M/M Erotic Romance
Stories that always promise a happy-ever-after.
Book 3 - Together
by Cassie Stevens
M/M Erotic Romance - Short Contemporary
Cover Art © 2008 Trace Edward Zaber
Amber Quill Press - Amber Allure www.amberquill.com/AmberAllure
The hardest betrayals are the ones that hit you in the heart...when you're stabbed in the back.
In the aftermath of the murder of his ex-wife, Damien Walker turns to the one man he knows can help him and his sons through the ordeal. Vic Williams' love and support is unconditional. So is the hate and rage his mere presence generates. Betrayal comes quick and from within, from persons who would rather see the men lose everything than to allow them one second of happiness. A betrayal that forces Damien to make hard decisions and admit even harder truths.
What The Reviewers Are Saying
4-1/2 NYMPHS! Betrayed is the last release in the Together trilogy by author Cassie Stevens and it takes up immediately where Committed left off. From the very beginning of this well-written story, the feeling of uncertainty in the lives of both Damien and Vic is nearly palpable. The tension is so high, it almost pulses off the pages as the men struggle to deal with the aftermath of the murder of Damien's ex-wife... Yet, Ms. Stevens does a great job of expressing not only their strength and ability to cope, but also their love and commitment to each other... Read and enjoy this one, but make certain you read the first two books in the trilogy first. Good work, Ms. Stevens. ~ Mystical Nymph, Literary Nymphs
Betrayed is a great conclusion, to the angst ridden rollercoaster ride Cassie Stevens has presented to her readers. There were many unexpected twists and surprises in this conclusion and the actions of some of the characters were appalling, and demonic. Betrayal was the theme of this story and the ultimate betrayal came by the hands of those that were supposed to be nurturing, loving and trusted. The tragedy of the situation Damien had to face was only bearable with Vic by his side, the two discovered new strengths within each other to help them through this time. Betrayed is a great read and I very much enjoyed how Ms. Stevens wrapped it all up. For better enjoyment of this series the books should be read in the order they were published.~ Ley, Joyfully Reviewed
Vic Williams prided himself on his organizational skills and his ability to get the job done, no matter what the job or circumstances. He was the one to whom others came to make things right. He'd never felt more helpless than at this very moment. Nothing could prepare him for this, for any of it. Not the crushing grief from two little boys who'd lost their mother and the family mourning the death of a daughter, a sister. Not the helpless, stricken expression on Damien Walker's face as he clutched his sobbing sons. And certainly not this.
"Are you okay?" Strong, warm fingers closed over his shoulder.
Three days ago, Vic had cursed Reid Hansen's existence, seeing him as a threat to Vic's relationship with Damien. Now the attorney was their salvation, efficiency in action, everything Vic normally was but couldn't dredge to the surface for the moment.
Reid was as good as his word. It was his legal expertise he'd offered to Damien, not a hookup. Vic felt guilty for thinking otherwise of the man. One call and Reid was on his way to San Diego -- their first line of defense against a justice system that seemed bent on twisting facts to their own version of the truth.
"I don't know," he finally replied.
The smell was a thousand times worse than Vic had expected. Death -- that noxious combination of blood, urine, feces...and decomposition. Gail and her boyfriend had been dead well over twenty-four hours before her father found their bodies. Blood had pooled on the cream-colored carpet three feet shy of the front door. Splatter painted the walls and ceiling, cast off from the baseball bat the killer had used to bash in Paul Ford's head. Fingerprint dust blotched every surface. It was a vicious murder. Vic didn't want to know what the bedroom looked like. Thankfully he wouldn't have to go in there, wouldn't have to see where Damien's ex-wife had been killed, a murder just as hate-filled as this one. His primary purpose, his only purpose, here today was to retrieve the boys' clothing and possessions, except for the aluminum bat used to kill their mother and her boyfriend.
"Detectives have cleared the scene," Reid said.
One still hovered nearby to ensure he and Reid didn't make off with potential evidence. They were to go in the boys' rooms and nowhere else.
"I can have a cleaning service here first thing in the morning. Sure you don't want to wait until after they've finished?"
Vic slowly shook his head. "I have to do something, Reid. I feel so damn helpless. Doug and Keith need the comfort of their things. Damien needs me to do this." And he'd promised long ago to see that Damien always had everything he needed. "Damien's depending on me."
"I know." Reid gave his shoulder an extra squeeze.
Vic thanked him silently for the comfort it gave. "I suppose you're used to stuff like this."
"No, I'm not." He pulled in a sigh and dropped his hand. "I'm not going to lie to you, Vic. I've never seen anything like this. The force and brutality here... This was personal, filled with hate and rage. I can see why the police considered Damien a suspect at first, especially since the boyfriend was killed, too. There was no break-in, so either Gail left her house unlocked..."
Which simply didn't happen in a big city...or even a little one anymore.
"...or the killer was someone she knew."
And that was why Damien had been targeted as suspect number one. "Thank God we were in Vegas."
"He would have been with you anyway. Being at home just would have made the alibi...trickier."
Vic suspected Reid had known the truth about them from the start. This seemed further proof. But he'd spent too many years -- a lifetime -- protecting his secret. Vic wasn't going to blow that now to satisfy his curiosity.
"Let's go in back and come in through the kitchen so we can avoid..." Stepping in it, near it, around it. From where Vic stood, there was no way to miss the blood.
"Good idea." Reid motioned to the police detective -- Gage was his name -- watching from the driveway, then wasted little time heading in that direction. The detective didn't budge. So much for diligently observing their movements.
Vic and Reid each carried small overnighters Doug and Keith Walker had used for their weekend at Disneyland with Gail's parents. Vic hated to think what might have happened if the boys had been in the house. Maybe the killer wouldn't have come by if the kids were home. That meant the person was attuned to Gail's life and knew the boys were gone. Someone close. Too close.
Vic shut off the images and speculations running through his head. It wasn't his job to find out who murdered the couple. His job was to take care of Damien.
The gate was locked on the redwood fence. Vic crawled over the top to open it and landed on the trashcans. The clatter roused the dog next door -- a yappy little something clearly unafraid of anything and most likely had a lethal ankle bite to go with its threat. Its call to action alerted its neighbors. Before Vic could get the key in the lock, a chorus of barks surrounded them. No one could have snuck into this house undetected.
The backyard was a haven for boyhood activity. Grass had worn down in patches around a fort. Sports equipment was scattered everywhere, which clearly had provided a weapon of opportunity for the killer. A basketball hoop hovered over a small apron of cement. A small grill sat tucked against the house near what looked like a new picnic table. Chaise lounges hugged the shade from the overhanging eaves. The front of the house was magazine perfect; the back belied that image, and so did the stench of empty beer bottles.
"Looks like someone had a party." Reid pointed to the overflowing recycling bin.
"Or got seriously drunk." He glanced over his shoulder. The detective now stood just inside the gate, monitoring them while he made notes on his PDA.
Vic unlocked the kitchen door and swung it open. He peered inside first, then dared a step over the threshold. Reid didn't push, just let him take the time he needed. Here, too, perfection reigned. Yet just around the corner real destruction ruled.
"Gail's mother said there were more suitcases in the garage."
"I'll get those." Reid set the bag he'd been carrying on the floor and opened the adjacent door.
Vic's heart thudded at the flash of red before he realized it was Gail's burgundy van. He hauled in focus and turned toward the dining nook. Lemon yellow table and chairs painted a sunny scene for a bay window filled with hanging plants. One look in the other direction...
Vic swallowed. The turmoil didn't go down.
I'm a Marine. I can do this.
He locked onto his target -- the hallway -- and refused to let his gaze wander. Quick strides took him to his goal...and more devastation. Glass littered the carpet from where the assailant had shattered the photos on the wall. Not every photo -- just those with images of Gail and Damien in them. The impact had destroyed the pictures and put holes in the drywall.
"Holy shit," Reid muttered from behind.
Vic seconded. "They were divorced. Why would Gail continue to have pictures of her and Damien on the walls?"
"For their sons?" Reid guessed. "Could've been meant to rub it in Damien's face whenever he came to get the boys. Was this their house when they were married?"
Vic shook his head. "No. They sold that one. They wanted a clean slate, more or less. This doesn't make sense, considering how much grief she gave him."
"Maybe she regretted the divorce. Hard to say what gets in people's heads, even stuff they don't realize is in there. But this..." Reid's face twisted as he puzzled this through. "This looks like jealousy."
Yes, it did. "I wonder if she did it. They fought over the kids on the phone prior to her...death. She threatened Damien and hung up. He didn't call her back. It might have pissed her off that he didn't react."
"Threatened to tell his commanding officer he's gay?"
Damien tried not to flinch. There was the answer he'd been looking for. "So, you do know."
"I do. And, no, you two don't give off vibes or anything like that. Let's just say I swing both ways and have learned to pick out like individuals. I recognized Damien was upset when we first met, had a feeling it was a domestic dispute, and offered to help. So, did she threaten to out him?"
"We don't know." Vic glanced toward the bedrooms, doors wide open. Bloody footprints led from the master bedroom. "As far as Damien was aware, Gail didn't know he was gay. There were other issues... Look, you're Damien's attorney. You'll have to talk to him about it."
"No need." Reid scanned the photos. "As I said, I've become very good at reading body language. I suspect we're kindred spirits in more ways than one. The fact you called me even though you thought I was making a move on your man tells me you're dedicated to taking care of him. That tells me all I need to know for now."
He edged past Damien and shut Gail's bedroom door. "There are some things loved ones should never see. Now you don't have to lie to him if he asks about it."
"Thank you." His gaze settled on a family photo not destroyed in the rampage.
The All-American Barbie and Ken couple -- blonde and blue-eyed with two adorable boys who were the perfect genetic combination of their parents. The facade hid the truth and unhappiness of two people caught in a marriage that was a front from the start. The veil that covered the secrets Damien did his best to keep from his wife. Judging from the destruction around them, Vic wondered if Gail didn't have a few secrets of her own. She definitely had issues.
"I'll protect Damien at any cost," he told Reid.
"Understood. Just make sure you don't utter those words in front of the wrong people. You can't help Damien from behind bars. The last thing either of you need right now is to have the alibi all screwed up. Once the shock wears off, neighbors and family are going to be out for blood. I'd prefer it wasn't yours or Damien's."
"Good. Then we're all on the same page."
Vic brushed by to go to one of the boys' bedrooms. Reid hooked his arm and pulled him to a stop.
"Trust me." Those startling dark blue eyes bored into Vic. "I know what's at stake for the two of you."
Vic didn't blink. "If I didn't trust you, you wouldn't be allowed near Damien."
A half smile lifted one corner of Reid's mouth. One nod acknowledged Vic's rights. Without another word, they stepped away from each other and on to the bedrooms to pack what they could of Doug and Keith's possessions.