- Author: Amber Skyze
- Genre:Mystery & Suspense, LGBTTQ, Contemporary
- Cover Artist: Ginny Glass
Someone is killing prostitutes and Grant Wesson has been assigned to find out who the killer is. Problem is he just came out to his best friend and partner. Ralph didn't take it so well, so Grant's been reassigned to the new kid on the block, Parker Townsend.
Parker is young, sexy and very much in the closet. Grant fights the growing attraction he's feeling for his new partner, until Parker changes things up. He wants to break the rules and have sex with his new partner.
Against his better judgment, Grant agrees. It's the hottest sex either of them has ever had, but it's a distraction. The killer has Grant in his sights. Parker promises to protect him, but it's his heart that needs protecting.
- Note:This book contains explicit sexual situations, graphic language, and material that some readers may find objectionable: male/male sexual practices.
He tugged on the collar of his button-down shirt. The tie he wore stifled him. Sweat beaded on his upper lip. Grant fought the urge to wipe it on his sleeve. The perspiration on his forehead increased as his heart raced.
Am I having a heart attack?
Grant covered his chest with his hand. He needed to calm down.
“For Christ’s sake, it’s only Ralph,” he said to the empty room. Who was he fooling? Ralph scared the shit out of him. Yes, they’d been partners for nearly ten years, but Ralph carried such a hatred for “their type.”
For years Grant had listened to Ralph talk about how much he loathed gays and how sick he was of them demanding equal rights. He recalled a conversation where Ralph pulled out his gun, an evil look in his deep brown eyes, and pointed it at an empty space. He’d pretended to pull the trigger and said if he weren’t a cop, he’d shoot a few of them just to scare them straight.
A chill passed through his body just thinking about that day.
“I’ve got to be a fucking fool.” He dragged his fingers through his hair, knowing the gelled look was ruined.
“Fool for what?”
Grant spun around, surprised to see Ralph behind him. He hadn’t heard him enter the room. How long had he been standing there? Had he said anything that would reveal what he was about to confess? The air grew heavy; the walls seemed to draw closer. Grant felt a panic attack coming on.
He walked over to the table and took a seat.
“You don’t look so good, partner. Are you sick?”
Was he sick? Possibly.
“Is it hot in here?”
Ralph shrugged. “The air seems to be working.”
Grant struggled to breathe. He slowly took a deep breath.
“Do you need me to call medical? You don’t look so hot. You’re white as a ghost.”
Somehow Grant felt that was an understatement. He felt physically ill. Nausea rolled in his stomach, threatening to charge up and out his mouth.
“I’ll be okay in a minute.” He needed water. “Just give me a sec.”
“Sure.” Ralph took a seat and tapped his hands on the table.
Grant shook his head. Ralph was always a restless person. He tapped his hands on his legs or on the dashboard if he wasn’t driving. It surprised Grant that Ralph wasn’t a beat officer. Walking the streets would give him the opportunity to get the excess energy out.
After a few deep breaths, his nerves started to subside. He had to get this off his chest and tell Ralph the truth. In the end he prayed it would be all right. They were not only partners; they were friends.
Grant slapped the table louder than he expected.
“Shit, if you wanted my attention, you could’ve cleared your throat or something,” Ralph said.
“Now you have my full attention. What’s this meeting all about?”
The time had arrived. Grant had dreaded this moment for the last ten years but knew he couldn’t keep the information from his partner another day.
Here goes nothing.
“I’m gay,” Grant said.
“Ha-ha. What, am I being punked or something?” Ralph looked around the room as if he expected a camera crew to pop out of the corners.
He looked at Ralph, the guy who had protected him many times over the last ten years. The image of Ralph standing over him while he bled from a gunshot wound came to the forefront. Ralph had given him words of encouragement while holding the bleeding wound on Grant’s leg. Ralph had kept Grant calm through the pain, and damn it had been painful. That was the first time he’d been shot. Grant had had a few superficial wounds over the years. Par for the course when one was a police officer. Ralph, on the other hand, had always been the lucky one. He’d never experienced what it felt like to be shot.
Ralph stared at Grant. “What the fuck? Where are the cameras?”
“You’re not being punked. I’m being serious, Ralph.”
“What are you fucking talking about? Are you saying you’ve just discovered you’re gay? ’Cause if that’s what you’re trying to tell me, you’re fucking wrong. I’ve known you all these years, and you ain’t queer.”
Grant lowered his head. He hadn’t expected Ralph to be in denial. He wasn’t sure how he’d take it, but denial wasn’t what he expected.
“I am.” Grant straightened his posture and looked Ralph squarely in the eyes. “I’m one hundred percent homosexual. I didn’t just discover this, Ralph. I have been gay all my life.”
Ralph flew out of his chair. “Now I know I’m being punked. Where are the cameras?”
Grant watched in horror as Ralph frantically searched for hidden cameras. He didn’t ignore the urge to wipe the sweat from his forehead. He used his sleeve to remove the beaded perspiration. Bile rose to the base of his throat. He wondered if he’d made a mistake telling Ralph.
“There are none, Ralph. I’m tired of hiding my sexuality. You’re the first person in the department I’m telling. I felt, seeing as you are my partner, you deserved to hear it firsthand from me.”
“You’re fucking serious?”
He looked to his partner only to be met with piercing brown eyes. A chill passed through Grant’s body. He’d never seen such an evil look from Ralph in his life.
He hated Grant now.
“Look, I know this is difficult for you to understand, but I don’t see how this changes anything.”
“You don’t? Are you fucking stupid on top of being queer? I don’t like your kind. I’ve told you this many times over. Apparently I haven’t made myself clear. You’re a fucking faggot, and I want nothing to do with you.” With that Ralph stormed out the room, practically knocking over one of the new detectives, Parker Sloane.
“Is everything okay in here?” Parker asked. “We can hear you guys screaming a mile away.”
“Don’t get too close, Parker…the cop’s a faggot.”
Grant shook his head. So much for keeping it under wraps until he had a chance to talk to people personally. Grant had hoped to hold a forum and tell his colleagues the truth about his sexuality, but with Ralph screaming obscenities in the office, everyone knew.
When Grant caught the look on Parker’s face, he slumped over the table, crossed his arms, and buried his head. The look of fear shook Grant to his core. The detective was gay and feared for his anonymity.
“What just happened in here?” Parker asked.
“I believe everyone has the right to be true to themselves, so I told my partner I’m gay. He didn’t take it too well.” Grant’s gaze landed on Parker again. Grant knew without a doubt that the younger cop was gay. The softness in his eyes and the clothing was impeccable—not even a hint of a wrinkle. The way Parker carried himself with a gentle manner gave it away too. If those things hadn’t given him pause, the fear in Parker’s eyes did. He’d seen that look before. Fear of being discovered. Grant’s heart went out to him. He knew all too well the anxiety it caused. The poor guy, he had a long road ahead of him. Parker stood with his hand on the doorknob looking like a trapped rat in a cage, probably wondering if he’d be called out on his sexuality.
Parker shivered. Did he fear the wrath of the guys? Grant was tired of hiding his sexuality and felt coming out would be for the best, and though he wouldn’t out anyone, he wanted others to feel safe enough to share their sexuality. In this day and age, there was no reason to hide. Marriage between those of the same sex was slowly becoming legal, and the military had started openly accepting gays, so why shouldn’t he feel free to express his sexuality? Even though he was in a profession notorious for its homophobia, Grant felt it was time to step up for his fellow officers who were in the same position as him.
The words pulled Grant from his thoughts. Ralph was still spewing venom.
“I want the room to know that I had no idea that my partner was a fucking homo. I’m more disgusted than the rest of you. I feel sick knowing I’ve been partnered up with a fucking faggot all these years. I want nothing to do with Grant Matteson. He can go get queer with someone else.”
The room erupted with Oh my Gods and Jesus Christs.
It took a few minutes, but Parker eventually released the doorknob and left. He did so quietly, his head hung low.
“You okay, Parker?” he called out as Parker walked away.
If he’d heard Grant, he ignored him and left without saying a word.
Alone, Grant raked his fingers through his hair.
He blew out deep breaths and wiped the sweat from his forehead.
Yes, he knew there might be some backlash from his confession, but he hadn’t expected the whole force to learn from Ralph spewing words of hate. He wondered if anyone would come to his defense and stand by him.
“Chief wants you in his office.” Parker barged through the door, out of breath. “Now.”
“Sure.” He was screwed. The chief wanting to see him wasn’t a good sign.
Grant dragged his heavy feet across the room, passing by all the guys who’d just learned that he was a homosexual. Some guys shrugged helplessly; others averted their eyes, afraid to make eye contact with the fag.
Please dear God, don’t let the chief do anything drastic to me for coming out. It was my right.
Shit, he’d failed to tell the chief his plans prior to the meeting. He silently prayed that wouldn’t cause him more trouble.
He knocked on the chief’s door.
“Come in,” Heslin called.
The doorknob moved too easily as Grant tried to delay his meeting. He swung the door open and was relieved to find Heslin alone. He hadn’t known what to expect. Part of him felt Ralph might be in there demanding a new partner. It was still a possibility, but for now that didn’t appear to be the reason he was being called in there.
“Take a seat, Matteson.”
In that moment Grant was brought back to his days in high school when he’d get into trouble for being the class clown and sent to the principal’s office. Grant felt like that teenage kid again, ready to be sentenced to detention. Only now his crime was a bit worse. He wasn’t clowning around. The world had found out he liked men instead of women.
God, it frustrated the hell out of him how many people got freaked out when they witnessed two men or two women together. He knew it came from the unknown and most being taught that a relationship consisted of a man and woman. Times had changed. Men and women were free to be who they truly were, and Grant had decided he wanted to exercise his right.
He had, and now he was in the proverbial principal’s office about to get his hands slapped for being honest with his colleagues.
Grant held his breath as he sat in the chair in front of the chief’s desk. Papers were strewn across the top. A little lamp lit up a portion of the desk. Grant noticed the empty coffee cups strewn all over the desk. Chief Heslin didn’t look at Grant. He shuffled a few papers around, appearing distracted and less than thrilled to be dealing with Grant.
Finally the chief dropped the papers, slapped his hands on the desk, and looked him square in the eyes.
“We have an issue, Matteson.”
Okay, he’s well aware of the issue. It’s time to face the music.
If Heslin thought he’d fire or put him on administrative leave, he was dead wrong. Grant was prepared for a fight if that was what he was faced with. Grant knew his rights, and being singled out because of his sexuality was a lawsuit waiting to happen.
“I know, sir.” No sense in denying it. He caused the issue, and now he was ready to face reality.
“Yes. I didn’t think it would take long for word to get to you, sir. So how do we handle this?”
“I’m not sure we’re talking about the same thing, Matteson.”
“Sorry, sir. What are you talking about?” Grant felt a temporary reprieve. If they weren’t talking about the same thing, maybe Ralph took off to handle his anger in a different way. That would be a relief. He’d get a reprieve from all the nasty words he’d been spewing. Grant dreaded the idea of losing his partner and having to start all over with a new one. It would be tough, and he hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
“I’m talking about a possible serial killer. What are you talking about?”
“Nothing, sir. What’s this about a serial killer?” No sense causing the chief added frustrations if there was a serial killer on the loose. He obviously had enough to deal with.
“At first we thought someone was just randomly killing prostitutes here and there. We thought maybe a few pimps were pissed off and went a little far with their anger. Now it’s become obvious that it’s a serial killer. The MO appears to be the same. The women are used for their sex, tied up, and then injected with enough antifreeze to kill a horse. Then their bodies are dumped over on Ninth Street.”
“Christ, that’s got to be a horrifying way to die.”
“To say the least. While it’s a quick death, it’s far from painless. They can suffer from seizures, accelerated heart rate, vomiting…and if they’re tied up, they’ll likely choke on that. The women on the street are terrified.”
“Rightly so.” Someone killing their friends would give them ample reason to be afraid. “So how can I help?”
“I want my best on this case. Consider yourself and Ralph assigned.”
“Have you spoken with Ralph in the last thirty minutes, sir?” This was exactly what he needed right now to keep his mind off things, but spending that much time in a car with Ralph seemed highly unlikely. The case would give Grant the distraction he needed from the precinct. Spending time away from the men and women might give them the opportunity to absorb what Ralph said and figure things out.
“No, he’s nowhere to be found. I’ve been waiting for him to walk through the door. I decided to brief you first. I figured you could fill him in.”
“Highly unlikely, sir.”
“Out with it, Matteson. If my two finest are fighting, I need you guys to figure it out and move past it. I don’t have time for baby games.”
Grant knew he’d pissed off the boss. Already treading on thin ice, he hesitated telling him the truth but knew he had no other choice.
“This isn’t a game, sir. I…uh…uh, I just told Ralph that I’m gay, and let’s just say he didn’t take it very well.”
“Oh for cryin’ out loud, Grant. Did you really have to choose today to come out of the closet?”
“I didn’t realize today would be a bad day, Chief.”
“That’s not what I meant. Look, I have no issues with your sexuality. Christ, it’s just that today of all days, I need my two best guys. That’s you and Ralph.”
“I’m afraid Ralph can’t stand the sight of me right now. In fact, I believe his exact words were ‘fuckin’ faggot.’” Grant regretted the words once they were out. He didn’t want Ralph to get in trouble, but he also needed the chief to understand the severity of their situation.
“Shit. This is not good. Let me talk to him and see what we can do.”
Grant nodded and silently left. He knew Ralph would tell Heslin to go to hell. Grant had listened and cringed each time Ralph had ranted and raved over the years about his hatred for gays. Yes, he secretly hoped that Ralph would make an exception for him, but it was evident that wasn’t going to happen.
Ralph pushed past Grant as he left the office, slamming his shoulder against Grant’s arm. He ignored the pain radiating through him. He bit back the curse that hung on the tip of his tongue. Grant had to be the bigger man in this situation. If he stooped to Ralph’s level, he’d only encourage the people with phobias.
Grant returned to his desk. Someone thought it would be funny to post pictures of a bunch of young guys all over. They were taped to his phone, his lamp, and even a few of his file folders. Grant shook his head. It wasn’t going to get easier anytime soon. It looked like the department planned to make his life a living hell.
“Funny. Real funny,” he called out, waving the folder with a hot young blond on the cover.
Susy walked over and pulled each picture off. She waved them up in the air.
“Who stole my guys? I’ll break the fingers of the next guy who steals pictures off my desk.” She winked at Grant.
He couldn’t help but smile. She’d come to his rescue. She hadn’t turned her back on him.
“Thanks,” he whispered.
“Anytime. You don’t deserve this. They shouldn’t judge a person by his sexuality.”
Grant sighed. Finally. This was the reaction he’d been hoping for. It was a bit delayed, but very welcomed right now.
She patted his hand. “It will get better. You’ve known these guys for a very long time. Some are manly men. I get what you’re going through, and maybe someday others will appreciate your honesty.”
“I hope you’re right. I’m worried about Ralph. He’s really pissed. I’m not sure what he’s going to do at this point. He’s in Heslin’s office now.”
“I’m sure he just needs time. Everyone needs time. We’re cops. We’re a tough bunch. When people think about being gay, they think weak and sissy. I’m not trying to hurt your feelings, but that’s the truth.”
Grant looked around the room. No one paid attention to him and Susy. They were busy doing their own thing. That alone was a good sign. He wasn’t being stared at like some freak.
“I appreciate your pep talk. It means a lot to me.”
“Hey, I can understand them needing time to figure things out, but this is just not acceptable.” She held up the pictures.
He nodded. “No. I never expected them to go this far. I can’t imagine who did it, and honestly I don’t want to know. I just want to put this all behind me.”
The phone on his desk rang.
“You get that and don’t worry about the guys.”
Grant watched Susy walk away back to her desk. Thank God he had someone on his side.
“Matteson,” he said, answering his phone.
“Get in my office now.” A dial tone buzzed in his ear.
“Great.” He could only imagine what the conversation had been like with Ralph. He knew from the tone of the chief’s voice things were not good. Ralph probably told the chief he wouldn’t be seen with him out on the streets.
How could so much hatred come from one admission? Susy was right; he’d known these guys for many years. Ten to be exact. Some were newer, and some were older, but he’d come on the force a nineteen-year-old rookie. They’d welcomed him with open arms. He’d been immediately assigned to Ralph. Ralph was five years older than him and had been married with two small children at the time Grant joined. Their age difference hadn’t mattered. They’d still bonded, and that hadn’t wavered until today. Now it seemed their once-strong friendship was forever damaged.
Grant took a deep breath and headed back to the boss’s office. He knocked and entered without waiting to be asked in. He was expected. Another surprise awaited him when he entered the room. Ralph stood over to the left of the chief. He had his arms crossed over his chest and a look of disgust on his face. That didn’t surprise him. The presence of Parker was what took him aback.
Parker sat in one of the two chairs.
“Sit.” The chief pointed to the other empty chair.
Grant didn’t hesitate. He sat and crossed his arms.
“I’m not in the mood to deal with the present situation. There are too many other important issues that need this department’s attention. So in the interest of this department, I’m going to partner Ralph up with Stanley, and since Parker hasn’t been paired up yet, he’s going to work closely with you, Grant.”
Grant cringed. He knew Parker was gay, and the kid was still in the closet. The last place he wanted to be was driving around with Grant.
“I’m not sure this is a good idea, Chief.”
“Sounds perfect to me,” Ralph said. Disgust dripped from every word.
Ralph definitely didn’t want anything to do with Grant, and as far as he was concerned, Grant being stuck with the new kid was perfect.
“Chief, do I get a say in this?” Parker asked.
Great, no one wants to be partnered with me? I’m really the leper of the department.
Bile rose up his throat to the back of his mouth. Could this get any worse?
“No! You two get moving and find the serial killer. Just be advised that Ralph and Stanley will be doing their own investigation too.”
Ralph mumbled something, but Grant couldn’t understand him. It was just as well. He’d likely said something offensive, and Grant didn’t need any more harsh remarks from his friend.
No matter how Ralph felt, Grant still considered him a friend. He understood his anger and would give him time to come to terms with everything.
“What are you all waiting for? Get the hell out of my office and out on the streets.”
“Yes, sir.” Ralph charged out of the office.
Parker looked to Grant. “We better get going.”
Grant stood and looked at the chief. “I’m sorry, sir.”
“Just catch me a killer.”
He didn’t look up from the paperwork. Grant hadn’t expected him to. He didn’t want to address Grant’s confession right now. He wanted to push it to the side and deal with it later. This wasn’t the first time a person had done that to him, and it wouldn’t be the last, but they’d have to discuss the problem in the end. There was no two ways about it. He and Ralph would have to face the facts too. It was only a matter of time.
“Let’s go, Parker. I guess you’re stuck with me.”
Copyright © Amber Skyze
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