BDSM In My Romance

When I started writing the Game Series, my main goal was to portray kink and BDSM as accurately as possible. I’m not in any way an expert, but after some ten active years in the lifestyle, I’ve been to my fair share of events, meets, and parties. And BDSM communities are beautiful the way they are. They’re not perfect. Far from it. There’s drama, people come in broken, others have unrealistic expectations, many are just having fun, some take it way too seriously, some discover what their actual limits are, and so on and so on.

I wanted to bring all that into my new series. The different peoples, the unconventional dynamics, and the clashes.

Oh, the clashes!

I think back on when I wrote the Touch Series. Realism was important to me even then, realism in how I portrayed the kink. But suddenly, my characters were flawless! Oh, they had trust issues, they fucked up, and they caused some minor drama. But once I put two main characters together, their kinks lined up perfectly and they rode off into the sunset together.

I’m not smack-talking my own series. I loved writing Touch. It took place in a time where I was evolving a lot in kink, and each story got more fleshed out. Starting with a dreamy, insta-love age-play novelette, ending with a full-length novel about a triad finally finding their way after many hiccups. The Touch Series is in many ways my baby.

The Game Series is different. Not only because my play has advanced over the years but because I’ve learned that BDSM isn’t about toys and playrooms. It’s about people.

The series started out pretty easy. Two Tops accidentally falling in love. Chemistry is a controlling little bitch, and we can’t help who we fall for. So in Top Priority, I wanted two Daddy Doms to get knocked on their asses. But they found their way, and then they found it again in Their Boy, where they meet their third. Happily ever after for everyone!

In Breathless, I wanted to delve into sadism. Those of you who follow me on Facebook know I lovingly (sometimes not-so-lovingly) refer to my partner as The Sadist. Because he is one. Big-time Sadist. Many ouchies. So much pain.

He’s a bit of a dick too. (I love you!)

But anyway. Because of that troll, and our experiences, Breathless was an outlet. I wrote what I’d actually lived through, in many of the cases, definitely not all.

I won’t spoil anything.

Now comes Doll Parts

Doll Parts is the next book in the Game Series, and it’s…different. It took me weeks to figure out if I disliked my own writing or if I loved it. Then it slowly dawned on me that I knew these characters. I’ve met versions of them in every BDSM community I’ve been in. I’d finally reached my own goal of portraying kink the way I wanted to, because I was writing people who actually exist. Not to mention scenes that’ve happened so many times.

The imperfect Master. The Daddy who has his own insecurities. The kinksters who don’t abide to every safety rule there is. The scene that didn’t live up to everyone’s expectations. Limits changing. Dynamics evolving because someone is poly and another is monogamous. Kinksters with mental health problems and disabilities. Different body types. (Although, so far, I’ve given you nothing but abs and tattoos! But don’t worry, I can’t wait for y’all to meet Gael. He’s a sweetheart.)

BDSM brings ALL kinds of people together, and all their various shades of different will alter their new relationships, their fetishes, and their views.

That’s what I wanna write. That’s what I’m writing. Those are the people I wanna give Happily Ever Afters to.

I’m excited for you to read Doll Parts. It has all the puzzle pieces. (That will make sense when you’ve read it.)

I’m excited for you to meet Noa, Cameron, Lucian, and KC.

I’m excited for you to see their differences coming together.

No pun intended.

(I’m also really excited about Out of the Ashes, the book that follows, but that’s a story for another day.)

Before I wrap up, I thought I’d give you a li’l teaser from Doll Parts.

PEACE,

Cara

*

Doll Parts Teaser

I chewed on the inside of my cheek and wondered how the hell I hadn’t connected the dots sooner. Fuck, it was hot. I ran a hand through my hair and looked around me. The restaurant was right on the corner of a busy intersection, and the sleepy locals on their way to brunch were sharing the sidewalk with tourists.

Maybe I should text him and call it off…

“Excuse me, are you going to the munch?”

I cocked my head to the guy to my left. He was about my age, I estimated.

“What if I didn’t know what a munch was?”

He grinned, and it was hot. Hot and cute. “I would’ve said never mind and hightailed it out of here,” he replied. “But I’ve been around long enough to spot someone too nervous to join an event.”

Oh. I wasn’t nervous to join an event. My very first munch, I’d been the first to arrive.

I scratched my head. “I’m stalling because I’m pretty sure I’m barging into someone else’s territory,” I admitted. “My mom’s ex-husband is kinky too.”

The guy made a yikes-face, and I felt the need to elaborate.

“I check his Instagram sometimes, and if he posts four pictures every month, one is from this place,” I explained. “Usually with a caption like ‘Luke is teaching me to post foodporn, whatever that is’ and ‘Macklin’s eggs Benedict are a bit of a religious experience.’”

I could tell I’d mentioned names the guy recognized. I was right. This was the munch of KC’s kink community. Motherfucker. I’d seen eight pictures from this place on KC’s dusty Instagram—or parts of the place. Mostly from the rooftop terrace. Maybe that was where they hosted the munch.

“You know them, don’t you?” I pressed.

The guy smiled uncertainly and shrugged slightly. “We take integrity seriously, but…”

Yeah.

“Who’s your mother’s ex-husband?”

“KC Hayles.”

He nodded once. He’d heard that name too. Then he eyed someone else, or two someones, coming up the sidewalk. They were twins. Hot-as-shit set of twins in their forties.

One of them smirked upon seeing the guy I’d been talking to. “You hidin’, Cameron?”

I observed the guy’s reaction. Cameron. A crooked grin full of mischief lit up his face. He was really fucking cute, and I didn’t usually feel attraction toward men my age. He was a bit taller than me but not much. Blue eyes.

“Does that sound like something I would do, Sir?” Cameron countered. Definitely a submissive.

One of the twins chuckled and ruffled Cameron’s shaggy, dirty-blond hair. “See you upstairs, boy.” He spared me the quickest of glances, lifted his brow a little, maybe in curiosity, before he and his brother took the steps up to the restaurant.

Cameron turned back to me. “It’s possible you’ve stumbled upon your stepdad’s community.”

I figured. “I’ll just reschedule with the guy I was gonna meet. Thanks for letting me know.”

It wasn’t too important I met him today anyway. It was only a bite to eat to see if I was compatible to play with him and his boyfriend.

Cameron cleared his throat. “Hey, wait. If you know KC… Does that mean you know Lucian too?”

That would be a stretch. “I’ve met him a few times, sure. I wouldn’t say I know him, though.” I’d had my suspicions about Lucian—that he was kinky too. It wasn’t a surprise whatsoever to have it confirmed. He was big-time Master material. “Why, are you together or something?”

Cameron snorted. “I wish. No, he’s with some dude who’s manipulating him like fucking whoa, and Lucian won’t see it.”

I frowned. That didn’t compute with my impression of Lucian.

“Anyway,” Cameron went on. “Here’s a crazy idea. You wanna get out of here and grab a burger or something? Your plan fell through, and I can think of better things to do than watch Lucian and his little troll.”

I stood straighter instantly. This guy wanted to hang out? Fuck yes! I could use a new friend. “Absolutely,” I said, sticking out my hand. “I’m Noa.”

Cameron smiled, visibly relieved. “Cameron.”

*

The Game Series

#1, Top Priority – HERE – Colt/Lucas

#2, Their Boy – HERE – Kit/Colt/Lucas

#3, Breathless – HERE – Shay/River/Reese

#3.5, The Air That I Breathe – HERE – River/Reese

#4, Doll Parts – Coming in February! – Cam/Noa/Lucian/KC

#5, Out of the Ashes – TBA – Kingsley/Tate/Franklin

#6, TBA

The O’Sullivan Outlaws are Ready to Steal You Away – New MM Release!

The O’Sullivan brothers will steal you away to the grit and glitz of Las Vegas in this fast-paced romance. 

MM Romance | Family | Crime | Humor | Suspense | Standalone

I’m not supposed to do this job without Boone.

We may not share genes, but it’s been us against the world since his mom took me in as a toddler. The rowdy O’Sullivan boys who raised all the hell that Vegas could handle. Not that all my memories are wild and make my heart race. After all, I realized I was in love with the bastard at some point, so there’s been plenty of pathetic yearning and jealousy too. 

Even so, it’s been him and me. Brothers, partners in crime, and, for the past six years, co-parents to an amazing little girl. But that’s another story. Right now, I gotta focus on the job our cousin gave us, and I need Boone by my side.

The problem is we haven’t really been on speaking terms for four years now.

Click Here | The Job on Amazon | Click Here

This story takes place in Cara Dee’s Camassia Cove Universe, a fictional town where all books stand on their own, unless otherwise stated, and the reader can jump in wherever they want. 

Breathless Release!

“Will you beat me without knowing why I want it?”

I’m used to rejection by Sadists at this point. No one wants to beat me or skip aftercare; they wanna talk and get all up in my business—where they don’t freaking belong. But I give it one more try when I spot River and Reese Tenley at a kink party. The only thing bigger than them is their reputation as hardcore Sadists. To the memories of grief and why I’m seeking punishment, I ask them to hurt me.

“Sure. It’s your funeral.”

MMM | The Game Series | BDSM | Book 3 | Standalone | Sadomasochism | Daddykink

Breathless goes live tomorrow, on September 15, but you can preorder right now! Just click HERE to pick up your copy.

Until next time!

-Cara

Food + Sex + Best Friends in Love = Dirty Chef

Couple On Kitchen

CLICK HERE TO GRAB YOUR COPY

AVAILABLE IN KU

Alessia on Adam

He’s a feeling. His energy is a force that makes an impact whether you want it to or not. He’s charming, easygoing, and loved by everyone. Especially me. He’s been the love of my life since I was a fifteen-year-old summer camper and he was a burned-out chef volunteering to make sloppy joes in the dining hall.

Unfortunately, he has a type. Tall, thin, and gorgeous. And I’m…none of those things.

I’m the friend. The roommate. The one he runs a restaurant with.

Adam on Alessia

She’s my past, my present, and my future. She’s my muse. I cook with her tastes in mind. I cook for her. But, as my brother points out, she won’t be my future if I don’t come clean about the fact that I’ve been hung up on her for years.

Coming clean might not be a choice at this rate, though. If I see Alessia on another goddamn dating app, I’m gonna lose my shit. I physically can’t stay away from her any longer, even if I risk losing everything we’ve built together.

The Objective

The sexiest Valentine’s Day menu ever created. And maybe, just maybe, fingers aren’t the only thing getting licked after this meal.

Buon Appetito!

Couple On Kitchen

Excerpt

She’d meet someone soon. They’d get married and she would squeeze out a few runts, and I would never see her again. It would start out slow, of course. First, we’d stop living together because her new man would find that weird. Then, she’d miss a few shifts at work. Dates and whatnot. Eventually, she’d hire someone—maybe a hostess or bartender. She’d come to work one day with a rock on her finger, and she would burst with excitement as she announced she was pregnant.

I wanted to fucking hurl.

“Oh, look,” she gasped softly.

I raised a brow at the babies. The boy yawned.

“So cute,” Alessia whispered. “I know I’m being silly, but I’m just so happy for Isla and Jack.”

Yeah, everyone was pleased as punch, from grandparents and siblings to friends and even the freaking nurses.

Aforementioned family members also knew how to go home and catch some rest.

“I’m gonna check in with the new parents,” I said. “Then we’re outta here, all right?”

Alessia nodded, probably thrilled to get another few minutes of staring at the babies.

Yup, I was definitely losing her.

Fuck.

I found my brother in the next hall. Isla was asleep in the hospital bed, and Jack was in the uncomfortable chair next to her, checking his phone.

I knocked lightly on the doorframe, and he glanced up and smiled sleepily.

“Mom just texted and asked if you’d managed to drag Alessia out of here yet.” He kept his voice down and stood up, walking over so we could let Isla sleep. I stepped out into the hall and removed my ball cap. “You okay?”

“Sure.” I nodded with a dip of my chin. “I talked to Alex and Jamie. We’re doing a Grady Night this weekend at Mom and Dad’s. You know that means free babysitting.”

Jack chuckled quietly and scrubbed a hand over his face. Then he flicked a glance through the window to Isla’s room. “I’ll talk to Isla,” he murmured. “I’m not so naïve that I don’t believe we’ll be tired.”

“Fucking exhausted,” I agreed.

He slid his gaze back to me. “Why the rush, though?”

I shrugged and scratched my bicep. “We gotta celebrate, don’t we?”

He drew a deep breath and saw straight through me. He didn’t even bother narrowing his eyes, something he was great at when he sniffed out bullshit. Maybe he was too tired. Or maybe I was so goddamn pathetic in my quest to fill Alessia’s calendar with family shit that it was too easy, too obvious.

“Are you never going to talk to her?” Jack asked curiously, and I tensed up. “Be honest with me, Adam. You’re seriously just going to let her run off with someone she’ll be content with at best.”

“Don’t.” I clenched my jaw. I’d hidden my feelings for Alessia for longer than I cared to admit, and no one had so much as suspected anything until Isla barged into Jack’s life and assumed Alessia and I were together the very first time she met us. “You don’t know what it’s like,” I told him.

He hiked his brows. “Oh, I don’t?”

I shook my head. “No, you don’t, and I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking about her—” I gestured to the room where Isla slept “—and the babies, but it ain’t the same. Alessia is in every part of my life. We live together, we run Coho together—she’s my best friend. She’s my past, my present, and my future. If I lose her, I have nothing.” An invisible noose tightened around my neck, and I hauled in a breath. The mere idea of not having Alessia in my life was fucking crippling. “I won’t risk it,” I stated. “I live and breathe that girl.”

Something softened in my brother’s gaze. “She might not be your future, though.”

I didn’t need a reminder.

YOU CAN ALSO CLICK HERE TO GRAB YOUR COPY

AND IT’S STILL AVAILABLE IN KU

Couple On Kitchen

Social Media Links:

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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6936449.Cara_Dee

 

 

This Life II

7

Title: This Life II

Author: Cara Dee (That’s me!)

Series: This Life, Book 2

Genre: MF Romance/Mafia Romance

Amazon Universal: http://mybook.to/thislife2-cdw
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51473658-this-life-ii

Empty Background Scene. Dark Street Reflection On The Wet Paveme

Synopsis:

Finnegan O’Shea

My uncle had never deserved to be the boss of the Sons of Munster, and for the longest time I thought that pompous jackass was my worst nightmare. Then Gio Avellino sent a crew to Philly to take down the syndicate I’d just become the unofficial boss of. He’d kidnapped my uncle, put the love of my life in harm’s way, and…he’d murdered my mother.

So yeah, my first year as a married man was off to a rousing start—we were on the run, severely outnumbered, and I still hadn’t told my wife the truth about her own mother and her connection to the Avellino family.

Luck of the Irish? Uh-huh. I was gonna need a lot of that.

Emilia O’Shea

Was there such a thing as getting used to being married to a mobster? Finnegan lied and stole for a living, and trust didn’t come easy. If only the bastard hadn’t stolen my damn heart.

After spending the summer in hiding, I was ready to shoulder my role as the new matriarch of the family. Even though my husband’s mother’s shoes were impossible to fill, I would do my best and take on the responsibility with my own little twist. I couldn’t be the mother to everyone, but I could be a Daughter of Munster.

Because though I struggled with some aspects of Finnegan’s lifestyle, this was personal.

This was war.

Haven’t read This Life I yet? You can find it here: http://mybook.to/thislifeI

Secret Concept. Sexy Woman Keep A Secret, Copy Space

Social Media Links:

Website: https://www.caradeewrites.com/

Website: https://www.camassiacove.com/

Amazon: https://amzn.to/cdw-amazon-profile

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/caradeewrites/

Facebook Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/caradeewrites/

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/cara-dee

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CaraDeeWrites

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/carawrites/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6936449.Cara_Dee

Glamour Shoe And Crown

It’s here, it’s here, it’s here!

Gay couple. Kiss. Love and relationships.

The Guy in the Window is LIVE!

Available in KU, paperback, and as ebook on Amazon!

Universal link riiiight HERE.

oOo

I was in the middle of my divorce when Adam messaged me. I believe his exact words were, “Hi. I think you’re my dad’s brother. Would you like to get to know me?”

My brother and I had never been close, so I’d only met his adopted son a few times when he was very young. Instinct told me to ignore the message, and I did. For a few days. It took an exhausting fight with my soon-to-be ex-wife and half a bottle of whiskey for me to change my mind.

Adam first became “sort of my nephew.” Next, he became the guy who helped me find an apartment in the building next to his. He was a sweet, cheerful young man doing his best to raise his four-year-old daughter, which led to him becoming the guy who wanted to help me patch up my relationship with my own daughter.

Then one night as I got ready for bed, I looked across the alleyway to the next building, where I saw him getting ready for bed too.

I couldn’t look away to save my life.

It was the night he also became the guy in the window.

Gay couple. Kiss. Love and relationships.

And hey, if you don’t have anything to do tomorrow, you should totally stop by my FB group for release day shenanigans. I’m giving away paperbacks, tumblers, gift cards, ebooks, and…oh, and first aid kits! Because sometimes, books hurt us. (This one won’t, though!)

Until next time!

-Cara

Allowing myself to be proud

We have an unwritten rule and a culture in Sweden that’s so deeply imbedded in us that it always catches me off guard when I see authors promoting their own work. This rule, this culture, states, not-so-roughly translated, don’t believe you’re better than anyone else.

We’re not supposed to toot our own horn and boast about anything where the credit belongs to us.

You have to be modest, and it’s like that old…

“I love your shirt!”

“Oh, this old thing?” It’s brand new. “It was on sale.” It cost half a freaking fortune.

It goes without saying that I absolutely suck at promoting myself, and it’s been a problem since I started publishing. It just wasn’t something that was encouraged when I grew up. It’s a stupid culture, and I’m trying to let go of some of it. Because you know what? I’m proud of the characters I create in my head. I’m proud of the universes I build, and I’m proud of the work I put in when I research and keep track of all the tiny details.

The Game Series is a new universe. It’s The Touch Seres 2.0, not necessarily new and improved but certainly heavier and more developed. This kinkster community gets their freak on in DC, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do. 🙂

Top Priority was the first novella, a prologue of sorts, yet it stands on its own. It centers around Lucas and Colt, two Daddy Doms who fall for each other despite the fact that their kinks don’t match. And now…the second book. Their Boy went live today(!), and we meet Lucas and Colt once more, this time from Kit’s point of view. It can also be fully enjoyed as a standalone; you don’t need Lucas and Colt’s background story.

Tattooed bearded male sits on a chair.

Left all alone in the world—and in a very big house—after the loss of his parents, Kit Damien has struggled to find his place in society and in the kink community he longs to be a more active part of.

Daddy Doms Colt and Lucas have been a happy, committed couple for eight years. But two Tops need a bottom, and their quest for a Little to make their lives complete has led them to Kit’s empty doorstep.

But just as with his physical wounds, Kit’s emotional scars won’t heal overnight. Colt and Lucas must challenge him at every turn to force him to open up and let them in, to let them use their own individual methods to make him whole again. Together, the three will embark on a journey to learn about true love, growing up, the importance of sprinkles, and the rules of The Game that can make them all winners.

UNIVERSAL AMAZON LINK

So here’s me, promoting myself, and if Daddykink and triads are your jam, you should totally give Their Boy a chance.

*hyperventilates*

Nailed it!

What Happens When Both Love Interests Are Tops?

Lightning - A dark cloudy sky with lightning

In a perfect world, Lucas West would meet someone in one of the BDSM communities he was active in, someone who ached for a Daddy Dom as much as Lucas longed for a Little to care for. They would date, play, build something that was just for them, and share a future together.

In a perfect world, Colt Carter would get through his next deployment and then move closer to DC where he could create at least a semblance of a personal life. He wanted something outside of the Air Force, something kinky, something worth leaving everything behind for eventually. For years, he’d kept his inner Sadist and Daddy Dom locked up, only letting him out to play on rare occasions.

In a perfect world…

In reality, Lucas and Colt met each other.

Available on Amazon, in KU, and paperback!

>>>Amazon Universal Link<<<

GS x 3

Top Priority is the first book in The Game Series, a BDSM series where romance meets the reality of kink. Sometimes we fall for someone we don’t match with, sometimes vanilla business gets in the way of kinky pleasure, and sometimes we have to compromise and push ourselves to overcome trauma and insecurities. No matter what, two things are certain. This is not a perfect world, and life never turns out the way you planned.

Book 1, Top Priority, releases on August 27

Book 2, Their Boy, releases in September

Book 3, Breathless, releases around Christmas

Tattooed bearded male sits on a chair.

Until next time!

Cara

 

I finished another book, and I’m tired

Typing “the end” in a book brings an insane amount of satisfaction. I get to ship it off to my editor and be done with it for a while. Then a few weeks of editing back and forth follow, not to mention I get sucked into the whole PR part of publishing books. It’s a busy time that keeps my mind occupied; I spend more time with readers, I take part in online festivities, and I host giveaways and etcetera.

Then it’s all over.

I sit back, a little unsettled, a little frazzled, a little numb, and I read some reviews. I play games on my phone. I sleep and eat. I’m a little quieter than usual.

The reviews for both Auctioned and Stranded have been humbling, and I crack a tired but genuine grin when a handful readers–on the actual release day–binge read and then ask me when the next book is out.

It’s flattering, exciting, and encouraging.

It’s also nuts! And I say that fondly.

Truth is, when it’s all over, it’s my turn to process. Without giving away any significant spoilers, I can say that this is when I’m sucked back into the book I just published. I’m on that island with Darius and Gray, or in the hospital with them, or on that small, chartered  plane toward new challenges. I can still feel the sand between my toes, the sweat trickling down my neck, and the sticky papaya juices on my fingers. I know what thunder smells like in the tropics and the pressure anxiety puts on my chest. Darius is still speaking in my head, and he’s worried about Gray. He’s also planning and strategizing; his mind is going a mile a minute, which means mine is too.

Writing a series poses new issues as well. Because Gray and Darius are far from done, and leaving things unfinished goes against my nature. Goddammit, feelings are being developed, and these two need each other.

But other books demand attention, and I have to walk away for a bit. I can’t let myself get invested in the next book yet, even though Darius and Gray have already set the course and told me the gist of what’s going to happen. Philly will be interesting, as will the developments in the human trafficking case that take Darius and Gray on a cross-country road trip to Joshua Tree in California.

The next book is called Deserted, and I shouldn’t be thinking about it. Or the characters that will be involved, most from Camassia, a couple from this place called Bakersfield, and of course we need more of Ryan. Maybe. Hmm. Fuck! No. I have other books to focus on now.

*grips hair in frustration*

I’m tired. I’m itching to write more, to take a break, to move on, and yeah, it does take a generous dose of insanity to be a writer, thank you for asking.

So I’m going to play games on my phone tonight, and then tomorrow…tomorrow I write other characters. Lani and Jax are about to get it on in the Alaskan wilderness or something.

Being able to write full-time and make a good living on it is a dream come true.

But damn, I’m tired.

And happy.

Oh, and the shameless plug part. If you like MM romance with action, with sweet-hurty angst, with suspense, and with two men who are balls deep in PTSD–and sometimes Darius in Gray–you should check out the Auctioned series. Auctioned, book 1, is on sale until tomorrow. Stranded, the second book, was released this week and is also on sale until tomorrow.

Classic black and white fine art portrait of a handsome tough gu

Until next time,

Cara

 

“Find me. Please find me.”

Title: Auctioned

Release Date: 6/28/18

Genre: Crime/Suspense/(Romance.)

Pairing: MM

Gray Nolan’s biggest problem in life was the torch he carried for his closeted coach. He was just another happy-go-lucky dude, a college student and hockey player, when his ordinary existence was interrupted, and he became a human trafficking statistic.

He and seven other young men were taken aboard a luxurious yacht where they were to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Gray was beaten, shattered, and almost defeated by the time his buyer stepped out of the shadows in a swirl of his own cigarette smoke.

He was Gray’s new owner.

Darius Quinn had vowed never again to find himself in a situation like this. His days as a private military contractor were over. No more missions, no more risks, no more personal attachments. Yet, here he was, after weeks of searching, face-to-face with his broken prize.

It was time to get the knucklehead back to his family.

Quick and easy was Darius’s plan.

Then everything went sideways.

Amazon US: http://bit.ly/amus-auction
Amazon CAN: http://bit.ly/amca-auction
Amazon AUS: http://bit.ly/amau-auction
Amazon DE: https://amzn.to/2ttUZ8q
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Goodreads: http://bit.ly/good-auction
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Signed paperback: https://www.caradeewrites.com/

oOo

Prologue

Gray grinned to himself as he scrolled through baby clothes on his phone. Online shopping was dangerous when you’d learned you were expecting your first niece or nephew, and his funds were limited. He couldn’t help it, though. He was stoked for his stepsister—and, frankly, himself. He was gonna spoil that kid rotten. 

Taking a left on Sixth Street, he looked up briefly to make sure shopping for baby socks wasn’t getting him lost on the way home. He could picture his friends and brothers ribbing him about that for years.

It’d gotten dark while Gray had been to the movies with a couple friends. He was almost home, thankfully. Summer was over, and he was one of the last to haul out the fall wardrobe. Probably time to start using a jacket. Northern Washington wasn’t known for its heat.

*

“Hey!” Gray banged furiously against the planks that boarded up the window. Between the cracks, he could see a man exiting a car across the street, and it was the first person Gray had seen all day. “Help! Over here!” With a growl of frustration and panic, he tried to dig his fingers between two boards to get them loose. “Up here!” He kept going, even as his fingers started bleeding from the rough splinters.

His stomach churned as he heard the heavy footfalls of the two men who lived in this house. Or so he guessed. He hadn’t paused to consider ownership of the shitty little house on a street he didn’t recognize.

“Just silence him,” one of the men snarled on the other side of the door.

Flight was out, so Gray steeled himself to fight. His chest heaved, his fists clenched. And the second the locks were turned and the door opened, he charged with every bit of strength he possessed.

*

A message popped up on Gray’s phone as he was crossing the park behind the community college.

I want to celebrate my birthday with you. Please say yes, beautiful.

Gray wanted to. Fuck, did he want to spend that day with Craig. But he’d drawn the line. It’d been nearly three years of texting and confessing feelings and fantasies, three years of not being intimate with the man he loved. He knew if he spent any alone time with Craig now, he’d cave.

His thumb hovered over the send button, reading and rereading his reply, then eventually fired it off.

Leave your wife first.

A strong wind rustled the trees above him and sent a shiver down his spine. Fall was really here. He zipped up his hoodie and bunched his shoulders. The apartment he shared with a couple teammates and too much hockey gear to stumble over was just around the little duck pond. He hoped he could fall asleep quickly tonight, ’cause being reminded of Craig’s birthday sucked.

Gray could thank—or curse—his mom for putting so much value on morals. High motherfucking morals. He shook his head and wished he could just, for one damn night, get what he wanted. A stolen moment. Technically, they’d already had one. A kiss—a heated, awesome kiss—right after Craig became Craig and stopped being Coach Fuller.

*

As Gray nursed his no doubt fractured wrist, he counted the cracks in the ceiling. The pain had lessened to a low throb after keeping it still for two days, and the swelling had gone down.

He knew a thing or two about fractures, being a hockey player. Unlike his younger twin brothers, he didn’t dream of making it in the NHL, though. Same with Gray’s best friend, Abel, who played for the Canucks in Vancouver. No, Gray wanted to coach or work with kids in some other capacity. But all of that hurt to think about now.

Rolling onto his side, he winced as his joints protested. The thin mattress was the only thing in the room, aside from a portable toilet in the opposite corner. More often than not, his eyes strayed to the boarded-up window, which beat staring at the faded wallpaper.

Six days. That was how long it’d been since he was taken. Long enough for him to become a case. First as a missing person, then with the suspicion of foul play. Had he made the news yet? Most likely. In fact, Gray counted on it, because he wasn’t the first to disappear from their little town. A boy had gone missing earlier this year, followed by a young woman a couple months ago.

He screwed his eyes shut and willed himself not to cry. It would do him no good.

*

With his apartment building in sight, he picked up the pace and—

A screeching sound broke his train of thought, and Gray looked around, confused. This area was usually dead at night, unless it was a Friday or Saturday and fellow students threw a party or four.

He was supposed to have graduated last semester, but failing grades had forced him to retake a few classes.

A black sedan rolled up right outside the building, blocking Gray’s path. A big man stepped out and asked, “Are you Gray Nolan?”

Gray stiffened, torn between worry and suspicion. “What do you want with him?”

The man cracked a grin that revealed perfectly white teeth, except one was missing.

Another man was quick to join the first one, and they exchanged a sentence in a language Gray couldn’t understand or identify.

A beat later, they both flew at Gray.

oOo

Chapter 1

Gray could picture his mom’s face in the most idyllic scenarios. He could envision her laughing as she walked down the sloped lawn behind the inn she ran. The sun shining, the wind catching in her long, dark hair, the apple trees in bloom. Perhaps Gray had told her an inappropriate joke, and she was doing her mom thing by pretending not to find it funny. She’d look up at him with narrowed eyes, even as they danced with mirth, and scold him for his language or something. Then a giggle would slip free, and the laughs would follow.

Maybe it was because she’d had kids young that Gray was so close with her. The mama bear was always lurking and ready to pounce, but for the most part, they were friends. He helped out at the inn whenever he had the time, working side by side with his mother when most guys his age would rather chill with buddies.

The memory of his mom’s mischievous smirks and soft laughter were among Gray’s favorites, but they were always interrupted by the harsh reality. Her happiness grew distorted before morphing into despair and anguish-laden rage. Gray imagined her surrounded by law enforcement as she tried to figure out where her second eldest son had gone. She was such a short little thing. A complete sweetheart, until you messed with her.

The van jostled, bringing Gray out of his head. The air was humid and pungent, reeking of mildew, piss, and vomit. His restraints were cutting into his skin, and the burlap sack covering his head was thick and scratchy.

Find me. Please find me.

*

“Stand still!” The motherfucker fisted Gray’s hair through the rough material of the bag that covered his head and positioned him on the scale. “One-eighty-nine. Gotta love the athletes. He’ll go for a lot.”

Gray gnashed his teeth together.

This isn’t real, this isn’t real.

He wasn’t going to be sold. It seemed as impossible now as it had the first time he’d been told of his fate. That shit didn’t happen, not in America.

Bob claimed otherwise. Men without faces and names had come and gone in the weeks Gray had been God knows where, except for one man. He had a craggy face and crooked teeth, and on the eighth day in a shitty little house with faded wallpaper, he’d strolled into what was left of Gray’s life, grinned widely, and said, “Call me Bob.”

Bob made Gray’s life a living hell.

Another man grunted. “The fit ones also escape easier. Measurements next.”

Every digit imaginable was jotted down. From Gray’s six feet in height to…Jesus Christ, the length of his flaccid cock. Bob and who Gray assumed was a physician spoke as if they were the only people in the room.

“Tattoos or scars?” Doc asked. “Eye color, hair color… Anything that stands out?”

Bob ripped off the burlap sack, and Gray blinked at the harsh light. His eyes burned and watered rapidly. A blurry face obstructed his view, and there was a painful grip on his jaw.

“Light brown hair. Blue eyes, I guess. No scars—wait.” He gripped Gray’s bicep next. “Four-inch scar across his neck, several fainter ones on his torso. No ink, no piercings, handful of smaller birthmarks on his back and chest.”

Doc hummed and walked closer. Gray’s eyes wouldn’t fucking stop running; he hadn’t seen daylight—artificial or otherwise—for more than a few seconds at a time in weeks. Ever since he’d been moved from the house.

Doc poked a pen at the scars along Gray’s ribcage. “What sport, boy?” This guy had a Southern accent. He was old, bald, and short.

“Fuck you,” Gray gritted out.

That earned him a bitch slap that sent his head sideways. The pain didn’t even register.

Bob laughed under his breath.

“Hockey,” Gray muttered at Doc’s impatient look. Then he wrenched his gaze away and took in the dank office.

There was an old newspaper sticking up from the trash can, but he couldn’t see if it was local or anything.

“Violent sport,” Doc tsked. “How old are you?”

“Twenty.” Blinking past the stinging, Gray continued to search the office for clues. He spotted a calendar on the wall that made him sick. November. “Twenty-one.”

He’d missed his birthday. He’d also been gone for over two months.

Doc narrowed his eyes.

“It’s true,” Bob said. “He’s twenty-one.”

Gray was stuck on the month. November, November, November. He’d suspected they were no longer in Washington—or even Oregon—and now he knew it for certain. The weather outside was too warm for November.

He couldn’t imagine how his mom was faring.

Every time he thought of his family, the grief nearly did him in. It spread like fire through his veins, making it hard for him to breathe.

“Has he tried to escape?” Doc asked.

“Three times,” Bob grunted in reply.

Doc wasn’t happy about that, and he asked his next question while making another note. “Did he ever get close?”

Once. Gray swallowed bile. It was when two men had escorted him from that house he’d spent the first two weeks in… Gray had gotten loose from his restraints and tried to run.

Bob had caught up with him, and later that night, he’d made Gray regret he was alive.

*

“Hello?”

Gray shut his eyes and stopped moving around inside the wooden box. He couldn’t stretch out his legs, and the top of his head touched the ceiling. Rolling his shoulders and twisting his body was often all he could do to stop the numbness from growing too painful.

He wasn’t alone in the back of the truck. Judging by the sounds and the voices sometimes reaching out, he guessed there were around nine of them right now. All men. Or boys… Always leaving one storage unit or garage bay to go to another.

“Try to get some sleep,” Gray croaked.

“You never answer,” the boy whispered. “I’m scared.”

Gray scrubbed tiredly at his face, ashamed because he did, in fact, avoid talking to anyone. It made the guys real. Some of them sounded so fucking young, and Gray was scared out of his mind too. He couldn’t be strong for others who might need him to.

“I know.” His head hit the side of the large crate, and he blinked. Sometimes, there were slivers of light he could follow. Nothing now, though. Everything was pitch black.

A thin film of slime covered parts of the crates. Bodily fluids and mildew.

The boy coughed softly. “Are you maybe from Camassia Cove in Washington?”

Gray frowned. “Why?”

“I heard a guard mention it at the last place,” he revealed. “I’m from there too.”

Gray released a breath. “When were you taken?” Was this the kid who’d gone missing at the beginning of the year?

“I don’t know, a few weeks ago.”

Oh. So, after Gray had been kidnapped.

He didn’t wanna think about it—or anything that involved their home. It was too painful and brought forth too many memories. He missed his family so fucking much. Gage, his big brother. Gabriel and Gid, his younger twin brothers. And Mom and Isla and his stepdad and…everyone. Friends—especially Abel. Craig. Fuck, his chest hurt. Wounded feelings from before mingled with love, combined with the increasing aches and the horror of being abducted. Jesus Christ, literally abducted. These things happened on the news! Or in movies.

“My name is Milo,” the boy said nervously.

Gray scrubbed at his face, the rope around his wrists cinching tighter. Now the boy had a name. It changed things.

“Does anyone know where we are?” another guy asked.

Fuck no. Gray snapped his mouth shut. He’d been through this before. Shortly after he was taken, he’d been in a truck with four others. They’d established names and birthplaces, all trying to piece details together. Then everyone was taken away, maybe in a different truck going someplace else or…fuck if Gray knew. The next time, there’d been a couple girls too.

He loathed thinking about what happened to them when they were suddenly shipped like cattle to another destination. It made him wonder how big this whole thing was. Could he call it a network? Organized slavery? Human trafficking. The term hit him like a bolt, and it wrenched a pained breath from him.

Trafficking was invisible, yet, somehow, always a word on politicians’ lips. Sometimes, Gray would hear about it on the news, trafficking rings being exposed and blown up, but it was a crime so heinous it was impossible to grasp. Like anyone else, he’d think how horrible trafficking was. When leaders rallied before elections, saying they had to fight the drug trade and human trafficking, everyone went hell yeah. Because who wouldn’t? No one stood up and said the war on drugs wasn’t important.

As Gray listened to the guys making wary introductions, it terrified him to think how big this could be. He envisioned a dark map lighting up with a neon grid that grew denser and more heavily trafficked, and no one knew. The men and women passing the truck he was in had no clue. Like him, they’d seen news segments. Young girls, often. Always far away. Not in the truck next to them. To them, the grid remained invisible.

How many locations had he been taken to? Twelve? Thirteen? During overnight stays, he was locked in his crate. He could only hear the nightmares of others.

*

Gray was jostled awake. At the first assault of a simple flashlight, he hissed and cowered away in a corner. Welcome to another night of terror. Knees pulled up, tied hands covering his face. Light burned. The familiar smell of piss and vomit mingled with salt… That sparked something, and he took a tentative whiff. Ocean. He could smell the ocean. Or was he imagining it?

“Wake up!” It was the driver, and soon, more light filled the truck. Bearable light, Gray guessed, in comparison to the sun. He wasn’t sure he could live through a sunrise at this point. His eyes only knew the flickering lights of garage bays and the sharp, white beams from flashlights. “Crate four and six,” the driver told someone. “Food for the others.”

Two crates were lifted off the truck, and Gray prayed he could forget the heartbreaking sound of young men begging for their lives.

How many weeks had passed now?

Packets of rice and steamed vegetables were shoved in between the cracks of the crates—the same every night. Then they’d be back on the road for a few hours, only to make a final stop before a new day began. At that stop, they’d be hauled out of their boxes and hosed down. If anyone got mouthy, which Gray had learned the hard way, their one and only bathroom visit was taken away, and they got to experience waterboarding.

He flinched at a certain memory but managed to shove it aside.

“On your feet, slave.”

Gray shuddered violently as someone guided him roughly out of the truck. There was a bag over his head again. The telltale beep to alert that the lift gate was in use, the low murmur of voices around, boys wondering what was going on, the lift gate lowering with him on it—Gray could anticipate all of it.

He stood stock-still on the concrete ground and waited for the water. Every shuffle and noise registered, and then it hit him. The blast of cold water. He sucked in a breath and squeezed his eyes shut harder. One boy cried out. If the low-life scum were feeling extra sadistic, the first attack of the hose would hit the boys right in the face. Not even the burlap could shield them from the force of the frigid water.

They were deemed clean when teeth were chattering and their bodies shaking.

A quick bathroom break entailed being shoved into a porta-potty where the men got two minutes at best to relieve themselves. It was the only time their wrists weren’t shackled or bound. After which, they stumbled out and felt a gun pressing to their heads.

Gray was beginning to take comfort from the burlap sack. He didn’t wanna see the hell he lived through.

Soon enough, he was shoved back into his crate, another night drawing to a close.

*

Like the doctor’s exam, a rare night here and there stood out. Tonight, Gray and the other young men were shuffled out of the truck and into another garage bay, bags thrown over their heads, but there was no hose waiting for them, nor had they been fed yet. Instead, they were all ordered on their knees with their heads bowed.

Panic seized Gray’s chest. Is this it? Have they gone through all this to give me a bullet in the head? Just like that, his rational side kicked in. There wasn’t a chance in hell they were gonna kill him after everything. He’d been manhandled by countless men throughout this time, and they probably didn’t do it for free. An operation like this had to be costly.

“Please don’t kill me,” one guy sobbed.

He was new.

“Disappointingly little money in selling corpses,” a man said impassively. “Start with him, Gregor.”

Gray’s ears prickled. He strained to be alert, refusing to let the fatigue get the best of him. Boots scraped the cement. Wherever they stopped, it wasn’t near Gray. This time.

“This the final eight for Joulter?” someone asked in a gravelly voice.

“Yes. We’ll get the other six tomorrow.”

The next thing that registered was a low, jagged buzz. The first words that flew into Gray’s head were tattoo gun. Confirmed by a boy whimpering in pain and a motherfucker telling him to be still. Gray tensed up and steeled himself. They’re gonna mark me. They’re gonna put a mark on me. Milo was next, and Gray listened to his shaky breaths as the boy tried to be brave. Each faint, choking sound was a stab in Gray’s chest.

“One of them was reserved, right?” It was the gravelly voice again.

“This one,” another replied, and it was followed by a pained sound. “He’s to be delivered with a chip already. Buyer ain’t takin’ any chances, I guess.”

Gray’s mind was quick to draw conclusions. Chip. GPS or something else that would track the kid. Making it almost impossible to escape. On the other hand, Gray and the other six wouldn’t be chipped. He would only need a small window. If he saw a chance to run, he would. Saw, being the ironic keyword. With a bag over his head, he didn’t see a whole lot.

A meaty hand clamped down on Gray’s neck through the scratchy fabric, and Gray clenched his jaw. This was it. He’d get some kind of mark—a permanent one. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t faze him more than the other abuse. He could survive a tattoo. Being kidnapped, maybe not.

The buzz grew louder, and the bag over Gray’s head was pushed up enough to expose the back of his neck. What followed was a trail of fire that pierced his skin. He broke out in a sweat, the pain reverberating in his skull and locking his jaw into place. He gnashed his teeth so hard he thought he was gonna crush them.

*

Something was different.

“Be quiet, Milo.” Gray spoke the words under his breath, too caught up in the outside world to try consoling Milo again. “Please. Something’s—” Shit, he didn’t even know what to say. As the truck turned, so did Gray. He twisted his upper body inside the crate, as if he could suddenly see through walls just because he was facing the right direction.

His neck strained, reminding him of the no doubt infected, two-day-old brand. Right now, he couldn’t bring himself to care. For the past hour or so, the truck had driven in a strange pattern. Bumpier roads, frequent turns. Hope was the last thing that died, Gray had read somewhere. And he couldn’t help but wonder if the sharp turns and detours meant that the driver was trying to shake someone. Someone following them, maybe.

After a while, the truck slowed down.

“Joulter cargo!” The voice of the driver was muffled through a wall but distinct nonetheless. Another voice replied, and this time, Gray couldn’t decipher the words. “No, the midnight departure with the queer boys.”

Gray’s back straightened and became rigid, and he hit his head on the ceiling of the crate. Queer boys. Oh fuck. “Milo.” He rushed out the silently crying boy’s name. “Are you gay?”

“I am,” someone else croaked.

“Me too.”

Milo sniffled. “Yeah?”

“Damn,” Gray whispered.

There was one guy Gray’s age—Cole—who’d traveled with them for maybe a week. He spoke up next. “Special requests from buyers.” His guess confirmed Gray’s fear. Every time they’d traveled with others, it’d been different legs of different journeys. Girls, boys, straight, gay; somehow, they were categorized, whether it was by sexuality, gender, body shape, or skin color.

Gray thought back on the glimpses of the guys he was with. Sexuality established: gay. All of them athletic and cut but not bulky. All on the young side. Gray and Cole were the eldest, if he wasn’t mistaken. We’re the fucking twinks. He glared at nothing, vaguely offended. He didn’t look like a stereotypical bottom boy, goddammit.

With a shake of his head, he thought further, mainly on how these people-harvesting criminals knew so much. They didn’t snatch victims at random, and Gray didn’t advertise his sexuality. Much. His friends knew and had zero problems; still, he was heavily involved in hockey, so he chose not to flaunt anything. He was also single—officially. Only one man would hopefully dispute that status. Regardless…no one would know he was gay unless they either knew him personally or…if they’d found his Facebook.

It sent chills down his spine to realize they’d been watching him.

It would explain how Bob had known his age. They’d fucking spied on Gray.

“We have to run,” he said quickly. Panic rose at the thought of not getting any more chances. “If we’ve reached the destination where they’ll try to sell us, we gotta try to escape—by any means necessary.”

“I’m in. We can’t afford to hesitate,” Cole said in his Southern accent. “Charlie, you can’t even try. They’ll know where you are.” That was the boy with a GPS chip embedded under his skin. “The rest of us—soon as we get a chance, we run.”

Gray nodded to himself. “Don’t wait for anyone. We have a bigger shot if one slips away and calls the police.”

It was an unstable agreement among Cole, Gray, and six boys who were so afraid that their every breath was shaky or thick with emotion.

If Gray had to choose between a life in captivity and death…

Light exploded around them as the door was opened, and Gray snuck closer to the boards. Blinking rapidly past the burn, he searched for clues and escape routes. He needed to be alert, because if that tiny window of opportunity appeared, he wasn’t gonna waste a millisecond.

His heart thundered in his chest as two men headed straight for his crate. Feet firmly planted on the floor, knees pulled up, he summoned all his strength. Which wasn’t much, but he had the element of surprise, and he could shoot up quickly in this position.

When he spotted one of the men gripping a shotgun tightly, his heart plummeted, though he remained determined. Childhood memories flashed by, and he swallowed hard. Life wasn’t supposed to end here. Not like this. It wasn’t fucking fair.

“Rise and shine, fuckboy.” A guard turned the key in the three locks that held the crate shut, then lifted the lid just enough to shove in the barrel of a shotgun. Opening the lid farther, the guard flashed a wide smirk. A scar slashed across his cheek and created a deep crease whenever his mouth twisted. “Turn around.”

“Why the fuck would I?” Gray spat out. Rage engulfed him, and he balled his hands into fists. His lungs squeezed.

He chuckled. “I think you’re smart enough to know we won’t kill you, but there are other ways to use a shotgun. Would you like it shoved up your ass?”

Gray swallowed, and against everything he wanted, he shuffled around inside the crate so he had his back to them. This wasn’t how he was gonna find his escape.

“See? Obedient already. Your owner will like you.” Next, there was a hand on his neck, and then a sharp sting. Gray’s eyes widened. It dawned on him as quickly as the sedative kicked in. They were putting him down like a goddamn dog in order to move…him…

“Fucking…bastards,” Gray groaned. The hatred blazed inside of him, even as his limbs grew heavy and his mind sluggish.