Atmosphere (The Blake Harte Mysteries Book 9) by Robert Innes

Excerpt

“Tell me about the woman.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Well, what does she look like?”

Blake Harte leaned back in his chair and stared up at the ceiling with a sigh.

“Old. She was an old woman. White hair, wrinkled face, shrivelled up old mouth.”

“And it’s the exact same woman from the events we spoke about when you were a child?”

Linda Forrest scribbled something onto her clipboard and then looked back up at Blake.

“Yes,” replied Blake. “It’s the same woman from when I was a kid because it’s the same nightmare I’ve had ever since I was a kid.”

Linda nodded as she continued writing. “And when these dreams started again, how long had it been since the last one?”

“When I was at university, quite a few years ago.”

“And since then?”

Blake clasped his hands together in his lap and wrung them together slightly. He absolutely hated discussing the nightmares in such detail as this.

“Since I had the first one a few months ago, I’ve been experiencing them at least once a week. Sometimes twice. I even had one last night and apparently I woke up my partner, because I was crying out, which is impressive as normally he can sleep through an earthquake.”

There was silence for a few moments as Linda finished writing her notes and then placed the clipboard on the table between them.

Blake studied her. She was a dumpy woman with kind looking blue eyes. He could not help but wonder if she was a grandmother, because Blake could imagine that she would be incredibly good at it. She had just the right level of calm serenity about her but at the same time appeared ever so slightly stern. Overall, he conceded, she seemed to be the right sort of person to be a therapist.

“Okay,” Linda said. “Let’s talk about the actual dream itself. What happens?”

Blake shuffled in his seat but said nothing. The room they were in was hot, and he could feel sweat trickling down his back, similar to how he felt whenever the nightmare woke him up.

“Come on, Blake,” Linda pressed gently. “I know it’s difficult, but I need you to tell me what happens.”

Blake took a deep breath. “It’s like I said. When I was ten, I broke into an old house on my street. It had been abandoned for years, but me being a young tearaway, I had to explore it. I had a mate that I used to have dares with, Tommy, and he dared me to go and find out what was going on inside the house.”

“And nobody had been in or out of this house for years?” Linda asked him, leaning forward.

“Not that I saw,” Blake replied, shuffling slightly in his seat. “Though, I was only ten. My parents always said that it may as well have been knocked down as they had lived there for years before I was even born, and they had never seen anybody.”

“So, you get inside the house?”

“Yes,” Blake continued. “The whole place was locked up and the only way inside was through a tiny window around the back of the house. I was a skinny child; I mean I wouldn’t call myself exactly large now, but as a kid, I was like a rake. Even I struggled squeezing through it, but I eventually found myself inside the house. I wish I’d taken the difficulty in getting in as a sign to stop being so stupid, but what can I say? I was ten.”

“Okay,” Linda said. “And what did you find once you had managed to get inside?”

Blake sighed again as his eyes landed on the large fish tank in the corner. There was a small fish fluttering weakly around the surface of the water, looking as if it was in its last moments of its life.

“Blake?”

“The room was dark,” Blake said quietly. “Pitch black, actually. I had to scramble around to find the light switch. Then, when I finally turned it on, there she was.”

“And what was she doing?”

“Not a lot,” Blake replied dryly. “She was dead. She was sitting in a rocking chair with a knife sticking in her back. There was a pool of blood beneath the chair. And I couldn’t move. I was so terrified staring at her face. It was like someone had frozen her in the middle of the most horrified scream imaginable. I mean, she had just been stabbed in the back, so I guess it’s understandable, but it was the most horrific thing I’d ever seen.”

“So, you were frozen, in your mind trapped, unable to escape with this traumatic sight in front of you?” Linda clarified.

“Basically, yes. After what must have only been about a minute or so, but it felt like hours, I finally managed to get back the use of my legs and got out of there. Then I ran home and my mum called the police.”

“You’re a policeman now, aren’t you?” Linda asked. “Do you think this event had anything to do with that?”

Blake had wondered that himself over the years. “No, I don’t think so. Though, being a police detective did mean that I was able to find out details about the case a few years later.”

“And what did you discover?”

“Not a great deal,” Blake replied. “I know they found out her name was Julia Watkins. She was, according to her pension book, eighty-seven, and they also discovered that she had been squatting in the house for months. I suppose it’s unavoidable with old abandoned buildings. But as for her death, it was never solved. The only way in and out was through that tiny window that even I had difficulty climbing through. Other than that, the house was completely sealed.”

Linda scratched the back of her head as she consulted her notes. “It’s the sort of thing you’ve become quite used to, haven’t you? These sorts of impossible events.”

Blake shrugged. “I suppose so. I have been kept busy since moving to Harmschapel, that’s certainly true.”

“A lot of murders?”

“I’ve had my fair share,” Blake conceded. “Not that I didn’t get them when I worked in Sale.”

“That’s Sale in the Manchester area, where you used to live before moving to Harmschapel?”

“That’s right.”

“I’ve seen a lot in the papers about some of the cases you’ve had to deal with since moving to the area,” Linda said thoughtfully. “ And of course, you helped bring a serial killer to justice in the earlier days of your career.”

Blake shuddered at the memory. “Yeah. Thomas Frost.”

“I read about him,” Linda said, nodding. “He strangled a number of women in the Manchester area and you were the officer that helped put him behind bars?”

“Probably the closest I’ve come to experiencing evil,” Blake replied quietly. “The man is a psychopath. I had the unpleasant experience of meeting him again not so long ago. He hadn’t changed.”

“All in all, that must be incredibly stressful, especially when you’re dealing with bodies. Murdered bodies at that.”

Blake’s mouth was starting to feel dry. He leant forwards and took a sip of water from the plastic cup next to him.

“It can be,” he replied. “That’s the job. Sadly, being a police officer isn’t all about catching people who have stolen the church collection money or handing out parking tickets for vehicles parked on the village green. Sometimes life happens, and life can be pretty brutal sometimes.”

“Do you think that could have had an effect? Stabbings, shootings, strangulations, you’re only human after all.” She smiled kindly at him, then glanced at the clock on the wall. “Have a think about it. We’re coming to a close now for the first session, but I think we’ve covered some really helpful details today.”

Blake was doubtful. As he thanked Linda and left the office, he could not help wondering exactly what she could possibly do to prevent him having bad dreams, especially as they stemmed from an event that had actually happened to him. There was no way to try and make sense of it, it was a traumatic experience that had clearly stuck with him and no amount of therapy was going to change that.

As he climbed into his car, he lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply, briefly chastising himself for his lack of self-control when it came to smoking. He had been trying to quit for a long time, but recently, even Blake had to admit that he had basically become a full-time smoker again.

With a heavy sigh, he turned the key in the ignition and began driving back towards Harmschapel, the image of the screaming old woman flashing into his mind’s eye briefly as he pulled out of the car park.

Blurb:

There’s no such thing as magic. Everything has a logical explanation, even when you can’t immediately see it. Nothing is impossible when looked at from the right angle.

Blake Harte has always lived by this mantra. It’s an attitude that has fared him well in Harmschapel after being faced with numerous bizarre murders and situations. But Blake’s beliefs are soon to be tested to breaking point when touring magician, Sebastian Klein, arrives in the village with his daughter, and glamorous assistant, Amelia, to perform their touring magic show.

Although reluctant to even watch the show, Blake and the rest of Harmschapel Police are soon called into action when Sebastian Klein performs the most baffling trick of his career. Just how many ways are there for a woman to completely vanish in front of an audience, especially when even the great Sebastian Klein has no explanation for what happened?

What initially looks like a big theatrical stunt soon leads Blake and the team to one of the darkest and most sinister cases they have ever come across. The disappearance of Amelia Klein threatens to explode in the ugliest way possible, and there is no way of telling just how many secrets she could expose if found…

Buy links:
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07L43NR4N/ref=series_rw_dp_sw
US: https://www.amazon.com/Atmosphere-Blake-Harte-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L43NR4N/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43126026-atmosphere?from_search=true

Want to know more about the author? Click the image of Robert Innes to reach his website!

Robert Innes is the author of The Blake Harte Mysteries – a series of head scratching and impossible crimes. When he’s not trying to work out how to commit seemingly perfect murders and building up a worrying Google search history, Robert can be found at his local slimming group, wondering why eating three pizzas in the space of a week hasn’t resulted in a weight loss. Since the creation of the Blake Harte mystery series in November 2016, each book has become a best seller in LGBT mystery both in the USA and the UK.

Exclusive Excerpt of FlabberGassed: A Mister Puss Mystery by Michael Craft

Setting the scene:

The narrator is Brody Norris, a small-town architect who has stepped into the role of amateur sleuth in a local murder. He and his husband, Marson Miles, have invited an attractive new acquaintance, Dahr Ahmadi, to join them for dinner at their loft, hoping to get to know him better—and to sound him out as a possible suspect—but the evening ends with an unexpected development.

This scene is taken from the middle of the novel. Mister Puss, the cat in the series subtitle, winds his way in and out of the story—as cats are wont to do—but he does not appear in the following.

click image to purchase

Excerpt from FlabberGassed:

Some three hours after Dahr arrived at the loft, our evening together came to a close. A wonderful time, as they say, was had by all. Marson had charmed Dahr with his cooking and his small talk and his considerable skills as a gracious host. Dahr had charmed both Marson and me with his stories and his magnetism and his winks. Or were they tics? And apparently, I, Brody Norris, had all but charmed the pants off Dahr Ahmadi. It was not my intent to create an atmosphere of flirtation—I had simply tried to be amiable and welcoming—but Dahr must have tuned in to a more primal vibe.

When he arrived that night, we had greeted each other with handshakes and tentative hugs. Upon parting, however, we had cemented our friendship, so we forwent the handshakes altogether and hugged in earnest. And then, after the thank-yous and good-nights, Dahr offered kisses.

“May I, Mr. Miles?” he asked Marson outside the front door, leaning near for a smooch.

“With pleasure,” said my husband, and they exchanged a chaste peck.

“And Mr. Norris?” he said to me.

“Of course, Dahr.” We pecked.

Marson said, “Hope to see you again soon, Dahr. Good night.” And he turned inside to begin cleanup. It was not in his nature to leave things till morning.

Dahr asked me, “Walk me to my car?”

First Avenue was dead quiet—Saturday night, and our tiny town had “rolled up the sidewalks” already. A bit of evening drizzle had left the street dark and shiny. Yellow leaves glistened and dripped in the warm glow of a streetlamp. The soles of our shoes kissed the damp pavement. Then the man in black turned, and once again, he kissed me.

This was no tic. This was no ritual observation of some ancient parting custom handed down by Dahr’s Persian forebears. No, this was a kiss that meant business. This was a kiss that shot through me, that left me speechless and woozy and open to the unknown.

But then, without a word, he turned and left.

Shambling back to the loft, I wondered, What the hell was that? Was he making a statement? Was he challenging me? Daring me to fall for him?

Or was Dahr just using his wiles—buttering me up for a good report to Sheriff Simms?

When I stepped inside and closed the door, Marson looked up from the kitchen sink, merrily rinsing his way through a stack of dishes. “He’s such a sweet guy—what a great evening.”

Still a bit dazed, I confessed, “He kissed me.”

“He kissed me, too, kiddo.”

“I mean, he kissed me again, outside.”

“I’ve said it before, Brody: you’re an attractive man, desired by many.”

I took my explanation a step further. “I mean, he really kissed me.”

Marson gave a playful growl. “Yikes. Was it good?”

“Marson”—I moved toward him in the kitchen—“aren’t you … jealous?”

He set down his sponge. “Jealous? I’m complimented! Besides—” And he broke into laughter.

“Besides what?”

Marson grinned. “He’s not old enough for you.”

“Or”—I grinned—“he could be just the exception that proves the rule.”

#

Truth is, there were no rules, etched in stone or otherwise.

True, when I was fourteen, I had developed an abiding attraction to older, creative men. True, my first marriage had been to an older, creative man, an architect in California named Lloyd Washington. True, my current marriage was to an older, creative man, a Wisconsin architect named Marson Miles. True, this seemed to denote a pattern. But there were no rules.

True, Dahr Ahmadi was perhaps two or three years older than I was, but this did not qualify him as an “older man.” In the generational scope of things, we were contemporaries. Dahr was a certified nurse practitioner, a respected professional with a noble and humane calling, but this did not qualify him as a “creative man.” He was a man of science. So it was easy to understand Marson’s confident assumption that, in my eyes, Dahr could never measure up. But there were no rules.

True, Marson and I were married. The conventions of marriage—of conventional, heterosexual marriage—demand a lifelong commitment of body, soul, and desire, frequently sworn in vows at the altar, which can lend poignancy to a fairytale ceremony. But even the most earnest exchange of vows offers no guarantee that reality will not evolve and intervene. And the truth is, for us—for any gay couple, married or not—there were no rules, other than those we were content to define for ourselves.

True, Marson and I had written “vows” and delivered them at our tidy civil ceremony, but they were sworn to no god. They focused on an abiding love, which sprang from friendship, and a commitment to “be there” for each other in a joining of forces till death do us part. But they made no reference to carnal fidelity, which struck us both as an irrelevant hangover from some medieval obsession with procreation. So for us, in the matter of Dahr Ahmadi, there were no rules.

True, we had a shadowy understanding that indiscretion could be hurtful to each other and therefore harmful to “us.” Did such an understanding therefore imply that any contemplated indiscretion should simply be replaced by discretion, by the venerable bromide that what you don’t know can’t hurt you?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that the memory of Dahr’s kiss—the second one, out on the street, under the drizzle in the yellow lamplight—vexed me and excited me and consumed my thoughts from the moment I stepped back into the loft on Saturday night. It followed me up the winding staircase as I prepared for bed. It stirred beneath the blankets as I cuddled with my husband, who drifted off, exhausted by his efforts to stage the perfect dinner party. It staved off my own sleep, and when at last I slumbered, the memory of the kiss peppered my dreams with possibilities. This was temptation, pure and raw and simple.

Learn more about author Michael Craft:

www.michaelcraft.com

Click on title below to access the interivew I did with Michael Craft in 2014.

Michael Craft Shares What He’s Been up to Since penning the Mark Manning Series.

 

Exclusive Excerpt: Thin Blue (The Thin Blue Line series Book 1) by Patricia Logan

Excerpt:

“Stop yelling, man. Calm down. We’ll talk about it, okay?”

The anger on the man’s face turned to rage and he stepped forward. Before Felix realized what was happening, the man had both hands twisted in his T-shirt and he was propelling Felix backward. When his back hit the side of his own truck, it nearly knocked the breath out of him.

Goddammit!

“You’re crazy!” Felix yelled. Now he was getting angry and that was an almost foreign emotion for him. He was pretty sure he could have used his Marine Corps Krav Maga training to put the guy on the ground, but he really didn’t want to resort to hand-to-hand combat with an angry trick from a gay bar. Getting hauled off to jail until he had the opportunity to tell his side of the story wouldn’t exactly keep him off the radar, and getting arrested in West Hollywood with the smell of spunk all over him wasn’t his idea of fun.

He reached up and grabbed the guy’s forearms to try to pry them free of his shirt but he realized the attempt was futile. The muscles of the man’s forearms felt like solid steel bands under the long-sleeved Henley he wore. No matter how hard he tried to get him to release his shirt, he couldn’t move him. The detective pushed his enraged face closer to Felix and normally he would have been intimidated by the outrage painted all over his expression. Instead, he found himself growing impossibly hard as he stared at the beautiful full lips he’d been kissing only fifteen minutes before. Even though the man had worked himself into a rage, Felix found himself unbelievably attracted to him. He wished the guy would let go of his shirt and touch him in other places. Felix wanted the man’s hands all over him. He remembered how amazing it felt to have the detective buried inside his body and he wanted it all over again.

Click cover to purchase

“I’m crazy? You told IA that I intended on shooting that suspect when I fired! Who the hell are you?” the man shouted.

So that’s what he’s pissed about? His face was now so close to Felix’s that he could feel the wash of hot breath which smelled of beer and something alluring that he just couldn’t put his finger on. Felix just wanted to cover his mouth again and draw his breath inside so he could taste it. But he couldn’t do that. The guy was obviously under the impression that Felix was some sort of spy for Internal Affairs and he had to dispel him of that notion right away. The very last thing he needed in the middle of a huge case for Homeland Security was to be at odds with an LAPD detective who could easily blow his cover or worse, compromise the case they were building against the filthy animals that trafficked kids across the US-Mexican border.

“This isn’t about your career,” Felix growled through clenched teeth. He was growing angry now that he thought about those kids.

The guy sneered. “So, you want me to believe that it’s mere coincidence that you just happened to be at the same club as me tonight? That you offered your ass to a guy whose career would end if caught in a public disgrace?” He bunched his fists in Felix’s shirt, pulling it even tighter across his back as he pulled him closer. He didn’t wait for Felix to answer before he let go and grabbed the edges of his T-shirt to lift it. “You wearing a wire? You get everything on tape?” He yanked at Felix’s clothes as he shouted. “Where is it?” His tortured gaze met Felix’s and a wave of such sadness washed over him that it blocked out the man’s words.

He stopped fighting even as his T-shirt was lifted up to reveal his chest. As the man’s gaze ran over the expanse of tattooed skin, he relaxed and let him look his fill. The detective finally lifted his gaze to meet Felix’s and Felix reached out, flattening the palms of both hands on the man’s chest. The thick bands of muscle felt solid under his shirt. He wanted to examine the cop’s chest and see his body. He imagined it was beautiful.

“Stop it. I’m not—I’m not doing that—I’m not working for anyone who wants to hurt you and I think you know I’m not wearing a wire. You had your hands under my shirt fifteen minutes ago.”

The man didn’t look convinced. Felix sighed.

“You have to believe me. I don’t even know your name,” he explained calmly. “I told the officers what I heard you say but you have to believe me that they didn’t even tell me your name. When I gave my statement at the scene out at the YMCA, I told them the truth. I certainly didn’t tell LAPD’s IA anything different when they came to go over my statement. They referred to you as ‘the detective involved in today’s incident near the YMCA’. You think I don’t know what Internal Affairs can do to a career? I worry every day that OPR is going to target me for some shit because I’m gay. I’m not a snitch or a rat and I understand what brotherhood means,” Felix said quietly. It took every bit of his strength to hold still. His hyperactive nature was almost always to be in motion but he wanted to get his point across. Wasn’t I dancing a half hour ago?

The man had been glaring at him, staring at him so hard that it threatened to burn him up but the moment Felix mentioned OPR, the acronym for the Office of Professional Responsibility, the truth seemed to finally hit him. He instantly stepped back.

“Wait a minute… OPR? You’re a Fed?” He looked Felix up and down. “You don’t work for IA?”

“No, I don’t work for IA.” Felix tried to keep the shakiness he was feeling out of his voice and he wasn’t so sure he succeeded. It wasn’t that he was really upset but he hadn’t expected to be threatened by the man who’d just kissed him and fucked him through the best orgasm he could remember. “I work for DHS and I was undercover when I saw your encounter with that punk.

Blurb: Thin Blue

Detective Pope Dades is a veteran police officer working in the Hollywood division, one of the busiest police precincts in the country. Dealing with drug dealers, hookers, and mentally ill suspects on a daily basis is his stock and trade. He once loved his job with the LAPD but three years ago, he put his trust in the wrong man and he’s been paying the price ever since. Refusing to work with a partner after the first one nearly killed him, Pope is jaded, still hurting, and hanging onto the career he once adored by a thread.

Homeland Security Investigator Felix Jbarra is a fresh-faced young agent with a bright future in the DHS ahead of him. Deeply closeted, Felix hides his sexual orientation from his huge Catholic family which brings him terrible guilt and grief. One night in a back-room nightclub encounter, he connects with a man who inexplicably makes him want to confess everything. Assigned to help shut down an elusive child sex trafficking ring, Felix instinctively knows he’ll need turn to the more experienced detective for help if he and his partner want to crack this case.

In the first book of the brand new Thin Blue Line series, join Felix and Pope in this exciting adventure as their worlds collide on the mean streets and in between the sheets…

Thin Blue contains a sneak peek at Order & Anarchy (The Thin Blue Line series Book 2)

** Please Note**

If you’ve read the Death and Destruction series, Lincoln Snow, McBride M. McCallahan, Jarrett Evans-Wolfe, and Thayne Evans-Wolfe also play ongoing roles in this new series. Never fear, Jarrett probably won’t be base jumping off any more buildings… probably.

Discover more about author, Patricial Logan, and her numerous novels below:

Click photo for website

http://authorpatricialogan.com/

International bestselling author Patricia Logan, resides in Los Angeles, California. The author of several #1 bestselling erotic romances in English, Italian, French, and Spanish lives in a small house with a large family. When she’s not writing her next thriller romance, she’s watching her grandchildren grow up way too soon, and raising kids who make her proud every day. One of her favorite tasks is coaxing nose kisses from cats who insist on flopping on her keyboard while she types. Married to a wonderful gentleman for 30 years, she counts herself lucky to be surrounded by people who love her and give her stories to tell every day.

 

Exclusive Excerpt: Reasonable Doubt (Hazard and Somerset Book 5) by Gregory Ashe

Chapter 8

April 22

Sunday

12:19pm

In Chief Cravens’s office, Hazard held his hands firmly in his lap. If he unlaced his fingers, he was going to start hitting things, and if he started hitting things, he might not ever stop.

Cravens, for her part, had the same unruffled calm as always. She was older, with long, gray hair, and she was well on her way into middle-age spread. Something about her eyes and her smile made her look like she was just somebody’s grandmother; anyone who scratched the surface, though, just found old, rusted gunmetal all the way down.

“I’m sorry, there aren’t any other options,” she was saying. “Norine won’t be back until Tuesday, and the state won’t send somebody on the weekend.”

“So he’s going to sit in a jail cell.” Hazard caught his partner’s glance; Somers mouthed, Cool it, and Hazard added, “Chief.”

“I appreciate your concern, but he’ll be fine, Detective. He’s a minor; we can’t send him back to those people. We can’t turn him loose on his own. And we can’t put him in Social Services because everybody needs a weekend and we’re small-fry and can’t raise hell.”

“It’s a jail cell. He’s a kid.”

“We’re not going to cuff him, Detective. But he needs to be somewhere safe.”

“No.”

“Excuse me?”

Somers put a hand on Hazard’s shoulder. “What my partner is trying to say—”

Cravens spoke over him. “Do you want to take custody of him, Detective Hazard?” She tapped a pile of paperwork. “I’ll be happy to turn him over to you until Tuesday.”

“You’re out of your mind,” Hazard said.

“Then the discussion is finished. Go work your case, Detective. And keep me up to date.”

click image to purchase

In the bullpen, Hazard stared at the computer. He wasn’t ready to type. Not yet. Last time he’d typed while he was angry, it had cost him a keyboard.

“You need food.”

“I need to get away from this shit.”

Somers nodded. “Let’s get away.”

“We’ve got work to do.”

“You need lunch. I need a partner who’s not going to rip my head off. Let’s get away. Half an hour. Then we’ll come back here and start fresh.”

“I don’t want to eat.”

Eyebrows raised, Somers put on a thoughtful expression. “Well, that’s a problem because you need to eat. But you’re also being obstinate.”

“Fuck off.”

“What should we do about this?”

“You should fuck off, Somers. Right now.”

“I might be able to take you in a fight.”

“Not a chance.”

“Or I could try to use my dazzling charm.”

Hazard turned on the computer, shifting his attention away from Somers.

“But I think the most effective method with you is blackmail.”

“Then you don’t know me very fucking well, do you?”

“I know that you’re ticklish.”

Hands above the keyboard, Hazard froze. “You don’t have the balls.”

Somers frowned. “I mean, I know you’re ticklish, and it hasn’t changed how much I respect you. But I wonder how all these other guys would feel.”

“I don’t care how they feel.”

“So you wouldn’t mind if I—” Somers stood and circled the desk.

“Touch me, and I’ll break your hand.” Hazard shoved the keyboard away. “Fine. Let’s eat.”

Instead of driving, they walked to Saint Taffy’s, the cop bar on Market Street. It was April: sunny, warm, the sky just hinting at the deep blues of summer. Hazard walked fast until Somers took him by the hand, and then the day felt a little warmer, a little brighter, and the sky was a deeper blue. They had been together two months, and his touch still did that to Hazard. Two months, and they still got looks on the street, not that it mattered.

It was going to happen, Hazard knew. Any moment now, Somers was going to start asking questions. And then those questions would turn into more questions. They’d proliferate: questions upon questions until Hazard wanted somebody to drag him out back and put a bullet in his head. And the worst part is that it would all come from Somers’s genuine concern. So Hazard braced himself and waited.

They walked the two blocks to Saint Taffy’s. At noon, Market Street was busy, and people stared. One woman picked up her little girl and carried her across the street to avoid walking near them. For the most part, though, the stares weren’t hostile—simply curious. Even though Wahredua had a growing LGBT community, Hazard knew that he and Somers stood out for a number of reasons.

And still no questions. Somers had a furrow between his eyebrows, the kind of pondering look that made Hazard want to curl up next to him with a book and enjoy the silence. That little furrow took up a lot of Hazard’s thinking. It was damn sexy, that look on Somers.

Inside, Saint Taffy’s was cool and dark, with a polished concrete floor, a long bar, and a pool table mixed in among the seating. A few months ago, Somers had gotten drunk and laid waste to the bar; the old mirror that had hung there was gone, shattered and replaced with a 4k TV. But Somers had paid the damages, and Saint Taffy’s was a cop bar, so after a month they’d let Somers come back, and now they just charged him extra and tried to hide it when the bill came.

They sat, ordered a burger each, and even after the waitress had left, Somers still hadn’t asked any questions. The girl came back with soft drinks. The only sound in the bar were the conversations at the tables around them. Then the burgers arrived, and they ate. And still not a damn question. Not even a word. Just that very sexy furrow between his brows, while Somers stared off into space like he was doing calculus for fun.

“All right,” Hazard finally said, dropping the half-eaten burger on the plate. “Just ask me already.”

“What?”

“Ask me whatever it is you want to ask me. Why I’m so pissy today. What’s going on with me. Whatever it is, just ask me so we can get it over with.”

“Nah.”

“Somers—” Hazard swallowed and leaned closer. “John, you want to ask me, so just ask me.”

“Yeah, I want to ask you. But you don’t want me to ask you. Or you don’t want to tell me. I don’t know which one. So it’s fine; you’ll tell me when you want to tell me. Or not.”

And then he picked up his burger, took a bite, and grinned like he hadn’t said the most goddamn confusing thing in the entire universe.

“What does that mean?”

“Huh?”

“What you just said. What does that mean?”

“I don’t get what’s happening.”

“You want to ask me, so ask me. There. I told you to. So do it.”

“I don’t really want to know.”

“You think that’s going to work? That reverse psychology bullshit?”

“I’m not doing anything. I told you that I wasn’t going to ask. You can tell me whatever you want. That’s it.”

Hazard took a bite of his burger, but he couldn’t taste it, and he had to chug cola to get it down his throat. He tossed the food back onto his plate. “Fine.”

Somers laughed. “You’re going to make my life really hard sometimes. That’s what this is about, right?”

“When I came out to my parents, you know what they did?”

That wiped the laughter from Somers’s face. “Ree—”

“They waited until the summer, and then my dad told me we were going on a family vacation, and he drove me to this shithole in Iowa and left me there for two months. He and my mom went on to Kansas City. That was the family vacation. I stayed at conversion therapy.”

Somers set down his burger. One of his hands came across to Hazard’s, and Hazard had to fight not to jerk away.

“Two months. Bible study, fasting, late nights, early mornings, hard work. We’d go to our sanctuaries. That’s what they called these little closets where they’d lock us up; we were supposed to spend the time in prayer, but mostly, it was to make us lonely, desperate for contact and approval. They’d put us in a room and show us porn. Straight porn, I mean. They hammered at us all day. Every day. There were no breaks, no changes to the routine. We were either isolated or immersed in a group where we couldn’t build relationships.” Hazard’s throat was tight, and he drank some of the cola, but that didn’t do a damn thing. “It’s all pretty standard brainwashing stuff. You get punished when you don’t do what they want. You get rewards when you do things right. Most of the time. Then, out of left field, you get punished anyway because they don’t want you getting comfortable. The whole thing is meant to break down your resistance, make you pliable, make it hard for you to think rationally or critically. Things just start to make sense. They get inside you and you can’t get them out.”

Somers didn’t say anything. His grip on Hazard’s fingers tightened, though. And his eyes—they were dark, the way even the deepest waters grow darker when clouds race over them.

“I came back pretty fucked up.” Then he had to take a drink again, and his throat was still dry, still so goddamn dry, and the cola didn’t help at all. “And maybe I would have stayed fucked up, but then I met Jeff, and—I don’t know.” He tried to laugh, and his chest moved, but no sound came out. “Like you said, I’m obstinate. My parents never talked to me about it. They never asked me about it. I brought Jeff home one time when I was feeling brave, and they didn’t say anything about that either. Maybe by then they couldn’t give any more fucks. Maybe they just couldn’t.”

Somers still hadn’t said anything. He got out of his seat, still holding Hazard’s hand, and he dragged the chair around so they were side by side. Then he sat again, looping one arm around Hazard’s neck and pulling him in for a kiss. It was long, tender, and surprisingly chaste.

Hot prickles traced Hazard’s neck. “We’re in public.”

“I love you.”

“Yeah, John. I know. But we’re at a restaurant and everyone’s staring—”

Somers kissed him again. This time, he added a little tongue.

“Any more objections?”

Everyone was still staring, but Hazard couldn’t think of a single damn thing.

Instead, Hazard turned his gaze to the window, where sunlight and shadow cut neat lines out of the sidewalk. “I just can’t think straight when I’m around that kind of stuff. God, Jesus, all that. I’m back in that shithole again. And I know, up here, that it isn’t all the same. I know about Mother Theresa and I know about people, good people, who are religious. But then someone opens their mouth and it doesn’t matter what my brain says.”

Somers nodded. Clouds were still racing over those eyes, turning their turquoise the color of stormwater. “Let’s get the check.”

Outside, the daylight was crisp, and from Market Street Hazard could outline the catkins on the riverbank, could count the silver scallops on the water, could see, on the far side, the grasses rustle as a hidden animal came down to the shore. He saw all that, and inside he was seeing north, to Iowa, and the closet they had called the sanctuary, and its scintillating white paint as the sun crawled in, and the way that cramped space had smelled of sweat and carpet padding and basement.

“I’m Methodist, I guess,” Somers said, taking Hazard’s hand as they started towards the precinct. “Do you want to break up?”

Hazard tried to laugh.

“I believe in God. Or I believe in something better than me. Bigger than me. I’ve felt that. When I hold Evie, I feel that sometimes.”

“You can be Methodist. You can be Buddhist. You can be a witch for all I care.”

“Good. That’s really good. I’m thinking of becoming a sexual wizard.”

“You pretty much already are.”

And this time they both laughed, and some of the wire around Hazard’s chest unspooled.

“But you don’t have faith in anything? That’s not an attack. Just a question.”

“No. Faith is irrational. I make decisions. I decide who to trust and what to trust based on reason. Once you get beyond that, people believe what they want to be true or what they’re afraid is true, and either way, they’re only justifying their own opinions. I’d rather not fall into that trap.”

Somers had that furrow between his eyes again, and Hazard imagined kissing it away. “That’s an oversimplification.”

“Thanks.”

“I’m not trying to pick a fight.”

“All right, let’s hear it.”

“I don’t know. Not yet. But that’s what my gut’s saying: there’s more to this.”

“When your gut has a thesis statement,” Hazard said, bending to kiss Somers on the cheek, “let me know.”

 

Reasonable Doubt (Hazard and Somerset Book 5) – Blurb

After almost twenty years, Emery Hazard finally has the man he loves. But things with his boyfriend and fellow detective, John-Henry Somerset, are never easy, and they’ve been more complicated lately for two reasons: Somers’s ex-wife and daughter. No matter what Hazard does, he can’t seem to get away from the most important women in his boyfriend’s life.

While Hazard struggles with his new reality (changing dirty diapers, just to start), a bizarre murder offers a distraction. John Oscar Walden, the leader of a local cult, is found dead by the police, and the case falls to Hazard and Somers. The investigation takes the two detectives into the cult’s twisted relationships and the unswerving demands of power and faith.

But the deeper Hazard looks into the cult, the deeper he must look into his own past, where belief and reason have already clashed once. And as Hazard struggles to protect the most vulnerable of Walden’s victims, he uncovers a deeper, more vicious plot behind Walden’s murder, and Hazard finds himself doing what he never expected: racing to save the killer.

Only, that is, if Somers doesn’t need him to babysit.

5-Year Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense – Anniversary Giveaway: Win a FREE audiobook copy of Pretty Pretty Boys (Hazard and Somerset Book 1).

Audiobook version
Click on image to purchase

Author Gregory Ashe has graciously offered a chance for two of our members to win a FREE audiobook copy of the first novel in the Hazard and Somerset mystery series!!

Look for the announcment to enter the FREE drawing via the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Facebook group, leave at least a one-word comment for your chance to win!

The Winners will be announced on Friday, August 10th @ 8pm EDT. Stay Tuned!

click image for Greg’s website

Want to know more about author Gregory Ashe and his novels?

Check out his website:

https://www.gregoryashe.com/

Exclusive Excerpt: The Constant Caprese (a Nick Williams Mystery; Book 20) by Frank W. Butterfield

Exclusive Excerpt:

Right then, we were about fifty feet from the bottom of the hill where Via Libertá ended. The road was at its steepest and we were walking slowly since we couldn’t see. A flash of headlights ran across the far wall of the restaurant that we’d passed earlier in the day. I let go of Carter’s arm. We’d been walking in the stone-paved roadway and both jumped up on the sidewalk to get out of the way.

After about half a minute, I could hear a car coming down the hill very slowly. As it got close to us, it slowed down to a crawl. A voice called out, “Signor Williams?”

“Yes?” I replied without turning to look at the car, since it was following us and the headlights were just behind us. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see anyone without getting blinded.

The voice asked, “Will you give me your boat?”

I sighed. I wondered how to play the situation.

Suddenly, I had it. “Sure. Come by the marina at 10 in the morning. That’ll give us time to get our stuff out.” That was a lie. We would be on our way by 7 in the morning, at the latest, and they would be sadly disappointed when they arrived at the marina. Or so I hoped.

“Then where will you go?”

“We’ll take the ferry to Naples and fly back to France from there.”

“Good. Thank you for your assistance.”

I snorted but didn’t say anything. The voice said something short and to the point in Italian. With that, the car bolted forward and squealed down the hill and around the corner, heading right, and was gone.

. . .

As we walked up to where the sailboat was docked, I noticed that Captain O’Reilly and John Murphy were both in their cabin and all the lights were out except for one in our cabin.

Carter whispered, “Let’s take off our shoes.”

I snorted quietly. “Good idea. I don’t wanna get a talkin-to in the morning.”

We both removed our shoes and carried them as we walked aboard. Slowly padding along, we quietly walked into our cabin. Carter leaned over, as usual, and then collapsed onto the bed, making the boat rock a little as he did.

I carefully closed the door behind me and stood right there, with my back against it, and looked over at Carter. His legs were spread apart and he was yawning, his head tilted back with his left hand over his mouth while he propped himself up with his right.

I could feel myself getting more flushed and excited than I ever could remember. I ran my eyes up from his socked feet, along the length of his thickly-muscled legs that were, as always when he sat, stretching the fabric of his trousers, and then stopped at his crotch. I could feel myself breathing heavily, almost panting. The warm feeling I’d been having since before dinner was spreading and getting stronger and more urgent.

Looking up, I felt myself blush furiously when I saw that he was watching me. His emerald green eyes were bright and wide. And, as I looked at him, the ruddiness in his face deepened darker than I could ever remember seeing it before.

We stared at each other for what felt like an eternity. Then, before I knew what I was doing, I found myself slowly undressing right where I stood, allowing Carter to enjoy the sight.

Blurb:

Tuesday, September 10, 1957

Nick and Carter have left Nice and, after sailing down the Italian coast, have dropped anchor at the island of Procida, just across the bay from the Naples coast.

Nick, as he is wont to do, meets the one homosexual who works at the local post office and, in short order, is invited to dinner along with Carter to meet the entire family. Italians, after all, are so friendly!

Meanwhile, Lord Gerald, their friend in British intelligence, has sent a cryptic telegram asking them to take a package over to Capri, an island on the far side of the Bay of Naples.

When they dock at Capri the next morning, they find a dying duke, an eccentric earl, and a vigilant viscount all living together in a glorious villa dating back to the turn of the century. These are the final remnants of the once-thriving community of homosexual Englishmen who made the Italian island their sanctuary where they could live in peace as themselves.

But is someone haunting this idyllic Mediterranean paradise? Who cut the phone line for no apparent reason? Who opened the locked door and then unlocked it again? Who is playing pranks with the plumbing? Maybe these are all just coincidences… Or maybe there is something more sinister afoot…

Come sail away with Nick and Carter to the Island of Capri and find out!

Click on photo to go to Frank’s website!

YOU CAN WIN THIS BOOK – FREE!  Continuing our 5-Year Anniversary Celebration of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Facebook Group – Details coming soon, so stay tuned! 

To learn more Frank W. Butterfield, just click on his photo.

Exclusive Excerpt: The Leaping Lord (a Nick Williams Mystery; Book 19) by Frank W. Butterfield

Excerpt:

As we walked through the gardens, we came around a bend. Suddenly the sea was stretched out in full view. Carter took a deep breath and asked, “Never gets old, does it?”

“Nope. As much as I miss sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge, this view always gets to me.”

Carter rested his hand on my shoulder for a long moment. It was a Tuesday afternoon. There was no one around. I was tempted to turn and kiss him, but something told me not to. Moving his hand to my neck, Carter led me to a bench that was a prime spot for gazing out over the water.

We both sat. I scooted a little closer to him than I normally would in public. I had a strong desire to be held in his arms but I knew we would have to wait until we got home where we had our own private view.

Click on Image to Purchase

We sat there, neither speaking, for several minutes. I was about to nod off when I heard someone off in the distance. Carter, who had put his hand on my knee, removed it and scooted away an inch or two.

I could hear what sounded like four or five people moving in our direction. No one was talking but they weren’t trying to be stealthy. It sounded like they were walking through the woods that bordered the grassy areas.

As I was about to turn and see who it was, I heard an oddly familiar female voice ask, “Quite a view, isn’t it?”

I heard Carter gasp as I turned to look. We both jumped to our feet. I tried not to gape. She was more beautiful in person than she’d ever been on the screen. My first thought was that motherhood agreed with her. She looked softer and less angular than in the movies.

She was wearing a blue dress that ended just below her knees. Over that, she sported a light blue coat whose cuffs ended in the middle of her forearms. Small white gloves and a strand of pearls completed the look. Her blonde hair was perfectly held in place under a small periwinkle hat pinned in place. She appeared very comfortable and beautiful, all at the same time.

She smiled at me and tilted her blonde head. Offering her gloved hand, she asked, “Mr. Williams?”

I shook and nodded. “Yes, Your…” I didn’t know the word.

“Serene Highness,” prompted Carter.

She nodded and offered her hand to him. “Mr. Jones?”

He gently shook and bowed slightly. “Yes, Your Serene Highness.”

Once that was done, she looked out at the water below. “I’m always a bit surprised every morning when I see that blue water.” Turning to me, she said, “I’m sure you must feel the same.”

I nodded, remembering to breathe, and quoted Carter, unable to think of anything else. “It never gets old.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

We stood there for what seemed like a long moment. Finally, Carter asked, “How is Princess Caroline?”

She beamed at the name of her daughter. “Very well, thank you. She’s growing so fast. I can’t believe it sometimes. She’ll be seven months old in a week.”

We both nodded but neither of us replied. Finally, I came to my senses and asked, “Is there something we can help you with, Your Serene Highness?”

She laughed. “Please, when we’re alone, do call me Grace.”

I smiled. “I’m Nick and that’s Carter.”

Blurb – The Leaping Lord by Frank W. Butterfield: 

Tuesday, August 13, 1957 Life is good. Nick and Carter are living on the French Riviera, having breakfast by the pool every morning with a view of the Mediterranean, and living a quiet life after a busy month. The grand re-opening of Nick’s latest acquisition, l’Hôtel Beau Rivage, the hottest spot in Nice, has gone off without a hitch. And, best of all, Nick has recovered nicely after taking a bullet in his shoulder. But then, on the same day, they have not one, but two unexpected encounters with the aristocracy. A day of driving down the coast leads to an amiable but unusual request from the former Grace Kelly, now Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco. Nick is suspicious of the favor she’s asked but he’s also smitten with the gorgeous blonde who lives in the Prince’s Palace just a few miles down the coast. Carter, of course, can’t help but tease Nick about losing his heart to movie-star royalty. Later that evening, Nick and Carter are invited to an impromptu dinner with Her Grace, the Duchess of Boston. She happens to be the mother of the British spy who has been helping Nick and Carter stay out of trouble for the past couple of years. Her son, Lord Gerald Whitcombe, left London for Nice back in July but has since disappeared. The duchess is convinced that the two of them are the only ones who can find him. What follows is a race against time that leads Nick and Carter back to Paris where they find that things are not exactly how they left them.

Blurb:

Tuesday, August 13, 1957

Life is good. Nick and Carter are living on the French Riviera, having breakfast by the pool every morning with a view of the Mediterranean, and living a quiet life after a busy month. The grand re-opening of Nick’s latest acquisition, l’Hôtel Beau Rivage, the hottest spot in Nice, has gone off without a hitch. And, best of all, Nick has recovered nicely after taking a bullet in his shoulder.

But then, on the same day, they have not one, but two unexpected encounters with the aristocracy.

A day of driving down the coast leads to an amiable but unusual request from the former Grace Kelly, now Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco. Nick is suspicious of the favor she’s asked but he’s also smitten with the gorgeous blonde who lives in the Prince’s Palace just a few miles down the coast. Carter, of course, can’t help but tease Nick about losing his heart to movie-star royalty.

Later that evening, Nick and Carter are invited to an impromptu dinner with Her Grace, the Duchess of Boston. She happens to be the mother of the British spy who has been helping Nick and Carter stay out of trouble for the past couple of years. Her son, Lord Gerald Whitcombe, left London for Nice back in July but has since disappeared. The duchess is convinced that the two of them are the only ones who can find him.

What follows is a race against time that leads Nick and Carter back to Paris where they find that things are not exactly how they left them.

WIN THIS BOOK FREE – 5-Year Anniversary Celebration!

Like what you read? Your chance is coming soon to WIN FREE another Nick Williams Mystery via our 5-Year Anniversary Give-A-Way celebration – posting later this week, so stay tuned!

To discover more about Frank and his books, just click on the link below:

Click on photo to go to Frank’s website!