Excerpt: Birthday Presents

Gene stared at the golden brown liquid swirling in the shot glass as the bartender filled it yet again. Maybe he’d had enough. God, he was tired. He rubbed his gritty eyes, the techno music blaring through the crowded room throbbing in his head.

He turned on the stool to the small dance floor and watched a young man gyrate to the pounding beat. Strobe lights caressed the man’s pale skin and dark clothing. The sleek body twirled with flowing, sensual movements. With a graceful twist, the guy’s black hair swept like silk across his white cheek. Achingly young and beautiful. Gene noted the men standing back, drinks in their hands, watching the dancers. His suspect could be any one of them. Or none.

He picked up the shot glass and held it up to the flashing lights. How many nightclubs just like this one had he been in these past six months? It felt like hundreds, with him no closer to finding Kyle’s abductor. If he’d even been kidnapped.

Gene put the glass to his lips and tossed back the whiskey, savored the burn in his throat. Most members of the police force believed Kyle had been bored with his life and simply walked away. He was nineteen, after all. Even Craig had backed off the search as more pressing cases took precedence.

But Kyle would never have done that. Gene knew his brother. Sweet and shy, Kyle would never have gone willingly with a stranger, without a word to his family, leaving his parents in this nightmare.

“But he never told you he was clubbing, either,” Craig would remind him.

Gene set the glass on the sticky bar, and after a brief hesitation, motioned the bartender for another. It was Kyle’s birthday and maybe the alcohol, if only for a few hours, might numb the helpless certainty and horror that Kyle was held captive in some sadist’s basement. The fear of every cop in a kidnapping situation. Besides, he wasn’t on duty. Had never officially been on the case in the first place.

Leaving the new shot untouched, he swiveled back to the dance floor, allowing his gaze to wander the sea of young bodies writhing to the thumping music. Kyle had been in a gay bar like this one when he’d been taken, the couple of witnesses that came forward claiming he’d left with an older, hot as hell, dark haired man. But even that was sketchy. They’d all been drinking, after all.

He sat up as the young man who’d been dancing earlier caught his attention. The guy stood on the edge of the dance floor, his gaze fixed on a man leaning against one of the pillars staring back at him. Gene caught a glimpse of the man’s face, cold and beautiful, before the dancer stepped between them, swaying seductively toward him, clearly bent on arousing the man’s interest.

On instinct, Gene collected his credit card and moved to a spot along the wall where he could watch them. The older man kept his eyes on the dancer and, holding his gaze, reached down and stroked the bulge in his pants. Oh, he’s good, Gene thought. And he fit the description of Gene’s suspect. The young man’s eyes widened, startled, interested.

A new song erupted from the speakers and Gene pushed off the wall. The older man’s gaze flickered to him, returned. Gene knew he looked good, the tight jeans and cropped shirt clearly showing his intent for a hookup that evening. The dancer scowled as he came up to them, but flounced away to join the crowd as the older man’s eyes slid appreciatively over Gene. He smiled a secret smile and motioned him closer, placing his hand on the small of Gene’s back. He leaned close to his ear to be heard over the pounding music. “I’m Crimson. Would you like a drink?”

Gene blinked at his name but nodded, and Crimson guided him to an empty table against the wall. Drinks appeared from the attentive waiter, a whiskey for Gene and something clear, probably vodka, for Crimson. Crimson slid a bill across the table and the waiter’s eyes widened at the amount.

Crimson scooted his chair closer to Gene, watched him indulgently while they sipped their drinks. “What is—”

No way would Gene give his name. Playing the game, he cut off his words with a kiss, tasting vodka and lime. Seeming caught off guard, Crimson moaned into his mouth, plunged his tongue in, almost making him gag.

Crimson leaned back, biting gently on his bottom lip before releasing him. “Your name?”

Gene curled his lips into a lazy smile. “Does it matter?”

Crimson threaded his fingers through Gene’s dark hair and tugged it back, lowering his head to lick his neck, nuzzle an ear. “Want to get out of here?” he asked, nibbling along his jaw.

Gene met his gaze and suppressed a shudder when Crimson dropped his hand on Gene’s thigh. Taking a quick breath, he gave a soft moan. “Yes.”

“Finish your drink.”

Gene swallowed the burning liquid then thumped his glass down and rose to his feet, making a beeline for the door. Crimson rounded the table and took his elbow, guiding him toward the rear exit. Gene gave a thought to calling Craig. If this was his suspect, he needed to have back up. But no. He’d cried wolf too many times for Craig to believe him now. Better to have some proof, first.

He allowed his smile to turn sultry, and Crimson hurried their pace, ignoring the milling crowd around them. He flicked a glance at a large man in the shadows by the back door and the bouncer nodded and let them through, a knowing smirk on his face as they passed.

The alley was cool and dark. Crimson took a breath of surprise when Gene gripped his shirt and tugged him behind the dumpster. The aggressive move seemed to arouse him further and Crimson clamped their lips together in a punishing kiss. Gene tried to step back, but the man proved stronger than he looked. A band of steel wrapped around Gene’s shoulders while Crimson snapped open his jeans and plunged in a hand, drawing out a hidden knife.

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