“Skin in the Game M/M, Cedar Falls #18”
by Shea Balik
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Tahl Pendev had been lusting after Reed since Utopia first opened. He could have easily taken Reed to his bed, but Tahl wanted more than a one-night stand. What he wants–no, demands–is forever, or he won’t have Reed at all.
Reed Bowden doesn’t believe in love, marriage, or even commitment. He was happy with one night stands and no strings weighing him down. But when one of his friends gets shot because of Reed, he starts to wonder if his lifestyle is all it was cracked up to be.
Will Tahl find a way to reach Reed, or will they implode before they have a chance?
Warning: High jinx will ensue as the characters from Cedar Falls try to play matchmaker.
Instantly Reed’s hackles went up, but for an entirely different reason than they had with Alcott. Tahl had a way of pissing Reed off just by existing. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Reed lied.
Tahl was the only man Reed had ever met that was better looking than Reed. Midnight black hair that shimmered blue under the right lights accentuated his deep blue eyes perfectly. High cheekbones, strong chin, and firm lips that just begged to be kissed all added to the man’s allure.
But his good looks didn’t stop there. His body was a chiseled masterpiece that spoke of years of dedication and training in the gym. Add to all of that, the man’s cocky attitude of knowing just how fucking gorgeous he was and ability to mesmerize anyone with just a look, and Tahl could have any man he wanted.
Including Reed. Except Tahl hadn’t been interested. The man hadn’t even flirted with Reed. It was as if Reed didn’t exist, well, unless Tahl was giving him a lecture on dating casino staff. There were no smiles from those firm lips, just a disapproving frown that never seemed to waiver.
“Really?” That frown was there, along with one eyebrow raised, telling Reed Tahl not only didn’t believe his lie but was disappointed, as usual, that Reed had bothered to tell it. “Because I believe it is you Alcott came here to see, and since he created a scene that involved Jesse, Ethan, Flynn, and”—Crow hesitated as he glanced over at Kale—“Danton. I would think you would have discouraged him from coming here again.”
Kale’s smile instantly turned icy as he was reminded about the Christmas fiasco that led to all the men mentioned being banned from the New Year’s Eve party. It had been a disaster of epic proportions. One that had nearly gotten Reed fired, the casino closed down, and three innocent bystanders sent to the hospital for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
After Aidan, the property’s manager had banned Alcott for sixty days. Reed had hoped the man would have given up chasing him. Evidently, he was wrong. “It’s not like I invited him here,” he told Tahl belligerently.
“Apparently he didn’t get the memo,” Tahl said dryly. “Have you thought about telling him you don’t want to see him again?”
Reed wanted nothing more than to smash his fist into that smug face. “Look, you pompous jerk, I have told him, over and over again. It’s not my fault if he ignores me.”
A muscle along Tahl’s jaw jumped, but otherwise, he didn’t react to Reed’s insults. His so-called friends, on the other hand, couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
“I think I hear Stone calling me,” Kale said. “I better get moving.”
“Yeah,” Crow followed. “I’m pretty sure he was calling for me, too.”
Reed stared after them, shocked they would just abandon him when they knew he couldn’t stand Tahl. Then again, if the roles were reversed, he was pretty sure he would have gotten out of there as fast as he could, too.
“Looks like your friends are smarter than you, Reed.” There was something in Tahl’s tone that had Reed’s teeth clenching in irritation.
He couldn’t pinpoint it exactly, but the way Tahl talked to him was like a schoolmarm talking to a five-year-old who’d been naughty. He was sick and tired of being treated as if he didn’t know how to behave. No, that wasn’t it. Everyone treated him that way. It was only Tahl he resented doing it.
What he hated was Tahl believing he had the right to tell him what to do. Who the fuck was this guy anyway? “Look, we are not friends, nor do I want to be your friend, so stop thinking you can order me around.”
The moment the words were out, Reed knew them for the mistake they were. Tahl grew still, too still. Those deep blue eyes blazed with fire that trapped Reed in place. Tahl was like a snake about to strike. Just as the thought left Reed’s head, Tahl moved, crowding Reed to the wall not more than ten feet from them.
He had been a Marine for eight fucking years, training with some of the toughest sons-of-bitches he’d ever known, yet Reed had no idea how Tahl had moved that fast or managed to pin him to the wall so he couldn’t move.
He owed Stone an apology for not taking hand-to-hand combat more seriously. Maybe if he’d paid more attention in class, he wouldn’t be in this predicament.
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