Are you already missing the boys of the Unbreakable Bonds series? Well, as a treat to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, Rinda and I are releasing a free short story.  The events of this short story fall about a week or two after the ending of Shiver. If you haven’t had a chance to read Shiver yet, click here to order your digital ebook or print version. (Go to Amazon, All Romance Ebooks, Kobo, iBookstore or B&N for your copy.)

We hope that you enjoy this free short story and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

The Meeting

Shoving his keys into his pocket, Andrei pushed the front door closed with his shoulder, then locked it while balancing the pizza box across his open left hand. As he turned back, something inside his chest eased, a hidden tension he hadn’t even realized was there until it was already slipping out of his body. Lucas’s penthouse was exactly as he remembered it when he’d last stood there almost two months earlier. The wide open floor plan and wall of windows looking out on the city was stunning. The sun had set an hour ago and now the lights of downtown Cincinnati reflected off the Ohio River and glowed against the velvety black sky.

For the past week, Lucas had come to him almost every day after work. He’d even stayed overnight a few times. Andrei had enjoyed falling asleep tangled in Lucas’s long limbs and waking to slow kisses. Just having the man relaxed and in his arms had gone a long way to settling the last of the lingering fears over Lucas’s safety. But two weeks cooped up in his small, dark apartment had left him restless and edgy.

The Meeting short storyThat was nearly over now. Today’s trip to the doctor had seen his cast removed and he was cleared for a little more strenuous activity. The doctor still cautioned him to go slow, but Andrei was free to go back to work on Monday. In the meantime, he had three nights and two full days to test his body with Lucas and he was looking forward to every second of it.

After placing the pizza on the island in the center of the kitchen, Andrei shucked his leather jacket and tossed it over the back of the sofa before continuing to the stairs in search of Lucas. Would it be too much to hope that he was already in the bedroom waiting for him? Other than a little heavy petting and some frustrated grinding, Lucas had crushed any efforts for them to go farther, using the excuse that Andrei needed to heal first. Andrei was looking forward to putting an end to that bullshit tonight, too.

However, his hopes were trampled in an instant as Lucas’s raised voice echoed down the hall as he laid into some poor employee. No, the sexy man was not in the bedroom but his office. Biting back a sigh, he leaned against the doorjamb, his hands shoved in the pockets of his faded jeans as he watched Lucas prowl behind his desk with his cell phone pressed to his ear. He’d shed his jacket and his tie dangled loose around his neck. At some point in the day, he’d rolled his sleeves above his elbows, exposing strong forearms.

Damn he was sexy. Lucas’s every movement was sleek and smooth, exuding barely restrained power. He was a man born to lead, to protect, and to command respect. It radiated from his bearing and was stamped in his features. Andrei almost had to laugh. Watching Lucas now, he had to admit that he hadn’t stood a chance.

As Lucas paced, a scowl twisted his features. He paused and started to lean down to his laptop when he caught sight of Andrei. He held up one finger, indicating he needed more time to deal with business. Not a great start to the night Andrei had planned, but he understood.

ShiverCoverWith a nod, Andrei returned to the first floor where he grabbed a slice of pizza and opened the messenger on this phone. He sent a quick text to Rowe stating that the doctor had cleared him for work. Another text went to Ian informing the young man that his cast had come off and that he was finally free of his apartment. Ian had been checking on him regularly, helping to keep him sane through the boredom and in between Lucas’s visits.

Rowe immediately fired back, There’s no way that fucking witch doctor cleared you for field work.

Cast off. Mobile. I can work.

Fuck. You’ve got paperwork to finish.

Andrei growled at his phone as he typed. No way. I took care of most of that bullshit already.

You can run training classes for the next two weeks.

Is this your way of getting me to quit?

Before Rowe could answer, a text rolled in from Ian congratulating him on his progress and promising to have a table at Rialto saved for him and Lucas for Saturday night at eight. Andrei grinned and reined in the urge to comment that if he and Lucas were walking on Saturday night, they’d be there. He opted for a polite, We’ll be there.

You need to take it slow, was Rowe’s diplomatic response, which only brought the fire back to Andrei’s blood.

It was the same damn thing that Lucas had been telling him for days now, but he was tired of slow. He just wanted to get back to his life and that included doing his job. Yet before he could compose a response to Rowe, two more texts chimed in. One from Ian, guessing that he was already at Lucas’s for some “hot loving,” and the second from…Snow. Andrei stared at it for a moment in shock. Snow had never texted him before. Hell, he had Snow’s cell programmed in his phone only for an emergency that involved Lucas. He hadn’t expected Snow to have his number.

Don’t let Lucas drill you through the mattress and set back your recovery.

Andrei swore loudly before grabbing another piece of pizza. Who the hell had told Snow anything? And in record fucking time! Was this what it was like to be part of Lucas’s little group? It was amazing that Lucas got anything done during the day.

More texts chimed in from the trio and Andrei felt a reluctant smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth. They were intrusive, crude, and bossy, but they felt like family. Between bites of pizza, Andrei texted the three men, dishing out equal helpings of teasing and sarcasm. When Andrei finally untangled himself from the texts, he looked up to find that forty-five minutes had passed and still no Lucas.

This was not going to work for him. He was not going to be put on hold or taken for granted. Their time was precious to him. When Andrei started back to work, he knew they were going to be hard pressed to grab more than a few minutes here or there together. Working security left him with odd hours free, and not to mention days or weeks at a time when he was constantly on the job.

Lucas had postponed their evening once already and had canceled the night before completely. Andrei understood that there were times when work would get in the way, but there was no way in hell he was being put off for another second. Leaving his cell phone on the kitchen counter so that there was no risk of further distraction, he strode back to the second floor and Lucas’s office, where the man was still pacing behind his desk with his phone pressed to his ear. He looked stressed, the muscles in his neck tensed and his normally styled hair tousled from repeatedly running his fingers through it. Lucas needed a distraction.

Andrei strolled into the office and stopped in front of the small sofa that was turned to face the desk. With his feet spread and his hands on his hips, he waited until Lucas was looking at him before grabbing the bottom of his black T-shirt and pulling it over his head in a slow reveal that drew a low hiss from Lucas. Even though he hadn’t been able to step foot in a gym in a month, Andrei had retained most of his hard, lean muscle. Lucas had spent more than a few nights tracing the ridges and valleys of his chest, torturing them both.

Meeting Lucas’s heated gaze from across the room, Andrei smirked as he dropped the shirt on the floor. He stepped back and dropped onto the sofa, lounging with his legs stretched out before him in open invitation.

Since their first kiss, Lucas had given up all artifice when it came to his attraction for Andrei. When they were alone, Lucas reveled in his ability to kiss and touch Andrei and Andrei soaked it in. Now sharp, green-gray eyes swept up his legs encased in tight jeans and over his bare chest to stop on his face. His gaze was so intense Andrei could almost feel it like a hand moving over his body in a firm caress. But it wasn’t enough. Andrei wanted the real thing and he wanted Lucas to come to him.

Lifting his left hand, he threaded his fingers through his shoulder-length black hair, pushing it back from his face in a taunt that had Lucas balling his free hand into a fist at his side. Andrei let his hand rest behind his head and then slowly ran his right hand down his chest, sliding it across his stomach to rest at the button of his jeans. Lucas jerked his eyes up to Andrei’s and gave his head a little shake. His glare was all warning, but Andrei just smiled before he gave the corner of his jeans a quick tug, pulling the first button free.

“Son of a bitch,” Lucas snarled in a low voice. “What?” He jumped, his frown carving deeper lines in his handsome face. “No, I’m not talking to you.” He turned his back on Andrei and shouted at the other person on the phone, as if suddenly remembering that he was attempting to conduct a meeting. But it was a losing battle. Lucas was distracted now.

A couple of minutes ticked by before Lucas turned back to his desk, moving papers around as if searching for something. His eyes darted up to Andrei for just a second, but Andrei took advantage of it. He shoved his hand down into his pants while at the same time arching his back, putting his body on display. A soft moan drifted from his lips and his eyelids lowered as he imagined that it was Lucas touching him.

And by the searing hunger in Lucas’s eyes, Andrei was going to have that very soon.

“Look, we’ve wasted two days arguing over this. My fucking offer won’t change. You take it or I walk,” Lucas growled into the phone, while his eyes remained locked on Andrei. “I expect your answer by nine a.m. Monday.” He ended the call and slammed the phone on the desk.

Andrei bit his tongue, swallowing back the sarcastic remark. Lucas was pissed and there was no reason to make it worse. He was going to get what he wanted…eventually.

“What the fuck was that about?” Lucas bit out as he rounded the desk and started to walk toward Andrei. “I’ve been fighting zoning and city commission bullshit for days, trying to get this project back on schedule. You couldn’t wait just a few more minutes?”

Andrei watched his movements, slick and predatory. Lucas was a born hunter and never in Andrei’s life had he been so happy to be prey. Of course, he wasn’t about to go down easily. No, Lucas would never appreciate that. He liked a fight. He liked the chase. He needed an equal.

Andrei removed his hand from his pants, leaving it resting on his stomach, waiting. When Lucas was within reach, he swept his leg behind Lucas’s while lunging forward, shoving him in the middle of his chest. Lucas went down hard onto his back and Andrei followed him. Straddling him at the waist, Andrei captured his wrists and pinned them beside his head.

“What the fuck—”

“We need to have a meeting, Mr. Vallois,” Andrei interrupted. He leaned close, rubbing his lips along Lucas’s jaw, relishing the feel of the prickles and soft whiskers. Beneath him, Lucas went utterly still, but there was no missing the tension humming through every muscle in his body. Andrei had his full attention. “I get that in your quest to rule the world, work will intrude. That you will need to cancel plans,” he continued, his voice staying low. Andrei pulled back so that he could look Lucas in the eye. “But when you say you’re with me, then I want you with me. You said you wanted to give this a go. Have you changed your mind?”

“No, of course not.”

“When you find time for me, I’m not sharing you with work.”

“I understand.”

Andrei frowned, staring down at the man who had the power to cause this uncomfortable ache in his chest. “Do you? Do you understand how you’re turning my life upside-down? Everything…everything is so…” He let his words drift off as his throat tried to close up around his words. When he was with Lucas, it all made sense and felt right. When they were apart, he’d get stuck in his head, wondering about the new course he was taking in his life and how things could change or how people might react or what it would feel like when Lucas decided he wasn’t worth the time. Fuck, he wished he could steal that stupid question back.

Andrei hadn’t realized that he’d loosened his grip on Lucas’s arms until Lucas suddenly flipped them so that Lucas was now straddling his hips. Andrei managed a gasp and then Lucas sealed his mouth over his. Their tongues slid against each other, wringing a groan out of Andrei. He drew Lucas tight against him. For a moment, the question was forgotten and there was only the fire that flickered into existence anytime they were in the same room together. It consumed everything and Andrei just wanted to get lost in Lucas’s touch all over again.

Lucas broke off the kiss before it could burn out of control. His left hand swept across the side of Andrei’s face in a feather-light touch before he threaded his fingers through his hair. Andrei met Lucas’s gaze and saw a tenderness there that instantly swamped him with emotions that had not a damn thing to do with sex.

“I won’t lie. I don’t fully understand the changes this is forcing in your life, but I thank God every day that you’re willing to try for me.” Lucas brushed his lips across Andrei’s in a sweet kiss. “For us.” He kissed him again on the corner of the mouth. “I’m here for you no matter what. When you need me.” Lucas pulled away enough so that he could look Andrei directly in the eye. “And not when it’s convenient for me. I’m sorry.”

Andrei struggled to breathe and he knew it had nothing to do with Lucas’s weight pressing down on his chest. He cupped the side of Lucas’s neck, his thumb skimming along his hard jaw. “I want to give this a chance. I’m just not used to being put on hold. I feel like we’re running short on time.”

A shadow passed over Lucas’s eyes and Andrei could feel the muscles in Lucas’s jaw jump under his thumb. He’d only meant that he’d be working soon and that took up a lot of his time, resulting in some weird hours. But Andrei had seen that expression often enough in the past week. Lucas’s mind had jumped back to that night when Lucas and his friends had rescued him. There were things about that night that Andrei still wasn’t willing to ask Lucas about, not yet. But he knew deep in his gut the lines that Lucas had crossed. And he was pretty sure that he wasn’t a good person for feeling the relief or pleasure that came with that knowledge.

But he didn’t want the guilt to haunt Lucas any longer. So he did the only thing he could think of to distract him. Lifting his hips, Andrei rubbed his groin against Lucas’s dragging a moan out of the man, putting the fire back into Lucas’s eyes.

“Went to the doctor today,” Andrei said with a wide grin.

“Yes, I see you’ve lost a cast. Anything else to report?”

“I’ve been cleared for moderate activity. You got any suggestions of what I might do?”

Lucas chuckled, dipping his head to nibble along Andrei’s neck, working his way up to his earlobe. “I’ve got a few, though I’m sure not one will be what your doctor had in mind.” Andrei turned his head to capture Lucas’s lips in another kiss but Lucas pulled out of his reach. “But not on this fucking floor.” He quickly shoved to his feet and then held his hand out, pulling Andrei to his feet as well.

“Sounds good to me.”

Lucas caught Andrei’s elbow as he tried to lead the way out of the office for the master bedroom, pulling them chest to chest. The playful teasing had disappeared from his eyes, replaced once again with worry. “I’m sorry. You’re more important than any damn business deal. I promise to work harder to make sure you always feel that.”

Andrei kissed him, a gentle brush of his lips as he felt the tension drain out of Lucas’s frame. “And I promise to always call you out when you’re an ass.”

 

To order your copy of Shiver to read more about Lucas and Andrei, click here. You can also pre-order Shatter, book 2 of the Unbreakable Bonds series, by clicking here. And you can read all the free short stories here.

Happy Thanksgiving!