Make Me Blaze (Bringing the Heat BK #3)
Heartbreak is new to Dominic Scotto. The once love them and leave them heir finally took a chance on love, only to be let down.
But his troubles are just beginning.
Fresh from catching his lover in bed with another man, Dominic Scotto is grabbed off the street and taken hostage. The identity of his kidnapper is a mystery, what the man wants, though, not so much. Shackled and trapped, Dominic’s resilience is put to the test as his captor carries out a carefully crafted plan to divest him of his secrets.
With the heir to the Scotto empire naked and bound before him, the man known as Smoke will do whatever he must to get the answers he seek. Amid a firestorm of anger and distrust, between pain and pleasure, two men reach for each other in the darkness, but it’s not over yet. Under the sun’s harsh brightness, Smoke remains elusive, a man without a face and a name, and Dominic is still a target mired in secrets.
He sat in the shadowed study, watching the amber liquid in his glass swirl. Waiting. In this game he played, waiting was an art, and he’d perfected it. The man known only as Smoke pulled at the black tie around his neck. He’d come dressed for the occasion, like he always did. His target tonight was playing host to some very important people. One of those brown-nosing shindigs where no one liked one another, but they grinned and downed fifty year old scotch while slapping each other on the back.
In a room filled with so many posturing fools, Smoke was the most honest of the bunch, and wasn’t that all kinds of fucked up? He’d come through the front door, this evening, unlike most occasions where he usually gained entry through more … indirect means. Of course, the face the crowd downstairs saw wasn’t his real one. Nothing about John Black—his persona for the evening—was real. Not his thick, upper crust British accent, nor the limp, nor the pot belly and pock marks.
Smoke liked playing dress up, but when he and his target met face to face, he dropped the pretense. No sense in keeping it up then, they had to know what his presence meant and who had sent him. He liked those moments. The panic. The begging.
Doors slammed. Car doors. The crowd was finally departing downstairs. He checked the cheap watch on his left wrist. He still had time. He’d timed it all perfectly, being pretty anal about his time management. Footsteps drifted past the study. His target had a lovely wife and three children, ranging from eight to thirteen, who slept mere feet away. The reason Smoke chose the study. Another level of fear. More control. Less chance of his target trying to be the hero. For the sake of his wife and kids, he’d be cooperative.
Smoke liked when they had weaknesses such as these. Helped tremendously.
He sipped the scotch, one foot tapping against the carpeted floor. Not out of impatience, never that. He simply liked the movement. The gray wig on his head itched, but he ignored it.
Finally, the study door opened. His target came into the room, pulling off his jacket as he stepped into the dark room. He flung the article of clothing on to the chaise in the corner then put a hand out to turn on the light.
“Leave it off.”
Jean-Pierre Bartholone, member of France’s cabinet, and President of the Socialist Group, froze. Smoke continued speaking.
“Your party is very displeased with your most recent leanings, Mr. President.” He leaned forward and flipped on the small lamp on Bartholone’s desk. “I’ve been sent here to discuss things with you.” He smiled up into the other man’s wide eyes.
“Who are you?” Bartholone spat in French. The words were defiant. The stance and stink of rank fear pouring off him, not so much. “Leave my home.”
Smoke shook his head. “That’s not going to happen.” He pushed the second glass he’d poured toward the other man. “Now, please. Sit and share a drink with me. Let’s not wake your beautiful family.” That was a threat, and Bartholone recognized it as such. He didn’t waste time before sliding into the chair opposite Smoke.
“What do you want?” Bartholone eyed the glass of scotch in front of him like one would a hissing snake.
Smoke smiled in the grandfatherly way he’d practiced in the hotel mirror hours earlier. “Like I said, your fellow Socialites are very disappointed in your recent activities. Your admittance to that place we won’t mention.” Smoke lifted an eyebrow. The president liked whores. Not a bad thing. Smoke wasn’t one to turn up his nose at the hustlers earning theirs however they could. Who didn’t like to spend a couple dollars for some no-strings attached bed play every now and again? Hell, he’d been to quite a few establishments during his travels. No one would care if Bartholone had a little something going with another, more experienced woman.
He didn’t. The establishment he’d gained entrance to boasted something quite different. Boys. Very young boys. Obviously that was unacceptable. Smoke didn’t spell all that out, but Bartholone got the gist. He grabbed the glass and gulped it down.
Smoke grinned. Too easy, really.
The man opposite him slammed the empty glass down on the desk. Smoke caught the tremor in his hand.
“It was a mistake,” Bartholone said. “A mistake.” His eyes pleaded with Smoke to believe him, to understand him. Some things were beyond human comprehension.
Smoke checked his watch again. “Okay. I’m sure your colleagues will understand.” He jerked his chin. “Your wife. Your children, especially the two boys sleeping down the hall. Do you think they will understand?”
Now Bartholone got the score, and his entire body shook, rattling the glasses on the desk.
Smoke patted his hand. “Cheer up. I’m here to provide a solution.”
“Who are you?” Bartholone squinted at him.
“A problem solver.” He was actually. And damn good at it, if he did say so himself. “My job is making this unpleasantness go away.” He waved a hand. “After tonight, this will all be a non-issue.”
Bartholone’s loud sigh reached out to Smoke, rustling the straggling hairs on his head.
“Please.” Bartholone grabbed his hand. “I will do anything.” He paused, a perplexed look shadowing his eyes. He frowned then cleared his throat. “What—what do we do?” He pressed a shaky hand to his forehead.
“You do nothing. It’s my job, after all.” Smoke sat back, arms folded and took in Bartholone’s graying visage. Sweat soaked his hairline and glistened on his forehead. He’d turned a sickly pallor quickly.
“I don’t—I don’t feel…” Bartholone pulled on his tie, yanking until it came loose. “I can’t—” He doubled over, clutching his chest. “Help!” His plea was a weak croak.
Smoke picked up the briefcase at his feet and stood. He placed the case on the desk then opened it and pulled out a glass, identical to the one he’d been drinking out of. After downing the last of the liquid, he tucked the used glass inside the case and placed the new one back on the table.
Task done, he walked over to Bartholone and pulled the gasping man upright. The other man’s gaze was unfocused, his pupils dilated.
“Wh-what is—” Bartholone lifted a hand, an attempt to hold on to Smoke.
He smiled. How did one do that, touch Smoke? “You’re having a heart attack.” He patted Bartholone’s head. “A fatal one, I’m afraid.” Casting his gaze about the room, he ensured all was it should be. He wore no gloves, but that wasn’t an issue. His love of fire in his early years had long divested him of any serviceable fingerprints.
Speech quickly failed Bartholone. He stared off into the distance, fingers pulling at his shirt as he heaved and convulsed. Smoke stood over him and timed it out. Fifty-three seconds later, all of Bartholone’s movements ceased. Smoke pressed two fingers to his neck, checking for a pulse.
He picked up the briefcase and made his way out the room, leaving via the back entrance. Two blocks away, he stopped and pulled a phone from his jacket pocket.
“It’s done.” He didn’t wait for anything else. Right there, under a Parisian streetlamp, he took the phone apart, pulling out the battery. He got a new phone for each job and scrapped it at the completion. His regular clientele knew how to reach him if they needed a job done. He’d been at his chosen profession for more than a decade, taking the reins over from his uncle—and caretaker—when he passed. Nothing had been as natural or fit him as right as what he did. He was good at it, and that was all mattered.
The matter of the phone dealt with, and the narrow cobblestone street deserted, Smoke undressed as he walked. The wig went first, then the pillow under his shirt. He corrected the limp. Ducking into a dark alleyway, he removed the suit and pulled on a black leather jacket and jeans. He stowed everything in the folded knapsack inside the briefcase and slung it over his shoulder. He’d dispose of everything in the hotel room fireplace before he left.
The ad in the Help Wanted section of the newspaper read, Clean Up Assistance Needed. Delicate Materials. If Interested, Contact Jacques. Smoke didn’t pay attention to the phone number listed. It would be a dud since the ad was meant specifically for him, a signal to meet with his next client. He put down his still hot tea, threw a few pounds on the table and exited the small café in Dumfries, Scotland. He got into the rental car and drove over to the local church, about twenty miles away.
Inside the confessional, Smoke kept his head down. Not that he had anything to hide, he was once again in disguise, but it just seemed the appropriate thing to do. Movement on the other side of the booth caught his attention, but he didn’t look up.
Wood slid over wood, a smooth, muted sound. Smoke watched as a folder dropped into his lap.
“Everything you need is in there.”
He didn’t doubt it. He made no move to pick up the folder. “Time frame?”
“The sooner, the better,” the thick Scottish voice replied.
“The US. Chicago.”
Ah. It’d been a while since Smoke had visited the Americans. His freelance work confined him mostly to Europe these days. He relished the upcoming visit to the States. “The usual?”
“No.” The voice on the other side was sharp, abrupt. “We need information. Do what you have to in order to get it.” A pause. “There’s a possibility we won’t get want we want. If that’s the case, we have no problem with the usual, but make it count. Send a message.”
Smoke lifted an eyebrow at that. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had to send a message or extract information. Been quite a while. He opened and closed a hand. He’d get to put his other skills to good use.
Fun times were ahead. For him, at least.
His target’s name was Dominic Scotto, a playboy and heir to the Scotto empire. Whatever that meant. Dominic had the unfortunate luck to be the son of Vitor Scotto, suspect in an international embezzlement scheme. It was Smoke’s job to get all the information from Dominic Scotto. The elder Scotto had done a vanishing act with the savings of some very dangerous men, men who had no qualms about using Dominic Scotto as collateral damage.
Smoke eyed the car parked opposite one Wes Dumont’s house, biding his time. He’d followed Dominic Scotto to the clandestine meeting the young Scotto had had in Texas, to New York, and now to the home of his boyfriend, who looked like he’d moved on. Wes Dumont had another man in his bed, and any second now, Dominic Scotto would find that out.
That couldn’t be good.
He stood in the shadows, tapped his fingers on his thighs, humming under his breath. A door slammed, and Dominic Scotto walked out the house, his shoulders slumped, head hanging.
Ah, heartbreak. Not something Smoke ever experienced firsthand, so he could only imagine how it must feel to walk in on your lover with someone else. He moved quickly, creeping closer to Scotto’s chauffeured Town Car. No security with all the shit going on with his father? Was this Scotto guy an idiot? Still, his oversight made it that much easier for Smoke to shoot the driver in his neck with the poisoned dart, a little something guaranteed to erase his memory of the past eight hours or so and leave behind a hell of a headache.
He didn’t wait to watch the driver slump over before he yanked open the back passenger side door and hauled Dominic out, a gun in his face.
“Hello, Mr. Scotto.” Smoke grinned down into Dominic’s confused face. “Lovely to meet you.” He slammed the butt of the gun into the side of the younger man’s head. Dominic slumped over, and Smoke pushed him back into the backseat. Running around to the front, he rolled the driver onto the passenger seat and drove off.
He dumped the driver out of the car five blocks away, and continued on to the place he’d had all set up for his time alone with Dominic Scotto.