Excerpt #2 from my upcoming Dreamspinner Press release. This one’s a little hotter than the last (just the way I like it!). “The Trust” is a romance/suspense thriller about a secret agent who races against time to learn the truth about the technology implant in his body and the man he fell in love with ten years before. You may ask if there’s a HEA – of course! You’ll just have to find out how Jake gets there. Enjoy! -Shira
Anticipated Publication Date: June 18, 2012
Blurb: Eight years ago, Jake Anders was a college kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Then Trace Michelson recruited him into The Trust, a CIA-backed agency whose “executives” eliminate rogue biotechnology operations. Trace was everything Jake ever wanted in a man: powerful, brilliant, and gorgeous. But Jake never admitted his attraction to his mentor, and Trace always kept Jake at arm’s length.
Now Trace is dead and Jake is one of The Trust’s best operatives, highly skilled and loyal to the organization. But the secret agent has his own secret: six years ago, before he was assassinated, Trace designed a Sim chip containing his memories and experiences—and now that chip is part of Jake. It’s just data, designed to augment Jake’s knowledge, but when Sim becomes reality, Jake wonders if Trace is still alive or if Jake really is going crazy like everyone claims. He doesn’t know if he can trust himself, let alone anyone else.
To learn the truth about Trace and the chip, Jake embarks on a dangerous mission—except he’s not the only one looking for the information. Some of the answers are locked in his head, and unless he finds the key, he’ll be killed for the technology that’s become a part of him.
Now, more than ever, Jake wishes Trace were here to guide him. Too bad he’s dead… right?
NOTE: Pre-publication Excerpt, final version may change!
Excerpt from Chapter Eleven:
He closed his eyes and imagined himself on a beach overlooking blue-green water. He could hear the sound of the surf hitting the sand; he felt the spray on his face and the warmth of the sun. He took a deep breath and followed the Sim’s instructions.
He felt a strong pair of hands on his shoulders, digging into the tense muscles there from above him, kneading at the stiffness. The surf pounded the shore, and a drop of salt water hit his cheek. For the first time during a meditation, he realized he could smell—the tangy scent of seaweed washed up on the sand, the salt on the breeze, and something else—the citrus aftershave he remembered from years before. Trace’s aftershave. It was deeply unnerving. It was as though Trace were there with him, beside him. The real Trace and not a simulation. He fought the urge to stand up and start pacing again.
“Relax.” Trace Michelson’s resonant voice was a surprising balm for the stress Jake could not seem to release. The voice was also different than before: warmer, perhaps. No longer in his mind, but right there, next to him. Real. Much like the difference between a painting of a beautiful sunset and the sunset as it paints the world with vibrant color, because you are there to experience it.
“You’ve never touched me before.” Jake marveled at the strength in those long, graceful fingers. He could almost hear the other man’s breath in his ear as he imagined Trace’s face above his own, looking down. He didn’t open his eyes for fear that the scene would disappear and he’d be back in his own apartment once more, alone.
“You’ve never let me touch you, not in this way,” the Sim responded. “Until now, you haven’t been comfortable letting me get this close to you.”
“Hell.” Jake sighed and gave in to the need to believe that it was Trace Michelson touching him, and not just a simulation. “It’s all in my head, anyhow. Why should I care what you do?” He began to relax into the warm sand, and all thoughts of what Grey might say if he told him his Sim massaged his shoulders on a Caribbean beach vanished.
“You will find the answers.” Trace began to work his way down Jake’s arm, kneading the muscles. “But you must be patient.”
“Easy for you to say,” said Jake with a laugh. Trace worked his fingers up Jake’s arms and lingered briefly at his shoulders, working through the tension, reaching around his neck to work the muscles of his upper back. Painful bliss.
“Relax,” Trace commanded after a few more minutes. Jake obliged as his head sank back further into the soft sand.
“God, that feels so good.”
“You’re fighting it,” Trace said, his face again close to Jake’s.
“Hell no. It’s just that I’m starting to feel like Jell-O.”
“I’m not talking about your body,” the Sim replied. “I’m talking about your mind, your spirit.”
“You must open your mind, Jake, and see the infinite possibilities.”
A flash of color hovered on the periphery of Jake’s consciousness: the mandala. “What am I supposed to see in it?” he asked as Trace caressed his chest. “What am I missing?”
“The future. Your future is there.”
“Right now, I’m just seein’ myself dead,” Jake answered acerbically. “And that’s what I see, no matter which way I look.”
“You’re better than that—stronger. You’re capable of so much more than you’re willing to admit. This is no different from any mission you’ve been sent on in the past. Only perhaps there is more to be gained in the end.”
“Will you be waiting there?” Jake asked.
There was no answer. Trace followed a line to the sensitive skin under Jake’s ear, and he felt gooseflesh rise on his body.
“God, Trace,” he whispered, “what are you doing?”
“I’m merely responding to your wishes, to your desires.” Jake imagined Trace’s lips close to his ear. “It’s what I’m programmed to do.”
“My… desires?” Jake wondered aloud. “Trace… he programmed you to…?”
“My programming has never been completely static,” Trace replied as he ghosted a pair of silken palms over the muscles of Jake’s chest, and Jake’s body arched instinctively upward. “I’m only responding to your needs, your desires.”
“Have I desired this?” Jake mused. He was a sexual being, although he’d never found a man who could completely satisfy him. And yet, this man whom he’d worshipped from afar….
“You hesitate because you do not know what to believe of your unspoken need,” Trace explained calmly.
“It’s your desire that guides me. And it’s your fear that holds you back.”
“I’m afraid,” Jake admitted.
“You’re afraid of being with me.” Jake knew Trace was right. Was it so unreasonable to be afraid of Trace? He was nothing more than a ghost.
“How did you know,” Jake asked, uncomprehending, “when I didn’t understand it myself?”
“I’m a part of you. I can’t be separated from you, nor can I fail to hear what’s in your heart.”
Jake moaned again. The feel of Trace’s fingers on his scalp made him want to….
“Open your eyes, Jake Anders,” that glorious voice now commanded. “Open your eyes.”
Jake obeyed, looking into the most stunning eyes he’d ever known, their deep blue now appearing almost gray in the bright sunlight. It was as if he were seeing those eyes for the first time—they were no longer the cold, controlled eyes of the man who had mentored him but the eyes of a lover, warm and deep. Trace was naked, his hair wet from the water. Jake realized that he was naked, as well.
“Trace,” he whispered as their lips met. He ran his fingers over the well-defined chest, the smooth pale skin that seemed to glow in the sunlight. “You’re so goddamn beautiful. I never knew….” His voice trailed off as he felt Trace run his hands through his hair with its ends now painted in sand. Trace licked his ear, and Jake gasped. Why did this all seem so real? And how hadn’t he understood what he’d felt all along? He smiled for a moment at the realization that Grey had correctly guessed at his heart, then silently cursed the man for it.
“Do you understand, now, what you’ve denied yourself all these years?” Trace whispered, biting the lobe of Jake’s ear and sucking it for a moment. “Do you understand why I always kept you at arm’s length?”
“You didn’t want to hurt me.” Jake was momentarily stricken by the thought that the real man behind the Sim might not have desired him in the same way. To Trace, he’d been just a kid, eager, willing, and yet unable to comprehend the adult whispers of his soul.
Jake couldn’t deny it any longer: after years spent with the Sim as his constant companion, he’d grown to love Trace. It was utterly absurd. But as he lay on the beach with the water lapping at his toes, the absurdity of falling in love with the ghost who inhabited his mind didn’t matter. Here, in this place, that love felt real.
“I wanted you to make your own choices.”
I want this now. I want him.
Jake pulled Trace on top of him, raking his back with his nails until he heard a low groan in response. Then, roughly, he drew Trace’s face back to his and found his lips once again, probing Trace’s mouth with an insistent and demanding tongue, relishing the warmth as it opened to him. He had never tasted anything as sinfully sweet.
“Jake, what do you want?” Trace wrapped his arms around Jake and pulled him closer.
“I want you,” moaned Jake, his hands grasping at the tensed muscles of Trace’s shoulders, feeling the power there.
Trace pushed Jake back onto the sand, his eyes hooded with lust. He sucked hard at the base of Jake’s neck, then moved lower, biting a nipple and laving the outline of it with his tongue. Jake growled as Trace took the pebbled flesh between his teeth and rolled it there, biting it again, just enough to sting.
“Oh, fuck… Trace!” he cried out. Where did a Sim chip learn to do that? The thought was quickly replaced by thrumming need. He went to push Trace over, to dominate him as he was being dominated, but Trace was far stronger than he remembered, and he remained pinned beneath the smaller man.
Trace’s eyes grew darker still as he pushed Jake’s wrists into the sand at his sides. Jake ceased his struggle, surrendering to his companion until he felt Trace’s hard cock against his. But the blissful pressure of that contact was quickly gone as Trace leaned down, then drew lazy circles on his abdomen with his pink tongue, making his way slowly downward to the point that Jake thought he might lose his sanity in the pleasure of the other man’s touch.
“God, Trace.” The sun-heated water lapped at Jake’s feet as Trace’s lips parted and he felt the warmth of Trace’s mouth, exploring the length of him, tasting and sucking there.
Now I’ve really lost my mind.
“Hardly,” murmured Trace, circling his tongue around the sensitive tip before swallowing it down until his mouth met the reddish curls at the base of Jake’s cock. “You’ve just found it.”
He could barely breathe to feel that warm heat. And that tongue! God, that tongue was at once both heavenly and sinful. Trace sucked in his cheeks, increasing the pressure—that incredible, perfect pressure that made Jake forget everything. Teeth, lips, and tongue combined in the most exquisite way.
Jake realized his lover no longer held his wrists when he felt lithe fingers scrape the sensitive skin of his perineum and a firm hand cup his balls, then roll them about. “Shit!” he cried out, the sound of his voice lost on the crashing waves. “Shit, shit, shit!” A finger pressed against his tight opening, and it was just too much for him. He came hard in Trace’s mouth, shuddering and clutching Trace’s hair in his hands.
The cell phone alarm buzzed, and Jake awoke with a start, panting. He was still on the couch, wearing the same pair of pants as before. The apartment was dark. He was soaked in sweat. He felt the sticky warmth of his release on his abdomen. He was half-hard just remembering.
“Helluva dream,” he muttered to himself. He got up and headed for the shower, stripped off his pants, and set the temperature as cold as he could stand it. “You are one fucked-up SOB,” he added, shaking his head and grabbing the shampoo.
That was a dream, wasn’t it? he wondered as he rinsed the shampoo from his long hair.