Kelly Wyre & H.J. Raine bring us: Excerpt: Hearts Under Fire

Gay? Clark blinked. Of course Clark was gay. The bartender went still for a moment — a leftover from training that taught him that moving when confused or startled could get one killed. He replayed the conversation, forced the bullshit bits about his eye and the past away from his thoughts, and finally caught up to the rumor business.

Under normal circumstances, Clark thought he might be more upset that somebody got him off his game — even for a split second or two. But some weird additional heat was mixing in with the desire to get this man alone in a dark room and learn what his skin tasted like.

“Oh? Do you?” Clark said as he leaned back in and brushed his thumb over the back Daniel’s right hand. “I’ve acquired a taste for it myself.”

“Have you, now?” Daniel asked. He caught the wandering hand with his left and tried to turn it over. The lightness of Clark’s skin against the darkness of Daniel’s hand fascinated Clark, and want stirred in Clark’s bloodstream and groin like some grinning cat poised over a cornered mouse. Clark hummed and pressed his thumb into Daniel’s palm for a light squeeze with a hint of very short nail. Clark relented and let the other man move his hand as he liked.

“I guess I’ve had a taste for it ever since I remember,” Daniel said. He spread Clark’s fingers on the bar and traced the life and health lines as if divining things from Clark’s skin. “That is part of my trepidation over the wedding. They’ve never physically beaten me up about it, just tried to get me to date more girls.”

Clark found it was harder than it had any right to be for him to follow Daniel’s words instead of the trails of fire igniting on Clark’s skin. Mentally, he chastised himself for getting so worked up. Then he chastised himself for chastising himself over feeling something good.

Truly, it was one long game of punch-for-punch in Clark’s head sometimes.

“‘More girls?'” Clark repeated, refusing to look away from Daniel’s face. He relaxed his arm and hand with effort. “Implying there were girls to season your taste early on?”

“Mmhm,” Daniel hummed, brushing his thumbnail against the Mound of Mars under Clark’s thumb. “Beauty is still beauty, as are intelligence and courage. Though I admit that my aunt was just beside herself when I was dating a girl who was graduating summa cum laude.”

“I’m sure,” Clark agreed, grateful for the new information to distract him from the urge to full-body flinch from the casual touches. Calculating, he rolled his fingers and stroked the underside of Daniel’s wrist. “I’m sure they’ll all be glad to see you. Sounds like the kind of family that wants you to be happy above all else.” Touch, drag, press of fingertip, and Clark’s heart beat faster.

Daniel squeezed Clark’s hand and released him. “I don’t know about happy, but they’re always there when I need them. That’s a good thing.”

Clark watched Daniel grab the beer and empty it with one last, long pull. He shifted his weight from foot to foot, struggling with an internal wrestling match that started when Daniel let go of him. He instantly regretted the loss of contact and chided himself for it. It wasn’t sudden, so Clark didn’t think he’d offended. But something was off.

“Having that kind of support is rarely a bad thing,” Clark commented, trying to sort through the Daniel-flavored consternation.

“Indeed,” Daniel said, finishing the sandwich. The furrow was back between Daniel’s brows, and Clark shook his head, bemused, before reaching to cover Daniel’s entire hand with his own.

Giving an affectionate squeeze, Clark leaned closer, playful again. “You’re thinking hard enough to make my head hurt.”

Daniel blinked and then laughed, the smile reaching the corners of his eyes. The effect took Clark’s breath away.




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