We’re so pleased to welcome author Rick R. Reed to TNA today, on the tour for his latest novel, A Dangerous Game. We’ve got an exclusive excerpt from the book for you, so enjoy!
Rufus and Wren Meet for the First Time in A DANGEROUS GAME
Rufus and Wren are two of the more damaged, but lovable characters I’ve ever written. It was only natural that they’d recognize both the wounds and the charm (and the sexiness!) in each other and fall in love during the course of A Dangerous Game.
Wren looked around, hardly believing he was here. Only this morning he had felt he had no place to live, and now here he stood, feet firmly planted on dark polished hardwood floors, staring out through a bank of floor-to-ceiling windows that made up the east wall of the unit. Below them Lake Michigan stretched to infinity, its aquamarine waters glimmering in the sunlight. If Wren moved forward just a little and glanced south, he could see the John Hancock building rising up against the summer sky like a black sentinel. Beyond that landmark, Navy Pier stretched out into the water, its very presence a siren call to tourists to come ride the big Ferris wheel built on the pier to commemorate the World’s Fair held in Chicago at the end of the nineteenth century.
The studio was small but well-appointed, with two queen-size beds made up with pale blue, brown, and beige pin-striped comforters, a small sofa, and a large plasma-screen TV on one wall. The kitchen was a modern blend of stainless steel, dark granite, and cherrywood cabinets.
Finally Wren regarded Rufus, wondering if, like everything else before his disbelieving eyes at the moment, he was yet another figment of his imagination. Surely Wren would awaken behind Ann Sather’s restaurant, snoozing near a dumpster, with a rat skittering across his calves.
But Rufus seemed real enough, grinning back at him tentatively. There was something in that grin that immediately warmed Wren, made him feel right at home. It wasn’t just that the face behind the grin was so handsome. There was something in it that Wren couldn’t quite put his finger on. Was it kindness? Empathy? Whatever it was, it caused Wren’s heart to speed up just a bit.
“How’d you get so cute?”
Rufus finally broke the silence. Wren could have easily fired back the same question. Rufus was what his mother would have called a “doll.” He stood a few inches taller than Wren, maybe six one or six two, and his head was topped with a thatch of wheat-colored hair that fell fetchingly across his forehead, every so often blocking the view of one of his startlingly dark blue eyes. The color reminded Wren of sapphires. He had pale skin, a lanky frame—that promised, Wren knew from past experience, a big dick—and a dusting of pale hair on his chin and upper lip that served to make him only look more masculine and sexy.
“Vitamins. Clean living,” Wren responded.
Rufus laughed at that and flopped down on one of the beds. “Then you’d probably get all bent out of shape if I lit up a smoke?”
“I thought Dave forbade smoking up here?” Wren was itching for a cigarette himself, since he hadn’t had one since he left Devin’s apartment early that morning, what now seemed like a lifetime ago.
Rufus pulled out a pack of Marlboro Lights—Wren’s brand—and tossed the hard pack in the air.
“Dude cannot expect us to go down twenty-five stories just so we can indulge our habit. Jesus. That’s a little extreme. You know what I mean?”
“I know, but he’d have a shit fit if he comes back in here and the place reeks of smoke.” Wren went over the wall of windows and examined them. They seemed to be sealed shut. There was no indication anywhere that they could be opened.
“What’s he gonna do? Fire us? He needs our sweet young asses more than we need him. Right?”
Wren walked over to Rufus and took the pack of smokes from his fidgeting hands.
“Why don’t we save these for later? We’ll walk down to the lakefront.”
Rufus let it go, sighing. “What are you, his enforcer?”
Wren sat down next to him on the bed. He felt an almost irresistible urge to touch Rufus, to kiss his full lips. He had a powerful sensuality about him that Wren doubted he was even aware of, which made the allure that much more compelling and magnetic. “Not at all, man. I just agreed to this gig this morning.”
“Really? New blood? Where did he find you?”
“Tricks. The bar on Halsted?”
“What were you? A dancer?”
Wren laughed, shaking his head. The idea of him dancing was preposterous. Yet, wait a minute, here he was, getting ready to peddle his ass for money. Not so preposterous after all.
“Nah. I just bumped into Dave there and we got to talking. Purely a coincidence.”
“Nothing is a coincidence with Chillingsworth. He pegged you early on.”
“Pegged me as what?”
Rufus grinned, easing some of the stress of his words. “Not every dude is cut out for this line of work. Dave prides himself on being able to spot the ones who can do it, who can bring in the cash.” Rufus leveled his gaze on Wren, appraising. “You he picked because of your vulnerability. There are so many daddies who will just eat up that innocent look in your eyes. I can see what old Dave saw in you.”
Wren scratched the back of his neck, starting to feel a little uncomfortable. He deflected the subject away from himself. “What about you? How long have you been doing this? And why are you here? Dave led me to think I’d have the place to myself.”
“Full of questions, aren’t you?”
Rufus lay back on his bed, staring up at the ceiling. Wren noticed how Rufus’s faded, torn jeans strained ever so slightly across the bulge of his crotch. It was obvious he was wearing no underwear. The outline of his cock snaked down one thigh. Wren forgot his questions and just about lost his breath for a moment.
“I’ve been with the agency for about six months. Dave found me working at, believe it or not, a Burger King. I won’t bore you with that story, save to say he knew there’d be a market for my pickle and special sauce.”
Rufus winked, and Wren groaned.
“Anyway, Dave asked me to be here to show you the ropes. I got my own crib up in Edgewater, a cool redbrick vintage condo building right at the corner of Catalpa and Kenmore. Bought it myself with my earnings.” Rufus smiled, the pride in his face obvious.
“So, what? You’re like my mentor? Gonna teach me how to suck dick?”
Rufus chuckled. “I got a sneaking suspicion you already know how to do that. No, I mean how we take calls, how we accept payment—business shit like that. I might even come out with you on your first call tonight.”
“Yeah, if the client is cool. We’ll see.”
Wren thought he’d actually be a lot more comfortable with Rufus along, even though he barely knew him.
Rufus stood up and stretched, lifting his arms over his head and revealing his navel and a thin blond treasure trail disappearing into his jeans. “You wanna take that walk now?”
“Sure.” Wren hopped from the bed, grabbed the pack of cigarettes from the breakfast bar—noticing for the first time they hadn’t been opened—and held them out to Rufus. “You don’t want to forget these.”
“You keep ’em,” Rufus said. “I don’t smoke.” He winked.
Confused, Wren followed him out the door.
They sat, side by side, on a low concrete wall that bordered the beach. Beyond them stretched Lake Michigan. The beach was dotted with sunbathers, gay men and families alike all mixing amicably in the summer sun and heat. Kids played in the freezing water—the water in the lake was always freezing—seemingly unperturbed by the icy temps.
“So why do you have cigarettes if you don’t smoke?” Wren asked.
“I used to—like the fuckin’ proverbial chimney. Then I wised up. This was the last pack I bought, many, many moons ago. They’re probably stale, but for some reason, keeping them on me makes it easier to stick to my quit. Weird, huh?”
“Nah. I think I get it. It’s sort of like security?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“So what made you do it?” Wren finally got to what he really wanted to ask.
“You mean work for Dave?”
“No. I mean eat your first bowl of Count Chocula.” Wren rolled his eyes. “Yeah. Dave. What’s your story?”
About the Book
Sex can be a dangerous business. So can love.
On the worst day of his life, Wren Gallagher wants oblivion when he steps into Tricks for a drink. When a mysterious stranger steps up to pay his tab, he offers Wren the key to fulfilling his dreams of prosperity and true love.
But appearances are not always what they seem.
His savior owns the escort agency À Louer, and he wants the young and handsome Wren as part of his stable of men-for-hire. Down on his luck, Wren figures, why not? He needs the money. When he joins, though, he doesn’t count on meeting Rufus, another escort with whom he falls hopelessly in love.
But their love story will have to overcome the obstacles of not only trading love for money, but À Louer’s dark—and deadly—secrets.
About the Author
Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love.
He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). He is also a Rainbow Award Winner for both Caregiver and Raining Men. Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.”
Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”