Declan Kelly’s a closeted bisexual cop in a Southern military town, still reeling from his recent divorce. When he’s assigned to work undercover at a gay bar, he meets a gorgeous guy who seems like a likely suspect in the recent robberies of club-goers—but who instead turns out to be a Canadian Mountie named Tupper, temporarily stationed at nearby Fort Bragg for anti-terrorism training.
Dec and Tupper have a steamy evening together, and Tupper wants more, but Dec’s afraid of needing anyone again—especially someone who’s only going to be around for a short time. As they get closer and their nights together get even hotter, Dec has to choose between safe loneliness and the risky possibility of love.
If Dec had gotten called into Carter’s office six months ago, he’d have been pretty sure he was about to get fired. But lately he’d been a great cop again—gotten past the drinking, sorta gotten past the divorce.
Still, it always threw him a little, getting called in by the chief. You wouldn’t think a guy who was maybe five foot four could be scary, but Carter managed it. So Dec was relieved to hear it was just an undercover assignment. Until—
“Wait, what?” he said. And tried to figure out his play here, should he try to pretend he didn’t know Hotshot was a gay bar? Or would that be, what’s the phrase, protesting too much?
He shot for somewhere in between knowing and not knowing. “Um, wasn’t that…I’ve heard maybe…”
“Yes, it is an establishment that caters to tastes not entirely within the mainstream,” Carter said, and Dec blinked. He’d never quite gotten used to the weird mix of cop-speak, how Carter might say something totally elegant like that and then his next sentence would be “You wanna stop fucking slouching, you asshole?”
But this time Carter stayed with the formal. “Do you have any objections to the assignment, Detective?” And he gave Dec a long look, one that just went on and on, but it was kind of sympathetic, and Dec had been wondering but that look sealed it. Carter knew. Knew there was more to the breakup with Christine than just some kind of ten-year itch.
And for just a second there Dec wanted to invite Carter out for a beer and just fucking vent for hours, because that look opened the floodgates, that look made him want to go but it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right, I would never have cheated on her, I would never have done anything about it.
But no, he was over it. He stopped fucking slouching and snapped out, “No problem, sir.”
He headed back out to his desk and took a stab at his paperwork for a while; he was always behind on that because, while he dug the talking to people and driving around parts of the job, he’d never been great at concentrating on the written word. Also, his handwriting sucked a lot. He managed to finish off and file a couple of reports but put off the rest after finding one where, as near as he could tell, someone called in a tip that a neighbor was starting a convent for chickens.
Hell, maybe that wasn’t a handwriting problem—Fayetteville was a weird town. Maybe somebody actually was trying to nun up North Carolina hens.
He sighed, checked the court docket to make double sure he didn’t have an appearance today, and made the mistake of making eye contact with Rollie at the next desk over. Apparently, word of the Hotshots assignment had spread pretty fast—copshops were more gossipy than junior high locker rooms—and Dec got treated to a long tirade about how they shouldn’t be wasting their time trying to protect faggots.
“You ask me, whoever’s beating them up is doing the rest of us a favor,” Rollie wrapped up.
Dec made himself breathe slowly and calmly because he freaked out a little whenever any subject like that came up, but fuck if he was going to let Rollie know it—that might actually tell Rollie there was something there.
So he had his most casual snarl on when he said, “Yeah, well, nobody did ask you.” Which worked because Rollie responded with a couple of suggestions, complete with hand gestures, about how maybe Dec was into this assignment, but you could tell it was just general assholery and he didn’t know he was onto something.
Ceci gave him a sympathetic eye roll from her desk in the corner, and he seized the opportunity to get out of there by asking her to go along on witness interviews for a smash-and-grab—the store was in a section of town where the witnesses were way more likely to open up to a black cop than to Dec, so it was a good idea anyway.
That night he dressed like he hadn’t in a while: tightest of jeans, tightest of t-shirts, Doc Martens. He gelled the fuck out of his hair and after a moment of indecision, even used his dwindling supply of expensive gift-from-Christine cologne, Calvin Klein Z-14. That used to make him depressed, but lately the fact that he smelled fantastic was beating out the sad, which...was progress, right?
He didn’t even bother trying to carry his service weapon; it would be hard to hide with these clothes, and would mean he’d have to make arrangements with club security to pretend not to notice it on his entry frisk. It was better if as few people knew about the undercover gig as possible; there was always a chance someone working at the club was in on the crimes.
Hotshots was in an especially shitty area of a mostly shitty town, so Dec got a taxi over, because hell if he was parking his car there. He gave the taxi driver an address that ought to be a few doors down from the bar, though, because he didn’t want to spend half an hour in a car with a guy who knew he was headed for a gay club.
The address he gave turned out to be an empty lot, though, so he stammered, “Uh, musta got the address wrong, I’ll figure it out, thanks,” but the driver looked down the block at the line of all-guys waiting to get into Hotshots and said, “Riiiiiight,” and sped off.
Dec shook it off, and walked down to the club. There was no sign outside, no neon; they were probably trying to avoid getting firebombed. The all-male line paying to get in was gonna tip off anybody who thought about it for even a second, though. Dec didn’t recall any times when the cops got called for drive-by bottle throwers or shit like that, but he was two hundred percent sure it had happened on occasion. Just...these guys weren’t really usually inclined to call the cops. Which, maybe if he caught the dude they did get worried enough to call the cops on, might change.
He took his place in line and eyed the guys ahead of him for any possible tall, dark and perpetrator, but nobody looked likely. It was a quick sideways scan because that was one of the unwritten rules of places like this: you didn’t look anybody in the face until you were inside where it was half-dark and everyone was at least half-drunk. No admitting to any onlookers, or yourself, what was going on while everybody was well-lit and sober.
By the time he got to the front of the line the whole protocol had depressed him a little bit, because he was remembering how different it was waiting to get into a club with Christine. Wrapping his arms around her and starting the evening’s swaying early; chatting with other people in line about the club’s DJ lineup. Some of the guys in this line had probably never gotten to do that kind of thing in their lives. Sucked.
He bit his tongue during the entry frisk, because the bouncer was terrible at it—if Dec had had an ankle holster the guy would have missed it entirely. But improving the club’s security was not on Dec’s to-do list tonight.