After being bullied into the closet by his conservative senator father, Jay Molloy reconciles himself to a life of one-night stands instead of the loving D/s relationship he craves. When he meets the man of his dreams, trained Dom Eric Keger, all Jay dares to hope for is a quick fling. Eric has other ideas. He’s been hired by Jay’s father to run security at the family’s hunting resort, but now he has his heart set on Jay.
When murder victims begin to turn up at the resort, Eric and Jay start an investigation, but chasing down the killer proves less frustrating than dealing with Jay’s abusive, homophobic father. Exploring their new relationship would be hard enough on their own, but Eric and Jay also have to deal with politics, Jay’s fake fiancée, and a murderer who may be something more than human.
JAY wasn’t sure if he should be excited or nervous about dinner, but Eric didn’t give him the chance to really worry about it much. He drove with Eric to the sheriff’s office and collected the reports Eric wanted to look through. Eric was amazing, and Jay was sure he’d never grow tired of watching the man. He charmed even the sourest person they encountered with seemingly no effort at all. Eric would ask in a low, easy voice, leaning casually closer to whomever he spoke to, and people fell all over themselves wanting to do his bidding.
A chill slipped its way up and down Jay’s spine as thoughts of his first encounter with Eric skipped happily through his head. Jay considered it his own personal miracle that Eric was interested in spending more time with him, making Jay his own. The best part was, Eric seemed completely oblivious of his effect and power. Jay wasn’t oblivious. His groin certainly wasn’t. Neither was his heart.
Taking the sheriff’s files, they headed to the resort for dinner. Jay had suggested they eat there and felt a thrill of excitement tingle through his limbs when Eric gladly agreed. He was proud of the resort and the meals prepared in the dining hall. Sharing that with Eric was suddenly very important. Jay really wanted Eric to like the resort. The soft smile Eric offered made Jay’s heart and stomach flutter with excitement.
“So, what’s good?” Eric settled across from him and glanced around the dining room. “This is nice.”
“Everything, of course.” Jay grinned. “Since you’re an employee, you can eat here whenever you want. Tomorrow we’ll get your ID badge and you just show it to the cashier.”
Eric grinned. “I like that fringe benefit.”
“Everyone does,” Jay laughed. When their food arrived they spent a few minutes doing nothing but eating. Jay realized he was famished. The meal cleared his head and settled his nerves and stomach as much as was possible until he’d look at Eric. Finally gathering some courage, he leaned forward a bit. “So, why did you really come here?”
Eric glanced down at the table as if he was weighing some heavy decision. When he looked back up, Jay knew Eric was about to take a big chance; it was written all over his face. “Two reasons actually. I decided it was time to look for another job when my superior’s daughter decided she and I should be a bit more friendly than I was comfortable with.”
“Yeah, guess you didn’t want everyone knowing about you being gay.”
“It wasn’t that so much as I didn’t like her.”
Jay took a sip of his iced tea, nodding for Eric to continue.
“Pretty enough girl. She was an underwear model, and I don’t think rejection was in her vocabulary.”
Gagging, Jay barely avoided spraying iced tea across the table and Eric. “You turned down an underwear model? What man, gay or otherwise, does that? Isn’t that against the man code or something?”
Eric laughed. Jay loved his laugh; it was rich and full and honest. “It’s against this man’s code. I have nothing against women, been with a few, they’re okay, but this girl? She was a bitch! I mean she made it her religion or something. Anyway her dad didn’t think rejection should be in her vocabulary either, and he tried making my life miserable.”
“So you decided to find something else?”
Hitching one shoulder up for a second, Eric reached over and tapped the leather carry bag he’d stuffed all the files into. “I read about the killings here and when I heard about the offer of a job, that was what made me decide to move.”
“The dead bodies interested you?”
“Sort of.” Eric leaned forward and lowered his voice. “I know how nuts this is going to sound, but I’ve spent years studying serial killings and collecting data from all over the country. About five years ago, there was a series of murders near Cleveland. There were six killings and then they stopped. No one was caught, no reason for them to stop. No reason for them to happen that anyone could find. The thing is, these killings here are the exact same.”
“So, you think it’s the same person?”
“This is where we get to the nuts part. Every five to ten years there are a series of murders just like these in an area. I’ve found them all over North America, and dating back to the 1700s. No one ever got caught.” Eric took a deep breath and sat watching Jay, obviously waiting for a reaction.
Jay stared back at Eric, taking a few seconds for his words to sink in and register. “Someone is… copying?” He counted on his fingers. “That’s—”
“A really long time. I know. No copies. These are the exact same. I don’t care how long you study something or how many details you collect, one person is going to do something like this differently, even in a very slight way, than someone else.”
“There have to be differences.”
Eric shook his head. “No, there aren’t. I can show you firsthand accounts of the conditions of the bodies and who they were. I have photos going back to before the Civil War. The body we saw today, it was in the same condition and maimed in the same way as the one I saw five years ago. And those were the same as ones a century ago.” Eric lifted the carry bag up and pulled out files, some they hadn’t gotten from the sheriff’s office. He spread them out like a deck of cards fanned across the table in front of Jay. “Check out the drawings and photos.”
“But how could someone—” Jay stopped short and sucked in a breath. He moved the files, opening one after another, seeing evidence right in front of him. Sketches and handwritten accounts evolved to photos and typed words. He traced marks and open wounds on the victims’ bodies with the tip of his forefinger. “They all have the same sorts of gashes and cuts.”
Eric nodded. “They do. There are no matches to predatory animals, and people sure as hell can’t do that sort of damage. I’ve tried matching the wounds to dozens of sorts of tools and weapons. Nothing fits, at least not anything that someone had access to now and several hundred years ago.”
“Not someone,” Jay said softly.
“No.” Eric straightened in his chair. “I want to catch this thing, whatever it is. I want to stop it.” Dipping his chin at the collection of papers between them on the table he said, “I have more at home and on my computer. I just brought a few to show you. I don’t want you to think I’m crazy. I’ve never showed anyone these before since I was never so directly involved in the investigation. I saw one of the bodies in Cleveland, but wasn’t on the homicide team then.”
Jay looked down at the files, then up at Eric. It was the truth, and he could see it in Eric’s face, hear it in his voice. For reasons not entirely clear to Jay, he believed and trusted this man, though he barely knew him. Nodding slowly, he took the plunge. “I don’t think you’re crazy. I think you’re right.”
Eric grinned and gathered everything together. “I’ll show you more later tonight and tomorrow. But now—” Eric folded his napkin and set it on the table beside his plate and drained his water glass. “—if I remember correctly, we have some things to discuss, and we probably shouldn’t do it here. I’d like to see your house.”
Jay’s insides twisted in excitement mixed with apprehension. Eric couldn’t be too angry with him or he wouldn’t be making such an effort to pursue Jay. Still, Jay hadn’t called, and he should have, if nothing more than to cut things off and not leave Eric hanging. Now he had to explain everything. Better to get it all out in the open and find out if Jay’s life would be a deal breaker before they went too much farther. He smiled softly, suddenly feeling like a shy and uncertain teenager. All he could manage was a shaky. “Okay.”
Eric stood and slung the carry bag over his shoulder, waiting patiently for Jay to follow before heading out of the dining hall. “I’ll drive. I can drop you back here later, or in the morning, so you can get your Jeep.” He waggled his eyebrows and pushed through the door leading to the parking lot.
The short drive to his house was quiet and intense. Jay couldn’t help thinking back to earlier that day at the crime scene and then later at Eric’s house. Each time Eric got close, put his arm around Jay, he felt surrounded by the man. He was powerful without being pushy, worried about Jay being embarrassed and made sure that didn’t happen. It was obvious he took the responsibility of looking out for someone, even casually, very seriously.
Eric had quietly taken control of the situation and shielded Jay from hurt. He’d made Jay feel important, hadn’t judged or faulted him.
Eric pulled the car up the drive and parked alongside the house. Jay sucked in a quick breath and let it out slowly when Eric reached over and rested his hand on Jay’s leg and then began caressing along his inner thigh for a few seconds. He enjoyed the way his groin heated up, cock pleasantly warm and full. It was too much to hope Eric would understand the stupidity that was his life. He had a fake fiancé and lived in a bubble of scrutiny, but Jay couldn’t help thinking maybe there was a slight chance he’d at least be open to an occasional and casual relationship.
Out of the car, they crossed the short distance to the front steps and walked up together. Eric’s hand landed solidly on Jay’s shoulder, and it felt good, right. Unlocking his door, Jay let it swing open and motioned inside. “Mi casa es su casa.”
Eric ran his hand down Jay’s arm. He used his thumb to gently stroke Jay’s knuckles as he took the key ring from him. “You have a copy of the keys to my house.”
“Yours, and mine, are both owned by the resort.”
“Hmm. Doesn’t seem fair, you get keys to mine, but I don’t get keys to yours. We’ll have to fix that tomorrow.”
Jay’s heart skipped a few beats, and his stomach flipped. “You really believe what you said about bad date-movie plots and second chances?” Even as he spoke, he reminded himself not to get his hopes up.
“Sure do.” Eric’s other arm slid around Jay’s back, pulling him closer. Jay loved the feeling of Eric’s rock-hard, yet very comfortable, body against his. They fit together so well. When Eric dipped his head and ran his lips lightly over the shell of Jay’s ear, Jay shuddered and moaned softly. Eric leaned back and smiled. A gentle nudge and Jay was herded inside.
“You… um… want a beer or….” Jay took the keys when Eric held them out to him, dropped them on the table, and led the way to the living room, stopping near the couch. His words trailed away when Eric moved behind him and slipped both hands over Jay’s shoulders.
Warm air hit Jay’s neck when Eric breathed out, “I’m good. Have everything I want right here.”
Jay swallowed and leaned back against Eric, delighting in that feeling of being surrounded again. Dragging one hand across Jay’s back, Eric paced away. He shed his leather jacket, draping it over a chair, and settled on the couch in front of Jay. He leaned back, let his legs drop open slightly with his hands folded between them. Jay stayed rooted where he was, standing there feeling on display and naked even though he still had on all of his clothes.
“About that call,” Eric said quietly.
“I’m sorry, that was wrong.”
“Yeah, I got you’re sorry. I’m not angry, simply curious. Why if you wanted to call me as much as you claim, didn’t you?”
“I… it’s complicated and….”
Eric’s tone hardened ever so slightly. “Explain it to me. I might understand.”
“My father, he thinks it’ll reflect badly on him, how I am.”
“You mean gay? It’s not a disease. You can’t infect him.”