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.”

COLLAPSE

Murder Most Lovely

Lacetown Murder Mysteries: Case One

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

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.

COLLAPSE

By the Book

A Story Orgy Single

Lucas Pritchard knows every word in a book the moment he lays a hand on it. He knows every plot twist, surprise ending, and the conclusion of any quantum physics theorem. What he'd really like to do, however, is lay his hands on Kieran Brooker, the graduate assistant in his physics lab, and read what's inside his heart. When Lucas stumbles upon a written threat concerning the school, he and Kieran team up to track down the terrorist, and along the way uncover their shared feelings.

Kindred Spirits

A Salacious Single

Homicide Detective John Decker spends his nights cruising dark gay bars and his days tracking down killers. Because of this, he maintains a distance from men, though he longs to be with someone. And then one night he meets a handsome, pale man named Alexander Holt. Decker sees reflected in Alexander’s eyes his own world-weariness and invites the man back to his apartment. In the days following the encounter, Decker experiences vivid, erotic dreams about Alexander as he suffers from a sudden bout of what he thinks is the flu. But then the crazy homeless man outside his apartment accuses him of having been tainted by the Dark Master, and Decker notices strange marks on his throat. As the evidence of what Alexander truly is comes into focus, Decker realizes he’s gotten more than he expected from his kindred spirit.

The Battle of Iron Gulch

Town of Superstition: Book Three

The Battle of Iron Gulch

Thaddeus Cane has finally reached the foot of Wraith Mountain. He hopes to find his mother—changed into a dragon by the witch Isadora many years ago—and bring her back to Superstition to live with him and his father. With Teofil, his garden gnome boyfriend, and Teofil’s mother, sister, and their new elf friend, Thaddeus discovers that getting to his mother will not be as easy as they’d hoped. They are forced to shelter in the small town of Iron Gulch where Thaddeus’s father takes a job to secure the equipment they need to climb the mountain.

The longer they stay in Iron Gulch, the more Thaddeus comes to believe things in the town are not as pleasant as they appear. When a new and vicious enemy reveals itself, Thaddeus and his group are thrust into a fight not only for their lives, but for the lives of the Iron Gulch residents. As the battle rages, they discover Thaddeus’s mother and struggle to free her and end Isadora’s tyranny once and for all.

Excerpt:

The fire crackled, and tiny sparks and embers spiraled up toward the velvety purple sky that stretched overhead. Something rustled in the grass a dozen or more feet away. Thaddeus got to his feet and Teofil stood alongside him.

“Did you hear that?” Thaddeus whispered.

“I did,” Teofil replied.

“Where’s your father?” Miriam asked, and when Thaddeus looked around, he found her and Astrid standing and looking off into the darkness as well.

A chill of fear went through him, leaving him as cold as if he’d swallowed water from the Wretched River. He was in motion before he realized it, sprinting out into the darkness that surrounded their small campfire. The grasses parted around him, the sounds of the tall blades like conspiratorial whispers.

“Dad?” Thaddeus called. Nathan did not answer, and so he tried again, a little louder, squinting into the dark.

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A warm glow suddenly appeared, revealing Teofil standing a few feet behind him, shoulders and expression tense. Then Thaddeus realized that Dulindir had followed him as well, his hair glowing with starlight and illuminating the immediate area.

“He was walking off in this direction the last I saw him,” Dulindir said and pointed.

A shout that sounded like his father prompted Thaddeus to break into a run.

“Dad!” Thaddeus shouted. “Where are you?”

“Thaddeus, wait!” Teofil called, and Thaddeus could hear him coming up behind. But Thaddeus could not wait. His father had been gravely ill just days before, grazed by a troll’s poison dart, and Thaddeus worried that Nathan might not be strong enough to fight off another threat.
In his panicked rush to find him, Thaddeus very nearly passed his father by. A rustling off to his left brought him to a stop, and then Dulindir stood beside him, illuminating the area. Nathan lay on his back, struggling with a small creature he was trying to pull off his chest.

The creature was small and dark in color. It had short but powerful-looking limbs, each of which appeared to end in hands tipped with claws. Spikes ran from the crown of its slightly flattened head and along its spine to a stubby tail.

“Dad!” Thaddeus exclaimed as Nathan struggled to keep the thing from biting his neck.

“Stay back!” Nathan shouted without looking at him.

“Goblin,” Dulindir said and looked over his shoulder as he pulled out his sword. “They are rarely alone.”

Frustration, fear, and anger seemed to collide within Thaddeus as he stood helplessly by, watching his father fight for his life. He clenched his fists and bit his lip as a warm tingle started within his chest. It traveled down his arms and seemed to pool in the palms of his hands, stinging slightly as it instilled within him the need to act, to move, to do something, anything.

Thaddeus thrust out his arms, fingers curled into claws as he released a shout of rage. The heat in his palms seemed to leap from his hands, directed right at the goblin. With a jolt the creature stopped struggling with Nathan and looked over its scaly shoulder to fix Thaddeus with a hostile look. It felt to Thaddeus as if he now held the goblin in his hands, even though he stood at least a dozen feet away. And the goblin seemed to be feeling Thaddeus’s touch as well, because it pulled out of Nathan’s grasp and turned to face him, still standing on his father and holding him in place.

When the goblin moved, it seemed to move within Thaddeus’s grip, and the sensation was so startling, and the feel of the creature so disgusting, Thaddeus reacted without thinking. He flung his arms to the side as if throwing it far away from him. To his astonishment the goblin was hurled off his father’s chest and sent spinning high into the air, an annoyed and surprised yelp fading away into the night.

The heat in Thaddeus’s palms cooled immediately, and he stood staring down at his hands. Dulindir, Teofil, and Nathan all stared at him as well, and then Nathan broke the stunned silence by falling flat on his back and laughing long and loud up at the night sky. After a moment, the rest of them followed suit. The laugh felt odd but refreshing to Thaddeus. He approached and reached down to help his father stand.

Nathan clapped a hand on Thaddeus’s shoulder and squeezed. “Apparently either you or someone you care about needs to be in danger for you to conjure magic.”

Thaddeus grinned and shrugged. “I guess so. Hopefully I can learn to do it without the danger.”

“We’ll work on that,” Nathan promised him.

“We should move back to the fire,” Dulindir said. He had his back to them and stood staring out at the grass, which was shifting quietly in the slight breeze. “Goblins rarely travel alone, especially this far from a mountain, and light hurts their eyes.”

Thaddeus helped Nathan pick up the wood he had dropped when the goblin attacked him, and they made their way back to the fire.

COLLAPSE

The Well of Tears

Town of Superstition: Book Two

Thaddeus Cane’s life changed when he learned he is the son of a witch and a wizard, and now he’s undertaken a mission to find his mother, who was cursed not long after Thaddeus was born. He enlists the aid of his father, Nathan; his boyfriend and neighbor, Teofil Rhododendron, a garden gnome; and Teofil’s mother, brother, and sister. As they journey through a world that seems normal on the surface, they meet many magical creatures, some kind and helpful, others evil and dangerous. When Nathan suffers a life-threatening injury, Thaddeus might be forced to abandon the quest to find his mother in order to save his father.

Excerpt:

“Long ago,” Astrid explained, “there came a great sickness that swept across the land. It infected those who lived in the forest and surrounding country, and it was quite deadly. Many died from it, and those who cared for their loved ones who were first infected caught it as well, until only a handful of survivors remained.”

“How awful,” Thaddeus said.

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“They never found out where it originated,” Astrid continued. “And so they buried all the bodies in a long pit, somewhere deep inside the forest. After many years, the infected blood from all of those bodies found its way into the soil and, finally, the roots of the trees around the grave. Those trees grew darker and twisted, and bore fruit that tasted vile and sour. The foul fruit attracted evil into the forest, and as time went on, the magical creatures who had survived the sickness left the forest and the darker beings took over. The gravesite has since been lost, and any who have gone in search of it have never returned.”

“Wow,” Thaddeus whispered. “That’s quite a story. And we have to go through this forest?”

“Just keep in mind that’s what it is,” Nathan said. “A story.”

“Suit yourself,” Astrid said. “But I’ve heard the story from more than one source.”

“You forgot the best part,” Fetter piped up.

“What do you mean?” Astrid asked, her voice edged with annoyance.

“About the well,” Fetter said.

Astrid sighed, and Thaddeus glanced back in time to see her roll her eyes. “You and that ridiculous well,” Astrid said.

“It’s the best part of the story!” Fetter nearly shouted.

“Keep your voices down, both of you,” Miriam scolded them gently. They all fell silent a moment, then Miriam said, “And you did leave out that part, Astrid.”

“See?” Fetter immediately said. “I told you!”

“Shut up!” Astrid snapped.

“Oh, for the love of geranium, both of you keep still!” Miriam said. She marched up to get between Astrid and Thaddeus and lowered her voice as she told the part of the story Astrid had skipped. “You see, the people who lived within the forest had no idea what was making their loved ones so sick. It could be something they were eating, or maybe the water they were drinking. To be safe, they dug a new well far outside their village. At first, the water they pulled up from this new well was cool, clear, and plentiful, but soon it dried up, with no explanation or reason. Those who still remained would gather at the edge of the well and lower the bucket with hopes of finding just a little bit of fresh water, but there was none to be had. They cried as they circled the well, so very thirsty and still heartbroken from the loss of their loved ones, and soon their tears filled it up, but that was too salty for them to drink, so they had to move away.”

Miriam gave a nod and adjusted her pack across her shoulders. “To this day, that well remains, somewhere deep within the Lost Forest, filled with the shimmering tears of a great number of magical beings. The magic contained within that Well of Tears is powerful indeed, because it’s the collected power of all of the enchanted creatures.”

“The Well of Tears?” Thaddeus whispered.

“That’s what they call it,” Fetter said from the back of the line. “Isn’t it a great name?”

Astrid made a disgusted sound. “It’s a horrible name. Ridiculous and romantic, and not even a good part of the story. No one’s ever seen it, and do you know how many tears it would take to fill a well? It’s not even possible!”

Thaddeus followed his father, who forged a path through the tall grass. As he walked, his thoughts strayed to a mass grave filled with the bones of magical beings surrounded by dark, twisted trees and a well filled with tears, and he wondered—not for the last time, he was sure—if he would ever stop being surprised by this strange new world he had discovered.

COLLAPSE

Wicked Reflection

Wicked Reflection

When Kirk Stanford moves into his new home, strange things begin to happen. Messages appear in the steam on his mirror, warning him of a nameless threat. Then someone keeps breaking into his house, looking for something Kirk can't identify.

With the help of his boyfriend, Damon, Kirk digs into the house's history, and discovers not just the previous owner's brutal murder, but threatening letters written to him from someone named Sam. As the intruder strikes again, Kirk and Damon find themselves fighting not only to solve the mystery, but to keep from being murdered themselves.

Excerpt:

Kirk stepped to the bathroom sink and turned on the hot water. As he dangled his fingers in the spray waiting for it to warm up, he studied his reflection in the mirror, disheartened to see the toll of moving into his new house. Dark circles had gathered beneath his eyes. His dark blond hair was a spiky mess, and dust and dirt smears marred his pale skin. Even the blue of his eyes looked faded and tired.

The water heated up quickly, thank God, but it was rusty. He left the tap running and peered at the tub. Dirt and dust darkened the white surface, but it didn’t seem too bad. He could rinse it all down the drain and take a quick shower before Damon arrived. When he looked back at the mirror, however, his heart fluttered like a startled bird. Steam from the hot water had fogged it, revealing something written there.

HE LIES.

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Kirk shut off the water, and checked around the empty bathroom. He stepped into the bedroom but found no one there either. He was alone. Kirk could not recall if he had locked the front door, so maybe Damon had arrived earlier than planned and let himself in, snuck upstairs, and written that in the steam when Kirk’s back had been turned.

Or someone else had.

“Damon?” he called.

The house was silent around and beneath him.

“Not funny, whoever you are!” Kirk shouted as a line of gooseflesh rippled up his back. He cleared his throat and called in a quieter voice, “Seriously, Damon, come on. Are you in here?”

He stepped back into the bathroom and looked at the words. Maybe they had been written on the mirror before Kirk had moved in, and the steam was simply showing the message again?

The doorbell rang, the old, heavy bell chiming loudly through each of the floors, making him jump.

Kirk’s heart pounded as he looked into the bedroom, then back at the mirror. The steam cleared, taking the words with it, and a small knot of unease tightened inside his chest. He cursed the mirror for giving him the creeps on his first night in the house.

The doorbell chimed again, raising the hair on the back of his neck.

Kirk descended both flights of stairs, then stood in the entryway staring at the front door. He hesitated, opening and closing his fists a few times. He knew he was being ridiculous, but he was afraid to see who stood on the porch. What if it was the man referred to by the mirror message: HE LIES?
His visitor banged on the door with a fist, the sound making him jump yet again, and he grabbed the large brass knob, worn smooth and dark with years of being handled.

A breath in and out, then Kirk opened the door.

COLLAPSE

Buried Secrets

Buried Secrets

Bryson Franklin made bad choices in his past. When he inherits his grandparents’ farm outside the small town of Willow River, however, he sees it as a chance for a fresh start. But patterns from his past resurface when Bryson takes up with Daniel Riggs, his bad boy neighbor, and he soon finds himself helping Daniel cover up a murder.

After Bryson breaks things off with Daniel, the kindness and attention of handsome sheriff’s deputy Sam LeClaire gives him hope, but when Daniel shows up on Bryson’s doorstep a year later, will Bryson be able to resist temptation?

Excerpt:

Bryson set his coffee cup in the stainless steel sink on his way to the front of the house, proud that his stride didn’t falter when he saw the sheriff and Sam waiting on the other side of the screen door.

“Sheriff Billings,” Bryson said, keeping his tone as level as possible as he opened the door. “This is a surprise.” He nodded to Deputy Sam LeClaire who stood just behind the sheriff, and then he flashed what he hoped was a calm, innocent smile at the both of them. Bryson thought he saw something in Sam’s expression, but the sheriff started talking and Bryson was forced to look away from him.

“Hopefully not a bad surprise,” Billings said. “How are things out here?”

Bryson shrugged. “Fine. I’ve been doing some fix up chores around the place, and I planted a vegetable garden out back. It’s kind of small, but I’m hoping to get at least one of the fields planted next year. Try and get some of the old Franklin magic back.”

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“Just you here?” Billings asked.

Bryson nodded as the first twist of fear tightened within his gut. “Yep. Just me.” He pushed the door open wide. “Care to come in and see for yourself?”

“If it’s not an imposition,” Billings said. “Deputy LeClaire and I would surely love a cup of joe.”

“Oh, yeah, I could put on a fresh pot,” Bryson said as the men stepped past him into the house.

“No coffee for me, thanks,” Sam said with a smile that seemed genuine and maybe something more. Nervous? Bashful? Bryson tried to follow the train of thought, tried to find a moment to study the curve of his jaw, the pointed chin, the prominent Adam’s apple that begged to be kissed. But the sheriff kept talking, forcing Bryson to turn his attention to Billings as he walked along the hallway toward the kitchen.

“Well, if the deputy isn’t partaking, I can wait until we get back to town for a fresh cup, I guess,” Billings said. By then he had reached the kitchen and stood looking around the room as if inspecting the place.

“You sure?” Bryson asked. “It’s no trouble. I’ll probably end up making a fresh pot in a few hours anyway, just save me the trouble later.”

“Well, since you’re offering.” Billings smiled, showing small teeth that made Bryson think of those dolls from years ago that came with teeth, and he had to fight to suppress a shudder. Bryson got busy making the coffee and said over his shoulder, “So besides the coffee, what brings you out my way?”

“Sure it’s just you here in the house?” Billings asked.

Bryson frowned and faced the men. “What’s this about, sheriff?”

“Just us here?” Billings repeated.

“Yes, of course,” Bryson replied, the fear twisting inside him like hot barbed wire. “Who else were you expecting?”

“Not sure, to be honest,” Billings said and pulled out a chair at the table, then looked up at Bryson. “May I?”

“Please, of course.” Bryson started the coffee maker and faced the men. The sheriff was seated at the table, his hands folded before him and his small eyes locked on Bryson. Sam stood a few feet behind the sheriff, hat in hand, a sheepish, apologetic, expression on his handsome face that seemed, interestingly enough, still alert and watchful.

“You’re a fit young man, out here all alone,” Billings continued. “Shame to see you waste your youth in such isolation.”

“I’m not isolated. I’ve got Internet access here, and I get into town now and then for dinner or lunch and shopping. Meet some friends for drinks on occasion.”

“Friends?” Billings turned to look at Sam. “You hear of Bryson meeting anyone in town?”

“What?” Sam looked at Billings with wide eyes, as if the sheriff’s question had startled him out of some deep thoughts. “Oh, I don’t know. I’m not sure.”

Billings stared at Sam a moment in silence, then turned back to Bryson. “Well, I haven’t heard of you meeting anyone in town. Who might that be? These friends of yours?”

Bryson looked between the men, then focused his attention on the sheriff. “Am I in trouble for something?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Franklin, are you?” Billings asked.

COLLAPSE

Holed Up

Up to Trouble Book One

Holed Up Cover
Part of the Up to Trouble series:

FBI Special Agent Aaron Pearce, tall, muscular, a lone wolf with an attitude, is assigned to protect Mark Beecher, a witness to the plans for a terrorist attack. The discovery of an unknown informant within the FBI's ranks, however, forces the two men to hole up in a loft apartment with only one another for company.

After long conversations and their shared attempt to unravel the puzzle of the terrorist group's next target, Pearce and Mark find they cannot deny their mutual attraction. Pearce gives in to his passion, sleeping with the man he's sworn to protect and going against his training as he risks heartbreak once again.

When the informant reveals himself to Pearce and takes him hostage, Mark finds he cannot run and leave Pearce to die. Instead, their roles have been reversed and now he is the only person who can save Special Agent Pearce.

Excerpt:

Pearce leaned in close, and for a thrillingly horrifying second Mark thought the man intended to kiss him. But instead, the agent said loud enough for only Mark to hear over the braying fire alarm: “It’s okay, I’ll get you out of here. Just stay close to me, okay?”

Mark nodded, and Pearce looked away, scanning the room and the other agents. Finally, he heard Pearce ask Agent Bata, “Is there a freight elevator in this building?”

Bata nodded and motioned for Pearce to follow. Pearce turned and leaned in close again, closer than before, and whispered into Mark’s ear, “Follow me. We’re going to the freight elevator. If anything happens, stay with me, no one else. Got it?”

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Mark shivered at the wet heat of Pearce’s breath and cursed the swiftness of his erection despite the situation. He nodded and, adjusting his messenger bag to hide his condition, followed Pearce as Bata led them down the hallway, both agents with guns drawn. A few steps down the hall, Pearce turned and motioned over Mark’s shoulder for the other two agents, the ones who had been guarding the door, to stay behind.

Mark followed Pearce and Bata through the crowd of agents and directors dutifully making their way to the exits. The fire alarm buzzed, and at certain spots along the wall, strobe lights flashed. They exited the office through a secured employee entrance and found themselves in the main elevator lobby. There were two stairwells in the building, and the evacuating crowds flooded both. Lines of vaguely anxious people had formed at each stairwell as they waited for those on the lower floors to clear out. Pearce reached back and grabbed Mark by the arm, pulling him along behind as he shouldered his way through the slowing crowd. Mark followed and tried not to think about the man’s strong grip and how it might feel on his cock.

Around the corner from one of the stairwells, Agent Bata stopped at a large gray elevator door. “Here, this is the freight elevator.” He pressed the call button and turned to find Pearce’s gun in his face. “What? What are you doing?”

“Hey!” Mark exclaimed and tried to step forward, but Pearce held him back.

“Quiet,” Pearce said without looking at him. “Bata, holster your weapon and step back from the elevator.”

“He’s been helping me since I came to the FBI,” Mark protested, and Pearce grabbed him by the front of his T-shirt and pulled him around to press him up against the wall beside the doors to the freight elevator, never taking his eyes off Bata.

Bata raised his hand holding the gun and slowly placed the weapon in his shoulder holster. “It’s okay, Mark. I understand what Special Agent Pearce is doing.”

“It’s nothing personal, Bata,” Pearce said.

The elevator sounded its arrival and Mark jumped. Pearce pushed him into the elevator car and backed in after him, his gun still leveled at Bata. “I just don’t know who I can trust around here.”

Mark looked out at Agent Bata with wide, frightened eyes as Pearce pressed the button for the third floor. As the elevator doors closed, Pearce locked his gaze on Bata’s and said, “I’ll be in touch.”

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Shacked Up

Up to Trouble Book Two

Shacked Up Cover
Part of the Up to Trouble series:

FBI Special Agent Aaron Pearce is recovering from his injuries suffered while on assignment in Detroit, stuck in the offices of the FBI running database searches for agents in the field. He is bored and edgy, and takes it out on those closest to him, including Mark Beecher, who lives with him.

While Mark cannot deny the heat between them, he struggles to find his place in Washington, DC, and in Pearce's apartment. He notices a car following him back and forth to work and panics, certain it's the terrorist mole Robert Morgan who escaped them in Detroit.

As Mark and Pearce try to identify the driver, Pearce is drawn into an investigation concerning the disappearance of data discs from government employees. During research, he discovers the catering company where Mark works may be at the root of the thefts, and, when the company is booked to cater a prestigious party, Pearce realizes it is the perfect setup for an undercover operation. He doesn't think twice about disobeying orders to stay out of the field, and risks not only his career, but his life as well, to join Mark in an undercover operation that will change their lives forever.

Excerpt:

Mark woke up to the smell of bacon and eggs. He sighed and rolled over in bed, pressing his hard-on into the mattress and his face into Pearce’s pillow. The sheets on Pearce’s side of the bed were still a little warm against his bare skin, and he breathed in the man’s scent from the pillowcase. It was the same scent he had first noticed back in January, when Pearce had pushed him into a freight elevator in the FBI’s Detroit office. At that moment, Mark had simultaneously hated and wanted Pearce, and now, just a few months later, here he was, living with the man.

Life was strange.

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Mark rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. Pearce’s ceiling. Pearce’s bed. Pearce’s apartment. Mark’s belongings still sat in boxes stacked in the spare room. Some weekend soon, when Mark wasn’t working a party, he planned to sort through his things. Maybe grab some CDs for his car. If he was lucky, maybe Pearce would invite him to unpack some stuff, add a few items to the apartment. Hell, Pearce might even suggest Mark add his CDs to the collection in the living room. Not mix them together—nothing that crazy—but maybe get a shelf or two of his own.

He had found it was tricky to know where he could place things in the apartment. Pearce was a territorial animal; Mark had seen that when he had added his toiletries to the bathroom. Pearce had come along after him and rearranged things in the medicine cabinet and on the countertop. The man seemed to have his apartment ordered just as he liked, and Mark couldn’t help feeling like an intruder. If only Pearce would help him figure out where he could put some things, maybe clear off more than one or two shelves for him. But each time Mark asked, Pearce would make noncommittal sounds of agreement and never follow through.

Pearce had been nodding off on the sofa when Mark had gotten home last night just after eleven. The drive home had been uneventful; Mark hadn’t noticed anyone following him, and he was exhausted from working the dinner party with Audra and Brenda. Darlene had had to go home and take care of her daughter.

Mark had touched Pearce’s shoulder to wake him, and the man got to his feet, eyes still glassy with sleep. They hugged, shared a quick kiss, and went to bed together. No mention of the red Escort or the daily frustrations at the job. Just two exhausted people living together and trying to make it work.

Now Mark’s cock pulsed, and before he could reach down to take hold of himself, the bedroom door eased open. Mark raised his head and squinted in that direction, smiling at the blurry vision of Pearce peering in at him around the door.

“Morning, sleepyhead,” Pearce said and stepped into the room. “Well, I see not all of you is a sleepyhead.”

Mark chuckled and stretched, arching his back and pushing his hard-on up against the thin sheet. He could feel the damp spot of precum soaking into the material. After the stretch, he turned his head to smile up at Pearce, who had moved around to stand over him on his side of the bed. Pearce wore a pair of thin cotton sleep pants, the front now tented out with his interest. Mark looked up along Pearce’s bare torso and ran his hand through the dark, trimmed hair that covered Pearce’s flat belly. “Hi, there.”

“Need some help with that?” Pearce asked, his gaze locked on the bulge of Mark’s erection beneath the sheet.

“You know, I could use some help with this.” Mark pulled the sheet away. “It’s so big and awkward, it’s too much for me to handle all on my own.”

Pearce knelt beside the bed and, grinning, leaned in to give Mark a soft kiss on the lips. After backing off a few inches, Pearce smiled at him, then moved down to suck Mark’s nipple, making Mark pull in a quick breath through his teeth. Pearce swirled his tongue around the hardened nub, then drifted lower and parted the dark blond hair on Mark’s chest and belly with his tongue. The whiskers along Pearce’s jaw brushed against Mark’s cock, and he groaned at the sensation. A moment later, the hot width of Pearce’s tongue painted the shaft with saliva from the tip to the root and back again.

When the sudden, wet heat of Pearce’s mouth closed around his cock, Mark gasped and raised his arms over his head to clutch the rails of the headboard.

“Oh God,” Mark groaned. “Now this is a wake-up call.”

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