When the closeted younger brother of a mob boss falls for the boss's latest acquisition, a rent-boy from Hong Kong, it's either suicide or one last chance for two broken men to rescue each other.
Published by Loose Id
Genre: M/M Romantic Suspense
It was Saturday night and Club 7 was packed with people in fancy clothes, dancing, partying, and shouting at one another over the pounding music.
This was so not Eben's scene. But Nicky loved it here. Eben waded through the crowd of girls in skimpy dresses and guys in expensive suits. The mingled scents of cologne, perfume, and alcohol made his head swim.
Finally Eben made it to the roped off VIP section where Nicky held court. His brother sat on a leather couch with Jimmy and Paul Shawnessy. Rhonda, Tabitha, Goldy, and Chevonne were all over them.
Paul looked uncomfortable, but Nicky and Jimmy were enjoying themselves, feeling the girls up and sipping champagne.
"And here's the guest of honor!" said Nicky, spotting Eben. He rose, holding a bottle of champagne aloft. "What took you so long? Come on. Let's get this party started!"
Nicky drew Eben over to the couch. "Everybody, my little brother is twenty-one today."
A cheer went up. Over by the VIP bar sat Bill William, Big Pete, and Sean Hoolihan. Their wives were there too, clustered around someone dressed in a tuxedo that Eben couldn't quite make out.
Until Brenda Hoolihan bent to pick up her purse.
Xiu looked right at Eben. Their gazes locked.
All of Eben's breath left him at once.
Xiu wore a black tuxedo that skimmed the lines of his slender frame perfectly. His hair was neatly combed, glossy in the dim light of the club. He held a glass of champagne in one hand.
He looked like James Bond.
"Here you go, bro." Nicky handed Eben a glass of champagne.
Xiu lifted his glass to him and drank.
Eben downed his in one long gulp.
"That's my boy!" said Nicky, pulling Eben down onto the couch. Eben lost sight of Xiu in the crowd. Just as well. His face was burning. At least he had the alcohol to blame it on.
"Got a special night planned for you, little bro," said Nicky.
Over his shoulder Jimmy grinned.
Eben suppressed a shudder. Special usually meant fucking. "You shouldn't go to no trouble for me."
Rhonda, looking glamorous with her blonde hair swept up and a red mini-dress clinging to her curves, leaned over, pressing her breasts against his arm as she whispered in his ear. "Don't worry, baby. Me and the girls got your back." She sat back, patting him on the cheek.
Eben relaxed. Rhonda knew about him. She'd put two and two together a long time ago, but she never blew his cover. In fact, she made sure all the girls covered for him too. They even spread stories about him. The kinds of stories guys wanted girls to tell about them: how big he was, how he fucked like a machine.
As long as Rhonda was in on whatever big surprise Nicky had planned, Eben didn't have to worry
"You want another drink, baby?" asked Rhonda, standing up.
"Can I have a beer?"
Nicky laughed and wrapped an arm around Eben's neck. He pulled him close and ran his knuckles over Eben's skull. But not hard. He was just playing. "That's what I love about this guy. We got thousand-dollar Crystal Magnums for his birthday, and he wants a beer."
Nicky released Eben and leaned over the coffee table where a mirror with lines of blow sat. He picked up the mirror, did a line, and handed it to Jimmy. "Anyway, Paul, I'll fill you in on the rest when I have more specifics, in a week or two. But get ready. This thing is going to be big."
"Okay. Yeah." Paul glanced around at all the expensive clothes, the lush surroundings. "Now unless there's something else you need to talk about tonight, I'll be going."
"What? It's Eben's birthday."
Paul nodded. "Happy Birthday, Eben."
"Thanks Paul." Eben didn't mind Paul much. He was older. He'd been Da's advisor and he'd kept the Flannery family operating until Nicky came of age. No fuss about handing over the reigns at that point either. 'Course anyone could see Nicky was born to take over the family business. Paul was a smart guy, and no meaner than he had to be.
But that didn't mean he was immune to pissing Nicky off. "What the fuck? You disrespecting my brother's birthday?" A dangerous edge came into Nicky's voice.
Paul raised his hands. "Not at all. I have the utmost respect for your brother, his birthday, and for you. But" -- Paul gestured to Tabitha and Goldy, who were making out while a bunch of the guys watched, and to Jimmy, who'd brought the blow to the bar and was sharing it with Bill, Pete, and Sean -- "I'm old school. This ain't my scene. In your da's day, we met at the Shillelagh, and it was either business, or serious drinking. Never both. And not all of this other stuff. The drugs, the girls. Throwing your money around like some kinda rap star."
"You object to the girls?" said Nicky. "What, you a fag or something?"
"I'm gonna let that pass 'cause I know you don't mean it. But that's another thing. This new whore you brung over. It's a dude. What are folks gonna say?"
"What are folks gonna say? They're gonna say, 'Look at all that money Nicky Flannery's making off the fags. He's one smart motherfucker.’ That's what they're gonna say."
Paul shook his head.
"Trouble with you old timers is you're stuck in the past. This is the twenty-first fucking century. You want a make a killing these days, you gotta think outside the box. Get it? Think outside the box?"
Everyone laughed, including Paul.
"'Sides, the ladies like him too. Check it out." Nicky nodded to where Brenda, Sally, and Colleen hovered around Xiu like honeybees. Brenda had a hand on his shoulder. Sally tossed her hair. "They're nuts about him."
"But he's a queer."
"Yeah. Go figure. Chicks are weird."
Rhonda came back with Eben's beer and someone brought out a cake. Paul stuck around to eat a slice, then departed. By then Nicky was too busy sticking his face in Tabitha's cleavage to notice.
Eben drank beers and tried not to get caught staring at Xiu. He was on his sixth Heineken and slowly sinking ever deeper into the couch when "Happy Birthday" started playing.
Everyone gathered around. "Time for your birthday present, little bro." Nicky placed a box wrapped in gold paper on the table in front of him.
Eben heaved himself upright. "You got me a present? That sure was nice of you."
"Open it. Open it," said Nicky.
The box was heavy. Eben peeled off the paper to reveal a stainless steel case. As he put it down on the coffee table, the weight of it seemed to settle on his heart. He knew what came in cases like this. He unfastened the latches and opened it to reveal a chrome-plated 10mm Glock automatic. Its polished surface gleamed in the soft light of the club. "Wow."
Bill whistled. "That's a beautiful piece."
"Time my little brother had one of his own." Nicky hugged him.
Shit. Eben forced a smile and hugged him back. "What a wonderful birthday present. Thanks!" He didn't want it. Didn't even want to pick it up, but he had to. Everyone was watching. Eben lifted the gun out of its case and hefted it. He checked the action and held it out as if to shoot with it. Can I put it back in its case now? He turned back to Nicky, trying to look delighted. Thank the Holy Mother of God I'm drunk.
"Wait, there's more," said Nicky.
Fuck. What now? Another box wrapped in gold foil appeared before Eben, which at least gave him an excuse to put the gun back in its case. He opened box number two to find a shoulder holster. "Awesome."
"Try it on, try it on," said Nicky, bouncing up and down like a kid on Christmas morning.
Eben hoisted himself up off the couch, swayed a little and then slid the holster on over his shirt. Rhonda helped him adjust the straps. Nicky took the gun from the case, snapped the cartridge in place, and slid it into the holster. It bulged under Eben's arm like a tumor.
"You should see yourself," said Nicky. "You look totally badass."
Eben scanned the gathering. Everyone was smiling and nodding in approval. It's already decided. This is who I am. But then he caught sight of Xiu, over by the bar.
Xiu tilted his head and gave him a crooked smile and a little shrug. Of everyone there, it seemed like he alone understood how Eben really felt, though of course, there was nothing to be done about it.
Someone handed Eben another glass of champagne and he downed it.
Suddenly the music got louder. All the girls clustered around him.
"Time for your birthday lap dance, Eben," said Nicky.
Rhonda winked at him as she pushed him back down onto the couch. Eben was very aware of the loaded gun nestled at his side as the girls writhed all over him. At least he was safe in the knowledge that none of them would mention it was the only thing that was hard. He sank deeper into the cushions of the couch.
Eventually the girls finished and everybody was clapping and laughing. Then suddenly the crowd parted and Xiu stood before Eben. He swayed ever so slightly and his cheeks were pink, but he carried himself like he owned the place, and Eben too. How much had he been drinking? He undid his tie and fixed Eben with a smoldering look. "Happy Birthday, to you."
Somewhere behind him Eben heard Nicky laughing, louder than ever. Everyone else joined in. Big joke.
Xiu threw his tie in Eben's face. He peeled off his black tuxedo jacket. He started unbuttoning the shirt beneath.
Eben tried to keep from getting hard. It was impossible, even with Nicky and everyone else standing around watching and giggling.
"Happy Birthday, to you." Xiu took off his shirt and tossed it in Eben's lap.
Xiu climbed onto Eben's lap, straddling his thighs. He rested his hands on Eben's shoulders and swayed from side to side. "Happy Birthday, Eben Flannery."
Smells of champagne, cologne, and sweat wafted over Eben. He felt dizzy -- probably all the blood rushing to his cock.
"Hey Nicky, you gonna let this go on?" said Sean. "Eben's too drunk to stop him."
"I'd do something about it, but I can't stop laughing."
Laughter surrounded Eben and Xiu like a shield. They stared at each other as Xiu gyrated on Eben's lap. Eben could see the outline of Xiu's erection. Eben's own cock felt like it was made of steel.
Xiu leaned closer, his breath warm on Eben's face. "Happy Birthday, to you." He ran a hand down Eben's chest, toward his jeans.
Eben opened his mouth, to say 'stop,' 'more,' or to kiss Xiu, he wasn't certain which.
Suddenly a hand clamped down on Xiu's shoulder. "Okay, Schoolboy, enough. You've had your fun. You've got a date tonight, remember?" It was Jimmy.
The invisible shield surrounding Eben and Xiu dissolved. The laughter of the rest of the party seemed louder than it had been a moment ago. It crashed in upon them like ice water, dousing Eben's arousal.
Xiu seemed to wilt under Jimmy's hand. Shoulders slumped, he got up off Eben's lap, taking his shirt with him.
Rhonda took Xiu's place, straddling Eben's thighs. She grabbed his hands and pressed them to her breasts. "Here honey, I got what you're looking for."
Eben's smile was one of gratitude, not excitement, but nobody else had to know that. Over Rhonda's shoulder, he watched Xiu walk away with Jimmy.
Jimmy kept his hand on Xiu's shoulder, pushing him toward the door. Just as they reached the red velvet rope that marked off the VIP section, Xiu looked over his shoulder at Eben.
Eben couldn't decipher the look on Xiu's face in that moment, but it haunted him for the rest of the night.