The Hard Truth
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by Amanda Young
Category: Erotica/Paranormal Erotica/Dark Fantasy
Description: Blackmailed into claiming a birthright he doesn't want, Cadge Johnson is thrust into a world of politics and intrigue. His only ally is old friend and former lover, Red Taylor--the very man who swindled him into traveling to the council's stronghold. Thrown together with a man he's kept at arm's length for decades, Cadge fears for his sanity. The sordid past they share is nothing compared to the trials ahead. After nearly a century of love, loss, murder, and deception, only the cold, hard truth will finally set them free. Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Anal play/intercourse, male/male sexual practices, violence.
eBook Publisher: Loose Id, LLC, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: March 2009
45 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [179 KB]
Reading time: 108-151 min.
The light flashed green, bidding him entrance. He knocked, though he was already pushing the door open. "Hey, Cadge. You awake?"
Red stepped inside and closed the door behind him. The plush blue carpet and beige silk decor melted away as his gaze zeroed in on the naked splendor of the only man he'd ever loved.
Cadge stood facing the window. The way he held himself--the inward turn of his broad shoulders and the downward-tilted angle of his proud chin--screamed of discontent. Silver moonlight illuminated his bare chest and shoulders in dim light. Shadows clung to his muscular back and long, athletic legs. The rounded curve of his buttocks and the shaded dip between groin and thigh teased Red with what he couldn't make out--what he desperately wanted to see and touch. And taste.
Without any prompting, his feet carried him across the room and into the open doorway between the sitting room and bedroom. His body clamored for him to move closer, his balls tight from no more than a glimpse of Cadge's nudity. "I'm not complaining," Red said, "but why are you naked?" It wasn't every day he got to see the object of his fantasies come to life. Hell, he couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Cadge in nothing but skin.
No, that isn't exactly true. He could recall the last time, although he hadn't been able to take the time to fully appreciate the view.
Close to a decade earlier, not long before Cadge had hooked up with Adrian, they'd had quick and dirty sex in an alley outside a pub in London to celebrate Red's promotion to head regulator. They wouldn't have been together then if they hadn't both been drunk off their asses on blood laced with opium. The entire encounter had lasted less than twenty minutes, and they hadn't even gotten completely naked. Thanks to a lack of lube, Red's ass had burned and ached for hours, but he hadn't regretted a single second of the encounter. Cadge never said a word about it afterward. Red wasn't entirely sure he even remembered it.
Cadge shrugged. "I took a shower and didn't have anything clean to put on."
"I'm sorry, Cadge. I forgot all of your things are still in the SUV. I'll have to get them out for you."
"What difference does it make?" Cadge questioned, without turning away from the window. "Isn't this what you want? Me, vulnerable and at your mercy?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Red wasn't sure how to take Cadge's offhand comment, so he let it go. Cadge had always been a little flippant, even in the best of times, and he had to be stressed out after everything that had happened in the last week. Not to mention the little show downstairs.
Red's arms itched to enfold Cadge and smooth away the other man's worry. He wanted to hold Cadge close and promise him everything would be okay. Maybe if he meant it from the bottom of his heart and tried his hardest to convince Cadge, he'd be able to believe it himself.
"Do you want to talk about whatever's eating you?" He stepped behind Cadge and wrapped his arms around him, placing his own forearms underneath the hard ridge of Cadge's arms, where they crossed under his heart. "If you're worried about the meeting, you shouldn't be. The council is always a bit stuffy."
"It isn't that."
"What is it, then?" Red inhaled the musky scent of Cadge's skin, the slightly fruity scent of soap and shampoo, and fought like hell to resist the urge to bury his face in the shining waves of Cadge's dark hair. An embrace was one thing; sniffing Cadge like a rutting dog was another. He couldn't help the hard-on pressing against Cadge's ass. It was a product easily explained away by lust. Red didn't mind letting Cadge think he was hot for his body; he couldn't stomach revealing the depths of his feelings. He could take having his sexual advances rebuffed. Having his heart stomped was another matter.
Cadge's pulse picked up. Red could hear it beating hard and fast, the blood pumping through veins and arteries in a fast rush of sweet, succulent life. His gums tingled from the mere thought of being able to taste the other man's essence bursting over his tongue.
Before he realized he was moving, Red's mouth was pressed tight against the velvety skin of Cadge's throat. Cadge's pulse thundered against Red's lips, egging him to take what he craved, to sink his teeth into Cadge's flesh and drink. His glanced down over Cadge's shoulder and watched the rise and fall of firm pectorals. The proof of Cadge's desire jutted from his groin, stiff and heavily veined. The thick shaft bowed under its own exceptional girth, the swollen head ripe with juice that caught the dim light and glistened like manna from heaven. Red's mouth watered against Cadge's neck.
Cadge cleared his throat. "What do you think you're doing?"
Red pinched his eyes closed. He brushed his lips over Cadge's jugular in a gentle kiss, trying to make it seem as if that had been his intention all along, and lifted his head.
Cadge's chest rose and fell, although he remained perfectly still otherwise. "Let go."
"Why?" Red loosened his grip on Cadge and ran his hand down the cobbled surface of the other man's abs toward the hard staff between his legs. "You obviously like it."
"Just because my cock gets hard for you doesn't mean I want your hands on me."
"I would say that's exactly what it means." Feeling brave, Red clasped the base of Cadge's dick and gave it a squeeze. He'd come this far. He may as well do what he wanted. "Why don't you quit playing hard to get and give us what we both want? It's just sex." He dropped his other hand and cupped the heavy weight of Cadge's balls. "It doesn't have to mean anything more than two friends helping each other out, and it's not like we haven't done it before."
Cadge jerked his shoulders, breaking Red's hold on him, and walked out of the room without a word. Red followed, his gaze drawn to the firm mounds of Cadge's ass as they flexed with each step. What he wouldn't give to bury himself balls deep between those succulent cheeks, to hear his name spill from Cadge's lips in pleasure. Making love to Cadge, their panting, writhing bodies locked as one, was the closest thing to a homecoming he could imagine.
It was a damn shame Cadge didn't feel the same way.
They'd be good together, if only he could convince Cadge to give them a chance, to open himself to the possibilities of what they could share. Unfortunately, that was easier said than done.
Red caught up to Cadge by the door. He rested a hand on Cadge's shoulder only to have it shrugged off. "You want to tell me what your problem is?"
"This is my problem." Cadge slapped the flat panel on the door where the handle was supposed to be. In its place was a card slot. The only way into or out of the room was through the use of a key card. "I'm locked in this room with no phone or contact with the outside world, except through you and the damn guard stationed outside my room. I'm trapped here like a fucking prisoner, with no way out."
"That isn't true. I'm here. You have to know I'd never let anyone hurt you."
"I'm sure you wouldn't. You'd hate to have someone damage the merchandise, right?" Cadge shook his head, his eyes wild. "What were you thinking? That you could spirit me away and keep me locked up here, grateful for every scrap of attention you throw my way?"
"I don't know what the hell you're talking about." His mind spinning, Red stared at Cadge. Was it possible Cadge trusted him so very little? He wanted to lash out in anger, or fuck the man blind, but neither of those things would give him what he wanted. Acting impulsively wouldn't win Cadge's trust. Whatever they'd shared as youths was obviously gone, ripped to shreds by Red's inability to protect Cadge's family, and his own, from the men who had besieged the estate.
Maybe he'd been fooling himself to think Cadge would ever forgive him for not doing more to save their loved ones. It didn't matter that he'd been mortally injured while trying to deflect attention away from the armoire where he'd hidden Teague. The regret that haunted him didn't change the outcome of that fatal day.
Cadge couldn't blame Red any more than he already blamed himself.
Red met Cadge's feral gaze and tried to communicate his remorse. "It was never my intention to imprison you here. The door locks for your safety, to keep people out as well as to keep you from wandering the grounds without protection. Just because you've been granted asylum by the council doesn't mean there aren't other risks. There are always rogues who'd like nothing more than to strike out at the council by whatever means they can."
"And the phone?" Cadge asked, his dark gaze trained on Red's face.
Red squirmed under the intensity of Cadge's gaze. He had the uneasy impression that Cadge could see straight into the depths of his soul, and found him lacking. "There isn't a telephone because the compound doesn't have service. We don't even have traditional electricity. The compound's powered by generators." He sighed, exhausted by more than a lack of sleep and a buildup of stress from the last week. He was tired of dancing around Cadge, straddling the tightrope between being a friend and a former lover. "I'm telling you the truth, Cadge. Whether or not you believe me is up to you, but if I wanted a sex slave, I could have my pick of partners. Believe it or not, I don't have to force people to fuck me."
"Shit. I'm sorry." Cadge scrubbed his hands over his face and wiped a stray hank of ebony hair out of his face. "I don't know what's wrong with me. This place, the people, and their suspicious attitudes are just rubbing off on me and making me paranoid." He stepped around Red, strode across the room to the beige chaise located under the window, and flopped down on it. "Being assigned a babysitter and then having two idiots in lab coats poke and prod me didn't help improve my mood."
"What do you mean?" Red asked, moving closer. "They were only supposed to swab your mouth for DNA and draw a single vial of blood."
"Yeah, well, I guess they changed their mind. Something about needing the blood for further testing. I don't really know. Frankly, they were so busy gawking and drooling all over me that I'm surprised they didn't try to talk me into a prostate exam while they were at it. Don't you ever let them out of the lab?"
"I wouldn't know. I'm not a scientist, just a lowly hired grunt."
"Mm hmm, more like head of the grunts." Cadge smiled. The expression transformed his features from attractive to stunning.
"You should smile more often." Red leaned against the tall end of the chaise and soaked in the muscular planes of Cadge's body.
Cadge fidgeted and then settled back against the chaise with one foot on the floor and the other resting on the seat. The way he sat pulled his legs open and put his balls on display, the tender orbs hanging loose in his plump, pink sac. "There hasn't been much to smile about lately."
"I know," Red said absently, his mind more intent on soaking in the view. He didn't know whether Cadge was intentionally teasing him with the wanton sprawl, but it didn't really matter. Either way, he was getting a free show.
Cadge mumbled something and Red reluctantly tore his attention away from the man's crotch. Salivating over someone he couldn't have was an exercise in futility anyway. All he'd wind up with were sore balls and a sleepless day filled with dreams he could never realize during his waking hours.
His desire for Cadge knew no bounds, but he was damn tired of being in love with a man who would never return his affections. As his father had always been fond of saying, he needed to shit or get off the pot. The problem was, he wasn't sure how to turn off the emotions he'd had for so very long. His feelings for Cadge were so deeply ingrained that he imagined the man's name was etched into the very marrow of his bones. If he'd been capable of hardening his heart, he would have done it a long time ago.