[Siren Publishing: The Lynn Hagen ManLove Collection: Alternative Contemporary Paranormal Romantic Suspense Romance, MM, shape-shifter, HEA]
Twenty years ago Maltese fled from his family, unwilling to do as his father demanded. But before he ran away, his father stripped him of his demon powers. Now Maltese finds himself in Brac Village, scrambling to save his friend’s life. But once that’s done, he walks away, going back to his lonely existence. Until Deputy Vincent Stransky walks into the diner and sits down across from Maltese, irrevocably changing his life forever.
Vince knows Maltese is his mate, but the guy is so unreachable that he struggles to find a way to tell him. Maltese trusts no one, including Vince. When someone opens fire on them on the streets of their small town, it’s up to Vince to protect his mate and find the person who’s threatening Maltese’s life. As they race to find out who is after Maltese, a bond grows between them as they explore their deep connection to one another.
Lynn Hagen is a Siren-exclusive author.
As soon as Maltese was done making the potion and it was ready, he gave it to Dillon and slipped out the back door when no one was watching. The masking agent he had given Dillon should be enough to wean Max off the stuff.
Although Maltese had warned Max of the consequences should he go cold turkey, he still felt like shit for Max going through this. That was it. Maltese was done with the potions business. He’d nearly killed a great guy, all to make a quick buck.
He walked down the driveway and headed toward town, wondering where he was gonna go from here. It wasn’t as though he had a home to go to. He’d been finding couches to sleep on and, sometimes, back alleys to catch some shuteye for the night.
If his father hadn’t been a piece of shit, Maltese could’ve gone home. But he’d rather spend the night in the underworld than face his father again.
With his hands jammed into his pockets, Maltese walked the long and dark country road. Too bad his demon powers had been stripped from him. He was basically human now, with paltry talents involving magical potions. He had no marketable skills, had no home, no friends, and couldn’t even go to the demon realm because the demon warriors wanted his head on a platter.
He was screwed.
When he reached town, Maltese stopped at the diner and looked inside the large window. He pulled out what little money he had from his pocket and counted it before going inside. The wondrous smells made his stomach growl as someone hollered, “Sit wherever you want.”
Maltese slid into the booth and grabbed the menu from the table, looking his choices over and trying to figure out how to fill his stomach with only ten bucks to his name. While he gazed at the items, his mind went back to riding with Deputy Vincent Stransky as they went to get the recipe Maltese had hidden.
The snow leopard was the most handsome man Maltese had ever laid eyes on. The guy was dreamy with a side of sexy. Vince had to be at least six feet three inches, with a lean, muscled body and killer green eyes. Too bad Maltese didn’t have a shot at the guy.
“What drink can I start you off with?” the waiter asked when he approached Maltese’s table.
“Ice water,” Maltese said. “And I’ll take a grilled cheese and fries.”
He hoped the waiter didn’t argue that his selection was from the kids menu and was relieved when the guy simply nodded and walked away.
He pulled his cell phone out and was playing one of his games as he waited for his food when he felt someone next to him. Maltese looked up and saw Vince sliding into the seat across from him.
“If you’ve come to arrest me, at least let me eat a decent meal first.” Maltese tucked his phone away and waited for the deputy to reply. He’d been acting real strange around Maltese ever since they’d taken that ride together earlier. The guy just kept staring at him, as if Maltese were a puzzle to figure out.
“Arrest you for what?”
The waiter returned with Maltese’s water and set the glass down before smiling at Vince. “Hey, Deputy Stransky. Did you want to order something?”
“Thanks, Tangee,” Vince said. “I’ll have whatever he’s having.” He pointed to Maltese.
“You might want to reconsider,” Maltese mumbled. Vince was a large lean guy who could probably put away the calories. A grilled cheese and some fries would be more like a starter for him, not his main meal.
With a nod, Tangee walked away.
“So, why would I arrest you?” Vince repeated.
Maltese gazed into his pretty green eyes and then looked away, feeling worthless. “Attempted murder, since everyone seems to think I tried to kill Max.”
Tangee not only brought Vince’s water but their plates. To Maltese’s surprise, the fries were stacked high and the grilled cheese was on large slices of Italian bread.
He grabbed the napkin-wrapped silverware and used the napkin to wipe the water stains from his fork. As he did, Maltese looked around, and noticed there weren’t too many people in the diner this late, but there were a few men seated at the counter, talking amongst themselves.
“Can you bring us some sodas?” Vince crossed his arms on the table as he gave the waiter a handsome smile. When Vince grinned like that, showing off his pearly-white teeth, Maltese’s heart skipped a beat.
Tangee nodded. “Sure thing, Deputy.”
“I told you that you should’ve ordered something else.” Maltese squirted a large dollop of ketchup onto his plate.
“What’re you talking about?” Vince popped a fry into his mouth and then huffed, taking a sip of his water. “Hot.”
“They’re fresh.” Maltese smirked. “Of course they’re hot.”
“And perfect.” Vince nodded. “I haven’t had grilled cheese since I was a kid.” He smacked his lips and rubbed his hands together before he picked the sandwich up.
With his wiped-off fork, Maltese stabbed a fry and then dipped it into the ketchup, careful of how hot it was. Vince was right. The fries were perfect.
“Were you trying to poison Max?” Vince ate every last fry on his plate. He took a drink of the soda the waiter had brought them and then tossed an arm over the back of the booth.
Maltese crinkled his nose. “Of course not.”
He looked toward the counter to make sure the men seated there hadn’t heard him. Not that he really cared because he didn’t plan on sticking around this town. He’d already caused a big enough mess here, and it was time he moved on.
Just as soon as he was done eating.
“Then I’m not here to arrest you.” Vince bit into his sandwich, and his eyes rolled back.
Maltese was mesmerized by how euphoric Vince’s expression was. Did the snow leopard act that way with every meal he ate?
Vince nodded as he chewed. He jabbed his finger a couple of times at his plate. “Damn good meal you picked.”
If the guy only knew why Maltese had chosen it. “So, if you’re not here to arrest me, why are you sitting across from me?”
“This was a mistake.” Maltese reached for his clothes, but Vince gently grabbed his wrist.
“Don’t get dressed.”
“Then don’t just sit there like…” Maltese bit his lip and looked away, wishing Vince would let his wrist go.
“I can’t help it,” Vince said. “I’m sitting here stunned that you’re giving yourself to me, and also at how gorgeous you are.”
Maltese looked at Vince as he furrowed his brows. “You think I’m gorgeous?”
He could count on zero hands how many times someone had complimented him. In the past, whenever he’d had sex, it was quick and dirty and very little was said. The act had always been two people relieving an itch and going their separate ways afterward.
The way Vince stared at him made Maltese feel uneasy. The guy was looking at him as though Maltese was the center of his universe.
Vince chuckled as he pulled Maltese onto his lap. “I think you are the most beautiful man I’ve ever laid eyes on.”
“I think you need your head examined.” His body had scars from surviving on the street all these years. One particular scar was a jagged mark across his chest from a scuffle he’d had getting away from some lunatic who’d sworn Maltese had to pay for his right to squat in some derelict building.
Another was from an improperly healed bullet wound in his left shoulder. Maltese had barely survived that ordeal. Thankfully the bullet had been a through-and-through and some guy who wanted a potion for his failing liver had stitched him up and saved his life.
Maltese hadn’t dealt with just preternatural. He’d helped out humans, too, telling them his potions were just natural herbs and remedies, and truthfully, they were. You just had to know what to mix and how much of it to mix.
He jerked when Vince traced his fingers over the long jagged scar that ran over his chest. “You’ve had such a hard life.”
“Are we gonna have sex or what?” The last thing he wanted to talk about while naked was his crappy life. That would be a definite mood killer.
“I’m not judging you.” Vince’s gaze snapped to Maltese’s. “I’m just trying to better understand where you’ve been so I can learn how to love you the way you need to be loved.”
Maltese was rendered speechless. Love? Had the snow leopard really said that? “How can you talk about love when we’ve known each other only a few days?”
Vince pressed his palm over Maltese’s heart as a warm, soft smile curved his lips. “Even if you weren’t my mate, falling in love with you would be so easy. You’re a survivor, a fighter, but you’re also a caring and giving man. How could anyone not admire those qualities?”
Maltese had no idea how to respond. He squirmed on Vince’s lap, pressing his hands over his cock as he focused on a part of the wall by the front door.
“Okay.” Vince slid his hand over Maltese’s chest. “I’ll stop embarrassing you.”
“You’re not…embarrassing me. I just don’t know what to say.”
Vince stood, cradling Maltese in his arms as he walked down the hallway and entered his bedroom, placing Maltese on his bed.
As Maltese lay there, he watched Vince undress, revealing a perfect, sculpted body honed with muscles, with angles and planes that made Maltese’s mouth water.
Vince had said they were mates, and Maltese both hoped that was true and prayed that it wasn’t. On the one hand, Maltese was sick and tired of going through life alone. He would love to belong to this powerful and kind deputy. On the other hand, Vince would have expectations that Maltese feared he wouldn’t be able to live up to. For so long he hadn’t had to answer to anyone, had lived his life on his own terms…mostly. But now he would be held accountable for his actions, be expected to become a respected member of society, and that terrified him.
Not because he wanted to be a criminal but because he feared disappointing Vince. It wasn’t easy giving up the way of life he knew for the unknown.
“Focus on me.” Vince crawled into bed next to Maltese. “I can see a thousand worries filtering through your eyes. Let them go for now, and later, we’ll tackle them together.”
“I’m dreaming all of this, ain’t I?” Maltese bit his lip. “There’s no way you’re real.”
Vince took Maltese’s hand and made Maltese touch his chest. “Do I feel real?”
Maltese squeezed Vince’s swollen pec. “You feel hard as a rock.”
Still holding Maltese’s wrist, Vince guided Maltese’s hand to his cock. “There’s something else that’s hard, too.”
With a quick intake of breath, Maltese curled his fingers around Vince’s thick and long erection. The guy hissed as his eyelids fluttered closed then opened. Maltese had made Vince look that way, with a wild and feral expression in his eyes, made him hiss in pleasure, and that bolstered his confidence.
“My body is all yours,” Vince whispered. “Explore all you want.”
Maltese’s hand fit around the guy’s cock with room to spare. He smoothed his hands over the smattering of dark hair on Vince’s legs, enjoying how his palm tingled. He glanced at Vince and saw the man watching him with heavy-lidded eyes.
His heart thumping wildly against his ribs, Maltese moved down the bed and settled between Vince’s powerful legs. Using the flat of his tongue, he licked a long path up the man’s cock and grinned when the hard flesh jerked.
Vince was still watching him, his fingers curled into the bedding as his chest rose and fell in quick pants. Maltese wanted to see the guy lose it, to hear Vince call out his name. It was almost a desperate need as he sucked the head between his lips, his spit coating the spongy flesh.
Groaning erupted above him, and one of Vince’s hands slid through Maltese’s hair, gripping the strands as his hips bucked before stilling. The muscles of Vince’s thighs tightened and then relaxed as Maltese worked the hard, thick cock down his throat while inhaling the man’s deep musky scent.
Maltese could manage only half of the length, keeping his fist around the rest. With his other hand, he cupped Vince’s balls, tugging and massaging them while trying to keep his balance.
As much as he didn’t want to, Maltese pulled back for air, stroking Vince’s cock in a slow, leisurely fashion before he dove back in and suckled the head.
“Oh, fuck.” Vince arched his back before relaxing against the bed again, his breathing ragged and his body tight. He spread his legs, giving Maltese more room, both his hands now streaming through Maltese’s hair.
Maltese slid his lips up and down, using his saliva to coat the way. Vince hissed, moaned, and dug his fingers deeper into Maltese’s hair. Maltese felt empowered at the way he was making this broad, strong man writhe beneath him. Vince would probably do anything Maltese wanted just to reach his climax, but Maltese wasn’t the type to use anyone. He just wanted to hear Vince cry out his name.
“Close,” Vince said through clenched teeth.