First of all, thank you to everyone who's been leaving comments! I'm having a blast reading them all!
Second...I failed at waiting until the weekend! lol I wanted to see what happened next as much as you did!
Happy reading and I hope you're having as much fun with this as I am!
The hand surrounding Danny’s was huge. With next to no effort, it could crush his bones, but the thought didn’t stick with him like it usually would. Rhodey was a familiar presence, safer than the crowd in front of him, almost like a big, solid place to hide.
Inhaling deep, Danny stared up at Rhodey, turning a bit to press against his chest, all rock hard and warm under the soft cotton of his black T-shirt. The scent of whiskey and cigars was comforting, making Danny think of Jared and how the man would put an arm around him, encouraging him in his deep, soothing voice. There was a darkness in both men, but it didn’t scare him.
That darkness was there to protect the people they cared about.
And he was lucky enough to be one of them.
“Sir…” Danny swallowed hard, shivering as he tried to get a hold on his nerves as he tipped his head back to look up at the much bigger man. He kept his voice low so even the closest mic wouldn’t catch a word. “I need your help.”
Steel gray eyes searched his as Rhodey lowered a little, putting an arm around Danny’s shoulders as though to shield him from the people beyond the gates. “I’m not exactly the PR type, Stuart Little. Nothing I do is going to make a good story.”
Danny wrinkled his nose. “Depends on your definition of ‘good’.” He wet his bottom lip with his tongue. “I wouldn’t ask this, but…”
For a few beats, Rhodey waited, arching a brow when Danny exhaled and shook his head. He chuckled, curving his hand under Danny’s jaw. “But I am going to make you ask.”
Groaning, Danny pressed his eyes shut. The man was mean. He knew exactly what the request would be. If he took control, this would be so much easier. The solution was obvious and they both knew it, but Danny would be the one facing all the consequences. Which meant he had to make it very clear this was what he wanted.
Here goes nothing.
“Please, sir?” Danny brought his hands to Rhodey’s shoulders, holding his breath, then blowing it out when the Dom simply waited him out. Apparently, there was no way around saying the words. “Will you...kiss me?”
“You are too fucking adorable.” Rhodey let out a soft laugh against Danny’s lips as he lowered a bit more. “This will put a target on your back, but I suppose the one already there can’t get much bigger.”
Not the most reassuring thing the man could’ve said. Danny’s breath caught as Rhodey’s lips covered his, his grip on those wide shoulders tightening as the last illusion of control was swept away with the heat and pressure. Being kissed by this man was like doing some of the more dangerous stunts in past music videos, taking that step off towering props and praying the hidden harness and cord would hold.
And still being left stunned when they lowered him safely to solid ground.
Eyes closed, Danny gasped as Rhodey’s lips left his. Goosebumps covered every inch of his skin and his legs didn’t seem to want to hold him anymore.
Rhodey must’ve sensed that, because he kept a firm hold on Danny as he whispered in his ear. “Pull yourself together, my boy. You’ll have to give them more than that to get rid of them.”
Inhaling roughly, Danny nodded, straightening and drawing away from Rhodey to approach the gate. He managed a sheepish smile he hoped was convincing as he sought out the most familiar face, a journalist from one of the less sleazy tabloids, Celebz Insider. Jessie Maynard liked digging deep, but she got more exclusives because she always cleared her stories with the subject before sending to print.
Jessie flashed him a knowing grin before holding out her mic, brushing her wavy brown hair away from her mouth as the breeze picked up. “I’d ask how you’re doing this morning, Danny, but from what I just saw, you’re eager to get back inside with your man.”
“He’s not… It’s complicated.” Danny barely managed to hold back a wince at his own fumbling of the distraction he’d orchestrated. He cleared his throat, resisting the urge to pull his hood back up when the wind pushed it off his head. “For the privacy of the members here, I’d rather not get into details. When I saw you all here, I thought me and Jamie were being nominated for an award or something. Or you’d somehow found out about our latest projects.”
Excitement brightened Jessie’s hazel eyes. “No, but that sounds like a much better story than using an eight-year-old in a gossip piece.” Her lips thinned when a few of the men behind her started up with questions about Reed again. She turned to hiss for them to shut up, then brought her attention back to Danny. “Since it’s been brought up, though, could you put the rumors to rest? Has Reed heard from his father about his sister?”
“No.” Danny relaxed a bit at the way Jessie’s expression sharpened, like she’d expected as much. Knowing her, she’d bury Reed’s father for trying to use her as a weapon against his son. Lifting his chin, Danny raised his voice enough so none of the reporters would miss his reply. “It was very hurtful for Reed to learn about his sister’s condition the way he did. Of course he’ll help her if he’s a good match as a liver donor, which his father would know if he hadn’t wasted time stirring up drama. But...in a way, I guess we can thank you for letting us know she needed him. His friends and family will make sure both she and he has all the support they’ll need.”
“That’s wonderful to hear.” Jessie’s tone warmed with approval and she gave him a slight nod as though to let him know that she had enough to put the story to bed. She glanced at Rhodey, lowering her voice a little. “Both you and Jamie seem to have a thing with older men and...alternative lifestyles. Any chance we’ll get to hear a bit more about that?”
Face blazing, Danny shook his head. “Like I said. Privacy.” He touched his fingers to his lips. “The pictures will...have to be enough. Let’s just say I have good friends here willing to help me out in a jam.”
“Gotcha.” Jessie gave Rhodey a thoughtful look, clearly reluctant to change the subject. Another nod and she met Danny’s eyes again. “So you mentioned other projects. Any chance you could give us a bit of a taste of what we have to look forward to?”
Chewing on his bottom lip, Danny scrambled for anything that might be interesting enough to keep the media busy, even if only speculating over the details. He didn’t want to drag Jamie into this without giving him a heads up first.
Which left only his solo stuff.
My...nonexistent solo stuff.
“Broadway.” His eyes widened even as the word left his mouth. There hadn’t been even any auditions he’d been tempted by in months, but no one beyond The Asylum knew that. He’d have to call Ashley’s agent to explain why he’d lied before she thought he’d decided to go through someone else for parts. Latching on to every acting tip he’d ever gotten from his coach, he relaxed his stance and kept his tone a bit breezy. “I obviously can’t tell you too much until it’s official, but let’s just say I’ll be spending a lot of time in New York.”
“Dusting off your heels?” There was a breathless quality to Jessie’s voice as she inched even closer to the gate. “There’s been some talk about Tez Miller returning from his performances in Europe. Can we expect to see him as Lola again?”
Keeping things vague was one thing, Danny could always claim whatever production he’d auditioned for hadn’t worked out and he’d signed an NDA. Implying Kinky Boots was coming back opened a whole different can of worms.
He shook his head, laughing. “You know I can’t say anything about that, but nice try.”
“Hmm.” Jessie cocked her head, obviously not willing to leave it at that. “Fair enough. I’m happy to hear you’ll be back on stage, though. I love the music you’re making with Jamie, but it’s a shame you haven’t been touring. It would be amazing to hear that powerful voice of yours live. When I found out you did that whole performance at the airport, I was on edge for days waiting to learn more about what the stunt was about, but then...nothing.”
Danny hated lying, but he was good at it when he had to be. The way things were piling up, though? He was going to get buried too deep to ever dig himself out.
Focusing on that, rather than the memory of Seth shooting mercs right out there in the open while Danny lured them close by singing for an oblivious crowd, kept the panic almost manageable. He rubbed his arms as a chill ran over him.
If someone stands on one of those roofs and shoots me now, would they think that was an act, too?
“Didn’t pan out.” Rhodey put a firm hand on Danny’s shoulder, as though he’d caught on that it was getting to be overwhelming. “We’re leaving now. I didn’t immediately tell you to get lost because Danny was willing to talk to you, but if I have to come out again, something’s getting broken. Equipment or bones. Depends how fast you are.”
Lips parted, Jessie glanced back as several members of the press started backing up, many having been here often enough to know Rhodey wasn’t bluffing. She hesitated, returning her attention to Danny, then Rhodey. “Mr. Leonov, that’s hardly appropriate to—”
“I wasn’t talking to you. But he’s got nothing else to say.” Rhodey drew Danny back. “Email a copy of whatever your story is and I’ll decide whether or not you get to publish it.”
Rhodey’s brow lifted as he nudged Danny toward the front door of the bar. “I can, Miss Maynard. All most of those fuckers are getting is a picture. Have yourself a nice day.”
Even though Rhodey was being a bit rude, Jessie didn’t seem all that bothered. The edge of her lips quirked and she winked at Danny before turning to her cameraman. After firmly closing and locking the door behind them, Rhodey picked Danny up and walked over to the bar, sitting and perching Danny on his knee.
He motioned to Wren, jerking his attention from whatever he was watching on the screen of his iPad. “Get me and our boy a drink, birdy boy.” He rubbed Danny’s arm as the shivering intensified. “Deep breaths, smalls. You did well. Let us take it from here.”
Close to Wren’s side, Reed rubbed his red rimmed eyes, flashing Danny a grateful smile. “That was really cool of you. Thanks, man.” He blew out a breath. “My father’s ex texted me back already. Then called. She’s fucking pissed, but not that surprised. He told her the same story he told the press—she’d tried to get a hold of me anyway, except she couldn’t get my number. Now that she has it, she’s going to let me know what the doctor says I gotta do if I’m a match...and how to find out and everything. My sister’s okay for now, though. She’s on a treatment they’re hoping will avoid her needing the transplant at all.”
Some of the tension that had overtaken Danny eased away as Reed spoke. He rested back against Rhodey’s chest, bringing the beer Wren pressed into his hand to his lips automatically. It was way too early to be drinking, but a Dom had ordered him a drink, so he’d drink it. The cool, fresh ale felt nice going down, anyway. And the taste made him think of Shea.
“It’s awesome she’s still doing good and her mom knows better than to believe...that man.” Danny couldn’t think of a diplomatic way to talk about the asshole who only seemed to appear in Reed’s life long enough to hurt him. He reminded Danny of Jamie’s mother. His own father hadn’t been the best, but his greed and carelessness wasn’t half as bad as the downright cruelty of the other two men’s parents.
“Yeah, I wasn’t sure what to expect when Wren got me her number.” Reed hopped up on the bar, stealing a sip of Rhodey’s whiskey, smiling a little when Rhodey mock growled at him. “I was...really confused about how I felt, knowing my father had other kids. I imagined them being...better, you know? Like I know I’m too much sometimes and maybe he just needed a second chance.”
Danny winced, shaking his head as he reached out to put a hand on Reed’s knee. “You’re you. And you weren’t too much for Tracey or Noah. They love you. And everyone else here does too. Some people are selfish and there’s no fixing that. It’s fucked up that he got another chance to hurt more kids. And that he left the kind of scars that have you feeling this way.”
Patting Danny’s thigh, Rhodey gave a serious nod. “True. But enough swearing from the both of you. You’ll have everyone thinking I’ve gone soft. I know how you subs talk about us Doms. Let one thing slide and we might as well hang up our whips and take up needlework.”
The kind of ‘needlework’ Reed scened with definitely wasn’t ‘soft’, so Danny wasn’t sure what Rhodey was implying. He didn’t love whips, but he’d take that over needles any day. And if it was needles to punish him for swearing? Would they go in his tongue?
Can you get permanent damage from that?
No, Jamie had his tongue pierced. So did Reed and Wren, though Wren’s had been taken out at some point and healed because he’d admitted food textures bothered him even more with a piece of metal in the way.
Calories bothered Danny more than textures, but a swollen tongue would make it hard to sing. And if he got a terrible infection and lost his tongue altogether, he had no idea what else he could do with his life.
Best not risk it.
He put a hand over his mouth. “No needles please, sir.” He peeked up at Rhodey. “I won’t swear anymore. I’m sorry, this whole thing has been…”
“Complicated?” Rhodey’s lips slanted before he leaned in and planted a kiss on Danny’s cheek. “Yes. But it’s over. All things considered, this morning went well.”
Bloody injuries and family trauma? Not what Danny would consider anything going well, but with Rhodey’s line of work, it all probably seemed mild. Going back to his beer, Danny kept his thoughts to himself.
At least an hour past, everything calm, Rhodey’s arm coming around his waist when he muttered that he must be getting heavy and tried to slide off. It seemed almost selfish to accept Rhodey’s comfort, but he needed it right now. After what had happened so far this morning it was hard not to wonder if his next step would lead to some new catastrophe.
Maybe, if he stayed still, he could avoid whatever fate wanted to throw at him next.
He’d almost managed to convince himself the worst had passed until the gym door opened. A man with sleep, black dreads hanging to the right side of his head, features smooth with youth, dark brown skin over perfectly sculpted features making him absolutely breathtaking with all those muscles under a snug white T-shirt.
The stranger’s presence wasn’t what threw Danny off. It was Shea, a step behind him, expression thunderous, that had Danny’s lips parting.
This time, when he tried to slip away, Rhodey let him go. The Dom gave Shea a lazy smile as he pushed to his feet.
And didn’t even blink when Shea strode up to him and threw a punch, aimed at his jaw.
Catching Shea’s wrist, Rhodey shook his head. “You get one attempt. Because I like you. Whatever you think you’re doing, I suggest you rethink it.”
Dismissing Rhodey with one last glare as he jerked away, Shea grabbed his phone from his pocket and stepped up to Danny, holding it up. On the screen was a clear picture of Danny and Rhodey kissing. Brow furrowed, Shea held Danny’s eyes, his own darkening with pain. “Is this payback or something? Damn it, Danny, I thought we’d gotten past...that shit with Kelly wasn’t…” He drew back, pressing his eyes shut. “What the fuck is going on?”
“Dude, how about waiting for some fucking context before freaking out?” Hopping off the bar between Danny and Shea, Reed forced Shea to take a step back. “This was a distraction. And you can fuck right off with the guilt trip. You come in here with him and you’re gonna accuse Danny of shit? Projection much?”
“Reed, don’t.” Danny latched onto Reed’s arm, tugging him back. He eyed the new man, his guts twisting at the idea of there being something between Shea and whoever this was. Which wasn’t fair after Shea seeing those pictures without any warning. He met his Dom’s eyes as Reed let out an irritated sound and paced away. “Sir, I should have called you right away. I’m sorry. Please...please don’t be mad. Rhodey was helping me.”
“I would’ve helped you. All you had to do was ask.” Shea turned away, exchanging a look with Connor as the other man came in from the front door. “I found him. I’m going up to the loft to take care of a few things. You mind watching him?”
Connor frowned, looking between Danny and Shea before shaking his head. “Not at all.” He went to the new man, who’d found Avery’s knives behind the dart board and was weighing them in his hand. “Justin, if you don’t mind—”
“I do mind. I’m twenty-three, not three.” The man, Justin, tossed one of the knives at the dart board. “Interesting place. Don’t worry, I won’t mind hanging out, but I have to go back to training in a bit. I’ll let you follow if you don’t get in my way.”
Reed stopped Danny from following Shea, shaking his head. “Give him some time, he’ll realize he’s being an ass.” He huffed out a breath. “Do you know who that is?”
Blinking, Danny tore his focus from the door as it clicked shut. “His client?”
“Justin Rai. He’s the son of a newly elected senator who’s also been drafted for the Mets. No wonder he needs bodyguards.” Reed rubbed his hands over his face. “This is either the best or worst place for him. With the way he responded to Connor, I don’t think he’s a sub.”
“Definitely not getting sub vibes.” Danny shifted his gaze when Justin looked their way. But he couldn’t keep his focus on the conversation. He needed to clear things up with Shea. Now. “I appreciate you sticking up for me, but I know Shea. Letting him steam won’t help. If he thinks I thought this was okay because of what happened with Kelly… Just no. I can’t let that stick. Not for any amount of time.”
Reed squeezed his shoulder and nodded. “Okay, but I hate that you’re getting any heat for this. Come back down when you’re ready and let me know how it goes or whatever. I’ll cover your shift if it takes a while. No rush, got it?”
Nodding, Danny gave Reed his best ‘I’ve got this’ smile before starting for the stairs. He caught Rhodey’s eyes, smile still in place, shaking his head when the Dom looked like he might get up and follow. Whatever Rhodey might do definitely wouldn’t help the situation.
This was Danny’s relationship. With one of the men he loved.
If he couldn’t fix this…
Nothing else mattered.
Because Shea and Jacks were the reasons he’d stayed. Part of what he’d built his new life around. He had to believe what he had with them could survive whatever life threw at them.
That he was strong enough to fight for it.
Even when he didn’t feel strong at all.
His Doms had taught him a lot. Including that submission wasn’t just about giving up control. It was in being part of something.
In taking what they gave him.
And knowing he could give them just as much. Even when he was scared. When he doubted what he had to offer.
Neither of them would want him if he hadn’t proved himself. The uncertainty didn’t take away how far they’d come together.
Today was just...one of those days where the work he had to put in was a bit harder.
Not because he’d fucked up...okay, maybe that too. But life happened.
He reached the door to the loft and cringed at a loud bang. Like a wall coming down. Literally.
Life seemed to be throwing a whole sledgehammer at what had seemed to be pretty messed up. He could turn around and hide from it, that wouldn’t be unreasonable in most cases. Finding shelter, a safe place to hide.
Except...he didn’t want to leave Shea feeling like things were crashing down alone.
I love you.
Even when it’s messy.
He opened the door. His lips parted when Shea lifted the actual sledgehammer he’d been apparently using to take down the wall between their new loft and the one beside it that would expand their space.
Shea’s eyes warmed as his grip loosened on the heavy tool.
Which told Danny he might be able to earn forgiveness faster than he’d expected.
Also, his Dom might end up with some broken bones in his foot if he didn’t move fast enough.
He closed his eyes, holding his breath.
Tasting the dust of debris on his tongue.
Right before he tasted the warmth of his Dom’s lips pressed against his. Along with a rough laugh.
“My sweet little mouse.” Shea lifted Danny in his arms. “What am I going to do with you?”
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Bianca Sommerland is the USA Today Bestselling author of The Dartmouth Cobras series. Tibby Armstrong is the author of the acclaimed Hollywood series. Together they've created the breathtaking and brutal world of The Asylum Fight Club. A place where men live and love by their fists, and ropes are for more than just the ring.