Most people see Chase Manning as the party-boy twink he seems on the surface. Only James, Chase’s BFF, knows the depth of his loyalty and the extent of the wounds Chase carries inside. When Chase meets Rhys Sayer things don’t go well, but he can’t shake his attraction to the huge, sexy man.
Rhys is a man of contradictions and fear—a strange combination for a PI and bodyguard. He’s in a bad place emotionally when he sets eyes on Chase for the first time. When Chase puts the moves on him, Rhys insults him, thwarting any possibility of a relationship. Rhys doesn’t see himself as a complicated man, but he dreads the very kind of connection he desires.
Just as they’re trying to overcome their uncertainties, Chase is put in harm’s way. Luckily Rhys and their friends have all the right talents to help Rhys save the man of his dreams.
PLEASE, GOD, make it stop.
The loud ringing next to his head had Chase debating between smashing the phone and burying his head until the demonic thing went quiet on its own. When the ringing stopped but immediately started up again, he gave up on Option B.
Even mentally whining made his head hurt worse. Chase lay sprawled across his bed on top of the covers. The only part of him not exposed was his head; he’d burrowed under a pillow when the sunshine pushed its way into his bedroom. Sitting up without moving the pillow from over his head, Chase slowly scooped up his cell. “’Lo,” he croaked.
“Um, yeah. Who is—wait, James?” Chase’s thoughts refused to clear as he fought his way past the alcohol struggling to drag him back into unconsciousness. The taste of stale beer and liquor was almost enough to make him puke. He vaguely wondered where his trash can was and whether he could get there if needed.
“You forgot, didn’t you?” The loud chuckle that followed the question did not help with his headache. However, with everything that had happened recently—the stalking and threats against his best friend—he would have gladly suffered in silence to make James happy.
A soft moan escaped his dry lips. He tried to wet them with his tongue, but it felt dry and thick. “Sorry, Jamie. What did I forget?”
“You went out to the club again, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” he whimpered. “Dale and Simon wanted to go out for some fun. But I know you’re not calling to see if I went home with anyone. So again I ask, why am I awake?”
“My art show tonight.”
He was certain he could hear a smirk in James’s voice. “It’s”—Chase paused to check his clock—“not even noon yet, Jamie.” He loved his best friend dearly, but why did he have to be so damned perky first thing in the morning?
Lunch? Eating? He so didn’t want to think about food right then.
“Right. Let me get up and get dressed. I’ll swing by your place soon.”
“Go ahead and meet me at the restaurant, please. We have reservations at Zarletti’s downtown. I’m out and about right now. Okay?”
“Uh, sure, hun.” After a few more pleasantries, he hung up and slowly dragged his groggy self out of bed, stopping to down a couple of Tylenol and a full bottle of water before taking his shower.
Chase took his time getting dressed, and not simply because his head still hurt, the dull ache grating but livable. He never went out without dressing for the occasion, though it was nothing compared to how he would look later that night when he accompanied his best friend to his first gallery show. It would be James’s debut as the featured artist.
God, means I’ll have to deal with Rhys too. He knew Rhys wouldn’t miss the show. He rolled his eyes for thinking about the damn man. Rhys was sex on legs, but his attitude was crap! Still, dressing to kill might not be a bad idea….
Chase finished buttoning the deep green silk shirt over his slight frame as he walked to the fridge in his small but well-appointed kitchen. Grabbing a bottle of Mountain Dew, he took a gulp before he put the cap back on, grabbed his backpack, and headed out the front door. He was usually a cappuccino kind of guy, but sometimes one needed an extra kick of sugar and caffeine, fast.
Yawning, Chase got into his car and started over to James’s before he remembered they were meeting at the restaurant instead. At some point, he knew he would have to change his thinking and acknowledge that the little cottage was James and Seth’s now, especially since they were not only living together but would be married in just over a month.
Chase turned the corner to pull up in front of Zarletti’s. A moment later, a motorcycle passed him. He paused a moment to take in the eye candy: the black and chrome Harley Softail and the tall, wide-shouldered man atop it. When he parked, he realized to whom the bike belonged and groaned, cursing his luck and his reaction.
There Rhys stood, peering at him from beside the motorcycle. Too bad the bike and those looks belong to such an ass hat. Since the man was staring at him so blatantly, Chase decided to return the favor. He took a moment to let his gaze wander from the man’s deep auburn hair and perpetual five o’clock shadow to his delicious athletic build, wide shoulders, and the defined pecs his black T-shirt served to accentuate, not hide, even with the leather coat half covering him. Rhys was huge at close to six and a half feet. He continued his perusal down Rhys to his thick, muscled legs and his chunky black leather boots. Chase allowed himself a soft sigh. He took just as long on the return trip, making a true production of it. When his gaze finally landed on Rhys’s deep green eyes again, he smirked, turned, and made sure to put a little extra swish into his hips as he sauntered up the sidewalk to the front doors.
He reached to open one but paused when he heard the crunching of boots on the path behind him. He groaned to himself quietly and then stepped inside, hoping Rhys was there to meet someone else, not James. Please let it not be us! Chase had managed to avoid Rhys for the last few months, ever since James’s first gallery show. It was a lot harder to stay away from him than he had expected. He hated how Rhys had befriended James, making avoiding him all the more complicated.
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