Sunday, August 21, 2016

What's Left of Kisses? by Josh Lanyon

Summary:
Four historical novellas -- one in print for the first time ever. This volume includes Out of the Blue, The Dark Farewell, This Rough Magic and Snowball in Hell.

Stories Included:
Out of the Blue
Summary:
France, 1916. The Great War. High above the carnage in the trenches, British and German aces joust like knights of old for control of the skies. The strain and tension of living every day on the edge of death leads to dangerous choices and wild risks. When British ace Bat Bryant's past catches up with him, he strikes out in panic and kills the man threatening him with exposure. But there's a witness: the big, handsome American pilot Cowboy Cooper.

Cowboy, it seems, has his own ideas of rough justice.


Re-Read Review 2016:
I have upped my rating to 5 with my re-read.  Since reading it the first time 2 years ago, I have come to have a deeper respect for novellas and don't knock off 1/2 a bookmark just for it's shortness.  As for the story, it was fantabulous!!  I am a huge lover of WW1 stories so that just added to my enjoyment.  Even knowing how the story goes, Cowboy's actions and attitude still left me reeling but loved every ounce of him.

Original Review 2014:
This story is several of my favorite genres all rolled into one: historical, male/male relationships, romance, drama, and erotica. With main characters named Bat and Cowboy you expect to be dropped in the middle of a western, which by the way is also a favorite genre of mine, but this time author has brought her way with words to the airfield of World War One. Now, I won't lie, the first time you meet Cowboy you're not real sure if you are suppose to like him or not but we quickly find out that there's more to him than he first lets on. The only reason I gave this a 4-1/2 bookmark instead of 5 is because I would have loved for it to have been longer. Simply put, I was just not ready to let go of this pair when the final page came. Once again, I was not let down by Ms. Lanyon's work.

RATING:

The Dark Farewell
Summary:
Don’t talk to strangers, young man — especially the dead ones.

It’s the Roaring Twenties. Skirts are short, crime is rampant and booze is in short supply. Prohibition has hit Little Egypt, where newspaperman David Flynn has come to do a follow-up story on the Herrin Massacre. The massacre isn’t the only news in town though. Spiritualist medium Julian Devereux claims to speak to the dead—and he charges a pretty penny for it.

Flynn knows a phoney when he sees one, and he’s convinced Devereux is as fake as a cigar store Indian. But the reluctant attraction he feels for the deceptively soft, not-his-type Julian is as real as it gets.

Suddenly Julian begins to have authentic, bloodstained visions of a serial killer, and the cynical Mr. Flynn finds himself willing to defend Julian with not only his life, but his body.


Re-Read Review 2016:
All I can say is I still loved David and Julian's story and that I hope we hear from them again.  The duo is just so precious, sexy, and just plain fun.

Original Review 2014:
I once again enjoyed the vintage, paranormal behind this mystery. Passion, skepticism, drama, weariness abounds in this tale. Once again my only flaw is that it's just not long enough. Josh Lanyon creates characters and plots that just latch on to my heart, soul, and sets my imagination into overdrive that I just don't want to say goodbye when the last page hits.

RATING:

This Rough Magic
Summary:
Wealthy playboy Brett Sheridan thinks he knows the score when he hires tough guy private eye Neil Patrick Rafferty to find a priceless stolen folio of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Brett's convinced his partner-in-crime sister is behind the theft -- a theft that's liable to bring more scandal to their eccentric family, and cost Brett his marriage to society heiress Juliet Lennox. What Brett doesn't count on is the instant and powerful attraction that flares between him and Rafferty.

Once before, Brett tok a chance on loving a man, only to find himself betrayed and broken. This time around there's too much at risk.

But as the Bard himself would say, "Journeys end in lovers meeting."


Re-Read Review 2016:
Again another great mystery that got even better the second time around. The author has done the noir genre proud with Rafferty & Sheridan.

Original Review 2014:
Once again, I don't know what to say about this story other than I loved it. I fell in love with private eye Rafferty and his tough guy exterior instantly. And couldn't help but feel for Brett, considering his past and situation. The fact that they are complete opposites and yet fit perfectly speaks to the author's love of the written word and her ability to wrangle up a damn fine story.

RATING:

Snowball in Hell
Summary:
Los Angeles, 1943
Reporter Nathan Doyle had his reasons to want Phil Arlen dead, but when he sees the man's body pulled from the La Brea tar pit, he knows he'll be the prime suspect. He also knows that his life won't stand up to intense police scrutiny, so he sets out to crack the case himself.

Lieutenant Matthew Spain's official inquiries soon lead him to believe that Nathan knows more than he's saying. But that's not the only reason Matt takes notice of the handsome journalist. Matt's been drawn to men before, but he must hide his true feelings—or risk his entire career.

As Nathan digs deeper, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay one step ahead of Matt Spain—and to deny his intense attraction to him. Nathan's secrets may not include murder, but has his hunt put him right in the path of the real killer?


Re-Read Review 2016:
When you can enjoy mysteries and noir even better the second time, that takes talent because going in remembering who did it normally would take a little away but not here. STILL LOVE IT!!!

Original Review 2014:
Amazing! More! Vintage! Noir! These are just some of the words that come to mind when I think of how to describe this book. The characters are very vintage, intriguing, and burrow their way into your heart. I don't do spoilers so that's about all I'm going to say other than just WOW! and definitely MORE of Doyle & Spain is needed to be written.

RATING:


Out of the Blue
France, November 1916
“Don’t be too hasty, Captain Bryant,” Orton warned. “Not like I’m asking a king’s ransom. Not like you can’t find the ready, eh? What’s a couple a bob ’ere and there? Could ’ave gone to the major, but I didn’t, did I? Not one word to ’im about what you and poor Lieutenant Roberts used to —”

Bat punched him.

He was not as tall as the mechanic, but he was wiry and strong, and his fist connected to Orton’s jaw with a satisfying crack. Orton’s head snapped back. He staggered, tripped over something in the shadowy darkness of the stable, and went down slamming against the side of the stall.

The elderly dappled gray mare whickered softly. Leaning over the stall door, she lipped at Orton’s fallen form.

For a second, perhaps two, Bat stood shaking with rage — and grief.
“Get up, you swine,” he bit out.

Orton’s head lay out of reach of the uneven lamplight, but his limbs were still — and something in that broken stillness alerted Bat.
“Orton?”

He moved the lantern and the light illuminated Orton’s face. The man’s head was turned at an unnatural angle — watery eyes staring off into the loft above them.

Bat smothered an exclamation. Knelt beside Orton’s body.

The mare raised her head, nickering greeting. The lantern light flickered as though in a draft. He could see every detail in stark relief: the blue black bristle on the older man’s jaw, the flecks of gray in his mustache, oil and dirt beneath his fingernails.

There was a little speck of blood at the corner of his mouth where Bat’s ring had cut him. But he was not bleeding. Was not breathing.
Bat put fingers to Orton’s flaccid throat and felt for a pulse.
There was no pulse.

Sid Orton was dead.

Bat rose. Gazed down at the body.

Christ. It seemed...unreal.

He was used to thinking swiftly, making life-and-death decisions for the entire squadron with only seconds to spare, but he could think of nothing. He’d have to go to the CO. Chase would have to go to the Red Caps...

Bat wiped his forehead with his sleeve. First he’d need to come up with some story — some reason for what he’d done. Gene mustn’t be dragged into it. No one could know about Gene and him. Wasn’t only Gene’s name at stake. There was Bat’s own family and name to think of. This ... just this ... murder ... was liable to finish the old man.

He couldn’t seem to think beyond it. Disgrace. Dishonor.

He ought to feel something for Orton, surely? Pity. Remorse. He didn’t. He hadn’t meant to kill him, but Orton was no loss. Not even an awfully good mechanic. And Bat had killed better men than Orton — ten at last count — for much worse reason.

A miserable specimen, Orton.

But you couldn’t murder a chap for that.

Gaze riveted on the ink stain on the frayed cuff of Orton’s disheveled uniform, Bat tried to force his sluggish brain to action. Yes, he needed a story before he went to the major. More, he had to convince himself of it — get it straight in every detail — in case he was cross-examined. Mustn’t get tripped up.

If only he had ignored Orton’s note ... Why the devil hadn’t he?

“You waiting for him to tell you what to do?” a voice asked laconically from behind him.

Bat jerked about.

Cowboy leaned against the closed stable door. His eyes glinted in the queer light. Bright. Almost feral as he watched from the half shadows.

“P-pardon?” Bat asked stupidly.

“If you don’t plan on getting jugged by the MPs, you better get a move on.”

It was as though he were speaking to Bat in a foreign language. Granted, Cowboy was a Yank — a Texan, at that — and did take a bit of translation at the best of times.

Bat said, “I don’t — what d’you mean? I-I shall have to report this.”

“Why’s that?” Cowboy left his post at the door and came to join him. Oddly, it gave Bat comfort, Cowboy’s broad shoulder brushing his own. Together they stared down at Orton’s body.

Already he had changed. His face had a waxy, sunken look. The smell of death mingled with kerosene and horse and hay.

Bat’s stomach gave a sudden lurch and he moved away, leaning over a rusted harrow. But there was nothing to vomit. He hadn’t eaten since yesterday. Hadn’t eaten since Gene bought his packet and crashed in flames in the woods of the estate his family once owned near Hesdin.

Instead, he hung white-knuckled onto the rough metal frame heaving dry, empty coughs and nothing coming out but a few exhausted tears. Not for Orton. For Gene.

“You better pull yourself together, boy,” Cowboy told him when the worst of it was over. Listening distantly to that terse voice, Bat knew he was right. He shuddered all over. Forced himself upright, blinking at the American.

Cowboy was a big man. Several inches taller than Bat. Broad shoulders and narrow hips. Long legs. Must be the way they grew them in Texas. Cowboy certainly fit Bat’s notion — based entirely on the works of Zane Grey and Max Brand — of a man of the West. He’d been attached to the RFC for about two months. Which was a bloody long time in this war. Several lifetimes, really.

The old mare stretched her long neck and nibbled at the collar of Cowboy’s tunic. He patted her absently and drawled, “Orton was a sidewinder. A low-down, miserable piece of shit pretending to be a man. He wasn’t even a very good mechanic. Whatever else you might be, you’re one hell of a pilot. And the RFC is running short on pilots these days. Let alone aces.”

Bat blinked at him, wiped his face again. He felt hot and cold, sick and sweaty. He felt as though he were coming down with something — something fatal. He was unable to think beyond the thing at their feet. “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying what the hell’s the point of you going to jail for killing that skunk? Anyway, I saw what happened. It was an accident. You slugged him and he fell and hit his head.”

“It’s still...” But he didn’t finish it. He felt a flicker of hope. “You’ll back me up then? When I go to Major Chase?”

“I don’t think you want to do that.”

Too right there. Bat didn’t. But...

“How are you going to explain what he said that got you so mad you punched him? Or what the hell you were doing in the stables this time of night?”

Before Bat thought of an answer — assuming he’d have come up with one — Cowboy added, “I guess Orton ain’t the only one who ever noticed you and Lieutenant Roberts were kinda sweet on each other.”

Bat lunged, and Cowboy sidestepped, grabbing him and twisting his arm behind his back in a wrestling move they never taught in any officer’s training course Bat had received. It was fast and efficient. Pain shot through his shoulder and arm and he stopped struggling, sagging against Cowboy. The American was so big, so powerfully built, it was easy to underestimate how fast he was when he needed to be. Not least because he never seemed to be in a hurry. He spoke in a lazy drawl and moved with easy, loose-limbed grace. Even when he flew into battle, he picked off enemy planes as though he were potting birds off a branch with a rifle. As though he had all the time in the world.

Listening to the calm, strong thud of Cowboy’s heart, Bat thought dizzily that this was the closest he’d come to being in a man’s arms ever again.

Cowboy’s voice vibrated in his chest as he intoned, “Never realized you had such a temper, Captain Bryant. One of these days it’s going to land you in a fix you can’t get out of.”

Bat yanked free and Cowboy let him go.

“Not tonight, though.”

Bat rubbed his wrist where Cowboy’s fingers had dug into the tendons. “What d’you mean?”

“I mean, if you can simmer down long enough to listen, I’m going to help you.”

“Help me how?”

Cowboy wasn’t looking at Bat. He stared down at Orton’s body. Thoughtfully, as though only making his mind up to it, he said, “I’m going to get rid of him once and for all.”

“How?”

“Never mind how. It’ll be better if you don’t know. Go back to the mess, and make sure everyone sees you. Close the place down. Then head up to your quarters. Understand?”

The flicker of hope flared. Bat knew a cowardly longing to do exactly as Cowboy instructed. Leave it to him, go get blind drunk, then retire to bed and forget any of this happened.

He forced himself to say, “Awfully good of you, old chap, but you must see I can’t ... can’t let you do this.”

Amused, Cowboy retorted, “You don’t even know what I’m going to do, old chap, so why argue about it?”

He was staring at Bat, smiling that funny crooked grin of his. Bat had never noticed how blue Cowboy’s eyes were. Blue as the sky — back when the sky was empty of anything worse than clouds — light and bright in his deeply tanned face. His hair was soft gold. Palomino gold.

Helplessly, Bat said, “Why should you do this? Why should you help me? I haven’t been ... it’s not as though...”

“You’ve acted like a stuck-up sonofabitch since the day I arrived, is that what you were going to say?” Cowboy asked easily. “Not a member of your old boys’ club, am I? Well, I guess it could be that I like you anyway. Or it could be having you around makes my life easier — ’cept days like today when you seem bent on getting yourself blown out of the sky.”

His gaze held Bat’s, and there wasn’t anything Bat could say. Today. Yes. What a long time ago it seemed.

If Cowboy hadn’t been there today ... Sid Orton would still be alive.

“Git,” Cowboy said softly. “I’ll find you later.”

And so ... Bat got.

The Dark Farewell
Chapter One
The body of the third girl was found Tuesday morning in the woods a few miles outside Murphysboro. Flynn read about it the following day in the Herrin News as the train chugged slowly through the green cornfields and deep woods of Southern Illinois. The dead girl’s name was Millie Hesse and like the other two girls she had been asphyxiated and then mutilated. There were other “peculiarities”, according to the newspaper, but the office of the Jackson County Sheriff declined to comment further.

The peculiarities would be things about the murder only known to the police and the murderer himself. At least in theory. Flynn had covered a few homicides since his return from France three years earlier, and it wasn’t hard to read between the lines. But there were already rumors flying through the wires about a homicidal maniac on the loose in Little Egypt.

Flynn gazed out the window as a giant cement smokestack came into sight. The perpetually smoldering black slag heap, half-buried in the tall weeds, reminded him in some abstruse way of the ravaged French countryside. His lip curled and he stared down again at the newspaper.

He didn’t care much for homicide cases; he’d seen enough killing in the war. And reading about poor, harmless, inoffensive Millie Hesse and her gruesome end in the dark silent oaks and elms of these lonely woods dampened his enthusiasm for the story he was there to cover, a follow-up on the Herrin Massacre the previous summer. Not to write about the massacre itself. More than enough had been written about that.

It had been a big year for news, 1922, between the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote and the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the States who hadn’t heard about what had happened in these parts between local miners and the Southern Illinois Coal Company. Flynn wanted to write about Herrin one year later; the aftermath and the repercussions. Plus, it was a good reason to visit Amy Gulling, the widow of his old mentor Gus. Gus had died in the winter, and Flynn hadn’t made it down for the funeral. He didn’t care much for funerals, either.

The train had been warm, but when Flynn stepped down onto the platform of the old brick station in Herrin, humidity slapped him in the face like a hot towel in a barber shop. It reminded him of summer in the trenches, minus the rats and snipers, of course.

He nodded an absent farewell to his fellow passengers—he couldn’t have described them if his life had depended on it—and caught one of the town’s only cabs, directing the driver to Amy Gulling’s boarding house. Heat shimmered off the brick streets as the cab drove him through the peaceful town past the sheriff’s office, closed during the violence of that long June day last year, and the hardware stores where the mob had broken in to steal guns and ammunition which they had then used to murder the mine guards and strikebreakers.

The cab let him out in front of the wooden two-story Civil War-style house on the corner. Flynn paid the driver, picked up his luggage and headed up the shady walk. He rang the bell and seconds later Amy herself was pushing open the screen door and welcoming him inside.

“David Flynn! I just lost a bet with myself.”

“What bet?” He dropped his bags and hugged her hard.

“I bet you wouldn’t come. I bet you’d find another excuse.”

Amy was big and comfortable like a plushy chair. She wore a faded but well-starched flowered dress. Though her hair was now a graying flaxen, her blue green eyes were as bright as ever. They studied him with canny affection.

Flynn reddened. “I’m sorry, Amy. Sorry I didn’t make it down when Gus…”

She waved that away. “The funeral didn’t matter. And you’re here now. You must be tuckered out from that train ride.”

She led him through to the parlor. A fat woman in a blue dress sat fanning herself in front of the big window, and in another chair a small, slim girl of perhaps twenty was reading a book titled The Girls’ Book of Famous Queens. She had dark hair and wore spectacles.

“This is Mrs. Hoyt and her daughter Joan. They’re regular boarders. They’ve been with me for two months now, since Mr. Hoyt passed.”

“How do,” said Mrs. Hoyt. The fine, sharp features of her face were blurred by weight and age. When she’d been young she probably looked like Joan. Her hair was still more dark than silver.

The girl, Joan, gave him a shy smile and a clammy hand.

“David’s an old friend of my husband. One of his former journalism students. He’s going to be spending the next week or so with us.”

“Are you a newspaperman, Mr. Flynn?” asked Mrs. Hoyt.

“I am, but I’m on vacation now.” Flynn knew this old beldame’s breed. She’d be gossiping with the neighbors—those she considered her social equal—in nothing flat. And he wanted the freedom of anonymity, the ability to talk to these people without them second-guessing and censoring their words.

There was plenty for people to keep their mouths shut about considering Herrin had a national reputation for being the worst of the bad towns in “Bloody Williamson County”. The trials of the men who had murdered the Lester Mine Company strikebreakers and guards had ended in unanimous acquittals, shocking the rest of the nation.

“David was in France,” Amy said with significance.

“My son was in France, Mr. Flynn. Where did you see action?”

“I went over with Pershing’s American Expeditionary Forces, ma’am.”

“As a soldier or a journalist?”

“As a soldier.” He had been proud of that. Proud to fight and maybe die for his ideals. Now he wondered if he wouldn’t have done more good as a reporter.

“My son fell in the Battle of the Argonne.”

The girl bowed her head, stared unseeingly at the book on her lap.

Flynn said, “A lot of boys did.”

“My son was the recipient of the Medal of Honor.”

“I’m afraid I didn’t win any medals.”

“Well, let’s get you situated,” Amy said briskly, breaking the sudden melancholy mood that had settled on the sunny parlor. “I’ve got David in the room over the breezeway.”

“That’s a mighty pleasant room in the summer,” agreed Mrs. Hoyt. The daughter murmured acknowledgement.

Flynn smiled at Amy. “I remember.”

He nodded to the ladies and followed Amy. She was saying, “I’ve turned Gus’s study into a library and smoking room for the gentlemen.”

Flynn asked unwillingly, “Has it been tough since Gus died?”

“Oh, you know. I manage all right. I keep the boarding house for company as much as anything. I never was happy on my own.” Amy paused in the doorway of another room. “Here are our gentlemen. Doctor Pearson, Mr. Flynn is an old family friend. He’ll be staying with us for a few days. Mr. Devereux, Mr. Flynn.”

The gentlemen appeared to have been interrupted in the midst of writing letters. Doctor Pearson was small and spry with snapping dark eyes and the bushy sideburns and whiskers that were popular before the war. Mr. Devereux was older than the doctor, but he dyed his hair and mustache a persevering jet black. He had the distinctive features—aquiline nose and heavy-lidded eyes—Flynn had grown familiar with in France.

“Pleasure to meet you,” Dr. Pearson said, putting aside his pen and paper and offering his hand.

Devereux was equally polite. “A pleasure, sir.” He had a hint of an accent, but it was not exactly French. French Canadian perhaps? Or, no, French Creole?

“Mr. Devereux is a regular contributor to a number of Spiritualist periodicals,” Amy commented.

Mr. Devereux livened up instantly. “That’s correct. I’m penning an article at this moment for The Messenger in Boston.”

Flynn nodded courteously. Spiritualism? Good God.

Perhaps Amy sensed his weary distaste because she was soon ushering him out of the room and down the hall.

They started toward the long blue-carpeted staircase. A quick, light tread caught Flynn’s attention. He glanced up and saw a young man coming down the stairs. He was tall and willowy, his black hair of a bohemian length. His skin was a creamy bisque, his eyes dark and wide. Flynn judged him about nineteen although he wore no tie or jacket. He was dressed in gray flannel trousers, and his white shirt was open at the throat, the sleeves rolled to his elbows like a schoolboy.

“This is Mr. Flynn, Julian,” Amy said.

Julian raised his delicate eyebrows. “Oh yes?”

“He’s an old friend of my husband and me. He’s going to be staying with us for a time.”

Julian observed Flynn for long, alert seconds before he came leisurely down the rest of the staircase. He offered a slender, tanned hand and Flynn grasped it with manly firmness.

“Charmed,” Julian murmured. He gently squeezed Flynn’s hand back and studied him from beneath lashes as long and silky as a girl’s. It was a look both shy and oddly knowing. Flynn recovered his hand as quickly as he could. He nodded curtly.

Julian smiled as though he read Flynn’s reluctance and was entertained by it. It was a sly sort of smile, and his mouth was soft and pink. A sissy if Flynn had ever seen one.

“Julian is Mr. Devereux’s grandson.” There was something in Amy’s voice Flynn couldn’t quite pin down. Either she didn’t like the old man or she didn’t care for the kid—or maybe both.

Julian said slowly, “You’re a…writer, David?”

“How the hell—?” Flynn stopped. Julian was smiling a smug smile.

“I know things.”

“That’s a dangerous habit.”

“The philosophers say that knowledge is power.”

“Sometimes. Sometimes it’s the fastest way to get punched in the nose.”

Both Amy and Julian laughed at that, and Flynn realized that he probably seemed a little hot under the collar.

Julian nodded pleasantly and sauntered away to the smoking room cum library.

“What in the blue blazes was that?” Flynn inquired of Amy as she led him up the staircase.

She laughed but it sounded forced. “That is The Magnificent Belloc. He’s a spirit medium.”

“You’re joking.”

Amy shook her head. “He’s giving a show over at the Opera House every night this week except Friday and Sunday. Friday the high school is putting on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“Spiritualism,” Flynn said in disgust. He came from a long line of staunch Irish Protestants.

“Oh sure, there are a lot of fakes and phonies around. But the war changed a lot of people’s feelings about spiritualism and mediums,” Amy said. “When you lose someone dear to you, well, I guess you’d do anything to be able to talk to them one more time.”

Flynn glanced at her and then glanced away. “I guess so.”

“I don’t put stock in spirits and that sort of thing, but from what I hear young Julian has a knack for knowing things.”

“I’ll bet.”

Amy said mildly, “He called it right with you. I didn’t tell him your first name was David or that you were a newspaperman.”

“No, you didn’t. But you did mention it to Mrs. Hoyt and her daughter.” Flynn added dryly, “I’m guessing that The Magnificent Belloc’s bedroom is the one over the parlor. Is that right?”

Amy looked chagrined. “That’s right.”

“I thought so. That kid’s as phony as a three dollar bill.”

“Oh, he’s not so bad. A bit of a pansy, I guess. It’s the old man I don’t like. Whatever that boy is or isn’t, it’s that old frog’s fault.”

Flynn didn’t argue with her, but he didn’t agree either. Devereux younger wasn’t anyone’s victim. He recognized that jaded look. Whatever the racket was, The Magnificent Belloc was in it up to his shell-like ears.

Amy continued up the narrow staircase to the second level. Flynn’s room was in the former servant’s quarters on the far side of the house’s breezeway. The roofed, open-sided passageway between the house and the garage was on the east side of the corner property, the “cool” side shaded by a big walnut tree, but there was nothing cool about that sunny box of a room that afternoon.

After Amy left, Flynn unpacked and then washed up next door in the closet-sized bathroom that had once served as a storage room.

Back in his room, he changed his shirt and examined himself closely in the square mirror over the highboy. What had that punk seen? Dark, wavy hair, blue eyes, strong chin and straight nose. Regular features. He was a regular guy. He looked all right. He looked like everybody else. Girls liked him fine. That girl, Joan, she didn’t see anything wrong with him.

He shook his head impatiently at the troubled-looking Flynn in the mirror.

It didn’t matter what that pansy thought or didn’t think. Flynn didn’t have to have anything to do with him. He was going to get his story and then he’d be heading back to New York City where people had a little discretion, a little subtlety.

He could smell fresh coffee and frying ham, and he followed the aroma downstairs where his fellow boarders were having a big noontime dinner of fried eggs, ham, sausage and golden brown potatoes. “Luncheon” they called it in New York, although you wouldn’t get anything like this for lunch.

Flynn took a seat at the table across from Joan. He noticed—to his relief—that the disturbing Julian was absent. There was a lively discussion going on about the recent murders in the neighboring county.

“Perhaps someone could ask the Comte about them,” Joan said, with a self-conscious look in Flynn’s direction.

Doctor Pearson snorted. The older Devereux was shaking his head.

“Who’s the Comte?” Flynn asked.

“The Comte de Mirabeau. Julian’s spirit guide,” Joan replied primly. “He was a French statesman, orator and writer. He died during the French Revolution.”

“You’re not a believer, young man,” Devereux said severely, watching Flynn.

“I believe in plenty of things,” Flynn said. “What did you have in mind?”

“Julian is a medium,” Joan said.

“A medium what?”

Mrs. Hoyt gave a breathy laugh and scooped up a mouthful of eggs.

The conversation briefly languished, and Flynn decided to ask about the trials of the miners accused of murder last year and the winter. That revived the discussion, but mostly what he heard about was how the KKK and the local ministers were trying to persuade the government and the law to do something about the bootleggers and their roadhouses springing up like toadstools. The massacre was old news. It appeared nobody wanted to think about it.

Astonishingly, these civilized, decent folk seemed to think the best bet for the lawlessness plaguing their county was the Ku Klux Klan. Flynn found it hard to credit. He kept his mouth shut for the most part and listened.

“Thank goodness for Prohibition!” exclaimed Mrs. Hoyt, shoveling in fried potatoes.

Dr. Pearson shot back, “The only thing Prohibition helps is the gangsters and the damned Ku Klux Klan.”

“It’s kept a lot of boys off the liquor,” insisted Mrs. Hoyt thickly.

“Ah baloney,” growled the old doctor. “More of those kids are trying booze out now than they were before Prohibition. Forbidding it makes drink seem exciting.”

“That’s because the sheriffs don’t enforce the law!”

Amy said to Flynn, “Mrs. Hoyt is right about that. We’ve got a poor excuse for a sheriff. He’s great pals with half the bootleggers in the county.”

“I’m surprised that you, a doctor, would take that view,” Mrs. Hoyt said to Pearson. She seemed indignant, but Flynn had the idea this was not a new argument in this household.

Pearson was unmoved. “When drink was legal these kids weren’t allowed in a saloon, but these damned bootleggers don’t care who they sell their hooch to or who they sucker into gambling away their paychecks. Why, I was tending a poor kid over in Murphysboro just last week who died of that damned bathtub gin.”

Joan’s gaze met Flynn’s and slid away.

“But that’s exactly what the Klan and the ministers are saying,” Mrs. Hoyt insisted. “If the law won’t clean this mess up, then the people have to.”

Devereux chimed in, “People? Which people? A bunch of anti-union kleagles and clowns dressed up in spooky robes doing their mumbo-jumbo and burning crosses out in somebody’s pasture.”

The old guy sounded pretty heated. Flynn was willing to bet that with their complexion and coloring, he and the kid had been mistaken for Italians or worse on more than one occasion.

“You’re a fine one to talk about mumbo-jumbo,” Mrs. Hoyt said tartly.

Devereux bridled. “I assure you, Madame, Spiritualism is as valid and respectable a religion as any other. We simply believe that the door between this world and the next is accessible to those who hold the key, and that through the talents of one gifted with the power to communicate with spirits, we may learn and be advised by our loved ones who have gone before us.”

“Speaking of those gone before us,” Flynn remarked, “I see your grandson isn’t at lunch.”

“Julian rests in the afternoon,” the old man said stiffly. “He is not strong, and his efforts to act as conduit to the other side tax him greatly.”

Flynn managed to control his expression. Just.

There was not a lot of chat after that. When the meal was finished, Flynn excused himself and went back to his room. He wanted to start looking around the town as soon as possible.

He found he had a visitor. Julian Devereux was seated on the bed, idly flipping through his copy of Bertram Cope’s Year. Flynn had left the book in his Gladstone.

He paused in the doorway, the hair on the back of his neck rising on end. “What are you doing in here?” he asked sharply.

Julian jumped—so much for psychic powers—though his smile was confident. He tossed the book on the green and white Irish chain quilt, leaned back on his hands.

“I thought we should get to know each other, David.”

Flynn studied Julian’s finely chiseled features coldly, taking in the angular, wide mouth and heavy-lidded, half-amused dark eyes.

“Why’s that?”

Julian arched one eyebrow. “You know.”

“No, I don’t. And I’m pretty sure I don’t want to.”

Julian tilted his head, as though listening to an echo he couldn’t quite place. “I didn’t figure you for the shy type,” he said eventually.

“I’m not. I’m not your type either.” Flynn was careful not to look at the book on the bed. “Now if you don’t mind—?” He held the door open pointedly.

A look of disbelief crossed Julian’s face. He rose from the bed and slowly moved to the door. For an instant he stood before Flynn. He was so slight, so lithesome that Flynn kept picturing him shorter than he was. In fact, he was as tall as Flynn, his doe-like dark eyes gazing directly into the other man’s.

“Have it your way,” he said.

“I intend to.”

“But if you should change your mind—”

Flynn inquired dryly, “Wouldn’t The Magnificent Belloc be the first to know?”

This Rough Magic
It was always a dame, wasn’t it? In the dime novels, it was always a dame.

A smart and sassy society dame smelling of gardenias, with a fox stole thrown over her bony shoulders, and a mouth that would make a French maid blink. In real life, the dames Rafferty met were of a different breed. They wore Vogue pattern #7313 and lines of worry in their tired faces. They came to him in the hope that he could locate a missing son or daughter — or straying husband.

There had been one society dame. Rafferty had helped her get back some letters, and her marriage to a Texas oil tycoon had gone right ahead as scheduled. Every now and then she threw some business his way. He could only think that Mrs. Charles Constable was somehow to blame for the very handsome and very nervous young man currently perched on the uncomfortable chair in front of Rafferty’s desk.

The chair squeaked as Brett Sheridan, of the Nob Hill Sheridans, gave another of those infinitesimal shifts like a bird on a cracking tree limb. Sheridan’s eyes — wide and green as the water in San Francisco Bay — met Rafferty’s and flicked away.

Yes, a very handsome young man. From that raven’s wing of soft dark hair that kept falling in his wide, long-lashed eyes to the obstinate jut of his chiseled chin.

Not so young, but not so old either. Twenty-six? Twenty-seven maybe? Sheltered, most certainly. The Brett Sheridans of the world were always sheltered. Right up to the moment the world decided to puncture their bicycle tires. Still, a nice ride while it lasted.

Rafferty said, “And you think your sister took this, what’d you call it, folio?”

Sheridan had a nice voice too. Low and a little husky, not too affected, though he’d obviously spent time at a fancy New England boarding school. “Not Kitty. The thug she’s running around with.”

“Harry Sader.”

“Right. Do you know him?”

Rafferty’s mouth quirked. He reined himself in ruthlessly. “Despite how it looks, I’m not on nodding acquaintance with every bum in town.”

“No. Quite.” Sheridan’s color rose. Rafferty tried to recall what the story was on him. There was some story. That much he did remember. “I just thought that in your line of work you might have crossed paths before.”

“I’ve heard of him. He runs with Kip Mullens’s gang.” He could have told Sheridan a story or two about those boys that would have curled his hair, but scaring the client was rarely good business. “Explain to me again what this folio is?”

“It’s a book or a pamphlet. In this case, it’s a book of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest.” Sheridan bit his lip rather boyishly. “I suppose, technically, it’s a quarto, but I admit I don’t fully understand the difference. The only thing I know for certain is it’s the earliest printed version of the play. It was printed in the sixteenth century, nearly a decade before the First Folio.”

Rafferty opened his mouth and then closed it. It probably didn’t matter, right?

“And this folio that is or isn’t the First Folio is worth a bundle?”

“It’s not the First Folio. That was printed in 1623. It contains thirty-six of Shakespeare’s plays, nineteen of which previously appeared in separate, individual editions. All the separate editions are quartos except for one octavo. But Mr. Lennox refers to it as a folio. The Tempest, that is.”

Rafferty could feel his eyes starting to spin. He resisted the temptation to hang on to his desk. “This thing is worth a bundle?”

“It’s priceless.”

“Sure, but I bet the insurance company tagged it with a dollar amount.”

“Mr. Lennox is very wealthy. The insurance money means nothing to him. He wants the folio back.”

“The quarto.”

“Correct. He wants it back at any cost.”

“Ah. He’d pay a king’s ransom?”

Sheridan nodded unhappily.

“And the last time anyone saw the-folio-that’s-really-a-quarto was the night of your engagement party?”

“Last night. Correct. Mr. Lennox hosted a garden party for us — Juliet and me — at his home in Pacific Heights.”

“And you immediately jumped to the conclusion that your sister’s beau was responsible?”

“There isn’t anyone else possible.”

Rafferty dropped his pencil and pushed back in his chair. “That so? All swell society folk with arm-long pedigrees, were they?”

There was that wash of color again. Not exactly what you expected from hale and healthy young Harvard bucks. Not unless they were given to unwholesome activities like painting watercolors or writing feverish poetry. Or worse. Rafferty was pretty sure worse was not the rumor he’d heard. He’d likely have remembered that.

“No. That is… Yes.”

“Which is it? No or yes?”

“It wasn’t my immediate thought, no,” Sheridan said stiffly. “But Kitty was acting so…so oddly. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized what must have happened. Sader took the folio, and Kitty knows about it.”

“You mean she was his accomplice?”

Sheridan’s mouth thinned down to a line. His jaw lived up to the promise of that obstinate chin. “Maybe.”

“And you want me to find this folio and return it to its proper owner, your fiancĂ©e’s father?”

“Yes. That’s part of it. Mr. Lennox has given the culprit three days to return the folio. After that, he’s going to the police.”

“Why the stall? Why didn’t he ring for the cops last night?”

“Because…because it’s obvious to everyone that the crime was what you’d call an inside job.”

“Well, that’s one thing I might call it.”

“Perpetrated by one of the Lennoxes’ guests. Lennox is trying to save…someone from social ruin.”

“Not to mention prison.”

Sheridan paled. “Yes.”

“Okay. Three days to find this book or whatever it is and return it to Old Man Lennox. What’s the rest of it?”

“I want you to convince Sader to keep his mouth shut about Kitty’s involvement — if any — and to get him to agree to stay away from her.”

“That’s a tall order. Doesn’t Kitty have a say in all this?”

Sheridan’s throat moved as he swallowed. “No.”

“And how am I supposed to convince Sir Lancelot to give up the Lady of the Loot?”

Sheridan’s chin lifted. He said with unconscious arrogance, “I understood from Pat that you’re reasonably inventive.”

“Pat?”

“Pat Constable. She’s the one who referred me to you. You to me. Anyway, I should think that the threat of jail would be sufficient to steer Sader away from Kitty.”

Rafferty’s brows rose. “You want me to blackmail him?”

“I don’t want to know anything about it. I just want Kitty out of his cl — free of him.”

Rafferty managed not to laugh. The Brett Sheridans of the world did not like to be laughed at, even when they were talking what they would probably refer to as poppycock. Rafferty would have referred to it as something else, but not in polite company, and this company was about as polite as it got — requests for blackmail and intimidation notwithstanding.

“All right,” he said.

Sheridan’s eyes widened. “You’ll do it?”

“Wasn’t that the idea?”

“Yes. I just wasn’t sure — didn’t think it would be this simple.”

“Yeah, well, it sounds straightforward enough. Right up my alley.” Rafferty tried to look suitably disreputable. He didn’t have to try hard these days.

“There’s a time element to all this —”

“Three days. I didn’t miss it. And it’ll cost you more.” Rafferty named a figure that should have made the sensitive Mr. Sheridan blanch. He didn’t bat an eye as he reached inside his Scotch wool topcoat and withdrew a leather wallet. He briskly counted out the crisp notes.

“You always carry this much cash?” Rafferty inquired, taking the bills, folding them, and tucking them into the breast pocket of his suit.

“Pat told me you weren’t cheap.”

Rafferty snorted. “I’ve been called many things, but never cheap.”

Sheridan’s lashes flicked up, and he gave Rafferty a long, direct look. So direct a look, in fact, that Rafferty wasn’t quite sure he was reading it correctly.

“What will your first move be?”

Rafferty blinked. “Huh?”

“How will you proceed with the case?”

“Are you sure you want to know? It’ll probably be necessary to, er, bend the rules a little…”

Sheridan drew back as though from a flame. “No. You’re right. It’s better if I don’t know. But you’ll…keep me posted on your progress? There’s so little time.”

Rafferty rose from behind his desk, and Sheridan rose too, automatically. “The minute I find anything out, you’ll be the first to know.”

“Right. Of course,” Sheridan said doubtfully. “Thank you.”

“No, no,” Rafferty replied urbanely. He was starting to enjoy himself. “Thank you.”

Snowball in Hell
"Hell of a thing," Jonesy said for the third time.

Matt agreed. It was a hell of a thing. He turned his gaze from the gaggle of reporters smoking and talking beside the grouping of snarling cement saber-toothed tigers, and returned his attention to the sticky, bedraggled corpse currently watching the birdie for the police photographer.

Whoever had dumped the dead man had counted on the body sinking in the black ooze of the Brea Pits, and in the heat of the summer when the tar heated up and softened...maybe. But it was December, a little more than a week before Christmas, and it had been raining steadily for two days. No chance in hell. The body had rested there, facedown in the rainwater hiding the treacherous crust of tar beneath, until the museum paleontologists excavating the site for fossils had made the grisly early-morning discovery.

"Looks kinda familiar," Jonesy remarked gloomily, as the plastered hair and drowned eyes were briefly illuminated in the white flash of the camera.

Matt bit back a laugh. "Yeah? Must be the fact that he's dead."

Jonesy looked reproachful, although after thirty-three years on the homicide squad, he'd seen more than his share of stiffs. They both had, though Matt had seen more violent death and destruction during his seven months in the Pacific than he had in his eleven years on the force.

"No identification on him at all?"

"Nope. Even the label was cut out of his jacket. No sign of his hat or shoes."

Matt considered this. Soaking in water and tar hadn't done John Doe's clothes much good, and they'd have to wait 'til everything dried before they could hope to get much from an examination. How much they would get then was doubtful, but that suit didn't look particularly old or worn, and the tailoring was the kind that showed its worth even in the worst conditions—which these were.

Laughter drifted from the circle of statues where the reporters and a couple of photographers waited impatiently. Matt knew most of them: Williams from "The Peach," Mackey from the Times, Cohen from the Mirror and Tara Renee of the Examiner. The only one he didn't recognize was the slim man lighting Tara's cigarette. Thin brown fingers cupped the lighter against the damp breeze; lean, tanned cheek creased in a smile as Tara flirted with him. Tara flirted with everyone, but she was a good little crime hound.

"Who's that?" Matt asked Jonesy, and Jonesy looked up from the meticulous diagrams he was making of the crime scene and followed Matt's stare.

"Doyle. Tribune-Herald. Heard he was with the Eighth Army in North Africa 'til he picked up a case of lead poisoning." Jonesy grinned his lopsided smile. "Got hit by machine-gun fire in Tunisia."

"Yeah, well, there's a lot of that going around." But Matt's interest was unwillingly caught. "So he's English?"

"Nah. Hometown boy, Loot."

"Doc's here, Lieutenant," one of the uniformed officers said as the police ambulance bumped its way over the grassy verge.

Matt nodded and then nodded again toward the reporters. "Tell 'em I want to see Miss Renee and..." He thought it over. "Doyle."

Author Bio:
A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist.


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What's Left of Kisses?
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The Dark Farewell
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Snowball in Hell

Sunday's Safe Word Shelf: Working for The Billionaires Club by Sky Corgan


Title: Working for The Billionaires Club
Author: Sky Corgan
Series: The Billionaires Club #1
Genre: New Adult Romance, Contemporary
Release Date: August 16, 2016
Summary:
Now enlisting volunteers! Looking for ten super-rich men willing to please some lucky ladies for a good cause.

Requirements: You must make at least a billion dollars annually. You must be hot as hell. You must be a stud in the bedroom.

Job duties: Treat our clients like the queens they are. Fulfill their every fantasy while they enjoy their stay at our state of the art resort. You’ll have access to all of our amenities and fantasy rooms so that you can create the best experience for our clients.

The Billionaires Club is a non-profit organization. Clients pay good money for your time, and all proceeds go to a charity of their choice.

Do something great for your community and have some fun in the process. Join The Billionaires Club!



Author Bio:
Sky Corgan is a USA Today Best-Selling author. When she's not typing away at the next steamy romance series, she's busy planning for future vacations.

You can get a FREE Sky Corgan book and stay up to date on her latest releases by signing up for her newsletter.


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Dark Brew by Diana Rubino

Title: Dark Brew
Author: Diana Rubino
Genre: Time Travel Romance
Release Date: July 22, 2016
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Summary:
Two months in the spotlight change Kylah McKinley’s life forever. Falsely accused of murdering her husband Ted, she learns through past life regressions that she’s the reincarnation of Alice Kyteler, a Druid who lived in 14th century Ireland. Major events in her life parallel Alice’s.

Someone tried to kill Kylah along with Ted in a hit-and-run. Who can hate them both this much? Her journeys to the past as Alice give her the answer.

As Kylah’s trial date approaches and she fights to maintain her innocence, she must learn from her past or forever be doomed to repeat it.


Kylah shut Ted’s den door. She couldn’t bear to look at the spot where he gasped his last breath. His presence, an imposing force, lingered. So did his scent, a blend of tobacco, pine aftershave and manly sweat. Each reminder ripped into her heart like a knife. Especially now with the funeral looming ahead, the eulogies, the mournful organ hymns, the tolling bells . . .

These ceremonies should bring closure, but they’d only prolong the agony of her grief. She wanted to remember him alive for a while longer, wishing she could delay these morbid customs until the hurt subsided.

Throughout the house, his essence echoed his personality: the wine stain on the carpet, the heap of dirty shirts, shorts and socks piled up in the laundry room, the spattered stove, his fingerprints on the microwave. But she couldn’t bring herself to clean any of it up. Painful as these remnants were, they offered a strange comfort. He still lived here.

“I’ll find that murderer, Teddy,” she promised him over and over, wandering from room to empty room, traces of him lurking in every corner. “I’ll do everything in my power to make sure justice is served. Another past life regression isn’t enough anymore. I know what I have to do now. And I promise, it will never, ever happen again—in any future life.”

She inhaled deeply and breathed him in. “Go take a shower, Teddy.” She chuckled through her tears as the doorbell rang. She cringed, breaking out in cold sweat when she saw the black sedan at the curb.
“Not again.” No sense in hiding, so she let the detectives in.

“Mrs. McKinley, we need your permission to do a search and take some of your husband’s possessions from the house,” Nolan said.

“What for?” She met his steely stare. “I looked everywhere and found nothing.”

“Mrs. McKinley, the cupboard door was open, four jars of herbs are missing, and the autopsy showed he died of herb poisoning. Those herbs,” Nolan added for emphasis, as if it had slipped her feeble mind. “Foxglove, mandrake, hemlock—and an as-yet unidentified one,” he read from a notebook. “The M.E. determined it was a lethal dose.”

Sherlock Holmes got nothin’ on him, she thought.

“Where’s this cupboard, ma’am?” Egan spoke up.

“Right there.” She pointed, its door gaping exactly the way she’d found it that night. Nolan went over to it and peered inside.

“Ma’am, it would be better if you left the house for a half hour or so. Please leave a number where you can be reached,” Egan ordered.

Nolan glanced down the hall. “Where is your bedroom?”

What could they want in the bedroom? “It’s at the top of the stairs on the right. But we didn’t sleep together,” she offered, as if that would faze them. It didn’t.

After giving him her cell number, she got into her car and drove to the beach.

An hour later, she let herself back in and looked around. They’d taken the computer, her case of CDs, her thumb drive, her remaining herb jars, Ted’s notebooks, and left her alone with one horrible fact: This was now a homicide case and she was the prime suspect.

Author Bio:
Diana’s passion for history and travel has taken her to every locale of her stories, set in Medieval and Renaissance England, Egypt, the Mediterranean, colonial Virginia, New England, and New York. Her urban fantasy romance, FAKIN’ IT, won a Top Pick award from Romantic Times. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Richard III Society and the Aaron Burr Association. She lives on Cape Cod with her husband Chris. Together they own CostPro, Inc., an engineering business. In her spare time, Diana bicycles, golfs, plays her piano and devours books of any genre.



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