Book Blitz & Excerpt: Blood from a Stone + Giveaway

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Blood from a Stone by David M. Salkin

Word Count: 68,144
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 274

Genres:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
CONTEMPORARY
CRIME AND MYSTERY
MEN IN UNIFORM
MYSTERY
ROMANCE
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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Book Description

A dream house to share with his love becomes a nightmare when an old diary reveals a dark secret that brings a wounded warrior out of retirement.

When Special Forces veteran Cory Walker purchased the home on Harkers Island, he knew it came with a history. Two white marble angels in the rear yard stand sentinel over the house where Casey Stone and her mother had lived—and died. But that was decades ago, and Cory is now in love with both the house and his girlfriend Amanda. He’s determined to build a new life on the quiet island to readjust to civilian life and enjoy his new love.

Cory’s decision to build a wine cellar turns his dream house into a nightmare when he discovers the hidden diary of Casey Stone. Casey, only sixteen, had been raped and murdered many years earlier, the only horrible crime that had ever occurred on the small island. Her mother was so devastated that she hanged herself, hence the two angels in the yard placed there by Earl Stone. As Cory reads the journal, he discovers that the truth may be much different from what was ever believed.

The wrong man is sitting in jail, and as Cory begins to ask questions about the case, he soon realizes he is opening a box of secrets that may get both him and Amanda killed.

Earl Stone, the formerly grieving husband and stepfather, may be the next President of the United States, and when a man that powerful wants secrets to stay buried, the dangerous possibilities are endless.

Reader advisory: This book includes mentions of sexual abuse and rape of a minor, psychological abuse, violence, reference to warfare including the deaths of children, sometimes graphic injury description and murder.

Excerpt

Amanda was driving down from Twin Oaks. I had a bottle of Italian red, a Super Tuscan called Le Volte by Ornellaia, decanting in the kitchen. I’d made a puttanesca sauce, and the garlic, red peppers and crushed anchovies sautéing in olive oil had perfumed my new home. The sizzle was a magical noise. Into that, I’d added diced Kalamata olives, capers, tomato paste and crushed tomatoes.

The spaghetti alla puttanesca was just a little taste—a traditional Italian pasta before the main course. The secondi would be a huge bone-in rib-eye steak, grilled out back on the patio. I had dry-rubbed the steak with my list of secret ingredients. It’s a secret because I never make anything the same way twice, so it’s a secret to me, too. A little sautéed broccoli rabe and badda-bing, dinner would be served. It would be our first meal together in the new house. I was trying to cook my way into her staying with me forever.

In my other life, I had eaten MREs on a regular basis—government-supplied packets of food designed to make you angry enough to kill people. ‘MRE’—Meals Rejected by Ethiopians, Meals Rarely Edible, Meals Requiring Enemas, Massive Rectal Expulsions. You get the idea. They weren’t very good. As a result, I learned to cook—foraging and becoming a creative genius to turn the rancid packets into something my comrades and I might actually eat.

Amanda arrived right on time, and with her, a breath of fresh air and an aura of positive energy and bright light that I’d been missing all my life. Her mere presence made me smile. I was hoping my cooking skills would make up for whatever other shortcomings I have. It seemed to be working. I have two great skills—cooking and killing people, and I planned to leave the death and destruction part in my former life. I was determined to be a kinder, gentler version of myself going forward. I would gourmet my way into Amanda’s heart.

Dinner was a smashing success, with conversation that covered a hundred topics and had us both smiling like lovestruck teenagers as we caught up on each other’s weeks. It was pretty darn perfect. After dinner, we finished that great bottle of Ornellaia, opened a bottle of port and decided to take a walk to the beach.

It was the kind of peaceful night that reminds one of how amazing life can be when everything falls into place. We ended up in the warm, flat ocean up to our knees and I asked her yet again about moving in. This time she didn’t say ‘no’. Instead, she talked about maybe trying to find a physical therapy job down here, closer to the island.

We walked home and sat outside in the back garden, looking at the stars. The moon lit the white marble faces of the two angels who resided in my yard. The pair had stood sentinel there for years before I’d purchased the house. They came alive softly in the moonlight, and with them, their sad story hung in the still air. The house had a history—one that the folks on Harkers Island wanted to forget.

On Sunday, after a late, leisurely brunch, Amanda left. It was like the air had been sucked out of the house. Loneliness snuck back into my soul and once again I had to fight off the ghosts of those last days in Afghanistan.

I needed a mission to focus on. And this time, it would be for me. A wine cellar… It would be a surprise for Amanda when she came back down in two weeks.

When I had purchased the house, I had been surprised to find it had a basement. The island is only a few feet above sea level. When this house had been built, the foundation had been set on a man-made hill, making the house one of the tallest on the island. It made the stately home regal, perched slightly above the rest of the houses like a castle above the serfs. It had an attitude—and I probably had one of the only basements on the island. There were plenty of newer and fancier homes, several worth seven figures, but this house had character—along with that dark history.

The basement was cool, the perfect temperature for wine. I’d sketched out a design and purchased lumber and some tools. The first thing I did was put in some overhead fluorescent lights. Then I scrubbed the poured concrete floor. The walls were cinderblock, with a few open crawlspaces.

Channeling my energy into something positive, I was going to finish making a rack system against one of the walls. Nothing too fancy. I would have the shelves slightly pitched forward. That way I could see the labels and keep the corks angled to the floor. It was a great way to design a wine cellar, but I couldn’t take credit for inventing it. Back in my days with Special Forces, a buddy and I used to kill time talking about our dream houses, and all of them included a great wine cellar. He would have built it someday—I’m sure of it—if some fanatic wearing a bomb vest hadn’t run into his tent one morning in Kabul and killed him and a few other great guys I knew. I’d build it for him. And that first bottle would be used to toast my friend.

I was cleaning off the cinderblock wall, getting ready to nail in the studs, when the beam of my flashlight caught the edge of something inside the crawlspace. That was when my dream house turned into a nightmare and ancient history became my new reality.

Sitting on the sand behind the top of the cinderblock wall was a small leather-covered book. Old and worn… I picked it up and looked at the cover. It must have been covered with doodles and cartoon flowers years ago, but the ink had faded, and insects and moisture had damaged it. When I opened the front cover, it cracked slightly at the binding.

Casey A. Stone 1991.

It took me a moment to realize what it was—a diary.

The paper was stiff and crinkly in my hands. The penmanship was neat and feminine…

My brain started playing catch-up, making the hair on the back of my neck stand.

Casey Stone.

She was one of the angels in my yard.

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About the Author

David M. Salkin

International, award-winning author David M. Salkin has been entertaining readers since 2005. His brand of thrillers includes military-espionage, horror and crime. Salkin has appeared around the country, including three times as a panelist at New York City’s Thrillerfest and also at Books in the Basin, in Midland and Odessa, Texas. Dave enjoys speaking to book clubs and groups about writing, and has appeared on television, radio, and various print media.

David served as an elected official in Freehold Township for twenty-five years (Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Township Committeeman) and was inducted into the New Jersey Elected Officials Hall of Fame in 2019. He is a 1988 graduate of Rutgers College with a BA in English Literature. When not working or writing, Dave prefers to be Scuba diving or traveling. He’s a Master Diver, as well as a pretty good chef and wine aficionado. David speaks three languages fluently – English, sarcasm and profanity.

David is an associate member of the Philip A Reynolds Detachment of the Marine Corps League, and board member of the Veterans Community Alliance.

Find out more at David’s website.

Giveaway

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David M. Salkin Blood from a Stone Giveaway

DAVID M. SALKIN IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET A FIRST FOR ROMANCE GIFT CARD! Notice: This competition ends on 11TH May 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Book Blitz & Excerpt: Wicked Ways + Giveaway

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Wicked Ways
by Angela Addams

Word Count: 54,720
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 211
Genres: ACTION AND ADVENTURE, BONDAGE AND BDSM, CONTEMPORARY, CRIME AND MYSTERY, ENEMIES TO LOVERS, EROTIC ROMANCE, THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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Book Description

 

A night with him was only meant to be a release, not an awakening.

Adam Lancaster, right-hand man and security expert for Cowan Enterprises, is called back home to help his family save their ranch from a gang of debt collectors.

While he’s there, he’s reunited with his childhood nemesis, Missy Alderton. Missy, once a tomboy, is all grown up and sexy as hell. She’s also the town’s sheriff, a kick-ass law enforcement officer who is determined to bring down the criminal elements that threaten more than just Adam’s family. Since they both have the same goal, it would seem they’d be able to work together, but Missy knows all about Adam’s years of working for the infamous Sabine Cowan, and she doesn’t approve of his methods of fixing problems.

Missy hasn’t seen Adam in five years, not since the night she seduced him as a little payback for things he’d done when they were younger. She got him all hot and bothered and walked away, vowing never to touch the man again. Now that he’s back in town, she keeps trying to convince herself that she’s not interested in spending too much close and personal time with Adam. That’s what her mouth is saying, but her body, on the other hand, can’t seem to get enough of him. Adam is trouble and he’s threatening everything she’s built in Grimshield, including the walls around her heart.

With so much at stake, Adam must convince Missy that sometimes you have to break a lot of rules to get what your heart desires.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of public sex, emotional abuse and kidnapping.

Excerpt

Five years before

The second Adam locked eyes with the mysterious woman dressed up as a dark angel, he knew he was about to get fucked…in all the right ways.

Sure, he was wearing a lame-ass pirate costume that was at least two sizes too small for his bulky frame, and yeah, he wasn’t supposed to be at the Halloween party to begin with, but this woman was staring at him like she wanted to eat him alive. Adam just knew that she’d come for him. He didn’t know how he knew. It could have been the way her eyes drilled right into him, smoldering and full of lust, and completely locked on his. Or maybe it was her skimpy little costume, all tight-looking black leather, holding on to her curves in a way that made his dick weep—and totally the kind of getup that would drive him wild. Then again, perhaps it was simply the pulse of his aching cock, acting as some kind of lightning rod for a horny female in his sights that had him so sure. This woman was a totally dangerous kind of hot, and she was all his.

The room was completely packed with people, but Adam’s dick was at full attention, straining against the flimsy fabric of his costume, so ready to sink into her. He’d thought the party was going to be lame. Man, was I wrong.

When he started to get up from his seat, she shot him a look that let him know he needed to stay put. She was coming to him.

Oh yeah, baby.

The party was pumping. The music was loud, the bass thumping hard and drinks were flowing. Adam was feeling really fucking good watching this woman come toward him. The crowd moved around her as she approached. Her hips swayed and the wings jutting from her back moved with her, making it seem like she was actually flying toward him. Everything she was wearing was black, from her halo to her sexy-as-hell stilettos—everything except for her pouty lips, which were painted a deep cherry red. Adam licked his lips. He bet she’d taste like cherries too. She had a halter-top vest on that had a zipper down the front. One zip down and her tits would spill right out. Fuck, he wished she’d move faster. He wanted her on his dick, and he had no problem with fucking her right there in the corner of the room. No one would notice, and if they did, they definitely wouldn’t care.

She lifted her hands, running them along her hips and up her sides. Her tits weren’t huge, but she had enough cleavage to make his mouth drool, thinking about licking all that soft, flawless skin. She moved to the side to avoid another girl who was dancing, and it gave Adam a nice view of her rear. Her ass was just visible under that skirt of hers, like one tug up and she’d be exposed. He was praying she wasn’t wearing panties. Fuuuuck, please let her be bare.

She was sex. Pure sex. And even though she was wearing a mask over her eyes, Adam somehow just knew he’d never met her before. She wasn’t from Grimshield. No way. He knew all the girls around town. Even though he’d been gone for ten years, he knew he’d never met this one before he’d left Montana. Besides, this party was a high-school reunion of sorts, and he was sure he hadn’t gone to school with her. He would have remembered a girl like that.

He had to wonder, though, just where she’d come from.

The room was packed. There were so many bodies moving to the music and she was only a few feet away. He was sitting on a sofa chair, like a king, just watching over everyone, waiting for the gorgeous creature to make another move.

And when she got close enough, she stopped, but just for a second—long enough to give him a once-over that confirmed everything he already believed. She was going to ride his dick right there, right now. He was the luckiest guy alive.

She climbed onto his lap. No hesitation… She just hiked her skirt, flashed her lacy pink panties and climbed on up. Adam’s dick was weeping for real. Her pussy was so hot that he could feel it radiating against his pants. She was wet.

She didn’t speak. She just leaned in and kissed him, the fiercest kiss he’d had in a while. Her tongue was in his mouth, stroking him, and all he could think about was how good it felt…and how great her lips would be around his cock. All that cherry-red lipstick surrounding his dick? Yeah, super fucking hot.

She broke the kiss and looked down at him, her dark eyes full of lust and determination. She held up a condom that she’d pulled from fuck-knew-where and had her other hand playing with the zipper on her vest.

This was a sure thing. A quick fuck. His heart was hammering so hard, his dick was pulsing and he was desperate for the heat of her pussy. He grunted something meant to be affirmative, not trusting his voice to come out right.

She unzipped her vest. Her tits were glorious, a handful of flawless porcelain. Her nipples were ripe little berries. Adam was all hands and lips, sucking on her sweet buds, playing with her until she was rubbing herself against him. And when he slipped one hand between her legs, fuck, she was so damn wet, soaking her panties so much that he could have wept with joy.

It was so fucking hot—her little moans and purrs in his ear, the way she bit her bottom lip and how her hips moved when he yanked the panties aside and slipped his fingers into her tight, wet hole. It was a fucking fantasy come alive. This night could not get any more perfect.

Until it did.

She tugged at the flimsy drawstring of his costume and his dick came out like it was spring-loaded. It was hard and slick with pre-cum, and he was dying for her to suck him off. But her lips didn’t come close. Her hands were all over his cock, rubbing him so good that he could have spewed just from that. But she shifted herself back, ripped the condom package with her teeth then slipped it onto his aching cock so fast that he barely had time to think about it. He pulled his fingers out of her and sucked down the taste of her. Their eyes were locked. She was totally in it with him. She tasted like heaven and he wanted more.

Her eyes were drilling him as she lifted her hips and rammed herself hard onto his dick, right down his shaft until he was completely sheathed to the hilt. The sexiest fucking smile curled her lips and she slowly drew her body back, rubbing his cock until she was almost off him before sliding to the hilt again. Yes, she was totally going to fuck his brains out.

This…this was a night for the record books.

There they were, surrounded by other people, and this amazingly gorgeous creature was riding him like her life depended on it. Her sweet little pussy was so damn tight that it was like a leather glove squeezing his dick each time she rolled her hips. And her tits? They were right at his mouth, so he had to suck them in. His hands were on her ass, moving her harder, faster. Then she leaned in closer, so close that her lips were at his ear and she moaned a long, sexy sound. Her pussy was doing a spasmy thing of the most intense ripples and he realized that she was coming so fucking hard. So he let loose too, just let his climax go and filled the fucking condom.

He had his hands on her hips and he pulled her down to kiss those sweet lips again, but she pushed back, her hands on his chest to stop him.

“Nah-uh, big boy,” she purred.

He looked up at her, his mind fuzzy, feeling euphoric, wanting to know who this sexy woman was and where they could go for round two.

“What’s your name, baby?

She just got a smile on her lips and pushed herself up and off him before adjusting her skirt. She did up her vest next, concealing her glorious tits from his view.

He moved forward, doing his best to stop her from leaving him, his dick still hard, wanting more.

“Come on, honey. Tell me who you are.” No way this girl was leaving without giving him her digits.

She laughed, leaned in close and said, “Why don’t you just call me Ugly Duckling, Adam?”

Adam froze. The smile slid from his lips. Clarity came like a slap to the face. There was only one girl he’d ever said something so vile to. “Missy?”

The curl to her lips turned into a sneer, all the answer he needed. Then she spun on those impossibly high heels and walked away.

He watched the crowd swallow her.

He’d just been fucked all right, by the one girl who hated his guts. The last time he’d seen Missy Alderton, she had not looked like a sex goddess. When he’d seen her, she’d been a scrawny teenager and a pain in his ass. Now at almost ten years later, Missy had definitely grown up, and she was sure as shit not an ugly duckling.

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About the Author

Angela Addams

Angela Addams is an author of many naughty things. She believes that the written word is an amazing tool for crafting the most erotic of scenarios and likes telling stories about normal people getting down and dirty and falling in love. Enthralled by the paranormal at an early age, Angela also spends a lot of her time thinking up new story ideas that involve supernatural creatures in everyday situations.

She is an avid tattoo collector, a total book hoarder, and loves anything covered in chocolate…except for bugs.

She lives in Ontario, Canada in an old, creaky house, with her husband, children and four moody cats.

Sign up to Angela’s newsletter and check out her blog and website. You can follow Angela on Instagram and Pinterest, and find her at Amazon, Bookbub and Books & Main.

Giveaway

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Angela Addams’ Wicked Ways Giveaway

ANGELA ADDAMS IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET YOUR FREE ANGELA ADDAMS ROMANCE BOOK! Notice: This competition ends on 9th March 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Book Blitz & Excerpt: Straight to the Heart + Giveaway

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Straight to the Heart
by S.J. Coles

Word Count: 33,482
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 142
Genres: CONTEMPORARY, CRIME, CRIME AND MYSTERY, EROTIC ROMANCE, GAY, GLBTQI, MEN IN UNIFORM

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Book Description

 

What happens when the person you can’t get out of your head also happens to be the number one suspect in your murder investigation?

Derek Benson, CEO of Benson Industries, is found dead in his office at a time when everyone in the building, including him, should have been at an important meeting about the company’s future. Conveniently for the killer, the security footage from the time of the murder has vanished.

None of this fazes FBI Agent James Solomon. James knows himself, his job and how to set aside his ongoing personal problems to get the job done, even when the investigation is in a small-town backwater like Winton.

There’s just one problem—the intriguing form of young lab technician Leo Hannah, an employee of Benson Industries and a key witness, who appears to know more than he’s admitting to.

As the investigation progresses, James finds that his previously steadfast ability to separate personal from professional becomes increasingly unreliable. Can he get his head in the game before he compromises the investigation and his future career?

Reader advisory: Ths book contains a scene of public sex, graphic corpse description, and scenes involving violence, abduction and attempted murder.

Excerpt

James Solomon knew it was unprofessional—unethical, even—to be grateful for the murder of a high-profile businessman two days before what would have been his parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary. But his robust professional pride couldn’t put a dent in the very real relief he felt when the call had come through.

He climbed out of the rented car outside Benson Industries HQ and breathed in the brisk sea breeze. The early morning was still gloomy, casting everything in shadow. Gibson slammed the passenger door with a sigh as a woman in a sheriff’s uniform hurried over to meet them.

“Agents, thanks for coming so quickly.”

“No problem, Sheriff,” Gibson replied, her face schooled professionally blank. “The sooner we start, the better. Sheriff Coyle, right?”

“That’s right,” the middle-aged woman said, her smile doing nothing to warm the pale set of her face.

“Agent Lisa Gibson,” Gibson responded, shaking the other woman’s hand then indicating James. “Agent James Solomon. We’ve had the incident reports, but can you fill us in using your own words?”

“Sure. Follow me,” Sheriff Coyle said, her voice a bit steadier. She preceded them to the wide, glass entrance and swiped a card through a reader. They paced past the empty reception desk and down a marble-tiled corridor. The place was deserted, the black eyes of cameras the only things watching them. “The vic is Derek Benson, fifty-five years old,” the sheriff continued. “Born here in Winton, then got a job with the FDA in Maryland after college. Struck out on his own at age thirty. Now he’s the owner, CEO, director—you name it—of Benson Industries.”

“Specialist pharmaceuticals, right?” Gibson asked, scanning reports on her phone.

“That’s right. Pulling in some pretty serious business these days. Some big names on the client list. That’s why we called you guys in.”

“So what happened?”

“Benson was found by the janitor in his office this morning, shot three times in the chest.”

“Time of death?” Gibson asked.

“Our ME is putting it around nine p.m. last night, though he says he can be more accurate after the postmortem.”

“And you said the security camera footage is missing?” Gibson asked, eyeing another camera as they strode past.

“Yeah,” said the sheriff with a weary exasperation James could more than identify with. “The security system backs up everything onto disk. The disks from eight p.m. last night to three this morning have been taken.”

“No online backup?” James ventured, not hopefully, as they stepped onto an elevator.

Coyle shook her head. “I don’t think Benson trusted the cloud and all that. They’re dusting the Security Room for prints where the disks were kept now.”

“Did Benson often work that late?” Gibson asked as the elevator hummed up to the seventh floor.

“He put a lot of hours in, sure, but there was some kind of business presentation last night. All the heads of department and senior staff were here from seven-thirty onward. Plus, some of the lab rats were working late on a deadline.”

“Lab rats?” James queried, as Coyle led them out onto a level that was all glass walls and spacious offices with big desks and bold, minimalist furniture.

“The technicians,” she said, glancing this way and that, as if wary of what might be hiding in the maze of glass. “We have a list of everyone who was in the building at the time from the swipe system, though so far no one saw anyone leave the conference room or the labs.”

“How many people are we talking?” Gibson, warily.

Coyle pulled a battered notepad from a back pocket and flipped through it. “Thirty-one.”

“That’s a lot of people with opportunity,” Gibson muttered.

“One of them was his wife,” Coyle added. “Melissa Benson.”

“His wife was at the business meeting?”

Coyle nodded. “She’s a senior partner in the firm. She delivered one of the presentations.”

“At what time?”

“Pretty much the same time they reckon he was shot,” Coyle said and grimaced. “Sorry.”

“Well, we wouldn’t want it to be too easy. She looks younger than him,” Gibson said, examining a photo of Melissa Benson on the arm of her husband at some event on a news website.

“She’s his second wife. He and his first divorced about ten years ago.”

“Amicably?”

“I’m afraid so,” Coyle said with another sympathetic expression.

“What did you think of the victim?” James asked, watching the sheriff’s face.

“Me?” Her forehead creased. “I didn’t know him.”

“But you knew of him,” James pressed. “Big company. Small town. You had to have some impression of what he was like.”

Coyle slid him a sideways glance. “He did stuff for some local charities. Donated to a few nature conservation causes and the homeless actions—that kind of thing.”

“But?” James prompted, seeing her face had tightened.

Coyle looked uncomfortable. “He hired most of his staff from out-of-town. They don’t live here. They don’t contribute to the economy and they can get the locals’ backs up. Snobbish, some say. Elitist.”

“What would you say?”

“I’ve never had much contact,” Coyle hedged. “They’re law-abiding and keep to themselves.”

“What do you make of the wife, Melissa?”

“Reserved.”

“She’s not upset?”

“Oh, she’s upset,” Coyle said. “But she’s not the sort to go to pieces in front of the likes of me.”

“The report said the murder weapon was his own gun,” James said, carefully logging the sheriff’s last reply away for further consideration.

“Sure looks that way. He kept it in his desk.” Coyle stopped at one of the glass doors, where a uniformed officer, looking a little green, stood at attention. The body of Derek Benson was slumped in a large, designer office chair under the window. Blood splattered up the glass behind him, looking like red rain suspended in the gray sky. The crime-scene photographer was taking close-ups of the bullet wounds while his partner, who looked old enough to have been the scene technician at the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, was bent over the desk, sweeping for prints as delicately as if he were applying makeup.

“We don’t get much murder here,” Coyle murmured. “Winton’s a peaceful town. We get some drugs, some drunk and disorderlies, a bit of fraud. But stuff like this?” She shook her head.

“A big company shoe-horned into a small community,” James ventured, watching both the officers’ faces, “can cause friction.”

Coyle raised her eyebrows. “Big companies are fine. But BI’s too big—and only likely to get bigger.”

“Oh yes?” Gibson prompted, pulling on some gloves and pushing open the door.

“That’s what they’re saying that presentation was about,” Coyle said, hanging back near the door as Gibson bent over the body. “They’re striking a deal with an international distributer for their newest antiviral.”

“Do you know which distributer?” James asked, examining the photographs hanging on the interior wall. Black-and-white shots of the local harbor, mostly, plus a few of the hills west of the town.

Coyle frowned at her notepad, ruffling the pages. “It’s in here somewhere. I’m sure it went in the report.”

“It did,” Gibson replied, giving James a hard look. “Loadstone Inc.”

Coyle smiled a relieved smile, and Gibson went back to scrutinizing the crumpled form of Derek Benson. His chin was on his chest. A rope of blood-speckled saliva hung from a corner of his lined mouth. His skin was yellow-gray and his limbs stiff with the rigor of someone dead nearly twelve hours. His hands, hairless and manicured, rested in his lap. His eyebrows were heavy and dark. His thinning hair was iron gray, though still almost black at the nape. He wore an expensive suit and a dark, conservative tie. Blood soaked his shirtfront and pooled under the chair. The gun was on the floor by the desk. A desk drawer stood wide open.

“All three shots went right into his heart,” Gibson said, leaning close to the wounds. “The killer knew how to shoot.”

“There’s a lock on the drawer but not a complex one,” James said, examining the keypad on the drawer front.

“And there’s no signs of a struggle,” Gibson replied, surveying the rest of the meticulously tidy office.

James nodded. “Someone he knew. Someone he trusted too—or at least someone he wasn’t afraid of or he’d have been standing.”

“But that could be any one of the thirty-one people in the building last night,” Gibson said sourly. She stood with her hands on her hips, glaring at the corpse like it had done her personal harm. “The question is, did he get the gun out himself or did the killer?”

“Business expansion,” James said, tilting the computer monitor toward him. The screen saver was another artistic shot of Winton Harbor. James began entering the most popular password choices. “Not always a popular move.”

“And why was he here?” Gibson frowned. “With a big-deal presentation evening happening in the conference room and the future of his company in the balance?”

“And he’s sitting in his office four floors up,” James affirmed, smiling when ‘qwerty123’ allowed him into the computer. “Writing an email to personnel, by the look of it.” He gestured at the screen. Gibson came to his elbow and bent to examine the open, unsent email with ‘Contract Termination’ typed into the subject line and a blinking cursor in the blank form.

Gibson was quiet a moment. James moved to a set of bookshelves against the far wall and scanned the titles. Tomes on business management, chemistry, biology, academic journals on pharmaceuticals and FDA manuals took up most of the upper shelves. The lower ones held several battered volumes on the history of Winton and the surrounding area, plus some on blues, jazz and soul music, with a Frank Sinatra biography thrown in for good measure.

“I think we have all we need,” Gibson said to Coyle, who was watching them with an expectant air. “The ME can take him away now.” Coyle nodded and stepped back out into the corridor, dialing a number on her cell. “And how about you stop making digs at the local law enforcement, Agent?” Gibson scolded softly.

“If they slip up this early on, it’ll end in roadblocks,” he returned, watching Coyle through the glass. “And we need to establish local feeling about the situation.”

“Consider it established. Are you getting anything on this guy?”

“He loved his town…and music,” James mused, glancing around the office again. “But I think he loved his company more.”

“His company grossed several million last year. I can see why he had a soft spot for it.” Coyle was just hanging up the phone as they rejoined her. “Okay, Sheriff. We need you to round up the employees from last night. We’ll question them here.”

“Yes, ma’am,” she said. “Most of them will be turning up to work at eight anyway.”

“Good,” said Gibson, looking at her watch and repressing a sigh. “Tell them they can only have the building back when we’re done. That’ll get them through the door.”

Coyle nodded and hurried off.

“We’re doing the interviews here?” James questioned.

“One,” Gibson said, holding up a finger and moving back toward the elevator, “interviewing near the crime scene could get the killer twitchy and we might get a hit early, meaning I can be back in time for my husband’s promotion dinner tomorrow. And two,” she said, stabbing the elevator button with more force than was necessary, “getting everyone across town to the Winton Police Station with its single interview room and stone-age Wi-Fi will add hours to the whole damn circus. I’m not paid enough to be here any longer than necessary on what should have been my vacation week.”

James set up his interview station in the room he was directed to, put the digital recorder on the desk, pulled out a new, leather-bound notepad and re-read the initial reports on his phone as the clock ticked toward eight a.m.

He frowned when his personal phone buzzed in his pocket. He pulled it out, saw the number and cut the call. Shortly after, a police officer ushered in a tall woman in a business suit. She was already flustered and annoyed. James could already see a queue of similarly well-dressed and irritated people lining up outside. He flipped open his notebook, indicated the chair opposite and began.

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About the Author

S. J. Coles

S. J. Coles is a Romance writer originally from Shropshire, UK. She has been writing stories for as long as she has been able to read them. Her biggest passion is exploring narratives through character relationships.

She finds writing LGBT/paranormal romance provides many unique and fulfilling opportunities to explore many (often neglected or under-represented) aspects of human experience, expectation, emotion and sexuality.

Among her biggest influences are LGBT Romance authors K J Charles and Josh Lanyon and Vampire Chronicles author Anne Rice.

Find S. J. Coles at her website and follow her on Instagram.

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