Author: Bellora Quinn and Sadie Rose Bermingham
Series Title and Number: Elemental Evidence, Book One
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Cover Artist: Emmy Ellis
Release Date: June 7th, 2016
Heat Level: 3
Genre/Tags: Crime and Mystery, Erotic Romance, Paranormal
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.
In Breathing Betrayal, the character of Ilmarinen Gale has a series of casual run-ins with one of his colleagues, Damien Nolan, a young man from another department who can’t resist the urge to mock and torment him. For the most part, Mari takes this in his stride. I was curious to know what was going on in the mind of his tormentor though, and this little scene is an out-take from the main story. S.R.B.
Damien Nolan was sulking because he was on late lunch-break. He liked to take the one o’clock lunch period because he could hang out for an hour with his best mates, Neil and Kevin and have a laugh over the daily paper or take the piss out of the canteen regulars, but today he was forced to take the two o’clock graveyard slot. The canteen was practically dead.
Most of his colleagues took his joking with a pinch of salt. They knew that there was nothing serious in it, he could tell, but there was one guy just lately, who didn’t seem to have much of a sense of humour. Maybe it was because he was foreign. Perhaps it was to do with his reason for being here – he was part of Professor Weston’s notorious paranormal experiment, after all. Weston’s Elementals were all fruitcakes, Nolan had decided. The woman who had been on his trial last year freaked out if anyone so much as brushed against her in the corridor. She used to sneak around, trying not to make eye contact with anyone. Office gossip said that another guy, a few years ago, had jumped out of a fifth floor window, convinced he was an angel.
Needless to say, he had been wrong about that.
Doctor Gale, who worked on the eighth floor with Karden’s surveillance team, was another odd duck. Okay, he didn’t sound foreign, his spoken English was immaculate, like he’d come through the public school system, but he had a crazy forename that Damien couldn’t remember properly. Everyone called him Mari for short, which sounded a bit sissy, he thought. Oddly enough it fitted Gale though, he was much too pretty to be a man, with his blond hair cut just a little longer than was sensible, curling softly around a boyish face that looked like he’d never even started shaving properly.
When Damien called him Marilyn, he just rolled his big blue eyes in that slightly bored way he had and pretended not to hear. That was like catnip to Damien. He wanted to get some kind of a rise out of the new boy and he was determined not to give up until he’d marked his score sheet. There had to be something that would get the oh-so-composed Doctor Gale’s back up.
And what an amazing back it was too, long and lean, slightly broader in the shoulders than in the hips. He was impossibly tall, with legs that went on forever. If Gale had been a girl she’d have been a stunner, Damien mused, as he blew on his styrofoam cup of tea, waiting for it to cool. He found himself wondering what Mari Gale would look like in lipstick and a short skirt?
Then he pulled himself up short. What was he thinking, letting his mind run away with him like that?
As if conjured by his daydreaming, the object of his deliberations strode into the cafeteria like he owned the building, still immaculate, even in this late summer heat, with his jacket off and his shirtsleeves rolled up to just below the elbow. There was a light tan on his skin and the slanting sunlight shimmered on the fine golden hair dusting his forearms. Damien wondered where he got his suits from because those lightweight, pale blue, bootcut trousers fitted that tidy little arse to perfection. His tan coloured boots looked like they might be Italian, certainly expensive and his crisp white shirt was tailored to his slim waist, as un-creased as if he’d just slipped it on.
He was chatting with the woman behind the food counter, whatever he’d said made her laugh. Damien was mildly surprised, he didn’t have Doctor Gale down for a ladies’ man, but he was certainly capable of turning on the charm. Damien watched him comb the fingers of his left hand through his neat, ash blond forelock, pushing it back from his face and laughing too as he turned away with his tray in the other hand.
He had a sudden irrational desire to stroke Gale’s hair, to feel if it was as silky as it looked, like he’d just stepped out of an eighties shampoo advert. Damien shook himself, unsettled by the impulse. What was wrong with him? It must be the heat.
He downed the tea in a few long gulps, ignoring the way it burned down his throat. Gale took a seat three tables across from him and opened a page on his tablet, then took a sip from his coffee cup, licking the foam from his soft, pale lips as he read in silence. That fine blond hair tumbled over his eyes like a curtain. It was goading him on, and Damien moved to his feet now, deliberately setting a route that would take him past the new guy’s table. As he passed he reached out and flipped that sheaf of pale hair out of Gale’s eyes.
“Awright Marilyn?” he asked, though his usually chirpy voice felt slightly strangled in his throat as his target looked up at him with eyes he could have drowned in.
“Nolan, if you want to sleep with me, you could just ask,” Doctor Gale said, his voice as crisp and cool as his shirt.
“You calling me a faggot?” The words were out of his mouth before he could censor them.
Gale looked up at him for a second or two longer, his expression thoughtful and distant, as if he was thinking about this question seriously.
“I’m not calling you anything at all, Damien,” he said at last, like he was speaking to a small child. “But you might want to untuck your shirt. You wouldn’t want the cafeteria ladies thinking that playing with my hair gave you that hard-on.”
Then he returned his attention to his tablet, as if nothing had happened.
Damien stood stock still for a moment, his heart beating a little too hard for comfort. He wanted to make some kind of flippant retort but his mouth wouldn’t cooperate, and neither would his cock. Then the moment for smart-arsed responses was past. At last he just walked away, feeling the heat rise to his cheeks like there was a bonfire in his skull, thanking his stars that his friends hadn’t been around to witness his humiliation.
How the hell did that ice-cool, blond pansy manage to have such an effect on him? Next time he’d rehearse his attack better.
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?”
Bellora Quinn: 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.
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