Harper Jennings looks out the window to see a naked man being dragged through the snow into the woods. The cops find no evidence, but Harper can't let it go and soon finds herself in the middle of a tangled of web of cold crime.
Harper Jennings has survived the Iraq War, her husband Hank's brain injury, a drug conspiracy and a gang of murderous artifact smugglers. So she should be able to survive a visit from her mother while Hank's away, right? When self-obsessed, controlling Vivian arrives with a new man in tow, however, Harper has her doubts.
Soon, Harper (who is four months pregnant and on doctor's orders to rest) has more on her mind than her mother's constant interference. When she glimpses a nude young man being dragged into the woods near her house, everyone--including the police--concludes it was either college kids playing around...or Harper's hormones talking.
But Harper can't let it go, and when she finds evidence that her mother's boyfriend is hiding something, not even her own home seems safe..
Even when the second guy walked in, Sebastian Levering didn't realize he was in trouble. He was deep inside the glowing haze of too many appletinis, and in the middle of a deep, passionate candlelit kiss. In fact, he was fully naked, in bed with a gorgeous, popular, sexy, witty, glib trust-fund baby, someone he'd assumed was--and even now couldn't believe wasn't--straight. But Evan Lourd had approached him at the bar. Had singled him out and moved in on him suddenly, with disarming directness and irresistable charm.
"I'm here on a bet," he'd said.
"Sorry?" Sebastian had glanced around, not believing Evan could be talking to him. But no one else had been nearby. The bar had been almost empty due to intersession. Finals were over, and most students had left Cornell for the holidays, wold be gone until the middle of January. Sebastian had stuck around, partly to hang out with Brad, but mostly to put off going home for as long as possible. He couldn't delay much longer--Christmas was just five days away. And in four, his family expected him back in Elmira. But they didn't expect what he had to tell them.
He'd decided on his own, not because of Brad. He was simply done pretending. Done hiding. Done enduring the slew of blind dates his mother kept setting him up with: Nieces of friends or cousins and daughters of friends of friends. No. He just couldn't live the lie any more. Finally, in two days, he'd planned to face them with the truth. He was ready.
But then fucking Brad had come up with his ultimatum. Just because they were renting an apartment together, he'd insisted on meeting Sebastian's family. As if they were married of something. "Take me home with you," he'd demanded. "Or else."
Or else? Seriously? What the fuck did that mean? What gave Brad the idea that he could insist on anything, let alone meeting the family? No way Sebastian was going to allow that. None.
After the fight, Sebastian had stormed out of the apartment, gone for a drink. He'd been sitting at the bar, remembering the sting of his fist as it had made contact with Brad's jaw. Christ, what had Brad expected? Damn Brad, picking up the phone to call Sebastian's mother, swearing he was going to tell her everything. Brad had definitely crossed a line, had deserved to be knocked out and locking in his big walk-in closet where he couldn't get to a phone to call his own mommy, let alone Sebastian's.
Meantime, Sebastian would have a few appletinis, trying to face his trip home and what he'd say to his parents He'd been considering telling his brothers first, when Evan Lourd had appeared, talking to him. Saying he was there on a bet.
"I just went through a bad break up," Evan's voice had been resonant, deeper than he'd have imagined it. "My merciless room-mate bet me that I'd spend intersession all alone, feeling sorry for myself."
Sebastian had been speechless, partly because Evan's Adonis-like good looks had struck him dumb, partly because he couldn't figure out why Evan Lourd, a member of Delta Phi Omega, one of the most exclusive wealthy and notoriously hard-partying fraternities on campus, was talking to him, an anonymous engineering student struggling to survivie on loans and scholarships. And why was he telling him about his breakup? In fact, what was Evan even doing there? Didn't he realize this was mostly a gay bar?
But Evan moved closer. Actually, too close. Right into Sebastian's personal space. Sebastian had gulped his drink, stared at the pretzels on the bar. Missed the next thing Evan had said. Because it couldn't be what he'd thought it was--that he'd asked him to help him win the bet....
Evan bought their drinks. And after a few, Sebastian became convinced that Evan was really into him. In fact, the more he drank, the better his future looked. He could dump Brad--Could do better. If things with Evan worked out, who knew what might be ahead. Life was about who you knew, wasn't it?
So Sebastion hadn't hesitated to go with Evan to the deserted fraternity. Maybe. after his tough breakup (had it been with a girl?) he was coming out, ready for an honest relationships. Sebastian tried to read Evan's reactions, to make sure he was having a good time. And, from his breathing and soft moans, he seemed to be.
Until the second guy came into the room.
"What the hell took you so long? Evan pulled away.
Sebastian frose. Who was this guy? Evan's old boyfriend? Oh damn. Would there be a scene? He pulled the sheet around his neck, looking for his clothes.
"We've been here for twenty minutes," Evan hopped into his pants.
"I know." The other guy's eyes twinkled.
"Shit. You were watching."
"Truly, Lourd, I never noticed how cute your pink ass is--"
Evan zipped his fly, didn't seem angry.
Sebastian didn't know what was going on, but he didn't like it. Quickly, he got up and was gathering his clothes when, in the candlelight, he saw something glitter in the second guy's hand. Something think. ANd metallic. And long.
As he fled naked out of the room, down the stairs and out the door into the snow, Sebastian had three distinct thoughts, none of which involved Brad or his confinement in the closet.
The first thought was that he shoudl have known a guy like Evan Lourd would never have gone for him.
The second was that it was intersession; no one was around to help him.
The third was that, unless a miracle happened, he wouldn't ahve to worry about coming out to his family.