Exclusive Excerpt from After Vertigo
by Amanda Meuwissen
The Streak sat back on Ben’s thighs, not truly holding him down anymore, but not moving from his lap either. “If I’m so little a threat, why waste time with me?”
“Because I need your help,” Ben said. “I built the gun and others like it to temporarily depower Supers, and it works on others, but not you.”
“That’s what you were trying to do?” He looked at the gun with interest now. “I thought they just stunned people. The cops caught Talon because this thing can remove powers?”
“Disrupt powers,” Ben corrected. “It lasts about ten minutes. No one’s been able to figure out how to override the Vertigo gene completely.”
“But with your guns, you’re close?”
“You hardly need to worry since the output doesn’t affect you. Do you know why it doesn’t affect you? Any idea at all why you might be different from the others?”
The Streak kept his eyes turned away as he answered, “No clue.”
Ben wished he could tell if he was lying. “Regardless, your powers are unique. Extraordinary.”
“Thanks for noticing, but I don’t do handouts.”
“Please, I’m only asking—”
“I look out for me.”
“Then I’ll turn you in,” Ben said boldly—amazed at how bold he felt. “I’ll give the police your name and address. Even if you run, you won’t have an easy time living your life.”
He gaped at Ben but also seemed impressed. “You’re blackmailing me now? How heroic.”
“The desperate get creative.”
Ben hadn’t fully admitted it to himself, why this mattered so much outside the thrill, but he had so few people in his life that meant something to him—Tony, Beverly, his mother. They were it. Tony was easier to protect. As a captain at the FCPD, he didn’t hit the field as often, and he had all the equipment Ben could provide him.
But Beverly was a civilian. Worse, a politician, someone people could target. She was in danger just walking the street, and so was their mother. If anything ever happened to any of them….
“My family lives in this city. Sister, best friend, mother. I don’t want to lose any of them because I was too weak to do something. Don’t you understand that even a little? Friends? Family you want to protect?”
The smugness drained from Streak’s face, but he didn’t say anything.
“Please. I just want the innocent to have a chance against impossible odds. If there are any Supers out there wanting to be heroes, we haven’t seen them. You’re the only option left.”
He was quiet for a while, but when he spoke up, it was with a twist at his lips again and a resettling of his body on Ben’s thighs. “I’m no hero, so… got any other perks to offer?”
“I-I’ll… cover your grocery bills?”
He laughed. “It’s cute you think I pay for my groceries.”
“Then I’ll… keep the police off your back! My friend’s a captain.”
“Not really endearing yourself to me right now.” He grimaced. “But you got me at a disadvantage and you’re not exactly wrong. I don’t want to move, and your resources might be enough to keep me safe while bringing in these psychos out doing more than property damage. So, if I say yes”—he leaned closer, almost nose to nose with Ben—“what else is in it for me? Do I get a kiss to seal the deal?”
“I-I-I beg your pardon?” Ben felt his face heat up hotter, certain he had to be as red as the Streak’s T-shirt. He could feel so much of the man in this position with his knees parted around Ben’s waist. The Streak was handsome and strong and lean while also just the right amount of muscled. The dimples hiding beneath his beard and the occasional sunspots were nice too.
But he couldn’t be serious! He was mocking Ben again. And even if that wasn’t the case, Ben would hardly want an impudent thief to ravage him like Ryder from his eBook. His dream man was supposed to be charming and sweet, not unlawful and crude.
Not that the Streak was Ben’s dream man!
“I don’t kiss men I hardly know,” Ben said, which was true since he’d barely kissed anyone.
“But you do kiss men. Glad to know I guessed right. And you know more than most, handsome.” His eyes darted down Ben’s body. “You’re here. How’d you find me, anyway?”
“With hard work and ingenuity. And my name is Ben. Benjamin Krane.”
“Nice to meet you, Benji. You can call me Grey.”
“And you can call me Ben,” Ben corrected, since Benji was intimate and something to be earned.
“Oh, I like you.” Grey chuckled, resting his hands on Ben’s chest and causing a shiver to course through him. “I’ll play along for now, but just you wait, I’m gonna get that kiss out of you someday.”
Finally, he extricated himself from Ben’s lap, and Ben stood slowly after him, unable to tamp down his blush.
“Why on earth would you want to kiss me?” He glanced away when Grey’s eyes bore into him like he’d said something scandalous.
“You have no idea how hot you are, do you?”
Ben was not hot. He was a science geek, like Grey had pointed out. But since he didn’t know if he was being teased, he simply said, “I thought, because of my gun, you called me Cold.”
“Cold it is.” Grey snickered. “When I’m not calling you Benji. So, Benji, where do we go from here? Dinner? A movie? Or straight to the extortion?”
Ben hadn’t thought that far ahead, but it seemed he had a super-speedy thief at his disposal to finally make progress against the city’s villains.
It was definitely the best and worst decision he had ever made.