Saturday, October 1, 2016

Random Paranormal Tales 2016 Part 1

The Haunting of Angus Macgregor by LJ Harris
Angus Macgregor has endured a lot in life. Mother passing when he was a small child, he also nursed an ill father to his last breath. But when he loses his one remaining relative, an uncle he’s never met, his existence is turned on its head forever. Bequeathed Clan Gregor Castle in the Scottish Highlands, Angus leaves Australia behind to take on the family business. It’s there he finds more waiting for him than he ever dreamed possible.

Daniel Ramsey is a man with secrets, none more dangerous than the fact that he can see what others can't. When he meets one particularly handsome Australian, the attraction is immediate. Hesitant to let down his guard, his hand is forced when a former guest of the castle comes calling and attempts to stake a claim on the very man Daniel wants.

This may be a short novella but it's long on story and yumminess.  Add in kilts, a Scottish castle, and ghosts with history, and what you have with The Haunting of Angus MacGregor is a wonderfully written sexy tale of love, both past and present full of passion that will leave you hooked.  A great addition to my paranormal library.


Priddy's Tale by Harper Fox
What doesn’t kill you sometimes makes you wish it had…

Priddy’s a lost soul in a part of Cornwall the tourists don’t get to see. He’s young, sweet-natured and gorgeous, but that’s not enough to achieve escape velocity from his deadbeat village and rotten family life.

He’s a drifter and a dreamer, and self-preservation isn’t his strong suit. An accidental overdose of a nightclub high leaves him fractured, hallucinating, too many vital circuits fried to function in a tough world. When a friend offers him winter work in a lighthouse – nothing to do but press the occasional button and keep the windows clean – he gratefully accepts.

His plans to live quietly and stay out of trouble don’t last very long. A ferocious Atlantic storm washes a stranger to Priddy’s lonely shore. For a shipwrecked sailor, the new arrival seems very composed. He’s also handsome as hell, debonair, and completely unconcerned by Priddy’s dreadful past.

Priddy has almost given up on the prospect of any kind of friendship, and a new boyfriend – let alone a six-foot beauty with eerily good swimming skills – out of the question entirely. But Merou seems to see undreamed-of promise in Priddy, and when they hit the water together, Priddy has to adapt to Merou’s potentials too, and fast. His lover from the sea might be a mere mortal from the waist up, but south of that line…

Far-flung west Cornwall has a hundred mermaid tales. Priddy’s loved the stories all his life. Now he has to face up to a wildly impossible truth. Merou’s life depends upon his courage and strength, and if Priddy can only find his way in the extraordinary world opening up all around him, all the ocean and a human lifetime needn’t be enough to contain the love between merman and mortal.

An awesome tale of merman, humans, and love.  It can be a gamble when you read paranormal because although there is a lot of room for elaboration the author still needs to make the reader believe.  That's exactly what Harper Fox has done with Priddy's Tale, a unique blend of reality and paranormal that had me hooked from page one till the last.  Love, romance, mystery, friendship, throw in mermen and mermaids and what you have is a great addition to any paranormal library.


A Brush with Darkness by Erastes
Florence, 1875

After making a grisly discovery one night, I needed proof that there was still goodness in the world. I never dreamt it would come to me during my next commission—with a subject whose very name means light...

Yuri was glorious in his otherworldly beauty, surrounded by a bright halo of iridescence, but I detected a fierce darkness lurking underneath the surface. Sketching all night, I could hardly wait to capture his likeness in a painting. For Yuri has stimulated not only my creative urges, but my sexual ones as well.

His very presence infuses me with joy and passion, but what will happen if my patron should discover our trysts? Dependent on his good graces, I can't afford to lose his support. But I fear the time will soon come when I must choose between restoring my family's fortunes and obeying the temptation of the muse before me...

This novella by Erastes has a little bit of everything I love: historical, paranormal, love, and mystery.  I won't tell you just what Yuri is even though it's not much of a surprise once it's revealed, at least I was able to guess it.  A well written tale that is chock full of intriguing characters, both good and bad, that had me hooked from page one.  It was a little shorter than I would have liked but it is also one of those that probably would not have been any better than it already is with addition of extra pages.  A great addition to both my paranormal and historical libraries.


Wild Retaliation by Ethan Stone
Chief of Police John Dakota is in a world of trouble. His peaceful town of Seaside, Oregon, has been rocked by a wave of unsolved murders. The bloody deaths are eerily reminiscent of ones that occurred in Seaside years ago. Back then John worked hard to make sure the truth about the killer was never revealed. Now he’s afraid the past is coming back to haunt him.

Trevor English, the nosy reporter who occasionally shares John’s bed, is demanding information about the crimes. He also wants more of John’s affections. But John can’t afford to give in to either demand without risking the revelation of Seaside’s biggest secret: the town is a haven for shifters, and John is one of them.

To solve the crime—and prevent more victims—John must delve into the past. Many members of Seaside’s shifter community are involved, but it’s becoming harder and harder to tell which residents can be trusted. Even John’s family isn’t above suspicion. The body count is rising, and it looks like John is the killer’s next target.

Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale
Belimai Sykes is many things: a Prodigal, the descendant of ancient demons, a creature of dark temptations and rare powers. He is also a man with a brutal past and a dangerous addiction.

And Belimai Sykes is the only man Captain William Harper can turn to when faced with a series of grisly murders.

But Mr. Sykes does not work for free and the price of Belimai’s company will cost Captain Harper far more than his reputation.

From the ornate mansions of noblemen, where vivisection and sorcery are hidden beneath a veneer of gold, to the steaming slums of Hells Below, Captain Harper must fight for justice and for his life.

His enemies are many and his only ally is a devil he knows too well. Such are the dangers of dealing with the wicked.

The Haunting of Angus Macgregor by LJ Harris
“Welcome home, Master Macgregor. The name’s Madeline Ramsey, manager o’ this fine establishment.”

Angus was greeted by a short, plump, middle-aged woman with kind brown eyes and hair the colour of fire. As she shook his hand, she regarded Angus with an openness he hadn’t anticipated. Given the circumstances which surrounded his presence at Clan Gregor Castle, he’d half expected to be treated as an interloper.

“Nice to meet you, Madeline.” Pain surged in the back of his throat, but he managed to swallow it down. The only reason he was there was because he’d lost people near and dear to him. He’d have given anything for the situation to be different.

Angus dragged his suitcase behind him and set it down in the middle of the large foyer, taking in his surroundings while he fought a looming yawn. The flight halfway around the world had been long and uncomfortable, but the excitement of inheriting an actual Scottish castle had kept him more than wide awake.

Certain the second his head hit the pillow he wouldn’t surface for several long hours, perhaps days, the plan was to enjoy every moment he could before jetlag took hold. Angus Macgregor had never ventured this far from his family home in eastern Sydney before. Since discovering his uncle, William Macgregor III, had passed the week previous, his mundane existence had become an absolute whirlwind.

“Please, call me Maddie.”

“Only if you call me Angus.” He winked at Maddie, and she giggled in a light, lilting manner.

“Right enough, Angus.” Her laughter subsided, leaving behind a broad, toothy grin. Angus couldn’t stop himself from smiling back. “Now, why don’t we see ye to yer accommodations and leave the grand tour till morning? Ye must be pure done in after such a long flight.”

“That’d be great.” Angus would never grow tired of the way people spoke in this part of the world, his twangy Australian accent grating compared to the thick Scottish brogue he’d been listening to since touching down in Glasgow. It was something he’d missed hearing on a daily basis these past few months.

Priddy's Tale by Harper Fox
His arms were empty, the rippling surface vacant. He whipped round, losing his footing, submerging under the weight of his soaked jeans. That was all right—he needed some ballast, something to keep him down here while he searched, because he was damned if he was going to let the sea snatch Merou now. He kicked off his shoes and dived.

The water was so dark! He lost his bearings instantly. Something was swirling around him, a heavy current or one of the vortices that occasionally formed as the tide combed the ocean back through the Hell’s Teeth barricade. Priddy tumbled through it, blind, casting hopelessly around him for a floating limb, a handful of hair. “Merou,” he yelled, wasting his last breath on the cry. Silver bubbles, soundless, shimmering away into the abyss...

Something bumped against him. He had a DNA-deep west Cornishman’s terror of sharks, and he lashed out wildly. If it was a mako or a white, you stood a chance—a very remote one—if you could catch the bastard a hard enough thump on the nose. Christ, though—this felt more like a serpent, one of the giant eels that got caught in the nets and passed into infamy as grandfather stories, tales around a beach fire on Golowan night. A coil of it slipped around Priddy’s waist and clamped tight. Bubbles and foam rushed past him and he broke surface with a breaching dolphin’s force. Whatever had caught him just as suddenly let him go. On reflex he started to swim, coughing and trying to clear his vision. There were the stars and the bright heavens, bisected like Merou’s unmarred belly with the silvery brush of the galactic rim.

Merou was swimming beside him. Priddy sucked an astonished breath and went under again. Again something caught him—coiled around him—raised him with supple, irresistible force. Not Merou, who was calmly treading water, smiling incandescently. “All right there, then, blue-eyes?”

“Merou!” Priddy threw his arms around him, not caring if he drowned them both. Merou burst into laughter, not a bit inconvenienced by the attack: seized him joyously in return. Priddy’s world turned upside-down once more, the Milky Way swooping down into the depths and the glitter-filled water soaring to the zenith. The eel, the serpent, was rolling him over and over, laughing all the time, and Priddy couldn’t be afraid, because... “It’s you,” he cried out, the next time he could breathe. “You’re back. You’re alive. It’s you holding me, isn’t it, with your... with your...”

“With my tail,” Merou finished for him, taking pity. “Keep still, wriggly landling, or I’ll scratch you up. The scales are very sharp when they first grow back.”

“Oh, man, what the fuck are you talking about? I’ve lost it, haven’t I? This is a fucking dream.”

“Feeling is believing, my handsome. Let go your stranglehold on my neck. Go on! I won’t bite.”

Heaving great lungfuls of air, Priddy forced himself to unlock one hand and slide it down Merou’s back. The skin was warm as sin and toast, normal enough if normal meant bloody perfect, all the way down the groove of his spine to his waist, and then to the opening crease of his arse, which began right on time but then... “Shit!” Priddy snatched his hand back. “You’ve got scales. You really have got a tail.”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you. And you’re sitting on part of it, so don’t freak out too far.”

Priddy gave a barking caw of laughter. Keeping one arm hooked safely around Merou’s neck—the top end of him, the part that still made sense—he tried again, and this time dared to feel the great muscled curve that had swept behind the back of his thighs and was supporting him there. “How are you... How are you holding us still in the water like this?”

“Great big fluke on the end. Whale-style, not fish-style, perpendicular to my tailbone and totally flexible. Treading water, you could call it, only...”

“Only you don’t have feet. Oh, God. Oh, God.”

“Calm down, you infant. Even Jacques Cousteau wasn’t as overwrought as this.”

“You really did know him? So—wait...” Priddy tried to catch his breath and bring his voice down an octave or so. “What does that make you—immortal, as well as a mermaid?”

“Not immortal, no. I’d have died tonight if not for you. A change on land is one of the few ways to kill us. And... there’s nothing maidenly about me, as you’ll find out soon enough.”

Priddy shivered hotly. “Sorry. I scarcely dare ask what’s become of John Thomas.”

“Oh, he’s in there. Just tucked away behind an armoured wall of muscle and scales, like any sensible penis ought to be. Can you please pay attention? This has to be done in the proper, formal way.”

“What has?”

“Just a short ceremony. Landlings can’t be allowed to know about us, you see, not unless they’ve done us a great service.”

“But... doesn’t my dad know about you now?”

“Not at all. I’m just a drunken vision that will haunt him the rest of his life. But you, Jem Priddy... Wait. What’s Jem short for, when it’s a boy?”


“Yes, it is. You’d better tell me, or you’ll go down in the annals as Jemima.”

“Jeremy, then,” Priddy growled. “And don’t ever call me that. What annals?”

“Never mind now.” Merou cleared his throat and raised his voice, as if something in the water or the diamond-blazing sky was bearing witness. “Jeremy Priddy, you have done a favour for a spirit of the sea. In consideration of such, I can now, by the powers of the Mer in Lyonesse, grant you a wish.”

Priddy settled more comfortably on the great coil of tail. He’d been cold for a while, but now he too was sin-toasty warm. Maybe he was drowning, or in end-stage hypothermia, and somebody else’s life was flashing in front of him. “An actual wish?”

“Yes. Just like in a fairytale, or...” The tail gave a teasing jounce beneath him. “...or when you were a little lad on Santa’s knee in Trago. Come on—make it a good one. You saved my life.”

“Technically I saved it twice. Once just now, and the other day—”

“Crikey, did you bargain with Santa like this? That one doesn’t count. I only needed saving then because you turned me into a biped.”

“I did? How is that supposed to have happened?”

“I tried to tell you at the time. You touched me. If a landling lays a hand on us, and if we like the hand enough, we can change. Sometimes,” he said ruefully, tightening his grasp round Priddy’s waist, “we like it so much, we don’t get any choice.”

“I’m sorry.” Priddy didn’t mean it: he was overwhelmed with pride, to have been the catalyst for such a transformation. “It didn’t seem to hurt you then, though. Not much, anyway.”

“It’s fine if it happens in the sea. It just feels like being... unzipped, or zipped up again, if I’m going the other way. Did you think of your wish yet? Would you like a speedboat? Your father’s heart, liver and lungs served up to you on a silver plate?”

“Jesus, Merou.” Priddy pulled a face, but the thought of old Vigo’s entrails didn’t really disturb him. What scared him was the power of his wish. I wish you’d stay with me forever, with your magic and your laughter, and your sweetness that makes everything else I’ve discovered in this world so far seem hollow and bitter and dry. But that wish wasn’t fair. It involved someone else, and what if Merou didn’t want to stay? If by some insane chance all of this was real, and the wish had binding force, he’d be trapped.

Priddy could only ask for something for himself. “I wish,” he said faintly, leaning his brow against Merou’s, “that I’d never taken those damn pills.”

Merou became very still. Somewhere in the waters below, the great fluke was sculling, place-holding them against the tide, but he stopped stroking Priddy’s hair and tipped his head a little, as if listening. “Ah,” he said regretfully after a moment. “Can’t be done. Would involve swimming in time with an unqualified person, and the inevitable paradox. If you hadn’t taken the pills, you’d never have ended up here, so we’d never have met, and I couldn’t be here granting your wish, or trying to. You see?”

“I do, but so far you’re a pretty crap Santa, if you don’t mind my saying so.”

A Brush with Darkness by Erastes
Florence, 1875

Now I think back on it all, it's ironic and yet so very apposite how I always associate him with light. It seems impossible to think of him in any other way but surrounded by a bright halo of iridescence—the bright yellow glare of candles, or the greener glow of the gas lamps. Light shrouds him, an impossibility he manages to achieve. Perhaps the light is jealous of him, or perhaps it misses him and clings to him where it can. Like a lover, or a second skin. A never-ceasing wonder to someone like me, who lives his life through every hint of light and shade. Even in the dark he is never entirely obscured but seems to shimmer with a phosphorescence all his own. Even his very name means light.

There was no wonder, and little enough light, in the alley at the back of the Pitti Palace. This story probably began there, although it is always hard to decide that kind of thing when one is in the eye of the storm.

I'd been prowling the streets of Florence late at night. Even a newcomer to the city such as myself knew it wasn't a sensible thing to do in some areas, even in daylight, but my muse had deserted me and I was driven to it by desperation. If I didn't paint, my patron—the unctuous and two-faced Signor Bettano—would soon think twice about supporting me and my family.

The shadows on the walls of my bedroom, so often an inspiration in their shrouded beauty, were nothing but the flickerings of the candle flame and the promise of little else. They failed me when I needed them—they gave me neither inspiration nor joy. So I dressed in the dark and slipped down the creaking staircase in stockinged feet, shoes in hand. Past Bettano's rooms and out in the musty cool of the Florentine night, charcoal in pockets, a sketch pad optimistically tucked beneath my arm.

I knew little of my surroundings. The city was unfamiliar to me, but as I slid into the stream of the night—joining a small drift of others who, for their own reasons, also found solace in the shadows—I felt a peace that had recently eluded me, shut away in the top of my patron's house.

I moved aimlessly by the Arno. The river poured by, black and swift. The moss-dank stones of the river's path were cool, slippery and slick to my touch, like drowned flesh beneath my hands. For an hour or more, I sat on the muddy edge of the empty riverbank, getting myself chilled in the process, watching the yellow moon rise above the black edges of the city. Pregnant and gibbous, she cast her sickly reflection in the water beneath.

But nothing spurred me to take my charcoal in hand, and even under the bright light of the moon, I did not feel moved to commit anything to paper. I saw nothing to inspire me. For all the glamour of my relocation from Fiesole to Florence, for all the excitement I'd felt—and yes, some trepidation too—at leaving my family behind to restore our fortunes in the city, I saw only water, light and stone. And that was nothing I couldn't have seen at home, despite the buildings that towered over the river and me.

The moon had moved above the buildings and was perched overhead, hanging like a huge yellow apple on a tree I couldn't see. I was considering walking back to my rooms and drinking the remainder of my wine in an attempt to sleep when I heard a scream and voices raised in consternation. The human reaction is to run towards these cries of distress, it seems—however unwise—and without a thought I found myself running along the bank, up the narrow cobbled streets, towards the inhuman cries.

Wild Retaliation by Ethan Stone
Chapter One
WHAT A way to wake up—checking out a dead body.

The nude corpse of a young man reclined against the trunk of a tree, its head lolling to the right. Legs spread wide, stomach ripped open with guts spilling out. Flies were buzzing around the wound, and the stench was horrendous.

I tried to breathe through my mouth as I got up close, wishing I was still in bed. I’d been in the middle of a very nice dream when my officer called to tell me a dead body had been found. I would’ve chewed Brewster’s ass for ringing me at five in the morning for anything less. He once woke me because he didn’t know how to replace the ink in the fax machine. Brewster’s a good cop, despite not always being the smartest.

Figured the body was on the Tillamook Trail, one of the most popular tourist destinations, just as the season was beginning. Most of the year, Seaside, Oregon, had a population of about six thousand; during the summer it swelled to thirty thousand or more.

Brewster had warned me it was bad, but I figured he was exaggerating. Turned out he wasn’t.

“Pretty gruesome, isn’t it, Chief?” Brewster stood a few feet behind me, a hand covering his mouth.

Gruesome was an understatement. And he didn’t know the half of it. I’d been prepared for something bad when my normally calm and collected officer insisted I get there right away. But I hadn’t been prepared for it to remind me of something I thought I’d put behind me.

It wasn’t just what I saw that disturbed me, but rather what I didn’t see.

“Where’s the left arm?” I was pretty sure I knew the answer but prayed I was wrong.

“It’s missing. We’ve searched.”

So much for prayers being answered. Thanks a lot, Mother Earth.

“Any sign of his clothes?” I asked.


Of course not.

“What the hell happened here, Chief?” Brewster asked. “Some kind of animal attack? I can’t imagine a person being able to do this.”

I ran a hand through my hair. I knew there was an option other than human or animal. Brewster didn’t know about shifters—very few regular folk did. “Scour the area for any other body parts. Then haul everything back to the medical examiner’s office so Doc Northrup can take a gander. Pick up everything in the area. Every piece of trash and every loose leaf, even if you don’t think it’s important. Also look for any footprints or animal tracks. Make plaster casts of any that you find.”

“You got it, Chief.”

I caught another scent—something other than the rotting corpse. It was a strong smell that burned my nostrils. The nearer to the body I was, the stronger the odor.

“Do you smell anything odd?” I asked. “And I don’t mean the body.”

He inhaled and squinted his eyes. “Now that you mention it, I do. It’s kind of familiar.”

Yeah, it was familiar. I patted my duty belt and one of the items I always carried—OC spray, better known as pepper spray. I pulled out the canister and showed it to Brewster. “Like this?”

He snapped his fingers. “Yup, that’s it. Do you think the killer used it to subdue him?”

“I don’t think so,” I replied. “He’s been dead a couple hours at least. The smell would’ve worn off by now. I’d say the body was doused in the pepper spray very recently, probably when it was dumped.”

“But why?”

I ignored the question, though I had a suspicion the murderer was a shifter and knew I was the chief of police. Using the pepper spray would’ve masked his scent, preventing me from identifying him.

“Let’s keep the press out of this, for now at least.”

The Seaside Signal wasn’t a national newspaper, but Trevor English, the sole reporter, could be tenacious. I did my best to avoid him, mainly because we’d hooked up several times. Basically, anytime we saw each other, we’d end up in bed. I had fun with Trevor, but he wanted more than an occasional booty call, and I… didn’t. I wasn’t interested in a relationship, and I worried continuing to see him would give him hope that didn’t exist.

I especially didn’t want pictures of the scene out in the public. It wouldn’t be long until the similarities between this death and ones in the past were linked—mainly the missing arm and lack of clothes. I needed to delay that for as long as possible. If Trevor did hear about the body, I could claim I needed time to identify the victim and contact the family. I didn’t recognize the young man, so that probably meant he was a tourist.

“Who discovered the body?”

“Lucille DeMatteo,” Brewster replied. “She’s sitting in my cruiser right now. I took her statement, but I figured you might want to talk to her too.”

“Good thinking. I’ll give her a ride back into town. Let me know when you get back with the body.”

“Yes, sir.”

I strolled over to Lucille, a middle-aged woman who’d recently lost a ton of weight. She’d been tipping the scales at almost four hundred pounds but had a come-to-Jesus moment when she almost died of a stroke. Lucille was down to around two fifty now, thanks to a proper diet and lots of exercise, which included jogging the local trails.

“Lucille, how are you?” I asked. She got out of the car when she saw me approaching, and I opened my arms so she could walk into my hug.

“It was horrible, John.”

I patted her back and made soothing noises. “Can you tell me what happened?”

She stepped back and wiped the tears from her face. “I was jogging, and the smell hit me when I came by. I thought it was just a dead animal, and I was going to tell someone at animal control, so I went in for a closer look. I lost it when I saw him. Oh my God, John, his guts were… they were everywhere.”

Lucille started bawling again, so I comforted her until she was under control.

“Anyway,” she continued, “I called you guys right away. I’m sorry, but I vomited on the trail. I tried to get away from the body so I didn’t mess up your scene more than I did.”

“Thank you. I appreciate that,” I said. “Did you recognize him?”

She shook her head. “Probably not a local.”

I asked her a few more questions and figured she hadn’t noticed the left arm was missing.

“You’ll call us if you think of anything else, right?”

“Of course.”

“Good. Can I give you a ride home?”

“Actually, my car is down at the first parking lot. Could you take me there?”

“Of course.” We strode to my jeep, and I opened the passenger-side door for her.

I drove down to the first of three parking lots and dropped her off near her vehicle. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t talk to anyone about what you saw here.”

“Certainly,” she responded, though I wasn’t filled with confidence. Lucille was a bit of a gossip, but at least I could count on the missing left arm staying a secret.

On the way back into town, I turned onto Twenty-Fourth Avenue instead of staying on Highway 101 until it became North Roosevelt, which would’ve taken me to the police station. My new destination was just a few blocks up—Seaside Pet Clinic.

Most people would’ve guessed the place would be closed at six in the morning, especially since it didn’t officially open for another two hours, but I knew better. The owner, Jasper Bannerman, was always up early taking care of animals.

I knocked on the door and waited a minute for Jasper to answer. He grinned when he saw me.

“What’s up, DJ?”

“Dammit, Jasper, how many times have I told you I despise being called that?” David John “DJ” Dakota Junior. Growing up, I hadn’t minded the nickname. I loved and respected my father then. Now I hated being reminded of my relationship to the man. Most people referred to me by my title or by my first or last name. It was folks like Jasper, who had been close to me most of my life, who slipped and used DJ.

“Sorry, John,” he snickered. “Come in.”

I followed Jasper in as he headed to the back of the building where he kept the animals he was caring for. Many were strays or abandoned pets with no homes. The man never could turn away an animal in need. As we walked, I rubbed the left side of my torso. Underneath the thick cotton shirt was a scar.

It always itched when I thought of my father.

“Give me a minute to take care of this kitten.” He lifted a small black-and-white fur ball that couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old. “Mama cat got killed. This guy was the only survivor.” He grabbed an eyedropper and pried it into the animal’s mouth.

While he did that, I leaned against the counter and took the opportunity to check out my old friend—who had also been the first guy I ever slept with. Jasper was tall and lanky. Too skinny for my tastes, just as I was too hairy for him. He mainly wore medical scrubs and kept his dark hair long and messy. Also not my style. When we were sixteen, things like that hadn’t mattered. We’d only been friends with benefits, never anything more, and nowadays we were simply very good buddies.

When he was finished with the kitten, he put it back in the cage, then hopped up on the counter and asked, “What can I do for you? I assume this isn’t a personal visit.”

“Have there been any reports of shifters new to the area?” I inquired. “Maybe some tourists? Or someone who moved away and is back?”

“I haven’t heard anything.” Jasper was more than simply the town vet. He was also the unofficial shifter registry.

The killer didn’t have to be someone new in town or a returnee, but chances were it was. He knew about shifters and was most likely aware of the murders that took place nine years ago.

“Do me a favor and keep an eye out.”

“Why? Did something happen?”

I paused and rubbed my forehead. “Someone was killed. He was ripped apart. It might be a regular animal, or it might not. His left arm is missing.”

His eyes widened. “Just like all those years ago. How many has it been?”

“Nine,” I answered.

Jasper was one of the few humans who knew the whole truth about those murders and the only one who’d been able to comfort me back then.

“Don’t hesitate to ask if you need anything. You know you can depend on me.”

I nodded. “I have a feeling this is going to be a shitstorm. I need all the information I can get.”

“I’ll call you the minute I hear anything.”

“Thanks,” I said. “As much as I’d like to hang out and chat, I better get to the office so I can get a handle on this thing.”

He hopped down, came over to me, and gave me a friendly embrace.

A few minutes later, back in my car, my hands began trembling. Everything hit me at once. The sight of the dead young man and the memories it brought back. Nine years before, a young male tourist had been eviscerated and his left arm torn off. Unfortunately, that had been the first of a string of murders that had ended horrifically. I hoped this murder wasn’t connected. I prayed it was just a random coincidence, but deep down I knew that wasn’t the case.

Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale
Chapter One 
The night was already in tatters. Gas streetlamps chewed at the darkness. Candles cast dull halos through the dirty windows of the tenements across the street. Heavy purple clouds pumped up from smoke stacks and hung against the sky like ugly patches on a black velvet curtain. A few fireflies blinked from what corners of blackness remained.

A pair of them invaded the darkness of my rooms. I watched them flicker, darting through their insectile courtship. They swooped past my face, circled, and then alighted inside the fold of my shirtsleeve.

They crept close to one another, brilliant desire flashing through their tiny bodies. Their antennae touched and quivered. The female firefly reached out and stroked the male. He rushed into her embrace. Holding him close, she crushed her powerful mandibles through his head. Their flickering bodies blinked in perfect unison as she devoured him.

Some romances end more badly than others.

I had to admire the firefly for her neatness. She ate every scrap of evidence and then lounged on my sleeve with an innocent ease that could have fooled an Inquisitor. At last, I flicked her off my arm and rolled up my sleeve. I had my own ruinous affair to cultivate.
Hundreds of small scars cut across the thin muscles of my bare arm. They wound up from my wrists, marking inch after inch of my body with mechanical precision. The scar tissue was as pale as the rest of my skin, but shinier and slightly sunken, like delicate embossing. The scars had faded enough over the years that, given enough darkness or drink, a man might not notice the holy verses carved into my body.

Only the flesh on the inside of my elbow stood out. The white skin and underlying blue veins were buried under a patchwork of bruises and red needle marks. The deep shadows of night could not disguise my ugliness, but beauty was hardly the point. I wanted to be undone, swallowed whole and dissipated into a thoughtless existence. I did not long to be lost in God or Glory; I just wished to be lost.

It hurt when I pushed the needle in through a half-healed scab. But the pain was momentary and it hurt less than going without the ophorium. A feeling like warmth and honey gushed through me. It spilled through my veins, flooded the black chambers of my heart, and slowly burned me away from the inside out. My arms drooped down against the armrests of my chair. The syringe and needle fell to the floor, and I closed my eyes.

For a moment I felt so warm and sweet that I could have been a different person.

I opened my eyes and watched the sky swirling outside my window. Violet ribbons and indigo wind tinted the darkness. Tiny bats swept between black chimneys. Heavy odors of magnolia and rose mingled with the scent of raw sausages. The smell reminded me of the Gold Street whores and those thick perfumes they poured over their sour bodies.

I waited to see what this summer night would bring me.

More often than not, I waited in vain. Still, there were those rare evenings when men came to me. Each had his own kind of desperation. Each had a reason for wanting to draw close to a devil from Hells Below. Some were sweet and sincere; others just couldn’t do any worse. It made no difference to me, so long as they could pay.

Author Bios:
LJ Harris
L.J. HARRIS is a mother, wife, an introvert and author. Her family is her life, her soul, and the very reason she gets out of bed every day. Coming a close second is her writing.

She discovered a passion for putting pen to paper in her later years, jotting down poems in birthday cards for family members.

It was then a spark was lit, and ever since, she hasn’t been unable to switch off the urge to share her stories.

L.J. Harris discovered that as much as experiencing pain, loss and betrayal can be devastating, capturing the feelings of anguish and loss that some of her characters have had to endure without firsthand knowledge would have proved difficult.

L.J. has been previously published and has shared several online stories and looks forward to continuing to share her work.

Harper Fox
Harper Fox is an M/M author with a mission. She’s produced six critically acclaimed novels in a year and is trying to dispel rumours that she has a clone/twin sister locked away in a study in her basement. In fact she simply continues working on what she loves best– creating worlds and stories for the huge cast of lovely gay men queuing up inside her head. She lives in rural Northumberland in northern England and does most of her writing at a pensioned-off kitchen table in her back garden, often with blanket and hot water bottle.

She lives with her SO Jane, who has somehow put up with her for a quarter of a century now, and three enigmatic cats, chief among whom is Lucy, who knows the secret of the universe but isn't letting on. When not writing, she either despairs or makes bread, specialities foccacia and her amazing seven-strand challah. If she has any other skills, she's yet to discover them.

Born in Essex, England in 1959, Erastes attended Southend High School for Girls.

Erastes is the penname of a female author who lives in Norfolk, UK. She drew her inspiration to write historical fiction from works such as Gaywyck by Vincent Virga and the novels of Mary Renault. Erastes was the Director of the Erotic Authors Association for two years and is an active member of the Historical Novel Society. She is the moderator of Speak Its Name, an influential blog dedicated to gay historical fiction.

Erastes has been writing since 2003, and details of all her books and short stories can be found on her website.

Her second novel, "Transgressions," was one of the flagship releases by Running Press in their M/M Historical Romance line which is being marketed directly at the existing romance market and was shortlisted for a Lambda award in 2010.

Ethan Stone
Ethan Stone doesn’t write your typical boy meets boy stories. With a combination of love and suspense he makes his characters work hard for their HEAs. If they can survive what he puts them through, then they can survive anything. He enjoys Romance with an Edge.

Ethan has been reading mysteries and thrillers since he was young. He’s had a thing for guys in uniform for just as long. That may have influenced the stories he writes.

He’s a native Oregonian with two kids. One of whom has made him a grandfather three times over; even though he is way too young.

Ginn Hale
Ginn Hale resides in the Pacific Northwest with her wife and three cats. She spends many of the rainy days tinkering with devices and words and can often be sighted herding other people’s dogs, bees and goats. Her novel Wicked Gentlemen won the Spectrum Award for Best Novel and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award.

LJ Harris

Harper Fox
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Ethan Stone

Ginn Hale

The Haunting of Angus Macgregor

Priddy's Tale

A Brush with Darkness

Wild Retaliation

Wicked Gentlemen

Saturday's Series Spotlight: The Roche Hotel by Mysti Parker

Titles: Season One, Two, & Three
Author: Mysti Parker
Series: Roche Hotel #1-3
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Dates: Season One: October 15, 2014
Season Two: June 1, 2015
Season Three: July 24, 2016

Season One
After her husband ditches her for a blonde actress wannabe, Jane Seymour needs a job that pays the rent. The struggling Roche Hotel needs a miracle. With the former owner’s wife butting her nose into the renovations and new owners who are in way over their heads, Jane may be the answer to their prayers. Sure, she can handle The Roche Hotel’s quirky staff. But, can this skittish divorcee keep it all together when handsome Henry the Donut Guy makes his first delivery? This collection of serial fiction stories is a Tudorific romantic comedy that will leave you laughing out loud and hungry for more.

Season Two
Jane Seymour and the quirky staff of The Roche Hotel are back for another hilarious season of this Tudorific romantic comedy. Thanks to Jane’s no-nonsense practicality, the struggling hotel is on its way to becoming a thriving business. Henry the Donut Guy has won her over with his delicious pastries and irresistible charm. Even her ailing mother has found a new love. Life is sweet until a new assistant manager is hired…who just happens to be Jane’s meddling, sleazeball of an ex-husband. How will Jane keep the peace and prevent the hotel from going under without losing her mind?

Season Three
Jane Seymour and the quirky staff of the Roche Hotel have returned for ten new short episodes in a hilarious third season of this Tudorific romantic comedy. Jane's ex-husband and assistant manager, Nick, failed in his attempt to win her back. Now his girlfriend Brandy is back in town with a big surprise that he's not at all prepared to handle. To make things worse, the hotel is struggling (again) and needs a boost in business to keep things afloat while a black sheep from Jane's family arrives to throw a wrench in the whole thing. All Jane wants is a steady paycheck and time to cultivate her love for Henry the Donut Guy, but now she's got to play relationship counselor to her ex and miracle worker for the hotel (again). Can Jane juggle all these challenges while keeping her employers and her boyfriend happy?

Season One
By 3:00 AM, I finally learn enough Sasquatch language from Jerry to muddle through the audits until all the figures add up. He wanders off somewhere to do whatever it is he does. I dust things that don’t need dusting and clean the leaves on the silk plants in the lobby until 5:00 AM, when Jerry unlocks the front doors. I go back to sit at the office desk with a cup of coffee, resting my head in one hand. Surely someone would soon wake up to check out or ask for toothpaste or even a stick of gum for all I care.

My eyelids feel so heavy...


I’m startled awake and bump my coffee with my elbow. A brown pool of cold Folgers and congealed half-n-half flows across the audit sheets. “Crap.”

The man at the front desk laughs. “Sorry to startle you.”

“It’s fine,” I say, not bothering to look at him because I’m searching for paper towels instead. Finding none, I grab my sweater from the back of the chair and blot the papers.

“Need some tissues?” he asks.

“No, I’m fine.” Embarrassed for being such a klutz in front of a guest, I keep my head down and drag my sleepy self to the front desk. Finally, I look up and am met with a stunningly handsome smile. “Oh, how can I help you?”

“Where’s Jerry?” He holds up a small paper bag. There’s a stack of white boxes beside him.

“I don’t know. Would you like me to page him?”

“No need. I’ll just leave these here. Custard-filled. He loves those.”

I notice his shirt, embroidered with Hermann’s Bakery in a simple script font on the right pocket. His hair is a dusty brown and has that trendy bed-head look which I usually consider lazy, but on him, it’s rather adorable. He’s clean-shaven and reasonably tall.

His eyes crinkle when he smiles again. “I’m Henry. You new here?”

“Yes, it’s my first night.” I point to the temporary name tag with my name written in black sharpie. “I’m Jane.”

“Nice to meet you. They call me the ‘Donut Guy’.”

He offers his hand, and I take it. His grip is warm and strong, and jump-starts a few sleepy neurons. Henry. And Jane Seymour. The third wife of Henry VIII, as legend says, was reportedly the love of his life. Why does my mind have to venture there, of all places? I’m not ready to heal my broken heart over Nick with Henry the Donut Guy, no matter how Tudorific our names are.

I let go of his hand and take the paper bag. “I’ll be sure to give these to Jerry.”

“Would you like one?”

“I probably shouldn’t…” My stomach rumbles in disagreement.

“They’re complimentary. The hotel orders more than enough, trust me.”

“Oh, then I’ll take a donut with chocolate icing if you have one.”

“Sure do.”

He opens one of the boxes and holds it within my reach. I pick up a donut and take a bite. Still warm and melt-in-your-mouth good.

“Mmm, this is delicious.”

Henry closes the box and takes a tissue from the Kleenex dispenser beside the wall. Why hadn’t I noticed those before I sacrificed my poor sweater? He reaches across the front desk and wipes the corner of my mouth. Warmth crawls up my cheeks.

“You had a little icing there,” he says with that knee-weakening smile.

Season Two
When there’s a chance of a reptile fugitive lurking somewhere in your vicinity, it makes the night a little tense, to say the least. The snake’s cage is in the office, with a nameplate that reads: Precious. Right. I’ve never thought of any reptile as precious, no matter how charming their personality.

All is quiet until about 11: 30 PM. I’m checking in a late arrival when Jerry skulks through the lobby like a coveralled sasquatch on the prowl. He’s holding the cage in one hand and a broom in the other.

The guest is a young man with blond dreadlocks and a t-shirt with Hemptosis embroidered on the front pocket. “Dude,” he whispers to me while watching Jerry disappear down the hall, “what’s going on?”

“A poodle,” I say. “Someone lost a poodle.”

Hemp Boy chuckles. “Awesome. Must be some tripped out poodle. A little hashish might calm him down.” He pats his jeans pocket and winks.

“I…don’t think that’ll be necessary. Here’s your key.”

“Thanks, man.”

I don’t know if he’s really mistaken me for a guy or if he’s just stoned, so I smile sweetly and add, “This is a non-smoking facility, by the way. Have a great night.”

“Yeah, you too. If you need any hemp accessories, we got good stuff, man. Shirts, shoes, purses, you name it.” He tosses a business card on the front desk and swaggers off, but stops before reaching the hall and looks at the ceiling. “There’s something banging around up there.” He turns to me and whispers, “Maybe it’s the poodle. Want me to get him?”

“No, no, enjoy your night.” I wait for him to shrug and disappear down the hall. Then, I frantically page Jerry:Snake, here, ceiling.

Two minutes later, Jerry appears, broom in one hand and ladder in the other. He stands frozen for a second, one ear turned upward, and then sets up the ladder in the breakfast area. He climbs up and removes a ceiling tile.

“Did you find it?” God, I hope he’s found it.

He holds up a hand to shush me. “I’m lookin’.” His furry head disappears into the ceiling.

Mrs. Roche shuffles through the lobby in her robe and slippers. She removes a hand towel from her head and wraps it around the naked David statue like he’s just stepped from the shower.

I glance at Jerry. “Um, Mrs. Roche, could I get you something?”

“It’s just my rheumatism. No need to fuss over me. A cup of tea usually helps.” She opens a drawer. “Now where are those tea bags?”

Jerry’s in up to his waist now. A few bangs and bumps echo from the ceiling.

“I can get it for you,” I say, emerging from behind the front desk in the hopes of ushering her out. “I’ll even bring it to your room.”

“Nonsense. I’m not helpless.”

My cell phone buzzes in my pocket. I pull it out and see yet another text from Nick: I’m back in town. Call me.

No, no, no, this cannot be happening. I’ll have to call and tell him to go rot in an unnaturally warm place. If worse comes to worst, I’ll threaten to get a restraining order. Not that I’m frightened of him—he’s too cowardly and conniving to be violent. It’s just the principle of the thing. I turn back toward the front desk and click on his number; he answers in two rings.

“Hey babe.”

“Don’t babe me. Why are you calling, and what do you mean you’re back in town?”

“I’m at the airport. Can you pick me up?”

“What?!” I turn back around to see if Jerry’s made any progress with the snake hunting.

“Okay, yeah, never mind. I’ll get a cab. Just wanted to tell you-”

“Oh dear lord. Hold please.” A scaly head attached to a long, spotted body hangs down by Mrs. Roche’s ear. She’s still rummaging through the drawer, oblivious to her reptilian neighbor. Jerry hurries down the ladder.

“Jane? Babe?”

“Can’t talk now. Stop calling, and leave me alone.” I click END and slide the phone in my pocket. “Mrs. Roche, don’t move.”

Season Three
It’s just a few minutes past 6:00. The front door chimes, and in walks Carol. Her bracelets jingle as she sprays Aqua Net all over her permed hair and enters the office in a perfumed cloud of aerosol.

“What are you doing here?” I ask.

“Relieving you, hun.”

“You don’t need to do that. We’re full up, but with Jerry and a housekeeper on call, it’s nothing I can’t manage.”

“I know you can manage, but I’m here to relieve you on strict orders.”

“From whom?”

“Your cutie-patootie. He wants you over at his house at 6:30 sharp.” Carol winks and pops a piece of Wrigley’s in her mouth. Her hoop earrings sway as she chomps happily.

“But, but…” My brain is stuck in a loop of buts. Henry usually eats dinner with me at the hotel when I’m working, but has never asked me to take a day off or leave early. Maybe he’s sick, but he was fine when he left for work this morning. Susan said he was here earlier, but he never said anything to me or stopped by the front desk.

Carol reaches down, grabs my purse, and puts it in my arms. “Now shoo – don’t keep the Donut Guy waiting.”

“Okay.” I clock out, going into autopilot as I put on my coat and head to my car.

Logical Me is nowhere to be found, so my rattled brain drifts a few years back to the night Nick took me out to dinner, only to tell me he wanted a divorce because he was leaving with Brandy for California. My trembling hands can barely hold the key fob as I unlock the car and get in. Twenty minutes later with a headache and churning stomach, I arrive at Henry’s house. His renovations to his grandfather’s former residence are almost done. The place looks brand new with freshly painted siding and shutters. But what if he doesn’t want me to be part of it anymore?

I raise my hand to knock on the door when Henry opens it and engulfs me in a tight, warm hug. “So glad you could get off early. I take it Carol came through for me.”

He pulls me inside and helps me out of my coat. Then he hangs it and my purse on the coat rack.

“Yeah, but why did you have her do that? Is everything okay?” Delicious aromas are coming from the kitchen. My legs wobble. My voice becomes shrill with rising hysteria. “Why were you at the hotel today? Susan saw you. You didn’t talk to me.”

He grins and heads toward the kitchen where he takes a couple of wine glasses from the rack over the island. “You like Chardonnay, right?”

I follow, leaning against the counter for support. “Yeah, but…what’s this all this about?”

He’s got the table set with the good china, complete with forks, knives, and spoons. Even cloth napkins. Soft music plays from his stereo in the living room. It’s Kenny G. Everyone knows that Kenny G isn’t breakup music. It’s romantic night music. What if he’s not breaking up with me? What if, instead, he’s getting ready to propose? It’s suddenly hard to breathe. I may need a paper bag because I don’t know what’s worse – being faced with another breakup or another marriage.

Henry finishes pouring and looks up with a concerned frown. He comes around to me and takes both my hands in his, kissing my knuckles. “Relax, Jane. It’s not what you think.”

“It’s not?”

“Well, I never can be exactly sure about what’s going on in that beautiful mind of yours, but I know you’re not ready for marriage.”

Crazed gorilla mode kicks in. Crap, it must be a breakup. Kenny G’s a liar

Author Bio:
Mysti Parker is a wife, mom, author, and shameless chocoholic. She is the author of the Tallenmere standalone fantasy romance series, including the award-winning Hearts in Exile. Her first award-winning historical romance, A Time for Everything, was published in July 2015. Mysti’s other romantic tales include The Roche Hotel romantic comedy series and contemporary novellas co-written with author MJ Post. Her short writings have appeared in the anthologies Hearts of Tomorrow, Christmas Lites, Christmas Lites II, Christmas Lites IV, The Darwin Murders, Tasteful Murders and EveryDayFiction.

Other writing pursuits include serving as a class mentor in Writers Village University's seven week online course, F2K. She has also published two children's books (Quentin's Problem & Fuzzy Buzzy's Treasure) under the name Misty Baker.

When she's not writing fiction, Mysti works as a freelance editor and copywriter. She also reviews books for SQ Magazine, an online specfic publication. She resides in KY with her husband, three children and too many pets.


Season One

Season Two

Season Three

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