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Lunatic is book six in the Necessary Evils series.
Each book follows a different couple and can be read as a standalone.
- Secret Identity
- Waking up in Vegas
- Enemies to Lovers
- Public Scandal
- Hate Sex
Every psychopath in the Mulvaney family has a role to play. Archer Mulvaney is the gambler, a drunken reprobate making his living as a high-stakes poker player. Very few people know the real Archer, not even his brothers. But there is one man who knows far too much.
Mackenzie Shepherd spends his days photographing endangered wildlife. He’s also the brother of a sociopath and son to the woman who literally wrote the book on raising one. When his mother asks him to head a secret government project, it seems like the perfect excuse to run away from his life.
But running from his past has Mac colliding straight into Archer. And that’s a problem. For this project to be successful, Mac and Archer have to agree on every decision, and the two see eye-to-eye on nothing. Except, maybe the sex. The sex is off the charts.
When Mac’s old life comes back to haunt him, Archer insists on putting their differences aside to help keep him safe. But Mac, like Archer, is used to solving things on his own. Can they finally stop fighting each other to find the truth, or is their relationship the next thing on the endangered species list?
Warning: This book contains talk of child sexual abuse and graphic depictions of violence against people who deserve it.
LOOK INSIDE: CHAPTER ONE
LOOK INSIDE: CHAPTER ONE
“This is, by far, the most important and delicate phase of the project. Of course, we’d want our people in on the planning and implementation,” Thomas Mulvaney said, addressing the man directly across from him.
There were nods around the conference table, a sea of familiar faces—some old, some new—who were all on Thomas’s side.
Beside his father sat Molly Shepherd, the leading expert on not only recognizing psychopathic and sociopathic traits in adolescents but the treatment of those pathologies. A unique skill set born of necessity had spawned the project for which they were now all deeply entrenched. Beside her sat her two sons, Jayne and Mackenzie, known as Shep and Mac, respectively.
The man Thomas was trying to convince was Marshall Kendrick, a bored and jaded bureaucrat with the highest level of security clearance and zero tolerance for people questioning him. He stared them all down with an imperiousness that only came from years of government work before giving a disingenuous smile. “Thomas, Molly, I understand your concerns. This project is your baby, but we’ve been raising these subjects—”
“Children,” Molly snapped.
The man waved a hand dismissively. “Yes, children, for fifteen years. I would hope, by now, you would have some faith in our qualifications.”
“No offense,” Archer said, uncapping his bottled water. “But nobody with any sense has faith in their government.”
Kendrick gave Archer a pissy look before running a hand over his black suit jacket. These guys really did like to dress like the Men in Black. They were doing stuff equally as shady, he supposed. Maybe more so. Nobody knew for certain whether aliens were real, but psychopaths? Those were real. Archer should know. He was one.
“We’ve created every aspect of this project,” Molly reminded them. “But this is where we see our social proof. This is where we let them off their respective leashes and make sure the training worked. We will not agree to allowing government agents to handle this last phase of the study. It has to be our people. That’s non-negotiable.”
“One misstep could ruin everything,” Thomas added.
“They’ll never agree to that,” Kendrick said.
“Bullshit,” Shep muttered. “Don’t act as if you don’t have complete and total control over how this project is staffed and run.”
“And don’t act like there isn’t a room full of suits just like you listening to every word we say right now,” Archer added.
“We’re not buying a used car. Stop pretending that you have some manager in the back you have to clear this with. The buck stops with you. All of you. We’re not leaving here until you agree with our terms,” Shep said with a cold stare.
Kendrick’s lips twitched in an aborted smile. “I find it rather amusing you both brought your children to fight your battles for you. If I had known, I would have pulled my son from his eighth grade field trip to Magic Mountain so he could play, too.”
“Is your son also a psychopath, Mr. Kendrick?”
They all turned to the man who had spoken. He was intimidating, even by Archer’s standards. He stood at six foot, but he was a wall of muscle, like a defensive lineman. He had a bald head, a full beard, and umber skin that contrasted deliciously with his perfectly tailored white button-down.
“Who are you again?” Kendrick said, tone chilly.
“Jackson Avery,” the man answered, flashing an equally frigid smile.
He was another piece in the weirdly incestuous puzzle that was Project Watchtower, known to those on the inside as The Watch.
“Jackson is the owner of a global security agency called Elite Protection Services, outfitted with former special ops soldiers and highly trained former law enforcement agents,” Thomas said, giving Jackson a nod.
In addition to that, Jackson was the on-paper employer of the Mulvaneys’ off-book hacker, Calliope Castellanos. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, Jayne Shepherd, the son of Molly Shepherd, had once worked security for Jackson, which was how they all became hopelessly knotted together.
“And what does that have to do with The Watch?” Kendrick asked.
“You’re going to need highly specialized operatives for this last phase. Those with not just military training but the knowledge to guide a legion of young psychopaths.”
Jackson had brought the Vice President of his company along for the meeting, another intimidating specimen known as Lincoln Hudson. He was taller than his boss, with a high and tight haircut, a five o’clock shadow, and a face that said fuck around and find out.
“Why would I need you for that, exactly?” Kendrick asked.
Linc’s mouth was a grim line. “Because you also need people who can help calibrate the moral compass of those same psychopathic young adults and, no offense, but no deep cover operative is going to have the judgment or restraint needed to accomplish the task.”
Yeah, no doubt both Jackson and Linc were sexy. Definitely sexy enough to tempt even Archer. But both men were married, their respective spouses lounging by the pool somewhere. In fact, every non-Mulvaney at the table had a wedding ring except one man: Mac Shepherd.
The proverbial thorn in Archer’s side. As morally righteous as a saint, but, goddamn, if he didn’t fuck like a sinner. Archer snarled internally as his mind began to wander. This was the sixth time since meeting that they’d been in a room together. And the first time one or both of them had managed to keep their clothes on. But never again. Ever. Ever, he emphasized to himself, hoping his dick got the message.
“For the Watch to be successful, you need someone who can guide these young men into making the right choices. But you also need men who can ensure their technique is sound, their alibis are tight, and that their relationships with their handlers are…appropriate,” Mac said, his gaze flicking to Archer, then back to Kendrick.
Archer snorted. It was no secret that Mac found Archer to be less than appropriate as a ‘handler.’ He was certain Mac had gotten more than his fill of psychopaths sharing DNA with one—his twin brother, Shep. But that hadn’t stopped Mac from letting Archer blow him in a hotel conference room or Mac bending him over the desk at the new Watch facilities. Fuck. He definitely shouldn’t be thinking about that.
Archer tried to adjust himself as discreetly as possible beneath the table. Mac wasn’t even Archer’s type. He liked younger, deviant types. Pretty boy dancers and porn stars. Mackenzie Shepherd was one step above a choir boy and pushing mid-forty. He was also tall and sleekly-muscled with shocking red hair, a mass of freckles, and eyes so molten gold Archer had sworn they were contacts. But no, Mac was just a goddamn unicorn with pretty eyes, a huge dick, and a fucking conscience that would make Jiminy Cricket look like Ted Bundy.
“What is it you’re proposing, exactly?” Kendrick asked.
“Molly and I want total control of the program. The curriculum, the cases, the staffing. You get all the research, all the glory, and you get to bring us the targets. But we vet them first.”
“Absolutely not,” Kendrick barked. “You’re fucking mad.” At the raised brows he received, the man scowled even harder. “Ugh, you know what I mean. This is a government-run project.”
“No,” Thomas snapped. “This is a government-funded project. Up until this leg of the project, we determined the children, who raised them, and how they were raised. We chose their schooling, assessed their strengths, chose the best candidates to get to phase three, and determined how best to handle the…failures. This is our project. These are our children. Don’t push me on this. I do not need your money to fund this project.”
“But you do need our research,” Molly added.
“We could just simply continue the study without either of you. I think we’re more than capable of taking it from here,” Kendrick said, tone snide.
Thomas scoffed. “I’ve raised six psychopaths to be the most effective, deep cover agents to ever exist. They move between their public life and their private duties effortlessly. They’ve managed to find partners, and one of my sons even has children. I did that. Molly did that. And, not to put too fine a point on it, Mr. Kendrick, but I also cleaned up your mess when you asked me to. How is your son, by the way?”
“Matthew? He’s—” Kendrick cut himself off, face turning eggplant purple with fury as he realized exactly to whom Thomas referred.
The others appeared confused. All but Molly. Archer had sussed out years ago that Kendrick was Aiden’s biological father. How he’d come to end up in Thomas’s care at the age of sixteen was still an unsolved mystery. One Archer didn’t care enough about to look into. Though, after seeing Kendrick’s face, perhaps he was more interested than he’d been just two minutes prior.
Kendrick’s phone rang. He glanced down at it, and the color drained from his face. He picked it up and answered it. “Yes?”
They all sat and watched as he listened. “Yes, sir,” he said just before hanging up.
When he spoke again, his voice was far more composed. “How is it you plan on running this program?” He pointed to Thomas. “You’re a billionaire, always in the spotlight.” He pointed to Molly. “And you split your time between teaching and the lecture circuit. How do you plan on giving this the attention it needs?”
“Simple,” Thomas said. “We pick the two people we trust most to make those decisions in our stead. My son, Archer, will run the program with Molly’s son, Mac.”
Kendrick looked at each of them in turn. “Your son, the drunken gambler, is your pick? Really?”
Archer grinned. “The rumors of my drinking have been greatly exaggerated, as you well know,” he said with a wave of his hand.
That was an understatement. Well, more a fabrication, a carefully crafted persona to hide Archer’s true mission—liaison between the government players and his busy father. High stakes poker games in shady back rooms hid a lot of sins. As for why he kept this persona in place, even with his brothers? That was harder to say. At this point, he’d been lying to them for so long it seemed rude to tell them the truth now.
“Fair enough. I suppose it makes sense with him being a psychopath and all, but what exactly are your qualifications, Mr. Shepherd? Weren’t you a…nature photographer?”
Archer shifted in his seat, uncertain why the man’s condescending tone towards Mac irritated him so much.
Mac didn’t so much as bat an eyelash before flashing a grin that did things to Archer’s insides, saying, “I’m still a photographer. However, before I became an award-winning wildlife photographer, I was a highly decorated soldier who did two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. I’m also a skilled survivalist, a tenth degree black belt in Judo, and I speak three languages. One of which is psychopath.”
“Is that all?” Kendrick asked drolly.
Archer was tempted to pipe up and mention he fucked like a porn star, but with a resume like Mac’s, it seemed unnecessary and in poor taste given the company.
“He’s also an exceptional cook,” Shep said, clearly not agreeing.
If anybody else had said it, Archer would have thought he was being sarcastic, but Shep wasn’t built that way. Like August, he was sometimes more android than human. Mac most definitely got all the sarcasm.
Kendrick rubbed his hands over his face. “You know what? Fine. You want these two in charge,” he said, pointing to Archer and Mac. “Fine. But I approve all staff brought in by them.” He thumbed a finger at Jackson and Linc. “I’m also bringing in my own team. There are seven men. All former agents, all highly trained handlers. That’s non-negotiable. We roundtable monthly for progress reports, and this program needs to be fully operational in less than six months.”
Thomas and Molly exchanged glances. She shrugged. Finally, Thomas looked at the man and said, “Done.”
“Excellent,” Kendrick muttered, already standing.
“How quickly can you get us your agents’ files to review for the onboarding process?” Jackson asked. Kendrick glowered at him, but Jackson was unflappable. “They’ll have to be vetted just like our men. Besides, there’s going to be a learning curve for all of us. It behooves us to know their strengths and weaknesses before that begins.”
“I’ll have my secretary get you their files as soon as…” Kendrick started, then trailed off.
“As soon as what?” Linc asked.
Kendrick sighed, his words tight with irritation. “As soon as I get them to agree to this insanity.”
As soon as Kendrick left, the group stirred. There was a small amount of small talk and plans to all meet up for dinner, then they all made their way to the conference room exit. Somehow, Archer and Mac were the last ones to leave the room. He was almost to the door when large hands slid into the back pockets of his jeans, dragging him back against a warm chest.
“What are you doing?” Archer asked, his treacherous dick already hardening behind his zipper.
“Giving you my room key,” Mac murmured, slipping the plastic card into his back pocket. “I miss hearing you moan.”
What a fucking asshole. “As I recall, it was you moaning, not me. Hard to tell with all the heavy breathing. You should really try adding some cardio. Your stamina needs a little work.”
Mac pressed his lips to Archer’s ear. “Hard to maintain any composure around you when you go to your knees for me so fucking easily. When you bend over for me so fucking readily.”
Archer’s heart was slamming against his ribs, and he wasn’t sure whether he was turned on or infuriated. Probably both. “Go fuck yourself,” Archer murmured calmly.
Mac snickered. “Why would I fuck myself when I’ll be balls deep in you in an hour or so?”
Archer rolled his eyes, pulling the room key from his pocket and attempting to give it back to Mac, who ignored it. “Sorry, Tarzan. It’s you and your hand tonight.”
Mac slipped past him in the doorway, rubbing against him in the most obvious way possible. “See you in an hour.”
“You’re fucking mental,” Archer told him, following him down the hallway, room key held before him. “And I need a fucking drink.”
“I thought the rumors of your drinking were ‘greatly exaggerated,’” Mac teased, pushing the button for the elevator. Archer took the opportunity to stick the room key back in Mac’s pocket, unable to ignore the thick outline of his cock in those faded jeans.
“You make being sober a chore,” Archer muttered.
Mac stepped onto the elevator, turning to face Archer, who stayed where he was. When Mac realized Archer wasn’t joining him, he sighed, pressing the hold button. “You know, for a psychopath, you sure do take the fun out of casual sex.”
Archer smirked. “For somebody whose brother is a psychopath, you’d think you’d know better than to taunt one.”
Mac grinned, letting go of the hold button. “My brother isn’t a psychopath, he’s a high-functioning sociopath. And I like to live dangerously.” The doors were almost closed when he tossed his room key back at Archer, who caught it reflexively. “See you in an hour.”