Exclusive Excerpt: The Bellingham Mystery Series Volume 2 by Nicole Kimberling

Excerpt:

To Peter, Samuel Powers was an excellent example of how weird New York style looks on people who are not physically in New York at the time. He wore a V-neck tee with a too-small blazer, cropped chinos, and polished brown loafers with no socks. His bare, tanned ankles dared the world to question his well-examined casualness. He would have looked amazing if he’d been walking through Central Park, holding some kind of whey-enriched smoothie. But sitting in the main offices of the Hamster, surrounded by mismatched office furniture, he just looked like he’d been beamed there from a cooler future—the victim of a science-fiction transporter accident.

At the same time, he looked vaguely familiar. But that might have been because he looked like every other handsome, stylish guy from New York.

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“I’m sorry I kept you waiting.” Peter extended his hand, and Sam shook it with exactly the right amount of manly pressure and eye contact familiar enough that Peter felt certain that this couldn’t be their first meeting. He considered attempting to fake it—go in for a hug, or air-kiss even, just to take it to the next level—but decided against it. It was far too hot to hug, and he’d never been a kissy guy. “I’m sorry, but have we met before?”

Sam pulled a wide, perfectly toothed smile and said, “I came to your wedding three years ago.”

Now it all fell into place. Sam had attended their wedding as Nick’s agent, Donna’s, date.

The wedding itself had been such a blur—not just because he’d been excited and stressed by the first mingling of his and Nick’s respective families but because one of their guests had attempted to murder Nick. Lesser details of the occasion, like the names of their non-murdering guests, had largely slipped through the cracks of Peter’s memory.

“I’m so sorry.” Peter felt a line of red creeping up the back of his neck. “Please sit down.”

“It’s all right. I don’t think we spoke much beyond the congratulations.” Sam seated himself and then leaned in, elbows on Peter’s none-too-clean desk. “So the reason I’m here is that I’m working on a book and I was hoping I might convince you to help me. It’s about the Werks Collective.”

Peter ran down a list of every collective, commune, and co-op he could recall operating in greater Whatcom County, but nothing rang a bell and he said so.

“It’s the artists’ collective that Walter de Kamp was part of in New York.”
At the mention of that name Peter’s naturally ebullient heart cooled to a dull simmer.
Of course Sam wanted to talk about Walter de Kamp, Nick’s first lover—the ghost who just

wouldn’t stay down. Every time Peter thought he and Nick had finally broken free of the specter, he rose up to complicate their lives, bringing with him secrets and lies and old history.

“I’m afraid I can’t help you,” Peter said. “I never met the man. And before you even ask, Nick won’t be interviewed about him at all. Ever. Period.”

“Oh, I wasn’t hoping to interview Mr. Olson.” Sam held up his hands as if to show himself innocent of such notions. “I only hoped to have a closer look at a few of the paintings that you two have at your house. I’m specifically interested in the blue landscape in the dining room. It is such an amazing piece. Ever since I saw it three years ago it’s been on my mind.”

“Haunting you?” Peter asked. He couldn’t help it.

“In a way yes,” Sam said, apparently in complete seriousness. “I would be so grateful if you would just let me have another look at it.”

Peter weighed the request. Although it would annoy Nick to have someone in the house, maybe if Sam could publicize the painting, there might be enough interest in it that Nick would finally auction the thing off. After that last piece of Walter’s art had gone, Peter could hire an exorcist, and the spirit of Walter could be laid to rest. He could just picture it: a tall, thin man in a priest’s collar standing before his house, the Castle at Wildcat Cove, eyes pressed closed, whispering in Latin… For an instant, Peter nearly succumbed to his long-standing bad habit of writing the scene out in his head, but Sam had already gathered up his things and started for the door.

“Is it all right if we take my car?” he was saying. That took a moment for Peter to process. Finally, feeling stupid, he said, “You want to go now?”
“If you’re free,” Sam returned. Peter glanced across the office at Doug, who had been

observing the entire exchange. Doug gave a silent shrug, which Peter interpreted as a go-ahead. “Let me just take a leak before we head out,” Peter said. Sam magnanimously agreed to wait in the car while Peter took the opportunity of the lone stall in the men’s room to fact-check

Sam’s story.
Years ago, before he’d met Nick and taken up amateur sleuthing, Peter would have gotten

into Sam’s car on the strength of his handshake alone. But experience had made him wary of riding in cars with random strangers, well-dressed or not.

Sam Powers’ web page was everything Peter would have wanted for his own. Clear, organized, full of stylish fonts and praise about his writing from the New York Times and the Guardian. It also contained a full bibliography of Sam’s previously published book titles, three of which involved crimes that were related to the art world.

That hurt most of all.

Though Peter had written thousands of articles and even won a national award for journalism, he didn’t have even a single book with his name on the spine. He’d started numerous times, attempting to cobble together a concept that would hold his interest long enough to pitch it to an editor, but after a couple of days’ research into this or that subject he’d lose interest, get depressed, and eventually degenerate into writing fiction.

Bad fiction.

Peter’s narratives brimmed with irrelevant commentary on modern life and lacked in any sort of dramatic tension. He’d even attempted to write pornography, then given up, realizing how hard it was to be shocking in a world where a book about the gay X-rated exploits of were- dinosaurs who strove to control the Freemasons could actually get good reviews.

Now here came Sam Powers, flaunting his ability to stave off boredom by writing incisive long-form prose. Peter had half a mind to crawl out the window but turned instead to Sam’s social media pages, where he found, to his delight, that Sam did have some detractors after all.

Several citizen reviewers called him pretentious and unprincipled. Others disliked his tendency toward wild speculation.

In fact, a brief perusal of Sam’s bio led Peter to believe that Sam was some kind of alternate version of himself—the self that made different choices. Sam’s natal city was the unfortunately named Boring, Oregon—a city whose main claims to fame were having an accidentally funny name and a series of unsolved serial rapes in the late nineties. Whereas in comparison, Peter’s hometown of Bellingham had hosted a great number of actual serial killers in addition to a funny unofficial town motto: City of Subdued Excitement.

Though they both originated in small towns in the Pacific Northwest, Sam had lit out for the Big Apple immediately, whereas Peter had attended the local state university. Where Peter had traveled on his own and taken a long time to settle into writing, Sam landed a magazine gig straight out of private college.

Last, Sam’s Facebook page showed him to be almost relentlessly single up to the point that he started dating Donna, opposite of serial monogamist Peter. Yet the subjects they wrote about and even their writing style seemed eerily similar, like a literary doppelgänger or…evil twin.

So Sam checked out as a legit writer, not a serial killer, hired assassin, or art thief.

And despite the mad jealousy he might feel at Sam’s various awesome book deals, the classy thing to do would be to help him out with his research.

Purchase The Bellingham Mystery Series Volume 2 here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07J1J49JB/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i5

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/899279

Learn more about author, Nicole Kimberling: 

click photo for Nicole Kingerling’s websiteNicole Kimberling is a novelist and the editor at Blind Eye Books. Her first novel, Turnskin, won the Lambda Literary Award. Other works include the Bellingham Mystery Series, set in the Washington town where she resides with her wife of thirty years and an ongoing cooking column for Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. She is also the creator and writer of “Lauren Proves Magic is Real!” a serial fiction podcast, which explores the day-to-day case files of Special Agent Keith Curry, supernatural food inspector.

Criminal Past (Hazard and Somerset Book 6) by Gregory Ashe

Exclusive Excerpt:

Hazard ran. His left arm flopped painfully at his side, phone in his fingers, and his right hand held the .38. He tried to dial, but those fingers were slow and less responsive, and even when Somers’s name came on the screen, the signal was too weak, and the call wouldn’t go through. Swearing, Hazard dove into the darkness. That was what it was like: diving. He would reach the edge of the light, granular, sabulous, like land meeting water, and then he was beyond it, in the darkness, his legs churning to carry him towards that next buoy of light.

Where would the cops drop their guard? Where would they feel a renewed spurt of energy and determination? At the end of the building. At the exit. Where the shooter would linger just long enough to be spotted.

Somers.

Oh fuck.

Somers was faster than Hazard.

Oh fuck.

At the end of the corridor, Hazard was running too fast. He tried to slide into the turn, taking the corner as fast as he could, but he was moving too damn fast. He didn’t fall, and his brain whispered a brief thank you to fate, but he crashed into the far wall, his full weight pinning his bad arm against the drywall. Pain went up like a signal flare. Gasping, Hazard pushed himself off the wall and down the hall.

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He could see the exit ahead. The door was propped open, and silver daylight framed the opening. In front of that illuminated backdrop, a silhouette moved, fumbling with the door. That was part of the act; an unspoken justification, in case the cops wondered how they’d been lucky enough to catch up with the shooter. Here was the answer, being pantomimed for them: the idiot got stuck at the door.

Only he wasn’t stuck. He was stalling. And as he caught sight of Hazard, he pushed the door open.

Another figure came around the corner at the far end of the hall. He was running. He was moving at full speed. He had the perfect, loping grace that Hazard would recognize anywhere. He had memorized every inch of this man, pieced him together in his mind a thousand times, ten thousand times, over the last twenty years.

“Somers,” Hazard screamed, barely recognizing his own voice. “Stop!”

After that, everything happened at once. A muzzle flashed. The light painted Somers in a hundred different shades of red. It picked out every detail, splashing light and shadow, highlighting the perfect lines of his face, the confusion, the surprise, and underneath it all, etching itself into the skin, fear. A boom echoed down the corridor. Somers tumbled over sideways.

Somers.

Then the shooter shoved open the emergency exit door, and summer light flooded into the Haverford’s fetid darkness, and Hazard could pick out the gleam of that sunlight on the tension wire running six inches in front of his own shin.

Somers.

Hazard cleared the wire. Ten yards to Somers. Eight.

Somers smiling at him in the park.

Six yards.

Somers swinging Evie and laughing.

Five.

Somers naked on the bed, one hand tracing the dark calligraphy across his chest, and wearing that damn smirk he always wore when he knew he was about to get what he wanted.

Three yards. Three.

And then, to Hazard’s surprise, he heard Somers voice. “Go get him. Go get him, Ree. I’m fine. Go after him.”

Again, intuition and instinct took over when emotion fried the rational centers of Hazard’s brain. He swerved towards the exit door, caught it on his bad shoulder, and howled. He didn’t care about the noise at this point. All he cared about was catching this bastard.

The shooter was twenty yards ahead, sprinting full speed down the alley behind the Haverford. In full daylight, seen directly instead of at a distance through a windshield, the man looked different than what Hazard had expected. In spite of the heat, he wore a balaclava, gloves and long-sleeved pants and a shirt. Hazard had already seen in him all that gear, but still, something was different. The difference wasn’t anything Hazard could put his finger on, but he was suddenly less certain about his earlier guess. Was the man older? Younger? Was he not even a man at all? The eyes—from this distance, Hazard could make them out more clearly. Electric green. Like cat eyes.

Hazard put on speed. A fresh wave of adrenaline burned through him, incinerating every thought, and the last one, the one that floated up like a cinder caught on a draft of emotion, was simply: Somers is all right. And then Hazard was moving like a truck.

He hit the shooter at full speed. Hazard meant it to be a tackle, but his bad arm refused to respond, and when they hit the ground, the shooter rolled free instead of staying trapped by Hazard’s mass. Hazard scrambled after the man. He caught an ankle, dragging the shooter back, and the shooter’s other foot shot out and caught Hazard in the chin. Hazard’s head snapped back. Black stars spun in his vision.

But he hadn’t let go, and he hauled on the ankle again. A second kick connected with his head, but this time, Hazard had been expecting it, and he turned so that the blow glanced along the contour of his skull instead of meeting straight on. With as much strength as he could muster, Hazard hauled, and the shooter skidded three feet back over the gravel. Hazard reared back, trying to get enough weight on the bastard to pin him until Somers got there.

This time, though, the shooter reared back and twisted into a punch. Hazard took it as best he could, ducking, but it landed solidly above his ear, and Hazard saw those black stars again. Could feel them, even, prickly against his face. He took another punch, and the third one he managed to knock aside, batting it out of the air like he was Babe fucking Ruth. He just had to hold on. Twenty seconds. Thirty. Somers would be here. Somers was coming.

The next punch was strange; even addled by the blows to the head, Hazard knew something was wrong because the shooter telegraphed the punch loud and clear, and it was obvious that he had changed his target. Instead of throwing another fist or elbow at Hazard’s head, the shooter was aiming down.

At his arm, Hazard realized a moment too late. At his bad arm. The punch was clear as newsprint. If he’d been thinking clearly, if he’d had even an extra second, Hazard could have avoided it. But he was rattled from the earlier blows, and waves of adrenaline battered him, and he hated that arm, that was the bottom of it, he hated that fucking arm because it was useless, and so he didn’t think about it.

The punch landed perfectly, right where a long, jagged cut was still healing, and Hazard’s world went white.

CRIMINAL PAST Blurb:

It all starts to go wrong at the shooting gallery. Emery Hazard and his boyfriend, John-Henry Somerset, just want to enjoy the day at the Dore County Independence Fair. At the shooting gallery, though, Hazard comes face to face with one of his old bullies: Mikey Grames. Even as a drugged-out wreck, Mikey is a reminder of all the ugliness in Hazard’s past. Worse, Mikey seems to know something Hazard doesn’t—something about the fresh tension brewing in town.

When the Chief of Police interrupts Hazard’s day at the fair, she has a strange request. She doesn’t want Hazard and Somers to solve a murder. She wants them to prevent one. The future victim? Mayor Sherman Newton—a man who has tried to have Hazard and Somers killed at least once.

Hazard and Somers try to work out the motive of the man threatening Newton, and the trail leads them into a conspiracy of corrupt law enforcement, white supremacists, and local politicians. As Hazard and Somers dig into the case, their search takes them into the past, where secrets have lain buried for twenty years.

Determined to get to the truth, Hazard finds himself racing for answers, but he discovers that sometimes the past isn’t buried very deep. Sometimes, it isn’t dead. Sometimes, it isn’t even past. And almost always, it’s better left alone.

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

Check out his website:

https://www.gregoryashe.com

Exclusive Excerpt: Survival is a Dying Art: An Angus Green Novel by Neil Plakcy

Excerpt

In the first chapter of Survival is a Dying Art, Angus Green’s friend Tom invites him to sit in on the meeting of a gay men’s book group.

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“This is emblematic of the problems facing our generation,” another man said. He was a real estate agent with a big personality. “Many of us were shunned by our families when we came out. We didn’t have the opportunities younger people have to get educations and good-paying jobs, so we never made that much money while we worked. And then we lost so many of our friends and lovers to AIDS. Now we’re on our own without pensions or savings accounts or kids to look after us.”

There was a general assent among the men at the table, and I felt guilty about the opportunities my generation had because of the pioneering work these men, and others like them, had done.

“A lot has to do with how soon we came out,” another man said. He’d been introduced as Frank, and I had the sense that he and Tom were friends outside the book group. “I was too scared to come out when I was young, and I covered it up by working my ass off. I made money, yeah, but I never had the life I could have had.”

The doctor nodded. “I married my high school sweetheart because I couldn’t see any other path,” he said. “She worked to put me through college and medical school and gave me two wonderful children. For years I knew that I was gay, but I couldn’t abandon her after all she had done for me. It wasn’t until the kids were grown that I finally told her.”

I couldn’t imagine how painful that must have been for both him and his wife. “Fortunately, she understood, and I was able to keep my relationships with my sons, and now I’m loving being a grandfather. But I know a lot of other men in similar situations who’ve been shunned by their exes and their kids.”

The conversation wandered off onto tangents, and I was amazed at how many different paths these men had taken to get where they were. Tom insisted on paying for my meal, and then asked if I had a moment to speak with him and his friend Frank.

Frank ordered us glasses of Scotch from the bar, and the three of us moved over to stand at the railing overlooking the waterway. It had gotten dark by then, and the only boat moving was a small powerboat with Fort Lauderdale Police along the side and a big searchlight at the prow.

Frank was a couple of inches taller than I was, close to my boyfriend Lester’s height of six-foot-two but much skinnier. His gray hair was close-cropped and there were crow’s feet around his eyes, but I could see he’d been quite handsome when he was younger.

“I was surprised when Tom told me that you work for the FBI,” Frank began. “I wasn’t aware they’d lifted the rules against homosexuals in sensitive positions.”

“That happened long before I joined the Bureau,” I said. “Now there are gay men and women at the highest levels. Even so, I’m the only openly gay special agent in my office.” I took a sip of the Scotch, feeling the warmth on my tongue and the back of my palate. Smooth. “How can I help you?”

“I’m afraid someone might be trying to scam me, and while I don’t want to be taken advantage of, I do want to buy what he says he’s selling.”

“Slow down, Frank,” Tom said. “Go back to the beginning.”

Frank pursed his lips and thought for a moment. “Okay. My family are Italian Jews. Centuries in Venice. Did you know that the word ghetto originated there? It means foundry, and the Jews were segregated in the neighborhood where the iron works were located.”

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“Not quite that far back,” Tom said. “Start with your father and his brother.”

“Sorry.” Frank grinned sheepishly. “I get distracted by all the history. My father and my uncle were born in Venice right after the turn of the century. When he was in his twenties, my father came to the United States, but my uncle Ugo stayed in Venice. He was gay, and he had a lively group of friends, so he had no desire to leave.”

“Until the Nazis came,” I said.

“Until the Nazis came. And by then it was too late.”

We were all quiet for a moment. I imagined that being both gay and Jewish had made Frank’s uncle a prime target.

“A few months ago, I started looking around online to see what might have happened to the painting. I discovered that it had been confiscated by the Nazis, but then it disappeared. I put up a bunch of posts on art and auction sites asking for information, and eventually a man contacted me, saying that he knew where the painting was, and he could get it to me – for a fee.”

I nodded. “And you’re afraid he’s scamming you.”

“Exactly. I did my own research on him and I discovered that he owns a pawn shop in Fort Lauderdale. That made me concerned. I don’t want to be involved in anything shady, and the very fact that he runs an operation like that makes me distrust him.”’

I agreed to help, and we finished our Scotch as people partied on that fancy yacht moored below us. When it came to say goodbye, I kissed Tom’s cheek and hugged him, then shook Frank’s hand, but the two of them seemed unsure what they were supposed to do. I wondered about their relationship – just friends? Or did one of them want something more?

Whatever Tom and Frank wanted from each other, I hoped they could get it. And maybe by helping Frank track down his uncle’s painting, I could pay back Tom for the favors he’d done for me in the past.

 

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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 www.mahubooks.com.

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.

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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.

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“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:

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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: Boystown 11: Heart’s Desire (Boystown Mysteries) by Marshall Thornton

Excerpt:

I got up early the next morning and drove to Irene’s apartment, which was on Malden right above Gracie Cemetery. It was right on the edge of Uptown. Not a great neighborhood. I parked Harker’s car on the cemetery side of Montrose.
Gracie Cemetery wasn’t one of my favorite places; I’d killed a man there once. I told myself I wasn’t there for a trip down memory lane and, even if I were, that wasn’t a lane I should go down.
When I found Irene’s building, it was a grand old brick apartment house, three stories tall and covering all of the lot from Malden back to the alley. It had originally been six apartments, but I walked up to the front door and saw there were twelve names on the modern intercom. Using the key Irene had given me, I opened the door and stepped into the lobby. Beyond it was the stairwell. As soon as I stepped inside, I noticed there were four doors on the first floor, and presumably the same on the floors above. It looked like the building had been divided at some point.
Irene’s apartment was on the third floor. The railing was on the right, which lately hadn’t been much fun for me since it was my right arm in the sling. Slowly, I climbed the three flights of stairs. It was kind of stupid; I didn’t need to hold onto a railing. I wasn’t decrepit. It’s just one of those things you get used to, resting a hand on the railing as you climbed stairs. It was stabilizing—something most thirty-six-year-olds never had to think about.
On the third floor, I walked over to the door marked A. It was on the right at the front. Slipping the key into the deadbolt, I turned it and didn’t encounter any resistance. Normally, you could feel the bolt moving out of its slot, hear it if you listened. I reached down with my left hand and turned the doorknob. The door opened. It hadn’t been locked. I was sure of it.
I leaned in and said, “Hello?”
When no one replied with a friendly, “I’m burglarizing this apartment, just give me another few minutes,” I stepped inside. I was standing in a decent-sized room that had a sunporch to my left and a narrow room on my right, which was part kitchen, part dining room. I opened a door to what I thought might be a closet and found a cramped bathroom with a shower.
The place was messy, but I couldn’t tell if someone had been in there making a mess or if the mess was Irene’s. Given the shape of the apartment she was staying in at Two Towers, I’d say it was possible the mess was hers. The stale odor of cigarettes hung in the air, making me quiver as I longed to light up and  contribute to the stink.
I stood there a minute and realized something I hadn’t been expecting to realize. My gut said Irene hadn’t seen anything real, that she’d imagined the whole thing. But the door hadn’t been locked. If someone had been in her apartment, that changed things. It could be a coincidence, but I doubted it. And I doubted it more as I looked around.
There were pocket doors between the sunporch and the living room. Irene had put a bed onto the porch and covered the windows with purple velvet drapes. The living room had a big mohair sofa that was probably fifty years old, a wooden rocking chair, a large table with just one chair, a portable record player and a stack of albums. There was no TV that I could see, which left out the possibility that the murder she’d witnessed had been on the Sunday Night Movie. I suppose the TV could have been stolen, but there was no TV Guide, no empty space where a TV might have sat, no antenna, no VCR, no rented movies, no tapes at all actually.
And the longer I stood there the more sense the mess made. It wasn’t the kind of mess made by a person looking for valuables. There were stacks of newspapers on the big table, for instance, but none on the floor. There was a dresser at the foot of the bed with an unopened jewelry box on top of it. The drawers weren’t even open; no one had rifled through them.
Plus, the answering machine was there. If you’re going to steal the TV, why not steal the answering machine? They were easy enough to sell; easier even. They were smaller. Retail was almost a hundred bucks for most answering machines. Street value had to be at least twenty.
The answering machine sat beneath a black desk phone. Both were on top of a spindly wire telephone stand from the fifties that sat next to the rocker. On a lower shelf, beneath the phone and answering machine, sat the Chicago-area phone book.
A red digital five on the front of the answering machine told me how many messages there were. I turned the dial so the messages would play. The first was nothing but a long pause followed by a scratching noise. Weird. The second was from a Dr. Vann’s office telling Irene she had an appointment at one-fifteen the previous Thursday. Then there was another blank message with some scratching, this time the scratching went on longer and got louder. It was disturbing. Creepy even. The caller hung up. Another message began and it was the same thing: a long pause with some breathing, followed by another round of scratching. It was beginning to make my skin crawl.
The final message was from a man:
“Hello dear, it’s your father. It’s time for our Saturday call. I hope you’re out and about having fun, and not angry with me. Call me back.”
I stood there piecing things together. Clementine said the murder had taken place almost a week ago. So not Saturday and possibly not Sunday. I’d have to pin down the exact time later. If the murder happened on Monday night, then the first message came sometime on Tuesday or early Wednesday. The call from the doctor’s office would have been sometime on Wednesday, since a doctor’s office would call to confirm an appointment the day before.
The second and third scratching messages happened between that Wednesday call and Irene’s father calling on Saturday. Possibly one on Thursday and another on Friday. Someone was calling Irene nearly every day leaving disturbing messages. Not even messages, just sounds. I wondered if that someone had been in the apartment. If so, they’d have to have had a key.
I opened the front door again and looked down at the welcome mat sitting on the wall-to-wall carpet in the hallway. Reaching down I flipped it over.
Underneath was a key. Anyone could have gotten into the apartment. All they had to do was get through the front door downstairs and then look in the most obvious place in the world to leave a spare key.
If the person leaving the scratching noises was the same person as the one who’d left the door open, they’d likely gotten in on Friday or Saturday, since that’s when the scratchers seemed to stop. What had they been looking for? And had they found it? I wondered if any of the neighbors had seen who’d been in the apartment.
Going back in, I spent a few more minutes looking around. The only thing I saw was evidence of an interrupted life. A few dishes in the sink, some unopened mail—I assumed there was more of that downstairs in her mailbox—dirty clothes ready to go to the laundry.
Stepping out of the apartment, I shut the door and locked it, pocketing both keys. There was no reason to leave strangers a way into the apartment. It was around eight-thirty on a Sunday morning. I decided to knock on a few doors. I didn’t think people would like it much, but that wasn’t really my problem.
First, I walked down to the door of the apartment that had originally been the rear half of Irene’s apartment. From the way things were configured, I wondered if this door hadn’t once been a service door. The original apartments might have been luxurious enough to merit maid service. The maids might have gone up and down the backstairs, but they could have also slipped in this way without disturbing their masters.
No one came to the door.
Next, I tried the door directly across from Irene’s. As soon as I knocked a dog began barking. I waited, expecting someone to open the door. Instead, I heard a thwack and the dog whimpered a couple of times and then stopped barking. Someone was in there, and they’d just hit their dog with a rolled-up newspaper. At least I hoped it was a newspaper and not something worse. They didn’t come to the door.
There was no answer at the final door on the floor. This time I knew what game I was playing, so I watched the peephole intently. Thirty seconds after I knocked a shadow seemed to pass over it, telling me there was someone on the other side of the door deliberately not opening it.
I went down the stairs but stopped on the landing. This would have been where Irene witnessed the murder before she turned and ran. Well, there was no blood and no signs of blood being cleaned up. At first glance there didn’t seem to be anything unusual about the wall. It was wall-papered, had probably been wall-papered several times. The pattern was striped in various colors and thicknesses.
After staring at the wall for a full minute or so, I noticed a spot where the stripes seemed to wobble. The spot was about eye level. I ran my left hand across it. Behind the wallpaper, the plaster was dented. The indentation felt circular, almost like a crater. I ran my good hand up and down the wall but didn’t find anything else. I squatted down as close as I could to the floor. I could have gotten on my hands and knees, but that was challenging since the sling meant I could only partially wear my trench coat. Between the loose coat and the sling, it was hard enough just to squat.
When I did, I immediately smelled urine. Urine that could easily belong to the dog I’d heard upstairs. I stood up and then pushed the toe of my boot around the carpet. I found a squishy spot. It was directly below the crater. The crater in the plaster might have been from a man’s head being slammed against the wall. And the urine, well, that can happen when you die. Your bladder lets go. Everyone knows that.
Blurb:
It’s February 1985. Nick struggles to recover from a gunshot wound, while taking on the case of a woman with a mental illness, who may or may not have witnessed a murder. As he attempts to determine exactly what the woman saw and how much danger she may be in, he juggles the approaching DeCarlo trial, an ill Mrs. Harker, and the sexually precocious Terry. Valentine’s Day with boyfriend Joseph produces some big changes in their relationship. Life is evolving, but there’s no guarantee it’s for the better.
Find out more about Lambda Literary Award Winner, Marshall Thornton:
Author Marshall Thornton