Liam took his hand in his, pushing Nick’s thumb to hit the morphine drip again. He held on to him this time, as if he were offering comfort.
Nick glared at him. “How could you convince yourself I’d help you do anything?”
Liam glanced at the doorway. “Because I finally have leverage over you.”
Nick’s eyes darted toward the door.
“You and the Doc, yeah? Never saw that coming.”
“You hurt him and you’re a dead man. I’ll hunt you down and make you suffer, I promise you that.”
“I accept those terms. And . . . I am suitably intimidated by the violent declarations of an otherwise gentle man. The thing is, I’m going to need your help. The details are a bit fuzzy yet, but rest assured it is something you and only you can assist me in doing. And when the time comes, I’m going to need you to mobilize without questions and without your nasty habit of being morally opposed to . . . things.”
“You know. Stuff.”
Nick’s breathing was growing more labored, and it was harder to fight past the morphine to keep his eyes open. The only reason he was even still conscious was pure hatred.
Liam smiled kindly at him. “You help me on one simple task, and then you and the Doc sail off into the sunset together. You refuse, and I finish the job New Orleans started with that hole in Doc’s chest.”
Nick squeezed his eyes closed, gritting his teeth against the mere notion. He thought he might throw up.
“Do we have a deal?”
Nick shook his head.
“Say no to me, O’Flaherty, and I go downstairs right now and off him. He’s in the cafeteria sitting beside a window. Perfect head shot from across the street. Can you imagine Tyler’s face with the doc’s brains spattered all over it? I imagine he’d be quite devastated.”
Nick curled onto his side and covered his eyes with his hand. He hated himself for doing it, but he clutched at Liam’s hand harder as pain and grief wracked his body. “Okay,” he whispered.
“We have a deal?”
“None of them come to harm,” Nick said. He looked up at Liam, desperate. “I do whatever you want and you leave them all alone. Give me your word.”
Liam smiled fondly. “I always liked that about you, O’Flaherty. You were the one Sidewinder who actually meant it when you said, ‘I promise.’ You have my word. Do I have yours?”
Nick glared at him, the molten hatred threatening to burn right through his heart. He managed to get the word out anyway. “Yes.”
Liam smiled brilliantly and patted him on the cheek. “There’s my white knight. Now, surely I mustn’t remind you that anyone you tell about our little arrangement will come to a sticky end.”
Nick could do nothing but grit his teeth and glare up into Liam’s ice-blue eyes.
“I’ll be in touch. Speedy recovery and all that,” Liam drawled, smirking like it was some private joke. Then he pulled another syringe from his pocket and put Nick out of his misery.
Zane tossed his badge and keys on the counter and shoved the door shut behind him. The days at work seemed to be getting longer, the responsibilities weighing heavier. He wasn’t sure how much longer he had the will to stick this through. The only thing keeping him there was the very real threat that still hovered over everyone and everything he loved. He had one more battle to fight.
And then he was ready to sleep in with his lover, to curl up on a Sunday and watch football, to read a f**king book without wondering when he’d be called into work.
“Ty?” he tried. The house was still and quiet. The Mustang hadn’t been parked in the back, so Zane was pretty confident Ty wasn’t home. The disappointment was striking.
He shrugged out of his jacket and began thumbing through the stack of mail on the counter, but a small box sitting there caught his attention. He set the mail aside and picked up the box. It was black with a simple white ribbon on it. A notecard tucked into the ribbon read, “Open Me Now.”
Zane smirked. It had almost become a joke between them, Ty’s many and varied ways of asking Zane to marry him. Zane almost dreaded the day he was convinced to say yes because then the attempts and the fun of saying no would stop.
He slid the ribbon off the box, still smiling and shaking his head. Inside was a purple velvet bag, and when Zane peered inside he found a wide silver band. His stomach flipped as he shook it into his palm. It wasn’t shiny or new, and it had obviously been handmade. Etched into the side were numbers Zane quickly recognized as latitude and longitude coordinates.
“Oh God, Ty,” he whispered. He was chuckling as he pulled out his phone and punched the coordinates into his GPS. It gave him directions, telling him the location was less than half a mile away. At least it was close.
Zane grabbed his coat and slid the ring onto his right ring finger. It was a perfect fit. He walked several blocks toward Fell’s Point, then turned where his phone indicated and began searching for somewhere that looked like it was supposed to be his goal.
When he found his destination, it was not what he was expecting. The only reason he even knew he was there was because Ty was sitting on the front stoop, waiting for him.
Zane peered up at the three-story building. It was brick, with white trim that was flaking and falling off to reveal green underneath. The front door was covered with stickers and graffiti, and the glass had been covered up with paper grocery bags. A torn black and orange For Sale sign was taped to it.
The windows all boasted corbels and hand-carved wood, but they were visibly rotting. The basement steps on the sidewalk led to a dark hole that may or may not have been home to vagrants at night. The only thing that could be said for the building was that it probably had an incredible view of the harbor from the back, and that Zane’s lover was sitting on its concrete steps.
Zane snorted as Ty stood to meet him. He held up the ring and wiggled his finger. “I can’t say this is your best attempt.”
Ty grinned. He turned and tapped the For Sale sign. “I bought it.”
Zane’s smile fell, and he glanced up at the dilapidated building again. “You what?”
Ty pulled the door open. It was unlocked. “Come on.”
“Ty, you bought this building?” Zane stuttered as he followed Ty inside. “With what, Monopoly money?”
Ty’s laugh echoed off the empty interior. Inside, the building didn’t look much better. There was an old bar that stretched the length of the narrow front room, and in the back were steps going up and what may have been a storeroom with a rear exit.