Stealing Serenity Banner, title in the center, raised, arms of a white man bound in white rope on the left, cherry blossoms on the right

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 19, Tuesday—11:39 a.m.

Gerard Photography, San Diego

Daniel was very glad of the morning’s tai­lor vis­it in ret­ro­spect. Since he’d walked in the charity’s doors two hours ago he couldn’t keep his head on straight. He kept find­ing his thoughts stray­ing to Kearin, derail­ing the work momen­tum he’d built up every time.

He spot­ted Kearin smil­ing over Justin’s shoul­der and couldn’t look away. His breath left, and he couldn’t remem­ber how to get it back. A part of him observed the whole thing with impar­tial judg­ment. He was going to com­pro­mise all of his progress on this heist because he couldn’t stop think­ing about being tied up, com­mand­ed, and used. He wanted—And then Kearin looked down at some­thing Justin said, break­ing that intense con­tact, and sud­den­ly Daniel breathed again. He leaned heav­i­ly into his chair and just stared at the black com­put­er screen. It took him a minute to real­ize he hadn’t turned it on yet.

He was get­ting slop­py. He wasn’t in his right head. What had he been think­ing last night? Why couldn’t he get con­trol of himself?

Daniel.” Kearin’s voice was warm. Soothing. Right behind him. The same voice he used every day in the office. Not the dark, rough tones Daniel knew he kept locked down in his chest.

Yes, Kearin?” Why did the man’s name feel awk­ward on his tongue?

Did you do as I asked?”

That impli­ca­tion again, that asked wasn’t real­ly the right word. More like com­mand­ed. Daniel shiv­ered. Arousal burned like a low sim­mer in his gut, which would have been fine up against any oth­er man in any oth­er place on any oth­er day. But the truth was, Daniel had done as Kearin said, and the tor­ture of denial excit­ed him.

Kearin bent for­ward. He slid a mani­la fold­er onto Daniel’s desk, but it was just cov­er for his oth­er hand, up against Daniel’s throat and jaw, press­ing his head back against Kearin’s shoul­der so he could slip words into his ear. “Speak when I ask you a ques­tion.” Now it was a com­mand. “Did you obey me?”

Daniel’s trousers tent­ed. This was what had come over him—the feel­ing of drown­ing in Kearin. He couldn’t fight it and didn’t want to. Daniel whis­pered, “Yes, sir.”

Lovely.” Kearin straight­ened. “Take a look at the pho­tos there and let me know which fits with your project. I am fond of twelve.”

Photos? Kearin dis­ap­peared as abrupt­ly as he had come. Daniel put an uneasy hand down on the fold­er. What oth­er pho­tos did Kearin have time to take? Daniel hadn’t even picked a project yet. He thumbed the fold­er open. Oh. Oh. He stared at him­self and heard this blood rush in his ears like so much noise. His bare chest. The knot­work. His eyes. Daniel had no idea he had such a com­plex expres­sion with­in him­self. It was otherworldly.

He count­ed out to pho­to twelve. His eyes gaped wide. Daniel snapped the fold­er shut and checked the office around him. Everyone typed qui­et­ly at their com­put­ers or spoke gen­tly on the phone. He opened the fold­er to pho­to twelve. His weep­ing erec­tion, his bound arms, the long line of his extend­ed throat all illu­mi­nat­ed in soft light. He hung in the ropes, total­ly pas­sive except for the sud­den line of his arousal. Daniel felt an ache in his gut—more than just arousal—it was a need so deep he couldn’t name it. This was not quite the feel­ing he’d seen in those oth­er pho­tos, but he liked where it was going nonetheless.

Daniel looked through the remain­ing pho­tos, recall­ing how pro­gres­sive­ly hot the whole encounter had made him. He select­ed two for the col­lec­tion. Regrettably num­ber twelve was not among them. While pow­er­ful, the collection’s theme was about peace; Daniel didn’t think an unsat­is­fied arousal qualified.

But Kearin liked it. Daniel forced him­self to leave it in the fold­er. Would Kearin look at it when he was alone at night and remem­ber Daniel up in his ropes? He sand­wiched the fold­er between the kit­ten and Victorian projects. The very idea of Kearin jerk­ing off to a pic­ture of him had Daniel tight in all the right places. He marched to Kearin’s office and shut the door behind him.

Daniel didn’t try to hide his arousal. He want­ed Kearin to know what kind of state he was in. Wanted him to appre­ci­ate exact­ly how dif­fi­cult it had been last night to not touch him­self. Kearin met his eyes, and in the silence between them, Daniel knew they under­stood each other.

What did you think of twelve?”

Daniel sat across the desk, “The pho­to is…” Arousing? Calling?

The pho­to is every­thing, Daniel.”

Daniel became acute­ly aware of his pur­pose in that moment. Serenity still wait­ed for him. He tight­ened the reins on his excite­ment. “Yes,” he agreed. He pulled the pho­tos he’d cho­sen from the fold­er. One tak­en from above. His hands fist­ed at the top of the frame, the knot­work total­ly sym­met­ri­cal down the mid­dle with his lax throat and head near the bot­tom. The sec­ond was a bust from the side. At some point he’d glanced over at the cam­era and Kearin had man­aged to cap­ture the deep, deep calm in his eyes. This was the one Daniel favored. He was almost breath­less with relief that he had that qui­et space inside of him. He just need­ed to fig­ure out how to reach it.

Kearin took the two Daniel had select­ed and mused over them for a heart­beat. He select­ed a pen and titled the back of them both. “Add these to the project fold­er.” Jackal, they said. “Have you decid­ed between the cats or the home?”

Of course he would have noticed. “Not yet. I’ve been… dis­tract­ed.” Overwhelmed. Utterly swept away. Completely com­pro­mised, quite frankly. There wasn’t a chance in hell he could track down and steal a prized pho­to­graph if all Kearin had to do was exist in his vicin­i­ty for Daniel to lose his mind with desire. Kearin didn’t say any­thing. Daniel looked up to find him star­ing hard, and it was too late to look away.

Do you need some time?”

The ques­tion held a lot more weight than it should have. Daniel swal­lowed. He didn’t want any time at all; he want­ed Kearin. But if he said no and couldn’t get him­self back under con­trol, they’d both be dis­ap­point­ed. Kearin stood and Daniel fol­lowed by reflex. Kearin came around the desk to guide Daniel to the door when Daniel final­ly found his voice. “I just don’t know how you turn it off at work.” Daniel looked up as Kearin approached with his stare fixed and real­ized that wasn’t how it worked at all. “You don’t,” he said, final­ly understanding.

Kearin brushed a knuck­le against Daniel’s jaw. His voice deep­ened. “You’re quick. That’s very attractive.”

Daniel ached: his heart, lungs, cock; they all throbbed with Kearin’s prox­im­i­ty. He didn’t have to do any­thing but mur­mur, and Daniel fell to his mer­cy. Daniel was call­ing bull­shit on Kearin’s rule about sleep­ing with mod­els. This mod­el, at least, was get­ting into bed with him soon­er or later.

Kearin’s breath sighed over him. “I’m par­tial to the kit­ten project.”

Their lips stilled so close to each oth­er. Daniel could drift for­ward and bring them togeth­er for the first time. Instead, he swal­lowed. “I think I’ll work on the Victorian.”

Kearin smiled sharp and sud­den. Daniel real­ized Kearin knew exact­ly what he was doing. He knew just how off bal­ance Daniel was and just how far to push. And in turn, Daniel was con­fi­dent enough to push back. In that moment they were both pleased.

Daniel stepped back, just one inch out of Kearin’s imme­di­ate space, and let his breath out in a rush. “Thank you, sir.” The hon­orif­ic felt bet­ter on Daniel’s tongue than his name.

Kearin’s eyes dilat­ed, and his sharp smile remained. “Anytime, Daniel.”

Daniel left the office with his two project fold­ers. Throughout the rest of the day, he tried to make progress on iden­ti­fy­ing who owned the Victorian prop­er­ty and the last time it had been occu­pied. He did his best to avoid day­dream­ing about Kearin’s lips on his own.