(Watch Me) Body You

WMBY_book2Run This Town, book #2

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What if loving him…

After recent events that had his life flashing before his eyes, Israel Storm is re-evaluating everything. His friends. His priorities. What’s not going to change is the deep connection he’s developed with Reggie Turner. They’re comfortable with each other, partners in crime with no qualms about sharing women. Whatever Is needs, Reggie is the one he calls. Their bond can survive anything. But maybe not the kiss Reggie plants on him out of nowhere.

                             …Means losing him?

Despite what Is thinks, that kiss came from somewhere. An un-named current has been flowing between them for months. Reggie doesn’t bat for his own team, but the more time he spends with Is, seeing past the rough façade of the man leading The Rude Boys, the more Reggie loses sight of labels and where he fits. All he knows is there’s something there, something Is will never acknowledge. One kiss leads to a punch that lands Reggie in the ER, and sends Is digging through his darkest memories in search of himself.

Friendship is all that’s left if they bury the truth. If they ignore the pull that makes it impossible to do anything other than fight each other. But denials can be exhausting and hiding isn’t working, not when everyone can clearly see your heart’s desire. An enemy is out to make an example of Is, and his weapon of choice will leave this Rude Boy bloodied…and bodied.

 

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Is and Reggie-An Interlude

After Is meets Seraphina

 

 

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Prologue 

 

“Hey, man. You okay?” Reggie frowned at Israel Storm. The big guy was twitchy, muttering to himself as he stripped out off his clothes with his back to Reggie.

At his question, Israel glanced over his shoulder, as if now realizing Reggie was there with him. They’d just disposed of two bodies in silence. Strangers, but united for this common purpose. Two men had shot at Mateo, Reggie’s friend and sort-of boss, and his husband. Teo had wanted to deal with them himself, but it had been Israel who’d ended up pulling the trigger, executing the two men.

Teo instructed Reggie to help the guy deal with the bodies, so here they were, in an open field out in Staten Island. Kinda weird, doing something as intimate as burying bodies with a man he’d met only hours before. Israel was the leader of The Rude Boys, the Jamaican gang running out of Queens. But he and Teo were also good friends. Of course, Reggie wouldn’t hesitate to help someone who’d helped Teo, but this watching Israel strip down to his skin business was beginning to freak him out.

“Blood. I don’t like blood.” Israel tossed his yellow shirt into the tall grass and began working on his jeans.

“Hey. Hey. Whoa.” Reggie waved his hands. “How can you not like blood?” All the stories he’d heard about this guy? He was a mad man, merciless, but here he was, body jerking as he fought to get his blood-stained clothes off. Reggie lunged at him and grabbed his shoulder, stopping his movement. Under his palm, small tremors worked its way through Israel.

Damn. This was no small dislike. “Israel, you have to—”

“Is.” He turned to face Reggie, dark eyes tormented, unfocused. “You’re watching me come apart.” The corners of his mouth hitched up. “You might as well call me Is.”

“Okay.” Reggie took a breath and glanced around. “We’re out in the middle of nowhere after having dumped two bodies, Is. Why don’t we get out of here, huh? I can take you someplace so you can wash up.” He shrugged off his red zippered hoodie, keeping on his black t-shirt. “Don’t think this will fit.” He eyed Israel critically. “But try anyway.”

Israel held his gaze for the longest time. “Don’t you want to know why I’m freaking out?”

Reggie snorted. “Oh, I do. Believe me I do, but right now, son? We need to get ghost.”

His companion nodded as if that was an acceptable answer. He put on Reggie’s hoodie, but it was tight and wouldn’t zip. Israel kept it on anyway then went about gathering the clothes he’d taken off.

They moved quickly, walking back to the car in silence. Israel opened the driver’s side door and Reggie frowned.

“You okay to drive?”

Israel got into the car and buckled his seatbelt then waited until Reggie climbed into the passenger seat before he scrubbed both hands over his face. “I’ve been better.”

They sat in the silence, unending darkness all around. Reggie cleared his throat, trying not to notice the way Israel’s hands shook. “So…You and blood, huh?”

“Me and blood.” Israel—Is—chuckled, a heavy sound filled with self-loathing. “We go way back.”

His eyes were heavy, sad when they met Reggie’s then Is looked away quickly. It was the height of uncomfortable, being here with this guy who’d been a fucking legend in the streets for so long. Learning this about Israel Storm, seeing this side of him was…

Reggie wished he hadn’t witnessed it, wasn’t witnessing it. “Listen, we don’t know each other, but you can trust me to keep this,” he waved a hand, “between us.”

Is laughed. He leaned back in his seat and tilted his head up. “I’d just kill you.”

Reggie couldn’t even be offended at that. In this business, any kind of weakness, any hint of vulnerability was pounced on. A man in Is’ position, at the top? Only one place to go.

Bottom.

“You wanna get outta here?”

“Not yet.” Is shook his head and grabbed on to the steering wheel with both hands. “I need…a minute.”

They needed to get out of there. Distance themselves from the dead men they’d dumped into that swamp, but Reggie nodded. “Take your time.”

Is lurched forward, forehead banging against the steering wheel as he tried to put his head between his knees.

Ah, fuck. Reggie lifted a hand to pat his back, but thought better of it and spoke instead. “Maybe, maybe we should—Dunno—talk it out?” Jesus. He knew nothing about this guy other than what the streets had to say, and he was what? Offering to listen to him confess his darkest secrets? “Why don’t you tell me why you hate blood so much?”

He almost flinched when Is’ head snapped up, his face a mask of pain, eyes gleaming.

“I— I mean, we don’t have to. I just figured…” He tried back-pedaling, but Is didn’t let him.

“Nah, you right.” He unbuckled his seat belt and opened the car door. “You drive. I’ll talk.”

He did, Is talked, and Reggie listened without saying a word. All the way from the back of Staten Island to Queens. He listened as Is shared some heavy shit about his parents, his childhood. Blew his mind.

He followed the directions Is gave and finally pulled up in front of Is’ place. Reggie let the car idle as he cleared his throat.

“That’s some fucked-up shit, son.”

Is’ laugh was bitter. “You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know.” He stared out the window before turning to stare at Reggie. Just…stared at him, as if he couldn’t understand where they were and why. “Yo, you wanna come inside for a bit? Smoke some’n, drink some’n?”

“Yeah?” From his tone, Reggie couldn’t decide if Is wanted him to say yes or no. “What kinda shit you got?”

“Fuck you, man. You know I gotta have that good good.”

Reggie chuckled. “Aight then, I can smoke a lil some’n. Wouldn’t mind drinking some’n, either.”

So after a slight hesitation, Is got out the car and Reggie parked properly then followed him up the stairs to his house. The inside didn’t match the quaint exterior. The place was large, but barely furnished. A large TV was mounted to the wall in the living room, and Reggie browsed the huge selection of games while Is went about getting fresh clothes and their beers.

Is’ phone went off as he walked back into the room, and he fished it out of his jeans pocket and checked the caller ID before ignoring the call.

“Girlfriend?” Reggie nodded at the phone, and Is chuckled.

“Nah, son. Mi nah do dem ting dey. I don’t have girlfriends.”

Reggie lifted an eyebrow. “I feel that.” He wasn’t one for relationships either.

“That was one of my regular chicks, though.” Is held out the phone, and Reggie gaped at the photo. The woman was slim and dark-haired, exotically gorgeous with big eyes and pale skin.

“Damn.” He whistled. “That’s all you, son?”

“That’s Ilana. We have an understanding.” Is’ teeth flashed. “We fuck. I leave.”

“Cold.” Reggie licked his lips, still eyeing the photo. “She’s hot.”

“Watch yourself, rude boy. I see you drooling over there.”

Reggie rolled his eyes. “What? I can appreciate a beautiful woman.”

Is grunted. “If you’re good, she might show up in your stocking this Christmas.” 

They bantered back and forth as they smoked and drank. It weirded Reggie out how close they’d gotten in such a short time. Why had Is decided to tell Reggie what he did? He didn’t have to, that was for sure. Seated on the soft-carpeted floor, game controller in hand, Reggie finally made himself ask, “Why did you tell me?”

Is froze. “What?”

Reggie shrugged. “You didn’t have to, could have told me to go fuck myself or worse, so,” he held Is’ gaze, “why did you tell me?”

Is didn’t answer right away. He took a pull on the joint and tipped his head back. “Not sure why. I was freaking out, you were there, and you wanted to know…”

“But you don’t know me,” Reggie pointed out. “I could turn around and use this against you at any point.”

Is smiled. “My aversion to blood doesn’t hinder my ability to take lives, as you witnessed earlier. Besides, Teo likes you.” He waved a hand. “That gives you an automatic pass in my book.”

Reggie nodded. Loyalty was hard to come by in their line of work, even harder to keep. “Well, you can rest easy. We’re good.”

Their gazes held as Is brought his beer to his lips. “Never doubted that for a second.”


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