Secrets and lies threaten Brandon and Daniel’s new love.
Brandon Hoselton is running scared, finding security in his obsession with patterns and numbers. With his family threatened, he feels he has nowhere left to go, and even considers ending his life to keep them safe. Until Sanctuary, in the shape of the enigmatic Daniel Karnes, gives him a reason to stay alive and offers the possibility of a future free from fear.
Former SEAL Daniel is new to Sanctuary, tasked with watching Brandon, a brilliant geek with way too many secrets. Falling in love with quirky Brandon is easy; now he just has to make sure secrets don’t end up with them both dying.
The only way of destroying Varga is to cut the crime boss’s money, and the two men become part of an intricate take-down involving millions of dollars. But Brandon has a secret he can never share with Daniel, and their new love is at stake.
When the villain has murder in mind, sometimes the only way to stay alive is to lie.
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soon as he was able to. He could have asked his sisters, but they didn’t know
just how badly looking at the geometric pattern in the fabric upset his
equilibrium. They knew he was weird; most
sisters thought their big brothers were weird.
But he also had twitches and nervous tics about certain things, and they’d seen
it all, even though his list of crazy was something he could manage now.
last night counting the squares on the drapes and being irritated to the point
of stimming that they weren’t even and the stitching was wrong. And Jesus,
stimming—having to move his fingers, loosen his muscles, anything to ground
himself—he hadn’t done that in years.
room to help him, because Daniel was someone Brandon did not want in his space. Not taking down drapes, or talking to
him, or even breathing near him. There was only so much of Daniel that Brandon
could take, because when he was anywhere
near the SEAL, he lost his ability to form coherent sentences. He didn’t have
time to have these powerful feelings of
lust that kept hitting him.
landing and Daniel had been in just a towel. Or the time Daniel had teased him
fondly about the glasses he wore. They’d only been together a few days, but
Daniel was funny, and sexy, and kind of dangerous, and exactly everything Brandon
should be avoiding in his life.
written in his memory that he wouldn’t forget any time soon. The deal he had—to
stay alive, to hide himself away, and then to present himself to Varga—was just
about the only thing that filled his thoughts.
would join him in his huge mansion, pull together all the funds Varga had
hidden in various places, and then join him in whatever country the US didn’t
have an extradition treaty with.
getting all his money, dispersing it to the
right causes, and sending any intel he could get out to the authorities.
terms with. He’d blown his chance to do this when he’d worked for Varga, so he
had to make up for it. He was doing the right
unfortunate to be scooped up by Sanctuary. He just needed to work out a way to
get away from them, and in particular Daniel, but he had about ten days to go
yet until that magic date when Varga had decided he would be leaving the
room, with his probing questions and his distracting body, was an easy decision
to make in among all that crap.
take the drapes down himself.
shoulder had lessened to the point where he could at least manage to get out of
bed and to the window. Trying to shoot himself hadn’t gone so well; instead of
being dead and gone, he had a through shot and muscle damage which hurt like
knives in his skin.
he didn’t need anyway. There were blinds at the windows, and behind the blinds
each window was coated so you could see out but no one could see in. He pushed
the offending fabric under the bed and clambered back to a standing position,
wincing in pain as he banged his shoulder, and sat on the edge of his bed.
them under the bed—and exasperated, he lay back on the mattress and attempted
to think of something else. Blue skies, blue mugs, blue eyes. Anything blue,
because it was a color that calmed him.
under the bed, pulling out the drapes and screwing them into a ball. Opening
his door, he threw them out onto the landing, not even checking if anyone was
reacted like a ninja and had the drapes under submission in seconds.
with some sort of karate move, Brandon felt like he should apologize.
what he was going to say to Daniel when he came in. Maybe if he ignored the
request to enter and said nothing, then Daniel might go away.
waiting for Brandon to say he could come in, he pushed his way in, looking irritable.
He was shirtless, his hair wet—evidence of a recent shower—his sweats hanging
low on his hips and every muscle deliciously tight and toned.
eyes angry, his lips in a set line. He wasn’t holding the drapes, so Brandon
counted that as a win.
explained, and eased himself down into the chair by his bed. He was most
comfortable there; he could see out the window and it was easier to keep the
pressure off his injury.
Daniel sounded less pissed and more confused about getting fabric in his face.
know you were there.” Then he couldn’t resist, “And you heroically subdued them
so fast, I knew you could handle the danger.”
stopped. Whatever he’d been going to say
was lost. He’d looked amused for a moment, but now he was frowning again. “You
do realize we’re not going to be here long enough for you to redecorate.”
defended himself. “I just didn’t like the pattern.” Then he changed the
subject. “And exactly how long is long enough? You said we’re moving, but when precisely?”
building even now. His sisters weren’t the easiest to live with. Hannah
listened to much too loud music and continually
dogged Daniel’s footsteps. Yvonne left clothes everywhere and kept shouting for
Hannah to turn the music down. And as for the bodyguard, Daniel? Well, he was
constantly up in Brandon’s space, checking his dressing, taking his vitals,
asking him questions.
ready to give answers to. Not until he was entirely
sure of his place in this game he was in the middle of. He’d promised Varga one
thing; that he would stay alive and away from the people who wanted to kill
Varga didn’t want to kill him too, particularly since it had become completely
clear to Varga that Brandon didn’t want to be one of his boys. But there were
also the men who wanted to kill Varga who would want to kill him, and… fuck, it
was a messy maze in his head.
with which person.
Cole have some leads on one of Varga’s lieutenants and are planning a sting
operation to get him out in the open.”
Didn’t they know Varga was dangerous? Didn’t they know that the man had people
working for him who would split your head open with a bullet just for smiling
captured, or… look, I don’t know the full story, but at least it’s another step
in the right direction.”
to hell,” Brandon muttered. “He’ll just appoint someone else; he’s like a
lizard that can grow back its tail.”
want to talk today?”
and curled his fingers into his sweatshirt to keep himself from moving them and
freaking Daniel out.
everything, we can’t give you any real help. Brandon?”
and recognized the compassion in his expression. There was something about this
man—quite apart from his muscles, and his size, and his general attitude of
being able to handle anything life threw at him—that set him apart from any
other man Brandon had ever lusted over. That something was that Brandon had an absolute
belief in Daniel’s ability to take care of him.
person could help him in any of this.
enough of that damn question. Daniel wasn’t directly torturing him to get information,
but being stuck in this house, with people he needed to keep secrets from, and
with questions every day, was close to breaking him.
want to kill him. He just wanted him watched, protected, the codes and
programming in his head enough to put him high on the list of people Varga
needed to move them in a rhythmic pattern that would settle his head.
window after you destroyed a security layer.”
frowned. “They were there for a reason? For real?”
on, putting his hand on its back and leaning over Brandon to examine the
window. Which put Daniel’s groin right at face level, the sweats leaving
absolutely nothing to the imagination. And the scent of the man, of shower gel
and Daniel, was in every breath Brandon took.
into him leaning even further, with his
junk right there for inspection. Not to mention his flat stomach, and that damn
scent, and the way crisp, dark hair
marked a trail to Nirvana.
be like to want,
was all Brandon could think.
was what he kept telling Hannah every time she used the word gay in reference
to him as she followed him around. But bi
didn’t mean that he’d be interested in Brandon. God, look at Hannah. She had
all the good Hoselton genes; she was
slim, blonde, and gorgeous. Who wouldn’t want her?
trapped between Daniel McSexy and the window, and he attempted to move the
chair. It tipped as he moved, and that caused Daniel’s balance to wobble.
Somehow the SEAL managed to right himself, and Brandon plus chair, and still come
out of it looking all kinds of bad-ass.
who couldn’t even sit on a fucking chair.
out on the landing, and it was all too much.
six one of near-immovable muscle until
Daniel actually moved.
gaze, and then completely lost it.
too close to his groin for comfort. God, all he would have to do was move his
hand an inch to the right and he’d be touching Daniel’s cock.
touching thing that Daniel had going, and his husky voice.
pushing up out of his chair, his hands flailing, until he had Daniel backed up
and out and he could close the door on the confused man.
Brandon thought that maybe Daniel had left. Then there was a soft knock.
the door and drawing up his knees. He allowed himself the luxury of moving his
fingers in a pattern—ring finger, thumb, third finger, thumb, first finger,
thumb, pinkie, thumb, and over again, both hands. He could feel the air moving around
his hands and he concentrated on the swirls he could imagine.
the stairs, and then he let out a huge exhalation. 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53, 59, 61, 67,
71, 73, 79, 83, 89, 97. The prime numbers up to a hundred were his go-to
place to help calm himself down, upward from 2 to 97, then back down to 2, then
up again, and through all of it he breathed, in, out, regular, deep breaths.
His fingers tapped out a rhythm with the numbers, and finally he had himself
and Daniel’s groin in his face.
he used the wall as support to stand up. He needed a shower, to get dressed,
and then he’d feel a lot more capable of handling Daniel at breakfast.
in some digits, calculated responses, emptied his head of the buzzing, and by
the time he was dressed and downstairs he was normal, level-headed Brandon
again. He caught Daniel side-eyeing him as he stole a perfectly cooked piece of
bacon, but he could handle that, because
a few steps and he’d be on the other side of the counter.
counter next to Daniel. She was wearing the tiniest of shorts and a crop top,
and Daniel glanced at her.
say, about how it was inappropriate for Hannah to flirt with Daniel, about how
she needed to stop.
wanted to be the one to flirt with Daniel.
smile in his tone.
leaning in to steal bacon just as Brandon had. Only with her, Daniel grabbed
her hand as it moved and gently eased it back.
he said firmly.
at the counter. “Why is there a pair of drapes on the end of my bed?”
would expose yet another flaw in his shitty head, and his sisters didn’t need
to know he was reverting to type. He thought on his feet, but Daniel got there
room. Can you stow them in your closet or something?”
here, no way for her to post on Facebook or twee pictures of breakfast, but she
seemed to be okay reading, going through so many books it was ridiculous.
Seemed like that was another service Sanctuary offered, on top of the thorny
issue of keeping the Hoselton siblings alive.
release the food.
drinking coffee, eating breakfast, as if it was a
weight of everything in his head was heavy.
Looking at his sisters, it seemed impossible to imagine they’d been in danger.
His last conversation with Varga’s lackey, a cop named Merrick, had been very one-sided. Brandon was to keep his head down
until he was called upon for his skills, and if he didn’t go to the cops, then
his sisters would be left alone. He didn’t like Merrick; hated that this apparently
respectable cop was actually deep in Varga’s organization. One of the things he
knew he would do was to expose Merrick as soon as he could. Sanctuary would
know what to do with him.
that was the end of it. He was their big brother, their guardian since he’d come
of age, and he wanted to be the rock the rest of the small family could
quiet; he simply needed to threaten Brandon’s sisters.
the blue. “Before Daniel got us.”
Chris—level-headed, pre-law, he was the kind of man he wanted for his sister.
on her lip.
he caught Hannah’s warning expression. Evidently this was something a big brother
needed to stay out of. He pushed down his need to go find Chris and tell him
how a real man looked after his girlfriend. Not that he had any experience in
breaking up with someone. To break up you’d need to be seeing a guy first, and
he hadn’t quite managed more than a couple of nights with anyone.
suggested they make a list of things they needed in the new place.
chocolate milk, but Brandon needed something a bit more important than that.
looking at Daniel, but focusing on the eggs on his plate.
time to collect them from my place when Cole and Elliot took me from town.”
apologized,” Hannah added.
them sharing embarrassing stories as the feeling that Daniel was staring at
him. “It’s not like I’m Thelma in Scooby Doo—I can see without them, you know. Things
are just blurry.”
Brandon listened as Daniel phoned it through. He finished breakfast and tidied
away. The girls said they’d help, but washing up was another one of Brandon’s things. The heat of the water and the
randomness of bubble creation was soothing, and it kept his hands busy, even if
he was lopsided with the soreness in his shoulder.
some exercises that he needed to do, and he
did those before sitting on what he considered his end of the sofa. He picked up
the Sudoku book that was on the table and flicked through the pages, coming to
rest on a puzzle that was half done and clearly wrong. He picked up the pen
next to him and tapped the page, looked at the pattern, then completed the
puzzle, amending the incorrect numbers.
in that column? That meant there was two 7s. He flicked through the rest of the
book, coming to the extreme puzzle at the
end. This was guaranteed to drive you mad, or so the explanation at the top said.
With only five numbers suggested in a six by six grid, it was an empty
nothingness of possibilities.
it. He placed the numbers in the right squares neatly, efficiently, happy as he
wrote the 2s and the 7s, his favorite numbers.
sound of his voice making Brandon jump.
back on the table, pissed that he had the entire solution in his head, but he
couldn’t complete the puzzle.
those things,” Daniel said, and he looked openly friendly and regretful at the
same time. Reading emotions on faces was something Brandon could do;
understanding the root of the emotions
maybe not so much.
pen. He stood up and nodded some more thanks.
chest, feeling the warmth rising in him that would make his face scarlet in
he finished the really hard puzzle in a few minutes.
man confused him with his friendliness that was edged with something else. What
that extra bit was, Brandon didn’t like to guess at. His sisters would likely
know, but to talk to them about how every time Daniel smiled at him Brandon
went all turned-on and lust-filled would be courting drama.
in his head, the things that had nearly got his sisters killed, that had ended
up killing his friends, Jamie and Michael. And he didn’t want to feel anything
for Daniel. He certainly had no time to mess about and lust after a man who
appeared to take everything incredibly seriously.