Breathless by Ericka Scott

Unless he can come up with $500,000, Jason Swan will lose his hot air balloon ride company to his ex-wife, a woman he should have never married, especially since he has a penchant for men. Big, virile men like Michael O'Shaunnesy.

Michael O’Shaunnesy is on the run from his ex-lover when his car breaks down in Napa Valley. To escape, he steals Jason’s balloon. Miles above the ground, the two men are beset by danger ... and desire. When disaster strikes, the only way out is down.


This was it.

Josh Swan smoothed the silk envelope of the hot air balloon with his hand. As of Monday, his company, Take Flight, would belong to the bitch, otherwise known as his ex-wife, Abigail.

It had been a hell of a run while it lasted—the business that is. The marriage had been a mistake from the get-go.

Two bright halogen lights mounted on the side of the red barn illuminated the field. The building served as the waiting room for the four to six passengers he normally flew over the Napa Valley. His four-member support crew, teenagers from the local high school, moved sluggishly around the balloon. Usually on a Saturday, the field was abuzz with the shouted commands of the crew chief and the excited chatter of the passengers. The to-be passengers would be sipping hot chocolate, munching on bagels, and shivering in the predawn chill.

This morning, the barn was empty. His crew was somber, their voices quiet and their movements slow and deliberate. It only took fifteen minutes to fill the large black envelope. Josh checked his watch; half an hour had already passed. It seemed as if everyone wanted to drag out this last flight for as long as they could.

However, they didn’t have all day to get the balloon in the air. A glance at the glowing horizon confirmed that the sun would be up any minute now, bringing the breeze with it. He turned to check the windsock hung from the peak of the barn roof. No sign of movement yet.

To his relief, when he looked back at the balloon, the envelope was almost full of cold air. It was time to flip on the burner and finish filling the balloon with hot air for its final flight. While he sipped hot coffee from an insulated mug, the balloon lifted from the ground. As the black swan danced proudly over the wicker gondola, the crew gave a muted cheer.

“Excuse me,” a voice with a faint Irish burr called.

Josh frowned. Odd, he hadn’t heard a vehicle drive up. Shit. It was probably some damn lawyer sent by his ex-wife. Well, the company was hers on Monday and not a minute sooner. Josh turned toward the source of the voice and pasted a smile on his face, while he prepared to send the man away with a few choice words.

Those words died on his lips when he viewed the man in front of him. He knew that face, that body. Oh, my God. It was Michael O’Shaunnesy, the spokes model for Hedonism, a Las Vegas pleasure resort. What in the world was the gorgeous Adonis doing standing in his field?

As he gazed into the face of the cover model, a flare of desire shot through him. Oh, what a face it was… Tousled black hair set off Michael’s pale complexion and piercing blue eyes. He had a crooked nose rumored to have been broken in a bar fight in Ireland, lush kissable lips, and a strong chin.

Josh’s cock hardened with interest as he continued his perusal of the six-foot tall body builder turned spokes model. Michael wore a black T-shirt that fitted him like a second skin. The soft cotton accentuated rather than hid his well-developed pectoral and abdominal muscles. Speaking of bulges, Michael’s tight black jeans did nothing to hide his manly package. What Josh wouldn’t give to get a good look at Michael’s cock. In fact, as long as he was fantasizing, Josh figured he might as well take it out and play with it. Run his tongue up from the thick, engorged base, swipe it slowly across the swollen glans, and then suck it deep into his mouth.

Dragging his attention back to reality, Josh startled when he saw the lethal-looking bulge Michael held in his left hand.

A big, black revolver.

What the hell?

“Hey, Mr. Swan, we’re ready whenever you are,” Henry, his ground crew chief, called.

Michael waved the gun slightly.

Josh lifted his hands in the air. “What do you want? I don’t have any money on the premises.”

“I have all the money I need. What I need is that.” Michael jerked his head toward the balloon.

“Oh, no, I’m sorry—”

“Shut up.” Michael glanced over his shoulder then used the gun to induce Josh to walk toward the craft.

By now, the ground crew had obviously seen the gun. They stood in a tight huddle by the basket.

“Hey, guys,” Josh tried to sound calm as he bluffed his way through this. “Looks like I’m not going to be flying today after all. I’d like all of you to go ahead on home.” Then he prayed the gunman would agree. Five hostages would be much harder to handle than one, and Josh didn’t want the death of these kids on his hands. As for his own life, it wasn’t as if his future looked all that bright anyway.

“You heard him, go on!” Michael shouted.

Josh was glad to see he didn’t have to tell them twice. They scattered for their cars, revved up the engines, and shot out of the yard with squealing tires. He’d bet each one of them was on their cell phone dialing 911. Not that it would do him any good. The police dispatcher was his ex-wife’s mother, and the town sheriff was her dad. Hell, he’d be lucky if they even sent a car out here later to scrape up his dead body.

Josh turned his focus back onto Michael. The dark haired man scowled, his attention on the balloon. This might be his only chance to disarm the man. He measured the distance between them. If Michael would only move a bit closer, Josh might be able to kick the gun away. And if he lunged…

As if reading his thoughts, Michael’s blue eyes focused on him.


There had to be a way out of this. Perhaps Mr. Gorgeous would take the van instead. “How about I give you the keys to the van over there?” Josh jerked his head toward the parking lot.

“No, they’d find me in that.” Michael looked back at the balloon, and a small smile teased the corners of his luscious lips. “I flew one of these things at a photo shoot last year. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

Josh snorted. Like hell, he had. Flying a balloon required a pilot’s license. Having flown both a plane and a hot air balloon, in Josh’s estimation, the plane was easier to manage. He opened his mouth to tell the gunman to take a hike, when he saw a cloud of dust rise up along the glowing horizon. Hey, what did he know? The cavalry might actually arrive in time to save his skin.

Michael must have also seen it, for his face paled, and a small rivulet of sweat ran down his temple.

Just for a second, Josh felt sorry for Michael. He had far too much going for him to throw it all away for a life of crime. So, why was he? Did it have something to do with the theft at the Hedonism casino on Friday night? That would certainly explain the money Michael said he didn’t need.

A sharp prod in his ribs brought Josh’s mind into focus. Michael motioned with the gun to indicate he wanted Josh to walk ahead of him.

As they approached the balloon, Josh contemplated the options of how to stall Michael without getting shot. He just needed a few minutes. Unfortunately, he hadn’t thought of a plan by the time they reached the gondola. Michael tossed the green bag he carried into the gondola then vaulted into the basket.

Josh admired the way the muscles of Michael’s thighs and butt bunched as he leapt. For such a big guy, he moved like poetry. Josh shifted to hide his erection. There was something innately wrong with getting turned on by the guy who was robbing you. But he couldn’t help it. Michael looked stunning on television, but in real life, he was twice as hot. Hell, if they’d met under other circumstances, Josh would have loved to take Michael for a ride in his balloon, complete with a picnic basket brimming with champagne, oysters, and condoms.

Oh well.

As Josh watched helplessly, Michael unfastened the tethers, and the balloon shot into the air.

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Virginia said...

Great excerpt!

Estella said...