Murder Most Lovely – Lacetown Murder Mysteries: Case One

It all started back in early February with a simple Facebook message:

Full disclosure: I’m drinking tonight LOL….

Oh boy. Seeing a message like is akin to hearing someone say “Hold my beer…”

But that message was the kick-off to an amazing partnership, and because of it, I’m extremely honored and pleased to announce that I have co-authored a book with Deanna Wadsworth, and it will be released from Dreamspinner Press in early 2019! This is the first book in a planned trilogy, and it’s titled MURDER MOST LOVELY: Lacetown Murder Mysteries: Case One.

I’ve never really co-authored a book before. I co-wrote a dinner theater murder mystery play and a children’s story with my long time friend, but nothing on this scale. And it all started when Deanna was drinking whisky one night in the fabulous basement bar her husband built.

In the beginning, we had nothing but the idea that our senses of humor meshed well and that we both wrote steamy gay romance. We had no settings, no characters, no basic outline of a story. But thanks to the wonder of Facebook and text messages, we came up with something pretty great, if I do say so myself.

It’s quite different from anything else out there. It’s dark and funny and suspenseful and romantic and sexy, and Deanna and I can’t wait for you all to get a look at it. After some back and forth, we decided on a setting and created a fictional town on the shoreline of Lake Michigan, kind of in the Saugatuck, Holland, and Grand Haven area. We wanted professions that were unusual, and we settled on hair stylist for one character, and mortician for another. And when Deanna sent this message back

Actually my license does allow me to do makeup and hair on dead bodies if I wanted.

We pretty much knew we had a unique story and professions, now we just needed two guys in need of romance.

To change things up, since Deanna works in a salon, I took on writing up the character of our stylist while she wrote up a character sheet about our mortician. We decided to do a co-authored announcement blog post to announce our co-authorship, so she has some tidbits about our mortician and county coroner, Michael Fleishman, at her blog, plus the first part of the first chapter of our book. If you haven’t read her blog post yet, it’s probably a good idea to jump over there and see part one of the chapter before reading any further. 🙂

Now, I’d like to introduce you to Jasper “Jazz” Dilworth.

He’s 47 but tells people he’s 41, and he can pass for it. He has long, honey-colored hair he wears in a “man-bun”, and has before anyone even thought to call it that. He’s outgoing and charming and has recently moved to Lacetown, Michigan, because it’s a place he really loves, even though he and his soon-to-be ex-husband, mystery novelist Russell Withingham, used to vacation. Jazz likes to swear and doesn’t take crap from anyone… Well, not anymore.

I imagine Jazz as looking a bit lion-like, with waves of blond hair surrounding his handsome face, and a knack for knowing just how much eyeliner an event calls for. He loves his job at Misty’s Makeover Palace, and he’s not really looking to fall for anyone anytime soon, not since that bastard Russell broke his heart.

Sometimes, however, fate, and a little murder, throw people together.

Please enjoy the SECOND HALF of the first chapter of MURDER MOST LOVELY—Lacetown Murder Mysteries: Case One. If you haven’t read the first half yet, hop on over to Deanna’s blog by clicking HERE.

And when you’re done, jump back here to read the rest of chapter one.

Make sure you enter our Raffelcopter giveaway below for a chance to win a copy of Deanna’s 1Night Stand book TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE and my mobster noir story HIRED MUSCLE.
Enter for a chance to win!

 

Here’s the second half of the first chapter of MURDER MOST LOVELY: Lacetown Murder Mysteries: Case One, enjoy!

 

“Side dishes,” Michael managed, even though his mouth was dry. There were six people between them and Russell. And then what? Michael had Jazz’s card, but would he call? Could Michael bring himself to call?

“Right. Side dishes. Like, you know, a twink on one side, maybe a bear on the other. It happens, I know, and some couples get off on inviting other people to the party, but I’m a one-on-one kind of guy. Maybe if he had asked me about it, like, before we said our ‘I dos’.” Jazz sighed and peeked around the umbrella. “Five more people. He’s really moving them along now.”

“Do you think he’ll be mad I have ten books?” Michael was even more nervous. He didn’t want to piss off his favorite author.

“Oh, honey, by the time I’m done talking to him, he won’t be able to count to ten.”

“Oh?” A flutter of nerves went through Michael. What if Jazz went off on Russell before Michael was able to get his books signed? Would Russell be so upset he would storm off and leave those still waiting in line with their books in hand?

“Three more people,” Jazz whispered, and winked.

“I’m sorry he cheated on you.”

“Oh, sweetie, it wasn’t just him cheating on me. That makes it sound like it was a one time or one person event. He was dipping his quill in every ink pot in town. Or, to put it in a way you might appreciate, he was embalming every warm body in reach.”

The woman ahead of them turned and gave Jazz a wide-eyed look.

“Oh, please,” Jazz said with an elaborate eye roll. “You’ve heard worse. You know you have. Do not start with me, you will not win.”

“Next!”

The voice was bright and sharp, and it got the woman in front of them moving. Michael looked around Jazz and his umbrella shield to see the eavesdropping woman gush to Russell Withingham as she handed him a couple of books. Russell’s smile was cool and he looked tired, but attentive as he spoke to her. Despite Jazz’s feelings about his not-quite-ex, Michael liked that Russell seemed to be genuinely listening to a fan.

“Remember, people, there’s a three book limit.”

A tall, wiry man standing just behind Russell’s left shoulder had a blond swoop of hair that fell across his forehead while the rest of it was a glossy raven color. He had a pursed mouth and sharp, pointed nose as he surveyed the crowd. His cool gaze landed on Michael’s bag of books, and it snapped up to latch onto his face.

“That’s Norbert, Russell’s mini-Hitler PR rep from the publisher,” Jazz said. “He’s a real treat to have around.”

“He looks mean. I don’t think he likes me. He just gave me a very dirty look.”

“That’s just his standard look. Don’t worry about it. He’s more creepy than mean.”

“Are you… Will you be yelling at Russell?”

“Not yelling. Maybe speaking sternly.” Jazz arched an eyebrow. “You afraid I’m going to scare him off?”

“I wouldn’t say that…”

Jazz flashed him a dazzling smile. “You were in line first anyway, so I don’t know how I ended up in front. You go first. Get your ten books signed.”

“His assistant just said we can only get three signed.”

“Just smile and flirt a little. Russell can’t resist a hot guy who flirts.”

Michael nearly collapsed. A hot guy? Had Jazz just called him a hot guy? No one had ever come out and said that about him, let alone to his face.

“You’re up,” Jazz whispered before he stepped back, keeping the umbrella up on his shoulder to remain hidden from Russell’s view.

Totally befuddled after Jazz’s compliment—since when was Michael hot?—he stepped up to the table. “G-good-afternoon.”

Russell looked up, his expression bored but polite. “Good afternoon.”

“Um,” Michael began, looking at Gestapo Norbert quickly, then back to Russell.

Jazz said to flirt!

Was Michael even any good at flirting anymore?

Forcing a deep breath, he found his composure and offered a genuine smile. “I didn’t realize there was a limit on books to sign. I mean, how can you just pick three Brock Hammer novels, am I right?” Laugh, Michael laugh! He thought his chuckle sounded flirtatious as he added, “You wouldn’t be terribly upset if I had say, ten books, would you, Mr. Withingham?” He added quickly, “I’ll buy the hardcover of the newest book as well, of course.”

“The limit is three,” Norbert snapped, all but clicking his heels and raising his right arm in a Heil Hitler.

But Russell smiled. He raised his hands, not taking his eyes off Michael. “Oh, Norbie, rules are meant to be broken.” His volume increased a bit as he continued, “If Brock Hammer always followed the rules, he’d never solve a case, right?”

A murmur of agreement and chuckles wafted through the crowd, and Michael heard Jazz’s faint utter of, “Bitch, please.”

Russell gave Michael a wink, then held out his hand. “Let’s see which ones you brought, Mr…?”

“Fleishman,” Michael said, feeling giddy as he fished out his books. Impulsively, he added, “But please, call me Michael.”

“All right, Michael.” Russell took the first book and glanced at the cover. “A Hard Day to Die, Brock’s first adventure. You have great taste, Michael.” Then, if Michael wasn’t mistaken, Russell gave him a lecherous grin.

Not to get ahead of himself, but did two men think he was a “hot guy?” This was turning out to be a fantastic afternoon!

When Michael spied copies of Russell’s upcoming release on the table, he picked one up excitedly. The Bitter Winds of Death wasn’t even scheduled to be released until next month!

“This one too, please.” Definitely a fantastic afternoon!

“Wonderful,” Russell said.

Norbert told him a price and Michael handed over his credit card. After swiping it on his tablet, he held it out for Michael to sign, his face pinched into some version of a smile. The new book was added to the new Brock Hammer mystery as well as the ones Michael brought with him, and Norbert muttered under his breath, “That makes twelve.”

Since Russell didn’t seem to mind, Michael ignored the odd man.

While Russell extolled the virtues of Brock Hammer and his own literary prowess as he signed each book, Michael kept stealing covert glances at Jazz, still concealed by the large umbrella. After his confrontation with Russell, Michael would have to get his umbrella back.

A perfect excuse to talk to him further.

Maybe Michael would ask Jazz if he had plans. They could go get ice cream or—no, how lame is that? Ask him for coffee or a drink, not ice cream!

Though that’s not what he really longed to do.

Michael nodded and smiled as Russell relived each of Brock Hammer’s adventures, all the while his mind conjured images of Jazz, that luscious hair unbound and spread across a pillow, those strong hands gripping the sheets as Michael sucked him hard….

“How’s the signing going, dear?” a syrupy voice crooned.

Michael studied the newcomer in surprise. A young man in his very early twenties sidled up behind Russell. His hair was brown with blond highlights, and he wore red skinny capris, chucks, and a navy-and-white tank-top that showed a defined but narrow chest. He was twirling a sucker in his mouth in a child-like yet lewd fashion.

The side-dish of twink Jazz had mentioned?

“Wonderful,” Russell beamed up at the young man with that same lecherous smile he’d offered Michael. Turning that grin back on Michael, he held up the hardcover Michael just purchased. “The Bitter Winds of Death is a mystery, but not a Brock Hammer story. You do realize that, right?”

“I do, yes. I’m excited to read it. Thank you so much,” Michael said, carefully placing it back in his bag with the others. “Thank you, Mr. Withingham.”

“Please, call me Russell. My father is Mr. Withingham.”

The twink glared and possessively put his hand on Russell’s shoulder, pressing against the back of Russell’s chair and his arm, staking his claim like a little puppy peeing on a fire hydrant.

What was that look all about?

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Jazz interrupted, planting Michael’s umbrella down like a gentleman’s cane. He gestured irritably toward the twink. “You’re bringing your fuck toys to signings now? You really have gotten so gauche since I left you.”

“Jasper,” Russell cried, eyes wide. He stood up at once, shaking off the twink’s touch, and looking over his shoulder like he’d been caught red-handed. “I didn’t expect to see you here, Jasper.”

Jazz scowled, stepping forward. “I live here now. You would know that, if you were sending me the money you owe me.”

Every eye in the bar turned on them, an awkward silence falling over the customers. Even the bartender stopped mid-martini shake. Michael clutched the bag of books to his chest, unable to look away or step back.

“Mr. Dilworth,” Norbert hissed, eyes and mouth serpentine slits on his pale face. “You’re causing a scene.”

“That heinous haircut of yours is causing a scene,” Jazz threw back without even glancing at the fuming PR man.

Michael’s gaze darted back to Norbert, waiting for a response, but Russell spoke next. “Norbie, be a dear and see if we have any more copies of Sea of Discontent in the back. My stack is getting low.”

Norbert’s mouth gaped as wide as his eyes, the shift in expressions so dramatic it was almost comical. Then all of his features melted into a calm, placid look that actually sent a chill down Michael’s back. He bunched his hands into the small of his back and tipped his head. “Yes, I’ll check at once, Russell.”

Jazz was right, Norbert was one creepy character.

“I hate to agree with Norbie,” the twink all but spat his name. “But I think he’s—”

Russell raised his hands and the twink looked just shy of murderous. But apparently, when Russell said jump, his minions didn’t ask how high, they just obeyed.

“You got my money?” Jazz demanded, not deterred by the interruptions.

Michael shuddered at the authority rolling off Jazz in hot, sensuous waves. Jazz was obviously no man’s minion.

“Now Jasper, dear, let’s have this discussion, but privately.” He gestured off to the side, looking nervously at his fans.

All of Jazz’s cocky posturing was so damn sexy, Michael started to get an erection, which he quickly concealed with his bag.

Good gracious, Jazz was flaring up Michael’s imagination and hitting all his hot buttons! He hadn’t met a guy that stirred him up like this in… well, never.

Pursing his lips in thought, Jazz gave a curt nod. “After you then. I don’t want you sneaking off when my back’s turned.”

Russell’s face grimaced into a smile, and he gave an elaborate bow to his fans. “If you’ll excuse me. Marital disputes, you know,” he said, his laughter sounding forced.

A few awkward chuckles answered him.

Michael watched them walk away, Jazz still holding his umbrella.

He knew where Jazz worked so he could just get it later. But his curious nature won out, and he watched the two men arguing in a semi-private corner of the bar. The aggressive way Jazz pointed in Russell’s face, and the author’s resulting cower weren’t helping Michael’s below the belt disturbances.

A crunch crunch sound drew Michael’s attention away from the argument and to the disgruntled twink. His arms were pretzeled tight and he was crushing the sucker with his teeth, the white stick bobbing up and down between clenched lips as he glared at Jazz.

Jealous much?

When Michael looked back at the argument, Jazz was stuffing a wad of bills in his pocket. The twink saw it too and threw up his hands in disgust. Jazz stormed back, right toward Michael, his face livid.

Michael took a step back in surprise, but nothing could have shocked him further than when Jazz said, “C’mon, Michael, let’s get out of here.”

Hesitating for the barest of seconds, Michael glanced at the twink—Jazz’s comment had shocked him as much as Michael—then hurried after Jazz.

Jazz stepped out into the rain and popped open the big umbrella, holding it out so there was plenty of space for Michael to slip beneath, too.

“That smarmy, sneaky sonofabitch,” Jazz cursed, glaring down the street.

“What did he say?” Michael still held his bag of books to his stomach, being huddled under an umbrella with the very sexy Jazz Dilworth a potent aphrodisiac. Damn, his cologne smelled good, tangy and sweet at the same time. Michael’s mouth watered.

Jazz regarded him for a moment and the tension left his shoulders. He offered an apologetic smile. “You must think I’m a cunty little queen, huh?”

“Oh, no, not at all.”

“When we decided to split up last year, it was just easier not to go through the courts. Russell is famous, ya know? All I could imagine was our life becoming an episode of Gay Celebrity Divorce Court.” He sniffed a laugh. “We spend decades fighting for the right to marry, and we fuck marriage up just like the breeders.”

Michael barely contained his laughter. Jazz had such a crass and colorful way of talking.

“Anyway, we always kept our investments and bills separate, except for the house. Russell didn’t want to sell it and I didn’t want to make him. So we made an agreement. He’d pay my car off and send me a check once a month until I got back my half of the down payment. He actually made out better than I did, but I didn’t care. I just wanted out. But I’m not stupid. I wasn’t signing an annulment or divorcing his ass until I got all my money back. Legally everything is still half mine. I did that finger-fucker a favor and he can’t even stick with it.”

“Probably spending his money on the twink,” Michael said.

Jazz shot him a look. Before Michael could apologize, Jazz laughed, slapping Michael on the shoulder good-naturedly. “Probably.”

Jazz didn’t stop smiling, and he didn’t drop his hand from Michael’s shoulder. Their gazes locked and Michael’s pulse quickened. He licked his lips, wanting to kiss the man, ask him out, or just say something clever, but his mind wouldn’t work!

That hand slid away. “It was nice meeting you, Michael. Don’t judge me too harshly for all my drama.”

“Oh, I won’t,” he insisted. “I mean, I didn’t.”

Nodding, Jazz offered him another grin, then held out the handle of the umbrella. “Thanks again.”

Michael fumbled with his bag and slipped the strap over his shoulder before taking the umbrella. “You’re welcome. Um… can I walk you back to your salon? It’s still raining.”

“Nah, I’m good, but thanks.”

“Oh, okay.” Michael couldn’t conceal his disappointment.

“You’ve got my number. Don’t be a stranger. Maybe we can grab an ice cream some afternoon?”

“Ice cream?”

“Sure, everybody loves ice cream.” Jazz let out a breathy chuckle and brushed Michael’s hair off his brow, pushing it back into place with his fingertips.

The gesture was so quick, probably just instinctive from a hairdresser, but Michael’s knees went watery and he had to stifle a whimper.

“I’ll catch you on the flipside, Michael.”

And with that, Jazz darted into the rain, looking both ways as he hurried across the street, and leaving Michael standing there speechless.

 

Thanks for stopping by, and don’t forget to enter the rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Deanna’s 1Night Stand book TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE and my mobster noir story HIRED MUSCLE.

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