Demarco Alford works for Chandelier—a high-profile escort agency providing secret services to government officials, foreign dignitaries, and the elite. One night, while attending an embassy event, Demarco stumbles upon a… SECRET
Jack Keegan works for the Secret Service—a government policing agency providing security to the upper echelon of national and international VIPs. One night, while working an embassy event, Jack meets Demarco and becomes part of the… SECRET
Demarco and Jack soon find themselves entwined in a mystery involving the son of Middle-Eastern royalty. Will Jack’s obligation to protect his country outweigh his fierce attraction to the handsome male escort? Will Demarco get past his inner insecurities and allow his beefy bodyguard access to a heart hardened by experience?… SECRET
This book contains mature content.
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
SECRET (Tales of the Circle Book 2) was inspired by the popularity of a side character from the first novel. Demarco Alford is a witty man who also happens to be a high-profile escort in Washington, DC–a city filled with closeted politicians that would require his services.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
It's a mixed cocktail… part me, part friends, part past loves, part current love, beloved fictional characters, and a little inspiration. I do almost always have some current celebrity visage in mind while writing respective characters. But I don't reveal those… unless maybe you ask me personally in an instant message.
When Demarco awoke, he was groggy. Jack was there, at his bedside in the hospital, looking down at him.
“Is that you, Auntie Em?”
“How do you feel?”
“Like I’ve been stampeded by a herd of drag queens.”
Jack smiled, happy to see that Demarco had not lost his sense of humor. “Probably a little less severe than that,” he said. “You were shot.”
He pointed to the bandage on Demarco’s shoulder.
Demarco glanced down at the gauze. “How? Why?”
“We’re not exactly sure.”
“Where’s that little shit, Abir?”
“Gone. He disappeared in the chaos.”
“How? He was wearing a red hoodie.”
“Yeah… we have that. He ditched it.”
Demarco shook his head, dismissing the waves of dizziness attempting to intervene.
“You’ve been in and out. They gave you a mild anesthetic… painkillers… and twenty-one stitches—deltoid, just below your shoulder.”
“I may need a bedpan.”
“Relax, you were just grazed. I was worried though. You went out. I’ve never seen that happen before.”
“Well, pardon me if I don’t offer an encore.”
Jack looked at him, saying nothing. There was genuine concern there… but something else… something tender.
“Stop it,” Demarco said.
“Looking at me like that.”
“Would you rather me look at you another way.”
He was armed with another quip and decided against it. “No.”
“Good. Because I like looking at you this way.”
Demarco averted his eyes and Jack sat on the bed next to him… and though Demarco was looking away he could feel the comfortable weight of the man close. Jack placed his hand on Demarco’s leg and gave it a firm squeeze. “I like it when you’re docile,” he said.
“What are you not telling me?”
Jack sighed and stood again, walking toward the hospital room window. After a moment he turned and said, “We’re concerned that you may have been the target, not Abir.”
Demarco took a moment to digest this. “Oh… well, I’m not sure what to say?”
“Twice at a loss for words. My lucky day.”
Demarco gave Jack a good glare, but it was more for levity.
“You could start by listing any enemies you might have,” Jack said.
“Those bitches? All queens, no guns.”
“I’m being serious here, D.”
“Me too, Jack. I’m a hooker—high class, high dollar. It’s a legitimate business. They’re not thugs.”
“We know all about Chandelier.”
“Then why are you asking me?”
“Because you might have crossed the path of someone with a nefarious background… or maybe someone with a jealous lover or spouse. Anything you can remember might help, no matter how silly it may seem to you.”
“Sounds like you’re trying to get all up in my business.”
“It’s my business, D. We were shot at. A dignitary’s son—”
“You’re right. I know,” Demarco said, cutting him off. “You’re only trying to help. I promise I will try and control my inner-smart ass.”
“But I’m good at my job too, Jack. Not just the part you’re obsessed with—”
“Yes, you are,” Demarco said. “But we’ll address that later. As far as any undesirables, there are plenty… but none that I can think of as being… dangerous. And when I say undesirable, I mean old… or obnoxious… or, God forbid—boring. But that’s why they seek escorts from places like Chandelier in the first place, Jack—so that they can feel normal, be themselves. I’m just the entertainment. It’s not my job to interpret or judge them.”
Jack was quiet, thinking.
Demarco wanted to believe that he was dissecting the events and looking for an answer… but deep down he could sense the familiar bewilderment and jealousy that inevitably surfaced whenever he was getting close to someone.
He continued: “Sure, there could be spiteful or vindictive spouses, but I wouldn’t know if there were. And considering that my clientele is mostly high-profile, not many people would. These guys either pay for one-on-ones or attend events like the other night… all to avoid whatever there is—or is not—at home. And really, it’s none of my business, Jack. I don’t want to know. That’s extra.”
“Has any—” Jack considered before he spoke. “Has any role-play ever gotten out-of-hand? Did you ever feel… threatened?”
Demarco noted Jack’s careful choice of words. “No,” he answered. “Demarco don’t do those games. Most of my liaisons, if you will, are either sexual or conversational. I know a lot of closeted politicians, Jack. They’re a dime a dozen.”
“Any more questions?” Demarco was sincere but lightened his tone to show Jack that he wasn’t upset with being interrogated. He’d known the topic would come up, and knew it would be broached again. His history with potential boyfriends was short and all too familiar, like watching a rerun of The Golden Girls with the sound turned off.
“No. I think that’s it.” He smiled, squeezing Demarco’s foot. “For now.”
“Well, I have one: How the hell did I get shot in the middle of Dupont Circle… at lunchtime? There were people everywhere. It couldn’t be more conspicuous.”
“We’ve contemplated that as well. Whoever is responsible was likely seeking the attention.”
“Great. I’m sure Reed will be thrilled.”
“My boss. Chandelier may be well-known through political channels—and the Secret Service—but Reed likes to keep a low-profile when it comes to the press.”
Jack had a hard time suppressing a smile.
“Don’t be so smug,” said Demarco. “It makes your suit look cheap and ill-fitted.”
Jack frowned, glancing down and lifting his tie.
“I appreciate everything you have done for me, Jack. I’m just not used to this crap. I know you are, but I am not.”
“We’ll nail him soon, D. Always do.”
“I’m not worried about you. I’m worried about me. A girl’s got to pay the bills, you know.”
“Maybe you should look into another line of work… if you don’t mind me saying.”
“Always do,” Demarco said, echoing Jack’s words.
“We think he was at The Dupont Circle Hotel, on the roof. But we’re not a hundred percent sure yet because there were no casings.”
“We have the bullets, the one that grazed you and the one that hit the bench. The trajectory suggests the hotel roof, but no evidence so far… and a possible witness… from the ground—a FedEx Guy eating lunch.”
“This isn’t funny, Demarco.”
“What do you want me to do, Jack? I can play damsel and I can play diva, but it’s really hard to be myself right now.”
Demarco looked toward the window, eyes welling.
Jack sat back down on the bed and took his hand. “I want you to get some rest. You’re being discharged in the morning. I’ll have a man outside your door all night.”
“Where are you going?” Demarco said, trying to mask his disappointment.
“Home. I need a good night’s sleep to keep up with you.”
“Keep up? We going somewhere?”
“I’m your bodyguard, Demarco,” Jack said with a smile. “My request.”
“Call me Whitney.”
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