"There is nothing like the feeling of walking in the door after a long tour and knowing you don't have to go anywhere for at least a week."
Slash Gunderson tossed his duffle bag onto the floor and took a deep breath. The pine scent of his rustic home swirled around him, embracing him like an old friend. He loved the sound of silence. He'd thought about getting a bulldog or a couple of cats, but touring made having a pet damned near impossible. The silence also reminded him he didn't have the one thing he really wanted -- someone to share the house with. Not a roommate or a housemate, but a lover. Someone he trusted and wanted to be around. Sure, he loved the guys from Glow like brothers, but being that two were married and one was in a permanent relationship, he wasn't likely to score a hook-up.
Hook-ups. Slash toed off his running shoes, then flipped through the mail he'd picked up from the floor. No one really knew his address, so getting mail was like getting gold. "Bill, bill, bill," he muttered and flipped through the thin stack of envelopes.
One envelope bore smears and a scrawled address line. The return address had suffered more smearing, but the handwriting... he knew that writing. Knew it eerily well. V -- the crazy behind the mutilation letters -- was back.
He gulped and fought back the bile on his tongue.
The author of the letter made a point in large script to let Slash know who he or she was -- sort of. Another letter couldn't be good, and this one had something heavy in it.
The more Slash touched the envelope, the more he realized there wasn't just a piece of paper inside. Slash looked around the foyer and tossed the letter on the floor. Damn. If someone wanted to poison him, especially V, then Slash's need to read the mail had helped start the process.
He dropped the remaining letters onto the side table and took out his cell. He pressed the buttons to call the one person he trusted. Save for the police and the other guys in the band, there weren't too many people Slash counted on. Hiram ranked in the top slot.
The tingle shooting up Slash's spine shifted from fear to excitement. Every time he heard Hiram's bass voice, his body reacted. Hiram Moline's ensemble screamed, "I can kick your ass with a smile and not break a sweat." All muscle and brood with the right amount of snarl to make him sexy. Just being around Hiram scrambled Slash's brains. "Hey, man. I've got an envelope here. Can't read the damn thing."
"Okay. Is it like before?"
"I think so."
Besides being the best security guard Slash knew, Hiram cared. They'd gone out more than a couple times and ended the night together. They had a bond, unconventional, with handcuffs and a serious need to be spanked, but a bond nonetheless. When Hiram held him, Slash felt at ease and adored. Was that nuts?
"I'll be there in a moment."
The reassurance in Hiram's voice lifted Slash's spirits for a heartbeat. "How?" Where was Hiram if he could be there in a little bit? Slash turned to the sound of gravel crunching and peeked through the glass panels on either side of the front door. The fear subsided a bit.
Hiram climbed out of his truck and marched up the walkway. Good timing. Slash disconnected the call and placed the phone next to the discarded mail. "I was on my way here anyway. I wanted to talk to you, but I'd like to get this sorted out first. Let me see what you have."
Normally when Hiram walked through the door, all Slash could think of was jumping on him. Not with a strange letter lying at his feet. The fear came back and lumped in his belly.
"Fuck." Slash tapped his foot. "I should've called the cops first." God, he hated when his confidence tanked.
"Probably." Hiram's brows knotted and the muscles in his jaw tensed. "Doesn't look suspicious, but hell, who knows with this shit?" He groaned. "I'm not sure what the hell to do. If we open it and it's got something wicked in it, we're fucked. If it's on the level, we're not." He shook his head. "Fuck it. I don't feel right about letting it go."
Slash's skin crawled. He listened to Hiram make the phone call, but his thoughts went every which way. The life of a rock star quite frankly rocked. He loved every moment in the studio, the concerts for the fans, the meetings with the Glow Kids. Touring left a bit to be desired, but most of that was the time sitting idle in the bus. Whoever said the miles were endless wasn't kidding. He blew out a long breath and swallowed past the lump of fear in his throat. He held one of the scariest parts of being famous -- people who wanted to harm anyone in the media spotlight. His palms sweated and his foot bounced like it did when he got nervous. Having Hiram there helped, but as Hiram said, who knew what was in the letter?
Hiram nodded again and slipped his phone into the holster on his jeans pocket. "Called Mitchell Green with the Olmstead Police Department. He said they'd bag it and test your hand for chemicals. Shouldn't be ten minutes. No sweat."
No sweat. Slash closed his eyes. The only thing he feared more than the damned envelope was an attack from a fan. For all he knew the letter was the attack. He'd always imagined someone would try to hurt him while he was on stage.
"You're over-thinking." Hiram stepped in close enough his breath warmed Slash's cheeks. "Hey. I'm not about to let anyone hurt you."
Without looking at Hiram, Slash opened his eyes. The honesty in Hiram's voice got to him. His heart raced. Fuck buddies weren't supposed to have feelings for each other, and that was what he and Hiram were, right? He had to say something. "You say that to all the band members. Half the band is your family."
There, that put the emotions on ice and got his blossoming feelings back behind the wall surrounding his heart.
"That's not fair." Hiram tipped Slash's chin up, forcing him to look into Hiram's eyes. Instead of ridicule, something else shone in the icy blue depths...