by James Buchanan
coming Mid September from MLR Press
Hunting a notorious hit man, FBI Agent Chase Nozick and LAPD Det. Enrique Rios Ocha delve into the inner worlds of Santeria, Voodoo and Palo Mayumbe. A missing informant, her murdered brother and a ghost from Chase's past send them on a hunt through mystics and psychic surgeons to find their witness before it's too late. Can he rely on leads from a child possessed by Orishas? Do cards hold stronger clues than blood? Chase must conquer his own personal demons to bring the killer of his partner to justice and find the strength to take a chance on Enrique.
Hours later, Chase stared at the drink in his hand. Maybe this was just a bad idea. He’d been in the City of Angels for four hours, tops, and he hadn’t even talked to anyone yet. Well, during dinner, he’d chatted it up with a waiter who looked way too young to be serving drinks. The kid recommended the bar Chase leaned on now. Relaxed, trendy — but not — and way crowded; Silverlake’s low-key answer to West Hollywood’s forced urban hip.
Nude women stared vacantly off red and gold walls. Chase figured he should have specified somewhere more overtly gay and less just gay-friendly when asking for recommends. People, of all orientations and ages, lounged on Moroccan-styled couches along the wall. Maybe he would have had better odds on a weekend, Chase mused into the amber liquid swirling in his glass.
“Wow.” A voice at his shoulder jerked Chase’s attention from his self-pity.
He looked up into a bright smile and warm skin. “What?” Damn, the guy was good looking. Not in that stunning movie star kinda way, but with a pleasant face, easy body language and dark eyes. A choker of red and white beads flashed at the open collar of his white shirt. Both colors set off the man’s caramel skin.
Another smile flashed as the guy tapped Chase’s tumbler. “You managed to get a drink.” He laughed and the sound traveled straight down Chase’s spine to his hips. “Takes an act of congress to get service here.”
“Oh,” Chase’s face felt strange. Then he realized it was from an ear-splitting grin. Shit, if that didn’t come off as desperate, Chase would eat his badge. He coughed and raised his glass to his lips in a badly concealed effort to mask the smile. “I laid the money down before I ordered.”
The guy slid onto the stool next to Chase. “Explains it then.” He leaned in and drummed his fingers on the bar. “My name’s Enrique, I don’t think I’ve seen you here before.”
Enrique’s hip pressed against Chase’s thigh. When Enrique shifted, a hard bulge rubbed Chase through his jeans. Okay, Chase mused, so maybe the waiter had been on the money about the place. “I would be surprised if you had,” Chase nudged back a little, letting Enrique know he felt it, “Just in town for business.”
“What kind of business?” The question came loaded. Chase wasn’t sure with exactly what. A strange wariness seemed to lurk under the words. For a moment, Chase toyed with a few implausible explanations and then figured he just didn’t care. Because the hand that dropped down onto his thigh wasn’t wary in the least. Easy, light, Enrique traced the inseam of Chase’s jeans with his fingers.
Refusing to elaborate, Chase muttered, “Just business,” as he knocked back his drink. Chase shrugged and spread his legs a little wider.
“Really,” Enrique moved in closer, “I thought it might be scoping twenty-somethings out looking for their sugar daddies.” The faded edge of cologne threaded under the scent of guy in a hot, crowded bar.
Chase snorted. A sense of humor, he liked that. Not that it was a requirement, but it made it nice, friendly. “The problem with twenty-somethings is they’re twenty-something.” He slid his arm around Enrique to cup a nicely toned ass through expensive slacks.
Damn, if Enrique moved any closer, he’d end up on Chase’s lap. “How ‘bout a thirty-something then?”
“You’re, ah, pretty direct there.” Chase teased. Actually, for a bar pickup, Enrique was beating about the bush a lot. Half the time a nod, a smile and a jerk of the chin arranged everything.
Enrique leaned in and laughed in his ear. “No, pretty direct is, do you wanna fuck?”
He squeezed Enrique’s butt. “Is that an offer?” Felt good.
No laughter this time. Enrique hissed, “Want it to be?”
“Yeah.” Chase stood.
“Then it’s an offer.”