Blurb Bad things happen when supos go unchecked. That’s why Abarra needs The Ministry: to keep tabs on royals with powers run amok. Queen Maialen has entrusted the safety of her subjects to her nephew, Prince Xabier, placing the agency in his capable hands.
Only, the Prince would rather spend his days putting his own power to good use in the vineyards than to wither away on the bureaucratic vine. Tired of policing perpetrators and babysitting bean-counters, he schemes to groom his first lieutenant (and second cousin) the Duke of Shrubs. After months spent moving chess pieces, he is poised to convince the Queen to assign his cousin to his post.
But an unlikely pawn still stands in his way: the sexy Zain Otxoa is the pushiest pencil-pusher in all of The Ministry and head of internal affairs. Prince Xabier has plotted to have him fired at least thrice. Zain’s influence over the Queen—his only saving grace—is baffling.
When a master maneuver to have Zain reassigned exposes a shocking imbroglio, Prince Xabier learns The Ministry isn’t what it seems. And Zain isn’t a pawn at all.
A dead intruder. A missing scientist. A terrified child.
No one wants a dramatic case first thing on a Monday morning, but that’s exactly what Detective Inspector Jacob Ofori got. It should be open and shut, but scientist Tom Sanders is nowhere to be found, a dead man seems to have appeared from thin air, and the Temporal Research Institute—Sanders’s company—is strangely uncooperative about assisting with the case.
Jacob’s only source is TRI engineer, Kit Rafferty. He clearly wants to help, but there’s only so much the man can and will tell him. As more and more impossible questions mount up, Jacob finds himself facing a reality that could change his world.
The postman was the first on the scene. He’d arrived early in the morning to make a delivery to the house in question and found the front door wedged open. No one answered when he rang the bell, so he called the police. The two constables arrived to investigate, and they were the ones who found the body.
It escalated after that.
Not even noon, Jacob thought grimly. Hell of a way to start a Monday.
His autopod shuttled along, arcing off from the main highway. As much as he missed manual controls of old-fashioned cars and early autocars, he appreciated the driverless function of the pod because it gave him time to skim through the images from the crime scene en route.
He wouldn’t get a feel for the scene until he got there, but the images let him know what he was about to walk into. There were signs of a struggle in the room where the body was found, and plenty of blood, but the rest of the house seemed undisturbed.
“Control to Delta Seven. ETA to destination?”
Jacob leaned forward and cleared the images from the display on the windscreen, bringing up his location on the map. Beyond it, he could see the country roads through the glass.
“ETA fifteen minutes, Control,” he replied, then muttered under his breath, “Into the backside of nowhere.”
It was half an hour beyond the miles of sprawling suburbs of the city in the middle of green fields and close to a forest. The nearest amenities had to be at least four miles from the building. He shook his head. What kind of person chose to live all the way out there anymore? It wasn’t as if there were a shortage of housing in the city.
A chime indicated another image had been received.
Jacob opened it up and leaned forward, frowning.
A door, barely visible, blended into the pattern of the wall. No handle, no visible hinges.
“You seeing this, sir?” Constable Foley’s voice rang through the speaker.
“I am indeed, Foley,” he said, widening the image. “Is that a safe room?”
“Looks that way, sir,” the constable replied. “The dust in front of it suggests a box was moved and recently. Looks like someone might be in there.”
Smart girl, Jacob thought with approval.
“Not yet, sir, but if they were attacked—”
“They might not be capable of replying,” Jacob finished. “Keep trying.” He minimised the image and looked out through the windscreen. “I have visual on you, Foley. Be with you soon.”
Ahead of him, the house was visible between the trees. The red brick structure had to be at least two centuries old, but even from a distance, the modern touches were obvious. The windows were thick and secure. The roof had been replaced with faux slate.
The autopod purred to a halt beside the four other vehicles lining the gravel courtyard, and the door slid aside. Jacob stepped out and glanced at the other vehicles. He recognised the coroner’s transport pod, and the standard blue-and-white- patterned squad pod, but the other two were probably the homeowner’s.
Foley opened the front door to greet him.
Half his age, she hadn’t been with the force long enough to be as jaded as him yet. She smiled in greeting. “Morning, sir.”
He winced. “Say afternoon. It makes it a little more bearable.”
She laughed. “You want a summary, sir?”
“I read up on it on the way over. Any word on the owner?”
“Thomas Sanders,” Foley said, leading him toward the house. “Forty-eight. Widower with one young son. He’s a well-reputed scientist and engineer. High up in some kind of historical and scientific research program in the city, the Temporal Research Institution.”
“Have you been able to make contact with him?”
Foley shook her head, her sandy ponytail swinging. She offered him overalls to cover his suit. “We’ve tried his business and private numbers. His colleagues said he’s been on a leave of absence for health reasons for several weeks. Our best bet is the safe room.”
“Any sign of the son?”
“We assume he’s with his father,” Foley replied.
“Do we have an ID for the body yet?”
She hesitated in the hallway. “That’s the strange thing, sir. We can’t find anything on him. His prints aren’t in the system. No DNA trace either. We still need to run facial recognition, but so far, we’ve got nothing.”
“That’s not unusual.”
Foley looked at him. “There’s something off about it all. I’ll show you.”
The house was spacious inside. The lower level was split into four rooms, all branching off from a wide, sunlit hall. Foley led him down the hall and to one of the rooms at the back, her covered boots thumping on the wooden floors.
Jacob stopped in the doorway, taking a moment, then stepped across the threshold. The crime scene team was still at work.
The room appeared to be some kind of laboratory with workbenches running along one wall. Another wall was covered in old-fashioned whiteboards with all kinds of incomprehensible text and codes marked on them in half a dozen colours. Jacob studied all of it for a moment, but whatever Sanders was working on, it was far beyond Jacob’s barely adequate physics A level.
There were little machines here and there, suspended from the boards by wires. Spools of wire and gears were scattered across the floor. Several boxes had been upended from shelves and lay on their sides.
In the middle of it all, the body lay face down on the floor, a bloodied hammer close at hand.
Danni Michaels was working on the body and glanced up with a nod. “Sir.”
“Cause of death?” Jacob said, keeping his eyes off the dead man’s face.
“Looks like blunt force trauma,” Danni replied, nudging her magnifying glasses up her nose with her knuckles. “I don’t think it’s a wild guess to say the weapon was that hammer. It was a single blow, landed here.”
Jacob gritted his teeth and looked. The left side of the man’s forehead was ruptured. His eyes were open, and he had an expression of surprise on his rigid, bloody face. He was young. Maybe thirties. Dark-haired. His eyes were dark, the pupils flared wide open, but death sometimes did that. Blood had spread in a wide, sticky pool around his body. Jacob swallowed down the familiar rising acid.
Christ, he hated the messy ones.
He glanced around the room.
A pair of slippers, several steps away from the blood pool, had left bloody prints on the polished floor. The owner must have kicked them off, and they’d ended up at least three feet from each other. Not good shoes for running, slippers. If he—men’s slippers, size nine approximately—had already knocked down the man on the floor, then there had to be another assailant whom he was running from.
“Any sign of this man’s accomplice?”
“Accomplice?” Foley asked.
Jacob gestured to the slippers. It was easier than looking at the body. “You don’t try and run from an unconscious, nearly dead man. There was someone else here.”
“We haven’t seen any sign of anyone else,” Foley replied. “Sorry, sir. I didn’t even notice that.”
He offered her a brief smile. “That’s why I’m a DI, Foley.” He motioned to the body. “You said there was something off?”
Foley nodded, crouching by the body. “Take a look at his right eye.”
Jacob went down beside her, propping his forearms on his knees. It took him a moment, but then he saw what she was pointing out: The pupil wasn’t blown. There was no iris at all.
“What the hell…” He leaned closer. “Michaels, can I borrow your magnifiers?”
She handed them over and obligingly shone the torch over the man’s eyes. “Clever, isn’t it?”
Jacob peered down and frowned. “A synthetic bionic eyeball? Is that even possible?”
Michaels shook her head. “I’ve heard of people developing them, but I’ve never heard of any successful trials.” She squatted by the body and grinned. “I can’t wait to get it out and see what it’s made of.”
“And there’s one of those images I didn’t need,” Jacob murmured, peering through the magnifier again. The pupil seemed to be a focusing lens. High-quality, high-end technology. “Foley, have you checked anywhere that might carry tech this advanced?”
“We’re putting together a list,” she said. “But from what we’re hearing back, this is off the charts, sir. No one has heard of technology like this before, or if they have, they’re not telling us about it.”
He straightened up. “You said this Sanders was a scientist?”
“Doctor in physics and engineering,” she confirmed.
“Could he have made something like this?”
She hesitated. “From all accounts, he didn’t deal in human biology or bio-artificing.”
“Doesn’t mean he couldn’t.” Jacob ran a hand over his face. “Well, if we can’t find this man by standard identification, maybe we can find him by the eye he doesn’t have. Danni, we need all the information you can get us as soon as possible.”
“Sir,” Danni said at once.
Jacob turned to Foley. “Where’s Singh?”
“Still trying to get into the safe room.” She jerked her head. “This way.”
The safe room was up the stairs in what appeared to be a playroom. Windows lined one of the walls, the others covered in posters and drawings. Kids’ toys and games were scattered all over the place. Singh was working his way along the one blank wall with a scanner.
Jacob took in the mess. “You said Sanders has a son?”
“Ben,” Foley confirmed.
Foley looked at him in surprise. “Seven and a half. Is this another one of those detective things?”
Jacob chuckled. “This time, it’s one of those dad things.”
Singh glanced over his shoulder at them, sighing in frustration. “Foley, I know you said to scan for a high intensity of fingerprints on the wall, but this whole wall is fingerprints.” He nodded at Jacob. “Afternoon, sir.”
“Singh.” Jacob approached, studying the wall. “It’s very smoothly done, isn’t it?” He rubbed his short beard thoughtfully with his fingertips. “No visible buttons or latches anywhere?”
“None we could find,” Foley said. “I thought it might be a pressure-point system, but seems not. We requested an expert, but they’ve been delayed.”
“I think we need to un-delay them,” Jacob said, touching his earbud to activate it. “If Sanders is wounded and inside there, we need to get him out. If not, we need confirmation, because this could be an abduction.”
While they waited, Jacob had gone down to the laboratory to take another look at the whiteboards. He didn’t see what it had to do with Sanders’s work at the Temporal Research Institution. A quick search suggested the institution specialised in identifying historical discrepancies and confirming historical events. It could be something to do with locating old records and creating algorithms, he supposed. You would need a specialised engineer to do that.
Jacob turned. “Foley?”
“The smith is here. I thought you might want to be present if he can open the door.”
They headed back up the stairs to the playroom. The body had been removed in the hour before the locksmith arrived, the crime scene unit now working their way out from the house across the grounds, searching for trace evidence of the intruders.
The locksmith was already working on the wall with a scanning device.
“Apparently,” Singh said, joining them, “all safe room doors come installed with a registration chip, in case the mechanism needs to be deactivated in an emergency.”
“Not unlike this,” Jacob observed. “Useful.”
The locksmith glanced over. “It’s a recent make. Give me two minutes.”
In the end, he took less than thirty seconds, and the door swung outward.
Inside, there was a room big enough for a family, but only one person was there. A small tawny-haired boy shrank back into the corner of the room, his arms wrapped around his legs, his face bone-white.
Jacob motioned for the smith and the two constables to back off, and crouched a couple of feet away from the door.
“Hey,” he murmured.
The boy was shivering, and tears rolled down his face from swollen, red-rimmed eyes.
Jacob took out his badge, laid it on the floor, and slid it across to the boy. “It’s okay. I’m a policeman. My name’s Jacob.” He watched as the boy tentatively leaned forward and looked at the badge. “Are you Ben?”
The boy nodded. “Where’s my dad?” His voice shook as much as he was.
“We’re trying to find him now.” Jacob offered a hand. “Do you want to come out? You don’t need to stay in there.”
“Dad told me to stay here.” Ben wrapped his arms tighter around his legs. “He told me to, until he came to get me.”
“I know.” Jacob knelt and sat back on his heels. “We want him to come and get you, too, Ben, but right now, I think he’d want you to be safe, don’t you? How about we keep you safe?”
Jacob nodded. “Promise.”
Ben got unsteadily to his feet. His trousers were sodden, and there was vomit on the front of his shirt. The poor kid must have been terrified. Jacob knelt up, offering both his hands, and Ben’s icy fingers wrapped around his.
“There you go,” Jacob said as gently as he could, drawing Ben back out. “You’re safe now.”
The little boy gave a sob and stumbled forward and wrapped his arms around Jacob’s neck, clinging to him. Jacob scooped him up and rose to his feet with the boy in his arms. He rubbed his hand in circles on Ben’s back.
C.B. Lewis has been making up nonsense since she was able to talk. Now, she puts it into computers and turns it into books. She is chuffed to bits to officially be yet another one of the collective of authors from Edinburgh. Find C.B. Lewis on Facebook.
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As Rudy adapts to life in a new town, he lays eyes on a man whose very presence steals his heart. The man is bewitching. Bewitching…and grumpy.
Samuel has no interest in the coyote shifter who’s been following him around like a lovesick pup, even if he is adorable. Adorable…and persistent.
Born a vampire before the Great Wars, Samuel’s had plenty of time to make enemies. If he can’t discover and kill the one who’s been stalking him, it could be Rudy who pays the price. Samuel doesn’t do relationships, and he won’t bend the rules for Rudy, but that doesn’t mean he wants the coyote hurt. Stuck together as Samuel plots revenge, Rudy finally has his chance to win over his mate.
Can they harness the power of their fated bond, or will Samuel’s dark past overcome the future they’ve yet to claim?
Admiring the quaint architecture along each side of the narrow street, Rudy strolled through the small town he would call home. He’d chosen Stonesburg to be near his friends from university, but he couldn’t fathom why they’d picked it. The old mill town rose and fell with the textile industry. When the mills closed, humans abandoned the place and supernaturals moved in. The rolling hills of a nearby mountain range held some appeal, but Rudy found the nightlife lacking.
He wandered downtown in search of the Eternal Knight Club, where he’d meet the other coyote shifters for drinks. Crisp night air chilled his nose and flushed his cheeks. Spying two ornately carved doors that stood out from the other entryways with their whimsy, Rudy found the place. He pulled open the massive mahogany door and stepped into a spacious, dimly lit interior hazy with cigar smoke. Spotting his rowdy group holding down a corner booth, he headed their way until a fleeting glance toward the bar revealed a sight that stopped Rudy in his tracks.
Who is that?
An exquisite being perched elegantly on a stool, smoking a pipe, his attention on the bartender. Rudy couldn’t help but gawk. Black shining hair, dark as charcoal, fell in waves past his shoulders. He leaned toward his companion with his spine straight, shoulders squared, and one leg crossed neatly over the other. As if he knew someone stared at him, his brown eyes flashed upward and homed in on Rudy. The stranger’s face went from neutral to annoyed in a flash. Rudy knew he should look away, but he couldn’t tear his eyes from the vision before him.
And the vision before him was clearly irritated.
Unable to resist, Rudy drew close.
The man’s glare darkened.
Rudy turned his hands out, palms up in an “I mean no harm” gesture. He glanced at the fellow in the next seat and to the bartender, who both watched his approach, then focused his gaze back to the pretty… Hmm, what was he? Vampire? He had that otherworldly stillness older vampires possessed.
Desperate to make a good impression, Rudy meant to say something clever, but words tumbled out before his brain caught up. “Who are you?”
The man glanced over his shoulder to the bartender. “Mabel, is he talking to me?”
“I’m afraid so,” she replied.
“Can’t you make him leave?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Be nice.”
With an exasperated sigh, the man turned back to Rudy, lips pressed in a hard line, one ebony eyebrow raised. “Well? Let’s have it. What do you want?”
Rudy found him more striking up close, his dark features a beautiful contrast against skin so pale he nearly glowed. “You’re the most handsome person I’ve ever seen.” That was true enough, but it wasn’t only his looks drawing Rudy in. There was something else tugging on his insides, fueling his need to be close to this stranger.
The man rolled his eyes. “You must get out more. Or on second thought, don’t.”
“Can I buy you a drink?” Rudy asked, hopeful.
The gorgeous creature opened his mouth and drew back his upper lip, revealing fangs. He all but hissed, threatening. The sight only enthralled Rudy further. Definitely a vampire.
“No drink, then. How about a smoke?” Rudy offered instead.
The man narrowed his gaze and lifted the cigar he already had. If you could say “duh” with a facial expression, he’d done it.
“Right. Dance with me?” Rudy extended a hand in one last bid to keep his attention.
“I think not.” The vampire turned back to the man sitting next to him, who radiated amusement with the whole situation.
Realization dawned, and an unwelcome tension invaded Rudy’s chest. Perhaps this vampire was here with the other man. “Oh, I’m sorry! You’re here together?” His hands fluttered between them. “I didn’t mean to… Well, I’m sorry.”
The other man grinned. “No, no, he’s all yours.” Laughter filled his voice. “Single and ready to mingle. Isn’t that how the saying goes?”
The raven-haired vampire stared daggers at his friend. “Benjamin, really?” he chided before shifting his attention back to Rudy. “Listen, pup, since you don’t seem to pick up on much, I’ll speak plainly. I’m not interested. Fuck off.”
Rudy’s face fell. “You don’t have to be mean.” He couldn’t hide his disappointment. The desire to be near this vampire didn’t diminish even after the rejection. “If you change your mind, I’ll be over there.” Rudy motioned to the table of coyote shifters in the corner. “I’d love to dance with you.”
The vampire’s exasperated expression burned into Rudy’s memory with an unpleasant flush of heat. Discouraged, he slunk to his friends, all of whom had watched the exchange and were in various states of laughter and confusion.
“Did you seriously hit on that vampire, Rudy?” asked Emerson. “What were you thinking? You’re lucky he didn’t squash you like a bug, because it looked like he wanted to.”
“Slide over, Em.” Rudy nudged his way into the booth. “He’s cute is all.” He shrugged, downplaying the inexplicable attraction, meanwhile glancing over his shoulder to make sure the vampire hadn’t left.
“You’re crazy,” said Morris from across the table. “That’s a good way to get yourself killed. You go pissing off vampires for fun nowadays?”
Carlotta elbowed her boyfriend and gave Rudy a sympathetic smile. “He seemed kind of rude.”
“Rude?” Morris scoffed. “Murderous would be more accurate.”
“Can we drop it?” Rudy squirmed in his seat. “It didn’t work anyway.”
“What didn’t work? What were you hoping to achieve?” Emerson asked.
Rudy’s shoulders lifted. “Wanted to dance is all. He said no. End of story.”
Mabel came to collect drink orders with humor twinkling in her eyes. “Sorry, champ. You picked an impossible target. What can I get for you folks?”
His friends requested refills, and Rudy asked for a beer and hoped the conversation would veer to something less embarrassing. It did, thanks to Carlotta, who mercifully changed the subject.
“How do you like Stonesburg?”
“It’s great!” he lied with enthusiasm. The town wasn’t all that impressive, but he’d needed a change, and Stonesburg was as good a place as any. “I mean, there’s you guys and the mountains, so I’m sure I’ll love it soon enough.”
“Wait until you get settled,” Morris encouraged. “We’ll shift and take you for a run in the forest.”
“Sounds great.” Rudy grinned. “It’s past time I stretch my legs.”
Mabel set an ice-cold beer in front of him and placed the other drinks around the table. They thanked her, and Rudy took a big gulp. Delicious. His eyes drifted back to the grumpy vampire at the bar.
Mabel noticed and laughed under her breath. “Wasting your time on that one, babyface. He doesn’t date, not in the time I’ve known him,” she said, not unkindly, but Rudy didn’t care for her message nonetheless.
She shrugged. “Don’t know. And I wouldn’t ask if I were you. You don’t want to get on his bad side. He’s dangerous.”
Rudy tucked into his beer as she left, letting the conversation happen around him. It was nice being with friends again. He’d been sad and lonely at home with his family.
Risking another glance to the bar, he caught the vampire staring back at him.
Lee Colgin has loved vampires since she read Dracula on a hot sunny beach at 13 years old. She lives in North Carolina with lots of dogs and her husband. No, he’s not a vampire, but she loves him anyway. Lee likes to workout so she can eat the maximum amount of cookies with her pizza. Ask her how much she can bench press.
If you enjoyed this book, pick up Lee’s debut novel Slay My Love to find out what happens when you’re attracted to the very person who want to kill you an enemies to lovers 56,000k novel available now.
What happens when Baer spills his big secret about monsters and magic to a total stranger?
In Baer’s defense, he really thought Wiley was a lost brother.
This case of mistaken identity forces the cute artist to stay at the plantation house for his own protection while they search for a way to take down a witch.
He never should have gotten in Baer’s Jeep.
But in Wiley’s defense, Baer is really sexy. And funny. And so sweet. And did he mention sexy?
All his life he’d dreamed of superheroes and a life of action. He just never expected to find himself swept up into a world filled with monsters and goddesses.
Wiley will do anything to stay with this magical band of brothers and help them with their fight. He just wished he could be Baer’s soul mate.
Wild Warrior is the second book in the Weavers Circle series. It includes fast-paced action, running through Savannah, secrets, swimming pool fun, shapeshifting, an elephant, sexy times, lots of snakes, insecurity, three crazy old ladies, and magic!
There were about five people ahead of Baer in line—all of them staring at their phones or the shiny glass case of a tantalizing rainbow of doughnuts and pastries. Including the sexy blond Mini Cooper owner who was right in front of Baer in line. While Baer was a relatively average height of five ten, the blond was at least a delicate five seven or maybe five eight. The guy looked up from his phone as Baer stepped up behind him, and he flashed a nervous smile.
“Hey,” he greeted in a slightly husky voice and then flushed some more.
Yeah, this guy was all kinds of adorable.
“Mornin’,” Baer replied. “You ever been here before?”
The man shook his head, shoving his phone into his pocket. “No. It was recommended to me recently. When I woke up this morning, I just had to have doughnuts.” He gave a nervous little laugh. “I guess that’s the result of nonstop marketing at its best. It’s fall, so we’ve all gotta eat pumpkin-flavored everything for the next month.”
Blondie had the sexiest southern drawl. It wasn’t too thick. Probably a local, but he’d spent some time out of the area. Just enough to lose some of its natural thickness, but those lilting drawls still mesmerized Baer when he spoke, leaving him wondering how his lips and tongue wrapped around each vowel and consonant.
Good grief. He really did need to grab Grey for a boys’ night out in Savannah if he was going to start fantasizing about a nerdy twink’s mouth. Soul mates and forever sounded great, but it was clear that he needed to get laid. And what better time was there? Things were quiet. They weren’t running and fighting for their lives.
Pumpkin doughnuts and sex could do a growing boy good.
The bell hanging from the front door announced the arrival of another customer. Baer was about to ask the man’s name when the heavy scent of rotting flesh rolled through the room, overpowering the delicious miasma of frosting and fried dough.
He didn’t even need to turn around to know that behind him, pestilents had stepped into the bakery. It wasn’t enough that the alien race was attempting to steal the power of the earth to save their own dying planet while killing all Weavers in the process, but they had to interrupt his attempts at flirting as well? Just not cool.
Silently, Baer cursed himself and his luck. They’d all grown a little complacent over the past couple of months. They’d even started venturing away from the protection of the plantation without backup because the pestilents had stopped attacking.
Apparently they’d gathered enough numbers to make another go at the Weavers, and he’d not been paying enough attention to his surroundings to check to make sure there were no pestilents close. Instead of checking in with the animals in the area that there were no pestilents around, he’d let himself get distracted by big chestnut-brown eyes and a sweet smile.
Twisting around to glance over his shoulder, Baer swore under his breath to find a male and female pestilent standing in front of the door. Humans wouldn’t notice anything different about them, but Weavers could. The air wavered around them as if they radiated heat. And, of course, there was the godawful stench. Pestilents were not meant for this world, and their bodies started rotting from the moment they arrived. Their time in this place was limited, but what time they had was spent trying to kill the Weavers.
The pestilent woman wore a pair of ragged jeans, and her brown hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail, making her angular features seem that much sharper. A feral grin pulled across her thin lips when she spotted him. She lifted the shotgun in her hands to her shoulder and pointed it straight at his chest.
Baer sucked in a breath. Was she really going to open fire in a small building crowded with people? Everyone was going to be killed or injured. Not only one fucking Weaver.
Pivoting on the balls of his feet, Baer wrapped an arm around Blondie’s slender waist and dove over the closest table. A shocked yelp left the man’s lips, but he didn’t fight Baer as they tumbled to the floor. With his free hand, Baer grabbed the edge of the table, pulling it onto its side. They landed with the surprisingly thick wooden barrier at their backs just as the shotgun exploded in the room, slamming into the far side of the table and a scattering of chairs.
Jocelynn Drake and Rinda Elliott have teamed up to combine their evil genius to create intense gay romantic suspense stories that have car chases, shoot outs, explosions, scorching hot love scenes, and tender, tear-jerking moments. Their first joint books are in the Unbreakable Bonds series.
It’s the summer of 1991 and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer has been arrested. His monstrous crimes inspire dread around the globe. But not so much for Emory Hughes, a closeted young man in Chicago who sees in the cannibal killer a kindred spirit, someone who fights against the dark side of his own nature, as Emory does. He reaches out to Dahmer in prison via letters.
The letters become an escape—from Emory’s mother dying from AIDS, from his uncaring sister, from his dead-end job in downtown Chicago, but most of all, from his own self-hatred.
Dahmer isn’t Emory’s only lifeline as he begins a tentative relationship with Tyler Kay. He falls for him and, just like Dahmer, wonders how he can get Tyler to stay. Emory’s desire for love leads him to confront his own grip on reality. For Tyler, the threat of the mild-mannered Emory seems inconsequential, but not taking the threat seriously is at his own peril.
Can Emory discover the roots of his own madness before it’s too late and he finds himself following in the footsteps of the man from Milwaukee?
Dahmer appeared before you in a five o’clock edition, stubbled dumb countenance surrounded by the crispness of a white shirt with pale-blue stripes. His handsome face, multiplied by the presses, swept down upon Chicago and all of America, to the depths of the most out-of-the-way villages, in castles and cabins, revealing to the mirthless bourgeois that their daily lives are grazed by enchanting murderers, cunningly elevated to their sleep, which they will cross by some back stairway that has abetted them by not creaking. Beneath his picture burst the dawn of his crimes: details too horrific to be credible in a novel of horror: tales of cannibalism, sexual perversity, and agonizing death, all bespeaking his secret history and preparing his future glory.
Emory Hughes stared at the picture of Jeffrey Dahmer on the front page of the Chicago Tribune, the man in Milwaukee who had confessed to “drugging and strangling his victims, then dismembering them.” The picture was grainy, showing a young man who looked timid and tired. Not someone you’d expect to be a serial killer.
Emory took in the details as the L swung around a bend: lank pale hair, looking dirty and as if someone had taken a comb to it just before the photograph was snapped, heavy eyelids, the smirk, as if Dahmer had no understanding of what was happening to him, blinded suddenly by notoriety, the stubble, at least three days old, growing on his face. Emory even noticed the way a small curl topped his shirt’s white collar. The L twisted, suddenly a ride from Six Flags, and Emory almost dropped the newspaper, clutching for the metal pole to keep from falling. The train’s dizzying pace, taking the curves too fast, made Emory’s stomach churn.
Or was it the details of the story that were making the nausea in him grow and blossom? Details like how Dahmer had boiled some of his victim’s skulls to preserve them…
Milwaukee Medical Examiner Jeffrey Jentzen said authorities had recovered five full skeletons from Dahmer’s apartment and partial remains of six others. They’d discovered four severed heads in his kitchen. Emory read that the killer had also admitted to cannibalism.
“Sick, huh?” Emory jumped at a voice behind him. A pudgy man, face florid with sweat and heat, pressed close. The bulge of the man’s stomach nudged against the small of Emory’s back.
Emory hugged the newspaper to his chest, wishing there was somewhere else he could go. But the L at rush hour was crowded with commuters, moist from the heat, wearing identical expressions of boredom.
“Hard to believe some of the things that guy did.” The man continued, undaunted by Emory’s refusal to meet his eyes. “He’s a queer. They all want to give the queers special privileges and act like there’s nothing wrong with them. And then look what happens.” The guy snorted. “Nothing wrong with them…right.”
Emory wished the man would move away. The sour odor of the man’s sweat mingled with cheap cologne, something like Old Spice.
Hadn’t his father worn Old Spice?
Emory gripped the pole until his knuckles whitened, staring down at the newspaper he had found abandoned on a seat at the Belmont stop. Maybe if he sees I’m reading, he’ll shut up. Every time the man spoke, his accent broad and twangy, his voice nasal, Emory felt like someone was raking a metal-toothed comb across the soft pink surface of his brain.
Neighbors had complained off and on for more than a year about a putrid stench from Dahmer’s apartment. He told them his refrigerator was broken and meat in it had spoiled. Others reported hearing hand and power saws buzzing in the apartment at odd hours.
“Yeah, this guy Dahmer… You hear what he did to some of these guys?”
Emory turned at last. He was trembling, and the muscles in his jaw clenched and unclenched. He knew his voice was coming out high, and that because of this, the man might think he was queer, but he had to make him stop.
“Listen, sir, I really have no use for your opinions. I ask you now, very sincerely, to let me be so that I might finish reading my newspaper.”
The guy sucked in some air. “Yeah, sure,” he mumbled.
Emory looked down once more at the picture of Dahmer, trying to delve into the dots that made up the serial killer’s eyes. Perhaps somewhere in the dark orbs, he could find evidence of madness. Perhaps the pixels would coalesce to explain the atrocities this bland-looking young man had perpetrated, the pain and suffering he’d caused.
To what end?
“Granville next. Granville will be the next stop.” The voice, garbled and cloaked in static, alerted Emory that his stop was coming up.
As the train slowed, Emory let the newspaper, never really his own, slip from his fingers. The train stopped with a lurch, and Emory looked out at the familiar green sign reading Granville. With the back of his hand, he wiped the sweat from his brow and prepared to step off the train.
Then an image assailed him: Dahmer’s face, lying on the brown, grimy floor of the L, being trampled.
Emory turned back, bumping into commuters who were trying to get off the train, and stooped to snatch the newspaper up from the gritty floor.
Tenderly, he brushed dirt from Dahmer’s picture and stuck the newspaper under his arm.
Kenmore Avenue sagged under the weight of the humidity as Emory trudged home, white cotton shirt sticking to his back, face moist. At the end of the block, a Loyola University building stood sentinel—gray and solid against a wilted sky devoid of color, sucking in July’s heat and moisture like a sponge.
Emory fitted his key into the lock of the redbrick high-rise he shared with his mother and sister, Mary Helen. Behind him, a car grumbled by, muffler dragging, transmission moaning. A group of four children, Hispanic complexions darkened even more by the sun, quarreled as one of them held a huge red ball under his arm protectively.
As always, the vestibule smelled of garlic and cooking cabbage, and as always, Emory wondered from which apartment these smells, grown stale over the years he and his family had lived in the building, had originally emanated.
In the mailbox was a booklet of coupons from Jewel, a Commonwealth Edison bill, and a newsletter from Test Positive Aware. Emory shoved the mail under his arm and headed up the creaking stairs to the third floor.
Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at http://www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.