Roughed Up Excerpt

Roughed Up

The breeze off the ocean was warm and smelled of brine and fish and fading sunlight. Pearce couldn’t recall a time when he’d been this relaxed and content. After their earlier friction, it felt good to just sit together and not talk. The afterglow of sex seemed to keep Mark and him in a cocoon apart from the other diners around them on the restaurant patio, and Pearce relished the moment.

As they ate, Pearce caught himself staring at Mark, watching the man’s face as he stared across the beach and out to the sea. Pearce liked to think he knew Mark well by now and that Mark knew him also. They had been through some dangerous things together, like the Kings of Rebellion plot back in Detroit, which had first brought them together, and the missing data discs in Washington, DC, which had made them realize they really were good together.

Pearce figured they had earned these eight days in Barbados. He tried not to think about being on paid suspension from the FBI for having disobeyed orders and gone out into the field. Once they returned home, he’d have another five days off before he had to return to the office and his work, performing data searches for agents in the field.

Tension crackled up the back of his neck, and Pearce forced thoughts of DC and the FBI out of his mind and went back to eating. The sea bass was fresh and the red-skin potatoes perfectly seasoned. He needed to focus on the moment and enjoy being here, with Mark, full and content in the warm evening on the beach.

He looked across the table in time to catch a shadow of a frown cross Mark’s face. At first, Pearce wondered if it hadn’t been caused by the flickering candle between them, but then he saw it again along with Mark’s wrinkled brow and slightly narrowed eyes. Something was on Mark’s mind, something troubling, and Pearce hoped it didn’t have to do with the comment he had made earlier about Mark’s fondness for carrots in the dishes he made. Pearce didn’t feel strongly about carrots one way or the other, but he didn’t think they really needed to be included in every meal. And why the fuck was he thinking about how often Mark added carrots to their food, anyway? Was he back to his old tricks now, trying to find something that annoyed him about Mark? He had thought he’d gotten through that phase with him, but maybe he’d just managed to put it into remission for a while.

Either way, from the expression on his face, Mark’s thoughts had taken a darker turn, and Pearce wondered where they had gone. Maybe Mark was feeling the same way Pearce was.

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