Paranormal LGBT Erotic Romantic Suspense/69,000 Words

Everlight (Book 1)

Forty-year-old, hard bitten, foul-mouthed, homicide detective, Hiro Santos, suspects the owner of the art studio committed the gory killing. Too bad. There are other things he'd like to do to the gorgeous young man than book him for murder. Worse, his sexy suspect is certifiable. The nutcase claims he's some kind of high wizard from an alternate reality and needs Hiro's help to save their worlds.

While the striking Sable Campion appears a youthful twenty-five, he’s endured over two-hundred lonely years as guardian of the portal between Everlight and Elysium. None of those centuries offered him any experience finding a vicious killer. That's where Hiro Santos comes in; but convincing the virile detective to trust Sable will take all his persuasive skills… and perhaps a bit of magic. 

The magic they find in each other's arms will rock each of their realities.


Other Books by Kris

Other Books by Patricia



Excerpt

Chapter One

The vibration of the beast’s growl pushed saliva over its bloodied lip. The elongated strand caught the light and shimmered. The servant marveled how light, the purest form of existence, could transform even this gruesome aspect of death. Time slowed into well-defined heartbeats of reality. He clutched the talisman in his hand. The temptation had been too great. He’d tried to profit from his master’s greed, and now… now he was going to die. It was as if the power of light versus dark had righted some cosmic imbalance. His master’s crimes had gone without retribution. Yet his had attracted the ultimate punishment. Light provides. Darkness deprives. The truth of the prophets echoed in his heart.

Another four-footed guardian ghosted into his peripheral vision under the cloak of darkness. Fear had a finite lifespan in the presence of these hunters. He was dead. They would kill him, here in the place where the final battle for all power would be waged. What a shame. This poor shadow of a reality paled in comparison to Elysium. He would have preferred to die there.

A rabid, terrifying snarl held like a smile on the beast’s jowls milliseconds before the fiend lunged.

***

Vester Montrose watched from the blackness as his guardian beasts worried his servant’s body, flipping it in the air and catching it again in their mouths in a gruesome game of keep away. The man’s agonized screams echoed through the unoccupied building. His lips pulled back with distaste as blood fountained across the room and hit the walls in a heavy spatter. Too close. He pulled his pristine white robe to him and withdrew further from the scene. Things had gotten… messy. He shivered in revulsion. Wreckage from the initial confrontation littered the pottery showroom. His servant had resisted with surprising efficiency. “Cease. Drop him,” he snapped. The pair snarled, unhappy to be forced from their play, but backed away from the mound of ripped flesh and exposed bone that used to be a man.

“Where is it? I know you took it. Tell me where you hid it and I’ll call off my dogs. If you’re lucky, the High Wizard will find you and mercifully end your miserable life.”

“Never,” the male gurgled. “Never.”

“As you wish. I’ll find the Fifth Phylacterium without your help.” His eyes swept to the hulking beasts. “He is yours.” With silent snarls, both animals began to rend and tear at the body. Screams of inhuman suffering pierced the room. “Silence him,” he snapped.

With a powerful sling of its head, one fiend separated the man’s face from his skull and tossed it across the room. The other ripped out his throat. Blood spurted into the air in crimson arcs. They proceeded to dismember the living body until all that remained were bits of flesh and bone. They consumed nothing. The kill was for sport.

He stood unspeaking. All the while, his eyes roamed the room, peering through the dim interior to detect any indication of the golden disc. With sour resentment, he absently rubbed the heavy rope of scars seared into his chest. He needed that talisman. Blue lights strobed the showroom windows. A bevy of black-and-white vehicles pulled up on the street outside. He muttered foul imprecations under his breath. The ineffectual law enforcement in this cesspool of a reality had arrived. Their appearance was an oversight on his part. Had he notified his connections in the department, they would have run interference. With a snarl, he jerked his white hood over his head, pulled his robes closer to his body and, two steps at a time, ascended the staircase toward the upper rooms and the open portal back to his reality and away from this slice of hell.

He would have the Fifth Phylacterium. He’d worked too hard and risked too much to back away now. He would return—or send the dogs.

***

Detective Hiro Santos drew a deep breath as he pulled up to his most recent call out. The address on High Street was one of the better areas in the western quadrant, but the last five years of rising rates of violent crime had pulled all his beloved city into criminal chaos. No part of Everlight seemed immune to the nightmare. The sounds of sirens and the strobe of blue lights weren’t rare occurrences. According to the national news, the city had recently been dubbed the murder capital of the western hemisphere. For a homicide detective that meant job security, but fuck it, man, would one night off be too much to ask?

He pushed the heavy steel door of his classic Chevelle open and lovingly ran a hand down the armrest of the door. His baby was 454 cubic inches of rumbling power that pumped out 400 horsepower giving 500 pounds per feet of torque to the rear wheels. It had been meticulously restored with an astro-blue paint job, including the white stripes and a double-stitched ivory leather interior. He loved the car because his dad and he had spent countless hours restoring the beauty. Hiro closed the door and hit the locks and alarm. He took in a lungful of air, allowing the smells of the city to invade his small piece of normalcy. The fetid smell of garbage, exhaust and decay assaulted his senses. God, he absolutely loved this city and he knew every street of the unforgiving bitch. Everlight had a life force of her own, and the ebb and flow of crime pumped along her streets and avenues just as sure as blood flowed in Hiro’s veins. He was a part of her and she was a part of him, but right now—he wanted a fucking divorce.

One last draw on his cigarette gave him the opportunity to take in the cordoned area. Upscale digs to be sure. A detached brick two-story with a wrap-around porch—the kind built in the late 1800s—in pristine condition with a well-tended yard. Much like his Chevelle, the building had been beautifully restored. Iron lace fencing and no tags from the local street thugs. Hiro glanced to the roofline. Two stories and no visible security system. Well no wonder someone had invaded the sanctity of the structure. Whoever owned the building was a fucking fool. Who in their right mind would dump a shitload of money on a building and not protect it? An idiot. A moron. A stupid shit. He could go on for hours, but the night wasn’t getting younger and neither was he. He crushed the cigarette butt under the heel of his boot. Time to play.

He ducked under the crime scene tape and made his way through the detritus of his job. The street cops gave him a wide berth. His reputation afforded him that respect. He was considered a rogue, but he got results. The brass never looked over his shoulder. In fact, they only looked where he wasn’t. It was easier for everyone that way. He got results and the stuffed suits at HQ needed his solve rate to stave off the political storm that always seemed to loom in the distance.

He headed up the bricked stoop at the same time a uniformed officer raced out of the building. The cop bent over and heaved his dinner. Hiro closed his eyes tight as his fists clenched. This night just couldn’t get better, could it? Taking a step back, he waited for the cop to stop retching. The kid, and yeah, he was a fucking kid, grabbed the railing and slowly straightened. He knew the exact second reality hit the rookie.

“Oh fuck. Sir, I’m so sorry. I…”

Hiro looked at his puke-splattered boots and back at the newbie, reached into his pocket, pulled out another cigarette, and put it in his mouth. He wouldn’t light it and compromise the crime scene, but the action gave him time to tamp down the need to strangle the little shit.

“Sir, I’ll go get something to clean off your boots. I’ll be right back.” The kid scampered off. Like Hiro was going to wait. He continued up the stairs and grabbed a handful of paper towels out of the crime scene tech’s kit. Not the first time he’d been puked on. Protective booties slipped on after the majority of the kid’s dinner was wiped off. He worked his hands into latex gloves and put the cigarette behind his ear. He rounded the corner and immediately halted.

What. The. Fuck.

Small torn hunks of flesh littered the room. Blood smeared both walls and windows with equal consideration. Droplets of the viscous liquid hung precariously from the ceiling. Hiro cocked his head. Was that a… lung hanging from the chandelier?

“Do we have anything that can identify the victim?” His low rasp shattered the silence of the room.

“We know the victim was a male.”

“How do you know that?”

“Found a penis.”

Yep. That would do it. Okay, male victim. He took in the room, trying to get a read of the area beneath the blood. Obviously a showroom of some sort. With the recessed lighting, golden oak floors and antique rugs, a lot of money had been poured into this building. And money like this in Everlight usually meant one of two things. Corruption or mafia. Okay, so one thing. The mafia did the corrupting.

He made his way through the crime scene, avoiding the technicians. He’d get a report of what they found. He worked the far side of the room. Rounding a glass and chrome display case that had to cost more than he made in a month, he came up short. An arm with a hand still attached. Okay, so an ID was possible after all. Hiro squatted down to inspect the watch. The band looked like real gold, for fuck’s sake. Money with a capital M.

He glanced around to make sure he was alone. He needed a minute. The obvious wealth involved in this case screamed mafia and that meant everyone in the room was suspect. The family’s reach was pervasive in Everlight’s police department. Fuck. Any evidence he didn’t collect himself could be gone by morning.

He took a pen out of his pocket and hooked it under the arm. He needed to note what type of watch the perp…

A gold coin or disk, approximately three inches in diameter, lay under the palm of the disembodied hand. Hiro glanced around again. He took an evidence bag out of his jacket and slid the disk into the plastic, sealing it quickly. Sliding the evidence back into his pocket, he carefully laid the arm back in its original position after taking a picture of the watch with his phone.

Moving on, he stopped at the foot of an open staircase with a wrought-iron banister and elaborate scrolled spindles. At the top of the landing was an equally elaborate closed door of frosted glass and wrought iron. “Where does this lead?”

Every head swiveled toward him. An older cop standing at the main entrance replied, “Locked. No sign of forced entry or manipulation to the lock. Not a point of entry or egress. Our concentration has been on protecting the crime scene.”

He palmed his face and scrubbed hard. Fucking amateurs. “Get me the information on who owns this building.” His pointed command sent two people scurrying.

“You.” He pointed toward the fucking moron that had puked on his boots. “See if there is another entrance. I don’t need you barfing on my crime scene.” The kid’s face flushed, a vivid red overtaking the shade of green that seemed to be his current coloring, but he nodded and headed out.

On the far side of the room, the sight of a detective he’d worked with before soothed his irritation slightly. The man was alright, and as far as Hiro could tell, he wasn’t on the take—yet. “Locke, who called this in?”

The man’s head popped up as if he hadn’t noticed Hiro in the room. “Oh, hey. Anonymous. Listened to the call dispatch recorded on the way over. Believe it or not, it sounded like a gangbanger, and the douche came off scared as shit. Claimed he saw werewolves. Fucking drugged out fool. But…” Locke shrugged. “I could hear the screams in the background.”

Hiro cast a glance around the blood-soaked room. Werewolves? Well, that drug-addled delusion would fucking explain this mess, but he’d stick to reality and catch the sick fuck who’d eviscerated this poor sucker.

“Any prints, fibers, hair, trace?” Silence met his question. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” His growl startled a small female technician.

“Sir, everything I’ve collected has been blood, flesh and organs. There isn’t anything.”

“Sir, I got something.”

He spun and stalked to the tech in the far corner of the room. “What?”

“Ah… a print from a really, really big dog.”

Hiro leaned over the technician. Locke stood next to him. Well, shit.

***

Despite his growing unease at the bites of power that nipped his skin—indications of a disturbance in the time continuum—Sable Campion maintained a serene countenance and gazed at the brilliant night sky through the Embarcadero Building’s 40th floor windows. He’d spent several unprofitable hours marking time while the White Council dealt with boring administrative matters. One chair had remained empty. Perhaps the council was waiting for their absent member before moving to the reason he’d been summoned. His fingers clenched the arms of his chair in a white-knuckled display of his true inner feelings. He relaxed his undisciplined hands. It wouldn’t do for Elysium’s White Council to see less than perfect control from a high wizard.

The chamber door opened and a white-robed and hooded figure, wearing the ornate ceremonial mask of a White Council member, entered and crossed the room. With a bow, a swirl of robes and a murmured apology to the assembled members, the individual swept into the vacant chair. As if on cue, the council head nodded at him and spoke the conventional question that preceded all interactions between Elysium wizards and the White Council.

“Homme Campion, Imperium Magus and Potarium of the western portal between Elysium and Everlight City, do you harbor any malicious intent toward any individual member of this council or the reality of Elysium as a whole?”

“No, Exquisite Femme, I do not.”

“Have you ever physically harmed a White Council member or another High Wizard?”

“No, Exquisite Femme, I have not. With respect, where did that question come from?” The first question had been rote… the second anything but.

She inclined her head. “It was necessary to ask. We have suffered another murder. This makes the third assassination of a sitting member of the White Council in the past twelve months.” The speaker pushed herself back in her chair. “And of course, there is still the ongoing crisis of the dead gatekeepers and their fractured portals. This situation has forced us to take an unprecedented action. Homme Campion, in view of your bloodline’s unique magical abilities…”

The late-arriving male interjected, “And over my objections about your extreme youth and lack of experience.”

The Exquisite Femme’s head tilted gracefully in acknowledgment and she continued, “This council has determined to grant you the Order of Inquisitor with all powers and authorities commensurate. You are officially an agent of this Council. Find our killer.”

He hid his surprise—and concern—at the subject matter and urgency in the normally unflappable Femme’s voice. He could hear her unease even through the elaborate white mask that covered her face. She had reason to fear. Should matters continue as they were, the alternate reality and its millions of souls would ultimately be absorbed into Elysium and cease to exist.

He rose from his chair and moved to the window, his back to the council, his arms at his sides, and ostensibly studied the stars. Seconds turned to minutes as he chose his words with elaborate care. He turned to address the eight cloaked and masked forms sitting at the semi-circular table. Each white-robed and hooded member sat erect, their masked faces fastened on him.

“Because the murders of the council members began shortly after the death of the eastern gatekeeper, I believe whoever committed the council killings must also be responsible for the breach of the north, south and eastern portals and the murders of their gatekeepers. Exquisite Femme, your identities are known only to those of you on this council.” He crossed his arms. “As each murder occurred in this chamber, and only council members have access, I must believe the person responsible for all six murders sits among you.” Silence met his pronouncement. “I ask again for the Fifth Phylacterium so that I might close the three ruptured gateways and stabilize the reality of Everlight.”

The speaker lifted her head. “The White Council is a governing body and a judicial court. We cannot investigate or apprehend. We can only convict and sentence or exonerate and free. If the killer is indeed on this council, find the evidence and present it to us. As to your second, or it is the third, request for the Fifth Phylacterium… we will take it under advisement.”

He clamped his teeth on an angry protest. Arguing with the Council simply wasn’t done. An electric frisson pulled on his body… then another… and another in escalating intensity. A lancing pain struck him to his knees. He grunted in an effort to contain his outcry.

“Are you well, Homme Campion?” asked the cool voice of a Council male.

Sable drew on the elemental energy flowing through the conduit of the ley line under the Embarcadero Building. A surge of life force pulsed through his body. He rose to his feet and straightened his shoulders. Addressing the Council members, he bowed. “Exquisite Femmes, Elite Hommes, I must return to Everlight City. A critical instability threatens to collapse the western gateway.” He didn’t wait for the murmurs of alarm to die down before he pulled more energy from the ley line and vanished from the council chamber.

***

“This is going to be bad.” Sable’d rematerialized in the portal room above his apartment in Everlight. As he feared, disruptive proton matter gushed through a rent in the time continuum. He tapped into the energy inherent in the major ley lines that flowed underneath his pottery studio and writhed in excruciating agony as unimaginable power transformed him into a physical conductor of immense energy. He lost valuable minutes before he regained his rational mind. Through sheer force of will, he mastered his pain and wove an energy patch on the time continuum fabric and inched the gateway closed. When matter ceased to flow between realities, he released his hold on the ley lines. “That’s always a son-of-a-bitch,” he moaned, then folded to the floor and passed out.

When he regained consciousness, every molecule in his body screamed abuse. He staggered to his feet from the stone floor of the third-level portal chamber. After 200 years you’d think I’d adjust, but no… things that are like breathing in Elysium pull my fucking guts out here. He propped his back against the wall until he trusted his legs to hold him. Finally recovered enough to stand upright, he signed protective sigils in the air, sigils which rendered the entire third floor invisible to the good citizens of Everlight. He then reset his protections on the chamber and stumbled his way down the stairs to his second floor apartment.

Blue lights strobed the walls when he entered. He pulled back the curtain on the street-facing bay window and examined the scene below. Multiple police cars lined the curb and the sidewalk, and the walkway to his studio was a flurry of activity. “Well, by the Eternal. Now what?” He gave a thought to changing out of his “Elysium” silks and into something more “Everlight” but dismissed it. It will take too long. They’ll simply assume I’m wearing pajamas. Fitting, as it’s 3:00 in the morning. I must have been unconscious longer than I’d thought. He straightened and steeled himself for what was to come. Head high, he unlocked the door to his apartment and walked into a scene of bloody carnage.

He inhaled and then stifled a cough. Foo Dogs. Their signature acrid smell hung in the air above the copper tang of blood. And where was the phylacterium used to open the portal? The golden talisman was still on the property; Sable could feel it. He needed to find it before the white-coated technicians who picked carefully through the wreckage of what used to be his upscale pottery studio. A blue-uniformed police officer stood in the middle of the room amidst the shattered glass of a pricey display cabinet. A tall dark-headed man—the detective on call, Sable assumed—dressed him down.

The detective’s worn leather jacket couldn’t hide the heavy, sculptured muscles of his shoulders and arms. His tight jeans highlighted his trim waist, tight buttocks and thick thighs. The black of some sort of tribal tattoo peeked above his shirt collar. Sable shifted to get a glimpse of the man’s face. A mixed heritage of possibly Oriental, Hispanic and Caucasian bloodlines combined to form a face of fierce masculinity, not traditionally handsome—some might even label his features harsh and road-worn—but to Sable’s eyes, jaded by the perfection of Elysium, the man was simply breathtaking. The Exquisites and Elites would fight with viciousness, obscured under superficial courtesy of course, to obtain access to such a primal savage, all the while shuddering with sanctimonious abhorrence at the pollution in his bloodlines. Whoever he was, his owner could name his price for him as an escort in Elysium.

Sable had guarded the portal between Elysium and Everlight long enough to purge himself of such elitist snobbery, but he wasn’t immune to the erotic lure of such mixed blood. He sincerely admired the peoples of Everlight and their lack of concern over racial purity. They were vital and energetic hybrids—superlative lovers when properly taught. In spite of the inappropriateness of his reaction, sexual interest flared in his gut as he examined the leather-clad male. So elemental. So virile. I wonder what he’s like in bed.

***

“Fuck it, Locke. What in the hell is going on?” Hiro demanded.

“That would be my question, gentlemen. Exactly what has gone on here, and who or what is spattered on my studio ceiling?”

Hiro spun on his heel. The locked door at the top of the staircase hung open and the most beautiful man he’d ever seen stood framed by cascading backlight. His white-blond hair fell past his shoulders onto what appeared to be white silk pajamas. Holy fuck, the material clung to the man’s tall, slender frame. Muscled, but not muscle bound. Hiro licked his lips. Yum. But young. Too young for him. He’d put the boy-toy at twenty, twenty-five at the most.

As he descended the stairs, the pretty man’s gaze slowly swept the room and came to rest intently on Hiro. Brilliant blue eyes trapped his. Damned if that look didn’t go straight to his balls like a jolt of electricity. God, if Hiro’s cock could have stood up and waved it would have. The guy across the room pushed and held every fucking button Hiro possessed. Smug bastard smirked and lifted an eyebrow at him as if he knew it, too.

“And you are?”

“Sable Campion. I’m an artist and dealer, and I own the building. I live in the apartment above the studio.” The man’s voice was melodic. Hiro cocked his head. He’d never heard the accent before and he was damn good at categorizing people.

“Mr. Campion, have you been here all night?”

“More or less.”

“Right. You didn’t hear anything.” Hiro wasn’t asking a question.

“No. I didn’t hear a thing. I’m afraid I’m of no use to you… Detective…?”

“Santos.”

Locke leaned in and whispered, “No way he didn’t hear the screams.”

“On the 911 call we received, we could hear a man’s screams. Do you still maintain you didn’t hear anything?”

“I do.”

“Care to explain how?”

“I wasn’t here, Detective.”

“So more gone, and less here. Where were you and who were you with? I’m assuming they can corroborate your alibi?

“I need an alibi?”

Hiro liked that shocked look on the young man’s face. Finally, honest emotion. “I’m beginning to think you may, Mr. Campion.”

“Interesting and surprising. Unfortunately, the people I met with are anonymous. I don’t know their names.”

Ahh… mafia. Anonymous meets are standard. Can’t rat on people you don’t know. “Right. Naturally. So where did you meet these mystery people?”

“On the 40th floor of the Embarcadero Building.”

“The Embarcadero Building? You mean the building on State Street that has thirty-nine floors?”

Sable’s mouth twitched in what Hiro was certain was an aborted smile.

“The name on the building was The Embarcadero, yes.”

“So, mystery people in a made-up location. Can anyone corroborate your presence outside these walls?”

“Ah, sadly, no. Other than those I met with of course, but for obvious reasons…” The blond lifted one shoulder in an elegant shrug.

Hiro rolled his eyes and took a firmer grip on his temper—on his disappointment. Why were the fuckable ones always off limits? “So, on your return home, somehow, you missed all this?” His arm swept the gore in an all-encompassing gesture.

“I didn’t enter my apartment through the studio.”

“Right.” Hiro glanced over at the young cop he’d sent to find alternate entrances to the second floor. The man shook his head.

“Care to show me how you got into the building?”

The man’s expression softened into one of… regret? “No. I’m sorry. I wish I could help you.”

Once more, Campion examined the wreckage of his gore-strewn studio.

“Something missing we should know about, Mr. Campion?”

The young man straightened as if startled and leveled his intense blue gaze on Hiro. “Missing? It would be difficult to determine. My initial guess is nothing.” A slight smile curved his lips.

Hiro nodded. Great. So much for my wet dreams. Campion’s evasion made him the prime suspect in this fucked up paint-by-numbers bloodbath. “Mr. Campion, you’ll need to go with Detective Locke to the station. We’d like to ask you a few questions.”

“Of course.” Pajama man gave him a small formal bow. “I’m at your service.”

Again, the wattage in the man’s blue gaze zapped him with a live current of physical attraction. Yeah, I’d love to have you service me. Hiro chuckled to himself and nodded Locke in his direction. “See you downtown, Mr. Campion.”

Locke started the drone of the suspect’s rights, and Hiro gave up any pretense of not watching as Locke took away the delectable piece of man meat. God, he needed to get laid. Too bad Campion was now a part of an active investigation.

Two hours and a body bag of pieces and parts later, Hiro and the crime scene technicians exited the building. Orange and pink streaks lit the eastern skyline. Hiro made his way back to his ride. He’d inherited his baby from his old man. He’d been a cop, too. Between the two of them, they’d modified the car into a mobile precinct. Hiro popped the trunk and opened the cast iron storage compartment. He placed the small disk he’d taken from the crime scene into the ironclad compartment and closed the lock.

Sliding behind the wheel, Hiro lit a cigarette and smiled. Time to go have a chat with pretty boy.