Authors: Josh Lanyon
Loose Id, LLC
This e-book contains sexually explicit scenes and adult language and may be considered offensive to some readers. Loose Id e-books are for sale to adults ONLY, as defined by the laws of the country in which you made your purchase. Please store your files wisely, where they cannot be accessed by under-aged readers.
This e-book is a work of fiction. While reference might be made to actual historical events or existing locations, the names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Loose Id LLC
870 Market St, Suite 1201
San Francisco CA 94102-2907
The moon was enormous—ripe, red-gold, hanging low in the sky. From the flowering jacaranda, the mockingbird was scolding.
Chjjjj ... chjjjj ... chewk.
Peter stumbled up the brick path. His foot caught and he went down, on his knees, breathing hard. His hands were white blurs on the warm stone. He tried to focus, and he could see the ink splotches of blood—
blood—running down his face and dripping onto the bricks.
His stomach rose in protest. Swallowing down his nausea, he pushed back to his feet. The black velvet leaves of the elephant ears seemed to twitch, listening, as his footsteps scraped unsteadily up the path, past the sundial and palely glimmering statues, past the solar lanterns fuzzily glowing.
The shadows cast by the jacaranda stretched chill and dark in the warm summer evening, but the darkness edging his vision had nothing to do with the deepening night. There was blood in his eyes now; he wiped at it uncertainly.
Peter reached the top of the long, shallow garden steps. The back entrance of Constantine House loomed before him, and he staggered forward, feeling for his keys. He leaned against the door, resting his head on the painted surface, fumbling in his pockets. He pushed a key into the lock; it turned, and the door swung open, spilling him into the hallway.
Half blind with blood and pain, he wove his way down the hallway toward the main exhibit room and his office. His foot caught on the Oriental runner and he went sprawling. Somewhere in the distance an alarm bell was clanging. He opened his eyes. Dimly, as though looking through a telescope, he could see the cool white marble face of Kwan Yin gazing down at him. She held a little vase, pouring nothingness out over his pounding head. But it wasn't nothingness. It was nectar. Invisible nectar to feed the hungry ghosts.
Far, far at the other end of the telescope, the serene face of Kwan Yin receded, grew tinier and tinier ... until at last it pinched out like a match spark in the night.
He was chuckling, a deep, sexy sound as he pushed Peter back on the satiny cushions. Was this for real? Was he going to go through with it? Peter blinked up as his tie was unfastened, tossed aside, his shirt unbuttoned, laid wide. The evening breeze—scented of smog and jasmine—felt cool against his overheated skin, like the lightest breath. Unlike their own breathing, which was hot and heavy and strained sounding. Gasps and groans that were pure skin flick. For a moment Peter was thrown out of the mood, his normal self-consciousness and reticence reasserting themselves.
He narrowed his eyes, trying to see the other's face in the summer darkness, but a warm weight lowered itself beside him. Their mouths locked; their cocks rubbed rigidly together.
Oh God. That felt good. That stiff length of soft skin and hardness—hard as bone—as desire throbbed through Peter, his heartbeat echoing in the pulse of his cock. So much sensation at once. It was overwhelming ... but good. Warm breath and the tang of sweat on clean skin, the tickle of chest hair against his nipples, the glide of muscles as powerful arms pulled him close, legs wrapping around his own. Yes, it was really happening, and he wanted it to happen. He was happy to let go, loosing his doubts, his concerns, his anxieties, because this just felt right. And he refused to second-guess himself, to freeze up. He had waited a long time for this.
A long time. A lifetime.
Because this was Cole. Cole. His heart seemed to swell with emotion, happiness filling his chest because it was Cole with him. Together. The way they were meant to be. Finally...
Peter's lashes stirred.
He opened his eyes, and the first thing he saw was the cop's hard face. He wasn't sure how he knew the man beside his bed was a cop ... he didn't know him.
Or did he?
He was big. Not fat. Big. Tall, broad, muscular. Like a bull. One of those beautiful sleek, powerful bulls they use in bullfighting. Like Isidore Bonheur's sculptures. Lean, fierce features ... smoke-dark hair, hard blue-gray eyes, and a thin mouth that looked inclined to sarcastic asides.
Even on that first glimpse under the fluttering of eyelids, Peter felt a jolt of alarm, the knowledge that something was seriously wrong. He opened his mouth and a funny sound came out. Then another face slid into view. A woman's face, calm and professional. A nurse. She said soothingly, “It's all right, Mr. Killian. You're going to be perfectly all right now."
She sounded very sure of it, and he relaxed. He did feel all right. He felt warm and floating ... relieved that the hard, unfriendly face had gone. Even happy. He'd been dreaming about ... He'd been dreaming. It was confused and faraway now. He let it go. Let everything go.
The second time was the real awakening. He opened his eyes with a start. There was another nurse at his bedside, and she said something to him, something calming, something reassuring. He responded. Things got a little fuzzy and then sharpened again. His room seemed full of people, and a doctor was there asking him questions.
It was ... confusing. Tiring. His head ached. A lot.
"What happened to me?” he mumbled.
"You've got a concussion, Mr. Killian."
He thought that over. It wasn't an answer, was it? Or was it? “How?” he asked.
"You were injured during a robbery."
A robbery. Like ... a mugging? He couldn't seem to remember, although it didn't seem like the kind of thing one would forget. It was all very bewildering. He wanted to go back to sleep.
"I don't remember,” he said, and his eyelids drifted shut.
The next time he opened his eyes, the bull—the cop—was back.
The thin mouth curled into an unfriendly smile. “Well, Peter, we meet again."
"Yes,” Peter said, trying to focus. His vision was off. “Do I know you?"
There was silence. The gray-blue eyes—which looked more gray than blue—narrowed. “Are you saying you don't?"
Peter's heart began to pound. “No."
"I don't know you."
Another silence. Another smile—a rather cynical one. “Is that so?"
"Should I?” Peter managed. His temples were now starting to pound in time with his heart. All at once he felt very ill.
"I...” Peter stopped. He had the sensation of sand sucking away beneath his feet. “Who
you?” His voice sounded faint and faraway even to himself.
The other laughed, and then the dark face re-formed itself in a sneer. “Honest to God. You've got to be kidding. You're not seriously going to try and pull
Peter stared at him; he couldn't think of anything to say even if he could have forced words out over his rising panic. This couldn't be happening. This ... Something was wrong. And he could not let this guy, whoever he was, know how very wrong things were—that much he knew instinctively.
"I think you should go,” he said.
"Oh, you do?” Unimpressed, the cool eyes studied him. “Why? If you don't know who I am?"
Peter said honestly, “Because I don't like you."
Another one of those hard laughs. “I see you do remember something. What else do you remember?"
Peter opened his mouth. Nothing came to him. This was
Wait. He knew ... the nurse had called him “Mr. Killian” and this asshole had called him “Peter.” And the doctor had said ... something about a mugging.
"It's ... I know who I am. But ... some ... details are ... vague."
"How convenient.” Unfriendly mockery. “Well, let me refresh your memory. I'm Detective Michael Griffin. LAPD Robbery and Homicide Division.” Griffin pulled a flat wallet-looking thing out of his jacket and flashed a very large, very official-looking badge in front of Peter's nose.
Peter narrowed his eyes. This made sense up to a point. He had been knocked out—in a robbery—so it was reasonable that the police would interview him. Right? But Detective Griffin was acting like Peter was the criminal, and clearly they had some kind of history.
was very hard to believe. Peter doubtfully studied Griffin's face. Peter was a law-abiding person. He knew that about himself. He had no doubt whatsoever on that score. Maybe he couldn't remember everything, but he knew he was not the kind of person who got into trouble with the law.
And anything else was out of the question.
. So that was an additional something he now knew about himself. He liked guys. He was ... gay. And comfortable with the idea.
But maybe Griffin didn't like guys who liked guys? Maybe that was the problem with Michael Griffin. Although how would he know about Peter's sexual preferences? Peter couldn't imagine him confiding such a thing to ... well, really to anyone. Nor did Griffin seem like the kind of guy anyone would want to confide in. Even had he been Peter's type. Which he wasn't. Even if Peter couldn't quite remember what his type was, he was quite sure Griffin was not it.
"Is your memory coming back?” Griffin inquired.
"I was knocked out."
"Oh right. And now you have amnesia. That's the story?"
Griffin did not like him either. That was clear. And Peter did not feel well enough to deal with it. He closed his eyes. Opened them. Said, “Can we ... talk about it later?"
"You're not curious about what happened to you? I'd think you'd be very curious ... since you can't remember anything, right?"
Peter watched him. “I was mugged?"
Peter tried again. “I was ... robbed.” Griffin was from robbery and homicide, so that was a safe bet.
His thinking processes must have been transparent, because Griffin said slowly, “You're guessing.
you're pretending to guess."
God. This asshole was too much. Peter closed his eyes. He couldn't deal with this right now.
When the silence stretched—when Griffin didn't go away—Peter opened his eyes and surprised an odd expression on the detective's face. Mostly suspicion, or maybe wariness, but there was some other emotion that Peter couldn't read. It vanished the moment Griffin saw that Peter's eyes were open.
"Why don't I help you out with a few points? Your name's Peter Killian. You don't like to be called ‘Pete.’ You're thirty-five years old, unmarried, a native Angeleno. You're the curator at Constantine House. Is this ringing any bells?"
Peter licked his lips. There was a horrible taste in his mouth and his head was pounding sickly. He knew he didn't want to hear anything more. He knew he needed to.
"You've been curator there for a little over three years—during which time the museum has lost slightly over a hundred thousand dollars worth of antiquities and art objects."
Griffin paused politely. Peter moved his head in slight negation. He couldn't have spoken even if he'd known what to say. His heart was thudding as though he'd found himself cornered by an attack dog—which was kind of how he felt. Griffin wasn't quite baring his teeth, but somehow the effect was the same.
"Two nights ago, for reasons known only to you, you went down to the grotto in the back of the museum garden and, to all appearances, surprised thieves in the process of removing a priceless, tenth-century painted mural."
Tenth century. A very bad year—all one hundred of them. The “Leaden Century” as described by Cardinal Baronius. The darkest of the Dark Ages.
"What was a priceless artifact doing in a grotto in the back of a garden?"