Sunday, September 28, 2014

Patchwork Heaven by Jaime Samms

Singer Coby Kennedy and his drummer twin, Bruce, have a band called Patchwork Heaven. They have been rising steadily up the country music charts, but unfortunately, that rise has attracted unwanted attention. Faced with anonymous letters, sinister gifts, and the wanton destruction of their personal space, they hire The Detail, a specialized security firm. Coby never anticipated Gregor, The Detail's owner and his personal guard, would be quite so intriguing. 

As the stalker gets closer and more violent and questions pile up, Gregor fears his past might get in the way of him finding who is threatening his client when he becomes suspect number one. Even though Coby is convinced Gregor is not behind the threat, Gregor is not sure he's the right man to keep Coby safe, either from the stalker, or from his own interest in the singer.

 “Thought you weren’t going to get your rocks off with your boss,” Coby murmured as he leaned back and rested his head on Gregor’s shoulder. It was nice to have someone he could do that with. Most guys were inches shorter than he. Gregor was thin, lanky, but as tall as Coby. He liked the feel of that.
“Three things,” Gregor replied, dropping a kiss on the side of Coby’s neck. “First, I’m off duty, so you’re not my boss.”
“Okay.” Coby was willing to agree to that slight stretching of the definition.
“Second, I admit, more than a couple of my own guys are breathing a sigh of relief right now, watching this. Apparently, I’ve been a little… tense lately.”
“Really?” Coby resisted the urge to glance around the room at the cameras he knew were there. It would hardly be the first time he had an audience for a couple of kisses. Sometimes, you compromised privacy for security in his line of work. Closed-circuit cameras in the public portions of his home were a necessary precaution. Especially now. The private areas, however, were nonnegotiable and his staff knew it.
“What’s the third thing?” he asked, tipping his head away to give Gregor more access to bare skin. He reached back to find purchase for his questing hands on Gregor’s legs behind him.
“Third?” Gregor licked a trail up the side of Coby’s neck to his earlobe, kissed it, then nipped it. Hard, and held on.
Coby barely resisted the instinct to pull away despite the pain and surprise. He went very still, and a tingle traveled down his body.
Gregor released his earlobe to whisper. “Third, this isn’t about getting my rocks off at all.”
Coby swallowed. “It isn’t?”
“Put your hands on the counter, Coby.”
Heart speeding up, brows drawing down, Coby slowly did as he’d been instructed. The splint clicked lightly against the countertop in the quiet room. He wasn’t entirely sure why he obeyed. “What is it about?” Coby asked. Heat prickled across his skin under his clothing.
“Maybe this isn’t the place to find out,” Gregor said as he stepped back.
Coby remained very still. Chill replaced the heat and he hesitated, rethinking the motion that would have turned him to face Gregor. He remained where he was, not even swiveling his head to see the other man, and waited, wondering what was stopping him moving.
“Upstairs?” Gregor asked.
Was it an invitation? Or was he asking permission?
“Aren’t you supposed to tell me?” Coby asked, confusion undermining the earlier relief.
“Needing it and wanting it sometimes aren’t the same thing,” Gregor said. “You need it.” Gregor’s breath was loud in the stillness that asked for permission in place of his words.
Gregor traced a path down Coby’s spine, and he held back a shiver. Barely.
“It can be a difficult thing to accept that you also want it,” Gregor went on. “So I am asking.”
“I’ve never… done it before,” Coby said. “If by ‘it’ you mean….” How to word it?
Coby swallowed. Incongruously, in that moment, he thought of Bruce. He’d never submitted in his life. He was up against Bruce. Always. Submission meant letting his twin’s bolder temperament swamp him. And if some days he wished he could let that happen, the greater part of him knew he didn’t want to be the lesser brother. His strength came from the constant battle not to let Bruce take over their lives. They vied and bantered and teased, and Coby thrived. But it was tiring. He was so tired. Now here was Gregor, offering a sort of surcease if he dared take it.
“I don’t know,” he said. His sweating palms slipped against the countertop. Tell me what to do! He closed his eyes.
Bruce. He was there, and then he wasn’t. A spray of red, his feet flying, and gone.
“Fuck!” He snapped his eyes open again, and nothing he did could stop the way his arms shook with tension or the way his good fingers gripped the counter edge. His breath hitched. Nothing he did opened his lungs enough to pull in sufficient air.
“Upstairs,” Gregor said. Calm radiated off him as he took Coby’s arm and placed a hand on the small of his back. “Come on.”
Coby allowed himself to be led. He followed the direction because the numb, frightened part of his brain kept eclipsing the rest. He had to control it, fiercely hold on to the immediacy of every moment to keep that vision at bay.
Once they were inside the private sanctum of Coby’s bedroom, Gregor eased his hand away and stepped back to look around. The warm woods and plush carpet seemed to meet with his approval, if his nod was anything to go by. He gaze fell on the bed and he smiled.
“Bruce has a quilt like that in the trailer.”
Coby nodded. “Mom made them for us. Long time ago.”
“It’s beautiful.”
“Yeah.” Coby gazed at it himself and felt a bit of his tension ease.
“Okay.” Gregor’s hand was back, palm firm against Coby’s lower spine. “Sit. On the bed.”
Coby did. He also removed his shoes, socks, and shirt at Gregor’s command, as Gregor circled the room drawing curtains closed, checking the bathroom and walk-in closet, and flicking on a few small lamps.
The room was warm. The clammy sweat covering Coby’s chest and back made that fact less noticeable, and he trembled, every so often losing control of the spasms that shook him and sent slivers of pain radiating out from his bruises and stitches.
He kept careful track of the other man as Gregor knelt at his side and traced light fingers over his bandages.
“Not bleeding, though,” he confirmed with a quick peek behind them. Gently, he plastered the peeled tape back in place. He pulled in a deep breath as he considered. “Okay.” He placed both hands on Coby’s knees and looked up at him. “I know you trust me with your life, or you wouldn’t have hired me.”
Coby nodded.
“Like I said, we’re not going to have sex.”
“Oh.” Coby couldn’t decide if that was disappointing or a relief.
“You’re not up to it until that’s more healed, for one thing, and you’re freaked the hell out. I know how to help with that, but you have to trust me.”
“We just established that I do.”
Gregor nodded. “Really trust me, because this might actually be scary.” He squeezed one of Coby’s knees. “And you have… some quirks, I noticed. About touching. And tidiness.”
Coby bit his lower lip. “I guess.”
“So I’ll be touching you, and I need to know that’s okay. I need you to know it’s okay.”
Coby nodded. “It’s you. The touching thing is more with strangers.”
“Okay. Good to know.”
They were quiet for a few minutes.
“The tidy thing doesn’t really come into play here, does it?” Coby asked, and congratulated himself when he didn’t even glance at the shoes and socks Gregor had left strewn on the floor next to the bed.
“Probably not, but if there’s anything else I should know about, you need to tell me.”
Coby shook his head. “No. Well. The confined-spaces thing, I guess. Sometimes. And….” He shivered. “I thought I was over it, but the dark, where I can’t see if there’s anyone around.” He did glance around the room then, noting there were none of the usual opaque corners. Lamps were lit to reveal everything, muted, but enough so no inky shadows covered the recesses by the closet and window seats. “But you already figured that one out,” he said, bringing his attention back to Gregor.
Gregor smiled. “I told you. I pay attention.”
Gregor pulled in a deep breath and held Coby’s attention. “Just so we’re clear before we start, the enclosed spaces might be a problem. The dark, definitely. If they’re hard limits, you have to say so now.”
“Hard limits?”
“Things you absolutely can’t handle. Can’t do.”
Coby stared at him a long time. “What are you going to do?”
“Ultimately, help you relax.”
“By pushing me into situations that make me tense.” He frowned.
“Not if it’s going to make you so tense you can’t do them. But maybe we can keep this discomfort in the dark from becoming another thing for you.”
“You can do that?”
We can. If you trust me.”
Coby had to swallow a few times to keep the nerves from clogging his throat, but finally, he nodded. “Okay. But what do I do if it’s too much?”
Gregor smiled softly. “Tell me you want Bruce, and everything stops. Promise.”
“That simple.”
“Coby.” Gregor touched Coby’s cheek. “This is about you. I think I can help. I’d like to try, and if it works, it’ll be good. If it doesn’t, we find another way.”
“Normally, people who find me attractive just want to fuck me. They want my money. Or something….” Gregor was petting his cheek. Okay, that was distracting and sweet and hot all at once. Coby lost his train of thought somewhere in the caress and the depths of Gregor’s gaze.
“If you want me out the door, I’m gone,” he promised.
Coby shook spasmodically. Uncontrolled. “No. Stay.”
“Okay. Then yes or no?”
Coby nodded.
“Okay then, close your eyes,” Gregor instructed, standing before him. The tie he’d been wearing dangled from his hand, and he’d opened the top few buttons of his shirt. Letting his gaze travel down from those elegant fingers, past his flat stomach and narrow hips, along muscled—if lean—legs, right to his toes, Coby had to appreciate the vision. Even his feet, Coby noticed, were strangely beautiful, narrow and long-toed.
Coby logged that fact, along with the view of long legs in tailored pants, tailored shirt over broad chest, narrow chin, pursed, pretty lips, and finally, deep, liquid eyes, the brown nearly black in the dim light. Coby fixed his gaze on Gregor’s gorgeous eyes. He didn’t want to be deprived of the sight, he convinced himself. It wasn’t because he was afraid of what might flash through his brain if he voluntarily let the darkness close around him.
Gregor’s gaze held reassurance. His smile held something harder-edged. “I’ll do it for you if I must.”
Coby frowned. It didn’t even occur to him to move until the tie was actually across his face, and then it was too late.
Gregor was pressed right against him. His head, held tight to Gregor’s chest, was beyond his control to move, and the tie was fastened in place all in less time than it took Coby to process what had happened.

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