Dimitri’s fingers swept through Talin’s hair, working out soap suds. Talin closed his eyes, a smile tugging his lips at how gentle Dimitri touched him. Dimitri finished washing Talin’s hair, and kissed his jaw.
Talin moved closer to Dimitri, his lips against Dimitri’s shoulder. He sighed when Dimitri ran his hands over his back, gentle fingers tracing the tattoo on his back.
Talin slid his fingers into Dimitri’s wet hair, wanting to forget all the reasons he’d gotten that tattoo. He’d spent years alone, never wanting anyone this close. In his life, he’d only shared his body with Gabriel, given him everything…so completely that when Gabriel died, it felt like sacrilege to allow another close.
Dimitri’s touch felt right.
Leaning up, Talin kissed Dimitri. A hungry kiss, pouring his lust, his need into the sensual exploration. His breath hitched when Dimitri grabbed his hips, pressing their bodies close, Dimitri’s hard length hot against his stomach driving his own arousal.
They spent endless minutes in the shower, kissing under the warm water, fanning their lust, driving it to burning heights. When they finally got on Dimitri’s bed, Talin wanted nothing more than Dimitri inside him.
And…oh, how glorious it was.
Talin dug his fingers into Dimitri’s back, lost in sensation. There was no softness with Dimitri, no hesitant caresses, Dimitri simply took from him…and gave back…Talin let out a heated gasp when Dimitri surged into him. Strong, full, hot…so hot, he felt caught in a fine balance of pleasure and pain. They fit tight: Dimitri was large, larger than Talin had ever taken. Dimitri stroked into him, Talin drew in a heated gasp, shifting his legs wider, his toes curling as pleasure broke the line, sweeping through him.
Dimitri took his lips in a consuming kiss, and he gave up control, allowing Dimitri to take him over.
Talin lay on his stomach, head facing away from Dimitri, long dark hair spilled on the pillow.
Dimitri couldn’t stop touching the silky strands. Propping his head up, Dimitri studied the tattoo on Talin’s back in the dim light.
Detailed art, he thought his gaze on the dark angel’s wings. The work would have taken days; the pain…Dimitri touched the red tear.
Talin hid his pain well. No one would guess Talin was ever married. The loft at the club was bereft of pictures, no mementos to show Talin’s life before.
He’d been jealous of Lucian knowing more about Talin than he did. Now there was this other person…Dimitri touched the angel’s hair.
Talin’s Gabriel, he thought.
Dimitri couldn’t help wondering what their life had been like.
How had Gabriel gotten Talin to marry him?
Were they happy?
Stupid question, Dimitri shook his head.
Judging from the tattoo and Talin’s closed off attitude; Gabriel’s death had been hard to deal with. Dimitri doubted he could compare to Gabriel. Not that he wanted to, it was just…intimidating to think of another man who’d loved Talin enough to marry him.
Talin shifted and turned his head to face him.
Dimitri smiled when Talin’s eyes blinked open. Talin’s sleepy eyes were sexy as hell. Dimitri kissed Talin awake.
“Morning,” he said, when Talin moved into his arms.
Damn, that little miracle was more than he’d imagined. Having Talin in his arms, kissing him, holding him…
“Morning,” Talin said pressing kisses on Dimitri’s jaw. “What time is it?”
“Don’t think about time,” Dimitri urged, loathe to let the world in. He held Talin tight. “You feel so good.”
Dimitri ground his erection against Talin’s thigh.
“Someone’s wide awake,” Talin said, his hand sliding between them.
Dimitri groaned when Talin took him in his hand. He wasn’t sure he’d last under Talin’s ministrations. Talin’s touch was sending him into an overload every few seconds. He tried to take Talin’s hand away, but he got a nip on his jaw for his trouble.
“Lie back,” Talin said, his voice still rough with sleep. It sounded so sexy.
Dimitri shifted, lying on his back. He sank his fingers into Talin’s hair when Talin dusted kisses along his jaw, down his neck and to his chest. The covers slid away as Talin sucked on his nipples. He closed his eyes as heat spread through him, his cock filling, needing Talin’s heat.
Talin trailed kisses down his stomach, tongue swirling over his navel, before following the dark treasure trail to his hard cock. A harsh gasp escaped when Talin took him into his mouth. That hot delicious cavern…Talin sucked on his sensitive head, and all thought ceased. His fingers tightened in Talin’s hair and he surged deeper into Talin’s mouth. Talin licked and laved his length, slowly driving him to the edge, until there was nothing but Talin’s hot, blazing mouth.
He thrust harder, loving that Talin took it in stride, giving soft encouraging moans that drove Dimitri to a faster rhythm. His orgasm started at his toes, blazing through him like molten fire, he came hard. Filling Talin’s mouth with his hot seed, delicious waves coursed down his spine as Talin sucked his cock gently.
Dimitri threw a hand over his eyes when it was over, and wondered if he could give up having Talin in his bed. He highly doubted that.
Talin crawled over him, his naked body sliding against his, stoking cooling embers. His cock surged when Talin kissed him. He could taste himself on Talin’s lips, in his mouth, wrapping his arms around Talin; he rolled on the bed until Talin was under him.
They spent the early hours of the morning making love. At around seven, Talin’s phone alarm woke them. Talin went into the shower first, afraid if they went in together, they would both end up back in bed again.
Dimitri smiled as he wrapped a towel around his hips.
Talin wasn’t wrong. If it was possible, he wanted a few days locked away somewhere with Talin in his bed. Sex with Talin was addictive. He wanted more.
Dimitri came into the bedroom after his shower to find Talin already dressed. Talin sat in the middle of his neat bed, reading the files they’d gotten from the Anastasia.
“What do you think?” Dimitri asked, walking to his closet to dress for the day.
“Seems all roads lead to Vlad,” Talin said, holding up a black and white photograph.
Dimitri had managed to take it the night he’d met Vlad. That scary woman made his blood run cold.
“That Vlad is a woman is curious,” Talin said. “She looks harmless.”
“She’s lethal,” Dimitri said, remembering a chocolate cake and four dead men.
Talin dropped the picture on the files on the bed.
“I’m not in deep with the Bratva.”
Dimitri paused in the act of wearing his boxer shorts to glance at Talin.
“You said to know Ilia Pajari, I’d have to be in deep with them, but I’m not, Dimitri.”
Dimitri pulled on his boxer shorts and reached for a pair of black slacks. He smiled as he wore them, enjoying Talin’s appreciative gaze on him.
“Will you tell me what’s going on with you?”
Talin’s gaze slid away from him to the windows.
“It’s not easy,” Talin said, his tone low, heavy with sadness. “I’ve spent the past four years burying it away.”
“Is it because of Gabriel?” Dimitri asked, well aware that he needed to accept that Gabriel mattered to Talin.
“Yes and no,” Talin shook his head. “It wasn’t easy living without him.”
Talin met his gaze.
“I loved him, Dimitri.”
The soft admission destroyed him. It really did because he wanted Talin’s love. He wanted that look on Talin’s face for himself.
Talin’s gaze dropped to the folders again.
“Those days with Gabriel, I wish I wasn’t so naïve. I lived in a world where nothing could go wrong. If it did, all I’d need to do is tell Gabriel and he fixed it.”
Dimitri reached for a blue long-sleeved t-shirt and pulled it on, turning away from Talin, he prayed for strength to listen to Talin talk about his husband.
“Then Gabriel was gone,” Talin continued, “and everything went wrong and there was only me to fix it.”
Talin let out a soft laugh.
Dimitri turned to see Talin run a shaking hand through his hair. When Talin looked at him, Dimitri’s heart dropped. Talin hid nothing, the pain he’d felt, still carried by the looks of it was so clear.
“I lost my mind when he died,” Talin confessed. “I went crazy, jumped off the deep end.”
Talin gave a nervous laugh before he got off the bed and walked to the window.
“If I tell you about me—”
“I can take it,” Dimitri cut in, aware he’d had the same doubts about telling Talin the truth before.
“I can take it,” Dimitri promised.
Talin turned to study him for a moment, then nodded and sat in the armchair by the windows.
Talin let out a nervous breath, and gripped the arms of the chair. Fear threatened to choke him. He’d fought the memories back so long…fought to forget that day with Gabriel, hands pressed on Gabriel’s chest, blood pumping out regardless…his own screams as Gabriel’s eyes closed, never to open again.
Talin rubbed his left temple and plunged in.
“Gabriel was my life,” Talin stated. “Everything I did was for him: our house, the gallery we owned together, the lifestyle we kept…everything, I did it for him.”
Talin closed his eyes.
“After Gabriel’s murder, I didn’t know what to do. I felt lost…alone. Even Gabriel’s twin brother couldn’t help me. I locked myself up in our bedroom for two months. I couldn’t function.”
Dimitri moved to sit on the edge of the bed they’d shared. Their passion so fresh, Talin felt like an ass talking about his dead lover, but there was no way around this. Dimitri needed to know the truth.
“Continue,” Dimitri urged in a strained voice.
“One day, the police came by the house to tell me they’d caught Gabriel’s killer. I was alone in the house. Raphael had gone to the office. I remember staring at the detective in charge of the case and wondering if catching Gabriel’s killer meant Gabriel would come back to life.”
Talin wiped a hand down his face.
“I was fucked up. It didn’t make sense that a random man could walk into our house and shoot Gabriel on sight. I remember yelling at that detective. If Raphael hadn’t come back home, they might have arrested me for assault.”
“Raphael wanted it to end there,” Talin said. “The killer was caught and in jail. Since he’d confessed, there was no trial. Raphael insisted we end it there.”
“Raphael is Gabriel’s twin?” Dimitri asked.
“Identical, down to their long black hair,” Talin said. “I couldn’t let my doubts go. I wanted to know why. So, when Raphael went to work, I went to see that bastard in jail.”
“Talin,” Dimitri chided.
“The sight of him…,” Talin shook his head. “God, it brought out this anger boiling inside me. I wanted him dead like Gabriel. Looking at that man brought out the worst in me, Dimitri. I could barely talk without screaming at him. He must have thought me crazy, so he gave me the Pajari name. He wouldn’t say anything else, but that name. I tried to see him again, but he refused my visits. A month later, he was stabbed to death.”
“I hired a private investigator after that. When Raphael found out, he paid the man off and sent him away. We fought, Raphael and I, I was so angry with him, I kicked him out of my house.”
Talin sat back in the armchair and gave Dimitri a wan smile.
“From there, I decided to find out why anyone would kill my husband.”
“I understand Raphael,” Dimitri said then. “I’d not have let you either.”
“Yes well, this is why having money is a beautiful thing. I called my father,” Talin said. “I asked him for help for the first time in years and he couldn’t resist.”
“I spent two years investigating Pajari Industries. I was sure the company would lead me to Gabriel’s real killer. I followed the money, unlike you who decided to get into the main organization,” Talin said with a small wan smile. “I discovered Ilia Pajari was a puppet in Pajari Industries. He was a front man, placed there because he’s clean. He has no record, no illegal deals, he ran Pajari Industries legitimately. He’d even approached Gabriel for a deal. I asked Gabriel not to accept that deal, but he hadn’t told anyone he’d reject it yet. So, having the Pajari family responsible for Gabriel’s murder didn’t make sense. Still, the man in jail had given me their name. I had no choice but to keep investigating.”
“Please go back a bit, Ilia approached Gabriel? Why?” Dimitri asked.
“Gabriel had a knack for money. When we got out of college, he created a company called Pan Limited, which he ran with Raphael’s help. Pan Limited owns a dozen different brands, and Ilia was interested in one particular chain of auto spare parts called Gara Spares.”
“Oh, we have one right down the street from the Talon. I get parts from there when I can’t source them anywhere,” Dimitri said.
“That’s Gabriel’s dream at work. Ilia approached him because Pajari Industries was shipping motor parts…it sounded like a great deal. I was skeptic though. I’d heard rumors about Ilia’s family in our social circles. I was worried something would happen to Gabriel. So the afternoon Gabriel was shot, I begged him not to do it. Gabriel agreed after subtle reasoning.” Talin smiled then remembering their non-argument. “Minutes later, I was trying to keep him alive on our stairs.”
Talin closed his eyes, unable to ignore the image of Gabriel dying again in his head.
“We can stop if you want,” Dimitri offered.
“No.” Talin met Dimitri’s gaze, needing to get his story out. “I have to tell you everything.”
“So you followed the money,” Dimitri urged after a moment.
“Yes, I wanted to know more about Ilia.” Talin took in a deep breath and let it out slow. “Obviously, I couldn’t get into Pajari Industries myself. Ilia knew me. So, I hired two men, paid them well. They worked their way through the ranks to the top, getting as close to Ilia as they could get. From there, it was a matter of keeping track of Ilia Pajari. His family is Bratva, but only specific people in the family. They’re in the shadows, like Lucian, who I didn’t know about. They are very hard to track.”
“Lucian is Vlad’s right hand man,” Dimitri said. “But why do you say Ilia is alive? They think his dead.”
Talin stared at Dimitri, then got up and started pacing.
“After two years, all I had was a lot of documentation on money that goes into Pajari from phantom sources. No concrete proof, so I decided to confront Ilia for cold hard facts. I waited for him at his penthouse in Manhattan. I brought two men with me, roughed him up good, wanting my vengeance for Gabriel’s death.”
“Didn’t know you had it in you,” Dimitri teased.
“When you’re beyond anger, you can get people to do very terrible things with money. When those two men were done, Ilia looked bad, but he was ready to talk. Ilia wanted out of the organization, but he couldn’t do it alone,” Talin said. “We reached an agreement. I’d help him disappear. Ilia would tell me who ordered Gabriel’s murder.”
“And?” Dimitri asked.
“He gave me the name Petrov,” Talin said. “Ilia said if I found Petrov, I’d understand everything. He gave me an account number to a bank here in Colston. Last I know, Ilia is in a small European country living it up. I funded his escape before I came to Colston. So I know that picture with your father killing Ilia is fake.”
“Petrov is the reason you moved to Colston,” Dimitri concluded.
“Yes,” Talin nodded. “That was four years ago. I stayed at a friend’s house. His name is Carl, runs a bookshop downtown. I spent most of my days drinking, and nights trying to find Petrov. I ended up at the Talon one night. The previous owner, Tina Reyes, she picked me up behind the club when I’d drunk too much. She forced me to sober up and I decided to let my mad search go.”
“Just like that?” Dimitri asked.
“Yes, just like that,” Talin said. “I was lost, Dimitri. The search wasn’t about Gabriel anymore…I couldn’t even remember why I’d started chasing after them. I let Tina talk me into a quiet life. I bought the club from her, focused on it, and decided to try living. I was succeeding in it too…the forgetting… until you.”
Dimitri got up and stopped him pacing.
Dimitri kissed his forehead and pulled him in to a tight hug.
“I know telling me and remembering wasn’t easy.”
Talin bunched Dimitri’s t-shirt, his fingers curling into the soft fabric.
“I’ve told you because you can walk away too. You can—
“I can’t,” Dimitri cut him off. “My family is in the middle, even if they killed me—,”
“Don’t talk like that!”
Dimitri held him tighter.
“If they killed me, Talin, they’d still want the marina. Lukas and Katerina won’t be free. Look at the lengths they’ve gone to pull me in. I need to find out why they framed my father for Ilia’s supposed death. Why they killed him.”
Talin closed his eyes, burying his face into Dimitri’s shoulder. His interference with Ilia had somehow ruined Dimitri’s family. The thought made him sick. Fuck! He felt sick at the thought of Dimitri dead. He needed to see Raphael.
Dimitri’s phone buzzed on the bedside table and they both sighed.
Dimitri dropped a kiss on top of Talin’s head and went to answer his phone.
Talin moved to the bed and gathered up the files.
“I’ll be right there,” Dimitri said to his caller.
Talin watched Dimitri put his cell phone into his pocket.
“Lucian?” Talin asked, noting the tight lines on the corners of Dimitri’s lips.
“Yeah,” Dimitri said, then holding Talin’s gaze, he smiled. “About last night...”
Talin blushed because he wanted Dimitri, and didn’t think that need would stop soon.
He cleared his throat.
“I’m hoping you’ll come to my loft tonight for a repeat performance.”
“I can keep the key?”
“Not that you’ve ever listened to me about returning it,” Talin said.
Dimitri moved closer, placing his hands on Talin’s shoulders.
“We’ll get through this.”
Talin closed his eyes when Dimitri kissed him, soft lips moving over his, shaking him to the core. He loved Dimitri’s heat. Because it reached deep inside him, warmed up spaces and corners he’d thought frozen for life.
Dimitri ended their kiss with reluctance.
“Let’s go for breakfast,” Dimitri said against his lips.
“And these?” Talin asked, holding up the files.
“We’ll burn them on the barbecue grill.”
Talin returned Dimitri’s smile but his heart felt heavy as Dimitri took his hand and led him out of the bedroom.
Dimitri was the first in years to reach so deep inside him and make him feel, care even…
“Talin?” Dimitri looked at him as they went down the stairs. “You okay?”
Dimitri studied him for a moment, and then continued downstairs. They walked into the cozy kitchen to find Katerina and Lukas having breakfast.
“Talin,” Katerina said in surprise, getting to her feet when she saw him behind Dimitri. She came around the kitchen table and hugged Talin. “Morning, I didn’t know you were here. I make you breakfast. What do you want to eat? Tell me, anything you want.”
Dimitri chuckled and pulled Talin out of Katerina’s arms.
“Stop scaring him.”
Talin smiled when Katerina smacked a kiss on his cheek and hurried to the fridge.
“I’ll make you an omelet.”
“Thanks,” Talin said turning to Lukas.
“Morning,” he said a tad shy facing Dimitri’s brother this way.
Lukas smiled and pulled out the chair beside him. Dimitri took the files from Talin and urged him to sit down.
Lukas passed him a mug and poured him coffee from the coffee pot in the middle of the table.
Dimitri went out the back door, the files in his arms. Minutes later, he entered the kitchen without the files. He went to wash his hands at the sink, and Talin figured Dimitri had torched them. Dimitri joked with Katerina as she worked at the kitchen range.
“Your being here is enough,” Lukas said. “It puts Dimitri at ease, and I’m grateful for that.”
Talin returned Lukas’s smile. He didn’t know about feeling at ease but it was great to share breakfast with others. Talin had forgotten what a normal breakfast looked like. With Gabriel, they’d often sat at the kitchen table in the morning: simply sitting, or reading the morning paper, drinking coffee, sharing news and plans for the day.
After Gabriel died, Talin had avoided breakfast at the kitchen table, the memories too raw to take.
Now, Talin smiled when Katerina placed a plate before him, the scent of the omelet she’d made him enticing. Dimitri sat to his left, sipping coffee from a mug. Lukas was telling Dimitri about a boat that needed maintenance at the dock.
Normal conversation, Talin thought, mundane worries.
Talin swallowed hard. The moment too precious to think of anything else, he picked up his fork and promised himself to help Dimitri in whatever way he could. Dimitri deserved to keep these precious mundane moments.
The drive to Raphael’s was faster than Talin anticipated.
Talin parked in the garage and sat for a moment, a hand pressed into his chest. His heartbeat was racing. He got out of the car and hurried into the house, not giving himself time to rethink his decision.
He found Raphael in the library.
“Talin,” Raphael said, sitting up on the lounge chair. “Twice in one week. Who do I thank for this?”
Talin ignored Raphael’s comment and instead went to the main desk by the floor length windows. He pulled open the top drawer and got a key. Talin used the key to unlock the bottom drawer. He took out the cell phone and laptop he’d kept away four years ago, and placed them on the desk.
“What’s this?” Raphael asked, getting up.
“Unfinished business,” Talin said turning on the cell phone. “Don’t bother gloating. I want this over now.”
“Protecting someone?” Raphael asked.
Talin met Raphael’s knowing gaze. He pressed one, speed dialing a man he’d hoped never to talk to for the rest of his life. The call was answered on the second ring.
“Himura,” Talin greeted.
“What do you need from me?”
“Find Ilia Pajari, ship him back to Colston.”
“Alive or dead?” Himura asked.
Talin stared at Raphael.
“And Himura,” Talin said quietly. “This is urgent.”
Talin ended the call, and turned on the laptop.
“What do we own in Colston?” Talin asked Raphael.
Raphael’s grin didn’t escape Talin as he hurried around the desk to help him.
“The men in your boat last night are private party.” Lucian shook his head, clearly not happy. “No identification, all we know is that they are from out of town. Their equipment is high end, which means highly paid. You’re lucky you’re such a great shot.”
“What are you saying?” Dimitri asked.
“Someone is making a play,” Lucian answered.
“On the marina?” Dimitri asked, afraid of the answer.
He couldn’t handle two giants at the same time; it was hard enough with Vlad.
“No,” Lucian met his gaze. “On Vlad’s territory, that means war, Dimitri.”
Dimitri felt a cold weight settle in his stomach. That wasn’t good either.
“She’s not one to take things lying down.”
“Glad you’ve noticed,” Lucian said. “She wants to see you tonight.”
“Katerina’s restaurant at nine o’clock,” Lucian said. “Don’t be late. She says to bring Talin.”
“What?” Dimitri shook his head. “No.”
“Talin was there last night. You didn’t think Sasha would mention it to Vlad? Don’t make this hard, Dimitri. No one will touch Talin if you bring him.”
“Be easy tonight, Dimitri,” Lucian advised. “Vlad’s having a hard time.”
Lucian squeezed Dimitri’s shoulder and left the workshop.
Dimitri cursed under his breath and kicked the desk. Something big was about to happen, and he couldn’t have Talin in the middle of it.