Because he’s celebrating his 27th birthday today, I thought I’d use this month’s Slice of Life to introduce you to Mateo Reyes. You met him in Talk Dirty to Me where I set the groundwork for his relationship with Carlos—a man twice his age, who was once married to a woman, and who is the President of a rival motorcycle club. Seems like a lot of angst, but I have faith in these two.
Taking the Top will pick up a year after Talk Dirty to Me. While I’ll bring attention to pivotal events that happened in those missing twelve months, one such encounter between Mateo and Carlos will give you some insight into why I had to put these two men together.
Enjoy and look for Taking the Top (hopefully by the beginning of March).
Mateo openly watched Carlos pace the confines of the small office he maintained at the Devils Pride clubhouse. They’d spent the last hour together going over his latest intel which, while extensive, was still missing a vital piece of the puzzle. Junior. He’d gone completely off the grid, taking his secrets with him, and they were in a race against law enforcement to find him first. Despite his father’s insistence that Junior should be theirs, Mateo was more pissed that he hadn’t been able to deliver him to Carlos.
Collaborating with Carlos was unlike the working arrangements he had with his father or the feds. They had high expectations of his skills, but little regard for him as a person. Often, he felt more like a robot that took instruction, completed tasks, and returned useful data—nothing more. Carlos always treated him like a person first, was always asking personal questions and acting like he cared about the answer. Was it any wonder that Mateo couldn’t stop thinking about him?
It was uncomfortable to admit, but Mateo finally realized that he wanted to make Carlos proud. The man was always appreciative of his efforts, no matter how much or how little his surveillance netted, and that unfamiliar positive reinforcement had bred a need in Mateo for more. For him, it wasn’t so much the data he was bringing as the response he was getting, and that made him strive to do his very best. It also made his failures that much harder to swallow.
“What’s wrong?” Carlos stopped in front of him, gaze focused and intent, as if he could somehow see the answer.
“Nothing. Why?” Mateo tilted his head back, trying to make sense of the question.
“You’ve stopped undressing me with your eyes and started glaring. What are you thinking right now?”
That insight continued to leave him speechless. Until Carlos, Mateo had masks he wore that rarely matched the feelings underneath. Those carefully constructed facades prevented anyone from gaining insight that might be used against him and their reactions to what they believed he was thinking or feeling spoke more about them than they did about him.
From their very first encounter, Carlos saw beneath the image he was projecting and Mateo didn’t know how. It should have set off all his warning bells, but Mateo was too busy enjoying being seen…really, truly, seen that he couldn’t hear them. And Carlos didn’t just see into him, he worried about him. They may be tiptoeing around the attraction, they might pretend they were only meeting to discuss the mission, but every time Carlos expressed concern for him, Mateo felt himself falling just a little more.
“I was…uh…thinking about Junior.” It wasn’t a lie, just a more comfortable truth. “I should have found him by now.”
Carlos grabbed the arms of the chair Mateo was sitting in and leaned toward him. Close but not enough to justify an accidental grope or kiss or blow job or… “He’s gotten lucky, but he hasn’t gotten the better of you and he won’t. You’re too smart and too skilled. I know it, Junior knows it, and the morons hiding him know it. When the time comes, they won’t risk going up against you directly to save his sorry ass.”
“You think his allies are gonna give him up because they’re afraid of me?” If so, why wait? Every day that passed without his prize only gave him more time to invent new ways to hurt the ones protecting him.
“All the while begging and pleading for their lives. Possibly even pissing themselves. You’re a formidable opponent, Mattie.” Damned if Carlos didn’t look all affectionate when he said that, like he found Mateo’s murderous tendencies attractive or something. “I wouldn’t want you as an enemy.”
A shiver of fear raced down his spine and Mateo grabbed Carlos’s face with both hands. The scratch of beard against his palms was normally enough to derail his thinking, but not this time. “Don’t ever say that again. Not aloud, not in your head, not where anyone can hear you.”
With those dark eyes focused on his, Carlos grabbed his wrists and held his hands in place. “Tell me what you’re afraid of.”
“Nothing.” He didn’t do fear. At least, he refused to ever show it and he hated Carlos for seeing it. Almost as much as much as he loved his ability to do so.
The soft sigh was disappointment in his lie, whether Carlos said it or not. “Okay, then I’ll tell you. You think at some point Cesar is going turn on me and use you to do it. Maybe he’s already told you that when the mission’s complete, that I need to go.”
“Carlos—” He couldn’t admit that, not with words or thoughts or anything. Not without being sick.
“Shh. It’s okay, cub.” Warm lips pressed to his—the comfort and care in the gesture beyond his comprehension. “I know your father well, but I know you better. You’ll never be my enemy.”
“How can you be so sure?” He wasn’t even a hundred percent sure of what he’d do. Of what he was programmed to do.
The second kiss blew right past comfort in its effort to convey Carlos’s belief in him. It wasn’t even about the physical attraction, though the lust burned bright and hot as always. This kiss said that Carlos understood the constant fight within him. It made promises to help him win the battle and damned if he didn’t feel the trust Carlos had that he would do the right thing.
“Do you understand?” Carlos asked, his voice low with want and urgency.
Mateo touched his kiss swollen lips and nodded. If Carlos was going to put that much faith in him, he’d work as hard as he could to be worthy of it. “You kissed me.”
When Carlos grinned at him, the tilt of his lips behind his beard giving him a bit of a rakish quality, Mateo was done for. “I like kissing you, cub.”
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