Sheridan Andorran would never be considered a good man—not even a decent one. He’s done far too many questionable things in the name of self-preservation. When his brother orders him to kidnap his niece, Sheridan intends to do it. Except, outside the home where Kendra is staying, he runs across a man charged with stopping him—Rory MacDougal—and the man awakens every hidden desire he’s ever felt. One kiss from Rory and Sheridan knows he’ll never be able to hide his desires from his homophobic brother again. He does the only thing he can think of to save his own skin. Sheridan flees. A day later, stranded on the side of the road, he starts hitchhiking…only to be picked up by Rory. Sheridan learns his brother is dead, his sister is in jail, and the only family he has left—his niece and her father—want nothing to do with him. Rory asks Sheridan to stay. Can he learn how to become a different person, a better man, and make amends to those he owes before his checkered past catches up with him?
Reader Advisory: This story is best read after finishing The Crystal Connoisseur.
Sheridan Andorran gripped the steering wheel tightly and bowed his head. A low groan of frustration escaped his mouth. Closing his eyes, he bounced his forehead off the top of the wheel a couple of times before resting it there.
Could life get any shittier?
Even as the thought flitted through Sheridan’s mind, he cringed. He knew better than to tempt Fate. With the way his life was going, it could.
Since he knew nothing about vehicles, Sheridan didn’t even bother popping the hood on the old truck. He wouldn’t know what he was looking at anyway. His brother was the one who fixed their vehicles.
Sheridan glanced around, a bout of nerves bursting through him. Even though he knew just thinking about the man—Spencer Andorran—wouldn’t make him appear, the hairs on his nape still stood on end. He needed to get moving, so he could stay ahead of the man.
I know he’ll come after me. He did before.
After grabbing his backpack from where it rested next to him on the bench seat, Sheridan shoved out of the truck. He pocketed his keys, then slammed the door. Sheridan didn’t bother to lock it. The truck was an old piece of shit.
If someone wants to steal it, more power to ’em.
With that thought in mind, Sheridan started walking. He trudged along, putting one foot in front of the other. Pulling his coat tight around him, he shivered against the cold.
Winter in Colorado sucks.
Maybe I’ll move to Florida. No one will know me there.
While the winter air chilled his neck, Sheridan said a silent thank you to the universe that the heavy snow from the prior evening had stopped. Even with the heavy-duty tires on the pick-up, he’d still slid around a little. He knew he should have waited for a break in the storm, but he’d needed to get away before Spencer finished with his plan to kick Wilson’s ass and came after him, too.
Sheridan had failed in Spencer’s order to kidnap their niece, Kendra, Wilson’s daughter. Wilson was married to their younger sister, Shandell. Spencer planned to use keeping Kendra away from Wilson as leverage to keep Wilson from divorcing Shandell, stopping their free money flow.
While Sheridan had intended to do as his brother ordered—take Kendra away from the home of where she’d been spending the night at her friend’s home—he’d run into an unexpected problem.
Sheridan felt his body flush hot just thinking about the sexy man. Swallowing hard, he reached down and adjusted his growing prick behind his fly. Shaking his head, he tried not to dwell on their brief meeting.
Recalling that kiss, however, sure made it tough.
Ever since Sheridan realized he was gay at the age of fourteen, he’d had to hide it. His family were bigoted and mean about it. Even after their parents had died, Spencer had kept up the derogatory slurs and name-calling, and Shandell had parroted him.
Sheridan had known he could never allow his older brother and younger sister to find out. To that end, he’d shunned most other interaction besides what was required for his work at the diner. Fortunately, as the cook, he didn’t have to do more than talk about orders.
Hearing the rumble of a car engine, Sheridan lifted his head. He saw that it was coming from in front of him, so he ignored it. Instead, he read the road sign he was walking toward.
Sighing, Sheridan kept walking.
When another rumble registered, Sheridan realized it was coming from behind him. He stuck out his thumb as he kept moving. Too bad the Jeep didn’t stop.
Sheridan grimaced as the vehicle driving past him splashed wet spray onto his pants.
Of course, Sheridan knew he didn’t have any room to talk. He followed along with all of Spencer’s plans. It was easier that way.
Absently rubbing his ribcage, Sheridan recalled Spencer’s last reminder of his place.
Sheridan had secretly saved up a little over a thousand bucks. It had taken him over a year since he had to squirrel away a few bucks here and there from the cash Spencer gave him to buy beer. Most of the time, Spencer would ask for the change back, but not always.
Once Sheridan had that little nest egg, he had packed a bag, climbed into his pick-up, and driven away. He should have left his phone behind. His brother had tracked him down three towns over.
Spencer had beat the shit out of him. After warning him that trying to walk away from his family obligations would get a broken bone next time, he’d ordered Sheridan home. His brother had followed behind him in his nicer, newer truck, practically on his bumper, all the way home.
Then Spencer had taken his money and had kept careful tabs on his activities. He’d also stepped up his rants on the importance of family and sticking together.
Family values. Ha!
For some reason, sticking together only applied to the three of them. Shandell’s husband wasn’t family. Neither was Kendra, and when she came to the house with her mother, Sheridan did his best to keep her occupied and away from them both.
The sound of another engine drew Sheridan from his bitter thoughts. He turned and spotted an older Bronco approaching. Sticking out his thumb, he tried not to get his hopes up too high.
The vehicle slowed as it approached him, and Sheridan’s heart thundered in his chest.
Maybe I won’t have to walk the whole way.
To Sheridan’s relief, the vehicle pulled onto the shoulder about thirty feet in front of him. He picked up his pace as the driver’s side door opened. When the guy exited and turned to face him, Sheridan froze as he stared at the last man he’d ever thought to see again.
“Oh fuck,” Sheridan whispered.
Rory MacDougal stalked toward him.