“Aicher balances scenes of explicit and often extreme BDSM activity. . .with Asher’s strong sense of responsibility
and Sawyer’s desperate need for healing.” – Publisher’s Weekly
“Aicher takes the reader on an amazing journey before the men find happiness.”
– 4 stars, RT Book Reviews
“This book was perfection. I absolutely loved it.” – 5 stars, Wicked Good Reads
“Looking for a dirty-talking, filthy, hardcore S & M read with some healing/comfort and two sexy-as-fuck guys?
Well, look no further.” – 4.5 stars, Gay Book Reviews
“It is a wonderful book about overcoming what appear to be insurmountable obstacles.”
– 5 stars, Chrystal’s Many Reviews
“This is a beautifully portrayed, brilliantly written love story.” – 4.5 stars, Pretty Sassy Cool
“…Aicher does a nice job exploring these issues and really delves into the feelings of both these men.”
– 4 stars, Joyfully Jay
“They are dominant and rugged and kinky as hell!” – 4 stars, Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews
“Their chemistry worked and I couldn’t get enough of them both.” – 4.5 stars, Wicked Reads
“Definitely my favorite of the series so far.” – 4.25 stars, Prism Book Alliance
“A great erotic read.” - B+, Smexy Books
“This was more than just a steamy romance. There was so much backbone to it and that was truly impressive to me.”
– 4 stars, Jezabell Girl & Friends
“…this book went straight to my ‘extra special’ list because it will stay with me for a long time to come.”
– The Way She Reads
“Such a serious subject and handled so well by this talented author. This series just intrigues the heck out of me!”
– 4 stars, Kitties Book Spot
“I love the Kick guys and the outdoor adventure outfitter setting.” – B, Smitten With Reading
“I highly recommend The Deeper He Hurts. . .I loved it and I can’t wait to read the next Kick book, The Farther He Runs.” – Wit and Sin
Copyright © 2016 by Lynda Aicher
Permission to reproduce text granted by Random House
A scan of the oversized storage garage left Sawyer Stevens impressed. Organized racks, bins, and shelves housed every kind of equipment required for the excursions Adrenaline Kick Adventures offered. A list next to each type of gear contained a numbering system along with columns for checking pieces in and out and signing off on their condition.
Whoever managed this area was one anal fucker who’d just stepped up a notch on Sawyer’s respect level. This spoke to his own over-the-top demand for safety, order, and precision, backed by a defined procedure that was obviously enforced here.
“Sawyer,” Grady Kelley called, motioning him over. “This is Warren—most call him War,” he said, pointing to a tall, broad, buzz-cut dude. “And Axel.” The second guy was just as wide but about three inches shorter, with just enough hair to hide his scalp. They both screamed military, from their ingrained posture to their assessing study of him.
“Hey.” Sawyer did the handshake routine, sizing the guys up with steady eye contact. Both direct and intent, grips firm without being assholeish.
“They’re partners,” Grady explained. “War is whitewater and rock climbing. Axe here is mountaineering and biking.”
“And snow kiting,” War said, an excited gleam in his eyes. “That’s kick-ass and a fucking thrill.”
“If you want to freeze your nuts off,” Grady griped.
“You won’t if you keep moving.”
“You’re the new whitewater guide, right?” Axel interjected. He was about equal in height to Sawyer, but his girth and almost bursting shirtsleeves gave him the size advantage.
“Yup.” Sawyer motioned to the garage. “This is impressive.”
He wasn’t sure what he’d expected when he’d agreed to work here for the summer, but then the job itself hadn’t been the draw. Not for him.
War grinned, a toothy expression that cracked the hard lines of his cheeks and waffled between menacing and kind. “Ash is a fucking sadist . . . when it comes to safety and procedure.” The second part was added after a slight pause.
Grady snorted and Axel coughed into his fist before War’s glare shut them down. But Sawyer logged the info into his growing perception of this Ash guy.
“I’ll walk you through it so Ash doesn’t chew you out,” Grady assured him.
“Or ground you,” War added. “That really blows, because he usually assigns you days of cleaning, fixing, and cataloging all of the shit in here.”
Sawyer couldn’t stop his grin. “Sounds like the best form of punishment for breaking the rules.” Not the type he craved, but perfect for the grievance.
Axel’s brows winged up before his eyes narrowed. He opened his mouth, closed it. “Welcome to Kick,” he finally said. “Hopefully, I’ll see you around this summer.” He saluted them all and strode out of the garage, his boots clumping a steady beat.
“He’s headed to Bend,” Grady explained. “He’ll stay there for most of the summer.”
“And the three of us are booked at White Salmon tomorrow.” War’s phone buzzed and he pulled it out of his pocket, checking it.
“We need to head in,” Grady told War, motioning to the back of the garage. “Sawyer still needs to meet Ash and Rig.” War waved at them before refocusing on his phone. “The business offices are this way,” Grady said, heading down an aisle.
Sawyer followed him, absorbing the new information. He’d worked at a dozen different outfitters since he’d started guiding in his teens, and every one of them had their own rhythm and atmosphere to navigate. But all of them had that earthy laid-back sense that naturally paired with outdoor recreation. So far, he wasn’t feeling that here.
Kick’s professional reputation throughout the adventure community was top-notch. The owners knew their stuff and they’d earned every bit of the respect they were given in the relatively short number of years they’d been in business. The unfortunate death of one founder that spring and the near-fatal injury of the other had rippled through the newsgroups on a wave of shock and sadness. Death was a hazard and risk of their jobs that even the best weren’t excluded from.
Those depressing circumstances might have brought Sawyer here, but they’d had nothing to do with why he’d accepted the summer position when Grady had approached him. Not even slightly.
He’d agreed solely for the possibilities that came with working with a group of gay Doms. A rumor Kick didn’t advertise, but that still wound its way through the community.
“Wait here a second,” Grady said after they stepped through a back doorway into a more formal office area. He crossed the room and headed down a hallway before Sawyer could respond.
Unbothered, he leaned against a concrete pillar and studied the only other occupant of this area. The open blinds on the office window didn’t hinder his view, and his smile grew as he took in the sight. Neatly cut black hair, black framed glasses perched on a straight nose, model-worthy cheekbones and jawline etched in stone.
A gay yuppie’s wet dream.
Mr. Preppy stared intently at his computer, lips compressed into a firm stroke of concentration. Papers were stacked on his desk in disorderly piles that contradicted the pressed lines of his dress shirt. His dress shirt. Seriously?
Sawyer glanced down at his own T-shirt and cargo shorts, a smirk layering under his indifference. He didn’t even own hangers. Hell, his flannels were his only shirts with buttons, and he rarely bothered with them.
The wall near the main entrance displayed an array of high-end adventure gear along with company paraphernalia in a makeshift shopping area. Framed photographs and posters adorned the walls, each providing visual examples of the trips Kick provided. Mountaineering, windsurfing, extreme skiing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, base jumping—the images detailed them all, and not one of them featured a guy in a dress shirt.
“Hey,” Grady said, walking up, smile cocked. His shaggy casualness was a match to Sawyer’s and further distinguished Mr. Preppy as the odd duck among them. “Rig has a call to make. He said to see the Ash man first.” He nodded toward the office Sawyer had been staring at. “Ash takes care of the paperwork. He’ll give you a rundown on the business shit, then Rig will take you through the trips and our way of doing things. War and I will join you for that one, so come find us when you’re done with Ash.”
“Wait.” Sawyer frowned. “That guy”—he nodded toward the office—“is Ash?” He raised a brow, letting the unspoken question hang between them. Had he misunderstood the references on either who the guy was or his kinks?
Mr. Preppy came nowhere close to the profile he’d been building of Ash. Precise. Demanding. Smart. Sadistic—if he’d followed the hints right. A cool motherfucker who didn’t take shit. None of that had “uptight preppy dude” stamped on it.
Grady chuckled around a “yeah.” He turned his back to the window, voice lowered. “So look.” He glanced over his shoulder, winced. “I shared more than I should’ve. We don’t talk about our personal kinks with outsiders and they aren’t discussed in the workplace.”
Sawyer barely resisted rolling his eyes. “Tell me something I don’t know.” He smacked Grady upside the head for good measure. Most people would call him all kinds of sick if they knew about his personal kinks.
“Hey.” Grady objected, ducking but not fast enough. “Fucker.”
“When I can be.”
Grady flipped him off, then flicked his chin at the office. “Let me introduce you.”
“I can handle it.” Sawyer waved him away. This was one introduction he wanted to do by himself.
“All right.” Grady flashed a last grin, then headed across the open office space to the garage door. “I’ve got gear to organize.”
He waited until Grady was gone before heading in to meet Mr. Preppy. Grady’s unintentional confirmation of the gay Dom rumor had been the catalyst that’d launched Sawyer out of his hermit zone. He was here for eight weeks. A short break in his routine. A chance to explore and hopefully appease the unrest that was growing into a monster he couldn’t control, before he lost the will to control it at all.
And maybe, if he played it right, Mr. Preppy could help him out with that.
“Hey.” He knocked on the partially closed door and stepped inside the office. “Grady said I should see you.”
Ash whipped his head up, eyes narrowing as he took him in. “Sawyer.” No question or doubt in his tone.
“You’d be correct.” He stuck his hand out, two strides taking him to the desk. “Nice to meet you.”
“Asher Ruggiero.” Ash’s grip was strong and crisp, like his voice. “And likewise.” He motioned to the visitor’s chair. “Have a seat.”
He eyed Ash—Asher. The distinction was minute, yet it came across as important. Formal versus casual. It was better for him anyway. Ash was a reminder of everything he couldn’t forget.
Despite its illusion of comfort, the seat cushion didn’t give an inch when he sat down. He chuckled to himself and tried to fit Asher’s outward appearance into the information he had on the guy. If the dude was the sadistic fuck he’d been led to believe, then Asher would fit Sawyer’s needs perfectly—as long as he didn’t have to call him “sir.”
A smile crept over his face on a wicked slide of interest. Asher’s hidden facets definitely added to his surface appeal.
“When’d you get into town?” Asher asked, gaze direct behind his glasses.
“This morning.” He propped his ankle on his knee and leaned back, unbothered by Asher’s reserved demeanor.
Asher inclined his head. His ramrod-straight posture appeared natural, his chin tilted just a notch upward. “I’m assuming Grady’s given you the basic rundown of the company--our mission, offerings, et cetera.”
“Yes.” Kick could’ve offered him a summer of tame Class II and III river runs and he still would’ve taken the job.
“Good.” Asher swiped a manila folder off a stack at the edge of his desk and flipped it open. “We appreciate you helping us out like this mid-season.” He waited for Sawyer to acknowledge him before going on. “I have your standard employment papers here.” He laid a number of sheets on the edge of the desk in front of Sawyer. “I’ll need them back before you leave tomorrow morning.”
Sawyer raised a brow. “For White Salmon?” he asked, glancing through the papers, noting the typical forms including a liability waver.
“Rig will go through the details, but you’ll be joining the crew working the White Salmon River in Washington.” Asher paused, face impassive. The man hadn’t flinched once. His steely calm would’ve been unnerving if Sawyer cared even slightly about impressions. “You’ll be riding shotgun on the first trip to learn the river, which is standard procedure. The White Salmon is Class III/IV. We’re planning on you taking lead on some of the trips once you get up to speed.”
A task he could easily manage. Hell, he’d been leading trips down the Colorado and Green Rivers since he was twenty. “Does Kick have an outpost on the river?”
“A small one near the city of White Salmon. We have them on all the rivers we run regularly.”
“Will I be bunking out there then?”
“If you want.” Asher handed over another paper. “It’s just over an hour from Portland, so you can commute too. We have land behind the building where some of the staff camp. Basic kitchen and bathroom facilities are provided, and we have one bunkhouse in White Salmon.” He pointed at the document. “Those are our rental rates for the beds. There’re a couple still vacant. You can camp on the land for free.”
Sawyer glanced at the information, not really taking it in. He’d stopped caring after hearing he could camp there. The other amenities were nice, but not a necessity for him. All he needed was a place to park.
He studied Asher, all clean and put together. Not a hint of a beard shadowed his jaw, nor was a hair out of place. The frames of his glasses sported a label he couldn’t read but was undoubtedly meant to impress—someone, but not him. It was hard to imagine Asher on any river or getting his manicured nails dirty.
He glanced down at his own clipped but far from groomed nails. The ratty hem of his shorts had a few threads hanging free. His socks were bunched over his well-loved hiking boots. Dirt scuffed the toes and if he looked at the bottoms, he’d bet there were remnants of red dirt stuck in the treads.
A clump of his hair tickled the side of his face now that he thought about it. Hell, he usually didn’t care about his hair, which was why it was currently a good three inches longer than he normally kept it.
They were about as visually opposite as a peacock and a buzzard—but how far did their differences extend?
“So what’s your expertise?” Sawyer let that hang before adding, “Adventure-wise?”
Asher lifted his brow, a smirk curling over his lips to lessen the stick-up-his-ass expression. “My brain and my ability to apply my knowledge where it’s needed the most.”
Sawyer’s laugh burst free in a quick flight before he dug in to play. “And your knowledge is?”
Asher leaned forward, clasping his hands on the desk. “Vast.”
Asher’s lips twitched, a spark lighting his eyes, obliterating the stern formality. “And still growing.”
A snort leaked out on a scoff as Sawyer shifted forward to mask his own growing “knowledge.” Shit. When was the last time he’d gotten hard from talking to a guy? He rubbed a hand over the back of his head and stretched his neck, digging his fingers into the ridge of bone that formed the base of his skull. A reminder and a warning.
Being interested in anyone was a setup for pain. And not the good kind.
He straightened, gaze clashing with Asher’s. “Do you need anything else from me?” He needed to shut this—whatever it was—down, quick and hard.
Asher didn’t blink or respond, not right away. His focus seemed to penetrate right through Sawyer in that way Doms tried to read him. It didn’t concern him, though. There was nothing showing he didn’t want seen.
“I need a copy of your driver’s license,” Asher finally said. “Social Security, certification, and first aid cards. And a contact number.” He motioned toward the office space. “You’re welcome to use any open desk and computer. There are showers off the garage area. Do you need any gear?”
Asher was all practical efficiency once again. A part of Sawyer admired his focus. That kind of intensity was incredible during a scene. Not easily distracted or swayed from his intent.
A slow burn started deep in Sawyer’s stomach, an itch layered in need and underwritten with desire. He rubbed a palm over his thigh, another reminder that physical pain—not attraction or flirtation or even friendship—was the only thing he wanted from this guy.
The only thing he’d ever need—from anyone.
“I’m good,” he said, standing. “I’ll fill these out and bring everything back.”
He didn’t wait for more than a nod before striding out of the suddenly claustrophobic office. A clammy layer of sweat slicked down his back, the walls seeming to creep closer despite the openness. The high windows over the cubicles along with the bigger one near the entrance kept the space from being an artificially lit tomb, but it was still too dark. Too confining.
He focused on the swath of sunlight that cut through the room, slow deep breaths keeping his pace even and his mind centered. The door to the garage swung open with little resistance and zero noise. A sigh heaved from his chest at the open garage doors and the waft of fresh air that greeted him. He sucked in a deep breath, held it, then let it go, along with his rising panic.
No one would know anything more than what he allowed them to see. Ever.
A thrilling series featuring rugged men who play hard for a living. When it comes to one another’s hearts, they never back
down—because behind closed doors, the games they play are very different.
Book Two: The Deeper He Hurts
Asher Ruggiero, a partner at Adrenaline Kick Adventures, is living a lie. As a control freak whose big Italian family thinks he’s straight, Asher likes his encounters concise, dirty, and discreet—until his company’s new rafting guide walks into work, dripping with brooding, intense sexuality. Sawyer Stevens is a mystery man with secrets and rough edges, and he makes Asher want to get to know him inside and out.
Ever since the tragic death of his parents, Sawyer has dedicated himself to the rush of adrenaline that comes from pleasure and pain. Moving from one guy to another, hiding when life gets too complicated—that’s all he can handle. So why does Asher make him long for something lasting and honest, when the gorgeous geek can’t even be true to himself? Sawyer wants to give Asher his heart, but he just doesn’t know how. After all, a life without integrity is a life without passion—and that’s the one thing Sawyer craves.