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In Arrears

Author(s): Morgan Hawke

Handsome, smart, and dangerous, Lieutenant Colonel Roth Jaeger of the Black Rose Company is a highly skilled mercenary. Unfortunately, he's also a playboy extraordinaire with a nasty habit of not paying his debts. Jaeger is about to discover that karma can be a really cunning Fox.

Excerpt


In the heart of Old Town, the sleek black automobile eased down the cobblestone road of the heavily shadowed alleyway. It rolled to a stop before the massive wooden gates to the Entertainment District. The back passenger door behind the driver opened.

With a smile of anticipation, Roth Jaeger stepped out of the car. The long tendrils of his red hair lifted in the rising breeze to caress his bare cheeks. His ruffled white collar fluttered against the black velvet lapels of his aqua and teal long coat, embroidered with roses in gold thread. The long hem of the open coat brushed against his creased charcoal slacks. Dust from the road whispered across his freshly shined black dress shoes.

Roth turned to look up beyond the sharply peaked and deeply shadowed gothic skyline of the aged town. The last rays of sunlight bled along the undersides of the distant clouds. Though he couldn't see it, he knew that behind him on the other side of the tall wooden wall, deep shadows filled the narrow alleyways of the labyrinthine entertainment district. Contemplating the view, he smoothed a hand along his goatee and the trimmed hair lining his jawline.

It was almost time.

The driver's side window rolled down and a young man with flyaway silver-blond hair looked out. He frowned, his slender brows dropping low over his ash-gray eyes. A jagged scar marked his face from his right eye down to his jaw. "Lieutenant Colonel Jaeger, please tell me that I don't need to pack our gear to flee yet another city?"

Roth turned to smirk at the young man. "Whatever do you mean, First Lieutenant?"

The young First Lieutenant scowled openly. "I mean, sir, do you actually plan on sticking around and paying your bills this time, or are you planning on leaving me behind to clean up your wine, women, and gambling debts again?"

Roth smoothed away his smirk and lifted a slender red brow. "You know, you could quit the Company and find gainful employment elsewhere...?" He abruptly winced and snapped his fingers. "Oh, wait, my mistake, you can't." He smiled brightly. "No honest merchant will hire someone with that kind of sword scar."

The young man's gaze narrowed into an open glare. "And who put that scar there?" He curled his lip in a snarl. "Sir."

Roth shrugged and looked away. "Not my fault you didn't dodge the practice sword fast enough, Ash."

"I was eleven!"

Roth turned just enough to shoot a corner of the eye glare at the blond youth. "Are you saying I should have left you to starve to death in that burned-out town? That I shouldn't have brought you into the company, fed you, clothed you, and taught you how to be a halfway decent fighter?"

The young man turned away scowling ferociously. "In addition to how to cheat at cards, dice, and mahjong. All while dodging debt collectors in town after town, when you remembered to bring me with you." He glared at the windshield. "Sir."

The deep, sonorous bell bonged out from the hilltop church on the other side of the city. The tones echoed long and loud, once, twice, thrice.

Roth looked up at the darkening sky and nodded. Ah, there...Day was officially over and night had begun. He turned to face the immense gate and the iron studded plank doors that barred it. "You are dismissed, First Lieutenant."

Behind him, the car's engine started. "You are a total bastard, Jaeger."
Roth nodded. "Comes with the job, Ash."

The two-storey tall doors rattled, clanked, and opened outward.

Roth strode beyond them without hesitation, his blood surging in anticipation.

In the deeply shadowed alleyways, unpainted wooden shutters were pushed back with a rattle to reveal barred windows with frames and lintels of bright scarlet. Cast-iron gates were opened to allow access to brightly painted doors. Strings of lights suspended over doorways and under eves bloomed to multi-colored life. Tall, slender flags were unfurled to proclaim the names of wine shops, bars, restaurants, gambling dens, smoking shops, and all the other various adult establishments. Lights, chimes, music, and honey sweet musky incense filled the alleys, calling out to those who sought pleasure in all its many forms.

They called this the Floating World, with denizens as beautiful and ephemeral as butterflies, yet as subtle and poisonous as spiders. It was a world outside of cold reality, a world of dreams--and nightmares. It was a place in between, where gods and demons walked among the mortals that tread its mysterious and ever-changing pathways.

Roth grinned. As far as he was concerned, Floating World was where one ended up after a full night of drinking, gambling, smoking, and sex.

Not that he minded.

He was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Black Rose Company that took on the petty and secret wars waged by corporations and countries. His days were spent wielding sword and pistol in vicious battles against men that were little more than animalistic killing machines, or passed out from exhaustion. His nights, however, were spent in the Floating World, the entertainment district found in every city in the world, seeking full-figured company and oblivion.

He loved wine, women, rich and heady tobacco, and gambling, in that order. Unfortunately, Lady Luck was a fickle mistress. She did not often bless him with her presence, and occasionally, he would swear that she'd cursed him. He'd been forced to flee more than one city with heavily-muscled debt collectors dogging his heels.

On the other hand, it didn't take much to lose the collectors. Few had the speed or stamina to keep up with him. Even fewer had the skill to track his wildly erratic trail through city after city, town after town, and hidden battlefield after hidden battlefield.

Hell, he'd lost his own First Lieutenant more than a few times, even when he hadn't meant to leave him behind to pay off, or work off, his debts.

What luck he did have was due to Mother Nature. He had been blessed with elegant features, clear aqua eyes, and rich red-gold hair that swept in silky waves down to the middle of his back. His occupation gave him a sleekly muscular build and grace in his movements. It also gave him more than a few nasty scars, but the women never seemed to mind.

By day, he wore the gold-trimmed, black long coat of his Company, but at night, he dressed in the height of fashion. He had no interest in drawing the attention of his enemies when he was drinking, or worse--fucking.

However, he refused to go anywhere unarmed. Holstered under his arm was his pride and joy, the Bloody Kiss. The enhanced Colt pistol's grip was carved ebony with silver filigree roses entwined around it. One of the few things he'd actually paid full price for.

Lady luck might only kiss him occasionally, but his appearance guaranteed that he never had any difficulty gaining entrance to the better establishments, or lacked for feminine company of the private or professional persuasion.

In short, he looked like he had money, so it was assumed that he did. He snorted. Only idiots judge a book by its cover.

Luckily, the world had a lot of idiots.

Several lovely girls and more than a few handsome youths waved to him from the doorways of their establishments.

"Hey, mister, need a drink...?"

"Hi, handsome! Looking for some company...?"
"Come gamble with us here! We guarantee a fair chance!"

Speaking of idiots...He smiled and passed them by. The past month had been a total bitch, physically and mentally, so he was in the mood for some serious relaxation.

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ISBN (Print):
ISBN (Electronic): 978-1-60180-127-2
Genre: GLBT
Date Published: 09/23/2010
Publisher: Mojocastle Press

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