Read Online Books/Novels:
An Unlocked Heart (Collars and Cuffs #1)
Author/Writer of Book/Novel:
1623808510 (ISBN13: 9781623808518)
Since the death of his submissive lover two years ago, Leo hasn’t been living—merely existing. He focuses on making Collars & Cuffs, a BDSM club in Manchester’s gay village, successful. That changes the night he and his business partner have their weekly meeting at Severinos. Leo can’t keep his eyes off the new server. The shy man seems determined to avoid Leo’s gaze, but that’s like a red rag to a bull. Leo loves a challenge.
Alex Daniels works at Severinos to scrape together the money to move out on his own. He struggles with coming out, but he’s drawn to Leo, the gorgeous guy with the icy-blue eyes who’s been eating in his area nearly every night.
Leo won’t let Alex’s hesitance get in the way. He even keeps him away from the club so as not to scare him. And as for telling Alex that Leo is a Dom? Not a good idea. One date becomes two, but date two leads to Leo’s bedroom… and Alex discovers things about himself he never realized—and never wanted anyone to see.
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“I HAVE to admit, this is definitely one of your better ideas, Leo,” Thomas Williams said with a sigh, leaning back into the comfortable leather armchair and surveying his surroundings.
The bar area was set slightly apart from the main floor of the restaurant, and similar chairs were found grouped in twos and threes around small tables, tiny candles flickering in red flowers sculpted from Venetian glass on each table.
“Hmm?” Leo Hart brought his attention back to his business partner, aware he’d missed something. “Did you say something?”
Thomas stared at him, his expression one of slight amusement. “What planet are you on tonight, Leo? You’ve been miles away ever since we got here. I was merely commenting you’d chosen a really nice spot to hold our weekly meeting, that’s all.”
“Oh, right.” Leo drank from his glass of iced tea. “I used to come here regularly, as a matter of fact. Severino’s is one of the most authentic Italian restaurants in Manchester. The food’s always great and the service is superb.” He glanced around the restaurant. Every table was occupied, and the air hummed with the buzz of voices speaking in low tones while soft jazz played unobtrusively in the background. The atmosphere was intimate, romantic. “They’re not usually this full, though. Normally, I can walk in and get a table right away.”
Leo hardly saw the restaurant. His attention was claimed by the tall, slim young man in black who emerged now and again from the kitchen, collecting dirty plates and disappearing with them behind the swing doors. Nothing unusual about him, certainly nothing that would draw attention, but for some inexplicable reason, Leo followed the young waiter with his eyes, unable to look away. There was an air about him, something that spoke of vulnerability. The young man flitted from table to table, moving efficiently, rarely making eye contact with the customers.
With a start, Leo snapped back into the moment. Thomas was staring at him again, smirking. Leo gave him an apologetic smile. “Sorry, I zoned out there for a moment. You were saying something?”
Thomas chuckled. “It is customary during a meeting to have an actual discussion, isn’t it?”
Leo laughed, his attention now fully on his partner. “I’m sorry, Thomas, you’re quite right.” He sipped his drink. “But I thought I’d wait until we were seated, if you don’t mind.”
Thomas nodded in agreement.
Leo glanced up to see Sev bounding across the restaurant to greet him. He smiled to himself. The restaurant owner was a bundle of nervous energy, always moving. Leo stood as Sev approached, only to be clasped in an enthusiastic hug that almost crushed his ribs. Sev was a large man who had never been aware of his own strength.
“Leo, my friend. It’s been far too long.”
Leo gave his friend a warm smile. Too long indeed. The truth was, it still pained him to come here. He had simply to gaze around the restaurant to be assaulted by memories of Gabe. He was just there, at the bar, their table…. Leo shrugged off the grief that had never entirely left him to greet his old friend.
“It’s good to see you too, Sev,” he admitted. Sev’s gaze met his, and the sympathy in those expressive brown eyes was all too easy to read. For a second, Leo tensed, bracing himself for the awkward words he felt sure would come, but to his relief, Sev said nothing and merely tightened his arms around Leo. Finally Sev released him, and Leo indicated Thomas with a brief nod. “Sev, this is Thomas Williams, my business partner. I don’t think you two have actually met.”
Sev gave Thomas a nod and a smile, before glancing around his restaurant. “You picked a bad night, my friend. It seems the world and his wife want to eat here tonight!”
Leo laughed. “That’s exactly what Vittorio said when he directed us to the bar.”
Sev beamed. “Glad to see my head waiter and I are on the same wavelength, as usual.” Quickly, he scanned the tables. “There are a couple of tables that will free up shortly, by the look of things. Do you gentlemen have any seating preference?”
Leo placed his hand on Sev’s arm. “We’re planning on discussing business,” he said in a hushed tone.
Sev nodded briskly, understanding immediately. “How about over there?” he said, indicating the corner with a flick of his hand.
Leo followed his gesture, and his chest tightened. Of all the tables….
Unfortunately, Sev caught his reaction and paled. “Oh God, Leo, I’m sorry. I… I’ll find you another….”
Leo shook his head, angry with himself. For God’s sake, he was a grown man of thirty-seven, not some angst-ridden adolescent. Grow a pair, he told himself angrily. “That’s fine, Sev. In fact it’s perfect. We can talk there without everyone overhearing.” He gave Sev a half-assed grin. “Don’t want to scare the straights, do we?”