Tracefinder: Contact is available now.
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Tracefinder-Contact-Kaje-Harper-ebook/dp/B01ABMO87M/
Also on Amazon CA, UK and DE and hopefully others. 🙂
All Romance eBooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-tracefindercontact-1964209-149.html
And coming to Barnes & Noble, Kobo and other vendors when Smashwords confirms and sends it out. That usually takes 1-2 weeks.
I really had fun with this book. And although the ending is Happy-For-Now, the beginning of the second story is already coming together in my head. Of course, I have a couple of other books to finish first, but I’m looking forward to working with these guys again. I hope readers enjoy meeting Nick and Brian as much as I did when I wrote them. I’m going to post an excerpt below. This will be from Chapter 4 – not very spoilery, but just so you know…
Brian squeezed his chair farther into the corner at the Torchhouse and silently cursed himself for being a wimp. Another Saturday night at the bar, another night he hadn’t been able to say no to Damon. It never changed. No matter how many pep talks he gave himself, no matter how often he practiced negative answers to Damon’s routine “Come on, Bry. The beer’s waiting,” he still ended up meekly tagging along.
Five long years he’d done this. Back when he was sixteen, he’d been happy, flattered to be one of the guys. He’d laughed and taken sips of the beers they’d passed him, played the dumb puppy at their grown-up table. He wasn’t sure when the fun had gone out of it. Maybe the first time he realized that they were talking about beating someone to a crippled pulp, and it wasn’t a joke. Maybe when he saw Damon really fight— all silent, fierce intensity— punching the guy in the head long after he was down. He’d have killed the man if Booker hadn’t pulled him off.
Maybe it’d been the time he’d gotten a little too drunk, and tried to explain evolution to the Christ-Saves guy at the next table, and done it too well. Damon had eyed him sideways. “Where the hell did you learn all that, Bry?”
He’d had to put on his dumbest slur, and say, “On TV. It’s there, Damon. PBSes said it lots. I watched it a bunch of times.”
For a second he’d been afraid that Damon wasn’t buying the idea that he’d just memorized some TV program, but then Cory had got into a fight with some guy about darts, Damon leaped up to help, and by the time it blew over, Brian’s lapse had faded from memory. Since then he’d never dared drink more than half a bottle. He’d told Damon too much beer made him sick, proved it with a finger down his throat in the dirty bathroom a few times, and now they all knew that dumb Bry didn’t drink past the first round.
It made this whole going-to-bars thing even more stupid. He didn’t care about the waitress’s boobs, even if they all did. Damon, Booker, and Roy were ordering refills on beer, vodka, and cheese fries, and Damon probably wouldn’t even let him eat more fries. Damon thought he was getting fat. Well, maybe he was, but who cared?
“Can I go home, Damon?” he asked. “I’m bo-o-o-ored.”
“Shut up and stay put,” Damon said, without even looking around at him.
Well, hell. He could get up and walk, of course, but Damon wasn’t above sending Booker to haul him back to his seat. Booker was even bigger than him, and much tougher. Plus once or twice, Damon had threatened him with handcuffs. That hadn’t sounded like a joke either. “All right,” he said obediently.
Damon punched his arm lightly. “Tell the waitress to get you another Coke. Diet.”
Diet pop tasted like ass. Or what he imagined ass might taste like, because he’d never had the chance to find out, although he kind of wanted to. By the time he unwrapped that thought, he’d hesitated long enough that the waitress was tapping her pencil on the pad, and looking at Damon, not him. “Diet Coke for the kid?”
“Yeah.” Damon frowned at him as she hurried off. “What’s with you? You can’t even say two words?”
“I hate Diet Coke.”
Damon poked his stomach. “Well, you’re drinking it anyway.”
“Why d’you care?”
“You’re staying healthy.” Damon’s glare held something old and raw and dark in its depths. “You’re staying here where I can keep an eye on you, you’re not turning into a sickly tub of lard, and you’re going to talk like a human. Fifty years from now, you’re still gonna be okay.”
The thought of fifty years of this made him want to puke, right there on the table. But he understood. He could feel the same dark waters where that came from, down inside, ready to drown him if he looked back too far.
“Where’s Mom, Damon?”
“I don’t know. Shut up and eat your hot dog.”
“Why’s Mom so sick?”
“Just shit she does to herself. Go to bed.”
In the end, even Damon hadn’t been able to keep Mom from self-destructing. So yeah, his determination to save Lori and Brian ended up as this friendly slavery, but it came out of the only good thing about Damon. He loved his brother and sister fiercely. He’d do anything to keep them safe. How could Brian want to fight that? He sat back in his chair, and when the Diet Coke arrived, he drank it.
Roy said, like he was continuing some conversation, “I’ve been checking him out for a week now. The truck is right where he said, the repairs would be almost seven grand, he lives in a crappy apartment. It all checks out on my end, so far.”
Damon said, “Right. Let me talk to him. If he seems okay, I’ll have security vet him properly for us.”
Roy said, “There he is.” He beckoned someone toward them.
Damon leaned over and snagged an empty chair, shoving it at the newcomer. Brian looked up and was stunned to meet No-Knife Nick’s hazel eyes. He could almost feel the click as the thread in his Finder brain recognized a source. Here was the amber and shining steel he’d tasted weeks ago.
The trace had almost faded, but locking eyes with Nick reawakened it, twining the bright and the warm, the amber thickening to honey, with steel wound around it like a shield, the taste sweet and sharp on his tongue. He only realized they’d been staring when Damon whapped him on the chest and said, “Nick, sit. And Bry, quit staring at the guy, right?”
Brian dropped his gaze instantly, looking down at his hands wrapped around the Coke can. “Sorry. Not staring.” His heart beat desperately fast, but he tried to look dull and bored. When was the last time he’d pulled in a thread without even trying? Not since he was little. Not since he’d learned how to turn that talent off and on. There was no reason a brush of arms and exchange of a dozen words should have given Brian this link to Nick, no reason except that he was an idiot, and yes, he’d already been watching Nick for months.
Watching him drink, watching him fight. Nok Nick had been Brian’s secret little vice. He’d shown up now and then, unpredictably, in the mixed crowd of the Torchhouse. There were all kinds of guys who came through here, and most of them Brian either knew, or ignored, but Nick had been different. He was… intense, Brian decided was the right word. Like he was dialed up a notch more than the rest of the world. He drank like he needed it, fought with a wild anger that was almost joy, brooded like a loner staring into his glass, as deeply isolated as Brian. On the rare occasions he laughed, it was like the sun rising. He’d been Brian’s obsession, and that one moment of touch and a kind word had been too much to resist.
Christ, he was stupid. And there was nothing he could do now. From here on, he’d know where Nok Nick was, or at least, he’d be able to Find him, forever. He didn’t have to advertise that, of course. “I need to pee,” he said thickly.
“Well go, then,” Damon said with a rasp of irritation.
Brian headed to the bathroom and into one of the stalls, sitting down and putting his head in his hands. What was Nick doing with Damon? They hadn’t known each other before, he was certain of it.
If you don’t get back out there you won’t find out. He could control himself. He’d just not even look at Nick. He stood and went to the sink, wondering why he was hiding in here. He should go back out, listen, see what was up. It was only when he was washing his hands for the third time that he realized the truth. He didn’t want Nick to meet him as Bry, the stupid, slow brother of a vicious criminal. Bry, the guy who repeated half of what was said to him and forgot the other half. The guy who couldn’t even read a menu to order his own food.
If Nick and Damon were hanging out together, that was the guy he’d have to be, though. He’d made his choice very long ago.
Eventually he dried his hands and went back out. As he sat down, Damon said, “I almost sent someone after you to see if you’d drowned in the toilet.”
He licked his lips, picked up the stupid red-and-silver can in both hands, and said slowly to the swirled logo, “I didn’t drown.”
Damon ruffled his hair carelessly. “No kidding.” He turned back to Nick. “So you’re looking for work?”
“I guess.” Nick’s voice was dense and smoky, deeper than Brian had remembered. “I need to fix my truck and I don’t have near enough to cover it. Without the truck, I’m not earning. So yeah, a job would be fuckin’ awesome.”
“I put my name in with a couple of carriers, but no one’s got back to me yet. Anyway, I’m not looking for long-term. Just enough so I can get my own truck back on the road.”
Damon said, “My boss might be looking for a driver. Maybe. He does imports, has a bunch of drivers working.”
“I can ask him. If you’re interested.”
Nick sounded suspicious as he asked, “What’s in it for you?” Brian snuck another look at him. He had his arms folded across his chest, his head tilted like he was puzzling something out. The frown and the way he squinted his eyes shouldn’t have been attractive, but somehow it was. Brian forced his gaze back firmly on his own hands. Not looking at the hot guy.
Damon said, “Roy says you play mean pool. I know you can fight, but don’t usually throw the first punch. That’s worth something in a guy that might end up workin’ under me.”
“You’ve been watching me?” Nick’s tone suggested he was pissed.
“I watch everyone.” Damon used the silky-smooth voice Brian hated. The one that said he was thinking about getting dangerous.
So Brian said, “He does. Damon watches everyone. He’s a watching guy.”
Sometimes that worked, defusing things by repeating the obvious. This was one of those times; they both looked at him, and when Damon said “Right, Bry, that’s me,” he sounded more his usual self.
Nick said, “Well, it’s not like I care. And yeah, if your boss needs a good driver, I’m his man.”
Damon pulled out a card from his pocket, wrote on it, and passed it over to Nick. “That’s the online application link. Fill one out, and I’ll tag it for extra attention when it comes through.”
“Thanks.” Nick tucked the card into the pocket of his jeans.
Brian ducked his head and didn’t listen as the other men talked about sports and cars and traffic. He turned the can in his hands, around and around, watching the little nick in the rim slide under his thumbs with a tiny rasp. It wasn’t fair. Guys he had thoughts about were supposed to stay over there on the other side of the room. Other side of the classroom, other side of the gym, other side of the bar. He was safe when they did that, and he could go home and think about them and beat off in the shower where Damon wouldn’t hear him. It wasn’t real, they weren’t real, as long as they didn’t cross the room.
Now Nick was sitting just a few feet away. He could probably see the way Brian’s ears stuck out, the way his hair lay white and flat and limp as an old guy’s. He’d likely noticed how Brian’s shoulders were kind of round with chub, not muscle. Worst of all, he’d heard Brian be Bry, the dumb mascot brother. Bad guys wanted to make fun of that. Good guys wanted not to stick around to see bad guys make fun of it. No one wanted to get into the shower with it.
The fantasy’s spoiled now.
Brian figured his sex drive was pretty low. He’d hear about people doing really stupid shit to get laid, and he couldn’t understand that. But he did like to get off sometimes. Girls didn’t do it for him, not really. Someone— he’d have thought Damon, but the way Damon acted maybe it was Marston— had sent him girls a couple times a month ever since he turned twenty-one. Some hooker with big boobs would show up at the door, say “I’m here for Brian?” And Damon would say “Have fun, bro,” and leave.
He could get off, especially if they did it with their mouth. They always used condoms, so there was nothing icky about it. But coming with a girl felt like… like sneezing, a buildup of tightness and a release, a bit of relief. When they left, he was more glad than sorry to see them go.
He’d known for a long time he wanted guys. He’d also known that he had to keep it secret from Damon, which meant no real live guys, ever. But his shower guys had been important, and now Nick was off that list.
He rubbed the bottom of the can subtly against his dick, through his jeans. Despite his disappointment, thinking about a shower with the sound of Nick’s voice and the feel of his Finder thread so close was making Brian restless and needy. He was half-hard. He was completely stupid.
Tonight he’d go online and cruise the sports sites Damon had linked for him, and find some guy with a hot, tight body and to-hell-with-you eyes, to imagine on his knees in the wet shower. It wouldn’t be the same. Picture guys weren’t as good as real guys, but he’d known since forever that you took what you could get…