Exclusive Excerpt: Lethe Press presents: Prince of the Sea by Jon Michaelsen

I thought I’d offer a taste of the thriller/suspense aspect of Prince of the Sea for those who’ve not yet read my latest novel. This excerpt has never been seen before, so I hope you enjoy!

Short blurb:

Island myth or guarded secret?

Jonathan Lemke thought spending two weeks with his partner, Paul, in a beachside cottage on Tybee Island would rekindle the lost passion of their ten-year union, but a vengeful assailant intent on exposing the island’s secrets soon sets his sights on Jonathan and his mysterious childhood friend.

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Exclusive Excerpt:

Jonathan approached the northern tip of the island before dusk for his rendezvous with Lucius. Climbing onto the boulders of the breakwater, he sat and watched the waves at his feet lap the jetty. Sea foam churned through the crevices, bubbling up through the breaks in the rocks. The ocean smelled of salt and seaweed and a hint of fish. He watched the broad beam from the lighthouse sweep the gloomy surface in rotary precision.

Inhaling the ocean’s scent, Jonathan loosened his shoulders and arms, letting the gentle breeze brush against his skin through his open shirt, trying to relax before his friend arrived. Not long after as Lucius appeared beside him like a chameleon from the shadows.

They made small talk for a while, reciting memories from their childhood together, hours of carefree adventures and the many misadventures of note, both glancing out into the abyss when Lucius asked an unexpected question.

“Are you happy, Jonathan?”

Had Lucius sensed his argument with Paul? he wondered. Happy? How does one respond to such a question? Sure, Paul had pissed him off, but he didn’t want to think about it as he hugged his knees and contemplated an answer of his happiness. Had he rushed to judgment before giving Paul a chance to explain? His partner likely had a very good reason for lying, for not wanting to come to the island in the first place. Ten years was a long time with the same person. At least in gay years, he thought.

“Yes…I am happy.” Jonathan flashed a smile that held a moment. He plucked a shell caught between the rocks and rubbed its inner surface between his fingers. “I’m only thirty-two, so I’d like to think there’s much more ahead to achieve in life.”

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Lucius appeared dour as he gazed out to sea. Same as last night, he’d shown up wearing white cotton chinos rolled to the calves and nothing else, the fabric fluttering in the breeze like his hair. The glow of the moon bathed his caramel skin in a luminescent sheen, a striking ruddiness that summoned the god of light.

Hugging his knees and turning his head, Jonathan admired the sheath of corded muscle layering his friend’s broad shoulders. Lucius’s back flared like a manta ray, wide at the top and narrow at the waist. Jonathan moved his eyes over the gentle giant, appreciating the sculpted body earned from sheer physical exertion, and not from some gym stocked with high-tech gear or a syringe. The kind of labor required to perfect such a physique eluded Jonathan as he clutched his knees tighter to disguise his growing approval.

He’s fucking gorgeous.

Lucius turned his head and flashed a heart-melting grin. Warmth spread through Jonathan’s cheeks as his embarrassment ignited. If what Lucius had said about reading each other’s emotions and thoughts was true, then Jonathan felt incredibly self-conscious. He struggled to suppress his grin like a goofy teenager out on his first date.

He felt young and virile again when he was with Lucius, livelier than he’d been in a very long time. In fact, his manner bordered on euphoric while they perched on the boulders of the breakwater shoulder to shoulder. They sat in the darkest region of the island near North Beach beneath the light of a thousand stars, glistening like tinsel hanging from the sky. Lighted structures sprinkled the shoreline for miles inland on either side of them.

The giant eye of the lighthouse swept across the water for miles.

“What about you, Lucius?” Jonathan asked. He spoke in a hushed tone, a soft melancholy settling over him. “Have you achieved all you’d hope?”

Lucius frowned, bringing his large hands together. “Jonathan, I have something to acknowledge, an important part of me I should have shared with you long before fate has brought us together again.” He swallowed hard, and Jonathan sensed a tightening in his chest, felt the pain of his friend’s confession.

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“I should have revealed my secret when we were young pups still in the care of our elders, but I feared the anguish learning my secret would have caused you at the time. I am sorry to have betrayed your trust.” Lucius blinked away the moisture in his eyes. “I yearned to share my secret with you, Jonathan, to open my soul like a weeping siren caught on a jagged rock. Alas, my immaturity prevailed.” He swallowed. “You should understand, in my youth I feared my own shadow, unaware of my condition, of my own heritage.” He turned and the moonlight caught a flash of green in his eyes. “Selfish yes, but I feared losing your friendship should I disclose my secret.”

Jonathan listened quietly, the torment of his friend’s words like a mallet to his heart. Lucius had said they could read each other’s thoughts, and yet he felt nothing beyond the misery and despair of his friend. Listening to Lucius spill his truth made Jonathan want to pull the man into his arms and forever soothe his worries. Nothing Lucius could reveal would ever alter Jonathan’s love for the man. He was sure of it.

“Once I matured, my desires grew ever stronger, tougher still.” Lucius turned away and stared ahead. The muscles tensed in his thick neck. “I avoided revealing my troubles to my family. I should have gone to them sooner, but I didn’t understand what I was going through.” He lowered his chin to his knees. “I needed to unburden my heart, and confiding the truth eventually to my family helped banish my soul of its burden.”

Jonathan placed his hand on his Lucius’s shoulder, a gesture of comfort that produced a spark singeing his arm. “It’s okay,” he offered, grinning wide to reassure Lucius. Still, the sensation trailing his arm lingered. “Relax, will you? I think I know what you’re going to say.”

“Do you?” Lucius turned toward Jonathan with brows furrowed, fear and anguish shaping the features of his angelic face.

A spark flashed from behind them. Jonathan started a second before the rock nearest him spit bits of gravel and dust into the air. The next crack sent something sailing past Lucius as it split the water with incredible speed.

Did somebody just shoot at us?

Jonathan didn’t have time to react before Lucius hooked him under the arms and chucked them both into the waves with the speed of a harpoon. The shock of cold water biting his skin paled in comparison to the power now propelling them through the ocean at incredible speed. He had not grabbed enough air into his lungs before plunging beneath the surface and fought to hold onto to the precious little oxygen he had.

What the hell?

***

Fuck. Damn. Shit-fire!

Billy Wayne dove behind the pillars supporting the boardwalk. The walkway led out to the jetties from the public lot at the end of Gulick Street. His back flush against the rough, weathered wooden supports, he sucked the blood oozing from the wound on his hand. The rifle’s trigger had nicked his skin and jammed before he fired off another shot at the two men sitting on the jetty. No matter, he’d seen what he came for.

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After taking a couple of wild shots at the men, the larger of the two, the darker skinned, long haired one, had pulled both men into the ocean with unbelievable agility. They had quickly disappeared beneath the water. Despite the pain pulsing through his hand, Billy Wayne grinned and savored the thought of getting the proof his daddy never got

He’d never doubted his old man, not one bit, but Billy Wayne had needed to see the abomination with his own eyes. All his life he’d heard about what could happen when they were provoked, and now he’d seen it with his own eyes. No human could have leapt from the boulders with such lightning speed and sprinted through the water like a barracuda.

Billy Wayne had to confirm his father’s legacy more than ever. He peered beyond the boardwalk, out toward the jetty. The two men hadn’t surfaced as he’d figured. He zippered his rifle in its gun case and trotted back to his old Ford truck. Pumping the gas pedal, he started the engine after a couple of turns of the key. He slammed the vehicle into first gear and shot out of the lot, fishtailing onto Gulick Street then taking a left onto Meddin Drive. He sped past several cross streets, hung a right onto U.S. 80, the island’s main thoroughfare, and then headed for Tybee Island Marina.

The dock crawled with deckhands in from the days’ haul when he arrived. They were weighing their catch as captains of the boats barked orders. Billy Wayne made his way to a small runabout boat moored in a slip far away from the chaos of the larger vessels. He was known to troll the waters for clams and shrimp to sell to the town’s restaurants, so no one paid him any mind. He glanced over and grunted toward the men working. Most had simply ignored him over the years, fingering him as the senseless offspring of the town crazy. He often arrived at all hours of the day and night, so his appearance after midnight tonight went unnoticed.

Billy Wayne checked out the pouch containing the harpoon gun and several stainless-steel-barbed rods. He sat down hard on the ragged cushion at the stern of his boat and pulled the crank-cord. The motor sputtered to life in a burst of blue smoke when the engine caught and he clicked it into gear. Passing Cockspur Lighthouse at Lazaretto Creek, he headed out the mouth of the Savannah River to the wide shadowy ocean. He was intent on proving once and for all the ancient island myth that had haunted his family for years was real.

Exclusive Excerpt: Dick Hardesty Mystery Book 13 – The Secret Keeper by Dorien Grey

The Secret Keeper (a Dick Hardesty Mystery) by Dorien Grey

Blurb:

P.I. Dick Hardesty listens with polite interest to his partner Jonathan’s stories of his days working for 90-year-old multimillionaire Clarence Bement, helping the old man tend his garden. But when Bement is found dead, an apparent suicide, Jonathan is adamant that the old man would never have killed himself, a theory also held by Bement’s grandson, Mel Fowler.

Excerpt:

Jonathan and Joshua left a little early Thursday morning so Jonathan could tell the Bronson sisters of the trip. I took the bus to work so I could pick up Jonathan’s truck on my way home.

Promptly at ten o’clock, a knock at the door pulled my eyes up to the silhouette of a male figure on the opaque glass. I got up from my desk and walked over to open it.

I try not to think in stereotypes, but if the stereotype of a male flight attendant was of a strikingly handsome hunk all but radiating gay vibes, Mel Fowler was it. Not nelly, not fem, but unmistakably gay.

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Jonathan’s brief but glowing physical description hadn’t done Mel justice. If he ever decided to hang up his airline steward’s uniform, he could instantly get a job as resident hunk on any soap opera on TV.

He was about Jonathan’s height and build, with a cover-model face and the kind of light-blue eyes that, in my single days, would have made me melt. (Okay, so they still made me thaw a little.) He was wearing a bright-blue sport shirt, white chinos, and dark brown loafers, all of which did nothing to lessen his overall sex appeal. I also caught the slight scent of a cologne I’d given Jonathan for our anniversary and which always drove me to distraction. It took quite a bit of will power to push my libido back into its little box and close the lid.

“Come in,” I said, a little unnecessarily, extending my hand.

His grip was strong and warm, and the thaw factor rose by several degrees. Whatever American was paying him wasn’t enough. But then I realized that, as Clarence Bement’s grandson, he probably didn’t need the money.

I showed him to a chair in front of my desk.

“Coffee?” I asked, having just made a fresh pot in anticipation.

“No, thanks,” he said. His voice would make a great topping for an ice-cream sundae, I decided. “I had a late breakfast.” And again, while most straights probably wouldn’t immediately pick up on it, if I had my eyes closed and heard his voice across a crowded room, I’d have known he was gay. It’s a gift we have.

I moved around to my chair and sat down.

“So what can I do for you, Mr. Fowler?” I always used a client’s last name until otherwise advised.

“It’s Mel…Mr. Hardesty,” he said, grinning. Nice grin.

“Fair enough,” I replied, returning the grin and noticing the lid had come off of my libido box. I forced it back in. “And it’s Dick.”

“See? We’re making progress already.”

“I must admit I was a little surprised to get your call.”

He sat back in his chair. “You shouldn’t be. Grandpa B became really very fond of Jonathan in the short time he knew him, and Jonathan talked about you several times. He’s very proud of you, and you’re really lucky to have him.”

“Believe me, I know,” I said. “But why do you suppose your grandfather would have mentioned all this to you?”

“Well, at first I thought it was just his casual way of letting me know he knew I’m gay—we’d never talked about it, but how could he not know? Anyway, because he knew Jonathan was, he was probably just letting me know he was okay with it.”

He smiled, and I realized I’d been staring at him. He was truly hot.

Hardesty! a chorus of my mind-voices cautioned in unison.

“Your grandfather sounds like he was pretty sharp, even at ninety,” I said, pulling myself back to the moment.

“Oh, he was! Which is one of the reasons I’m here.”

“So, what can I do for you, Mel?” I repeated.

“You can find who killed him.”

“Have you talked to the police?”

“Briefly. They seem pretty convinced it was suicide. When I tried to tell them Grandpa B would never do that, they were very nice but pointed out that reaction is pretty standard in families of people who kill themselves.”

“Okay,” I said, as conversationally as I could manage. “And what makes you think his death was not a suicide?” I did not want to tell him that I’d already checked with the police regarding Jonathan’s theory.

“Because I know my grandfather, and I know he simply would not willingly cut his life short by so much as a minute.”

“But being confined to a wheelchair after his fall must have been really hard on him. And I understand a close friend had just died. Perhaps he was more depressed than he let you know?”

“Of course he was depressed; who wouldn’t be? But it was precisely because he knew his time was limited that made every day even more precious to him. He read, he loved music and his garden and his other hobbies—none of that changed after his fall.”

“Do you have any idea who would have wanted to kill him, or why?” Again, I knew full well that whenever a millionaire dies under suspicious circumstances, the why is often obvious.

He gave me a wry smile. “We can start with my family,” he said. “Or, more specifically, my uncle Richard’s side of the family. They define the term ‘money-grubbers.’ They were constantly hounding Grandpa B for money for one thing or another. They never let up, until toward the end he’d finally had enough and turned off the tap.”

“And how did they react to that?”

“I think you can guess. They were furious but didn’t dare let it show because they were afraid they’d be cut out of his will.”

I thought for a moment before saying, “And are they that demanding with your grandmother? She’s still alive, I assume?”

He shook his head. “Oh, yes, very much so. But it wouldn’t have done them any good. They all inherited the spending gene from her. She’s been living in Europe—she has a little pièd-a-terre, as she calls it, in San Remo on the Italian Riviera—for years, and hasn’t been back to the States in ages, so I’m the only one in the family who has a chance to see her every now and then.

“She’s had four wealthy husbands since she divorced Grandpa B, and ran through every penny she got from them. Her fourth husband left her the villa she lives in, and an annuity that allows her to live comfortably but not lavishly. She guards it carefully. And when she dies, the annuity stops. So, there is no reason to try to dun her for money she doesn’t have. At least, that’s her story, and she’s sticking to it.

“She’s in her mid-eighties now, and when I have a flight to Europe; she’ll sometimes come up to Paris or down to Rome for dinner with me, but I generally try to avoid it since the only thing she talks about is how Grandpa B did her wrong. She didn’t come to his funeral.”

“Interesting,” I said. “So tell me more about your family.” I already had gathered they were not the Cleavers.

“Think The PsychiatristsHandbook of Dysfunctions,” he said. “We’re all in there somewhere, on both sides of the family. But I’m worried that if anyone were looking for suspects, the first person they’d zoom in on is my mother. She’s schizophrenic and has been in and out of hospitals for years. We’re pretty close when she’s on her meds, but like a lot of schizophrenics, as soon as she starts feeling better she thinks she doesn’t need them anymore and ends up back in the hospital.

“Whenever she was off her meds, she was convinced Grandpa B hated her and was hiring people to kill her. I suppose that’s a leftover reaction from the garbage my grandmother fed her after she and Grandpa B got divorced.”

“And was she on her medication at the time your grandfather died?”

“I’m not sure. I’ve been working a lot lately, so I hadn’t talked to her for several days before it happened, and I was in London when I heard he’d died.”

“So you don’t know where your mother was at the time?”

He shook his head. “No. She usually locks herself in her apartment and won’t answer the door or the phone. But her word alone wouldn’t tend to hold much weight as an alibi if she needed one. Anyway, I know she could never kill anyone no matter what her mental state was.” He paused, looked at me, and grinned. “See what I mean about dysfunctions?”

Exclusive Excerpt: Gentle (a Shane & Corey Gay Teen Mystery) by Mark Zubro

Blurb:

Two high school boys try to survive amid death and danger in the desert, while hoping for the possibility of first love.

Shane Semereau wants to be left alone to read his books and carve his wood sculptures in the warm desert. His life is a swarm of confusion and violence, but he wants to be a force in making the world a gentle place. He grasps at those dreams. Cory Garcia is a bundle of electric energy who lashes out at everyone and everything, but loves to let his mind go in the world of dance. Amidst great danger and looming violence they find each other and unite against all that is arrayed against them at every turn.

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Excerpt:

Chapter One

Sunday evening – orange groves

With a care born of fear and a caution mixed with suppressed

excitement, I parted the branches of the encircling tree. A southern

California winter night, cool, but not brutally cold. If it had been

brutally cold then the cloyingly sweet fruit around me would be

dead and the growers poorer by billions. At least that’s what the

exaggerators on the news always said.

Sunday night. Not yet ten o’clock but late to be out for a school

night. But Mom’s not home. I’ll have extra caffeine in the morning.

It’s not as if there’s a lot really great to stay awake for at school.

I gotta say, nothing about my goddamn life is normal.

Well, okay, that’s not exactly true. I go to high school. I eat food.

I take showers. I use the bathroom. I wear clothes except when I go

to bed.

Apart from that, my world is pretty wide open.

And I’m telling this story because maybe someone will listen.

I’m in the orange groves many weekend nights, most much

warmer than this, and mostly it’s quiet, and dark, and empty of all

save orange trees, and an occasional cluster of teenagers. Except

  1. Listening to them. Envying them, sometimes. Begrudging

their crude friendships, rough camaraderie. Observing the trysting

grounds of teenagers from hiding.

Out here on school nights, usually it’s only me and the moon and

the stars and the trees. I prefer the silence.

The dark comforted me, and this hiding spot had always been

perfectly safe. Few headlights whooshed past on the main road

hundreds of feet away, and the glow from those distant headlights

doesn’t reach this far. Even fewer turned down the long lane that led

to this secluded spot. And this late in the evening people and their

cars rarely crept toward me.

The bunch I was watching weren’t that far away. Close enough

that I could recognize them as kids from my school.

I can hear them. If the words ‘dude’ and ‘bro’ got banned from

the language, my peers would be unable to communicate even the

simple bits of idiocy they do exchange. I’m not saying all teenagers

are dumb. I’m saying these teenagers twenty feet from me made

dumb look good.

One was the star of the football team. Tall, strong, muscular.

Well, you don’t get to be star of the football team if you’re short and

skinny and a nerd like me. The other two were acolytes of his I knew

vaguely from school. There’s two thousand kids at Cactus Central

High School. It’s not like I’d memorized everybody’s name.

The wind is blowing from them to me. I smell beer, dope, sweat.

I hear them bragging about beating up some poor kid. They use

common slurs to refer to the kid they pounded the hell out of. I

don’t recognize the name, but it’s definitely not someone from their

ethnic group. These guys and a few of their hulking friends picking

on one kid.

My school can be rough. I try to be as invisible during the day as

I am now. I’m in their ethnic group, but I’m not one of them. I’d get

the hell beat out of me too.

I hear shuffling coming toward me. I ease deeper into the darkness

provided by the tree branches.

There’s all kinds of rumors you hear about a wild variety of

dangers out in the orange groves. Mostly it’s teenage imagination

fueled by teenage anxiety and/or stoked by parental fears, or it was

just plain fear in those parents’ minds. Silly crap. That a killer lurks

among the trees. Be frightened of being hurt, killed, kidnapped. The

stuff that really does happen can be more frightening. At least to me.

And then there’s the nutty stuff and silly rumors. That the ghosts

of variously manhandled kids, usually girls or women, appear at

strangely spooky spots on particularly eerie nights. Add a little fog

and a screwy teenager’s imagination and you get zombies and living

dead and vampires. Odd how those ghost sightings occur mostly

on foggy nights. I’m not sure how much imagination it takes to see

ghosts in the fog.

Another rumor was that kids lurked among the trees willing to

provide sexual favors. Wish I could run into one of those. I’d heard

that a group had caught a gay guy who had been spying on them,

and they’d tied him to the back of a bumper and dragged him until

he died. I never saw a report on it in the newspaper though or on the

Internet, so I’m not sure it’s true. A Google search revealed nothing.

A body was never found.

And then there’s the real stuff that I’ve seen. Sort of mundane, I

guess, kind of hot. This one time something happened in the middle

of the day, of all times. I’m usually not out here then, but that day

I was, and there was this guy sitting by himself in his car. He’d had

his eyes shut. At first, I’d thought he was sleeping. Then I’d seen the

glow of his phone in his left hand and his right arm moving rapidly

up and down. I’d inched as close as I could. He was a young guy, a

teenager, thin. He’d parked under the shade of a huge tree. All the

car windows had been open. From what I saw, he was good looking.

I’d wanted to watch everything, but I’d been afraid to get too

close. A few minutes later, I heard him give a soft groan, followed

seconds later by a smile of satisfaction on his face. Both of his hands

had disappeared and he’d lifted his mid-section, so I guessed he had

been pulling up his pants and underwear. Where had he wiped the

excess?

When he drove off, I was extra careful to make sure no one was

watching, hid in the deepest shadows, and for the first time out in

the orange groves, I took out my own dick. I don’t know how I had

the nerve. It took me only a few seconds to let go a load. I don’t do

that often, but it’s great when I do, being outside and in daylight. I

let my cum fall onto the ground under a tree. Whacking off outside,

and getting totally turned on by it, is that weird?

Tonight, the shuffling comes nearer. I barely dare to breathe.

Every kid in town knew about the one definite, for sure murder

in the past month, a teenager found floating in the irrigation canal.

The same canal I had to jump over to get from the fields around

the railroad tracks behind my house to these vast rows of citrus

trees and random, scattered clumps of other vegetation. No one had

recognized the dead kid. He wasn’t local. The corpse hadn’t been

torn up like it would have been if it had been dragged behind a

car. The body had never been claimed. No local kid was missing.

He might have floated for miles. Even with all their technology and

Internet hook-ups, the cops hadn’t found out who he was. Each

rumor was crazier than the last. That the killer had stuffed the dead

kid’s private parts in his mouth. That they’d cut off his hands.

None of that was true.

I’d watched him float by about an hour before he was found by a

grower. I’d been frightened and might have reported it, but if I used

my cell phone or called from home, they’d know who I was. I knew

he was dead. The body reeked and was bloated, gross, disgusting,

and definitely not breathing.

I wasn’t about to begin answering a lot of questions about what

I was doing out here and then maybe they’d begin to suspect me or

worse, arrest me and try to say I did it. My imagination can run away

with me, too. I was scared that night but drawn to the body at the

same time. I remember the eyes. Wide open. Cold, dark, and dead.

If my parents found out I come out here, there’d be hell to pay

about that.

No. There was no one lurking in the trees behind me tonight. No

one I’d heard or seen, and I’m special careful. The only live bodies

besides me were the ones I was spying on.

Now, I can hear the quarterback telling his buddies how much

he loved kicking the kid when he was down. In the pauses of his

discourse, I can hear the breathing of the one approaching me. I can

see his outline now. He’s within five feet of me.

I can see a glow of light. He’s got his stupid phone out. He’s away

from his buddies for ten seconds, and he’s taking a piss, and he’s

got his phone out. Since he’s looking at the glowing screen, the light

doesn’t shine toward me, which is good.

The soft rustle of cloth, the rasp of a zipper, liquid unleashed.

He’s pissing on the ground. The phone’s light isn’t pointed toward

his dick, which might be interesting to see.

And he doesn’t see me. They never do.

He finishes. Zips up. Gives a five second belch. I see him grab his

crotch and adjust himself. He stumbles back to the others. It’s hard

to walk on the usually crumbly ground in the orange groves. No

water in the dirt grooves for irrigation tonight.

I hear the pop of beer can tops. The flare of matches for more

cigarettes and dope. They’re getting louder as they get drunker and/

or higher. Now, they’re talking about the dead boy in the canal.

A lot of the time I can tell which kids are sneaking out for the

first time, and those who are hardcore partiers. It’s in the amount of

noise. The first timers are all whispering and shushing each other,

more giggling, too. The teenage-old-timers, the ones who’ve been

out before, they’re loud in a furtive way. Their attitude seems to be,

we’re tough and macho but keep one eye out—nobody can stop us

from partying, but the cops could come.

Once in a while there are couples who use this for lover’s lane,

but this is mostly a party place with a little making out now and

then. The real lover’s lane is farther back in the hills, and I usually

don’t walk that far. Besides, I think those kids deserve some privacy.

Sometimes, I see condoms on the ground. Once I found a broken

cell phone, couple times underwear, guy’s and girl’s. All kinds of

intimate things, but mundane items, too: cigarette lighters, a bong,

water bottles.

I know of three different kids in several different groups that I’d

listened to who said they knew who killed the kid in the canal. I think

they’re lying or exaggerating.

Mostly they talk about sex and computer games. I’m entranced

by the sex bragging.

But now this group begins discussing leaving. Another one of

them comes toward me. It’s the quarterback. I can tell because he’s

tallest with the broadest shoulders. His footsteps stop. This time

I inch closer. Movement of cloth. No zipper. He’s wearing sweat

pants. Sound of piss hitting ground.

You want a saint, look somewhere else. You want a straight kid,

you’re out of luck. You want a teenager who doesn’t think about sex

constantly, find a dead one.

Whenever I see the quarterback, Darrel Granger, in the hall at

school, I never look him in the eyes. We have one class together. I’m

sure he doesn’t know I exist. I barely ever glance at him. Just enough

that I’ve memorized the folds in the front of his jeans. But only long

enough to not get caught staring. I guess that’s longer than ‘glancing

barely.’ I’d watch in class to see if I could observe telltale bulges as

he sat and spread his legs. Sometimes I could.

I’d give a great deal to see Darrel Granger naked. Or be in his

arms. To feel him hold me. Right now, I’d just like to get a lingering

peek at his dick.

I slip another few inches in his direction. A side step. Dirt slides.

I can almost see an extra light pinkness next to his hand.

“Who’s there?” he calls.

Stay in the shadows? Run?

The other guys come toward us. They’re maybe ten, fifteen feet

to my right.

I crash out of the tree and take off. For the first second or two,

leaves, branches, and fruit tear at and bump against my skin.

“Hey,” somebody yells.

“Get him!”

I can’t possibly outrun them. They’re bigger. But I know the

trees and the groves. I dodge and dart, my shoes slipping. I trip.

Get up. It’s frantic. They’re too close. I can’t get to the secret paths

I know so well. But it’s too dark for them to follow my footprints.

I scurry forward with care and caution. I hear them stumble and

curse. They take a wrong turn, and I draw away. I begin circling and

eventually come around to almost behind them. I stop. They keep

going forward.

I thrust my body deep under the leaves and branches of a tree.

I lean my head against the trunk. I pull in deep breaths. I quieten. I

listen. They’re coming back. I turn to start another sprint.

Car headlights come down the dirt road. I can’t run. They’ll see

me in the lights.

Trapped.

The face of the boy floating in the canal comes to me. I don’t

want to be the next statistic.

I try to melt myself into the tree. I hear their footsteps. The lights

of the new car turn off. Car doors slam. I shut my eyes.

I hear Darrel and his friends pass on either side of the tree I’m

hiding in, but their attention is on the newcomers.

After they pass, I pull in air for what feels like the first time in

hours.

The two groups meet under the old pepper trees that line the

road. I hear acrimony.

I creep to the main path through the trees. When I get there, I

run full tilt. I am pretty fast on solid ground. I leap the irrigation

canal. Home is a short run to the embankment, up it fifteen or

twenty feet, over the railroad tracks, down the other side, across the

field, over our backyard fence, and into the house. It’s a mile and

a half across the field. When I’m halfway, I look back. No one is

behind me. I slow down. Check myself for injuries but only find a

few minor scrapes from twisting and crashing through the tree when

I first started running.

Exclusive Excerpt of author Greg Herren’s newest Scotty Bradley Mystery; Garden District Gothic

Garden District Gothic 

by 

Greg Herren

Blurb:

The city of New Orleans was rocked to its very shaky foundations when the body of six-year-old beauty queen Delilah Metoyer was found, strangled, in the carriage house behind her family’s Garden District mansion. The crime was never solved, and the Metoyer family shattered in the aftermath of the crime. Thirty years later, Delilah’s brother asks Scotty to finally find his sister’s killer…putting Scotty and his friends and family into the crosshairs of a vicious killer.

Exclusive Excerpt:

You know you live in New Orleans when you leave your house on a hot Saturday morning in August for drinks wearing a red dress.

It was well over ninety degrees, and the humidity had tipped the heat index up to about 110, maybe 105 in the shade. The hordes of men and women in red dresses were waving handheld fans furiously as sweat ran down their bodies. Everywhere you looked, there were crowds of people in red, sweating but somehow, despite the ridiculous heat, having a good time. I could feel the heat from the pavement through my red-and-white saddle shoes, and was glad I’d decided wearing hose would be a bad idea. The thick red socks I was wearing were hot enough, thank you, and were soaked through. They were new, so were probably dyeing my ankles, calves and feet pink. But it was for charity, I kept reminding myself as I greeted friends and people-whose-names-I-couldn’t-remember-but-whose-faces-looked-familiar, as we worked our way up and down and around the Quarter.

Finally, I had enough around noon and decided to call it a day.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been so hot in my life, and I grew up in Alabama,” my sort-of-nephew, Taylor Wheeler, said in his soft accent, wiping sweat from his forehead as we trudged down Governor Nicholls Street on our way home.

Garden District Gothic

“It hasn’t been this hot in a while,” I replied, trying really hard not to laugh. I’d been forcing down giggles pretty much all day since he came galloping down the back steps the way he always does and I got my first look at his outfit. “But the last few summers have been mild—this is normal for August, usually.” It was true—everyone in town was complaining about the heat like it was something unusual. But we hadn’t had our usual hellish summer weather in a couple of years.

Last summer had not only been mild but dry, with little humidity and practically no rain—which was unheard of. Usually it rains every day around three in the summer, when the humidity has gotten so thick it turns to rain.

“I don’t even want to think about how much sweat is in my butt crack,” he complained, waving the fan he picked up somewhere furiously, trying to create a breeze.

I gave up trying to fight it and just gave in to the laughter.

Taylor is even taller than his biological uncle, my longtime partner Frank. Frank is six two, but while Taylor claims he’s only six four—I think he’s taller. He’s definitely more than two inches taller than Frank. He’s very self-conscious about being so tall, always slouching so he seems shorter. The slouching drives me crazy. I’m constantly telling him to stand up straight and to work on his postue, to embrace being tall since there’s no changing it.

It’s not working so far.

He’s also maybe one hundred and seventy pounds tops—despite eating everything in sight, he never seems to gains any weight. Also like his uncle Frank, he has a high metabolism. Long and lean, with enormous hands and feet, he looked absolutely ridiculous in the University of Alabama cheerleading uniform he’d bought on-line for the Red Dress Run. The top was intended to be a midriff shirt, but he was so tall it looked like a red and white sports bra with Bama written in script across his chest. The pleated red-and-white skirt barely covered his ass. He hadn’t shaved his legs or arms or stomach, either, so almost all the exposed, golden-tanned skin was covered with white-gold hair that glistened in the sun with sweat.

Taylor hadn’t originally wanted to do the Red Dress Run, an annual event that raises money for local New Orleans charities. Everyone who participates pays a registration fee and of course, you have to wear a red dress. There’s alcohol, food, great music and everyone has a really good time.

When I originally asked him if he wanted to do the Red Dress Run, he looked at me like I’d lost my mind or had heatstroke or something. “I have to wear a red dress?” he gave me that oh-so-typical teenaged eye roll I was getting to know far too well. “Why would anyone want to do that? In public? And it’s not Halloween?”

“New Orleans has a fine tradition of men wearing drag at all times of the year. Not just Fat Tuesday or Halloween,” my mom replied before I could splutter out something that would have only made him more resistant. “It’s for fun, Taylor, you know what that is, don’t you? You don’t live in Alabama any more, Taylor. Loosen up.”

I smothered a laugh as his face turned beet red.

Leave it to Mom. She knew how to handle him far better than I ever would.

It didn’t hurt that he worshiped her.

And that was all it took. Once he decided he was going to do it, he dove in head first. “My dress is a secret,” he said when I asked him if he wanted to go dress shopping with me. “You won’t see it till that day. I want it to be a surprise.”

I couldn’t have been prouder. New Orleans was good for him, as I knew it would be. He was adapting very quickly. Soon he’d out-local the natives.

So, I went shopping for my dress all by myself in the unbearable heat of a July afternoon. Colin was out of the country on another job for who knew how long, and Frank would be wrestling in Jacksonville the Friday night before the Red Dress Run, and there was no way he could get back on Saturday in time unless he drove all night. My best friend David was making his dress—he and some friends were doing a group costume, spoofing those reality shows about rich, botoxed shrieking women by going as the Grande Dames of Chalmette. I liked the idea, but I can’t sew so that was out. I didn’t find anything I liked in the shops on Decatur Street, so I moved on to Magazine Street in Uptown. At a consignment store I found a gorgeous red Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress that required just the tiniest little bit of alteration, and the store had a seamstress there on site. All in all, it was a steal at $60, which included the tailoring.

Exclusive Excerpt: Confessions by Ethan Stone, a Reno PD Book

Confessions, by Ethan Stone, (a Reno PD Book 1)

Blurb:

A Reno PD Case File

A serial killer known as the Confessor is kidnapping and torturing gay men, and Reno Police Department Evidence Technician Leif Carson is determined to catch him.

His personal life isn’t any less stressful. Despite being a virgin and having zero experience with men, he can’t stop thinking about his best friend’s ex, Rafe Castillo. Rafe is suffering from PTSD, but that doesn’t stop Leif from wanting to be with him.

Complete opposites, they’re an amazing fit once they do get together—until Rafe’s PTSD gets in the way and he walks away from the relationship before it has a chance to truly blossom. Even though he has intense feelings for the man, Leif has no choice but to let him go.

When the Confessor kidnaps Rafe, Leif does everything possible to locate him before he’s murdered. Rafe’s near-death experience changes him profoundly, but the danger isn’t over yet. Leif and Rafe will have to face pure evil together if they’re going to last.

Cover Image

Excerpt:

The following excerpt takes place after Rafe has gone missing and Leif is determined to figure out where he is. The disappearance isn’t yet linked to the Confessor case so Leif is trying to work the evidence from Rafe’s car on the down low.

I HAD just started examining Rafe’s car when a loud voice ordered me to halt. I peered up and into the glaring eyes of Reno Police Chief Luther. She was a short, squat black woman, and she did not look amused.

“Mr. Carson, what the hell are you doing?”

Playing innocent, I kept my voice low. “I was just about to start searching the vehicle for evidence.”

“There are several problems with that,” she stated. “The first is that you are not an evidence collector. You examine the evidence after it is found. Secondly, this vehicle is not part of an ongoing case. And even if it was, it’s not on the list of priorities. Your priority, as if you didn’t realize, is the confessions case.”

“I don’t always just examine the evidence, ma’am. Lately I’ve helped Doc Hettrick with the victims in the confessions case. So I have indeed collected evidence.”

She shot me an icy glare. “Don’t mess with me, Carson. I am not a happy woman. I’ve got the mayor and the damn press all over my ass. They hardly cared until Fitzpatrick was involved. Now it’s top priority. Drop everything else and locate this guy. As if we already haven’t been working our asses off.”

Semantics and clarifications weren’t going to win an argument with the chief, so I tried a different tactic. I’d spent time with her outside of work because she and Cristian were still close, and I knew her to be a caring woman with a heart of gold.

“Chief…. Lex, this is important to me. I accept that doesn’t matter to you.”

She held up a hand, and I stopped speaking.

“I’m not saying it doesn’t matter, but right now every work hour is being accounted for. If I have you working on a case of lower importance, I’m going to hear about it. Hell, there isn’t even an open case, though I am aware of Rafe’s disappearance.”

“I’m not even on the clock.”

“But you’re using police resources to do the job.”

I sighed and dropped my head to my chest, sure I had just lost.

“I’m not heartless, but we have to play the game right now, Leif.”

She winked, and hope surged in my chest again.

“What can I do?”

“First, get on the clock and file a missing persons report on Rafe. Include the evidence you have so far, what you and Jeremy did on your own. Just don’t mention you brought in a suspect for a case that didn’t exist at the time. Once the report is processed and in the system, connect the car to the case.”

“Then I can check out the vehicle?”

“I need a full day’s work on the confessions case, but if you choose to stay past your eight hours to work on Rafe’s disappearance, I’ll okay it. Not overtime, mind you, but I will allow you to use our resources. Provided it isn’t a huge expense.”

“I can’t imagine it will be. Maybe some DNA if I’m lucky.”

“Do we have a deal?” She extended her hand, but I ignored it and hugged her instead.

“Thank you for being so amazing.”

She playfully shoved me away. “Don’t be telling anyone you like me. I have to keep up this tough-ass persona or I’ll get walked all over.”

“I’ll be sure to trash-talk you a little.”

She grinned. “Perfect.”

I was in the process of sealing the car to ensure no one else got in when I noticed a small flower in the backseat. I quickly bagged it, then finished the task at hand and headed to my office. I set the flower aside and turned my attention to the case I’d been ordered to spend my time on.

Since there wasn’t anything new, I reexamined the evidence I did have. I searched for more information on the buttons, eventually finding one store in Reno that had bought the company’s remaining stock when it was discontinued. Fen Fashions had been a small handmade clothing store open from 1983 to 1996. It had been owned by Loretta Fenmore, but she had died a year after her business shut down. There was no remaining family as far as I could tell. The building had been torn down and replaced with a grocery store.

Turning my attention back to the confession footage, I tried to see if I had missed anything. I enhanced the words on the back wall and figured out the first one said Welcome. However, the remaining words were either out of focus or blocked, and I couldn’t get a solid clue on what they could be. I played around with the letters I could see, but nothing made sense. It was possible “poe” was part of it, but that didn’t help in the slightest.

I’d about put in my eight hours when my office phone rang.

“Leif Carson.”

“Mr. Carson, this is Debbie Crane.”

I felt like I should recognize the name, but I couldn’t place it. “Who?”

“Dr. Deborah Crane, the botanist you contacted to identify a plant you found.”

“Oh yes, I remember now.” There had been a plant found on the first two bodies I couldn’t label.

“The plant is Sphaeralcea munroana. Also called a Flame Checker. It’s native to the western states, and around here it grows in the tailings of old mines. It’s not common in residential areas at all.”

I paused for a second and opened up the pictures I had of the plants. I hadn’t checked them out lately because I was waiting for her call. I grabbed the bag with the flower I’d found in Rafe’s car. It was the same size and shape but a different color. “Is the flower always the same red as the ones I sent you?”

“Oh no. Their colorings vary greatly, from bright red to orange or dark yellow. Often it’s a mix of the three and it looks like a flame, hence the nickname.”

The one I was staring at did indeed resemble a flame. “If I take a picture of a flower, can I send it to you to see if it’s the same kind?”

“I can give you a guess, but I couldn’t be sure until I examined it.”

I snapped an image of the flower and e-mailed it to her while we stayed on the phone.

“It just arrived,” she said. “Hold on one second.”

I waited.

“From the picture, I’d say it’s most likely a Flame Checker.”

“Thank you, Doctor. I’ll be in touch if I need anything else.” I hung up without waiting for her to say good-bye.

The same flower found on the bodies of Ray Ray Guthrie and Gavin Chapman was also in Rafe’s vehicle. It could be a coincidence, but my gut told me I was right. I wanted to be incorrect; I truly did. Because if what I suspected was true, then Rafe was in the hands of a madman—a serial killer going after gay men.

I dashed to the garage and did a quick examination of Rafe’s car. The backseat had been laid down, most likely so Rafe and whoever he was with could go at it. I searched down the sides, and my fingers brushed something small. I had to stretch to get at it but managed to squeeze two fingers around it and pull it out.

“Jesus Christ.” It was a button. Dark wood with an ivory inset, just like the ones I’d found near the sites of the last two victims. It could be another happenstance, but that many coincidences really worried me. It was too much to ignore. Way too much.

I called both Cristian and Jeremy and asked them to come to the garage immediately. Jeremy arrived first, but I made him wait until Cristian got there. I told them everything, putting emphasis on the plant and the buttons. When I finished, I stared at them both. “Well, what do you think? Am I reading too much into this?” I wanted one of them to tell me I was being insane and overreaching with my conclusions. Neither one of them spoke, and I nearly went out of my mind waiting for one of them to say something.

“I need to phone Lex,” Flesh said and grabbed his phone. “Hey, you need to get down here right now, Chief.”

Lex was there a couple of minutes later, and I had to go over what I found once more. Then she made me repeat it.

“Is he saying what I think he’s saying?” she asked Cristian.

“Yes, he is. Rafe Castillo’s disappearance is connected to the Confessor.”

She pointed at me. “Write up your report ASAP so we can officially combine the cases.” She turned to leave, then faced me again. “Good job, Leif.”

When she was gone I grabbed Cristian’s hand and held it. “Do you comprehend what this means? Rafe’s been held by this psycho for days. He was the backup victim while the killer tortured Fitzpatrick. That would mean Rafe is next up to be brutalized. It’s probably happening right now. This very instant.”

Cristian pulled me close and wrapped his arms around me in a rare instance of sensitivity.

“We’ll find him. I promise.”

I wanted to stay strong, but I couldn’t, no matter how much I tried. I buried my face in Cristian’s shoulder and cried.

Cristian let me weep for several minutes. Then he stepped back and held me at arm’s length. “I know this is tough, Leif, and I know you want to lose yourself in your fear and grief, but now is not the time for that. Now is the time to pull yourself together. We all need to be one hundred percent so we can save Rafe. We are going to save him. He’s not going to be the next dead body we discover.”

He was right. As much as I wanted to collapse and let the emotions overtake me, I couldn’t. Rafe was depending on me. He needed me. And I wasn’t going to let him down.
Ethan Stone
Romance on the Edge

Ethan Stone doesn’t write your typical boy meets boy stories. With a combination of love and suspense he makes his characters work hard for their HEAs. If they can survive what he puts them through, then they can survive anything. He enjoys Romance with an Edge.
Ethan has been reading mysteries and thrillers since he was young. He’s had a thing for guys in uniform for just as long. That may have influenced the stories he writes.
He’s a native Oregonian with two kids. One of whom has made him a grandfather three times over; even though he is way too young.

Readers can find Ethan online.
www.ethanjstone.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ethan.stone.54
Twitter: @ethanjstone
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/ethanjstone/
Tumblr: www.tumblr.com/blog/ethanstone
Email: ethanstone.nv@gmail.com
His books: http://www.ethanjstone.com/my-books

Exclusive Excerpt: The Angels Singers by Dorien Grey: a Dick Hardesty Mystery – Book #12

Book #12 of the Dick Hardesty Mysteries, by the late, great Dorien Grey 

Blurb:

Grant Jefferson joins the Gay Men’s Chorus as a protégé of its biggest supporter, and begins causing more dischord than harmony. Determined he’s going to Broadway, Grant sees the chorus as the means to his end, and doesn’t care much how many of the other members he uses as his stepping stones—or how hard they get stepped on.

So, when a car bomb ends Grant’s plans to be a star on The Great White Way, there is no shortage of possible suspects; and when the chorus’ board of directors hires Dick Hardesty to see what he can find out about the murder, he ends up in a case as complicated as a madrigal.

Exclusive Excerpt:

I did have occasion to get a small assignment from Glen O’Banyon, which gave me the opportunity to stop by his office and talk with him for a few minutes. I brought up the subject of the chorus as subtly as possible, telling him we’d gone to one of Booth’s get-togethers and met his nephew Grant.

Glen gave me a raised eyebrow and small smile.

“Ah, yes, his ‘nephew.’ Crandall has a very large family, it appears. This is the first one who sings, however. Roger Rothenberger is not overly happy with…Grant, is it?”

I nodded.

“Well, I’m sure Grant will be on his way as soon as he has accomplished whatever it was he set out to accomplish.”

Though I didn’t say anything, I realized Jefferson’s goal might well be to add his being a soloist with the chorus to his résumé. However, I couldn’t resist mentioning the conflict revolving around the “I Am What I Am” solo and that the guy who was set to do it had been involved in a near-fatal accident.

Another raised eyebrow, but no smile this time.

“And you’re suggesting…?”

I quickly raised a hand in not-overly-convincing protest.

9781611878684_apl

“No, no. I’m suggesting nothing. Strange things do happen. But I’d hate to see the chorus torn apart over all this.” I was tempted to mention the Porsche and Jim Bowers’ faulty memory but figured I’d said enough for the moment.

“Well,” Glen said, “I know Crandall does like to throw his weight around and I know he and Roger have had their run-ins. But Roger isn’t hesitant in standing up to him. And despite the chorus’ being seriously inconvenienced without Crandall’s financial support, the board won’t let him go too far. I really hadn’t been aware that the ‘nephew’ was being such a disruption. I’ll keep my eyes and ears a little more open until this all blows over. The last thing any of us wants is for the chorus to suffer, or to risk losing Roger—he’s the heart and soul of it all.”

“Aren’t games fun?” I asked.

Glen shrugged and grinned.

I left shortly thereafter, feeling a little better about things. I knew part of my concern was for Jonathan. I didn’t want anything to stand in the way of his enjoying every minute of his time with the chorus.

*

Jonathan spoke with Eric and a few other chorus members several times during the week and over the weekend, and the usual quietly bubbling fountain of rumors had become a geyser. Jerry and Tony, one the couples I’d met at Booth’s, were close to breaking up over Grant’s intrusion into their relationship. The only reason this particular piece of news was raised above the level of high school gossip was that Tony and Jerry had been together for a number of years, and I always truly hate to see couples break up.

But most of the rumors concerned a reported major confrontation between Roger Rothenberger and Crandall Booth—it wasn’t hard to figure out what it might have been about. How anybody knew anything about it at all was, as with all rumors, rather vague, but I’d not be surprised if Grant had been behind it.

*

Jonathan returned from rehearsal the next Tuesday with a story right out of a soap opera. Just before they were set to rehearse the last song of the night, Jerry had stormed into the room in a rage and made a lunge at Grant, apparently with the intent to beat the crap out of him. Some of the other members grabbed him while Grant took off and sped away in his baby-blue Porsche.

Then Jerry started yelling at Tony and had the poor guy practically in tears. Roger finally had to order Jerry to get out. Jonathan wasn’t quite sure what it was all about, but it really rattled everyone, and Roger ended the rehearsal early.

“I’d have been home earlier,” Jonathan added, “except that a lot of us hung around outside talking about it.”

Significantly, earlier in the evening they had rehearsed “I Am What I Am” with Grant singing the solo. But also significant, Jonathan said, was Roger’s all but totally ignoring Grant, saying nothing at all about his performance, making no suggestions and no comments. Instead, he had concentrated on honing the parts of the rest of the chorus.

This snub was lost on no one, and Jonathan was truly concerned that the rift was seriously and negatively affecting the entire chorus. I assumed he was overreacting, but then, I wasn’t there, nor was I familiar with all the dynamics of the situation.

I was paying more attention to the goings-on of the chorus than I normally would have had I been, say, working on a really interesting case. But because it was so important to Jonathan, it was important to me.

Life at home went smoothly enough, with fish feedings and plant waterings and Saturday chores and evening Story Times. There was also a brief trip to Mercy Memorial on Saturday afternoon, squeezed in between the dry cleaners and the grocery store, for Jonathan to visit Jim Bowers. Bowers was making steady improvement, though he still could not—or would not—give any details of the accident. Jonathan told me he didn’t believe him—odd for Jonathan—but had said nothing to Jim.

Growing thunder in the storm clouds hovering over the chorus were evinced by even more phone calls than on the previous week. That Jim would quite likely be able to return before the next concert—and thereby take back the solo honors on “I Am What I Am”—appeared to be fomenting a minor insurgency among Grant’s supporters, with hints that, if he were denied the solo, he and his supporters might boycott the concert. Such a rebellion could have possibly forced its cancellation, or at the very least sabotaged its impact.

All this over one song! I still couldn’t help but shake my head every time I thought about it. This had moved well beyond the stage of being a tempest in a teapot and was now passing a typhoon in a soup tureen. I hoped it would all blow over before the chorus suffered irreparable damage.

*

A week later, as Jonathan was getting ready for rehearsal, Eric called to ask if he could give him a ride there, as he was having problems with his car—a huge old white 1968 Dodge only slightly smaller than a lifeboat from the Queen Mary. Jonathan immediately agreed, which meant he had to leave practically right from the dinner table.

When he got home, I asked him, as always, how rehearsal went.

“Well,” he said, “I got a flat tire halfway to Eric’s, for starters, so we were about fifteen minutes late getting there. But Grant didn’t show up at all, and he hadn’t called anyone to say he wouldn’t be there. Mr. Rothenberger didn’t say anything, but I don’t think he was too happy about it.”

The reason for Grant’s absence was made abundantly clear by the next morning’s local news. The lead story opened with a shot of a reporter standing amidst police vehicles, an ambulance, and fire trucks, talking about a car explosion “…shattering windows in neighboring buildings.” The camera then panned across a debris field to a mangled car, most of which was hidden beneath a bright-yellow tarp.

“The unidentified driver,” the reporter said, “was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of the explosion is unknown.”

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