Talking In Code
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Talking in Code
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Some things crumble under pressure. Others are tempered by it instead. For three former soldiers, a tragedy might be the catalyst that binds them together—stronger than ever.
Richard Horn and Timothy Davenport met in the SEALs twenty years ago and have been lovers ever since. Now running their own paramilitary organization, Strike Force Omega, they work in the shadows to protect their country and its people. When Tim falls for Eric Newton, a deadly sniper and strategist on their team, Richard accepts that Tim’s heart is big enough for two men. He respects, admires, and even desires Eric enough to accept him into their relationship—and their bed—but he’s never been fully a part of what Eric and Tim share.
Then Eric is captured by terrorists and Tim is gravely injured in an op gone wrong, bringing Richard’s world crashing down around his ears. Even if he gets his men out alive, Eric must face the aftermath of months of physical and psychological torture—and without Tim to lean on, Eric’s PTSD is tearing him apart. Richard has to figure out the third leg of their triangle fast, or Tim won’t have a life to come back to.
Talking in Code starts in media res. Eric, Tim, and Richard are already well and truly involved with each other, but the story includes references to moments before the book begins, moments that are not fully explored in the novel itself.
This is the fourth of those moments.
Eric stopped outside Davenport’s temporary office on the base in Rota, reminding himself of all the looks and quips and flirtatious barbs that had passed between them. Half of Strike Force Omega already thought they were together, and even Victoria had urged him to talk to Davenport. “He feels the same way you do,” she’d said.
He could do this. He could go in there and make a pass at the one good thing to ever happen in his life. He could make that one good thing even better.
“Newton.” Davenport didn’t even look up when his door opened and Eric walked in. Eric hoped that was a good sign, that Davenport knew his footsteps or his scent or his something without needing to look. His voice was neutral—not overtly welcoming, but in no way discouraging. Eric took that as another good sign.
“So I’m back to being ‘Newton’?” he teased. “You called me Eric yesterday.”
“Off base on our own time as we had a beer and watched a soccer game on the TV at a bar,” Davenport reminded him.
“Then I can’t call you Tim at work?” Eric joked.
“Not at work,” Davenport said.
Eric took that as encouragement. If the answer had been no, Davenport would have just said it. “Whatever you say, sir.”
“Why aren’t you this biddable in the field?” Davenport muttered.
“My mouth is part of my charm,” Eric said, moving closer to Davenport’s desk.
“Keep telling yourself that. You might find someone to believe you one day.”
“Aww, you know you love me.”
Davenport looked up so sharply at that, the surprise on his face so different from his usual controlled expression, that Eric took his chance. He leaned in and pressed his lips to Davenport’s. They were slightly chapped, just the littlest bit rough beneath Eric’s touch, but so sweet.
Best of all, they moved beneath his, returning the kiss.
“Dav, are you—”
Davenport pulled away from Eric, his face flaming red. “Commander.”
Horn had a smirk on his face as he prowled closer to where Eric stood. “You told him?”
Told me what? Eric wondered.
“Not yet. I didn’t get a chance.”
Now Eric was really confused. “Tell me what, sir?” he asked, looking back at Davenport.
“That he’s part of a matched set,” Horn replied before Davenport could answer. “You can have him for the night, but only if you’re willing to take me in the bargain.”
“Sir?” Eric couldn’t have said which one of them he was addressing, but it was Davenport who answered him, rising from his chair and coming to stand in front of Eric, his hands resting on Eric’s biceps.
“The commander and I have been together a long time. Long enough to have learned that the best way to deal with the occasional itch is to scratch it. We just choose to do so together.”
Oh shit! He would spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder wondering when he’d take a bullet to the head. No way in hell he’d get off scot-free when he’d just come on to Richard Horn’s lover. He couldn’t even pretend it was harmless banter, because Horn had caught them kissing. The fact that Tim had kissed him back wouldn’t matter. “I didn’t know, sir. I never would have kissed him if I’d realized he was involved with someone. I’ve done a lot of questionable things in my life, but I don’t poach. I swear.”
“You weren’t listening, were you?” Horn said. “I just said you could have him for the night. Dav wants you, and I promised a long time ago to give him anything he wanted.”
“So you want to… what? Share me?”
“Something like that,” Horn said. “Dav has all these fantasies, and I like making his fantasies come true.”
Eric’s blush probably didn’t show beneath his swarthy skin, but his cheeks burned hot at the thought of Davenport fantasizing about him and then sharing them with Horn.
“What do you get out of it?” Eric asked, feeling daring.
“Have you looked in a mirror recently?” Horn scoffed. “Believe me. I’ll get plenty out of it.”
“So a harmless bit of fun among friends?” Eric might have hoped for more than that with just Davenport, but no way Horn was in love with him. He was indulging his lover. Eric would get a night of sex out of it. He’d finally know what it felt like to go to bed with Davenport, and then it would be over. He could say no and walk out of the room, and they’d all act like this never happened. Or he could say yes and finally know. They might still pretend it never happened tomorrow, but he’d have the memory of it. And maybe he’d be enough fun they’d invite him back another time.
Horn took one more step, sandwiching Eric between his body and Davenport’s. “Exactly.”
Eric felt the heat of the two strong bodies curl around him, settling his nerves and setting them tingling at the same time. He’d never considered Horn as an object of interest. He’d never dared. He was so far above Eric, so out of reach, that any attraction on a physical level was lost beneath the respect for his commander and a healthy dose of fear. Davenport might be the cofounder of Strike Force Omega, but Eric worked with him, joked with him, grabbed a beer with him after a mission wound down. He was approachable in a way Horn never was. Even now, with Horn embracing him, he wasn’t sure he hadn’t made an enemy for life. He looked up at Horn’s face and let himself take it in. They were polar opposites, Horn and Tim. Tim was blond, blue-eyed, fair-skinned, handsome but in no way remarkable unless you caught him in the middle of doing something extraordinary. Horn on the other hand was black as night—skin, eyes, hair—and menacing as all fuck, and even more handsome for it. Eric had seen people turn the other way just to avoid running into him. With the scowl gone and desire in his gaze, Eric found it easier than he would have imagined to consider kissing Horn. He would never have given him a second thought without Tim, but now that he had, the idea had a certain appeal. “How will this work?”
“That’s up to you,” Horn said. “We have quarters here on base, or we can go to your place, or we can find a hotel. Whatever makes you most comfortable.” He punctuated the sentences with sharp nips down the tendons of Eric’s neck, adding to the tingling and bringing back the nerves with a rush. Too many choices, too many ways this could go wrong. He looked at Davenport, sure his growing panic must show in his eyes.
“Our quarters here will be easiest,” Davenport said, taking the decision from Eric’s hands. Eric shot him a grateful look. Horn took a step back, giving Eric enough space to breathe again, but he suspected it would be a brief reprieve. If he accepted their offer, he wouldn’t get another one before the night was over. He took a moment to glance from Tim’s familiar, comforting face to Horn’s usually intimidating one. Horn’s expression had…. Eric didn’t want to say softened because he couldn’t imagine Horn being anything other than a hardass, but eased, perhaps. In that moment, he was more human than Eric had ever seen him. This wasn’t Commander Horn of Strike Force Omega. This was Richard Horn, Tim Davenport’s partner, trying to give his lover something he wanted. Trying to give his lover… Eric.
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Author bio: When Ariel Tachna was twelve years old, she discovered two things: the French language and romance novels. Those two loves have defined her ever since. By the time she finished high school, she’d written four novels, none of which anyone would want to read now, featuring a young woman who was—you guessed it—bilingual. That girl was everything Ariel wanted to be at age twelve and wasn’t.
She now lives on the outskirts of Houston with her husband (who also speaks French), her kids (who understand French even when they’re too lazy to speak it back), and their two dogs (who steadfastly refuse to answer any French commands). The cat pretends they’re all beneath her, no matter what language they’re speaking.