"What do you think?"
"I think," Mike Shane said, as he slowly took in the view before him, "that I must have done something really bad in a previous life." Another sweep of the chaos visible through the glass partition separating the computer crimes task force from the hallway, proved his first analysis of the situation to be correct. "I'm in hell."
Alasdair Grant chuckled. Mike gave him a dirty look out of the corner of his eye, but that just made the other man laugh all the more.
"I'm not sure what I'm dreading more," Mike muttered. "Being surrounded by computers all day, or having to deal with all the damn computer geeks!"
"Hey, we're not all bad!"
Mike looked over his shoulder. Leather. That first detail hit him so hard, it was several seconds before any other facts about the man leaning against the wall a few yards down the corridor registered in his mind.
The guy had to be wearing the tightest pair of leather trousers ever created. He must have melted himself down and bloody well poured himself into them. They clung to him like a first skin, but whatever effort it had taken to squirm and wriggle them on that morning, it had definitely been worth it.
Very slowly, Mike dragged his eyes up the other man's body, over a tight black vest and brightly tattooed arms, until he reached the bluest pair of eyes he'd ever seen--eyes that, for some reason beyond his comprehension, someone had framed by heavy black lines.
Mike frowned. He pulled back his focus. Other features registered. Spiky black hair. An over abundance of silver jewelry hanging from more piercings than any person should be allowed to inflict on themselves. A heavy silver chain encircled his neck, fastened in place by a padlock. A pair of smiling lips, complete with what looked suspiciously like black tinted lipstick, finished off the look.
Mike's frown deepened. "What the hell--?"
The goth stepped forward and closed the gap between them, only to completely ignore Mike in favor of extending his hand towards Alasdair. He had tattoos across his knuckles too. Those on his right hand spelt out l-o-s-t.
"It's great to see you again," the boy said.
"Hi Carl," Alasdair said, with a nod.
Mike looked from the perfectly sane looking police officer standing to one side of him, to the vampire wannabe on the other, then back again. "You know him?"
Alasdair grinned. "Mike Shane, meet Carl Rawlings."
Mike looked the other man up and down once more before focusing in on his face. He had the Rawlings build, strong and broad shouldered. If someone took the trouble to peer past the window dressing, perhaps there was some sort of facial family resemblance to all the other Rawlings men he knew, too. "You're a cop?" he demanded incredulously.
Carl's lips twisted into a smile. A hint of perfect white teeth appeared between the black lips. His eyes danced with humor. "What's wrong, Mike? Never met a computer geek before?"
Carl stepped past him, showing off just how fantastic his arse looked encased in those trousers. Halfway down the corridor, he stopped and looked over his shoulder. He winked before disappearing into a side room. Mike stared after him, half in bemusement, half in something approaching horror. Suddenly he felt very, very old.
The guy couldn't have been more than twenty-five at the most. That gave Mike a good twenty year head start on him. And he was dressed up like he was heading for a costume party. And the Rawlings guys had always struck him as being far more trouble than any man could ever be worth. And it was guys like Carl who gave men who wore leather a bad name and...
And Mike's cock didn't give a damn about any of that.
He continued to glare down the corridor after the guy.
And the silver chain that had been hanging around Carl's neck could well be a collar. Even if Mike's cock didn't care about that, the rest of him bloody well did.
"Earth to Mike Shane. Are you receiving?"
Suddenly, his view along the hallway was rudely interrupted by Alasdair's hand waving up and down in front of his face.
Mike spun around the face him. "What?"
"We're up," Alasdair said, nodding toward the office door at the other end of the corridor.
Mike's frown deepened as brain cells fired back into life. Office. Assignments. Bloody annoying order to work with the computer crimes task force. "Yeah, right," he muttered.
Following Alasdair into the office of the chief inspector in charge of the unit, Mike sat down in one of the seats facing the desk and dutifully looked as if he was paying attention. Meanwhile, his mind replayed every moment he'd spent with Carl Rawlings in the corridor.
It really had looked like a collar, but it was never possible to tell what was what with the gothic ones. It was all fashion and no substance with them. Any real dominant would have to be a fool to get involved with a boy like that. And Carl was little more than a boy in the non-kinky sense of the word too.
Mike held back a sigh as the chief inspector droned on about modern policing and the wonderful technological innovations that were going to drag the force kicking and screaming into the new decade. Mike had no intention of being dragged anywhere. If anyone was stupid enough to try to do it, they were going to quickly find out that he wasn't the type to kick and scream. No, as far as he was concerned, dirty tactics and an elbow where it hurt most would be much more appropriate in that particular situation.
Alasdair and the inspector both stood up. Mike did the same. When the inspector held out a hand, Mike shook it. When Alasdair walked out of the office, Mike followed.
"Did you listen to a word he said?" Alasdair asked.
Mike held back a sigh. "Want to give me the highlights?"
Alasdair's smile turned into a grin. "You've got Carl."
"You're going to be working with Carl Rawlings for the rest of the day," Alasdair said. "Apparently, since we're down here anyway, he's going to show us the ropes and get us up to date on all the new software he's developed for..." He trailed off as Mike let out a string of curses only to speak up again when Mike ran out of breath. "If you're very nice to him he might show you all his piercings and get you up to date on his latest tattoos as well."
Mike glared at him.
Alasdair had really come out of his shell since he started dating Harland Rawlings. Right then, Mike was pretty sure he preferred Alasdair in his shell.
"He's in the third office on the left," the other man informed him, humor still dancing in his voice.
"What about you?" Mike demanded.
"I get that particular pleasure later in the week. He's all yours today."
"Thanks," Mike muttered, turning on his heel.
"And Mike?" Alasdair called after him.
Mike turned and glared back along the corridor. "What?"
Not able to think of any answer that was either polite or which would be able to conceal how grateful at least part of him was to receive that particular bit of information, Mike said nothing as he pushed open the third door on his left and stormed inside.
Mike had barely gone two paces before he had to stop short. It was either that or stride straight into Carl. Big blue eyes blinked up at him as they opened very wide with shock but, even as Mike watched, the expression in them became more and more amused.
"Careful, sergeant. The room's really not designed for stomping about in."
Mike dragged his attention away from the other man's eyes and looked around the...office seemed to be too big a word for it.
"What is this, a bloody broom cupboard?" Mike demanded.
"It's not much, but its home," Carl said with a lopsided little smile. He wasn't stepping back. Hell, there wasn't actually room for him to step back without crashing into one of the dozens of pieces of computer equipment that had been crammed in there.
"We're both supposed to work in here?" Mike said, not quite able to conceal his dismay.
Carl chuckled. "I don't mind being cozy if you don't."
"Well, I bloody well do!" Mike snapped.
Carl shrugged. "Suit yourself. But being pissy about it won't actually make the room any bigger." He retreated half a step and sat down in a luxurious high backed office chair. Spinning it around, he turned his attention to one of the computer screens as if Mike wasn't even there. The little brat!
Mike slammed the door and glared around the cramped little space. There was only one other chair in there--a clapped out little thing that looked like it might well break if anyone Mike's size were to try to sit on it.
"I don't do intimidated."
Mike frowned at the spikes of black hair just visible over the back of Carl's chair. "What?"
"If you think looming around like that is going to make me feel intimidated, don't bother. You're really not that scary, and you're sure as hell not getting my chair. You can stay standing for all I care."
Mike absentmindedly cracked his knuckles as he lowered himself cautiously into the other chair. He wasn't going to rise to the bait. He wasn't going to stoop to the other man's level either. Folding his arms across his chest he leaned back in the chair and silently counted to ten, then to twenty. He'd almost reached fifty and hadn't succeeded in reigning in his annoyance in the slightest by the time Carl spoke.
"So, exactly how much of a Neanderthal are you?"
Mike glowered at him.
Carl grinned back. A little flash of metal in his mouth hinted that there was a piercing through his tongue. It was damn near impossible for Mike not to wonder where else he might be pierced, or how that particular piercing might feel against his cock.
"Come on, you can tell me," the younger man coaxed, as he leaned forward in his chair. "Have you ever done anything more complicated than play solitaire on a computer, or should I be starting all the way back with how to switch the scary machine on?"
"You can start," Mike said, unconsciously echoing his pose and bringing their faces within an inch of touching. "By learning some damn manners."
Carl wrinkled his nose. "That doesn't sound like much fun. Any other ideas about what we could do to pass the time?" He leaned forward another fraction. The silver chain around his neck caught the light as it swayed away from his skin.
Mike tensed, but he didn't pull away. "Don't you need someone's permission before you start making offers like that?" he snapped.
Carl blinked at him. "I don't think the chief inspector really needs to know what we get up to on our coffee breaks."
Mike's fingers caught hold of the silver chain. Twisting it, he tightened the links around Carl's throat and pulled the boy to the edge of his seat. "Don't play games with me. I don't have the patience for any of that bull. In the world I come from, a mark like this means something. Do you have a master or not?"
Carl's eyes opened very wide, showing off his eyeliner to perfection.
Mike's knuckles were pressed tightly against the boy's wind pipe. He felt the movement of the younger man's Adam's apple as Carl swallowed. Still, he had to give the guy credit. Carl held his ground well, all things considered.
"I know what it means to some guys," Carl said. "But to me, it's just a bit of silver jewelry."
Mike let go of the chain and wiped his hands on his trousers, as if it had become something dirty the moment those words hit the air.
"Although, I haven't ruled out that it could be more than a necklace at some point," Carl mentioned casually, as he leaned back in his chair.
Mike's eyes snapped up. Their gazes met. "What?"
"It just so happens that I've been doing some online research about the whole leather thing. Seems like it could be fun..."
Mike sat back in his own chair, putting enough distance between them so that he was able to run his eyes up and down the other man's entire body. The boy was stunning, and he obviously knew it. But that didn't change certain facts. "You'd be laughed out of any serious leather club in the city if you turned up dressed like that." He didn't bother to mention any of the things that all the guys in the club would want to do to him before they threw him out. It wasn't as if the boy was ever going to actually turn up on the doorstep of one anyway.
Carl didn't blush. He didn't squirm in his seat like a nervous little kid. He laughed.
Mike's frown deepened.
"I'm not talking about some stupid club," Carl said. "I'm talking about here and now. Anyone with a brain could learn how to use the program I'm supposed to be teaching you about in half an hour and we've got the whole day. That gives us a hell of a lot of free time. So, I'll ask again. Any ideas on how we could pass the time?"