Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Happy Pride Month 2018: Top 20 Favorite LGBT Reads Part 5


Here at Padme's Library I feature all genres but followers have probably noticed that 90% of the posts and 99% of my reviews fall under the LGBT genres, so I thought what better time of year than June's Pride Month to honor my Top 20 Reads.  I started reading published M/M romances in 2013, I'd been enjoying slash fanfiction for months when I decided to check out the published genre.  I asked half-a-dozen of my reading BFFs who I knew enjoyed the genre and they had so many wonderful recommendations but the only one that they all had on their list was Texas by RJ Scott.  So it seemed the logical choice to jump in with and I was not disappointed. The Heart of Texas will always hold a special place in my library, my lists, and my heart.  So it's understandable why that is at the top of my Top 20 but the other 19 are in no particular order because all of them are so closely ranked I couldn't possibly give them a set number.  I should also mention that in the 5 years I have been reading M/M genre, over 700 books have been reviewed so narrowing it down to only 20 was not an easy task.


Part 1  /  Part 2  /  Part 3  /  Part 4

Widdershins by Jordan L Hawk
Whyborne & Griffin #1
Some things should stay buried.

Repressed scholar Percival Endicott Whyborne has two skills: reading dead languages and hiding in his office at the Ladysmith Museum. After the tragic death of the friend he secretly loved, he’s ruthlessly suppressed any desire for another man.

So when handsome ex-Pinkerton Griffin Flaherty approaches him to translate a mysterious book, Whyborne wants to finish the job and get rid of the detective as quickly as possible. Griffin left the Pinkertons following the death of his partner, hoping to start a new life. But the powerful cult which murdered Glenn has taken root in Widdershins, and only the spells in the book can stop them. Spells the intellectual Whyborne doesn’t believe are real.

As the investigation draws the two men closer, Griffin’s rakish charm threatens to shatter Whyborne’s iron control. When the cult resurrects an evil sorcerer who commands terrifying monsters, can Whyborne overcome his fear and learn to trust? Will Griffin let go of his past and risk falling in love? Or will Griffin’s secrets cost Whyborne both his heart and his life?

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Whyborne & Griffin Part 1

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Whyborne & Griffin Part 2

Original Overall Books #1-4 Review May 2014:
I'm doing an overall review because each book flows fluently into the next.  Each book is a mystery in itself but the relationships are ongoing and growing so they really need to be read in order, although I did read the short story last and it wasn't really out of place.

The characters are not only well written but easily liked or hated, as the case may be.  As much as I love both Whyborne & Griffin, I really enjoyed Christine.  A woman before her time and smarter than her colleagues, she doesn't hold any punches with anyone and she is the only true friend that both men come to trust and rely on.  As for the hated characters, for me it was pretty consistently Whyborne's father and brother, they are both self-evolved with tunnel vision.  But we can't like everyone in a story.

The mysteries are intriguing and definitely well written.  They do rely heavily on the supernatural or paranormal, which is a plus for me.  It's done so well that for those who aren't necessarily fans of magic I think will still find these stories interesting.  This series is an excellent read anytime but a perfect read for October and Halloween.


The Station by Keira Andrews
Ever since Cambridge-bound Colin Lancaster spied on stable master Patrick Callahan mastering another man, he’s longed for Patrick to do the same to him. When Patrick is caught with his pants down and threatened with death for his crime, Colin speaks up in his defense and confesses his own sinful nature. They’re soon banished to the faraway prison colony of Australia.

Patrick never asked for Colin’s help, and now he’s stuck with the pampered fool. While it’s true that being transported to Australia is a far cry from the luxury Colin is accustomed to, he’s determined to make the best of it and prove himself. Although Patrick learned long ago that love is a fairy tale, he’s inexorably drawn to sweet, optimistic Colin.

From the miserable depths of a prison ship to the vast, untamed Australian outback, Colin and Patrick must rely on each other. Danger lurks everywhere, and when they unexpectedly get the chance to escape to a new life as cowboys, they’ll need each other more than ever.

This historical gay romance from Keira Andrews features an age difference, an eager virgin, hurt/comfort, and of course a happy ending.

Original Review April 2015:
This book is the story of Colin and Patrick and how life doesn't always end up the way you plan or imagine.  How one moment can change a person's life in ways that were not even thought possible.  How a virtual death sentence can turn into the best thing that ever happened to you.  How stepping up and doing what's right even at the cost of your own peril.  This story is a beautifully written tale of awakening a love that helps not only yourself but those around you in a time when male/male relationships were not only thought of as immoral but also very illegal.  The Station is so much more than just a gay romance, it's also a story of friendship and finding oneself in a foreign land.


Volume One: The Case of the Cupid Curse / The Case of the Wicked Wolf  by RJ Scott & Amber Kell
End Street Detective Agency #1 & 2
Sam, 100% human (no, really) inherits a crumbling building and a private detective agency from his Uncle.

Bob, a brooding stubborn and ancient vampire turns up at his door and refuses to leave.

Before Sam can say 'I only want human cases' he's knee deep in werewolves, dragons, vampires and witches.

The Case of The Cupid Curse #1
Sam Enderson is a human detective who inherits a building from where his Uncle used to run a detective agency. He finds himself working for paranormal creatures despite his resolve to stick with humans only. To supplement his income as a new PI Sam rents out rooms in the large house.

Bob is a vampire and turns up on Sam's doorstep to rent a room. Sparks fly and Sam is attracted to the vampire despite himself.

Sam is cursed by a witch, and has two cases landing on his desk. Werewolves, annoying ghosts and a grumpy gargoyle are enough to drive Sam mad. But somehow in amongst all of this he has to find a missing fae and a missing shifter child.

The Case of the Wicked Wolf #2
Naiads, humans, sirens and a challenge for Alpha make up the intricate story in the race to rescue the missing children.

Sam and Bob have more than just the case of one lost child to handle. Not only is Shelby Hartman missing, but other paranormal children have disappeared. The race to rescue the children is hampered by naiads, humans, sirens and a challenge for Alpha.

Hartman Hunter is desperate to find his daughter. He turns to the demon Danjal Naamah for help. The problem is that Danjal is the only person Hartman has ever loved—the man he let go for the sake of the pack…

Saturday's Series Spotlight: End Street Detective Agency Part 1

The Case of the Guilty Ghost #6

1st Re-Read Review March 2017:
Sam the human(he says) and Bob the Vampire are even better the second time around. I've never re-read a book less than 6 months after my original read before and loved it so much I'm already looking forward to my next re-read πŸ˜‰

Original Review October 2016:
Cupid Curse is a wonderful beginning to a series.  It introduces us to the main characters, and a few secondary ones, with just the right blend of drama, humor, and mystery.  We all know that not witches are bad but when one curses you, you definitely don't take it for granted.  Sam finds himself wanting to run a purely human cases only private investigation business but he soon finds that is not the route fate seems to have in mind.  Witches, gargoyles, ghosts, sirens, faes, and a vampire named Bob(which completely caught me off guard in a lovely humorous way that still has me smiling weeks after originally reading) have put Sam smack into the middle of world he really didn't want to be in.

Wicked Wolf: Sam is still searching for the missing little girl wolf, Shelby but we also meet Dan the demon as well as get to know Hart the alpha better.  Wicked begins right from where Cupid left off and Sam is still intent on having human only cases but once again, fate intervenes and is Sam completely human himself?  Well, you have to read that for yourself but I will say with each case and each new paranormal he helps, Sam gains little extras that certainly question who or what he is.


Cut & Run by Abigail Roux & Madeleine Urban
Cut & Run #1
A series of murders in New York City has stymied the police and FBI alike, and they suspect the culprit is a single killer sending an indecipherable message. But when the two federal agents assigned to the investigation are taken out, the FBI takes a more personal interest in the case. Special Agent Ty Grady is pulled out of undercover work after his case blows up in his face. He's cocky, abrasive, and indisputably the best at what he does. But when he's paired with Special Agent Zane Garrett, it's hate at first sight. Garrett is the perfect image of an agent: serious, sober, and focused, which makes their partnership a classic cliche: total opposites, good cop-bad cop, the odd couple. They both know immediately that their partnership will pose more of an obstacle than the lack of evidence left by the murderer. Practically before their special assignment starts, the murderer strikes again - this time at them. Now on the run, trying to track down a man who has focused on killing his pursuers, Grady and Garrett will have to figure out how to work together before they become two more notches in the murderer's knife."

Saturday Series Spotlight: Cut & Run by Madeleine Urban & Abi Roux

Original Review 2014:
I'm so glad that I finally had a chance to sit down and read this book. I loved the combination of mystery, action, wit, and of course the sexual tension between Ty and Zane. Hated partners from their first glance of each other quickly becomes so much more than either of them are willing or wanting to admit.

1st Re-Read Overall Series Review 2015:
This series just got better and better.  Re-reading mysteries can be a tricky thing, remembering the whos, whats, whys, and hows can lesson the anticipation factor for some but it didn't bother me one bit.  Ty and Zane and the rest of the C&R universe members just got better with age, lol.  I may not be able to re-read this every year but its definitely going to be revisited more than once.


Widdershins by Jordan L Hawk
The explosion was deafening; a huge cloud of fire rolled out the window after us, its immense heat brushing against my face as we tumbled into the snow.

We hit the ground and rolled. Flaming debris from the house came down around us; Griffin shoved me flat on my back, covering us both with his heavy coat.

The echoes of the explosion reflected back across the river, then slowly dwindled away, like dying thunder. The leaping flames threw warm light onto the falling snow, turning it into a storm of sparks pouring down from the heavens.

Griffin started to push himself off of me, then stopped. His hands were braced to either side of my shoulders, his legs twined with mine. My heart pounded, my palms sweated, and I was suddenly, acutely aware of how close his face was to mine.

“You’re a madman,” he whispered. “An utter madman.”

“Perhaps,” I allowed. “But it worked.”

The leaping light from the burning house painted his features in gold, highlighting his patrician nose and finding the threads of brown and blue in his green eyes. His pupils widened, the irises contracting to slivers. “Whatever am I to do with you?” he murmured.

The warmth of his breath feathered over my skin. Heat collected in my groin, my lips. My mouth was dry, my voice hoarse, and perhaps he was right and it was madness when I whispered, “Whatever you want.”

A shiver went through his body, perhaps because we were lying on the cold ground. But instead of getting up, he leaned closer, his overlong hair tumbling over his forehead. He paused, his mouth almost touching mine, his eyes seeming to ask a question.

It was madness; it was folly; it was sheer selfishness. I was delusional, misguided, wrong, out of control. I needed to pull back, to say something sane, to re-establish mastery over myself. I could not do this. I could not take this risk.

Later tonight, I’d relive this moment in my lonely bed and wonder if I’d done the right thing. But at least that would be familiar, would be something I knew how to cope with.

And yet the very thought felt like dying.

I surged forward, crossing the final, tiny gap and pressing my lips to his. It was awkward and desperate and frantic, but the feel of his mouth against mine sent a bolt of electricity straight down my spine. Just a moment, just this one kiss, surely that would be enough…

Then he kissed me back, and it would never be enough, a thousand years of this would not be enough. His mouth was hungry and insistent, his tongue probing my lips, asking for greater intimacy. I granted it, tongues swirling together, mine following his when it retreated and tasting him in return.

The Station by Keira Andrews
Waiting only a moment after knocking, Colin’s mother, Elizabeth, entered his room. Colin glanced over from the window seat. He’d been watching Patrick in the meadow exercising the young colt born several days before. “Yes, Mother?”

Elizabeth was forty-two and quite beautiful, with a regal nose and posture and the same thick, chestnut brown hair as Colin. “You haven’t bathed yet? Guests will be arriving within the hour.”

“I was about to, if you’d leave me to my privacy.”

When he wasn’t studying or walking the grounds, Colin whiled away the hours sitting by his window reading novels of thrilling adventures in faraway lands. Sometimes Patrick would appear in the meadow, training the horses. Colin’s book would lie forgotten on his lap as he watched Patrick at work. He seemed as if he belonged in one of the fictional tales Colin devoured. Colin could easily imagine him with sword in hand.

“Of course, dear. I had Charles press your jacket. It’s hanging there.” She pointed across the room, where, sure enough, his formal wear waited. “Katherine was partial to that one, if I do recall.”

Colin couldn’t hold back a sigh. “Yes.”

“Darling, you gave up on Katherine far too easily. Tonight will be another chance for you to win her hand. You’re quite a catch, you know. Off to Cambridge soon. Katherine will want to ensnare you now.”

“Mother, Katherine Crawford has turned her favor elsewhere. She’s moved on.” So had he. Most definitely.

Elizabeth’s pretty face pinched into a frown. “It’s an honor that the Crawfords are attending this evening. You will be on your best behavior. I don’t know what exactly you did to ruin things with Katherine, but tonight you will do your utmost to undo it.”

“Yes, Mother.” He would attempt no such thing, but Colin had learned years before that arguing with his parents got him nowhere. Soon he’d be at Cambridge and he would be able to make his own decisions. Soon he’d have a new life.

Mollified, Elizabeth closed the door behind her. Flopping down on his bed, Colin thought of Katherine and cringed. It wasn’t until a most ill-fated outing with Katherine Crawford several months ago that Colin had admitted to himself that his interest in Patrick was far from intellectual.

Katherine was a beauty, all glossy blonde hair and moist, pink lips. For some reason Colin couldn’t fathom, she had shown an interest in him at a holiday gathering down the road. The courting had begun soon thereafter, with Colin escorting Katherine on various activities. Unlike William, who railed against the inconveniences of chaperones, Colin was grateful for the matrons’ presence.

He liked Katherine well enough. She was intelligent and kind and pleasing to look at. But Colin knew something was missing. Katherine didn’t set his blood on fire, and he rarely thought of her when she was absent.

The absences were as long as Colin could manage while still maintaining the guise of courting. He was a perfect gentleman at all times with Katherine, which he found a simple feat. William and his school chums all needled him in private and made winking suggestions of what was actually going on between him and Katherine, and Colin let them believe what they wanted.

The Lancasters and Crawfords had both been guests at a country estate for an Easter celebration. Colin’s sister, Rebecca, was delighted. On the ride over, she had chattered constantly about the beautiful Katherine and how she might one day be her sister-in-law. Colin loved his sister dearly but wished she’d find a new interest.

Colin had been fast asleep the first night at the country estate when Katherine crept into his room. Despite his protests about the impropriety, she’d insisted he dress and accompany her for a moonlight stroll. He hadn’t really a choice.

It went badly.

Despite Katherine’s obvious beauty and heaving bosom, Colin had remained utterly uninterested. He’d tried. Truly, he did. Under a large willow tree, Colin had kissed Katherine and caressed her soft skin under her skirt, her hand firm on his wrist, guiding him. He had been unable to get excited, and when she’d reached for him to find him flaccid, Katherine Crawford had had quite enough.

She’d stomped back to her room and avoided Colin for the remainder of the weekend. Colin could hardly meet anyone’s eyes. His family had obviously required an explanation, and he’d had none.

When they returned home after a torturous journey, Colin had jumped from the carriage, eager to be away from his inquiring parents and sister, who’d demanded to know how Colin had made such a mess of things. Colin had almost barreled straight into Patrick, who had come to take the horses. At the sight of him, his lean muscles, his maleness, Colin had been struck with the vivid memories of what he’d witnessed in the stable that day long ago. He had to bite his tongue to stop himself from begging Patrick to take him into some dark corner and have his way with him.

That was what he wanted. He would never want the Katherine Crawfords of the world. No matter how beautiful, how rich, how ideal for a wife. Colin wanted a man. Oh, God, did he want a man.

“Can I be of assistance?” Patrick had affected a guileless expression, and Colin had realized he’d been staring dumbly.

Awkward and ready to crawl out of his own skin, Colin had mumbled something and hurried off. All the denials he’d repeated to himself had finally been silenced. He’d locked himself in his room, took himself in hand, and, muffling his face in a pillow as he thought of Patrick, attained the most satisfying release he’d experienced since that day at sixteen years old, hiding in the stable.

Remembering now, Colin stroked himself quickly, careful not to muss himself too much before the party. He thought of Patrick, of his Gaelic lullaby and of his grunts as he’d penetrated the man in the stable years before. As he rubbed himself with one hand, legs spread, Colin caressed his lips with his fingertips, imagining what it would be like to be kissed—really kissed. He didn’t even know if men kissed each other, but he would like to try it.

Sometime later, Colin straightened his navy tie and vest under his dark jacket and peered into the full-length mirror in the corner of his bedroom. His large eyes were a deep brown that matched his hair, and his jaw was narrow. His nose was straight and unremarkable. Katherine had once told him that his smile turned her knees to jelly and his eyes were bottomless pools she could stare into for eternity.

Colin doubted it, somehow.

He decided he looked as presentable as he was able to and went to join the party. Naturally, the first person he saw was Katherine. Dressed to the nines in an ornate, yellow, bell-shaped gown and looking lovely, she was laughing gaily at something William had said. Her hand was placed just so on his arm, and Colin saw the flash of her eyes as she spotted him. She laughed again, even louder.

Colin felt like laughing himself. If she only knew. Before he could do anything, Rebecca towed him into the drawing room, her voice low and urgent, grip firm. “Honestly, I don’t know what William is thinking. You mustn’t pay them any mind, Colin. Are you very upset?” Her pretty face, very much like their mother’s, creased with worry.

Shaking his head, Colin kissed his dear sister’s cheek. “I won’t give it another thought. William is welcome to her. Perhaps Father will take some solace if the family is connected to the Crawfords in the end.”

Rebecca, fourteen and very dramatic, hugged him tightly. “Oh, Colin. You’re ever so brave.”

Biting back his mirth, Colin thanked her and pointed her toward her newly arriving friends from down the road. He made his rounds of the soiree, shaking hands and making polite conversation. Dinner was served, and Colin listened to a neighbor tell him about what a wonderful time he’d have at Cambridge. Colin hoped it would be true. The one thing dampening his excitement about finally getting away from home was that he’d also be leaving Patrick behind.

As he spooned his custard, Colin brooded. He knew it was deeply foolish, since the strange affection and desire he had for Patrick was certainly one-sided. He’d only been a child when they were friends. Even if by some miracle Patrick desired him now that he was grown, would Colin really have the nerve to lie with another man? His trousers tightened at the notion, and he was glad for the napkin across his lap.

After dinner, Colin endured the ladies’ singing and gentlemen’s card games. Unable to shake Patrick from his mind as the night wore on, he found himself walking to the stable, unable to stay away. He was almost there when a cry came up. A man burst out from the large wooden doors and fled across the meadow, barely visible in the darkness. In the lantern light from the stable, Patrick tumbled outside, followed by two men Colin recognized as shopkeepers in the next county. Brothers named Harris, he thought.

Colin realized he was running and skidded to a halt just as one of the brothers landed a vicious kick to Patrick’s ribs. “Stop!” Colin shoved the man aside. Blood already streamed from Patrick’s nose and mouth.

The man ignored Colin as if he were naught but a fly, and kicked Patrick again. “Unnatural piece of filth!”

Several other guests who heard the melee drew near. The other Harris brother called out to them. “We need the inspector. A crime’s been committed here.”

“What crime?” Colin demanded.

The man spit at the ground where Patrick lay beaten. “Buggery.”

The world tilted on its axis, and Colin’s stomach churned. He realized Patrick’s breeches were loose, and that the man he’d seen fleeing must have been…

Suddenly Colin’s father was there. In the lantern light, Colin could see the rage on his father’s face, and it chilled him. Edward was short and stout, yet an imposing presence. He issued a terse command to the Harris brothers to follow him and bring Patrick.

Patrick was dragged around the back of the manor house, a growing number of curious guests following. Several women were told to go back to the party, and the servants watched with wide eyes as the brothers hauled Patrick through the kitchen. Inside Edward’s study, a group of men gathered. Patrick was deposited on his knees in the middle of the room as Colin crowded inside with the others. They were soon joined by Colin’s mother.

“What’s going on?” she hissed to her husband. “There are whispers everywhere.”

Edward barely spared her a glance. “This is no place for a woman. An ungodly crime has been committed. Go see to the other guests and tell them everything is fine. We don’t want this getting out.”

“I’m not going anywhere. Tell me what’s happened!” Elizabeth’s cheeks flamed.

The man who’d kicked Patrick spoke. “My wife is feeling ill, so my brother and I went to the stable to ask for our carriage to be brought round.”

“Ill? Not from the food?” Elizabeth appeared horrified.

“For God’s sake, woman, forget the food!” A vein in Edward’s temple throbbed, and Colin feared his father might explode with rage.

“Where’s the other one?” Colin glanced behind him, surprised to hear William’s voice. Apparently the whispers were indeed spreading.

One of the Harris brothers answered. “Gone. I think it was the Nelsons’ carriage driver. Quick bastard, we couldn’t catch him. This one was still tangled up in his breeches. Caught him dead to rights.”

“No need to get the courts involved. Take him out back and hang him from his bollocks,” said one of the other guests.

There was a murmur of agreement, and Edward seemed to seriously be considering it. Colin’s panic increased exponentially as the tension simmered. Many of those present had long been into their cups, and a reckless air swirled through the room. He looked to Patrick, who knelt silently, blood dripping down his face, his hands now bound behind his back. Colin hadn’t seen who restrained him.

“Kill him,” agreed one of the Harrises. To Patrick, he said, “Wouldn’t you rather be put out of your misery now than rot in a jail cell knowing you’re going to the gallows? We’d be doing you a favor.”

The murmur of assent grew frighteningly loud. “Should have expected it from an Irishman,” someone shouted.

“Hang ’im! Save the courts some time and money.” The bookkeeper from the local village reached for Patrick, attempting to haul him to his feet as other men cried their agreement.

“No!” When all eyes turned to him, Colin realized he’d spoken aloud. “No. You can’t kill him.” He thought of that day six years before, when Patrick had raced after him and plucked him from the fleeing stallion. His heart hammered as it had that day.

Edward’s eyes narrowed. “Colin, the punishment for buggery is death. It’s what he deserves. This man—if you can call an animal a man—is a degenerate criminal.”

“Then so am I!”

Silence gripped the room in an instant, as if everyone held their breath collectively. Elizabeth went pale. “Colin, you have no idea what you’re saying.” She pulled his arm, urging him toward the door. “I’m sorry, everyone; he’s had far too much brandy this evening. He isn’t himself.”

Colin yanked his arm away. “No, Mother. I know what I’m saying.” He swallowed, his throat dry and thick. “I am myself.” Perhaps for the first time.

A shocked William spoke up, his eyes wide. “Colin, this is madness!”

Edward simply stared, stunned into silence for the first time in Colin’s memory. Elizabeth pulled at him again, but Colin shook free. “If you will kill this man for his crime, then you’ll have to kill me too. Shall you take me outside and string me up?”

“What in God’s name are you doing?” Patrick spoke for the first time, and all eyes turned to where he knelt. He stared at Colin with dazed astonishment.

The sound of Patrick’s voice seemed to spur Edward out of his daze. Edward turned a murderous gaze on Patrick. “If you’ve laid a finger on my son, I swear—”

“I’d sooner bed a horse,” Patrick sneered.

“And probably has!” a voice called out.

Colin felt a ridiculous stab of pain at Patrick’s words.

Patrick went on. “Sir, your son is clearly not in his right mind.”

William’s father, John, a lawyer, spoke next. He was tall and distinguished, the opposite of his brother, Edward. He seemed to be the only calm person left in the room. “Colin, are you saying you’ve committed acts of buggery?”

“Yes.” Even if it wasn’t true, Colin couldn’t let them kill Patrick. At least not tonight, not if he could help it.

Elizabeth shrieked and collapsed into a chair. “Oh, my son. What have you done? It can’t be true!”

“I’m sorry, Mother. They’ll have to kill us both.”

“Don’t listen to him! For God’s sake!” Patrick tried to stand but was shoved back down by Edward, whose face flamed with rage.

John spoke up. “No one’s killing anyone.” He turned to the Harris brothers. “Did you witness the act?”

One of them laughed tersely. “Didn’t have to. They heard us coming, and the other one was off and running. But we saw and heard enough to know what was going on.”

John pondered this, and everyone waited. He seemed to have quietly taken control of the proceedings, for which Colin was grateful. He hoped Patrick wouldn’t be harmed any further for the moment.

“No concrete evidence. None in regards to Colin either,” John said after a lengthy pause.

“Because it’s not true!” Elizabeth cried.

John ignored her and turned to Edward. “I have some friends in the magistrate’s office who should be able to help. I’ll go speak to George Crawford and get him on our side. But too many people have heard Colin’s confession. Something must be done.”

Edward nodded grimly, not looking at Colin. He pointed to Patrick. “We’ll keep this one locked in the pantry for the night. Colin will be in his room with a guard placed outside. William, take him upstairs.”

The shock of his actions slowly settling in, Colin didn’t resist as William led him away. They opened the door to the study to find the hallway crowded with party guests. Katherine was among them, her delicate face transformed into a hard mask. “Fiend!” She dashed down the hall, weeping.

Accusing eyes glared from all sides, and William led Colin to the servants’ back stairway, sparing him the spectacle of being marched up the grand staircase. In his room, Colin tried to speak. “Will, I…”

William raised a hand. “Don’t.” He shook his head sadly, his expression deeply wounded. “I don’t understand. I’ve always thought of you as a dear friend. A brother. Now I feel I’ve never known you at all.” He turned his back, closing the door behind him. A moment later, Colin heard the key turn in the lock, and his life as he knew it was over.

End Street Detective Agency V1 by RJ Scott & Amber Kell
The Case of the Cupid Curse #1
Sam Enderson stood outside his building and smiled with pride. The fresh sign painted on the door in crisp black letters read 'End Street Detective Agency'. Examining the overall effect, he nodded in satisfaction. This move to becoming a private investigator was as far from being a timid bookseller as he could get. No one would walk all over someone who investigated crimes for a living.

Three months of correspondence school and a shiny new multi-weapon licence had given his confidence a much-needed boost. After the hellish past year, in which he’d found his boyfriend in bed with his now ex-best friend, followed by the death of his favourite uncle, Sam was ready for a new start in life.

Uncle Hanson. Just thinking about him made Sam feel sad. He had fond memories of visiting his uncle at work. The man had always liked Sam. He evidently had carried that affection into Sam’s adult life. After all, he had left Sam an entire building in his will, the building Sam now stood in front of. An office with accommodations over the top, it was worth quite a bit of money despite its proximity to an undesirable area.

"You should sell," his friend Oscar had said. Oscar had had no love for Uncle Hanson. In a sniffy tone, he’d often consigned Hanson to the idiot pile and called him ‘odd’.

"I don’t want to sell," Sam had protested.

"What are you going to do with it?" Oscar had asked.

"Open up my own agency."

Oscar still wasn’t speaking to him, even now, three months later.

Sam sighed at the memory then mentally pushed it all to one side to admire his property. The lower half consisted of a business office and reception area, with the upper two floors divided into four apartments. Three were empty but his uncle had filled the fourth one with notes from his own investigative practice. That room was high on his list of things to sort out, but he first needed to concentrate on renting out one of the empty apartments.

Sam may have inherited the house, but it hadn’t exactly come with a burgeoning bank account to match. Forty years of being a detective and all Hanson had had to show for it was this building, a small bank account and a room full of papers. Sam was determined to be different. He even had a five-year plan in place. Sam didn’t doubt for one minute that he knew exactly why his uncle had had little money to speak of. Uncle Hanson had done too much pro bono work for them.

Filing cabinets and boxes overflowed with notes from years of being a private detective. A lot of those papers included cases involving aspects of the paranormal, things Sam thought better left alone. Sam didn’t have a drop of supernatural blood in his entire body and he didn’t plan on associating with those who did. It hadn’t exactly worked out for his uncle.

Paranormals had their place. Hell, they owned half the city. Vampires and werewolves, witches, fae and pixies—they all had their own parishes. Neighbourhoods where they lived amongst their own kind. Like enjoyed living with like, and, although they often mixed and matched, no one in Sam’s family had ever crossed the romantic boundary between the magical and the not.

Sam didn’t count his second cousin Christa, who had taken up with a blood demon. There was a bad seed in every batch.

Worried he’d use up the rest of his small inheritance, Sam had put an ad in the local paper to rent out two of the four apartments. They were empty but spacious rooms that had no one currently occupying them. After a quick mop and dust, they were ready for renters. Why his uncle had a space with no one living there didn’t make much sense. Of course, if his cousin Erik hadn’t been estranged from his father, Sam wouldn’t have inherited anything. A twinge of guilt went through Sam, but he hadn’t heard from his cousin in years and had no way of getting hold of him.

“Excuse me!”

A soft voice had Sam spinning around to see an old lady looking up at him. Her wrinkled skin and the way she leaned against her cane betrayed her great age.

“Can I help you?”

She squinted at him as if trying to make him out through her foggy white eyes. “You owe me a favor.”

“What?” Sam examined the lady carefully, but he hadn’t ever met her before in his life. What possible kind of favor could he owe her?

“The man here before. He promised he’d help me out,” she explained.

“I’m sorry—”

The old lady didn’t give Sam a chance to explain. She jabbed her finger into the air at Sam, pursed her lips, then began shouting. “He owes me. He owes me!” she repeated twice, her voice rising to a screeching pitch.

Ahh, now it becomes clear. “You must be talking about my uncle. Why don’t you come inside and we can discuss what I can do for you.” Although he didn’t feel the need to keep a dead man’s promise, if he could help the woman out, he would.

After opening the front door, he motioned for her to go ahead of him.

She settled into his visitor chair while Sam scooted past her to sit on the leather chair opposite, patting his uncle’s gargoyle statue as he walked past. Uncle Hanson had the strangest collection of art he’d ever seen. Eventually, he’d get rid of it all, but right then the weird pieces reminded him of his beloved relative and better times.

“My name is Sam Enderson. How can I help you?”

Scowling over at him, she shook her head. “The guy here before never told you not to share your name, did he?”

“The man here before was my uncle. No, he didn’t tell me not to share my name.”

She shook her head as if not understanding Sam’s stupidity. “You never share your name with a witch unless you want her to do a spell.”

Sam jerked in his seat, appalled at what he’d let through his front door. “You’re a witch?”

The woman slammed her cane onto the wooden floor. “Of course I’m a witch. I’ve got the wrinkled skin, the hunch, the cane, and the rheumy eyes. What did you think I was?”

He shrugged. “I-I thought you were just an old woman.” An old scary woman who gave him the creeps, but an old woman nonetheless.

“Old!” the witch shrieked. “How dare you call me old? I’m only a hundred and sixty!”

“Forgive me.” Sam raised his hands in alarm. “I didn’t mean any offense.” Secretly he wondered how old a witch had to be before she fell into the ‘old’ category.

“Well, I am offended,” she snapped.

“Sorry. I don’t know much about your world.” Witch or not, he couldn’t help the little slip of derision into his tone.

The witch regarded him carefully. “What are you?”

“What do you mean?”

“What blood flows in your body?” she asked, as if expecting him to come up with some sort of interesting paranormal cocktail.

“Human. Just human,” Sam answered.

“You don’t like paranormals, do you?”

“No.” Sam saw no reason to deny the fact.

“So what are you doing here?” she asked suspiciously.

“I’ve inherited this building.”

“And you intend to do what?”

“Carry on business as usual. Private investigations. It’s what I’m qualified for.” And he had the multi-weapon license to back him up.

“Then you’ll have to do paranormal cases.” She gave him a taunting smile.

Sam’s stomach churned. “Why?” He didn’t plan to ever take a paranormal case.

“Because the law states no business can discriminate against a paranormal due to his or her status,” she explained. “It’ll get you shut down, it will.” There was definite glee in the old woman’s expression.

All Sam wanted to do at that moment was place his head in his hands and curse. He didn’t. He was much too professional for that. Instead, he shrugged. His mom always said if you had nothing good to say, then don’t say anything.

The witch cackled in true witch fashion, and Sam shuddered inwardly. The scent of something dead and decaying pervaded the room. Add in the crooked teeth and the rags for clothes and he couldn’t understand why he hadn’t immediately pegged her as something different.

“Now about that favor…” she continued.

“What?” He couldn’t look her in the eyes. Maybe if he didn’t look, whatever she said wouldn’t be real. He was comfortable with his denial. In fact, he might just lock the door, pull down the shades, and wallow in it for a few days.

“I need help tracking down a werewolf.”

Sam looked at her. “Why?” Paranormal hunting paranormal? That couldn’t end well.

The witch scowled at him while tapping her cane on the floor. “What do you mean, why?”

Had he stuttered? “I mean, why do you need a werewolf?”

“It’s none of your business why I need a werewolf, boy. I just do,” the witch snapped.

“It is, if you want me to do your dirty work.” Sam knew all kinds of uses witches had for werewolves and none of them was nice. “Not to mention hunting werewolves is illegal.”

“Pfft.” She waved away the law as if it were nothing. Probably was since she didn’t plan on breaking it but had asked Sam to do it instead. “I’ve got a rare potion to make, and I need some werewolf bones.”

“No.” Sam might not like paranormals very much, but he wasn’t going to hunt one down, either.

“Your uncle owes me!” she screeched.

Sam wanted to cover his ears at the high-pitched noise. “My uncle is dead,” he began to explain as patiently as he could. “I was willing to hear you out, but I’m not going to go kill an innocent werewolf so you can make a potion.” Were werewolves actually innocent? Hadn’t there been that whole rampaging werewolf-pack mess last year? Sam seemed to remember people—human, non-magical, regular people—getting killed in that little incident. Still, whatever issues he had with werewolves, he didn’t do that kind of work. He had enough problems without getting jailed for killing werewolves, innocent or not.

“This potion can save a loved one!” the witch announced dramatically. “I need those bones.”

“Find a different potion. I’m sure any given werewolf is someone’s beloved too.”

The witch scowled at him, then abruptly leaned back in her seat and smiled. The smile exposed a mouthful of yellowed teeth, and Sam winced inwardly at her lack of dental care. “Do you have anyone you love, Mr. Enderson?”

Sam’s mind shifted back to the image of his boyfriend of ten years screwing his best friend. “Not anymore.” Despite his ex pleading for forgiveness, some things Sam wouldn’t forgive. He’d moved out and away from his lover within days and blocked both work and mobile numbers from his phone. His uncle had been his last close relative that had stayed in his life. So really, with his uncle dead, at this point in time, he had no one he could call a loved one. But he’d give her his own bones before he admitted the extent of his loneliness.

The witch stood with a purposeful air. “When you’re on the verge of losing someone you love, come find me and maybe I’ll free you. Until then, enjoy my present.”

With a poof of smoke, the witch vanished.

Gasping, Sam tried to wave away the stench that accompanied the smoke, acrid and with a hint of burnt almonds. Finally, when that didn’t work, he rushed over and opened a window to let the ashy smell out. Great start to his first day as a PI.

“You’re an idiot.”

“Ahh!” Sam jumped back from the window to face the empty room. What the hell? Was she still there? Was the witch invisible?

“An idiot,” the voice repeated. This time Sam confirmed the source, emphasized when the statue on his desk turned its head and regarded him with eerie yellow eyes.

“What the hell are you?” he managed to ask coherently.

The statue’s stone wings moved, creating a sound like gravel underfoot. “I’m a gargoyle. What are you?”

“I-I’m a human.” Sam swallowed rapidly, trying to get some moisture into his dry throat. “What are you doing here?”

The statue stretched out of its crouch until it stood about a foot tall on the corner of the desk. Its baleful glare pinned Sam to the spot. “You’re an idiot. That witch has something planned for you, and it isn’t good.”

“H-how do you know?” Sam’s heart beat faster than a rabbit chased by a werewolf.

The gargoyle rolled his eyes. “You’re not too bright, are you? Your uncle trafficked with that witch.”

Sam frowned. His uncle had been a kindly old PI, who hadn’t seemed to actually do much from day to day. There was no way he had trafficked anything. He had been the type of man who always had a ready supply of candy for eager young visitors like Sam.

“The sweet old man who brought you candy didn’t exist,” the gargoyle answered his thoughts. Wait? How the hell…?

“How did you know what I was thinking?”

The gargoyle ignored the question, “He would’ve had that werewolf for the witch by the end of the day and walked away with enough cash to eat for months.” He didn’t sound like he approved, and there was sadness in his tone.

“N-no, that can’t be true.” Sam shook his head in denial. Surely the gargoyle had his facts wrong?

“Have you actually looked at the paperwork upstairs yet? I heard you banging about. I assume you actually read some of them?”

“I was moving furniture for my future tenants.” Sam shook his head. “And no, not yet. I thought they were just old case files that needed organizing.”

Defending himself to a freaking gargoyle made Sam feel like an idiot. The damn thing had been sitting there every time Sam had visited, and never once had it appeared to be anything more than an ornament. The creature must be wrong. Sam would have seen it if Uncle Hanson had been a bad guy. He wasn’t stupid. How could he not have understood his uncle’s true nature? Nope, this ‘gargoyle thing’ had to be wrong.

The gargoyle clomped across the desk. “Look at the files and check out the back closet in the file room. Your uncle had more going on than anyone knew about. That includes exposing himself to a lot more than just a witch with teeth problems and a ready hand with curses.”

With those parting words, the gargoyle sank back into his original position. A loud, crackling noise filled the room, and the creature became a statue once more. Sam poked at it with his index finger, but it didn’t move again.


Maybe he was in the middle of a dream, one where he was going to wake up in his sun-lit apartment in Johnstown with his boyfriend in bed with him.

File room.

The gargoyle’s words sank in. Maybe he did need to check out the apartment with all the files a little more carefully. It wouldn’t hurt to see what other pies his uncle had his fingers in. As he stepped out of the office, a knock on the front door had him turning away from the stairs and back towards the front door. Why would someone be knocking? The door was unlocked. At least, he didn’t think he’d locked the door. But then, it was an old place. Maybe the latch had closed behind him when he’d escorted the witch inside.

His mind still on the files upstairs, he opened the door and stopped, frozen.


The man could be nothing else. Tall, elegant, and having an unearthly beauty, the vampire gave him a smile that exposed his fangs. “I hear you have an apartment to rent.” The vampire’s voice was like scotch over ice and dripped with sensuality.

A vampire here? In the daylight? Sam glanced past the vamp. Yep, the sun shone brightly in the sky.

“Ah, you’re not used to us.” The vampire flashed another smile. “We don’t actually burn up in the sun.”

That’s a shame. That would be one less paranormal to cause trouble.

“Um, you need an apartment?” Sam had never heard of a vampire living in an apartment. “I thought you people had mansions and crypts and stuff.”

The vampire threw back his head and laughed. “That’s only in the movies. Now, can I see your place?”

“…Umm” Sam searched his mind for a good excuse. Anything to keep the skeevy, blood-sucking supernatural out of his house.

The tall vampire smiled. “You know that part about vampires reading your mind?”

With a sinking stomach, Sam nodded.

“That part’s true.”

Sam sighed. “You’d better come in. It’s right this way.”

The day had started out so well, too. Now, Sam just wanted to go back to bed and hide under the covers.

“I’d be happy to keep you company,” the vampire said in a low, sultry tone. For a second, Sam didn’t understand what the hell the vampire was talking about, and then he recalled what he had just thought about beds and covers. Sam looked over his shoulder to see the vampire checking out his ass. Rolling his eyes, he headed up the stairs, leading the vampire to the top floor. He pulled an old-fashioned key from his pocket, unlocked then opened the door.

“No spell locks?” the vampire asked with concern in his voice.

Sam shook his head. Like he’d had any time to do things like that. The vampire was lucky the room had been tidied and cleaned. “You’re welcome to add your own, of course.” Fuck, he was going to rent to a vampire. He could hope the creature didn’t want the place. “It’s nothing fancy.”

Please want something fancy.

Before Sam could take more than two steps into the apartment, the vampire pinned him to the wall. “I’m not a creature. I’m a man, and I’d be happy to show you exactly how manly I am.”

To Sam’s shock, he could feel the vampire rubbing his erection against him. “U-um, s-sorry.” Was this what vampires did just before they drank every drop of blood from your body?

“I don’t want you sorry. I just want you to want me.”

Sudden, inexplicable desire burned through Sam and his body hardened in reaction to the proximity of another man. The vampire smiled, exposing a flash of fang. A shiver of fear trembled down Sam’s spine.

“No!” He shoved at the vampire, who, surprisingly, broke his hold and released Sam.

The vampire watched Sam with a wary look. “What are you?”

Why does everyone keep asking me that?

“I’m human, okay? Just human.” Sam scowled at the vampire.

“No human has ever shattered my glamor.” The vampire sounded thoughtful, and his appraising look unnerved Sam.

“Well, good for me.” Sam folded his arms. He might not like paranormals, but he knew enough about vampires and their way of controlling people to know he didn’t want that within six feet of him. “I’m not going to rent a room to someone who tried to glamor me. You might as well go.”

The vampire smiled. “My name is Bob.”

A snort of laughter burst out of Sam. “Your name isn’t Bob.”

The vampire tilted his head, and his eyes glowed with amusement. “How do you know?”

“Because I just had a witch tell me not to share my name with a paranormal so I doubt you would be telling me your real name.”

Bob grabbed Sam’s wrist. His grip was firm, and instinctively Sam yanked his arm to try to break the vampire’s hold. “There was a witch here?” Bob snapped urgently. “What did she look like?”

“A witch.” What did it matter what she looked like? “She was old, crony, and witchy. You know—” He gestured expansively with his free hand— “A witch.”

“What did she want?” Bob still hadn’t let go of his wrist. The vampire didn’t know his own strength. One last tug and Bob finally let him loose. Idly, Sam rubbed at the sore skin burn.

“From what she said, werewolf bones.”

Bob scanned the room as if he expected the witch to jump out of the wall or something. “Never trust a witch and never, ever, tell a witch your real name.”

“Okay, um… Bob.” Sam could barely hold back the laughter building inside him.

“My real name is Roberto, but I go by Bob,” Bob finally said. “Vampires don’t have last names outside a coven. Your last name reveals the group you belong to. I am an independent.”

Sam couldn’t hold back the laugh inside him. Dire warnings about witches aside, he couldn’t wrap his head around a badass vampire calling himself Bob. Hell, a vampire named Bob. That was wrong on so many levels.

“Vampires are supposed to be sexy. There’s nothing sexy about a Bob,” Sam finally managed to say without laughing. Why he cared what the vampire called himself, he didn’t know, but there was no way he was going to call a vampire Bob.

Bob seemed to forget his need to warn Sam about witches and names and instead pulled Sam into his arms. Evidently he had returned to his first agenda. “I’m sure I can convince you I’m sexy,” he drawled. What was it about this man—vampire, whatever—feeling like he could manhandle him at every turn?

Sam narrowed his eyes at the vampire. The man might be the sexiest thing Sam had ever seen, but he wasn’t going to admit it…

Damn. He had just thought that. And damn—Bob had heard him. Shit. Bob was definitely smirking.

“Do you have a multiple personality disorder or something? You bounce around more than anyone I’ve ever met. From scary vampire to smirking idiot in a second.”

Bob smiled and didn’t appear to take offense at Sam’s comment. “You’ll have plenty of time to examine my personality when I move in. How much is the rent?” The quick change of subject threw Sam, but it didn’t keep him from trying one last time to stop Bob from moving in. He mentioned an exorbitant amount for the monthly rent to attempt to deter the vampire.

Bob released Sam, and then walked through the living room and down the hall. There were two bedrooms and a small kitchen, though Sam doubted Bob would need a kitchen. Vampires didn’t eat real food. Right? But wouldn’t he need a fridge or something for all the blood? Or would he be one of those vampires with a live donor?

What did Sam know? He had thought vampires could only come out at night.

Sam pushed aside thoughts of blood.

Bob returned to Sam’s side in long, confident strides. “I’ll take it.”


The Case of the Wicked Wolf  #2
Sam Enderson sat back in his desk chair and looked at his notes with annoyance. The strip of ribbon Hunter had sent him sat in the corner. As long as he didn’t touch it he couldn’t hear the girl crying. Despite what Bob said he knew it was the missing werewolf girl. Who else would be crying out in pain? Unless the abductor who sent the ribbon knew Hunter’s daughter Shelby had vanished and was taking advantage of that fact. The only thing that made Sam question his judgement was Bob’s statement that he didn’t sense any shifter scent on the ribbon.

"It’s a puzzle."

"Yes it is," Sam replied to Smudge, the black cat familiar, curled on the pillow beside his chair.

Smudge flicked his long tail as he groomed his black fur in long, languid strokes. When he spread his legs to lick his privates Sam turned away. "Can’t you do that elsewhere?"

"You’re just jealous because I’m bendy." Smudge taunted.

Searching for a distraction he turned his attention back to his sparse notes. Nothing made sense. Where had Shelby gone? Bob had talked to his contacts and the witch was still complaining to everyone she could find that Sam hadn’t lived up to his uncle’s promise. Since word had also travelled that she’d cursed Sam and he’d recovered the missing fae, his name was beginning to become rather well known among people he’d rather avoid.

Sam wished he could interrogate the werewolves and especially, Constance, Shelby’s ex-wife. From the little Hartman told Sam about her she seemed a prime suspect. Hartman kept insisting none of the shifters would do that to a little girl but Sam had his doubts. Shelby’s mother had two sons from a previous marriage both old enough to challenge for Alpha. Even Hartman admitted she was power hungry. What better way to bring down the Alpha than to crush his spirit? Even if Hartman denied his pack had anything to do with Shelby’s disappearance Sam noticed the Alpha didn’t ask for his pack’s help in locating his lost girl.

He sighed as he looked at the miniscule amount of information he had to work with. If the case hadn’t involved a little girl Sam would’ve passed on it, however, he couldn’t refuse to help out an obviously broken-hearted person even if he was a werewolf.

Unfortunately this new job didn’t do anything to help foster a good reputation among the human population. So far paranormals were the only ones interested in Sam’s services.

A knock on the door drew Sam’s attention away from his futile endeavour.

"Yes?" Sam called out.

A large hulking man with hair popping out of every visible crevice stomped into Sam’s office. He wore a surprisingly stylish suit but Sam figured if you were that large everything was probably custom made.

"Are you Sam Enderson?" he asked in a voice so deep Sam thought he felt the floor vibrate beneath his chair.

"Yes." Sam stood up to greet his guest. The man-creature-being whatever the hell it was towered over him even when standing. Sam’s confidence raised a few notches when he realised he could probably flee the building before the visitor reached him. "Can I help you with something?"

Smudge hissed from his perch.


Sam had never met a troll before. Fascinated, he watched his visitor with open curiosity. He hadn’t known trolls ever left their bridges. Of course what he knew about trolls could be stuffed in a brownie’s pocket.

"I need something removed." The troll spoke in slow drawn out syllables as if each word had to be dredged from his soul.

Cut & Run by Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux
Allison McFadden walked slowly in the cool night air, her arms tightly wrapped around her slim body to keep the wind from whipping at her coat. The man with her saw her shiver and gently put his arm around her, sending an electric jolt of anticipation through her.

She laughed softly, slightly giddy from the dirty martinis he had bought for her all night. He'd actually taken her to Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle Hotel; it was possibly the most romantic place she had ever been, complete with live piano music and a sophisticated, old-fashioned ambiance that had seduced her just as completely as he had.

He was witty and charming, and he was good-looking and chivalrous almost to a fault. He hadn't even stolen a kiss yet.

Allison smiled as she remembered how he'd taken her up to the murals that lined the walls of Bemelmans and told her about them; how some writer who had lived in the hotel had painted them and they'd been part of some children's books. She had tried to listen, but she had only been able to concentrate on his hand, resting just a little lower on her back than it had been earlier in the evening, and his lips moving next to her cheek as he spoke. She only remembered that the paintings were of animals in Central Park. There had been an elephant skating. And he had pointed out an armed rabbit stalking its fellow bunnies with an automatic weapon in one of the cartoon-like murals.

They'd both laughed at the morbid humor of it, and Allison loved the way he laughed.

Now, he was walking her home, like a true gentleman. He had asked the cab driver to stop several blocks away from her building to have the privilege of doing so. It was only their first date, and Allison couldn't believe that she was going to do what she was planning.

"Do you - would you - I mean, would you like to come up? For coffee, or - "

He smiled, and Allison was lost in the way it made his eyes warmer. He reached up and ran his hands through her hair, watching the way the blond strands glimmered in the artificial light of the street lamps.

"Is your roommate home?" he asked her softly, his intimate voice cutting through the chilly wind and right into her.

She licked her lips and nodded. "But she won't bother us," she insisted quickly, her words almost breathless as she reached out and smoothed her hand over his lapel, feeling his badge under the material.

"Then lead the way," he murmured with a smile.

It would have been the perfect time for him to kiss her, she thought, as she took his hand and led him into the building. It would have been just as ridiculously romantic as the rest of the night. But, she supposed, nothing could be perfect.

Hours later, as Allison struggled for her last breath, she couldn't help but wonder if he'd never kissed her because it would leave his DNA behind.

THE phone call could not have come at a worse time. FBI Special Agent Ty Grady was still pissed off and cursing about its unfortunate timing two days later as he sat alone in his living room.

Four weeks of undercover work - round-the-clock surveillance, phone taps, wires, bribing informants, and some high-speed tailing - all shot to shit because some rookie hotshot forgot to leave his cell phone at home. Bums begging on the street do not ring to the tune of a Mozart orchestra, and unfortunately for the team of tired undercover FBI agents tailing Antonio de la Vega, their target was aware of that particular bit of random information. He'd disappeared just as quickly as the rats on the New York sidewalks as Ty and his team had scrambled.

The operation had been blown, their target was now in some other country where they had no jurisdiction, and all their evidence would be bagged, tagged, and stuffed in a box in a basement, never to be seen again. The fact that most of what they'd done had been under Ty's direction and slightly irregular, depending on a high-profile collar in order to keep them from getting their asses fired and thrown in jail, was not helping Ty's mental state.

He sprawled on his sofa, still covered in sweat from his attempts to work out his frustration at the Bureau's Baltimore gym, and stared out at the city through the large windows on either side of the television. He could see his own reflection in the black screen of the plasma TV on the opposite wall, and he looked even more exhausted than he felt. He needed a shave; most of his handsome face was covered in three days' worth of beard, and his dark hair could probably use a trim. He was a large man, nearly three inches over six feet, and he usually carried his frame like a large cat, lithe and easy. Tonight, though, there was a slump to his broad shoulders as he sprawled. He had no intention of moving any time soon.

Not until his cell phone began to trill demandingly. With a heavy sigh, he snapped it off his waistband and flipped it open. "Grady," he answered curtly, his West Virginia drawl still pronounced after all the years he'd spent away from home.

"Special Agent Grady, Assistant Director Burns would like to see you," a clipped, professional voice informed him.

"When?" Ty asked flatly.

"Special Agent Grady, the Assistant Director of the Criminal Investigations Branch does not call to make appointments. He expects you in thirty minutes."

"Thirty minutes!" Ty blurted. "Do you have any idea where I am?"

"In your dirty underwear, no doubt. Be here in thirty," the voice answered in the same flat, businesslike tone before hanging up.

Ty closed his eyes and mentally kicked something. Thirty minutes to get into DC was going to require the flashy blue lights. Ty fucking hated the flashy blue lights.

"GREAT job, Special Agent Garrett. You are a credit to the Bureau," the Division Director said as he shook the man's hand. "A commendation will go in your file for your work, of course."

"Thank you, sir," FBI Special Agent Zane Garrett answered curtly as the other agents murmured quiet, slightly reluctant congratulations.

"And I get to reward you for your work well-done," the Director continued smoothly. "You;re being promoted out of the division. I'm very sad to see you go," he said smoothly, still pumping Zane's hand vigorously.

Zane shook his hand somberly, his face a mask of pure professionalism that covered the brutally honest thoughts he harbored beneath it. "I've enjoyed working for you, sir. But you know me; always looking to be where I can do the most for the Bureau."

"That's a good man. Say goodbye and get yourself upstairs. Assistant Director Burns wants to see you in ten."

Showing no hint of a smile - or the disdain for the praise over doing his boring-ass desk job - Zane turned and walked through the other agents he'd worked with in the division that pursued cybercrimes. He'd gotten along with them fairly well, considering he did his job, and sometimes theirs as well, with complete and utter focus. Zane knew many of his co-workers were just as happy to see him go as stay; his strict adherence to the rules and logical, single-minded work to achieve his goals were often tiring to those around him. He had goals, several of them, and they were all that mattered. None of them included working with this division any longer than necessary.

Looking around the open office, Zane knew with complete certainty he wouldn't miss it. While his obsessive attention to detail had steered him perfectly while on these assignments, he knew he was worth far more to the Bureau than serving on this mind-numbing, numbers-crunching detail. Now he would get his chance to prove it.

Shaking some hands and enduring a few 'so sorry to see you go' back slaps, he waved off his soon-to-be-former co-workers, told the office administrator he would be back later to clear out his desk, and walked out the door. He looked forward to seeing what the Assistant Director of the Criminal Investigative Branch had in store for him. He had worked damn hard for this promotion. It had to be good, since the man wanted to see him immediately.

Zane stopped into the bathroom to straighten his tie and check to make sure his close-cropped brown hair lay down neatly. The suit he wore was sharply tailored to his 6'5" frame, but it didn't hide the bulky muscles that moved under the fabric. His was not a body you'd expect to see riding a desk, a fact he was reminded of daily looking at the slightly pudgy agents who worked around him. He frowned slightly, surveying the crow's-feet at the corners of his eyes and the ridges of his twice-broken nose. With a displeased twitch, he ran his hands over his close-shaven cheeks and dismissed his image before buttoning his suit jacket and heading upstairs.

THE secretary gave Ty Grady a look over her glasses that clearly said she disapproved of the air he breathed. She lifted her chin and looked him up and down, wrinkling her nose at his appearance. "You're early," she announced with a touch of surprise to her voice.

Ty looked her up and down in return and cocked his head to the side. "I used the flashy blue lights," he told her with a helicopter motion of his finger.

She sniffed as she glanced over his unshaven face, scuffed leather jacket, jeans, and dirty cowboy boots. His T-shirt seemed to be particularly appalling to her sensibilities, even though it was clean. It was black and had the words Cocke County FBI in large white print on the front. Upon closer inspection, there were smaller words between the larger ones, and when she squinted she was able to read the entire shirt: 'I was probed in Cocke County by the FBI.' She made a small, insulted noise as she looked back up at him. Ty ignored her, leaving her looking slightly scandalized as he headed for the Assistant Director's door.

"You can't go in there yet!" she hissed as she stood from her desk and pointed at him.

He stopped at the door and turned around to look at her, blatantly putting his hand on the door handle and pushing it down with a smirk. Her mouth worked soundlessly, and she turned and scrambled for her intercom to announce him before he could get inside.

Assistant Director Richard Burns looked up at him in surprise and annoyance as Ty stepped into the office and closed the door behind him. "You wanted to see me, sir," Ty greeted, the words perfectly professional, but the tone somehow just as insolent as it always was.

"Sit down," the man ordered with a jab of his pen at one of the seats across from his desk. "We're waiting for one more person."

Ty moved to the seat and sat, his leather jacket sending up a tiny little cloud of dust as he flopped into the seat. He did a fairly good job of concealing his surprise. "Someone else?" he inquired evenly. "Am I being lynched?"

"If you keep your mouth shut for the next thirty minutes, you may not spend the night in jail. How about that?" Burns answered seriously without looking up from the papers he was signing.

Ty cleared his throat and shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

ZANE Garrett entered the wide outer office to see the Assistant Director's secretary scurrying around her desk, obviously flustered. He paused, folding his hands behind his back. "Ma'am?" he asked politely when she didn't notice his entrance.

She looked up at him in surprise. "Special Agent Garrett, thank you for being prompt," she said, looking him up and down and nodding in approval of the tailored blue suit and silk tie. "You may go in now."

"Thank you, ma'am," he said evenly, proceeding to the door as she announced him through the intercom.

Burns looked up from the papers he was shuffling and gestured him in. "Come in, Special Agent Garrett. We've got some things to thrash out," he said to Zane, with a narrow-eyed look at the man sitting slumped in a chair in front of the desk.

"Yes, sir," Zane answered, moving to sit as the Director gestured. His eyes followed Burns' gaze. Only a blink betrayed Zane's surprise. The unkempt man sitting opposite Burns was a complete mess. Zane barely restrained the urge to sneer at him. Maybe he was an informant of some sort. He had that burnt-out, fidgety look to him.

Focusing on Burns again, Zane waited, composed and attentive, ready to start jumping through the next set of hoops.

Ty shifted in his seat, slouching further down and glancing over at the new man. God, the guy looked like he had just come off a printing press or something. "What are you doing, a how-to manual?" Ty asked the Assistant Director sarcastically. "Before and after?" he suggested wryly with a gesture at himself and then at the other man.

"Yes. You are sitting here before you get fired," Burns answered studiously. "And he is taking your job after you leave."

Ty pressed his lips tightly together and looked down at the shiny desktop sedately. Zane shifted his eyes between the man and Burns before narrowing them. He wondered why he had been asked to sit in on this meeting when the guy was obviously being fired. It seemed overly cruel. He clamped down hard on any further reaction and waited to see what would happen.

Ty licked his lips and looked up again to meet his superior's eyes almost defiantly.

"Fortunately for you, Grady, you have more lives than a cat," the man said to him with a small frown. "And you're getting another chance to prove to us that you can do this job without blowing shit up. I won't say one more, because God knows I'll just keep giving you more until you get yourself killed. Meet your new partner, Special Agent Zane Z. Garrett."

Zane couldn't have been more appalled, and it showed clearly in his reaction. This wreck of an agent was his new partner? "Director Burns," he started impulsively, but he caught his tongue and tightened his grip on the chair. What kind of reward was this?

"The hell he is!" Ty interrupted as he sat up straight. "I can't do my job with a - a - poster-boy partner," he practically stuttered angrily as he flopped his hand toward the squeaky-clean man next to him.

"And you can't do it without a partner, either, Special Agent Grady," Burns responded with a hard glare.

"Sir, it seems obvious," Zane said, not bothering to keep any edge of disapproval out of his voice, "that this agent needs more than I can possibly provide to help him. Frankly, it will take a miracle to make him even remotely professional. No one will take him seriously."

"Take me seriously?" Ty echoed in disbelief. "Christ, have those shoes ever even seen pavement? Shit," he exclaimed in a sudden panic. "Are you sending me to Cyber?" he asked Burns, who was sitting behind the desk and grinning like a small child at Christmas.

"Your tone of voice implies that investigating technological crime and terrorism might be below you," Zane said to him coldly as he leveled an even gaze on the other agent. "Perhaps you should consider requesting a transfer to professional staff. Or submitting your resignation altogether."

"Hey, fuck you, candy ass," Ty snarled without looking over at him.

"Quiet, both of you!" Burns barked suddenly. "Grady, you're staying in Criminal until you get your ass killed or do something so illegal even I can't cover for you, understand? Garrett, you're to make certain he doesn't do either of those things. Is that clear? And you will both like it."

Ty's eyes widened as he realized he was being assigned a bookkeeping babysitter, and there wasn't a damned thing he could do about it. His stomach turned at the thought, but he supposed it was better than being fired. Or being in jail.

The thought of being attached to this troublemaking loose cannon was nearly enough to make Zane lose his composure. After all he'd done, all he'd worked for, this was all he was going to get. Despair threatened for a moment, and he had to take a deep breath to push it aside. He wanted to rail at Burns, but it wasn't his place to object. He'd make the best of this clusterfuck, and then leave this agent behind, just as he had the Cyber Division. That or go down in spectacular flames.

"Yes, sir," he acknowledged through clenched teeth.

"I expect you to learn from each other," Burns instructed, his heart going out to Zane Garrett. It was a shitty thing to do to him, sticking him with a man like Ty Grady after he'd worked his way back up from hell to be Cyber's top performing agent. But for this particular case, these two men were unusually qualified.

"Respectfully, sir, I understand you need someone riding herd on this - agent," Zane gritted out. "But what am I supposed to learn from him?" he asked, slanting a disbelieving look Grady's way.

Burns gave Ty a dubious glance and then shrugged apologetically in answer to Zane's query. He was well-acquainted with Garrett's past, but the man was resourceful. He'd had to be. He'd find a way to make this work.

"You can learn to kiss my ass," Ty shot back as he fumbled with the file his boss had chucked at him. "Just like you do everyone else's," he muttered.

Jordan L Hawk
Jordan L. Hawk grew up in the wilds of North Carolina, where she was raised on stories of haints and mountain magic by her bootlegging granny and single mother. After using a silver knife in the light of a full moon to summon her true love, she turned her talents to spinning tales. She weaves together couples who need to fall in love, then throws in some evil sorcerers and undead just to make sure they want it bad enough. In Jordan’s world, love might conquer all, but it just as easily could end up in the grave.

Keira Andrews
After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said:

“The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

RJ Scott
RJ’s goal is to write stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and most importantly, that hint of a happily ever after.

RJ Scott is the bestselling author of over one hundred romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn’t with family either reading or writing.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.

Amber Kell
Amber Kell has made a career out of daydreaming. It has been a lifelong habit she practices diligently as shown by her complete lack of focus on anything not related to her fantasy world building.

When she told her husband what she wanted to do with her life he told her to go have fun.

During those seconds she isn't writing she remembers she has children who humor her with games of 'what if' and let her drag them to foreign lands to gather inspiration. Her youngest confided in her that he wants to write because he longs for a website and an author name—two things apparently necessary to be a proper writer.

Despite her husband's insistence she doesn't drink enough to be a true literary genius she continues to spin stories of people falling happily in love and staying that way.

She is thwarted during the day by a traffic jam of cats on the stairway and a puppy who insists on walks, but she bravely perseveres..

She also writes under the name Mikela Q. Chase.

Madeleine Urban
Madeleine Urban is a down-home Kentucky girl who’s been writing since she could hold a crayon. Although she has written and published on her own, she truly excels when writing with co-authors. She lives with her husband, who is very supportive of her work, and two canine kids who only allow her to hug them when she has food. She wants to live at Disney World, the home of fairy dust, because she believes that with hard work, a little luck, and beloved family and friends, dreams really can come true.

Nov. 17, 2011 - I have made the personal decision to stop writing, for reasons that are important to me, including focusing on my family and my health. Writing and publishing comes with a whole set of expectations and pressures, and I find that it's just too much. While I am sad that this will upset and/or even anger readers, this is the right decision for me.
Abigail Roux will be continuing the Ty and Zane series, and I know she'll do a great job.

Abigail Roux
Abigail Roux was born and raised in North Carolina. A past volleyball star who specializes in sarcasm and painful historical accuracy, she currently spends her time coaching high school volleyball and investigating the mysteries of single motherhood. Any spare time is spent living and dying with every Atlanta Braves and Carolina Panthers game of the year. Abigail has a daughter, Little Roux, who is the light of her life, a boxer, four rescued cats who play an ongoing live-action variation of 'Call of Duty' throughout the house, a certifiable extended family down the road, and a cast of thousands in her head.

Jordan L Hawk

Keira Andrews

RJ Scott

Amber Kell

Madeleine Urban

Abigail Roux

Widdershins #1 by Jordan L Hawk

The Station by Keira Andrew

End Street Detective Agency Volume One by RJ Scott & Amber Kell

Cut & Run #1 by Abigail Roux & Madeleine Urban

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