The Keeper of Bees (Hazard and Somerset: A Union of Swords Book 5) by Gregory Ashe

SOMERS TOSSED A SALAD: romaine, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, feta, and big, fat kalamata olives. Then he seared chicken breasts. His eyes went to the clock. At first, every five minutes or so. And then, after the chicken breasts were cooled and sliced on a cutting board, every two minutes. After that, he started checking his phone. The digital clock on the lock screen stared back at him.

When the garage door rattled up, Somers blew out a breath, gave himself a mental shake, and took plates out of the cabinet. He gave the salad another toss as the door between the house and the garage opened. Look at me, happy and domestic. Could he paint a sign on his back?

“Hey,” he said, turning to grab the first plate, “did you get held up? I thought you were going to be home early.”

His fingers closed over the plate; his hand lifted. And then he saw Hazard’s face: washed out, dark spots under his eyes, like he was sick or exhausted. Somers tried to set the plate back down, but his fingers released too early.

“Ree, are you—”

The plate wobbled on the edge of the counter. Somers saw it out of the corner of his eye and reached for it, but he was too slow. The plate tilted, slid, and crashed onto the tile.

Hazard went rigid. His body tightened, while his face seemed to slacken, as though the fine muscles there had stopped responding. Then he surged into motion, charging into the kitchen.

“Jesus fucking Christ, John. What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“I’m sorry, I—”

One of Hazard’s big hands came out, caught a stack of envelopes on the counter, and smacked them into the air. “Is that what we’re doing now? Just throwing shit whenever we want? For the fucking love of God, John, you’re a fucking adult. Pick up those fucking pieces, will you? Do you want Evie to cut herself?”

Somers took a step across the ceramic shards. He wasn’t even sure if Hazard realized it, but the big man veered away, yanking at the collar of his t-shirt.

“Evie’s at Cora’s tonight,” Somers said. “Will you take a breath please?”

“I am taking a breath, I’m taking a really deep breath, ok? I just want to know why you don’t seem to care that those fucking plates cost fucking money, John. We’re fucking strapped as it is, and I have to come home to you breaking the little shit that we do have.”

“All right. That’s enough.”

“For fuck’s sake,” Hazard shouted, and then he kicked one of the kitchen chairs. It toppled, sliding across the tile until it came up against the wall, and then Hazard had to kick it out of his way so he could leave the kitchen.

Somers took two steps after him before he stopped. Then he ran shaking hands down his thighs, turned, and leaned into the refrigerator. In his mind’s eye, he saw the extra-cold drawer, where—months before—they had kept bottle after bottle of Bud Lite. And now, Pepsi and sparkling water and fruit juice. But he could walk to St. Taffy’s and get a beer. He could even get a shot, maybe two. Maybe a line of them, like dominoes—knock the first one down, and it took the rest with it. And Somers at the end, the final domino, when the last shot kicked so hard it knocked him right out of his fucking head. He ran his hands across his shirt. He didn’t even need to go to St. Taffy’s. Spud’s Liquor was within walking distance too; he could pour his own line of shots.

Upstairs, a door slammed. Their bedroom. And then, muffled, another door slammed. Their bathroom.

Somers got the broom and swept up the broken plate. Then he got a Pepsi. He got through half the can before it was too sweet, his teeth starting to ache, and he left it on the counter. Climbing the stairs, he talked himself through all the reasons he loved Emery Hazard: he was kind, smart, strong, passionate. He was good. The list seemed short tonight. The bedroom door was locked, and Somers backtracked to the key they’d hidden on the frame for Evie’s door. It was just a flat piece of metal, designed for the generic privacy locks that weren’t really meant for any serious kind of security. He went into their bedroom and found it dark.

Something warned Somers to leave the lights off, so he picked his way through the darkness. They’d lived here almost a year, and even after a year, Somers couldn’t find his way through the room without a light. He bumped into the dresser. He hit the bed. He stubbed his toe on something—he had no idea what; maybe Hazard had been ordering enormous bronze urns for their bedroom, because it sure fucking felt like it—and when he swore and hopped up and down, the ragged breathing inside the bathroom cut off. When Somers finally reached the door, he knocked.

“Go away,” Hazard said, his voice thick. “Please, John.”

Blurb:

Emery Hazard has pretty much everything under control. He and his fiancé, John-Henry Somerset, are more in love than ever, despite the stress of wedding preparations hanging over them. His business as a private investigator is growing. He’s even enjoying time with his growing circle of friends. The only major problem on the horizon is whether or not he and Somers will be dancing at the wedding reception.

When Mitchell Martin shows up in his office, though, everything changes. The year before, Mitchell was abducted and tortured by a sadistic killer known only as the Keeper of Bees. Now Mitchell is convinced that the Keeper has come back, and he wants to hire Hazard to protect him.

While Hazard works to keep Mitchell safe, Somers must adjust to changes at work. A spate of new hires has disrupted the Wahredua Police Department, and Somers finds himself locked in a struggle to determine how the department will grow and evolve, with long-term consequences that will affect the town for years to come.

Then a woman is found murdered, and she has been staged and posed in a way that is eerily similar to the Keeper of Bee’s former victims. As Hazard and Somers race to prevent more deaths, Hazard fears they are already too late; the Keeper of Bees has been ahead of them the whole time.

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