Zak. Tattoo artist. Independent. Doesn’t do relationships.
Stitch. Outlaw biker. Deep in the closet. Doesn’t share his property.
On the day of Stitch’s divorce, lust personified enters the biker bar he’s celebrating at. Tattooed all over, pierced, confident, and hot as hellfire, Zak is the bone Stitch has waited for life to throw him. All Stitch wants is a sniff, a taste, a lick. What follows instead is gluttony of the most carnal sort, and nothing will ever be the same. Forced to hide his new love affair from the whole world, Stitch juggles family, club life, and crime, but it’s only a matter of time until it becomes too hard.
Zak moves to Lake Valley in search of peace and quiet, but when he puts his hand into the jaws of a Hound of Valhalla, life gets all but simple. In order to be with Stitch, Zak’s biker wet dream, he has to crawl right back into the closet. As heated as the relationship is, the secrets, the hiding, the violence, jealousy, and conservative attitudes in the town rub Zak in all the wrong ways. When pretending he doesn’t know what his man does becomes impossible, Zak needs to decide if life with an outlaw biker is really what he wants.
As club life and the love affair collide, all that’s left in Zak and Stitch’s life is mayhem.
WARNING Contains adult content: a gritty storyline, sex, explicit language, violence and torture.
Themes: Outlaw Motorcycle Club, organized crime, homophobia, family issues, coming out, first gay relationship, tattoo, piercing
Genre: contemporary homoerotic dark romance
Length: ~ 100,000 words (Standalone novel, no cliffhanger.)
Stitch downed his third beer of the day and slammed the glass on top of his divorce papers.
“Another?” asked his best friend, Captain, and Stitch squinted at him. He could never be sure whether Captain was winking at him or just blinking. The perils of only having one eye. It didn’t stop Captain from driving a bike like a madman or being the VP of the club.
“Go on, I earned it,” Stitch rasped and leaned his elbows on the greasy counter. He could feel at home in the Hounds of Valhalla club bar. If worse came to worst, he could always fall asleep in one of the guest rooms in the back and not have to face going home. The Louisiana heat was getting to him today so he wore his cut over naked skin, but in hindsight it hadn’t been such a great idea, since now the leather was sticking to his back.
It was a busy Friday night, and the bar was full. Most of the patrons were local so Stitch knew them one way or another, with a few outsiders sprinkled all over the large room. During public parties like this one, Valhalla catered to everyone, from old friends, gathered in comfortable booths, to the crowd that spent their time at the counter, to the drunken dancers by the pool table. It was more crass than class, but to Stitch it felt like home, from the beat-up counter to the small room in the back where Stitch had fucked a girl for the first time. Good times.
Captain poured Stitch some whiskey and grinned, rubbing down his black beard into a more sensible shape. “One down, brother. You’ll find yourself a better woman.”
“Of course I will. Not a cheating slut like Crystal.” Stitch sipped his liquor with a frown.
“You fancy any of the pussy by the pool table?” Captain gestured toward the ever-present crowd of hangarounds in sparse clothing. The pool table was off limits on Fridays, unless you were a member of the Hounds of Valhalla. Or a hot bitch.
Stitch followed his friend’s nod (to keep up appearances), but he looked right past the girls. He was not dipping his dick in that lot again. Not to mention that none of the girls were even his type. Most of the ones that were in today were cute blondes, like they got the wrong bar or something. That was what drew him to Crystal in the first place, she was all tats and rock ‘n’ roll.
“Nah, I’ll pass.” Stitch downed his whiskey and tried to pretend he didn’t see any of the direct looks from the pool table. The sudden spike in interest could only mean one thing: they all knew he was back on the market. “Where’s the rum, Captain?” he said, but his mouth remained open when someone new walked into the bar and stopped at the door, looking around as if he had lost his way. The dimmed, blue light made all the tattoos on the stranger’s arms pop out immediately, and while Stitch couldn’t see what the patterns were, the ink was dense, mostly black and white.
The man was tall enough to stand out in the crowd, slim but toned. He walked through the bar with a self-assured sway, looking like a character from a futuristic movie. Stitch didn’t know where that comparison came from because the guy wore a simple outfit consisting of narrow pants stuck into knee-length combat boots, and a tank top, but he did look like an outsider in the old-school biker bar. His hair was pitch-black, with shaved sides and the long strands at the top of his head gathered into a ponytail. There was a sly smile tugging at the corners of his lips as he approached Stitch of all people.
A silly grin surfaced onto Stitch’s face like a dead body floating in the bayou. That would be his choice of ‘pussy’ if he could have his way. He knew it wasn’t gonna happen, yet he still straightened up on the bar stool far too small to properly hold his bulky body and turned to the stranger. The man was first to speak, but he looked past Stitch as if he were made of glass.
“Hi, how are you doing?” he asked in a rich, velvety voice, reaching out to shake the hand of Joe, one of the Hounds of Valhalla’s prospects, currently serving at the bar. He had short, blond hair and a small gap between his front teeth. Stitch always saw him as a younger brother he never had.
Joe smiled at the tattooed man and shook his hand. “What can I get you?”
Stitch never took his eyes off the stranger, now even more set on getting his attention. The newcomer had large, expressive eyes the color of a cloudless summer sky and a heavy brow line over a firm, straight nose and pale, wide lips. It was a handsome face, yet it somehow made Stitch think of a malevolent spirit, which could be due to the piercings on his face. There were two balls on either side of his nose between the eyes, a small ring with a purple ball in his septum, and then a piercing in his left brow, and a round metal hoop circling the mid-point of his bottom lip. In contrast to the moderate size of those were thick spirals plugged into the flesh of the man’s earlobes, stretching them over their normal capacity.
“A beer would be nice,” said the stranger with a grin. “Listen, I’m new in town. Do you think it needs its own tattoo studio?”
A drop of sweat trailed down Stitch’s spine and into the back of his pants like an invisible hand.
“Get the man a beer, Prospect.” Stitch waved a hand at Joe, never taking his eyes off the hot, tattooed flesh. There were so many designs on the stranger’s skin that Stitch wasn’t sure which ones to focus on. “You should ask someone who’s actually inked, not baby boy Joe.”
“Oh yeah?” The stranger’s blue eyes were on him immediately, but they soon trailed lower, and Stitch felt heat rise in his chest under the skull and fire tattoos the guy was looking at. “And I suppose that would be you?”
“Yeah, I know a lot of guys who’d like to visit a good ink pusher. And I suppose that would be you?” Stitch smirked and couldn’t help but flex his stomach muscles.
The guy gave him a crooked smile, still looking down at Stitch’s chest, but then raised his gaze and offered his hand. “I’m Zak.”
“Stitch.” He shook Zak’s hand with a smile, making sure not to hold it too long. Joe put a beer on the counter, and Captain passed Stitch a glass of rum that smelled like catnip for pirates.
“Oh, I know a tattoo Stitch needs to cover up!” Captain chuckled. Stitch frowned, knowing exactly what his friend meant and imagining ways in which he could scalp Captain’s black, furry head for mentioning the unmentionable.
Zak raised his brows and gathered the bottle in his hand, tapping it with a whole array of heavy signets. “Confess.”
Stitch had some rum and poked Captain’s ribs so hard the guy yelped. “Okay, okay. Prospect, out,” he ordered Joe, and the guy walked to the other side of the bar to bother other customers. Stitch got up from the stool and stole a second of breaking into Zak’s personal space before circling the bar and gesturing for Zak to follow. It was good to have free access, it made him almost feel as if he were the sole owner of the whole place. “I got divorced today, you see. So I need to get rid of a love crime.”
“Sounds interesting.” Zak marched behind him, and Stitch noticed that the handsome newcomer was even a bit taller than him. As soon as they disappeared behind the counter, the man leaned in, flooding Stitch with the smell of a musky, fresh cologne. “Is it on your dick?”
Stitch snorted and winked at Captain. “Nah, almost.” Stitch opened the big skull buckle on his belt and went on to unzip his jeans. He was trying not to get too excited and not being alone with the guy was helping him keep his cool. This was probably as close as his dick would come to Zak anyway.
“So, what do you want to get?” asked Zak, loud enough for Stitch to hear his voice through the noise.
“I haven’t thought it through yet.” Stitch pulled his pants down low enough to expose the ink on the inner side of his hip, next to his pubes. He took out his cell phone and turned the screen on to illuminate the tat for Zak, who unceremoniously scooted down. It brought him face to face with Stitch’s crotch, and made Stitch’s heart stop, even if for a brief moment.
“Yeah, that shouldn’t be a problem.”
Captain started laughing so hard that Stitch reached over the counter to smack the side of his head. “Shut it!”
“Sorry, man. It just looked like–”
“I know what it looked like,” Stitch growled and looked down to Zak. “Good. I’ll make an appointment then,” he tried to talk without slurring and pulled up his pants.
Zak got to his feet, unfazed by the mocking and produced a card, which he passed to Stitch. “Have a look at my portfolio first.”
“I will. But anything will be better than that fucking name on there. I’d rather have Captain’s face inked.” Stitch pointed at his friend with a scowl. A massive one eyed bastard with an eye patch, black beard, and a mess of hair. Yep, he’d still prefer that broken-nosed mug to Crystal’s name. Stitch buckled up his belt and walked out from behind the counter.
“A picture of devotion,” chuckled Zak, following him. “Are you somehow associated with this bar?”
“Pop quiz. What’s this place called?” Stitch plopped his ass back on the stool and took the glass of rum in hand.
Zak blinked. “Valhalla.”
Stitch turned around in the seat, to present the back of his cut. He was always proud to show it off. It had their patch with ‘Hounds of Valhalla’ over a dog’s head sticking out of the triangular Valknut symbol. A hound with more teeth than any animal should have in their jaw. “You could say we’re all… shareholders.” He took another sip of rum and clinked with Captain’s glass.
Zak crooked his head. “In that case, I guess my fate is in both of your hands, gentlemen,” he said with a widening grin. “Could I leave my leaflets, and a poster? I run the studio in my home.”
“Sure.” Stitch patted the counter. “Do I get a divorce discount?”
Zak chuckled and bit his lip, watching him with small wrinkles of humor appearing in the corners of his eyes. “If you promise to be my poster boy, I can do you for free.”
“Hear that, Stitch?” Captain snorted his rum. “You’re such a catch, he’ll do you for free.”
Heat travelled up Stitch’s chest and he avoided those big blue eyes. “Shut it, Cap, unless you wanna lose your teeth. It’s my night tonight, remember?” he snarled at Captain. The last thing he wanted was for Zak to get some stupid ideas. “If it’s free, I’ll come round on Sunday. You better not be shit though.” Stitch finally looked back up at Zak, but he found no trace of intimidation in the handsome face.
“I’m not,” Zak said, relaxed as ever.
“We’ll see about that. Go on, leave the leaflets.” Stitch was looking forward to seeing Zak walk out, just so he could ogle his ass in those tight pants.
Zak gave him a firm pat on the arm. “I’ll get them from the car.” He nodded at Captain and Joe, and turned around, beer in hand. It was a great ass. Round but slim, underneath the black denim it seemed as firm as a newly put on tire.
Stitch licked his lips, suddenly wishing he could do more than just watch that ass. “I wanna see his ride, be right back,” he said to Captain and was already the wolf following the black sheep.
Zak jumped off the porch like a gazelle and made his way across the lawn, which served as an impromptu parking lot. Stitch squeezed his hand into a fist, spotting a car he hadn’t seen in town before. He couldn’t be certain as it was dark, but it looked like a 1970s Chevy, matte black, with purple flames scorching on its sides. If Satan drove a car, this would be it.
The vehicle was so cool it even distracted Stitch from Zak’s ass. He strolled over to the car’s side and scooted to have a better look at the paintwork.
There was the sound of someone clearing his throat. “Can I help you?” asked Zak, and all of a sudden, his gaze burned Stitch’s back. He couldn’t help a smirk as he got up and turned around.
“Thanks. A friend did it for me. Birthday gift.” Zak leaned against the car, his slim body molding to the vehicle. With the streetlight close enough, Stitch could take a better look at the beautiful ink. There were people in goggles and fabric masks on one of Zak’s arms. They reminded Stitch of one of those medical horrors, where a character is being experimented on by mad surgeons, and the sight alone was enough to give him a little chill. On the other bicep was a whole array of pills and syringes floating around a man in a straitjacket who seemed to cower in a corner, but what really drew in Stitch’s attention was a sentence inked in bold letters over Zak’s collarbone.
He walked up closer and had a better look at it. “‘Don’t talk to strangers’,” he read it outloud and poked it. “You don’t follow your own advice.”
Zak chuckled and looked down to the finger at his neck. “I know. And that’s what I get. A big bad biker crouching next to my car.”
Stitch pulled back his finger. Too much touching. Yet the guy didn’t seem scared. “Is there a story behind it? A warning to yourself or to others?”
Zak shrugged, watching Stitch with a sly smile. “It’s something I heard a lot as a kid. And incidentally it’s also the title of the first chapter in my favorite book. All of my tattoos are inspired by it.”
“Oh yeah? What book is that?” Stitch stroked the back of the car in a way he wanted to move his hand over Zak’s inked skin.
“You heard of The Master and Margarita? It’s about demons throwing Stalin’s Moscow into chaos, and there is a romantic plot, between the Master and Margarita, obviously.” He sighed, moving his hand over the side of the car, toward where Stitch was keeping his.
Goose bumps broke out all over Stitch’s skin. He had no idea what book Zak was talking about or why would he be interested in a romance with demons in communist Moscow, but Zak could tell him it was a story about a horse shapeshifter in North Korea and it would be just as interesting. “So what do you like about it? And what happens when you talk to strangers?”
Zak relaxed even further against his car, and the more Stitch was looking at him, the more he liked his handsome, but somehow cocky face. “Well, it was a play on the fact that everyone felt watched and spied on at the time, but in the actual chapter, this guy meets a foreigner, who’s actually the devil. They talk, and the foreigner reveals that the Russian guy’s gonna die. It’s not atheist and rational, so the guy doesn’t believe Satan and then dies a page or so later. He slips on some oil, and a streetcar cuts his head off,” Zak said with a wide smile.
“And the moral is: don’t talk to strangers?” Stitch chuckled. “Nothing happens to the devil though?”
Zak stepped closer and poked his long finger against Stitch’s ribcage. “Duh, he’s the devil. He saves the Master.”
Stitch’s cock felt a surge of excitement at the touch so he backed off, pretending he wanted to have a better look at the hood of the car. “You not afraid to talk to a devil?” Stitch looked into Zak’s eyes.
“Nah, the devil’s fair. It’s the people around you who grasp you at the throat and don’t want you to overstep some preset boundaries. That’s what this book is about for me.”
“Sometimes the devil has boundaries as well…” Stitch cocked his head to the side, not sure anymore what this conversation was about and wondering whether maybe he should end it.
“Does he?” Zak’s teeth sank into his bottom lip, and he moved back to the trunk. “He’s the devil,” he said, opening the door.
Stitch played with his signets. “I suppose he should act any way he wants to then…”
Zak pulled out a block of fliers and shut the trunk, making his way to Stitch. “That would be my actual motto.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t talk to strangers then.” Stitch held out his hand, and Zak placed the papers on top of his outstretched palm.
“So far so good.” Zak smiled at him, and the silence became strangely long.
Stitch swallowed. “So… yeah, be good Zak, don’t talk to strangers.” He took the leaflets and turned around before the rum in his veins could push him to do something rash. Something was off and he couldn’t pinpoint it.
He walked straight into the bar without looking back, in case Zak would hold his gaze again in this chilling yet blood-warming way. Captain hadn’t moved a muscle since Stitch last saw him, but took the top leaflet as soon as Stitch placed the pile on the counter.
“So, how’s his ride?”
“Cool. It’s this repainted old Chevy.”
Captain looked at the leaflet, and then suddenly slapped Stitch’s arm. “I thought he was gonna go down on you back then.” He pointed behind the bar counter.
Stitch groaned. “Come on, the guy seems all right.” Yet he couldn’t shake the weird vibes he got from Zak.
“A bit of a weirdo though. What’s he doing in Lake Valley of all places?” Captain downed his liquor. “It might be different where he comes from, but he should be more careful, you know what I’m saying?” he asked, lowering his heavy eyelids.
Stitch took a deep breath. “Yeah. I can see he’s just clueless, but some people might not get his jokes.”
Captain emptied the small bottle of whiskey into his glass and tapped it with his thick fingers. He turned his head away, so Stitch found himself facing the eyepatch with the club symbol. “You heard what happened to a fag biker over in Edmonton? I have a friend in The Rippers.”
Stitch had to use all of his drunken self-control not to sneer. He didn’t wanna hear it. “What?”
Captain gave him a wide grin. “The guys wanted to teach him a lesson, and they overdid it a bit. After being dragged behind a bike, naked, any man would lose interest in riding. He’s got no skin on his ass now, that must be tough luck for a fag.”
“Yeah.” Stitch pushed away the empty glass and took the whole bottle of rum. This was not going to be him. He knew to keep it in his pants. He didn’t even feel all that gay anyway. “He knew what he was going into. Rippers don’t fuck around.”
“Yeah, fuck him. Better tell your new friend to behave when you visit him on Sunday. Some people won’t get his sense of humor.” Captain shrugged and sipped the whiskey with a self-satisfied smile.
Stitch snorted. “I’ll tell ‘im while he’s looking at my dick. He’s not from around here. Has to settle in.” He kept quiet for a while, just enjoying the jukebox music in the background and drinking his rum. “You know that Rippers guy? How did they find him out?”
Captain put the glass back on the counter. “This guy I know said somebody saw him fucking a guy in a shitter at a gas station. If you ask me, he had it coming.”
Stitch nodded and looked to the door when tattooed hunk Zak walked back in.
So off limits.
Jenni Lea (Boy Meets Boy Reviews) – 5 hearts
Tina (Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews) – 4.5 stars
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Leisa (Prism Book Alliance) – 4 stars
A Crazy Night Owl – 4 stars
Ellen (The Book Bellas) – 4.5 stars