Welcome to Stealing Serenity, a stand alone, erotic contemporary M/M romantic suspense. This novella is releasing one scene/day (weekdays) on the blog ahead of publication. All chapters will be available for free until the book is published, then they’ll be removed. If you simply can’t wait, the complete ebook is available now on the webstore. Paperback and Subtle Cover alternate coming soon. Expected publication: July 5th
July 18, Monday—7:00 a.m.
Gerard Photography, San Diego
Daniel was not wearing a more tailored suit because he was jealous of the weekend attention he imagined Kearin’s model received. He was simply showing Justin what his new role now as the company spokesman at public events would entail. Justin had to start looking the part. Kathy purred at him as they crossed in the break room.
Coffee in hand, he passed Kearin’s office to select a new project off the wall, but once he arrived Daniel remembered he already had two projects to pick from sitting on his desk.
He had to quit lying to himself; it wasn’t good for business. He was here to preen in front of Kearin.
Daniel peeked into his office. Kearin bent over his desk, tapping his finger with intent against the green dragonfly photo. He seemed on the verge of making a decision he didn’t like.
Daniel leaned against the door jam. Okay, maybe he was jealous. Maybe it mostly had to do with men in ropes, men that should be Daniel. “Trouble with the project?”
Kearin looked up, down at the folder for a glance, then up at Daniel again. His focus traveled across Daniel’s chest and hips before settling back up at eye contact. Daniel tried not to gloat under the attention. He knew the suit looked good. Kearin waved him in. “Close the door behind you.”
Daniel took a seat. He didn’t want to look too eager. He wasn’t supposed to be thrilled with the temptation Kearin posed. He also wasn’t supposed to know that Phillip Bonnet was looking to fill an empty space in his personal gallery with something edgy. In the last few days, Daniel had read through every single email Kearin kept stored in his inbox—essentially the man’s to-do list. He knew exactly what projects Kearin was working and the angles he had chosen. Daniel appreciated Kearin that much more with every piece of the man he uncovered. It was bordering on obsessive. There was loving your work and then there was things getting out of hand. Daniel couldn’t separate needing to be canvas to Kearin’s art from the business of getting into the man’s financial history to verify the owner of Serenity.
Damn, the lies he told himself were getting thinner.
“Have you done any modeling before?”
Daniel swore his heart stopped. Those were the exact words he wanted to hear, but he didn’t expect them to happen, which meant he had missed something here. “No,” he said, but leaned forward to indicate he was open to the idea.
Kearin didn’t speak without trying to evoke a specific reaction; he was too organized for that. Therefore, he would have been thinking about asking Daniel this question for a while, collecting a feel for when to ask it and how to get the eventual answer he wanted. His comments about leaving early, about another model he had hopes for—both tests for Daniel’s desire. The discussion about his angry blond model—a gauge of his interest in kink. Kearin knew the photos didn’t fit before he ever brought Daniel into the room.
Kearin said, “This aesthetic I’m going for. I think you’d have a knack for it.”
Daniel pushed a sly grin across his face, unfiltered by masks, as he realized Kearin had been playing him from the beginning. A tingle of something new, something anticipatory, ran through his skin. He, of all people, could appreciate a well-executed long game. Daniel had played men for over a year to steal their art and sculptures. Hell, he preferred those cons that lasted for months at a time, demanding every ounce of his grifting skill. Daniel sat back in the chair, grinning, and saw Kearin note the change. “You didn’t hire me for my business savvy,” he said. He wasn’t disappointed with this.
“It was convenient.”
Kearin took no defense of his actions. Daniel felt his temperature spike. Lust burned through him, tearing up one side and down the other. Kearin was an arrogant son of a bitch, and his confidence was completely justified. He’d never seen anything hotter. “What did you want to ask me the day we met?”
Kearin slid a business card toward him. “Model for me.”
Not a question. Of course not. Kearin didn’t ask permission, he demanded perfect compliance. Daniel wanted to be devoured by him. He accepted the card. Kearin had written an address on the blank back side in neat script.
“I work out of my personal studio. I’ll see you at six thirty.”
Tonight. Daniel’s chest tightened back up. Was he afraid or elated? He couldn’t tell. Was he supposed to be confused about this?
“Don’t worry about locking up tonight. I’ll ask Justin to handle it.”
Daniel latched onto that safe topic and felt himself breathe. “He spoke to me earlier. It sounded like he doesn’t have enough to cover a new suit for the gala.”
“I’m not surprised. Our work here doesn’t make us wealthy.” Kearin swept his appreciative attention down Daniel’s chest again. ”You have a different situation.”
Did Kearin want him to attend the party? That hadn’t sounded like an invitation, but Daniel was feeling punchy enough to invite himself. “I own one, but I’ll need the fit checked,” Daniel lied. Of course he didn’t own six suits in varying levels of quality and fit to cover any situation. Nor did he have a Porsche stored in a locker for occasions when he really needed to impress. He was Daniel, Associate Project Lead, nothing more.
Kearin unfolded his wallet and slid a black credit card across the table. “Take Justin with you and have him properly fitted. I’ll cover the rush to have it in time.”
Daniel accepted the credit card. Kearin retreated before their fingers could touch. “I’ll make the appointment,” Daniel said. He stood at Kearin’s nod and left the door open behind him.
Between Kearin’s desk and his own, Daniel lost control of his breathing. He felt his hands shake and sat down heavily in his chair. Excitement, he decided. And a little astonishment at his own daring. He was going to be in Kearin’s ropes. The very idea had him at a loss. Now that he’d committed to seeing Kearin tonight, he could learn more. About Kearin, about erotic restraint—and damn if his cock didn’t like that idea—about the peace in bondage.
This wasn’t how a thief conducted business. He had to focus. This was a perfect opportunity to get a look at Kearin’s files at home, maybe confirm the owner of Serenity. It was another step in his plan, nothing more. Daniel clenched his jaw and forced the shake out of his hands. Where was that inner stillness when he needed it? He was on a job, one he’d planned for over a year. Gaining access to Kearin’s home was a huge step forward. He couldn’t wait.
His head shot up. Justin. He needed to calm down, get his breathing under control. His eyes were too wide, lips parted too far. Justin’s presence shouldn’t have surprised him like that.
“Sorry, dude. Have you got a minute? I need to show you that government form.”
“Yeah. Yeah, sure.” Work. Philanthropy. Doing good. He needed to focus. He focused on Guene as he walked around the desk.
She called out across the office. “Kathy, you get that photo I sent?”
“The leather strap? Yeah—”
Had Kearin ever used leather?
“Will that work for you?”
“I don’t know, needs to be like three inches wide—he likes to suck in a big breath when you buckle it down.”
Did Kearin use buckles?
“Does he have that much flexibility?”
“Oh yeah. Don’t tighten down and he’ll slide the saddle right underneath him while you’re climbing up.”
Horses. They were discussing horses, not… what was wrong with him? Daniel blinked. Justin. Government.
“You’re working on the volcano project, right?”
“Yeah, this whole area is national park, and the permissions form is just a mess. I want to make sure you know what you’re up against.”
Just nine more hours.
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