Unexpected liaisons spir.., p.2

Unexpected Liaisons [Spirit of Sage 3] (Siren Publishing Ménage Amour ManLove), page 2


Unexpected Liaisons [Spirit of Sage 3] (Siren Publishing Ménage Amour ManLove)

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  “I’m nearly done here, so I’ll come help you in a bit,” the guy said. “We do custom ink, too, so if there’s a design you’d like, we can draw something up.”

  “Thanks,” Cooper said, nodding briefly, and then headed to the alcove and browsed the artwork. He didn’t really know why he was here. He had a few tats already, but he’d had an idea for a design for a while and was in the mood to add to his collection. Judging from the photographs on the walls, these guys were skilled artists, doing quality work.

  “Anything in particular you had in mind?” the young man from before said behind Cooper, startling the bigger man. Cooper sent the guy a sheepish grin for his reaction, and shrugged.

  “I had an idea for a design, just not sure I should go ahead with it,” he said honestly.

  The guy introduced himself. “I’m Rage. Why don’t you tell me what you had in mind, and if you don’t feel like going through with it today, I’ll just keep it on hold until you make a decision.”

  Cooper held out his hand, sealing the deal. “Sounds like a plan,” he replied laconically, and Rage grinned back.

  Before he knew it, Cooper had a design completed, had finished off a large cup of coffee and a Danish pastry, and was now lying back in a chair, the sting of a tattoo gun making its presence felt on his upper arm.

  “‘Keep it on hold,’ he said,” Cooper drawled with a wry smile.

  Rage just sniggered, his pale gold eyes full of amusement at Cooper’s predicament. “Dude, sometimes you’ve just gotta go with the flow, you know?”

  Cooper snorted and closed his eyes, a smirk on his own lips. “Yeah, whatever,” he retorted, hearing laughter from all four of the guys this time, then relaxed, and let the artist work.

  * * * *

  Zane laughed at his latest customer, the owner of the local café and a man who was partly responsible for the explosion of new construction in Sage. John Hastings was a guy who was as laid-back as could be, had a snow leopard hidden somewhere inside him, and had a sense of humor that could only be described as bizarre.

  “John, I’m sure the kids will love having a dollhouse. All my cousins have kids, and they all loved playing with stuff like that. It never mattered to our family who played with what. What’s the problem?”

  John shot him a slightly embarrassed look. “It’s not the gender thing. God knows that doesn’t matter. This is their first proper birthday, so I want it to be something they’ll like. Maybe I should just get them trikes instead.”

  Zane laughed more loudly, holding his stomach this time. “Dude, if you want trikes, get them trikes. Honestly, I think whatever you get them for their first official birthday present, they will love forever.” His voice softened, and he placed a hand on John’s shoulder. “Those kids have only known pain and misery before they met you guys. You’ve given them a home, love, and stability…a family—and they’re all thriving. Don’t sweat the small stuff… This dollhouse will be the best thing ever.” Zane brushed his knuckles over his chest, as though shining a medal, and John laughed and nodded, then gave Zane a hug.

  “I know,” John replied. “So, a dollhouse it is.” He sighed, releasing Zane. “Thank you. Cameron keeps telling me I’m being silly, but this birthday is important.” He shrugged, laughing at himself.

  “Primrose and Murray will love their birthday. Didn’t Oscar and Ruby’s go well? They loved the rocking horses I made, didn’t they?” Zane punched John lightly on the arm, grinning at the man’s pout.

  “Yeees,” John replied, rubbing his arm. “If you tell Mick or any of the crew I’ve been in here again, I’ll deny everything,” he added, and then groaned as he turned around and saw Jamie, Mick, and Mason all standing in the large entrance to the workshop, grinning like Cheshire cats.

  “You promised Cameron you’d just stick with the dollhouse,” Jamie chided, shaking his head sadly.

  “I am,” John protested. “I was just making sure Zane had everything under control, that’s all.”

  “It’ll be ready on time, John, no need to worry about that,” Zane said, raising a brow.

  John shot him a warning look, which Zane totally ignored, slapping the big Brit on the back, and shooing him out. “It won’t be ready, though, if you keep bugging me about it. Now scoot, people!” The group laughed, starting the inevitable pile on as they left with John, teasing the man for his OCD concerning his youngest kids’ birthday.

  “You finally did it,” a familiar voice said from the door, a few minutes later, and Zane sent a startled look to the man who had just entered his workshop.

  Zane drank in the sight of the tall, beautiful man. He met Cooper’s blue eyes, seeing the warmth and affection there as Cooper’s gaze slid away from his. Darting over the workshop, Cooper’s observation took everything in with a sweeping look.

  “You always were an artist when it came to wood,” Cooper said approvingly, walking to a tall oak dresser with a glass display case. He ran his fingers over the ornately carved detail on the three drawers, and the sides of the display cabinet. “This is beautiful,” he added, smiling at Zane. He wore a snug-fitting black T-shirt, his legs and hips encased in ripped blue jeans. His feet were shod in lightweight walking boots. He looked tall and delicious, and so sexy Zane felt his mouth water.

  “I like working with wood,” Zane said after a short pause.

  “I’m glad you decided to start your own business,” Cooper said, moving closer to Zane.

  Zane’s breath hitched in his chest, and he swallowed hard the nearer Cooper got to him. Zane’s nostrils quivered, scenting that clean, musky scent again that was all Cooper. He felt embarrassed again and turned away from the temptation. A firm hand on his arm stopped him.

  “Don’t,” Cooper pleaded. “I reacted badly the last time I saw you, and I hurt you. I’m so sorry for that. I was hurting, too, and I felt like I shouldn’t like what we did.”

  Zane froze, sending a wary look Cooper’s way.

  Cooper nodded, turning Zane to face him again. “I did like what we did,” Cooper said huskily, his hand cupping Zane’s face. “I liked it a lot.” He took another half step closer, his body heat searing Zane through their clothing. That sensuous scent hit his nostrils again, his cock filling out urgently in reaction to the olfactory stimulation.

  “It was too soon,” Zane said hoarsely, ducking his head.

  “No, it was a wake-up call,” Cooper answered, brushing his thumb lazily along the crease of Zane’s lips. Zane closed his eyes, helpless against the emotions rising up inside him. He’d been in love with this man for decades, and here Cooper was, within reach, and so damned tempting. Zane remembered that day, two years ago, when he’d acted on impulse and given in to temptation, sending Cooper running.

  “Cooper, Wolf wouldn’t want you to hide yourself away like this,” Zane said, frowning at the mess of unwashed pots and pans, the discarded whisky bottles, and fast-food cartons strewn over Cooper’s living room. “Wolf’s gone, and he’s not hurting anymore. I’m grieving, too, you know. But I know he was ready to go, not wanting to suffer anymore. He wanted you to live, not become a recluse and drink yourself to death.”

  “Fuck you,” Cooper snarled angrily, blue eyes flashing. “How would you know? The last relationship you were in lasted, what, a month?”

  Zane saw the blaze of remorse that followed the hurtful words. Cooper closed his eyes wearily, leaning back against the kitchen counter. “I’m sorry, that was a stupid thing to say.”

  “Wolf’s gone, Cooper. But you’re still alive. Stop feeling so fucking sorry for yourself all the time. He had family. Don’t you think we’re grieving, too? Don’t you think my mom and dad, and aunts and uncles and cousins feel the loss, too?” Zane spoke sharply, trying to jolt Cooper from his self-absorption. He was terrified Cooper’s self-destruct mission was going to end badly.

  “Quit pushing me,” Cooper shot back, glaring. “I know you’re all hurting, too. I can’t help the way I feel, you know.”

Zane replied curtly. “You have people who love and care about you. Stop shoving us away. We’re here for you, always have been.”

  “Quit. Pushing.” Cooper sounded like he was about to punch something.

  Zane stepped forward, standing in the V of Cooper’s legs, nose to nose, glaring angrily back. “Quit. Being. A. Jerk.” Zane grabbed hold of Cooper by the hair and dragged his face forward. “Wake up, Cooper.” He ground his lips against Cooper’s, hearing the man’s startled gasp and then a sultry moan as Cooper’s mouth opened wider and the kiss deepened.

  Zane felt as though a shock wave of pure energy had just hit him, the taste of Cooper on his tongue sweet and delicious. At least the man had remembered basic hygiene. He kissed Cooper with a desperate hunger, rubbing their jean-clad cocks together as they writhed through the unexpected embrace. He brought his other hand up, gripping Cooper’s face in both hands, eating at Cooper’s mouth, his hunger increasing with each passing second.

  With a strangled cry, Cooper pulled back, shoving Zane away violently.

  “Get the fuck away from me,” Cooper growled viciously, wiping his mouth, and Zane went cold inside. “What the fuck are you doing? My husband’s only just cold in the grave, a year ago, and you’re trying to fuck me on our kitchen counter? What the fuck is wrong with you?” Zane stumbled back, unable to believe what he’d just done.

  “I’m sorry,” he stammered, moving farther away. “I didn’t mean to… I’m sorry.” Then he turned and ran from the small cottage, leaping into his Jeep and skidding away in a shower of gravel and dust.

  Chapter Two:

  Two Worlds Collide

  Cooper moved closer still, and he placed his mouth firmly against Zane’s. They both whimpered in relief. Cooper’s memory of their last encounter had remained in his mind, vivid and at times unwanted. He had shied away from feelings of shame at being so attracted to Wolf’s younger brother, but knew Wolf had long ago given his approval, somehow sensing feelings Cooper had never consciously been aware of. Subconsciously? He supposed his body knew what it wanted, even if his brain had refused to acknowledge the scorching attraction he felt for this man.

  Cooper tasted Zane for the second time in his life. Rolling the man’s addictive flavor around on his tongue, he slid his tongue inside Zane’s avid mouth, exploring every bump, ridge, and crevice. He stroked the man’s back, moving his hands south, clutching at Zane’s slim hips, and then cupping the taut mounds of his glutes, kneading the flesh restlessly. The kiss deepened, their tongues lashing each other, touching briefly, and then darting away playfully in a sexy game of tag. He felt Zane’s strong arms go around him, felt a hand tugging at his short blond hair, raking through the silken strands urgently. Groaning, Cooper changed angles, tilting his head to get a different perspective. He moved one hand back up Zane’s broad back, feeling the tight ripple of muscles, the searing heat of his body through his thin T-shirt, and wanted the man naked under him, writhing on a bed as he fucked Zane into the nearest mattress.

  Panting, Cooper eased back reluctantly, his eyes slitted with lust as he studied Zane’s flushed face intently. Zane was beautiful. His skin held the reddish-brown tones of his Arapaho heritage, and his eyes were the color of rust. His skin was smooth and roped with lean muscle, his face showing the proud lineage that could be traced back centuries.

  “I was sorry the second I said those things,” Cooper said, resting his damp forehead against Zane’s, inhaling the man’s sweet scent into his lungs. “I was scared of caring again.” He butted his nose teasingly against Zane’s, Eskimo-style.

  “I didn’t mean to act so soon,” Zane admitted, sighing heavily, his arms looped around Cooper’s waist now, loosely. “It was an impulse thing. I just wanted you to feel something, anything. You scared me. It was like you’d just shut down.”

  “It hit me hard,” Cooper said. “It took three years for the cancer to get him, and he fought it every step of the way. Right up until the end, I thought he’d get through it, even when the doctors told me there was no hope.” He closed his eyes against the onslaught of memories. “I felt like I’d failed, like I should have done more. Then you kissed me, and I enjoyed it, at a time when I didn’t want to feel anything at all…least of all desire for my brother-in-law. I felt like I’d failed again, that I’d betrayed him somehow.”

  Zane jerked as though startled, and Cooper ran his hands down the man’s back again and then lifted his head, staring into sherry eyes intently. “Wolf gave me the green light, ages ago,” Cooper said, pressing a light kiss to Zane’s chin. “He said if anything ever happened to him, he wanted me to keep on, to find happiness again.” He frowned. “He knew weeks before I did about the cancer. I think he was in denial about it, and scared. It was as though if he kept silent, it would just go away. By the time he decided to do something about it, he was already stage III.” He sighed, nuzzling against Zane’s cheek with his nose.

  “I didn’t know that,” Zane said, frowning thoughtfully. “Wolf could be stubborn as hell about some things. He once took over a year to admit he’d broken Mom’s favorite vase, even though we all knew it was him doing it. He said he had to think about how to tell her.” He let out an amused chuckle, the sound rippling through Cooper.

  “Yeah, he was stubborn all right,” Cooper said, laughing softly. “He was laid-back about pretty much everything, but when you hit that brick wall of his, it was hopeless to try to change his mind. Patience was something I learned from being with him.”

  Just then, Joe McKellar and his husband, Aaron, strolled in. Zane tried to pull away, but Cooper held on, unwilling to let go just yet. Zane had the cutest blush on his cheeks.

  “Cooper! You’re back,” Aaron said, smiling in delight.

  Cooper sent his old friend a reciprocal look, finally releasing Zane, and was pulled into a big hug. He’d known Aaron for years. The guy’s uncle was the town’s sheriff and a hard-ass lawman. He was more than familiar with Joe as well, whose father had been friendly with his own for many years, before Cooper’s dad died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving him alone in the world at the age of sixteen, except for Wolf. Cooper’s mother was someone he’d barely known, a woman who had died struggling to give birth to his brother. After nearly three days of agonizing labor, she had given up her fight to live. His brother, Chester, had survived, and Cooper had cherished the little guy. He’d been only just a teenager when his brother had been kidnapped. That same year he’d met Wolf, had been the same year Cooper’s little brother had been abducted, in broad daylight, right off the street in Sage. The local police department had been just shy of useless, and Cooper had never seen the little five-year-old again. That had been twenty-five years ago, and he hadn’t forgotten the torment of losing the last of his family.

  “Joe,” Cooper greeted, laughing when Joe grabbed him and gave him a noogie for old time’s sake. “Quit, you big lug. People will talk.” He chuckled, elbowing Joe in the ribs as he managed to free himself.

  “It’s been too long,” Joe scolded gently, hugging his friend. “We tried to contact you, after you left, but you’d disconnected your phone, and nobody could reach you.”

  “I had stuff to deal with,” Cooper explained vaguely.

  “You look too thin,” Aaron said, eyeing him up and down. “I’ll tell Mom. She’ll get some meat back on those bones.”

  Cooper backed away, holding both hands up to ward the men off. “Don’t send your mom after me. I promise I’ll eat, all by myself.”

  “I’ll make sure of it,” Zane interjected, narrowing his eyes on Cooper, who just rolled his eyes.

  “Fine, I’ll eat. Quit picking on me,” Cooper protested, rolling his eyes.

  “You’re not sick, are you?” Zane suddenly asked. Losing weight was how he’d first realized his brother was ill, six years ago.

  Cooper stared at Zane, his blue eyes softening. He shook his head at Zane. “No, I’m not sick. I just…I got lost for a while. I forgot to take care of myself. I’m okay, now,
though.” He hugged Zane to him, pressing a kiss to the younger man’s cheek. “I promise I’ll eat.”

  “I guess you heard what happened here?” Joe asked, one brow arched as he studied the two men embracing. Cooper just knew the guy was going to give him shit about it later.

  “The cult and everything? I knew about them, when you discovered what they were doing. I was just too wrapped up in what was happening to Wolf to be much help.” He sent an apologetic look at his friends.

  “You were taking care of your own business,” Aaron reminded him. “Wolf needed you.”

  “I could have done something,” Cooper replied, feeling ashamed. “I just left. I knew you were fighting those monsters, and I just left you to it.”

  “Cooper, honey, you did exactly what you needed to do.” Aaron’s green eyes showed his understanding, gleaming with sorrow at Cooper’s loss. “You’ve had enough grief in your life, so please, don’t feel bad about trying to figure things out. You had Wolf for over two decades… That’s a long time to be with someone…longer than you had with either of your parents.” Cooper flinched at the solid reminder, felt it like a punch to the gut. Aaron was right. Wolf had been his family for longer than he’d had parents. “I just wish you’d left us a way to contact you, but I understand why you felt you needed to get away.”

  “I was hoping the rumors were true, that you’d come back,” Joe said, as though he was hiding something.

  Cooper frowned curiously. “Rumors?”

  “Someone said they’d seen you on the rez,” Aaron said.

  “We have news for you,” Joe added, then stopped.

  Cooper rolled his eyes. “Joe, just spill it, would you?”

  Joe grinned. “We have someone we think you’d like to meet. We would have told you before, but we only just found out you were back,” he said, then put two fingers in his mouth, and let out a loud wolf whistle.

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