The Lake Prophet Mysteries
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Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, and organic farmer, Eli has been a m/m romance author since 2013. She has published over 30 gay romances.
Eli has loved romance since her teens and she particular admires writers who can combine literary merit, genuine humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story.
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A chill ran down my spine. I’d seen bodies in LA with horrific injuries that haunted me to this day, but there was something so wrong about this man laid bare to the elements, the mist of rain swirling around him, his skin gray as drops of water collected and ran down his muscled stomach. This was a man who looked after himself, built, strong, maybe a hiker, or one of the open water swimmers who loved coming to the lake?
His upper torso was exposed to the elements but navy jogging bottoms, covered the lower, and he wore running shoes and socks. He was on his back between the two upright stones, his arms and legs spread, and his sightless eyes faced us with his head turned our way. There was extensive bruising on his face, darker on one side, running from his cheek up into his hair, but it was so bad that from ten feet away it was impossible to ID him for sure even if the guy was someone I knew.
“Fuck,” Devin muttered and took an instinctive step forward, but I held out a hand to stop him moving.
“What about a pulse?” my rookie asked hurriedly. “Shouldn’t we check for that? Procedure for finding an unconscious person?”
“Normally, but it’s clear there’s no pulse.” The victim was unmoving and there was an X scored into the man’s chest, digging deep into his breastbone, and tearing his flesh apart. I could see the purple stain of lividity at the underside of one arm. He was very dead.
I stumbled back a step in shock. The mark was deliberate, considered. Please don’t let this be a serial killer with a propensity to carving Xs into their victim’s chests.
“…Sheriff?” Devin asked. “What now?”
ig brown eyes stared back at me from my computer screen. They were set in a face with a shiny black nose and gray fur resembling an Ewok’s. The dog, Merci, looked away, but not before I saw that he was basically a happy little guy. Nothing too traumatic there. That was a relief. New clients were always worrying.
Denise, his owner, droned on over the laptop’s speaker. She was in her forties and wore a pink jogging suit that matched her one-inch pink nails. She and Merci were seated on a big white ottoman in a white room with windows overlooking the ocean.
She’d never have to worry over vet bills, that was for sure.
“… twice last week!” Denise complained. “On brand new pumps, too. I have a cleaning place I take them to, but you can’t get pee out of silk moiré. This is getting to be a serious problem! I just don’t understand where it’s coming from. Merci has always been such a good boy. He hasn’t had an accident in the house for years, and never before on my shoes.”
Her words were scolding, but her obsessive petting of Merci’s ruff told me more than her words. The way Merci leaned against her told me more still. She might be annoying to me, but Merci adored Denise Lafferty. And vice versa.
Which crossed several possibilities off the list.
“My friend, Lonny said you can read pets’ minds. Can you really do that?” Denise asked hopefully.
“I’m an animal behaviorist, Ms. Lafferty.”
“I know. But she said you knew what Snowball was thinking. And I figured maybe because you’re Native American… Or—is that the right term? First peoples? First nation? Merci and I don’t want to offend.”
I sighed inwardly. “Native American is fine.” I re-tucked my long black hair behind one ear. If a behaviorist had been reading me, that would be a tell. I always felt a bit like an imposter when clients assumed I was some kind of Native American shaman. I was only a quarter native, despite appearances suggesting otherwise. And I drew from my education—which I’d worked damned hard for—and not from anything supernatural.