Smoke & Mirror
“Not enjoying yourself, Mister . . . ?”
The Illusive Kasimir had manifested, wraith-like, at Frank’s side. Frank nearly jumped—not too many men were able to sneak up on him. Instinctively, his hand started toward his waistband, but he forced that arm to straighten. No sense drawing unwanted attention to his piece.
“Some of us work for our money,” Frank replied.
Christ, the con artist was even more gorgeous up close. That hair was like amber, and he had the kind of gaze that could shuck oysters. Shuck clothing, too. Not that Frank was in any position to be thinking about that right now.
“You have the look of a haunted man,” Kasimir said. His voice was subdued, but carried a choppy flow to it that made Frank think of the East River on a stormy day. Slavic, if Frank had to guess.
“Don’t suppose people come to you if they aren’t some kind of haunted.”
Kasimir shrugged, his lips pressed together in a way that made them flush a rosy pink against his milky skin. Frank tried his best to ignore the faint hitch the sight of it put in his breath. “How long,” Kasimir asked, “since your brother passed?”
Oh, fuck this. Frank’s hand dove for his pistol. Arn was off-limits. For Sal, for the rest of the Brunetti crew, for goddamned everyone. This asshole had no right—how had he even known--
Then his fingertips brushed the gun’s grip. The grip engraved with Arn’s initials. Frank’s anger narrowed its focus down to a single razor-wire point. “Who the hell told you—”
“It’s my business to know everything about everyone who attends my séances.” Kasimir tapped the side of his nose with one slender finger. “And I won’t waste my time trying to make a believer out of one who’s clearly not. But perhaps we can keep one another’s secrets, hm?”
Frank clenched and flexed his fist. That was even worse. He knew how these mediums worked, skimming secrets from public records, loose-lipped acquaintances, and more to make their marks. It rattled him to think of someone so casually slipping this bastard the story of his brother. How much more had they said? God, there was no escaping Arn’s ghost in this town. Frank couldn’t even escape his own shadow.
“Fuck you,” Frank growled, but his anger had left him. He was just tired. So tired of this life. He thought he and Arn would be free men by now, resting fat and happy on their hard-won loot.
Kasimir’s hand shot out, whip-quick, and seized Frank by the chin. For all his brawler’s reflexes, Frank froze. Kasimir’s gaze cradled his with the same firmness that his hand held Frank’s chin, and Frank felt exposed, like Kasimir was peeling back all his layers. Digging for something Frank no longer knew if he possessed.
Then Kasimir’s thumb brushed over his lower lip, soft but slow. It caught the skin and tugged. Frank swallowed with an unpleasant warmth building in his gut. He was uncomfortably aware of the crowd all around them, of the dim parlor lighting that still felt far too harsh. It felt as if everyone could see them, could see the naked want that touch had painted across Frank’s face, despite his fury, his resentment.
“Maybe later,” Kasimir murmured, and let him go.
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