Joseph Slade Indian isn’t angry. He’s pissed. Pissed that the man who threw over his love for glory and money is back, and now leads their Ojibway community as the new chief. Holding the pain deep in his chest, Slade knows how he’ll celebrate the most miserable day of the year—opening a gift of recompense after being dumped by the one man he dared to love.
Gavin Pemmican is full of regret. He knows he made a big mistake leaving Slade for a materialistic dream of power and prestige. No longer the poor bullied misfit but an educated lawyer, he’s ready to put his skills to the biggest case of his life by brazenly challenging Slade in the kangaroo court of sexual torture he’s daring to stick Gavin in—and win back the only man he’s ever loved.
Gavin’s cock strained against his zipper, threatening to burst through his gray flannel dress pants. He gripped his favorite ballpoint pen and glanced up from his desk to the door, a mere piece of wood keeping Joseph Slade Indian hidden from view in the hallway at the band office.
If Gavin dared to finally open the door, he’d relieve himself of the misery that had followed him everywhere for the past month as chief of his community. But Slade loathed him. Hated him. Hate was too kind a word. Despise was a better choice. And Gavin didn’t blame Slade, because he’d had done his ex-lover wrong, oh so very wrong.
His phone rang. He snatched up the receiver. “Hello?”
“The band manager’s on line one,” Gavin’s executive assistant said.
“Take a message. I’ll call him back.” He set down the phone.
In two hours, the band office would close for the Christmas break. While everyone else got to tear off and enjoy the festive season with trips into town or visiting family, Gavin would head home to Grandma’s house, devoid of decorations and a tree but filled with his fancy furniture, top-of-the-line stereo system, fully renovated kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedrooms, and a king-sized empty bed he’d sleep alone in.
He rubbed his brow and tapped the tip of his pen on his lip. Yes, he’d done this to himself, but all wasn’t lost. Not if the plan he’d formulated worked in his favor.
* * * *
Slade kicked the mop bucket, and it rolled along the floor. If anyone dared to tell him to clean the chief’s office, they could suck it.
Christmas music continued to blast through the speakers threaded throughout the band office. The economic development officer scooted by with a stack of files. On the guy’s head was a Santa hat, fluffy white ball and trim, too.
“Merry Christmas, Slade,” the secretary greeted in a singsong voice as she passed by carrying a coffee and donut.
“Whatever.” Slade swished the mop around on the floor. With the amount of mess the staff were making, he’d be stuck working overtime once the doors closed for the two-week break, the last person, as usual, to leave.
The scent of donuts, fresh cookies, and cherry punch wafted from the staff room.
“Merry Christmas, Slade,” the housing coordinator said in a voice to match the season.
“Yep.” Slade stopped and rested his palm on the mop handle.
Boot and shoe prints covered the floor. He had the worst luck, because he was staying late to redo everything that had been undone.
* * * *
With the last of the staff gone, even the band manager, Gavin unfastened the three top buttons to his crisp navy-blue shirt. His heart kept threatening to tear through the broadcloth fabric.
Only Slade remained, out in the hall, rewashing the floor.
The entire reserve was probably empty on a Friday afternoon, everyone having made the hourlong drive in to town to enjoy dinner and shopping.
The air rolled from Gavin’s windpipe. Moisture gathered at his hairline. If he kept perspiring, the courage he’d gathered to dare try to seduce Slade would hit the floor with his droplets of sweat. There was a sink and soap to clean his face in the men’s washroom, his intended destination.
He huffed a big breath. Slade with the inky-black hair spilling down his back. Gorgeous muscles. Legs past his neck. A broad, square face to match his athletic six-foot body. Gavin had once kissed those muscles. Caressed Slade’s sleek skin. Loved him until the wee hours of the morning.
Gavin stood. You’re the chief. The leader of the community. Act like one.
Well, he sure wasn’t the kickaround, pimply faced, picked-on kid anymore. He was educated. The dean’s list for his undergraduate degree to be accepted into the Juris Doctor Program at Lakeside university. Articling at the prestigious Bronson, Bronson, and Dowell in Winnipeg. Licensed in the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario. Specializing in Indigenous law. And junior partner for seven years where he’d articulated. If he hadn’t come home, he would’ve made senior partner. And now he was chief of White River First Nation.
Why couldn’t Slade understand Gavin had had no choice but to leave? He’d loved the man so much. And leaving Slade behind had been the toughest choice Gavin had ever made.
Just like he’d addressed judges on the bench in court, Gavin strolled to the door and opened it, his jaw twitching to match his fierce determination. He’d never lost a case yet, and he wouldn’t lose his appeal to Slade.
When Gavin shut the door and stepped into the hall, the scent of pine cleaner filled the air. His peripheral vision caught Slade a good ten feet down the hall, swishing his mop, the perennial flannel draping his solid muscles, and jeans hugging his strong thighs.
The washroom was across the way. Gavin had never done anything this bold before, but being a lawyer wasn’t for the meek. And his meek days were finished.
He kept his back straight and shoulders square as he confidently strode to the bathroom and disappeared inside. The door clicked shut. His lungs burned from holding his breath. He drew in a big helping of air.
It was time for the next phase of his strategy.
Quit thinking in an administrative capacity.
He tugged on the beaded choker that did exactly what a choker should do—tightened around his throat and cut off his ragged breaths. He lowered his zipper. Be still my beating heart. If he didn’t relax, not only would his plan misfire, so would something else.