Going Under, the first book in the Something in the Water series, arrives Tuesday, September 5!

 

Chapter 1: Sweet Temptations [Icing on the Cake]

Chapter 1: Sweet Temptations [Icing on the Cake]

Mason was sitting in a meeting with Barry, doing his best not to sulk as the Knights upper management stumbled their way through an explanation of why, exactly, they couldn’t trade Mason. They needed him, they said, he was the cornerstone of the championship team they were supposedly building. Of course, they couldn’t pay him more either, because they were already paying too much, and they needed the salary cap space in order to hire new support players for Mason. They knew they couldn’t win the championship with just one player. But they needed him to hang on just a little longer.


Mason had already been waiting years, and while he liked his teammates, there was still no one on the ice who could hold a candle to him. They were all mediocre players. They did their jobs. They were good guys. And sure, they were all talented enough to be in the IHA. But they weren’t superstars. They weren’t Mason Green or Symon Tremblay or Aleksandr Volkov—they weren’t even the guys who played support roles to IHA superstars, like Luke Mackinnon or Fyodor Nabokov.

And everyone knew it.

Mason wasn’t about to tell anyone that his other reason for asking for the trade was that he was hurting. He was only two months into the season, and already, he missed Luke more than he could stand. He’d never admit it—it would hurt his alpha pride too much—but he needed to be near his omega. Even if they moved him to Chicago, that was closer to DC than freaking LA. (Maybe. His geography was hazy.) He knew he couldn’t be with Luke every minute of every hour, even if he wanted to be, but he needed to do something to cut the physical distance between them.

No one had commented, but it was already affecting his play. He was slower on the ice. His knees ached, his wrists ached. He was tired, so damn tired—all the time. Sleep didn’t help it, even when he could sleep. He was restless in the night, exhausted during the day. He was jittery, nervous, defensive. Irritable—yesterday, he’d broken six sticks in practice because he kept missing the net.

He needed to be closer to Luke. Ideally, he’d get traded to the Stars—but that was a long shot. They had Symon Tremblay eating up most of their salary cap; they probably couldn’t swing Mason’s contract too. But he didn’t have to be in DC; New York, New Jersey, even Miami would be better than LA, on the opposite coast, the other side of the country. A six-hour flight and an unforgiving schedule between them, with just two scheduled match-ups during the next eight months, wasn’t going to cut it.

Strangely enough, it was Mason who was hurting most. He’d asked Luke about it, but the omega didn’t seem to be bothered at all. Mason had watched some of his tapes, replays from games just a couple of weeks ago and, as far he could tell, Luke was playing just fine. He didn’t sound distressed when they spoke on the phone, and he looked perfectly fine when they Facetimed or whenever he sent Mason a snap.

Mason resented him a little for it. After all, omegas were supposed to need their alphas. Alphas were supposed to be independent, but Mason found himself clawing at the bond more often than not, desperately begging for Luke’s attention. The reverse had yet to happen. Maybe it would get worse as the season wore on, but right now, it was Mason who was being the needy one.

He hadn’t prepared for that. If he’d known he’d react this way, he probably wouldn’t have asked Luke to try out being mated—and he would have resisted more at the end of the summer, when they’d re-sealed the bond. Mason disliked that he was chafing under separation. He was supposed to be strong, independent, unaffected.

He hated it with every fiber of his being. Every second he had to spend away from Luke was some kind of unique torture and he wished he’d never signed himself up for it.

“Look,” Barry said, his head rolling from side to side. His eyes were downcast; his hand landed on the table, his fingertips bouncing off the polished surface lightly, a sure sign he was agitated. “My client has been waiting for you guys to get your act together—you keep saying championship team, but where the fuck are your results? Hm? Season after season, you give us the same story—”

“The right opportunities haven’t presented themselves yet—”

“—blah, blah, blah. You said that last year. What are you waiting for, pigs to fly? Either put up or shut up, guys—”

Mason’s phone started ringing obnoxiously, vibrating its way across the table. They all jumped a bit. “I thought I told you to turn that off.” Barry glowered at him.

Mason grabbed it up. “Sorry, sorry, I thought I did—”

“Mr. Green, if you please—”

He glanced at the number—unknown. He hit ignore, then pocketed the phone. He smiled tightly, clasped his hands, and sat up straight. “Sorry,” he said again, “where were we?”

Cyprian looked at him, then cleared his throat and turned back to Barry. “You have to understand, these things take time—”

“Time we don’t have, my client has been with you for seven seasons now! We’re a little tired of waiting.”

Mason slid lower in his chair again, glancing toward the window. It was gonna be a long day.

*

He headed to the airport right after the meeting. Most of the team had already assembled; they were waiting for their coach, Bruce Gadreau. Mason rolled his eyes—and everyone in that stupid meeting had just told him he was unprofessional. Had they met some of the people they hired?

His phone vibrated, drawing his attention down. Barry had actually texted him to say he’d see him in DC—he was flying in for a meeting with Stars management. Mason’s breath caught in his throat; his heart smashed into his trachea in an effort to leap out of his body.

He frowned as the phone buzzed again—that unknown number again. ‘Hey,’ the message said, ‘call me. I need ur help’

He lifted a brow. That was a weird one. He dialed his voicemail.

He whirled about and bumped into Dusty, nearly knocking himself over in the process. “Hey man,” the older player said, “did you just get here—oh, sorry, didn’t realize you’re on the phone.”

“Is it your booty call?!” Cam asked, peering over Dusty’s shoulder at him.

Mason frowned. Dusty batted Cam away. “Don’t be a dumbass,” he snapped, “Mayday doesn’t have a booty call—”

“Does so, his DC booty call,” Cam spat back, sticking out his tongue for emphasis. He grabbed Mason’s phone from him. “Hey Macks!”

“Give that back, you prick—”

Cam pulled the phone away from his ear. “Oh, ugh, voicemail? Who uses that anymore?”

Mason snatched the device back from him, shaking his head slightly. He put the phone back to his ear just in time to catch the end of the message—“so, yeah, gimme a call back, could use a hand.”

The message ended with an obnoxious beep, and then the auto-assistant, in her British-tinged accent, announced, “Message erased.”

With a sigh, Mason dropped the phone into his bag. “Thanks, MacArthur,” he sneered, “I’m not getting any now.”

“Huh?” Cam gawped at him. “You mean that actually was—”

Mason booked it up the stairs, onto the plane. If nothing else, he could at least screw with his teammates’ heads a little.

*

It was a dull, gray day in DC, with the sky threatening a cold autumn rain. The air was heavy with the storm, and the breeze gusted by them, whipping up dust and dry leaves from the parking lot. Danny glanced about furtively, tapping absently at his phone screen as he sat in the passenger seat of Luke’s Cayenne, swinging his legs against the side of the sports vehicle. Luke was leaning on the open door, glaring at him.

“No reply,” the other omega murmured at last with a sigh. He jammed the phone into the pocket of his jeans. It took a bit of work, considering the pants hugged him like a second skin.

“It’s okay,” Luke murmured, glancing toward the empty parking lot, “maybe he’s in the air. We play Tuesday night, but there’s a couple of days in the schedule, so they might be on their way from LA now. We can try him again later.”

“Mm,” Danny replied, “yeah, but I’d really like to get this underway, y’know? I think Matty suspects something’s up—you’re sure he didn’t see us?”

“If he saw us, he would’ve been over here,” Luke replied, watching the other omega’s Chuck Taylor–clad feet crash rhythmically into the side of his car—donk, donk, one after the other.
The urge to throttle the other man dissipated when he looked up at him with those big, brown eyes. His hair swept across his forehead, dark, curling locks brushing his pale skin as they swayed in the breeze.

“I just … I wanna make it a surprise,” Danny murmured, scratching at his cheek. “Y’know. He’s been so sick, the least I can do is get him an amazing birthday present.”

“Oh, I think he’ll be surprised,” Luke drawled, then shuddered in the wind. “All right, let’s get out of here. I’m freezing.” He pushed off the side of the car. Danny swung himself into the vehicle, and Luke slammed the door, before jogging around and hopping in himself. No sooner had he slammed the door shut than the first icy-cold drops of rain splattered across the windshield.

“Grocery store?” Luke asked, glancing over at the other omega.

“Mm, but can we stop somewhere and get pumpkin spice lattes?”

Luke sighed, shook his head as he searched out the ignition. “You are such a basic bitch,” he murmured, drowning himself out as he turned over the engine. The Porsche roared to life.

“I hardly think basic is the right word for it.”

He smirked at Luke. The dark-haired omega shook his head. “Okay,” he said, “I guess I can give you that.”

He cranked the wheel, turning the car in a tight circle as he accelerated, tires squealing as they left rubber on the sun-bleached asphalt outside of the Iceplex. The car fishtailed as they straightened out, whipping toward the exit.

“You have a nice car,” Danny said flatly, “but it’s not a 9/11. Stop driving like you’re hot shit.”

Luke quirked a brow, daring him to go on. They coasted up to a stop sign; Luke stuck it in neutral and revved the engine.

“Oh, hey, look, there’s a Starbucks.”

Luke sighed, then pulled into the drive-thru. He frowned at the line-up. “Happy now?”

“I will be,” Danny mumbled.

Luke peered out the window, at the billowing clouds above them. “Looks like the rain’s gonna hold off,” he said, then rolled down his window as they approached the order window.

No sooner had he said it than the sky opened up and the rain came pouring down, practically drowning out the girl on the other end of the speaker system, drenching Luke as he leaned out of the car to shout their order to her.

Danny simpered at him as he pulled back into the vehicle, rainwater dripping off him. “Not a word,” he growled.

“I didn’t say anything,” Danny replied.

Luke rolled up the window and inched ahead toward the pick-up window. They were silent as they watched the guy in the blue pick-up four cars ahead of them take his order.

“So what’s the deal with you and Mayday?” Danny asked abruptly.

Luke flinched. “What do you mean?” he asked when he’d regained his composure. He couldn’t look at Danny though; he turned to stare at the brick wall of the building instead.

A car horn blared behind them. The line had tugged forward, and someone was impatient for their coffee.

Danny wasn’t looking at Luke either, but was staring straight ahead, out of the window. A shadow passed over him as Luke flipped on the wipers, and the other omega’s brow furrowed. “Are you two a … thing, or what?”

Luke drummed his hands on the wheel, let the car roll forward again. “What do you mean, a thing?”

Danny snorted. “Like, are you two a couple, or what? Jeez, Luke.”

Luke wrapped his hand around the worn leather of the steering wheel, gripping it tight. His first instinct was to cover up the scars on his neck—one much more prominent, more visible than the other.

He could feel Danny’s gaze on him, drawn to those marks like a magnet. He couldn’t fight down the flush.

Instead, he shrugged his shoulders high, bunching them around his ears. “I dunno,” he said, “what does it matter to you?”

The brunet considered that, then said, “Well.”

They rolled forward again.

“I’d just like t’know,” the other omega mumbled when they came to rest again. “Just, like, should Matt and I really be chasing after you, inviting you over and stuff? Or should we leave you alone?”

“You have never invited me over,” Luke huffed, stomping on the brake a little harder than he had to. He rolled down the window and offered the cashier his card with a tight smile.

Danny merely watched him during the entire transaction, only averting his gaze when Luke turned back to him with the drinks.

“It’s come up a few times,” he said as he took his cup, then filled his mouth with the first sip of burning hot liquid.

Luke stomped on the brake again.

“Whoa, whoa! Calm down, it was nothing serious!”

Luke stared at him. “You and Matt. Have discussed inviting me over.”

“Just a coupla times,” the bearded omega said with a shrug, his eyes rolling up toward the ceiling. “Like, sorta in passing, y’know, one of us says, hey, remember that time we had a threesome with Macks? That was hot.”

A deluge of horns.

Luke put the car into gear and pulled out of the lot.

“I’m just sayin’,” Danny murmured as they pulled back onto the street.

Luke turned the wipers up as a response. Danny watched him for a moment, then took another sip of his drink.

They arrived at the supermarket a few minutes later without having said another word. Danny pulled up his hoodie; Luke tugged his jacket over his already wet hair, and they splashed through the puddles gathering near the storm drain of the parking lot.

They were soaked and shivering as they stepped into the cool of the market, the rush of air conditioning whooshing out between the automatic doors as they slid open. It was the end of October, but nobody had bothered turning down the A/C.

Danny tossed his hood down. Luke shook out his jacket, before the two of them continued on toward the aisles of dry goods, both of them shuddering against the cold as they dried out.
Aisle 9 contained the items they were seeking—flour, sugar, and various other sundries that they needed to execute Danny’s plan.

Danny tucked a packet of cake flour under his arm. “You have to admit, it was pretty hot,” he said.

Luke chose to ignore that and focus instead on which package of food coloring they were going to get.

“You think they sell fondant here?” Danny asked, glancing around.

“Probably not,” Luke replied, putting the packet back on the shelf.

Danny rocked on his heels. “Shit, we’ll have to go somewhere else then,” he murmured.
Luke sighed heavily and turned away from the shelf. “All right, put that back. I think I know where we need to go.”

*

It was well after three when they managed to get back to Luke’s condo, baking supplies in tow. Danny’s phone was ringing off the hook—Matt had left him about five voicemails already.

“I think he’s worried now,” Luke said, kicking open the door, wincing as one of the cake pans rattled off the doorframe.

“No, really? I couldn’t tell.”

Luke let the bags he was holding fall to the floor. Danny hung up on Matt again, sighing heavily. “He’s just asking me about dinner,” he muttered, glancing through his texts. “He gets a little anal about that.”

“Must be nice,” Luke murmured, tossing his jacket and shoes into the closet. He picked up the shopping bags again, carrying the supplies down the hall into the kitchen. He didn’t have a mate to worry over him. He didn’t ask Mason about meals, and Mason didn’t ask him.

It kinda happened when you were thousands of miles apart on the regular. There wasn’t much point.

Danny trailed him into the kitchen. “You got anything from Mayday yet?” he asked.

“Nope,” Luke replied, then pulled his phone out to check. Sure enough, he was right. He knew Mason too well; they’d been friends for way too long.

The other omega swung up onto one of the barstools, leaning heavily on his hand. “I wish he’d get here,” he murmured. “I don’t bake. Matt’s the cook, really.”

“I couldn’t tell,” Luke mumbled, tossing packets of fondant onto the kitchen table. He wished Mason had texted them back too, but he was trying to keep in mind that Mason was probably on a plane. It was a six-hour flight from LA to DC. Mason would call when he got in.

He hoped.

He sighed, then wadded up the shopping bags and pitched them in the garbage. Danny was watching him, his gaze keen and curious.

“What?” Luke snapped.

“When did Mayday bite you?”

Luke slapped a hand over his neck instantaneously, flushing up to his ears. “A long time ago,” he huffed.

Danny quirked a brow. “Really,” he said.

“Yeah,” Luke said, letting his hand drop, “when we were in high school. We got drunk one night and—”

“I meant now, Macks.”

Luke felt his upper lip curl. “Uh, what? Last time I got bit, I was eighteen,” he huffed.

Both of Danny’s eyebrows lifted. “Right,” he drawled, “and that’s why that one is so pink, hm? I don’t think it looked like that in April.”

“What would you know?” Luke snarled. “We banged, one time, and that was it.”

Danny lifted his gaze from the scars, meeting Luke’s eyes. “Did you forget what we did last month?” he asked solemnly.

Luke flushed even brighter and spluttered.

Danny drew a little circle on the countertop. “I noticed it then,” he said, “but I didn’t want to say anything, not with Matt and Mayday right there. But he bit you again, huh?”

Luke didn’t know what to say, so he just stared, his eyes narrowing as though he could intensify his glower, until he could concentrate all of its power on one single point on Danny’s forehead with laser-like precision.

“How are you two managing?”

Luke sighed heavily. He supposed there was no two ways around it; he and Mason were mated and had been since the middle of August. Well, technically, they had been mated for almost ten years before that, but this time, it was mutual.

“It’s rough,” he murmured, leaning against the countertop. The granite was cool against his bare arms. “I mean, we’re pretty far apart.”

“Mm,” Danny said with a nod. “And that’s hard?”

Luke considered. “Well, yeah,” he said finally, “I mean, I want him around, but we’re so far away … I try to think about hockey instead.”

Danny nodded a few times, but looked around the room.

Luke’s phone started ringing. “The man of the hour,” he murmured as he pulled it out.

“Where the fuck is Danny?!” Matt all but screamed into his ear. “He was with you, he’s not answering my calls, what did you do with him?!”

“Jesus Christ, Matt!” Luke held the phone away from his ear. Danny pinched the bridge of his nose, shook his head.

“Is he okay?! What did you do with him?! Are you two fucking? You’d better not be fucking!”

“For the love of God, Matthew—”

“Danny!”

Luke set the phone down, hit speaker. Danny just shook his head, inhaled through his nose.
“What the hell are you two doing, it’s been hours! Why aren’t you answering my calls?!”

“My phone died,” Danny replied flatly, “probably because someone was calling me so much.”

“You guys left right after practice! You said you had an errand to run, what errand can possibly, possibly take this long—”

“We’re a little busy right now, Matty, can I call you back?”

“Daniel—”

Danny hit the end call button, glanced at Luke as he pressed his finger to the touchscreen. The room went silent.

The two omegas stared at each other for a moment or two.

“I hope you know he totally thinks we’re fucking now,” Luke said.

That wayward brow ticked up again. “Well, we could make sure he’s right …”

Luke flushed again. “What is with you?” Luke spat, staring down at his feet. “I just admitted to you that Mayday and I are mated, and you’re still hitting on me—”

“You’re not the only omega around here,” Danny muttered.

Luke frowned, then opened his eyes wider. “Oh,” he breathed.

“Yeah,” Danny murmured. “I’m surprised you didn’t notice. I do it every year for Matt’s birthday. It’s really the only time …”

Luke shuffled, because he didn’t really know what to say to that. Now that Danny had admitted it, he could smell him—sharp and clear, tantalizing. He was surprised too; the scent of an omega in heat wasn’t something that was easily ignored. That he’d missed it—even during practice, when the stench of hockey equipment could easily drown other odors—was almost shocking.

“So,” Luke said.

Their gazes locked. Then Danny leaned over the bar and Luke leaned forward and they kissed, hard, tongues tangling. Danny threaded a hand through Luke’s hair, pulled him in closer. Luke gripped at the other omega’s forearms, intent on mashing their mouths together as hard as he could.

They pulled back panting, Luke licking at his lips, swallowing down Danny’s scent.

It was commonly thought that only alphas were affected by omegas, but they both knew better. Luke had had a profound effect on Danny back in April; now it was Danny’s turn.

Danny slid off the bar stool; Luke met him halfway around the counter and slammed him back, pinning him up against the fridge, grinding against him.

Danny broke the kiss, tilting his head back, groaning low. He rolled his hips into Luke’s ministrations. Luke growled, leaned in and nipped at Danny’s neck—his own scar, the one that Matt had left behind when he claimed him.

“Fuck, please,” Danny groaned, “Luke, I’ve been waiting all day, I need you so bad—ever since practice, you smell so fucking hot—”

“You reek,” Luke snarled, nipping at the scar again, then dropping to his knees in front of the other omega.

Danny was already trembling. “Please,” he begged, threading his hands through Luke’s hair again, tugging lightly, insistently. “Please, Luke, fuck, I need your mouth on me, let me face-fuck you—”

“Uh-huhn,” Luke whined, unzipping Danny’s jeans, sliding his hands into his underwear, grabbing at his ass.

Danny’s hand trailed down his cheek, then clamped around his jaw, his fingers digging in, forcing Luke’s mouth wide open as he tilted the other omega’s head up. “Just like that, my cock between your lips, choking you—”

“Unf,” Luke managed to snort, because he didn’t have much else, not with Danny holding him like that. The other omega guided him down, rubbed his face against his cloth-clad erection. Luke mouthed at him as best he could, dug his fingers into the older man’s ass.

A phone started ringing, giving them both pause. Luke looked up at Danny, and the older omega looked down at him, as though trying to read him. Neither of them said anything, but the moment was over—they could both feel it in their bones.

Luke sighed and sat back on his heels. Danny zipped up his jeans again. He glanced toward the table. “That’s yours, isn’t it?”

Luke nodded; the phone went on ringing.

“Gonna answer it?”

Luke considered, then scowled. “It’s either Matt or Mason. Matt will yell at me, and …”

“We need to talk to Mason.”

Luke met Danny’s gaze, hunched his shoulders under the older man’s withering look. Sometimes, Danny knew how to make him feel like a little kid.

Without a word, he got to his feet and headed to the table. He glanced at the phone, then exhaled through his nose. Mason.

He picked it up. At least it wasn’t Matt.

“Hey, Mayday.”

“Jeez Luke, I thought you’d be a little quicker on the uptake,” the alpha growled, his voice making the speaker crackle and pop. “Seven rings? Really? Is that how you serve me?”

“You counted?”

Danny glanced at him, then turned his attention to rifling through the baking supplies.

“Seriously though,” Mason continued, “I would’ve thought … do I really need to call?”

Luke flinched. He hadn’t felt Mason through the bond at all—of course he needed the call. But he couldn’t say that. Mason would freak if he thought there was something wrong with the bond—or worse, with Luke.

“I like to hear your voice,” he lied and hoped to hell the younger man bought it.

“I’d rather see your stupid face,” Mason muttered. “I’m on the train now, I should be there in like … twenty minutes.”

“I can hardly wait,” Luke purred, glancing sidelong at Danny, smirking at him. The other omega returned the smile, then dropped his gaze again. He tore open a package of fondant. “I’ve got a surprise for you …”

“Do you now?” Mason didn’t sound excited—more annoyed. Sarcastic. He didn’t believe him.

“Mmmhmm,” Luke said.

“Better not be another dude in your house,” Mason said flatly, and Luke grimaced.

“Of course not! Why would there be another … seriously, Mayday.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time, Luke, wouldn’t be the last. But seriously, I’m getting a little sick of this. Like, it was fun with your teammates and all, but I really …”

Luke frowned deeply at the note of wistfulness in the younger man’s voice.

Mason cleared his throat. “I’m looking forward to having you all to myself,” he said finally, and it was gone, that strange tone. Luke knitted his brows.

“All yours,” Luke whispered, “just hurry up and get here.”

“On it,” Mason said, then hung up. Luke stared at the phone for a minute, then pitched it aside. He rested his head on the table.

“What’s up?”

“He wants to be alone,” the dark-haired omega murmured, clutching at his hair. “He specifically said no other dudes in the house—”

“We’re just friends,” Danny said. “We’re here platonically. We’re baking a cake for Matt’s birthday.”

Luke sighed and stood up again. “I know,” he muttered, “I just … he’s gonna be mad about it.”

“Do you want me to go then?” Danny sounded a little edgy, nervous even. Luke tamped down on a smirk; the other omega belied himself by being so concerned, so considerate.

“No,” he said, blowing his bangs off his forehead, out of his eyes. “We need his help with this, so …”

“I guess we’ll just have to convince him,” Danny said.

Luke eyed the older man warily, then said, “Sounds like you have something in mind.”

Danny smirked just a touch. “I might.”


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