Title: Snakes Among Sweet Flowers
Author: Jason Huffman-Black
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: AngstyG
Release Date: June 20
Heat Level: 3
Genre/Tags: Contemporary, M/M Romance, Suspense, Thriller
SynopsisTwo-time ex-con Camden Sanders has decided that Hog Mountain—an isolated community on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia—is the perfect place to continue running small scams without the threat of more prison time. But there are a few problems with this plan. One is the neighborly citizens of Hog Mountain thwarting his dirty dealings at every turn with their kindness. Another is Jackson Rhodes, a closeted Hog Mountain police officer who can see right through Cam’s good ol’ boy act and plans to catch him red-handed despite the attraction they both can feel. But the biggest problem of all is that Cam’s past is threatening to catch up with him, and it could mean trouble for more than just himself.
When Cam parked his pickup in front of the pumps at his station, he was surprised to find a local police cruiser waiting by the closed garage door. A tall blond cop leaned leisurely against the front bumper, staring directly at him as he took his time getting out. The frown on the policeman’s face was at odds with his stance, and although Cam didn’t think he had much to worry about, he couldn’t help the hammering in his heart, the constricting of his chest.
He’d dealt with cops and guards enough to know there wasn’t a one of them that wasn’t a sadistic asshole. They thrived on making people like Cam suffer. Cam had yet to deal with the local law and had hoped his lucky streak would continue. He had to admit the officer knew how to wear a uniform, though, with broad shoulders and slim waist accentuated nicely. Too bad he couldn’t sit in the truck all day and ogle the man instead of having to deal with whatever he wanted. With a sigh, Cam gathered his wits and opened the truck’s door, stepping out, then turning back to grab his breakfast. Well, shit. Wasn’t this morning starting off with a bang.
Instead of walking toward the officer, he aimed for the front door of the gas station. He’d turned the area attached to the garage into a waiting area with mismatched office chairs and an old coffee table from the Goodwill. Cam had to jiggle the key in the lock a few times before the cylinder turned, and as he opened the door, he heard footsteps approaching.
“What can I do you for this morning, Officer?” Cam asked as casually as possible. “Your cruiser giving you trouble?”
Cam sat his breakfast on the counter that ran along the back wall, then stepped over to the window-unit AC and pushed the button to get it going. It wasn’t that hot yet, but it wouldn’t take long to get there. When he still hadn’t gotten an answer from the cop, he turned to find him doing a thorough visual inspection of the area, then stepping over to the glass door leading to the garage and doing the same, canting his head to get as much of a view as possible without entering. Cam frowned.
“Is there a problem, Officer?” Now he had a reason for concern. What was the cop looking for? Cam had a sudden itch to run for it, although he had no idea what he was running from.
The officer turned, and Cam squinted to read the name Jackson Rhodes above the pocket of his uniform. When Officer Rhodes’s hand came to rest on the butt of his gun, it was all Cam could do not to flinch. “Who is the second coffee for, Mr. Sanders?”
Cam glanced over to his breakfast and back to Rhodes, his nervousness kicking up a notch. “I… uh….”
“Is anyone else here, Mr. Sanders?” Officer Rhodes took a step forward.
Shit! Cam was going into a full-out panic. His gaze darted around the room, looking for some way out of the situation, but then just as suddenly, his subconscious gave him a metaphoric kick in the ass. What the hell? Was he going to let this asshole come into his place of business and fuck with him? He had nothing to hide. Well, okay, that wasn’t exactly true, but he wasn’t going to simply crumple over one question.
Cam slipped into his I-give-not-one-fuck persona and looked Officer Rhodes in the eye. “I don’t see where that’s even a little bit of your business, Officer. Want to tell me what this is about?”
Officer Rhodes took a few more steps closer, until he was crowding Cam against the counter in front of his food. “I’ve been hearing tales on your methods of auto repair. From changing the winter air out of tires to replacing dissolved halogen crystals in headlights or the deoxygenized water in a radiator. A quick background check shows you’ve served time in the past.”
Fuck it! Cam thought. He took a step forward too, coming chest to chest and nose to nose with the officer. “Yeah, I done time, and I paid my debt. I’m here making a fresh start and I won’t have you bad talking my business. I have a logbook of work done, signed off by the customers. It shows I did legitimate work, no matter what you hear.”
“I’d like to see this log, if you will,” Officer Rhodes responded. Damn, the man was fine. Light brown eyes sparking with challenge, blond hair cut short in a crew cut. He looks so clean-cut, you’d think he would squeak when he walks.
Instead of pulling out the log, Cam turned toward his breakfast. “Coffee, Officer? I do have two. Might as well share. It was like I knew I was going to have company this morning.” He busied himself by pulling out the creamer and sugar packets from the bag and placing them where Rhodes could get to them, then pulling out the rest of his purchase and divvying up the food as if he’d meant to buy the cop breakfast.
When Cam glanced over, Rhodes was looking around again as if making sure no one else was in the shop. Then he shrugged and started doctoring his coffee to his satisfaction. Cam did the same and took a sip before opening one of the cabinet doors below the countertop. He pulled out a receipt book and pushed it over to the officer, then scooped up his breakfast and coffee and settled into one of the chairs to eat.
While Officer Rhodes leaned over the counter and flipped through the receipt book, Cam took the opportunity to admire the fine backside on display. The cop was built like a brick shithouse and would make a great addition to his spank bank. No doubt Rhodes had a gaggle of cheerleader-esque girls in town who giggled when he walked by. And that was too bad. Cam wouldn’t mind giving the fine officer a strip search.
The sound of a throat clearing brought Cam back from his thoughts. He glanced up to find Officer Rhodes staring at him with a frown on his face. Oops.