Down the Line (MM)

Jake's Bar

Painted Hearts Publishing

Heat Rating: Sizzling
Word Count: 88,393
0 Ratings (0.0)

Revenge is a Dangerous Obsession

Dean Hunt needs the story of a lifetime—Since his uncompromising attitude got him fired, the investigative journalist is hell-bent to expose the powerful and corrupt Conway family. It’s a career move, and absolutely not a vendetta against the oldest son Noel, who ghosted Dean after a mind-blowing weekend together.

Noel Conway needs a new start—After years away, Noel has come home to rebuild the bridges he’s burned. Too bad his past caused a ripple effect he can’t outrun. Now, he’s asked to save his family from the one man he never expected to see again but can’t forget.

Dean is chasing front-page news, and Noel is trying to protect the ones he loves. But the line between enemies and lovers gets blurred when a dangerous criminal from Noel’s past resurfaces. Will the truth shatter their tentative trust? Or do they have a shot at happily ever after?

But none of that matters when suddenly Noel disappears…

Down the Line, the final book in the award-winning Jake’s Bar series, is a spicy, M/M romantic suspense featuring a rainbow-colored bar full of quirky characters, and all the romance you can handle. So, download today, and get ready to fall in love with Jake’s Bar.

Down the Line (MM)
0 Ratings (0.0)

Down the Line (MM)

Jake's Bar

Painted Hearts Publishing

Heat Rating: Sizzling
Word Count: 88,393
0 Ratings (0.0)
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Dean Hunt untangled himself from the limp body clinging to him. He pushed away the silken sheets and took his cell to the bathroom. After locking the door, he turned on the shower.

“Where is my money?” Aaron Calder’s voice had an angry edge to it.

Dean leaned against the vanity and spoke through gritted teeth. “I’ll get you your money once I get something useful from you. I don’t need a recap of what I can read in the morning papers.”

“I told you; Romano is lying low because that cop, Conway, is breathing down his throat. He thought fucking Conway’s older brother would open doors for him”—Dean’s hand tightened around the phone—“but instead, it backfired, and now he’s got that detective poking around.”

Calder huffed between every second or third word. Pounding steps were audible in the background. The chief of security at Boston’s newest nightlife hotspot, Dark Crystalle, was on his morning run. For a while, Dean had joined Calder. It’d taken a few weeks to get him to cooperate, but in the end, money had been the deciding factor. Greed was the man’s prime motivator, which made him such an easy-to-manage source.

“I know all this. Get me something new, and I’ll send you the money.”

“Hunt, don’t fuck with me. If I don’t get—”

Dean hung up and turned off his phone. Calder would be pissed, but it was better to have the guy fuming than to explain that he didn’t have the money…at least not yet. He was waiting for the sale of his family home to go through. It hurt to sell the last thing he had from his parents. He’d been surprised by how much he’d struggled to accept the under-market offer to make a quick sale to get his hands on more money.

Dean leaned his head against the tiled wall, savoring the imagined triumph that fueled his deep-seated hunger.

Santiago-Conways exposed. Dirty money corrupts Boston’s most influential family.

He lived to expose the lies, the hypocrisy and arrogance. And the scarcely veiled brutality the rich and powerful used to destroy others. And he was close, so fucking close. Front-page news. A headliner story. He couldn’t afford to lose a source, not right now.

Sure, paying off a source was frowned upon and went against the Society of Professional Journalists’ code, but Dean was spinning his wheels. Something had to give…

A muffled moan from the bedroom interrupted his thoughts. He pushed himself off the wall. Dean pissed, flushed, and went back for round two with the all-American pretty boy currently engaged to Boston’s favorite assistant district attorney.

“Hey.” Luke Kennedy’s tousled blond head peeked out from under the covers. “I thought it was you.”

Dean scoffed under his breath. Luke had been high as a kite the night before. He probably truly couldn’t remember who he’d taken home to his swanky penthouse. Luke’s eyes were red and swollen. Drool stuck to his chin.

Dean got a wet washcloth from the bathroom, climbed onto the king-sized bed, and washed the guy’s face. Then he handed Luke some painkillers and the glass of water he’d put down on the nightstand after he’d half dragged, half carried Luke to bed last night.

“I know you have a busy day,” Dean said. “So maybe we just…”

“No way. You’re here. I’m here.” Luke winked.

“Don’t you have the museum’s opening with Eliza?”

“Ahh, shit, what time is it?”

“Almost ten.”

“Gotta be a quickie, then.” Luke plopped himself back into the pillows and pushed the sheets aside.

Dean snorted. That’s how Mr. God’s-gift-to-all-that-fucked operated. Luke Kennedy truly believed looking good and being available made him a catch in bed. Dean crawled over him and reached for his limp cock.

“That woman is running you ragged,” he said casually as he circled his hand around Kennedy’s dick and started to stroke.

“You have no idea.” Luke moaned softly as Dean’s thumb brushed over his slit.

“What’s her deal?”

“She’s pissed at me for some reason. Don’t know what I did this time.”

“Women.” Another stroke. Another swipe with his thumb.

“Amen.” Luke moaned. “Oh God, yeah, do that again.”

Yeah, Luke Kennedy was a real good Catholic boy.

But Dean was nothing but obliging. He kissed and licked a trail up to Luke’s ear before he bit his lobe. “You like that?”

“Hell yes.”

Dean gave the man a minute or two to lose himself in lust before asking, “Is Eliza’s boss still keeping her on a short leash? Maybe that’s got her in a snitch. Or is she finally being allowed to go after some bigger fish? Like the Conways…”

Luke grunted and started rocking into Dean’s hand. “Donknow. Stopped talking to me. All business these days, meet me here, do this...oh yeah, that’s…that’s it.”

Ah, damn, another source dried up? Fuck.

If ADA Eliza Bryant had stopped sharing pillow talk with her fiancé, then Dean and Luke’s no-strings arrangement had lost its sizzle.




A mere thirty minutes and a quick shower later, Dean was in his car, driving back through pouring rain across town to his own home in Allston. If Luke was currently out of favor with Bryant, maybe Dean could reach out to his contact at the DA’s office to figure out if the task force was truly disbanded after their stunning successes last fall.

Bryant succeeded where others failed. Under her leadership, the district attorney’s office had taken out a network of corrupt cops, high-ranking local politicians, and public servants. But lately, there had been no news, and the task force had gone dark.

If you’re coming from the north, the Expressway is already backed up all the way from the Tobin Bridge.” The voice of Cristin Wayfair, morning show anchor of Boston’s Radio 128, chirped through the loudspeakers.

Dean snickered. “Not what you signed up for, Crissy, huh?”

Petty, he knew. But he’d never been the type to forgive and forget. Dean could hold a grudge, and anger still burned through him, just not as brightly anymore. Not after he had found out his old radio station had been consistently leaking listeners since they’d fired him, and he’d disappeared from the airwaves. The more frequent weather and traffic announcements reeked of desperation.

Not that the station’s trouble did him any good. There was no going back. He’d razed that bridge to the ground by airing a report on systematic discrimination at one of the channel’s biggest advertisers. Station 128 hadn’t taken too kindly to losing a fat chunk of revenue.

Looking back, it hadn’t been his smartest move. As the host of a popular morning show, Dean had won “most thought provoking” by Boston’s top-selling magazine two years in a row, and now, less than a year later, the city had all but forgotten his name.

If he’d kept his mouth shut, then he’d be on the air now, but the blatant racism had pissed him off. Fucking over his line-towing program director by swapping the segment in at the last minute had been highly satisfying.

Had it been smart? Hell no. Would he do it again? In a heartbeat.

His cell buzzed after he’d circled his block for the second time, maneuvering around gaggles of college kids. Camille Conway’s name showed up on his dashboard just as he found an empty parking spot.

Dean ran into the heiress to one of Boston’s largest media conglomerates frequently at industry events. Much to his surprise, Camille hadn’t ghosted him like almost everybody else; instead, she actively searched him out and shared her vision of starting her own local news channel. Even though she was a year younger, Camille had become a bit of a patroness to Dean, thus adding another twist to his rather-complicated relationship with the Conway family.

“Hi, Camille,” he said as he pulled between a beat-up Honda Civic and a Jeep.

“What the hell did you do this time?” Camille asked instead of offering a greeting.

“Is that a trick question?”

A nasty curse came through the line. For the daughter of one of Boston’s elite families, Camille Conway was delightfully without decorum. “My brother just left a message on my phone announcing that he’s on his way to kill you. I was wondering if I should call somebody to stop him or offer to help bury the body.”

“Definitely the latter,” Dean joked. He tapped the steering wheel. “Which brother?”

Camille had two brothers, one a knight in fucking shining armor, the other a quintessential enfant terrible. The younger, Miguel, otherwise known as Con, was a cop and ran an anti-corruption task force for the DA’s office. The elder, Noel, partied all over Europe and right now was probably sleeping off his hangover between satin sheets with his mafia boyfriend Antonio Romano, who plotted world domination. Oh, yeah, that would be the same Antonio Romano who Noel’s younger brother was currently investigating for racketeering.

A part of him was itching to share the story of two brothers tangled up with the same villain. The age-old battle of good versus evil with a modern gay twist. It’d be a fantastic human-interest piece and definitely would have scored high with his old employer.

Dean dashed through the icy rain. He was so done with winter, and this March, it seemed to be clinging harder than usual. Balancing his cell on his shoulder because he hadn’t bothered with his earbuds, he pushed the entrance door open and collected his daily stack of newspapers out of his mailbox.

As he made his way to the staircase, ignoring the elevator as always, he realized Camille was uncharacteristically quiet.

“Camille?” Taking two steps at a time, he started the long climb to the fifth floor.

“Why would Noel want to kill you? He doesn’t even know you. Or does he?”

Fuck, he needed to watch his words…

“Everybody wants to kill me these days,” Dean deflected.

“Cry me a river,” Camille said. “I’ve actually had a few people ask about you after your series about local campaign financing. Your article in the Globe about lobbyists laundering Chinese money and funneling it into campaigns created a stir. I can see why you’re not popular with local politicians.”

After becoming persona non grata at the radio station, Dean had made ends meet by returning to his roots, freelancing for print media. He’d wrangled a few contract gigs, mostly covering politics and events for small local papers. But Camille had used her influence to get him in front of the editor-in-chief of the Boston Globe, giving Dean the chance to pitch his latest project. Now the Dirty Campaign Money series was getting some traction.

“Be careful, Dean,” Camille said quietly. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen Con so worked up. He’s been frustrated with me for supporting you all along, but now—he told me point-blank that I’m making a huge mistake by backing you. So I’m asking you, am I making a mistake?”

Dean stopped cold. “I told you I won’t report anything that isn’t the truth.”

Camille snorted.

“Or at least vetted by two independent sources…on the record,” he joked.

“You better not.” Dean could hear her exhale through the line. “I really wish you’d find a story that doesn’t antagonize the people I love.”

As Dean reached the top of the staircase, a man stepped out of the shadows in front of his door.

“Your brother’s here. I’ll catch up with you later.”

He disconnected and approached Miguel Conway. In a parallel universe, they might have been friends. They were fighting the same fight. Had the same enemies.

Dean straightened his shoulders. “Detective Conway.”


In this world, they weren’t brothers in arms. In this world, Dean had been cast as the villain.

“How can I help you this fine morning?”

“Open the door. We gotta talk.”

“Look, it’s been a long night—”

“Just open the damn door.” Conway snarled, pushing into Dean’s personal space.

Dean stood his ground. “Are you here in an official capacity? Because then, the answer is no, I won’t let you in. You have no warrant, no permission to search my property. I don’t consent—”

“Just shut the fuck up. None of us wants this shitshow to be on the record,” Con growled.

Dean, curious, took a step back and raised his empty hand, palm up. “Okay, okay.”

He fished for his key, pushed open the door, and quickly disarmed his alarm system. Conway didn’t wait to be invited in, just crossed the living room, dropped his shearling coat onto the sofa, then walked over to the large window overlooking the river.

The view was the only redeeming feature of Dean’s otherwise-generic apartment. The mess didn’t help. There were dirty dishes piled up in the sink, a pizza box on the breakfast counter separating the cramped kitchen from the living room, and an unmade bed in the other corner of the room.

“So, what’s up?” Dean placed his cell into the charging station in the kitchen. He watched Conway look around the space with raised eyebrows.

“For a guy who anxiously waited at my doorstep, you’re awfully quiet.” Dean smirked. “Coffee?”

“No.” Conway turned his back, now studying the row of framed newspaper front pages Dean had hung on the apartment’s interior wall. His personal collection of historic headlines—headlines that changed the world.

The oldest was from July 6, 1776. The Pennsylvania Evening Post, printing the Declaration of Independence on its front page. Next to it, the Daily Telegram, declaring the end of the Second World War. The two most recent, the New York Times’ “OBAMA: Racial barrier falls in heavy turnout” and, of course, the front page the day after 9/11.

Dean had added a few more personal favorites, like Moneta J. Sleet’s photography of Coretta Scott King at MLK’s funeral. The first Black man to win the Pulitzer for journalism.

Camille’s baby brother took his time examining each framed newspaper. And Dean already regretted allowing the intrusion into his space. He felt exposed—vulnerable—under the silent scrutiny.

Irritated, he started banging around the kitchen. He was in no mood to explain that looking at those headlines every day fueled his ambitions and inspired his dreams. Dean believed with every fiber of his being in the power of a free and independent press.

He turned on the coffee machine and leaned against the counter. As if Conway felt Dean’s angry glare across the room, he finally turned and stared right back.

For a moment, they engaged in a silent standoff.

Unease flittered through Dean. Camille had been right. Her brother was seething with anger. And Dean had no fucking idea what he’d done to piss him off.

He sighed and shook his head, then took two mugs out of the cabinet and put them onto the island. “Miguel, have a damn coffee. You look like you need it.”

“Says the man who clearly slept in his party clothes and crept home at sunup.”

“Guilty as charged.” Dean shrugged.

Conway curled his lip. “I do not know what my sister sees in you.”

It wasn’t a question, so Dean didn’t bother with an answer. “You wanted to talk? So, talk.”

Instead of talking, though, Conway pulled out a stack of papers. Pushing aside the coffee cups to make room, he spread them out over the counter.

Dean froze. The first blurry photograph featured Dean in another man’s arms. In the next, the same man was pressing Dean against a white porch railing, his own hands tangled in the man’s messy curls. Conway fanned the stack, revealing nearly a dozen more.

Dean’s gaze fixed on the one of him and the man kissing.

Dean and Noel Conway, kissing.

Suddenly, he was there again, the ocean breeze tugging on his clothes. Noel’s warm skin, tasting like sunshine and a hint of salt, his eyes blown with desire. Goddamn, so fucking beautiful, with that shy smile, whispered promises playing over his lips—

“You’re after my family. I know you’re trying to make a connection between Antonio Romano and us. I wanted to get ahead of the slander, so I compiled a list of Romano’s known associates and have been combing through the security footage of all our properties,” Conway said, his voice eerily calm. “Just to check if there’s anything you and your media friends could misconstrue. Imagine my surprise when I came across these images from our Kennebunkport beach house. I actually wasn’t one hundred percent sure it was even you.” He raised an eyebrow. “Thanks for confirming.”

Dean’s throat was desert dry. His ragged breath and the hissing of the coffee machine came together like a fucking symphony. “I—”

“Save it. My sister thinks you’re this hotshot journalist. Full of passion. Braving adversity. Motivated by a noble cause. Yeah, fuck that. You’re after my family because Noel pounded your ass, then dropped you like he does everybody else. Your pride—your precious ego—is hurt because you’re just another notch in my brother’s carved-up bedpost.”

Conway grabbed his jacket and walked to the door. He turned and added, “Watch it, Hunt. You got no job. No friends. No prospects. But if you think you’ve reached rock bottom, think again.”

Dean contained himself until he heard his door close with a soft click. Only then did he allow himself to swipe papers, cups, and the fucking photos off his counter. The cups shattered on the tile floor. He sucked in a shaky breath.

Another rich white boy who thought he could fuck him over.

Dean’s life seemed to be plastered with them at every turn, but he’d finally learned his lesson. He wasn’t going to let anybody walk all over him. Yes, maybe it had all started with Noel Conway last summer, making promises he clearly had no intentions of keeping. And yes, maybe Dean had been hurt for a few days, but trying to figure out why Noel had dumped him had started Dean on a track that would eventually lead to his comeback. He simply needed that final piece of indisputable evidence that the Conway clan was connected to organized crime.

The fact that Miguel Conway had threatened him only reassured Dean. He was onto something big, and he wouldn’t let anything get in his way.

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