Kai thought about stopping and turning around three times. Heading away from Rio Danver’s house in Riverbend and toward the US Marshals’ HQ in Salt Lake was not a good idea. He should go back to Vegas and deal with what a mess his life had become. He’d made his bed when he’d agreed to Vincent Mahoney’s terms. At least the mafia hadn’t asked him to whack anybody, right?
Dust caked his car, and dead bugs congealed on the windshield no wiper fluid could hope to clean. Tepid AC sputtered from the air vents, doing nothing to combat the Utah sun, so Kai rolled down the windows and cranked up Metallica.
Rio had changed Kai’s perspective. He’d only known Rio for a few hours but seeing how much he cared about Rake and how willing he was to help the man, made something in Kai sit up and take notice.
Yes, Kai was working for Damian Corsetti and Vincent Mahoney to save his brother, but at what cost? Innocent people were being hurt, probably killed, and Kai was part of it. Oh, he didn’t pull the trigger, but he was a cog in the machine these evil people had built to conduct their shady business.
His GPS directed him to the nondescript, brown brick building downtown, and he parked in the closest visitor’s slot. He had to pass through a few check points before he made it inside. Clipping on a visitor’s badge, he pushed the elevator button.
“Going up,” a deep voice called out. Kai held the open button until a man rushed in with a quiet, “Thanks.”
“No problem.” Kai glanced at the man and smiled. His eyes strayed from his rugged face covered in a short black beard and wandered down the tightly muscled torso covered in a US Marshal polo, to the long legs in green khakis.
He was carrying several folders and looked at his watch. “You’re the PI.”
“Excuse me?” Kai forced his eyes away from the man’s groin.
“Gannin West,” he said, holding out his hand.
Kai took it with a twinge of disappointment. “Call me Kai.”
West nodded. The elevator doors opened on the fourth floor, and Gannin held out the hand with the folders, indicating Kai should go first.
“My office is through here.”
Kai let the man settle and sat in the visitor’s chair. The office was small with a metal desk and ancient filing cabinet. West put the folders in a tray marked Open Cases and made sure they were straight.
“Can I get you anything?”
“I’d kill for some coffee.”
Gannin picked up the phone and spoke to someone. He put it down and his tawny brown eyes fixed on Kai’s face. “So, you were hired by Damian Corsetti to track down Rafael Da Silva. You found him in Riverbend with Rio Danvers. What were you supposed to do then?”
Kai studied West. He was a straight shooter, but he’d seen the tiny flick of his eyes over Kai’s body in the elevator, so he was a least a little bent. Kai grinned. “Well, I wouldn’t have minded a little ménage action because damn, have you seen Rio? And Rake isn’t bad to look at. But, sadly, they weren’t sharing.” Gannin’s blank face shifted into a frown, and Kai held back a smirk. “Oh! You meant what were my orders from Corsetti?” Kai pulled one leg up to brace his ankle on his knee. “Well, I’m not exactly sure, actually. I was to report in. After that, he could have told me to bring him back to Vegas at any cost or wait and watch him.”
Gannin narrowed his eyes. A knock sounded and the door opened to reveal a man with a tray of coffee. Kai jumped up to help and Gannin blinked.
“What?” Kai asked.
“Nothing. Thank you, Andrew.”
“You’re welcome.” Andrew left.
Kai set the coffee tray on the desk and fixed one for himself. West took his black and they stared at each other as they drank.
This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. And that was saying something. Kai’s knee started to bounce. “So, what’s the deal here? Rio said you guys could use my help.”
“What do we need help with?”
Kai ran a hand through his shaggy hair. “I’m here to give you information, so Rake can get free of Corsetti. It would be helpful if my name stays out of it.”
Gannin leaned back in his chair. “So you can continue helping Corsetti and Mahoney?”
Kai clenched his back molars. “That’s right.”
“Do you enjoy working for them?”
Kai cheeks heated. “Oh, sure. Gives me an adrenaline high. I like to live dangerously.”
“What is your interest in helping Mr. da Silva?”
“Besides the hope his boyfriend will show me gratitude?” Kai wouldn’t disrespected Rio like that, he was being an ass, but he couldn’t seem to stop. This guy’s attitude was already getting old. He smirked, but West tilted his head with a knowing gleam in his eyes.
Confusion marred West’s brow. “I don’t think you’re that depraved, so how about you be straight with me?”
“That’s not exactly my forte.”
“Clearly.” West leaned forward, fingers laced on his blotter. There wasn’t even a coffee stain on it. “Are you willing to testify in a court of law against these people?”
West’s gaze trapped Kai. “I see.” West relaxed into his chair. “Then, I think we’re done here.”
Kai blinked and glanced at the wall clock as it tick, tick, ticked in his ear. His heartbeat accelerated and he imagined he could smell the stink of failure and cowardice wafting from his own body.
West picked up a pen and flipped open a folder, dismissing Kai.
West’s pen hovered. “Why’s that?”
“They have certain information that could hurt someone.” Kai swallowed a dry chuckled. “Besides, I’m not here for me… I want to help those two. They fell so hard and fast for each other, it was embarrassing. I’d hate to see Rake ripped away from Rio.”
“How can you help?” West’s attention was once again on Kai, and he hated that he liked it.
“I can give you names and descriptions of who might be coming for him.”
Gannin studied the PI. He looked familiar, though Gannin was sure they’d never met. His high, rounded cheek bones and hazel eyes took in everything around him. He was slick and practiced, using sarcasm and sexual innuendos to deflect. It wasn’t anything Gannin hadn’t seen before.
His reason for coming here, though, was different. As far as Gannin could tell, this guy had just met Rafael da Silva and Rio Danvers, and yet he was willing to go against a notorious mob boss to help them. Why?
He didn’t have time for this. One of his own was missing, possibly taken by a psychopathic crime lord. But he knew Alvarado wouldn’t want anything to happen to Rio. He’d often said Rio’s family was his own, so it was with a heavy sigh that Gannin tried to give this PI—Kai—the benefit of the doubt.
Potentially, Kai could help Rake by keeping an eye out on who was near him, but that would mean Gannin or another marshal would also need to be near him.
His phone rang, and he snatched it before the first ring finished. “West.”
“We have a lead on Judge,” York said. “The ATF are closing in now.”
West let out a small sigh. “Good. Keep me informed.” He eyed Kai. “I may have to take a trip to Vegas.”
Kai straightened. “You’ll come?”
“Why do you say it that way?”
“Because…aren’t you like a manager or something?”
West didn’t waste breath explain the hierarchy of federal marshals to him. “I go out in the field.” He stood to gather a few things. “Besides, I know Alvarado, and if I don’t go, he’ll bypass all protocol and run down there by himself.”
“He sounds like a great guy.”
Gannin grunted. “Pain in my ass. Come on.” He left Kai in a lounge area while he spoke to Director Sutherland. His boss agreed to let him go see what he could do to help and send Alvarado down as long as he was okay. Not that anything would stop the man even is he wasn’t.
Gannin gathered Kai, who was flirting with Vogel with a coffee swizzle stick in his mouth.
“Come on. I have to pack.”
Kai got up and followed him.
“I have a car here,” Kai said. “It’s a rental. I can turn it in.”
“Give me the keys, please.” Kai looked up and down and handed them over after grabbing a bag out of the trunk. Gannin handed to keys to Ricky, one of the security officers, and asked him if he could take the rental back.
Gannin drove to his house, told Kai to stay in the car, and ran inside to back a few clothes and his back-up gun.
Once they were on the road to Vegas, an awkward silence descended.
“So…did you watch Game of Thrones?” Kai asked.
Gannin checked his side mirror. “No.”
Kai huffed and fiddled with the radio, changing it from one station to the next when nothing caught his attention.
“Would you stop it? It looks like we have a tail.”
“Mm.” Kai looked in the side mirror. “Gray sedan.”
“I don’t think so. Do you?”
Gannin glanced in the rearview mirror without moving his head. “Possibly.”
“One of your cases?” Kai grinned and rubbed his hands together.
Gannin grunted and took an exit with plenty of gas stations and fast food restaurants. He pulled into the busiest one, and Kai jumped out.
“I’m going to get behind them,” Kai said. “Get some gas.”
With no other choice, and not wanting to draw attention, Gannin did as Kai suggested, keeping the sedan in his peripheral. He didn’t see Kai anywhere, which he could admit, was impressive.
A few minutes later, Kai reappeared and jumped in. He swiped on his phone. “Here.” He held it up.
“They look like some thugs from a cartel.” Gannin stroked his beard. “Same tattoos around the neck. We’ve got a few witnesses testifying against them in a couple of weeks.”
“Damn,” Kai said. “And I thought the mafia was scary. These dudes could break me in half.”
Gannin called his boss and relayed the information.
“I have an idea,” Kai said.
Kai glanced around. “When is back-up arriving?”
“State Troopers will be here in ten minutes.”
Kai grinned. “Perfect.”
The look on West’s face made Kai throw his head back with a laugh. A plan was forming in his mind as he reached out to cup West’s face.
Those tawny eyes sharpened. “What are you—”
“Ah-ah” Kai said, leaning in close. “Don’t pull away. We’re going to lure them to us. You can punch me later. Though, I’d rather avoid that.”
Kai moved his lips close but stopped a smidgeon away. He moved his head to the side, hoping it looked like passion rather than confusion and said, “Try to look like you’re enjoying it.”
West blew out a breath that hit Kai’s lips and relaxed the scowl on his face. He cupped the back of Kai’s head briefly and Kai shivered.
“Pull around to the restrooms.” Kai returned to his seat, and West started the car.
West didn’t ask questions, which gave Kai a little thrill. West relayed the plan to the Troopers, now they had to be convincing. The restrooms were on the side of the building. Rust painted a stripe down the white wall from the drainpipe, and the dumpster was overflowing, keeping people from lingering.
They exited the car and Kai grinned, glanced around, eyes skipping past the gray sedan, and tweaked West’s beard. For his part, West tried to act nervous, like he didn’t want to be seen going into a public restroom with another man, which probably wasn’t a stretch for the strait-laced marshal. He’d changed out of his marshal shirt at his house, and shoved his badge in his pocket, so at least he wasn’t advertising who he was. He’d stuffed his gun in his waistband in the car and pulled his shirt out to cover it.
Kai yanked him inside with a laugh. The wastebasket overflowed with paper towels, and the smell of piss permeated the air. “It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything in a bathroom.”
“I never have.”
“You?” Kai forced his eyes wide. “No. I won’t believe it.”
West scowled and walked over to the handicapped stall. “Jesus Christ.”
“What?” Kai hurried in after him and bumped into his back. He held onto the man’s broad shoulders and peeked over them. He burst out laughing.
“A glory hole? Really?” West muttered.
Kai locked the stall door. “There’s no way I’m getting on my knees on this floor.”
West faced him with a strange expression. “Why not? You said you’ve done it before.”
Kai’s pulse accelerated as he met West’s eyes. “That was when I didn’t care about hepatitis.”
“Everyone should care about hepatitis,” West said.
“That’s adorable.” Kai moved in and kicked West’s feet apart.
The marshal staggered and grabbed the wall. “Watch it.”
“Shh.” Kai stood between the marshal’s boots and held onto his hips. He watched West’s Adam’s apple bob, as he yanked the gun out of his pants.
“Give me my gun,” West said.
Kai grinned and handed it to him, down near their crotches. West’s fingers brushed his jeans, and Kai leaned in closer. The man smelled incredible. He didn’t have on cologne but something lingered.
Kai sniffed. “What is that?” It was coming from West’s beard. Kai reached up and ruffled his fingers through it, feeling West’s strong jaw.
“It’s beard oil.”
“Smells nice.” Their eyes clashed and held, and Kai inched closer.
West sucked in a breath and gripped Kai’s hips. He went to push him away, Kai was sure, but there was the faint creak of the outer door. West reversed their positions faster than Kai could blink and blocked him with his body. He kept the gun hidden as Kai pushed his fingers through West’s short hair and yanked his head close.
The thugs weren’t making noise, which probably meant they were wary of a trap. So, Kai chuckled and pressed a louder than necessary kiss to West’s throat. The pulse there went wild.
“Fuck,” West whispered harshly. The sexy rumble of his voice didn’t match the alertness in his eyes and the tension in his back.
Kai moaned. “Yeah, baby.” He grinned at West’s disapproving look. Did he object to the term “baby”?
Kai screwed up his face like a cheesy porn video and swore the marshal almost smiled. West shook his head and tilted it to listen. The troopers weren’t busting in yet. What were they waiting for? A shadow on the floor drew closer. They were peeking through the cracks in the stall. Kai could feel their beady eyes on them.
Kai swallowed hard, reached down and unzipped his pants. The rasp was loud, and West was so tense, he jumped. Kai pulled his hand to his cock, but West kept his fingers curled into a tight fist. Kai widened his eyes and looked pointedly at the door, then moved West’s hand in a parody of jacking off.
West’s breathing accelerated and Kai groaned, not all of it completely fake because by now he was half-hard from having the hot marshal’s hand so close to his cock. The thin fabric of his boxer briefs did nothing to block the heat.
His brain screeched to a halt. Wait. Hot? Well, Kai admitted he’d thought the man in the elevator was hot, but West’s attitude had made his dick soft. Apparently, it didn’t care anymore.
All of West’s attention was on the door, so he let Kai move him at will. Kai kept up the heavy breathing and moaned every now and then. He thrust his hips, breaking West’s concentration and bringing his focus to him. It had been involuntary, but damn the man was gorgeous up close.
As soon as their eyes connected, the thugs kicked open the stall door. It crashed to the wall and Kai yelled and fumbled with his fly. “W-what the hell? Is this a raid?”
West kept his gun down, waiting for their move.
Thug one lifted a gun and pointed it at West. “Get your hands up!”
West’s eyes met Kai’s and the son of a bitch smirked. “What do you want?” he asked.
“Your head, you fed fucker!” Thug one shoved West’s shoulder. “Get out here and bring your cocksucker with you.”
“Hey!” Kai said. “I resent that. Maybe he was going to suck my cock.”
West shook his head in disbelief.
“Shut up. Get out here. We’re going to the car nice and slow.”
West took a step forward, and the door busted in with cops shouting, guns out. The thugs opened fire, and the cops returned it. West dove on top of Kai.
“Oof!” He grimaced. “Fuck. Now I’m lying on this nasty ass floor.”
“Stay down,” West barked. He got up and shouted at thug two who was using their stall as cover. “Hands up!”
Kai turned his head, and from underneath the stall wall, saw thug one bleeding on the floor. If he wasn’t dead, he would be soon.
Thug two dropped his gun. “Okay! Okay. Don’t shoot.” A cop came in and yanked him out.
West put out a hand, and Kai grabbed it and stood. “Thanks.”
“You okay?” West ran his hand over the back of Kai’s head, checking for lumps.
West nodded, opened his mouth, and a cop butted in, gesturing them outside.
It took hours to clear up the mess. While Kai waited, Gannin gave statements and phoned the DA and Sutherland. He also watched Kai eat some fast food and flirt with random people. The man was never serious as far as he could see. They got a few snickers from the troopers when they’d come out of the bathroom, but they’d said it had been a good plan to draw them out. Too bad it had ended in blood shed.
West finally broke free and went to Kai. “Hey, I’ve got to stay and clean up this mess. We’re going to Vegas in a few days.”
“What am I supposed to tell Corsetti? It wouldn’t take me this long to find Rake.”
West stroked his beard. “I don’t know. Try and stall.”
Kai’s head fell back, and he sighed. “Fine. I’ll think of something.”
Gannin studied the PI. He’d been having fun in that bathroom, playing around with Gannin. The danger hadn’t really concerned him.
“You took my rental, though, so I’m going to need another.”
“Why can’t you wait for me?”
“I’m not made of motel money.”
Gannin couldn’t believe the words that came out of his mouth next. “You can stay with me.”
Kai’s face split in a grin. “Reeaally?”
“Sure. I won’t be there much anyway.”
Kai pursed his lips, hands on his hips. “What if I’m a thief?”
Gannin snorted. “I don’t have anything for you to steal.”
They walked side-by-side to Gannin’s car.
“Oh, come on. No laptop? Flat screen?”
“I have home-owner’s insurance.”
“Of course you do.”