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Published by EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING ® at Smashwords


www.evernightpublishing.com




Copyright© 2017 Angelique Voisen



ISBN: 978-1-77339-480-0


Cover Artist: Jay Aheer


Editor: JC Chute



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.


This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.



WORTH THE PRICE



Angelique Voisen


Copyright © 2017



Chapter One


Blue or green?

Lex Page chewed on his bottom lip in deep thought, while looking longingly at his usual choice of dress. A restaurant like Le Pierre might mistake him for a homeless guy in faded blue jeans and a worn-out gray hoodie, and turn him out. Thinking about that particular scenario made him nervous. All the commotion, and the horrified faces of the diners turned towards him—that was a sure ticket to another panic attack.

“Breathe,” he reminded himself, plucking his orange inhaler from the left pocket of his trousers.

Taking a slow breath, he simultaneously squeezed the inhaler and held his breath. Albuterol filled his lungs. Heaven.

The fabric of his trousers itched. So did the starchy white shirt. Both items felt odd against his skin. Lex never really liked dressing up. If it weren’t for Dom, he wouldn’t be caught dead in a suit, either. First rule of us dating, Dom would say. Dress up, or don’t get out of the house at all.

The prospect of seeing Dom trumped everything else, even his severe social anxiety. And sex, of course.

Focus. He glanced back at the bowties lying on the dresser. He arranged a dozen of them in a straight line, but he considered the blue and green. Orange, red, and yellow seemed too much.

People would stare. They always did. Dom and Dr. Michaels often reminded Lex it was all in his mind, but he never believed them. If someone lingered long enough, they’d catch glimpses of the real Lex, and all the cracks in the internal armor. Cracks he’d spent his entire life hiding.

Sweat coated his palms. More slid down his spine, back, and underarms. He should have put on the shirt and coat last. If Lex didn’t hurry, he’d lose his reservation. Blue was safe, right?

Lex didn’t want to be seen at all. He relied on being invisible, loved the fact no one took a second glance at him in the street. He wore the suit and bowties for Dom. No one else, because Dom said they added some color into his life.

Now the hard part. Lex put away the other bowties in the carved and ornate wooden box Dom gave him for their first anniversary, and studied the three different shades of blue bowties. He arranged the clip-on, a premade, and the self-tie once again in a row.

The clip-on was the darkest, nearly black in color. Lex brushed his thumb over the fabric. Dom always said a true bowtie enthusiast could always tell. Besides, only children wore a clip-on accessory. The same went for the pre-made.

Sighing, Lex plucked the self-tie and wound it around his neck. He stared at his reflection in the mirror. An everyday guy in his mid-twenties with a neat haircut and brown hair and eyes stared back at him. The suit stood out though. So did the bowtie. Why Dom preferred these infernal things to a simple tie, Lex didn’t know.

Reciting Dom’s instructions in his head, he made the neat little bow. Five attempts later, he nodded his satisfaction. At the third time, tears threatened to fall from the corner of his eyes, but he held them back. Frustration welled inside him. Why the fuck was this so hard?

Real men didn’t cry. His father always said so, even though the bastard was long dead.

At the very least, the sweat had dried. Lex gave his appearance another cursory glance, wincing at the end product. Whatever. Every man in the restaurant would be wearing thousand-dollar suits and formal coats. No one would give him and his two-hundred-dollar outfit another glance.

On his way out of the bedroom, something nudged its furry head against his leg and let out a bark. Dom’s Welsh Corgi, Patches—no, his now, looked up at him earnestly. A normal dog would have wagged its tail, but real Welsh Corgis didn’t have them, apparently. A strange dog for a man who never quite fit in the world—that sounded just about right.

“I can’t play, boy. I have a date.”

Lex waved at the suit and bowtie. Patches didn’t look impressed. Lex took a short trip to the kitchen, hearing the stubby paws of the short, sausage-shaped fur ball trotting behind him. Opening a can of dog food and placing it in Patches’s bowl, he lowered it for Patches. The Corgi sniffed at his fingers, before digging in.

Lex eyed the mutt critically. “You’re getting a little fat ’round the edges, bud.”

Patches let out what suspiciously sounded like a snort. Lex rubbed the Corgi’s ears, wondering if he should cancel this entire thing. Once Patches got what he wanted, the fiend ignored him completely. Lex knew he was purposely delaying.

He wished he could take the same amount of time picking his footwear. Too bad he owned one pair of leather shoes and four pairs of sneakers.

He slipped his feet in, feeling uncomfortable, recalling all the times he bitched and whined to Dom about not being able to run in these. Dom’s response would always be the same. In what kind of situation would Lex need to run? Lex’s exercise was limited to occasionally climbing the stairs to his apartment unit on the second floor when the elevator broke down. Walking to work would be another excuse, except Lex worked remotely from home.

Lex patted his pockets before heading out. Wallet, keys, cell phone, and inhaler: check. No more delays. Tonight, Lex would strap on a pair. He promised Dr. Michaels.

“Do, not try,” Lex murmured under his breath.

Right, talking to himself. Another habit he needed to break out of. With his car still at the impoundment lot, Lex walked. The old Toyota his father gave him for high school graduation would remain there. Lex had no interest getting it back after the accident.

Besides, Le Pierre wasn’t far, only a couple of blocks away, even if Lex had to pass several dodgy streets and rough neighborhoods. He counted on would-be muggers seeing him as slim pickings and moving onto bigger prey. Being invisible—one of the benefits of being one the Lexes of the world, he supposed.

He reached the Le Pierre in record time. Located on the street occupied by a number of trendy restaurants opened over the last year, most of the places were close to bursting on a Friday night. The walk-ins gave him a glare when he shuffled forward and gave the maitre d’ his reservation. The thin and balding Frenchman found his name on his clipboard. Finally looking up at Lex, recognition hit the waiter’s face.

Lex stuffed his hands in his pocket. It must have only been a couple of seconds, but he never liked people paying too much attention.

“Table for two?” the inconsiderate bastard asked with a skeptical sneer.

“That’s right.” Lex put steel into his voice. God knew the number of times he’d tried talking himself out of this stupid blind date.

He half expected the guy to turn him away, to tell Lex he was a waste of space. Letting out a heavy sigh, the waiter took a menu. Not that Lex needed it. With ten items on the single piece of expensive gold-leaf paper crammed into thick leather case, there weren’t many options for someone who’d eaten there frequently.

“This way, please.”

Ignoring the man’s lofty tone, Lex followed. Seeing the empty corner table set for two, he let out a sigh of relief. Never mind it was close to the busy kitchen. The last time, Lex sat in one of the tightly packed tables in the center. Even now, the uncomfortable experience made him shudder. He debated taking the seat facing the wall, but Daniel wouldn’t be able to see him that way.

Lex took the other seat and pretended to look at his menu so the waiter would go away. Certain he was alone, he stared at the familiar words on the menu. Every single time, he took the same thing—the duck with the creamy potatoes and side salad. Most of the time, Lex left the potatoes in the hopes his date would take it a little further. Ten out of ten times, the date seldom ended in the bedroom.

Eight out of ten times, his date never even showed up.

“Are you ready to order, sir?” A fresh-faced blonde asked.

Lex stared at the empty seat across from him. What were the chances ‘Daniel938’ would appear? Hell, his name might not even be Daniel, but something else.

“Duck, please … oh, and,” Lex paused, scanning the drink list. He was a social drinker, but it seemed fine to let loose a little, given the evening was about to end up in utter and craptastic failure. “Some wine. Surprise me, as long it’s not the pricier ones.”

The blonde nodded amiably, tapping on her tablet. “I’ll be back with your order, sir. And your companion?”

Lex winced at that. “He’s running late.”

She left him to his misery. Now then, why the hell would he say something like that? The rest of the evening turned out uneventful, especially once Lex resigned himself to the truth. Daniel must have decided he wasn’t worth the effort, although Lex uploaded his best photo on the dating site. Maybe Daniel found someone more attractive to hook up with, someone more fun and interesting.

“Why do I constantly do this to myself?” Lex grumbled, angrily stabbing at his potatoes. Usually, he avoided carbs, but what the heck?

The answer came easily. He wanted to make Dom proud, so the next time Lex visited his dead boyfriend’s grave, he could tell he moved on. That would make Dr. Michaels happy too.

“Good evening, I apologize for being late,” a smooth voice said, interrupting his train of thoughts.

Wait. What? Lex thought he’d imagined the voice, or overheard it from a nearby table, but no. Someone dragged the chair opposite him. Confused, wondering if he was starting to become a little woozy from all that wine, Lex stared. Gaped was a better word. The man who sat in front of him didn’t look like the profile photo of Daniel from MatchYourLove.com.

For one thing, the Daniel in that photo wore a plain green shirt and jeans, freckly face grinning. Daniel was passably handsome, cute, the kind of guy a braver man would ask out in a coffee shop. Daniel was in more ways than one, a safe choice. Certainly out of his depth, but this man was like a thousand leagues away.

Tall, nearing six-foot, the man wore an impeccable black suit that looked like something Lex could never afford. The suit hugged him perfectly, tailored to his build. He wasn’t exactly buffed like a steroid gym addict, more like padded with lean muscle like a boxer. With a quick motion, the guy sat and placed the napkin on his lap. He moved like a predator. Lex didn’t know why he thought that.

His date—although Lex could hardly believe it, waved over a waiter. The same snooty Frenchman who sat him down came over. Lex winced, expecting a disaster. The waiter quickly melted when Lex’s date spoke in what sounded like perfect French.

“That would be all for now,” the man said, sounding dismissive and charming at once.

Wait. That didn’t make sense. Lex was besotted with a perfect stranger. Great. This guy couldn’t be his date. He looked like the complete opposite of Daniel. Of course, there was the huge possibility the photo Daniel put up on the site was fake.

Black eyes looked intently at him. No, they weren’t black, Lex realized a second later, but a kind of dark green. The face that stared at him was handsome, in a rough kind of way. Lex took in the strange details, like the broken nose and the thin scar right below the man’s jaw. Not a shaving accident, Lex assumed. Every instinct told him to start running. This guy screamed danger, although Lex couldn’t put his finger on it.

The man undid the top button of his gray shirt, unveiling a tanned collarbone. Lex spotted hints of ink underneath. The outline of a black wolf caught his eye. “There, much better. It’s unexpectedly hot in here, don’t you think?”

Lex decided not to share he was about to combust.

“Um, are you sure you’re at the right table?” Lex couldn’t help but ask.


Chapter Two


Frowning, the handsome stranger studied him a little closer. Those dark and serious eyes unnerved him a little. Why did it feel like the man was capable of reading his soul? One look seemed capable of reaching out, tearing away all his invisible barriers and reaching for his soul. His heart hammered.


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