Excerpt: Vision Quest

“Well, no I didn’t make the reservation myself,” Arik said to the rather unimpressed desk clerk. “I mean, not personally.” He could see the clerk was doing everything in her power not to roll her perfectly painted eyes to the ceiling. Arik smiled, contempt obvious. “But it was made.”

The snap of fingernails against plastic told him she was making her third attempt at locating his name. He was responding with his own exasperated tapping on the highly polished laminate of the counter when something in his peripheral caught him. Distracted, and not happy about it, he turned to his left and frowned.

“Sir?” the woman behind the desk urged his focus back towards her. “I’m sorry, sir. But I’m going to need a confirmation number. I’ve tried your name several ways, and I can’t find anything at all.”

Arik would have caught his breath, held it to the count of seven like he always did when he was trying to focus on circumstances that needed a little ‘extra’ consideration—on those things that tugged at his subconscious. Things that, uncannily, moments, hours or days later came up in conversation, found an unexpected requirement in his life, or posed some kind of threat. He’d long since given up trying to figure out why. Now, when called, Arik just did what he had to do. He watched. He reviewed. He recorded. And he waited until the web began to make sense.

“Sir!”

Arik snapped back to the woman who was quickly advancing from bored lack of concern to irritated annoyance. “Yes, yes, right here,” Arik mumbled, digging through his briefcase for the copy of the email his assistant had tucked there before he left. “One moment. I have something here somewhere.” He located the paper, yanked it from the attaché, dropped it onto the desk, and let his gaze wander again.

Eyes met eyes: Arik’s green to a startling blue. A peculiar smile was lifted by mere fractions, and Arik knew he should turn his attentions back to his own business and leave the pretty redhead alone—but damn! A long-sleeved shirt clung so nicely to shoulders and chest and biceps, all most worthy of a moment’s pause, and the worn denim over slim legs and righteous ass was oh, so sweet. Fiery hair was cleverly styled, just one side of wild, and long enough that curls were starting to sprout at the nape of the man’s neck.

Fascinating, Arik thought. And why that adjective? He had no clue.

“Oh, here you are!” The clerk said, perking up. “Do you have your credit card with you, Mr. Beltrán?”

*~*~*

“Hold the elevator, please!” Arik called, cursing as the doors began to slide closed. Yet, just as the two metal halves were about to make one whole, a hand pressed between them and stopped the completion. The doors reopened.

“Thank you!” Arik puffed, dropped his suitcase with exaggerated effort, turned towards his kind-hearted stranger, and stopped—surprised. Now, on a normal day, under normal circumstances, running into the same person in a busy downtown hotel wouldn’t seem that bizarre. But Arik knew without a doubt that it had taken a good twenty-five minutes to finish the check-in process. He had, in fact, checked his watch in frustration several times.

He’d followed that fiasco with a dash to the coffee counter, spent eight minutes and fourteen seconds on his cell to his dog-sitter, and picked up a local paper. And the redhead had been long gone from the check-in desk when Arik finally got free. Another indisputable fact, because Arik had looked, just to make sure. So why, why, oh why, would the man be getting on the elevator now?

Fascinating.

“Where you headed?” the man asked politely, fingers hovering above the buttons.

“Oh, uh, eleven. Floor eleven, please.”

The man’s smile grew by minute degrees. “Good,” he glanced over and caught Arik’s gaze. “Me too.”

Arik leaned against the wall of the elevator and used the time to take another long, hard look at the man standing with his hands clasped lightly behind his back, legs spread just so, chin turned up to eye the advancing numbers. The stance reminded him of all kinds of pretty pictures, ones that usually involved blissed-out, sweating men in leather bindings. The connection instantly made Arik’s mouth water like a dog beside an unattended barbeque.

Arik closed his eyes quickly, feigning exhaustion, but that didn’t erase the images that his mind started playing. And this particular movie seemed to be one in which his cock showed a great deal of interest.

When the beep sounded and the doors began to slide, Arik could have gasped in relief. He waited for the other man to step out, but, instead, the redhead turned, half-peered over one shoulder with a small smirk, and said, “The name is Blaze. And the room number is 1109.”

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