After being kicked out of his parents’ home at the age of fifteen due to being gay, Tony Harsnen always felt grateful that his older brother, Jerome, took him in. That’s what had urged him to work uber hard to make his own way. The last thing he wants to do is run back to his brother when he has a problem. Unfortunately, Tony has to put his pride aside for the needs of a friend.
When Tony helps his best friend, Shellie, escape her abusive ex-husband, he should have known that wouldn’t be the end of it. After the controlling bastard discovers Shellie is pregnant, he comes after her. Tony knows he can’t keep Shellie safe on his own, considering the man’s extensive network of just-as-abusive friends. Tony flees back to his brother’s side.
Tony is surprised to learn Jerome is in a relationship with a guy, but that’s not the biggest shock. His brother is living on a ranch…full of vampires. Not only that, but the second-in-command of the vampires, Kellan Harlon, expresses an interest in him. While Tony’s first instinct is to run, he resists. Shellie needs him, and Kellan and his vampires can keep them safe.
Will Tony give in to Kellan’s seduction before his need to bolt overrides his common sense?
As Tony Harsnen rolled his overheating car to a stop in the Burger King parking lot, he silently cursed up a storm.
Forty-five more miles. Why couldn’t the damn thing have lasted just forty-five more miles?
Tony had known that the bullets Shellie’s ex-husband’s friend had shot at his car when they’d been fleeing had to have hit something important.
That just seems to be her luck lately, and I’ve been drawn into it.
With a mental wince, Tony knew that wasn’t fair. Shellie Desprow had befriended him instantly when he’d moved to Detroit for his new job. She’d shown him around the area, pointed him in the direction of the best pizza joints, and explained what areas that, as a gay man, he would be wise to avoid.
Shellie’s friendship had been invaluable in helping him to settle in with a minimum of loneliness. It had been the first time he’d lived on his own, and it wasn’t even in the same state, let alone city, as his brother, Jerome. His brother had taken him in when his parents had disowned him at the age of fifteen. Tony had been so worried when he’d shown up at Jerome’s doorstep, but upon hearing what had happened, his brother had growled under his breath, muttered assholes, and made up the sofa bed.
The next day, Tony had found Jerome at the small dining room table with his laptop, looking at listings for two-bedroom apartments.
“I suppose that smoke escaping from under the hood isn’t a good thing.”
Shellie’s quiet comment pulled Tony out of his musings.
Reaching over, Tony placed his hand over hers and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Don’t worry. We’ll be okay.” He pointed at the restaurant. “Let’s get some food and put our heads together. We’ll think of something.”
“And go pee,” Shellie muttered as she pushed out of the vehicle.
Tony smiled a little as he climbed from behind the wheel of his sedan. Peering over the hood of the car at Shellie, he took in her stance. She had one hand on the hood and the other on her lower back, and she was stretching a little, accentuating her rounded, pregnant stomach.
“You could have told me you needed to stop,” Tony told her before reaching into the cab and pulling the hood release. “I would have stopped.”
“I know you would have,” Shellie replied with a grimace and a blush. “But you said your brother’s place was only another forty miles, so I was trying to hold it.”
Accepting that, Tony offered, “Head in, and I’ll catch up. I want to check under the hood.”
“Do you think you might be able to figure it out?” she asked as she began moving her six-month pregnant body in that direction.
Tony wasn’t even going to pretend to know anything about cars. “Nope,” he replied honestly. “But in car shows, I’ve always seen people popping the hood to let out the smoke and make certain nothing is burning.”
Shellie nodded, then picked up her pace.
After watching Shellie disappear into the fast-food restaurant, Tony opened the hood. Gray smoke billowed up. He straightened and took a step backward, waving his hand to clear it.
Tony waited until the smoke cleared, then stared at the engine.
Yup. No inspiration striking.
With a shake of his head, Tony turned and headed into the restaurant. The restroom sounded good to him, too. As he entered, his nostrils were assailed by the scent of burgers and fries, and his stomach growled.
With his mouth watering, Tony quickly headed to the men’s room and took care of business. He found Shellie standing near the line opening. She was staring at the offerings and nibbling her bottom lip.
Tony could guess exactly what she was thinking. What could they afford? They didn’t have much cash left. Tony had his debit card, but he knew that the second he used it, Shellie’s ex-husband would most likely be notified of where they were. Without wheels to make a quick getaway, Tony couldn’t take the chance.
“There’s a deal on their Whoppers,” Tony pointed out. “Two for five bucks. And we can split a large fry.”
Shellie smiled with relief. “Okay.”
Tony started them toward the register. “Do you want bacon on yours?” He was pretty sure that wouldn’t put them over the ten dollar bill he had in his wallet.
“Mmmm, bacon,” Shellie muttered, rubbing her rounded belly.
Chuckling, Tony winked at her. “Totally.”
After placing their orders, asking for cups for water, Tony put his arm around his pregnant friend and guided her toward a table. “Now we just need to find a phone.”
“Too bad there are no payphones anymore,” Shellie murmured, her brows creasing in concern. “We could have called collect.”
As Tony nodded, Shellie’s brows lifted, and a smile lit her features. “Sit and listen for the food.” Grinning, she whispered, “I have an idea.”
“What?” Tony asked even as he obeyed.
With a wink, Shellie bent and pressed a kiss to Tony’s cheek while whispering, “Everyone likes to help pregnant ladies.”
Tony wasn’t too sure about that. Shellie’s ex-husband, Barry Kondrin, and his friends were proof of that. Still, he wasn’t going to rain on his friend’s parade.
That didn’t stop him from watching like a hawk as Shellie walked slowly toward a nearby table where two men sat. They both peered up at the same time, glanced at her belly, then focused on her face again.