Outside the Lines (MM)

Jake's Bar

Painted Hearts Publishing

Heat Rating: Sizzling
Word Count: 87,730
0 Ratings (0.0)

Forever needs more than Love at First Sight

Damon Stryker spent years trying to outrun guilt and regrets. Now, he has stumbled into danger and is forced to face his past. But once he’s settled the score, he’ll be back on the road. Getting tangled up with a sassy, reckless bartender? Not part of his plan.

Sheldon Baker is on a mission to find true love, but fairy tale romance continues to escape him. No more! Any man, who isn’t looking for happily-ever-after, isn’t worth Sheldon’s time. Getting tangled up with a troubled, morally gray biker? Not part of his plan.

A dangerous murder investigation proves that Sheldon and Damon have more in common than they thought. Together they might be able to protect everyone they hold dear, but can Damon be trusted, or will Sheldon crash and burn again?

But none of that matters if they become the killer’s next victims…

Outside the Lines, Book 3 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.

Outside the Lines (MM)
0 Ratings (0.0)

Outside the Lines (MM)

Jake's Bar

Painted Hearts Publishing

Heat Rating: Sizzling
Word Count: 87,730
0 Ratings (0.0)
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The wind rattled the windows of JD’s Bar, and rain pounded against the glass, drowning out the shocked silence in the taproom. This was so wrong. It was Sunday. Nothing ever happened on a Sunday.

“What the fuck?” Sheldon whispered to himself, over and over again. His mind was still struggling to catch up. Everything looked just the same as it had a few minutes ago. The light from the industrial bulbs illuminated scattered tables, the empty booths along the wall, and the polished dark wood of the bar. Brass taps gleamed behind an abandoned tray holding empty glasses. He and Jazz had been in the middle of cleanup. Jake—as always—had been barking orders from behind the counter while loving on his boyfriend, Con, who had come in a few hours ago after a weekend shift at Boston PD.

But that had been before—before the stranger staggered through the door and dropped to his knees right in fucking front of them. Con had been faster to react than everybody else. In a blur, he’d leaped half across the room and had pushed Jazz, who was closest to the intruder, behind his body with one arm. Sheldon still stood frozen, trying to wrap his head around the fact that an injured man was kneeling on the floor of JD’s Bar on a fucking Sunday.

A muffled scrape pulled Sheldon’s attention back to the stranger. He was trying to stand back up but swayed badly. Without thinking, Sheldon stepped around Con and reached out to help. But he jerked back when the guy hissed in pain at his touch.

Even from the brief contact, Sheldon’s hands felt wet. Stupid rain. He unconsciously wiped them on his pants. A low shriek escaped him at seeing the smear of red now marring his white skinny jeans. His stomach heaved, and he desperately tried to suck in much-needed oxygen, but somehow his lungs seemed to have forgotten how to breathe.

“I’ll call an ambulance.” Con pulled out his phone as if bleeding strangers were an everyday thing.

“No,” the guy yelled, pushing up from the floor. “No ambulance, Jay, and no fucking police.”

Sheldon glanced at his boss. Jay? Holy fuck.

Jazz gasped too because Jake Devlin wasn’t the kind of man to invite nicknames—not if you wanted to keep all your limbs.

“Damon?” Jake sounded like he’d eaten gravel.

Suddenly, everybody spoke at once. “Damon, as in Damon Stryker, your ex?” Con asked while Jazz said, “The guy who ripped you off ten years ago? Stole your money and ran?” Leave it to Jazz to say things out loud that most people wouldn’t.

Jake never talked about Damon Stryker. A dusty, framed picture of the bar’s opening day was the only record that he’d once had a business partner. But some of JD’s oldest regulars had shared bits and pieces of the story with Sheldon. Just enough to figure out that the partners been more than childhood friends opening a bar together. And that Stryker had run off with JD’s start-up money.

Sheldon would never admit it, but he’d studied that picture fairly regularly on slow shifts and had even done some unsuccessful online searches. Damon Stryker was one of his favorite real-life mysteries because, in general, life needed more mysteries, and this one was delish. Rumor had it Damon had left for a pack of cigarettes one night and had never been seen again.

And now the man had just stumbled back into JD’s?

“He’s gotta have a death wish, showing his face here.” Jazz’s voice was grim with glee.

Sheldon’s eyes swiveled back to Damon fucking Stryker in the flesh. The man’s bloodstained hand pressed against his side while he tried to straighten. Despite being completely freaked out, Sheldon found himself moving closer again to help. Dark-chocolate-colored eyes caught his glance in the dim light, then inspected his face. The grim intensity sent shivers along Sheldon’s spine. This close, he could see the guy’s split lip and a bruise forming on his right cheek.

Jake shuffled closer, breaking their connection. “Fuck, D, I didn’t think I’d ever—”

“I had to come,” the wounded man rasped. “Give—give me a moment.”

I had to come? Sheldon expected Jake to bark out “Why?”, but instead, his boss just raised his hand. It was shaking slightly.

Sheldon swallowed hard. Jake Devlin was larger than life. His booming voice made everyone cower. The bar was his empire. Nobody came in there and messed with the ex-Marine.

Fuckity fuck. A Jake off his game was as close to the end of the world as it could get. This ex, Stryker, could be the dark angel who would bring them all down.

“Jake, I’m a cop. If this is a gunshot wound, I have to call it in,” Con said, his voice laced with frustration.

The words seemed to shake Jake out of his paralysis. “Hold up, Con. Nobody is reporting anything.”

Just as Damon barked, “Fuck, Jay, call off the dogs.” He’d finally managed to push himself up.

Sheldon bristled. Nice. The guy fucked up a perfectly cozy night and then was mean about it, too. Damon had nice tall, broad shoulders, though. And stunning dark eyes, really, really dark, with just a few golden flecks. And—

Ahh, shit, this man had betrayed Jake and stolen from JD’s. There was no way Sheldon should be noticing his broad shoulders and gorgeous eyes.

Jake pulled up a chair. “Here, sit down.” He reached for Damon’s arm. Carefully, almost gently.

“Damn, you’re kidding, right? I—” Con kicked the table. It scraped over the floor.

“Con, put your phone away.”

“Again, if it’s a gunshot—”

“No report,” Jake barked.

Con flinched and took a step back. Regret flickered in Jake’s eyes, but Damon swayed against him, and he propped the injured man up without hesitation.

“Jazz, run upstairs and open the door to my apartment. The code is 0808,” he ordered. “Go. Sheldon, help me. Get on his other side.”

“You’re bringing him to your place?” Con’s voice was missing its usual smooth New England prep-school pitch that Sheldon was so jealous of.

Jake shook his head. “I need your help, right now.”

Sheldon wasn’t sure whether Jake was talking to Con or to him. He looked over to Con. Not so much for approval, because he’d always do what Jake asked him to do, but still…

Ever since Detective Miguel Conway had crashed into Jake’s life, nothing had come between the two men. They’d weathered secrets, lies, and a crazy asshole trying to take Con down. They were the model of everything Sheldon wanted out of a relationship: #Boyfriendgoals.

But now he saw excruciating pain in Con’s eyes. Before they turned to ice, and his face froze into stone.

Jake must have seen it as well. “Con—”

“I can’t be here.” Con turned on his heels and strode toward the back door.

A snort pulled Sheldon’s attention back to the stranger just in time to see his lips sneer in grim satisfaction. What the hell?

“Hey, wait,” Jake called. But Con didn’t turn back. Seconds later, the metal back door banged against the frame.

“One night. One fucking night,” Jake growled at the man slumped against him.

“I wouldn’t have come, but when I found—” Words were cut off by a grunt as Jake pulled Damon up and dragged him along. “I promise I’ll be gone tomorrow—”

“Yeah, you’re good at disappearing.” Jake snarled.


“I got the door open,” Jazz called as they pounded back down the stairs. They looked around the taproom. “Did Con leave? Why the fuck would he leave?”

Sheldon made a quick cutting motion with his free hand. It took them a second to catch up, then their eyes widened. “Oh, shit.”

The staircase in the back was pretty narrow, so neither Sheldon nor Jazz could help much, but they made it upstairs without incident. Sheldon had never been in the apartment despite working at JD’s Bar for months now. Not many people could claim they’d been inside Jake’s lair. The place was bare. Beige walls in dire need of some paint. Scratched-up hardwood floors. Half-filled moving boxes scattered around the room.

Jake was in the process of moving to a brand-new apartment next door, one he would share with Con. A slow-as-molasses process, since Jake was still grumpy about the fact that Con had bought the old movie theater around the corner without telling anybody. Sheldon’s boss wasn’t one for surprises.

Jake helped Damon onto the old sofa with angry, clipped movements. “Take your shirt off. I’ll get something to stop the bleeding.” Then he disappeared into the bedroom.

Jazz moved toward the kitchen and checked the fridge. “Ugh, empty. I’ll get some water from downstairs,” they mumbled.

Suddenly, Sheldon was alone with Damon. The man he tried to wrestle out of his shirt and gasped with pain. A blood-stained envelope fell from his pocket onto the floor. Sheldon gingerly picked it up as he moved closer. A low moan distracted him before he could ask about it, so he dropped it onto the scuffed-up coffee table. “Let me help.”

He carefully tugged the bloody fabric over the injured man’s head, his eyes roaming over Damon’s body. It wasn’t a gunshot wound, or at least Sheldon didn’t think so. It looked like a long cut, waist high, wrapping around a meaty gut covered with dark hair. Yup. Damon was solid all around. Bulky. Strong muscles with a layer of extra. Tattoos swirling over his skin. “Scruffy bear” immediately popped into Sheldon’s brain.

As Damon’s hands went down to his belt, Sheldon saw he had another bloody cut on his arm. The man opened his jeans and pushed them down a few inches, together with his boxers, exposing a dark happy trail and more skin.

“I’m a great nurse,” Sheldon’s mouth started to blab as he kneeled next to the couch. “Seriously, I’m good at taking care of people. I took care of Brent when he got injured. He had a concussion…uhm…Brent is a friend. Well, we’re friends now. Good friends. You’re still bleeding. Here. Let me help.”

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