Make Your Dream Come True Day | One Would Be Enough

Make your dreams come true

The parties are plenty! Yesterday, we were celebrating Kiss a Ginger Day, and today we’re celebrating Make Your Dream Come True Day.

Last year, One Would Be Enough was released. It’s a paranormal romance story about Teo who has worked hard to make his dreams come true. He’s finally reached the point where he’s in control of his life and doesn’t have to answer to anyone. Or so he thought.

Soon he finds himself locked up in a basement, and he’s not the only one there.

I had a great time writing this story, but it’s a little different from my other fated mates stories. For one, they’re spending almost the entire story in the dark in one room which means there isn’t much change in scenery, so that was a bit of a challenge. 

One Would Be Enough

one would be enough

Teo Solace has worked hard to achieve his dream of owning a house. But he didn’t know he would become next-door neighbor to werewolves or that refusing the pack’s demand to sell the house to them would end with being kidnapped.

Jerico Franklin left his pack sixteen years ago, and he never planned to return. By refusing to mate with the female his father picked for him, he believed he was doomed to live the rest of his life as a lone wolf. He didn’t expect to wake up in a dark cellar with a human by his side. Jerico shouldn’t care about the human, but when he learns his former pack intends to kill Teo to take over his house, he knows he has to find a way to get them out of there before he loses control of his wolf.

Teo never believed he’d care for a wolf, but spending days in the dark with nothing but Jerico’s voice to cling to shifts his perspectives. Humans are a dime on a dozen. One more or less shouldn’t matter, but Jerico would’ve lost himself in the dark if it wasn’t for Teo. For how long will Jerico be able to keep Teo safe from the pack? For how long can he keep him safe from himself?

Buy links:

Gay Paranormal Romance: 17,039 words

JMS Books :: Amazon :: books2read.com/OneWouldBeEnough

Chapter 1

Teo Solace came to with a groan. The strain on his arms was excruciating and the darkness filled him with panic. It took a few seconds before the memories came flooding back.

He didn’t know how long he’d been there, but it had to be a couple of days now—it had to.

Shivering, he pulled in a breath. The damp air was still too cold for comfort, but something was different now. His head was woozy and his mouth uncooperative. Drool wet his stubbly chin, and he did his best to wipe it off on his shoulder.

Adrenaline shot through him as his motions had his fingers brushing against something—something warm. He held his breath and listened.

Breaths.

The hairs on his body stood on end. There was someone else down here with him.

Teo tried looking over his shoulder, but it was pitch black. He guessed they were back-to-back. With his feet tied to the chair and his muscles stiff and cold, he couldn’t move. It didn’t matter. He could’ve been placed on the person’s lap and still not be able to see them. There wasn’t so much as a sliver of light coming through a crack—no window, and he had no idea in what direction the door was. Was he in the same room he’d been before?

“Excuse me?” He waited. “Hello?”

No response.

The thick, damp darkness was swallowing him, removing him from the universe, but he was sure someone was there with him. Now that he was more alert, he could sense the heat coming off the person, and he wanted to curl into it. He was so damn cold he feared he’d never get warm again.

It had to be above freezing or he’d be dead by now, but there was no radiator in the basement, and January was cold this far north. He’d known it would be when he moved, but he hadn’t counted on this mess.

“Hey!” He tried touching the hands—he assumed they were hands and the person was trussed up in a similar fashion as he was.

Everything stilled, and Teo feared the person had died. There were no breaths.

“Are you alive?”

“Last I checked.” The gravelly tone sent a shiver through Teo. A man, and while it was hard to tell, he believed him to be taller than Teo. It could be the sound of his voice echoing strangely, but he didn’t think so.

“Good. I feared you’d left me there for a moment.”

“Do I… no.”

“No, what?”

“I was gonna ask if I know you, but I don’t.”

Considering Teo didn’t know anyone around here, he had never toyed with the idea of the guy being someone he knew.

“Nah, I’m not from around here, if we’re still here, that is.”

Silence stretched and Teo wanted to roll his eyes. He might not be a genius, but he liked to believe he was above average in the intelligence department. He often dumbed it down to fit in with his workmates—they weren’t stupid, but there was a certain jargon to stick to. And he stuck to it—mostly for their sake, but life was easier if you fit the role expected of you.

He was six feet tall with a stocky build and had worked as a construction worker, among other things, for most of his adult life. People expected him to talk a certain way, to laugh at a certain kind of jokes, and most often he did. He even took Mae to events. It was expected of him.

Mae didn’t expect it of him, of course, but it was an understanding between them. Whenever Teo needed a plus one, Mae would go with him, and vice versa.

Shit, she’d be pissed at him for not calling for two—three?—days.

“You’re from the south?”

Teo was yanked out of his head. “Ah… eh, yeah. Moved to Arkney three months ago.”

The man’s fingers brushed against Teo’s as he tested the bonds. When there was a metallic clink, Teo frowned. “Are you cuffed?”

“Aren’t you?”

Teo shook his head. “No, rope.”

“So cut them.”

Teo huffed. “Cut them? Well, Mister Smartass, don’t you think I would’ve done it already if I could.”

* * * *

Jerico Franklin swallowed a groan. They had him locked up with a human. Had he been more awake, he would have known. It was clear in the man’s scent.

Betrayal stung as the foggy images pieced themselves together. Hugo hadn’t begged or threatened as his family had, but he’d argued. The pack had financial problems, and unless Jerico mated Azura of the Forest Edge Pack, the pack would starve.

It was a lie. Wolves didn’t starve, there was plenty of food in the forest, and they knew how to hunt, but Jerico guessed it was easier to use as an argument than to say they wouldn’t be able to buy new cars and spend their nights watching Netflix.

He’d humiliated the Forest Edge Pack by refusing their crown princess without meeting her, and he’d brought disgrace to his pack for the same reason. Though, to be fair, he did that simply by existing.

Wolf packs weren’t exactly progressive.

As the alpha’s first son, he was expected to mate a high-standing female, get her pregnant several times over, and then take over the pack. When he’d told them he’d never bed a female since he was gay, they’d threatened to castrate him. He’d believed that was the end of things, shifted, and ran off.

Sixteen years had gone by, and he’d truly believed his status as a lone wolf was cemented.

Oh, how wrong he’d been.

He should have known, of course. Should have suspected when Hugo showed up on his doorstep, but the bastard had claimed he’d left the pack too. He’d said he struggled as a lone wolf, had claimed the loneliness tore at him.

It did. It was a constant gaping wound in Jerico’s soul. Wolves weren’t meant to be alone.

Jerico had taken him in. Stupid as he was, he’d forgotten the anger in Hugo’s eyes sixteen years ago—had made himself forget. He had wanted Hugo’s words to be true so much he’d ignored the first signs of contact with the pack. He had yearned for someone to understand him and his side of the story.

“What’s your name?”

The human’s voice was tired and his teeth chattered. Why the fuck had they put a human in here with him?

“Jerico.”

“I’m Teo.”

Silence made the dark thicker.

Teo groaned. “I need the bathroom. Do you think they’ll come if I call?”

“Have they before?”

“I’ve never needed to. They’ve come and fetched me, allowed me to use the bathroom, and given me some water and a small snack to keep me upright. Normally, they let me walk around in here. It’s too dark to walk around, but I’ve been allowed to move.”

“Food?” Jerico would weaken fast without food. A shifter’s metabolism worked a lot faster than a human’s.

“Soup, but the last time I can only remember taking one spoon, then I woke up here with you.”

They’d spiked the soup the same way Hugo had with his beer.

“How long have you been here?”

Teo’s teeth stopped chattering for a second. “I think it’s been two or three days, but I don’t know for sure. You lose track of time pretty fast. A minute feels like half an hour.”

“Is anyone looking for you?” Maybe the police would come. Though probably not since the pack was on good terms with them, and they most often looked the other way when it was pack business.

“No, no one knows I’m missing. It will be another few days before Mae suspects something is up. And by then we’re probably dead. Unless…”

“Unless?” He didn’t care, one human more or less was of no importance to the world.

“Unless it’s the bastards trying to buy my house. I’ve just moved in, for Christ’s sake!”

Jerico frowned. “Why do they want you to sell?”

“Fucking animals.” His voice held an impressive growl for a human, and Jerico had to swallow one of his own once the words registered. Teo was one of those. They’d locked him up with a purist. As if humans were purer than shifters. Fucking idiots. Soon he’d be talking about how there should be a hunting season on shifters.

“And?”

“They want my land, but I’m not selling.”

“Because?” Jerico could hardly hold back his snarl.

“It’s my dream. I’ve worked damn hard to get here, so damn hard you have no idea. The fleabags could’ve bought it when it was up for sale, but they didn’t, and now they’re trying to threaten me into selling. I’m hardly done unpacking.” The last few words he spoke in a whisper.

Jerico mulled the words over. Why would the pack want his house? Maybe it was close to their territory. For all Jerico knew, it could be the bear shifters trying to buy Teo’s property. The bears’ land was border to border to the pack’s in the northeast.

“Hey!”

Teo’s call made Jerico wince.

“Are you out there? I need the bathroom!”

Seconds later, a door rattled, and Jerico recognized the scent of Hugo long before he stepped into the damp basement. There was another scent too, and Jerico’s heart sank. He’d hoped he’d been wrong. He’d known Hugo had slipped him the spiked beer, and yet he’d hoped he’d been wrong. He sighed.

“Are you gonna behave?”

The question was directed to him, but Teo answered. “Yes, let me take a piss, dammit.”

“Jerico?”

What could he do? He could fight, but it would lead to them not getting bathroom breaks. Or he could meekly wait until they stated their demands.

“Let him use the bathroom.”

A female Jerico couldn’t place untied Teo. It could be she’d been young when he’d left so he didn’t recognize her, but he couldn’t remember there being any little girls in the pack, and her scent didn’t belong.

Teo left the room and the door shut behind him, leaving Jerico and Hugo in the dark.

“Why drag him into it?” Not that he cared about Teo.

“It’s a two bird with one stone situation. Either you agree to mate Azura, we’ll get the dowry and be able to buy him out. Or we leave you both in here, and as your control weakens, you’ll see him as a threat and kill him. His property will be back up for sale, and we’ll be able to get it. We kept him here for two days to make sure it smells of him.”

Jerico already knew it smelled of him. He had a working nose. “And?”

“And?” The tone was snappy. “A human scent in your territory, you’ll rip his throat out within days.”

Jerico snorted, then tried to conceal it by sneezing. This wasn’t his territory, hadn’t been for sixteen years, and as Hugo has stated—it smelled of Teo, making it his territory. And he’d lived with humans for over a decade, their scent didn’t bother him anymore. He’d found it disturbing the first few years, but his wolf had adjusted.

“If the plan is for me to rip his throat out, shouldn’t you release my hands? It’ll be much easier then.”

“It’s the backup plan, moron. The real plan is for you to mate with Azura and—”

“Not gonna happen.” Jerico wished there had been some light. He’d have loved to see Hugo’s expression.

Kiss A Ginger Day | Hop Hop, Carrot Top

Kiss a Ginger Day

It’s Kiss A Ginger Day!!! 🥳 Now, don’t go around kissing every red-haired person you see. Covid is still very much a thing, and consent is important if you want to avoid being thrown in prison. 

Prison might have its perks, but we’ll talk about that more next month 😆

Two years ago, I wrote Hop Hop, Carrot Top to celebrate this day. And had I known then what I know now, it probably would’ve looked a lot different. Flynn is back in his hometown to clear out his mother’s house since she has passed away. It’s on my to-do in real life, so right now, I don’t envy Flynn at all.

It’s also a special story since it’s the first Holly Day story. Two years ago, this month, Holly was born, and I don’t regret it for a second.

Hop Hop, Carrot Top is a low-heat, second-chance novella, with past bullying and grief. It also has cats, dogs, and cute redheads 😁

Hop Hop, Carrot Top

Hop-Hop-Carrot-Top-(web)

Flynn Thomas is back in Hartley. His plan is to be out of there before anyone notices he’s back. He left twenty years ago and promised himself he’d never have to face his childhood bullies or set foot in his bigoted hometown ever again. But it’s been six months since his mother passed away, and someone has to clear out the house.

Caspian Cook is out on a walk with his three dogs when he sees Flynn Thomas, at least he thinks it’s Flynn Thomas. He never forgot the red-haired boy his brother used to harass, and he never forgot how he used to wonder if there were freckles underneath his clothes as well as on his face.

Flynn mistakes Caspian for his childhood tormenter and flees. Caspian can guess why he’s in such a hurry to get away, but he hasn’t seen Flynn in twenty years, and if he allows him to run off, he fears he’ll never see him again. Will spending time with Flynn be enough for him to forget who Caspian’s brother is? Flynn needs help. He underestimated how much work it would be to move his mother’s things. Caspian offers to give him a hand, but can he trust someone who looks like his worst nightmare?

Buy links:

Contemporary M/M Romance: 19.129 words

JMS Books :: Amazon :: books2read.com/HopHopCarrotTop 

Chapter 1

Flynn Thomas looked around the grimy living room and sighed. He’d put this off for too long. Mom had passed away back in July, and now it was January. The house plants had died a long time ago, the spiders had taken over the ceiling, and the layer of dust had grown thicker with each week.

When he’d arrived the day before, he tried to hide his car in the garage, only to realize his mom’s car still occupied the spot. His sister, Tanya, lived in Australia with her family. She’d made the trip for the funeral, but made it clear he would have to sort out the house on his own.

He’d packed things from his old bedroom. They were his anyway. Or had been. His mom had kept shelf after shelf of his rejected toys, school projects, and old drawings. Now, only the bed remained.

He’d hired a cleaning company to arrive in six days. Clearly, he’d miscalculated his own ability. How would he get the beds, the bookshelves, and the sofa out of here on his own? Saw them up into manageable pieces? It was an option. He’d never handled a chainsaw in his entire life, but it was never too late to start, right?

He huffed. He’d end up missing an arm.

Maybe there was a thrift shop or something in the vicinity that collected stuff. It would be a safe option, though not as safe as he’d wanted. He wanted in and out of here without anyone seeing him.

Grabbing yet another box, he plucked a dusty china figurine from the bookshelf. As a kid, he’d loved the figurines, the women dancing in their beautiful dresses, the little white dog with brown ears. He used to dance in the exact spot he was standing now, pretending he too wore a long, billowy dress in a beautiful color. The woman in the purple dress holding one hand to the top of her hat and a cane in the other was his favorite. He’d mimic her pose and strut around the living room, his mom applauding his performance. But that was before he’d realized there was no room for swishy, femmy redheads in this world.

There had been space in this living room, though.

His eyes burned. His hair wouldn’t have matched well with a purple dress, anyway.

He’d gotten out of this hell hole as soon as he could, and he’d never looked back. But in this living room, in this house, he’d been free to be whoever he needed to be. He was still a swishy guy, but he tried to keep it under wraps; disguised himself in boring gray suits.

If he got too excited, his hands got a life of their own. People took one look at him and assumed he was queer—which he was, so they weren’t wrong—but he’d stopped pretending they would be okay with him wearing purple dresses. It wasn’t as if he yearned to wear a dress, it was the beauty he found alluring. He’d fantasize about how the fabric would react to his motions, how the light would catch it, and how, when he moved, it would create a wave down the long skirt.

But he’d stopped dancing a long time ago too.

He’d adjusted to the world and what it meant to be an adult. Dresses were beautiful, but they weren’t for him. He didn’t want one, and he’d learned not to openly admire their beauty.

It had broken his mother’s heart to see him adapting to society, but they all had to do their best to fit in. For their own safety, if nothing else.

Boys shouldn’t want to dance in purple dresses, especially not if they had orange hair.

He put on a suit every day and went to work. He answered the phone, talked people through how to install stuff on their computers, and helped them with troubleshooting. They didn’t know they were talking to a faggot. He could have worn a purple dress for all they knew, but he didn’t. He wore a gray suit, or maybe a dark blue one if he was daring.

Sighing, he wiped the dust off the figurines and put them in the box. His skin was too tight, his muscles tense. He blew out a breath, packed the box full, and placed it next to the others along the living room wall.

With determined steps, he walked to his almost empty room, pulled off his clothes and put on running pants, shoes, and a sweater. It was cold outside, but not too cold. He walked out the door, locked it, and hid the key under the pot with the dead petunias.

Dusk had conquered the day, and he cursed not having gone out to run earlier. Now, he’d have to stick to the lit track, which meant he’d have to run past the footbridge by the hydroelectric plant.

Cold sweat coated his skin, and he swallowed hard. It had been twenty years. He could pass the bridge. It was only about a hundred and fifty feet long, and yet it had taken up most of his focus as a child. All day in school, he had dreaded having to cross the bridge. Hop hop, carrot top.

He shuddered, turned up the volume of the music on his phone, and ran. He’d run the long way around.

* * * *

 Caspian Cook looked out through the kitchen window of his rickety house and sighed. It was already getting dark.

“Who wants to go for a walk?” He didn’t, but Moose, his five-year-old Rottweiler mix, flew to his feet, followed by Taco, his two-year-old American Staffy. They looked like mean dogs, especially Taco who had some scars on his face, but they were both cuddly little darlings. Well, they didn’t cuddle with strangers.

“Chocolate!” The eleven-year-old brown Labrador yawned and stretched as she entered the kitchen. “Hi, girl.” Caspian patted her head and scratched her behind her ear. She was his first dog. He’d spent a few years traveling the world, working odd jobs where he could find them, and done everything he could to avoid having to come back here. He’d dreamed about finding a man who mattered enough for him to introduce to his family.

There hadn’t been anyone. Short flings, a few passionate months here and there, but no one special enough to face Hartley for. Nowadays, he was old enough not to give a damn. If people wanted to whisper behind his back, then they were free to do so. All he wanted was someone to share his life with, but there weren’t any men up for the job in Hartley, and he’d long since lost interest in traveling the world to try to find Mr. Right.

He didn’t have to be here, but after having moved around for years, he’d realized it wasn’t where you were that mattered, it was what you did. Despite being on the other side of the world, his mind had been here. Hartley was his home. It was where his mom and dad were, and they weren’t getting any younger.

No matter where he was, he was angry with Blade, and no matter what he did, he worried about his father.

So, he’d moved back, bought Wilson’s old farm, and gone back to work in his dad’s garage. Dad didn’t work anymore, but he still came by several times a week, grunting as he watched Caspian work. The company was still in his name despite Caspian doing all the work, but he didn’t care. Sure, he thought of the garage as his, but being a car mechanic wasn’t what he grew up dreaming about becoming.

Cars were fine, though, and it was a decent job—a solid, work-with-your-hands kind of job.

He grabbed the leashes and opened the door. All three dogs fell into step next to him. It wasn’t until he came down to the walk by the river, that he put a leash on Taco. Not because he didn’t trust him to stay by his side, but here they often met people who were scared by his appearance.

No one knew Taco’s background. Caspian had gotten him from a shelter, and in the beginning, he only meant to foster him. But as the weeks went by and the other dogs accepted him as one of them, he found he couldn’t give him up.

It had been the same thing with Moose. He meant to foster him. They’d found him bound to a tree by an abandoned building. When Caspian had gotten him every bone in his body had been visible, and his heart had broken for the poor mutt.

He couldn’t give him up.

He sighed. He wanted to help; wanted to foster dogs for the shelter, help them find forever homes, but, so far he’d been unable to give them back once they’d come into his home.

He wasn’t cut out to foster animals.

The roar of the water from the hydroelectric plant grew in volume, and Caspian looked out over the river. On this side of the dam, the water was black and calm with the occasional swirl, but closer to the plant the water rushed through the floodgates with force.

Caspian breathed in deep. The air was different near the river. He loved seeing the water cascade down on the other side of the dam. The roaring fury as it hit the rocks below and met up with the river again spoke to him. He could watch it for hours, but the dogs grew impatient if he stood staring for too long.

As he came closer to the footbridge, he called Moose in. Someone was standing there. The closer he got, the more frantically his heart beat. Flynn? Could it be Flynn Thomas?

Caspian forgot how to breathe as the light of the lamp by the bridge fell on the man’s red hair. Caspian had only ever known one red-haired man. Well, he hadn’t known Flynn, but he’d watched him—watched him every chance he got.

The maybe-Flynn turned, his eyes locking with Caspian’s seconds before a strangled cry rose over the roar of the water. A second later, Flynn was running—not a slow, relaxed jog—he ran as though he’d come face to face with his worst nightmare, and Caspian cursed.

Had he been able to kill Blade and get away with it, he would.

Bookversary | The Scent of Pine

The Scent of Pine

Today it’s Christmas Card Day, which means it’s been a year since The Scent of Pine was released. Crazy, if you ask me.

 Christmas Card Day is celebrated annually on December 9th. It also happens to be my son’s birthday, and my name day. Do you celebrate name days where you’re at? My granny always gave me a card and a small bill of money on my name day. But today, it’s my middle name, so a simple congrats is enough 😁 

My middle name is Anna, and today it’s the Anna-day. It’s the day when you put the lutfisk (dried whitefish) in water to prepare it for Christmas. Important knowledge, people! My granny told me every year 😆

But we’re not here to talk birthdays or name days, it’s bookversary time! 

The Scent of Pine is about Rafael, who’s hiding from a stalker ex, and Ashton, a cop who’s bored out of his mind because he’s on sick leave. When Ashton starts getting creepy Christmas cards meant for Rafael, he suspects something is wrong. At first, Rafael pretends he doesn’t know who sends the cards, but Ashton has a niggling feeling and starts watching Rafael’s apartment. He has nothing better to do anyway since he’s not allowed to work.

It’s a short Christmas tale with a little suspense. 

The Scent of Pine

thescentofpine

Ashton Cross was stupid enough to fall out a window while trying to catch a criminal. Now he’s on sick leave and has been for weeks, and has nothing to do but watch his neighbors go about their day. It’s driving him insane. When he gets a Christmas card not meant for him, he doesn’t think much of it, but then there is another and another, all with the same motif.

For two years, Rafael Vidal has been hiding from his ex. He almost believed he’d gotten away when his neighbor knocks on his door to hand over a stack of Christmas cards. One look at the writing, and Rafael suspects he has been found.

When Ashton understands the situation, he’s set on catching Rafael’s ex. He might not be ready to get back to active duty at the police station, but finally, he has something to do, and he doesn’t mind keeping Rafael close. Rafael is trying to distract himself by helping Ashton put up Christmas decorations, but will they be able to enjoy Christmas with his stalker ex lurking around the corner?

Buy links:

Gay Romance: 17,557 words

JMS Books :: Amazon :: books2read.com/TheScentOfPine

The Scent of Pine

Excerpt:

Ashton Cross glared at the Christmas card in his hand and sighed. It was the fifth. He had to talk to the mailman. The cards weren’t addressed to him, and yet they ended up in his mailbox every other day or so. This one was addressed to Beloved, East Route 12, Apt 11—he was East Route 21 and not in an apartment. And he sure as hell wasn’t Beloved. The last one had been for Precious, and while someone could be named Precious, the lack of surname made him suspect it wasn’t a woman’s name.

The first had been a holiday greeting, nothing stood out about it, and he couldn’t remember the exact wording, but he’d placed it by his coffee maker. The next had only said: I miss you—nothing strange with that either.

The third: Can’t wait until we’re together again.

Ashton hadn’t reacted much to it other than thinking some poor sap was overdoing it. Three cards in a week were a bit much, was it not?

The fourth had unease spreading in his gut. It had said: I will have you before Christmas.

And this last one said: You’ll be home for Christmas.

He couldn’t say outright that they were threats, but it wasn’t what people normally wrote on Christmas cards.

With a sigh, he turned to walk back into the house. His body hurt and his leg shook. He was still on sick leave and feared he’d be so for weeks to come.

Being home all the time was driving him insane.

Swaying, he made it into the kitchen and poured another cup of coffee. He’d go over to the apartment building once he’d rested a little. Hopefully, there would be an elevator.

He sipped on his coffee and held the five cards in his hand. They were all the same design, a vintage-looking Santa and a blank surface. Hideous. Ashton didn’t much care about Christmas cards, but as far as appearances went, these were ugly.

He suspected the intent behind the cards was something other than spreading holiday joy.

With effort, he got to his feet and put the empty cup in the sink. He grabbed his jacket and stepped out into the snow. He should sweep the stairs, but he didn’t think he could. Maybe he could, but then he’d be unable to do anything else for the rest of the day. Megan, his sister, would be over later. She would do it then. He didn’t know how he’d repay her for all she’d done the last couple of months. She did his shopping, his cleaning, his maintenance, and all he did was growl.

He waited for a car to pass before crossing the road. He wasn’t fast, and by the time he reached the sidewalk on the other side, his leg was ready to fold. With a grunt, he rested against the railing outside the apartment building. Three months ago, he’d have already been back home again. Jogging across the street and then finding the right apartment wouldn’t have taken long.

If there was any logic to the apartment numbers, he suspected it was on the second floor, the third if he was unlucky. Now, sweat was threatening to pearl, his side where he’d been sliced by a glass shard burned, and his leg shook.

He pushed away from the railing and yanked open the door—no elevator. Fucking hell! He blew out a breath and checked the apartments listed on the small board by the door. Apt 11 belonged to R. Vidal and was on the second floor.

With a sigh, he grabbed the banister and pulled himself up the first step, then the second, then the third. The cards almost folded in his hand at the tightening of his grip.

R. Vidal—could be a Rose, or a Rachel, or a Rebecca maybe. Whatever her real name was, he hoped the cards would make her happy—though, to be honest, he subjected himself to this torture because he had that niggling feeling. It was what made him a good cop, the sixth sense of knowing when something was wrong without having any evidence it was. He had it now, the alarm bells at the back of his mind were ringing.

When he reached the small landing between floors, he stopped to rest.

No sane person sent five Christmas cards, and all with the same motif. And the wording—Ash couldn’t say for sure they were threats, but…

He continued up the last flight of stairs, sweat not only threatening to break through but making his T-shirt stick to his back. At least he could claim he’d done his physical therapy for the day. A few weeks ago, he never would’ve made it out of his house.

Apartment 11 fronted onto the road, right across from his house. He tried to remember what the windows looked like from outside, but he had never noticed anything special. Eying the mail slot, he considered posting the cards, but then he knocked. He wanted to see who R. Vidal was; wanted to make sure she was okay.