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.”


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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Exclusive Excerpt: Drama Runway: A Nicky and Noah Mystery (Nicky and Noah Mysteries Book 10) by Joe Cosentino

Miles scratched at his head. “Not that it’s any of my business, but what do you have against your mother?”

Cory’s body tensed. “She doesn’t love me.”

“You don’t really believe that, Cory.”

He leaned over and his pecs widened like boulders. “My childhood memories of my mother are watching her talk on the phone, work at her computer, design at her drafting table, and sew at her machine.”

“So now you’re punishing her for working hard to support you all those years?”

“No, she’s punishing me for not wanting any part of her cover-up.”

“Her cover-up?”

Cory nodded. “My mother is drowning herself in work, so she doesn’t have to face reality.”

“What reality?”

“I’m not sure. But it has to do with something that happened a long time ago. When I was a kid, I’d watch her in bed, weeping over her old diary.”

Hm, a mini-mystery. Too bad we don’t have a mystery solver. Wait, we do. Me!

“Did you ever ask your mom about it?”

Cory nodded. “Each time I got her cold shoulder and icy stare.”

“Why don’t you try to comfort her?”

“Isn’t that your job?”

“I’m not her son. You are.” Miles sighed. “I’ve said enough. I hope you and your mother work things out.”

“I wouldn’t waste too much time hoping.”

“Good point.” Miles opened his briefcase and took out his laptop. “My business is the task given to me by my employer.”

Cory groaned. “Are you really going to be my matchmaker?”

Miles’ long index finger revolved around the mousepad. “I’ve done quite a bit of research on the topic. A human being seems to work much more effectively than dating apps.”

Cory flexed his biceps. “I don’t need dating apps.”

“Yes, it seems you’ve been quite active on campus.” Miles opened a file on his computer.

“So have I.”

Cory cocked his head. “What do you mean?”

“I did my first interview on campus.”

“You told some guy about my mother’s matchmaking scheme?”

“Not exactly. I said I’m conducting a survey about gay men on campus.”

“Why did he give you any information?”

“Your mother left me an expense account.”

Cory gasped. “You paid someone to talk about me?”

“Pretty much.”

Martin will salivate over this gossip.

Miles read from his computer screen, “Shane Buff, twenty-one, fashion major.”

“I boned him last night.” Cory slid to the edge of his seat. “What did Shane say about me?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“You’re right. He was boring in bed, and out of bed. Shane isn’t right for me anyway. He’s totally into himself.”

Miles smirked. “Studies show opposites attract, so I agree with you there too.”

Cory did a doubletake. “Did you just put me down?”

If the ego fits.

“Cory, it’s pretty clear that you bedded Shane in a lame attempt at punishing your mother for not giving you the attention you crave.”

“Are you a personal assistant or a psychiatrist?”

“I was a business major, but I took some psych classes in college.”

“So you are psychoanalyzing me now?”

“It’s not too difficult. You’re a textbook example of a spoiled child crying out for affection.”

Cory got to his feet. “I don’t have to listen to this.”

“You do if you want to hear what other guys say about you.”

He resumed his seat. “I’m listening.”

“After I complete more interviews, you’ll be the first to know.”

“I don’t think you’ll get very far. Most guys will play with me, but none of them want a relationship.”

“You may have a point.” Miles rubbed his square jaw. “Perhaps I’ve been going at this all wrong.” He tented his fingers. “I need to get to know you better before picking a husband for you.”

Cory chuckled. “I’m sure my mother had lots to say about me.”

“I’d like to hear it from the source. So tell me, what don’t I know about Cory Ultimate?”

Cory shrugged. “My life is pretty much an open book.” He spread his legs, revealing a huge bulge.

“I know you’ve been promiscuous.”

Cory’s eyes turned to brown slits. “Gee, feel free to say whatever you like about me, Miles.”

“No problem.” Miles placed his fingers on the keypad. “But I’m more interested in what you have to say about you.”

Cory unleashed his luscious dimples. “Okay, I’m totally hot, a B student, and a terrific set and lighting designer.”

Not to mention modest.

Cory smirked. “And one day I stand to inherit Ultimate Fashions, which I will sell to the highest bidder before the rest of my mother’s body grows as cold as her heart.”

“Why did you come to Treemeadow College?”

“It’s in Vermont, and my mother lives in California.”

The wonderful faculty in the Theatre Department didn’t attract you?

Miles asked him, “The past murders at this college didn’t frighten you?”

I solved every one of those after only five murders per case!

Cory stared at Miles defiantly. “I’m not afraid to die. Just think, when I’m dead I’ll be as stiff as my mother.”

“You have a smart mouth, kid.”

“I was thinking the same thing about you, assistant.”

Their glances met.

Cory got to his feet again. “Which reminds me. I have to check on the set before the tech rehearsal.”

“Is that what you want to do with your life, be a set designer?”

He looked down at Miles. “As a matter of fact, yes.”

“What draws you to the theatre?”

Your wonderful play directing professor?

Cory seemed to ponder the question. “In the theatre, it’s okay to make believe, hide from the world, and create the reality of your choice. When I use my artistic skills, imagination, and technical knowledge to create a set design or a lighting plot, I feel like the master of my universe.”

“Do you want to be a model too?”

“No, I’m just here for the scenery.” Cory grinned.

“Then modeling seems pretty shallow.”

Cory grimaced. “Since we’re talking about goals, why do you want to be a personal assistant? That doesn’t seem like a life’s ambition.”

“It fits my skillset.”

“Creating my mother’s world?”

“No, helping her navigate successfully through the world she’s created.”

Cory smirked. “How selfless.”

“Not really. I take pride in Ulla’s accomplishments as much as in my own.”

“And you’re comfortable living in my mother’s shadow?”

“Just as comfortable as you are living in the shadows of a stage.”

I heard footsteps behind me. So I leapt around the curtain. “Cory, please get into your wardrobe.”

He saluted, leapt onto the runway, and disappeared into the dressing room.

Miles sat toward the center of the house. I headed into the theatre, where I took my usual front row center seat and readied my notepad and pen. Noah sat next to me, offering a supportive hand squeeze. Martin, in a vermillion bowtie and sweater vest, and Ruben, in a matching leisure suit, filed in behind us.

Craning my neck back toward Martin, I whispered, “I have some dish for you later.”

He whispered back, “Forget a word of it and this campus will have another murder—yours!”

Ruben rested an arm around his husband’s small back. “Leave the nice man alone, honey, so he can direct the fashion show.”

Ulla Ultimate came down the runway and took a seat next to Miles.

Finally, Hoss Packer exited down the runway, giving the illusion of a bodybuilding competition rather than a fashion show. When he was seated in the lighting booth toward the rear of the house, I called out, “Let’s pick it up from where we left off last night, everyone.” I noticed Associate Professor of Fashion Tyler Greenway and his student Lila Hekekia enter from the rear of the house and sit in the last row.

The house lights dimmed, and then they went on again. The stage lights came on, and they went out again.

“Hoss, is there a problem?”

“Sorry, Professor. I needed to reset the computer.”

“Are you ready now, Hoss?”

He replied, “Ready.”

The house lights dimmed, and the stage lights came up with a lemon glow.

“Magenta not lemon!”

“Sorry, Professor.”

The stage lights turned to magenta, and the runway lights exploded—literally. After Hoss repaired them, we resumed, and the models started down the runway in their bedtime outfits.

Julio Bonero was first in a black leather nightshirt and cap. At the tip of the runway, he spun into a costume malfunction—about six inches long and uncut. As I wrote a note on my pad, Cosmo Capra strutted down the runway in black leather pajamas and slippers—with chocolate stains on his cheek. When he turned, a button popped off his pajama tops. While I wrote frantically, Taavi made his appearance blowing kisses like a rock star at a concert. He smiled and strutted down the runway in black leather footed pajamas featuring pictures of animals.

After Cory showed his stuff in a long black leather T-shirt and slippers, Noah rested a hand on my knee. We said in unison, “Where’s Shane?” It’s a cute couple thing we do. So is solving murder mysteries.

When our question was met by shrugs from the models, I ran up the steps and practically flew across the runway. The dressing room was empty. Across the hall in the sewing room, I found Johnny and Tia (while texting) doing last minute repairs. “Have either of you seen Shane Buff?”

They shook their heads while they worked.

I raced out the sewing room door and scanned the area outside around the building. When I made my way toward the back alleyway, I found a bloodied Shane Buff lying motionless on the stone floor. Next to him was a mannequin streaked with blood. Modeling for Dummies.


It’s spring break at Treemeadow College, and theatre professor Nicky Abbondanza is directing a runway show for the Fashion Department. Joining him are his spouse, theatre professor Noah Oliver, their son Taavi, and their best friend and department head, Martin Anderson. The show, designed by visiting professor Ulla Ultimate, is bound to be the ultimate event of the season. And bound it is with designs featuring black leather and chains. When sexy male models drop faster than their leather chaps, Nicky and Noah will need to use their drama skills to figure out who is taking the term “a cut male model” literally before Nicky and Noah end up steamed in the wardrobe steamer. You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat entertaining tenth novel in this delightful series. Take your seats. The runway is lighting up with hunky models, volatile designers, bitter exes, newfound lovers, and murder!

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More About Author Joe Cosentino:

Joe Cosentino was voted Favorite LGBT Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Author of the Year by the readers of Divine Magazine for Drama Queen. He also wrote the other novels in the Nicky and Noah mystery series: Drama Muscle, Drama Cruise, Drama Luau, Drama Detective, Drama Fraternity, Drama Castle, Drama Dance, Drama Faerie; the Dreamspinner Press novellas: In My Heart/An Infatuation & A Shooting Star, the Bobby and Paolo Holiday Stories: A Home for the Holidays/The Perfect Gift/The First Noel, The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland with Holiday Tales from Fairyland; the Cozzi Cove series: Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings, Cozzi Cove: Happy Endings (NineStar Press);andthe Jana Lane mysteries: Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, Rag Doll (The Wild Rose Press). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. Joe is currently Chair of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and he is happily married. Joe’s books have received numerous Favorite Book of the Month Awards and Rainbow Award Honorable Mentions.

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Exclusive Excerpt: The Man from Milwaukee by Rick R. Reed


©2020 Rick R. Reed

With The Man from Milwaukee, I tried to keep the reader guessing as my main character, Emory Hughes, descends into madness. This small vignette is the prelude to a murder… But the killer? Hmm…

The Bartender

He waited around the bar all night for me to close up.

He’d had his eye on me from the first time I served him. He started out a shy boy, all innocent glances from beneath slightly lowered lashes.

But, as he drank more and more—and I’m not one to discourage this, especially when they’re tipping well—he loosened up. The flirting became more outrageous, winking and even, one time, licking his lips as he stared pointedly at my crotch.

I threw him a couple free drinks only because he seemed lonely. The fact that he was fixated on me helped too.

And then, when closing time rolled around and I shouted out my standard cliché, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here,” he didn’t move. The lights came on. The music on the juke box, Crystal Waters “Gypsy Woman” ended.

I wiped off the bar a final time and reached below it to get my backpack.

“We’re closing, friend. Didn’t you hear me announce last call?”

“That song? The one that was just playing? So dumb to sing about the homeless like that. It trivializes them.”

I nodded. “You got a point there.”

I hoisted the backpack over one arm and then moved out from behind the bar. I looked at him and smiled. “Got to lock up, set the alarm. The owner doesn’t allow customers in here while I do that.”

His face reddened. “Sorry.” He hopped down from his stool. “I got all caught up in just watching you.”

I paused. “You’re sweet.” I touched his cheek and gave him a little peck on the lips. He stepped back, stunned, but he was thrilled. You know, sometimes my tips aren’t in crumpled ones and change.

I motioned with my head toward the door. “Dude. You gotta go.”

He nodded. “Okay.” He stood by the door for a time, watching me.

The slightest tinge of annoyance prompted me to point toward the door. “Now,” I said, smiling to soften the blow.

“Yeah, sure.” He opened the door and outside—freedom.

The night’s mine now. Granville Avenue is flooded with an orangeish light from the streetlamps. An L train passes overhead, and I swear I feel the vibrations through the soles of my combat boots. There’s a couple of guys arguing outside. One’s shouting about the other’s “wandering eye” and says he’ll never be able to trust him again. I shake my head. How many times will I overhear variations on this same fight?

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The train makes me wonder what I should do next. I could head south, grab a nightcap, a boy for the night…

The door slams shut. I’m alone. I go back behind the bar and grab a glass, pour myself two fingers of Jack Daniels, and down it.

Fortified, I open the door and emerge into the night.

I’m heading toward where I’d left my car parked on Winthrop when a voice calls from the alley running behind the bar. “Hey. Where you headed?”

I stop and backtrack a few steps.

It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust. The alley’s filled with shadows. But I recognize him, barely separate from the dark, leaning against a dumpster. He’s got his pants undone and his hand’s inside, working. I consider moving on, but what the hell? I can fool around with this guy, get my nut, head home, and get a good night’s sleep for once. I’ll save myself a few bucks on drinks too. Save even more if I’d end up going to the baths, which is what I’d probably do if I strike out at a bar.

I pause, looking to my left and my right. No one’s around. It won’t be the first time I’ve hooked up in an alley, and the street’s quiet for now. I think of this one time when I got a blowjob from a cop while a rat watched from beside the dumpster.

I move into the darkness, smiling, my hand whispering across the faded denim of my crotch, already anticipating the buttons being undone.

 He gets on his knees as I draw closer.



It’s the summer of 1991 and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer has been arrested. His monstrous crimes inspire dread around the globe. But not so much for Emory Hughes, a closeted young man in Chicago who sees in the cannibal killer a kindred spirit, someone who fights against the dark side of his own nature, as Emory does. He reaches out to Dahmer in prison via letters.

The letters become an escape—from Emory’s mother dying from AIDS, from his uncaring sister, from his dead-end job in downtown Chicago, but most of all, from his own self-hatred.

Dahmer isn’t Emory’s only lifeline as he begins a tentative relationship with Tyler Kay. He falls for him and, just like Dahmer, wonders how he can get Tyler to stay. Emory’s desire for love leads him to confront his own grip on reality. For Tyler, the threat of the mild-mannered Emory seems inconsequential, but not taking the threat seriously is at his own peril.

Can Emory discover the roots of his own madness before it’s too late and he finds himself following in the footsteps of the man from Milwaukee?


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Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.


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Exclusive Excerpt: Drugged to Death: A Jamie Brodie Mystery (Jamie Brodie Mysteries Book 20) by Meg Perry


Kevin was reading the reports Jason Everly had sent. Jon, gloved, was tapping on the unidentified victim’s phone. Kevin asked, “What are you doing?”

“Testing PINs. That kid is somewhere between eighteen and thirty-five, right? With any luck, he was dumb enough to use his birth year as his PIN.”

Kevin scoffed. “No way.”

Jon tapped a few more times. “Way! One nine eight nine. Dumbass.”

“So…we may have a date of birth?”

“Maybe. Let’s see if we have a name.”

Kevin heard the ding of his email notification and turned to his computer. “Hey, here are the names of the task force.”

Jon was still intent on the dead kid’s phone. “Who?”

Kevin scanned the list. “This might not be so bad. Susan Portman’s in charge.”

Jon looked up in interest. “Seriously?”

Before her promotion to the LAPD’s elite Robbery-Homicide Unit, informally known as Homicide Special, Susan Portman was a long-time detective at Pacific Division. She and Jon were partnered there for a couple of years, until Jon transferred to West LA. Susan was an out lesbian whose career began well before the LAPD’s official welcome of LGBT cops. She was fearless. 

Kevin asked, “Isn’t Susan the noob at Homicide Special? Why would they give her a task force?”

“Maybe they’re testing her. In which case her response will be, ‘bring it on, motherfuckers.’ Who else is on the list?”

“Eric Padilla and Cody Mendoza.”

“Makes sense, since they’ve seen several of these cases.”

“Did you know that Eric used to date Jamie?”

“No, I did not. Padilla is gay? I had no idea.”

“Yeah. They met at a mystery bookstore.”

Jon snorted. “Figures. Who else?”

“Patrick Leong and another ER doc. Padmini Gupta. That’s it. First meeting is tomorrow morning at 8:30, at headquarters.”

“Maybe this won’t be so bad.”

“Maybe.” Kevin’s email dinged again. “Here’s a report from Adam Rabinowitz. The John Doe’s prints are not in the system. They’re searching through missing persons reports, but there are hundreds of possibles, so that’ll take a while. You finding anything?”

“Nothing but text messages. Put on your gloves and you can read ‘em.”

Kevin dug into a drawer for gloves then took the phone from Jon and read. The texts between Lane Swarthout and his co-victim began about four weeks before their deaths.

Is this Lane Swarthout?

Who wants to know?

Call me D. A mutual acquaintance said u want to be more productive.

YES. U can help?


Nothing permanent. Just for fall term. 

Sure. Got just the thing.

Not meth?

I don’t mess with that shit.

Good. What is it?

Something new. Harmless. When can u meet?

Tonight. Where?

Mission Dump Road. Turn south off Mulholland, go about 100 yards.

I’ll find it. 


CU then. Thx.

Bring cash.


Not so harmless, after all. The next text exchange began the following day, initiated by the mysterious D.

How’d you do?

AWESOME. Just like you said. 

Great. Happy customers R us.

It wore off after about six hours, tho. Can I take 2?

Not yet. Wait a week. Get used to it.

Damn. OK.


I will. Don’t wanna mess it up.

Good man.

That was it. Kevin handed the phone back to Jon. “I guess they made the rest of their arrangements in person.”

“Yeah.” Jon resealed the phone in its evidence bag and initialed the bag with Sharpie. “How do you suppose all those capsules ended up in Lane’s sofa? Lane was helping D. expand his customer base?”

“Sure. And I bet the two of them were trying to figure out how many they could safely take the night they died. Assuming the capsules in the sofa were what Lane and D. took. They may be something else.”

“God, I hope not.” Jon yawned. “What else do we need to do today?”

Kevin shook his head. “Autopsies are tomorrow, preliminary tox screens won’t be back until morning… I can’t think of anything else.”

“And we should probably wait until we meet with Susan and the task force before we try anything cute.”

Kevin laughed. “I don’t ever want to be on Susan’s bad side.”

Jon nodded sagely. “No, you do not. Trust me.”


Called out in the middle of the night.
Pete Ferguson’s call is from his sister; their dad has collapsed and is in intensive care. Pete flies to Tucson to be at his bedside. Jamie Brodie was already concerned for Pete’s emotional well-being, and his worries only grow each time he talks to Pete – who seems to be gradually falling apart.
Kevin Brodie’s call is from his boss, Tim Garcia; there’s been a double overdose at the Powell Library at UCLA. When the standard drug screens come back negative, Kevin and Jon Eckhoff go on the hunt to identify a new pharmaceutical killer.
When Kevin and Jon’s quest leads them in a direction they couldn’t have imagined, Jamie gets answers to some old questions, and is left with two more mysteries.
How is everything that’s happening in LA connected to New Mexico?
And will he and Pete make it through this crisis in one piece?

About Author Meg Perry

From Meg’s website:

“I’ve been writing the Jamie Brodie Mysteries since June 2012. Hard to believe! Jamie is (like me) an academic librarian. Not like me, he’s a gay man, a Rhodes Scholar, a rugby player, a son, brother, uncle…and boyfriend (eventually, husband). Jamie’s boyfriend (eventual husband) is psychology professor Pete Ferguson, and they share a townhouse in Santa Monica, CA.”

Exclusive Excerpt: FIRE ON THE ISLAND By Timothy Jay Smith

Exclusive Excerpt:

 “Smith offers the perfect blend of intrigue, romance, and travelogue.” – Publishers Weekly

Vassoula woke up in a lonely bed. It had been lonely since Omar disappeared. She couldn’t bring herself to say died or killed himself because she hoped that, despite how gruesomely the skinheads had cut him, he would miraculously come back to her whole again. In that fantasy she envisioned handsome and dancing the syrtaki better than any Greek, a black stubble generously shadowing his cheeks—his cheeks that went missing.

Omar. He had given her a life when he came into hers. Unless she married, she was destined to remain her wretched mother’s handmaiden; and Vassoula would have nothing to do with the local boys, certainly not enough to marry one. She was darker complected than the Vourvouliani, and the boys, starting in their teens, called her Gypsy bitch for not putting out. She was adopted, so they freely assigned to her any origin that they wanted, but Vassoula knew she wasn’t Gypsy. She was Turkish. A nun at the orphanage disliked her for it, and wanted to be rid of her enough not to mention it to prospective parents. Secretly, Vassoula reveled in her Turkishness. She nurtured it because it nurtured her to know she was different from the people who treated her so harshly, abusing her verbally—and otherwise, as some did eventually, before she was liberated from the orphanage’s form of incarceration to become a servant in another.

Ten years of mopping floors later, Omar arrived in Vourvoulos. Movie star handsome with dark moody eyes, clever and Turkish; she had conjured him many times, dreaming only of men like him when she gave pleasure to herself. Beyond that pleasure, she dreamt of a man to free her from servitude, not trade one enslaved situation for another. Instinctively, Omar understood that. His family, too, had suffered from discrimination for being Turkish, or certainly the consequences of it. Only after she moved in with him did he confess that his family had once lived on the island; an extended family, and prosperous when you added up all their land; land too rocky and scrubby for the Greeks to bother with, though their ancient ancestors had been the first to terrace it. It was those stony plots—sometimes no bigger than four strides long and two deep—that Omar’s peasant ancestors had worked, finding them sufficiently fecund to sustain their families.

All that ended with the Exchange, when the diaspora Turks and Greeks were forced to trade places, overnight becoming refugees in their own countries. Omar’s great grandparents left Vourvoulos with little more than their crying fifteen-year-old son—his grandfather—unable to understand why he had to lose all his friends, Greek and Turkish. Once back in Turkey, they’d never recreate their village no matter how much they would miss it, but instead would flee to relatives if they knew their whereabouts, or be shuffled off to temporary camps—as was Omar’s family—while a useless bureaucracy scrambled to do what little it could for the many tens of thousands like them. Omar’s grandfather, having just wished his boyhood Greek friends a forever farewell, had to do the same to his Turkish mates only a few hours later when their boat made its landing in what still stood of Smyrna.

Though the fires that destroyed the legendary city had been put out, a charred smell hung heavily in the air. On the docks, hucksters and shysters descended on the refugees even as government agents shunted them into buses to take them to a camp—equally rife with hucksters and shysters. Thus began decades of poverty inflicted on Omar’s family starting before he was born. All his growing-up years, he heard reminisces of their lost island: its fresh air, azure sea, and wild lavender roses—a sharp contrast to their stuffy apartment in a shanty neighborhood of sprawling Istanbul.

Omar had simply appeared in Vourvoulos one day, not ten Greek words in his head, and soon became the curiosity of the village. Turks rarely visited the tiny village, and still fewer stayed for more than a night or two, but Omar rented a room for a month, letting his landlady know that he would likely keep it longer. He only did the usual things tourists do—hike in the hills, swim in the sea, learn the four-syllable Greek word for thanks—but that didn’t stop rumors from spreading that he was trafficking drugs or might be a white slaver. Certainly, he was up to no good; no Turk ever had been. Omar, though, was undaunted. At once, he was enamored with the mythical lost island of his storied childhood, and equally glad to escape the grinding conditions back home. He had no intention of leaving.

Omar kept it a secret that his family had lived there for generations. If it were known, he worried it would only stir up fears that he had returned to reclaim property or seek revenge, when he wanted neither. He wanted the idyllic life described from afar, not hardscrabble Istanbul, which was becoming more unbearable under the growing power of intolerant imams. By age twenty-five, he’d made the decision not to spend the rest of his life kowtowing to men who dressed their women in sacks, forbade everyone simple pleasures, and governed through fear. Fending off his mother’s relentless efforts to get him married, he waited tables in two restaurants, earning excellent tips because of his extraordinary good looks. By the time he was thirty, he had saved enough money that he wouldn’t arrive in Greece a penniless refugee, but an immigrant able to sustain himself until he found a way to make a living. He’d gambled and he won.

The risks Omar could not have anticipated were the threats posed by Greece’s internal turmoil, especially its Depression-era economy giving rise to a fascist insurgency. Or so Vassoula was mulling over that morning, after rousing herself from her lonely bed to sip coffee on the terrace, perched high over the village with a clear shot of the long beach stretching into the distance until it melded with the coastline. That view had once brought her such joy, not only for its beauty, but for what it represented: her second escape, and the first into an unexpected freedom. Her first escape had been from the orphanage, the second from her adoptive servitude. She had escaped into Omar’s liberating arms, holding her on that terrace through long talks she had never imagined possible; and when they felt like making love outdoors, they did.

She could almost see him again, walking down that long beach, becoming a speck before turning back. He worked hard, he partied hard, he loved hard—and he needed time alone. He needed a time not to talk to anybody, though he talked to himself, gesticulating and working out whatever needed working out. He did that most mornings while other village men gathered in the kafeneios for their first coffee. Initially Vassoula was suspicious of Omar’s need to be alone, and spied on him through the binoculars, watching him approach Poustis Point because it was there that her father loitered; and sometimes it was there where Omar turned back, but not always, not if he was having a particularly troubling conversation with himself. But never once did he disappear out of sight too long to be accused of her father’s sort of sordid absence.

The morning when it happened, their lovemaking had been especially tender. Only the night before, they had decided to have a baby, and made love then, too. When Omar left for his walk, she felt a special longing—a worried hollowness—and took the binoculars from the cupboard. She knew his body language better than her own and easily spotted him.

Omar, distracted by the conversation with himself, approached Poustis Point. She saw the skinheads before he did. Three of them hovering in the rocks, conferring and planning their attack. Turn back! she wanted to shout. Stop talking to yourself and look up! But her voice would never carry that far.

She saw everything that happened.

She even knew what was said because Omar survived to repeat it.

“Do you have a cigarette?” a skinhead asked.

“I am sorry. I do not smoke.”

“Maybe the problem is, your cigarettes are wet.”

Vassoula saw Omar tip his head questioningly.

“I am sorry. I do not understand.”

“Maybe you help your friends swim across.”

“I do not swim here. I walk here.”

“Did you hear that, guys? He walked here.”

“Then he must’ve walked on water,” a second skinhead scoffed. “With his accent, he wasn’t born here.”

The third added, “He’s probably a Turkish cocksucker.”

“Is that why you’re out here? Hoping to get your cock sucked?”

“Probably by a refugee.”

“Or do you suck theirs?”

The skinheads laughed.

Omar sensed he was in trouble. “I don’t understand.”

“Hear that guys? He doesn’t understand. What can we do to make him understand?”

“I go home,” he said, and pointed to the village. “My wife waits for me.”

Vassoula saw him point. Come back! she was screaming inside.

“You should never have left home,” sneered the first skinhead. “None of your filth should’ve.”

“I go back now.”

Omar turned and took a couple of steps.

“Not so fast,” the first skinhead said. When Omar didn’t stop, he barked, “Hey!”

Omar paused.

Just keep walking! Vassoula begged.

“I’m not finished with you.”

Omar faced the skinhead. “My wife waits for me.”

He turned away again.

The skinhead signaled, and his two pals ran up and grabbed him. Omar struggled to defend himself, but together they managed to wrench his arms behind him.

The first skinhead approached him, menacing him with a knife.

Vassoula, seeing it flash in the morning sun, was going mad. Please God, no! No!

He kicked at the skinhead, who laughed, and stepped around him and put the blade to his throat. “Please don’t,” Omar begged.

“Fucking. Faggot. Filth. Feeding the refugees then fucking them. There’s probably some Arab greasing up his asshole waiting for you behind the rocks.”

“My wife is waiting for me.”

“Fucking bitch is going to wish you never came home.”

Vassoula, through the binoculars, couldn’t make out what happened next. She saw the skinhead flick his knife twice, each time tossing something to the seagulls on the beach. Then they released Omar and his hands instinctively covered his face. For a moment, she thought they had cut out his eyes; and later remembering that first thought, she would wonder if it might not have been more merciful than letting him see his own ruined face.

At that moment, though, she wasn’t thinking of anything except saving Omar, and flew out of the house. “HELP! HELP! Omar’s been stabbed! Help!” she never stopped crying as she flung herself down the village path. A dozen people trailed after her, looking past her wild hair to Omar stumbling toward them. For Vassoula, the blood seeping through his fingers glistened so bright red that the rest of the world turned gray.

They stopped, only feet apart. Vassoula could see they hadn’t cut out his eyes, but what the skinheads had done would forever haunt them. Omar would never see anything the same again. He certainly would never be looked at in the same admiring way.

His eyes pleaded for help as he lowered his hands.

Hers expressed horror when he did.

His knees buckled and he collapsed.

Four men ran up and grabbed his arms and legs to haul him cumbersomely back to the village. Another two trotted alongside, stripped of their shirts that they pressed to his slain cheeks to stem the blood. Vassoula stumbled after them, too shocked by what she had seen to believe it possible; and yet there was Omar, being toted in front of her, the tagalong women ululating their distress as if he had already died. He wouldn’t, not then. He would survive to live a freak’s hell.

That morning, longing for Omar, anguish overwhelmed her. Only thirty years old and doomed to be in mourning for the rest of her life. She couldn’t imagine anyone after Omar. When the skinheads cut away his cheeks, they cut out her heart, and when Omar committed suicide, he killed her, too. She sobbed, wanting the life that had been stolen from them, preferring to join him in death than endure a life without him.

The cats, risking her swift kicks, rubbed against Vassoula’s legs to remind her that they wanted to be fed. She stomped her foot to scatter them and went back inside. Opening the kibble bag sent them into a zigzagging frenzy between her feet, and that time she did kick at them. “Go away!” she cried, and hurled kibble at them, which they dodged before darting around to scarf it down. “I hate you! God I hate you!” she screamed while throwing more handfuls at them. Her laughter was seeded with madness as the animals cowered under the furniture to eat the pellets that rolled there.

Takis walked in and saw the kibble on the floor. “I see you fed the cats.”

“They were hungry.”

“They’re always hungry in the morning.”

“What did you eat for breakfast? Cock?”

“Don’t start.”

“You should never have gone to Australia. Look what it turned you into.”

“I was always like this.”

“You’re going to end up just like father, hiding behind rocks to have sex.”

“No I’m not. I’m going back to Australia where I don’t have to hide behind rocks to have sex. Why did you hate him so much? Didn’t you feel sorry for him at all?”

“He was pathetic. He settled for Zeeta because he’d been caught doing something with another man one time. He didn’t try to explain it away as a youthful experiment or some drunken mistake. Or that he’d been seduced against his will. Over one incident, he settled for her, for a nothing life. What kind of man is that?”

“A gay man in Greece,” Takis answered. “Most of them end up unhappily married. Sometimes you forget that he rescued us from the orphanage. They both did.”

“I don’t forget. I only wish they had been different parents.”

He poured kibble into a bowl, which brought the cats running. “They were who they were.”

“Neither one of them had a life, especially him, because of your kind of love.”

“You’re as bad as the rest,” Takis said. “What kind of life could he have had? He was never going to have a relationship with a man. Not a real one.”

“Is Nick the right man for you?”

“Yeah, only he doesn’t live in Melbourne.”

“I didn’t know there were types, only faggots.”

“Okay, he is a faggot, if that’s the word you want to use. He’s also an FBI agent,” Takis boasted.


“The American police.”

“I know what FBI is.”

“So he’s not a faggot in the way you think.”

“He must be investigating the fires,” Vassoula suggested. “Why else would he be here?”

“He says he’s writing a book.”

“Be careful what you say to him.”

“What are you talking about?”

“He might try to make a connection to you. In fact, he might have come looking for you.”


“Why do you think?”




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Twitter:  @timothyjaysmith



For lovers of crime fiction and the allure of the Greek islands, Fire on the Island is the perfect summer read. 

** “Smith offers the perfect blend of intrigue, romance, and travelogue.”
Publishers Weekly ** 

FIRE ON THE ISLAND is a playful, romantic thriller set in contemporary Greece, with a gay Greek-American FBI agent, who is undercover on the island to investigate a series of mysterious fires. Set against the very real refugee crisis on the beautiful, sun-drenched Greek islands, this novel paints a loving portrait of a community in crisis. As the island residents grapple with declining tourism, poverty, refugees, family feuds, and a perilously damaged church, an arsonist invades their midst.

Nick Damigos, the FBI agent, arrives on the island just in time to witness the latest fire and save a beloved truffle-sniffing dog. Hailed as a hero and embraced by the community, Nick finds himself drawn to Takis, a young bartender who becomes his primary suspect, which is a problem because they’re having an affair. Theirs is not the only complicated romance in the community and Takis isn’t the only suspicious character on the island. The priest is an art forger, a young Albanian waiter harbors a secret, the captain of the coast guard station seems to have his own agenda, and the village itself hides a violent history. Nick has to unravel the truth in time to prevent catastrophe, as he comes to terms with his own past trauma. In saving the village, he will go a long way toward saving himself.

A long time devotee of the Greek islands, Smith paints the setting with gorgeous color and empathy, ushering in a new romantic thriller with the charm of  Zorba the Greek while shedding bright light on the very real challenges of life in contemporary Greece.

More about Author Timothy Jay Smith

Raised crisscrossing America pulling a small green trailer behind the family car, Timothy Jay Smith developed a ceaseless wanderlust that has taken him around the world many times. En route, he’s found the characters that people his work. Polish cops and Greek fishermen, mercenaries and arms dealers, child prostitutes and wannabe terrorists, Indian Chiefs and Indian tailors: he’s hung with them all in an unparalleled international career that saw him smuggle banned plays from behind the Iron Curtain, maneuver through Occupied Territories, represent the U.S. at the highest levels of foreign governments, and stowaway aboard a ‘devil’s barge’ for a three-day crossing from Cape Verde that landed him in an African jail.

Tim brings the same energy to his writing that he brought to a distinguished career, and as a result, he has won top honors for his novels, screenplays and stage plays in numerous prestigious competitions. Fire on the Island won the Gold Medal in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition for the Novel (for unpublished novels), and his screenplay adaptation of it was named Best Indie Script by WriteMovies. Another novel, The Fourth Courier, set in Poland, published in 2019 by Arcade Publishing, was a finalist for Best Gay Novel in the 2020 Lambda Literary Awards. Previously, he won the Paris Prize for Fiction (now the Paris Literary Prize) for his novel, A Vision of Angels. Kirkus Reviews called Cooper’s Promise “literary dynamite” and selected it as one of the Best Books of 2012. 

Tim was nominated for the 2018 Pushcart Prize. His stage play, How High the Moon, won the prestigious Stanley Drama Award, and his screenplays have won competitions sponsored by the American Screenwriters Association, WriteMovies, Houston WorldFest, Rhode Island International Film Festival, Fresh Voices, StoryPros, and the Hollywood Screenwriting Institute. He is the founder of the Smith Prize for Political Theater.

Exclusive Excerpt from Three Wrong Turns in the Desert by Neil Plakcy

Exclusive Excerpt:

As Aidan unlocked the front door Liam said, “Not bad. Though I expected you to be staying in a hotel.”

The tiny, metal-grilled elevator had been out of service since Aidan had moved in, so they climbed the two flights to his apartment. Aidan’s pulse was racing, all thoughts of the dead man in the street gone. He imagined how quickly he and Liam would strip their clothes off, how good it would feel to be in the big man’s arms, how much he wanted to kiss those full, dry lips.

The skinny brown dog was lying in front of Aidan’s door, as she had been every time he’d come home since he moved in. He wondered if she had lived with whoever had the apartment before him, or if she’d adopted him as a soft touch.

“Your dog?” Liam asked, as Aidan bent down to scratch behind her ears, and she rolled over.

“I guess. I feed her, and she sleeps with me, but she’s on her own during the day.”

“Dogs are good,” Liam said. “She bark?”

“Don’t know,” Aidan said, opening the door.

Liam’s cell phone rang as they walked inside, and he stepped over to the French doors that led out to a narrow balcony to take the call. While he did so, Aidan pulled bottles of cold water from the half-size refrigerator. He poured some water into a bowl for the dog, and she lapped it up eagerly.

His dick strained against his shorts and he felt trapped by his T-shirt. He was ready to strip naked and offer himself up to Liam as soon as the big man got off the phone.

As Aidan returned to the living room, Liam snapped his phone shut and looked at him. “Who the fuck are you?” he asked.

Aidan’s romantic fantasies evaporated in an instant. They had been too foolish to come true anyway, he thought.

What kind of mental case was this guy? First the take-charge attitude, now this about-face to anger. And Aidan had done the stupidest thing imaginable. He’d brought this stranger back to his apartment. This was what being out of the dating pool did; it dulled your senses, let you get caught up in a moment too easily. You wasted your time on fantasy when you should have been alert.

Aidan remembered a personal safety training course he’d taken at one of the colleges where he’d taught. If a student became angry or violent, you had to talk to him calmly, try to defuse the tension.

“I’m sorry. I guess I never told you my name. Aidan Greene. I’m from Philadelphia, and I just got to Tunis three days ago. I start teaching ESL at the École International on Monday.”

“Fuck me,” Liam said, but from the tone of his voice Aidan could tell it was an expletive rather than an invitation. “No chance you’re also a courier from New York planning to head out into the desert? Go by the alias Charles Carlucci?”

“I think you should go,” Aidan said, trying to keep the tremors out of his voice. He walked over to the door and put his hand on the knob. “I won’t say anything or do anything. I promise. Just don’t hurt me.”

Liam looked disgusted. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he said. “I’m a bodyguard, and I thought you were my client.” He stood framed in the bright glare from the French doors.

Light cascaded off his perfect body, and Aidan could see his square chest under the loose vest. He even thought he could make out the shadow of a semi-erect dick beneath the loose cotton of Liam’s shorts.

Aidan stepped toward Liam. The light in the living room was beautiful, dazzling and slightly yellow. Behind Liam, through the French doors, Aidan saw sunlight glinting off the dome of the Zitouna mosque. In the distance he heard a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer.

“You always meet your clients in bars?”

“This one was twitchy. He wanted to meet me on my turf. Didn’t trust anybody.” He grimaced. “Turns out he was right. That must have been him who got shot in front of the bar.”

Aidan was confused. “Then you’re not gay?”

Liam snorted. “What the hell does that have to do with the situation?” He looked at Aidan, and then burst into laughter. “You thought I…” He laughed again.

Aidan thought he would fall through the floor with embarrassment. What a fool he’d been to consider that this god of a man was gay—and interested in him. Not only had Blake betrayed him—now he knew for a fact that he couldn’t even trust his own body, his own instincts. Look at how he’d narrowly escaped danger the day before, running from those boys.

He needed to lock himself up in his apartment, play with the dog and teach his students, and shut down everything else. “Thank you very much for that charming opinion of my sexual attractiveness,” he said. “And now, like I said before, I think you should leave.”

Before Aidan realized Liam was moving, the big bodyguard was right next to him, his arms wrapped around Aidan, his lips on Aidan’s lips.

Aidan hadn’t kissed anyone but Blake in years, and it had been a long time since Blake had really kissed him. Liam’s lips were chapped, and his beard was rough, but there was such passion in the kiss that Aidan’s head spun. With his big hands, Liam pulled Aidan close, their bodies meshed together, and Aidan felt the smooth leather of Liam’s vest, the heat rising from his bare chest.

Aidan understood the meaning of the word swoon. He felt light on his feet, his heart racing, all sensation gathered at those points where his body met Liam’s. Inhaling Liam’s lavender scent, mixed with sweat and musk. Those lips! Pressed against his own, at first confused, now yielding, his mouth opening a little against the assault. Liam’s arms wrapped around him, pulling their bodies close.


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More About author, Neil Plakcy

Neil Plakcy has written or edited over three dozen novels and short stories in mystery, romance and erotica. To research the Angus Green series, he participated in the FBI’s sixteen-week citizen’s academy, practiced at a shooting range, and visited numerous gay bars in Fort Lauderdale. (Seriously, it was research.)

He is an assistant professor of English at Broward College in South Florida, and has been a construction manager, a computer game producer, and a web developer – all experiences he uses in his fiction. His website is