Home > Sleight of Hand (The Kings Wild Cards #3)

Sleight of Hand (The Kings Wild Cards #3)
Author: Charlie Cochet

 

One

 

 

Shit.

Joker froze.

Never had he faced this level of peril, not even as a Special Forces Green Beret. In the span of his military career, he’d gone up against a host of evil, from terrorists to savage warlords and everyone in-between, but never had he encountered anything like this. Thankfully, they hadn’t spotted him. He could still make his escape.

Having memorized the exits at the start of his shift, he quickly considered his options. Backstage was out of the question. He could duck and cover behind the sound equipment or—

“Hey!”

Fuck.

Five men headed in his direction, each one more terrifying than the last. Individually, he could take them, but together? He didn’t stand a chance. At least he wasn’t alone. That’s right! He wasn’t alone. He had a furry weapon of mass distraction.

“You’re trained for this, pal,” Joker told Chip, scratching behind his giant pointy ears. Chip side-eyed him, making Joker laugh. “Yeah, all right. Better you than me. Brace yourself. Here they come.”

The Boyfriend Collective.

What did a billionaire, a hairstylist, a cowboy, a computer genius, and a fashion photographer have in common? They were all attached—or in Colton’s case, married to—one of Joker’s brothers-in-arms. That wasn’t the scary part. Oh no. Because each of his brothers-in-arms was disgustingly in love and in a committed monogamous relationship and Joker wasn’t—and never would be—a lovesick sucker, the Boyfriend Collective had decided he was some kind of homeless puppy in need of coddling, feeding, and petting.

Okay, so it wasn’t all bad. Plus, Joker had gained the bonus of using said newly acquired powers to drive his brothers crazy. If Colton wanted to feed him, and Fitz wanted to hug him and play with his hair, and Laz wanted to introduce him to gorgeous models, who was Joker to turn down such heartfelt gestures? So what if Leo provided Joker with an endless supply of snacks in the hopes of finding him his signature snack? Was Joker supposed to crush his precious little heart? And Mason, well, Mason was just fun to fuck with.

The scary part came when the Collective unanimously set their minds to something or when someone stupidly pissed them off. The leader of this terrifying group was the billionaire, Colton Connolly. The man who started it all. The moment Colton came into their lives and Joker’s buddy Ace fell in love, the rest of them toppled like dominoes. Sappy, hearts-in-their-eyes, tents-in-their-pants dominoes. Shameful. Absolutely no self-control.

Even their giant grumpy-ass fearless leader, King, who Joker had been sure was too smart to get sucker punched by love, fell for a cute little computer geek. What was the world coming to? Back when they’d served, Joker had watched a fucking building fall on King, and the man had walked away from it with only a few bruises and scratches. The guy falls in love with Leo and bam! Next thing they know, King is baking his boyfriend fish-shaped sugar cookies. With sprinkles. Sprinkles.

“Go get ’em,” Joker murmured to Chip.

Chip barked and bounded off like a huge black rabbit, tail wagging so hard his butt looked like it might fly off any minute. It never failed. The Boyfriend Collective turned into a puddle of baby-talking dorks, cooing and lavishing love on Chip, who soaked that shit up like it was his favorite freeze-dried salmon treats. Joker couldn’t blame them. It was those Belgian Malinois ears. They were impossible to resist. Fitz lifted his gaze, and Joker sighed. Of course. Every time. Damn it.

“All right,” Joker said, motioning with both hands for Fitz to bring it.

With a laugh, Fitz glided over, because the man was tall and sinewy like some Hollywood starlet, so he didn’t walk but fucking floated. He threw his arms around Joker and hugged him tightly, their height difference meaning Joker’s head got plastered to Fitz’s chest. Why couldn’t his brothers date men who weren’t fucking redwoods? Even Leo was taller than him. Fucking tall-ass motherfuckers.

Joker’s earpiece came to life, and he smiled evilly. He wrapped his arms around Fitz and hummed as Jack’s voice came through.

“Hey, cameras are online. Where are you?”

Joker hummed again. “Center stage, feeling up your boyfriend.”

Silence. Then, “What?”

Fitz laughed softly. “You’re so evil.”

“Center stage,” Joker repeated.

Wait for it…

“If your hand gets any closer to his ass, I’m going to upload your profile to every dating app in the country,” Jack hissed. “Detach yourself.”

“But he’s so warm,” Joker murmured, closing his eyes and smiling happily.

The low growl made Joker laugh, and he released Fitz. “Your boyfriend is going all caveman on you.”

Fitz lifted his gaze to the nearest camera and blew a kiss at it. A ridiculous sigh met Joker’s ear. Yep, total sucker. He shook his head in shame. Then again, his best friend and partner in crime had always been a sentimental sap.

“Yeah, you enjoy that smugness while you can,” Jack said. “One of these days, when you least expect it, love is going to hit you so hard, you’re going to get whiplash.”

Joker thrust a finger at the camera. “You take that back, asshole!”

“Nope, and I’m going to be there when it does, laughing my ass off and enjoying every fucking minute.”

“That’s it. Your best-friend status has been revoked. From this point forward, Ace is my best friend.”

“Yes!” Ace whooped over the line. “I’m going to have matching T-shirts made!”

Joker pinched the bridge of his nose. “Never mind. Jack, your best friend status has been reinstated.”

“Oh no!”

They could all but hear Ace pouting.

“I’m still having matching T-shirts made. Mine will say, ‘Say hello to my little friend,’ and yours will say—”

Joker groaned. “Don’t you say it.”

“Little Friend.”

The guys all cackled in his ear, and Joker flipped them off. “Fuckers.” He was not going to get suckered into love like the rest of them. Nope.

Someone walked through the heavy black curtain onto the stage and headed toward Chip. It was him.

Joker’s heart sped up, and he hissed at Fitz, “What’s he doing here?” And with the Boyfriend Collective? Okay, so the guy was best friends with Colton, and Laz was his brother, but he wasn’t a Boyfriend. After all, they were out of Green Berets. Well, except for Joker—and no. Never gonna happen. Fuck no. Joker wouldn’t fall for Giovanni Galanos if he were the last human on the planet.

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