Dread

Painted Hearts Publishing

Heat Rating: Scorching
Word Count: 53,853
1 Ratings (5.0)

Will Logan and Luke Warren are still running, with no refuge in sight. After stopping in Tennessee to meet up with teammates Ron Perry and Jake Wilson, they head for Atlanta, to rendezvous with the remaining member of their team, Todd Jackson. Kowalski told Logan he murdered Jackson, but Logan knows all too well how hard it is to kill any of them now. He’s hopeful that Jackson survived and is waiting to meet them. Once they arrive in the city, they find Jackson easily enough. They soon discover, however, that he’s involved in a strange and savage situation, a member of a vicious fight club in the basement of an Atlanta club. When he tells Logan he’s in trouble and can’t extricate himself, Logan finds an oppressive atmosphere of evil in the club, seeming to center around the club’s owner, a charismatic man named Austell. Logan is disgusted by the illegal fighting, but Luke and the others are all inexplicably drawn to it. Something or someone is influencing the men, infusing them with violence and cruelty. A chain of events begins to unfold that will test Logan and Luke’s bond to the breaking point. Logan’s life is turned upside down as he has to fight for the lives of his friends and the man he can’t live without. When they're kidnapped, and everything Logan holds dear is in deadly danger, will he be strong enough to save them all?

In this book, the second in a three part series, new clues and revelations emerge as to what happened to Logan and his friends in book 1, Origins, Gods of War, to change their lives. They face a new and savage threat to their safety, and receive intervention from Heaven itself? Or could it be Hell?

Dread
1 Ratings (5.0)

Dread

Painted Hearts Publishing

Heat Rating: Scorching
Word Count: 53,853
1 Ratings (5.0)
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Cover Art by Edie Keith
Excerpt

Waking up in a tent, cold and damp before daylight wasn’t Logan’s idea of a good time. Probably, it didn’t hit anybody’s top ten. Add a dog’s tail waving enthusiastically in his face, and Logan was so over camping, it was ridiculous.
“Damn it, Rio, get your big ass out of my face!” he groaned, sitting up and shoving the old Golden Lab over toward Luke, who mumbled something in his sleep and rolled over on his back. Rio took that as an invitation to sprawl over Luke’s chest, settling in with a tired sigh, as Logan glared down at both of them. It irritated him how deeply Luke was able to sleep when he was still wide awake. In fact, he was always amazed at how Luke seemed to be able to fall asleep and stay that way, anytime, anywhere, even with a fifty-pound dog on his chest.
A lot of guys in the military had that ability. They said it came from knowing they had to grab any shuteye they could, because they didn’t know when they might have another chance. In the barracks, with forty guys snoring all around them, on the back of a transport truck, in the belly of a C-130 or on a rack on a ship at sea, it didn’t much matter. Logan had been in most of those situations himself, but he had never quite acquired the same knack. Being uncomfortable kept him awake. And considering he had been that way a lot in his life, especially lately, he’d lost a hell of a lot of sleep over the years.
He’d once lived for four months in a mud building in a Combat Outpost—COP—in Afghanistan. It started out abandoned and cold with no electricity and no water and pretty much stayed that way the whole fucking time they lived there. There weren’t any amenities or time to create any, as they’d spent almost all of their time patrolling the area. He’d been miserable the whole damn time.
Logan located his cell phone in the pocket of the jeans he’d taken off the night before, folded neatly near his head. Luke must have stowed them away after Logan went to sleep, because all he remembered about his pants from the night before was how fast he got out of them when he saw Luke crawl back into the tent after his shower.
Luke had grinned at Logan as he moved on hands and knees, twisting his ass provocatively to get to his sleeping bag and then pushed down the sweats he’d worn to the small camping area’s shower facilities like he was doing a strip tease. He glanced over at Logan and smiled as he lay down and sighed, stroking one hand slowly over his gorgeous cock. A naked Luke in the mood to play was far too great a temptation for any sane man or woman to resist, so Logan didn’t even try. As Logan’s gaze roved over that delectable body, Luke had winked.
“It’s late. Ready to turn off the lantern? Or…are you ready for something else?” he asked, and he barely got the words out of his mouth before Logan had torn off his jeans, flung them across the tent and pushed Luke down on his back as he settled between his thighs and showed him just how ready he was.
Logan sighed now and peered down at the cell phone screen—four o’clock. An obscene hour of the morning and way too fucking early to be awake. He cursed softly and fell back down on his sleeping bag, wriggling around to try and get comfortable on the hard ground beneath the tent. From beside him came a soft, husky voice.
“What’s the matter?”
Logan looked over at Luke, noticing how those damn pretty eyes of his glittered at him in the dark. “Nothing. Can’t get comfortable. Go back to sleep.”
“It’s hard to sleep when you’re tumbling around over there like clothes in a dryer.” Luke gently pushed Rio to the floor beside him and leaned up on one elbow. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
“Who said anything was wrong?”
“You don’t have to say it—I can tell. You’re worried about Perry and Wilson, aren’t you?”
Logan sat up again with a sigh, resting his arms on his knees. “They should have been here by now. If they don’t come soon, we’ll have to go…but I hate the idea of leaving them behind.”
“Why do you think they should have made it by now, just because we made it here first? We had Diego’s truck, remember? And we didn’t find the cabin in Alabama burned to the ground when we finally arrived, like they did. I imagine it took them some time to recover from that and reconnoiter. Figure things out and remember about this second rendezvous if things went wrong.”
Logan nodded unconvincingly. “Maybe so. I told them we’d be here every day for a week from about the twentieth on. Today’s the third of November—we can’t risk staying here much longer. Besides. it’s getting colder and rainier every day. I think they would have been there by now, if…”
“If they could? Come on, don’t borrow trouble. We agreed to give them a few more days before we panicked or let our imaginations run away with us, right?”
“Yeah. Okay, fine.”
“Which means what, exactly? You’re still going to brood and toss and turn at night and act like a bear with a sore paw, but I’m not supposed to mention it?”
“What does that mean?”
Luke sighed, and Rio, who hated to see them argue, beat a slow tattoo on the floor of the tent with his tail, ever the peacemaker.
“You’re kind of hard to communicate with, you know?”
“Me? How am I hard to communicate with? You’re the one who’s impossible.”
Luke looked affronted. “Like how?” The sparkle in his eyes always got more pronounced when he started getting mad. It was one reason Logan liked to get him going, but it was way too early in the morning to start a fight, even if making up afterward was so much fun.
“Well,” he said stalling, trying to say this without making things worse. “What you say is not always what you mean. I have to try to figure it out sometimes.”
He arched an eyebrow at Logan. “Seriously?”
“See. Like that right there. What you really mean by that is that you’re giving me a chance to rethink what I just said.”
Luke huffed out a laugh. “You? Rethink something? Ha! That’ll be the day.”
“You’re already getting pissed off. Okay, how about this? Last night when I told you I wanted to go to that little bar down the road to have a beer, you said you were too tired. So then when I said I’d just go on without you, you gave me one of your looks and said, ‘Go ahead.’”
“Well? What’s wrong with that? I told you to go. And what do you mean by ‘one of my looks’? I don’t have any ‘looks.’”
“Oh yeah, you do. And that ‘go ahead?’ That right there wasn’t any kind of permission. That was a fucking dare!”
Luke made a little clicking sound with his tongue against the roof of his mouth. “Whatever…”
“Ah! See, that really means ‘fuck you,’ doesn’t it?”
Luke shook his head. “Wow.”
“Uh huh. I’m on to you, Luke. I know that’s not really a compliment to me when you say ‘wow’ like that.”
That last remark earned him a glare, and Luke turned over abruptly and pulled the cover of the sleeping bag over his head. Logan sighed, wishing he’d just kept his mouth shut. He could have been cuddling Luke under the covers by now. Well, not cuddling. Logan didn’t “cuddle.” He could have fooled around some though, and now that option was probably off the table. He fell down beside Luke on his back on top of his sleeping bag and started worrying again.
They couldn’t afford to stay in one place like this much longer—it just wasn’t safe. He’d give it two more days, and then they had to move on, even it was contrary to all of his training over the years to leave no man behind. They’d have to go on to Atlanta to see if by any chance they could locate Jackson, who, even if he’d made it out alive after Kowalski’s betrayal and the Institute’s murderous attack, had probably long since given up on any of them making it to the rendezvous point Logan had given him.
So then what? Logan felt like they still needed some time to try to figure everything out. Everything had happened so fast. They needed to see what kind of “powers” for lack of a better word, the others may have developed since the last time they’d seen them. If any…
He’d had plenty of time to think about it this week, and he and Luke had discussed it endlessly, trying to understand exactly what had happened to them and what they could do about it. Considering how they had all been exposed to the same stuff, and were all given the same injection and blown up together, Logan still questioned why he and Luke had developed different abilities? Shouldn’t they have been the same exact ones? It simply made no sense—it was almost like some capricious god was playing with them like they were his own personal action figures.
Logan had been standing just outside the building when the lab exploded and Luke had been at the rear of the group. Shouldn’t Luke then, have been more exposed and Logan a little less? Yet Logan was a bit stronger and faster, and he not only had that freaky ice thing going on, but he was able to physically heal things. Or dogs anyway. So far he’d managed to heal two of them. Not that healing dogs wasn’t good and all that, but he didn’t really see how it would be of much advantage to him in the future, unless he set up shop as a veterinarian.
He liked dogs okay but had vowed never to get too close to one again. As a kid, he’d had one when he was ten or maybe eleven years old—a little mutt with copper colored hair his mom had named Penny. She had picked her out of a box of free puppies from the back of a pickup truck at Walmart and brought her home for Logan’s birthday. The puppy had been a giant pain in the ass right from the start, following him around everywhere and sleeping at the foot of his bed at night, biting his damn foot if he moved it under the covers. Peeing everywhere except for on the newspapers he put out for her. She’d been almost impossible to housetrain. She sat beside him at the supper table and begged for food by putting a paw on his knee every few minutes till he slipped her a bite. He’d hated her name, too—thought it sounded lame and refused to use it, just calling her “Free Puppy” in front of his friends, even long after she was way past the puppy stage.
He saved up some allowance money to buy her a black leather collar with spikes on it to make her look a little tougher, but that unfortunate tendency she had of crawling up in his lap and licking his face every chance she got was something he was never able to break her from. That and pissing on his bedroom rug.
She’d died right in front of him when Logan was fourteen—ran out in front of a car when she was running to meet him like she always did when he got off the school bus. She’d been laughing, in that way that dogs do, with their mouths wide open and their eyes shining, and she’d never even seen the other car. He’d held her in his arms as she bled out on the pavement and cried into her soft fur right there in front of everybody. But he hadn’t been sorry—she was a good girl and had deserved to have someone cry over her. He wouldn’t let anyone else touch her, and he wrapped her up in the blanket from his bed and buried her in his back yard with her favorite toys and the bone he’d been saving for her in the refrigerator.
After that, he vowed never to have another pet. It hurt too much to get close to an animal that wouldn’t live all that long. It was better to just avoid the pain altogether than to go through that again.
He’d tried to explain that to Luke, who just insisted on keeping this old dog he’d named Rio. They had picked him up in an alley in El Paso, where some kids had doused him with gasoline and were trying to set his tail on fire, and Logan had been trying to get rid of the mutt ever since.
As if sensing Logan was awake and thinking about him, the mutt in question crawled over beside Logan and rested his head on Logan’s chest. Luke began scratching him behind his ears, the way he liked, when Luke spoke up beside them.
“You’re not fooling anybody, you know. Rio and I both know how much you like him.”
“I never said I didn’t like him. I said he was a giant pain the ass, which he is, and that we have no business keeping him. Which we don’t.”
Luke made that clicking noise again and rolled his eyes heavenward. “Whatever.”
“See! That does mean fuck you, doesn’t it?”
Luke threw back the unzipped cover of the sleeping bag and moved closer, hooking his leg over Logan’s and cupping Logan’s balls with his hand. The move surprised Logan and he gave a little squeak. It was a manly squeak, though, even if Luke did laugh at him for it.
“No,” Luke was saying. “It means shut up and fuck me. If we’re going to both be awake anyway, we may as well make the most of it. Unless, of course, you’re not up to it again.”
Logan grinned and reached for him, rapidly pulling him on top of him as Rio scrambled away, so their cocks nestled comfortably beside each other, “comfortable” being a relative term, considering how hard Luke’s dick was poking into his belly. “Well, if that’s what it means, Navy,” Logan said, reaching down to realign and stroke both of them with a sure hand, “then it might just be my new favorite word.”
He rolled over on Luke and held him down with his muscle and his heat. Taking both of their cocks in one big hand, he fisted them together, starting up a frantic stroking. Luke pressed his forehead to Logan’s shoulder. “Oh God!” he cried, shamelessly thrusting his hips upward. When Logan picked up the pace even further and added a little twist to the downward stroke, Luke sank his teeth into Logan’s shoulder, and bit down hard.
Logan took his mouth again, crushing it under his, and Luke made a sound so sweet it made Logan groan even louder. It was a kind of plea, a kind of moan, his pretty cock hard and leaking, so Logan rubbed his thumb over the head. He lowered his mouth to Luke’s and kissed him long and deep as Luke suddenly came harder than Logan could remember in a while. Luke’s hips jerked and thrust, and it went on and on, like it would never stop. He yelled out his pleasure in a voice that was hoarse and exultant.
“Are you all right?” Logan asked him after a few minutes, and he nodded, burying his hot face in Logan’s shoulder. Logan dropped his mouth to the Luke’s throat and worked his way down his chest, nibbling as he went. Luke groaned and pushed up into his hand again.
“Beautiful,” Logan murmured and rolled him to lie on his stomach. “And mine.”
Logan used his knee to spread his legs wide then settle himself inside Luke’s thighs. He writhed beneath Logan and arched up his back, trying to lean back closer to him. Logan told him in great detail what he would do to him if he ever caught him looking at another man or ever giving himself to anyone else. He wanted to make sure Luke knew he belonged to him and no one else.
The possessiveness Luke would never have tolerated outside of sex now seemed to drive him wild, and he rubbed his ass against Logan, hissing with pleasure as Logan stroked along his cleft. Logan eased a finger into him and then added another. He whined and bucked up against him even harder, his head turning to blindly seek Logan’s skin and whimpering when he couldn’t. Logan found his prostate and gave it a good massage, then watched him come apart. He came so hard a second time that his cum soaked the bed beneath him, and Logan milked him through his release with his hand until he groaned. When Logan finally released him, he fell down on the sleeping bag like he’d been shot, but Logan was far from being through with him.
He coated himself with lube he kept nearby, lifted Luke’s leg and then drove his cock into him in one, hard thrust. Luke arched his entire body and shouted, tremors vibrating all through him. Logan waited a moment for him to get used to him deep inside him, and then he rolled his hips up higher and thrust into him fast and hard.
He screamed again, no doubt alerting the whole camp as to what Logan was doing to him. Luckily such screams were not uncommon around here. There might be snide looks from neighboring tents in the morning, but no one would come looking or dare make a comment. Logan drove into him again and again, moving one hand to Luke’s flagging erection and stroking him relentlessly until his cock began to sluggishly refill. He wasn’t eighteen anymore, so getting fully erect again after two orgasms just wasn’t in the cards, but Logan enjoyed trying to make him. He matched the thrust of his hand to that of his hips, and when Logan came a few minutes later, it was no less spectacular than Luke’s orgasm.
He felt it wash over him, filling him with pleasure. When it finally stopped and he recovered, he slipped reluctantly from Luke’s body and fell down beside him on the sleeping bag. Logan put his hand down to catch some of his own cum leaking out of Luke’s ass and smeared it on his ass cheeks, marking him to make extra sure everyone would know who this man belonged to, Logan leaned over and sucked up a huge red mark on the side of his neck as he moaned and whimpered. Logan liked the way it looked so well, he gave him another one to match it on the other side. Finally satisfied, he lay back beside him, and drifted off to sleep.

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