Ball & Chain (Cut & Run, #8)
This title is #8 of the Cut & Run series.
This title is part of the Cut & Run universe.
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Home from their unexpected deployment, the former members of Marine Force Recon team Sidewinder rejoin their loved ones and try to pick up the pieces of the lives they were forced to leave behind. Ty Grady comes home to Zane Garrett, only to find that everything around him has changed—even the men he went to war with. He barely has time to adjust before his brother, Deuce, asks Ty to be his best man. But that isn’t all Deuce asks Ty to do, and Ty must call for backup to deal with the business issues of Deuce’s future father-in-law.
Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbott join Ty and Zane at the wedding on an island in Scotland, thinking they’re there to assuage Deuce’s paranoia. But when bodies start dropping and boats start sinking, the four men get more involved with the festivities than they’d ever planned to.
With the clock ticking and the killer just as stuck on the isolated island as they are, Ty and Zane must navigate a veritable minefield of family, friends, and foes to stop the whole island from being destroyed.
Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish.
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Publisher's Note: The following is a raw, unedited excerpt.
Zane relaxed back as a cool breeze off the water filtered through the trees to pass through the patio.
Ty glanced out at the moonlit strand of beach. The waves lapped at the shore, wiping away the footprints of those who’d come before, the sound masking the soft murmurs of conversation around them. “Now it looks like the beaches I know.”
“You okay?” Zane asked carefully.
Ty nodded as he pushed his chair back. “If I fall over when I stand up, you’re going to catch me, right?”
Zane smiled. “Of course I’ll catch you.”
Ty reached to take Zane’s hand and hefted himself up. He pulled Zane up with him and wavered closer to him, just tipsy enough to not care who saw them. Zane slid an arm around his shoulders and turned him toward the beach, getting him walking in that direction. Once they’d passed into the relative darkness of the beach, Ty slid his hand into Zane’s as they walked.
“You having fun yet?” he asked.
“Maybe not fun, but it’s been nice so far,” Zane said as he laced their fingers together. The watch at his wrist brushed against Ty’s as they walked. “I actually had a casual conversation with Burns. It was a little bizarre, but . . . getting there.”
“Try having him over for Thanksgiving dinner,” Ty said wryly as they hit the softer sand. They walked until there was nothing but moonlight to light their way. It was quiet and the breeze smelled of salt and Ty was happy. He came to a stop suddenly, pulling Zane closer to him. Zane hummed appreciatively and let his free hand fall to Ty’s hip as their chests bumped. Ty ran his nose up the side of Zane’s cheek, finally planning to take the kiss he’d been wanting all day when he heard a noise above the gentle surf. His entire body tensed and Zane leaned away from him.
Even here, remote and safe, he couldn’t seem to force his mind to relax. He cleared his throat and squeezed Zane’s hand, refusing to let his fingers slip away.
“Who the hell thinks walking on the beach in the freaking dark is romantic?” a woman’s voice asked breathlessly as the two figured came close enough to be heard over the lapping waves.
“Maybe it’s romantic if you’re being carried,” another woman suggested. “My calves are killing me!”
Ty and Zane both chuckled, exchanging quiet greetings as they passed the two women in the dark. The girls waved tiredly as they walked by, angling toward one of the cottages on the end of the shoreline. As they complained their way out of the sand, Zane tugged on Ty’s arm.
“C’mon. Nice, private cottage waiting.”
“I’m with them,” Ty told Zane as he allowed himself to be turned toward their cottage again. “We used to run with all our equipment in the sand until we threw up. Never really saw a beach as romantic.”
“I was going to suggest a run in the morning, but maybe not,” Zane said as he guided Ty along with a hand on his elbow. “And I’m probably the last person to ask about what’s romantic.”
Ty pointed a finger. “I will run in the late morning to early afternoon timeframe. Otherwise I intend to be hungover.” He waited a beat before glancing sideways at Zane. “Where were you married?”
“Church wedding in Austin,” Zane answered. There was a note of curiosity in his voice.
“Was it nice?” Ty asked carefully.
Zane snorted. “It was way overdone. My mom did the whole thing because we were living in Dallas at the time. But I guess it was okay. I don’t really remember much about it.” Zane made a noise in his throat.
“What, too much bachelor party?” Ty asked.
“No, it’s just . . .” Zane waved his hand around. “You stand there in this important ceremony, nervous as hell because everyone’s watching you and you don’t want to trip on the steps, and then it’s over and you don’t remember a single thing and it seems like such a waste of all that time.”
Ty snorted and shook his head. He glanced up at the lights ahead of them and squinted. “Please tell me you know which freaking tiki hut is ours.”
“Yes, I know which one is ours,” Zane assured him. “This is nice, that Deuce and Livi get to do something like this. Wedding and honeymoon all in one, stretch it out and take their time.”
“Yeah, well, Deuce is terrified of airplanes, so I’m guessing he only had enough tranquilizers for one trip,” Ty muttered. “I gather you didn’t get to do the honeymoon thing?”
“We were both working, and neither of us wanted to take time off right then,” Zane said with a shrug. He didn’t sound put out about it. “That stuff wasn’t really our kind of thing.”
Ty just nodded. The sand began to grow more firm as they came closer to the cottages and Ty stumbled when he unexpectedly hit hard ground.
True to his word, Zane caught him around the middle and steadied him. “Almost there,” Zane whispered.
Ty snorted and began to laugh as he wrapped an arm around Zane’s neck. Zane chuckled and squeezed Ty close as they started up the stairs. Zane had his key out and opened the door without taking his hand from Ty’s waist, gently pushing Ty inside. It was even darker inside, with just moonlight filtering in the louvered windows.
Ty stood motionless, letting his eyes adjust and knowing he would wind up faceplanting into the floor if he tried to walk through the darkness. The thought made him snicker quietly, and he clapped a hand over his mouth to stop it. Then Zane’s arms slid around his waist from behind, followed by his warm, hard body behind him.
Ty tilted his head to the side, biting his lip in an attempt to stop the laughter. He calmed briefly, but then another fit of snickering overtook him as Zane’s stubble tickled at his neck. He closed his eyes and shook silently as he tried not to laugh at the absurdity of the romantic location. He and Zane were definitely more of a backseat of the Mustang kind of couple.
“All right, funny guy,” Zane said. He smacked Ty on the hip. “You’re clearly entertained without my help.”
Ty reached out for his wrist, laughing out loud as he pulled Zane toward him in the dark. “No, don’t. I’ll be good.”
“You being good isn’t a problem,” Zane said as they bumped together. “Focused, yes. Good, no.”
Ty nodded determinedly and cleared his throat. “I’ll be focused,” he said seriously.
Zane leaned forward, his lips skimming from the corner of Ty’s mouth, along his cheekbone, and to his ear. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” he whispered.
Ty moved his head, trying to meet Zane’s lips with his own, but Zane moved away too quickly for the kiss. Ty wrapped his arms around Zane’s shoulders. “I think you should do something I’ll be ashamed of in the morning.”
Zane gripped his hips and pushed their groins together. “Hmmm. What could I do that would make you blush if you thought about it tomorrow?”
“If I don’t get a kiss soon, I’m going to reach critical mass, understand?” He barely got the last word out when Zane’s mouth was on his, hot and hungry. Ty groaned and let Zane take control of it, hoping his lover knew which way the bed was. Zane ran one hand up his back to cup his head as he deepened the kiss, his other hand moving between them to pull at Ty’s shirt, drawing him into the darkness.
“So, how embarrassed would you be if someone at breakfast mentions hearing screaming from this end of the island?” Zane drawled.
“Just tell them I saw a crab, no one will ask questions.”
Zane laughed. He pulled his shirt over his head and then he was right there again, all muscles and hot skin. After another long kiss, Zane asked, “What’s your pleasure, baby?”
“You know exactly what I want,” Ty answered breathlessly. He pushed Zane toward the nearest of the two beds. They could see the bed in the moonlight, the bright white bedcover practically glowing blue as their eyes adjusted to the darkness. They came to the edge of the bed and Ty pulled Zane closer and kissed him hungrily as he fell back onto the soft mattress.
It wasn’t until it was too late that he remembered the gauzy rings of mosquito netting that hung over both beds. The clingy material wrapped around them as they fell into it, getting caught up between them and around their limbs and tightening as their weight pulled the net above and spun the supporting ring around and around.
“Hell.” Zane pushed off Ty and began batting at the netting, trying to find his way out of it. “Shit, I can’t see. Quit moving!”
Ty shook his head and started laughing all over again. He held his hands up obediently, trying not to move. But he was hopelessly encased in netting. He laughed harder, until he could barely catch his breath, and his laughter went from loud and ringing through the little loft to nearly silent as he tried and failed to pull in air. Zane’s cursing and struggling just made it funnier.
Finally Zane got loose and rolled away, his weight leaving the bed.
“Get some rest,” Zane said quietly as he moved around the dark room and out of Ty’s visual range. He sounded disgruntled. “You don’t want too much of a hangover tomorrow.”
“Wait, Zane, don’t go,” Ty said through his laughter. He tried to roll to go after him but wound up tangled even more in the soft netting. “It’s not funny, I swear,” he tried even as he snickered and tugged at the netting.
He heard Zane snort from the other bed. “Be careful.”
“You’re seriously leaving me here?” Ty asked, his voice a higher pitch than it usually was.
Zane was quiet for a long minute. He finally sighed. “No.” He moved, and a light flipped on, blindingly bright.
Ty winced away from it and tried to cover his eyes, but that only served to tangle him further in the netting, which was for some reason wildly funny.
Zane threw up his hands. “I am not even dealing with this,” he said, his voice trembling with laughter. He turned the light back off. “You’re a mess”
“No, Zane! Don’t leave me here!” Ty said in the most pitiful voice he could muster, which was ruined by the continuing peals of laughter he just couldn’t stop.
“Good night, Ty.”
After long moments of trying desperately to calm down, Ty finally managed to stop laughing and come to terms with the fact that Zane probably wasn’t going to fuck him tonight. He probably wasn’t even going to untangle him, and Ty was much too drunk and pleasantly sleepy to try to do it himself.
“Well,” he sighed, his movements accompanied by the clanking of the spinning wheel above him. “This was not what I had in mind when I told you I wanted to be ashamed of myself in the morning.”
Ball & Chain is a roller coaster of emotions from the first page to the last.
I loved it. Thank you, Abi!
[T]he best romantic suspense series out there.
*Top Pick* [K]eeps the reader on their toes all the way through the book.
[T]his is one of my favorite books so far in the fabulous Cut & Run series.