Darren Brown lost the only two people he loved just days apart. His mother first, then his best friend. Guilt over his friend’s death drives Darren to wander for over a year before he winds up in the town of
McKinton, . Texas
Lee Bausch served his tour in the Army then started his quest to find answers only one person could give him—except that one person had moved away. It takes him almost two years to find Darren Brown, and it turns out Darren doesn’t have the answers Lee needs—he is what Lee needs. Darren is shy and so sexy Lee can’t get enough of him, but he still needs answers because he can’t shake the feeling someone he loved was murdered.
After a terrifying experience at the motel, Darren knows he has to tell Lee about the spirits in McKinton. And there’s one spirit, scared and alone, who has the answers Lee seeks, if only the spirit knew how to tell Lee his suspicions are right.
Excerpt (unedited) :
Darren shrugged it off as diners checking out the damage to his face. The knot was about gone, but he still had some spectacular colors decorating his chin. He grabbed a fresh pot of coffee and turned around then very nearly dropped it when he saw the man sitting on a stool only a few feet away.
Despite the differences, Darren recognized Lee instantly. The longer hair only served to offset the man’s sculpted cheekbones, the firm line of his jaw. Mossy green eyes, wide and thickly lashed, the slightly uptilted outer corners—eyes so like Stefan’s, despite the fact Stefan’s eyes had been a pure sky blue, and the divot in the chin… Darren had spent many nights as a lovesick teen thinking about this man. It was almost as big a shock to realize he still carried a bit of that teenage crush with him as it was to see Stefan’s brother again.
There was a split second where Darren thought Lee looked as shocked as Darren felt, but it was so fleeting, and Lee’s expression was blank as the employment section of the corkboard hanging by the register.
That was it, just his name said in a deep, gravelly voice, but it was enough to make Darren grateful for the apron covering him from waist to mid thigh. He found a hidden reserve of calmness he didn’t really feel, especially not when his dick had hardened the instant Lee had spoken.
Darren tightened his grip on the coffee pot, nodded and prayed his voice wouldn’t squeak. “Lee.” Then he really didn’t know what else to say, except the one thing he wasn’t sure he could say. Darren was saved from having to even try when the cook yelled “Order up!” He nodded again and knew he must look like a complete idiot for doing so. His cheeks burned with embarrassment as he set the coffee pot down on the counter. The walk around to pick up the orders seemed unnaturally long, and Darren didn’t know if it was paranoia or if he really was feeling Lee watching him as he hefted the plates.
Of course he’s watching me, stupid! There’s exactly zero chance Stefan’s brother just happened to show up in McKinton, over three hundred miles from his home in
. Darren turned and walked back around the counter, trying his best to appear unaffected as his thoughts raced as fast as his pulse. There’s only one reason Lee would show up here. He was looking for me, and now he found me, and there’s nothing I can do but tell him it was my fault his brother died. The idea was terrifying and yet Darren found himself wanting to confess his failure, his guilt. Maybe if he did, he could find… not exactly peace, never that, but something close to it. Something that would make it a little easier for Darren to live with himself. Jackson
Decision made, he set the plates in front of Laine and Severo, avoiding both men’s eyes. He knew he wouldn’t be able to avoid their questions and Laine proved him right almost instantly.
“You know that guy at the counter?”
“Yes sir,” Darren said. “I’ll be right back with your coffee—“
Darren froze when Laine grabbed his wrist. He shot a surprised glance at the older man and immediately looked away. “Darren, I saw you when you saw him. Do I need to get involved?”
Laine probably would no matter what Darren said but he tried anyway. “No sir, he was my best friend’s brother. I just didn’t expect for him to show up here—but he isn’t a bad man, not at all.” He hoped. He hadn’t ever known Lee well, the man was almost ten years older than Darren, and he’d joined the military not long after Darren and Stefan had met.
“What do you mean, was?” Severo asked.
Darren cringed inwardly. He should have been more careful. Now he had to admit something that still turned him inside out to say. “I mean, he is, but Stefan, he was—he died,” Darren muttered, unable to explain any better. Those two words made him feel like something was ripping into his guts with fiery claws.
Severo hummed something under his breath as Laine squeezed Darren’s wrist, not hard enough to hurt, just hard enough to get his attention.
“And he just showed up here… why? Maybe I should just ask him that myself.”
“No,” Darren hissed, his teeth clenched to keep from yelling the word. “He probably wants to talk to me and that’s fine. Lee was serving with the Rangers when Stefan passed, I don’t even know when he found out about—it,” Darren wasn’t able to ‘Stefan’s death’. He was already on edge, his eyes stinging. The last thing he wanted to do was break down in front of everyone. Anyone. “Just, please, let me see what he wants first. I don’t want you to make him leave.” Darren tugged against Laine’s hold but his relief was short lived when Laine pushed back his chair and stood up, looking at something over Darren’s shoulder.
Darren took a step back and felt a wave of heat from a body close to his own. He peered over his shoulder, unsurprised to find Lee behind him, his handsome face still devoid of expression.
The hand on his hip, though, that surprised Darren so much he yelped. Instead of moving his hand, Lee merely tightened his grip as he asked, “Is there a problem here, Darren?”