Proud Flesh

Book Cover: Proud Flesh
Part of the Bodies and Souls series:

Coming in 2019!

The investigation into the trafficking ring has stalled and tempers are on a hair trigger. The discovery of a victim of the ring sets events in motion again, though not without heartache for all involved. Julian and Leo must cope with their guilt for having failed to save Shiro when they had the chance and their helplessness as they discover that there is nothing they can do for the broken young man. For Shiro, he must learn to live as the person he would have been instead of the one he became to survive, in a world that alternately terrifies him and excites him. And for Dave, dragged into this mess with no intention of staying there, he must learn to guard his heart as he falls farther and farther under the spell of the boy who must learn to be a man.


Leo held his phone up at eye level, letting the camera pick up the details of the small living room as he spun in place. “What do you think of it?”

Julian’s voice came through the speaker tinny and weak. “Looks small.”

“You’re not going to get large in DC for what you’re willing to pay.”

“Hey, some of us have student loans to pay off.”

“Remind me again how much older than you I am.” Leo pointed the camera toward the fireplace on the outside wall. “This is nice. And there’s bookcases on either side, see?” They were still bare wood, and the floor in front of them was littered with curls of pine and sawdust. But, by the time Julian was done in Kansas City, they’d be painted and ready for him.

“Does the fireplace work?”

Leo paused. “You know what? I never asked.”

“Some FBI agent you are.”


“He didn’t look like a criminal.” He moved closer to inspect it. “Looks like it might be propane.”

Julian laughed. “Good. I don’t have a clue how to make a fire.”

“And you the genius.”

“Do I look like a Boy Scout? Okay, show me the rest. How far is it from your place again?”

“That’s the best part. Five minutes walk at most.” He turned into the tiny kitchen, all ragged bare walls and plywood floor. “It’ll take some work to fit all your stuff in here.”
“I let Dave take most of what we had. It seemed the least I could do.”

“That was a shitty thing. But you’ll probably be glad of it if you sign the lease on this place.” Dave’s family had disowned him. Not for drinking, or drugs, or being gay. No, his otherwise forward thinking father had been appalled by Dave’s involvement in the BDSM community, and Dave’s promising psychiatric career had been blighted before it could start. Some people didn’t deserve to have kids. “Want to see the rest of it?”


“Bedroom or bathroom?”

“Bathroom first. Save the best for last.”

Leo laughed and headed for the bathroom. “How’d you get along with the prosecutor’s office?”

“Fine. It was all the same stuff. They really wanted to go into detail.”

“They always do.” Leo paused and turned the camera back to himself. “How was it?”

He saw Julian’s jaw working and knew that what came after was going to be a lie. “It was fine.”

It hadn’t been. Just before Christmas, word had filtered down that the prosecutor’s office had negotiated deals with both the doctor who had done the organ harvesting and DeGraff. When he heard, Julian had called Leo, ranting in a way Leo had never heard before, a totally different man from the one he’d gotten to know since the weekend in Oregon. Between that, and the new pressure as they worked to build an airtight case against Carragher and the rest of that crew, old memories had started to surface and with them, old poisons they’d both thought purged. Julian still denied it was rape, and that denial fueled a rage that was going to get him bounced out of the FBI if he didn’t deal with it soon. There was nothing Leo could do about it, though, so he simply nodded, defusing Julian’s incipient explosion, and continued the tour. He crossed the short hallway and turned into the bathroom, spinning the phone to point at the tub as he did so.

Dead silence, then Julian’s voice breathed out of the tiny speaker, low and needy. “Oh, the things I could do to you in that tub.”

It sent shivers of anticipation racing over Leo's skin. “You like it, do you?” The tub was a huge clawfoot. Not antique, but styled very much like one. And, amazingly, big enough for two.

He could hear the smile in Julian’s voice. “You did say this place was within budget, right?”

“At the top end of it.” It would leave Julian with not much money to spare, but they could make it work. Leo could always have him over for meals and he was certain he could find ways to ease Julian’s financial straits. The big advantage to this place, in Leo’s eyes anyway, was how close it was to home. He knew, intellectually, that Julian had been right when he’d refused Leo’s impulsive offer to move in together. But he was fascinated by this intense young man, and flattered more than he liked to admit by Julian’s fascination with him.

“If the bedroom’s decent at all, I’ll take it. It’s in budget, and there are,” his voice dropped half a register. “Certain obvious advantages to the place.” The tone of his voice, bourbon velvet even through the phone’s speaker, sent another wave of heat rushing through Leo’s body. He heard his own intake of breath, and Julian must have heard it too, because he chuckled, which only made things worse.

“I’ll let the landlord know,” Leo said, turning out of the bathroom. He took a quick trip through the bedroom—nothing special there, at least until Julian moved in--and then went back out to the living room, and down the stairs to building’s entrance. The landlord was leaning against the wall by the door, casually scrolling through something on his phone. “He says he’ll take it,” Leo told him.

The man grunted. “First and last, one month’s rent for damage deposit. He knows we’re renovating, right? He can’t get into it for a couple of months.”

“Yes, Leo told me,” Julian’s voice rang out from the phone. “Suits me. I’m stuck in Kansas City for another couple of months anyway. If you give Leo the address, I’ll send a check right away.”

“All right. I’ll have the lease agreement drawn up. I can get an email from you?” the landlord asked Leo. Leo nodded.

A low beep from his phone grabbed Leo’s attention. “Hang on, Julian, I have a call waiting.” He pressed the screen to accept the call and put the phone to his ear. “Gale.”

It was Mauer. “We got a call from the Detroit field office about a boy who claims he was kidnapped and sold into slavery, and it sounds like it might be a part of our investigation. They’re sending agents to the house he said he was kept in, but one of us should go too.”

“Get me the address and I’ll head out.”

He heard Mauer’s sigh of relief over the phone. “Thank you. I’m in shit already at home over the last time I took off on short notice. Let me know as soon as you get there and keep me up to date—if it’s part of our thing, I’ll call in the analysts and we’ll see what connections we can make.”

“On it.” He ended the call and got back to Julian. “I have to go. There might be a lead.” He didn’t need to say what case—Julian knew.

“Where? I’ll call the airlines.”

“You are not working on this case yet. There’s still two months to go in your time at KC, more if you take off to stick your nose into something that isn’t your business right now—”

“I’m not sticking my nose in! You think I don’t have a right to be a part of this?”

“Not right now.”

“Where is it?”


The silence on the other end of the line was deadly. It stretched time and Leo’s nerves, until finally Julian said, “I have to go.”

Leo waited, but there was no sound, and when he pulled the phone away to check the screen, he found that the call had ended without Julian saying another word. Leo sighed and put the phone away. “Got a pen? I’ll give you his email and you can let him know where to send the check.”


About the author: Kate Lowell

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