From Rainbow Award-winning author AJ Rose, Defenseless is a gut-wrenching, heart-stopping story of love through adversity.
Kyle Decker knew dating Jesse McGovern would change his life. Young and in love, and with the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, the world is theirs to conquer.
But their victorious Pride celebration ends in a savage attack, brutally demonstrating they’re far from equal. Instead of wedding planning, Jesse and Kyle face an arduous recovery and a shattered sense of their place in the world, their once-promising future suddenly something to survive.
While Jesse struggles with a permanent injury and its emotional aftermath, Kyle’s single-minded focus on Jesse’s recovery is the only thing keeping his demons at bay…for now. What was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of love is now full of lies and resentment.
With their dreams tattered and forever changed, trusting anyone—even each other—is daunting. So how can they have faith in twelve strangers on a jury? They’ve already learned the hard way it only takes a moment to become truly defenseless.
COMING THIS SEPTEMBER!
And now, an excerpt. It’s set in Chicago at Pride, June 28th, 2015. Some fans of the Power Exchange series might recognize one of the locations mentioned.
Because this scene has a lot of characters who’ve been introduced earlier in the book, here’s a list of them to help keep who’s who clear.
Kyle: Jesse’s fiancé
Jesse: Kyle’s fiancé
Bobby: Kyle’s brother
Lance, Cameron, and Devon: Jesse’s frat brothers from college
Sharon: Cameron’s girlfriend.
Lila: Devon’s girlfriend.
“Frat rule: brothers pay for engagement drinks,” Cameron intoned.
Jesse held up his hands, laughing. “Okay, okay. I see we’re outnumbered.”
“Quick, Sharon.” Cameron turned to his girlfriend. “Will you marry me?”
“No, you cheap ass,” she answered, ruffling Cameron’s hair with affection.
“Quit being an attention whore,” Lance said, smacking the back of Cameron’s head.
“Fine,” he grumbled, falling into step next to Kyle and holding up a fist to bump. “Congrats on being the first to tame one of us. Happy for you guys.”
“Thanks,” Kyle said. Then his phone buzzed, and he had some difficulty digging it out of his tight shorts. He’d worn them so he could carry some cash and ID but leave his wallet at home. Pride may have been a community celebration of diversity and love, but it was also a pickpocket’s wet dream.
“Hello?” he answered, plugging his ear to hear better.
“Where are you?” his brother asked.
“Pride. What’s wrong?” Kyle’s stomach did an uncomfortable flip-flop, scenarios of something bad happening to his parents rising out of the smoke of his thoughts.
“Where at Pride? I thought I could meet up with you and Jesse if that’s okay.”
Kyle bugged his eyes out at Jesse, who mouthed, “What?” in concern.
“Kyle? You there?” Bobby asked.
“Uh, yeah,” he said, looking around for a notable sign or club to give Bobby as a point of location. “This is just unexpected.”
“Is it not okay?” he asked, and Kyle was surprised by the touch of insecurity in his brother’s tone.
“Of course it is.” Kyle hastened to reassure him.
“Then hurry up and tell me where to find you before this crowd swallows me whole.”
Over the line, Kyle heard someone shout, “I’ll be glad to swallow you whole, honey!”
“Kyle, seriously. Save me,” Bobby begged. “These people are friendly.” His voice went breathy with desperation.
After finding out where Bobby was, Kyle directed him to a meeting place. “What are you wearing?”
“Why?” There was suspicion in his tone.
“So I can find you in all these people, dumbass.”
“Oh. Purple golf shirt and tan shorts.”
Twenty minutes later, Kyle made a round of introductions after his brother gave him a clingy hug tinged with relief.
“You okay?” Jesse murmured to Bobby as they decided to find a restaurant for a late lunch. Everything was crowded, but Catalina’s seemed to have fewer people congregating at the door.
“Yeah, just a lot of fucking people.” Bobby replied.
“That doesn’t usually start until after the sun goes down,” Cameron quipped.
Kyle snorted when Bobby’s face went white. “Is he serious?” he whispered while the hostess scribbled their name and party size in a book with the promise of a long wait for a table.
“No,” Jesse said, clapping Bobby’s shoulder. “Public nudity gets cracked down on pretty severely. There are about ninety more off-duty cops on security detail this year, thanks to the marriage ruling. If you have to piss, make sure you don’t pick an alley or doorway as a bathroom. Quick way to get arrested.”
They milled around the corner from the restaurant door, someone staying back to wait for their table while two or three at a time ventured to where vendors had set up booths to sell Pride merchandise. Jesse dragged Kyle and Bobby to browse the wares.
They stopped at a t-shirt shop’s booth to read the various slogans, the most popular of which were “Love is Love” and “Love Wins,” in conjunction with the Obergefell ruling. Bobby was searching for one with a pair of clasped rainbow colored hands on a black background in his size when Jesse called for his attention.
“Sure you don’t want this one?” He held up a shirt bearing flying, half-peeled pink and purple bananas, the fruit inside shaped like dildos.
Kyle laughed as Bobby’s face colored, but he had mercy. “Give him a break, Jesse. This is brand new to him.”
“Just a little payback for all the shit he gives you,” Jesse said, tempering his words with a wink.
Bobby smiled tentatively. “I probably deserve that.”
They each got shirts, much tamer than the flying banana dildos, and meandered through the next few stalls. To Kyle’s surprise, Bobby stopped them at a fetish booth.
“You guys aren’t into this, are you?” He held up a pair of sky blue leather wrist cuffs.
“Uh, no,” Kyle said, pushing Bobby’s hand down and away. “Gay doesn’t mean kinky.”
“Well, I don’t know.” Bobby feigned innocence, but the twinkle in his eye gave him away.
A great wave of affection for his brother stole over Kyle and he looped an arm around Bobby’s shoulders, leading him away from the booth.
“It means a lot to me that you’re here. Thanks, man.”
Bobby looked abashed and shrugged Kyle’s arm off. “You’re my brother,” he said simply.
Jesse wiggled his phone at them. “Our table’s ready.”
They spent the rest of the afternoon eating good food and enjoying the scenery passing by the restaurant window and getting a head start on their buzzes before clubbing.
Cameron, never one for discretion, spilled the beans on their engagement to Bobby, who sat in open-mouthed shock.
“Don’t say anything to Mom and Dad yet,” Kyle pleaded. “I want to tell them myself.”
Bobby grinned. “Mom’s gonna shit a brick.”
Jesse laughed. “I hope not. Messy.”
Kyle lightly smacked his shoulder. “Be nice.”
As the evening sun lowered, they trooped through the streets heaving with bodies, many of them shirtless and clad in skimpy shorts or speedos, to a club called Hardwired. The interior layout was difficult to make out with so many people crammed in, but the whirling lights and smoke machine would have obscured most of it anyway. Kyle knew from previous nights that there was a catwalk ringing the room above their heads for optimal people watching. He’d heard rumor of rooms in the downstairs area, but had never been brave enough to venture there. He could guess well enough what went on if the rooms did exist. Lights in the dance floor randomly illuminated dancers and added to the mystery of the club by throwing gyrating shadows on the walls and in the smoke.
Wall to wall people made the bar difficult to reach, so when Lance finally ordered round, he made sure everyone was double fisted.
“I’m gonna be so drunk,” Kyle said in Jesse’s ear as he drank half his first 7 & 7 in two gulps.
Jesse leered and matched him swallow for swallow. “Just keep hold of our taxi money.” The trains ran late on Pride weekend, but they’d decided to minimize the trouble and call for a ride.
Lila grabbed Kyle’s arm as they moved to a gap near the edge of the dance floor big enough to accommodate their whole group. “Did you hear a guy drove through the parade right where we were standing?”
“What?” Kyle asked, astonished.
“Yeah,” Devon said, overhearing and joining the conversation. “About half an hour after we ditched our spot, some dude drove through the crossing area at Halstead and Addison and the cops had to bust his car windows and cut him out.”
“Did anyone get hurt?” Jesse asked, furrowing his brows in concern.
Lila shook her head. “I don’t really know, but rumor has it the driver was taken to the hospital for injuries. I haven’t heard about parade marchers or any of the crowd.”
“They also found a knife on him this big,” Cameron chimed in, holding his forefingers eight inches apart.
Sharon pushed his hands together until his fingers were five inches apart. “Just like your dick, the knife gets bigger with each retelling.”
“Ouch!” Jesse yelled, laughing and kissing Sharon on the cheek. “You’re so mean to him.”
She grinned wickedly. “It’s just so easy.”
“It’s a good thing I love you,” Cameron shouted over a new song thumping to life, bringing cheers from the crowd.
In response, Sharon twined herself around Cameron and said something in his ear that had him throwing his head back and whooping joyfully. They caught Jesse’s attention and pointed to the dance floor, passing their drinks over to hold. Jesse shrugged and finished Sharon’s drink, setting the empty cup on the small shelf on the wall intended for discards.
A group of revelers walked by and stopped to talk to Jesse, something Kyle had become used to when they went out. Jesse was quite popular among Boystown regulars, and Kyle was becoming more familiar with some of the faces, but only a few names had burned into his long-term memory.
“Does he know everyone?” Bobby asked, watching Jesse pass out hugs and cheek kisses.
“Familiar faces,” Kyle said into Bobby’s ear. “I don’t remember their names, but I’ve met them before.” He raised his glass in greeting when a couple of them waved.
“You come here a lot?” Bobby asked, surprised.
“Once or twice a month, maybe. But Jesse’s been coming to Boystown for years. So yeah, he just might know everyone.”
“I thought he was younger than you.”
“He is,” Kyle answered. Bobby looked confused. “He’s been out longer. This is all pretty new to me, too.”
“How long have you known?”
“Known Jesse?” Kyle drained his drink and set it on the overflowing wall shelf.
“No, that you’re into guys, too.”
“College. I was pretty confused in high school, but it wasn’t far into my freshman year in the dorms before I had it figured out.”
Cameron hollered to get their attention and pointed to Kyle’s remaining drink, then twirled his finger at the ceiling to signal if he was ready for the next round. Kyle nodded. He didn’t usually drink so much, but it wasn’t often he had so much to celebrate.
“I wondered. You took that girl, Anne, to the prom, right?” Bobby asked, bringing him back to their conversation.
“Yeah, but she was just a friend. The guy she wanted to go with already had a girlfriend, and I wasn’t interested in anyone at the time.”
“So have you, you know?” His brother made a vaguely rude hand gesture.
“Fucked a girl?” Kyle asked drily. Bobby dipped his chin in affirmation. “Yeah, I have.”
“But with a guy…?” Bobby trailed off.
Kyle grinned. While he and his brother gave each other shit all the time, they were fairly close, and if Bobby really wanted details, Kyle might give him a few. Chances were, he could squick him out enough to stop the prying questions.
“Have you ever….” Bobby took a large swallow of his beer. “Taken it? Up the ass?”
Kyle drew the moment out, letting his brother squirm at the implication before answering. “I’ve done both.” Bobby made a face and Kyle laughed. “Until you know the magic that is the prostate, you don’t get to judge.”
“What do you mean?” Bobby asked, draining his beer and accepting two more from Cameron, to whom he shouted, “Next round’s mine.”
Kyle leaned close. “Some time, when you’re alone, rub the spot behind your balls.”
Bobby scoffed. “Already know about that.”
“Okay, then if you go up your ass with something, finger or toy or whatever, you can magnify that pleasure by a factor of ten.” Bobby gawped in disbelief. “Swear. Some guys can even come that way, without touching their dicks.”
Bobby was mesmerized. “Can you?”
Kyle’s grin widened and became toothy.
“No way!” Bobby yelled.
“You should try it. Maybe it runs in the family.”
“Wouldn’t that….” His brother looked distinctly uncomfortable, leaning close as if anyone could hear him over the music. “Make me gay?” he finished, sheepish.
Kyle bristled, but Bobby’s features were genuinely interested, not judgmental. “Every guy has a prostate. How you play with it has nothing to do with who you’re attracted to.”
Bobby only nodded and stared into the crowd, apparently considering Kyle’s suggestion. He looked worried, though, so Kyle threw him a bone.
“Have you ever heard of pegging?” Bobby shook his head. “It’s where the girl wears a strap-on and fucks the guy in the ass. It’s a thing. Google it.” He turned to find Jesse, who’d meandered to the other side of their group and was in animated conversation with yet more recognizable people, but then Kyle looked back at his brother’s open-mouthed gape. “Oh, and you’re welcome.”
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