Edward Kendrick's Blog

February 3, 2018

Searching for My Killer
https://www.jms-books.com/romance-c-2...

Sequel to Ghostly Investigations

My name is Tonio, and I'm a ghost. I want to, need to, find out who killed me so I can move on. The problem is, I have no idea how to do so. Or I didn't, until Brody and Jon showed up. They're ghosts, too, and they know Mike, a police detective, and Sage, a medium who can speak with the dead.

With their help, and mine, will it be possible for Mike to find out who pushed me off the lighting bridge at the theater where I worked? At the same time, can I come to grips with the fact that, in death, I've lost David, an actor at the theater and the one man I ever loved?

EXCERPT:

"I think he could use our help."

The words penetrated my foggy mind. I opened my eyes to early morning sunshine and knew I must have slept, which surprised me. What surprised me even more were the two men I saw a few feet away, looking directly at me. Okay, not precisely men, I realized. I could see the roof through them, hazy but there.

"You ... you're ghosts, too?" I asked, afraid they were, at the same time I was praying they were.

"Yep," the older one replied. He was wearing worn jeans and a muscle shirt. The younger one had on jeans, too, but a nicer pair, plus a T-shirt under a plain blue work shirt. "Name's Brody," the older on said. "This is Jon." He put his arm around the shoulders of the younger ghost.

"I'm Tonio," I told them, getting to my feet.

"How long dead?" Brody asked.

"Two and a half days or so, since today's the fourteenth, I think."

Brody studied me. "How did you get up here?"

"On the roof? I sort of floated up. Why?"

Brody glanced at Jon then back at me. "Interesting. Just like that?"

"Sure. Why?"

Jon chuckled. "Brody had to teach me how to go through walls and floors -- by example, since I didn't think I could."

"I got the idea I could when I came to, I guess you could call it, floating a couple of feet above where I died. I went down, started to go through the floor and managed to stop before I was in the basement. When I tried to leave the stage by one of the doors in the wings and couldn't open it, I figured maybe I could go through it. It worked." I studied them before asking, "Why are you here? Did you die in the theater, sometime in the past?"

Brody snorted. "Not even close. I was killed on the streets, by a drug dealer, almost six years ago while I was working undercover. It took five years to find out it was him and prove it."

I frowned. "Then why are you still around, if you know who did it?"

"Because Jon is. We've never discovered who killed him. We have our suspicions, but in his case, no proof one way or the other."

"You mean we have a choice whether to move on or not?"

"Once ghosts know why they died, who caused it, and, as I said, the proof they need, then most of them want to get out of this world and on to wherever they're supposed to end up."

"And then there's Brody," Jon said, smiling at him.

"Are you two a couple?" I asked.

Brody replied, "Not the way you probably mean it. Sex is not an option for ghosts, for whatever reason. My guess is, it takes blood flow to get it up, and since we don't have blood ..." He shrugged.

"We're a couple in every other way, though," Jon added.

"At least you've got each other," I replied morosely. "Wait a second. If neither of you were killed here, how come you are here? I thought ghosts had to stay where they died. Like they're stuck there. I know I can't leave the theater grounds. I tried, and ended up back where they found my body."

"Really? Hmm." Brody seemed puzzled. "I have no clue why that happened. Jon had no problem leaving the area where he was killed. Neither did I."

"I wonder." Jon looked pensive. "We were both killed outside, Brody. From what Tonio said, he was in the theater when he died. Could that be it?"

"God, I hope not," I said angrily. "I don't want to spend the rest of my existence here, if I can't figure out who pushed me off the bridge."

Jon cocked his head. "The bridge?"

"It's the walkway above the stage where the lights are hung for shows. Think of a catwalk, if you want a visual."

Brody smirked. "My visual of a catwalk involves sexy models strutting their stuff at a fashion show."

"He's bi," Jon whispered to me, "so women do it for him as much as men."

"Not me," I murmured, thinking of David. Damn, I missed him.

"How about we get back on topic," Brody suggested. "Let's go inside so you can show us where it happened."

"Follow me," I replied, sinking down through the roof. I didn't realize until we had that we'd been standing above the costume shop area.
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Published on February 03, 2018 08:01 • 2 views

January 20, 2018

The Man on the Balcony
https://www.jms-books.com/romance-c-2...

Mark is a man on the horns of a dilemma. He's in the midst of a five-year affair with a married man and he wants out ... but isn’t sure he can give up his lover.

Austin, who lives in the apartment building across the street from Mark, has his own problems. Two years earlier, the man he loved died in a horrible auto accident. Austin is still trying to come to terms with seeing it happen, and dealing with the aftermath.

After watching Mark from his balcony, making up stories about what he sees, Austin decides to meet him. Will the meeting help the two come to grips with their problems? And if it does, can they move on to something more than possible friendship?

EXCERPT:

Mark looked at the Caller ID, debating whether to answer when he saw Todd's number. He hadn't the previous two times his lover had called -- once just before he left the shop for the day, the second while he was driving home.

"I can do this," he said under his breath, putting the phone down on the kitchen counter before going back to fixing supper. It finally went silent, after five rings -- the number Mark had programmed in before a call would go to his voicemail.

He waited until after he'd eaten before checking to see if Todd had left a message. He had. It said, 'Why aren't you answering, Mark? I'll be in town tomorrow for a two-day meeting, so I'll see you tomorrow night. Miss you.'

"I knew this would happen," Mark muttered. "He rarely asks, he always tells and expects me to be happy when he shows up. Now what do I do? Rent a motel room until he's gone home?"

He started pacing the living room, feeling like a trapped animal. Grow a pair. When he shows up, tell him it's over. Easier said than done and he knew it. He stopped by the window, staring out but not really seeing anything through the softly falling snow, until a movement on the balcony opposite him caught his eye. The man who lived in the apartment opposite his had come out. Seconds later, he was staring at Mark, or so it seemed, making Mark feel like a bug pinned to a display board.

What the hell is with him? I'm half tempted to go over there and find out.

The man stood there for a long moment, then, much to Mark's shock, he saluted before going back inside.

That was totally weird. Mark pulled the curtains closed. Then, deciding he had to get out of the apartment so he could think clearly, he grabbed his coat and gloves and left.

* * * *

"Why the hell did I do that?" Austin said under his breath as he closed the balcony door behind him. Maybe because I wanted him to know I'm aware of him?

The problem was, he didn't know why it mattered, but it did. Perhaps, he decided, just watching Mr. Cute (as he'd tagged him) and trying to figure out what was going on with him had made his own life more interesting. Against his better judgment he opened the door again to look across at Mr. Cute's apartment -- just in time to see the lights go out.

It's too early for him to be going to bed. He stepped onto the balcony, getting close enough to the railing to look down at the street without being seen. His nosiness, he supposed, was rewarded when he saw the man leave the apartment building and start walking down the block.

Going for coffee, or a late supper? Mr. Cute was heading in the direction of the small strip mall which had a couple of restaurants, as well as small shops. It was where Austin usually went when he didn't feel like cooking, so he thought it was possible.

"My chance to meet him?" he murmured, going inside again. "Why would I want to? On the other hand, why not? I'll probably find out he's totally not worth my time, but I would like to know if my presumption about his love life is correct." He chuckled as he went to get his jacket. "I've been editing too many damned romances. Dreaming up stories about people I see as a result. Maybe I should start writing some of them down." He snorted. "Not."

By the time Austin left his building, Mr. Cute was nowhere in sight. His footsteps are, though. He saw them in the fresh snow when he looked across the street. "Big time tracker is me," he said under his breath as he crossed the street and began following them. He almost lost them two blocks later when they mingled with those of other people who had braved the mid-evening snowfall. Then he saw the man a block ahead of him, going into the same coffee shop he favored in the mall.

* * * *

"I'd like a ..." Mark studied the list of coffees, glad there weren't many customers, so he wasn't holding up a line of people while he tried to make up his mind. "Is the maple latte good?"

The clerk nodded. "Different, and not my favorite, but people seem to like it."

"Maybe I should stick with my usual Americano."

"Try the mocha espresso," someone said from behind him. "That is if you like chocolate."

"Who doesn't," Mark replied as he turned to see who was speaking. "You," he said, more than a bit disconcerted. "Are you following me?"

The man shrugged. "Yes, and no."

"Hardly a definitive answer."

"I saw you heading this way and decided I wanted coffee to ward off the cold."

"Uh-huh. Try again." Mark paused to tell the clerk he wanted a large Americano. "I've seen you watching me," he told the man. "It's creepy."

"Sorry. I didn't mean it to be," the man replied. "I have a bad habit, I guess you could call it, of making up stories about people I see."

Mark scowled. "By window peeping?"

"Hey. That's not what I'm doing," the man protested.
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Published on January 20, 2018 07:50 • 14 views

December 30, 2017

In the Name of Love
https://www.jms-books.com/erotic-roma...

Ryan is a young artist hoping to make a name for himself. When he meets a man who offers to help him advance his career, he accepts. His career takes off when Merrick arranges two shows for Ryan at a local gallery. Ryan is elated, especially when their relationship becomes more personal. What he doesn’t expect is to end up being abused, physically and emotionally, as Merrick tightens his control over the younger artist.

After a vicious beating, Ryan manages to escape, naked except for a bedspread wrapped around himself. Policeman Shaun Levitt finds him cowering in an alley. Taking the battered young man under his wing, Shaun begins the slow process of helping Ryan come to grips with what happened.

Will Ryan learn to trust again? Or will he forever look at any man who might be interested in him as another potential abuser ... including Shaun?

EXCERPT:
"How did you end up out here?" Ryan asked as he continued sketching (Merrick), flipping to a new page every couple of minutes. "Okay, probably because you inherited the house."

"Partly. I also met a man who was looking for someone to buy into his agency. It was fortuitous both things happened within six months of each other. Two years later, I bought him out and I've been running it ever since."

"Nice." Ryan set down his pencil, flexing his fingers.

"If you'll allow me ..." Without waiting for a reply, Merrick took Ryan's hand and began massaging it. Ryan was obviously startled, but didn't pull away. "Better?" Merrick asked.

"Yes. Thank you! Can I hire you to do that on a regular basis?"

"I'm expensive," Merrick teased.

"It might almost be worth it." Ryan picked up the pencil and began sketching again. "Are you married? Have a girlfriend? Well, woman friend I guess, at your age."

Merrick laughed. "That makes me sound like I'm in my dotage."

"I didn't mean it that way," Ryan replied, looking embarrassed. "I don't think you're much over thirty."

"Thirty-three and counting. To answer your question, no I'm not married, and no girlfriend. I like women. Some of my best friends are female, but that's all they are -- friends. If I were looking for more, it would be with a man." Merrick watched Ryan as he said that, seeing what he thought was relief in his expression, as brief as it was. "Does it bother you?" he asked, wanting some verification Ryan might feel the same way.

Ryan shook his head. "Not at all. Why should it?"

"Some people take umbrage with the fact a person can be attracted to someone of their own sex."

"That's their problem, isn't it?" Ryan pointed the pencil at Merrick, saying, "Are you trying to find out if I'm gay, too? If so, you should just have asked, instead of beating around the bush."

"All right. Are you?"

"Yes." Ryan rotated one finger, indicating Merrick should turn the other way, facing the yard. He started to draw again, his concentration on what he was doing, so Merrick let the subject drop -- for the moment.

Several minutes later, Ryan said, "That should be enough for now."

Merrick got up, coming to stand beside him. "May I see?"

"Sure. They're only impressions. I'll use them to put together some full drawings. Then you can choose which one you like best and I'll go from there."

Merrick saw what he meant as Ryan turned the pages. Some of the sketches were quite abbreviated -- his nose, his lips, his eyes, the arch of an eyebrow. Others were complete, showing him from the front, the sides, and three-quarters. He put one hand on the table, purposely leaning lightly against Ryan's shoulder as he bent forward to tap one sketch. "I like the feeling in this one."

Ryan didn't move as he looked up at him. "Because you're smiling?"

"I think so." Merrick realized in most of the others, he hadn't been. "Am I really so much of a sobersides?"

"Not that I've noticed." Now, Ryan eased away. "I think you were a bit uncomfortable, although you'll deny it. Most people are when they know someone's drawing them, or taking their photo as far as that goes."

"True." Merrick went back to his seat, pouring more lemonade for both of them, even though Ryan was putting away his pencils and pad. "If you'd like, I'll give you the tour of the house I promised."

"I'd like to see it, but not right now, unfortunately. I have to get to work."

"It's that late already?" Merrick asked in feigned surprise, since he knew it was.

"Yep." Ryan took a drink before saying, "Maybe next time."

"When you have something to show me? How long will it take?"

"It depends how productive I am. I'm off tomorrow, so I'll start working on the preliminaries first thing in the morning. If it goes well, it might be tomorrow night. I'll call you, either way." He stood, slinging his bag over one shoulder.

Merrick nodded as he stood as well. "If it is, how about I make us dinner."

Ryan seemed surprised. "You don't have to do that."

"I'd like to. You're good company, which is something I don't get much of." Merrick wondered if he'd pushed the loneliness button too soon when Ryan frowned.

Then Ryan said, as they walked around the house to his car, "I get what you mean. Between my job, and my artwork, it seems as if I never have time to do anything with friends."

"So you will let me fix dinner?"

Ryan laughed. "I have the feeling I can't stop you."

"Exactly." Merrick waited until Ryan was in the car. It was an old one, what he thought the kids called a beater. If, no, when things progress the way I want, I'll get him a better one.

"I'll call you tomorrow afternoon," Ryan said. "No sense in you cooking if I have nothing to show you."

Merrick grinned. "It's called bribery, to make sure you do."

"I'll keep that in mind," Ryan replied, returning his grin before backing out onto the street and then driving away.

Merrick waved, though he doubted Ryan saw it. Soon, Ryan. Soon you'll be mine, then my ... our lives will be perfect.
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Published on December 30, 2017 07:54 • 4 views

December 22, 2017

The Merger
http://firebornpublishing.com/store/i...

BLURB:
When Mike Harte saw Josh Aston sitting alone at the bar reading a book about burglary, he had no idea the man he first thought was a college student owned his own security firm. Since Mike was a private investigator, the coincidence led him to the idea that, perhaps, they should merge their two agencies.

It didn't take much persuasion on Mike's part to get Josh to agree. In fact, Josh was the one who pursued the idea by taking Mike up on his offer to visit Harte Investigations. The only thing that surprised Mike was the fact Josh, despite being a bodyguard as well as a security expert, never used a gun.

With the agencies merged, will the two men act on their mutual attraction and combine their personal lives as well? Or will their opposing styles on the dangerous jobs they work together drive them apart?



EXCERPT:
The first time Mike saw Josh, it was the last Monday evening in April.

The man was sitting alone at the far end of the bar in Thirty-One Twelve--named after its address--3112 Page Street. He was reading, his chin propped on one hand as he stared down at the book, a bottle of near-beer at his elbow. Occasionally, he'd jot something on the pad of paper next to him before going back to reading. Mike wondered if he was a college student. He didn't look more than twenty-two or three, at the most, from Mike's vantage point. If so, why study in a noisy bar, especially when he wasn't drinking real beer?

Curious, Mike picked up his bottle and wandered down to peer over the young man's shoulder. "Must be a pretty good book," he said.

Obviously startled, the guy turned to look at Mike before putting a finger between the pages to keep his place then closing the book to show Mike the cover.

"A book about burglary? Planning on breaking in somewhere?" Mike asked with a snort of amusement.

"Nope." He opened the book again, returning his attention to what he was reading.

"Short and sweet. By the way, I'm Mike."

"I'm not..."

He didn't finish whatever he was going to say, so Mike laughed, asking, "Not Mike? Or not interested in talking?"

He looked up, his lips twitching with a hint of a smile. "Both?"

"Okay. I won't bother you anymore."

Mike started to walk away when the young man said, "I'm Josh."

Turning back, Mike replied, "Nice to meet you. May I?" He pointed to the vacant stool next to Josh.
Josh shrugged and nodded, going back to the book after taking a sip of his drink.

Mike studied him openly, realizing as he did that Josh wasn't as young as he'd first thought. He decided he was probably closer to his own thirty-three than the twenty-three he'd guesstimated. He was slender, almost wiry, with dark hair that was a bit too long--which is why I thought he was a college student, I suppose--and hazel eyes. He chastised himself for jumping to conclusions based on first impressions. Given what he did for a living, he should have known better.

Josh turned to look at him. "Got my face memorized yet?"

Mike noted the touch of humor in his gaze, so he replied, "Getting there." He tapped the book. "Why are you reading about burglary?"

"The more I know about it, the easier it is to..." Josh snapped his mouth closed.

"To break in somewhere?"

"Yes. But not for the reason you're probably thinking."

Mike grinned. "Got it. You're an intrepid secret agent who needs to steal state secrets, so you have to know the best ways to enter a building without getting caught."

"Nope. Not a spy, not a burglar, though I suspect I might make a good one if I put my mind to it. I've studied enough about them and how they do what they do."

"Just studying won't do any good if you don't practice what you've learned. Theoretically, at least."

*****

Josh cocked his head. "What makes you think I haven't?" he asked while taking in Mike's short brown hair, gray-blue eyes above a classically straight nose, and his fairly muscular body.

After taking a drink of his beer, Mike set the bottle down again. "So you've broken into places? Or stolen a car? Or robbed a bank? Or...murdered someone?"

"Two out of four."

"I hope murder's not one of them," Mike said with a dry smile.

"Nope. Neither is robbing a bank. You need a gun for that and I detest them."

Leaning back, Mike asked, "If you're not a criminal--and I'm taking your word for it on that, for now--why break in somewhere or steal a car?"

Josh smiled. "As you said, you have to practice what you've learned. It's difficult to protect someone if you don't know how a potential attacker might get into their home or place of business--and how to defend against that happening."

"You're telling me that's what you do?" Mike looked as if he thought Josh was pulling his leg.

"Yes. I run a one-man protection service, primarily installing security for businesses, sometimes acting as a bodyguard for a client."

"You have got to be... Wait a minute. If you hate guns, how can you be a bodyguard?"

"There are a lot of other ways to fend off an attacker without shooting them," Josh replied.

"True." Mike nodded slowly, again studying him.

"What?" Josh asked when Mike's scrutiny went on too long without him saying anything.

"I was just thinking how coincidental this is." Mike tapped a finger on the bar.

"Oh? Why?"
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Published on December 22, 2017 09:42 • 5 views

November 18, 2017

Bill and Erik
https://www.jms-books.com/romance-c-2...

Bill Hawkins owns a bed-and-breakfast in the small mountain town of Middleton. He loves his life, his family, and his friends. The only thing missing is someone to call his own. A man he can love who will love him in return.

Erik King takes off when he catches his boyfriend in bed with another man. He's looking for somewhere away from that city. Perhaps a small town where life is less hectic and the people are friendly. What he is not looking for is a new man in his life.

When a winter snowstorm lands Erik at Bill's B&B, he finds the younger man too interesting, and goes on the run, again. The question becomes, will he realize he can't run from his feelings and return in time to celebrate Thanksgiving—and admit to Bill that he cares for him -- giving them both a reason to be thankful?

EXCERPT:

When Erik woke Thursday morning, it took him a few seconds to figure out where he was. Then it all came back to him. If I never see the bastard again, it'll be too soon.

He dressed in a fresh pair of jeans and a heavy sweatshirt, once he'd checked the weather, which predicted the high would be in the mid-fifties, with possible rain. He wasn't all that surprised, considering the time of year. He topped everything off with his leather chaps and jacket, packed up, and headed down to check out. By then, it was just after ten.

He got back on Sixth, heading west, looking for a fast food place where he could get something to eat. He ended up at a subway shop. After ordering a chicken and bacon melt and coffee, he found a table away from a family with three noisy kids. As he ate, he contemplated what to do next.

Go back and find a new apartment? I've got a job, which is a plus. The minus is, the bastard knows where I work. If he shows up there, trying to apologize, I might knock his ass into next week. End of job, and probably an assault charge on top of that. Head back home? That idea held no appeal at all. He'd left years ago to get away from his smothering parents.

Keep on moving west. Who knows what's out there? Maybe I'll find a vacant mountain cabin and settle in to live off the land. Uh-huh. More like starve to death, if I didn't freeze to death first. Winter is a coming in.

Still, the idea of the mountains appealed to him at the moment. Something very different from what he was used to. Taking out his phone to check what there was in the way of small towns, the first thing he saw was that he had four voicemails -- all of them from his ex. He deleted them without listening to whatever the SOB had to say. Then, because he knew it was something he should do, he called work.

"Pat, it's Erik," he said when the day manager answered the phone. "I hate to do this on such short notice, but I got a call from my mother. My dad's real sick and I've got to go back home." He listened and a moment later said, "No, I don't know when I'll be back, or if I will." He nodded. "Yeah. Thanks. I hope so too."

After the call ended, he brought up a map of the mountains to the west of Golden and planned his route. He figured he could check out a couple of the towns along the way and make a decision once he'd seen them and what they had to offer.

Probably not much in the way of jobs, this time of year, unless they cater to skiers. Not sure I'm up for dealing with them, since himself spent half the winter on the slopes.

He finished eating, got a fresh coffee which he poured into his travel mug when he got back to his bike, and took off.

* * * *

"The weatherman loves us," Mrs. Greene said, as she and her husband checked into the White River B&B Thursday afternoon.

"Yep," Bill agreed. "Maybe we should keep you around all winter to make the snow stays away."

She laughed. "If only it was that easy."

Since they were a pair of his favorite guests, Bill personally escorted them to their room. He smiled when, as soon as they entered, Mrs. Greene gasped in surprise. A large vase of flowers sat on the dresser. Next to it was an ice bucket holding a bottle of champagne. A banner hanging over the dresser proclaimed, Happy Anniversary.

"Oh, Bill, you shouldn't have," Mrs. Greene said, hugging him.

"It wasn't me. It was the winter elves," he replied with a grin.

"Whoever it was, thank you," Mr. Greene said. "This added to the celebration."

"I presume you're having dinner at the Dusty Rose."

"Of course," Mr. Greene replied. "I called to make reservations a week ago. You're invited, if you want."

"Thank you, but this is your special day. Candlelit dinner, a romantic walk along the river afterward…"

"Freezing our asses off," Mr. Greene said. "Maybe there's no snow, but it's colder than sin out there."

Bill chuckled. "I noticed. Anyway, happy anniversary. If you need anything, anything at all, let me, Mattie, or Roger know."

"We will. Not that we ever do. It's one reason we like coming up here. You anticipate everything and there's never a problem."

With a slight bow, Bill thanked him and left, going back to the foyer.

* * * *

Bill sighed as he watched from the front window of his house while snow began to drift down, just after dinner. "Let's hope it stays light," he said to War. The dog didn't seem to agree. Instead, he pranced to the door, looking back at his owner. "Right. Now you want a walk. An hour ago, I had to drag you outside."
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Published on November 18, 2017 07:46 • 6 views

October 14, 2017

In the Blink of an Eye
https://www.jms-books.com/erotic-roma...

Four men whose lives intertwine: Craig Hudson, the manager of a used bookstore in New Orleans; Scott Reed, Craig's boyfriend, who vanishes in the blink of an eye while celebrating his birthday with friends; Kevan Martel, a small-time private investigator, hired by Craig to find Scott; and Zoran, the one responsible for Scott's disappearance.

Will Craig be able to find Scott with Kevan's help? And if they do, what will happen to the growing attraction developing between them? Meanwhile, can Scott survive what Zoran has done to him? If he does, will Zoran regret it?

EXCERPT:

Kevan heard the waiting room door open and went out to see who was there.

"Mr. Martel?" a good-looking man Kevan figured was close to his own age asked.

"Yes. May I help you?"

"I don't know. I hope so." The man looked around and Kevan had a feeling he wasn't terribly impressed with what he was seeing. Not too surprising, since the walls were institutional beige, with two chairs and a short, brown sofa along one of them. A desk, which would have been for a receptionist, if he'd had one, faced the landing doorway, while the doorway to his office was opposite the seating area. Kevan knew that, with his scruff of a beard, he fit right in with the ambiance. Every morning, he vowed it was time to get rid of it -- and didn't.

"Only one way to find out. Tell me your problem," Kevan replied. "And your name would help."

"Craig Hudson."

"Nice to meet you. I'm Kevan, with an 'a'." Kevan gestured toward his office. "Let's go in there and you can tell me why you think you need my services."

Kevan was aware that his office wasn't much more impressive than the waiting room, but at least the walls were a decent blue. His desk was old, antique in fact, and took up a good portion of the right half of the room. He gestured to the chair in front of it, while talking his seat behind it.

"Now, what's the problem?" he asked.

Craig took a deep breath. "My boyfriend is missing." From the look on his face, Kevan figured he both worried about that, and about how Kevan would react to the fact he had a boyfriend. Of course, being New Orleans, he shouldn't be.

"How long has he been gone?" Kevan asked, starting to take notes.

"Since last Friday night. We went to a club, to celebrate his birthday. Around, oh I guess one-fifteen or so, he said he had to use the men's room. I haven't seen or heard from him since then. No one has. Well, at least none of our friends who were there, or his parents."

"Have you filed a missing persons report?"

Craig nodded. "The officer didn't seem too interested. I mean, he took the information but ..." He spread his hands.

"Your boyfriend is an adult, and I presume in his right mind, so I'm not surprised. What's his name, for starters?"

"Scott Alan Reed. He's twenty-five."

Kevan wrote that down. "Do you have a picture of him?"

"Yes." Craig took out his wallet. "I gave the officer two of them. This is the last one. At least the last one I have with me at the moment." He handed Kevan a photo.

It showed a good looking man with blond hair, perhaps a bit too long in Kevan's opinion, and pale blue eyes. A definite contrast to Craig's shorter brown hair and hazel eyes.

"Where does he work?"

"At a souvenir shop in the Quarter." Craig gave him the address.

"Have you talked with anyone there to see if they've heard from him?"

"I called, Saturday afternoon," Craig replied. "He hadn't shown up for work, or called in."

Kevan added that to his notes. "You said none of his friends have heard from him."

"No, they haven't. It's like he vanished off the face of the earth."

"How were you and he getting along?" Kevan asked.

"Fine. We never really argued. It just wasn't us. Friday night Scott was happy and having fun at the club. We both were."

"How long have you been together?"

"Umm, a little over two years. He came into the bookstore where I work, we got to talking, and pretty soon he was a regular. Eventually, I asked him out, he accepted, and things progressed from there."

Kevan jotted that down before asking, "Are you living together?"

"No, but we'd been talking about it."

"So you had a pretty solid relationship."

"Yes," Craig replied emphatically.

"All right. Back to the night of the party. Which club?"

"The Avenue."

"I know it. Nice place. So, according to you, he went to use the restroom at --" Kevan checked his notes, "-- one-fifteen. How long before you missed him?"

"About twenty minutes, I guess. Janie, she's one of our friends who was there, suggested maybe he'd gone outside to get some fresh air. I didn't see him do that, but the place was crowded."

"It usually is," Kevan said.

"Yeah. So, anyway, I tried calling him rather than searching for him. It went to his voicemail. I asked Felix, the doorman, if he'd seen Scott leave. He said he hadn't, and he knows him, and me. We go there pretty often. While I was doing that -- and then while I went outside to check the car, just in case -- everyone else was looking for him inside the club. No luck." Craig sighed, then grimaced. "I've come up with a million scenarios about what could have happened, but none of them make sense."
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Published on October 14, 2017 08:16 • 15 views

September 16, 2017

The Runaway and the Enforcer
http://www.jms-books.com/index.php?ma...

Beau, thirty-five, is a gangland enforcer who has gone into hiding rather than following the orders of his boss, Mercer, to harm a rival's kid. Now, all Beau wants to do is eliminate Mercer before getting out of town.

When Rick, an eighteen-year-old denizen of the streets, witnesses Beau killing one of Mercer's men who has found him, Beau takes Rick under his wing instead of killing him, as well. He offers Rick a place to stay while he figures out how to put his plan to take Mercer out into action -- without ending up dead himself.

Befriending Rick is an act Beau may come to regret. Rick convinces Beau to take him along when he leaves town -- thus working his way into Beau's dangerous life on the run -- and perhaps, into his heart, if Beau can come to grips with the fact that Rick is half his age.

Note: This story contains scenes of graphic violence.

EXCERPT:

Resting his elbows on the table, Rick stared at Beau, asking, "Why are you in hiding, and from who?"

"Whom," Beau replied with a trace of a smile, getting a raised finger from Rick in return.

"Well?" Rick said when Beau remained silent.

"I refused to do something my boss ordered me to. He took umbrage with that and decided I was a loose cannon who had to be eliminated."

Rick nodded slowly. "Who did he want you to kill?"

"Kid, you're too smart for your own good."

"But I'm right, aren't I?" Rick leaned back, looking hard at Beau. "That's what you do. You kill people."

"If I said yes, would you pack up and leave?"

"I saw you kill that guy last night, and I came home with you."

"That doesn't answer the question. As far as you were concerned, you put it down to self-defense, which, to a certain extent, it was. Him, or me, and I like living."

Rick got up to pace the living room. He stopped to peer out the window for a moment. Then he turned to ask, "Good guys, or bad guys?"

"Competitors, mostly. Sometimes our people," Beau responded, understanding what he meant.

"So people from another ... gang? The Mob? Whatever you want to call it?"

"Yes."

"And you're okay with that?"

Beau nodded. "It's a job. It pays well. And I'm protected, or I was. There's no way the cops could get to me, because I was always alibied."

"If they did, you'd sit in jail until your boss's high-powered lawyer got you out."

"It's been known to happen. Not to me, but to guys I work with."

"Doesn't it bother you, at least a little bit, that you're hurting or killing people?"

"They're our competition," Beau replied.

"You don't go after normal citizens, or cops?"

"First off, killing a cop would be stupid. They don't stop looking for the killer when that happens, which makes things harder for everyone, us and the other guys doing what we do."

"And civilians?"

"In my defense, for what it's worth, I haven't killed any, and I wouldn't."

"What if you were ordered to deal with, oh, I don't know, the wife or kid of one of your competitors, to teach the guy a lesson?"

Beau tapped his fingers together. "That's why I'm sitting in a rented, furnished apartment, instead of in the nice house I own halfway across the city."

Rick smiled. "So you do have some morals."

"Damned few." Beau smiled briefly. "One of them, maybe the only one, is that I won't kill a kid, or harm one, no matter what."

"Nice to know," Rick replied dryly, "since you seem to think I'm a kid."

Beau chuckled. "You're under twenty-one, so in my book, you qualify."

Rick came back to sit at the table. "Why are you here, instead of on the other side of the country?"

"I've got something I need to do, first. And no, I'm not telling you what."

"If this place is rented, can't they track you that way?"

Beau snorted. "How stupid do you think I am? It's not in my name, or any name I've ever used."

"That's good to know, I guess."

"You don't sound too sure."

"I'm still trying to wrap my head around everything," Rick replied. "I see a man killed, I end up hanging with his killer, then find out you're, I guess a mob enforcer?"

"That's what my boss calls me." Beau smiled sourly. "Among other things, now, I'm sure."

"I can think of several things to call him, if he wanted you to kill a kid," Rick said angrily. "Like a little kid?"

Beau shook his head. "Not kill. Beat up. And he was sixteen. His father wanted to go off on his own. My boss didn't like that."

"And you refused?"

"For what it's worth, yeah. And that's all I'm saying on the subject. The less you know, the better -- for both of us."

Rick frowned. "What if he sent someone else to do it, since you wouldn't?"

"The kid's safe, now. I dropped a hint that it might be a good idea if he vanished."

"That must have pissed your boss off."

"No shit."

"So, you vanished, too. But not so well, since that guy found you last night."
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Published on September 16, 2017 07:26 • 42 views

August 5, 2017

His Secret Admirer
http://www.jms-books.com/index.php?ma...

When the first note shows up at the restaurant where he works -- when he isn't designing costumes for a local theater -- Jim Foster laughs it off. When the notes keep coming, he doesn't find the fact that he might have a secret admirer quite so amusing.

Alan North, a lonely, bookish customer at the restaurant, is too shy to even think of talking to Jim -- as much as he wants to.

Then the killings begin. Two of Jim's friends are murdered in what appear to be muggings. However, the detective in charge of the cases believes they're more than that, and that Jim is either the killer ... or being stalked by one.

When Jim and Alan finally connect, can they help find and stop the stalker, or will Alan end up dead before their budding relationship can become more than friendship?

EXCERPT:

Jim was certain whoever his secret admirer was had given up when there wasn't an envelope tacked to the bulletin board the following morning, when he arrived at Bannock's. He sighed in relief and got to work. The restaurant was busier than usual, for whatever reason. That was saying something since there were always dozens of people waiting -- inside, and out on the sidewalk -- for Logan, the host on the weekends, to tell them their table was ready. By the time Jim's shift ended at two, he was more than ready to go home and collapse.

Which he did, settling on the sofa, with a cup of coffee, and Callie curled in his lap, while he watched some mindless sports show on TV. He was half asleep when the news came on. He snapped awake moments later when he heard Vic's name. The reporter was apparently recapping an earlier news story about the body of a man that had been discovered in the parking lot behind an apartment building, beaten to death. "The victim has now been positively identified as Victor Howe who lived in the apartment building where the body was discovered."

For a second, Jim hoped it was another Victor Howe. After all, it's a fairly common name. His hopes were dashed when the Vic's photo came up behind the reporter.

"It can't be. Why? A mugging gone wrong?"

According to the reporter, the police were considering that explanation but wouldn't confirm it until they had finished the investigation.

"It happened after I left the club last night," Jim said, getting a cocked head from Callie, who was sitting on the floor at his feet at that point. "Yeah, an obvious statement," he muttered as he got up. "I wonder if the police know he was there."

Probably, he figured. But he wanted to find out for certain. After changing out of his work clothes, he grabbed his keys and took off.

"You heard," Steve said, coming down to where Jim had managed to squeeze in at the end of the bar.

"Looks like everyone else has, too," Jim replied sourly. On his way across the room, he'd overheard several guys talking about Vic's murder.

"It, umm, has increased our normal Saturday night business ... unfortunately." Steve shook his head in disgust.

"Have the cops been here?" Jim asked.

"Oh, yeah. From what one of them said, someone tipped them off that Vic was here last night, so they descended in force around noon. They told the boss to get anyone who'd worked last night down here so they could talk to us."

Jim almost smiled. "Waking you from your beauty sleep."

"Or something like that," Steve agreed, with a ghost of a smile of his own. "Hang on, I'll be right back. You want a beer?"

Jim nodded, then watched as Steve took care of several customers who were clamoring for drinks -- and gossiping about Vic's murder. Steve filled their orders, ignoring their questions, then returned, handing Jim his beer.

"It's been like this since we opened," Steve grumbled, then muttered, "Oh, shit."

"What?"

"They've returned. Or at least one of them has," Steve replied, nodding to a man in his late twenties, wearing a suit and tie, who was coming toward them. "Unless I miss my guess, he's looking for you, which is my fault. I told him you were the last person to talk to Vic, because he left right after you did. I didn't tell him where you live, because I don't know."

"Thanks," Jim said, rolling his eyes as he took a long pull on his beer.

"Mr. Ward," the man said to Steve. "Had Mr. Foster come in yet, tonight?"

"I'm Jim Foster," Jim said.

"Detective Baines," the man replied. "I'd like to have a few words with you, if you don't mind."

"About Vic, I presume. All right, but ..." Jim gestured to the crowded bar -- and room. "Maybe somewhere else?"

"I was going to suggest that. We can talk in my car."

With a nod, Jim followed him outside, then down to an unmarked police car parked half a block away.

When they were seated, Detective Baines said, "According to witnesses, you were the last man to speak to Mr. Howe before he left the club last night."

"I doubt that, knowing Vic, but I was probably the last guy with him, before that. We danced, then had another drink together afterward."

"You were friends?" The detective's tone of voice implied he meant more by that than his words said.

"Yes. Just friends. We have been for a while. And that was it. There was no sex involved," Jim told him bluntly.
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Published on August 05, 2017 08:01 • 6 views

July 29, 2017

Protecting Max
http://www.jms-books.com/index.php?ma...

Twelve years ago, Max Harman survived a vicious attack by his ex-lover Tony. It severed their relationship and landed Tony in prison.

When Tony’s released from jail, Max’s nephew Jack fears the man may seek revenge on his uncle. Wanting to buy a gun for protection, he visits Deacon Young's shop. Deacon convinces him to bring Max by to do the same. Despite his misgivings, Max gets a gun for security, too.

When Jack’s fears prove to be correct and Tony starts to stalk Max, Deacon steps in to try to protect him. Can Max's growing interest in Deacon -- and vice versa -- survive Tony's escalating reign of terror?

EXCERPT:

The man behind the counter, who Max presumed was Deacon, was busy with a customer when Max and Jack arrived. He studied him for a moment. Not quite what I expected. I figured he'd be rough and tough, like hunters in ads I've seen. Sort of a redneck. He looks more like a commando with that short haircut. He was surprised when he realized the man was close to his age, from the look of him. Though why I figured he'd be closer to fifty than forty is beyond me. Pulling his attention away from the man, Max looked around. He resisted shuddering at the number and types of guns he saw -- on the walls and in two display cases.

"Who knew there were so many ... styles?" he murmured to Jack, getting a brief grin and a nod in return. "Which did you get?"

"One like this," Jack replied, pointing.

"Do you have it with you?" Max was very certain he didn't like the idea that Jack might.

"Yes." Jack took the gun, in its holster, from his jacket pocket.

"It's small." Max frowned. "Don't you need a license to carry that?"

"Not in this state," Deacon said, coming over to them. "He passed the background check, which is all he needed to do. I'm Deacon, by the way. You must be Max. It's good to meet you."

"Thanks. You, too, I guess." Max replied wryly.

"Not so sure you want to be here?"

"Definitely sure I don't, but Jack convinced me I should at least talk to you."

"He told me what's going on," Deacon said. "He's pretty certain Tony might come after you. Do you agree?"

"I think it's possible. Not probable, but possible. If nothing else, he could threaten that he will."

"Like stalking you."

Max nodded, glancing at Jack. "We haven't talked about that, but I have considered the possibility. I do have a restraining order against him."

"Not to burst your bubble on that," Deacon replied, "But they're usually not worth the paper they're written on if the stalker is dedicated to making the victim's life miserable, or taking it beyond that to a violent confrontation. From what Jack told me, Tony has no problem with that."

"No. But he was drunk when it happened."

"Is he an alcoholic?" Deacon asked.

"A friend of mine called him a situational alcoholic. When the situation arises and he starts to drink, he doesn't stop. He never drank at home, if that tells you anything."

"That he didn't want to lose his meal-ticket," Jack muttered.

"Probably," Max agreed.

"Okay," Deacon said. "So we have a man with a drinking problem, who has most likely spent his time in prison thinking about how he can pay you back for his being there. Maybe he won't head to the local bar the second he gets out. Maybe he'll find a place to stay, even look for a job, and try to settle down and become a productive member of society again. But --" Deacon looked hard at Max "-- I wouldn't count on it."

Max sighed. "I know."

"So, you might be safe when you're at home, since, according to Jack you've got a very good security system. But I don't think you want to spend the rest of your life holed up in there."

"I can't. Among other things, I have a business to run that requires my visiting clients from time to time."

"Exactly. So, be proactive. Get a gun, a small one like Jack has, then learn how to use it. You might never have to, but it's better to be safe than dead."

"That's a fairly good argument for getting one." Max rubbed his temples. "All right. What do I have to do?"

Deacon chuckled. "Buy one, for starters." He took Max through the same process that he had with Jack the previous night, ending up in the shooting range.

Much to Max's surprise, and more than a bit of dismay, he seemed to have a good eye and a steady hand when it came to hitting the targets. Deacon worked with both Max and Jack, with brief breaks on his part to deal with two customers who came into the shop. By the end of the night, Max felt reasonably confident he could hit what he was aiming at -- if not lethally, at least to stop the person.

But can I really shoot Tony? He did mean something to me, before the end. I loved him, once. If I have to look him in the eye and then pull the trigger, will I be able to? I guess time will tell, but please, God, don't put me in the position where I'll have to find out.
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Published on July 29, 2017 07:44 • 6 views

July 1, 2017

Nothing in Common, Except...
http://www.jms-books.com/index.php?ma...


Braxton “Brax” O'Hara is a shifter, a PI ... and an art thief. He has no problem with being all three. As a matter of fact, he likes his less than legal job.

Kyle Grayson is a member of an all-shifter art crimes team. He does everything within his power to catch the thieves he's after, and believes he's found his next quarry -- Brax O'Hara.

Things take a turn for the worse when Russo, Brax's partner in crime, wants him to retrieve some blackmail pictures instead of a piece of art. At the same time, Kyle comes into the picture. When the two men meet, they discover they both know the blackmailer -- and they both hate him, too, for different reasons.

Can they stop Russo, a powerful Alpha shifter? More to the point, can they deal with their attraction to each other when they have nothing in common except Russo?

EXCERPT:

Brax asked, "Who are you? Why were you following me?"

It seemed as if the man wasn't going to answer. Then he shrugged. "Who I am isn't important right now. I was following you because you visited a man I'm interested in."

"I'm a private detective. I visit a lot of people. Do you want to narrow it down a bit for me?"

"Not really." The man arched a dark blond eyebrow. "You do know that you blocking the door won't keep me here so that you can interrogate me."

Brax smiled. "I'm aware of that. But you haven't left."

"Yet." The man tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. "Kyle Grayson."

"Huh?"

"You asked who I am. Although the man," Kyle paused. "Mr. Pence, the shifter you visited thinks I'm Jonathan Roberts."

"That narrows it down," Brax replied. "It still doesn't explain why you decided to follow me."

"I was curious?" Kyle glanced around, then said, "This would be an easier conversation if we weren't hanging out in a parking lot, Mr. O'Hara."

"So you know who I am."

"Yes. Braxton O'Hara." Kyle chuckled. "I'm not a PI, but I do know a thing or two about investigating people."

Brax felt a sudden chill, although the night was warm. Does he know, or suspect what Caleb and I do? Or even worse, is he connected to Russo? Neither idea sat well with him. "You're right. We should take this conversation somewhere else. I live over there." He nodded toward his building. "But then I suspect you know that."

"Obviously, or I wouldn't be here."

Brax moved aside to let Kyle out of the car. They walked silently to his building and were just as silent as they rode up in the elevator. All the while, Brax studied Kyle. He seemed calm with no tension evident in his stance or his expression. But then, if Brax was right in his estimation, he could be a high ranking Subordinate, or maybe even a Beta -- and a gray wolf, he was certain.

* * * *

Kyle knew O'Hara was trying to figure him out. Now he had to decide how open he should be with the man. By now he has to have figured out why I'm interested in him and Mr. Pence. Not that he'll admit what they do. Well, what I'm pretty damned sure they do. How the hell did I manage to screw this up? He knew the answer to that. He was too eager to solve the series of art thefts he was investigating. As a result, he'd paid a visit to Mr. Pence when he should have investigated him from afar.

"Nice place, Mr. O'Hara," Kyle said when they were in the apartment.

"It's Brax, and thanks. Have a seat."

With a nod, Kyle sat at one end of the sofa. Brax took the chair opposite it.

For a moment, neither man spoke. Then, curious, Kyle asked, "Do you do surveillance on straying spouses?"

Apparently surprised at the question, Brax replied, "Very rarely." He smiled slightly. "We leave that to the sleazier PIs in town. Why do you ask?"

"Because you were checking out a bordello tonight. From what little I found out before you interrupted me, it's very high-class. The logical conclusion was that someone you're interested in uses it. Ergo, the 'straying spouse' comment."

"Nope. It caught my eye as I drove by, is all."

Kyle snorted. "You went there intentionally, straight from work. What I can't figure out is why you didn't go inside. It's hard to --" he paused purposely "-- find what you're looking for from the street."

"What do you think I'd be looking for in there? Okay, other than the obvious, that is."

"You tell me."

Brax leaned back, putting his hands behind his head as he stared at Kyle. "I get the distinct feeling you think I'm involved in something illegal. Probably with Mr. Pence, since you admitted you're interested in him. The only reason you saw me at his building was because I installed his security system and he had a problem with it. End of story. Let me ask you something, since we seem to be playing Twenty Questions. Are you a cop?"

"Nope."

"Figured you'd say that, either way. It doesn't mean you aren't."

Kyle smirked. "True. But I promise you, I'm not."

"Fed?"

"My turn," Kyle said, instead of answering his question. "Why didn't you go into the bordello, instead of just driving by?"

"That's none of your business," Brax replied angrily.

"It is if, as I said, you're looking for someone in there -- or something. Probably something. There's a lot of artwork on the walls, from the pictures I found on their website."
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Published on July 01, 2017 07:55 • 51 views