“Janae, my dear heart, climb off my fucking back. Candace can threaten and plot and plan all she wants, but I’ve got nothing. She’s going to have to wait until I come up with another plotline for the series. I’ve given her five, and they were good. I could write her a mystery about a stolen puppy… Fuck, that’s it! I’ve gotta go,” I announced, having just received an epiphany on a lovely late-September day.

I went to my computer and began my research. I had four hours before I had to pick up Jude from school, so I could get down an outline and start planning the characters. Kennedy was in New York for a come-to-Jesus meeting with his parents and Rory, and I’d put in a call for Elijah to come over for dinner. I finally had an idea about a story to finish out my Caine Winslow series for Byrdsong Publishingso maybe we’d get takeout instead of me cooking. Since it would be my last Caine Winslow mystery, I didn’t want to go out with a whimper. When the idea finally struck, I was off to the races.

I quickly pecked out an outline, and just when I got to the point where the stolen diamonds had been made into a collar for a Labradoodle puppy, the house phone rang. I hopped up to answer it without looking at the caller ID. “Hello?”

“Is this Kennedy Catrelle?”

I pulled the phone back and looked at the caller ID, not recognizing the number. “No, it’s not. He’s not here at the moment, and if you’re selling anything, we’re not interested.”

“I’m not… I’m not selling anything. Is there a number… Is there a way to get in touch with him?” a woman asked. I could tell something was wrong.

“He’s out of town right now. I’m Thorn Marsh. What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I’m Cheryl Shaw-Jiménez, I’m Juanita’s wife. It seems Juan was in an accident, and he’s asking for Kennedy. He had this number and a cell number on his contact list, but the cell number isn’t picking up,” she answered.

“Is he… Is Juan okay?” I asked, swallowing hard. I was worried about Juan, but I was more concerned about why Kennedy wasn’t answering. It wasn’t like him at all.

“He’s got a broken back. He was on the way home from an AA meeting, and he was t-boned by a drunk driver, ironically,” she stated without humor in her voice. I could hear the sadness, and I immediately shifted into helper mode.

“What hospital?” I asked.


“I’ll be there as soon as I can. I’ll call Kennedy. They’ve become good friends. Hell, we’re all good friends. I’ll be there,” I told her. She gave me the room number, and I called Kennedy’s phone, being directed to voicemail. I left him a message before I called his office.

Laurie answered on the first ring. “Hello, handsome. With what can I do for you?”

“Please, get Kennedy on the phone and tell him to come home. It’s not about Jude, tell him it’s about Juan. He’ll understand. He’s not answering his phone for me or anyone. Where’s Rory? Did she go to New York with him?” I asked.

“Actually, Rory’s in her office. Do you want to speak with her? Kennedy told me he had a meeting with a potential author in New York, and he went alone,” Laurie explained, sounding somewhat confused.

When Kennedy had explained that they were commanded to come to New York, he told me Aurora was going with him. If he went to face his father on his own—fuck! He’d lied to all of us, and he was going to take on Lucifer by himself? That wouldn’t end well.

“Okay. Ask Rory to pick up Jude at school or see if Elijah can do it. I’ve got to get to the hospital. Keep trying Ken until he answers, Laurie. I have a bad feeling about all of this,” I told her. I suddenly recalled the conversation from the previous night, and I became more worried.

God knows I don’t want to go, but Mother wants to talk about divesting herself of the business, and Aurora and I need to be there in person for the discussion. I wish you could come with me, but you need to be here to take care of Jude.”

“It’ll be fine, right? It’s just for a few days, and your mother is a reasonable woman. Hey, how about I give you a memorable send-off?” I teased him.

After showers and checking to see that Jude was knocked out, we went to our room, closing and locking the door. “On your belly, and no humping the bed. I want you to come in my mouth,” Kennedy ordered. I certainly didn’t hesitate to do as he’d demanded.

The soft kisses started at the soles of my feet, which tickled, but the warmth from his lips sent sparks of fire over my skin. When he reached my hole, he swirled his tongue over it before he sprawled over my back and whispered, “Can I take control tonight?”

Kennedy was the only person who ever had his dick inside me, and as he gently made love to me, I thought I would lose my mind. After the most incredible rim job I’d ever had in my life, he sucked me dry with a perfect blowjob before he built me back up as his fingers moved inside me.

When he finally entered me, I was utterly blown away by the sensation, groaning loud enough that the sound echoed off the walls. Kennedy chuckled before he began pounding me into the bed, the head of his cock having a nice upward angle I’d forgotten about. It seemed to have GPS to my prostate that lit me up.

For the first time, I came twice from one amazing fuck, though the last one was barely a drop. That didn’t mean my toes didn’t curl, just because my balls were already empty. The bar had been raised, and when it was my turn, I’d do my best to repay his expertise.

After we cleaned up again, we settled into bed. “I don’t have a good feeling about how this will go, babe. If she comes at me with stipulations regarding us buying her out, I’m not sure what to do,” Kennedy worried. I held out hope that his mother would be fair to him, but if KC had any influence on her, I feared expected the worst.

“Laurie, can you tell me where’s he staying? Can you track his credit card? This is critical,” I told her.

“He’s at the Westin because that’s where I made the reservation for him. Give me an hour, and I’ll call you back,” she responded. I told her I appreciated her help and hung up.

I called Franklin. “Thorn, how are you?” he asked.

“Not good. I need to go to New York to find Kennedy. He’s not answering his phone, and I suspect he went to meet with his parents–alone.”

Son-of-a-bitch! Where’s Judah?” Franklin asked me.

“He’s at school. Aurora and Eli are going to pick him up. Can you go to Mercy Hospital to check on our friend, Juan Jiménez? I’m sure Kennedy told you about him. He was in a bad car accident and has a broken back. I’m sure the family will need support, so if you could go, I know Kennedy would appreciate it.” I prayed he’d help me out because I needed to get to the man I loved.

Franklin cleared his throat. “I’ll leave now. If you need me, call. I’ll come to New York if needed,” Franklin assured. I thanked him and hung up. I got myself a flight to New York, and I prayed and prayed Kennedy was just too busy to answer the phone. I continued to call him, leaving voicemails, and I sent more texts than I could count. When I boarded that plane, I almost wanted the fucking thing to crash. I was so goddamn scared of what I’d find when I got to New York, I almost wanted to die.


I caught a cab from LaGuardia and went straight to the Catrelle’s large penthouse. I didn’t have a key for the elevator, so I had to stop at the concierge desk for assistance. “Hello?” I yelled, seeing the ornate clock off to the side showed it was after midnight.

Finally, a tall, older gentleman in a very sleek uniform appeared from somewhere in the back. “Good evening, sir. How may I direct you?”

“I need someone to let me up to the Catrelle’s penthouse. I’m here to see Kennedy,” I demanded.

“Sir, Mr. Kennedy doesn’t live here. This is his parents’ home.”

I took a deep breath to keep from taking off his snooty head. “Let’s start over. I know Lily and KC. Kennedy’s in town to visit his parents, and I’m his partner. He asked me to meet him here as soon as my plane got in. He’s not answering his cell phone, so I’d appreciate it if you’d let me up to the fiftieth floor,” I requested.

“I’m sorry, sir, but the Catrelle’s have asked not to be disturbed this evening. If you leave your contact information, I’ll alert them of your visit in the morning, and they can contact you.”

I was so pissed off I could have chewed nails in two, but I could see I wasn’t going to get anywhere. “Fine. May I have a piece of paper and a pen?” He handed me a piece of expensive stationery and a fountain pen. I scribbled out my name and cell number, handing it back to him.

“It’s imperative I speak with them.” I had a feeling I wouldn’t hear one word from them, but maybe the Universe would take pity on me?

He ushered me out of the lobby, so I walked out to the street where the doorman summoned a cab for me. I gave the driver the address to the hotel where Kennedy had checked in, and I decided to try to call him once again.

I pulled out my phone, seeing I hadn’t turned it on after the plane landed. As the driver headed toward the hotel, I heard several chimes, alerting me to messages. I checked the texts first, seeing one from Eli and two from Rory which I quickly opened.

What do you mean Kennedy went to a meeting in New York? I was in meetings all day, and he didn’t tell me anything about going to New York. I haven’t spoken to KC or Lily in a month. Call me. Rory

We’ve got Jude. I ran by the house and got clothes for school tomorrow. Call Rory, please. Eli

I got a very garbled message from Kennedy. I hate to say it, but I think he’s drinking. Please find him. Rory

I let out a heavy breath and quickly called my voicemail, seeing I had three messages.

“Thornton, it’s Franklin. I’m at the hospital with Juan Jiménez and his family. He’s had surgery, but there’s a chance he won’t walk again. Also, I had a missed call from Kennedy. I phoned him back, but he didn’t answer. Call me when you know anything.”

“Thornton, its Candace. I need to talk to you as soon as possible about…” I skipped it.

The last one was a New York number. It was hard to hear because the background was loud. “Baby, I… to you… not… out from under… I’m at a… Posh. I lost… so I picked up… call me.”

I looked at the driver in the front seat. “You ever heard of a bar called Posh?”

He punched something into his GPS and answered, “There’s one in Hell’s Kitchen. It’s a…” He looked in the rearview and chuckled. “It’s on West 51st Street.”

“Is it a gay bar?” I asked. He nodded. “Take me there.” He did as I asked, and when he pulled up, I paid him and grabbed my carry-on from the seat next to me. I hadn’t really packed anything except necessities so I didn’t have to fuck with baggage claim.

I walked up to the bouncer at the front of a velvet rope, seeing him giving me the up and down. There was a line, but I couldn’t wait that long. “Hi, um, my husband’s here, and I need to go get his ass out of there,” I told him.

He looked at the bag in my hand. “What’s in there?” I opened the zipper, and he sorted through. When he handed it back, he looked at me with a smirk. “You always go huntin’ your husband down in bars with clean drawers and a toothbrush? This is a new one on me.”

I reached into my pocket and pulled out a hundred-dollar bill, holding it in front of me so only he could see it. “Maybe I’m hoping to find a husband in there. I like to be prepared. I was an Eagle Scout.” He saw the bill and discreetly took it, opening the velvet rope and ushering me inside while the crowd heckled him behind me.

The place was packed, and from my vantage point, I couldn’t see anything except a lot of bare skin and neon glow-sticks. I made my way over to the bar to see if Kennedy was there. I was trying like hell to control my runaway imagination because if I caught him in that fucking club with anyone, I was going to kill him.

The bartender, an extremely hot guy with a big grin, stopped in front of me. “What’ll it be, sexy?”

I wanted to roll my eyes at the obvious play for a tip. “I’m looking for someone,” I began before the man cut me off.

“Well, baby, you’ve found someone. I get off in an hour. Why don’t you hang around and I’ll get you a drink?”

“Not like that. I’m looking for a specific someone. Blond hair, blue eyes. A little shorter than me. Great smile, but probably acting agitated,” I shouted over the music. The hot bartender pointed to the end of the bar so I followed him to a spot where he could, hopefully, hear me a little better.

“My boyfriend called me, and I think he was here and got drunk. I’m trying to find him. Blond hair, blue eyes. Great body. Slight Texas accent?”

He looked at me cautiously. “What’s your name?”

“Thorn. Thornton Marsh. His name is Kennedy. Please, I’ve got to find him before he does something rash.” I reached for my wallet, prepared to let him run up my credit card to the limit if he’d just talk to me. He turned to the guy next to him and said something, to which the other guy nodded.

The guy slid under the service bar and took my hand, leading me down a dark hallway to a set of stairs. “Whoa, I’ll give you all the money I have right now, but I’m not blowing you or doing anything sexual with you,” I stated firmly.

He laughed. “Dude, I’m actually straight, and I’m not a whore. Anyway, that shit was all an act for the customers. I’d have had someone kick you out at closing anyway. Now, your friend’s down here sleeping it off. He sat at the bar before it got busy and he drank damn near an entire bottle of bourbon while he told me how some dude fucked him over. He kept saying, ‘Thorn’s gonna leave me, and they’re gonna take away Jude.’  I couldn’t make sense of it, but he seemed like a decent guy. I brought him down here and gave him some coffee. These are the private rooms, but I put up a sign that one was out of order. He’s in there,” he explained as he pointed me to a private room where there was indeed a sign that stated, Out of Order.

I glanced at his dark, muscular chest and saw a name tag clipped to his red suspenders. “Thank you, Dale.”

He laughed. “My real name’s Jamal, but I don’t use it for work. Anyway, I felt sorry for him. I’ve been fucked over by some chicks in the past, so I could relate to his need to blow off steam. Dude, I don’t think he was stepping out on ya. He kept saying he loved you, and he didn’t wanna lose you.”

I pulled out a hundred and handed it to him. “Thanks, man. He’s not like that. The person who fucked him over is probably his father. Is there another way out?”

“Yeah. Give me an hour, and I’ll come back and give ya a hand. It’ll probably take that long to get the poor guy to come around. He was pretty far gone when he got here. Hell, I shouldn’t have served him, but he was pretty persuasive. Sorry.”

I nodded in thanks as he produced a key and let me into a dimly lit room. I saw Kennedy lying on a tablecloth that was tucked into a couch off to the side. “You put him on the cloth?” I asked.

“Fuck yeah I did. You know what goes on in here. Man, if these walls could talk.” We both laughed, and he flipped on a brighter light before he closed the door behind him. I walked over and took in Kennedy’s appearance. His eyes were swollen, and he had horrible dark circles under them. One arm was hanging off the couch, and the other one was resting on his chest. He had something in his hand, and when I opened his fist, I saw they were his Sobriety Chips on the key ring, which he cherished. I wanted to throw up on his behalf.

To be continued…

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