It’s Christmas, and all antique dealer Sebastian Snow wants is for his business to make money and to save his floundering relationship with closeted CSU detective, Neil Millett. When Snow’s Antique Emporium is broken into and a heart is found under the floorboards, Sebastian can’t let the mystery rest.
He soon finds himself caught up in murder investigations that echo the macabre stories of Edgar Allan Poe. To make matters worse, Sebastian’s sleuthing is causing his relationship with Neil to crumble, while at the same time he’s falling hard for the lead detective on the case, Calvin Winter. Sebastian and Calvin must work together to unravel the mystery behind the killings, despite the mounting danger and sexual tension, before Sebastian becomes the next victim.
In the end, Sebastian only wants to get out of this mess alive and live happily ever after with Calvin.
Winter turned his gaze on me, and I stared back up at him. Of all the serious issues I could have been focusing on, I was instead obsessing over his curious-looking eyes again. And those freckles. God, he even had them down his neck, disappearing under the collar of his shirt. I started to consider just how extensive that freckle trail was—
“Get those clothes off.” He pointed expectantly at the woman who appeared at my side again to collect the damning evidence.
“Winter,” Lancaster called as she stepped into the store again with a man who had to be the city medical examiner.
Winter gave me one last glare before leaving.
I learned the evidence woman’s name was Martha Stewart—no relation, she added—and she had no sense of privacy.
“Honey, if you think I’m trying to sneak a peek, you’ve got nothing to worry about,” she said, carefully putting my jacket into a collection bag and labeling the front.
“No? Why’s that?” I asked, trying my best to ignore the fact I was now naked from the waist up in a cold room, with half a dozen cops nearby and a coroner shoving a liver thermometer into the body of my former boss.
“You aren’t my type,” she indicated while putting away my T-shirt next.
“I bet you say that to keep all the boys from blushing.”
“I got a wife, sweetie,” Martha said casually. “Pants. Come on. I’ve got a lot to do here.”
I had never unbuttoned so quickly for anyone, but she was about to start tapping her foot. “You’re not my type either, Martha.”
“Oh, I can tell,” she said, chuckling to herself.
“What does that mean?”
“It means you sure aren’t checking out my goods when you’ve got a ginger to ogle.”
Instead of vehemently denying the fact that I found Detective Winter even remotely attractive, I asked, “So his hair’s red?”
She stared curiously.
“I can’t see color,” I clarified.
“Oh. Yeah, it’s red. Well, more orange, like that fiery color. You know.”
“I don’t know, but I’ll take your word for it,” I replied. I glanced back toward Mike. The coroner was crouched beside him, talking to Winter, who did a real good job at looking like a sexy, imposing badass you’d see in a TV drama. And I had to pause while undressing because I was now painfully aware that I had an erection.
Of all places, times, and people to be aroused by.
“Hey,” Martha said, snapping her gloved fingers.
“Can I put my new shirt on?” I asked, stalling.
She sighed heavily and picked up her camera. “Hold on. I need to photograph.”
“Whoa, what, all of me?”
“I’ve never met such a prude,” she mumbled. “Hold your hands out, palms down.” Martha took several photos of my hands at different angles, as well as my chest, where a small smudge of blood had ended up. Upon finishing, I was allowed to put on my new shirt, which had given my body enough time to stand down from saluting.
I quickly finished stripping, having to pause for another photo before Martha deemed me finished, and she waited expectantly as I made myself proper. “Pleasure to meet you, Martha,” I said, unsure what else I was supposed to tell a woman after I stripped and posed for her. Would “thank you” have been better?
She hummed absently in response while putting her camera aside and gathering up the bags. “Want a word of advice?”
I paused, one arm through the sleeve of a jacket that was more suited to cool autumn weather than the shitstorm outside. “Sure?”
“Don’t go giving Winter a hard time, or he’ll book your ass faster than you can say heartless.”
What did that mean? “Uh….”
“He’s seen it all,” she said in a tone of warning. “And has patience for none of it.” Martha left me alone after that.
I pushed my sunglasses back up and crossed my arms over my chest. I was suddenly freezing, but it wasn’t a chill that shook me to the bone. Fear, that’s what it was.
Let’s take a step back, look at this objectively. Neil had taught me a lot about crimes and evidence, and I needed to use that to my advantage. I had zero interest in becoming a suspect—or worse, being arrested by Detective Winter.
Rigor mortis starts to set in around two hours after death, and the human body can decrease in temperature at an average rate of one point five degrees per hour. I needed to factor in, however, that the shop door had been open for who knows how long, which could affect the temperature reading on the body. If rigor was setting in, I could suspect poor Mike had been dead since….
I turned to squint at the wall clock behind me.
The officer who had been watching me the entire time asked, “Got somewhere to be?”
“I can’t read the time.”
He glanced at the wall. “Just after twelve.”
All right. I had been there close to an hour, which means it had been around eleven when I found Mike. So at a minimum, he was killed around eight that morning. I had alibis. Pop, the one employee at Little Earth—hell, I’d even drag Neil into this if it meant my head.
When I looked up from counting points off my fingers, Winter was standing in front of me, a strange expression on his face. Amused? Indulgent? Curious? It was hard to tell.
“Hi,” I said.
“I’ve got some more questions.”
Lancaster was giving orders in the background to have space made as a gurney was brought in and Mike’s body was placed on it. So long, Mike….
“Where were you at seven this morning?” Winter asked.
Ah-ha! “Mike has only been dead a few hours?”
“Answer the question.”
I knew it. Rigor mortis started with the face—the eyes, jaw, down the neck. His entire body wasn’t affected yet, which meant he had to have been attacked when I was around other people. Given, also, how much snow had piled up in the doorway, it roughly corresponded with what the news had been saying about the city’s expected precipitation per hour.
“Seven? I was home.”
“Thinking about getting out of bed.”
“Do you live alone, Mr. Snow?”
I felt the muscle in my throat jump. If I said yes, I would be lying to a cop, which was never good. If I said no, Winter would want the contact information of the second individual.
Would Neil mind?
Of course, but given the circumstances, would he be willing to out himself to a fellow detective, who he believed was a homophobe, if it meant the safety of his boyfriend?
It concerned me greatly that I didn’t have an answer to that question.
“No, not exactly,” I heard myself answer.
Winter looked expectant.
DSP Publications: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/the-mystery-of-nevermore-by-cs-poe-281-b
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-mystery-of-nevermore-cs-poe/1124014537?ean=9781634770705