Owen Stallbridge is a powerful psychic, millionaire, and secret agent trying to segue out of his wet-work assignments. He has his hands full running his corporate empire and trying to keep an eye on Ian Ryder—forger, con man, and criminal too sexy for his own good. But when an old enemy returns, Owen will need Ian’s help. With time running out, they have to take a chance on each other if they want to survive. And Owen will have to believe in the man who’s stolen his heart.
a m/m romance
Oh yeah. Give me a nice upper body, rock-hard abs, and muscular thighs any day. Turn around, just a little… Owen turned, and Ian sighed. He raised his head to see that tight ass and broad back. Sure, Owen was a pain, but God, what a body. The eye candy alone almost made the annoyance worth it.
“Ian?” Jack drawled. “I’m still waiting for an explanation.”
Ian swore. “Shit, Jack. He’s like a rabid dog. I can’t work under these conditions.” Ian meant it. For the past month, he’d been assisting the authoritative playboy too smart for his own good. A lot of work for little results. “He’s looking for something I can’t find. And if I can’t find it, it doesn’t exist.”
Jack frowned. “Something or someone? I was under the impression he’s hunting a man.”
“Does it matter? Either way, my sources haven’t seen it or him.” Ian sighed. “I haven’t had a day off in weeks.”
“Yeah, four of them. Suck it up, princess. You’re finally going to earn your keep around here.”
Ian tried to look affronted, but Jack didn’t blink. “Oh come on. I do my job.”
“You cause more problems than you’re worth.”
“Hey. I hooked you up with a place to stay on your trip to Germany. I helped you find the love of your life.”
“And you nearly started World War III while I was gone. You f*cked up our filing system. Aidan still wants to rip your head off. Chloe can’t find the extra set of keys I left for her—and don’t deny it; I know you have them somewhere.”
“And let’s talk about the law. Do you know how many times I’ve had to talk down the locals? And how about the Feds still keeping an eye on us? One wrong step and they’ll come down on us like a ton of bricks.”
The temperature in the room seemed to drop several degrees as Jack’s wolflike stare turned even more predatory.
Ian tugged at the collar of his T-shirt. “Now, hold on. Those Feds are permanent. They rotate them. No matter what I do—or allegedly have done—those two are going to stay until we all die of old age or move.”
“Oh? So stealing Senator Clancy’s crap and selling it back to him for twice what it’s worth was fair game?”
“Please. He’s a thief. And he’s retired,” Ian reminded him. “He stole them in the first place. I was only giving him a taste of his own medicine.” He frowned. “How did you hear about that anyway? I know he didn’t call the cops. And he can’t trace me as the seller.”
“My point is, you can’t keep your nose clean, and it’s a liability I don’t like.” Jack leaned closer to Ian, his eyes like pinpoints of ice.
It took balls, but Ian dared him. “Prove it. Go ahead. See if you—or the law—can make anything stick.”
Jack straightened and sighed. He crossed his massive arms over his broad chest and snorted. “I would if I could catch you at anything. I know for a fact you’re still selling counterfeit artwork, though you’ve been warned repeatedly to stop.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Jack frowned. “How do you have time for this shit? I thought Owen was keeping you busy with that project of his.”
“I’m plenty busy.” Trying to come up with some excuses to keep you and the studly millionaire off my back.
It wasn’t that Ian couldn’t leave if he wanted to, but he liked working with psychics—people like him. He saw patterns in things others couldn’t, and he could repeat those patterns down to the last detail, which made his skills as a forger remarkable. Life in the big, bad world was freer, but it came with risks. Here, Ian knew a sense of protection with the team. And being surrounded by people who could blow you up with a thought or set fire to your whole world made Ian feel safe, safer than he’d been in a very long time.
“Right.” Jack sighed. “Owen needs your help. You do what he asks.”
“More like orders,” Ian mumbled. “Man has never used the word ‘please’ once.”
“Please get yourself back to my office and finish what I gave you to do yesterday,” Owen said from the doorway, standing behind Jack. “How’s that?”
Jack stepped to the side so Owen could enter. “Owen.” He nodded. “Ian was just telling me you’re a slave driver. That you’re working him way too hard.”
“Oh?” Owen raised his left brow in that way that drove Ian crazy. So sexy, yet so irritating at the same time.
Ian hated this twitchy feeling he had when in Owen’s presence. From the first, he’d sensed the power in Owen and been curiously drawn to it. But Owen didn’t seem manageable. At all. And Ian controlled his relationships. He called the shots. He had others fawning all over him, doing whatever he wanted to keep him happy. With Owen, he’d never have that control, not with a man that wealthy and fine.
Owen continued in a husky voice that put Ian in mind of satin sheets and sweaty, carnal teasing. “Is that right, Ian? Am I working you too hard?”
Shit. He was growing aroused, as usual. He fumed and glared at Owen. “I’m busy here, boss.”
Owen ignored him and said to Jack, “I don’t think I’m working him hard enough. He’s supposed to be at my place through the weekend. I’ve narrowed down my search. I’m very, very close.”
Jack nodded. “You need help? The team’s available if you want.”
A group of psychically enhanced ex-government agents could be an ace in anyone’s hand. Ian mentally cataloged the talent on-site. A telepath, pyrokinetic, telekinetic, empath, levitator, prognosticator, and a few others with a mishmash of talent comprised the small squad of leftovers from the now disbanded PWP.
Ian recalled his brief stint when the PWP had been a baby. He’d been so young and one of the first to be drafted into the top-secret project. Fortunately he’d joined before they’d started enhancing their agents. Ian had been full of ideals then. He’d helped bring down dictators, had stolen from drug lords, and put away some very bad people.
And then they’d turned on him. Uncle Sam had used his abilities, praised him for being a thief, a con artist, and a master forger when the need arose. Then Ian had inadvertently stepped on the wrong toes during the course of an investigation and become public enemy number one. It all seemed like a lifetime ago.
He glanced at Jack, aware that this boss would never throw him to the wolves. Jack might kick his ass out, but Ian would know exactly when and where and why. One thing Ian could say for his tough-as-nails boss—Jack stuck by his people. He’d never left a man or woman behind, and he never would.
Owen, on the other hand… Ian couldn’t get a bead on the guy. He’d infiltrated Owen’s house, had seen the man nearly get himself killed, yet he’d never noticed Owen sweat or worry. Not once.
Ian compared the men standing so near. Jack had brute strength and overpowering energy, and those eyes—gray one minute, ice blue the next—that made a body tremble with the need to please. Owen, however, seduced. He had a pleasant smile and beautiful, deep green eyes that made a person want to please. Of the two of them, Ian considered Owen the more dangerous. Here was a man who could slit your throat and have you smiling and hurrying to die to make him happy.
“…not a problem. You can have him indefinitely.” Jack, the man who never smiled, actually grinned at Ian.
“Great. I’ll be gone for a while. Time to flush this out and finish it for good.” Owen cleared his throat. “Keep an eye on Heather for me, would you? She keeps bothering me to share my troubles, and this needs to stay far away from her. If he knows I’m on to him, he’ll take her out sooner than later. I’m trying to make sure he’s gone before he becomes an even bigger threat to her.”
Jack nodded, his grin gone, replaced by a ferocious mask of determination. “No worries there. To get to her, he’ll have to go through me. I’ll circle the wagons closer, just in case.”
Ian couldn’t think past “you can have him indefinitely.” “Wait. What?”
They ignored him. “Good,” Owen said.
“You sure you don’t want more help?” Jack dismissed Ian with a wave. “He’s smart but a lot of trouble. Could be more than you need right now.”
“Hey.” Ian stood, annoyed to be disregarded.
“No, he’s perfect,” Owen practically purred.
Ian blinked at him, feeling a bit hunted. He ran a hand through his hair, missing the length he used to have. Some dumb idea to look more sophisticated had urged him to get it cut short, with longer bangs in a style he likened to surfer meets runway model. Chloe had said it made him look even more handsome. He’d gotten his share of compliments about it. But none from Owen. The prick.
“His power is substantial, yet subtle,” Owen said thoughtfully. “I get the feeling none of you know what he’s really capable of. Maybe not even Ian.”