He was blessed with a gorgeous face and a body made for sin plus a heaping helping of brains to top it all off. He had been popular in high school, always made straight A’s, and had lots of friends. The hardest decision he’d ever had to make was deciding which party he was going to that weekend or what college he was gonna apply to.
It should have been perfect.
But it wasn’t.
The guy he’d met the other night at the club was supposed to be the start of something wonderful. He’d been at least ten years Noah’s senior, smoking hot, hung like a horse. They had partied for two whole days, and Noah had stayed over at his place last night. He really thought he’d made a special connection, and he was so happy.
The sex had been fantastic, and their two AM conversations were even better. They both wanted a full life, lots of adventure, and endless romance. Noah was certain everything was going well for the first time in a very long time, and he was about to invite his new dream guy over for dinner…
But the guy had plans already.
With his husband.
Defeated, Noah dragged himself to his car to go home, still stinking of sweat and scented body glitter. He’d run into something and dented the driver’s side door of his brand-new Maserati, and it did nothing to help his foul mood.
When his phone rang, he was tempted to roll down his window and throw it out.
It was Landon.
No last name because Noah couldn’t be bothered to remember it. They’d gone to high school together but had never hung out since they came from different cliques. Landon was a loser, plain and simple, but he was the one constant in Noah’s life now.
Noah’s social circle had vastly shrunk since graduation. His so-called friends were vapid and flaky, and he knew the ones who had stuck around only stayed because he was rich. After a while, those faded away too. He suspected it was because they figured out they couldn’t get any money from him, so they didn’t have any reason to go on being his friend.
He’d run into Landon at a party a few months ago and made the mistake of exchanging phone numbers with him. Noah blamed the large volume of Grey Goose he’d had that night, and now he couldn’t get rid of the guy. They always ended up at the same bars, the same parties, and Landon was completely insufferable.
“What?” Noah answered.
“Hey, man!” Landon said cheerfully. “Was checking on you since you, uh, had that little fender bender last night. I know you were super upset. Are you and Brad okay?”
Brad was the married guy whose house Noah had just left.
“Fine.” Noah rolled his eyes. “Wait, you saw what happened to my car?”
“Yeah. You and Brad were leaving the club, and, uh, a parked car got in your way.”
“You took out the other guy’s headlight, but don’t worry! I picked up most of the plastic and stuff. I told the cops I didn’t see anything. I don’t know if you remember any of that—”
“Did you know Brad was married?”
“What? No!” Landon gasped.
“Son of a bitch just told me. I said from the start that I don’t share shit. Not clothes, not food, not nothing. And he was all ‘hey, me too!’ All about monogamy except I guess when his husband is out of town. Fuckin’ dick.”
“I’m real sorry, Noah. I know you really liked him.”
“It’s no big deal,” Noah lied. “I’ll find somebody else.”
“Maybe, uh, maybe you should take a break from guys for a little while?”
“No offense, but you always seem to pick ones that are big jerks.”
“Well, okay. Just a thought!” Landon cleared his throat. “I do have some good news! Maybe it’ll cheer you up?”
“Fuckin’ doubt it. What?”
“DJ Quigs agreed to do your party this weekend! Remember how I told you he owes me a huge favor ’cause I found his missing dog?”
“No, but seriously? He’ll do it?”
“Yeah! Totally! This Saturday, your place, DJ Quigs is all yours. I already started inviting people. It’s gonna be awesome!”
“Yeah, I guess you could come.”
“Cool! Thanks, man!”
Noah’s uncle was away on business, and Noah was planning to take full advantage of his absence to have a giant house party. Maybe it would help him forget about Brad.
“And uh, I hate to bother you, but I was kinda wondering if maybe you could pay me back the money I let you borrow last night? You said it was an emergency—”
“I’m sure it was.”
“You bought Brad drinks with it. Look, okay, it’s not a big deal, but I need it back.”
“It’s the end of the month. I’m broke until my uncle pays me on the first. You know that, Landon. Hello.”
“Right. Heh. Okay. I’ll, uh, I’m sure I’ve got some ramen or something…”
“I’ve gotta go.” Noah didn’t want to hear about Landon’s problems when he had his own to worry about.
“Oh, okay. Maybe we could talk later? I could come by and see you? I’m actually not doing so great—”
“Whatever, man. Later.”
“Okay! Yeah, I gotta go too. I’ll—”
Noah hung up and threw his phone into the backseat.
What a loser.
Landon had annoyed him more than usual, and Noah hated being in such a bad mood. His head hurt, and he was exhausted. It was the stupid car, stupid ass Brad… and going home to an empty house.
Well, empty except for the gardeners, the butler, the kitchen staff, and the maids.
Noah’s wealthy parents had died in a car accident when he was young, and they’d set up a generous trust fund for Noah to have when he turned twenty-five. His uncle, Patrick Allan, served as the fiduciary for the account and looked over the family’s remaining finances.
At twenty-two now, Noah wasn’t able to access the money and instead lived on a very limited monthly stipend supplied by his uncle. He was supposed to be sorting his life out and looking for a job since he’d refused to go to college, but he instead spent his free time and all his money getting fucked up and doing everything he could to forget how miserable he was.
His family’s house was a Spanish-style mansion with arched walkways, handcrafted iron doors, and lush gardens. It was quiet and secluded, just a short drive north of Moultrie and about a two-hour haul from Strassen Springs. It had seven bedrooms, a formal dining room, and a ballroom with a grand piano. Noah’s father had played, but he had no idea if the damn thing still worked.
No one had touched it since his death.
Noah parked the car up front and left the keys in the ignition for someone else to deal with. He was hungover and grouchy, and all he wanted was a hot shower and his own bed.
There were some unfamiliar cars parked over by the garage, and a rusted 1950’s Ford pickup truck caught his eye. It wasn’t unusual to have visitors at the mansion, repairmen or whoever, and Uncle Patrick sometimes had guests over.
But Uncle Patrick wasn’t here, and Noah didn’t recall any of the staff mentioning anything that needed to be fixed around the mansion.
He wanted that shower.
Through the grand foyer Noah went, making a beeline for the lavish staircase to head up to his room. He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw two people blocking the way.
The first was a short and thick woman with closely cropped black hair and a strong jaw. She had a teardrop tattooed under her eye and a nasty scowl. The other was tall, broad, big nosed, and he had some of the bushiest eyebrows Noah had ever seen.
They both had slick suits and reeked of trouble.
“You must be Noah,” Teardrop said.
“Yeah, lucky me.” Noah tried to step around them, and Bushy moved to stand in front of him. He was not in the mood for this. “You wanna get out of my way?”
“Yeah, no.” Teardrop smiled. “We’ve been waiting so very patiently for you to show up. Two whole days in fact.”
“We was gettin’ worried,” Bushy said. “Nobody seemed to know where you were.”
“Wow, that’s so sweet.” Noah rubbed his face. “But I honestly don’t give a fuck.” He forced a smile. “Get the fuck out of my way.”
The two strangers exchanged a knowing look and suddenly surged forward, each grabbing one of Noah’s arms.
“Hey, hey!” Noah tried to wrench free and kicked violently. “Fuckin’ let go of me! For fuck’s sake! I am gonna fuck you up!”
“Yeah, yeah, Princess.” Teardrop rolled her eyes and held on tight. “So ferocious. Come on. Play nice and shut up.”
Noah pulled as hard as he could, but neither of them were letting go. He didn’t know where they were taking him, and he didn’t want to find out. He went completely limp and forced them to drag his full weight.
“Oh, come on,” Bushy grumbled. “Don’t be such a baby.”
“We just gotta talk a little business, Noah!” Teardrop said. “Quit it.”
Noah waited until their grips loosened as they struggled to pull him along, and he was able to wrench one of his arms free. He broke loose, turning and bolting back to the front door.
Shit, shit, shit.
Phone, where was his phone? Shit. In the car. He’d thrown it in the backseat. He had to get to his car, drive away, and he could call the cops. He had to—
There was a big black guy at the door who blocked out the sun and had biceps the size of Noah’s head. He was wearing a green suit and holding a gun pointed at Noah’s face.
“Ah ah,” he taunted. “I don’t think so, little buddy.”
“Fuck.” Noah unconsciously raised his hands. He didn’t think he’d ever even seen a gun in real life before, and he swallowed back a surge of bile.
“We gotta go have a little chat with Mr. Star, and then… oh!” Green Suit smiled and leaned in uncomfortably close, his eyes growing wide. “Is that Vanilla Cupcake Squish by Lush Body? Oh, I just love their whole Squish line.”
“Uh… it’s…” Noah stared. “Yes?”
“Stop smelling people!” Teardrop groaned. “Come on, man. It’s weird. We talked about this.”
Green Suit huffed. “You’re the one living in a closed nostril world, CB. I’m embracing it.”
“It’s fucking weird.”
“What the fuck is happening right now?” Noah hissed.
“Don’t worry about it.” Bushy grabbed Noah’s arm and led him toward the ballroom. “Come on.”
Noah looked around for a way to escape or maybe a servant he could ask for help, but he saw nothing and no one that could save him. Green Suit was right behind him with a damn gun and would probably shoot him if he tried to run again.
Or he might try to smell Noah again.
Yeah, Teardrop was right. That shit was weird.
They all walked into the ballroom, and Noah saw two more men. The first was standing by the door, a young peroxide-blond scarecrow all in black. He was absolutely stunning, but there was something off in his pale gaze that made Noah’s stomach turn.
Sitting at his father’s piano was an older man with thick salt-and-pepper hair curling around his ears and a nicely trimmed beard. He was wearing a grey suit with no tie and his shirt was unbuttoned about a third of the way down. His eyes were a shocking shade of blue, like Windex or something, and he was staring at Noah with an unbridled intensity.
For an old guy, he was kinda hot.
He had several rings, a flashy watch, and Noah could see a few necklaces glittering in the thick hair of his broad chest. The cut of the suit hinted at a thick physique, and his hands were big, strong…
Yeah, fuck, he was really hot.
“Did you search him?” Scarecrow asked, his voice surprisingly deep for such a young-looking guy.
“Uh, nope.” Bushy shoved Noah against the nearest wall and smacked his hands all over his body. “Got it.”
“Fuck! Come on, man!” Noah protested as he was roughly groped between his legs. “Fuckin’ buy me dinner or somethin’!”
“Gently,” Old Guy scolded. “Noah is our guest.”
Bushy backed off. “He’s good.”
Noah pushed away from the wall and snarled. His head was throbbing now, and he was totally surrounded by these thugs.
Green Suit had lowered his gun, but Noah could still see it in his hand. Scarecrow was wearing a shoulder holster with two guns, one with a white handle. He couldn’t see any weapons on the others, but he was pretty sure they were all armed.
“I don’t know who the fuck you guys think you are, but you’re all fuckin’ fucked!” Noah seethed. “You just fuckin’ wait! Somebody is gonna call the police, and then you are fucked! You’re all so fucked! You hear me?”
They all laughed at him.
Noah didn’t know what else to do, and his fear was overwhelmed with rage. He screamed as loudly as he could, shouting, “Help! Hey! Anybody! Fuckin’ help me! There are crazy people in my fuckin’ house with guns!”
“Crybaby?” Old Guy waved his hand. “Perhaps Noah needs some persuasion to be a more palatable guest, hmm?”
“You got it.” Crybaby immediately kicked the back of Noah’s leg, forcing him to drop down on his knees.
“Fuckin’ bitch!” Noah tried to get up again, but Bushy had a gun right up against his head. He froze and held his hands up in surrender.
One little twitch of Bushy’s trigger finger, and Noah would die. Someone was gonna find his body covered in this stinky body glitter and think he got whacked by Tinkerbell.
“Junior, I don’t think that’s necessary just yet.” Old Guy shook his head. “Put it away.”
Bushy complied and took a step back. “Sorry, Alistair. I gots excited.”
“No need to apologize.” Old Guy’s bright blue eyes turned on Noah, and he smiled. “My name is Alistair Star. These are my business associates. This is Miss Stephanie ‘Crybaby’ Cox, Mr. Arthur ‘Mace’ Mason over there in the green, Mr. Erasmus Argento, we like to call him ‘Razz’, but he hates it, and the excited fellow is Mr. Maurice Martine Junior.”
“Lemme guess.” Noah snorted. “You call him Junior.”
“Such a quick study.” Alistair smiled again. “I appreciate a clever mind in a beautiful young man like yourself under normal circumstances, but right now I’m in the mood for… mmm, silence.”
“I talk. You listen. Do you understand, dear Noah?”
Noah resisted the urge to roll his eyes and nodded stiffly.
“Good.” Alistair turned back to the piano. “I would advise against trying to scream for help. As I’m sure you know, your closest neighbor is several acres away. No one is going to hear you. I also took the liberty of letting all the staff go except for a very kind gentleman named Jamie and his wife, Frida. They don’t seem to like you or your uncle very much.”
“We’ve been waiting here ever so patiently for you for two days now, and wow, did they have some stories to share. Jamie has been gracious enough to take care of us and offer us some rooms to stay in, and he informed me that your uncle is not available since—”
“He’s out of town,” Noah blurted out.
“Ah ah,” Alistair tutted. “Silence, remember?”
Noah bit his tongue.
“Where was I?” Alistair stroked the keys with a practiced touch, pecking out a brief melody. “Ah, yes. Jamie told me your uncle left a few days ago for Strassen Springs. After a brief investigation, we found out he’s trying to secure private transportation to Florida.”
Noah frowned. As far as he knew, Uncle Patrick had gone to some conference.
Panic crept up his spine.
What the fuck was going on here? Had Patrick known something like this was going to happen?
He must have, Noah reasoned, to want to flee across the country without saying a word.
And he left you behind, knowing these assholes were coming for him…
Noah didn’t know whether to be angry or sad. Maybe both were appropriate. He and Patrick weren’t that close, and they fought constantly over money and Noah’s lacking aspirations to do anything with his life. Even so, it stung that Patrick would have left Noah behind with such dangerous people after him.
Noah made up his mind that he was going to kick Patrick’s ass when he saw him next.
If he saw him, his mind unhelpfully corrected.
“I’m not sure if you are aware of your uncle’s business ventures, but he was interested in purchasing some property from me,” Alistair went on. “Real estate has always been a passion of mine, and I was happy to make the sale for the right price. Your uncle, however, thought he could convince me to lower it.”
“He’s cheap,” Noah muttered. “Always has been.”
“Ah, now that’s the second time you’ve spoken out of turn.” Alistair smiled, warm and happy, like a grandpa who still got a card on Father’s Day. It was unsettling. “I’d hate to have to teach you some manners, dear Noah.”
Noah gritted his teeth. He was on his knees, totally powerless, and he absolutely hated this.
And he still wanted a shower.
“Now,” Alistair said, “we were able to work something out after weeks of negotiations, but your uncle’s recent actions have created an unusual deficit. He owes me a great debt—”
“Tough fuckin’ shit!” Noah snapped. “I don’t have any fuckin’ money. I don’t have shit! My uncle has it all. Can’t help you. And even if I did, fuck you!”
Mace laughed. “Wow! Cupcake is feisty!”
“Rich boy gots some bark,” Junior agreed with a chuckle.
“Lose that gun and this rich boy will kick the shit out of you,” Noah warned, holding up his head defiantly.
“Oh, you’re just fuckin’ adorable,” Junior sneered.
Mace and Crybaby laughed again, apparently amused by how riled up Junior was getting.
Erasmus was quiet, but the ends of his mouth twitched up in a small smile. His pale gaze remained eerily blank, and Noah didn’t think he’d seen him blink yet.
“Simmer down,” Alistair scolded. “We’re here on business, remember?”
“Right.” Noah glared at Alistair. “And I’m pretty sure I just told you there’s no fuckin’ business to be had because I don’t have any money. Joke’s on you, old man. I’m broke.”
“Oh no.” Alistair chuckled, tapping out a few melodies on the piano. “No, you see, this is not about money. At least not in the way you’re thinking. There is one currency that is of a particular interest to me that you will still be able to help me with.”
“The fuck are you talking about?”
“Your uncle doesn’t owe me money. He owes me in blood.”
“Blood?” Noah paled.
“Yes. He killed one of our very close associates, and I am very interested in finding him so we can discuss this matter personally. Blood for blood, you see. Fairly simple transaction.”
“Bullshit.” Noah swallowed the fear clinging to the back of his throat that was making his voice tremble. “Look, there’s no way my stupid ass uncle killed anyone.”
“Are you calling me a liar, dear Noah?”
“Yeah, I am.” Noah shook his head. “My uncle is a real piece of shit, but he doesn’t have the balls to kill someone. I don’t know what kinda shakedown this is, but you’re barking up the wrong fuckin’ tree.”
“This is what’s happening.” Alistair tucked one of his salt-and-pepper curls behind his ear. “I can’t get my hands on your uncle just yet, so we’re going to keep you very, very close until he comes back. Behave yourself and you will survive this. Otherwise, well, I’m happy to take the blood debt from you.”
“Bait,” Noah realized. “You’re trying to use me as bait?”
“Ah, such a clever one. Yes. Although collateral seems more appropriate.”
“Hate to ruin your big fuckin’ master plan, but he obviously doesn’t give a shit about me. He left me here knowing you assholes were gonna come after him.”
“Is that you walking yourself up to the chopping block for the slaughter? Probably not wise to sell yourself short right now.”
“Trust me.” Alistair smiled. “He’ll come back.”
“You sound real fuckin’ sure.”
“I have friends who are helping me look for him. Until he returns, think of yourself as my guest. You will not have any access to your phone or the internet, no contact with anyone outside of this house, and you will not leave. Crybaby and Junior will see to that.”
Crybaby waved sweetly.
“You’ll stay here with us for as long as it takes for your uncle to come back, one way or another. After he and I have concluded our business, you’ll be free to go. Do you understand?”
“Fuck you, old man.” Noah stood up even as his legs trembled with fear. “That’s what I understand. You’re not keeping me a fuckin’ prisoner in my own fuckin’ house! No! Fuck you”—he whirled on Crybaby and Junior—“and fuck you guys!” He pointed at Mace next. “Fuck you too, you creepy fuckin’ smelling people weirdo!” He stopped on Erasmus. “And fuck you super hard because wow, do you even fucking blink? Fucking freak!”
They were all unbothered by the loud outburst, except for Mace who actually seemed upset. The apathy only enraged Noah more, and he was actually tempted to make a run for it just so he’d get shot and this would be over with.
“You are an exceptionally rude young man.” Alistair rose from the piano.
“Says the fuckin’ geezer who’s kidnapping me in my own house!” Noah growled. “Wow. Fuckin’ dementia settin’ in, Gramps? Do you understand how crazy you sound?”
“I do believe it’s time for that lesson in manners.” Alistair slid his belt from his pants, folding it in half and lightly patting it against his palm.
Noah froze, staring stupidly at the belt. He was so stunned by the clear implication that he laughed.
“I’m going to take you and put you over my knee,” Alistair said sternly. “I’m going to spank you with this belt until I hear a very sincere apology followed by absolute and total silence. While we’re staying here, I am going to expect you to be a model guest. Obedient, quiet, and dare I even say grateful. Do you understand, dear Noah?”
“You?” Noah laughed again. “You’re going to spank me?”
“Unless you’d like to apologize right now?”
“Ha!” Noah stood up straight and tall, towering over Alistair as he taunted, “I’d love to see you fuckin’ try it, old man.”
In the space of a blink, Alistair grabbed Noah’s arm and twisted it into his back, dragging him over his knee as he sat down on the bench. It happened so quickly that Noah didn’t have enough time to register the pain until the belt cracked over his ass for the first time.
“Oh, fuck!” Noah tried to kick away, but the pressure on his arm in Alistair’s iron grip made a compelling argument to stay as he was. His ass felt like it had been branded where the belt had struck, and he hissed angrily. Even through his jeans, it hurt like hell. “Oh, wow, yeah, fuck you.”
“That didn’t sound like an apology, dear Noah,” Alistair chided.
“How about you take that ‘dear Noah’ and shove it up your—oh, fuck!” Noah cried out as the belt hit him again. “Fuck, fuck, fuck!”
“Mmm, that sort of language will simply not do.” The buckle clinked as Alistair set the belt aside, and he reached around Noah’s hips to grab at the front of his jeans. “A strong-willed boy such as yourself usually requires additional motivation.”
“Hey! Stop!” Noah squirmed as Alistair undid the button and opened up the fly of his jeans in one swift jerk. A rage like he’d never known filled him when Alistair grabbed the seat of his jeans and pulled them down with his underwear, just enough to expose his ass to the entire room. “Oh, fuck you!”
“Now.” Alistair had the belt again, and he lightly dragged it over Noah’s bare cheeks. “Let’s try this again, shall we?”
Noah tried bucking away, but he couldn’t get out of Alistair’s iron hold. He was furious from being stripped and humiliated like this, and he refused to comply. “Go fuckin’ die in a fire. A really big fuckin’ fire.”
“You still have plenty of time to apologize.”
“Yeah? But you sure don’t. Bein’ all old and shit. Might have a heart attack and drop dead right—agh, shit! Shit!” The pain from the belt against his bare skin was new, burning white hot, and Noah couldn’t explain the overwhelming rush coming over him.
Definitely didn’t have an explanation for his hard dick.
There was no way to hide it from Alistair, considering it was digging into his thigh, and Noah ducked his head, embarrassed and furious he couldn’t escape. For some reason, being held down was only making him harder, and the vicious cycle of shame and anger kept right on fueling his persistent erection.
“Why, Noah.” Alistair chuckled low. His voice dropped to a sultry tone, whispering as if they were lovers as he said, “I’m not sure I should continue your punishment under these circumstances. Would you like to apologize yet?”
“Eat… a dick,” Noah panted, refusing to acknowledge how all the little hairs on the back of his neck suddenly stood up from the way Alistair spoke.
“Mm, I take it that’s a ‘no’?”
“You’re… a fuckin… genius…”
“Well.” Alistair clicked his tongue, the leather creaking as he raised the belt back up. “I can already see you’re going to be quite a handful.”
“You’ve got no fuckin’ idea, you stupid—ow, fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck!”
This was going to be a very, very long day.
And he still hadn’t gotten that shower.