Deepan vowed never to come back to Seattle after surviving the hell that was high school. Being a gay Muslim doesn't go down well with anyone. But the temptation of a better paid job in his hometown was too great, and now Deepan finds he's either brought a stalker with him or the stalker is already here. And things are escalating. When his only salvation lies in his former crush, Deepan finds his lust hasn't gone away. In fact, with time, it's only grown more intense.
Karl had a high-flying career as a baseball star until injury forced him out. Now he's a cop, and going back to school isn't what he has in mind when he's called to a scene where a former classmate has been murdered in the middle of their high school reunion.
It isn't until he learns Deepan might be at the center of the case that Karl discovers what he really wants out of life. And whom.
As Karl headed back into the ER, he saw Deepan stumble out of the private room. Even across the floor, Karl could see how white he was. Deepan said something to a passing nurse, who went into the room. Then Deepan left, almost stumbling towards the emergency exit.
What had happened there? Karl cursed himself for not being present and hurried after him. The door opened right out into the parking lot, into the bay where the ambulances parked. Deepan was pacing around, running his hands over his face and through his hair, making it stand on end. Karl could see Deepan's hands were shaking.
Deepan kept pacing. He didn't seem to have heard him. Karl approached him, touching Deepan's arm as he passed. Deepan jerked with an audible flinch.
"Easy there, it's just me."
"Karl." Deepan stared at him like he had never seen him before. Then he scowled. "Don't creep up on me like that."
"I thought you might have heard me." Karl frowned. "What's the matter with you? Is Kenneth being a dick again?"
"In more ways than one." Deepan let out a shuddering breath. "Kenneth Alan certainly hasn't changed."
Deepan bit his lip. Then he shifted, rubbing at his crotch with a pained expression.
"He ... he groped me. Quite hard."
"It's not the first time he's done that."
Karl was still reeling from the fact Kenneth had just groped Deepan in the hospital. He stared.
"What do you mean, not the first time? He's assaulted you before?"
"At school." Deepan said bitterly. "He was the one who told my parents about me being gay. He tortured me over it, thinking I slept with any guy in my immediate vicinity. Or maybe he was just trying to humiliate me. I never complained to find out what his reasons were."
"Why the fuck wouldn't you report him?"
"Come off it, you saw how my family reacted once they found out. They would have simply turned and walked away. The school couldn't do anything, not when Kenneth had a habit of coming back even meaner than before. I was alone."
Now Karl felt like a dick. He had had no idea. Kenneth was a bully to everyone, but Deepan was clearly scarred by it all. He should have paid more attention to his friend's situation at the time.
Karl wanted to reach out and hug Deepan, just to comfort him. But he had a sudden feeling in his chest that if he touched Deepan, even just for comfort, he wouldn't be able to let go.
"Do you want me to arrest him?" Karl asked. "I'd be more than happy to, and if there were witnesses…"
But Deepan was already shaking his head.
"No, don't. We'll make him pay."
"You're not going to do anything illegal, are you?"
Deepan gave him a mirthless smirk.
"Steph and I have a saying between us. Insurance. That means whenever we have a particular patient who's been nasty to us, made one of the nurses cry, or just being a pain in the ass for no reason, we drag out his treatment, do unnecessary things medically to him and stick it on the bill." Deepan shrugged. "It turns a hundred dollar bill into something more. He refuses to pay, you can arrest him then."
Karl stared. They abused the medical system? He didn't think Deepan would do something like that.
"I'm sure that's not allowed."
"You going to do something about it, Detective?"
They stared at each other. Karl could see Deepan wasn't about go back down. He didn't want any trouble, but he had his own way of dragging it out for Kenneth and making him squirm. Better than Karl could ever do it. Karl had to fight back a smile. Deepan had a mean streak underneath his placid exterior.
He had to admit that was rather sexy.