...Adam awoke the minute he sensed someone in the hallway. Not sure for a few seconds who it was, he lay still, not speaking or moving. After a short time, he realized it was Mike, not an invader or revenge-bent gang member. Still he waited, although the idea the other man might need help crossed his mind. The shuffling steps grew surer and then came toward him. He could hear the intake of Mike’s breath when he paused in the doorway. Then the soft steps and the whispers of air came closer.
What’s Mike doing? He had not spoken either, so Adam waited, pretending to be asleep. He felt a slight jolt when Mike dropped to his knees, so close his legs nearly brushed Adam’s back. He heard a hitch in the other man’s breath and felt the subtle warmth of his body, just short of touching.
The commando training kicked in. He moved like a striking snake, whipping a coil around a hapless mouse. Rolling, he grabbed Mike’s arms and pulled hard enough to tip him forward. He fell with a grunt, angled across Adam’s body.
“So, what were you planning to do, Dog Man?”
For a breath or two, Mike lay as if stunned. “I—I—I don’t know, really. You just looked so different, lying here asleep. I saw the cage pads and almost laughed, but then I realized it was a good, practical solution. You had to be tired, but still, you fed the dogs. That surprised me. All at once, the bad biker didn’t feel dangerous anymore.”
“Why not? As for the dogs, they were hungry. I knew you normally got up early to take care of them. You wouldn’t be sleeping if you didn’t need to. It helps the body heal. I wasn’t going to leave until you woke up, though, so I figured I could grab a nap.”
Mike still didn’t move, at least not much. Finally, Adam decided maybe the other man couldn’t. Had he hurt his bruised ribs again? Some other unknown wound or injury? Shit. For a breath there, I forgot about him being beat to hell. Prob’ly made it all feel worse. Think first next time, ya dumb Indian…
“Hey, I didn’t mean to startle you, especially not to make your banged-up carcass feel any worse. I’m sorry. I didn’t think, just acted.”
“I’m okay,” Mike responded. “Actually, it feels pretty good. You’re so warm…”
In a heartbeat, everything changed. What had started out akin to a juvenile prank became serious, intense, charged with latent energies. Adam caught Mike’s shoulders to lift and turn him until they lay face to face, Mike still mostly on top. Adam looked up into the other man’s face, mere inches from his own.
Mike had hazel eyes, lit with odd flecks of green and gold. His nose turned up slightly and his lips…but they were swollen and bruised, the two stitches pale against the discolored skin. Adam shook his head. “No way am I gonna kiss you, liver lips!”
The minute he uttered the words, he knew he’d erred. He saw the shadow snap into place on Mike’s expressive face.
“No. No! I didn’t mean that in any way racial, damn it. It’s just ’cause you’re hurt and they’re still swelled up. I’d never guess you had black blood to look at your face. You told me, but it doesn’t show. Not that I’d care if it did. I’m sorry. That should’ve never come out as it did.”
The flare of mixed anger and anguish in Mike’s eyes faded slowly. He drew a long, slow breath and let it out again. “Okay. It just took me back for a minute to ugly things I heard so often as a kid. I didn’t think you felt that way, but…”
“I don’t. Who am I to even consider race, much less comment on it. I’m a mix of two tribes that aren’t exactly friends, maybe some white in there or who knows what. I reckon a squaw or two might’ve fancied some of those Buffalo Soldiers. Doesn’t matter. It’s the person that counts to me. What I see in you is a good man.”
He still held Mike, a firm grip he was not about to release until they got this sorted out. And maybe dealt with the simmering awareness and attraction they’d been holding beneath the surface...