|Cover art by Meredith Russell|
Book five in the End Street Detective Agency series written by RJ Scott and Amber Kell.
Prince Idris’s lover went missing and was presumed dead. Alone, Idris lives a life away from court, starved of energy but unwilling to sleep in the room he once shared with his beloved.
Can Sam and Bob save these fated lovers before it's too late? And will Bob’s ultimate sacrifice be enough to free Hal from his prison?
Volume 1 – Books 1 & 2
Volume 2 – Books 3 & 4
Book 5 – The Case of the Purple Pearl
Love Bytes – 4 stars “…his story didn’t turn out to be a ‘typical case’ like the previous books but quite a bit happened to move the character development of both Sam and Bob along.” Read the rest here.
“What are you doing?”
Sam sighed. This was the fifth time today their visiting gargoyle had asked him that. Three weeks had passed since it had decided to stay at the house and wait for Sam to find it a master. And those three weeks had lasted a very long time.
“Taxes,” Sam muttered. The same answer he’d given every single time he’d been asked.
“I don’t like math,” the little gargoyle said. He waddled across Sam’s desk, leaving small muddy footprints on a neatly filled-in form. Sam couldn’t even muster the energy to get angry.
“Are you going to tell me your name yet?” Sam asked. He placed his pen on the desk and leaned back with a stretch, eying the small gargoyle against the hulking monstrosity that sat immobile on the corner of his desk. They were so dissimilar, in size and expression.
“You know I can only tell my master.”
“I can’t keep calling you the little gargoyle. I’m going to have to give you a name.”
The little gargoyle turned in a circle to face Sam, then squatted into a pose with his mouth open in a snarl. It looked pretty mean, and Sam edged back.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
The gargoyle’s expression changed back to the one he usually had; that of a dopey baby.
“Nothing, I was just giving you my fierce face so you can give me the right name. I’m not having you calling me Sunshine or Cutie. I want something strong like Zephariel Angel of Vengeance.”
Sam couldn’t help the snort of laughter, then immediately felt guilty when the gargoyle’s expression fell. “Sorry,” he apologized. “It’s just, uhm, that name is taken. How about Leo, like a lion, a brave, strong lion.”
The gargoyle tilted his head in contemplation, then nodded. “Leo, I like Leo. I’m done with you now. You already have a gargoyle. I’m going to find my true master.”
That decided, he jumped down off the desk and waddled over to the door, sidestepping awkwardly when Smudge slunk in with intent in every step. In a leap, Smudge was up on the desk, sitting right on the tax forms and staring straight into Sam’s face.
“What are you doing?” Smudge asked telepathically.
“Taxes,” Sam answered. He didn’t add a sigh this time.
“You should be tracking down what kind of other your uncle’s pet gargoyle is.”
Leo, the newly named visiting gargoyle, had declared that the old paperweight on Sam’s desk that looked like a gargoyle, walked like a gargoyle, and was stone like a gargoyle, wasn’t actually a gargoyle at all, but other.
“Where do you suggest I start? And why can’t you tell what it is, oh powerful familiar.” Sam couldn’t help the sarcasm. Smudge was capable of putting souls back in bodies and using heavy magic, but he couldn’t track down what kind of paranormal had been transformed into an ancient crumbling gargoyle paperweight?
“I’ll forget you said that,” Smudge said condescendingly. “I’ve been busy.”
“With what?” Sam asked. Privately he thought Smudge spent too much time cleaning himself with his paws up in the air and his tongue—
“I can hear you,” Smudge warned. “And who else do you think can keep your attic spider infestation at bay?”
Sam shuddered. He didn’t like small spiders at best, let alone the giant ones Smudge had suggested lived only a few floors up. “Good work,” Sam praised. “And as to our paperweight friend here—” Sam tapped the solid stone thing on the head with a stapler. “—I’ve put out a request to everyone I know as to who may be missing someone. I used the ParaGoogle to see if anyone knows anything. Not sure what else I can do at this stage.”
Smudge gave a feline version of a huff, deliberately washed himself on the desk for a good five minutes, then disappeared out of the room. Sam shook off the fur that had fallen on his paperwork. This needed to be done and, unless he finished it soon, he’d have the authorities fining him all over the place.
A knock on his office door jerked Sam from his sad contemplation of the bills he had to pay. Although he’d earned some money recently and he owned the building where he worked and lived, the flow of money going out far exceeded the money rushing into his pockets.
Taxes were a bitch.
“Come in!” he shouted.
Sam lifted an eyebrow at the sight of the dark-haired man entering his office. The strangest part of his visitor was his apparent ordinariness. The man’s eyes didn’t glow with vampire ire, he didn’t growl with pent-up werewolf angst, and his average height and weight could only be explained one way. Human. He must be lost.
“Sorry, I knocked on the front door but no one answered. I hope you don’t mind me letting myself in.” The man indicated the entrance with a vague wave.
“No. Of course not.” Sam would have to learn to either lock his outer door or get an alarm of some kind. The doorbell had stopped working a few days ago, and Sam suspected their water heater might be ready to explode at any moment. Bob swore it would be fine, but it gurgled at Sam the last time he went to the basement to get the laundry. He might have to give in and hire a handyman. Neither he nor Bob were very useful around the house.
“I’m Abbott Williams. I heard you were a detective.” The man held up a flyer as if that explained his presence.
Sam stood to shake hands. “I’m Sam Enderson. Nice to meet you. Yes, I am a detective.” He accepted the yellow paper Abbott handed over. It listed Sam’s detective agency, their location on a little map, and little else. It did have a nice picture of the building, though. “I don’t remember having any flyers printed up.”
Abbott shrugged. “I found it at the bar down the street. Anyway, I need you to follow my boyfriend around. I think he’s cheating on me. Are you interested in the job or not?”
Sam tossed the flyer on his desk to study later. Bob probably made them and forgot to tell Sam about it. “Break up with him. That’s what I did.”
“Some guy cheated on you?” Abbott made it sound as if he couldn’t imagine such a thing happening.
“Yep. But I got over it.” At least that’s what Sam kept telling himself whenever he thought of his ex’s betrayal. Bob usually pulled him out of the bad memories with a blowjob. Worked every time.
The young man’s mouth tightened in annoyance. “I can’t just break up with him.”
“Why not? If you really suspect he’s cheating on you, he probably is.” Sam knew from his own experience that glossing over problems in a relationship didn’t improve the situation. “You’re better off without him.”
“I don’t want to be without him. I love him.”
“If he loved you back he wouldn’t cheat,” Sam said flatly. He’d hate to be the one who had to tell Abbott he’d been right about his boyfriend.
“I can pay,” Abbott insisted. He pulled a wad of cash out of his pocket and tossed it on the desk. “I don’t want you to do anything else. I want to know the truth. Just find out if he’s cheating. After that, I can decide what to do.”
The man’s desperate words struck a chord with Sam. Of course, so did Abbott’s nice crinkly stack of bills. “Have a seat and tell me all about this boyfriend of yours.”
What could it hurt to do a little surveillance? After all, hadn’t Sam gotten into this business to help people? Surely hunting down one human and taking some pictures would be way easier than the other stuff he was always tangled up in. Bob should be happy that Sam finally got a non-supernatural case. At least this time no one would be trying to set him on fire.
Once he’d settled in the chair opposite Sam, Abbott handed over a photo. “This is Greg.”
Sam took the picture Abbott handed over. A dark-haired man with green eyes looked back at him.
“I know,” Abbott said.
“Okay,” Sam began. “I’ll take the case, but the usual proviso is that if I find something you don’t like, the End Street Detective Agency can’t be held responsible.”
Abbott nodded. “I understand.”
Sam pushed across the requisite forms and disclaimers, which Abbott signed. They shook hands, and then Abbott gave some extra details about places and dates and where Sam might find the philandering boyfriend before he left.
Sam counted the money; easily enough to cover the bills for the next two weeks.
A quick, easy job for good money.
Now this was what being a private detective was all about.
Bob stared at Sam as if he’d turned green and grown two extra heads.
“You took a cheating partner case, the kind of case which you despise and once likened to a devil’s ass, just because the client is human?”
Sam rolled his eyes. Dealing with his vampire boyfriend sometimes took more work than anything else in his life. Bob tended to dislike any decision Sam made without him.
“It’s a job, and besides, the guy he’s looking for doesn’t look human.”
“A job that sends you to a questionable location,” Bob argued, ignoring Sam’s statement. He folded his arms across his chest and glared down at Sam.
“If you’re scared you don’t have to go with me,” Sam said.
Bob growled. “If I hadn’t come home in time you would’ve been out there on your own.”
“I would’ve been fine.” It wasn’t as if Sam couldn’t take care of himself. He might not know how to use them most of the time, but he did have magical abilities.
“Don’t ever take a case without me again.”
Sam sighed. Bob’s earnest expression cut him deep. He could ignore the vampire when he became bossy, but the endearing concern in Bob’s eyes twisted the guilt-formed knife in Sam’s chest.
“I’m not completely helpless, and I’m not going to ask permission. I’m a grown man.”
“A grown man who could be heading into a setup.” Bob slid a strand of Sam’s hair back behind his ear.
“What are you talking about?” Had he missed a chunk of conversation somewhere? He thought they were discussing his recklessness in taking a case without Bob’s approval. Now they were talking possible double-dealings. Had Bob been watching Sam’s old detective movies again?
“You have made some enemies, Sam. The sirens alone would love to get their hands on you. You can’t assume everyone is going to tell you the truth.”
“He wasn’t lying.” Sam didn’t know how, but he knew Abbott had been sincere. “Let’s go and find his boyfriend.”
“Where’d you get the camera?” Bob asked when Sam pulled it out of the camera bag on his shoulder.
“I found it in the file room closet. I’m hoping it works. I don’t think my smartphone will zoom in enough to get a good photo in this light.”
“Does that one still use film?” Bob frowned at the camera.
“No. It’s not that old. It’s digital.” Sam didn’t know why but he’d felt compelled to bring the camera with him. His old camera had died a few months ago, and he hadn’t replaced it. Finding this one in the file room closet had seemed fortuitous.
“Take a picture of me.” Bob stood up straight and struck a pose.
“To test if it’s working. Besides, then you’d have a picture of me.” Sam didn’t ask if cameras worked on vampires. Bob tended to take offense when Sam asked innocent questions like that. As if Sam should have some deeper knowledge of vampires just because he was mated to one.
Sam shrugged. He took off the lens cap then shot a picture of Bob. He checked the viewfinder for the picture and froze as he stared at the image. “That’s weird.”
“What is it?” Bob asked, wrapping an arm around Sam. He peeked over Sam’s shoulder to get a look.
“Somehow I got in the picture.” Sam showed the camera screen to Bob. It revealed a misty outline of Sam standing beside Bob.
Bob took the camera. “Let me test something.”
Before he could refuse, Bob took a picture of Sam. He waited as his lover examined the screen.
Bob shrugged. “I think there’s something weird with this camera. Maybe it’s enchanted.”
He turned the camera, and Sam saw Bob standing beside Sam, again in a misty shape.
“Huh. What do you think it means?”
Bob handed back the camera. “I don’t know. It could be a soul camera.”
“It took my soul?” Sam gasped. He should’ve known better than to touch his dead uncle’s things. Nothing he’d known about his uncle had turned out to be true.
“No. It shows a person’s soul mate. That would make sense, since it showed us each other,” Bob concluded, with a smug expression.
“Hmm.” Sam refused to support such a stupid theory. “I’ll take some more pictures later and see what happens.”
Bob rolled his eyes. “Don’t try to overthink this. We were meant to be together; the camera proves it.”
“Yes, but it won’t help me with my current case. Abbott isn’t going to understand if I send him pictures with some shadowy shape next to his boyfriend. How am I going to explain that?”
Bob pulled a small digital camera from his pocket. “We can use this one.”
“Always prepared, aren’t you?”
“I try. I wouldn’t want you to blow your first human case.”
Sam didn’t say anything. He hated that Bob had to constantly save him from his mistakes.
“It’s not like that, my love.” Bob kissed Sam’s cheek. “Consider me one of those essential accessories.”
“Like a Swiss Army knife?”
“Yep, you should never leave home without me.”
Sam raised an eyebrow. “I think that’s a credit card ad.”
Bob shrugged. “It’s still true.”
They walked to where Abbot had said Greg hung out after work. It turned out the café was only a few blocks from the detective agency. True to Abbot’s statement, Greg was meeting a man at the café down the road from where he worked.
“Shh.” Sam spied the man in Abbott’s picture. Greg. “There he is.”
A man with strawberry-blond hair stood way too close to Abbott’s boyfriend. They paused outside the café to kiss. Sam watched the kiss with clinical detachment. Greg was attempting to clutch the blond but was being held at arm’s length as he tried for a close embrace.
The blond looked around him, along the empty street, and Sam saw his hands began to glow.
“What is he doing?”
“Absorbing Greg’s energy,” Bob answered.
“He can't do that!” Sam stepped forward to interfere.
“No.” Bob clamped a hand on Sam’s shoulder. “We don’t know what he is. He could be dangerous.”
“So we let him suck the other guy dry? What if he’s an incubus?”
“He’s not.” Bob’s firm grip prevented Sam from running to help. With his other hand, he offered Sam the small digital camera. “Quick, take a picture.”
Sam’s hands shook as he lifted his uncle’s large camera instead. Lining up the shot, he took a photo of the blond. Sam glanced at the result. “Oh, wow. Wait, this doesn’t make any sense.” He shook the camera like that was going to change what he saw on the screen. When he peered at the image again he realized shaking it hadn’t cleared up one single thing.
“What?” Bob glanced at the camera’s screen and for once appeared to have nothing to say.
Sam didn’t know why but if Bob’s theory about soul mates was right, the mysterious blond belonged to someone no one would expect. The gargoyle that sat on Sam’s desk.