This short story features characters from The Black Raiders series and may contain spoilers. The story is set after A Detached Raider and before Deceiving a Raider.
“Tell me again why we’re working on Valentine’s Day?”
Cole looked up from the folder in his hands and said, “Because we’re both supposed to be single.”
Cade pursed his lips and nodded slowly. “Makes sense.”
Cole shook his head at him and returned his gaze to his documents. Cade caught the twitch of Cole’s lips and leaned back in his chair with a pleased smile. The man was beginning to smile more as time went by. Every smile he managed to wrangle out of the man made his heart soar. There was something special about being the reason for one of Cole’s smiles. He’d always known there was something good, something soft and mushy, underneath that tough and seemingly impenetrable exterior of Cole’s.
Cade glanced at the clock on his computer screen and let out a pitiful groan. They still had two hours left before they could go home. Morris wasn’t there but he knew better than to leave early. The guy had a way of finding things out and he would gladly suspend Cade. Again. It wasn’t that he was actively looking to get suspended but somehow, he always ended up in crazy and sometimes unbelievable situations. He suspected Morris was looking for reasons to suspend him just so he could have a nice, relaxed day at work. Not that Cade really blamed him. He was like a damned crazy magnet sometimes. Hell, he needed a break from himself now and then.
He heard Cole put down his folder and stand from his chair. He looked up and when he saw Cole headed for the door, he jumped out of his chair.
“Where are you going?” Cade asked when he caught up with Cole.
“To get something to drink,” Cole said.
Cade smiled at him and followed him into the kitchen where they found Tanner sitting at the table. Tanner looked up when he heard them, a tired smile on his face.
“Looks like your partner has rubbed off on you,” Cade said as he sat down next to Tanner who raised a brow at him. Cade shrugged and said, “You look like you’re the one with a baby at home.”
Tanner sighed loudly and turned in his chair to catch Cole’s gaze.
“Was that his way of saying I look like shit?”
Cole nodded, a serious expression on his face. “Yes.”
Tanner snorted, though he was still smiling. Cade nudged Tanner’s knee with his own to get his attention.
“Yeah, I’m just—” Tanner yawned and shook his head. “Just really tired. I didn’t get any sleep last night because my lovely roommate decided to have sex in the living room which is right next to my bedroom instead of using his own. Upstairs. In the other end of the house.”
Cade couldn’t help his chuckle and Tanner gave him a half-hearted glare.
“He’s got a new girlfriend and it’s Valentine’s Day. I’m so not going home tonight,” Tanner said.
“Oh, you poor thing,” Cade said and laid a comforting hand on Tanner’s arm. He glanced up at Cole just as a thought struck him. “You could stay in Cole’s apartment.”
Cole’s eyes looked on the verge of bulging out which only made Cade grin up at him. They certainly wouldn’t be using Cole’s apartment that night. They spent most of their time at Cade’s house, much to Mrs. Jones’s delight he was sure.
“You don’t need it?” Tanner asked Cole.
“No,” Cole said with a shake of his head. “I’ll be at Cade’s. Morgan’s coming over. I don’t think she likes Valentine’s Day very much. I can stay the night if you want my apartment?”
“That’s…” Tanner trailed off and cleared his throat. “That’s really kind of you. Thank you.”
Cole glanced up at Cade whose smile only widened when Cole shot him a wink.
Tanner sounded as miserable as he looked, though he did perk up at the prospect of a quiet place to spend the night. As they were making arrangements, a loud clatter followed by Cade’s “Shit” sounded from behind them. They shared a glance before turning around to see Cade standing with his front to them while holding something behind his back, a guilty look on his face.
“What?” Cole asked, narrowing his eyes.
“Um.” Cade’s gaze darted from Cole to Tanner and then to the floor as he grimaced. He moved his hands in front of himself, showing them the Nespresso machine’s water tank, which was now in two pieces. “I think I broke it.”
The burst of laughter coming from behind Cole made him turn wide eyes on Tanner who was bent over from laughing. Cade was muttering under his breath as he tried to put the water tank back together without success.
“This is why he’s not allowed to make coffee,” Tanner said with a smirk.
“Don’t you dare tell Morris it was me. I’ll never be allowed near any coffee machine here again,” Cade said to Tanner.
Tanner threw his hands up and backed away, though the mischievous look on his face told Cole that by morning, everyone would know. One look from him and he knew Tanner would keep his mouth shut, but Cade brought this on himself, so he settled for an unimpressed glance at Tanner who grinned before turning and disappearing into the hallway.
“This is the second one you’ve broken,” Cole said as he turned towards Cade.
Cade glared at him and said, “The first one burned down. That’s not my fault. I was just the one who was using it when it decided it was time to die.”
Cade flipped him off and with a sour expression, he went to the fridge and pulled out two bottles of water. He pushed one into Cole’s hands as he walked past him. When they made it back to their office, Cade strode up to his desk and picked up something that hadn’t been there when they’d left.
“Aw. You shouldn’t have,” Cade said and turned around.
Cole put his water bottle on his desk, blinked at Cade, then turned his eyes on the heart-shaped box of chocolates he was holding.
Cade looked up at him with raised brows. “Are you saying I have a secret admirer?”
A snort made them both turn towards the door. Brent had a shoulder leaned against the doorframe, his brown eyes sparkling with humor as he looked from Cade to Cole, his lips twitching at the corners.
“You should’ve just claimed it, Banks. Now his head is just gonna get bigger with him thinking he’s got admirers.”
Unfortunately, he knew from experience that Brent wasn’t wrong. Cade opened his mouth, but Cole cut him off.
“Don’t you dare.”
They locked gazes and he had to fight off a shiver at the promises he saw in Cade’s eyes. They weren’t many at work that day and even when they were, Cade would gladly pull him into the first empty room with a lock on the door.
“Alright, you two. Enough with the sexual tension,” Brent said.
Cole dropped his eyes to the floor, embarrassment burning on his cheeks. Cade, of course, didn’t look the least bit flustered.
“Is there a card on that box?” Brent asked.
Cade pursed his lips and looked down at the red box in his hands. He shook it and even turned it upside down without luck. It wasn’t until he opened the lid that his face lit up.
“It’s from Morgan,” Cade said, a smug smile spreading on his lips. “It says she bought it for you because she knew you’d be a dumbass and forget.”
Cole groaned, rubbing his hands down his face. “She’s gonna hold that over me for an entire year, isn’t she?”
He opened his eyes to see both Brent and Cade nodding. He eyed Brent suspiciously for a moment before asking, “Why are you here, anyway?”
Brent’s lips pulled into a wide, toothy smile and Cole wasn’t surprised when he said, “Someone had to deliver the chocolate.”
“You’re an ass,” Cole said.
“My ass is amazing,” Brent countered.
A chuckle made them both glance at Cade who’d pulled himself up onto his desk and was stuffing his face with the chocolate. Cade smiled widely at them and popped another piece into his mouth. Cole let out a groan and put his hands on the back of Brent’s shoulders, pushing him towards the door. Brent went willingly but he was chuckling the whole way.
“You’re gonna be buying chocolate for a long while to make up for that,” Brent said.
Cole glared at him and shut the door in his face. Brent wasn’t entirely wrong. He should’ve thought of buying Cade chocolate. The man lived off of the stuff. He shook his head and walked to his desk where he sat down in his chair. He dived back into his work, pretending he wasn’t watching Cade out of the corner of his eye. Cade was sitting behind his desk, working on his computer while occasionally grabbing another piece of chocolate from the box.
“You know,” Cade said, rolling his chair closer and making Cole glare at him suspiciously. “There is one way you could outdo the chocolate.”
“We’re not having sex here,” Cole hissed under his breath.
“Well, I have grown quite fond of that car of yours,” Cade said and wagged his brows suggestively.
Cole shook his head and took a moment to just look at his partner. That beautiful smile and the playful glint in those dark, blue eyes. That infectious laughter. The quirkiness and all the damned singing. He didn’t want Cade any other way. The man brought him to life in a way he hadn’t even known was possible. He’d been a grouchy, closed-off asshole before they’d met but that hadn’t scared Cade off, not in the least. He had no idea what he’d ever done to have a man like Cade want him.
“If you promise to keep it in your pants until we get home, I’ll go buy us some coffee,” Cole said.
“Hmm. Let me think about it.” Cade pursed his lips in thought and glanced upwards with his head tilted to the side. He nodded and turned his eyes back on Cole. “Deal.”
One coffee and several chocolates later, they were in the elevator, headed for the parking garage. When they reached it, he followed Cole to his car. A smile found his lips as he let his eyes roam over the car they’d had sex in quite a few times. Cole had made a rule about not having sex at work, but fortunately, that didn’t seem to extend to the Camaro. He knew having sex at work was pretty fucking stupid, but sometimes he had a really hard time controlling himself around Cole, with emphasis on hard.
They got into the car and as they were driving out of the garage, Cole said, “I didn’t forget to get you something.”
Cade arched an unbelieving brow at him. Cole glanced at him shortly as they stopped at a red light. Cole sighed loudly before snorting.
“Fine. Your sister called me.”
A smile broke free on Cade’s face and he shook his head at Cole.
“Why am I not surprised?”
“Shut up,” Cole mumbled.
“Make me,” Cade said with a grin that turned into a chuckle at Cole’s groan. He’d walked right into that one. The look Cole gave him was enough to make his toes curl in anticipation of what that look promised.
They both stayed quiet the rest of the drive home and it wasn’t until they’d walked through the front door and taken off their jackets and shoes that Cade spoke.
“So. Where’s my gift?”
“I had it delivered while we were at work,” Cole said, keeping his words vague.
A million possibilities ran through Cade’s mind as he followed Cole into the living room. He came to a halt when he saw what was on the coffee table and turned his wide eyes on Cole.
“Is that a coffee maker?”
“It’s a French press coffee maker. It can’t burn out like the coffee machine.” Cole’s lips quirked. “Just don’t shatter it.”
“You… got me a coffee maker?”
Cole nodded and said, “I also got you a lot of coffee, two Disney mugs, and a travel mug.”
He walked up to Cole and cupped his cheeks, bringing their mouths together. He felt Cole’s smile against his lips and leaned back.
“Does it beat the chocolate?”
Cade shook his head, a smile playing on his lips. “Nothing beats chocolate.”
Cole’s chuckle made Cade feel warm and happy. He loved that sound. He stepped back to look at his things, not surprised to find that one of the mugs had Hercules on it.
“You didn’t get me anything, did you?” Cole asked.
Cade glanced up at him, keeping his face blank. “Did you want something? I mean, anyone who puts chocolate in the fridge can’t really like it that much.”
“Doesn’t have to be chocolate.”
“What are you fishing for, exactly?”
Cole shook his head, an unreadable expression covering his face. “Nothing. I’m just saying.”
“Guess you’re in luck, babe. ‘Cause I did get you something,” Cade said, grabbing Cole’s hand and tugging him towards the stairs.
“Why are we headed for the bedroom? If your gift is sex, then I’m afraid to break it to you, but you give me that on the daily,” Cole said.
Cade didn’t answer, his lips quirking into a smile. He pulled Cole into the bedroom and didn’t stop walking until they reached the dresser. He let go of Cole to pull open the top drawer. Cole frowned at him for a moment before turning his eyes on the content of the drawer. Or rather, the lack thereof. For a few seconds, all Cole did was stare into the drawer and Cade couldn’t help getting jittery as he waited for Cole’s reaction with bated breath. He knew he was taking a risk, but he also knew it was worth it. Cole was worth it.
“You cleaned out a drawer for me?” Cole asked, his voice thick with emotion as he glanced up at Cade.
Cade nodded and pointed towards the closet. “Made room for some of your suits, too.”
“Honestly? I got tired of your bags all over the place,” Cade said.
Cole stepped closer, fire blazing in his eyes as he said, “Now, I know that’s a lie. I don’t leave my things all over.”
“Don’t you?” Cade asked, blinking innocently at Cole.
“No, I don’t. You practically handed Tanner my apartment tonight and you’ve made room for my clothes.”
“Uh huh, and what is that master detective brain of yours concluding from this evidence?”
Cole pulled him closer and wrapped an arm around him. He cupped Cade’s cheek, his eyes filled with gratitude and something else that made Cade’s knees wobbly.
“That for some reason I can’t fathom, you actually like me and want to spend time with me,” Cole said.
“You didn’t get that before now?”
“Oh, I got it when you didn’t run away screaming after our first week together.”
Cade was still smiling when Cole captured his lips and a sweet kiss. Cole pulled him closer and deepened the kiss. Cade slid his fingers into Cole’s hair and held on tightly as Cole kissed him breathless. He never wanted Cole to leave. He knew that as well as he knew the man was stealing his heart more and more with each day.