Auckland Med. 3
Size: 6.00 x 9.00 in
DETECTIVE MARK KNIGHT has a serious problem—one that comes in the form of Auckland Med’s brand-new forensic pathologist. Six feet of delicious blond-haired, scary smart, stern and disapproving hotness—DR EDWARD R NEWTON.
The man is miles out of Mark’s league; completely opposite in almost every way, and shockingly immune to Mark’s flirtations. Mark should just let him go. But the alluring doctor has taken residence in Mark’s brain and is messing with his life’s plan—in particular Mark’s determination to skirt attachments and all the self-absorbed drama that goes with them.
Mark has spent two years watching his friends drop like flies to the white picket virus, only to suddenly find himself hankering for a hammer and some white paint. Edward, however, doesn’t want a bar of Mark’s roguish charm. But it’s not like Mark can avoid the sexy pathologist—death brings them together on a regular basis. So when a string of murders threatens both their lives and sends them into hiding, something has to give.
- 1 To Be Read list
Publisher: Southern Lights Publishing
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Bisexual, Demisexual, Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 36-45
Protagonist 2 Age: 36-45
Tropes: Friends to Lovers, In Uniform, Opposites Attract, Trapped Together
Word Count: 103,000
Setting: New Zealand
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Rain lashed at the flimsy windbreaker Ed had grabbed by mistake, pissing through the material like it was a semipermeable membrane, soaking him through to his irritated skin in under thirty seconds flat. Fucking Auckland’s, fucking subtropical, fucking weather. Late summer in his beloved Christchurch had never involved a week of torrential rain like this—rain with a hard-on to make the Guinness world record for the ten best ways to fuck with a crime scene.
He grabbed his crime scene case and a pair of gumboots from his go-bag and pulled his head out from the BMW’s open trunk, which had just earned a big fat zero for shelter. Juggling everything under one arm, he reached up to close the trunk and took a step back—ankle deep in a mud sucking puddle. Oh, for fuck’s sake.READ MORE
A constable rushed over with an open golf umbrella and received a withering glare for his effort. “I’d work on your timing,” Ed deadpanned.
The constable grinned in a good-natured way. “Sorry, sir. I’ll get right on that. Cats and dogs, right?”
Ed cocked a brow. “Freaking elephants and rhinos, kid. Now, have you got anywhere I can change without risk of being washed away to fucking Australia?”
“You can use that van.” The constable indicated one of the half-dozen police vehicles lined up along the muddy strip of coastal scrub bordering the beach. A few sheltered officers were busy on their radios and computers, while their unlucky colleagues could be seen combing the surrounding area in the milky evening light, rain pelting down from above.
“At least it’s still daylight, sir. And there’s a tent over the body.”
“Thank Christ for that.” Ed took a step and sank into another pool of muddy sludge. “Goddammit.” He drew a breath, gathered the frayed threads of his patience, and shook the mud off his shoe, ignoring the constable’s half-swallowed chuckle.
“Where the hell are we, exactly?” His gaze swept the bleak headland. “My satnav gave up talking to me about ten kilometres back, and that last couple were a damn goat track.”
“On a farm just south of the Manukau Heads,” the man answered, chirpily enough to have Ed wanting to slap some cynicism into him. That much youthful cheer had no place in this weather. “The dirt road acts as a private local access to the beach,” the constable continued. “Detective Knight figures the body was dropped offshore somewhere and the big swells dumped it here. Without the cyclone it might never have made land. Lucky for us, right?” The kid practically beamed, and Ed wondered if he’d ever been that fresh and optimistic.
“Yeah, real lucky.” He reached the van and hauled himself inside to change into his coveralls. “Don’t you dare move a muscle,” he called through the closed door. “If I have to find my way to the body unprotected in this rain, there’ll be two homicide inquiries, understand?”
“Yes, sir.” Followed by another cheerful laugh.
God help me. Ed was done in a couple of minutes, after which he followed the constable down to the beach, past a couple of crime scene techs doing their best to see anything in the murk, and on to check in with another waterlogged constable standing guard over a smallish green tent whose sides heaved with the impact of the bucketing rain. The shore was a pattern of flattened sand ribs, the thundering waves at its back damn near deafening.
He dipped his head to avoid the clots of wet sand being whipped up and thrown his direction by the unforgiving westerly and rolled his eyes at the constable on guard. “‘Come to Auckland,’ they said, ‘the weather is so much better,’” he practically shouted.
The man grinned as water dripped from his chin. “If you think this is fun, sir, just wait till the humidity hits.”
Ed winced. “Don’t even start with me.” Then he turned to the first constable, who was trying—and failing dismally—to fix the umbrella, which had promptly turned itself inside out as soon as they’d hit the beach. “You may as well head back,” he said. “I’m as wet as I can possibly get.”
The perky constable grinned, gave a jaunty wave, and hoofed it.
Jesus Christ. Whatever that kid was on, someone needed to bottle it—they’d make a bloody fortune. Because if there was a word for beyond fucking saturated, the state of Ed encapsulated it, and cheerful he was not.
He ducked his head and pushed through the tent flap, straight into Mark Knight, and nearly bowled him over. He sighed. Nope. Not even close to cheerful.
Knight reflexively grabbed on to Ed’s arm to steady himself, and heat radiated from that single point of contact straight to Ed’s groin, managing to bypass everything in between—including that small particle of common sense Ed had been trying so hard to nurture.
Goddammit. For some unknown reason, Mark Knight rattled every brick in Ed’s fastidiously built walls. It had been that way from the first time he’d run into the detective while giving evidence in a case Knight had come to observe. That was less than a week after he’d shifted from Christchurch to take the forensic pathologist’s role at Auckland Med, and he’d nearly lost his tongue in the damn witness box, pinned by Knight’s unrelenting scrutiny from the public gallery. Since then, they’d worked a few cases together, and every minute spent in the man’s proximity had been… unsettling.
Mark Knight was… well, gorgeous, to put it plainly. And at least six feet six of solid muscle to Ed’s not-inconsequential six. With a wide, inviting mouth and medium-length chestnut hair worn in an unruly yet somehow flattering style that framed a pair of laughing hazel eyes, Knight was friendly, flirtatious… and gay—something he’d made clear from the get-go. The appreciative once-over he’d given Ed, along with an accompanying wink, said it all. So, yeah, pretty much everything Ed didn’t need in his life right then—or ever, actually. Though how Knight had known Ed wasn’t straight remained a goddamn mystery. Or maybe he just didn’t care. Knight was… disarming, to say the least.
“Sorry.” He waited for Knight to regain his footing, then stepped sideways, well clear of the man.
Knight tracked the move with a slow smirk. “Evening, Doctor. Sorry to interrupt your Wednesday night. Wet enough for you?”
Ed jumped as the tent snapped beside him with a sudden gust. “Evening, Detective. And I refuse to answer the question due to an insufficient supply of suitable adjectives, none of them complimentary.”
Knight laughed, and the sound sent a wave of something warm skittering through Ed’s chest. Then he indicated his partner, busy leaning over a body half covered with sand. “You remember Liam?”
The tent did little to muffle the roaring of the wind outside, making even loud conversation tricky and forcing Ed to lean in to catch Knight’s words. The move brought with it a hint of pleasing citrus cologne that did nothing to subdue Ed’s reaction to him one iota.
“Of course,” he said as the younger detective looked his way.
In his late twenties, with a buzz cut and stunning green eyes, Liam Crowley appeared to be everything Mark Knight wasn’t: a sober young man, forever on the verge of a yawn, who maybe needed to smile a little more. Still, he’d heard Liam had two kids under three—enough to suck every last thread of vitality from any working parent. He did, however, offer a thoughtful contrast to Knight’s irreverent, effervescent personality, and Ed figured they made a good team.
He nodded at the young man. “Detective Crowley. Now, I know you’re not thinking of touching my work, right?”
Liam held up his hands. “Not a chance, Doc. I value my balls just the way they are.”
Ed gave a chuckle. “Good call.” He glanced over and caught Knight’s appreciative gaze. They locked eyes.
Knight grinned. “Sorry to get you out in this shit.”
Heat rose in Ed’s cheeks. “I’m thinking you’re really not.”
Knight chuckled. “And you’d be right. Misery loves company, and you’re good company.” He threw Ed a hand towel. “Wouldn’t want you to drip all over the evidence.”
Ed snorted. “I suspect that’s the least of our worries.” He dried his face and handed the towel back, careful not to catch Knight’s eye again. Then he turned to study the body. “Anything I should know before I start?”
Knight moved alongside, his proximity throwing off enough combustible energy to power a small sun. “Not much. Farmer found him about six thirty p.m. and called it in.”
Ed checked his watch. Eight thirty. Not too bad, considering how far out they were. He started to walk around the body, taking mental notes.
Knight continued, “The farmer had been here earlier this morning and it was clear, so the body’s washed up in the last ten hours, give or take. No obvious ID…”
Ed lifted his eyes, wearing a scowl of disapproval.
Knight held his gaze with just the flicker of a smile. “We were careful. Used gloves. Just checked his pockets. Found nothing. But there was a guy reported missing yesterday. Family hasn’t heard from him since Sunday. The description and clothing fit. And this one doesn’t seem to have been in the water long, not that I’m an expert… of course.” He gave a wry smile.
Ed rolled his eyes and refocused on the body. “Okay, I’ll give you a strong maybe on the timing, based on first impressions, but we’ll see. In the meantime, you go do whatever it is you need to do, Detective. I’ll get the preliminaries sorted and let you know when I’m done.”
Knight grinned in that oh-so-charming-shark way he had and bumped Ed lightly on the shoulder. “You got it, Doc. I’m sending junior number one out for some coffees. Warm us all up. It’ll be a thirty-minute round trip. You want?”
Hell, yeah. “Thanks. Black, two sugars.”
And that right there was Ed’s problem. Two innocent words from the man’s mouth, and a flurry of goose bumps ran over his skin. Ugh.
He shooed everyone out and took a deep breath, following it with a few moments’ silence. Not that Ed was overly religious, but he did believe that all life, whether lived well or not, was due acknowledgement as its energy passed. If this body’s owner hadn’t been a respectful host, well, maybe the next one would be. It really wasn’t a lot to ask, and it had always grounded him in the gravity of his work. His job mattered, both to the living and the dead, and Ed would be damned if he’d let either one down.
That done, he got to work with an initial catalogue of the body, ensuring any potential evidence would be protected during transport to Auckland Med for the full autopsy the next day. The crime scene techs would take hundreds of photos, but Ed liked to take a few of his own so he got exactly the images he needed. Once the body was moved, there was no going back. As he worked, he tried once again to understand the puzzling sense of disequilibrium that always plagued him in the presence of Mark Knight.
Ed wasn’t that guy, had never been that guy. Never been one to crush or lust over anyone, especially if he barely knew them.
He scanned the body under his ministrations, taking a mental inventory and recording his thoughts on his phone as he worked.
He’d never reacted so immediately and so viscerally to a man, or a woman. In fact, he’d been told more than once that he was likely a demisexual bisexual. Whatever. He wasn’t convinced, and didn’t much care either way. He was just himself, Ed. And Ed needed time with pretty much everything he did in life, romance included. He didn’t fluster over a few ridiculous appreciative looks sent his way. Shit like that meant nothing. He took things slow, and he liked it that way—the word hookup wasn’t anywhere in his vocab, ever. He’d stuck with mostly women partners, not because he leaned more that way, but because women usually appreciated a slower burn, whereas men—or at least the ones Ed had been attracted to—seemed to expect sex pretty much up front after little more than a “Hello, nice to meet ya.”
He wasn’t a prude—far from it. He enjoyed sex, on the whole. And he didn’t judge others for chasing no-strings-attached quickies—more power to them—he just didn’t see the attraction himself. Like everything else in Ed’s life, sex was something to be savoured, and the concept of a slow burn had pretty much dominated Ed’s romantic playbook for over twenty-four years—ever since fifteen-year-old Ed had glanced at Vicki Stanton’s pillowy breasts and then, an hour later, at Mitch Ellington’s epically glorious arse in the boy’s change room and thought, huh, Houston, we might have a problem.COLLAPSE