Hush – Tal Bauer

Assassinations were, when it came right down to it, easy. No matter how tight the security, how rehearsed the preparations, life always came with weaknesses. American Secret Service agents stood beside their president on a handshake line, but in the crush and swarming mass of bodies, they couldn’t get eyes on every single person. Hordes of people, rushing for a handshake, a look, a smile. Everyone wanting to be acknowledged by the most powerful man on the planet. It was easy to slide into the crowd, to hide between the smiles and the waving hands. All it took was one concealed weapon, one fast draw. President Kennedy had been killed, and his brother after that. President Reagan had been shot. Presidents were never invulnerable. The office, the title, was not bullet proof. Neither were the Secret Service agents, the president’s white knights. Assassinations didn’t have to be carried out with a gun. Assassination weapons came in every size and shape, thirty-one flavors of destruction. Boston had taught Americans that they weren’t invulnerable to IEDs.

They weren’t just a news clip or a sound bite online anymore. Bombs were always an option. Always the preferred choice for making a big statement, and scattering as many bodies as possible. But a sniper was still the best choice. The quietest choice. Both the least and the most intimate. A great sniper could squeeze their trigger from a mile away, dispatch their target, and disappear before anyone could even dream of finding them. In those last moments, the moments watching a target moving through the reticular scope, the last moments of the target’s life reduced down to a series of circles and dashed lines, a sniper could feel as close as a whisper away. Watching someone when they thought they were alone. Watching them mumble to themselves.

Pick their nose. Let down their guard, their mask to the world, and let all their raw nerves and frustrated hopes sag. As they let their dreams run flat and they stared at the life they had stumbled into. A sniper was privy to all of that, to the flash in a person’s eyes as they stopped pretending that they were truly happy in any way at all. Death, then, should be a release. He almost envied the people he killed. One minute alive, wishing for a different life, and then— A bullet to the cerebellum and a mist of red, a puff bursting as they collapsed like their life was escaping into the air. Or a round into a person’s center mass, where it bounced and spun and shredded so many, many organs. He picked up the bolt, pulled free from his Dragunov sniper rifle, and rubbed the dark steel, cleaning the metal until it shone. A dot of oil, a tiny smear, and he set it aside.

The Dragunov lay in pieces, hardened steel and wooden stock laid out in precise order, perfect pieces to a jigsaw puzzle he could assemble in moments. Remnants from a line of cocaine lay off to the side, next to a razor blade and a rolled-up 100- Euro note. He waited for a phone call. For a voice on the other end of the line that gave him his next assignment, his instructions. He was a gun for hire, a man providing a service for the right price. He was a hard man to find, but for the dedicated individuals who managed to track him down, he was willing to entertain their offers. Like many others in his line of work, he’d done time in the Russian military, worked his way through the ranks, rising from the dog-shit life of a basic enlistee to a marginally better-off noncommissioned officer. At least as an NCO he could pad his wallet a little bit. And when he’d left the service, he’d taken his Dragunov with him. His time in the military had beaten out any sliver of nationalistic pride he’d ever had.

Russia— the whole fucking country—could go to hell. So when the call came in with this assignment. Well, he’d been intrigued. Call him… patriotic. His phone rang. “Da?” The voice spoke, the man who’d hired him, giving him his next instructions. He was on his way to America. Chapter 1 May 5 th Bang. Bang. Bang.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Mike Lucciano slammed the side of his fist against the rotten, waterwarped door of Stan Coffey’s Fairfax apartment. The cheap wood rattled against the deadbolt, gaping wide at the base. He saw stained carpet, vomit-brown and frayed, mottled with cigarette burns. Dogs barked in nearby apartments, deep growls mixing with the loud drone and tinny laughter of daytime TV. Owners shouted, hollering at the dogs to quit their yapping or they’d smack ‘em. Mike gave Deputy U.S. Marshal Jim Gordon a long stare.

Gordon nodded and went back to watching the apartments, welding himself into the corner of the middle landing, bracing his back against the rusted metal staircase. Flecks of paint fluttered loose and fell to the broken asphalt below. Gordon was one of the two deputy marshals Mike had brought with him for this little chitchat with Stan Coffey. Gordon was young, still in his training year at headquarters in Arlington. He monitored the run-down apartments and surrounding tenement buildings like he was still in the academy, his eyeballs painting a perfect circuit around the clock face, darting from hour to hour like a bobble-head doll. Jeff Silver, the other deputy marshal, watched over both Mike and Gordon, waiting to back up either, or both, if needed. He shouldn’t have to. This was just going to be a simple chit-chat, an easy call out to remind Stan Coffey that threats against the federal judiciary were taken seriously. He’d rattle his chains a bit, throw his weight and his badge around. Mike would give Stan the opportunity to apologize, recant, and make his mea culpas.

They’d all be back at the office in an hour. Inside the apartment, Mike heard shouting, the loud hacking cough of a lifetime smoker, and then an ambling shuffle heading for the door. Behind the thin wood, he heard a man grumble under his breath, cough, and curse the still-barking dogs. The steady, rumbling barking had alerted the neighbors, and curtains were being pulled back. Mike could feel eyeballs peering down on them all. A chain rattled and the deadbolt slid. The door cracked open. Stan Coffey—thirty-nine-yearsold, rail thin, with the body of a meth addict and a face to match—leaned against the doorjamb. A cigarette hung from his wrinkled-paper lips. His face looked like his missus had hit him one too many times with a frying pan, and he’d never healed right.

His greasy hair stuck up at odd angles, next to the bald patch spreading out from the center of his crown. “What you want?” Stan’s eyes narrowed as they swept over Mike. Mike shoved his star-shaped badge into Stan’s face. “U.S. Marshals, Mr. Stan Coffey. We’re here to talk to you about—” Stan took off, tearing back into his apartment. “Shit.” Mike drew his weapon and followed, shouldering open the door and clearing the hallway corners quickly.

Shouting, from the backroom in the dark apartment. Women shrieking. Glass breaking. He jumped out to the landing and found Silver and Gordon ready to move. “Backside. He’s making a run for the alley.” Gordon took off. A rickety fire escape, more rust than metal, clung to the moldy walls of the tenement in the stinking alley. When they’d driven in, they’d eyed the metal ladders with wary eyes. Anyone thinking of making a run using that would have to be desperate.

It looked like it was just shrugging up to the building and the slightest bit of weight would make the old bolts shear off from the brick siding and send the entire rusted structure to the ground in a puff of orange dust. Silver radioed for the Fairfax police escorts waiting around the building to move in. They were there as a courtesy, “in case shit”, in the wisdom of the marshals. Well, “shit” had happened. Mike ran back into the apartment, down the hallway, and burst into the living room. Three women were sitting on a sagging sofa, each wearing a tube top four sizes too small. Mismatched sheets were tacked over the windows, darkening the room like a cave. Daytime soap operas blared from the TV perched on an empty milk crate. In front of the women, stained crack pipes littered a broken coffee table, next to scraps of aluminum foil. Sticky burns covered the bottom of the crack pipes, and the stench of singed hair and melted plastic clung to the dank apartment.

The women screamed, each leaping back on the couch and trying to climb each other, trying to get away from Mike. “Hands up!” he shouted. “Hands up! Up!” If one of their hands went under a couch cushion, or behind a pillow covered in burn marks, they could come out with a gun. He pointed his pistol at the women and shouted again, “Hands up!” Cowering, they all raised their hands and turned their faces away, hiding against each other. “Where did he go? Where is Stan?” One of the women pointed to the back hallway, her finger shaking. A narrow door was ajar, and a beam of sunlight pierced the dank living room. Chipped blue tile caught his eye. Stan had escaped into the bathroom. He heard grunting, and then cursing. Glass breaking.

Crashing, things falling to the floor, smashing against tile. Mike ran for the bathroom, shouldering open the door and throwing his back against the wall. A filthy tub with a ratty shower curtain hanging by only a few hooks sat on the right, and on the left, Stan Coffey hung halfway out of the thin window above the toilet. The window was only a foot tall. Mike wouldn’t be able to get his shoulders through the damn thing, but Stan was doing his best to wriggle his meth-wracked body through the pitiful opening. “Get the fuck down from there, Stan!” “Fuck you!” Stan kept wriggling, his scrawny ass shimmying against the windowsill. There was no way his hips were getting through that window, no matter how skinny he was. Sirens wailed outside. Tires screeched. Mike heard shouts from the street below and feet running into the alleyway.

Fairfax police yelled up at Stan. Stan cursed back, a string of nonsense and spit as his legs kicked and thrashed. His foot knocked a toothbrush off the side of the sink. It flew across the bathroom and into the tub. “Get the fuck down, or I’m going to haul your ass out of there.” “Don’t you fucking touch me!” He could grab his feet, but he’d have touch Stan’s nasty sweats, stained with God-knew-what. He could grab him and yank, twist him and slam him into the ground. Stan would get the wind knocked out of him, and that would help with getting him cuffed. “Stan, last warning. Get the fuck down from the window!” “You touch me, I’ll fucking kill you!” Bingo.

Threatening a federal officer. Add that to his first threat. Stan was looking at a real bad day when this was all over. And probably some serious bruises, too. Mike heard Silver and a police officer in the living room, ordering the women to stay seated. They were all whimpering, lost in some meth high and probably riding the shiny lights emanating from the TV screen or staring at the glint of Silver’s badge. “Silver! Help me pull this jackass down!” Silver stomped into the bathroom and chuckled at Stan’s flailing legs and his grunting curses. He took up position next to Mike, but made no move to help. “I’ll cover you.” “Thanks.

” Mike slammed his pistol back in his holster. Silver smirked. Mike started for Stan, edging his way around the bathroom and avoiding Stan’s wild kicks. He’d have to grab Stan as close to the hips as possible, get his rail-thin thighs together, and then fling him down. It’d be like wrestling a cat. Awesome. Mike waited for the right moment, in-between Stan’s kicks and right when he started up another screeching curse at the police below. Lunging, he wrapped his arms around Stan’s waist and yanked, pulling Stan’s legs down as he ripped him free from the window. Flopping forward, Stan’s forehead clipped the window’s metal rail, and he roared, cursing Mike as he started to fight. Spinning, Mike hefted Stan over his shoulder and slammed him face first onto the tile floor.

Stan’s breath whooshed out of him, like a bag full of air slapped too hard and bursting. He went limp, his arms and legs starfishing out, and his mouth gaped, a fish out of water. Mike kneeled on his back, digging his knee into Stan’s kidney as he cuffed him. “Stan Coffey, you are under arrest.” Stan’s breath was starting to come back to him. “Fuck you, you motherfucker.” He spat, but only managed to spray his own cheek. “Yeah, right back at you.” He grabbed Stan’s handcuffs and hauled him up. “Get up.

You’ve just turned this into a very long day.” Stan sat in the back seat of one of the Fairfax police cruisers, glaring at the headrest. Once, he’d started kicking at the door with his bare feet until the officer hollered at him and threatened to taze him if he didn’t quit that shit. Police crawled over Stan’s apartment. The three women, his three girlfriends, were huddling on the curb in handcuffs, still high on their meth hit. So far, they’d found enough meth to put Stan away for a very long time, a handful of unregistered handguns in the kitchen cupboards, and, of all places, the fridge. Neighbors stared down at the scene, hanging out of open windows and glaring, crossing their arms as they watched the police and the marshals like their beady eyes were weapons, lasers that would banish them from the block. Silver leaned against the hood of his SUV, crossing his arms as Mike read off the list of what the police found. He whistled. “Not his day, is it?” “Nope.

Serves him right. What the hell did he think was going to happen, shooting his mouth off online about wanting to kill Judge Brewer and then running when we came knocking?” Judge Tom Brewer, the newest judge to the Washington DC Federal District Court, had just handed down a stiff sentence to the owner of a web hosting server on the dark web, and a ringleader of the dark web community. Clownface, his online moniker, was responsible for curating the massive online black-market trading boards and facilitating transactions of everything from child pornography to illegal weapons to drugs. The trial had been awful, filled with gut-churning testimony about the truly horrific and obscene happenings deep in the twisted bowels of the dark web. When Clownface was sentenced to life in prison—the maximum sentence Judge Brewer could impose, though few thought that a baby federal judge would go to such lengths—online outcry reached a fever pitch. The usual gamut of crazies, trolls, and civil rights extremists stormed the internet, but they were joined by hordes from the Sovereign Rights movement. White supremacists, tax protestors, secessionists, and others who rejected the federal government and screamed about the overreach and abuse of federal authority. Mike had had enough of dealing with Sovereign Rights groups for five lifetimes. A large portion of the Sovereign Rights groups’ infrastructure and funding had come from the dark web, with significant transactions running through the very site Clownface had managed. And Stan Coffey, Sovereign Rights nobody, wannabe white supremacist, professional methhead and troublemaker extraordinaire, had run his mouth off on an internet forum, saying that Judge Brewer should be dragged out of the courthouse and shot on the steps.

In the ensuing back-and-forth with his fellow nutjobs, they all decided a wood chipper would be a better means of dispatching Judge Brewer, again, on the steps of the courthouse. A subpoena later, the marshals had the IP addresses and emails of the users making the postings, their physical addresses, phone numbers, and all billing information for those accounts and any other connected social media accounts, cell phones, and laptops. Whether the online postings were a “true threat”, pursuant to Chapter 18 of the U.S. Code, was up to an investigation and the United States Attorney. Mike, deputy marshal and deputy judicial security inspector assigned to the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse, the DC federal courthouse, and to Judge Brewer’s court security, only planned on banging on Stan’s door to talk him down from his threats. Most of the time, that’s how the bluster ended up shaking out.

An apology and urgent insistence that someone was just blowing their mouth off, followed by a quick search of their apartment to confirm they didn’t have any weapons. Mike would have been out of there in half an hour. Now, one of the Assistant United States Attorneys, AUSA Cassandra Solórzano, would have to bring charges. Stan had threatened a federal judge, and he had the means to carry it out—a stack of unregistered firearms. He’d threatened Mike, a marshal. It was five years for each threat against a federal official, so Stan was starting at ten years minimum. And that was before the drugs and the guns. Stan Coffey was having a shitty day, and it was only going to get shittier. “Let’s get him booked. Fairfax PD can finish processing this scene.

” Mike called the officer guarding Stan over and told him they were headed for the jail. The officer seemed relieved to be leaving. To get out of the heat—late DC spring was turning into summer with a vengeance—or to get away from the slit-eyed glares of the neighbors and the hostile tension choking the humid air. The ride to the jail was easy as they followed behind the patrol car. Silver drove and quizzed Gordon on the afternoon, on what went down, and the arrest. Gordon answered with a sheen to his eyes, the come-down of an adrenaline-soaked arrest. Stan was sullen and silent through the booking, glaring at the camera for his mugshots and sneering and cursing through the body search. Mike and the others waited until the paperwork was processed, and then watched Stan parade past them into the lockup, decked out in Virginia’s finest shade of neon orange. It was almost four PM. Mike scrunched up his face.

Gordon and Silver were close to their office in Arlington—U.S. Marshals Service headquarters—but he was at least an hour and a half away from his in the Prettyman Courthouse, right in the heart of DC. Maybe two hours, what with rush hour traffic. It wasn’t worth fighting back to the office this late in the day. Time to head home. “Thanks, guys.” Mike shook Gordon and Silver’s hands. “I’ll call you both again anytime I need backup.” They smiled, thanked him, and left together, heading out to Silver’s SUV.

They were marshals assigned to fugitive tracking and criminal investigations. The glitzy, glamorized duties that all the TV shows were about. They were what Mike had been, once. He’d been a member of a fugitive task force, a deputy marshal scouring his district for escaped prisoners, for wanted felons, for dangerous men and women evading the reach of the law. Not anymore. He was still a deputy marshal, but he’d moved into the judicial security division, the part of the marshals exclusively dedicated to protecting federal judges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and all prosecutors, all juries, and the courthouses. Threats against judges and prosecutors, not to mention juries, had skyrocketed over the past fifty years. Congress had charged the marshals with the job of protecting the entire judiciary.

They were given the job with allocations for 110 judicial security inspectors, JSIs, and told to put “one to three” in each of the 94 federal judicial districts in the United States. With an average of eighteen judges and fifteen prosecutors—and thousands of jurors each year—in each district, “one to three” inspectors had their work cut out for them. Investigating and responding to threats, providing security for the judges and the prosecutors inside and outside the courthouse, devising security strategies for high-risk trials, and even, sometimes, providing personal protection for judges under high-threat risk. It was enough to keep him and his fellow JSIs busy for three hundred hours a week. He couldn’t imagine what working alone would be like. He and the other two JSIs in DC didn’t see eye to eye all the time—or ever—but at least they were there, and they had each other’s backs. Like New York and Los Angeles, DC had three JSIs for the entire federal judicial district. Chicago had two. The rest of the ninety federal districts had one. Mike got a ride from a Fairfax patrol officer to the Metro and squeezed his way onto the orange train heading into DC.

He bumped and rocked for forty-five minutes and then hopped off at McPherson Square. He turned up 15 th and walked to Logan Circle, heading home. He hadn’t been home this early in a long, long time. Silvio should be happy. He and Silvio constantly argued about his work hours. It seemed every other conversation they had was an argument now. Yes, he worked a lot. But he had a big job. A huge job. He didn’t have the kind of job where he could take a few days off because he felt like it.

His schedule was dictated by the court, by the judges he protected, and by their trial dates. And if he wasn’t running security for a high-risk trial, then he was chasing down threats or following up on intelligence passed over from the prisons or the task force. If he managed to find a few days where each judge he protected didn’t have a trial going, and if he managed to get Villegas, his fellow deputy JSI, to agree to cover for him, then he could take a few days off. That wasn’t ever enough for Silvio, though. Silvio wanted him to jet around the world, fly off for a long weekend on one of his international trips. Spend a weekend in Paris before coming in late on Monday. As a flight attendant, Silvio had a different understanding of time than Mike did. The workweek was whatever Silvio wanted it to be, and he seemed to resent Mike’s rigid hours, his lashing to the federal courts. Coming home early would be good for them. Hopefully he’d get to see that giant smile of Silvio’s, the one that lit up his face.

The one he’d been captivated by from the first night they met, dancing and grinding at the Going Down club. Was it a year now? In about six weeks, yeah. Damn, he should start making noise at the courthouse about getting time off. He needed at least a day with Silvio for their one-year anniversary. Mike thundered up the steps to his building, an older block of townhomes squished together on the edge of Logan Circle. He wasn’t wealthy enough to own one of the fancy townhouses on the Circle itself, but he liked being close to the neighborhood. His home was quiet, DC charm in a teaspoon-sized place. He’d moved Silvio in four months into their relationship, eagerly hauling boxes and boxes of Silvio’s stuff from his studio north of DC, on the Maryland side, into his townhome. There was a strange car parked on the street. He knew his neighbors, generally knew what time they came and went.

An out-of-place vehicle on the street before anyone was due to be home stood out. Mike eyed it, making note of the license plate as he shoved open his building’s door. He jogged the steps to the third-floor apartment he owned and reached for the door handle. There were noises inside, someone obviously happy. Silvio. Maybe he was on the phone. Smiling, Mike unlocked the door and strode in, expecting to see Silvio in the kitchen, glass of white wine in one hand, phone in the other, chatting with his friends about the latest high-fashion crime. Silvio loved fashion, loved dressing to the nines. His closets were near to bursting with Silvio’s decadent wardrobe, shoes and shirts and skinny pants for days. He loved peeling those pants off Silvio and finding his jock strap.

He always wore a jock, and always a sexy one. Silvio was a tiger in bed, a sex kitten with the wildness of a jaguar. Sinking into Silvio made each of their fights fade away, made each of their arguments soften and disappear from his mind. They’d work it out. They’d made it this far. Mike stopped short, his boot scuffing against the scraped hardwood he’d laid by hand. The rubber of his sole made a sad little whine, like a balloon letting loose air by surprise. Silvio was in the kitchen, but he wasn’t alone. And he wasn’t wearing any of his cute clothes. Someone tall, dark, and swarthy moved behind Silvio, his cock obviously buried deep in Silvio’s ass.

Hands gripped Silvio’s shoulders, pulling him down on Tall & Swarthy’s cock over and over. Silvio had that look on his face, that scrunched-up, mouth-open look he got when he was getting a good dicking, when he was loving Mike’s cock buried in his ass. When he was close to coming. Neither of them had noticed Mike, even though they were facing him. Tall & Swarthy was watching himself disappear into Silvio’s ass. A captivating sight, Mike knew. He should feel something. Something should register. But all he did was blink, watching this stranger plow into his boyfriend, over and over. Well.

His ex-boyfriend. Mike let the door go, letting it fall back against the doorjamb with a loud clang. It wasn’t balanced right and would always slam if not shut carefully. The door banged and Silvio’s eyes opened, shock bursting across his delicate features. Tall & Swarthy’s thrusts faltered. “Hi honey.” One corner of Mike’s lip curled up. “I’m home.” Silvio cursed, a breeze of Spanish as he backed up, pulled off Tall & Swarthy’s cock—and, look at that, they were going bareback—and grabbed a dishtowel, as if he could somehow preserve any sense of modesty in front of Mike. “What the hell are you doing here?” “I live here.

” Mike held out his hands, spreading them wide. “This is my home.” “You’re never here this early.” Silvio’s eyes flashed. Jesus, was Silvio angry? At him? Something bubbled in Mike’s chest, indignation rising like a wave, a slowly-building tsunami that kept growing and growing before it crashed against the shore. “I wanted to surprise you.” He turned to Tall & Swarthy, who wasn’t doing a thing to cover himself. “Who the hell is this?” Tall & Swarthy had the good sense not to say anything. His eyes slid sideways to Silvio. “He’s not your concern.

” Silvio’s voice snapped, cutting like broken glass. “Not. My. Concern.” Mike snorted, shaking his head. The wave in his heart kept building, rising higher than a skyscraper, a wall of rage and hurt that threatened to crash down on his world. He never thought this would happen to them. To him. Didn’t Silvio know how he felt? What happened to the good times, when they cuddled on the couch and watched TV, that then turned into kissing and making out and then slow, sweet loving into the cushions? Waking up slowly on the weekends and drinking coffee in bed? Holding hands and walking through the city, talking for hours, listening to Silvio tell stories about the flights he went on, the cities he visited. Planning to visit them together.

Though… those moments, his favorite moments of their relationship—of any relationship—had been few and far between. “What do you expect? You’re never home. You never give me any attention anymore.” A curl of hurt wrapped around Silvio’s words, his voice trembling at the very end. “You think I’m just going to sit here and wait for you all day?” “I’m working! I have a job! I’m trying to support you! Us! And, I expect someone who loves me not to do this.” Mike threw his hand out, toward Tall & Swarthy and his kitchen. Jesus, there was a shine on his counter, right where they’d been. He’d have to bleach the entire place. He’d have to remodel. Rip out all the granite and the cupboards down to studs.

Maybe he should just burn the whole place down. “You’re such a selfish bastard!” Silvio snapped, stamping his foot. “If you loved me, you wouldn’t have made me do this!” The wave crashed, descending through his soul and drowning out his entire world. Red flared in front of his eyes, a bolero waving a crimson flag in the path of a bull. Reality seemed disconnected, as if he were living in a soap bubble with edges that shimmered. Silvio’s face warped, first sneering, then twisting as if he were about to cry. Silvio’s words bounced around his skull, the petulant tone of a child not getting his way. What he’d done, fucking another man in Mike’s home, was Mike’s fault? No. Never in a million years. Dealing with prisoners, with criminals, and with the scum of the earth had inured him over the years to emotional manipulations, empty platitudes and frantic reaches from desperate men and women struggling to save themselves from the inevitable.

He blinked and saw Silvio suddenly in a new light. The bubble around him burst, vanishing with a pop. Silvio was teetering on the edge of a full Mariah Carey meltdown. He could see it in the quiver of his chin, the flatness of his lips. The angle of his jaw, set just at that fuck-you angle, the one that begged for a no-holds-barred fight. Part of him, still rocking and rolling on the waves of rage and indignation, still sloshing in the turgid waters of hurt and disbelief, wanted to dive right in, scream and shout and bellow about the whys and the wherefores. He wanted to tear into Silvio, hurt him with his words, shred him with every terrible thought he could dredge up, every frustration, every sideways, unkind thing he’d ever thought. But, why fight about this? What would the end be? Would fighting change what had happened? Or… what he had already decided? Mike pulled open the front door. He swept his hand out toward the hallway, an ironic gesture of chivalry. “Buh-bye.

” “What?” Silvio’s jaw dropped. The fire in his eyes turned to lava spewing from a volcano, erupting with enough force to reach the moon. “What the fuck do you mean ‘bye’?” “I mean get out, Silvio. Get out right now.” “You can’t kick me out of our home!” “It’s my home, you don’t pay for a Goddamn thing, and I absolutely am throwing you out.” “All of my stuff is here!” “It will be waiting for you in the morning.” “Don’t you dare—” Silvio hissed. Mike gave Tall & Swarthy a long look, sighing. “Will you control your boy, please? And get the fuck out of here?” Silvio’s breathless gasp could have broken glass. He might have sprained a lung.

His eyes boggled, practically leaping from his face, and his jaw nearly unhinged. “His boy?” he shrieked. “I am not his boy!” “Well, sweetheart, you’re not my boy either.” Again, Mike swept his hand to the door, dramatically inviting Silvio to get the fuck out of his life. “Buh-bye.” “Mike—” “Leave, Silvio. Get out. Before I call the cops.” “Mike!” “Go. Come back in the morning for your stuff.

” “Michael!” Finally, Tall & Swarthy moved. He grabbed a dish towel and covered himself—a little fucking late—and then scooped up his clothes, left in a trail on the way to the kitchen from the front door. Designer jeans with ridiculous bling on the ass, a bromo t-shirt with too much design on the front, swirls that looked like stupid tribal designs and sleeves purposely cut too small to cling to the biceps. Ugly underwear. “Come on, Siv,” he grunted. “Let’s go back to my place.’ Siv. What a stupid nickname. He never called Silvio dumb nicknames like that. Silvio sashayed across the living room, plucking his clothes off the floor one by one, as if flaunting the savagery of their undressing, the stripping that had sent socks and jeans and Silvio’s button-down halfway across the room.

His ass twitched with every step, hips swaying. A line of lube smeared across one cheek. He held Mike’s gaze, staring him down as he stalked toward the door. “Don’t fucking touch my things,” he hissed, passing Mike by. He tossed his head, lifted his chin, and strutted into the hall, naked, glistening ass shaking like a flustered peacock. Mike choked back his laughter, the shouts he wanted to holler at the haughty ridiculousness of Silvio, his petty tyranny making him seem like a toddler with a broken tiara, stamping her foot as she wailed at the indignity of the world. Tall & Swarthy had the good sense to at least appear embarrassed about their ejection from Mike’s home. He shuffled to the door quickly, his clothes held in front of him. He offered Mike the dishtowel he’d used to cover his cock. Mike didn’t take it. And then, they both were in the hallway, naked, clutching their clothes, Silvio glaring at Mike like his eyes would truly murder him if he just wished it hard enough. Mike let the door slam shut, cutting Silvio off from him. Hopefully forever. A minute later, a car started up on the street. Probably that car he’d noticed, the out-of-place one. He’d known something was up the moment he saw it. And then, his cell phone buzzed. And buzzed again. And again. He looked down, swiping the screen on. A barrage of texts from Silvio paraded down his phone, exhortations and eviscerations, the fight he hadn’t let Silvio start apparently now happening over text. Blistering tirades, Silvio shredding him right and left, ripping into their relationship, his job, and even their sex life. He had to call a locksmith and get his locks changed tonight. Start pulling out all of Silvio’s things and making giant piles of his crap. Silvio could pick them up on the curb tomorrow. Maybe neighborhood vultures would tear through it, pull out what they wanted and leave Silvio with the dregs. He had to post signs in the building, tell his neighbors not to let the cheating bastard in if he claimed he’d lost his key. He had to bleach—or fucking destroy—his kitchen. His phone buzzed, over and over and over again. It was going to be a long fucking night.


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