SEJ / Stephanie Tyler LLC
March 14 2019
Sometimes a broken man ends up stronger than he ever was—and far more dangerous…
Travis Smith is a grifter who’s wanted by both the Russian Mob and the FBI. He’s got the means and motive to stay hidden—until he’s picked up by Lochlan “Loch” Black, a CIA operative who threatens to unravel all Travis’s secrets.
Loch has enough secrets of his own, and they all lead back to the man he and the CIA have been hunting for years. And when Loch realizes Travis might be the key to that op, he and longtime friend and fellow agent, Tarquin “Tar” Simons, have no choice but to keep Travis under their protection.
But no one’s able to protect them all from the man who’s been hunting them back for years. Jabez Snow is a former CIA operative who didn’t stop his experiments when he disappeared.
And when Travis, Loch and Tar get involved, it triggers a chain of events none of them could foresee, and it threatens all their futures, unless they can hunt down Snow…before he finds them.
Read an Excerpt
The door to the bedroom slammed open with a shout, followed quickly in turn by a heart-stopping, unexpectedly loud-as-fuck bang and a flash of blinding light that Travis swore he could see behind closed eyelids, all of which immediately disoriented him, leaving him to struggle out of the bed and blindly find the door.
Smoke and popping sounds filled the air, accompanied by yells of panic. Travis resisted the urge to panic, even when he realized he couldn’t see or hear very well.
Later, he’d find out that the SWAT Team assisting the FBI had thrown in flash-bang grenades ahead of their bust, but all he knew in the moment was pure fear and total confusion.
He’d been nearly naked, in bed, and suddenly he was being dragged by strong arms that wouldn’t let go no matter how hard he’d struggled. Whether this was a kidnapping or an attempted takeover by another Russian mob family, he hadn’t been able to differentiate…not until he heard, “You’re under arrest. On the floor on your stomach, hands behind your back.”
Travis complied, freezing against the concrete. The metal cuffs clicked tightly on his wrists, he was unceremoniously hauled up, and a blanket was roughly shoved over his shoulders.
“Travis Smith,” was all he’d give them. They kept asking him, over and over, what his connection with the Russian mob was until he finally said, “I fuck Serge. That’s all. I have no idea about anything else you’re talking about.”
Which was a partial truth—he knew Sergei was Russian mafia and he fucked him anyway. Partially because he wanted to, but mainly because Travis was grifting Sergei, and had been over the past eight months.
Finally, the feds shoved him into the van, already packed with Russians Travis had seen at one time or another in Sergei’s house, now all handcuffed and chained together.
Across from him, Sergei mouthed, “One word and you’re dead,” and Travis nodded because he wasn’t stupid. He didn’t want anything to do with the police at all.
But the law had other plans for him. And even after he lawyered up, it didn’t seem to matter because all decisions seem to have been made about the best way to handle him. Apparently, it was an end run to force him into testifying, and his public defender didn’t seem too familiar with the concept of defending. Because his pathetic choices boiled down to snitch or prison, which, translated, equaled dead or dead.
He heard a cage door slam open and then there was blessed silence in the retreat. He didn’t recall anything more until waking in the middle of a police interrogation room, looking down at a paper he’d signed agreeing to turn against Sergei. The cage door slammed shut and Travis understood what he needed to do, why the paper had been signed. He could play along, since he’d been given his escape route.
He was always grateful for that cage door.
He let the marshals get him settled in a safe location, but they weren’t about to give him twenty-four seven protection. Instead, he got new identification and some pocket money and had to check in several times a day. And he did that for several days, merely running on survival mode, because he was damned good at surviving. He wanted nothing more than to get the hell out from under the government’s stranglehold and go back to what he did best: grifting. Maybe he’d stay away from sleeping with the men he grifted and maybe he wouldn’t. But the money he’d earned over the years was tucked away safe and sound, from both the government and other criminals, in an overseas account.
He had no fear of the marshals, the law, authority figures in general. The latter were all he’d known growing up, and he’d spent his twenty-three years learning to thwart, escape, defy and embarrass them.
Granted, Sergei ended up playing a crucial role in this escape—especially when Travis had passed a message through his lawyer about how best to help him get out from under the marshal’s watchful eye, which would in turn let him escape the feds and their insistence on his testimony. It involved a chain of people to keep names far removed from Sergei and his reach, but it had been worth it, especially because it would put Travis back with Dodge.
Dodge was mid-forties, handsome as fuck—a silver fox who was also a master thief with a penchant for helping guys in need get back on their feet. He’d told Travis when they’d first met that someone long ago had helped him get off the streets, and even though he ended up continuing to work them for several more years, it was under his own control, not anyone else’s. He charged rent but he didn’t care how you earned your money, as long as you kept yourself, and the rest of the house, safe. And if you couldn’t figure out how to earn, he’d help you with that too.
Dodge wasn’t a monk or a saint, but he was the closest thing to the latter that Travis had met so far.
Now, after leaving behind everything the marshals had given him, he walked along the edge of the highway for half a mile and found Dodge waiting for him, his car running as if he’d just pulled over to take a few minutes rest.
He got into the front seat of Doge’s car and breathed a sigh of relief. “It’s been a while. Thanks for taking the 911.”
“I told you that I always would.” Dodge pulled the car back onto the highway smoothly.
The stop was pretty full, mainly truckers and drivers, all of whom were sleepy and distracted enough that they’d believe Travis came out of the bathrooms and hadn’t walked up the highway.
If they did, and if the FBI questioned them, he and Dodge would be long gone anyway, Dodge’s black car ready to ghost through the night. Travis had no doubt the FBI would be searching for him after this. “You can just drop me off at the nearest train station. I don’t want to bring trouble for you.”
Dodge threw a smile in his direction. “I won’t lie—deciding to help you is causing us all to relocate, but it was time. Things got too comfortable, and with comfort comes mistakes.”
“Where to now?”
“I think you’ll like it. Upstate New York—not too big, not too small. Close enough to the city but not too close.”
“Middle of nowhere. Middle of everywhere.” Travis closed his eyes and leaned back against the seat, letting a few moments of safety lull him into relaxation. “Best place to be.”
Lochlan woke with the smell of fire in his nose and the splitting pain of a hangover pounding through his skull, like a demand. The dream—the same fucking nightmare that had threatened every night for the past eight months and then made good on its promise—wasn’t deterred by the whiskey. In fact, the whiskey might make it worse, but Loch preferred to wake numb.
Tonight, the ringing phone threatened to change all of that.
He picked it up anyway.
Dodge had recommended that Travis stay inside and out of trouble for at least a week, and he provided him with the space to do so—a third-floor apartment in the large house he’d rented. But after three days, which in his mind was more than enough time, he decided to test the waters, if for no other reason than a pressing need to slip into his new life and try it on for size.
Dodge didn’t bother arguing about the timetable, telling him instead, “Looking to hook up? Go to The Wall. Looking to grift or hook, go high end and hit Tally’s. It won’t look like it, but you’ll find what you need there,” in some alternative universe version of normal parent / son life.
Travis wasn’t sure what the hell he needed. He had a full bank account under an assumed name, he was bored, and in hiding from the mob and the feds.
Maybe he’d go for just sex tonight. Maybe he’d do the picking up, not for money or scamming, but just for pure goddamned pleasure.
He realized he had no idea what that must feel like.
Maybe tonight he’d actually find out.
In deference to the fact that he was still a wanted man—and with the help of one of Dodge’s other charges—he’d cut his hair shorter and took his natural brown to a lighter color. It made his blue eyes look brighter. Made him look like a different guy, which he supposed was the point.
Inside, he still felt exactly the same, and because of that, or in spite of it, he went to Tally’s. Even though he was simply looking to hook up, he didn’t have to slum for it.
The bar/restaurant was big inside—dark and cool and expensive looking. He got quite a few looks from both sexes, since it was a mixed crowd, but it only took him a couple of minutes to figure out that this was mostly a place for gay and bi men. There was definitely a lot of grifting he could do here, and easily, but instead he laser-focused on one man. The guy was all dark hair, classic, chiseled cheekbones, albeit in a rough-honed kind of way—an irresistible mixture of aristocrat and street. A combination Travis had never been able to resist.
This time, there was no reason to even try. Besides, the guy had laser-focused on him in return.
It was crowded, but he slid into the space the guy made for him and suddenly they were close. So motherfucking, dick-hardeningly close.
“Hey,” Travis murmured.
“Hey,” the man echoed with a raise of his eyebrow, a flirting mock before the appraisal. From the flare of heat in his eyes, it was apparent he liked what he saw. “Name?”
“Scotch, Travis?” He pointed to his own glass of single malt, neat.
“I’ll take a soda—a Coke,” Travis countered. His ‘no drinking, no drugs’ rules was merely survival for him—it had been so when he was actively tricking, and it would still serve him well picking up guys for pleasure.
The soda arrived quickly. Travis picked it up and clinked it against the man’s. “Thanks.”
“Since you’re not drinking, let’s get out of here. My place is a few blocks away,” the man told him, his voice deep and husky and dammit, Travis had only spoken a single word before it had been assumed that he could be bought. Handsome, rich men, like he assumed this one to be, always did. Maybe it was because power did make everything better.
It did for him, because even though the client rarely realized it, Travis was always the one holding the power. But tonight, the hum in his brain kept pulling him to be led…and he couldn’t shake that. Not when he felt a shift of power, an imbalance—and not in his favor—like never before.
You’re just freaked because of the arrest. Temporarily off your game.
Still, he didn’t scare easily and wasn’t about to start now, so sliding back into rent boy/grifting mode and shutting down all other feelings was the quickest way to settle his worries and bring back his confidence. “Someone’s in a rush.”
“I know what I want. I have no patience with wasting time.”
Travis’s dick went hard. Hard-er. But he still asked, “What’s your name?” to level the playing field somewhat before he agreed to just walk off with the guy.
“Lochlan, but people call me Loch.” He pronounced it like lock.
“Yes, it is.” Loch gave Travis a slow, lazy smile that made Travis shift. Loch gave a small laugh, like he knew. “I’ve never seen you at Tally’s before.”
“I’m new to the area.” Hell, it was the truth. Loch nodded, and when he didn’t question Travis further, Travis felt the playing field level slightly. “Let’s go.” He finished his coke, icy sugar giving him a tiny sliver of the rush he’d soon encounter. A warning. A highlight. Then he met Loch’s eyes before turning to lead the way out of the bar and into the cool temperatures of the city streets.
It was a Thursday, with most people behaving like Friday didn’t count. Travis followed the man to his car, a black Range Rover, parked a few spaces down from the bar.
“I live in Park Ridge,” Loch explained.
It was a gated community, Travis knew, thanks to Dodge, which meant Loch had money. “Works for me.” He got into the passenger’s side and Loch started the car and pulled away from the curb at an easy pace.
Less than five minutes later, Loch pulled into a long driveway and then into the attached garage. The house was big—elegant-looking. Intimidating even, and that was only the outside. Once he followed Loch in, it was even more so, sleek and masculine and modern.
“You’re thinking too hard,” Loch told him, a rough palm sliding along the back of his neck. “Second thoughts?”
“Your place is great.”
“So what? Why am I paying for it?” Loch asked, taking away any doubt that this was a rent boy situation. Travis shrugged. “You’ve never had another client like me? You seem high end.”
True, Travis had never specialized in typical rough trade situations, not because of the risks, but because the pay was shit, and he’d never worked for any kind of service either. He’d relied on his gut instincts, with a little help from Dodge from time to time. “I haven’t done this in a while,” he finally admitted.
Loch’s brows lifted. “So why me?”
“I like a challenge.”
“I propositioned you.”
“I’m talking about in bed.”
The corner of Loch’s mouth curled, the hint of a smile, the first he’d seen all night. “So do I.”
“What else do you like?” Travis asked.
“For tonight, your name is Liam,” Loch told him.
Liam. So this guy was in mourning for someone. That wasn’t an unusual reason for him to pick up someone, and it made sense.
Didn’t mean Travis had to like it, though. “Vocal?” he asked, because Loch was under some kind of spell as he stroked Travis’s hair.
“Vocal,” Loch confirmed. Then his eyes narrowed, and he murmured, “Trouble.”
Travis didn’t know if that was good or bad, because he liked trouble, and he couldn’t tell by the tone of Loch’s voice if the man agreed. But when Loch leaned in to kiss him, with a hand behind Travis’s neck to hold him in place, to take him, Travis felt a slam of desire with an underlay of fear.
He couldn’t remember the last time a client had ever kissed him this much. He’d never had an issue with it, had never thought it too intimate until now. He was feeling and that confused him. He didn’t want anything but a pleasant numbness, but Loch seemed determined not to allow that.
Travis felt a chill rush through him as the kisses got more intense, Loch tongue-fucking him, and tried not to shudder. But Loch noticed, and a smile ghosted across his lips. Travis assumed that his response reminded Loch of his precious Liam, and why he was so pissed about playing the role of the dead lover when he’d done much worse?
Don’t go there.
Instead, Travis pulled back slightly and stripped off his T-shirt, trying desperately to retain a slight bit of control. His own, maybe. And, in return, Loch ran a hand over the sugar skull tattoo on Travis’s chest. It was an elaborate tattoo in grayscale that always got a lot of attention, as did the ever-growing sleeve on his arm.
“Where did you get these?”
“I didn’t,” Travis said without thinking, then laughed. “I’m not sure. I mean, I didn’t get them in the same place.”
Loch just went with it and continued his exploration, walking them into the bedroom and pushing Travis back onto the king-sized bed. Loch took off his own shirt and then reached down to unzip Travis’s jeans and strip him before climbing into the bed and sliding next to him.
Travis’s bare cock rubbed against the soft fabric of Loch’s pants, and he couldn’t help but arch his hips up to prolong the sensation. He could feel Loch’s hardness pressing his as he stroked his hands down Travis’s back and ass, kissing him deeply—licking, biting, and Travis hoped he’d have the marks for days after this. He let Loch twist and suck his nipples as he arched and cried out Loch’s name, held Loch’s broad shoulders, clinging to him like a goddamned virgin.
It was all too much. He closed his eyes against the onslaught of emotions but his body refused to stop feeling, wanting—and worse?
He only bottomed for clients and topped for pleasure. And even though he’d switched to client mindset, his body was fighting it, hard, every step of the way. Then he got lost in the feel of Loch’s body against his and because Loch was the kind guy who didn’t have to pay for it.
So why did he?
Power. Control. Because it was easier to fuck without hopes of commitment.
Yeah, Travis was your dream man if you were into that sort of thing.
But he gave up fighting it and watched as Loch shed his own pants and rolled on a condom. Travis spent a few seconds staring at the man’s body. Chiseled abs, cut muscles and a long, thick cock made Travis’s ass ache just looking at him, and then Loch’s body was covering his, Loch’s hands skimming along his ribs, tongue and teeth alternately caressing and biting his skin along his neck and shoulders.
Once he was moaning Loch’s name and slick with sweat, Loch turned and pressed him flat against the mattress on his belly. His fingers were slicked with lube when they entered him and Travis was rutting the sheets, pressing his ass back and fucking himself on Loch’s fingers.
“Good, that’s good, Liam. You look beautiful,” Loch murmured and Travis didn’t want to stop being Liam if he could feel like this.
But hell, it was for sure a mindfuck. Because Travis was pretending to be this guy’s old lover, and he was following Loch’s lead, acting like this wasn’t the first time they were together. Except Loch didn’t appear to be acting. Instead, his hands roamed Travis’s body, bringing pleasure to places he didn’t even know turned him on.
Because in the past, it’d never been about him. His orgasm? He had to try to remain on guard during it—that was always when he was at his most vulnerable and he was usually with a stranger. Beyond that, it was literally only a part of the show. This time? It would be real, and Travis was about to lose his mind because of it.
Loch murmured, “Just like that, baby.”
Baby. It’d never sounded so fucking sincere or so hot. Because Travis was answering, “Yeah, come on. More. Please hurry.”
A beg. This guy had him reduced to begging to be fucked, on his hands and knees, ass in the air and really, truly waiting to be filled. Fucked. Used hard. And he realized all of that was spilling out of his mouth, telling Loch exactly what he wanted…
And Loch was complying, his covered cock sliding inside of Travis’s ass, and even though he’d been opened, it still burned. But he took it, wanted it, pressed back even when Loch tried to go slowly.
“Come on—can’t wait, Loch. Need it now,” he commanded and finally, Loch did what he wanted, pressing so he was fully seated inside of Travis, his balls against Travis’s ass. “That’s it. Move. Please fucking move…”
“Hold on, baby. I will.” Loch began to rock back and forth, and a keening moan escaped Travis as Loch rode him, biting the back of his neck the way Travis had seen stallions do to their mates during mating. It was a way to keep them in place, to remind them of it. A mark, a claim, which led to the biggest orgasms Travis ever remembered having…and one of the few he’d ever had without the use of his own hand.
And when the roar in his ears turned slightly duller, he heard Lock murmur, “We’re not done, Liam.” And Travis desperately wanted to remain Liam for as long as Loch would have him. Loch roughly turned him over and licked the come from his belly, his cock, as Travis watched helplessly.
Loch watched him as well.
“God, Loch,” he practically screamed when Loch slid his half-hard and overstimulated cock inside his hot mouth. Travis bucked up—tried to, anyway, but Loch’s hold was strong…and surprisingly gentle. Travis couldn’t fight it, so he gave in to every pleasurable sensation he could sink into. Let himself shudder as Loch’s talented mouth worked him hard again and then let Loch sink into him.
Let himself wrap around Loch and hold him like he’d never let go.
“Tell me,” Loch instructed.
Vocal. That’s what he wanted but Travis couldn’t control what was coming out of his mouth, dammit. He bit out, “Fucking do it hard,” and then, before he could stop himself, “Make me forget…”
Loch’s head snapped up and, for a second, Loch was looking at him—Travis, not Liam. “Forget what?”
“Everything else,” slipped out before he could stop himself. And Loch nodded, murmuring promises about spending the rest of the night doing just that as they became a tangle of arms, legs, mouths and tongues. Hours flew by as Loch’s hands teased and taunted him, getting him hard again when Travis was pretty sure he was spent for the night.
Just as the sun began to rise, Loch was inside of him again, murmuring a different name over and over again into his ear, so quietly that he couldn’t quite make it out. Travis didn’t care what Loch called him, was torn between wanting to come and wanting to hold onto this feeling forever, because coming meant ending. And as he struggled to keep it together, Loch was doing his best to pull him apart, dismantle any last vestige of control Travis might have.
“Let it go, baby. I know you can,” Loch murmured, half plea but mainly command.
The moans drummed up in Travis’s throat and he remained incoherent for the rest of the fuck. His mind, his body, one big mass of sensation, his heart in his cock, his body a giant heartbeat of climax as he spurted thick ropes of come between them and he begged, “Loch, please…don’t.”
“Don’t what, Travis?”
Travis. Not Liam. “Don’t let go.” He was horrified to hear himself say, but it was the truth, because when Loch held him tight, he came again, so unexpectedly that all he could do was stare at Loch helplessly as his body jackknifed with pleasure.
In the aftermath, he almost couldn’t look Loch in the eye, instead allowing him to remain holding him, reminding himself harshly over and over that this was a goddamned job as he slammed back down to earth. Or tried to. Loch apparently was attempting to block his re-entry with the press of his hard cock against Travis’s ass.
At that moment, Travis let Loch win.