Jesse bit back a cry of pain as he reached out to unlock the door to the garage side of Millie’s. His bruised ribs throbbed in agony, and after three abortive tries to get the key in the lock, Luc plucked it from his fingers. “Let me.”
His gravelly baritone thrilled through Jesse, and his knees went weak from more than the beating he’d just taken. Luc’s body heat, so close, warmed Jesse. He regretted the loss of it as the key slid home and the door opened with a snick
. The vast, darkened garage opened up with the familiar, comforting smells of oil and gasoline and grease.
This was Jesse’s true home.
Luc fumbled for a light switch.
“On your left. The small switch in the office.” Jesse didn’t want to turn the lights on to the whole place. Kane didn’t mind if Jesse worked in the wee hours, but the stoic owner would kill him if he ran the electricity bill up too high.
Luc hustled them into the office and managed the switch. The fluorescents gave a metallic tink
, flickered, and then went on. “Here,” he said, reaching for a stool near the scarred counter. He eased Jesse down on it and took a shrewd look at his face.
“You need a hospital.” Luc put his hands on his hips like the burliest, surliest mother hen.
Jesse wiped blood from his split lip. “Probably. Help me to the bathroom, okay? I gotta clean up.”
Luc gave him a disapproving look but got his arm under Jesse and hauled him up. Together, they awkwardly two-stepped it to the tiny bathroom at the corner of the office. Jesse flicked the switch. Rancid yellow light spilled into the tiny room, illuminating the cracked toilet and grimy sink. He looked at himself in the water-stained mirror.
His face was dirty, black and blue. Tiny cuts from falling on the asphalt still oozed blood. A bruise was already forming on his cheekbone where one of the Echelon crew—Miles, he thought—had caught him in the face. Bastards.
He touched the livid skin and winced gingerly. There was no way his father wouldn’t notice.
Derek Hearne was careful never to bruise his son’s face.
Jesse winced again. He had to get home. He groaned, pushed himself away from the sink, and then grabbed the door as he slipped on the wet tiles. Sudden anger swept through him like a wildfire. “God-fucking-damn it!” He yanked the crappy paper towel dispenser off the wall and hurled it into the office. It bounced off the counter, denting both it and the scarred surface, and clattered to the floor.
Breathing hard, his vision going gray around the edges, Jesse slumped down on the toilet seat. As soon as it came, the fight drained out of him. “Damn it. Now I owe Kane for a new dispenser.” He sighed heavily.
Luc stood in the doorway, brooding. He rubbed the back of his neck. “Look, kid—”
“My name’s Jesse.”
“Jesse,” Luc allowed. “You really need to see a doc.”
“Can’t.” Jesse tore off a string of toilet paper and wadded it up. Shakily, he stood and went back to the mirror. It took several swipes with wet toilet paper to wash the grime and blood away. A sluice of dirty crimson rolled around the sink. He washed it away as though he could wash all his pain and suffering away. He stripped off his shirt and wiped his face.
Luc sucked in his breath, and Jesse froze. Shit.
His eyes were wide in the mirror, the eyes of a deer caught in headlights. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.
The welts. He sees the welts.
There was no mistaking the fact that they weren’t the first—raw, red stripes that crisscrossed over old scars. Jesse whirled, putting his back to the wall, and held his damp shirt to his chest.
Luc stepped into the bathroom, his bulk filling up the small space.
Jesse pressed himself against the wall, his heart pounding. “What are you—”
“Who did this to you?”
Jesse swallowed hard around a sudden lump in his throat. Water ran down his skin, startlingly cold in the heat of the night. “No one.”
“Bullshit.” Luc’s face darkened, the face of an avenging angel.
Jesse’s anger flared. Who the hell was Lucifer Angeles to come into his life and tell him how to start living it? That’s not what he’s doing, Jes. He’s just concerned.
“Fuck that,” he spat, embarrassed and angry that Luc should see his imperfections, his scars, his shame on raw display. Jesse’s breath came hard, his fists clenched. He stood up to his full height, only a few inches shorter than Luc. He wasn’t as heavily muscled as Luc, but years of track had honed his body. “Back off, Angeles. It’s none of your goddamn business.”
Like a stubborn mule, Luc set his jaw, and his dark eyes sparked with rage. Instinctively, Jesse cringed back. He waited for Luc to hit him. Like Trace, like Miles. Like his father.
“Jesse.” The name came like a growl from Luc’s throat. He stayed tense, staring Jesse down for long moments, his gaze roving over Jesse’s face to his toned shoulders and the T he clutched like a flimsy shield against his muscular chest.
And then Luc softened. “All right. All right.” He backed down, rubbing the back of his shaved head. “Sorry I got in your face. Tonight’s been kind of…fucked up.” He stepped out of the tiny bathroom and walked to the counter. His work boots were untied, and the laces made little tack, tack, tack
sounds on the dirty tiles.
Jesse lowered his shirt, his hands trembling. As much as he was relieved to be out of Luc’s sight, he was drawn to him. Hastily, Jesse pulled his shirt over his head, the damp cotton sticky against his skin, and followed Luc out of the office and into the garage proper.
Half a dozen bays lay side by side in the garage side of Millie’s Performance Shop. The dull light from the office only spilled halfway across the cavernous space. Luc meandered and stopped near a vintage Camaro ZL1 in its bay, its new paint gleaming steel-blue. One of the Echelon’s cars. Jesse sighed. He’d never have a ride like that. He thought of his Honda Civic sitting at home, the body a piece of junk, the pistons fried.
“Why did you really turn me away?” Jesse hadn’t meant to ask the question, but it was out there now. No turning back. No backing down. He’d backed down enough tonight. He had the bruises to prove it.
Luc leaned on the bay wall, clearly pretending to be interested in the Camaro. “Did you paint this?”
“Yeah. It’s cerulean-steel number fifteen,” Jesse said automatically and then pushed. “I asked you a question.”
Luc turned, his face hardening, and Jesse could see all his walls going up. “I already told you, Copper-boy. If you want to hang with the Angels, your ride’s gotta be pretty enough for God and faster than the devil.”
From anyone else, the line would have sounded cheesy. Coming from Luc, though…the way his rich and resonant voice laced every word in a poetic cadence… Just the sound of it sent shivers of pleasure racing through Jesse.
Luc fired off a question of his own. “Why do you want to be in the Angels so bad anyway? You’ve got an actual future, don’t you? Daddy gonna get you into the police academy?”
Anger sweeping through him, Jesse took a step toward Luc. “I can get myself in, asshole. I don’t need anyone’s help. Just like I didn’t need anyone’s help to trick out my car and beat those other guys.” He looked Luc up and down, letting disdain show on his face. “At least I’m not some rich bitch in a fancy ride my daddy paid for.”
Luc’s face went dark then. He stepped in, chest to chest with Jesse. “You don’t know a thing about me, Copper-boy.”
“Don’t I?” Jesse said, his face inches from Luc’s. They were close now, so close they were sharing hot, panting breaths, staring each other down, heat in their eyes. Jesse pushed in, and Luc stepped back, grabbing Jesse’s T with one hand. Jesse let out a small, tortured gasp, and Luc’s nostrils flared as though he scented Jesse’s need.
And oh, God, Jesse needed
Luc’s hand bunched in Jesse’s shirt made him hot, his jeans suddenly stretched tight over his throbbing erection. The smell of grease and sweat and masculine strength so close was a heady lure. He wanted to caress Luc’s biceps, wanted to lick the sweat off his chest. Heat flared across his skin, and suddenly, every inch of him was sweating, sweltering. Why the fuck doesn’t Kane ever open the windows?
Jesse licked his lips. He liked this side of Luc—hot and headstrong where he was usually cool and distant. Jesse wanted Luc to lose control. “Yeah,” he said, his voice rough, his gaze on Luc’s lips. He pitched his voice to taunt. “You’re a rich frat boy like those Echelon losers.”
Their eyes met, and Jesse saw the truth in Luc’s—the lust.
With a growl, Luc turned Jesse and threw him against the Camaro.
A startled “Oof!
” escaped Jesse as the air went out of him, his hands scrabbling for purchase against the car hood. And then Luc was on him, the length of his body pressed hot against Jesse’s back. His hands were on Jesse’s shoulders. Jesse fought back, squirming, holding onto the hood for all he was worth. They struggled, their bodies writhing against each other, T-shirts riding up, skin sweat-flushed, muscles straining.
For a moment, Jesse thought Luc would drag him off and punch him in the jaw, and then he felt Luc’s hips against his ass, the unmistakable rock-hardness of his cock rubbing up against Jesse.
Jesse moaned—he couldn’t stop himself—as all his dirty fantasies came to life. His cock instantly hard, he ground his ass back, trying to goad Luc on. Jesse needed. God, he needed
. Luc held him now, his big meaty hands on Jesse’s wrists. Jesse had never been restrained before, but he thrilled at being under Luc’s control, that heavy, muscled body pressing him against the front quarter panel of the Camaro, his cock trapped, dangerously hard in his jeans.
Panting, Jesse rolled his hips, the desperate friction of Luc’s cock against his ass awakening lusts he’d never dared explore. His stripes throbbed at the contact with Luc’s chest; his bruises ached, the fresh ones stabbing a delicious pain into him.
What the fuck is wrong with me?
Whatever it was—lust, desire, a need to feel something other than pain—it seemed to have infected Luc too. He groaned, his grunts hot on Jesse’s neck. He humped roughly against Jesse’s ass, his breath growing ragged as he held Jesse down, his body straining.
“Fuck!” Luc’s tortured shout cut the air. He gave three hard pumps that rocked Jesse against the car, and then with a frustrated moan, he pulled back. He grabbed Jesse and turned him, their faces inches away.
Jesse gazed up into those dark, expressive eyes. Luc trembled, uncertainty stamped on his handsome face, his conflict, his desire, his need on beautiful display. Jesse licked his lips. Fuck it.
He leaned up, brushing his mouth against Luc’s.
Luc jerked back as if stung. He slammed Jesse back down so hard the Camaro rocked on its blocks. “I’m not gay.” He straightened, breathing hard, his fists clenched.
Jesse rolled off the car, his body aching and his heart battered. He shot a glance at Luc’s cargoes straining over the bulge of his erection. “Could’ve fooled me.”