Jeremy Russell has always compensated for his weirdness by making jokes, usually at inappropriate times. All his friends call him Germ, after all. Give him a computer and he’s happy most days. Then he meets Reggie Mize and discovers an attraction he just can’t ignore. Reggie has gone his entire life without really knowing love. His sister, Victoria, certainly doesn’t love him, considering she tried to sell him to the highest bidder. When Jeremy starts paying attention to him, he’s not sure how to get over his shyness long enough to hold a conversation, not to mention ask the man on a date. Can both men get over their awkwardness long enough to make it work?

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Cover Art by Latrisha Waters

Germ pressed a button on his computer to shut off the sensors to the forested area surrounding the lake house mansion. It was probably crazy to do that, but almost everyone would be outside anyway. He pressed another button that would turn the security system on in the yard and house at a certain time. The cameras and silent security system, which let him know exactly how many people were in the house at any given time, were always on twenty-four hours a day. So he didn’t need to worry about that.

He’d review the camera footage after the game was over.

Germ was the last one in the house, so he gave himself five minutes to get out before the system turned on. If he tripped the sensors, it would send out a sound so loud it was almost deafening, so he needed to get his ass moving.

He grabbed his phone and his paintball gun on his way out of his office, just as a message popped up on his computer regarding his clan. He was the leader of his group on the computer game he played. He answered the message quickly, then sighed when his clan decided to force all the members to make at least one war. Didn’t they know he had a paintball game to play with his other team? Well, the Demon Elite team was more like a family, but still, Germ wanted to shoot as many of them as possible. He messaged again, telling them to kick him out of the clan if they needed too. He’d find another group of players, ones that weren’t so demanding.

Just as he sent the message, the alarm when off. Shit.

He frantically changed screens, typing in the security code that would shut off the system and then turn it back on again.

Fuck. The guys would never let him live down tripping his own security system. It was one of those things that made Germ the awkward mess he truly was, though.

He turned the system back on and headed for the door, quickly. He jogged down the hallway and out the front door. Moving around the house to the backyard where everyone was waiting for him, he stood next to Justin. “House is secure.”

“We heard,” Justin commented. “Why’d you trip it?”

“Gamer message.”

Justin rolled his eyes. “Not surprised.” He handed Germ an armband that would dictate which team he was on. It looked like they were divided up into four groups. He noticed Aiden and his brothers were on one team, along with Tripp and Mikkel. Ryan’s husband Zach was also with them. Demon Elite and Derek’s team were equally divided into three groups. He noticed Liam was on a different team than Wolf. Liam stuck his tongue out at Wolf, who gave him a cheeky grin for his efforts. The two lovers wanted to make their own private game out of paintball, it seemed.

Germ looked over at Justin’s armband, noticing the color matched his own. “Damn it. I wanted to shoot you, boss.”

“Yeah, well, Finn wanted on the same team as Shade and Tanner, so you get to be on my team. I’ll let you shoot me after it’s over, though,” Justin said.

“Really? What if I shoot you in the ass, and it leaves a bruise? Will Aiden kiss it better?”

Justin smirked at him. “Shut up, Germ.”

“Shutting up. Hey, I get to shoot the boss, guys.” He looked at everyone standing around with a grin on his face.

“You’re way too happy about that, man,” Ash said with a smile. Iain was right next to him. They both had on the same blue-colored armband as Germ.

“He gets to tell me what to do all day long. Least he can do,” Germ said, even as his gaze met Reggie’s.

Reggie stood next to Finn with a pretty pink blush covering his cheeks and part of his neck. Apparently, Reggie had been staring at him the whole time, which sent warmth running through Germ’s entire body. Germ was almost positive Reggie liked him, but every time they talked, Germ turned into a rambling idiot. He was pretty sure Reggie thought he was a little slow, as none of the intelligence Germ had in his brain came out his mouth.

Reggie looked sexy in his camouflage pants and a brown shirt. The sexy part was the green matching scarf he had tied around his neck, as if he had to be fashionable regardless of the circumstances. The way he stood with the paintball gun in his hand and his hip cocked just so made him look sassy, which went against everything Germ knew about Reggie up to that point. Reggie looked away but peeked at him through his lashes. Germ smiled at him.

Reggie’s armband was red. The fact that they were on opposite teams made him even more attractive somehow. Germ had no idea why that was, but he knew he’d enjoy chasing him through the woods.

“So, the rules are,” Justin began, and everyone grew quiet. “No dick or head shots. Everywhere else is fair game. The two teams that win will play against each other at the end. Alliances between teams are fine in this first round. And this last part is for all my guys, Derek’s guys, and Lakehouse Security. Let’s use this fun time to teach the amateurs how we do things out in the real world. Never know when it might be needed.”

Every guy in the group made a sound that was a cross between a bark and cheer, including Germ.

“Each team gets to pick its starting point. The game starts ten minutes from now whether you’re ready or not,” Justin said.

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