Every breath brings them closer to love, and a killer.
Jake Chivis is the descendant of Fire Elementals with a gift for psychometry, the ability to see memories from touching objects. After a bad breakup and trouble at work, Jake gave up his career as a detective in Detroit and moved to England to join a research program studying Elemental gifts at University College London. It seemed like the perfect way to escape his past and start over, and this time he’s vowed not to fall into the trap of dating a coworker. At least that’s the plan, until he meets Doctor Ilmarinen Gale.
Mari Gale is blond, sexy, relentlessly academic and comfortable in his own skin in a way Jake envies. After a handful of embarrassing encounters, Jake is ready to resign himself to staying under the radar, but when a colleague’s brother goes missing, he and Mari must work together to find him. As they dig into the inexplicable disappearance, Jake is impressed with Mari’s competence and unique skills, and even more impressed by his ability to wrap Jake around his finger. Together the unlikely pair discover murder, betrayal, secrets and just how high Mari can fan Jake’s flames.
Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, strangulation and murder.
Book 1 in the Elemental Evidence series
Rain pink-pink-pinked against the window pane and drip-drip-dripped into the pot that Jake had placed under the leak in the hallway. Murky gray morning light greeted him when he opened his eyes. Another drizzly day. He had thought that was just some persistent stereotype, a comic exaggeration—about how rainy it was in London—but so far, this month, it was turning out to be true.
Jake was steadily getting used to the weather. It really wasn’t all that different from his native Michigan. He had been told by his colleagues this was an unusually wet November and that when winter finally kicked off, it wouldn’t be as severe as he was accustomed to. That was something to be glad about, at least.
The weather was not the only thing he’d had to get used to after moving a little over three and a half thousand miles away from the only place he’d known. London was worlds away from Detroit. It was still alive for one thing, not a dying husk. It was cleaner too, even with more than ten times the population. London had its crime and its dangerous places just like any large city, but even the urban degeneration here had a certain vibrancy to it that was unlike the desperation and decay of Detroit.
Enough of that.
Thinking about home was a guaranteed way to put him in a bad mood. At least he didn’t hate his new abode.
The apartment was small and leaky but it was clean and bug free and he didn’t have a lot of stuff anyway. Four rooms—kitchen, bathroom, small living room and a closet-sized bedroom that was barely big enough to hold a double bed and the armoire. The kitchen was equally tiny. A small fridge, sink and an ancient two-burner stove. There was just enough counter space to plug in his coffeepot. He was not complaining. The small space made it easy to keep warm and clean and discouraged clutter. It was also paid for, which was another big plus.
He hadn’t liked that idea at first. He thought the university should just pay him outright and let him figure out how to deal with the rent and utilities, but he had to admit that having them take care of the bills took some of the worry off his mind. Unfortunately he still had plenty of other things to worry about.
No, he told himself firmly. He was not going to start off the day thinking about home and everything he’d deliberately left behind when he got on the plane. That was over.
Jake dragged himself out of bed and across the living room to the bathroom. After a quick slash, he washed his face, finger-combed his hair with wet hands then threw on some sweats and he was ready for his morning run. There would be time for a shower and food later. Back in Detroit, he would have started his day by driving to the track or the gym to work out before heading to the station house. Here he could walk or use public transportation to get just about anywhere he needed to go. At first the idea of not having a car, of not being able to just hop in and drive wherever he had to go, any time he wanted, had given him more of a panicky, trapped feeling than being an ocean away from everyone he knew and everything familiar. A car was the very first thing he’d asked about, after moving his meager belongings into the apartment. The research assistant who’d been assigned to ensuring he got settled in and had what he needed had told him to give it a week or two and, if he still wanted to purchase a car, the university would arrange it. At the time, Jake had thought there was no possible way he could survive for so long without a vehicle at his disposal, but by the end of his first week he had explored the Tube, the cabs and the buses, got himself an Oyster card and found he could get around remarkably well without having to fight through traffic behind the wheel. He hadn’t brought up the need for a car again.
There was a small park only one street over from where he lived, and several right around the university, but they were little more than decorative green space—compact garden squares hemmed in by the tall, dark façades of houses and office buildings—nice for a picnic maybe, but not big enough for a run. Fortunately Regent’s Park was fairly close to where he lived and the paths and trails there were perfect. The park was never truly empty but this early in the morning, especially on such a wet, gray day, only the dedicated were out. They all had little earbuds or headphones on and their eyes were fixed forward, everyone in their own private bubbles. No one stopped to say good morning. No one drew him to one side to ask if he could touch their grandmother’s wedding ring and tell them if she’d hidden cash somewhere in the attic. It was great. It was almost perfect, except for one thing.
There was one other person from the university that liked to run the same route he did and while Jake didn’t see him every morning, it happened often enough that he’d started looking for the guy while he ran. That annoyed him. Running was his time to clear his head. It was meditative. He could tune out and think of nothing. Or at least he could until he started paying more attention to the people he passed than he did the simple rhythm of putting one foot down in front of the other. Now during his morning runs, he was distracted by looking around to see if he’d catch sight of a particular slender figure whose long legs ate up the distance like the wind.
Jake told himself that he was only looking so that he could avoid him, and thereby avoid having to make polite conversation. It definitely wasn’t because of the way the ridiculously tight Lycra leggings he wore outlined every muscle in his lean thighs or the way his perfect ass looked so tasty in them. No, not at all.
Jake never had been very good at lying to himself. Even so, admiring that sexy little derrière from a distance was all he would do. He had learned his lesson about getting involved with coworkers. Anyway, it was unlikely he’d see him today, given the dismal weather. He could stop looking around and just concentrate on pushing himself.
The park was usually Mari’s first call of a morning, though he sometimes gave his running a break when the weather was this grim. Today the rain was that fine, persistent drizzle that evaded umbrellas and invaded just about all items of clothing that weren’t a wetsuit. He was used to it, having spent almost the last three of his twenty-seven years here, at UCL, but after the sunshine of his previous job in Barcelona, it was still kind of a comedown to walk out of his front door on a morning like this.
Fortunately the park was just around one corner, and the university campus just around the other, one of the perks of living in town. Papi had wanted to pay for a place out in the countryside, arguing that it would be more peaceful, but his Mama would hear none of it. The London house had been her grandmother’s then her father’s. He had been renting it out for years while the family lived abroad but now it was finally useful, even if the reason behind its new purpose was a less than happy one. Plus, Mama argued successfully—because no one, not even Papi, would dare to fight with her right now—it was also a short cab ride to the hospital, not an ungodly trek through the suburbs every time she had treatment or saw her oncologist.
He pushed those thoughts away, determined not to dwell on what might be, knowing she would not thank him for it. She had not wanted him to come to London at all, but on that point he had dared to defy her and anyway, he’d already been offered and had accepted the post at University College London. It was a decent job, even if London was not Barcelona.
There was no one quite like Tomas here, but maybe that was a good thing too.
Mari put his head down and pushed on into the clinging miasma of the chill London rain. Tomas Arregui was something else he would rather not think about right now. With the clarity of hindsight, perhaps it had been for the best that the job had come up with UCL when it did. Given longer to chew over the frustration of his on-again, off-again lover, he might well have been driven to do something he would most certainly regret.
Damn it, though! The memory of Tomas was like a persistent tic that wouldn’t let go of his hide once its nasty little fangs had sunk in.
He was glad of the distraction presented in the form of another early-morning loper and his spirits perked up even more when he was able to make out the familiar form and easy gait of the new guy who was working with the Web Security Team. Mari had spotted him striding through the park before, though they had never spoken. Lester in the print room said he was American, though Mari thought there was a slightly Hispanic look to his rough-cut, thick black hair and darkly handsome features. Maybe Romani, even? He couldn’t be sure.
He was well built without looking chunky, except when he was bundled up in several layers of damp running gear, and almost as tall as Mari’s six-foot-two-inch frame, which was a plus. It got embarrassing trying to flirt with men who were forced to look up at him all the time.
Not that he had any idea if Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome was even that way inclined. But that never stopped him testing the waters. Alicia in his department said that one day some guy was going to punch his lights out for flirting the way he did, as if every man in the world was automatically gay and, by definition, hot for him.
He’d made her laugh with his mock-horrified response. “You mean they aren’t?”
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Originally hailing from Detroit Michigan, Bellora now resides on the sunny Gulf Coast of Florida where a herd of Dachshunds keeps her entertained. She got her start in writing at the dawn of the internet when she discovered PbEMs (Play by email) and found a passion for collaborative writing and steamy hot erotica. Soap Opera like blogs soon followed and eventually full novels.
The majority of her stories are in the M/M genre with urban fantasy or paranormal settings and many with a strong BDSM flavour.
Sadie Rose Bermingham
A storyteller since before she started school, Sadie also enjoys reading, photography, live music and long walks on the beach.
Sadie has worked as a bookseller, a pedigree editor for the racing industry and a local and family history researcher. Originally from the north of England, she has been working her way across the UK ever since. She currently resides on the south east coast with her long term partner, where she hopes to buy a mobile home and establish a whippet farm.