Exclusive Excerpt: The Dirt Peddler (a Dick Hardesty Mystery) by Dorien Grey

February 13th, 2016

Exclusive Excerpt Available now from Untreed Reads – first time available in a decade!

The Dirt Peddler

by

Dorien Grey

 

Ah, Hughie’s. I hadn’t been there, I don’t think, since I met Jonathan. But it hadn’t changed. Hughie’s never changed. It was exactly the same when I walked in at four fifteen—early as ever—as it had been the first time I wandered in for a beer right after I’d first opened my office.

Bud, the bartender, saw me come in and automatically reached into the cooler for a frosted mug, drew me a dark draft, and had it on the bar by the time I reached it.

“How’s it goin’, Dick?” he asked, as though I’d been in yesterday afternoon.

“Fine, Bud. You?”

He just shrugged, took my money, and moved off to the register.

The place was starting to fill up. The hustlers—those who hadn’t already been there most of the day—were drifting in from the streets in anticipation of the imminent arrival of the johns as the local offices and businesses closed. I recognized a couple of them, but most were new; the turnover rate in hustling was always high, and I didn’t care to speculate as to the reasons.

One of the guys my crotch had been concentrating on—a really good-looking, rough-around-the‑edges blond started looking, then moving in my direction.

Shit! Now what’ll you do? my mind asked.

Yeah, like this is your first time, another mind-voice responded.

TheDirtPeddler

Luckily, at that moment I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to see Glen O’Banyon standing beside me. As with the other times we’d met at Hughie’s, this was not the executive tower, dressed-to-impress lawyer; this was a guy in a baseball cap, a Green Bay Packers sweatshirt, and pair of pretty threadbare Levi’s. Not one person in twenty he saw every day would readily recognize him.

“Thanks for meeting me, Dick.” He kept one hand on my shoulder while he signaled Bud with the other.

The blond number had stopped in mid step when he saw O’Banyon come up, and looked at me with one raised eyebrow. I gave him a quick half smile and a shrug, and he turned and went back to where I’d first spotted him. My crotch was not happy, though the rest of me was guiltily relieved.

“No problem. It’s good to see you in civvies.”

Bud had come over and O’Banyon waited until he’d ordered before turning to me with a grin.

“Yeah. I really need to get out more.”

He scooped a bill out of his pocket and exchanged it for the beer Bud had brought him.

“So what can I do for you?” I knew full well this wasn’t strictly a social get-together.

He pushed himself away from the bar, picked up his beer, and gestured for me to follow him to the far corner of the front of the bar, where no one else had gathered yet. We set our drinks on one of the tall, steering-wheel-sized tables flanked by two high stools.

“I may have a case for you.”

“Great!” I didn’t have to ask or say anything else; I knew he’d tell me.

He took a long swig of his beer and pulled one of the stools closer to sit down.

“I’ve got a client with a whole shitload of problems, most of which he brought on himself. Strictly between you and me, he’s a pain in the ass. Less than a year ago he was a very junior executive at Craylaw and Collier. Today people are falling all over themselves to cozy up to him, and his ego has completely run off with what little common sense he might have had to begin with.”

“And what did he do to deserve all this sudden attention?”

O’Banyon sighed, took another swig of his beer and set the bottle on the table.

“He wrote a book.”

He sat there watching me in silence for a moment until I said, “Not one titled Dirty Little Minds, by any chance?”

Dirty Little Minds,” he said.

Interesting, I thought. “And where might I fit into all this?”

O’Banyon smiled. “Oh, we’re just getting started. And by the way, I know I don’t have to even mention that I’m telling you all this with the full confidence that none of it will go any further than between the two of us.”

“Of course.”

He stared out the window for a moment, then said, “Tunderew is currently working on a second book, which promises to be an even bigger blockbuster than his first. He’s got every major publisher in the business practically throwing advance offers at him.”

“What’s the new book about?”

O’Banyon shook his head. “He won’t say, but he’s got a lot of people very nervous. As you probably know, Craylaw and Collier is a very big outfit with its fingers in a lot of pies. It’s primarily a consulting firm, but they have branches throughout the county doing public relations, financial planning, you name it. By no small coincidence, it handled the P.R. for Governor Keene’s last gubernatorial campaign. Tunderew left the company shortly before his book came out. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t keeping some sort of little black book on some of C&C’s other clients.”

Exclusive Excerpt: Amber Alert by Barbara Winkes

February 7th, 2016

Amber Alert

by Barbara Winkes

Blurb:

When her two-year-old niece is kidnapped, Major Crimes Detective Ann McCoy uses every bit of leverage she has with Agent Cal Davis to stay on the case. More children are missing. Their parents, like Ann’s sister and her wife, are desperate for answers. While the investigators look at the disturbing possibilities, a pattern emerges. They find an organization hidden in plain sight that has no boundaries when it comes to pushing their agenda- even at the cost of harming families and children.

Exclusive Excerpt:

The world has lost its colors, or so it seems to Chrissie in her medicated state. Voices, faces, emotions are all tinged in grey. She didn’t want to calm down or relax, fall for a treacherous illusion, but she just couldn’t stop shaking and sobbing. She’d seen the fear on Rachel’s face and that made her give in. She agreed to lie down for a bit, and Rachel stayed with her. Rachel is different. She doesn’t show a lot of emotion in a crisis, so when Chrissie realized how scared she was, for her, she let the doctor do his job. There’s no time to be scared for each other, when the fear for Rosie takes over every conscious thought. Chrissie doesn’t tell anyone she feels even worse in the cocoon of drugs, like she’s walking around in a nightmare that she can’t wake up from. She prays that the man who took Rosie won’t harm her. There will be a call, a demand for a ransom, they will pay it and get her back. Rachel’s Dad has contacted his bank, and they are ready to act, whatever plan the police have. When is the man going to make the damn call? Something springs to mind, and she sits up, looking at Rachel in alarm. “I snapped at her this morning! Why did I do that? What if we never see her again?” “You didn’t snap. Don’t do that.” Rachel brushes her hand over her hair gently, a tiny bit of comfort in a reality that has shifted in a disturbing way. “Rosie will be here soon.” “She’s scared around strangers.” “Yes, I know,” Rachel says, her arms tightening around Chrissie. “I’m so sorry.” “Chrissie, don’t. It’s not your fault. It’s nobody’s fault.” She can’t just lie here and wait. It’s not fair to Rosie, or Rachel. She needs to stay awake, alert, preferably without another nervous breakdown. It’s hard, because whenever Chrissie pictures what happened in the park, her eyes well up and her heart clenches painfully. She can’t be without Rosie, and neither can Rachel. “I want to get up and call Ann. Maybe she knows more.” “If she did,” Rachel says softly, “don’t you think she would have called already?” Reason is the last thing Chrissie wants to deal with right now. “Did we really think of all the parents from the center?” “I gave the police all the names. Not that I think any of them would kidnap a little girl.” “What if it’s a relative of one of them, someone who needs money?” Chrissie thinks it’s not such a bad theory, and she’s continually warming to it. They know all the parents who send their kids to the center. They are good people with whom she and Rachel have shared proud moments, worries and cookie recipes. By proxy, Chrissie is willing to grant any relative of theirs can’t be pure evil. It could be a glitch of reason, a desperate situation maybe that has driven them to commit a crime. Make no mistake–once they find the man, she still wants to kick him, hard, where it hurts the most. It seems only fair. “The police will look into that,” Rachel reminds her. “True!” Chrissie says with renewed resolve that’s somehow breaking through the drugged haze she’s been in. “They’ll go through credit records and stuff. If one of them has an SUV like Deb saw, they’ll find him real soon.” “I’m sure.” Rachel smiles at her, as they hold on to each other’s hand. Chrissie can tell how hard it is for her. “I love you,” she says. “I love you too.” Rachel leans forward against Chrissie’s shoulder, trembling. She’s crying quietly. If there’s anything that will get them through this, it’s this certainty. Rosie will be fine. That is all there is to say, or think.

AmberAlert_150dpi_eBook* * * *

The trace has been set up, but there has been no ransom call yet as time is ticking away. I don’t need anybody to tell me this is not good. There are dumb, small-time criminals who think a kidnapping is easy money. There are people so desperate to have a child that they break the law in order to try and have one. Then, there’s the snake-pit. Cal has been quick to set up a task force, and his people are all highly skilled professionals. Well, so are we at Major Crimes. There are cops out in the field to organize volunteers for a search. The media has been informed, and an Amber Alert has been issued. On the other hand, the colleagues at Chrissie’s and Rachel’s house are instructed to keep reporters away from them. They want to control what information is given out at this point. Cal’s already been in a shouting match with Rachel’s Dad, because he wants a TV appearance in order to appeal to the kidnapper. Here, within the core of the investigation taking place at headquarters, I’ve been stuck with a dozen others, mostly FBI. They don’t sugarcoat the possibilities. They’re talking all possible areas, pedophiles, sex trafficking networks. I want to shoot somebody. Cal’s look at me doesn’t quite say “You asked for this”, but it’s “I told you so” at best. I square my shoulders. He’s right, I asked to be here, and I’m going to do my job. “Are those theories, worst case scenarios, or do you have actual proof that any of those groups is operating in this area?” I ask, proud of how calm my voice is, not giving away the rage inside. Special Agent Martinez points to the map behind her. “Unfortunately, hard proof is lacking. What we do know is that there’s been an increase in missing children. We’ve been reaching out to informants and undercover agents to identify any new players–” I feel sick at her choice of words, even though I don’t blame her. If I didn’t know Rosie, the use of the same detached language would be instinctive. “No luck so far.” I struggle to make sense of her words. I know they have their statistics. Those numbers aren’t conclusive to determine that the criminal landscape has changed, is there? “How long until you know for sure?” “Hard to say.” She casts me an apologetic glance. “We’ve seen these numbers increase over the past two months, within a rather wide area. We don’t know yet what this means.” I feel lightheaded. Two months? No. We need results sooner than that. There’s no way–I stop myself. I’m a guest here, and I’m not invited to criticize their proceedings. “How many?” She points to the map again. “There were five in this area in a matter of weeks, children between the ages of three months and six years. Two were taken from their homes. Before you ask, there’s no relation whatsoever between these families. This is definitely orchestrated by professionals.” “The kindergarten teacher saw the kidnapper. I wouldn’t call that a pro job.” Martinez shrugs. “We’d appreciate it if they started making mistakes this early in the game.” The cop in me agrees. Never mind it was my first impulse to shake her. It’s not Martinez’ fault–she is doing her job. Words have a different meaning when a case concerns you personally, and I don’t like the word “game”. My sensibilities don’t matter here though. We’re on the same side. I press my hand against my forehead, feeling a massive headache building. Where can we go from this? I give myself the answer. Initial responses are in motion. We’ll have to wait, for a ransom, a witness calling in, anything. I recall the last time I’ve seen Rosie, only yesterday, about to fall asleep on my lap. She’s such a smart and happy child. Her family and the little group in the daycare center are her whole world. She must be terrified. Hell, I am terrified, because with each minute ticking by, I have to give up the idea that the person who took her will show any regard whatsoever for her well-being. Whatever happens, though, that person will have to answer to me, and there’s going to be hell to pay.

Purchase links:

Ebook: http://www.amazon.com/Amber-Alert-Barbara-Winkes-ebook/dp/B01BE15V3Y/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Print:

http://www.amazon.com/Amber-Alert-Barbara-Winkes/dp/1944579249/ref=la_B00A6D1Z28_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454886925&sr=1-2

Website:

barbarawinkes.blogspot.ca

Catching up with the Multi-Lammy Finalist author, Marshall Thornton

January 30th, 2016

MarshallThorntonIt’s been two years since I first interviewed, Marshall Thornton, the author of the very popular BOYSTOWN series. This week, I’ve decided to share the same interview with you again, and provide some updates to what Marshall has been up to with the Boystown series.

Where do you live? City, town, island, country?

I live in Long Beach, California about a block from the beach. I’ve been in Southern California for twenty-five years. Before that I lived in Chicago.

Writer’s rarely like to toot their own horn; seriously! What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?

Well, aside from simply still being alive, I’d have to say that my Boystown mystery series is what I’m most proud of. I suppose, I’m also quite proud of the fact that I put myself through college; several times.

Without getting too personal, can you share a little about your home life?

I live in a very large apartment with two roommates, two step-dogs and one pampered pedigree cat.

What inspires and challenges you most in writing?

I think the best writing advice I’ve ever seen is to write something you’d like to read. I find that both inspiring and challenging.

You’ve probably answered this question a hundred times, but please indulge as our readers (and fellow writers) would like to know: Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing, or plot out your storylines?

Boystown1

It depends on the project, but generally I start an outline before I begin a project and then never finish it. Sometimes if I loose my way, I stop and re-outline. I will admit that the first five Boystown books have an arc that was unplanned and completely seat of your pants writing. I have actually thought through an arc for the next three or four books… I don’t want to trust in luck twice.

How do you deal with the constant distractions such as blogs, FB, promo and real life (like that dreaded daytime job)?

I’m a multitasker by nature. I don’t have the patience to just do one thing at a time. As I write this I’m also checking my sales numbers, playing World of Warcraft, and considering ways in which our government could become functional.

How do you sustain serialized, continuing characters? What are your thoughts about printBoystown5 versus audio book?

I think the best series, whether in book form or on television, are stories in which the main character has an unsolvable internal conflict at the center of their character. An easy example of that would be the TV comedy Everybody Loves Raymond. Raymond is a guy who hates his family and loves them at the same time. That’s a problem without a solution. In my series, as in many detective series, the main character’s central conflict has to do with the desire for justice and the inability to get justice in an unjust world; in a gay mystery series this internal conflict mirrors the external conflict of our community’s fight for justice.

There are some big differences between audio and print. With audio, I think there’s a temptation to spell everything out for the listener and I’m trying to avoid that. I prefer the listener feel that they’re being told a story rather than having a story acted out for them. Some of the books I’ve listened to go too far with elaborate voices and characterizations; personally, I have trouble finishing those.

Your first book in the Nick Nowak series Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries was a 2012 Lambda Literary Award finalist. Can you share how you learned your novel was a finalist and how you felt?

Honestly, I don’t remember how I found out. I think I saw that the finalists had been announced and went to their site and saw my book. Of course, it felt great. I think I’ve wanted a Lammy since I first heard about them twenty-five years ago – years before I was even writing fiction… It was very exciting to come close.

After your book(s) come out, have you ever had to deal with homophobia, and if so, what form has it taken?

No, I wouldn’t say I’ve dealt with any homophobia. Or at least, not homophobia with a big H. The books are pretty clearly labeled so I wouldn’t expect to. I’ve had a little pushback from some m/m romance readers who aren’t comfortable with Nick’s unrepentant promiscuity. But then, I’m not trying to write that kind of book and I think readers have figured that out by this point.

Boystown 7On behalf of the Facebook Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Group, thank you for answering the questions. Huge congratulations on your Boystown 6: From the Ashes  being selected finalist in the 2015 Lambda Literary Awards in the Gay Mystery category. Good luck with Boystown 7: Bloodlines for the 2016 Lammys!

Thank you!

Will you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?

The eighth book of the best-selling Boystown Mystery Series begins with a phone call in the middle of the night. Private investigator Nick Nowak is pulled into the troubled world of freelance journalist, and all around pain-in-the-ass, Christian Baylor. When Christian can’t stop lying about the corpse in his bathroom things slip slowly out of control. Meanwhile, Nick’s relationship with former priest Joseph Biernecki takes an unexpected turn and the Federal case against Jimmy English proceeds toward trial

boystown8Boystown 8: The Lies that Bind is available for pre-order currently and will be released February 25, 2016.

Have any questions to ask Marshall? Feel free to post them here and Marshall will be happy to respond!

 

Exclusive Excerpt: Love and Punishment by Susan Mac Nicol

January 9th, 2016

(Currently on sale for $0.99 via Amazon!)

Blurb:

On the search for a serial killer, Detective Anthony Parglietto and Flynn Parker learn that every man must make a choice: to kill, to live, to love.

FROM DARKNESS
AND LIGHT

Someone is leaving a trail of bodies throughout London, and Detective Anthony Parglietto is determined to end the violence. Then he’ll return to the man he loves.

Tough, street-savvy, and used to dealing with lowlifes, Flynn Parker is the last person Anthony thinks he has to protect. Then the Bow-Tie Killer strikes close to home and the world turns upside down. Right is wrong, black is white, and a policeman might become a monster. But in the name of love, justice must be served. In the name of love, pain can be endured. In the name of love, a man can taste the very essence that defines him.

 

Excerpt: 

Detective Inspector Anthony Parglietto strode around the kitchen in Flynn’s home. He ran a large, tanned hand through mid-length, curly black hair as he growled into his mobile phone.

“Jesus, Rupert, I’ve told you already! He’s fucking gone, and all I have is this bloody cryptic note signed BTK, and we all fucking know who that is. Yes, that one. I’ve just sent a picture of Flynn off to your phone. His satchel is still here, the front door was open—that’s not like him at all. He’s normally ultra-cautious. You know how bloody paranoid he is.”

Anthony looked down at the note on the kitchen table, pinned there by a full tomato sauce bottle, a condiment he knew Flynn refused to have in his kitchen. Anthony had never even been able to get him to buy it for his own bloody fish and chips, for God’s sake, so the bottle must mean something.

As he’d arrived at Flynn’s basement flat off the street around eleven-thirty p.m., Anthony had seen the open front door. He’d made his way inside. Flynn’s old, beaten satchel in which he stored all manner of things was sitting on the kitchen counter, with his mobile in it. His laptop bag was at the side of the kitchen table. Flynn’s house keys were on the tabletop. The note had been sitting on the table and Anthony had glanced at it, thinking Flynn had to dash out quickly and left him a note. The handwritten words on the cream note paper had frozen his blood.

Anthony. I have your little fuck buddy. I’ll send him back once I’m finished with him, but he might not be in the same mint condition. Sorry about that. You might just have to have sloppy seconds tonight. Your buddy, BTK.

LoveandPunishment

He’d not touched the note, just called the station and told them to get the Scene of Crime team down here fucking quickly, midnight or not. Once he’d hung up, he’d had time to process the chilling words, fearing what they meant. Then he’d found another note, addressed to Flynn on the same cream-coloured notepaper, lying on the floor by the sink.

By the time he reads this, you’ll be mine. Inside and out.

The two bits of paper had sent Anthony spinning into a spiral of frustration and fear. He stood now in agonised helplessness, his broad-shouldered figure gazing out into the darkness beyond. Anthony Parglietto was forty-two years old, six-foot-four and muscled like a boxer, with an explosive Italian temper just like his mother’s.

The Criminal Investigation Department—the Homicide and Serious Crime unit, in fact—had been his home now for the past nine years. He grimaced as he gazed out of the window. All he could think about now was that the monster he was hunting had Flynn in his clutches. Flynn of the cheeky smile and pale blue icy eyes and a nose for trouble—both causing it and getting into it.

He strode impatiently to the front door and peered out into the street above. It was quiet. Still no SOC team. SOC were usually quick to get to the crime scene but Anthony had no time to wait when Flynn was in mortal danger. Street lights flickered and ebbed undecidedly. Anthony muttered an expletive as he stalked back into the kitchen, tapping his fingers impatiently against his thigh. Close to ten minutes later, he heard the sound of a commotion outside. He walked impatiently over to the door, once again looking up into the street. The detective saw the fat, waddling form of Joe MacGrew, dressed in his white pull-on suit, and his assistant, Maddy Glover, exit their van. Anthony double-timed to the top of the stairs and waved his arms at the pair. They looked at him and Joe nodded. The couple approached, both looking tired and bleary eyed.

Joe clapped a hand on Anthony’s shoulder as he walked down the stairs and past him into the flat. “Anthony, don’t worry. We’ll find him. The rest of the team are on their way.”

Joe walked past Anthony and into the kitchen and looked around, shrewd eyes assessing the situation.

Despite his dread, Anthony felt reassured. Joe and Maddy were among the best at what they did and they’d find something. They had to.

“Is this the note?” Joe asked quietly. He took a swift look around the room, keen eyes noting the layout and no doubt documenting the tableau set before him. “Have you taken a look around yourself? Find anything you want to tell me about?”

Anthony nodded. “Just the notes and the sauce bottle. It doesn’t belong to Flynn. He won’t have it in the house. And there’s another note too. I found it on the floor.” He frowned at Joe’s look. “Don’t worry. I picked it up with a piece of cling wrap. My prints aren’t on it. I’m not a fool, Joe. I’ve been doing this for a while.”

He watched as Joe and Maddy did what they did best, all the time feeling a sense of complete helplessness that he could do nothing useful himself yet. Joe laid his kit out on the kitchen table as Maddy picked up the tomato sauce bottle in her gloved hands, examining the bottle.

“It’s not a new one. It’s been refilled from the looks of it.” She twisted the cap, lifting the bottle to her nose. Her face paled as she looked at Joe grimly.

“This is blood.”

She dipped a cotton bud in the substance and took out her little spray bottle of luminol. Anthony watched in trepidation as the bud turned a greenish blue. He knew all too well what that meant. He paled, bile welling up in his throat that he swallowed, feeling its acidic sting as it went down.

“Jesus Christ. Human blood?”

She shook her head, her face grave. “I won’t know until we get it back to the lab for microscopic analysis. But even if it is, that doesn’t mean it’s Flynn’s. You need to keep calm.”

But her voice sounded uncertain. Anthony passed a shaking hand over his eyes.

 

Buy Links

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Punishment-Susan-Mac-Nicol-ebook/dp/B00N1W3IVM/ref=la_B008YE9GGI_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1451990745&sr=1-3

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Punishment-Susan-Mac-Nicol-ebook/dp/B00N1W3IVM/ref=la_B008YE9GGI_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1451991130&sr=1-10

http://boroughspublishinggroup.com/books/love-and-punishment

http://boroughspublishinggroup.com/books/love-and-punishment

Website:

http://www.susanmacnicol.net

Exclusive Excerpt: DRAMA MUSCLE (a Nicky and Noah Mystery) by Joe Cosentino

January 2nd, 2016

 

a comedy/mystery/romance novel by JOE COSENTINO from Lethe Press

 

Congratulations to Joe Cosentino for winning Best Contemporary Novel, Best Mystery Novel, Best Crime Novel, and Best Humorous Novel of 2015 for DRAMA QUEEN, the first Nicky and Noah mystery published by Lethe Press, in the Divine Magazine Readers’ Poll Awards!

Blurb:

It could be lights out for college theatre professor Nicky Abbondanza. With dead bodybuilders popping up on campus, Nicky, and his favorite colleague/life partner Noah Oliver, must use their drama skills to figure out who is taking down pumped up musclemen in the Physical Education building before it is curtain down for Nicky and Noah. Complicating matters is a visit from Noah’s parents from Wisconsin, and Nicky’s suspicion that Noah may be hiding more than a cut, smooth body. You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat entertaining second novel in this delightful series. Curtain up and weights up!

Excerpt:

A half hour later, Noah and I (wearing dress shirts, chinos, and blazers), stood in the Bodybuilding Department office in front of the department office assistant’s desk. We looked at one another in surprise as the gray-haired, elderly woman behind the desk snored loudly, perched over her computer monitor. Professor Van Granite, who was much younger than the office assistant (and me), noticed our confusion.

“Mary has worked in the Physical Education building for fifty-five years,” said Granite. He winked at me. “That’s twenty years older than you, Nicky!”

“Why doesn’t she retire?” I asked.

DramaMusclecover

Granite responded, “Because she gets insomnia at home, and at Mary’s age, she needs her sleep.” He nudged my side. “Most older people do.” Then he hooked his muscular arm with Noah’s and stood behind me. “Age before beauty, Professor Abbondanza.”

Luckily for Van Granite, Mary’s snoring drowned out my response.

Department Head Brick Strong’s windowless office in the Bodybuilding section of the Physical Education building reminded me of the custodian’s office in my grade school. Professor Strong’s rickety desk sat between a large drain pipe and an overflowing trash can.

The middle-aged ex-military man ran his thick fingers through his crew cut as he invited each of his guests to sit on rusty metal folding chairs assembled around his desk like cannons surrounding a target. Brick sat behind his desk on an old black chair perched on four squeaky wheels. Clockwise around Professor Strong sat Professor of Bodybuilding Cheryl Stryker, Professor of Bodybuilding Van Granite, my handsome Noah, yours truly, and Detective Manuello.

Though the Bodybuilding faculty wore sweat clothes, the bulges and curves of their formidable muscles were visible through the thick fabric.

Granite cased Noah’s body like a photocopy machine, until I caught Granite’s eye and he looked away—at my crotch. Then he checked himself out in the mirror on the wall. Obviously liking what he saw, Granite flexed his giant biceps, then ran a hand through his chestnut-brown hair. If he had been a student in the bodybuilding competition, I would have cast him as Narcissus.

“Thank you all for coming.” Dressed in a wrinkled gray suit, Manuello pulled at one of the folds of flab hanging over his thick belt. “As you know, this meeting is about the death of bodybuilding student Jonathan Toner.”

“What do you know so far, Detective?” asked Brick Strong in authority mode.

Manuello rubbed his wide nose. “The cause of death was a heart attack.”

Thinking of the numerous muscles on Jonathan’s petite frame, I asked, “Did Jonathan Toner die from taking steroids?”

Brick Strong’s crew cut nearly hit the moldy light bulb over his head. “Absolutely not! We don’t permit our students to use steroids.”

“Do you test them?” I asked.

I obviously had hit a nerve.

The department head said, “I say no steroids, and the students know that means no steroids.”

“I’ll have to try that with my students regarding texting during class,” I said with a nudge to Noah’s arm.

Manuello turned to me in annoyance. “Professor Abbondanza, why are you and Professor Oliver working in this department?”

Since Noah and I helped solve a series of murders in our Theatre Department last academic year, Manuello had a soft spot for us—where he sat.

Noah waved his hands theatrically. “Nicky and I are adding dramatic elements to this year’s student bodybuilding competition.”

“I’m sure,” Manuello answered with eyes raised to his bushy eyebrows. “The initial toxicology report showed something in Toner’s blood. The forensic team is doing further investigation, but they know it isn’t steroids or testosterone.”

Granite flashed his green eyes. “Is there anything else, Detective?” Glancing again at his reflection in the mirror, he added, “I’d like to fit in a workout before my morning class.” His gigantic pectoral muscles contracted under his skintight green sweatshirt as Granite said to Noah, “Care to join me, Professor Oliver?”

“Noah doesn’t like working out,” I explained with dagger eyes aimed at Granite.

Granite responded as if helping himself to sloppy seconds, “How about you, Abbondanza?”

After removing Granite’s thick hand from my arm, and lifting his chin from staring at my crotch, I answered, “I prefer to do my workouts alone.”

“Which is how it came about that Professor Abbondanza found Jonathan Toner last evening,” Manuello said getting us back on track. “Toner’s parents want his body flown to them in Montana after the full coroner’s report. While we wait, do any of you have any information that might be of help? We know Toner had no history of heart disease. But what about his recent state of mind? Is there anyone who might want to hurt him?”

“Detective,” said Cheryl Stryker, “I don’t know if this has anything to do with his death, but Jonathan has been training quite hard this semester.”

“Why is that?” asked Manuello.

“I think it was because Jonathan was jealous of Jillian Flowers,” Cheryl answered.

“Why was Jonathan jealous of Jillian?” I asked as Manuello raised his dark eyes to the cracks in the ceiling.

Cheryl answered, “Jonathan thought Brick had a personal interest in Jillian winning the competition.”

“That isn’t true, and you know it, Cheryl!” Brick Strong rose from his chair like a lawyer issuing a courtroom objection. “I’ve complimented Jillian and Mack a lot lately, because they’ve worked hard and made good progress. As a judge in the bodybuilding competition, I will be completely impartial.” He added to Granite and Cheryl, “I hope you will be too.”

Granite rested his powerful hand on Noah’s knee, and whispered, “Cheryl favors Tim Sim. Tim’s twin Kim is my bet to win the competition.”

I removed Granite’s hand from Noah’s lap.

Manuello asked, “Anything else, Professor Stryker?”

Cheryl nodded. “Jonathan was a good student, and a good bodybuilder, but unfortunately he wasn’t always a very good person.”

Manuello took out his pad and pencil. “Can you elaborate, Professor?”

 

Lethe Press:

http://www.lethepressbooks.com/store/p303/Drama_Queen%3A_A_Nicky_and_Noah_Mystery.html

Amazon:

myBook.to/DramaMuscle

 

Excerpts from The Pride Trilogy: Three Kyle Callahan Mysteries by Mark McNease

December 26th, 2015

Excerpts from The Pride Trilogy: three Kyle Callahan Mysteries by Mark McNease

The Pride Trilogy consists of three of the existing five Kyle Callahan Mysteries: Murder at Pride Lodge, Pride and Perilous, and Death by Pride. They were written in that order, with a break between the second and third to write Death in the Headlights featuring lesbian Detective Linda from the series. She and Kyle become partners in crime solving and she’s in all the books (soon to have her own in 2016!).

My intention when I created the series was to write one book featuring older characters, centered on a male couple modeled after myself and my now-husband Frank. As the publisher and editor for a website for over-50 LGBTQ people, lgbtSr.org, I wanted to write a book with and for people who were my own age. If the first book sold, I told myself, I would write a second. It did, and here we are five books later.

Here are short synopses of the three books making up the Trilogy, followed by single, selected excerpts from them. It seemed a better choice than just providing the first chapters. I hope you enjoy them!

Murder at Pride Lodge

Who killed Teddy the handyman – if anyone killed him at all? Was it Sid, one of the new owners of Pride Lodge whose past gets darker the closer you look? Was it the woman whose name was once Emily, when she witnessed the murder of her parents in a burglary gone bad, and who has waited thirty years for vengeance? Was it young Happy Corcoran, promoted to bartender only to vanish three days before Teddy was found dead at the bottom of the empty pool? Find out as Kyle Callahan refuses to believe it was an accident, doggedly pursues the truth in his friend’s death and does his best not to join him. Kyle and his life partner Danny Durban live in New York City, where murder never seems to be more than a subway stop away. In this first story, they head to Pride Lodge, their favorite getaway from the City, over what they expect to be a festive Halloween weekend. What they find instead is a web of murder, deceit, and revenge served cold as a knife blade.

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Pride and Perilous

The Katherine Pride Gallery is the center of high art and low death in Pride and Perilous, book II of the Pride Trilogy and the second of the Kyle Callahan Mysteries. Kyle, an amateur photographer, is about to have his first exhibit at the gallery, in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. As time ticks away, bodies begin to fall and Kyle realizes somebody wants this gallery closed forever. Join the chase as Kyle and his partner Danny Durban reunite with Detective Linda Sikorsky from the New Hope, PA, police force. They met solving the murders at Pride Lodge, and Linda has come to town for Kyle’s opening, only to find herself joining forces with him again to capture a killer … before he captures them.

Death by Pride

The Pride Trilogy concludes with ‘Death by Pride.’ It’s Gay Pride weekend, the most festive weekend of the year in New York City. Hundreds of thousands of partygoers arrive to show the world how to have a good time.  Stalking the party is the most successful serial killer the city has ever seen. He claims his victims in threes and has just begun his newest spree. Detective Linda Sikorsky comes to town to visit Kyle Callahan and his husband Danny Durban. It’s her first Pride Parade and may well be her last. Harmless fun turns to terror in a frantic effort to stop the killer once the first body floats to the river’s edge. This time it’s personal, and this time one of them might not make it out alive.

Murder at Pride Lodge – An Excerpt

Sam Tatum was found flat on his back in a parking garage three blocks from the Glendale Galleria at three o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon. Had it started raining an hour later he would have parked on the street and died in a puddle, his face wet with drizzle and his eyes staring up, unblinking, as rain flushed the life from them. The garage had been fate’s one courtesy, saving him the embarrassment of dying even more publicly than he did, insofar as corpses can be embarrassed. It was an ignominious death. While he’d expected to die from one too many lines of cocaine up his old man’s nose, or murdered, even, in a fit of pique by one of the hustlers he’d been too fond of for too many years, ending his life on the concrete floor of a parking garage, his head in an oil stain, was too seedy even for Sam. Had he been able to think once he was dead, he would have found it a tawdry end to a tawdry life and been glad it was over.

The woman who found him, walking with her 12-year-old daughter to their newly purchased Prius parked three cars to the left of Sam’s Camry, had worked as a nurse before marrying well and was familiar enough with dead bodies to make the call. The poor guy was old, out of shape, uncommonly pale, and obviously lived an unhealthy life. He was lucky to make it this far, she thought, more disturbed that her child had seen a corpse than that he was actually dead. She didn’t know him, what was it to her? Mostly it was an inconvenience, since she had the decency to call an ambulance, knowing it was much too late to save the poor slob, and stay around to speak to the police. She’d considered making it an anonymous 911 call, since her daughter’s ballet class started at 3:30 and this would mean missing it for sure. But something in her, that old nurse calling, that instinct to do the right thing, made her give her name and location and wait patiently for the paramedics who would try to resuscitate a man she knew was dead. His eyes were open, for godsake, and what life had been in them had slipped away some time ago. Anyone could see that.

She’d told her daughter Kelly to get into the car the moment she saw the man’s feet come into view. Kelly, being a precocious, ballet-class-taking 12-year-old, wanted the full view and instead of doing what she was told rushed around ahead of her mother to get a good look. She had never seen a dead body before and she could tell by her mother’s lack of urgency that the man was probably beyond help. After an inappropriate but predictable, “Cool!” she obeyed her mother and skipped ahead to their car. Once inside, she tweeted that she and her mother had found a dead guy, and waited for her friends’ texts to start flooding in.

**

Thus it was that someone on the other side of the country who happened to read DeathWatchLA took notice and knew that the email he’d gotten from Sam two weeks earlier was not the panic of a man who had used too many drugs and bought too many young men. Sam Tatum was dead. He had not been paranoid, but convinced someone was after them, and he had been right. Three months earlier there had been another death, a man named Frank Grandy, this one in Detroit. Neither of them had spoken to Frank in years, and it was only when Frank left Sam $2000 in his will as a very belated repayment of a loan, that Sam knew their old partner in crime was dead. No suspects had been named, no one identified, but the report mentioned an antique pocket watch Frank was selling on an internet auction site. The watch case was there, but the watch was gone. Robbery, they assumed, but the investigation had gone nowhere. That was what rang the alarm bell for Sam, the watch. He was surprised Frank had kept it all these years, but not surprised it had led to his death. The past, it seems, had been waiting patiently to find them, and it had.

The two deaths spoke not of coincidence, but of a plan, with a planner and only one target left. The DeathWatchLA reader logged off his computer, swiveled around in his desk chair and cheerfully took a cup of coffee from his partner, smiling as if nothing had changed and they were simply beginning another gorgeous day. Time to get started.

Pride and Perilous – An Excerpt

It had been five years at least since Devin had worried about being followed. That’s how long he had been living as Devin 24/7. Denise Ellerton had ceased to exist – officially, legally, physically, psychologically, and every other way in which each person functions in the world.  For Devin, she had ceased existing long before that, when he had realized as a teenager that he was not like other girls; that the simple reality of pronouns was different for him, as he thought of himself as “he” while everyone else insisted on calling him “she.”  Tom-boyish Denise, odd Denise, rough-and-tumble Denise.  He had wanted to correct them then, and even younger, as early as the third grade.  “I’m not a girl,” he had wanted to say, but it wasn’t until he was in college that he fully understood what was going on with him, and when he finally had the distance from his family to do something about it.

The sensation of being shadowed down a dark street was one of those things that belonged to Denise, to women. Devin had long been aware of the differences in experiences men had from women; to suggest there were no differences was to choose denial over reality. There were experiences unique to men, and experiences unique to women, as well as experiences unique to those who did not fit readily into either. Devin had become a man in every way possible. The transition had been made, the journey completed, and not since before it had he worried about being followed down his own Brooklyn street, late on a rainy Friday night. There was something different about this, too. It wasn’t random, as if he’d crossed paths with the wrong person in an accident of fate, as so many people did who found themselves the victims of crimes of opportunity.  Devin had the very distinct and unsettling feeling that the man coming up slowly behind him had been there for awhile, had followed him off the R train, along the platform, up the stairs, and now, six blocks later, nearly to his apartment on Prospect Avenue.

Devin was tall at five-eight, and worked out religiously at the local New York Athletic Club. He’d had a trainer for two years and always believed he could handle himself in a tight situation. Not that it happened often: he didn’t drink, didn’t stay out late unless he had a showing of his artwork or was attending one of a friend’s exhibits; he hadn’t dated in three years, and he was a night person, meaning he worked at night in his studio apartment and made every effort to be home by 7:00 pm, when he would start his routine of coffee-fueled creativity, putting together his latest collage or designing a multi-medium piece that he would then spend the next two or three weeks bringing to life.

He was an attractive man, too, or so he’d been told enough times to believe. His natural height was complimented by a thin frame, short black hair he gelled back, a high, wide, forehead, moist brown eyes that had never been bothered by glasses, a thin but ready smile, and a nose that had once been broken in a fall, although he told everyone it had been a boxing match. It was the one lie he allowed himself. He just liked the idea of having a nose broken by a fist in a boxing glove. And it made the person who had once been Denise all but unrecognizable.

He’d stayed out later then usual tonight and had been cursing his lapse in discipline when he first realized someone was behind him. This stretch of Prospect Avenue, unlike nearly all streets in neighboring Manhattan, was sparsely populated at night and the presence of other people was noticeable, especially other people who were shadowing you. He’d become aware of the man behind him not long after coming up the subway stairs but had thought nothing of it at the time. Then, a block later, he could hear the footsteps, as if he were in some B-movie thriller and a stalker was shortening the distance between then. Now, four blocks from the subway and just one from his apartment building, he became convinced he was the object of the man’s attention.  Had it not been so worrying it would have been interesting: why would a strange man be following a reclusive artist down a deserted Brooklyn street on a rainy Friday night?  He decided to ask the question directly.   He adjusted his umbrella, with its caved-in side to his back, letting rain trickle down and soak his jacket, and he turned around to get a look at the man he now knew was his pursuer.

As Devin turned to face him, the stranger stopped. He was only about thirty feet away now.  Devin saw that he did not have an umbrella, but his face was hidden by a hoodie pulled down over it.  In late April the air was still chilly at night and most people wore jackets, sweaters, other clothes that kept them warm in the cool darkness.  Hoodies were especially popular, but also had the disconcerting effect of hiding the person’s face. It was only human nature to want to know who was beneath the hood, and why he was covering his face.

The man made no attempt to pretend he was not following Devin. He didn’t keep walking with a turn this way or that; he didn’t cross the street and continue; he didn’t even keep coming, as someone would who really was just walking along the same street at the same time.  He stopped.  In the rain.

“Who are you?” Devin shouted, tilting his umbrella back to show himself and improve his line of sight.

The man just stood and, Devin assumed, stared. It was dark out and raining, and neither could see the other with any great clarity.

Then the man began to walk toward him.

Decision time. Devin could run for his apartment, which was only a block away; he could call for help, someone would throw open a window and call 911 – or would they? – or he could do what he decided to do and stand his ground. He was tough, he trained two hours, three days a week; he was quick and fit and thin, and above all he was not Denise, not anymore. He had not endured the challenges of his life, the demands of simply being and becoming who he was, to flee in front of some punk on a Brooklyn street. He eased his shoulders back, loosened his grip on the umbrella to free his hands, and prepared for a fight.

The closer the man got, the more familiar he looked. He was wearing jeans, red sneakers and the green hoodie, and although his face was hidden, something about his overall presence rang a bell. There was also the limp, if that was the right word, a way of walking that made it appear one leg was shorter than the other, but housed more in the pelvis, a sort of up and down motion, like a piston misfiring every time the man took a step. Devin noticed the emblem on his sweatshirt, a rainbow flag with wording underneath it he couldn’t read.  He relaxed; it must be a neighbor after all, or someone coming to visit a neighbor.  At the very least the stranger was gay and, by inference, non-threatening.

But still he had not responded to Devin’s asking him who he was. And he had stopped, then kept coming.  He was only about ten feet away now, and Devin put it all together: the walk, the sweatshirt, and finally, as the man drew close and eased his hood back – the face.

“You!” Devin said, startled.

Death by Pride- An Excerpt

Killing wasn’t as much fun as it used to be. He expected to be a bit rusty after three years, but he had never anticipated this … dullness, this sense that, in the words of bluesman B.B. King, the thrill was gone. Maybe he had just been away from it too long; maybe he needed to get up to speed. The man whose body he deposited into the East River just before midnight was, after all, only the first in his current series. There would be two more before the week was out, and maybe the old rush would return with the next one. He had to trust it would, to believe as a child believes that Santa Claus is real and will come shimmying down the chimney every Christmas Eve. Or how Dorothy believed, clicking her slippers in that dreadful movie. That might be a more appropriate comparison, given the occasion. Click, click, click … and he was home.

He did not come all the way back to New York to resume his annual ritual for something as lackluster as this first kill. Had it been the young man himself whose death stirred so little response in him? What was his name? Victor? Victor Someone. Dense and inattentive; he had been too easy, and far too handsome. Cute, really. The kind of cute that becomes very sexual in manhood. Innocent smile, calculated shyness. Victor Someone knew exactly what he was doing flirting in the store that afternoon, and he had succeeded, much to his regret.

Unfortunately, Victor wasn’t nearly as enjoyable to kill as he was to look at. Too easy, too unchallenging. Like a cat who had no trouble capturing a wingless bird, he had not had fun with this one. He would have to analyze the experience, figure out why it had not been as satisfying as it was before, and what he might need to do to reignite his excitement. Did he need to be more brutal? Did he need to introduce tools into the game, a scalpel, perhaps, or a drill of some kind? He would think hard on it. A decision had to be made quickly; he’d already placed an online ad looking for the next one and the emails were flooding into his special account, the one no one would ever trace no matter how hard they tried. A phantom as elusive as he was deserved a phantom email routed through Chicago, then London and Tokyo, server after server erasing any clue to its origin.

**

He would look at Victor Someone’s driver’s license in the morning. Sense memory was a beautiful thing, and nothing brought it back quite like his keepsakes. The license was his souvenir—his thirteenth. Lucky thirteen. The rest of the wallet stayed with the body. He wasn’t interested in making identification difficult. It didn’t matter if the police knew who had been killed, only that they would never find the man who did the killing.

It had been dark when he parked by the river. The new moon had worked to his favor, a first. No one had been around; he made sure no one saw a man with a heavy, strangely shaped object wrapped in black plastic trudging his way to the river’s edge. Then a simple heave and splash, and he was on his way home.

Bedtime at last. But before then, for a few minutes anyway, he wanted to go through those emails. He’d requested photos, knowing many of them would be old and meant to trick him, and that was okay. He was less interested in finding a man who looked exactly like his picture than he was in finding a man who made him want to kill. It was like falling in love with an image: he never knew which one it would be, but knew it when it happened. This one. Oh yes. This one will be here soon.

He turned off the kitchen light, took his tea cup with the little chain from the tea ball hanging over the side, and headed to his large master bedroom on the second floor. His laptop was open and waiting for him. He would sift through a dozen or so email responses and see if any of them struck his fancy. But first, the pictures of Victor. Victor Someone. He would enjoy those before sleeping. He always took pictures.

 

Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/Mark-McNease/e/B00579FA0E/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Author Dorien Grey, aka Roger Margason

December 19th, 2015

It’s been a little over a month since author Dorien Grey, aka Roger Margason passed away and yet his final words to his friends and fans shared by his good friend Gary Brown still bring me comfort, and I am sure to others as well. “It seems I have reluctantly been called away. But I wanted to thank each of you for the pleasure of your company on my journey through this all-too-brief life. I would hope I might remain, occasionally, in your thoughts, and that you might help my books, blogs, and other writings remain alive though I no longer am. “I have returned to the eternity from which I—from which we all—emerged at birth, and to which we all return. As a writer, I should be able to come up with a few memorable last words of my own, but I can think of none more fitting than those of Peter Pan, with whom I have always identified: ‘Second star to the right, then straight on till morning.'” — Dorien Grey

Roger

Below is a re-posting of the interview I did with Dorien in November 2013.

My sit down with the wonderfully gifted “Dick Hardesty” creator – Author Dorien Grey

Where do you live? I live in Chicago, to which I returned after a 40-or-so-year absence, and now live on the same street and within five blocks of the apartment I moved into straight from college. Eerie to walk down the same streets, past the same buildings I was so familiar with so very long ago.

Writers rarely like to toot their own horns; seriously! What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?  Well, I assume the question was somewhat satirical, since I not only toot my own horn and often and loudly as possible, but have a full symphony orchestra of which I am the only member. It’s seriously difficult, though, to pick out one thing as my “greatest accomplishment” other than managing to live as long as I have. My life is my greatest accomplishment, I think.

Without getting too personal, can you share a little about your home life? I live alone, alas, with my black cat, Sheba (pathos, anyone?). I spend about 10 hours a day on the computer, too much of it spent directing my little symphony orchestra to convince people to read my books. I am grateful to my best friend, Gary, who lives in the next building to mine, without whom I might get out far less than I do, to plays and concerts and museums and coffee and…the usual big city stuff.

What inspires and challenges you most in writing?  My ever-active mind, which is like an industrial-strength popcorn popper churning out an endless flow of thoughts and ideas which I then enter into the computer in various ways. I will not be here forever, so I am almost obsessed with preserving in some form as much of my life and myself as I can. Words are my posterity.

TheHiredMan

You’ve probably answered this question a hundred times, but please indulge as our readers and fellow writers) would like to know: Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing or plot out your storylines?

I’ve always felt that, while detailed plotting works for some writers, plotting in advance, other than the sketchiest of ideas where I want to go, would be like wearing concrete boots. I sit down at the computer and turn my mind on, then just sit at the computer and watch what my fingers have typed. (Okay, it’s not quite that easy, but I often surprise myself by what appears there.) The classic example of this, which I’ve quoted often, happens in “The Good Cop,” book #3 of the Dick Hardesty series. I have Dick walk into a bar to pick up a local gay paper and…with absolutely no planning on my part…he meets Jonathan Quinlan, who turns into the love of his life and with whom he has shared every book since. I’m still both amazed and delighted to tell this story. How do you deal with the constant distractions such as blogs, FB, promo and real life (like that dreaded daytime job)?  I’m fortunate enough not to have a daytime job, and it often seems my life is one long series of distraction. Like trying to run between the raindrops, I just do the best I can. I do admit, lately, to have been very negligent on working on my current WIP, but I’ve decided not to let myself get too upset by it. I’ll know when it’s time.

You currently have two gay mystery/suspense series known to fans as the “Dick Hardesty” and “Elliott Smith” mysteries, with the Hardesty mysteries at fourteen books now! How do you sustain serialized, continuing characters? 

One of the nice things about a series is that I–and the reader–get to know each of the recurring characters as real people, and just as real people change and evolve over time, so do the characters in a series. Of all my characters, I think Jonathan has evolved the most, from an awkward young kid who Dick tended at times to treat as a surrogate son to a full partner in the relationship. The addition of Joshua, Jonathan’s young nephew, to the series had solidified many of both Dick and Jonathan’s traits.

Well, I’m waiting for The Serpent’s Tongue…Dick Hardesty #15…to be released

As am I, Jon…as am I. I have never had a shred of patience, and while one might think patience would come with age, one would, in my case, be wrong.

Have had you ever had to deal with homophobia after your gay novels are released, and if so, what form has it taken?

Dorien

I can honestly say I have never encountered any overt homophobia surrounding my books. I’m sure there must be someone out there who has it, but I’m not aware of it, thank God. I do not suffer bigots gracefully.

Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP? One of the reasons I have been neglecting work on Cameron’s Eye, book #5 of the Elliott Smith paranormal mysteries is that I have been concentrating on having all my books done as audiobooks. I’ve become intrigued with audiobooks and their ability to reach out to markets regular print and e-books cannot; specifically to the blind and dyslexic, as well to those who enjoy listening to novels while traveling to and from work or longer distances. I’m going to start beating the drums for giving audiobooks (as well as all other forms of books) as holiday presents; they’re the perfect gift and you don’t have to go any further than your computer to shop for them.

On behalf of the Facebook Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Group, thank you for giving us a little of your time today, answering questions fans of the genre really want to know.

And I am really grateful to you and your readers for allowing me this opportunity for my “orchestra” to play a few selections.

UPDATE – December 19, 2015

All of Dorien Grey’s Dick Hardesty Mysteries are currently being re-released by Untreed Reads, the most recent, The Bottle Ghosts, a Dick Hardesty Mystery  released December 15, 2015.

bottleghosts

Find Dorien Grey on the web: Dorien’s website is www.doriengrey.com. His Facebook page is still live https://www.facebook.com/dorien.grey His past blog posts: www.doriengreyandme.com.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: One Marine, Hero by Em Lynley

December 12th, 2015

One Marine, Hero

by EM Lynley

He’s a hero to everyone but himself.

Marine helicopter pilot Captain Jake Woodley struggles after receiving the Medal of Honor for a mission where he didn’t bring every man back alive. Being called a hero and having his photo plastered across the news makes him hate himself more. He despises his cushy job flying with the Marine One squadron, carrying the president and other officials, when he’d rather risk something, even death. He gets his wish when he’s ordered to fly a series of classified trips.

Matt “Beau” Beaumont has been relegated to covering the fashion beat after getting downsized from a hard-news position. But an unexpected invitation to a White House dinner might be the boost his career needs. Offering a hot marine an after-dinner blowjob wasn’t on Beau’s agenda, but when Jake takes him up on the proposition, some phenomenal casual sex soon blossoms into a relationship both of them crave.

When Beau’s extracurricular research uncovers defense department funding anomalies, he soon discovers the trouble goes higher than he imagined. Just as events start to make sense, the investigation puts Beau and Jake in deadly danger. It takes a daring play by Jake—risking everything he loves—to uncover the truth.

AmazonAll RomanceB&NDreamspinner Press

Excerpt:

JAKE WOODLEY LONGED to leave the White House as soon as respectfully possible. He hadn’t wanted to go at all, but Colonel Lewis insisted he attend in order to earn his spot back in the POTUS rotation. With the prospect of flying the high-profile missions as incentive, Jake was happy to attend, but he hadn’t realized how fucking boring the dinner would be. But with Lewis there, watching, Jake had only managed two glasses of wine.

Some men from his squadron brought girlfriends or wives, who were thrilled to be at a White House dinner party. Jake couldn’t wait to leave, but the colonel seemed insistent on punishing him, so he couldn’t leave while his CO was still there. Mrs. Lewis appeared to have recovered some of her vitality and positively glowed. She softened the colonel’s sharp edges when they were together, and no one could miss how much the man doted on her.

Once the meal was over, the nightmare portion of the evening began: the guests who insisted on talking to him or asking the same questions about his heroic feats over and over, forcing him to trot out the safest answers he could in order to keep himself from ripping apart inside.

Couldn’t the colonel understand how agonizing this was for Jake? He’d rather get shot down and crawl miles over broken glass than tell one more civilian how it felt to be a hero. He hated the word. He was no hero, and every time someone used the word, it felt like another blow coming down on his body, a beating that wouldn’t end until he was pounded into a lifeless pulp.

He stopped at each of the three bars set up in different rooms and managed a couple of quick tequila shots at each. The resulting buzz provided a layer of protection, but it didn’t make the evening any more bearable.

Almost as bad as the people who asked were those who didn’t say anything. Some gazed at him with admiration and unspoken questions. Others stared at him with pity.

One man, however, stared at him in a way he couldn’t fathom. He seemed to recognize Jake, but with neither the usual hero worship nor pity in his gaze. Jake had spotted him in the library, then at the edge of the ballroom, and now as Jake moved toward the bar, the guy was there.

And again, their gazes met. The man said something to his female companion, a plump, smiling woman, and now he was heading directly for Jake. He wore a stylish tuxedo, but his purple paisley cummerbund looked like something from the Early Elton John Collection.

Was there time to duck into the men’s room or behind the draperies to avoid him? Could he make it to the West Wing door? He knew the Secret Service agent on duty over there tonight, and he’d easily be able to get in to hide from the attention.

“Hey there.”

Too late. Purple paisley guy was two feet from Jake now. “Yeah?” Jake gave the word a particularly rough growl to scare him off. “Uh….” Paisley smiled. He had a nice smile, a knockout smile in fact. He dropped his gaze to the ground in a charmingly shy way, but appealing as that was, whatever he said wouldn’t be anything Jake hadn’t already heard a thousand times.

“Go on, get it out. Say what you came to say or ask me.” Jake tipped his glass for the last mouthful of tequila, then shifted his gaze to the blinding smile right in front of him.

The guy looked him square in the eye. “Would you be interested in a blowjob?”

Jake nearly choked on the last sip. “What?”

“Blowjob?” The guy smiled and melted away the last vestiges of Jake’s icy defenses. “If I’m not your type, you can simply pretend for the best ten minutes of your life or—”

“Ten minutes?”

Hero

“Fifteen?” Paisley’s smile got brighter, elevating the corners of his mouth into a smirk. “Or my friend Laney would be happy to do you. It. Do it to you.”

Jake blinked and looked the guy up and down, then back up again.

“Don’t worry. You’re definitely my type.”

Jake took his time giving the guy a full once-over.

Nice looking. Good body, almost as tall as Jake, and he had the most sinfully lush lips Jake had seen on anyone who wasn’t in porn. When the guy closed the distance between them and crossed into Jake’s personal space, the air between them crackled with sexual electricity. The little pilot light of constant low-level arousal at Jake’s core ignited to a full flame, and every inch of his skin tingled with anticipation.

“Here?”

“Now,” the guy said, the word a delicious promise Jake wanted to cash in. “Now.” It was a statement on Jake’s part. A fully formed decision. The guy’s smile brightened and his chocolate brown eyes danced, mirroring the way Jake’s insides jumbled around with white-hot desire.

The image of his cock sliding between those perfect lips had him hard, and he fought to think clearly enough to decide where to go.

“This way.” Jake turned and headed toward the West Wing, away from the guests. A bathroom, a coat closet. Something. Someplace. Any place.

The Secret Service agent guarding the door at the end of the hall nodded as they approached. “Evening, Captain.” He waved Jake in without requesting his ID or asking about Jake’s companion.

The lights were low in the hallway, and Jake opened the first door he came to, not caring what was on the other side.

Paisley went in, then came out again before Jake could take a step inside.

“Occupied.” He chuckled. “I think Colonel Sanders was in there.

Without his chicken.”

Jake tugged on an elbow and opened the next door.

It was a small conference room lit by a couple of lamps. But they were alone.

He’d barely closed the door behind them when his new friend—best not to ask names—was already on his knees with Jake’s trousers unzipped.

Then Jake’s shorts slid down and a cool breeze caressed his balls. A second later wet heat wrapped around his cock.

“You don’t waste time.”

“Mmmm-mmm.” The guy looked up between the flaps of Jake’s jacket from under thick lashes and smiled around Jake’s dick.

It looked even better than he’d imagined. He leaned against the wall for support because his knees threatened to give out.

With lips, tongue, fingers, Paisley brought Jake to the edge twice before slowing and beginning the build of heat and ache again. Jake ran the fingers of one hand through the straw-colored silk of Paisley’s hair; he needed the other for balance, or he risked falling off the face of the earth.

He closed his eyes and let the pleasure sing through his body, but as he approached the edge for the third or fourth time—he’d lost count—he forced himself to open them. He had to savor the look in those golden eyes as he pumped himself dry down this guy’s throat.

Jake groaned as the pressure built to a crescendo.

“Keep going. Don’t. Slow. Down.” Then it hit like a tidal wave. Though he knew it was coming, it still knocked him for a loop, forcing him to clutch the poor guy’s head to keep from crumpling in a wrung-out heap.

And the look on his new friend’s face was absolutely beautiful.

As Jake tried to catch himself from falling through the earth, he wondered whether a guy this talented could be a hustler. Would he expect money? If the guy charged him a week’s salary, the thrill of doing this in the fucking White House, with this guy, would have been worth it.

The guy planted a couple of soft, sweet, unexpected kisses on Jake’s cock, then slid his shorts back up. The thin cotton was too much for Jake’s sensitive dick, but he didn’t have the energy to protest. He could barely remember anything but the way the guy’s lips and tongue had felt.

“Thank you,” Paisley said as he stood up.

“Why are you thanking me?”

He replied with only a shrug and a shy smile. The guy stepped back one pace, and the room felt like winter had set in. Jake took hold of the guy’s hand.

“I’m Jake.” It had taken him a moment to remember his own name.

“Hi, Jake. Beau.”

 

About EM Lynley

EM Lynley writes gay erotic romance. She loves books where the hero gets the guy and the loving is 11 on a scale of 10. A Rainbow Award winner and EPIC finalist, EM has worked in high finance, high tech, and in the wine industry, though she’d rather be writing hot, romantic man-on-man action. She spent 10 years as an economist and financial analyst, including a year as a White House Staff Economist, but only because all the intern positions were filled. Tired of boring herself and others with dry business reports and articles, her creative muse is back and naughtier than ever. She has lived and worked in London, Tokyo and Washington, D.C., but the San Francisco Bay Area is home for now.

She is the author of Sex, Lies & Wedding Bells, the Precious Gems series from Dreamspinner Press, and the Rewriting History series starring a sexy jewel thief, among others.

Find EM Lynley Online:

emlynley.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/emlynley

twitter.com/emlynley

 

 

Excerpt: After The Horses (A Dan Sharp Mystery) by Jeffrey Round

December 5th, 2015

EXCERPT: AFTER THE HORSES

by Jeffrey Round

Chapter 2 – “Tall in the Saddle”

The Saddle—or more correctly the Saddle and Bridle, as it was christened—had opened at the outset of the first AIDS decade. Back then it catered to a generation of gay men who felt they’d found themselves at last, only to discover that in finding themselves many would lose their lives and their friends far too early and in extremely unpleasant ways. The ugliness of the disease in its early years cannot be overstated, before drug cocktails and therapies commuted a death decree into a life sentence, but one with no foreseeable chance of pardon.

The bar thrived nevertheless, becoming one of Toronto’s preeminent dance clubs, changing hands and owners several times along the way before ending up in the reaches of one Yuri Malevski, a Macedonian immigrant who came to Canada seeking freedom from discrimination in the Old World. Malevski happily embraced all that was forward thinking about his adopted home, even while a fearsome syndrome was decimating his community in ways far more atrocious than even the worst politicians and religious fanatics had been capable of devising.

Like nearly everyone else in the gaybourhood, Dan had heard of the murdered nightclub owner. Who hadn’t? Over the years, Malevski’s reputation grew. He was praised for being a hard-working community entrepreneur, a generous AIDS charities benefactor, even while rumours proliferated about the deteriorating physical condition of the bar as well as its notorious after-hours activities. And the band played on. Few blamed Malevski for what happened behind the scenes in his club. Drug use was rampant and, despite the risks it entailed, sex had become a free-for-all. One pair of eyes could not be everywhere, they said. Not his place to try and stop it, they said. This was back in the days when the gay community was still reinventing itself, looking for greater acceptance from the world at large as it transformed from social pariah to business success. Who would dare to interfere?

afterthehorses

The old millennium ended and another began. All the while, the club thrived. Malevski became a solid part of the establishment, entrenching himself in the bedrock of the community. Then the murder happened. It was a shock to many, but not to all. The real bombshell was the way his reputation got served up to public censor. It was messy, semen-splattered news of the coarsest sort: a rich pervert who entertained hustlers, drug dealers, drag queens and transsexuals found murdered in his luxury home. The media feasted on it. What newspaper wouldn’t splash it across their front pages, wringing every last cent from a curiosity-starved public? Strangely, in all this, the police were unusually reticent, treating it as an everyday incident, a run-of-the-mill murder rather than the sensational headline material it was proving. That in itself, Dan thought, made it noteworthy. Why downplay the case when publicity might help catch a killer? Still, chasing illegal Cuban boyfriends and other potential murderers wasn’t his thing. Let someone else be heroic—the Dan Sharps of this world needed to be practical.

He passed a muffin shop, letting his eyes roam over the display while noting a dozen ways to flavour something he didn’t particularly want before deciding he didn’t actually need another sugar high. He pictured Donny’s fingers tapping restlessly on the counter whenever he ran out of cigarettes. If he wanted to criticize his friend’s bad habits, it wouldn’t do to have too many of his own.

Dan found the Saddle and Bridle looking as forlorn and neglected as a cast-off lover. Sheets of bare plywood covered the windows. Concert posters had been pasted over the exterior like a second skin. From outside, it appeared to be little more than an overgrown, neo-gothic pub, heavy on the brickwork. Passing by on the street, you might not even register the nature of its clientele unless you stopped to consider the giant mural of two moustachioed men seated together on a black stallion, their smiles gleaming three storeys above the parking lot. Inside told a different tale. The walls were covered with far-more revealing artwork of men in various states of undress and sexual postures—nothing extraordinary for a gay bar, though Dan recalled a rumour the place contained a labyrinthine basement suitable for torture, long-term imprisonment and the deepest, darkest, acts of fetishistic carnality, all just waiting for Vlad the Impaler to return.

He skirted the building, trying first the front then the back door. Both refused right of passage, barring his entry. He was about to step aside and be on his way when he heard a staccato tapping from within.

A dim recollection surfaced through the bric-a-brac of memory: himself as a twenty-something club goer, right before he became a dad and his social life virtually ended overnight, having just had a pass made at him by a drunk whose hands wouldn’t accept “no” for an answer. He’d been upstairs in a corral-like area, surrounded by cowboys-in-drag with their chaps and spurs and Stetsons. This particular wrangler had a lasso strapped to his belt, though he’d looked too inebriated to use it even if he wanted to.

Freeing himself from the man’s insistent pawing, Dan pushed his way through a maze of black-lit rooms and out a private exit leading to a back alley fire-escape. At the bottom, he passed a trellised garden where a clutch of drag queens slinked about, cocktails in hand, before making good his escape onto the street. It was months before he returned.

Looking up now, Dan saw the fire-escape, smiling to find it intact after all those years. It touched ground in the back alley where he’d ended his youthful adventure. A quick climb up a rickety set of stairs and the exit door opened at his touch.

He stepped in and looked around. There was no one about—and therefore no one to see him doing something he shouldn’t be doing. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d overstepped his bounds and trespassed in order to get a firsthand look at something that conspired to keep him out.

PumpkinEater

Inside the bar, chaos reigned—if not supreme then at least supremely confident in its ability to make mock of the works of men. Floors were ripped up, ceiling tiles missing, walls in a shambles. The police had done their worst, tearing the place apart and tossing things aside in search of evidence of the nefarious intrigues that had gone on in the afterhours. There was no respect for the recently deceased, it seemed. What is a man remembered for? Dan wondered. The good things he does in his life, the legacy he leaves behind or for whether he partied to excess once in a while? Yuri Malevski had done favours for the gay community, but he’d also been the sort of man whose life harboured dark secrets. Nothing new in the annals of time, but clearly whoever had been through the bar in the days since his death had found little about him to honour.

He glanced around. There, behind what was once a very busy martini bar, lay the entrance to the rumoured dungeons of debauchery and sexual abandon. He tripped the latch and opened the door. Steps led down into darkness, but the lights still worked when he flipped the switch, illuminating a swath of wooden stairs descending to who knew where. He followed, wary of broken boards and slippery footing. It wouldn’t do to twist an ankle while trespassing.

At the bottom lay an overturned burlap bag with grain spilling from a tear in its side. A large rat waddled away at Dan’s approach. Cartons of empties were stacked along one wall, the wooden shelves old and dusty. The entire space was no more than twenty by twenty feet. No whips, chains or manacles, no implements of torture anywhere in sight, just a dusty, neglected storage space. Poor Vlad.

 

http://www.jeffreyround.com/

 

 

 

 

Exclusive Excerpt: Prince of the Sea; a Paranormal Love Story, Suspense/thriller Novella

November 21st, 2015

Prince of the Sea

by

Jon Michaelsen

Blurb:

Destiny calls Jonathan home.

Jonathan Lemke thought spending two weeks alone with his partner in a beachside cottage would help to rekindle the lost passion of their ten-year union. He’d chosen Tybee Island, a quiet seaside community east of Historic Savannah on the Georgia coast. Jonathan spent his childhood growing up on the pristine shores of the barrier islet which continues to hold a special place in his heart.

The romantic surprise backfires when Jonathan’s partner, Paul, bails and rushes off to Chicago for the chance to woo a high profile client, leaving Jonathan alone and brokenhearted. But a chance meeting with a mysterious and seductive stranger linked to an ancient island legend provides a temporary distraction…and a chance at discovering forever love.

Island myth…or guarded secret? Someone with strong familial ties to Tybee Island wants to expose its secrets and avenge a grudge decades in the making. An assailant so threatened by the forces of nature that defy explanation will stop at nothing to expose island lore…even if he must kill to prove it.

Novella: 44,440 words Genre: gay paranormal, suspense/thriller

Editor: Jerry L. Wheeler

Cover: Dawne Dominique

 

Chapter One

Jonathan sauntered to the side of the verandah with his cocktail and leaned against the railing. The Jeep he’d rented at the airport sat idle against an ancient railroad tie baking in the sun, the space beside it empty. Glancing up, he didn’t see the tell-tale trail of dust billowing up through the brush to indicate a taxi drew near. Not even a glimmer of the sun’s intense rays reflecting off the body of an automobile, nothing to indicate someone approaching.

He wondered if Paul would appreciate the nineteenth century antebellum revival beachfront cottage Jonathan had rented for a surprise vacation, a second honeymoon of sorts. The past year had proved tough for them both, and Jonathan had sensed a growing tension in their relationship. They were drifting apart he feared, a fact that often plagued gay men in a relationship after a decade or so together.

Paul had taken months to get back on his feet after a rough job loss. Petty arguments had bubbled below the surface, but Jonathan thought two weeks on the beach far away from deadlines, cellphones, and demanding clients might prove ideal, a perfect oasis to help get them back on track. Jonathan had forked over the non-refundable deposit a few months back without a second thought, determined to inject some rest and recuperation into their lives.

Paul’s reaction to the gift proved more shocking to Jonathan than his impulse.

Sipping his cocktail, he recalled their exchange over dinner last week when he sprung the news of the planned escape.

“Now?” Anxiety had twisted Paul’s face, his lips tightening into a thin line as though he bit into a lemon. “You’re not serious? Are you insane?”

Jonathan had remained silent, of course, crushed beyond words at Paul’s comeback. He recalled how his chest tightened and forced the air from his lungs as he sat stoically, inspecting the food skewered on his fork, not knowing what to say.

“I’m only now getting my feet back on steady ground, John. You of all people should know I can’t afford to run away now, even if I wanted to. “Sometimes, babe, you just don’t think these things through before you make a stupid mistake.”

Clipped sentences and bitchy comments shared over several cocktails had capped the evening before they headed home earlier than originally planned.

Jonathan sighed and sucked down the rest of his drink.

PrinceoftheSea_800x1200_dpi300_LRG

Where is he?

He looked again toward the road, his hand shielding the afternoon sun. Exhausted after shuttling across the country to the east coastal town of Tybee, an island twenty minutes from Savannah, Georgia, he wanted to grab a bite and spend the evening relaxing on the porch facing the ocean’s cool breeze. Paul had booked a later flight in order to finish a few things at the office, but he promised to arrive in time for dinner. Jonathan checked his watch again. The evening loomed and still no Paul.

What if he’s not coming?

Will you stop? Jonathan chided himself for fretting when he needed to relax. Anxiety gripped the muscles in his chest, and his throat went dry despite the alcohol he’d consumed. He wrestled with the idea Paul might bail on him, offering the same old lame excuse about business coming first. It wouldn’t be the first time, but Paul wouldn’t do that, would he? Not after all that’s happened this year.

Still, Paul hadn’t called.

Jonathan had left several messages at both his partner’s office and on Paul’s cell. With everything going on between them, all they’d been through the past year, Paul at least owed him a phone call of explanation.

Shoulders slumped, head bowed, Jonathan raised his glass in toast to an ocean bathed in brilliant turquoise, and downed the last of the twelve-year-old scotch. He stared out across the water, despondent and aloof, like a seafaring mariner in search of land. The breeze skimming off the ocean’s surface cooled his cheeks and brushed the dark hairs of his chest peeking out from his open shirt.

The sun slowly joined with the western shore, its phosphorescent embers reaching out to touch the sugar-white sand. Moss-draped oaks and spiny palms fronting the beach basked in a sheath of glittery gold. Nearby tree frogs thrummed and crickets chirped as the afternoon began to yield to dusk.

A seagull floated past on the warmth of the current as insects indigenous to the area traveled in droves atop the sea of waving cordgrass. Rolling whitecaps of the ocean’s lips choreographed a symphony that crashed headlong ashore. Jonathan stared out across the water and wished on some level he could be one with the ocean to escape the realities of life threatening to suffocate him. The scent of salt, fish, and drying seaweed wafted in the breeze that coated everything in a gritty residue. He closed his eyes and drank in the air hitting his face, imagining the draft cleansing years of L.A. smog from his pores.

Hums of the world abuzz lulled him and warmed his heart with thoughts of the past. As a child, Jonathan had enjoyed long summer days playing on the beach with pail and shovel in hand, scooping up sand to fortify some sandcastle or surrounding moat. He remembered strolls along the beach with his family searching for that one of a kind shell or sand dollar. He’d spent his early years not far from where he stood now, the smell of salt air and seaweed all he knew before leaving the coast to attend the University Of Georgia in Athens. A promising career writing screenplays had sent him racing to the West Coast upon graduation to a life of fifteen-hour days and all-night parties.

Years had passed with little memory of his childhood until he’d returned to the tiny island. Being here now with the breeze jostling the fabric of his shirt, brushing past the cotton of his chinos, and with the sun highlighting his skin in iridescent bronze, caused his heart to swell. He closed his eyes and drank in the aroma of his youth.

Why hasn’t he called?

IMG_4896

The past twelve months had tested their relationship more than in any other year. Jonathan knew they needed this vacation, time alone outside the pressures of deadlines, e-mails, texts, and cellphones. It was to be a break from the constant demands nibbling away at their time together without regard to their needs. The first sign of things to come had been when their trusted housekeeper of many years sold details of Jonathan’s and Paul’s private lives to one of those trashy supermarket rags. Her lies sold thousands of copies across the country and caused a flurry of activity around the Lemke-Morley household, even threatened to derail their careers in a town known for feeding water cooler gossip. For the most part, Jonathan managed to escape the scandal, but Paul was forced to leave his job as a publicist with a major public relations firm, striking out on his own.

Jonathan checked his cell again. No missed calls or texts.

Six months ago, Jonathan lost his beloved grandmother to pulmonary artery disease. Complications from a heart attack slowly took her life, a mockery to one so selfless. Jonathan had spent months traveling back and forth to the Florida Panhandle where Mama Effie had retired. Effie’s husband had died ten years earlier. He’d collapsed on his job of forty years, sucking in carbon emissions at a heavy equipment assembly plant in Brunswick, Georgia. After cleansing herself of unwanted material items, Mama Effie headed to the Gulf Coast to live with her sister. Jonathan recalled the faces of stunned family members as his grandmother passed out heirlooms like worthless trinkets and snickered.

He missed her. Like him, Mama Effie had preferred to mourn in silence, and if ridding herself of a few personal items that reminded her of the only man she ever loved meant being able to face each day, then he supported her one hundred percent. He knew his grandmother like no other. She had readily accepted him for the boy he was and the man he became, unlike his parents.

His cellphone buzzed. Snapping back from his reverie, Jonathan accepted the call and turned inland. “Where are you?”

Jonathan heard a long pause before familiar noises drifted through the connection, and a feeling of dread overcame Jonathan as Paul spoke.

“Hey, babe, I’m in Chicago. Look, something came up. I got a call from Gyllenhaal’s people, and it’s possible I’m not going to be able to make it.”

“What? Paul, you promised.” Jonathan gripped the cellphone, wanting to smash the metallic cover against the floorboards.

“I know, hon. I’m really sorry, but signing this new client would mean everything to me. You know how bad things have been. I’ve told you I’ve got to attract the bigger names to get my business off the ground. This might be the break I need, Jonathan.”

“Paul, we discussed taking this trip for us. What about what we need?” Jonathan struggled to suppress his anger. “I booked the cottage months ago so we could get away from the rat race, you know? Spend some much needed quality time together. Sit back and relax, take a real vacation for once, just you and me.”

Jonathan wanted to unload on his partner, to express how for months he’d sacrificed at every turn, given in to Paul’s every whim in the interest of salvaging what they had. True, Paul’s demands had bordered on the selfish, but Jonathan didn’t care. Their relationship had soured, but all they needed was time alone to focus on a romance gone dormant far too long.

“Paul,” Jonathan said in a steady voice, “you don’t have to work so hard. We have plenty of funds coming in from my royalties, scripts I wrote years ago, and more on the way. Last year’s writer’s strike guarantees us at least nine months to a year of cushion. “Do you hear what I’m saying? Why do you have to rush off now?”

“John, as usual you’re not listening. What about what I want, huh? What I need?”

Jonathan bit his lip and listened.

“It’s not always all about you,” Paul said. “Signing Gyllenhaal would be my first chance to become a respected publicist again. No one has been willing to take me seriously, on my own terms in this crazy business. Not without the bigger names and greater celebrity influence. You know that.”

Jonathan bowed his head and pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers. “You promised.”

“I need to go, hon,” Paul said. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

The call ended. Jonathan stared at his phone, stunned and slack-jawed.

What in the hell just happened?

Ttybeepier

Chapter Two

A lone gnat buzzed about Jonathan’s face. He swiped the air in frustration, more at Paul than with irritation at the pest. He had agitated the insect, which fought to escape and yet managed to fly up his nostril. He plugged the side of his nose and tried to flush the pest without success. Finally, with apprehension, he swallowed to clear his throat of the insect.

Driven by need deeper than thirst, Jonathan ducked inside through the doorway of the single story cottage and crossed the threshold to the parlor of the west wing, filled with nautical trimmings and reproduced coastal collections. He tore past the cold fireplace and a sofa draped with an old patchwork quilt. The antique double-door bar cabinet nestled in the far corner reminded him of the days his mother had carted him through the vintage shops peppering the Southeastern Coast. In spite of his mood, he smiled at the memories. He snatched a fresh bottle of booze from the shelf below, tossed a couple cubes of ice into his glass, and filled it half-full of scotch.

Jonathan slugged the beverage, refilled his glass, and then shuffled to the floor-to-ceiling windows facing inland. He thought about being stood up by Paul, the knot in his chest traveling up his neck like a hand closing around his throat. Typical. Paul had become more distant of late and the excuses he tried to pass off seemed contrived at best. They were nearing the end of the relationship, perhaps. Jonathan didn’t know anymore, and it drove him crazy.

Stop with the melodramatics, Jonathan chided himself as he sipped his drink and stepped out onto the porch again. He set his cocktail on the railing, reached high above his head, and stretched his arms before crossing them over his chest and gripping his shoulders. The ocean breeze caressed him as he watched the waves rolling in, whitecaps bustling with the fury of stampeding cattle before crashing headlong into shore. Why did it bother him this much? Should he be surprised Paul chose career goals over their relationship yet again? Jonathan should have seen it coming months ago, but he’d ignored the signs, desperate to rekindle the passion slipping away after years of happiness.

A large cargo ship sailed in line of the horizon. Seagulls and pelicans floated along the shoreline searching for food. Jonathan dreamed of a relationship devoid of friction and financial strain, absent of business dinners filled with false hope and weekend interruptions. He savored his career as a successful scriptwriter, but he abhorred the Hollywood lifestyle.

His drink empty, Jonathan began to turn when something caught his eye. Glancing beyond the beach, he scanned the ocean’s surface searching the whitecaps. Someone was bobbing and swirling about in wide circular motions, dipping beneath the waves. Jonathan made out the head and shoulders of a man struggling to remain above the surface. Adrenaline shot through Jonathan like a bullet and panic clutched his chest.

He’s in trouble!

Jonathan scanned the beach for help. A few beachcombers walked in either direction along the sand, some strolling hand in hand, as others huddled in groups with a child or two darting out from the pack to race toward the water’s edge. No one seemed to notice the swimmer in distress. Most followed their downcast eyes, searching the beach for the ocean’s treasures washed up in the tide.

“Hey…hey!

Jonathan raced toward the water’s edge and kicked off his loafers, flailing his arms and screaming trying to attract attention. He ripped off his shirt as he ran, the fabric falling behind in the sand. Pausing to strip off his slacks, he trudged into the sea.

Waves battered him in violent succession, pushing him back, forcing him to lift his knees high to stab his feet into the water to stay righted. When the water reached his hips, Jonathan dove headlong into the churning surf. The smack of cold water against his face and chest sobered him as he pinwheeled his arms through the strong current toward the struggling swimmer.

Where did he go? Jonathan eased up to get his bearings, dogpaddling around and looking for the man. He called out, “Can you hear me? I’m here to help.” He swiveled his head back and forth, searching for the swimmer.

I’ve gone too far, he thought. Jonathan whipped around, turning back toward the beach. The cottage stood farther up the beach than his current position. Fearing the swimmer had disappeared beneath the surface, Jonathan ducked below the water and aimed his body deep, opening his eyes to take a quick peek. The sting of the saltwater forced his lids shut and he retreated.

Jonathan angled his body upward and kicked his feet hard against the strong current. Reaching the surface proved elusive, as the undertow sucked him down. Disoriented and terrified, his lungs begging for air, Jonathan clawed at the wall of seawater to no avail. No matter where he aimed, he couldn’t find the surface. The harder he fought the farther down he sank. Desperate for oxygen, his heart pounding, Jonathan’s life flashed before him.

Is this it? Am I doomed to be another tragic drowning?

Jonathan drifted into a quiet calm from lack of air, his thoughts a random jumble. Why had he charged forth in the first place, foolish considering all the alcohol? What about Paul? Would he be stunned to learn of his death, perhaps feel guilty about refusing to join him sooner? Would his family ever forgive his carelessness?

His chest compressed, expressing the last bit of air from his lungs. He wrestled an onslaught of convulsions as brackish seawater invaded his nose and mouth, his lungs. Arms and legs became lead. He lashed out, each stroke pulling him down until he settled on the ocean floor.

The undertow snatched him away as his awareness waned. He reached out in a futile attempt to right himself but grasped onto something slick and supple instead. His fingers slid over the soft object.

Huh?

Something large and powerful slammed into him from behind. He felt an incredible tug against his body, a whoosh that snapped him back like a bungee cord before he blacked out.

Tybee Beach2

 

Releasing Tuesday, December 1, 2015 via All Romance ebooks, Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, and other fine e-tailers.

www.jonmichaelsen.net