Book Blitz & Excerpt: To Light a Fire + Giveaway

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To Light a Fire, by Kristian Parker

Book 1 in the Speak Its Name series

Word Count: 19,038
Book Length: NOVELLA
Pages: 82
Genres:

EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
HISTORICAL

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Book Description

 

Frank never thought he would find love…until he met his friend’s servant.

It’s 1922 and Frank Harris has finished his exams at Cambridge. He had planned on going home to his parents’ Midlands shop until his friend Charlie Fitzwilliam issues a surprise invitation to stay at his family’s stately home.

Frank has nursed a secret attraction to Charlie since their first meeting and can’t resist a chance to spend time with him, but once there, it’s Tanner, a manservant, with whom he instantly falls in lust.

Charlie tries to force a local girl on Frank, and although Frank knows he should keep up appearances, it’s Tanner who sets a fire in him.

To Frank’s astonishment, Tanner is attracted to him too, and their mutual passion kindles, then burns strong. Only, their feelings must remain a secret—discovery would mean the ruin of them both.

But how long can love that blazes this bright be hidden?

Excerpt

Cambridge, 1922

“Come on, Harris. Don’t be a chump. You can read your precious architecture books at my place. I don’t know why you’re bothering, anyway—we’ve done the blasted exams.”

So spoke Charlie Fitzwilliam the third…or maybe the fourth, standing there in all his glory. As usual, the rest of his gang flanked him and glared at me. It didn’t do to say no to Charlie. I had been in awe of him for four years at Cambridge.

The polar opposite to me, he could make a boy feel awkward just by entering a room. Blond, muscular and his parents owned most of one of the bigger counties just outside London. I, on the other hand, had dark hair, could have been described as a little on the skinny side and certainly didn’t come from the right side of the tracks.

“Go on, Harris,” said one of his henchmen. They followed him everywhere, doing his dirty work and hoping against hope some of that Fitzwilliam magic would rub off on them. “Charlie will be bored if you don’t.”

“Why don’t you go and entertain him then?” I said gruffly.

It had been made clear when we started at university that I would be the lackey of the group and it didn’t do to let me forget it. Charlie’s lot were Harrow boys for whom Cambridge had been a natural next step. My place had been paid for by my parents saving hard and me getting the best marks possible at school.

My parents had several shops in Leicester, the middle of England, where I’d grown up and nothing ever happened. When I’d come to Cambridge, I’d been an awkward eighteen-year-old who had no idea how to use the right cutlery or which wine went with fish. Charlie had taken me under his wing, the others had been jealous and so my runt-of-the-litter position had become firmly cemented.

Charlie had more money than he would ever know what to do with. University was just a diversion, a chance to drink heavily, romance often and generally live a crazy life. The dire state of the economy didn’t come anywhere near him, happening only to other people.

An invitation to go to his house in the country could not be refused, and I found myself tempted by some time alone with him. Besides, I couldn’t apply in earnest to architectural partnerships until I knew my marks for my degree. We had sat our final exam last week and could only wait until August, when we would graduate.

I had planned to go home and help in the shops, but I would only be taking hours from our workers who needed them more than me.

“Just think of it. You can dig around my father’s books to your heart’s content.” Charlie clapped his arm around me, causing me to blush. He knew he had his fish on the line, and a grin creased the sides of my face.

“Fine. A week, no more.”

Charlie held up his hands. “A week is all I want from you. Mummy has demanded my presence in bloody Portugal after that. I’ll be dragged around endless vineyards in search of the perfect grapes for the perfect port. Oh, well done, old man. I hate being stuck in that house on my own. It’s just so boring.”

Having made the decision, I told my parents, and they were fine with it. They wanted me to get as much out of life as possible. Me having the chance to hobnob with a load of posh people would be a talking point for my mother for the rest of the year. God help her customers. They would soon be sick of hearing it.

With a heavy heart, I packed away my books, to send them home to my parents. I would never stand in this bedroom again. I had been lucky to get a set of rooms to myself—most of the other undergraduates shared. I would miss this tiny bit of independence. It might be cliché, but I had arrived a boy and was leaving a man. Charlie and his cronies were still like boys and probably always would be.

I had never gone in for the carousing life. Charlie had a reputation for smuggling girls from the local town into our halls. More than once he had persuaded me to let him use my room for a bit of privacy. As usual he had a henchman, or two, standing guard, and I would find a corner and retreat into my books. It amazed me why Charlie and his gang bothered with me at all. I must have been so boring to them, but Charlie had somehow bonded with me. On his own, when he wasn’t being an insufferable show-off, he could be quite good fun. We were both studying architectural history together. Charlie didn’t know his Christopher Wren from his Antoni Gaudi, and we’d spent many a late night sorting out his essays. In reality, I would write them for him, but I used to live for those nights. Charlie generally sat on the window ledge smoking and chatting while I scribbled away. The public image of Charlie could be hard to get past, but when he did let a person in, a decent chap lay beneath..

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About the Author

Kristian Parker

I have written for as long as I could write. In fact, before, when I would dictate to my auntie. I love to read, and I love to create worlds and characters.

I live in the English countryside. When I’m not writing, I like to get out there and think through the next scenario I’m going to throw my characters into.

Inspiration can be found anywhere, on a train, in a restaurant or in an office. I am always in search of the next character to find love in one of my stories. In a world of apps and online dating, it is important to remember love can be found when you least expect it.

Follow Kristian on Facebook.

Giveaway

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Kristian Parker’s To Light a Fire Giveaway

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Wyvern Ways & Elven Magic + Giveaway

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Wyvern Ways & Elven Magic, by Bailey Bradford

Book 2 in the Fire & Flutter series

Word Count: 54,247
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 219

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
FANTASY
GAY
GLBTQI
PARANORMAL

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Book Description

Take one magic-sensitive wyvern shifter, one horny royal-adjacent elf…and stand well back.

Brick’s a wyvern shifter, but he’s not wily or skilled in diplomacy like wyvern shifters should be. Instead, he’s big and brawny and slower than the rest of his family—the ruling family. Worse, he doesn’t fare well around magic, so being in the elf kingdom for the royal wedding celebrations is one big nosebleed. Literally.

Jagger’s an elf. A royal-adjacent one, whose family have been chancellors and councilors to the king for centuries. It must have skipped a generation, however, as Jagger’s more interested in drinking and seducing his way through the kingdom. Well, everyone wants to know if it’s true what they say about elves, right? Spoiler alert—it is.

When Brick discovers he’s being handed over as part of the wyvern-elf alliance treaty, he fumes and decides to cut ties with his family to make his own way in the world. But first, he has to find his way out of the elf kingdom. Asking at the tavern for an elf to be his guide, he’s taken to a room where a half-naked Jagger is lounging on a four-poster bed.

And that’s just the beginning of their dangerous, crazy and sexy adventure…

Excerpt

“Ow!” Brick grabbed at the hand slapping his face and glared at its owner. If he hadn’t known who was hitting him, the selection of bright cocktail rings and the jingling bracelets she wore would have told him it was his younger sister, Scarlet. “Any reason you’re smacking my face?”

Scarlet tilted her head, her forehead creased. “Habit? Whatevs. Hold still—”

Brick held still enough for her to shove wads of cotton wool up his nostrils, then brushed her hand away. Scarlet’s sharp fingernails near any of his body parts made him uneasy at the best of times, and in the rumbling, jolting carriage he and she were currently traveling in, more so. Her nails were long and pointed and they gleamed the brightest mahogany shade she could find, all to mimic the talons they became when she shifted.

Well, that’s only natural, Brick reasoned. Wyverns in general were proud of being wyverns, the ruling family even more so and his sister, the youngest offspring of the Ruby Throne, in particular.

“Thanks,” he muttered, the thick clog in his voice not just due to his nosebleed and the wedges of cotton wool. “Thanks for staying with me.” He knew she’d rather be flying alongside the carriage with their father, Potentate Carnell of the Ruby Throne, and mother, the First Lady Cerise, not to mention the son and heir, Lord Gules, and their older sister, Lady Vermillion. But it was her turn to keep him company, and Scarlet, like all of them, put family duty first.

“Sit up straight,” she replied, wagging a finger in the direction of his face to tell him it was the best way to deal with a nosebleed. She knew. All his family did—Brick got them when he was around magic, and they were prepared for today. “Open wide for your pills.”

Brick obediently opened his mouth, and Scarlet, snickering, moved back to the farthest corner of the royal carriage and flicked in first one tablet, then another, using her middle finger and thumb to launch them as if she were playing a game and getting points. Scarlet performed her family obligations, sure…and made sure she had fun doing so. But she loved Brick, just as he did her.

He tried not to choke—the tablets were huge and foul-tasting. “Thanks,” he repeated, wishing she’d thought to give him a drink to swallow them down with. Actually, no—he didn’t want her squirting it in with a water pistol. He checked the cotton wool was still in place up each nostril. “There must be a lot of magic in the air here.”

“Well, duh,” his sister replied. “Inside the elven kingdom, and just approaching the capital? What d’you expect? They breathe it in and fart it out here, then breathe it in again.” Oh, she was a charmer. “I got orders to smarten you up—you’re not gonna bleed on me, are you?”

He shook his head and let her pull his smart suit jacket into place as if he were a baby, for all she was younger than he was. Well, that fits, with me being as useless as a hatchling. She tutted and brushed off the shoulders and lapels, as if he had flaking head scales. I don’t, do I? That’d be all he needed, with them having to look their best as they arrived for this regal state occasion.

As soon as Scarlet settled back again, grumbling that there wasn’t much she could do with his short hair, he took a sly peep in the glass of the carriage window to check for scale-flake. He caught a quick glimpse of his bronze skin and slitted gold eyes before the spectacle outside claimed his attention. Oh, not the well-maintained kingdom they were driving through, with its paved roads, sturdy-looking buildings and general cleanliness all signs of its good governance, but his family, in the air above the small procession.

Brick lowered the glass to see better. The four royal wyverns made a stunning, vibrant swoop of color as they flew, their wings beating with synchronized grace, their heads turning slowly on their long, elegant necks to incline this way and that at the gasps and applause from townsfolk lining the route, who were all eager to see visiting nobles and dignitaries.

“Elven folk must be used to flying beasts, right?” he asked Scarlet.

She scoffed. “Not like us.”

“Yeah.” Brick had to admit that. A woman stumbled, shading her eyes against the wyverns’ shimmering scales, the gleaming shades of red carefully arranged from his father Carnell’s shining cardinal to his mother Cerise’s glossy pomegranate—“the first seen in the kingdom in a hundred years!” as she often reminded people.

His brother Gules’ proud imperial red came next, then his sister Vermillion’s brash crimson. The family at wing, in the correct order, looked like flames burning up the sky.

Although why they should want to arrive anywhere making the place look like it was on fire, Brick couldn’t fathom. What he did know was Scarlet wanted to be up there too, making an entrance like a bold streak of lava against the blue and white of the sky. He jumped as the most jewel-colored creature of the quartet swooped low and stuck her beak through the window—his mother, checking in on him.

She couldn’t talk in her shifted form, of course, but he had no problem interpreting her caw and twists and jerks of her head. She was concerned for him—she loved him. They all did. Like they would any slow-witted hatchling. He wasn’t wily or cunning, no asset in statecraft or trade negotiations, so they gave him busy work. Grunt work. He nodded to show Cerise he was fine and reached up to pat her on the head, near the top, just after the brow ridge finished.

With a click of her beak, she took off again and rejoined Carnell, circling him with a slow flap of her wings before taking her place at his side. He flicked his tail out to slide along hers.

“Oh, ewww!” Scarlet, on the seat opposite him now, pointed up at the Potentate and First Lady and retched like a caterwaul bringing up a hairball. She made a show of rummaging for one of the sick bags they kept for Brick—there was no telling what form his sensitivity to magic might take. “Old people foreplay is just gross.”

Brick didn’t think it was that bad. Sure, he had no wish whatsoever to see his parents making out like subadults or immatures ever, anywhere, but that they were still loving and affectionate was…something he didn’t see himself ever having. The only people who’d wanted him so far had been those seeking a way into the ruling family and using him as their way to get within polishing distance of the Ruby Throne.

“Mommy, look!” A little girl on the sidewalk near a tavern, her eyes full of wonder, tugged at her mother’s arm. “Up there—dragons!”

Wyverns!” yelled Scarlet, flinging herself so far out of the window to correct the kid that Brick, alarmed for her safety, grabbed at the back of her dress. “Look at the picture, small fry!” She tapped the crest on the side of the royal coach, a plain outline of an almost S-shaped beast, its wings stretched and its slim legs prominent. “Count the limbs, kid. There’s two, not four. We look like lumbering oxen dragons to you?”

She subsided into her seat again and shot Brick a glance. “No offense, bro.”

“I know.” Brick was wide and tall, built like a brick smokehouse, as the saying went, whereas wyverns, in addition to being wily, were light and lithe. Winged serpents, really. He tried not to feel like he was letting down the Ruby Throne, but…

You’re not even red!” Olahf had scorned when, realizing a relationship with Brick wouldn’t bring him into the inner governing circle, he’d ended things between them. “Brick by name and brick by nature and brick by color!” Yeah, Olahf didn’t really have the gift of eloquence a senator or diplomat should, although his tongue could be said to have been silver in other ways… Brick shivered at the memory, then felt sad.

How much of that had been fake? Had Olahf even liked him? If not, their relationship had been, well, transactional at best and icky at worst. It had also made him dwell on his experiences with all the other wyvern shifters who’d befriended him over the years…and hadn’t seemed very friendly. How many had if not used him, then put up with him, for what they could get out of it?

Would life have been different if I were called Flame, or, or Rosso? Maybe if the former, he’d have been dashing and just a little bit dangerous, or if the latter, darkly seductive and a lot more dangerous?

“Persimmon’s a good name,” he mused out loud. “Then Sim would be a good nick. ‘Hey, Sim, coming out for a quick tankard of sack mead?’ Maybe Simmy? ‘Simmy, joining us for dawn patrol?’ Perse? Percy?”

“What? No—you know what? Never mind.” Scarlet waved a hand at him. “Because we’re nearly there.”

About to ask his sister how she knew they were almost at their destination—where they’d be doing some trade-and-aid diplomacy over drinks—Brick saw the ceremonial herald bird flying to join the four wyverns in the sky. The escort would please his mother, who was into appearances. Even his father had commented more than once that the elves had used to do things properly, and that he hoped the Storm King was keeping up traditions.

“He will as long as he has Jerrick advising him,” Cerise always replied. “Jerrick served Jade’s father, too, and Jerrick’s father, Jacron, was chancellor to the Storm Emperor before that. And Jerrick’s son—” She usually stopped herself there.

“Gotta love ya and leave ya!” Scarlet opened the carriage door even though the vehicle was still trundling along.

“I feel okay now the meds have kicked in,” Brick assured her. “Shouldn’t I join in?”

“And risk you having an allergy—sorry, sensitivity—attack up above and bleeding down on Jade or his big green groom?” Scarlet sniggered. “While it would be hilarious, best not.” Blowing a kiss over her shoulder at him, she launched herself from the open door.

Scarlet shifted effortlessly in midair and took her place just behind Gules and Vermillion. It was hardly worth her shifting, though, when the carriage jolted to a stop at the top of a meadow. Two ruby and pale jade pavilions stood proudly, their pennants waving in the early evening breeze, and councilors and nobles waited before them.

The Ruby Throne circled the meadow in a group, then made a tighter circle of the tents to finally drop into the space set up beneath the main pavilion’s awning. They descended one at a time from Carnell to Scarlet—all executing flawless landings and simultaneous shifts back to their other-forms the second their claws touched the ground, clothing themselves as they did so.

They’d left a space for him, and Brick decided he was going to take it properly, instead of scuttling to it, shamefaced. Ignoring his headache and throbbing nose, he ran a few paces and leaped as high as he could with a gurgled “Eaaarrgghhh!” to shift into his wyvern form and, oh, how good it felt to be in the air again, stretching his wings.

He liked the world better in his shifted form. He loved the view from up on high, how things looked when seen from his bigger, more golden than yellow eyes. Scents were more acute to his snout, with its slits for nostrils, than to his other-form nose, which was broad and had never worked as well after being broken during a heated game of tail ball. Which his team had still lost.

Okay, so he wasn’t all polished and gleaming reds like the others, but he liked his scales, with their rust and terra-cotta and ochre shades. Recalling Cerise’s insistence that his hues were “alternative reds” made him snort with laughter and swish his tail, the triangular barb it ended in swinging near his face.

He was going to do this! He dropped lower. I can do this! Can drop into that landing zone! The really small landing zone… I can’t do this.

Believe in yourself!” Cerise had told him over and over since hatchhood. He would. He did! With a high-pitched squeal, a bit like a teakettle coming to the boil, he took a final squint at the target zone, landed, shifted and…belched. Oh gods. He’d meant to clothe himself, not burp one out. And certainly not such a loud one…or one that stank like a dragon’s taint.

“Oh, ewwwwwwww!” cried Scarlet, her longest ever. She pinched her nose closed with her talon-like fingers. She’d get the worst of the stench, being next to him. “How, how, is that so foul? What the fuck you been doing, bro, sucking off a troll?”

“Could have been worse!” called a voice from the crowd. “Just imagine if he’d farted!”

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About the Author

Bailey Bradford

A native Texan, Bailey spends her days spinning stories around in her head, which has contributed to more than one incident of tripping over her own feet. Evenings are reserved for pounding away at the keyboard, as are early morning hours. Sleep? Doesn’t happen much. Writing is too much fun, and there are too many characters bouncing about, tapping on Bailey’s brain demanding to be let out.

Caffeine and chocolate are permanent fixtures in Bailey’s office and are never far from hand at any given time. Removing either of those necessities from Bailey’s presence can result in what is known as A Very, Very Scary Bailey and is not advised under any circumstances.

Giveaway

Enter and get a FREE romance book from the author!

Bailey Bradford’s Wyvern Ways & Elven Magic

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Hold Him Close + Giveaway

Hold Him Close Banner

Hold Him Close, by J.P. Bowie

Word Count: 50,528
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 200

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description

Sometimes love and loyalty are all you can count on.

Ten years ago, John White Eagle, then a film extra and stuntman, met Detective Mark Rossi and sparks immediately flew, despite the fact that Mark had just arrested John as a suspect in a murder case.

Fast forward ten years and John, now a private detective, and Mark, recently promoted to detective sergeant, are happily married, even if they still have to deal with those on the wrong side of the law.

Alex Vasquez, an old friend of John’s, is being blackmailed. When the blackmailer turns up dead and Alex skips town with his boyfriend, things look bad.

Penny Andrews hires John to find her missing brother, Sam, even though she fears he has been murdered, perhaps by their own father. John discovers that Sam is very much alive, in Afghanistan, searching for Jareem, the man he loves but had to leave behind.

Hindered by liars and hired assassins, things don’t look too good for John and Mark. Can they find Alex before the police do? And can they keep Sam and Jareem safe from those who believe in honor killing and are determined that Jareem will be their next target?

Publisher’s Note: This book is related to The Set Up by J.P. Bowie.

Excerpt

John White Eagle parked his Harley outside the building where he rented his office space and sprinted up the stairs, glancing at his phone as he took the steps two at a time.

“Good morning, John.” Millie Barnum, his secretary, greeted him with a bright smile.

“Morning, Millie. Anything urgent?”

“Just the message I’m guessing you’re reading on your phone right now.”

“Huh. You’re right. But I just left Mark at home. What can he want already?”

“That’s not for me to speculate on.” Millie, gray-haired, bespectacled, her appearance more suited to a school principal’s office than his slightly less-than-upscale space, stared at him with sparkling blue eyes. “What you boys get up to is certainly none of my business, thank goodness.”

“Riiight. You’d love it if I gave you the deets on what goes on at Chez Rossi/White Eagle. But that’s not going to happen. Mark and I are not taking the place of the characters you read about on your Kindle. At least not with an audience.”

“I like your hair grip,” Millie said, ignoring his comment about her love of male romantic fiction.

“I found it in a box when Mark and I moved into the new house in North Hollywood. My grandmother made it for me and I’d forgotten I even had it still.” He slipped a hand to the back of his head and fingered the intricate pattern of small beads. “It’s neat, isn’t it?”

Millie got up to take a closer look. “It’s beautiful. She must have had such a delicate touch.” She sighed. “And you have hair that’s far too lovely to be on a man. Anyway, you’d better get in touch with Mark right now. He sounded irritated that you hadn’t returned his call.”

“How the hell can he be irritated within the space of a half-hour since I left him?”

Millie pursed her lips. “Did you perhaps forget to kiss him goodbye?”

John chuckled. “As if. We might’ve been together for ten years, but he never lets me outta the house without savaging my mouth first.”

“Oh, my.” Millie clutched at her bosom. “The vision that just conjured up. Savaging, oh my.” She did a pretend stagger back to her desk, making John laugh. How did I ever get so lucky as to find a woman like Millie? Totally efficient on the computer and phone, but also unfazed by the high and the very low life that sometimes waltzed through the doors of JWE Investigations, looking for some kind of help, legal or otherwise. Then there was the fact that John just happened to be a gay man.

He’d explained that to her when she’d answered his ad and met him for an interview. “Just so you know, I’m gay and Native American,” he’d told her. “If you have a problem with either one, say so now.

I’ll have you know I am neither a racist nor a bigot,” she’d replied. “In fact, when I was a young girl, I used to cheer for the Indians in those old westerns…still do, when they repeat them on late-night TV.

She’d been less impressed with his office and had suggested that he give it a good coat of paint. “I have some nice prints I can bring in, and a couple of plants by the window will certainly give the place a little more ambience, don’t you think?

I think I’ve been taken over by a formidable force,” he’d told Mark when he’d gotten home that night. Mark had laughed but had helped him paint the office and given his full approval of Millie’s efficiency, and the set of Norman Rockwell prints she’d brought with her to brighten the walls.

She’d fallen in love with Mark at first sight. Not that John could be surprised by that. His husband was an amiable man, and movie-star gorgeous. They’d met when John had been set up to take the fall in a murder perpetrated by Greg Mathis, a then-famous actor who’d told John he was being blackmailed. Mathis had convinced John to go with him to a motel room to confront the blackmailer. Except, unbeknownst to John, the blackmailer was already dead, in the bathroom tub.

Mathis had told John the blackmailer hadn’t shown, but he’d coerced John into bed after handing him a drugged beer. Unaware of the beer being drugged, John hadn’t needed much coaxing into the offer of sex with Mathis. He’d been young, horny and still starry-eyed about his involvement with such a big celebrity, even admiring the man’s acting ability. In addition, Greg Mathis had been one of the most gorgeous men on the planet. As a matter of fact, he’d been nominated The Planet’s Sexiest Man more than once in a popular magazine. Alone with him in the room, John had wondered at Mathis’ eagerness to be fucked by him, insisting on going through with it even though John had been aware he wasn’t enjoying it at all. That look of pain had never morphed into one of pleasure.

When John had regained consciousness, the police had been hammering at the motel room’s door. The arresting officer, Detective Mark Rossi, had appeared to believe John’s story under interrogation, even if he wouldn’t divulge the name of the man he’d been with. John had been convinced no one would believe that Greg Mathis, super-macho movie star, could possibly be involved in such sleaze, but he’d reckoned without Mark totally seeing the truth in John’s story.

John had never dreamed that being arrested by Mark would later result in a dinner date with the handsome cop, and the mind-blowing sex that had followed. Those first bleak days when it had looked as if John were the only suspect, and the evidence against him had grown stronger, had only been tempered by Mark’s insistence that he’d believed John’s story.

Sometimes he wondered why his mind dwelled on that incident so often. He supposed it was because it had been the defining moment in his life. Mark had been with him throughout the ordeal, even when things had taken a decided downturn the day forensics had called Mark with the news that the sperm in the condom they’d found in the dead man’s rectum was a match for John’s DNA. It had been a measure of Mark’s faith in John’s innocence that he’d believed in him, despite that damning evidence.

His cell chimed with Mark’s ringtone. Oops, now he’ll be more than just irritated.

“John!” Millie’s voice from the main office held an accusatory tone. She knew Mark’s ringtone too. “Haven’t you called Mark yet?”

“Picking up now! Hi, sweetie, what’s up?”

“Don’t ‘hi, sweetie’ me.” Mark sounded pissed, and not improved by John’s quiet chuckle. “Hey, I’ve called a dozen times at least.”

“No you haven’t. Three times by my reckoning.”

“Then why the hell haven’t you responded? Don’t you know what day it is?”

“Uh, it’s Thursday, isn’t it?”

“It’s my dad’s birthday, smartass.”

“Fuck. Why didn’t you say something before I left the house?”

“Because…because I forgot about it, too—till about twenty minutes ago.”

“Oh good. That makes me feel better.”

John…”

He could almost feel the heat of Mark’s glare through the phone. Oh, that hot Italian blood. His cock pulsed in his briefs at the thought of Mark’s lush lips on his. “Sorry, didn’t mean to be flippant. Call him and say we’re taking him out to dinner—and how on earth could he have forgotten? I’ll pick up a card and a bottle of his favorite Scotch.”

“Okay, you are redeemed in my eyes. What about the restaurant?”

“I’ll leave that to you. He doesn’t like fancy, remember.”

“Louie’s Pub?”

“Perfect. Okay, man I love above all others on earth, I have to make like I’m working. Let me know the time I need to meet you.”

Mark chuckled. “You sure know how to blow some hot air up my ass.”

“That’s not all I know about what to do with your ass,” John said slyly. “Your mighty fine ass…an ass that belongs on the body of a much younger man, I might add.”

“Thank you, I think.”

“You can compliment my ass later. Gotta go. Ciao.”

“Ciao, baby. Love you.”

“Love you too.” From the start of their relationship, John had insisted they end their phone conversations with that sentiment. Not that he wanted to be morbid, but Mark’s career did involve an element of danger and it would kill John if something happened to Mark and he hadn’t heard those words that day. I’m a sentimental sap, I know, but there it is…

Millie sighed happily in the outer office.

“You shouldn’t eavesdrop, you know, Millie. It might sully your innocence.”

She barked out a sardonic laugh but didn’t say anything. John heard the door open and Millie say sweetly, “How can I help you?”

“Is Mr. Eagle in?” The voice was female and tentative.

“Do have an appointment with Mr. White Eagle, my dear?”

“No, but if he’s busy I can come back…”

“Just one moment.”

Millie stuck her head around John’s door. “You want to take this?” she whispered. “She looks sad.”

John groaned mentally. Most likely another suspicious wife wanting to find out who her errant husband was screwing when he was not at home with her and the kids. Some said that kind of investigating was the bread and butter of the business, but John hated it. There were so many disappointed and unhappy couples out there. It often made him feel guilty that he and Mark were so happy…most of the time. One thing was for sure—if the impossible ever happened, and Mark cheated on him, he wouldn’t have to hire a private detective to find out.

Swallowing his inappropriate laughter, he said, “Okay, I’ll come out.” He got up from his desk and followed Millie as she approached the young woman standing nervously by the door. She was very young—early twenties, John guessed—and pale. Pale skin, pale blonde hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. Very little makeup. She wore a rose-pink blouse and a gray skirt, and clutched at a large bag slung over her left shoulder. A quick glance told John she wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. So maybe not the problem I first thought she had.

“Hi.” He held out his hand. “I’m John White Eagle.”

After a moment’s hesitation, she put her small hand in his. “P-Penny Andrews. I don’t have an appointment, but I wondered if I could speak with you for a few minutes?”

“Of course. Come on through. Would you like some coffee? Millie makes a wonderful cup.”

“Just some water, please. It’s a little warm outside today.”

“I’ll get that for you,” Millie said, walking over to the cooler.

John shepherded Miss Andrews into his office and indicated the seat opposite his. He waited until Millie had set a glass of water in front of her then left before he asked, “So how can I help you?”

“My brother is missing, and I think someone may have killed him.”

John stared at her for a moment. Thar was not what he’d expected her to say at all. “What makes you think that?”

“I haven’t seen him or been able to contact him in over a week.” She took a Kleenex out of her bag and passed it over her face briefly.

John had noticed the fine beads of sweat on her forehead and upper lip. Maybe she isn’t feeling well. “And that’s unusual?”

She nodded. “Yes. We are really, really close. We have been all our lives. Even when he was married, hardly a day went by that we didn’t talk at some point. We also meet up at least once a week for lunch. He works for Brennan Finance, downtown. I only work part-time, at a bookstore, so I take the bus to meet him.”

“And did you have a lunch date he didn’t show for?”

She nodded. “I wasn’t able to reach him for two days, but I went to our favorite diner near his office building on our regular day, and he didn’t show up. I called and called and went round to his apartment in Silver Lake. He didn’t answer my knocking. I asked his neighbor who he does some chores for if she’d seen him, and she said not since Friday, when he took her trash out. That was a week ago today.”

“Have you contacted the police to report him missing?”

“Oh, no. They’d most likely want to contact my father and I’m afraid that if they questioned him, he’d go ballistic.”

John frowned. “Why would he go ballistic? Would he not be worried like you are about his disappearance?”

She hesitated then said, “Sam and our father don’t get along. In fact, they hate each other. I’m afraid they might have gotten into some kind of fight. That happens a lot. They both have a temper, but our father can be violent. Not so much since Sam has grown up and can defend himself, but it used to be bad, and now…”

“Are you afraid of your father, Miss Andrews?”

She looked away and passed the tissue over her eyes, then nodded. “Sometimes. I don’t think he’d ever hurt me physically, but he yells when he’s mad…and he says some terrible things.”

“Like?”

“Like I killed my mother. She died as a result of giving birth to me, he says. I was three when she died, but he said she was never the same after I was born, that she’d gone through hell in labor and he’d known she’d never really recover from the trauma.”

Jeez… John already hated Mr. Andrews. What kind of a creep throws that in his daughter’s face? Especially as the girl had lost her mother at such an early age. And from the sound of it, he’d been doing it for a long time. He could see the toll it had taken on the young woman. She was so frail and nervous. Verbal abuse could be as hurtful as the physical kind. Detective Mark Rossi could attest to that from the countless abuse cases he’d dealt with.

“The truth is, Mr. White Eagle…” Her posture and voice seemed to shrink as she continued. “Although I pray he did not, I think my father might’ve killed Sam. Perhaps not deliberately, but by accident during one of their rows. Like I said, he has a terrible temper. He might have struck out at Sam. Perhaps not really meaning to kill him, but somehow…it happened.”

“That’s some accusation, Miss Andrews.” John frowned. “Could it not be that your brother simply wanted to get away for some personal reasons? Girlfriend trouble, maybe? Didn’t want anyone to know until he was ready to talk about it? There could be a hundred reasons why.”

She shook her head. “He wouldn’t want me to worry about him. He would tell me if was just going away for a time.”

“You seem so sure about that.” John drummed his fingers on the top of his desk. “Do you know everything about your brother’s state of mind, or his personal life?”

“I know enough,” she replied sharply. “Enough to know he has no girlfriend.”

“Boyfriend, then?”

She shook her head again. “He’s not gay. He was married at one time, for a year.”

John wasn’t about to give her a lecture on the ‘low-down’ so many married men indulged in when they wanted a brief time out from their marriage. Instead he asked, “You’re sure? I thought that might be the reason you want to employ a gay private detective.”

“No. I came to you because of an article about you in Vanity Fair, where you were instrumental in finding a young girl who’d been missing for several weeks. You succeeded where the police could not.”

“That’s not exactly true,” John said. “I had a lot of help from a detective sergeant in the LAPD. It was a joint effort.”

She nodded. “A detective sergeant who worked off the clock to help you…your husband.”

“That’s correct. VF tended to downplay Mark’s involvement—at his request, I might add. Nevertheless, it was a joint success, and might have ended differently had he not been at my side.”

“The article was better than some of the books I’ve read.” Miss Andrews was almost gushing. She gazed at John through watery eyes. “Will you please take my case? Find out what has happened to Sam?”

“I will,” John assured her. “But what makes you think your father might have actually killed your brother…his son? What could your bro have possibly done to bring that kind of reaction from your dad?”

“I really don’t know. Sam didn’t say anything about having a recent argument with him, or that they were more at odds than usual. Sam works for our father at his company. Father bought out the owners of Brennan Finance a couple of years ago. It might have had something to do with work. Sam tends to regard Brennan as being a bit cutthroat toward some of the less affluent clients, and also as secondary to what he really loves doing, but he would’ve told me if there’d have been a problem there.”

“What is it he really loves doing?” John asked.

She smiled. “He’s a bit of an adventurer. Loves going to foreign lands, researching cultures, that kind of thing.”

“So, couldn’t that be what he’s doing right now?”

“Yes, but as I said, he wouldn’t just go off without letting me know, especially if it was out of the country.”

She seemed pretty certain about this, so John thought it best to switch the line of questioning. “Have you asked your father if he knows where Sam is?”

“Yes, and he sort of fluffed it off. He said he didn’t have a clue. Then he added that he didn’t really care either. It was as if it didn’t matter to him.”

“Nice guy…”

She dabbed at her eyes again. “No, he’s not a nice guy, Mr. White Eagle. He’s my father, but I’m afraid there isn’t much of a loving father-daughter relationship between us. I couldn’t pretend otherwise.”

Clutching at the large bag she held on her lap, she bit her lip. “Oh, I’m sorry. You certainly don’t need to hear about any of that. Please find my brother, or find out what happened to him. I can pay your fee, whatever it is. It’s killing me not knowing where he is.”

“All right.” John was okay taking the case, but she had to know he couldn’t proceed without confronting Andrews Senior. “However, I have to warn you that the first person I’m going to talk to is your father. In my opinion, he has got to know something about your brother’s whereabouts. They work together, or rather your brother works for him. Would he not have run by your father the fact he needed time off?”

She frowned. “He won’t like you asking questions.”

John smiled. “I’m kinda used to that aspect of the job. Let me have your brother’s cell number, and do you have a photo of him, by any chance?”

“Uh, yes, but it’s the only one I have in my bag. I hate to give it up.”

“That’s okay. Millie will make a copy for me.”

“Oh, okay.” She rifled through the contents of her bag then produced a business card from her wallet and handed it to John. “His cell and office numbers are on the card…and here’s his photo.”

Whoa… John involuntarily widened his eyes as he gazed at the photo Penny had given him. The guy was a looker, without a doubt. Blond, like his sister, but with stronger features, clear blue eyes and full lips that were parted in a killer smile that showed off straight, white teeth.

“He’s handsome, isn’t he?”

John flicked his gaze back to Penny Andrews. “Yes, he is. Okay, I’ll take on your case and I’ll do my best to give you peace of mind about your brother. I’ll need a check up front for two days of my time, but Millie will take care of all that for you. If I find out where your bro is within a day, I’ll refund half the check amount. If it takes more than two days then it’s on a daily basis, but I’ll keep you apprised of my progress each day.”

“That sounds fair.” She followed him to Millie’s desk to write the check and waited for Millie to photocopy her brother’s picture. “Thank you for taking this on. And please, find Sam for me…safe and sound if possible.”

John smiled and held out his hand, taking hers gently. “I’ll do my best, Miss Andrews.” He showed her out then returned to his desk. He fingered Sam’s business card for a beat or two then picked up his phone and called the man’s cell number. No harm in trying… After a couple of rings, he was directed to Sam’s voicemail.

“Oh, hi. My name is John White Eagle. I’m a private detective, and your sister, Penny, hired me to find you. She is concerned for your safety. Please, either call her or return my call so that I can verify your whereabouts with her. Would appreciate a prompt reply. Thank you.”

Okay, so his phone is still active…let’s see if he still is.

“So, what do you think, Millie?” he asked, after he’d given her a quick rundown of the conversation with Penny Andrews.

His secretary sighed. “From what you’ve told me, I think she’s a very unhappy girl, something I saw in her before she even spoke to you. If it turns out that her brother has been killed, it will be devastating for her. But don’t you think she’s far too dependent on him? This over-insistence on how close they are seems strange to me. Could she be holding something back?”

John nodded. “Yeah, I got that too. Interesting case. I think my first course of action will be to pay a surprise visit to the creepy father.”

“Better you than me,” Millie said snippily. “I can already tell that he and I would not have a friendly conversation.”

John grinned. “Know what you mean, but I’ll try not to be too in his face.”

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About the Author

J.P. Bowie

J.P. Bowie was born in Scotland and toured British theatres in numerous musical shows including Stephen Sondheim’s Company.

He emigrated to the States and worked in Las Vegas, Nevada for the magicians Siegfried and Roy as their Head of Wardrobe at the Mirage Hotel. He is currently living with his husband in sunny San Diego, California.

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