Murder Most Deserving

Murder Most Deserving Cover art
Part of the Lacetown Murder Mysteries series:

An acoustic music festival comes to Lacetown, and with it, another dead body—this one found at Fleishman’s Funeral Home. Michael recuses himself from the autopsy, handing the job over to his arch-nemesis from a neighboring county.

Luckily Michael and local hairstylist Jazz are closer than ever. Between a trio of funerals, a blowout BBQ, and a couple of trips on Beulah, Jazz’s beloved scooter, Michael and Jazz do some sleuthing of their own. With the first gruesome murder still fresh in their memories, they can’t help but wonder if notorious murderer and famous author Russell Withingham might be targeting them from jail, where he’s awaiting trial.

The festival, however, brings in a veritable lineup of potential killers, including a familiar—and most unwelcome—figure from their past. As the murderer circles ever closer to Jazz and Michael, Sheriff Musgrave is quick to remind them that everyone’s a suspect until Sheriff Musgrave says they’re not!

The Christmas Accomplice

The Christmas Accomplice cover image

A vacation mix up.
A job promotion on the line.
A fateful roll of the dice.

Welton Monroe is on his first vacation in a very long time. He’s not a winter sport enthusiast, but the cozy cabin at the Snowcapped resort, and Reece Donaghy, the hunky employee who checks him in, seem perfect to finally put his relationship with Dean in the past. That is, until Dean arrives. In an effort to make up for past wrongs, Dean offers to help Welton win Reece’s heart, an offer Welton grudgingly accepts.

Reece should be focusing on the Assistant Activities Director promotion he’s put in for, but he’s more than distracted by Welton. In a whirlwind week of activities, Welton and Reece discover the Christmas magic in snowman building, karaoke, and tobogganing. But when the secret Welton has been keeping comes to light, and a final, large-scale challenge is assigned to Reece for his chance to win the promotion, it seems a week’s worth of Christmas spirit may not be enough to keep them together once the holiday is over.

Excerpt:

The song ended, but they continued to dance, moving slowly, hands clasped. When the unmistakable bulge of Reece’s erection grazed across his own, Welton let out a quiet gasp. As he stared into Reece’s eyes, his heart pounded and his scalp tingled. There was no denying now Reece was gay and attracted to him. All Welton had to do was move a little closer, close his eyes, and Reece would undoubtedly kiss him.

But why should Welton have to wait to be kissed? Why couldn’t he simply take the first step and initiate the kiss? All his life he’d been waiting for things to come to him: the right job, a nice apartment, the perfect boyfriend. He could change all that right now by taking the lead and kissing Reece. That was all there was to it. One simple kiss, and Welton knew his life would change.

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Before Welton could make his move, the radio clipped to Reece’s belt let out a burst of static, and a woman’s voice said, “Reece? You there?”

They jumped apart like two teenagers caught making out in a dark basement. They laughed and Reece grabbed the radio and brought it to his lips. His full, perfect lips that Welton was kicking himself now for not kissing.

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The Cupid Crawl

A Williamsville Inn Story

Book Cover: The Cupid Crawl

A hook-up app serial dater. A Valentine’s bar crawl. A day that will change their lives.

Carter Walsh will be alone on Valentine’s Day, and his plans include a candy sampler of hook-ups. But once he learns about the Cupid Crawl—a bar crawl covering a half dozen bars, both gay and straight—he decides on a change of plans.

At the first bar, Carter meets Harry, a divorced dad coming out later in life, and he’s far from impressed. Harry’s definitely not the type of guy Carter would ever swipe right for. But as the Cupid Crawl hops from bar to bar, the two seem to naturally gravitate toward each other, and before he realizes it, Carter’s succumbed to the magic of Valentine’s Day and ditched the hook-up app to spend all his time with Harry.

The Cupid Crawl is a funny, sweet, and steamy opposites attract, divorced bi-sexual dad, slight age gap story that takes place in the Williamsville Inn series world, and features characters from the Christmas stories Snowflakes and Song Lyrics by Hank Edwards and Snowstorms and Second Chances by Brigham Vaughn.

Excerpt:

Vic, the organizer, led the way, squeezing past the men and women standing in the doorway and forging a path for Carter to follow. At first, Carter thought he was way overdressed. The men he slid past were shirtless, some wearing just white loin cloths or even cloth diapers along with feathered wings strapped around their broad chests. These men gave him a brief glance, maybe a quick smile, but were busy talking to each other or women who were also baring a lot of skin. Didn’t these people realize it was February in Boston?

When he reached the bar, Carter was relieved to see people wearing shirts and pants instead of just diapers and short shorts. Vic leaned in over the bar and said to the bartender, “Don, this is my good friend, Carter. Put his first two drinks on my tab.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” Carter insisted. “I have money.”

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“Happy Valentine’s Day, Carter,” Vic said. “The first two drinks are on me to help you relax. I’m going to make a round of the bar, but when I return, I hope to find you talking with someone, and not just leaning on the bar all alone.”

“I know how to socialize,” Carter said.

“Oh, I’m sure you do.”

Vic winked again before threading his way through the crowd, greeting people as he slid past them. Carter ordered a beer from Don, and then fished a couple of singles out of his wallet for a tip. He lifted his bottle to salute Don and had just taken a swig when a piercingly high voice shrieked from just behind him. The sound startled him so much he choked on his beer and started to cough. He turned, coughing and sputtering, and squinted through his tears at the woman standing behind him.

Auburn hair done up tall, bright green eyes that could be nothing other than colored contact lenses, a pert, upturned nose, and a broad mouth filled with teeth laser-whitened to solar flare level.

Carter’s heart stuttered with surprise and dread as he struggled to clear his airway.

“I saw you walk in and had to come over and see if it was really you!” she exclaimed.

With a final clearing of his throat, Carter managed a smile and said, “Lizzie. Hello! What a treat to see you.”

Lizzie’s smile widened even further and she crossed her arms. It was then Carter noticed she wore what looked like a sports bra with a pair of white wings strapped to her shoulders, and a sheer white shift around her waist that showed off a pair of black panties trimmed with lace.

“As I live and breathe,” Lizzie said with a shake of her head. “Carter the Farter.”

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Snowflakes and Song Lyrics

A Williamsville Inn Story

Cover image showing a singer wearing a hat and holding a guitar.
Part of the The Williamsville Inn series:

A hotel room with an overactive heater. A rising star struggling to write a Christmas song. Song lyrics written in secret.

Will Johnson is shocked to discover his hotel room window overlooks the courtyard patio of one of his favorite gay singers, Rex Garland. Even more amazing, Rex seems interested in Will too.

When Will overhears Rex struggling to write an original Christmas song, he is struck by a flash of inspiration and drafts an anonymous note with song lyrics. Will is sure nothing will come of it, but the Christmas magic swirling amidst all the snow in upstate New York is about to change both their lives forever.

This funny, sweet, and heart-warming love story about a boy-next-door and the celebrity of his dreams is set in the Williamsville Inn world.

Excerpt:

The Williamsville Inn had seen better days. Most likely sometime back in the 1960s. The early 1960s.

Will entered his room after a long first day on the job, and the heat nearly made him pass out in the entryway. It had to be ninety degrees! He desperately pulled off clothing as he searched for a thermostat, but by the time he was down to socks and his boxer briefs, he’d had no luck.

“So I’ve died and gone to Hell, and this is what I have to look forward to for eternity?” Will muttered.

The heating/air conditioning unit under the window—a long metal contraption with a number of vents set at an upward angle—made a thumping noise followed by a quiet hiss. Will sidestepped to the end of the bed and peered down at the thing. A stamp with the brand name Rest Easy was affixed to one corner, and warm air gusting out of the vents blew the sheer curtains away from the windowsill.

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Will approached the unit and discovered a small metal flap on a hinge at one end. Underneath was a small knob with a faded line painted on it. The knob was turned all the way over to COOL, and Will sighed. No more cool setting to try, apparently.

“So much for resting easy, I guess.”

He pulled the flimsy white curtains aside and inspected the window. Happiness filled him when he discovered the age of the hotel at last worked in his favor, and one side of the window was a slider he could open for some fresh air. The locking mechanism was old, however, and took some struggle before it finally released and allowed him to shove the window open with a squeal of the metal frames scraping together.

Will closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath of the fresh, cool air. He released it slowly and opened his eyes to look down into the courtyard. His room was on the top floor of the three-story building, and the first-floor rooms across from his all had small patios outside a sliding door. Metal café tables and chairs were provided for each room, and all of it was covered in snow. A quartet of lights in the style of old streetlamps, complete with large round frosted glass shades, provided gentle illumination to the area.

Just as he was wondering if the first-floor rooms cost more because of the tiny patios, one of the sliding doors almost directly across from his window opened, and a man stepped out.

He was tall, with dark hair and a matching full beard. A flannel shirt covered a white tee that hugged his broad chest and flat stomach. The cuffs of tight black jeans had been tucked into black Doc Martens. Something about the man seemed familiar, and Will guessed he’d seen him around the hotel. Someone like that would have definitely caught Will’s eye.

But then the man turned to call to someone still inside the room, and the sound of his voice tripped recognition in Will’s brain.

Rex Garland.

Will sucked in a breath and stared down into the courtyard, watching Rex pace around the cafe table, leaving a path in the snow. His hands were stuffed into the front pockets of his jeans, and he seemed to be muttering to himself.

A burning in his chest reminded Will to let out his breath and pull another one in.

Rex Garland was staying at his hotel. Would he be here for the entire run of his appearances at the Side-Eye? Will’s heart pounded, and a fresh sheen of sweat covered his body. Even the bottoms of his feet were damp!

A man joined Rex out on the patio, and the two of them spoke in low tones. Will watched, lips slightly parted as he absently rubbed a hand through the fine hair covering his chest. He couldn’t make out any words of their conversation until Rex threw his hands in the air and said, “I know I need to get it done, okay? Back the fuck off.”

The other man held his hands up in a sign of surrender and went back inside the room.

Rex’s paces around the small café table picked up speed, and Will could hear him talking to himself. He hated to see his favorite singer in such a state.

Suddenly, Rex stopped and stared across the courtyard. Will pressed his forehead to the glass in an effort to see straight down, but he wasn’t able to. When he looked back, he discovered Rex looking right up at his window. Realizing he must look pretty fucking creepy standing in front of his window in his underwear, Will dropped to the floor and lay there for a moment listening to the heating unit rattle and hiss.

Shit. Now what?

Will rolled onto his belly and did an Army crawl away from the window until he’d reached the far side of the bed. He got up and hurried into the bathroom where he sat on the lid of the toilet with his head in his hands.

Rex Garland was staying at his hotel.

Rex Garland was having a hard time with something and had shouted at one of his team.

Rex Garland had more than likely seen Will standing in his boxer briefs at the window and watching him.

His best friend Carter was going to love this story.

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Dread of Night

Something big is prowling the woods around Parson’s Hollow, and Demetrius Singleton is afraid it’s another wolfman. The sudden arrival of Cody’s niece, Summer, and the strange behavior of Demetrius’ Aunt Amelia distract the two newlyweds from investigating until they learn some people have gone missing and others have been violently murdered. Demetrius and Cody now realize they are the only two with enough experience to stop whatever lurks in the woods.

Refusing to believe in a paranormal entity, Deputy Lucia Durant calls in a State Police sergeant, and Cody and Demetrius are surprised to find it’s Hap Blanchard, an officer they’ve worked with before who’s more open to paranormal possibilities. Soon, Demetrius, Cody, Lucia, and Hap are joined by a number of familiar friends who help them race the countdown to the next full moon and solve their most deadly and personal case yet.

Excerpt:

“Okay, so we have a lot to do, and we’re going to need some fuel to do it," Demetrius said. "What’d you two find for dinner?”

Cody exchanged a look with Summer. “Ketchup surprise.”

“Didn’t you two just go shopping?” Demmy said.

“You guys eat out a lot,” Summer said. “Do you ever cook?”

“Sometimes,” Cody said. “When we’re not hunting monsters.” He stood up and said, “Let’s get our fancy clothes on and go to Antonio’s.”

“What?” Demmy looked surprised. “Did you win the lottery or something?”

“Nope. Just think we should treat ourselves once in a while.”

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“Is it like Margie’s?” Summer asked, looking at him suspiciously. “Is Antonio Margie’s brother or something?”

“Antonio’s is the nicest restaurant in town,” Demmy said.

“Tablecloths and cloth napkins and glass goblets for water.”

“Won’t Margie miss you?”

“If you want, we could stay here and you could make us all dinner,” Cody said.

“Antonio’s sounds nice.”

“I thought you might see it that way.”

“Back to Parson’s Pines afterward?” Demmy asked. “Check on Felicia?”

Summer got up from the table and ran toward the guest room. “I’ll get changed! Do I need to wear long pants for such a fancy restaurant?”

“We’ve created a monster hunting monster,” Cody said.

“Let’s hope she doesn’t get a taste for it,” Demmy said, giving him a quick kiss before walking to the bedroom to change.

A note taped on the inside of Antonio’s glass door read: Sorry, closed due to family emergency.

“That sounds ominous,” Demmy said.

Cody had been thinking along the same lines. “How old is good ol’ Antonio?”

Demmy shrugged. “Not sure. We don’t eat here often enough to really know him.”

“Correction,” Cody said, “we don’t make enough money to be able to eat here often enough to really know him.”

Demmy grinned. “I stand corrected.”

That grin helped Cody feel a bit better in spite of everything. It let him know things probably weren’t as bad as they seemed. Yet.

He turned away from Antonio’s door and stopped at the sight of Summer standing just behind him with her arms crossed and a sulky expression.

“I take it we’re going to Margie’s again?” she said.

“In case you hadn’t noticed, there aren’t a lot of options here in town,” Cody said.

“Have you considered going to another town?”

Cody frowned. “Why would we do that?”

“Ugh.” Summer turned toward Margie’s Diner, several storefronts away. “I put on long pants for this.”

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Murder Most Lovely

Lacetown Murder Mysteries: Case One

Book Cover: Murder Most Lovely
Part of the Lacetown Murder Mysteries series:

A killer at a small-town literary festival. Bumbling drug dealers. A kidnapped cat. Starting a romance among all this chaos might be the death of them.

Michael Fleishman is excited to meet his favorite mystery writer, Russell Withingham, at Lacetown’s Literary Fest. He is not expecting to cross paths with sexy hairdresser Jasper “Jazz” Dilworth—or become embroiled in a real-life mystery. As Lacetown’s only mortician and the county coroner, Michael is called to his first murder scene and is shocked to recognize the victim—Russell’s young lover.

Jazz only wanted to confront his ex, Russell, over his cheating. Instead, he meets the adorably awkward Michael and becomes a murder suspect. Soon Jazz is teaming up with Michael to clear his name. Along the way, they are helped and hindered by Michael’s sassy assistant, Kitty, the grumpy Sheriff Musgrave, Russell’s creepy PR rep, Norbert, and Michael’s lothario grandfather, who likes his manhattans strong and his women saucy. And of course, Mr. Pickles Furryton the Third….

Excerpt:

Michael adjusted his bag on his shoulder and tried to keep his umbrella from poking the lady’s in front of him. Fleishman Funeral Home only had gigantic golf umbrellas for services, and he was glad for it when the rain picked up and a gust blew mist onto his glasses. He shoved them into his front shirt pocket, knowing there would be no use keeping them clean until he was inside.

“Shit, I thought this rain was supposed to let up this afternoon,” a deep masculine voice from behind him said.

Michael turned and drew up short.

“Whoa there, pal. You could take an eye out with that thing.”

For a heartbeat Michael froze and stared. The man had a long face and wheat-colored hair swept back from a low brow and into a ponytail. Eyes the color of cognac had just enough sparkle to make Michael smile and conjure thoughts of mischief and long summer romances.

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And you’re staring at him like a ninny!

Michael hastily stepped back to avoid poking the gorgeous man in the eye with his umbrella. “Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Hey, watch it,” the lady in front of him snapped. “You’re soaking me!”

Michael jumped when he realized his big umbrella had slipped beneath hers and was funneling water right onto her.

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry,” he said at once, stepping back the other way.

“Whoa, whoa,” Ponytail Guy said again, reaching up to take hold of the eye-level pin on Michael’s umbrella. “How about I just join you?” And then he stepped under the huge umbrella with Michael.

“Oh, yeah, sure,” Michael managed, squirming a little. “There’s plenty of room.”

The man used both hands to brush a few wayward strands of blond hair off his face, his tanned skin glistening from the rain. He wore a ring on a long well-manicured index finger. Smiling, he held out a hand. “I’m Jazz Dilworth.”

What a strange name. Sounds like something in a mystery novel.

He quickly shook the proffered hand. “Michael Fleishman.”

Jazz flipped a thumb behind him. “I work across the street at Misty’s Makeover Palace.” He furrowed tidy brows. “Fleishman, like the funeral parlor?”

“Yes, the same.”

“Eew,” the lady in front of him said with a distinct Valley girl attitude.

Michael maintained his polite mortician smile. Sadly, he was used to the reaction. Hence his lackluster love life.

Expecting Jazz to make some equally grossed-out remark and leave the shelter of the umbrella, Michael looked back at him.

But Jazz was smiling, his white teeth radiant and even. “That explains the planet-sized umbrella. Only ever see those at funerals and on golf courses.”

Michael’s facial muscles softened, and the smile he gave Jazz was more genuine, relaxed. “Yes, they come in handy.”

Jazz grinned. “I bet they do.”

This man was gorgeous. He had to be younger than Michael. But more importantly, he had the potential for being gay since he was a hairdresser. Well aware of his stereotyping, Michael was nonetheless hopeful. He wasn’t the best flirt, but sharing an umbrella with an attractive man in front of a bar acting as a makeshift bookstore felt like the opening of a romcom, so he was ready to give it the ol’ college try.

“Are you a fan of the Brock Hammer novels too?” he asked, glad his glasses were in his pocket. Jazz stood so close, Michael didn’t even need them to clearly see his handsome face.

Jazz scoffed. “Used to be.”

“Oh.” Michael’s heart fell. So much for common interests. “Did you know this line is to meet the author?”

“I know, all right. The fucker’s been ducking my calls for weeks.”

Michael flinched at the man’s crass remark. “You know Russell Withingham?”

“Married to him,” Jazz said. “Separated.”

So he is gay…. Michael shook his head. “Wait, what?”

Those warm brown eyes met his, and Jazz smiled. “Separated,” he said again. “Permanently. He’s supposed to still be making my car payment, and I just got a call from the bank. He hasn’t made the last two payments.”

Michael didn’t know if he was more disappointed to find out his favorite author was a jerk, or excited to know the man under his umbrella was gay and single.

Well, possibly single.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Michael offered.

Jazz shrugged. “Nothing for you to be sorry for,” he quipped. “In fact, I should be thanking you for sharing your umbrella with me. Nothing worse than running into an ex with your hair all soaking wet, looking like a hot mess. I wanna be a vision when I tell him off. You know, make him regret losing me.”

Michael couldn’t help his involuntary head-to-toe sweep of Jazz’s body. He was a vision. Jazz carried some extra weight on him, but Michael liked men of a husky build. They seemed more solid and down-to-earth. Any man who would give up all the hunkiness Jazz had to offer had to be nuts.

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Love and the Floppy Musketeer Hat

Romance can blossom in any genre: contemporary, suspense, fantasy, or paranormal. Hank Edwards has dusted off eleven of his favorite Story Orgy tales and gathered them into a brand new collection. For those new to Hank's work, the Story Orgy was a group of authors who crafted stories based on writing prompts. Some of Hank's stories from that time period are already available, such as With This Ring, Mistletoe at Midnight, or Cross Country Foreplay. The stories in this collection have only appeared once on Hank's blog, so if you've been following his work for a while, hopefully you'll enjoy revisiting these freshly edited gems. But if you weren't a Story Orgy follower, kick back and read about love showing up in a wide variety of places.

Excerpt:

From the story Pressure:

A fine autumn sunrise greeted me, and I cracked the kitchen window to let in the crisp air. I set up the coffeepot and then glanced at the wall calendar to see what I had planned for the day. My smile came from nowhere, surprising as it arrived before any caffeine. Written on the day's square was this lovely note: Winslow's Sprinklers.

I had used the same sprinkler service for the last five years, and every year I looked forward to one visit. It wasn't the young, cocky kid who came out to set up the sprinkler system and inspect the heads and make sure everything was aimed right. He was cute, but he wasn't my type. Too young, too brash, just home from college and eager to show off his "guns" and start on his summer tan. Oh, he was fine to look at, and I’d probably giggle like a schoolgirl if he ever gave me a second glance, but I wasn’t into the young hotshots of spring and summer.

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I liked the autumn visit the most. Hal Winslow himself would come to blow the water out of the lines. All the young guys he employed for the summer would have fled our area for college once again, leaving him to close up shop with his customers.

And Hal Winslow was a fine, furry hunk of man beef, just the way I liked 'em.

He was at least six foot four, usually sporting two or three days of red-gold whiskers on his square jaw. Clad in a blue flannel barn coat, faded jeans, and scuffed work boots, he would stomp through the yard, all business, his bright blue eyes noting every nicked mower and misaligned sprinkler head.

And for forty five minutes every autumn, he was all mine.

I showered and dressed butch-casual, hoping to attract Hal's attention. The year before we had talked about how badly the Emerald Ash borer was decimating the trees in our area, Hal looking at the barren branches stretching toward the sky. Then there had been a moment, a quick, quiet pause in the conversation in which our eyes had locked. A flutter had started low in my belly, and I had just opened my mouth to invite him inside for a cup of coffee when his cell phone had rung with an emergency call.

Dammit.

This year, I was determined not to miss my opportunity. I was going to invite Hal in for coffee before we started talking. And maybe I'd offer to blow out his line.

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Mistletoe at Midnight

A Story Orgy Single

Dustin isn’t looking forward to the city’s Christmas Ball since his ex broke up with him just before last year’s Ball. But when he meets a handsome piano player, a glimmer of hope sparks within Dustin. Maybe this Christmas Eve will turn out much better than the last.

Swamped By Fear

Critter Catchers Book Three

A family emergency far from home. A list of people gone missing. A long, simmering attraction that finally reaches a boil.

When Demetrius flies to Florida to support his parents during his mother’s health scare, Cody is left to manage their Critter Catcher business alone. And feel guilty he didn’t go along to provide support.

Finally unable to stay away, Cody heads to Florida with Demetrius’s Aunt Amelia. Demetrius is shocked they came to support him. And Cody is shocked about his powerful and romantic feelings for Demetrius.

But all that will have to wait as they are tragically yanked into another monster hunt. In the Everglades. During a tropical storm. If they live through this latest challenge, Cody and Demetrius will need to have a long overdue conversation about their future.

It will change everything between them, forever.

Excerpt:

“Hey Mr. Gator," Demetrius said as he dipped the end of the leaf net in the water and made some splashing sounds. "Let's get you out of there, okay? You've got to hate the chlorine, don't you? I bet it's messing up your eyes, isn't it?"

The alligator floated closer to the edge of the pool. Demetrius took a step back, extending his reach to keep the edge of the leaf net just above the water.

"Careful Demmy," Cody said in a calm, gentle voice.

"Yep, absolutely."

He knew alligators could move fast, but when the thing lunged at the leaf rake, as prepared as he thought he was, it still surprised him. The gator grabbed the leaf rake in its strong jaws and twisted as it dove beneath the water. Demetrius reacted without thinking and tightened his grip instead of releasing the rake. As the gator pulled the leaf rake under, it pulled Demetrius into the pool and under the water as well.

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Fear flared inside him, hot and suffocating. He remembered to release the leaf rake and struggled up to the surface. This section of the pool was ten feet deep, so he couldn't touch the bottom. Every moment he expected to feel the alligator's jaws clamp down on his foot or his leg and drag him underwater for good. Demetrius swam toward the pool's edge that seemed miles away instead of just a few feet. Cody was shouting something, but Demetrius couldn't make it out over the sound of his own panting breath and splashing water.

Something hit him in the back of the head and Demetrius screamed, thinking it was the alligator. But then he realized it was the life ring that Cody had thrown to him. He grabbed the ring to hold himself up and looked across the length of the pool as he reached out for the concrete edge. The alligator swam right for him, its snout creating a furrow through the water. Demetrius's heart pounded, and his breath came in short pants. He was never going to see how his mother's surgery went. He was never going to see his parents again. He was going to die with a whole list of things he had yet to do.

Cody was shouting his name over and over again, but Demetrius could not understand what he was saying. All he heard was the blood rushing in his ears and the sound of his own breathing. The alligator lifted its nose up out of the water and started to open its jaws. It was only a few feet from him now, and coming fast like a speedboat.

Demetrius pushed off from the wall, dragging the life ring along without thinking about it. The alligator missed him and hit the edge of the pool, sending a tidal wave of water out onto the deck. It thrashed its tail in anger. Demetrius did the sidestroke, heading for the shallow end of the pool as he kept the gator in sight, his left arm hooked through the life ring.

The alligator dove under the water and a sense of panic enveloped and consumed the fear inside him. The panic built on the fear, quadrupling then octupling it until it lived within him like some kind of invasive spirit, making it difficult for him to breathe.

Something tugged on the life ring, pulling him off his course and toward the side of the pool closest to the house. At that moment he felt the swell of displaced water behind him and it pushed him even closer to the house side of the pool. The alligator had surfaced right where he had been swimming, and if he hadn't been pulled out of the gator's path, it would have dragged him beneath the water and drowned him.

Cody crouched on the side of the pool, Hubert right behind him, both of them pulling on the rope tied to the life ring, dragging Demetrius through the water. Both men were shouting, but Demetrius still couldn't understand what they were saying as his heart pounded, his breath rasped in his throat, and the water sloshed around him. He touched the side of the pool and then reached up, feet kicking, stretching for the bottom but still unable to find it. How fucking deep was this pool, anyway? Then Cody had hold of his hands and lifted him out of the water and into his arms.

"I've got you," Cody said, holding him tight. "I've got you. You're safe."

Demetrius's heart pounded, and he could feel Cody's heart beating in time. They both had been frightened by his fall into the pool.

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Screams of the Season

Critter Catchers Book Five

A Christmas spent far from home. Cody’s father gone missing. Clues that point to another monster case.

Demetrius accompanies Cody on a trip to visit his parents in Colorado for Christmas. The house is packed with Cody’s four brothers and their extended families, which is something close to chaos and means Cody and Demmy are sleeping on the living room floor of Grant, his oldest brother. Soon after their arrival, they learn Cody’s father’s truck has been found in a ditch with no sign of his father and are out the door.

Everything going crazy around them makes Cody appreciate what he and Demmy have found together, and he opens up to his family about the true depth of their relationship. There are mixed reactions, but Cody's honesty with his family proves to Demetrius just how important he's become to Cody, and he realizes he couldn't ask for a better Christmas gift.

Between Greg Bower’s disappearance, Grant's cannabis greenhouse, and a trip to the mall with Cody’s nieces and nephews, the guys also manage to find themselves smack dab in the middle of another monster case when a sasquatch makes a terrifying appearance. As they high-step for their lives through the deep Colorado snow, they’ll end up saving a movie stuntman with a terrible sense of direction and writing Cody’s nephew an IOU for a brand new drone.

Excerpt:

Cody stopped and leaned against a hardwood tree to catch his breath and looked back. Demmy had paused as well, propping himself against a different tree as he panted. His face was red, and sweat stood out on his forehead just beneath his hat.

"This deep snow is hard to walk through," Demmy said.

"This may not have been my best idea."

"Better than trying to skateboard down my road by holding onto the back fender of my bike."

Cody chuckled and flexed his knee. "I still have the scars from those scrapes."

"I'm very aware of every one of your scars." Demmy grinned and waggled his eyebrows.

"If I weren't afraid of passing out trying to peel off all your layers, I'd be all over you right now."

"You say the sweetest things."

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Before Cody could suggest they turn back, he heard a sound. From Demmy's expression, he'd heard it too. Cody looked into the trees ahead of them. The sun was sinking fast, and the light played tricks with his eyes, making shadows seem to move. He held up a hand for Demmy to stay where he was and took three long, careful steps.

Something moved behind a tree about ten feet in front of him. It was tall and broad and looked like it was covered in hair.

Fucking hell. It could be a bear. Or Demmy might have been right about that footprint.

Cody started to look back at Demmy and motion for him to retreat, but the tall, broad, hairy figure moved. It faced away from them, shifting position as the muscles in its back flexed. It lifted its leg, pulling a massive foot out of the snow and planting it behind for better support.

And then it turned and looked over its shoulder right at him.

"Run!" Cody shouted.

He turned away from the thing and took off running. Demmy wasted no time asking what he'd seen. He had already turned and started running back the way they'd come.

Cody heard the thing rumble some kind of growl, and the sound urged him to move faster. Demmy was a few feet in front of him, high-stepping to clear the snow, both of them grunting and panting.

A mix of growls and snorts from behind sent shivers through him. He expected to feel a big hand grab his shoulder and spin him around, and then the thing would choke him until it crushed his neck.

How far had they walked away from the wider animal run? It felt like they had been trying to escape forever.

He risked a glance back, and his heart hammered even faster.

The thing was bounding after them, the fur around its face dusted with snow, highlighting the simian appearance. It reached out for him, but Cody was a few feet out of its reach.

"Faster!" Cody shouted.

Demmy looked back, his eyes big and his mouth a dark O of shock and exertion.

"What the fuck?" Demmy managed to shout between gasps.

"Just go!"

They burst out of the trees onto the animal run. Free of the thigh-deep snow, Demmy sprinted through the more widely-spaced pine trees and out into the open field. Cody was just a few feet behind him, and he could see people standing around the police cruisers in the gas station parking lot on the other side of the field.

He looked back and gasped with relief. The thing had not pursued them across the animal run. Cody could barely see its outline, glaring at him from behind a couple of trees.

Cody slowed a bit and managed to say, "Demmy… It's okay… It stopped."

Demmy looked back and then tripped over his own feet and went down on the snow. He reached Demmy and dropped to his knees beside him. They were both out of breath as they looked at each other.

"You okay?" Cody asked.

Demmy nodded. "Was it…?"

"Bigfoot? Most likely." Cody looked back, but the thing had moved back into the trees out of sight. "Fucking monsters."

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