When Byron Reese infiltrated a big cat refuge in north Florida, he knew undercover work wasn't all fun and games. But now the case is over, the arrests have been made, and yet ...
And yet he's still here at the refuge, working with Kendall, sleeping with Kendall, and maybe, just maybe, falling for Kendall.
This story appears in the author's print collection, Rough Cut.
Byron stripped off his gloves and stepped over to the laundry area, stacked with dirty blankets and towels, rank with the odor of various cats’ scent markings. Christmas week had been traditionally cold and they’d put out linens for the animals. Now, in a reversal common to Florida winter weather, the temperature was back to tropical and blankets weren’t needed. Byron grabbed a clean towel from the refuge dryer.
Kendall bent low over the sink, running his soapy hands over his shoulders and upper back. The water sluiced off his caramel-colored skin, some into the sink, some onto the tile floor. Byron enjoyed the show: Kendall’s thick chest and sculpted arms, the way his waist narrowed into his khakis, the absurdly cute outie belly button. He rinsed off and Byron scrubbed the towel over Kendall’s face and shoulders, then leaned in for a quick kiss.
I like taking care of him, I really do.
Kendall gazed up at Byron, brown eyes soft, the look that said, “Come here and fuck me, big boy,” the look that made Byron’s knees tremble even after four months together.
They’d met when the Wildlife and Game Commission had sent Byron in to investigate the refuge. WGC suspected Kendall, the owner, and Ricardo Lopez, a silent partner, were big game dealers, selling endangered and protected species to the canned “hunt” farms where anyone with the cash could shoot a lion, a tiger or a leopard. They were half-right: Ricardo had been dealing out the leopards, lions, tigers, and other big cats. Kendall merely ran the refuge without being involved or even aware of the criminal operations. When Ricardo threatened them both with a shotgun, Byron shot him -- the first time he’d ever used his gun on the job. Ricardo’s death had shaken him -- badly -- and Kendall’s injury during the op bothered him as much. Byron stayed on after, taking a desk duty job up in Tallahassee, commuting the two-hour trip on Friday and Sunday nights, so he could spend weekends in Kendall’s arms -- and bed.
Now, Kendall leaned back against the sink, arms and chest out, posing.
“You want winter? I’ll give you winter.” Byron scooped up some cold water from the rinse water sink and flicked it Kendall’s way.
“Anything. As long as it’s cold!”
“Babe, if I could change the weather for you, I would,” Byron whispered. He had to push the words past a knot in his throat, unexpected. It jarred him. His heart sped up. “Winter? Step right this way.”
He grabbed Kendall’s hand and dragged him to the walk-in freezer. Two bare bulbs sent a dim light in the small space. Boxes of meat stamped “not for human consumption” were stacked on utility shelving; the flesh showing through the carry holes was dyed blue. A pallet in one corner held five gallon buckets of chicken parts. A row of bloodsicles gleamed with red-brown ice crystals. The door thunked shut behind them, and air filled with frosty condensation as their breath spiraled up to the lights.
Kendall grinned and shook his head. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“You ever made love in the snow?”
“I’m a Florida boy. It’s you Yankees who hobnob in the cold.”
“Hobnob, that’s an interesting term for it.” Byron let his gaze drop to Kendall’s shorts. The outline of Kendall’s thick cock pressed against the khaki fabric. “Lose those.”