Exclusive Excerpt: The Mystery of the Moving Image (Snow & Winter Book 3) by C.S. Poe

Excerpt:

The kid finally shoved by me and made his way through the aisles toward the door. Calvin saw the push and looked at me, but I shook my head and waved my hand in a shooing motion.

Calvin moved aside, watched the brat storm out, and then joined me. “Who was that?” he asked, leaning down briefly to remove Dillon’s leash.

“The Future.”

He gave me an amused smile. “I see the inclination toward enjoying the company of our country’s youth skips a generation in your family.” He kissed me. “Why’d you call me here?”

“I like you.”

“Nice try.”

“You know how there’s no statute of limitation on murder?”

Calvin reached up to massage his temple. “It was my day off.”

“Look at this.” I tapped the Kinetoscope. “This is an Edison Kinetoscope.”

“Are we talking Thomas Edison?” Calvin crossed his arms, and his biceps flexed and bulged and… distracted.

“Uh—huh. Yeah. That’s the guy.” I looked at the cabinet. “But there was no contact information from the owner inside the crate. No documentation, letter—not even a postcard.”

“I’ve yet to see the correlation between a piece of furniture and murder.”

“It’s a movie viewer,” I corrected. “And—you’re absolutely certain it’s not for you?”

He gave me a critical look.

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“Maybe someone sent you a really morbid birthday present?” I suggested. Not that I sincerely thought it was a gift, but Calvin did work homicide and he was going to be forty-three this Friday. And it had been established how susceptible the Emporium seemed to be to death and mayhem since the two of us met.

“No one would send me an Edison Kinetoscope. What is this about?”

I let out a heavy breath. “It came with a reel of film. It still works, Max and I watched it. It’s the final round of the Leonard-Cushing fight of 1894. It’s not supposed to exist, by all accounts.”

“And did Leonard kill Cushing?” Calvin asked dryly.

No.” I paused for a beat. “Someone else died, though.”

“It’s a movie.”

“Not—no, the murder isn’t part of the film, Cal. Someone spliced two scenes together. It’s not staged or fake. A man actually died and someone recorded it.” I turned the Kinetoscope on and tugged Calvin close. “Watch it.”

With a sigh, he relaxed his arms and leaned over the peephole to watch the scene. I waited, anxiously studying Calvin’s body posture as the seconds ticked by. Louis Armstrong projected from the shop speakers, Max was chatting up customers, and Dillon wove around this and that across the showroom. When enough time had passed that Calvin would surely have reached the outdoor scene, I noticed his jaw tense. And that was the only reaction I needed to authenticate what I too had seen.

“So?” I asked, for the sake of nicety. Calvin straightened and looked at me. “It’s real, isn’t it?”

“Seb—”

“I told you.”

“Don’t get carried away,” Calvin chastised. “We don’t know anything—when or where or—”

“Mid-1890s. It was filmed relatively close to the same period as the boxing match.”

“How can you tell?”

“The frame rates match, they were both shot with a Kinetograph camera, the film itself was precut—”

“All right,” Calvin interrupted, holding up a hand. “We still don’t even know where this occurred. It could be any city in America that had a camera in the 1800s.”

I looked at the Kinetoscope briefly. “It’s New York—the Flatiron site.”

Calvin narrowed his eyes.

“Before the Flatiron Building actually existed.”

He was quiet, scrubbing his face with one hand. “Sweetheart… how the hell do you know that?” Calvin asked in such a calm, polite tone, it was nearly comical.

“You can sort of see the triangle shape of Fifth Avenue and Broadway in the background,” I explained. “The illumination just out of frame—a man named Amos Eno owned the property until his death in 1899, and he used to project images from a magic lantern onto a canvas screen hung from a shorter building. It was used for advertisements, news bulletins, and even election results.”

Calvin didn’t say anything.

I smiled.

He put an arm around my shoulders, drew me close, and asked, “Anything else I should know?”

“The phrase ‘twenty-three skidoo’ likely originated from the Flatiron’s Twenty-Third Street location.”

“Why’s that?”

“It’s a windy corner. It was suggested that men would stick around the Flatiron to watch women’s skirts get blown up so they could catch some hot ankle action.”

“Of course.”

“Police would have to chase them away.”

“Perverts.”

“Hence, twenty-three skidoo,” I concluded.

Calvin smiled and lowered his arm.

“What’re we going to do about the—” I paused when a customer walked by us. “M-u-r-d-e-r?” I spelled out.

“Nothing.”

“No, not nothing,” I answered.

“That’s about all that can be done, Seb.”

“I know a thing or two about handling evidence in a homicide,” I pointed out. Not that I was a detective or had a degree in forensics, but my ex-partner, Neil Millett, worked for the Crime Scene Unit of the NYPD. Four years of “tell me about your day” had taught me some. Like for example, there were records kept on homicides, even in the 1800s. And if it was an unsolved crime, that evidence was to remain in police possession until the cold case was a closed case.

“You know a thing or two about most everything,” Calvin replied simply. “Which is why it makes it next to impossible to argue that you’re wrong.”

“This is one of those moments I’m not sure if you’re complimenting me or not.”

“Who’s to say this wasn’t solved a long time ago?” I stared at the Kinetoscope. Call it one of my hunches, but I suspected that wasn’t the case. Surely the evidence on film would have been used, even then, to catch the murderer. And after the crime was solved, it would have likely been destroyed by the police. Instead, over 120 years later, the footage was shipped to a moonlighting sleuth.

No explanation.

No reason.

No nothing.

“But what if it wasn’t solved?” I countered.

Calvin crossed his arms again. “The oldest evidence I’ve heard of being held by homicide detectives only went back to 1909. And that was in the ’20s, before complaints of sanitary conditions and limited space were taken into consideration.”

“How do you know that?”

“Hi, I’m Calvin Winter,” he stated, reaching a hand out to shake mine. “I’ve been an officer of the NYPD for ten years.”

“I’m ignoring the sarcasm only because I’m incredibly turned on by you spouting random facts at me,” I answered.

Calvin smirked. “I’ll remember that.”

I looked around the Emporium, did a quick headcount of customers, and made sure Max wasn’t inundated at the counter, before saying to Calvin, “So there wouldn’t be a forgotten box somewhere in the Property Clerk’s Office?” I tried.

Calvin shook his head. “There’s very little, in terms of cold cases, prior to the 1990s.”

“Why?”

He shrugged. “A lot of reasons. Fires, auctions, improper storage and disposal… take your pick.”

“It feels wrong to not do something about it,” I said.

And thankfully Calvin agreed. “I know.”

“Maybe I’ll call the shipping company.”

“Seb—”

“Hey, as far as I am concerned, I’m being held responsible for the condition of the Kinetoscope,” I said quickly. “I need to find the owner.”

“But that’s all,” Calvin answered with a touch of reluctance. “Okay?”

“Okay,” I echoed.

“If I get a call from an irate clerk at the property office this afternoon, we’re going to have words.”

Blurb:

Snow & Winter: Book Three

It’s summer in New York City, and antique shop owner Sebastian Snow is taking the next big step in his relationship with NYPD homicide detective, Calvin Winter: they’re moving in together. What should have been a wonderful week of playing house and celebrating Calvin’s birthday comes to an abrupt end when a mysterious package arrives at the Emporium.

Inside is a Thomas Edison Kinetoscope, a movie viewer from the nineteenth century, invented by the grandfather of modern cinema, W. K. L. Dickson. And along with it, footage of a murder that took place over a hundred years ago.

Sebastian resists the urge to start sleuthing, even if the culprit is long dead and there’s no apparent danger. But break-ins at the Emporium, a robbery, and dead bodies aren’t as easy to ignore, and Sebastian soon realizes that the century-old murder will lead him to a modern-day killer.

However, even with Sebastian’s vast knowledge of Victorian America and his unrelenting perseverance in the face of danger, this may be the one mystery he won’t survive.

FREE DRAWING!

Author C.S. Poe has graciously offered a chance for one member to WIN a FREE e-book copy of (your choice) in the Snow & Winter mystery series (in either mobi, Epub, or PDF format).

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To enter the FREE drawing for Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Facebook group members only, send your name, email address to Jon Michaelsen via Facebook Messenger.

The Winner will be announced on Friday, October 5th @ 8pm EDT. Stay Tuned!

Learn more about author C.S. Poe and her amazing thrillers; 

C.S. Poe is a Lambda Literary and EPIC award finalist author of gay mystery, romance, and paranormal books.

She is a reluctant mover and has called many places home in her lifetime. C.S. has lived in New York City, Key West, and Ibaraki, Japan, to

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name a few. She misses the cleanliness, convenience, and limited-edition gachapon of Japan, but she was never very good at riding bikes to get around.

​She has an affinity for all things cute and colorful and a major weakness for toys. C.S. is an avid fan of coffee, reading, and cats. She’s rescued two cats—Milo and Kasper do their best on a daily basis to sidetrack her from work.

​C.S. is a member of the International Thriller Writers organization.

Her debut novel, The Mystery of Nevermore, was published by DSP Publications, 2016.

Exclusive Excerpt: The Mysteries of the Curiosities (Snow & Winter Book 2) by C.S. Poe

Excerpt:

I’m the first person to understand that murder isn’t great for business.

So the fact that, before I knew it, museum security had ushered patrons out, suspicious old me had been forbidden to leave, and the director had escorted Calvin and Quinn across the massive room, more or less imploring the NYPD to make it quick and get the hell out, was not any surprise to me.

No one wants a dead exotic dancer to outshine the newest dinosaur exhibit.

Bad for donations, I imagine.

Calvin stopped several feet away from me, put a hand on his hip, and ushered me over with one snap of his wrist.

I stepped away from the nearby display I had been planted at while waiting. “I only found her,” I said, reaching his side.

Calvin set both hands on his hips. “What did I tell you?” he whispered. “I told you to go to your father’s. This is not there. What the hell are you doing here?”

“I got another note after leaving the precinct,” I whispered back, rather loudly. “It had this address, so I decided to come. It’s a public place—what was going to happen to me?”

“The same thing that happened to this woman,” Calvin said.

“Well, it didn’t,” I answered stupidly, crossing my arms. “I’m fine.”

Calvin pinched the bridge of his nose. “Sebastian, how did you not learn the first time? How many different ways to do I have to tell you how suspicious you look in these situations?”

“Oh, please,” I hissed. “She’s been dead at least twelve hours. I’ve got alibis for days.”

“And if you keep popping up every time a dead person does, sooner or later you will be seen as a convenient suspect.”

“I don’t even know these people. I have no motive,” I argued.

Calvin raised a finger to silence me. “Motive isn’t important. One person’s reason to kill may not be understood, but it was sound enough for them in the moment.”

I groaned and dropped my head down. “For fuck’s sake, Calvin. Fine. My bad, okay?”

“My bad?” he echoed, voice deep and very much not amused.

“Not the time or the place, gentlemen,” Quinn finally said. “Calvin caught me up on all this shit,” she continued, looking up at me. “What was this new note?”

I reached into my pocket and removed the paper. “I stopped on my street to see—everything. Someone threw a brick at me. And no, I didn’t see who.”

Quinn took the paper, and Calvin read it over her shoulder.

“With this address and the mention of the whale, I thought it must have been talking about that guy.” I motioned above us. “But obviously I got here and there was nothing. I almost left until I remembered this display here. It’s a sperm whale.”

“Yes, fascinating,” Quinn remarked.

“Sort of. Squids and sperm whales are—”

“Focus, Seb,” Calvin muttered.

I huffed and turned to point at the display. “So I came over here and found a newspaper clipping.” I held it up next. “It’s an original, I think. It’s one of P.T. Barnum’s ads for his Feejee Mermaid.”

“That’s the second time you’ve mentioned Barnum,” Quinn said.

“Uh, I guess that’s true,” I said when I recalled my mention of the bricks and the story of Barnum’s unique advertising. “There’s another note on the back.” I turned it around for both detectives to see. “That’s when I saw Meredith.”

Calvin glanced up from the note, narrowing his eyes. “Meredith?”

“She goes by Crystal. A dancer, I think. I called the number on the business card in her purse.”

Calvin took a breath and raised his hands, sort of like he wanted to strangle me, but Quinn took his jacket sleeve and tugged him away to look at the body.

I pulled my phone out once I was alone again. I was supposed to solve the murder. Not that I wanted to win a prize, but anything learned could bring us one step closer to catching a mistake this maniac made and taking them down before another person could be hurt. I pulled up the web browser and briefly checked out Ricky’s online presence. Lots of scantily clad ladies and dubious use of Photoshop. It didn’t look like anything particularly special—one gentlemen’s club is like all the others.

I tried searching for any news related to the club. Maybe there was some dirt on the owner, or bad blood between rival businesses. If I lived anywhere else, I’d say that was ridiculous, that this poor woman just got jumped and the tragedy was that there was no reason for her death, but I live in New York City and last Christmas I was stalked by a guy who planted a heart under the floorboards of my store.

Anything is possible.

Nothing of any particular interest was showing up in Google’s news feed for Ricky’s, other than some sizzling winter ball they’d had in January.

I looked over at the group of police and a few museum personnel. Calvin had climbed into the display and was looking down at Meredith. I squinted—it was hard to see his expression from where I was. But Calvin had certain ticks I had begun picking up on in his posture that helped me understand his mood when it was difficult to read his face. And I think he was surprised just then, because he had a hand over his mouth, rubbing his jaw.

That was interesting to me.

Did Calvin know her?

Not personally, of course. He may have been in the closet until recently, but I knew Calvin wasn’t one for lap dances from ladies either. Now I would certainly sit on his lap and show him a good time, but I drew the line at putting on glitter.

“Fuck,” I murmured to myself, because now I had the image in my head of me naked, riding Calvin’s cock, and having the greatest of times, and that was so not what I should be thinking about at a murder scene. “Get it together,” I muttered.

I caught a uniformed officer glancing at me in confusion.

I squared my shoulders and took an extra second to look at Calvin as a professional, and not my unbelievably gorgeous boyfriend, which was admittedly a little hard to do. He was saying something to Quinn, who appeared to agree with him. Maybe Meredith had been on the wrong side of the law before. But if Calvin knew her, it had definitely been serious. A suspect in a murder case?

I looked down at my phone again and tried a few keywords that included Meredith, Ricky’s, and murder. I found exactly what I was hoping for, third link down on the list. NYC Exotic Dancer Suspect in Daughter’s Death. That didn’t paint Meredith in a particularly good light. I clicked the link and expanded the page to better read the text. It was a case from two years ago, led by the recently promoted Detective Calvin Winter. DNA evidence had been incorrectly handled at the scene and was unusable in laboratory testing. Meredith’s alibis had apparently been suspicious, but her boss had backed her statement, and Calvin had ultimately ended up with no legal way to prove she had bludgeoned her teen daughter to death.

“Calvin!” I called out, and when a few officers looked at me, I followed up with, “I mean, Detective Winter. Could you come here?”

Calvin got out of the display and walked toward me. “What?” he asked in a low tone.

I held out my phone. “This is the same lady, isn’t it?”

He looked at the article. “Yes. How did you find this?”

I shrugged. “Seemed like she was familiar to you.”

Calvin’s mouth formed a tight line and he gave my phone back. “It’s a cold case. Not enough evidence to convict her, but everyone knew she did it.”

“The note said I had to prove the murder.”

Calvin raised a hand to stop me. “No.”

“But—”

“No. Stop right now, Seb.”

“But what if it leads us one step closer to who did this? You’re going to ignore that chance to stop this person?”

“I’m not, no. But you are.”

“Like hell.”

Calvin took a long breath. “We’re not having this argument again. Plant your ass on your father’s couch and stay out of trouble.”

“It seems pretty suspicious to me that one of your cold case suspects was murdered,” I said without regard to Calvin’s statement. “What about someone seeking revenge? The daughter’s father, maybe? A friend? Did the daughter have a boyfriend? Someone who would want to bring closure. Someone who clearly knew the mother was guilty.”

“I know how to do my job,” Calvin retorted.

“I didn’t say you couldn’t. I’m just trying to work this out.”

“Sebastian, what’s your degree in?” Calvin interrupted.

“My what?”

“Degree.”

“Uh… fine art.”

“Not criminal justice?”

“I get it,” I stated, crossing my arms.

“No, you don’t,” he said before taking another breath. “Baby, I know you’re smart. I know you’ve got a knack for figuring this shit out. You don’t have to prove it to me.”

“I’m not trying to—”

“This is dangerous. Do you not remember what happened last time?”

All too well, actually. And the guilt hit me like a truck out of control on a freeway. If Calvin ever got hurt again because of my own stupidity, I don’t know what I’d do with myself.

It was painful to swallow. I stared at my shoes. “Sorry,” I whispered.

“I only want you to be safe,” Calvin said after a beat. “If—If your expertise were ever required for me to solve a case, I’d call on them.”

That made me look up. “You would?”

“Yeah.”

“Not that you expect to ever need someone skilled in trinkets from Victorian America to solve a murder.”

“You helped with Tamerlane,” Calvin pointed out.

“I guess.”

“Seb, I don’t want anyone questioning your involvement in this. You understand that, right?”

I nodded. I was done arguing. I hated fighting with him. I really did. I loved Calvin too much to bicker, especially when he was right and I was wrong and I knew that from the start.

But the urge to put the mystery to bed myself was still overwhelming. Maybe I did subconsciously crave some sort of way to prove I was smart. That I was clever. Useful, even. That what I did with my life made a difference, like Calvin’s.

Jesus. I needed a hug or something.

“Can I wait at your place tonight?” I asked.

“I’m going to be working—”

“Come home,” I insisted. “Please?”

Someone from behind called my name, and we both turned.

“N-Neil?” I heard myself stutter.

Neil stood a few feet away, holding a forensic kit in one hand. “Why are you here?” he asked me.

“Uh… getting into trouble. Per usual.”

Neil looked at Calvin. “Detective Winter,” he said coolly.

“Millett,” Calvin said with a nod.

This wasn’t awkward at all.

What were the chances my ex would be the CSU detective assigned to collect evidence?

Someone roll the week back to Monday. I demand a do-over.

I cleared my throat. “Has it gotten sufficiently uncomfortable?”

“Yes,” Neil answered.

“Okay, good. I’m leaving now,” I answered.

“I’ll have an officer drive you,” Calvin said. “To my place.”

I caught the sour look that took over Neil’s face. “Thanks,” I answered.

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Exclusive Excerpt: The Mystery of Nevermore (Snow & Winter Book One) by C.S. Poe

Blurb: 

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.

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Exclusive excerpt

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.”

“Doing what?”

“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.

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