Gray Nolan"s biggest problem in life was the torch he carried for his closeted coach. He was just another happy-go-lucky dude, a college student and hockey player, when his ordinary existence was interrupted, and he became a human trafficking statistic.
He and seven other young men were taken aboard a luxurious yacht where they were to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Gray was beaten, shattered, and almost defeated by the time his buyer stepped out of the shadows in a swirl of his own cigarette smoke.
He was Gray"s new owner.
Darius Quinn had vowed never again to find himself in a situation like this. His days as a private military contractor were over. No more missions, no more risks, no more personal attachments. Yet, here he was, after weeks of searching, face-to-face with his broken prize.
It was time to get the knucklehead back to his family.
Quick and easy was Darius"s plan.
Then everything went sideways.
Auctioned, book 1. (Does not end with a cliffhanger.)Books by Author:Cara Dee Books
Gray grinned to himself as he scrolled through baby clothes on his phone. Online shopping was dangerous when you"d learned you were expecting your first niece or nephew, and his funds were limited. He couldn"t help it, though. He was stoked for his stepsister"and, frankly, himself. He was gonna spoil that kid rotten.
Taking a left on Sixth Street, he looked up briefly to make sure shopping for baby socks wasn"t getting him lost on the way home. He could picture his friends and brothers ribbing him about that for years.
It"d gotten dark while Gray had been to the movies with a couple friends. He was almost home, thankfully. Summer was over, and he was one of the last to haul out the fall wardrobe. Probably time to start using a jacket. Northern Washington wasn"t known for its heat.
"Hey!" Gray banged furiously against the planks that boarded up the window. Between the cracks, he could see a man exiting a car across the street, and it was the first person Gray had seen all day. "Help! Over here!" With a growl of frustration and panic, he tried to dig his fingers between two boards to get them loose. "Up here!" He kept going, even as his fingers started bleeding from the rough splinters.
His stomach churned as he heard the heavy footfalls of the two men who lived in this house. Or so he guessed. He hadn"t paused to consider ownership of the shitty little house on a street he didn"t recognize.
"Just silence him," one of the men snarled on the other side of the door.
Flight was out, so Gray steeled himself to fight. His chest heaved, his fists clenched. And the second the locks were turned and the door opened, he charged with every bit of strength he possessed.
A message popped up on Gray"s phone as he was crossing the park behind the community college.
I want to celebrate my birthday with you. Please say yes, beautiful.
Gray wanted to. Fuck, did he want to spend that day with Craig. But he"d drawn the line. It"d been nearly three years of texting and confessing feelings and fantasies, three years of not being intimate with the man he loved. He knew if he spent any alone time with Craig now, he"d cave.
His thumb hovered over the send button, reading and rereading his reply, then eventually fired it off.
Leave your wife first.
A strong wind rustled the trees above him and sent a shiver down his spine. Fall was really here. He zipped up his hoodie and bunched his shoulders. The apartment he shared with a couple teammates and too much hockey gear to stumble over was just around the little duck pond. He hoped he could fall asleep quickly tonight, "cause being reminded of Craig"s birthday sucked.
Gray could thank"or curse"his mom for putting so much value on morals. High motherfucking morals. He shook his head and wished he could just, for one damn night, get what he wanted. A stolen moment. Technically, they"d already had one. A kiss"a heated, awesome kiss"right after Craig became Craig and stopped being Coach Fuller.
As Gray nursed his no doubt fractured wrist, he counted the cracks in the ceiling. The pain had lessened to a low throb after keeping it still for two days, and the swelling had gone down.
He knew a thing or two about fractures, being a hockey player. Unlike his younger twin brothers, he didn"t dream of making it in the NHL, though. Same with Gray"s best friend, Abel, who played for the Canucks in Vancouver. No, Gray wanted to coach or work with kids in some other capacity. But all of that hurt to think about now.
Rolling onto his side, he winced as his joints protested. The thin mattress was the only thing in the room, aside from a portable toilet in the opposite corner. More often than not, his eyes strayed to the boarded-up window, which beat staring at the faded wallpaper.
Six days. That was how long it"d been since he was taken. Long enough for him to become a case. First as a missing person, then with the suspicion of foul play. Had he made the news yet" Most likely. In fact, Gray counted on it, because he wasn"t the first to disappear from their little town. A boy had gone missing earlier this year, followed by a young woman a couple months ago.
He screwed his eyes shut and willed himself not to cry. It would do him no good.
With his apartment building in sight, he picked up the pace and"
A screeching sound broke his train of thought, and Gray looked around, confused. This area was usually dead at night, unless it was a Friday or Saturday and fellow students threw a party or four.
He was supposed to have graduated last semester, but failing grades had forced him to retake a few classes.