*First installment in the By Degrees serial
New York City FBI team leader Samuel Shaughnessy lives for his immediate family and his job. After a marriage gone wrong he has stuck to a firm rule when it comes to relationships: he doesn’t have them. Sexually active and emotionally unavailable keeps him satisfied, especially now that he is in hot pursuit of a serial killer targeting gay men.
Former firefighter Machlan O’Bannon now manages a successful sports bar in Houston and after years of waiting he’s ready to stand up and be the man he always wanted to be: out, proud and drama-free. His politically-aligned family wants to keep him locked in the closet, but Mac just wants to meet the man of his dreams.
One man is as high strung as the other is laid back. A chance meeting brings the two men together, and one night of passion ignites a fire neither can fight. Their lives are not only miles apart, but as different as day and night.
They don’t want to get involved…but will they be able to stay apart?
The gods must have been smiling on Sam because, after brushing his teeth, dressing in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and writing down a note for his mother in case she got up and went looking for him, it only took him forty minutes to make his way to Mac. At a club. He was picking him up as opposed to meeting him at his hotel room.
What had possessed him to make such an offer? This wasn’t a damn date. It was… a sexual meeting. Yeah. And he’d sped all the way from Queens to Manhattan in order to make it there as soon as possible, not because he was anxious to see this man, but because the sooner he took care of business, the sooner he could go back home.
Yeah. That was it.
He double parked a few feet away from the club’s entrance, sent a message to Mac and instinctively scanned the street, something he’d been doing since his days with the police department. People would be surprised if they could see how many normal looking predators lurked the streets, especially around this club. It was the place where some of the victims on the Leviticus case had last been seen.
But then the door opened and all coherent thought escaped Sam.
“Holy Mother of God…”
He rolled down his window and signaled with his truck’s high beams until he was sureTexhad seen him. Then he leaned back in his seat and just watched him.
The guy was huge. He was wearing blue jeans that were tight in all the right places and a dark red shirt that brought out his lightly tanned skin and the whiter streaks in his golden blond hair. It also showcased bulging, rippling biceps. His full, sensuous mouth and straight nose softened the sharp angles of his face, and Sam could’ve sworn he was able to see Mac’s emerald green eyes sparkle under the street lights.
He was fucking stunning and Sam was insanely turned on just from watching him walk.
Mac reached the truck and instead of getting in right away he stopped by the driver’s side door and smiled. A low moan rumbled its way out of Sam’s throat before he even realized it. He loved dimples, and Mac had them in spades.
“Damn,” Mac said. “You are hotter than I remembered.”
Sam felt his face heat up a little under Mac’s scrutiny, and all of a sudden wished he had taken more time on his own appearance. But if that burning, hungry stare was any indication, the Texan wasn’t put off by Sam’s disheveled state or the fact that he hadn’t even bothered to shave. Thank fuck.
“Get in,” Sam all but growled. He didn’t take his eyes off the guy for a second. Once he was inside, he asked, “Where to?”
As soon as Tex gave him the name of a trendy hotel in Chelsea, Sam rolled up his window and put his hand on the gear stick, and maybe because he was busy looking at the rearview mirror to make sure no other cars were coming, he never noticed Mac move until it was too late.
A gasp jumped from his throat. He snapped his head to the side and zeroed in on his own hand, covered by hot as hell Texan’s slightly bigger one.
“Rough couple of days, huh?” Mac’s voice was low, his thumb gently caressing Sam’s obviously injured knuckles.
Sam cleared his throat and tried to pull his hand back, but seemed to be frozen in place by Mac’s touch. “You could say that.”
“Then let’s hope I can make it a little better for you, darlin’.”
Nodding, he took a deep breath when Mac removed his hand and settled in the passenger seat, leaving a tingling sensation behind and Sam feeling completely off balance. He wanted to tell the big guy nobody ever touched him without his explicit permission… then he wanted to tell him to bring that hand back, but wrap it around his cock this time.
He wanted to tell him he had no use for words of endearment, even if that sexy as fuck accent made them sound prettier. He wanted to tell him to get the hell out of his damn truck.
But he didn’t.
Goddammit, what was wrong with him? Why was he overlooking actions that would be deal-breakers with any other potential lay? Was it because the guy was going back home the next day and there was no chance of Sam running into him again? Or because Sam wanted him so damn much he couldn’t see straight anymore? Whatever the reason, it didn’t stop him from pulling his SUV out of the parking spot and driving them to Mac’s hotel.
They didn’t say a thing during the short trip and that was fine. Sam had never been one for small talk. He had no problems sharing his body—to an extent—but his thoughts and feelings were off limits.
He took a deep breath, feeling a little dizzy when Mac’s clean, spicy scent hit his nostrils and filled his lungs. Christ. Whatever that cologne was, it had the same affect on Sam as pheromones, which was odd and annoying, as he was usually indifferent to such things.
The anticipation permeating the interior of his truck was damn tangible, and the not so subtle way Mac kept glancing at his mouth, hands, and crotch with those intense cat eyes of his had Sam on the brink of combustion. It was madness, and all of a sudden he felt it was imperative that he take care of business fast, then get the heck away from the gorgeous blond as soon as he could manage.
After finding a parking spot they strode through the hotel lobby, always keeping a safe distance between them. Once inside the elevator they both leaned against the far wall and allowed for their shoulders to touch. Mac’s desire was obvious in his labored breathing, clenched jaw, the tension on his insanely broad shoulders, and the wild pulse on his thick neck. Sam couldn’t remember anyone wanting him so badly before…or him reciprocating.
By the time they reached the fifth floor the sexual tension was off the charts. There was no disguising the primal, unadulterated lust that had grabbed them both literally by the balls.
“I’m all the way down the hall.”
Mac pointed to their right and Sam considered getting back in the elevator and going home. Because the sight of that muscular, tanned arm lightly dusted with blond hairs almost made Sam drool, and he was afraid to find out what kind of reaction he would have once he got to see the man naked… or his cock…
And just like that he turned and headed in the direction Mac indicated, not waiting for him. He couldn’t face the man. Not when he was having such a hard time pretending he wasn’t anxious and completely out of his comfort zone.