To everyone else, Trace is an enigmatic and carefully controlled Dominant. He runs Diadem, a private BDSM club and is a Master and mentor to his fellow Doms and their lovers—Gabriel, Darrek, Ben, and Kyle—while trying to be Master and lover for Micah. Trace is the one they all depend on to step in when anything or anyone threatens his closest friends.
But even Trace is in over his head when haunting events of the past endanger all their lives. Trace is forced to call on old connections for help from the world he tried to leave behind—the Master’s Circle in England. Tensions rise to a fever pitch as Trace’s hidden truths shake up the lives of everyone in his tangled, tight-knit family. (M/M+)
“Stand up. Relax,” he tells Micah, speaking with authority in order to cut through anything causing Micah to doubt himself.
“Sir.” Micah gets to his feet, standing straight as an arrow, his caramel-brown eyes unfocused, his attention caught on something internal. A frown line creases Micah’s brow and dark circles are visible under his eyes. Trace knows the worry about Kyle, Darrek, and Gabriel has been eating at Micah, but that doesn’t explain the look of him entirely. There has to be something else going on, but Trace can’t handle anything else. There’s already too much wrong.
With a heavy, exhausted sigh, Trace wraps a hand around Micah’s jaw. It’s warm and rough to the touch, covered in dark stubble. The tilt of his head, the downward cast of his gorgeous eyes, ringed with dark, thick eyelashes, the sensual shape of his lips—it’s so intoxicating. There’s something there, Trace knows, in the spark of rightness between them. The balance of give and take, the equality of what each of them brings and gives away freely to the other, makes sense in so many ways everything else does not. It’s more effective shelter from the forces seeking to harm them than any house or physical structure could ever be. Simple, pure, safety and unconditional acceptance is what they each provide.
Together at last, they can each breathe a little easier. The weight of dread lessens, if only for a moment.
“Can I just check something real quick, before we talk? Didn’t think you’d be here, love. It’ll only take a minute.”
“Of course,” Micah murmurs, barely audible, looking like he’s trying not to cry, making Trace want to scream with rage at the unfairness of it all.
This fuckin’ day. This fuckin’ life.
Trace walks into the adjoining room where his computer is plugged in. He boots it up and keeps Micah in view while he waits. Dressed in khaki pants and a pristine, button-down, light blue shirt which suits his olive complexion perfectly, Micah stands there in the middle of the room like someone’s been beating on him. His outward appearance is so refined, but inside he’s in pieces, held together with wisps of hope. It’s a look Trace might not know, but Patrick does. That thousand yard stare, the wear and tear on the soul, it implies bad shit and hard times.
Turning his attention to the task at hand with effort, instinct telling him to go, and love Micah’s pain away, no matter what it takes to make it happen, Trace forces himself to focus on his desk. Booting up his computer and opening his internet browser, Trace checks an email account—the one he shares with Yasha to pass messages back and forth safely.
The account has been deleted.
“Fuck,” he hisses, pounding a fist on the desk, wanting to scream again, but managing not to. It’s expected but shitty nonetheless. If Yasha is really out of the game, the biggest, best way to make a clean break is to delete all of the accounts tying him to people like Patrick.
He checks the next email account that comes to mind, and the next, and the next. He goes through the whole mental list, finishing with the one he shares with Nicholai, the man who had been Patrick’s Master. The accounts are all the same. No change, no new messages. The latest messages are the ones Patrick left for the others. None have been read. No activity. No new information. It’s as quiet as the grave.
It’s not good.
The feeling of being stranded on an island in the middle of nowhere, with no one aware of where he is or how he’s surviving, used to be comforting. It’s not anymore. Now isolation only breeds desperation and dread, and mostly because his island now has multiple inhabitants, all of them counting on him to get them through. Little do they know they’re relying on such a basketcase.
“Okay. It’s okay. Priorities. Protect the family. Keep the kids safe,” he murmurs under his breath, a mantra. There’s a locked file on his desktop. He clicks on it, types in the password. Information spills out, flooding the screen. It’s all there—beautiful, glorious fact. He skims it, just to ground himself, to remember what’s true. The information on that screen narrows the possibilities about what could be happening with Gabriel and Darrek. But he can’t tell them about it. He can’t tell anybody.
At least his focus has been narrowed. The path he must take becomes clearer.
He closes the file. He closes his browser. He shuts down the machine.
At last, he doesn’t have to fight the pull on his heartstrings any longer. He leaves the rest of his worries behind and goes to find out what’s wrong with Micah.