THE LONELY HEROES SERIES – BOOK FOUR
Lawrence ‘Lawry’ Schatz –
Self-medicating? As often as possible.
My life has been upended with a three-word text, and a meeting with my boss’s boss nearly finishes me off. I’m in a downward spiral, and I have no intentions of pulling out. My brother Hank has other ideas. He’s called in a big gun, Gabriele Torrente, who drags me to New York and pushes me to get myself together.
At a family event, I hook up with the hottest guy I’ve ever met, intending to just relieve some tension. The guy turns out to be more than I could imagine. He’s sassy, opinionated, and he completely sets me on my ear. I can tell Maxim Partee won’t put up with my crap. I made a huge mistake with him, but he still agrees to be my friend, and that is precisely what I desperately need. I live under no illusions he’ll ever need me in return.
Maxim ‘Maxi’ Partee –
Lonely? Very much so.
Power bottom? You bet your… bottom.
I have a successful business—two of them as a matter of fact. I have friends I cherish, and I love my life. I keep telling myself it’s more than enough for me. I choose the men I spend time with, and it’s always on my terms.
An unexpected hook-up at a birthday party leads me down an unanticipated path where I meet a man who has been crushed by mountain of disastrous events, and he’s doing his damnedest to push everyone away so he can quietly self-destruct. Why in the hell can’t I just walk away?
This fictional story is approximately 86,000 words in length. It is the fourth book in “The Lonely Heroes Series.” TRIGGER WARNING: Discussions of suicide and description of an attempt.
| Former CIA Cybercrimes Field Agent | Party and Event Planner | Enemies to Lovers |
| Hurt/Comfort | Foreign Intrigue | HEA |
“Agent Schatz, the Assistant Director wants to see you.” I was sitting in my three-by-three cube—well, it was bigger than that, but it was still like a shoe box, nonetheless.
I turned to see Paula Gore, the Executive Assistant to Assistant Director Mallory who was head of the Dallas Field Office, standing at the opening of my cubicle. I was a third level agent for the Central Intelligence Agency—or the Spooks,as the other agencies referred to us.
I was an expert in monitoring cybercriminal activity and breaking coded messages that were transmitted among criminal enterprises, and I enjoyed my job. I could tiptoe through anyone’s information without leaving a footprint, and it pissed off most of the agents with whom I worked because they weren’t always so successful, but I just laughed at them when they complained. I was doing something for the good of the country, but I wasn’t actually in the field doing it, which was never my thing, anyway.
My work was something I took seriously, and I was proud of the fact I’d reached a level of expertise that set me above my CIA colleagues and my peers in other agencies. I wasn’t gloating. I was just better at my job than the rest.
Paula Gore was the kind of woman who minded her own business, and I liked her. When Julien had gone to the Assistant Director and asked to transfer from the Directorate of Science & Technology—Cyber Surveillance to Clandestine Services—Anti-Terrorism, we both learned Paula had kept quiet about the fact she’d caught us making out in the hallway near the break room two months earlier. I’d be forever appreciative for her discretion.
“I’m not really sure, but he said he wants to speak with you immediately.” Paula turned and left the area without another word. I sighed as I looked around, seeing a bunch of people staring at me, which made me uneasy. I pulled on my sports jacket and locked my laptop, following the trail Paula had blazed back to Mallory’s office. Once I was on the express elevator to the AD’s office, I pondered what the fuck the man might want from me.
I’d been following up on communication intercepts for a number of suspected terrorist cells in the Southwestern United States with possible counterparts in Mexico and Central America. It was my job to confirm they were credible before passing on the information to field agents for follow-up investigations. The work was tedious and time-consuming, tracing out all of the connections, but it was what I did best. I couldn’t imagine the request to report to the AD had anything to do with my work product.
One possibility for being summoned could be that AD Mallory learned about my moonlighting job for Gabe Torrente, or Gabby as my brother Hank referred to his good friend. They were Army Rangers once-upon-a-time, and Gabby had gone on to start up a U.S. subsidiary of his uncle’s private security agency in Italy. When I had down time, I did research for Gabby. His IT guy, Johnny Chang, had left him after being shot during a protection assignment. The primary, Dexter Carrington, was being hunted by members of the Mangello crime family because he was hiding his niece and nephew to keep them safe. Turned out they were Frankie Mangello’s grandkids.
I’d followed up on several leads for Gabby and had confirmed one of the guys he’d asked Julien and me to check out for him, Royal Conway, hadn’t been affiliated with any agency or bureau under the U.S. umbrella. The other one had been a Drug Enforcement Agency operative, but it seemed there’d been an internal investigation into his activities, according to a red-flagged file on their server, which I’d known better than to open, regardless of how tempting it had been.
Had the DEA beefed up their security and detected me taking a stroll through their network? Was that what got me called up to the AD’s office? Would my Supervisory-Agent-in-Charge Wendell Robb be there waiting as well?
I couldn’t blame Gabby’s IT guy for wanting out of the security business—it was dangerous. With all of the crazy shit I’d been privy to in my time with the Company, everyone didn’t have the stomach for it. My older brother had been a sniper in the Army, and he’d seen his fair share of unholy hell that had left him with scars—a few external, but most of his damage was invisible to the naked eye.
Hank handled his inner demons with the help of Cosmo, his service dog, and Reed Bayless, his husband. My big brother had met and married a wonderful man, an educator of children with special needs, and Reed and Hank were recently granted foster guardianship of a ten-year-old boy they were hoping to adopt.
My new nephew was on the autism spectrum and had some difficulties I suspected would have caused most potential parents to shy away. I knew for a fact Hank and Reed would help Brock through the difficulties he’d encounter as he grew up in their home because failure was never an option for Hank and Reed. All in all, I wouldn’t say I was trying to live up to the tall shadow cast by Henry Schatz-Bayless, but maybe?
Paula nodded for me to knock and enter, so I did. Assistant Director Ian Mallory rose from his chair and stepped around his desk, extending his hand. “Agent Schatz, thank you for coming so quickly. I, uh, you are friends with Supervisory Field Agent Julien Renfro, correct?” he asked.
I shook his hand and took a seat, worried about the way the conversation was starting. Julien had been my boss when I was promoted from a junior grade analyst in Intelligence & Analysis to a Field Agent in Science & Technology. With his recommendation, I got promoted to a Senior Field Agent within eight months, and that was before we ever really got to know each other. Julie, as I called him, told me I had excellent skills and often teased me about a sealed juvenile record that must exist somewhere, because there was no way I didn’t hack into shit when I was a teenager.
Obviously, Julie didn’t know Maureen and Gene Schatz very well. They would have killed me if I’d pulled anything of the sort. I hadn’t learned to hack systems until I’d started my training with the CIA, unlike Johnny Chang. That kid was a natural at it, but he’d taken risks I’d been taught to avoid by the Company. I was a programmer at heart and went about entering my target in a different fashion than a natural-born hacker like Johnny. Neither of us were wrong in the way we went about gathering our intel, we just had different styles, and from what I was learning, we were both proficient at acquiring what we wanted without being caught.
Before I met Julien Renfro, I’d identified as mostly straight… okay, at least bisexual? There had been a few guys at Washington University who’d turned my head during undergrad and graduate school, and my interest and reaction to them had had me confused in the beginning. As I’d further considered things, there weren’t really many women who’d caught my eye since high school when I lost my virginity to Molly Ingram. I’d arrived at the conclusion maybe I’d slid up the Kinsey scale long before I’d been willing to acknowledge it?
“Yes, sir, Director Mallory, we’re friends.”
Of course we were friends. We were more than goddamn friends if one counted all the nights I spent with my cock buried in Julie’s ass, but I was currently pissed at him. Julien Renfro had left Dallas without a goodbye, kiss my ass, or go fuck yourself. The bastard had even left me in the middle of the night, adding insult to injury. Three weeks later, I’d gotten a text from him, before he went dark.
GET OUT NOW!
Bonus Exclusive Excerpt:
“I remember you from the wedding. I’m Maxi Partee. You’re Lawry Schatz?”
The guy had me a bit speechless as I took in the sight of him. His hair was a dark blonde with flecks of gold woven through it, which set off his gorgeous features. He was wearing a white button-down shirt, jeans, and had a blue and white scarf draped loosely around his slender neck. The blue eyeliner rimmed around his eyes picked up the blue in the scarf and made his eyes pop even more. The guy looked like a rock star, although a petite one as I towered over him. I didn’t like the things happening in my mind—and body for that matter—as I took in his appearance.
“Resident alcoholic, according to everyone I know. I’m having a hard time accepting it, but I’ve yet to walk the twelve steps. I’m pretty sure denial is the starting point for this type of situation. Anyway, I’m not exactly certain how I wronged anyone when I went on my binge, so it’s taking a while to come up with my amends, but they say I have to do it.” I extended my hand to shake his, as was polite.
Maxim looked me square in the eyes without one ounce of hesitation. “Why’d you go off on a bender?”
I didn’t hesitate to respond, even though Dexter began protesting. I held up my hand and smiled at Dex before I turned to Maxi Partee. “I was in love with a man who took his own life rather than make a new one with me. I decided to undertake a mission of introspection to try to figure out why. It involved alcohol, marijuana, and a little peyote at a sweat lodge in Taos, New Mexico. I never came up with any answers, sadly.” I had resolved to be honest with people going forward.
The smaller man laughed. “Do you miss the alcohol?”
I chuckled in return. “I don’t miss the headaches, but I honestly never cared much for the taste of alcohol in the first place. At the time, it was a means to an end—numbing me from thinking about shit I didn’t want to remember. Now, I’m trying to adjust to a loss, and I need to be sober for it. What’s your deal?” I grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge.
The guy giggled. “I’m an event planner, and since you’ve been to an event planned by me, you know I’m superb at my job. If we have liquor at Gabe’s party, do we have to worry that you’ll start stalking the waiters who are passing champagne and end up on the tables doing a striptease? Though, on second thought, I sure wouldn’t mind seeing that.”
I chuckled. “Champagne isn’t exactly my drink of choice. Hell, I miss the peyote more than the liquor.” It was a joke, but it wasn’t far from the truth. I held up three fingers and stood to my full height in a Boy Scout pose. “I promise on my brother’s life that I won’t drink at Gabe’s party so you can have as much alcohol as you’d like. I’ll be a good boy,” I vowed, giving the party planner a wink.
The gorgeous man laughed again. “You’re hardly a boy, trust me.”
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I grew up in the rural Midwest before moving to the East Coast with a dashing young man who swept me off my feet, and we’ve now settled in the desert of Nevada. I write M/M contemporary romance, subgenres: sweet low angst, age-gap, cowboys, mysteries, and military/mercenary to name a few. I am a firm believer in “Love is Love” regardless of how it presents itself, and I’m a staunch ally of the LGBTQIA+ community. I have a loving, supportive family, and I feel blessed by the universe and thankful every day for all I have been given. I’m old enough to know how to have fun, but too old to care what others think about my definition of a good time. In my heart and soul, I believe I hit the cosmic jackpot. Cheers!