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Scandal Fever

Hunter Raines

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Flamboyant reality TV star Gavin Cox has a reputation for partying, dirty dancing, and taking hot men into his bed. But his inability to remember what happened the night his cast mate was murdered, combined with a terrifying home ...
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Flamboyant reality TV star Gavin Cox has a reputation for partying, dirty dancing, and taking hot men into his bed. But his inability to remember what happened the night his cast mate was murdered, combined with a terrifying home invasion, yanks him off the party circuit and brings him firmly under the protective custody of detective Rob Turner.

Keeping Gavin under police protection may be nothing but a ruse cooked up by Rob's sergeant to placate the media and the Chief of Police, but Rob takes his duties seriously. He needs to learn whether Gavin is a suspect, a victim, or a witness. Yet the only way to get those answers is to get extremely close to a man who tests every one of Rob's boundaries, and makes him want to give in to the desires he's been hiding his whole life.

As their forced proximity brings the passion simmering between them to a boiling point, the risk of scandal threatens Rob's job, his family, and his way of life. But it's Gavin's life who might end too soon… because to keep Gavin from remembering what he saw, a murderer is determined to silence him forever.

  • Note:This book contains explicit sexual situations, graphic language, and material that some readers may find objectionable: male/male sexual practices, violence.
“You’re kidding.” Mitch wrung his hands and gaped at Gavin. “I mean, you have to be kidding; otherwise you’re just trying to give me a heart attack. And you’d never do that to me, would you, Gav? You’re my best client. I love you like a son.”

Gavin laid a hand on Mitch’s shoulder. “Spare me the adoration, and listen, all right? The cops want to interview everyone who was at Red last night. I came in voluntarily. How would it look if I showed up with a lawyer in tow?”

The lawyer in question, Peter King, cleared his throat. With his dark skin, black hair, and brown eyes, he looked like he’d been sculpted out of a chocolate mold. The perfectly tailored suit made him appear even more edible. Too bad he was so stuffy. Definitely not Gavin’s type.

“It would look as though you were exercising your right to counsel,” Peter said. “It’s a smart move.”

Gavin shook his head. He’d driven down to the Las Vegas Metro Police Department headquarters as soon as Mitch had called to let him know the police wanted to talk to him. The last thing he needed after vomiting on live TV was for the paparazzi to get pictures of him being escorted downtown in a squad car. But now Mitch was frantically insisting that Gavin needed to take Peter along. Gavin figured he was just doing what agents always do when their clients find themselves anywhere near the wrong end of the law—panicking.

“I don’t want a lawyer. I don’t need a lawyer.” He hoped.

“I worry about you.” Mitch puffed out a breath. Beads of sweat gathered at his temples and matted strands of his bad comb-over against his pasty scalp. His blue eyes shone with genuine concern. “That fiasco on TV this morning has everyone talking.”

“Yeah, well, you’d have puked too, if an asshole like Eric Munda hit you with news like that in front of a live studio audience.” He didn’t tell Mitch that his revulsion had more to do with the graphic imagery that had flashed before his eyes than anything Munda had said. The picture he’d conjured up had been gruesome and unexpected. Just thinking about Darius’s blood-soaked corpse caused a whole body shiver to run through him, like someone slipped an ice cube down the back of his shirt. Clearly too much booze, too little sleep, and a vivid imagination just didn’t mix.

“You’re not acting like yourself, and I don’t think this is the right time for a police interview.” Mitch mopped his brow with his shirtsleeve.

“So when is the right time? Tomorrow? The day after? When Darius’s killer is long gone?”

“But—”

“No, Mitch. Enough.” At the crestfallen look that passed over Mitch’s face, Gavin sighed. “If it’ll make you feel better, you can wait here with Peter. If I decide I need him, I’ll call for him, all right?”

Mitch looked like he was about to argue, but then pursed his lips and nodded.

Relieved, Gavin turned to Peter. The three of them stood in a small room inside the LVMPD headquarters building. The officer who’d led them inside told them they’d have privacy there, and let Gavin know he’d be waiting just outside the door when they were done.

Gavin thought they’d just about said all they needed to say to each other, but Mitch’s misery tugged at his heart. He sighed, and despite the weight that had been pressing down on him ever since he’d heard the news about Darius, he summoned up a grin and a saucy wink and directed both at Peter. “I’ll expect a bill for your time. You might want to deliver it in person. You know, in case you’d like to negotiate an exchange of services.”

Peter chuckled and shook his head. “You’re incorrigible.”

“That’s the idea.” He glanced at Mitch, who looked somewhat mollified after observing the exchange. If watching Gavin live up to his reputation of unashamed flirt kept him from worrying himself into a heart attack, well, that was the least Gavin could do.

Outside the waiting officer nodded, then turned right without a word. Gavin fell into step behind him as they walked down a brightly lit hallway. Three doors down from where they’d been, he stopped and gestured inside a dark room. “You can wait in there.”

Overhead lights flickered on when Gavin stepped inside, and he found himself standing in an interrogation room like many he’d seen on TV. A long metal table took up most of the space. One metal chair sat at each of the three sides of the table. The side at the far end of the room was empty. Huge mirrors stretched the entire length of two walls, and a camera hovered in a corner of the ceiling.

Gavin sank into one of the chairs, where he remained sitting, by himself, for the next half hour.

He stared at his own haggard reflection in the mirror, but he’d watched enough cop shows to know he wasn’t alone. No doubt someone observed him from the other side. They wanted to let him stew, make him nervous, cause him to think about the events that had led him here.

And that was the problem. Try as he might, he couldn’t remember a thing.

By the time the door finally opened, Gavin’s back was stiff, and his legs ached. He’d refused to give whoever was watching the satisfaction of seeing him pace, so he’d sat there, statue-still, until someone came for him.

“Gavin Cox, I’m Detective Turner, and this is Detective Patterson. We’d like to ask you a few questions.”

The man who’d spoken was tall, maybe about six-one. His deep voice made Gavin’s stomach clench, and not entirely as a result of the detective’s intimidating stance. He looked to be in his late twenties, or maybe early thirties. His dark brown eyes seemed to see straight into Gavin’s soul, while his full lips pressed down into a thin line. He sported some stubble, maybe two days’ worth, which only added to his appeal. His brown hair looked disheveled, and Gavin’s fingertips itched with the need to tuck a stray strand behind the detective’s ear.

He sucked in a breath. Get a grip. You flirt with this guy, and he’ll throw your ass in jail so fast you won’t know what hit you. Look at him. The guy’s gotta be as straight as the board he’s got rammed up his butt.

Properly chastised by his own common sense—such as it was—Gavin forced himself to hold the detective’s gaze. “Questions, huh? And I thought I was here for a pedicure.”

Neither detective cracked so much as a smile. The other guy, Patterson, had to be in his sixties. His craggy skin looked leathery and wrinkled, like he’d spent too much time in the sun. But his blue eyes were alert and intelligent, and Gavin had the sudden feeling this guy was damn good at his job.

Turner pulled out the chair on the other side of Gavin and sat. Patterson remained standing.

“Where were you last night between the hours of midnight and four a.m.?”

Gavin sighed. “If you didn’t already know that, Detective, I wouldn’t be sitting here. I was at Red, along with the rest of my castmates.”

“What time did you arrive?”

Now that much, at least, he remembered. “A little after eleven.”

“Alone?”

“Yes. Some of the cast members had a viewing party earlier that night at Hudson’s, a restaurant Paula’s father owns. I didn’t want to go.”

“So you passed up an excuse to start the party early?” Turner leaned back in his chair and frowned. “Now why would you do a thing like that?”

Gavin bristled at the judgmental tone in the detective’s voice. He wasn’t about to admit that lately, he’d grown a little tired of the endless parties, the constant mob of people surrounding him, the same old gossip about who was screwing whom making up the bulk of his dinner conversations. “I wasn’t feeling well.”

Turner lifted an eyebrow. “Did you drive yourself to the club?”

“No. I knew I’d be drinking. I have a limo company on standby, and they sent a driver. You can check with them, or ask any of the paparazzi staked out around my house.”

Turner pulled a small notebook out of his jacket pocket and jotted something down. “And you went straight to the exclusive area upstairs?”

Gavin nodded. “We all did. It’s safer for us up there.”

Patterson shot him an irritated look. “Wasn’t so safe for Darius Walker, now, was it?”

Gavin didn’t know if Patterson had taken the role of bad cop, or if he was just a genuine asshole. “Look, Darius was my friend, all right? I’m sorry he’s dead. And I’m sorry I can’t help you catch whoever did this.”

Turner fixed Gavin with a glare that made him want to shrink back in his seat. “And why wouldn’t you help us, Mr. Cox?”

“Because I don’t remember, okay?” The truth exploded out of him much louder than he’d intended. His words echoed back at him off the bare walls. “I got drunk. Really, really drunk.” He lifted a shoulder in a half shrug and dropped his gaze, no longer able to meet Turner’s eyes. “It’s kinda what we do, what we’re known for on TV.”

Patterson grunted, making his distaste clear. “Getting drunk and acting stupid. Hell of a way to make a living.”

Normally, Gavin would defend the show that had made him an overnight celebrity, but today he didn’t have the strength to argue. He closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose, willing his useless brain to recall as much of last night’s events as possible. When he conjured another image of the gruesome corpse, he shuddered and forced himself to focus on something else. “I remember the vodka shooters. I remember talking to Paula, drinking with Max, and I remember Darius.” A smile touched his lips. “We danced together, for at least two songs.”

Darius was the only other gay member of the cast. Although he wasn’t Gavin’s type—he was much too serious and ambitious, despite all the partying—they sometimes fooled around and put on a show for the television cameras. And when those weren’t rolling, fans were always around. A YouTube video was sometimes just as good for publicity as the real thing.

“So then what?” Patterson leaned against the two-way mirror and crossed his arms over his chest. “A dance wasn’t good enough for you, huh? You wanted to get your rocks off, so you took him to the john, maybe yanked on his dick a little, he rejected you, and you stabbed him to death. Is that how it went down?”

“What?” Gavin recoiled from the grisly image Patterson painted. “No! Hell, no! I told you, I don’t remember. The night is a blur. I was dancing, having a hell of a good time, and the next thing I know I’m curled up next to the bar in a fetal position.” He frowned. “I woke up clutching my cell phone. I needed to make a call, but I don’t remember why, or who I wanted to reach. Anyway, the club was closing; people were heading out. I shuffled out after Paula and stumbled into my limo. The driver took me home.”

Turner blew out a breath. “Well, that’s rather convenient, isn’t it? You black out, your friend gets killed, and you go home to sleep it off. How nice for you.”

Gavin’s smile was strained at the edges, and he couldn’t muster enough energy to hold it in place. “Not so nice, no. I couldn’t sleep off a fucking thing because I had an interview early this morning. Maybe you’ve heard about it. I puked all over the interviewer when he told me about Darius.”

“I don’t watch much TV.”

“Your loss.” Gavin picked a fleck of invisible lint off his black T-shirt. “There’s some good stuff on there.”

“Like your ridiculous show?”

“Well, yeah.” He lifted his head and squared his shoulders. “I can see what you think of me, Detective. But Hot Stuff resonates with people. That’s why they watch.”

“They watch because the whole world’s turned voyeuristic, that’s why. Everyone’s got scandal fever.” Patterson made a sound of disgust. “Peeping Toms in the making, the lot of them. And you and your queer buddies give them debauched crap to gape at, night after night. I bet you just love turning good people into faggots and idiots just like you.”

Turner tapped his pen against the edge of his notebook and cleared his throat. “When you saw Darius, how did he seem to you?” His attempt to change the subject wasn’t lost on Gavin, and he was grateful for a distraction from Patterson’s tirade. “Did he look worried? Scared? Was he different in any way?”

He focused on Turner’s eyes. A jolt of heat ran through his veins as their gazes met, held. “Not that I can remember. He was drinking and laughing. He talked about this show he wanted to produce, but that was Darius, always with the new ideas, trying to come up with the next big thing. He wasn’t happy to just be doing this, like the rest of us. He wanted to plan for his future.”

“Do you know anything about those plans? Anything that might have gotten him killed?”

Gavin though about the question for a minute, then hung his head. “I usually tuned out when Darius talked about his schemes. They didn’t include me.”

“And that upset you, didn’t it?” Patterson moved away from the mirror and then splayed his hands on the metal table as he leaned toward Gavin. “Darius Walker wanted to move on, and he wasn’t willing to take you with him. That must have pissed you off something fierce.”

Gavin turned away from Patterson’s piercing gaze. He looked past Turner, at his own reflection in the two-way mirror. This morning’s makeup session might as well have been a lifetime ago. His eyeliner had smeared around his eyes, giving him a raccoon look he never allowed while he was sober. His skin was ashen, his eyes bloodshot, and the spikes in his hair had begun to droop. He looked downright pathetic and felt worse.

“I didn’t kill Darius,” Gavin said softly to no one in particular.

“How do you know?” Patterson asked. “You just said you don’t remember anything about those few hours at the club.”

“I’d remember something like that.” He looked down at his hands, clenched and unclenched his fingers. Patterson had said Darius had been stabbed. Surely he wouldn’t forget the feel of a knife gripped in his fist, or plunging it into a man’s flesh. Yet the picture of Darius’s body was so startling, so vivid. Could he have…? “No! No way.”

“We’ll need the clothes you were wearing last night, Mr. Cox.”

“No problem.” He’d shed them on the bedroom floor before changing into something more suitable for a TV interview. His housekeeper came in once a week, but she wasn’t due until the day after tomorrow. The leather pants and fitted sequin-covered tank he’d worn to the club would still be right where he’d left them.

Turner and Patterson exchanged a look. Patterson gave a small nod.

“All right, Mr. Cox, you’re free to go.” Turner tucked the notepad back into his pocket. “I’ll send an officer to pick up those clothes.”

Gavin rose, and his stiff legs ached in protest. God, what he wouldn’t give for a hot shower and a good night’s sleep.

Patterson didn’t bother with good-byes as he left the room. No Have a nice day, no Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Though that last one was probably implied.

Turner paused at the door and turned back to Gavin. Their gazes met again, and Gavin’s breath caught in his throat.

Clearly, there was something else the detective wanted to say. Would he apologize to Gavin for Patterson’s behavior? Promise he’d do everything in his power to find Darius’s killer? Request an autograph? Ask for a date?

Before Gavin’s fantasies could spin entirely out of control, Turner cleared his throat. “Don’t leave town,” he said.

Copyright © Hunter Raines

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