Crimson loves to dance. He adores watching the pretty boys grind to the frantic beat of the music and picking out his lover for the evening. But more than that, he lives for his birthday, that one day a year he gives into his darker impulses: choosing a young man to lure into the alleyway with promises of sex, then slitting his throat in the midst of their passion and reveling in the hot blood on his hands.
For Tracey Winston, life has become a nightmare. Kidnapped from a nightclub in Boulder, Colorado, brutalized and raped by Crimson, he’s held captive in a cabin in the Rocky Mountains along with sweet Kyle, a young man Crimson keeps chained to his bed and is slowly torturing to death. Though Tracey manages to escape with Kyle’s help, he has to leave Kyle behind in Crimson’s cruel hands.
Detective Gene Mallory has never stopped looking for his brother Kyle, kidnapped from a nightclub seven months previously. The case breaks open when Tracey Winston comes forth at the urging of his new boyfriend, claiming to have knowledge of where Crimson is hiding out. A manhunt begins with Crimson continuously slipping through their net. Lives are on the line, with both Gene and Tracey being targeted by the killer. A traitor in their midst tips Crimson off to their plans.
Crimson’s birthday has come and gone, and he will kill again.
Gene stared at the golden-brown liquid swirling in the shot glass as the bartender filled it yet again. Maybe he’d had enough. God, he was tired. He rubbed his gritty eyes, the techno music blaring through the crowded room throbbing in his head.
He turned on the stool to the small dance floor and watched a young man gyrate to the pounding beat. Strobe lights caressed the man’s pale skin and dark clothing. The sleek body twirled with flowing, sensual movements. With a graceful twist, the guy’s black hair swept like silk across his white cheek. Achingly young and beautiful. Gene noted the men standing back, drinks in their hands, watching the dancers. His suspect could be any one of them. Or none.
He picked up the shot glass and held it up to the flashing lights. How many nightclubs exactly like this one had he been in these past six months? It felt like hundreds, with him no closer to finding Kyle’s abductor. If he’d even been kidnapped.
Gene put the glass to his lips and tossed back the whiskey, savored the burn in his throat. Most members of the police force believed Kyle had been bored with his life and simply walked away. He was nineteen, after all. Even Craig had backed off the search as more pressing cases took precedence.
But Kyle would never have done that. Gene knew his brother. Sweet and shy, Kyle would never have gone willingly with a stranger, without a word to his family, leaving his parents in this nightmare.
“But he never told you he was clubbing either,” Craig would remind him.
Gene set the glass on the sticky bar, and after a brief hesitation, motioned the bartender for another. It was Kyle’s birthday and maybe the alcohol, if only for a few hours, might numb the helpless certainty and horror that Kyle was held captive in some sadist’s basement. The fear of every cop in a kidnapping situation. Besides, he wasn’t on duty. Had never officially been on the case in the first place.
Leaving the new shot untouched, he swiveled back to the dance floor, allowing his gaze to wander the sea of young bodies writhing to the thumping music. Kyle had been in a gay bar like this one when he’d been taken, the couple of witnesses that came forward claiming he’d left with an older, hot as hell, dark haired man. But even that was sketchy. They’d all been drinking, after all.
He sat up as the young man who’d been dancing earlier caught his attention. The guy stood on the edge of the dance floor, his gaze fixed on a man leaning against one of the pillars staring back at him. Gene caught a glimpse of the man’s face, cold and beautiful, before the dancer stepped between them, swaying seductively toward him, clearly bent on arousing the man’s interest.
On instinct, Gene collected his credit card and moved to a spot along the wall where he could watch them. The older man kept his eyes on the dancer and, holding his gaze, reached down and stroked the bulge in his pants. Oh, he’s good, Gene thought. And he fit the description of Gene’s suspect. The young man’s eyes widened, startled, interested.
A new song erupted from the speakers and Gene pushed off the wall. The older man’s gaze flickered to him, returned. Gene knew he looked good, the tight jeans and cropped shirt clearly showing his intent for a hookup that evening. The dancer scowled as he came up to them but flounced away to join the crowd as the older man’s eyes slid appreciatively over Gene. He smiled a secret smile and motioned him closer, placing his hand on the small of Gene’s back. He leaned close to his ear to be heard over the pounding music. “I’m Crimson. Would you like a drink?”
Gene blinked at his name but nodded, and Crimson guided him to an empty table against the wall. Drinks appeared from the attentive waiter, a whiskey for Gene and something clear, probably vodka, for Crimson. Crimson slid a bill across the table and the waiter’s eyes widened at the amount.
Crimson scooted his chair closer to Gene, watched him indulgently while they sipped their drinks. “What is—”
No way would Gene give his name. Playing the game, he cut off his words with a kiss, tasting vodka and lime. Seeming caught off guard, Crimson moaned into his mouth, plunged his tongue in, the invasion tickling Gene’s gag reflex, but he managed to check it.
Crimson leaned back, biting gently on his bottom lip before releasing him. “Your name?”
Gene curled his lips into a lazy smile. “Does it matter?”
Crimson threaded his fingers through Gene’s dark hair and tugged it back, lowering his head to lick his neck, nuzzle an ear. “Want to get out of here?” he asked, nibbling along his jaw.
Gene met his gaze and suppressed a shudder when Crimson dropped his hand on Gene’s thigh. Taking a quick breath, he gave a soft moan. “Yes.”
“Finish your drink.”