Blurb

Ramon McKenzie gave his heart to Noah, only to have Noah up and leave him. For over two years there has been no word from Noah…but now he’s back. He'll do everything he can to have Ramon's forgiveness, and to claim his heart, but this time, for forever.

But where does that leave Sylvia? Not only is she the personal assistant to Michael and Sebastian McKenzie, but she’s also the woman Ramon has been taking around town, on and off since Noah left.

Nothing is straightforward in the lives of the McKenzie Brothers, and Ramon McKenzie’s life is no exception.

This is book 5 in the McKenzie Brothers series and can be read as a standalone.

Please note that this is an M/M romance with explicit scenes.

Image Copyright ~ Michael Stokes

Excerpt

Chapter One

Ramon

Pacing back and forth in the hotel room, where I’m supposed to meet the contact Eric set up, is grating on my damn nerves. The security at the Lexington site constantly plagues my mind and it’s only further aggravated by my confusion about Sylvia. What the fuck am I doing with her? And if that isn’t enough, I can’t stop thinking about Noah, which is annoying as hell.

Sylvia is pushing for a lot more than I can give her right now, and I should give it to her. I mean, she’s the one that’s been here for the last two years but Noah hasn’t been and no one, including me, has heard from him since he left. One day, my birthday to be exact, everything was fine, and the next he’d disappeared. No explanation or hint of where he was going. Not for me…not for his sister, Carla, who is now married to my brother Sebastian.

Right now, I feel as though everything is crashing around me. Nothing is going right on the site I’m managing. It’s been one thing after another and if something doesn’t happen before too long, I’m afraid someone is going to get killed working there.

None of us have ever had this problem before so it’s pissing me the fuck off right now.

Hearing a tap at the door, I peer through the security hole and see a guy standing on the other side. He’s hunched over, his face averted as though he’s aware that I’m watching him. Dressed like the dozens of other workers on the site—blue jeans, T-shirt, fleece and a blue, baseball cap—there is a niggling at the back of my mind. I feel like I’ve seen this man before. The guy bangs on the door for the second time—this time harder.

Taking the security lock off, I open the door wide and let him walk in, his face still averted as he moves into the room. He stands with his back to me, but as he starts to turn the blood in my body turns to ice.

No fucking way!

I feel the blood drain to my feet as I drop into the chair beside the table, holding my travel bag.

No matter how many times I blink, he’s still standing before me looking just as shocked to see me as me him.

“Two years,” I whisper.

He shuffles back and falls onto his ass against the bed when his legs hit the side.

In a nervous gesture, he turns his cap so it’s back to front. “I don’t know what to say.” He buries his head in his hands before he looks at me again. “I knew it would be a shock for you to see me, but, even though I knew this meeting was with you, it’s still a shock being in the same room with you after all this time. I was planning on heading back to Lexington to find you when Eric approached me about this job. I need to explain, but I have no idea where to start.”

“The beginning is usually a good place, although nothing will change the fact that you left without any explanation.” Where’s my anger when I need it? “We spent the fucking night together celebrating my birthday. You bought two fucking tickets,” I stand, feeling my anger like a hot flash running through my blood. The chill of shock has disappeared and been replaced with this strange heat, “to a Bruins game in Boston. There wasn’t any sign that you didn’t want to be with me.”

It’s difficult to stay where I am, but I don’t move towards him. I don’t know whether I want to punch the fuck out of him or fuck him senseless to show him what he’s been missing by not being with me.

While my fists clench at my side, I watch as his eyes travel the length of me—probably noticing the change in my appearance. I’ve always been muscular. All the McKenzies are, either with our job or through the gym, but I’ve changed since I was with Noah—in a good way. At least, from my point of view I have. I’m more toned with a hardened jaw, which is more prominent now that my hair is cropped close to my head. Gone is the Ramon with the soft touch and the overly long, dark hair. In his place is someone who isn’t going to let Noah walk all over him again. He tore my heart to shreds. I’m not going to let him do that again.

But as I watch him, I can’t keep myself from feeling a spark of worry for him. Damn, as much as I don’t want to admit it, I still care for him. Really looking at him, I watch Noah as he drops his head to rest in his hands and notice the slight shake to them. I realize these past months must have been hard on him for one reason or another.

His face is raw with emotion as though he’s been through hell since he left. The dark hair he wears slightly long—like I used to do—is desperately in need of washing. What the hell has he been doing to look like he does? His green eyes are dull where they used to spark to life the moment he looked at me.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to leave you.” His voice is heavy as he looks up at me with eyes pleading. “You’ve no idea how many times I’ve wanted to come back to you. How much I’ve missed you. Missed talking to you or just fucking sitting watching the TV. I even bought another ticket and went to the Bruins game just for a glimpse of you because I’m broken without you. You took Ruben with you.”

I seriously don’t know what to say to him—he’s confusing the hell out of me.

“If what you say is the truth, then why? Why did you walk out on me?” I drop back in the chair, all my anger draining from me as numbness takes its place.

“I can’t explain now. I promise I will when I can.” Noah gets to his feet and, coming over to where I’m sitting, stands in front of me. “I’m coming back to Lexington with you and once I’ve seen Carla, and made sure she’s as happy as I’m hoping she is, then we’ll talk. Just give me a chance Ramon. Please. I can’t live my life without you in it anymore.”

Shaking myself out of the haze of lust that washed over me with his closeness—I’m eye level with the bulge behind his zipper—I jump to my feet, causing Noah to take a step back.

“I’ve had years to get you out of my head…and heart, so why the fuck would I let you back in when you’ve proven to me that you can’t be trusted?”

Before I can think, he has me up against the door with his aroused and angry body flush against mine. “You aren’t listening to me, as usual,” he hisses. “If I could have stayed with you, I would still be with you in Lexington. Let there be no mistake about that.”

We’re both breathing heavily, our mouths mere inches apart, and there’s no mistaking the truth behind his words.

“Why the fuck did you leave?” I whisper, wanting to shove him away, but desperate for answers.

Instead, I find my hands sliding over his hips to his ass, bringing him closer still, our hard dicks press together through denim. He reaches up, fisting my short hair, and brings his mouth close so our lips are hovering above the others.

“If I’d stayed, you’d be dead.” I barely catch the words whispered in anguish as he closes the gap between us, sealing our mouths together in a kiss that tastes of lust, passion, hunger, and most of all, home.

This can’t happen. Not now.

Pushing him away, I wipe my mouth when all I want to do is lick my lips to savor his lingering taste. I can’t let him do this to me again, and what the fuck did he mean?

“You need to either tell me what the hell you meant by that or leave. Either way, I’m not doing this again with you. I have someone else,” I blurt out.

His head whips around to stare at me. He’s trying to gauge whether or not I’m lying.

“You’ve been with someone else?” he asks, his fists clench by his side.

I nod, unable to find the words to openly lie to him. I have been taking Sylvia out and, although she wants more, I haven’t slept with her. I can’t and the reason why is standing in front of me.

“Fuck you,” he shouts, his eyes flashing with fury. “I guess all your talk about love was bullshit. How fucking long did it take after I left for you to be with someone else?”

I don’t answer, as I look everywhere to avoid his gaze.

“Fucking tell me,” he roars, getting in my face.

I shove him back. “What the hell is your problem? Have you forgotten that you left me? You…Left…Me! Without a word and for two years! Did you expect me to just pine away and wait for someone that I thought was never coming back?” I glare at him, the anger coursing through me so fast that I feel like I’m shaking. “And you didn’t answer my question about ‘I’d have been dead if you’d stayed.’”

His eyes narrow and he ignores my questions. “My problem is you fucking someone else when I’ve stayed true to the man I loved. Who I thought loved me, but I guess I was wrong. Well, I’d better make up for lost time,” he practically spits the words at me. He’s so damn angry.

Yanking the door open, he storms out, letting it bang loudly behind him.

What the fuck does he mean make up for lost time? Is he going to find someone to fuck? Over my dead fuckin body!

I can’t get his words out of my head or the hurt that I saw in his eyes. He hasn’t been with anyone since he walked away, like me. I keep telling myself I should be concentrating more on his comment about me being dead if he’d stayed but all I can hear ringing in my ears is that he remained true.

Noah

If Ramon can go off and fuck someone else, then after over two years of staying celibate, I sure as hell can. It’s not as though the opportunity hasn’t arisen in the past, but…fuck it all…I was, and still am, so tied up with Ramon that fucking someone else makes me want to puke.

My life has been a struggle since I left, but knowing that one day, I’d have the chance to talk to Ramon and explain, had kept me going.

And all that time he’s been fucking someone else. Does the ‘someone’ live with him? Is this person male or female? I grimace at the thought and I’m not sure if I would be angrier if it was a woman or a man. I know Ramon likes a bit of both, or he did. A few months after meeting me, he lost interest in women, and just wanted me.

I push through the doors of the bar and wonder why the fuck he couldn’t hang on and wait for me. Because he had no idea why you left or that you intended to come back. Trying to reconcile my want with fact, I drop down into the only vacant seat at the bar and point toward the Jack D, behind the bartender.

The guy starts to tip the bottle over my glass when I hold out three fingers. He raises his brow, but continues to pour.

“Bad day?” he asks.

“You have no idea,” I reply.

The bartender watches me drain the glass and when I slam it down on the bar, he adds another three fingers without being asked.

As I watch the bartender pour the golden liquid, I realize how young he is. The fact that he’s tending bar tells me he’s at least twenty-one, not much past though. He looks fresh out of high school with his baby face, and the slight shake to his hand as he pours my drink.

I have no interest in anyone so young, but the thought of having Ramon catch me chatting him up causes a small smile to slip across my lips. If Ramon comes after me, that is. Oh, he’ll come after you.

Since I left Lexington, I’ve been keeping a low profile and moving from town to town. I’ve never stayed long where I landed and I only worked for cash, paid out daily, so I could leave town as quickly as I arrived if needed. My hope was that all the shit and threats I left behind wouldn’t follow me.

Two years ago, all I could think about was keeping Ramon safe. Now, the threat is over and I want to pick up where we left off. I grin sourly into my drink before I take a long swallow, the irony of it all not lost on me. I’d expected a warm welcome. I thought Ramon was waiting for me, and that the moment he saw me, everything would be the way it had been before I left. I realize now how fucking stupid that was.

The dream that has kept me sane is no longer there, so what the fuck am I supposed to do?

Draining the glass again, I cover the top with my hand when the bartender goes to pour. “No...I want more, but I just need the edge off for now.”

“Whatever you say.” He turns and places the bottle back before leaning on the bar toward me. “So, what’s your story?”

It’s clear he’s gay. With the look he’s giving me, there’s no chance he’s anything but.

“You don’t want to get involved with me, kid.” I hold his gaze and notice a slight flicker of his lashes when I say kid. He doesn’t like that. He probably plans to hustle me—ply me with drink and, when I can’t see straight, rob me blind.

I’ve seen it happen more than once, which is why I never drink in excess anymore, no matter how much I want to.

“You’re interested,” he insists. “I can tell.”

“Hmm, is that so?”

“It is. You want to know how I can tell?”

I might as well. “Go on.”

“I’ve been watching you since you walked through the doors, and your eyes have followed me around the bar.” He points behind him. “I can see everything through the chrome.”

Great!

“You’re too young for me, and I think you should move on.” I wave down the bar toward the blond guy nursing a tall glass.

I toss enough cash down on the bar to cover my tab plus tip, and smile to myself when he quickly grabs the cash, pocketing some so fast that I’m sure he’s skimming his employer.

Who the fuck cares? He can do what the fuck he wants because the last thing I want or need is trouble from his direction while I’m trying to figure out the direction I need to head to get Ramon back.

With my head starting to throb, I move away from the bar toward the door. I push through the evening crowd, which has thickened since I came in here, and notice the stares directed at me by three tall, overweight guys around the dartboard.

Slipping outside, I start to make my way to the motel’s office to try and get a room. I might not be drunk, but driving on the roads around here after only one drink isn’t advisable. One false move and I’d be through the barrier and in a ditch…or even worse, at the bottom of a mountain. If I were lucky enough to walk away, I’d always wonder about that drink I had. Not worth it.

Shaking my head, I take a large inhale and am about to push through the doors into reception when the doors to the bar open behind me. I turn to look back over my shoulder when I hear the loud music. Two of the guys, who were watching my departure, exit the bar and glare in my direction. Where’s the third?

My gut tells me that I need to get out of here, right now. With a glance through the door I was about to open, I realize I won’t have any help from that direction when I notice the eighty-plus year old sitting behind the desk. A quick look around to get my bearings tells me that my only escape is up the alley to the side of the motel.

I’m probably going to be able to run faster and for longer than the unfit bastards who are now heading in my direction with smirks on their faces.

I turn and run smack into someone and bounce back slightly. By the snickers I hear behind me, I realize they had expected the alley retreat. Struggling to break free from the third goon, I bite back the bile that is rising in my throat—damn, that guy is letting off a dreadful stench. I twist and manage to turn to look at the other two men when my attacker’s grip loosens slightly.

My body hums to life and the world slows down around me. I can feel every movement of the man behind me as I gather my strength and prepare for a fight. I’ve been in situations much worse than this and these three yahoos aren’t going to break me. I slam my head backwards and smile slightly as I hear the sound of his nose breaking. Blood splashes against my neck but his grip falls from my arms and I slip completely free of him.

Shaking off the feeling of sickness that comes over me, I pivot, my leg dropping back before it comes up hard and fast into his balls. The man gurgles on the blood rushing into his mouth and grips his groin as he slumps to the floor with a whimper of pain.

Twisting as I hear footfalls coming up fast, I manage to block the blow of the second attacker as my fist swings up and under his jaw. His eyes flutter but the uppercut doesn’t take him out as he and his friend tackle me to the ground.

Ramon

Glancing at the clock, I groan at the slowness of time. It’s been an hour of pacing back and forth in my room, wondering what the fuck I’m going to do. The last person I expected to see tonight was Noah.

My first reaction after he’d left was to reach for my cell to call Eric. I wanted to ask him what the fuck he thought he was doing setting this meeting up, but then I pause. Eric knows I was in a relationship with another man but I never mentioned Noah to him. Unless he worked it out.

Not only is my stomach still rolling with shock, but it’s taking everything I have not to go after him, and explain that I lied about Sylvia.

How would I feel if Noah had admitted to having sex with someone else? I’d want to beat the shit out of anyone he’d touched.

Running my fingers through my hair, which I regret getting cut, I tug at the short strands and tell myself that I need to stay put. Anything we had was over two years ago. The only problem now was that my heart wasn’t listening to my head. Perhaps it would if I actually believed we really were over.

As much as I wished for it, my feelings for him can’t just be switched off and that fact scares me a little. I’m not sure my heart can take being destroyed by him again.

I flop down on the bed and, after grabbing the remote, I start flicking through the channels, but nothing holds my interest for long. Dropping my head to the bed, I sigh. I can’t leave it. Fuck! Tossing the remote to the floor, I get to my feet and grab my car keys and cell from the desk before yanking the door open and letting it slam shut behind me.

I’m not sure about what the fuck I’m going to say to him, or even if I’ll find him. But when I do I’m not going to let him go until I have the answers I deserve. He’s been too damn vague and it’s going to stop, now.

Running down the outside stairs of the motel, I stand for a minute and look around. My guess is that he’ll have wheels somewhere close by because he won’t fly. He hates not being in control. He also has a thing about large vehicles, and, I notice the same old black SUV he had back when we were together sitting in a parking spot on the other side of the motel.

As I start to head toward his SUV, a scraping sound followed by a couple of thuds, as though someone is being hit, comes from the alley to the side of the motel block. Every instinct screams to walk away and avoid the confrontation, but my conscience wins when it’s obvious that someone needs help. "Hell!"

I quickly turn and run toward the alley, pausing when I see the guy on the floor having the shit kicked out of him before my feet carry me forward.

I grab one guy by the scruff of his neck, catching him off guard, and slam into him. My fist connects with his jaw with an audible crack that sends him sprawling to the ground. As he lands, another guy tries to catch me off guard, but I'm quicker than he is. My fist connects…one…two…the third thrusts into his stomach, crumping him over. As he recovers, I knee the third guy in the balls and watch him drop.

The guy on the floor isn't moving and as I stand over him, I realize its Noah. Seeing him so beaten, my anger crests and I turn back to the bastards who are now making their escape. I'm torn as to whether I should let them go or go after them. But in the end, Noah wins.

I check the alley to make sure we're now alone and drop to his side unsure of where to touch. His face is bloody and swelling has already begun. There is blood around his stomach, and, as I lift his soaked shirt, I discover a shallow gash across his ribs. I didn’t notice any weapons, although I did notice a large ring on one of the guy’s fingers.

Cursing under my breath, my heart pumps with adrenalin as I realize that I need to get him to safety before they come back with reinforcements.

"I'm sorry for this," I whisper, as I slide my hands beneath him and haul him up. I stagger slightly under his weight but manage to get my legs working.

At the corner, I scan the area to make sure no one is waiting to ambush us and then quickly dash for my room. I only hope that I'm not going to live to regret heading for my room, instead of the truck to put miles between us, and the roughnecks.

Noah isn't a lightweight by any means so by the time I'm pushing into my room, I just manage to make it to the bed before I drop him on it. He doesn't move or make a sound when he lands.

Quickly turning, I make sure the door is secure before I root through my luggage for the medical kit I always carry.

Looking back to the bed and the man lying prone on the dingy cover, it hits me that I'm going to have to undress him before I can do anything. He isn't going to like me doing that. In fact, by the way he left the room, I'd even go as far as to say that if he wakes up while I'm stripping him, he'll come at me with his fists.

Inhaling, I reach for his ruined shirt and, gripping both sides, tear it the rest of the way up. At the neckline, I pull and it doesn’t take much for the shirt to part.

Pulling the sides apart, I gasp at the full extent of his injuries.

He should be in the hospital.

“I’ll live,” he hisses.

My eyes shoot up to his, and it hurts seeing Noah’s face lined with pain. I have a feeling that all the pain I’m witnessing isn’t just from the beating he’s just received, and that some of it has to do with our sharp words from before.

“I don’t know where the fuck to touch you.” I sigh in agitation, pointing toward his torso.

“No hospital...I think I’m going to pass out, so knock yourself out.”

As I watch, his eyes close and he’s out of it.

Before he comes around again, I quickly start to remove his clothes as carefully as I can, dropping them in the trash before I open the medical kit.

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