So much for the quiet life. Just as assistant US attorney and brewery owner Dominic Price is settling into a comfy new chapter with his partner, FBI agent Cameron Byrne, the sudden death of Nic’s father puts their happily-ever-after in jeopardy. Nic immediately suspects foul play, his prime suspect a notorious gangster his father was indebted to—only now the loan shark is out for blood.
Cam has been longing for Nic to finally let him in on this very personal case. But when Nic’s belief that he’s the sole Price heir is upended, the line between personal and professional starts to blur, leaving Cam unsure of where he stands.
Nic is depending on Cam’s kidnap and rescue expertise to save his recently discovered family member before it’s too late. But with a dangerous threat closing in, the ghosts from Nic’s past cast long shadows. Any relationship could crack under the pressure, but for Nic, finding his family might mean losing the love of his life.
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This book is approximately 72,000 words
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Cam had seen Nic in all manner of dress.
Suited was his default, the workaholic spending most of his waking hours in Assistant US Attorney mode. The gray one paired with the ice-blue tie that matched his eyes was Cam's favorite. When he switched from lawyer to brewery owner, Nic would trade the suit for worn jeans and a snug black Gravity tee. Cam liked that look a helluva lot too. Even better was when they were at home and Cam could rid him of all his clothes, strip him down, and kiss every inch of his tattooed skin.
Tonight's outfit, though, blew all the rest out of the water and confused the fuck out of Cam. He couldn't decide whether he wanted Nic to never take off his Navy dress blues, or if he wanted to rip them off him this very second.
"You've got that look again," Nic murmured at his side.
"What look is that?"
Mischief sparkled in Nic's eyes, joined by the sparkle of the red, white, and blue lights that dangled over the USS Wisconsin's deck. "Like you want to find the nearest empty cabin and fuck."
Cam raised a brow. "Is that an option? Because yes."
Nic threw his head back and laughed.
The sight and sound did Cam no favors in the turned-on department. "You're gonna pay for this back at the hotel room." When they weren't on a battleship in the Elizabeth River, surrounded by hundreds of other current and former sailors.
"We barely got out of the hotel room as it was."
"What did you think was going to happen when you put on that uniform?"
"I might have misjudged your reaction." Sliding his arm along the rail behind him, Nic nuzzled his freshly shaven cheek. "And my reaction to you in a tux."
"You saw me in a tux at Aidan and Jamie's wedding. It had fucking tails."
"Oh, I remember," Nic whispered hotly. "And now that I can do more than just kiss you breathless in an elevator, I've got all kinds of ideas."
Biting back a groan, Cam shifted closer. "One, I kissed you breathless. Two, please tell me your ideas involve getting me out of this fucking suit." He hated formal wear and had had to wear entirely too much of it lately.
"Piece. By. Fucking. Piece." Each word was punctuated with a kiss.
Cam poked a finger through a gap in the buttons of Nic's jacket and yanked him closer. "Not fast enough."
Nic did groan then, only loud enough for Cam to hear, before he plastered on a fake grin and turned to face the interruption. His grin turned true, however, when his gaze fell on the man of the hour.
"Admiral," he said, drawing out of Cam's arms and giving the older gentleman a back-slapping hug. "You throw a good party."
The admiral returned the hug, then claimed a spot on the rail next to Nic. "Wish you would've let me throw you one when you retired."
"I didn't have a lifetime of service like you."
"Twenty years' worth, Price. Nothing to scoff at."
Nic stood a little taller, and Cam couldn't help but concur. "He's still serving, as one of the best federal prosecutors in San Francisco."
"You're not biased or anything," Nic said with a smile.
He shrugged. "You make my life easier, that's for damn sure."
"You work with Nic?" the admiral asked.
Nic placed a hand on his back, ushering him slightly forward. "Admiral Bailey, let me introduce my boyfriend, Cameron Byrne, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI field office in San Francisco."
The admiral looked impressed, greeting him warmly, and Cam was doubly surprised. One, that they hadn't gotten any shit, including from the admiral, over their relationship. And two, that Nic had so fully embraced their no-more-hiding decision. He suspected the former was a testament to the respect Nic had earned as a SEAL sniper, then JAG attorney. As for the latter, they'd revealed their relationship to friends and family two months ago, officially moved in together, and Nic had filled in a "2" on the RSVP card for tonight's event for Nic's commanding JAG officer's retirement.
It'd been everything Cam had wanted and more, and so far, without any blowback.
On Veterans' Day, Nic deserved to be honored as well. Celebrating the victories, as he'd told Nic they needed to do more of, and Cam had another celebration in mind, for here at the party, before the naked celebrating they'd do in private later. He waited until the admiral moved on to other guests, then tangled his fingers with Nic's, tugging him off the rail and into the crowd. "You need another drink?" Nic asked.
"No, I need something else."
Nic trailed close beside him, snaking his arm around his waist. "There are no stairwells open to below deck. They're all roped off. I already checked."
Good to know he wasn't the only one dealing with a case of want-to-jump-my-boyfriend. He kissed the underside of Nic's jaw, inhaling his spicy aftershave. "Want to hold you close and do something else."
The crowd parted for them at the edge of the dance floor, and Nic slammed on the brakes, shaking his head. "Nuh-uh, no way."
"What exactly do you have against dancing?"
"I don't do it." Nic's gaze was locked on the parquet floor, some memory giving his eyes a pained gleam. Cam had thought Nic's aversion to dancing had more to do with his inner control freak, but that look on his face indicated something else and only encouraged Cam to press. Nic had helped him past some of his biggest fears; Cam wanted to return the favor for the man he loved.
Positioning himself between the dance floor and Nic, Cam slid his hands under the hem of Nic's jacket and flared his fingers over his hips. "That's a lie." He coasted his hands farther back, teasing the top of Nic's firm, round ass. "I've seen you at Gravity, moving to the music when you think no one's watching."
Cam swayed, trying and failing to move Nic with him. "Dance with me, baby."
Torture flared in his eyes and tinged his voice. "The last time ..."
Cam lifted a hand, cradling his cheek. "So it's not that you can't dance? Or that you don't want to?"
Nic nuzzled his palm. "There's nothing I don't want to do with you."
Heart swelling, trying to beat out of his chest, Cam followed it to Nic's lips, capturing them in a soft, gentle brush. "Don't think about the last time," he whispered. "Just think about this time, here with me." He moved again, a slight shift of his feet, and Nic swayed with him.
Cam wanted to cheer. He wanted to celebrate like his seventh-grade-self had done after his first middle school dance with no injured toes. Nic's small relieved sigh made him want to do it all the louder — on the dance floor. He wove their fingers together again and pulled Nic forward.
One shiny wingtip hit the parquet, then Nic froze.
"You can do —" Cam started.
"Call." Nic brandished his phone, the screen lit with an incoming call from Aidan — Cam's FBI partner, and their friend and landlord. Cam muttered an Irish curse at the Irishman for interrupting, but if it was about work, the house, or their cat Aidan was pet sitting, they needed to know what was going on. Cam rolled his eyes with a nod, and Nic, smiling, lifted the phone to his ear. "Talley, what's up?"
A moment later, Nic's lean, muscled frame stiffened, his smile vanished, and his hand around Cam's tightened, nearly cutting off his circulation. "When?" Nic clipped, then after an answer Cam couldn't hear, said, "We're on our way." He meant it too, hauling ass toward the exit, dragging Cam behind him.
Picking up the pace, Cam darted in front of him, needing Nic to slow down and explain what the fuck was going on, because his own mind was careening along the road of worst-case scenarios they dealt in far too often. The mix of fury and unguarded pain on his lover's face made him stumble back a step. "What's happened?"
Nic's grip was bone crushing. "My father's dead."
Not every story got a happy ending.
Nic had resigned himself to his own unhappy ending decades ago. There wasn't a happily ever after out there for him. But over the past two years, his luck had seemed to turn. There were enough Irishmen in his life to make it so, and enough signs that pointed to a proverbial pot of gold. The something special he and Cam were building — living together, working cases side by side, hanging out at the brewery — had lulled him into a false sense of security.
It was too good to be true.
Standing over a sheet-covered body in the county morgue, Nic felt his newfound life, his hope of a happy ending, burning away like the remembered desert heat.
"You ready?" Aidan asked. The FBI Special Agent in Charge stood on the other side of the table, next to the coroner.
When Nic didn't reply, a hand settled on his lower back. "Maybe we should go home," Cam said. "Get some sleep and come back in the morning."
Nic shook his head, licking his lips and forcing moisture into his parched mouth. He hadn't pulled every string in the book to catch a military lift to DC so they could make the last flight out to San Francisco to not get this over with as soon as possible. His father wasn't going to be any less dead five hours from now.
"Go ahead," he said with a nod to the coroner.
Dr. Elizabeth Jong pulled back the sheet and Nic was surprised his wasted-away father didn't vanish into dust alongside the smoldering ashes of his happy ending. The bags under Curtis's eyes were purple, his blond hair turned white was all but gone, a bruise bloomed on one side of his head, and the deep lines around his mouth made the perma-frown he wore in life even more pronounced in death. The personification of the miserable man he'd been.
"Cause of —" Nic started to ask, only to be cut off by Aidan.
"You need to make the identification first."
Nic lifted his chin and cleared his throat, making sure his voice was clear for the recorder hanging above the autopsy table. He'd seen cases go sideways before due to inaudible identifications. He wasn't about to let that happen in this one. "Assistant US Attorney Dominic Curtis Price, only son of Curtis Stanton Price, identifying the body tagged —" he looked to Jong, who rattled off the number from the toe tag, then continued "— as Curtis Stanton Price." It was a cold, clinical identification, which was all Nic could manage at the moment with his mind miles ahead of his emotions.
"Cause of death?" he asked, returning to his previous question and gesturing at the bruising. "Blunt force trauma?"
Jong shook her head. "Preliminary exam indicates a heart attack as cause of death."
Cam sucked in a sharp breath. They'd almost lost Cam's mother to a heart attack two months ago. She'd pulled through, unlike Curtis.
"He didn't have a heart condition or risk factors," Nic said.
"Would you have known?" Aidan asked.
Fair point. Until recently, he and Curtis had been estranged for almost three decades. "I'll talk to Mary." The former housekeeper would know better than anyone if his father had had any warning signs or recently diagnosed conditions. But no matter what Mary told them, Nic had tried enough cases to know heart attacks could be induced. And Curtis, with his mountains of debt, was a prime target. He didn't think Curtis would poison himself — he was too proud for suicide — but at least one of his lenders, Duncan Vaughn, was under investigation by the FBI for a whole host of crimes, including murder. "Who found him?" Nic asked.
"Harris Kincaid." His father's executive assistant, also Vaughn's nephew-in-law who Nic had flipped months ago. "At the family office."
"Any indications of foul play?"
"None on the preliminary examination," the coroner answered.
"I want a full autopsy, including a comprehensive tox screen."
"It'll delay the disposition of the estate," Aidan said.
Nic had looped him in on his father's situation this past summer, and as a lawyer-trained-agent, Aidan recognized that administering Curtis's will, liquidating his assets, and paying off his lenders as fast as possible was in everyone's best interest. Not that there was going to be enough cash to satisfy all of them. But Nic wasn't about to let months of work building a case against the worst one go to waste. Not when he was this close to nailing Duncan Vaughn, and not when he and his team had control over the evidence for a change.
"I can make it look like the disposition is proceeding," Nic said. "Meet with the family lawyer. Get it rolling. Give us time to complete the autopsy."
"Figured you'd say that, so I already filled out the paperwork." Aidan held out an arm toward the adjacent office. "You just have to sign it."
"Let's go do that, then." He turned toward the metal swinging doors, but Cam stopped him, fingers grasping his wrist.
Dark eyes swung from him, to the table, and back. "Don't you want —"
Whatever Cam was going to say, the answer was "No."
The only thing Nic wanted to do was get out of this cold, antiseptic-smelling room. He had a call to make. A follow-up to the one he'd made two months earlier, when he'd learned Vaughn was out of the country "on business." More accurately, out of the country sheltering assets. The slow trickle of funds out of domestic accounts into foreign ones and the movement of goods via international freight were not enough to violate any laws or trigger any red flags, if you weren't looking. But Nic was looking, and the pattern was unmistakable. He had all the orders ready, handed down by the grand jury — asset seizure, search warrants, the full RICO and financial crimes spectrum — and no Vaughn to serve them on. Sure, he could serve them on Vaughn Investments, but many of the charges were against Vaughn as an individual. More than that, Nic wanted to see his face when he did it. He wanted the gangster-fronting-as-investor to know he hadn't been intimidated.
That he would be the one to take him down.CHAPTER 2
Cam closed the front door and leaned back against it, watching Nic soldier across their living room. He'd changed out of his dress blues and into a suit before they'd left Dulles, but every other part of Nic was still on-mission. Spine straight, shoulders back, step determined as he rolled their suitcase with one hand and held the phone to his ear with the other, barking orders. After signing the autopsy paperwork, he'd immediately started making calls, not letting Cam get a word in edgewise.
He was the FBI agent, yet it was Nic on the horn, rallying the troops. First to Eddie, his former SEAL teammate and brewery co-owner, giving him a heads-up to keep his sidearm close and put extra security on Gravity and their employees, though not telling him why. Then to Lauren Hall, their cyber agent team member, and Mel, former Special Agent in Charge and Jill of all trades, as he set up an all-hands meeting for the ass crack of dawn.
Never mind that the ungodly daybreak was only a few hours away.
Never mind that they'd been awake since the last sunrise.
Never mind that Nic's father had died.
Cam got it — his lover's reaction — mostly. When he'd gotten the call that his mother had had a heart attack, Cam had also shifted into high gear, his sole focus getting home to Boston as fast as humanly possible. Nic was doing the same sort of thing now, focusing all his energy on nailing Vaughn, who Nic no doubt suspected for Curtis's death. Cam was right there with him. But when Cam had gotten that call two months ago, Nic had held him close those first few minutes after, when his mind had been a tornado of grief, fear, and regret. Nic hadn't allowed himself that moment yet, and Cam was pretty sure he'd get a Beretta in his face if he tried to force it.
He had to proceed with caution. Pushing off the door, Cam grabbed his duffel and caught up with Nic. He coasted a hand over his lower back, letting him know he was there, before nudging the suitcase out from under his hand. Nic's fingers dragged over his, lingering as Nic continued to talk to Lauren and Mel, and Cam internally cheered at the small breakthrough.
Ducking his chin and hiding his victory smile, Cam pushed the suitcase toward their bedroom, scaring their cat back from wherever he'd slinked out of. He turned on the light in time to see the orange ball of fluff scale the side of the bed, running from the rolling monster.
Cam parked the suitcase in the corner and stepped over to the bed, toeing off his shoes and scratching behind Bird's ears. "Not happy to see us? Did Uncle Aidan spoil you?"
Purring, the gigantic cat spread out the length of Nic's pillow and rolled on its side for more scratches. Cam indulged him another minute before venturing to the bathroom, stripping down to his boxers and starting the shower. When the water was steaming hot, he turned to find Nic standing in the doorway.
Coat and tie gone, sleeves rolled up, he braced his elbows against the jamb, stretching. "I'm going to change and head into the office."
No, he was not. Cam closed the distance between them. "You're going to shower first."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Noble Hops"
Copyright © 2019 Layla Reyne.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Noble Hops is well-written and moves along at a steady pace, the characters are interesting, and there are plenty of questions answered in this finale. However, it ended up being just an okay read for me. There's suspense, and the author throws plenty of twists in there, but much of the story requires a little too much suspension of disbelief, and the mystery aspect fell a bit flat. On the romance side of the story, Nic and Cam certainly have chemistry, but given their professions, they're surprisingly insecure in their relationship. Some of that can be allowed for the required angst in a romance, but it wore a little thin. In the end, the story was good enough for me to want to finish it, but it isn't something I'll be thinking about days from now. This is the third in a continuing series and does not stand on its own.
The final book in the Trouble Brewing series had everything I've been both waiting for and dreading. From the moment Nic got the call, my heart was in my throat. The final revel of the entire story behind the GS tattoo and Nic's troubled family life was all the more heartbreaking from three books of leading up to it. Even though I KNEW everything would work out, my heart broke for Cam as he struggled not to feel like everything he wanted and had fought for was slipping away. Although the suspense elements were even stronger in this book than the first two (which I was expecting because the last book of the Whiskey and Irish series was the same), I didn't feel like it overshadowed Nic and Cam's relationship. Instead, it gave the threat even more power because they had something to lose. As always, it was good to see all the characters from the Whiskey and Irish books back, especially with the way they make up Nic's "found family." Noble Hops was a very bittersweet but satisfying end to the series.
4.5 stars- As much as I’m sad to see this spin-off trilogy close, Noble Hops met all my expectations and more. Most definitely not a standalone, the book quickly jumps into the thick of things and grabbed my attention immediately. I loved seeing the pieces fall in place, as the case against Vaughn came to a head, the moles were revealed, and Cam and Nic’s future was cemented. Though I anticipated a lot of my questions would be answered in Noble Hops, I was still surprised by many of the twists and reveals that came Nic and Cam’s way. All of these plot points came together to create a really exciting and satisfying conclusion. As with the rest of this and the Agents Irish and Whisky series, the action scenes and quick pacing were on point, keeping me engaged cover to cover and waiting for the next move. And of course, I loved seeing all of the team working this final case together. That close connection they’ve formed over the multiple series was palpable and a gratifying way to say goodbye to one of my very favorite groups of characters. If you’re a fan of romantic suspense novels, the Trouble Brewing series is one I’d easily recommend. *Reviewed for Alpha Book Club*
Nic and Cam are one of those couples where things just make sense because they both work hard at making sure the other one has everything they could need to be successful in their jobs and their personal lives. It was a refreshing take on romance that I have not seen very often. In addition to the romance, this is a mystery trilogy and I felt like the overarching case was resolved well and with an exciting ending. This finale to the trouble brewing series offered a great wrap up to what's been haunting Nic and his family as well as who's been selling out the San Francisco DOJ cases from inside the FBI and the US Attorneys Office.
Loved this final installment of Nic and Cameron's story. With their relationship on what seems like solid ground and most of their family issues dealt with these two are hoping for a little peace and quiet in life. Yeah, not going to happen! When Nic's father dies suddenly their peaceful existence is shattered as secrets, lies, and danger come to light. This story is much more action/suspense than romance but a fantastic piece to their story. I highly recommend you read the first two books in the series to really get to know these characters before diving into this one. It's a great series of books that you don't want to miss.
As the third Trouble Brewing series story, this had a fantastic display of action, thrills and a side of romance. Cam and Nic are at it again, still trying to stop Duncan Vaughn from his murderous plotting, scheming, and well... murder. This time all the gang is back together and it's edge-of-your-seat emotional turmoil as Nic lays down the final plan to take him down for good. It would be way too easy to give away the entire book, so I'm just going to say... OMG. And squeeeee. And a little bit of awww. Layla Reyne has given me anxiety for three books now and I am not ready to let go of Cam and Nic yet. If you haven't read this series yet, what are you waiting for?
This has been a wonderful series, and this was a great ending to Cam and Nic’s story. The story was action packed, with twist and turns along the way that kept you on your toes. The story of Nic’s past has been building throughout, and it comes full circle in this final installment of this series. I absolutely loved all the tattoos of Nic’s, and how they told his life story. Being able to finally get the full picture of the meanings behind all his tattoos, helped click the last pieces of the puzzle in place. I truly loved the chemistry that built between Cam and Nic throughout the series, but in this book, it was truly special. They had finally committed to their relationship fully, and they were so in sync with each other. The romance between Cam and Nic was intense, and just looks and simple touches between the two was sexy. I also really enjoyed the “family” aspect of not just Cam and Nic, but others within their circle of friends and now family. Being able to re-visit with Aidan and Jamie, as part of their work team, but also their family was great! I really hope we’ll get another opportunity to re-visit with these characters as they have just been a lot of fun, and I know I will miss them!