for. His standards were lowering by the minute.

Frazer got out of the car and smoothed his hands down his shirt. His little Civic wasn’t the worst car in the lot, and some of his nervousness melted away. With determined steps, he walked in. Bar None had to get him out of his rut.

Oooh. Nice. The place had a cozy, neighborhood-pub feel to it, but upscaled a bit. The rest of his nervousness dissipated when he glanced around and assured himself this wasn’t a sleazy hookup place.

His gaze zeroed in on the muscular back of a man sitting by the bar. Oh yes. That was the place to start. Find out if the front was half as good as the back.

With few patrons seated around the bar, it took mere seconds for the bartender to become aware of Frazer.

“What’s on draft?” Frazer asked. Beer wasn’t his preferred drink, but he needed a little liquid courage. Martinis got him blitzed, and he had to drive home later.

The bartender listed a bunch of names, some of which he’d never heard of. More choices than he’d expected.

“Any Belgian beers?” He’d heard they tasted better.

“Just one.” The bartender gestured at a long white tap handle.

“I’ll take it.”

“No problem, sweet thing.”

Sweet thing? A grin pulled the corners of Frazer’s lips up. Nothing like a compliment to give him a bit of confidence.

While he waited for the bartender to pull his drink, Frazer avoided looking at the man he’d first noticed. He didn’t want to get caught staring, and he didn’t want to initiate contact until he was ready. Which meant having a drink to hold. Otherwise he might do something lame, like wring his hands. Especially if the guy was as hot as Frazer imagined.

With a wink, the bartender handed Frazer his beer, and Frazer took a quick sip before sidling up to his target.

“Hello.” Frazer sat down in the seat to the man’s right.

“Hey,” the man said without looking up. Which was a shame. Now that Frazer was up close, he could appreciate how brown the man’s skin was, how soft his black hair looked. Even the man’s aristocratic, pointed nose was attractive.

The man didn’t seem interested, and rejection sucked, but Frazer couldn’t help himself. “I’m Frazer.”

“Cooper.” The man swiveled toward Frazer.

Oh. God. Perfect brown skin over perfect chiseled cheekbones. Eyes the color of his damned beer, almost whiskeylike. Lips smooth and firm, not too plump and not too thin. Thirty, maybe a little older. Frazer’s gaze traveled down the man’s neck to the open-throated purple dress shirt, where he spied a few black chest hairs peeping out. Fingers trembling with the need to touch, Frazer held out his hand to shake, hoping he wouldn’t “accidentally” slip and stroke over the firm pectoral muscles visible underneath Cooper’s shirt.

Cooper stretched out his hand, and as Frazer met those gorgeous eyes again, their hands touched. More of a caress than a handshake. Frazer couldn’t breathe. Cooper’s fingers transmitted some sort of lightning bolt that thundered through Frazer’s veins until it hit his cock, making it swell in the confines of his pants. The sudden dilation of Cooper’s pupils told Frazer he wasn’t the only one in lust.

When Cooper finally released his grip, shaking his head a little, Frazer realized they’d been holding hands for several seconds. Wow. He’d never felt anything like it before.

“Care to move to a booth, Frazer?” Cooper asked in a voice that stirred desire in the pit of Frazer’s stomach.

“Yes, please.” Frazer grabbed his drink to follow Cooper. Was this a one-night stand? He hoped not, but he’d take whatever Cooper offered. Damn hormones.

Cooper’s heart pounded. He was almost afraid to turn around and look at the man behind him. Frazer couldn’t be as good-looking as he’d thought. Frazer was exactly Cooper’s type. Not too tall -- but then, most men were smaller than he was. Light blond hair, creamy skin, midtwenties, slim but not skinny. Enormous blue eyes with a hint of eyeliner and filled with lust. For Cooper.

In a few harsh breaths, they were at an empty booth, Frazer moving around to slide in across from him. Cooper’s heart stuttered, and his dick flexed. Saliva pooled in his mouth as he imagined licking every inch of that smooth, pale skin. Dammit, he didn’t know Frazer’s last name -- he didn’t even know if Frazer was his real name -- and for a change, he didn’t care.

The booth was darker than the bar, surprising Cooper, as the bar had been plenty dark already. The setting was more intimate than he’d expected, but he congratulated himself on his decision to come here tonight.

Watching Frazer’s tongue slide out to wet pink, pink lips made Cooper ache. He knew in that moment that Frazer was his for the night if he wanted. He hadn’t tried for more in a long time. Too many others had claimed he was too clingy, too smothering. Made him gun-shy. But Adam and Carmichael’s happiness made him want to try again. Frazer could be the one. Maybe.

Cooper pulled in a deep breath and caught a whiff of Frazer’s cologne. Light, fresh, like a recently mowed lawn. Sexy. He wanted that smell in his nostrils, along with the scent of sweaty man.

“Frazer.” Cooper liked the sound of the name. He hoped it wasn’t fiction, because he had a sudden vision of him calling it out while buried deep in Frazer’s ass, and it felt right. He couldn’t wait. “I’m Cooper Wallace.” If he was going to start this right, he needed to be up front about his name too. “Are you from around here?”

Frazer smiled, sweet and pure. “I’m Frazer Nyland.”

Good. Unusual enough. Frazer might be for real. Cooper relaxed, the tension in his shoulders making itself known only by its absence.

“And I’m not far, about an hour away.”

An hour. He could work with that. “Are you single?” Cooper had no interest in being someone’s dirty little secret.

“Yes. Heard good things about this place, and from what I can see, it’s definitely good.”

Frazer’s gaze roamed over his skin like a caress, and Cooper’s dick strained toward him. Sweat popped out on his forehead as he struggled to not reach across the table and drag Frazer into his lap. He wanted a taste so bad. Cooper had never been so desperate for someone, without anything more than a handshake.

“I’m single too,” Cooper said in reply.

Frazer nodded and beamed at him. Good. They were on the same page.

For several long seconds, they just looked at each other.

Frazer found himself completely speechless. He downed half of his beer for something to do with his mouth besides offering to fuck Cooper in his car. Or blow him in the bathroom. The whole point of coming here was to avoid another empty, depressing, sordid one-night stand. It was the whole reason he hated hookups. So why couldn’t he think of anything besides having sex with Cooper?

No matter how much he wanted to get Cooper naked, he also sensed Cooper wasn’t a shitheel like most of the men he’d dated. He needed to say something. Something that would convince Cooper that Frazer was worth dating. Here he was with the sexiest man he’d ever come across, and the only things he could think of were lame, unoriginal, and crude pick-up lines.

“So, Frazer Nyland.” Cooper drew out his name in a low tone, causing electricity to dance at the base of Frazer’s spine. “Where does that name come from?”

Frazer hoped Cooper’s voice would take on that same timbre while Frazer rode him like a cowboy. And he’d been kind enough to throw out a convenient conversational handle.

“Mostly Swedish.”

“Mmmmm.” Cooper purred, and Frazer shifted before taking another big gulp of his beer. Mmmmm, indeed.

“What about you? Cooper?”

“You can call me Coop. Most people do.”

“Coop, eh? You can’t call me Fraze, though.” Frazer grinned. He’d had one boyfriend who’d kept calling him that, and it drove him batshit crazy.

“Good to know.” Coop smiled back, teeth gleaming white against the dark tan of his skin.

God, he looked like an elegant Indian raja.

Cooper set his drink down well out of the way before deliberately reaching for Frazer’s hand. A square-tipped index finger traced the vein along Frazer’s knuckle.

Frazer wriggled in his seat, careful not to move his hand away from Coop’s hypnotic touch.

“What do you do for a living, Frazer?” That gorgeous hand lightly stroked Frazer’s fingers. How did Coop expect him to answer coherently when his blood had abandoned his brain and settled in his lap?

“House sitter.” Really, Frazer? After he’d spent weeks trying to come up with something that didn’t make him sound like a glorified couch potato, house sitter popped out of his mouth. Not that it wasn’t true, but it was so much more than that, and it paid better than most people would have guessed. Enough to put him through college.

A thoughtful look crossed Coop’s face, but not the disparaging look Frazer usually got.

“House sitter?” Coop’s tone invited more explanation.

“Basically I look after summer houses in Brinton during the winter. You know, take care of maintenance, make sure pipes don’t freeze or burst, stock the pantry at the beginning of the summer, stuff like that.”

“What do you do during the summer?”

“It depends. Sometimes I travel. Sometimes I take courses.”

“Wow. Sounds like I’m in completely the wrong profession.”

“And what profession would that be?”

“Oh, uh, I work for the government. Research.”

Hmmm. Evasive but not lying. Interesting. Did Cooper’s job embarrass him? Maybe he was an accountant or something boring. But shit, he was in damn fine shape for a pencil pusher.

“You take courses? What kind?” asked Cooper.

“Trying to finish up my bachelor’s.”

“In what?”

“Biology. Don’t know what I’ll do when I finish, but I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was a kid, and I always liked biology.” Frazer shrugged. His parents had wanted both him and his brother to go to college, but after they’d died, there hadn’t been any money. He’d worked hard to get where he was now, but he knew damn well his dream of being a vet was nothing more than that. A dream.

Cooper used his free hand to bring his drink to his lips. Distracted from his thoughts, Frazer watched those lips move, that Adam’s apple bob, that slick pink tongue emerge to swipe over full lips.

Oh fuck.

This time after Coop set down his glass, both of his hands grasped Frazer’s, gently stroking the soft skin on the inside of his wrists. A shiver raced through Frazer. He whimpered. There was no other word for it. No one had ever touched him there. How could he not have known how erotic and sensual that spot was?

“Come home with me?” Cooper asked.

Frazer nodded frantically. Although loath to give up the pleasure of Coop’s fingers, he wanted to find out how much better those fingers would feel on his naked skin. On his cock. Sliding into him.

Coop watched him intently, as if he knew what thoughts were swirling through Frazer’s mind -- and liked ’em.

Cooper unfolded himself from the booth and stood. Good thing Frazer liked men who were taller than he was.

“After you.” Cooper gestured.

Craving #3
Wrong. So terribly wrong.

Agent Oliver Cardoso scrambled up the hillside, unable to tell if the curses filling his mouth were silent or shouted. He couldn’t hear fuck-all over the ringing in his ears. The concussive blast of the sonic charges had closed the portal--he hoped--but these new charges were a hell of a lot less subtle than the usual ones. Out here in the middle of nowhere, if agents didn’t die at the hands of insane yeti and their own tools didn’t kill them, they could make allowances for the unexpected. But there was no way they could utilize these fucking devices anywhere near an urban center. Not if they wanted the Metaphysical Investigative Agency to remain a secret organization. These charges would crumble foundations and shatter glass. Change wasn’t always progress.

Another glance over his shoulder verified his partner, Carmichael, clawing his way up the same hillside, blond hair as tufted and messy as the short cut could get. Streaks of dirt and blood colored his face, and he shook his head as though the simple movement would cause the stuffing in his ears to fall out.

If there were any chance Carmichael hadn’t been deafened too, Oliver would have told him not to bother. Only time could mitigate the concussive effects of these goddamned prototype charges. Maybe.

The blast had been horribly reminiscent of his biggest clusterfuck, over seven years ago, when he and his then partner were both quite new to the agency. MIA had only existed for a few years prior to Oliver joining; there was so much none of them knew.

A low rumble, felt in his feet rather than heard, sent an icy chill through his gut. He paused and glanced back at Carmichael again. Carmichael’s widened blue eyes reflected horror, and as one, they both looked up at the distant, overhanging shelf of snow, high on the mountain’s peak.

“Run,” Oliver screamed, unable to resist the instinct.

They had mere minutes, if that, to crest the valley’s ridge before the avalanche was upon them. If they could make it over the rise...well, they wouldn’t be safe, but most of the crushing snow should funnel along the anciently carved glacier’s path.

In desperation, they clawed their way toward the equivalent of high ground in a flood. If the portal had been any farther west, they’d have been in the direct path and wouldn’t have a chance at all.

With their remaining strength, they clambered over the top and kept going along the ridge. The more distance they put between them and the flow site, the better.

The thunder of snow flowing past like lava penetrated the auditory blankness caused by the sonic charges. As tempting as it was to look back at the furious spectacle, Oliver refrained. They only had a couple of hours of daylight left, and he was sure as shit not camping out again. Especially in this wilderness where they didn’t do controlled avalanches and the power of this slide could easily set off another at any moment.

* * * * 

As the sun set, a fiery orange blob in the sky, it lit up the tiny ski resort. Oliver’s hearing had slowly returned over the trek.

Carmichael, like the excellent operative he’d become, trailed him back to their room, silent, until they were alone.

Oliver turned and faced the man he’d brought into MIA almost three years earlier. Strangely, despite his taciturn and occasionally sullen demeanor, Carmichael made one of the best partners he’d ever had.

“Are you hurt? Can you hear okay?” Oliver let his gaze rove over Carmichael, checking for injuries and bleeding. If anything was wrong with Carmichael’s ears, they were finding a hospital tonight. He wasn’t risking another incident like his first near casualty in the field.

Their partnership had become even stronger after Carmichael settled into a serious relationship with Adam, whom they’d saved from a pack of Umbrae-infected werewolves. Oliver had come damn close to letting his admiration of Carmichael deepen into something else, despite his firsthand, painful knowledge that working agency partnerships and sexual relationships didn’t mix.

No one would ever know how Carmichael’s expression--shy yet smug--when he spoke of Adam sent a shaft of jealousy through Oliver every time. He’d been keeping people at an emotional distance for so long, there was no one to know, no one to confide those feelings in. Probably better that way, but it was so fucking lonely sometimes.

“What the fuck was that?” Carmichael’s face flushed with his fury. But his volume was normal--for Carmichael--and even though he hadn’t answered Oliver’s question, at least Oliver knew his partner’s hearing was fine. He continued to inspect Carmichael, only by sheer force of will keeping himself from lightly running his hands over the man’s limbs, checking for further injury.

“Is your hearing okay?” Carmichael asked, his tone a mixture of unwilling concern and sarcasm. “What the fuck was that?”

“Avalanche.” Oliver peeled the jacket off his state-of-the-art ski suit and threw it at the closed door. Carmichael raised an eyebrow but didn’t say a word about the uncharacteristic emotional gesture. The suit worked perfectly fine, but fear had frozen Oliver down to the bone. Safe in his room, anger began to thaw him.

“Thanks, Cardoso. Gee, I never would have fucking figured that out for myself.” Carmichael’s eyes flashed, and his hands clenched into fists. “I know you’re the expert, but do you think it was wise bringing the extra-noisy sonic charges with us? We set off a goddamned avalanche.”

Oliver braced himself for a punch, but it never came. “I know. Believe me, I’m going to have words with the research and development department about this.”

Carmichael began stripping off his outer layer, and instead of watching like a pathetic old fool, Oliver took off his ski pants.

“That’s all you have to say? Do we even know if we killed any innocents?”

Unlikely. Any dangerous overhang with innocents in the line of fire would have been subject to controlled slides. “I’ll have the agency look into it. You know that’s always a risk, but look at the bright side--the cleanup crew shouldn’t have any psychotic yeti to worry about.” Yeti weren’t all that different from werewolves, aside from their penchant for cold and snow.

Carmichael grunted.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Oliver would do more than raise a stink with the head of R&D if Carmichael was injured beyond the obvious and shallow yeti claw marks they both sported.

“Bruised only. I got hit in the back by a couple of flying rocks.”

“Broken ribs? Bruised kidneys? Should we get to a hospital?” Their extraction and cleanup crew would undoubtedly be delayed by both weather and the avalanche. If he had to, he’d get Carmichael standard medical attention and lie through his teeth about the reason for the claw marks.

“Nah. Don’t worry. Nothing to get Adam pissed at you for breaking me.”

There it went. That fucking look. The one that told anyone with eyes how in love Carmichael was with Adam.

“Good, good.” Oliver stripped off the heavy black sweater he’d worn under the ski suit and hurled it too at the door. Yes, they’d prevailed, but he was still fucking pissed at how close they’d come to getting killed. “Let me order something hot from room service.”

Carmichael stepped over his pile of wet, snowy clothes and into the bathroom. A muscle in Oliver’s back screamed as he reached for the phone and ordered coffee and hot chocolate as well as a couple of burgers. Must have pulled something.

If he had his own Adam or Carmichael, he’d have someone to lovingly massage it. But he’d realized long ago there was no point in trying to find a relationship. Carmichael was the closest he’d come in a very long time. Even if he’d reconsidered his stance on getting involved with another agency operative, it was too late now.

“Holy shit, Oliver!”

Oliver hung up the phone and turned back to Carmichael, who stood in the bathroom doorway. “What?”

The red flush of Carmichael’s anger had completely vanished. “Get the fuck in here before you bleed all over everything,” he commanded.

“Bleed?” Oliver shifted his shoulder experimentally, and the pain he’d assumed was a pulled muscle took on the characteristic of a fiery stripe along his back.

“Jesus, just get in here.”

A wave of dizziness struck, and he became aware of the sluggish drip of warm blood down his back. How the hell hadn’t he noticed this when he took off his coat and sweater? They had to be sliced to ribbons.

Carmichael ran hot water in the sink and opened up one of their first-aid kits. “Here, lean over. Rest your hands on the sink while I clean this.”

Oliver obeyed, grateful for the support. “How bad is it?” For it to still be bleeding after a couple of hours... Shit, he might need stitches, and a lot of them.

“Eh, not terrible. Probably started to scab over on the way here and stuck to your sweater. Now hold still while I clean this out.”

The gentle touches of Carmichael’s work-calloused hands gave Oliver shivers. He hoped Carmichael would misattribute them to chills from blood loss and adrenaline withdrawal. Oliver glanced up once, but the sight of blond hair over his shoulder, looking for all the world like Carmichael was ready to fuck him, had him hardening inappropriately. He’d eschewed his customary suit for this job, but he should have brought jeans instead of khakis. Jeans would at least constrain his erection to a hopefully unnoticeable state.

He grunted and bit his lip as Carmichael proceeded to pour alcohol over his wound to sterilize it. That exquisite moment of burn when a cock pushed slowly in, stretching...well, it wasn’t anything like the sting of alcohol in his wound, but the fact he was still making comparisons to sex while trying to keep from screaming convinced him the injury wasn’t that serious--and confirmed he was a fucking idiot.

More than Carmichael’s touch, it was the bittersweet memory of another blond from years ago that tore at him, a constant nagging ache over the relationship he’d fucked up royally.

A sharp knock on the door gave him a reprieve as Carmichael went to let room service in. Hanging his head, Oliver breathed deeply.

“Okay, let’s finish this up. That burger looks awesome.” Carmichael returned to the bathroom and gave his uninjured shoulder a little slap, the sound exactly like the slap of flesh against flesh during vigorous fucking. Oliver valiantly held back a groan. Dammit. Been a long time since he’d had such unruly thoughts about sex. But it had also been a long time since he’d had unruly fucking.

“I don’t know what did this, but the cut seems clean, and it’s not jagged.”

The only thing Oliver could recall was a short moment when his forward movement, away from the tidal wave of ice and snow, had been halted. “Don’t know. Perhaps a bit of stray barbed wire or the remnants of a yeti trap.” Before the residents of the tiny mountain village had been turned into yeti by the infection of the Umbrae through the portal, they were experienced mountaineers and trackers. They were plenty capable of setting traps for unwary humans.

Carmichael gave him another slap--bastard--and washed his hands. “All done. Let’s get some of that hot chocolate into you. You can use the sugar.”

He must look worse than he felt, because Carmichael hadn’t rolled his eyes when he mentioned the hot chocolate.

Oliver dropped down on the toilet seat to rest a moment, craving the small slice of solitude.

Up on the mountainside, the eerie similarity between this mission and that first truly botched mission seven years ago--involving improperly set sonic charges--had caused him almost crippling doubt.

He was forty-three, one of the oldest agents still doing fieldwork. He was tired. Tired of the secrets, tired of training green agents, tired of switching partners. He’d already refused his superiors’ request--twice--to take on a new recruit instead of Carmichael. The job was all he had in his empty fucking life, so what did it mean when he was too tired to do it?

Back in the safety of the hotel room, his self-confidence had more or less reasserted itself. He hadn’t fucked up. This time the prototype charges were at fault. The drones at research and development were going to hear from him.

* * * * 

A blue flicker at the bottom of Brandon Ellison’s computer screen drew his attention and raised his heart rate. The notification of an incoming field report was the closest thing to an indulgence he allowed himself. Reading field reports shouldn’t be a highlight of his day--he shouldn’t even have access to them anymore--but those little blue alerts taunted him like waving candy in front of a toddler.

He let his cursor hover over the icon that would open up the most recent report. Each time, the anticipation curled in his belly, as good as speculating on presents before Christmas. Most current field agents he no longer knew. And for one...the rush of reading was tempered by pain. But he couldn’t stop himself, like those reports were a drug he knew was bad for him, yet he flung himself into the addiction all the same. Humiliating as his secret was, he couldn’t let an old flame sputter out.

A second before he allowed his finger to click, a flurry of e-mail notifications appeared in quick succession, too fast to read the subject lines. Could they wait? He got a lot of e-mails filled with bureaucratic minutiae and potluck invitations. An alarming number of potluck invitations. Someone needed to assign these jokers more work. One more thing on his list of changes he intended to make.

Hesitating over the icon, he swore. Instant gratification had fucked up his whole life; he could hold off until he’d dealt with his responsibilities. The ones research and development paid him to take care of.

Sighing, he moved his cursor away from the tempting blue icon, set his data to compile in the background, and pulled up his e-mail program.

Past the garbage--the whole team could use a remedial class on informative subject lines--was a flurry of messages about the prototype sonic charges the team was developing. Sonic charges. He shuddered. Probably nothing more than someone’s toes getting stepped on. Those could wait. Plenty of time to soothe ruffled feathers, although given the sheer number, especially from Parks and Kwan, he almost expected one or both of them to show up in his office. They’d better not. Nothing worse than being startled by unannounced, unplanned office drop-ins when he couldn’t hear anyone approach.

He was tempted to delete them all. Then one arrived from Senior Director Bennett, flagged as important, the subject line of prototype sonic charges preceded by the word URGENT in caps. Fuck. Which one of those high-strung ass kissers went over his head because they couldn’t wait an hour or two for a reply?

He opened the message with an irritated click but didn’t get a chance to read it before a hand grabbed his monitor and shook it.

Brandon slid his chair back and looked up, heart pounding. A large, angry blond man snarled at him over the monitor, but Brandon didn’t recognize him, nor could he understand the clipped words shot out through a clenched jaw. So he just stared up at the intruder. Been a long time since he’d had any occasion to dust off his self-defense training. He wasn’t even sure if he remembered enough to take such a large man down. He didn’t want to summon security.

Without his hearing aids, and not expecting any visitors, it took him a bit to focus on listening. Now that he was paying attention, fortunately--or unfortunately--he didn’t need any assistance hearing the ferocious man in front of him.

“What the fuck is the matter with you? Don’t you fucking test anything around here? We could have fucking been killed!” Each swear word was punctuated by a fist pounding on Brandon’s desk, making his office supplies dance.

Okay...he heard the man, but perhaps he needed help understanding him. Brandon stood and faced his accuser, although he had no idea what he was being accused of. Perhaps he’d merely missed the beginning of the conversation. That happened a lot.

The blond’s face flushed with anger, and Brandon should have been afraid. But not much scared him anymore, and he wasn’t exactly vulnerable, not here in his own office. The swirling hum of indistinct voices filled the room, interfering with the man’s voice like a radio dial tuned a tiny bit off. They wouldn’t be alone long, and the blond didn’t appear to have a weapon--beyond his clenched fists.

“Out.” Brandon wasn’t going to have a long discussion without his hearing aids in. Reaching for them now would only make him appear vulnerable or as though he were conceding to the stranger’s right to a fair hearing without an appointment. “Out, now.”

Bright blue eyes widened. Sure, Brandon might not have the same amount of muscles, but he could hold his own. He crossed his arms, and when the guy’s eyes narrowed and he loomed over the desk, Brandon figured he’d gotten his message across. Broadcasting his meaning with the fewest number of words was a skill he’d perfected over the years. Usually, though, it resulted in a cowed research attendant fleeing the room. This time it would likely end in security breaking up a brawl, because he wasn’t backing down. Not on his own turf.

“I don’t think so. Not until you tell me what that fuckup was all about.”

Fuckup? Brandon didn’t even know this guy.

“Carmichael!” came a roar from the door.

This was Carmichael? Who clearly recognized the reprimand, based on his surly yet sheepish expression. Finding himself trembling at the sound of a voice he’d never forgotten, Brandon clutched the edge of the desk and forced himself to look at the door. Oliver flicked a glance his way before returning his attention to the sexy blond Carmichael. The attractive, brusque partner Oliver hadn’t traded in once his training was complete. The first partner Oliver had kept for longer than a year, since Brandon.

Breath caught in Brandon’s lungs like a fist had clamped around his throat, and he fell back into his office chair, ignored and apparently irrelevant for the time being.

With Carmichael turned away from Brandon, his words to Oliver were indistinct, like a buzzing insect had taken up residence in Brandon’s ear, allowing him to only hear one or two words of each growled sentence. Oliver beckoned to Carmichael, and surprisingly, given his stiff, puffed-up presence, he obeyed.

With a few terse, understated gestures, Oliver proceeded to read Carmichael the riot act. Not for a second did Brandon need to hear Oliver to recognize anger. He’d seen it once or twice before, and he’d never forgotten anything about Oliver.

He stared at the two men--well, one of them, really. Oliver was a little broader in the chest and shoulders than he remembered. Tiny flecks of gray lightened the dark hair at his temples, and minuscule crinkles at the corners of his eyes testified to the seven years’ interval since Brandon had seen him last. Other than that, the man hadn’t changed a goddamned bit. The dark suit made him look so official, almost menacing, but delicious in a way Brandon hadn’t known Oliver was capable of.

One hand on his desk phone, poised to call security as he knew he should, Brandon rubbed the index finger of his other hand along his bottom lip. And stared at the bulge behind Oliver’s fly. The memories the sight of that package induced were vivid and arousing. Just another minute. Just another moment to pretend that bulge was for him and not the sexy blond hulk of man beside Oliver. Then he’d call security.

The fly of those pressed navy trousers flexed, just a bit. Surely Oliver wasn’t getting off on reprimanding Carmichael? Or had the tenor of their conversation changed while Brandon had been--oh God--ogling? His gaze flew up, and he caught Oliver staring at him, eyes almost black in their intensity. And Brandon suddenly realized how inviting his current pose must appear. As though he were deliberately enticing Oliver to... How fucking humiliating. And incorrect.

He yanked his finger away from his mouth, where he was practically sucking suggestively on it, and glared at Oliver. Oliver’s lips thinned, and if warm, chocolaty eyes could become wintery, then that’s what his did as he deliberately turned his attention back to Carmichael. The strong hand on Carmichael’s bicep could have been restraint, but it looked more like a caress. Damn him. Them.

Gritting his teeth, Brandon stabbed the number for security into his phone, annoyed that his shaking fingers made him fuck it up the first time. Before he had a chance to complete the second attempt, three uniformed guards barreled into the room. Their combined voices made it utterly impossible to understand any of them. A faint sheen of sweat broke out on his forehead, the phone’s handset still clenched in his grip. Too many people. His breath became shallow and quick, his gaze locked on Oliver, who was trying to placate the guards by showing his identification.

God, not now. Not another goddamned panic attack. Not in front of Oliver and especially not in front of Carmichael, whom Oliver had stepped protectively in front of when the guards showed up. Brandon bit his lip and tried to breathe slowly and deeply.

Greg Wilson squeezed his narrow frame into Brandon’s office, making it definitely too crowded, but despite the man’s small frame and youthful appearance, he had a surprisingly penetrating voice, one that Brandon could easily hear.

Within moments Greg had quieted everyone, prevented a brawl between the guards and Carmichael, and given Brandon enough time to calm himself. His ability to run interference with just about everyone was the main reason Brandon relied on the man to be his second-in-command.

In the now--presumably--silent room, Brandon stood, drawing all eyes. He licked his lips, concentrating on enunciating his words to ensure they were clear and distinct, giving no hint of his disability--he hoped. “This is unacceptable behavior. If you have concerns, there are appropriate channels. I expect you to use them.”

He’d gotten pretty good at reading lips and thought Carmichael mouthed the word prick, but it wasn’t loud enough for any response from the men facing him, aside from a sharp elbow jab from Oliver. Brandon frowned, and Carmichael glared back. How did Oliver handle this surly, angry man all the time? Brandon had to concede the blond was built and gorgeous, but he didn’t see Oliver compromising as much as he’d need to in order to keep a relationship on even footing. Nor could he see Oliver taking orders from an operative with so much less experience. Their partnership--and probable fucking--had to be one long, continuous battle. The Oliver he remembered was an adrenaline junkie, as were many MIA operatives, but he didn’t like disharmony.

Oliver wasn’t pleased with the dressing-down from Greg, but he nodded curtly and wrapped his fingers around Carmichael’s bicep again before ushering him out of Brandon’s office. Once the two men were gone, the guards smoothed their prickly plumage and filed out of the room, leaving Greg.

“Everything okay, Brandon?”

Brandon slumped back into his chair and nodded. He didn’t trust his voice not to give away how shaken he truly was, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to confide in Greg. Not that he had anyone else to confide in, but Greg was a colleague, not a friend or anything more, no matter the broad hints Greg had thrown out.

“Did you want--”

“Nothing. I have work to do.” Too curt, perhaps, considering Greg had saved him from having a panic attack in front of his ex-lover, but he wanted to be alone. Even though limited symptom attacks like this one were easier to hide and deal with, they left him feeling vulnerable. Figured seeing Oliver would trigger one, but it could have been so much worse. No way would Oliver--or anyone--have missed a full-fledged panic attack, adding that extra dose of humiliation to the encounter.

“Have you given any more thought to my request?”

“Yes, and having met Carmichael only convinces me he’ll be disruptive in the lab. No, you’ll have to make do with the few hours you’ve been granted each month.”

Unbelievable. He’d only met Adam, Carmichael’s boyfriend, a time or two, but he seemed like a nice young man. How he, or Oliver for that matter, put up with such a loose cannon was beyond Brandon.


“I’m not having this discussion again. Shut the door behind you.” Brandon deliberately looked at his computer, pretending to be engrossed in the screen saver, waiting for Greg to leave. The man would not stop pestering about that damned portal-seeking project of his. Today was not the day.

Greg wasn’t pleased at the casual dismissal, but despite a petulant glare, he did as bidden. For a change.

The slam of the heavy wooden door alerted Brandon to Greg’s departure, and he scrambled out from behind his desk to lock the door. No way was he dealing with one more person today.

Back at his desk, he didn’t even bother unlocking his computer. The e-mails and field report could wait; his working day was completely shot, and he needed to get out of there. He grabbed his hearing aids from the desk drawer, shed his lab coat, and left as unobtrusively as he could.

Author Bio:
KC Burn has been writing for as long as she can remember and is a sucker for happy endings (of all kinds). After moving from Toronto to Florida for her husband to take a dream job, she discovered a love of gay romance and fulfilled a dream of her own--getting published. After a few years of editing web content by day, and neglecting her supportive, understanding hubby and needy cat at night to write stories about men loving men, she was uprooted yet again and now resides in California. Writing is always fun and rewarding, but writing about her guys is the most fun she's had in a long time, and she hopes you'll enjoy them as much as she does.


Wolfsbane #1

Blood Relations #2

Craving #3

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