Authors: Rhys Ford
5032 Capital Circle SW
Ste 2, PMB# 279
Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Rhys Ford
Cover Art by Reece Notley
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Dreamspinner Press, 5032 Capital Circle SW, Ste 2, PMB# 279, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886, USA.
Printed in the United States of America
eBook edition available
eBook ISBN: 978-1-61372-776-8
To my grandfathers,
John Kaleimomi Notley and Louis “Primo” Pavao
You might have left us, but I have carried you with me always.
Love you both. Hope I make you proud.
haato and love for the other four of the Five—Jenn, Penn, Tamm, Lea—also Ren and Ree. There is a giant thank you and snookies to Lisa H., Bianca J., and Tiff. T. for weeding through the dregs of my drafts, and I’d like to thank my friends on Twitter who so thankfully supplied me with a glut of sex shop names. You degenerates know who you are.
I cannot go further without extending my gratitude to the wonderful staff at Dreamspinner, including Elizabeth for taking a chance on me; Lynn, who guides me through the rapids; Ginnifer for being so great to work with; and all the other editors who worked on this project. A special shout out to Julili, who is rocking the world now.
Lastly, a heartfelt celebration of thank yous to JYJ, Big Bang (especially G-Dragon), Tool, VAST, Vamps, AC/DC, and a slew of the blues rock for keeping me company and going forward while writing this book. You guys make a great soundtrack.
are—by nature—stupid creatures.
I think I can speak with some experience on this. Both as a man and, well, a gay man. It’s bad enough to be one of the stupid creatures. It’s quite another to be attracted to them. Cursed at both ends: brain and dick.
My older brother, Mike—a fine example of a man doing a stupid thing—was sitting next to me in the new Range Rover I’d bought. He wordlessly grumbled as he sipped from the burnt, bitter coffee we’d gotten from a convenience store down the street. An open bag of Funyuns sat between us, keeping my stash of Twinkies company. I thought fondly of the young Korean man I’d rather have keeping me company than my brother, but Jae-Min was probably hard at work in my living room, where I’d left him.
We were sitting across from a sex shop called Back Door Lover. It wasn’t a high-end shop, not like one of the perfumed, delicate places on Sunset named things like Pandora’s Box, or Chocolate Starfish. The shop was a cinder block square building set among other low-rent businesses. A twenty-four hour taco stand sat on one side of a tiny parking lot it shared with the shop, and a computer repair shop sat a few feet away, on the other side. There wasn’t a five-dollar cup of coffee place for miles. This neighborhood ran to greasy donuts and quick oil changes, with a scattering of cookie-cutter apartment complexes.
We’d parked across the street, so we could clearly see the shop, and the alley that ran between it and the computer store. The taco shop did a steady business. Pity it was mostly between a drug dealer and his customers in the parking lot.
Surprisingly, the Back Door Lover Sex Shoppe did a hell of a lot of trade, up until it closed at three thirty in the morning. Mike and I watched as the last customer shuffled out, clutching a plain paper bag of magazines to his chest. The moonfaced college kid who worked the night shift rolled a thick metal gate down over the front doors, cutting off our view of the shop’s interior. Moments later, the shop’s neon sign flickered, then went dark.
It was hard to get comfortable, even in the Rover’s lush seats. The scar tissue from where Ben shot me kept clenching up, painfully twisting the nerves along my shoulder, chest, and rib cage. My more recent gunshot wound was a picnic in comparison.
just throbbed, and mocked me with twinges whenever I lifted something heavy.
“I can’t fucking believe I’m sitting here at 4:00 a.m. watching the front door of a porn shop.” Mike gritted his teeth, grinding them loud enough for me to hear him across the seats. “God damn it. Why do I let you talk me into these things?”
His hair, a hedgehog bristle on his square head, stood up even angrier from the hours he’d spent running his hands over his scalp. He took after our dead mother more than I did, having inherited her thick black hair and Asian features. Taking more after our Irish father, I envied Mike’s hair. Its fury at the world was something to behold.
“’Cause Bobby had a date,” I reminded him. “And technically, this is a sex shop. It says so on the side of the building. You can’t miss it. It’s in bright pink fluorescent letters. We’re here on a case for a client, remember?”
has an inventory loss problem.” Another slurp of coffee, and Mike’s almond-shaped eyes became slits. “I have better things to do on a Saturday night than babysit my brother on a stakeout, so he can catch someone ripping off dildos.”
“You’re sitting here because you replaced your kitchen’s cork floor with Spanish tile.” I brought the binoculars up to my face to check out the couple walking by the sex shop, but they were more interested in checking each other for tonsillitis than breaking into the now closed business. “Wet Spanish tiles are hard to walk on when you’ve got feet. Imagine what a bitch it is if you’re missing the bottom halves of both your legs.”
“I was supposed to know that?” Mike slumped down in his seat. “I thought it would look nice. Be a surprise for her when she came home from New York.”
“Yeah, well, maybe she’ll think that once she forgives you… and rips out the fucking tile.” I reached for my coffee, and swallowed as much of the hot, sweet, bitter brew as I could. “Right now, you’re stuck here with me, watching a
shop. And for your information, a
is someone who pays you. I’m doing this gratis, as a favor for Bobby.”
“Who’s on a date,” he grumbled. “Nice best friend.”
“I do not stand in the way of a man getting laid,” I replied.
“Car One, come in. Over.” The walkie-talkie I’d set on the console squawked with a harsh hissing noise. I reached for the handset before Mike could grab it. “Car One, are you there? We’ve got a situation at Car Two. Over. Kkkrrrawwr.”
“Did he just hiss into the mic?” My brother’s disdain was as sour as the coffee. “Are you shitting me? What is this? Are we in the fourth grade?”
“Not everyone plays real-life Army Soldier like you do, remember?” I clicked the send button before Trey could spit into the speaker again. “Trey, what’s going on back there? Do you see someone?”
Trey, the recipient of said favor for Bobby, and owner of the Back Door Lover, was in charge of watching the rear entrance. It was a strategic move on our part. Trey was a bit of a pig, and even sitting across the street in a beat-up Toyota Camry, he’d cruised the men coming out of his own sex shop. I’d partnered him with Mike, while I sat in the back with Trey’s current fuck-bunny, a frosted blond twink inexplicably named Rocket. I thought separating the lovers was a good idea. After twenty minutes of Trey’s lascivious comments about men’s asses and cocks, Mike threatened to cut off my balls if I didn’t do something about it.
We’d switched places, moving Trey and his car to the back. Mike jumped in with me, reasonably more than half-afraid Trey would look for something else to do with his mouth besides talk in the dark alley behind the store.
Unfortunately for us, Trey had three
while covering the back door, including the panicked reporting of a possum, digging through the dumpster he shared with the taco shop next door.
“Stop me if I’m wrong,” Mike interrupted by poking me in the ribs. “But it looks like someone’s coming out of that sleaze shop with some of your client’s shit.”
I’d never played with dolls of any kind, so it came as kind of a surprise when an oddly shaped balloon poked out a small opening set high up on the Back Door Lover’s outer wall. It convulsed, then shot out, catching air. The brunette blow-up doll’s freed limbs unfurled, and it pinwheeled in the air, then floated down to the ground.
A blond version popped out next. Its bright, nearly pink vinyl body floated upward momentarily, catching the faint breeze before it drifted down to land beside its brunette sister. Even in the shadows, its creamed-corn-yellow hair shone, and its wide, surprised mouth was obscenely bright in the darkness.
What came next was even more of a surprise. The doll was followed by what looked like a size nine red Converse en pointe.
“Son of a bitch must have been hiding inside.” I was in awe, really. The man was scarecrow skinny and able to contort himself into a pretzel to get out of the shop’s exterior air vent. It couldn’t have been more than a two foot square, but he slithered free of the opening like he was made of gelatin. He landed awkwardly on a pile of boxes stacked in the tight alley between the Back Door Lover and the computer place, but recovered before he could fall. Mike and I were out of the car before the thief’s feet could hit the concrete.