Sequel to Family Bonds
Settling into a stable relationship proves to be harder for Dane and Sean than dealing with monsters or murderers, so when Professor Sean starts seeing something weird -- something unnatural -- at work, it's almost a welcome challenge. Except that Sean's getting sick, too.
When Decrypter Dane agrees to investigate, he is dragged further and further into uncomfortable territory when he must pose as a student to find the source of Sean's mysterious illness. He hates his undercover role and wants to get the job done as fast as possible, but digging into the goings on at Sean's school uncovers a dark secret, one dating back decades and not dead yet.
Can Dane find out what's going on, maintain his cover, and not screw up his already rocky relationship, or are their chances for success, and survival, slim indeed?
Dane recoiled. He'd never pulled back so fast from someone in his life, and definitely never from a bit of physical attention. It was an immediate reaction, something he didn't even think about, and within the span of a few seconds he was glaring at a clearly wounded Mark.
"The fuck are you doing?" he asked.
"I thought ..." began Mark.
Shit. Dane had screwed up what he'd had going and he could only think of one way to fix it.
"Yeah, but here? Where anyone can see?"
Mark stared at him blankly for a hot second before he processed what Dane had said.
"Oh, you're one of those. You don't have to be ashamed about it."
"I'm not ashamed." Dane could hear the way he growled the words, and it only made him more pissed at Mark. He wasn't ashamed. He was ... not interested, and a bit offended Mark had made a move. Dane was surprised with himself.
"Okay," said Mark. "Sorry. I thought you were interested --"
"-- in going fast. You invited yourself back to my room."
"Yeah, but that would have been in private," said Dane. He and Mark stared at each other awkwardly for a few moments. "So I'm not used to doing things where people can see. You got a problem with that?"
"No," said Mark. He reached out, touched the back of Dane's hand. "I won't do that again." He paused. "Text me," he said, and left.
Dane sat in the old chair, miserable. It wasn't text me if you see anything, it was just text me. Normally Dane had a bit of fun leading people on, but right now he felt like shit. He considered texting Sean, then put his phone away and pretended to be looking over his options on the shelf across from him.
He'd never frozen before in a situation like that, definitely never pulled away. He wasn't someone to turn down that sort of attention, and yet he'd done it without thinking. Dane didn't want to consider what that meant, because it was something more than anything he'd experienced before, and because it scared him. Because he knew what it meant. It meant he actually cared about Sean, really loved him. Didn't want to be with someone else, not even for fun. Not even if he never mentioned it to Sean. Dane suddenly lacked the desire to do anything with anyone other than Sean.
Dane ran a hand through his hair, hating how he felt right now, wanting a drink more than anything. Despite the fact Mark had kissed him and he'd pulled away, he felt shitty about it.
He didn't have long to sit there stewing in his feelings before the door to Seth Smith's office opened and the man emerged. Dane leaned forward and grabbed a beat-up Hemmingway paperback, trying to appear vaguely interested in it as Seth turned and made his way down the corridor. When he was close enough Dane glanced up, got a quick look at him.
He was thin, true, with more delicate features, and his pupils and irises looked, well, larger than usual, but not by much. Otherwise he appeared completely normal. Dane had no idea what Sean was talking about. Of course, a Lithe Fellow couldn't go around looking like a nightmare, so it was possible Dane was seeing something Smith wanted him to see, but generally he could get a good sense of whether someone was a nonhuman or not. But Dane couldn't get a sense of anything off this guy.
Seth Smith glanced at him as he passed, the dismissive glance you give a student, and Dane stared at him like he'd just looked up. When the man passed by, Dane set the book back on the shelf, waited a few seconds, and went after him.
Hands in his pockets, notebook tucked under his arm, he followed Smith down the back stairs and out the building into the chill March air. Dane stopped by the garbage and ashtray combo, pretended like he was pulling smokes out of his coat, but Smith simply walked to a nearby car, got in, and drove off.
"Bet you don't even know where he's going."
Dane turned to see a smug student, backpack on, hands in his pockets, sneering at him. He gave up pretending to search his pockets. The student took out his phone and texted someone. Dane brushed by him on the way back into the building, but the guy grabbed his arm. Dane's pulse spiked and he resisted punching the guy, who was just a student anyway and looked friggin' young.