All These Hidden Scars
When I leave, I never return the same.
Pretending came far too easily for Sullivan Black. One of the reasons he rejected his privileged family and joined the FBI. But those dangerous assignments take something from him every time, leaving him a mess, unfamiliar even to himself. As he struggles to shed the skin of his latest op, he finds solace in the most random of places.
Bar manager, Carter Renault’s only intention was to escort the lonely stranger out of his place before he locked up. Yet somehow they end up in an alley, Carter’s pants around his ankles. Their encounter is intense. A onetime thing. Except months later Sullivan is sneaking through Carter’s window, appearing and disappearing at random. The blistering-hot sex doesn’t hide the obvious torment Sullivan is going through, but Carter doesn’t want to be caught in the middle.
Just when he thinks he’s seen the end of that undercover life, Sullivan gets pulled back in. But this time, his identity is no longer a secret, and the aggressive need he has for Carter could get the other man killed. To set everything right, Sullivan has to face the one man he loves and hates in equal measure…his twin.
Sullivan stared up at the man crouched over him. He quickly released the wrist he held. “My apologies.”
The slender man grimaced as he straightened and rubbed his wrist. “My bad. I shouldn’t have put my hands on you.” He glanced back at the bartender, who was headed their way and waved him away. “We’re closing.”
Sullivan finally took his gaze from the other man to glance around. The place was empty, save for the bartender, the young woman standing next to him behind the bar peering at Sullivan, and the guy who stood in front of him. He’d lost it again, hadn’t he? Lost time and place, drowning himself in the liquor and his feelings.
Fuck. He tightened his jaw.
“I need you to leave,” the man in front of Sullivan said. “My people and I need to close up.”
Sullivan cocked his head. “This is your place?” He was African-American, skin the color of honey, dark hair cut low on his head. He was clean shaven, square jaw, strong cheekbones.
And his eyes, dark and assessing.
Much like Sullivan was doing.
“I manage it.” The guy blinked then stepped back. “Listen, not to be an ass or anything, but you’re gonna need to go.”
Sullivan got out of the booth and stood up. The man moved back.
Behind the bar, the bartender and the girl tensed.
Sullivan pulled his badge from his jeans pocket and held it up. “I’m not here for trouble,” he told the manager. “So you and your people over there can unclench.”
“Doesn’t matter.” The manager shrugged. “You’re where you’re not supposed to be.” His temper peeked through when he said, “And you’re not leaving.”
“Maybe I like it here.” Sullivan winked and sat back down. He wasn’t sure yet why the anger flashing in the guy’s eyes made him want to see it over and over again, but he kinda wanted to stay put until he figured it out. At least.
“I’m calling the cops.” The manager pulled his phone, and Sullivan lunged forward, grabbing it with a tsk.
“Didn’t you hear? Cavalry’s already here.”
“Everything okay, Carter?” The bulky bartender walked over, narrowed gaze on Sullivan who ignored him in favor of keeping his attention on the man directly in front of him.
The manager, Carter, nodded without taking his eyes off Sullivan. “Yeah, dude’s just being a dick.”
Sullivan grinned, a gesture so foreign of late, it hurt. “Would a dick offer to help you lock up?” Nope. He stood again, still holding on to the other man’s phone. “I’ve got time to kill and a sudden need to be generous, Carter.” He emphasized the manager’s name. “Got anywhere need mopping?”
Carter’s eyes widened.
“You know this guy, Carter?”
“Not yet.” Sullivan addressed the bartender without taking his gaze off Carter. “But the night’s still young.”
“It’s cool, Jerry. I got this.” Carter dismissed the bartender, who hesitated before walking away. “What’s your name?”
He fascinated Sullivan and he couldn’t figure out why. He was young, early thirties if Sullivan had to guess, and his eyes were a bit close together. He wasn’t gorgeous or anything, not like the pretty boys Sol always said were Sullivan’s type. But he fascinated Sullivan, this Carter who glared at him like he wanted to throat punch him.
“Hey.” Carter snapped his fingers in Sullivan’s face. “What’s your name?”
“What do you want, Sullivan?”
“Another drink. Fireball and cream soda.” And you. Now that was new. He hadn’t felt attraction to anyone in months and months.
Carter shook his head. “We’re done for the night, and even if we weren’t you’re cut off.”
Sullivan lifted an eyebrow. “Am I now?” He licked his lips when Carter’s gaze dropped from his eyes to his mouth and back. Quickly. So quick and slick with it, but Sullivan caught him.
“I’ve been watching you since you came in.” Carter jerked his chin. “So I know you’re way over your limit.”
Oh, that was…dick hardening. “You’ve been watching me, Carter?” He lowered his voice. “Liked what you saw, huh?”
Carter’s nostrils flared, but he stepped back. “Fuck off,” he snapped. “And by that I mean get the hell out of my bar.”
So yeah, Sullivan wanted him. No denying that now with his cock heavy as a lead pipe in the confines of his jeans and his mouth watering to taste all that fire sparking in the depths of Carter’s dark eyes. He sidled closer and Carter stiffened. Sullivan didn’t take offense. “I’m gonna leave,” he said at Carter’s ear, tucking the phone into the front pocket of Carter’s jeans. Tight jeans that made Sullivan want to linger long enough to peel them off. Slowly. “But I’m not going far. I’ll be out back, thinking about what you look like with these jeans around your ankles and your ass in my face.”
Carter made a gulp-cough sound and shuddered.
Sullivan smiled. He left the bar via the main door then circled around back to stand in the shadows. With both the main entrance and the back exit in his view, he waited.