What can you do when love takes you by surprise? Just breathe.
Cole Rinne is a model with an impossible problem. An invasion of his privacy ends up in the hands of a blackmailer, and the details could go public any day. His only hope is to ditch the spotlight and hide in the shadows. Then he meets someone with a solution.
Gage Marx is a PI who specializes in impossible problems. He's used to solving the unsolvable. The only thing he's ever declared a lost cause is himself.
From the start, Cole's case holds more surprises than Gage expects. The most shocking is that for the first time in over two years, Gage’s broken heart is showing signs of life.
Their plan to wade slowly into love comes apart when an unexpected opportunity threatens to turn it all into a long-distance relationship. Will occasional reunions be enough to keep them together or will their separate careers tear them apart?
* damaged lead finds love
* professional model
* learning to love again
* private investigator stories
Gage checked the time. Cole had been asleep in the living room all morning. As drunk as Cole was last night, Gage didn't expect him to be up to anything more than sleep until sometime that afternoon.
The sound of water running through pipes on the other side of the house was a surprise. Cole was at least lucid enough to find the bathroom.
Gage stood, stretched, and walked across the aging tile to the refrigerator, retrieving another bottle of coconut water. He strode out of the kitchen and into the sun-drenched living room.
Cole was back on the couch, flopped in the opposite direction he'd been in the last time Gage checked on him an hour ago. Face down, his feet were on the pillow, head on the cushion, the blanket abandoned in a heap on the floor. His mop of curly brown hair was mussed, and there were sleep lines on his cheek. He'd also ditched his T-shirt, Gage assumed during his trip to the bathroom. Why remained a mystery. Cole was dressed in nothing but his briefs — a bland, boring pair of tighty whities.
He'd seen them last night when Cole stripped off most of his clothes, half asleep. They still made Gage smile. He'd expected something different on a man obsessed with fashion.
Gage picked up the blanket and draped it back over him, more for modesty than warmth. Cole opened his eyes at the sensation of the cotton on his bare skin.
"Morning." Gage smiled down at him.
Cole responded with a slow blink. "This is your house?" His voice was a rough rasp.
Cole cleared his throat. "Good. I thought I went home with a rando last night." He sat up as if the sofa had somehow doubled gravity's pull.
"Here." Gage handed him the bottle.
"Thanks." Cole unscrewed the cap and chugged half of it, bloodshot eyes on Gage's face. "I vaguely remember you doing that a few times."
"Handing me drinks. Was that here or at the bar?"
"Here. It'll help with the hangover."
"Okay. Next question: why am I here and not at home?"
"You asked me to bring you."
"You didn't want to be alone."
"Oh. That makes sense."
Cole looked down at his own chest and rested a hand against his stomach. "Does this mean we…?" He brought his head up, letting his expression finish the question.
He didn't look upset. Only curious.
Gage shook his head. "You slept. That's all. Your clothes are over there." Gage nodded at the dark shirt and tan denim hanging over the back of a nearby chair where he'd left them after Cole dropped them on the floor. "I'm not sure what happened to your t-shirt."
"It'll turn up." Cole took another drink. "I threw up, didn't I?"
"No big deal. That's what emergency lanes are for."
Cole covered his eyes with one hand. "God, that's embarrassing."
Cole dropped his hand. "How did you know where I was?"
"You called me from the bar."
"I drunk dialed you? Even more embarrassing."
Gage smiled and sat beside him, leaving several inches between them. "You called to apologize. For a drunk dial, it was very civilized."
"I wonder who else I called. God, or what I told them." Cole looked horrified.
"I doubt you told anyone anything scandalous. You didn't sound like you'd been confessing anything when I got there," Gage reassured him. "Your phone is on the charger if you want to check." He pointed to the end table and the phone he'd turned off.
There was no point listening to it ping notifications when Cole hadn't been awake enough to respond to anything.
"I don't think I want to know yet." Cole took another drink. "Thank you for being a gentleman about last night. Not everyone passes up an opportunity like that."
Gage shrugged. "Predators have their thing. I have mine. Besides, you were asleep before we got here. You puked, passed out, and that was pretty much the entire evening."
Cole closed his eyes and dropped his head against the back of the sofa, wincing at the contact. "I'm a mess."
"It's okay." Gage patted his arm. "You needed a safe place to collapse. Nobody was using the couch. It's fine."
A spark raced through him at the sensation of Cole's warm skin under his palm, and Gage drew back his hand, making a point not to jerk it away. He hadn't felt anything like that in far too long. Its sudden revival disturbed him more than it turned him on.
Wanting another man in a house that would always belong to Alec felt like a betrayal. Guilt poured over the spark like wet concrete, smothering it. Gage stood, putting distance between himself and anything else he might be tempted to touch.