For once the neighbors were fairly quiet. However, if they started their normal shit tonight, Lucky might have to kill them, or whip out the badge he kept carefully hidden in his closet, along with the golf shirt and ball cap emblazoned with the SNB logo.
A few moments later his cell phone chimed with an answer from Bo. “K. Catching cab.” Not an overwhelming response, but Lucky would take it.
He shoved dirty dishes into the dishwasher, scooped clothes off the floor and tossed them into the closet, and put a pot of water on the stove to make Bo a cup of green tea. A knock counterpointed the steady ba-boom, ba-boom starting up from the next apartment. Fucking hell! Why couldn’t the assholes be decent neighbors for one damned night? Lucky opened the door to find Bo slumped against the wall, shirt wrinkled and hair in an every-follicle-for-itself state of disarray.
“You look like warmed over shit.” Lucky held the door open, suspicions about a drug relapse igniting anew.
Bo managed a half-hearted smile. “Yeah, it’s good to see you, too.” He staggered into the apartment and collapsed onto Lucky’s couch. “God, am I ever tired.”
“Tired? What do you do every day? Sit behind a desk and talk on the phone?” Catty, yes, but after days of being ignored, Lucky wasn’t in the mood to play nice.
“I’ve been scrambling since daybreak, tracking down dead-end leads for someone who might supply us with some drugs.”
Lucky put a finger to his lips. “Shh… keep your voice down. You’ll get my crackhead neighbors excited shouting the ‘D’ word.”
Bo pinned Lucky a glassy-eyed glare. “I don’t care who’s living over there, the scary’s on this side of the wall. As I was saying, I’ve been following leads, trying to locate pharmaceuticals for the hospital.” He gave Lucky a “happy now?” face.
“What kind of leads? Any of interest?”
Bo dropped his head back to rest on padded upholstery. “We’ve been approached by seventeen different wholesalers today, not on the list I gave you, who’ve offered us stock at ridiculous prices. The first question they ask is what meds we’re having trouble getting so they can go snatch them up and sell them to us for enormous markups, the bastards. It’s against company policy to tell them anything.
“Graham called another meeting with the department heads for tomorrow. We’re putting in one more plea to let us consider a gray market broker. We’re pretty fucking desperate.”
“Graham?” And we’re?
“Mr. Danvers, the head buyer.”
Lucky had a file on Graham Danvers, such as it was. Squeaky clean with a nauseating disposition toward humanitarian awards. Apparently, he invested a good bit of time and money in local charities. Ava didn’t seem to like him. The highly vocal pharmacy tech just became Lucky’s new best friend. “Bo, remember what I told you about getting personally involved with suspects? You’ve got to remain objective.”
Bo shot to his feet. “Damn it, Lucky! Graham isn’t a suspect! He’s a pharmacy buyer, for crying out loud. Do you have to be suspicious of everybody?”
He had to ask? “Yes, I do. It’s in my job description.”
“Your job description is the same as mine. I read it, I signed it. There’s nothing in there about mandatory trust issues.” Bo added under his breath, “Or about being an asshole.”
“Hey, maybe you got a new revision. Take Keith, for example. ‘Asshole’ was definitely in his.”
Bo pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. “Lucky, I work with Graham, and trust me, he’s on the up and up.”
“Oh my God! You haven’t told him why you’re there, have you?” Shoving Bo back toward Atlanta seemed more and more likely.
Arms folded across his chest, Bo glowered, the stance and expression reminding Lucky of himself. “Do you actually believe I’m an idiot?”
Lucky opened his mouth to reply but Bo cut him off. “Don’t answer that. But remember, I graduated head of my class at pharmacy school and served my country in Afghanistan. I’m not a moron and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t treat me like one.”
After a moment Lucky ventured again, “Did you?”
“Did I what?”
“Tell him why you’re there.”
Throwing his hands up in the air, Bo stomped across the living room. “No, you suspicious son of a bitch, I didn’t. But I also believe you’re out of your mind if you consider the man a suspect.” He flopped back down on the couch with a huff.
Lucky remained standing, leaning against the bar separating the poor excuse for a kitchen from the poor excuse for a living room. He studied his partner, cataloguing the telltale signs of burnout. Tired? Check. Moody? Check. Less sociable? Double check. Some folks weren’t cut out for handling the type of shit the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau dealt with, and from day one Lucky had suspected Bo wouldn’t make it. Of course, he’d said the same about Keith and anyone else who’d stayed long enough for Lucky to learn their names.
“Are you hungry?” Lucky asked, though at the moment he didn’t have much in the way of vegetarian cuisine handy, unless he counted the makings for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
“No.” Bo stared out the window at the brick wall of the next building.
“Can I fix you some green tea?”
A weak, “That’d be nice,” barely reached Lucky’s ears.
Moseying into the kitchen and going through the motions of tea preparation allowed Lucky time to mull things over. He recognized the listlessness, the lack of greeting when he opened the door. Even to himself, he and Bo appeared to be merely coworkers right now, nothing more. Losing Bo as a lover hurt like hell, for he alone came close to understanding what made Lucky tick. Or, lacking understanding, accepted Lucky’s quirks as part and parcel, never trying to change what made Lucky “Lucky.” Bo only nudged and manipulated for the greater good, like weaning him off caffeine so he slept better. Oh, and the whole, “Tell me about yourself, Lucky” thing. Maybe Bo should have been a shrink instead of a pharmacist.
Plain and simple, the man couldn’t handle the job, though Lucky couldn’t imagine very many people dealing with sick kids and remaining unchanged. Before when the pressure reached critical levels, Bo sought comfort in alprazolam. Had he resorted to self-medicating again?
Watching a man he’d come to care about slowly slide back into the nightmare of addiction, and a possible jail sentence, was more than Lucky could bear. He’d do his damnedest, talk to Bo in a better moment, and only if he couldn’t break through would he fill Walter in.
Not tonight. If Bo allowed him to, tonight Lucky would hold him, love him one last time before doing what he had to do. Because if Lucky’s hunch proved right, Bo might never forgive him.
And now, the covers!
Book Name: Collusion
Release Date: Second edition releases June 20, 2015
Rafflecopter Prize: E-book set, 1 each of the four currently published Diversion books: Diversion, Collusion, Corruption, and Manipulation
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About the author:
Eden Winters was captivated young by storytelling, and her earliest memories include spinning tales for the family’s pets. Her dreams of writing professionally took a sojourn into non-fiction, with a twelve-year stint in technical documentation.
She began reading GLBT novels as a way to better understand the issues faced by a dear friend and fell in love with the M/M romance genre. During a discussion of a favorite book, a fellow aficionado said, “We could do this, you know.”
Good-bye gears, motors, and other authors’ characters; hello plots and sex scenes. This has resulted in such prize-winning stories as Settling the Score, The Angel of Thirteenth Street, Naked Tails, The Wish, Duet, and Diversion.
Somewhat of a nomad, Eden has visited seven countries so far. She currently calls the southern US home, and many of her stories take place in the rural South. Having successfully raised two children, she now balances the day job with hiking, rafting, spoiling her grandchildren, and stalking the wily falafel or elusive tofu pad Thai at her favorite restaurants. Her musical tastes run from Ambient to Zydeco, and she’s a firm believer that life is better with fur kids and Harley Davidsons.
Where to find the author:
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Eden-Winters/300380906658065?ref=settings
Publisher: Rocky Ridge Books
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase