Hell and high water, p.17

Hell & High Water, page 17

 part  #1 of  THIRDS Series

 

Hell & High Water
 


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  “I started talking to him, but Walsh kept butting in, getting hands on, accusing the guy of holding back information, so you can imagine how that went. The guy got defensive, didn’t appreciate being pushed around or the shit coming out of Walsh’s mouth. I tried to diffuse the situation, but the guy said he wasn’t going to say any more and walked off. Next thing I knew, Walsh had pulled his piece and fired. Hit the kid right between the shoulders. One bullet.” Dex shook his head, his lips pressed together. “I stood there, dazed, telling myself what I saw hadn’t happened. Walsh shook me out of it and started telling me the guy had asked for it, that he likely had a piece, was high, along with all this other bullshit. At first, I didn’t know what he was talking about. Then I realized what he was doing.”

  “Leading you. Trying to get you to believe his story as true.”

  Dex’s mouth twisted wryly. “Yeah. I don’t know if he was hoping I’d be in enough shock to convince me but it didn’t work. I wasn’t stupid, though. The only thing standing between him and a prison sentence was me.”

  Sloane stared at him. “You really think he would have killed you?”

  “To be honest, I don’t know. I’d like to think not, but the coldblooded way he shot that kid, I wasn’t going to take any chances especially since there were no witnesses around. He had a lot to lose. I played dumb. Said exactly what I knew he wanted to hear. I felt so sick, I nearly puked. When backup came, I… did what I had to do. The look he gave me when they cuffed him, and put him in the back of that cruiser, I’ll never forget it. It was the look of a man who never saw it coming.”

  “I’m sorry.” Sloane motioned the bartender to bring Dex another two bottles. His partner had earned them. He’d help Dex home if he had to. Walsh deserved what he got, not just for his actions but for putting a man like Dex through that kind of hell. And for what?

  “I knew it would probably be the end of my career, one way or another,” Dex continued, “but if I went up on that stand and lied, I could never look at myself in the mirror again.” A look of tired sadness passed over his handsome face, and Sloane yearned to have that smile back.

  “Yeah, and we both know how much you enjoy looking at yourself in the mirror.”

  “Dick,” Dex chuckled, giving him a playful punch in the arm. “By the way, that dude over there’s been staring at your ass so hard. I think he’s looking to relocate.”

  Sloane glanced over his shoulder at one of the pool tables where some young guy in a faded rock band T-shirt and scruffy Eagles baseball cap was eyeing him. The guy smiled before one of the other guys in his group pulled him away. Sloane turned back to Dex with a shake of his head. “Not interested.”

  “Why? He’s—”

  “A chaser. I don’t do fetishes.”

  “Wait, what? How do you know?” Dex discreetly peeked over Sloane’s shoulder.

  “His neck. Chasers get tattoos to mirror Therian marks on the right side of their necks.” Thank God it was illegal for Humans to get tattoos on the left side, or it would make Therian identification more frustrating. Though he knew there were hardcore chasers out there who took the risk. “I don’t hook up with guys who only want to be with me for what I am. Not even for the sex.”

  “Been there, done that, and all you got was a lousy T-shirt?”

  Sloane grimaced. “Something like that. I would have preferred the T-shirt to the restraining order.”

  “Shit, that bad?” Dex’s eyes went wide, and he leaned into Sloane, his cheeks flushed. Looked like his partner was well on his way to getting merry. Why the hell not.

  “It was in college. This guy was really into me and I admit, I fell for what he was selling. It was hard not to. Not when he looked at me the way he did.”

  Dex propped his head on his hand, a sweet smile spreading across his face. “What way?”

  Kind of like the way Dex was looking at him now. Only when Sloane thought about it, he’d never gotten that heated, excited type of feeling he got when Dex touched him. His breath had never hitched the way it did when Dex was close. “Like he didn’t see me as some freak who might go feral at any moment and kill everyone. He looked at me like I was… I don’t know how to describe it. It was a nice change. Anyway, we started dating, sleeping together, and then things started to get a little weird. It was gradual. It’s not like one day he asked to put a saddle on me or anything.”

  Dex sputtered a mouthful of beer, wheezing as he tried to speak. “Fuck, man. Don’t say shit like that when I’m drinking.”

  “I’m sorry.” Sloane laughed, leaning toward Dex to pat him on the back as he hacked and coughed. “You okay?”

  Dex nodded, his voice hoarse when he spoke. “Yeah, get back to the… you know, the thing.” He swiped up a napkin and wiped his mouth.

  “Anyway, it started off small. He’d ask a lot of questions about my Therian form, which was fine. I was used to that. Then he’d use weird phrases when we were in bed together.” Sloane could feel his face getting red. “I can’t believe I’m having this conversation with you.”

  “We could talk about my sex life.”

  “Yeah, so he’d say things like um….” Sloane cleared his throat and leaned over. “If you laugh, I will beat the shit out of you.”

  “Okay. No laughing.”

  “He’d ask me to mount him and paw him. Then he wanted me to mark him.”

  Dex stared at him. “Like, mark him, mark him?”

  “Yeah, and it got weirder, but what pushed me over the edge was when he asked me to shift so he could jack off on me.”

  Dex cringed. “Ooh, I can see how that might cause a rift in the relationship.”

  “No shit. We broke up after that. Then he started stalking me so I filed a restraining order.”

  “What happened to him?”

  Sloane shrugged. He’d been so relieved to get rid of the guy, he hadn’t given it much thought after that. “He disappeared one day. Probably moved on to someone else.”

  “Wow.”

  “Yep.” Sloane finished his beer, noticing Dex had gone quiet. He dared to glance over and saw his partner nearly busting at the seams. “Just do it.”

  Dex burst into fits of laughter, his face going red as he doubled over. Every time he tried to get a hold of himself or say something, he’d end up snorting and laughing again.

  “I knew you were going to laugh.” Sloane pursed his lips, his eyes on his partner who he assumed was trying to say sorry, but instead ended up sounding as if someone was letting air out of a balloon. The lights dimmed, the music blared, and people started heading for the dance floor. Dex jumped from his stool, and Sloane swiveled to face him.

  “Ooh, they’re playing my song.”

  “Seriously, this is your song?” He listened to the disco-styled melody, the drums thumping away before a high-pitched male voice started singing naughty lyrics.

  “Not really, I just like it,” Dex said, subtly moving his body.

  “Wait, your dad said you didn’t know any songs after 1989.”

  Dex let out a bark of laughter. “Oh my God, and you believed him?”

  “Right, because it’s such a farfetched notion,” Sloane said, rolling his eyes.

  “Well, he was joking. I simply prefer songs from before 1989, but I occasionally listen to something a little modern.” He puckered his lips and gave Sloane a come-hither look. “Let’s dance.”

  “Fuck off,” Sloane said with a laugh. “I’m not dancing to this. Isn’t this a song about turning tricks?”

  Dex shrugged and started to move his ass in time to the music, singing at Sloane in a high-pitched voice about being a ghetto princess.

  “I’ll bet you are.” Any other drunken guy, Sloane would have walked away, but for some obscure reason he couldn’t understand, he leaned back, his arms folded over his chest as he watched—not to mention, permitted—Dex shimmy closer. His head was telling him he should rein in his partner before the guy made an ass out of both of them, but the silly grin on Dex’s f
ace was making it difficult. Besides, it had been a rough day on all of them and after his chat with Dex, he knew this was the first time in a long time the guy was getting to have a little fun.

  “Come on, Daddy.”

  “No, and if you ever call me Daddy again, I’m going to kick your ass.”

  “Fine, be that way.” Dex spun on his heels and threw his arms up, “Ladies! Dance floor!”

  Sloane watched Dex shimmy his way to the dance floor with half a dozen women, including Rosa and Letty, joining him.

  “Shit. Rookie’s got moves.” Ash put in his order at the bar, leaning against it while he waited. “If I knew he could pull like that, I’d have asked Maddock to bring him on sooner.”

  “I doubt Dex is going to agree to be your wingman,” Sloane muttered, chuckling when Ash flipped him off, grabbed his beers, and strolled off. With a smile, Sloane went back to watching Dex and the easy way he moved his body. Two women sandwiched Dex, the one behind him grabbed his hips while the one in front of him slid her hand up his chest, both grinding their bodies against him as they danced. Dex lifted his arms and kept dancing, a sexy lopsided smile on his face. He was having the time of his life, not caring what anyone else had to say on the matter, or that the women were feeling him up. By the second chorus, he had a harem of women around him, and he gave each and every one a smile, took turns dancing with them, teased them, and made them laugh.

  A yuppie kid in his late twenties sidled up to Sloane, his hands shoved awkwardly in his expensive trousers. “Hey.”

  Sloane didn’t bother looking up. “Hey.”

  “That your boyfriend?” the guy asked, nodding toward Dex.

  “What?” The idea that someone might have caught onto his definitely-not-a-crush, but too-many-sexual-thoughts-not-to-be-something thoughts had Sloane sitting up straight.

  “Your boyfriend is hot.”

  Sloane shook his head. “He’s not my boyfriend, he’s my partner. I mean, work partner. We work together.” Smooth.

  Yuppie Guy’s smile nearly split his face. “Oh, so you don’t mind if I dance with him?”

  “Go for it.”

  “Awesome sauce.”

  Sloane glared at the back of the guy’s feathery brunette head as he walked away. Awesome sauce? What was he, a teenage girl? Fucking ass hat.

  Yuppie Guy infiltrated the harem, but they didn’t seem to mind, dancing with each other as the guy pressed against Dex, threw an arm around him and started grinding. Soon both of Yuppie Guy’s hands had made their way down to Dex’s ass, gripping tight, his lips inches away from Dex’s. The guy’s hands were all over him, at one point slipping under Dex’s shirt and getting far too close to his crotch.

  Sloane swiveled his chair around to face the bar and ordered a Coke. What he should have ordered were another couple of beers, maybe a shot or two. Looked like he’d end up getting that taxi home on his own after all. Not that he had expected anything with Dex, though he had enjoyed shooting the breeze. Dex was single, but Sloane doubted he would stay that way for long. He was smart, good looking, and funny. After all the shit Dex had been through, he deserved a good guy. Someone to hold him close, laugh at his stupid quirks, and dear God, someone who could sit through a session of whatever ’80s song popped into his little blond pinhead. The thought made him smile.

  “I wouldn’t let that one get away.”

  Sloane’s head shot up to find the bartender leaning on the bar across from him.

  “He likes you. A lot. You could tell by the way he looks at you.”

  “Yeah, well, that’s not really the problem,” Sloane said, his voice gruff. Was he actually going to play his violin to the bartender?

  “Oh, you got someone?”

  Sloane shook his head, his throat feeling thick. “No, I lost someone a little while back.”

  “Hey, I’m sorry, man.” The guy leaned forward, his gaze sympathetic as he cocked his head to one side. He looked like he was thinking something over before he appeared to come to a decision. “I don’t mean any disrespect, but I’m sure your guy would have wanted you to be happy. Think about it. You don’t want to lose a good guy to an ass hat like that.” The bartender walked off, leaving Sloane staring after him. Well, at least he wasn’t the only one who thought Yuppie Guy was a douche.

  Ash bumped into him playfully. Looked like his best friend was already well on his way to passing out in the back seat of Cael’s car again. “Hey, you okay?” he asked Sloane.

  “Yeah.”

  “Dude!” Ash clapped a hand against his back, leaving a sting. Yep, well on his way to being shitfaced. “You should have seen it. Your boy got totally cock-blocked by his own brother.”

  “What?” He didn’t know why he was so surprised. It wasn’t as if he knew what the brothers were like together other than what he’d gleaned from them at work. They were like a couple of kids at times. But Dex never gave the impression his brother interfered in his sex life.

  “Pretty boy was dragging Dex to the bathroom, all over him, and Cael marched up to him and sent him packing. I tell you, the squirt don’t take shit from no one. Dex is right. He looks like this cute little puppy, but he’s got one hell of a bite.”

  “Why would Cael do that?” Wait, did Ash call Cael cute? His friend was totally wasted.

  Ash shrugged. “I don’t know, man. To be honest, Dex is so fucked up he didn’t even notice. Dude can dance, but he can’t hold his alcohol for shit.”

  “Is Cael taking you home?” Sloane asked, patting Ash’s bulging bicep. The guy was down to his undershirt, which in Ash-speak meant it was almost time to go. “Buddy, you really gotta stop stripping when you get drunk.”

  “It’s hot,” Ash replied with a pout. He pointed off somewhere over his shoulder. “Cael’s got my jacket. And yeah, he’s taking me home.”

  “You sure you don’t want Calvin or Hobbs to take you?” Sloane had no idea how Cael even managed to get Ash to his front door every time. The kid was strong, but Ash was twice his size.

  “Cael does fine. He parks in front of the house, sits there with me for a while, and then he wakes me up and helps me to the door.” Ash gave him a lazy shrug. “He’s good at tucking in.”

  Sloane’s eyebrows nearly reached his hairline. “He tucks you in?”

  “On the couch.” Ash peered at him. “What?”

  “Nothing.” Sloane put his hands up, holding back a smile.

  “Look, he’s a cool guy. I like him. Not like, in a gay way, just, you know, he’s a cool dude and I like hanging with him. That is possible. I can be friends with a gay guy, and not be gay.” Ash balled his hands into fists on the bar, and Sloane carefully put a hand to his friend’s shoulder.

  “Whoa, easy there, big guy. No one’s arguing with you. Are you okay?”

  Ash nodded, giving him a shaky smile. “Yeah, I think I had too much to drink.” He looked to the pool tables where Cael was laughing with Calvin. “I gotta go.”

  “Okay.” He watched his friend stride off and deposit himself in a chair next to Cael. He threw his arm around him and leaned into him. Cael smiled at him and bumped his head playfully against Ash’s. Crap, Sloane didn’t get his answer.

  “Hey man, there ya are.” Dex appeared next to him with a wide grin, his words coming out slurred. “I was lookin’ fer ya.”

  Sloane smiled. “You found me.”

  “I did!” Dex exclaimed excitedly. He flung an arm around Sloane’s shoulders, and pressed his body up against Sloane’s, making him shift uncomfortably. The guy’s scent invaded his space, a heady mix of male, sweat, and Dex’s shower gel. The longer Dex stood there, leaning against him, the more the scent seemed to intensify.

  “What happened to your friend?” Sloane asked.

  “Who?” Dex frowned, his brows drawn together in deep concentration.

  “The one with his tongue down your throat.”

  “Oh, Chris. Kit? Craig?” Dex squinted thoughtfully then snapped his fingers. “Dan. I don’t know. He left.


  “That your type?” Sloane asked, trying to sound casual.

  “Who Craig? Nah, he was cute, but too young and too clean cut.” He teasingly scratched Sloane’s stubble under his chin. “I like’ em scruffy.”

  Sloane arched an eyebrow at him. “That so?”

  “Yeah. I always went for guys who were easy, not like sex easy—though I went for those too, but no baggage, you know?”

  Sloane’s jaw muscles tensed and he looked down into his now watered-down Coke. “Yeah.”

  “But see, that right there?” Dex pointed at Sloane’s face, his index finger gently prodding Sloane’s cheek. “It’s beautiful.”

  “What?” No one had ever referred to him or anything about him as being beautiful. They were too busy running for their lives.

  “That pain you try to hide, every day. It does something,” Dex said, putting his hand to his heart.

  “I hope you haven’t got some kind of fetish or something, because that’s fucked up.”

  Dex shook his head. “Tonight, you laughed. I made you laugh. Knowing what’s in here, and that I could make you feel good, for a little while… I was wrong to dismiss guys like you. You need love.”

  Sloane swallowed hard, not quite understanding what Dex was babbling on about, but feeling uncomfortable with where it was heading.

  “Guys like you need love,” Dex repeated. “You need love.”

  “You are so wasted.”

  “I am.” Dex leaned into him and laid his head on Sloane’s shoulder with a small sigh. “You got good shoulders for leaning on, you know that?”

  “Not really. No one’s ever leaned on me before.” Most of his life he’d found himself leaning on others until there was no one left to lean on except Ash.

  “I’m leaning on you now.”

  Sloane worried his bottom lip for a minute before surrendering and letting his head rest against Dex’s. He allowed his eyes to drift shut.

  “You’re a big softie,” Dex murmured.

  “I can kick your ass, remember?”

  “Yeah, but that’s because you’re scared.”

  Sloane straightened and turned, intent on asking him what he was talking about. The loss of his shoulder caused Dex to fall into him, and on instinct, Sloane caught him. Their faces were so close, Sloane could smell the beer on Dex’s warm breath.

  “You moved,” Dex murmured, his hand sliding around Sloane’s waist to his back.

  “Sorry.” Sloane held Dex up, his head telling him to move the guy away, but his body having other ideas. His arms slipped around Dex, gently squeezing his partner to him. “You okay?”

  Dex’s brows furrowed, his gaze landing on Sloane’s lips. “I’m not sure.”

  “Feeling sick?”

  “Nope.” Dex shook his head. “Tingly.”

  “Tingly? You’re not having a heart attack on me, are you?” Sloane teased.

  “I don’t think so. My heart’s beating fast, though.”

  Sloane swallowed hard, unsure of what to say when Cael’s voice startled him. “Hey.”

  “He fell,” Sloane blurted, pushing Dex away from him. A bemused smile came onto Cael’s face.

  “Okay. He’s always falling. Anyway, I’m going to take Ash home. You mind taking my brother? Ash sort of takes up the whole back seat, plus it’s in the opposite direction.”

  Sloane opened his mouth when Dex started singing what sounded like another cheesy eighties song.

  “Good luck with that.” Cael didn’t even wait for a reply, simply gave Sloane’s arm a pat and darted off. The sneaky little bastard. Dex continued to sing, humming the melody in places where he couldn’t remember the lyrics. Sloane got to his feet and helped Dex onto his.

  “What in the hell are you singing?”

  “Eddie Money,” Dex replied with a yawn.

  “Who?”

  “1989.”

  Sloane couldn’t help but laugh. “You are the biggest dork I have ever met.” He put an arm around Dex, waving good-bye to the rest of the team as he maneuvered his partner out of the club, apologizing to people along the way when Dex stopped to compliment someone on their shirt, or shoes, or to steal a fry. His cheeky smile and wink earned him a giggle from the woman whose plate he stole from instead of a punch to the face. Sloane managed to get Dex out the front door and onto the sidewalk into the crisp October air. The garage was only a block
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