Life Lessons

Life Lessons Book 1

by Kaje Harper

Tony Hart's life has been quiet lately. He has good friends and a rewarding teaching job. Then the murdered body of another teacher falls into the elevator at his feet, and Tony's life gets a little too exciting.

Jared MacLean is a homicide detective, a widowed father, and deeply in the closet. But from the moment he meets Tony's blue eyes in that high school hallway, Mac can't help wanting this man in his life. However Mac isn't the only one with his eyes on Tony. As the murderer tries to cover his tracks, Mac has to work fast or lose Tony, permanently.

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Excerpt:

Finally the elevator came to life with a grinding rumble. The door opened, its faint ding almost erased by a low buzz as the janitor began buffing the floors somewhere down the hall.

See, you’re not the only poor sap left in the building.

Tony stepped in and stabbed at the third floor button and the close-doors button with weary impatience. One more load of books and he could head home. That first beer of the evening beckoned in his mind, cold and clean, and the Vietnamese place down the street would deliver. For a city smack in the middle of the Midwest, Minneapolis had some good Vietnamese restaurants.

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As the elevator ground its reluctant way upward, Tony allowed himself a mental pat on the back for the result of his students’ book drive. At first the teenagers had been uninterested, but gradually they’d caught his enthusiasm. They had collected over two hundred books for the children’s library project they were sponsoring. Most of those had already been brought down and stowed in his car by helpful, in other words, forcibly drafted members of his last English class of the day. Except for that forgotten first box he had stowed in his storage closet back when the project began. He had almost convinced himself to leave it there till Monday since he had been driving out of the parking lot when he remembered it, but he wanted to get this project done.

The third floor indicator chimed. As the doors began to open, Tony stepped forward impatiently. So he was unprepared when a big man stumbled backwards onto the elevator. The man’s elbow caught Tony’s chest and slammed him back against the wall. He recognized the wide shoulders and trademark tweed, though.

“Damn it, Westin! Watch where you’re going!” he snapped, grabbing for the rail as his weight came down on his sore ankle. “Wait for me to get off already.”
The other man grunted and bumped him again, the back of his shoulder whacking Tony’s chin. Was he drunk, Tony wondered.

He shoved the man irritably away and reached to block the doors as they began to close, but Westin’s reaction to his shove was a slow slide down the wall of the elevator to the floor. As Tony watched in dismay, the bigger man rolled his head towards him, face sheet white, and mumbled something. He coughed and blood, shockingly bright in the fluorescent elevator light, sprayed and bubbled down Westin’s chin. The man coughed once more, wet and muffled, then lay ominously still.

Oh, Jesus! What the...

Tony dropped to his knees beside the man, reaching for him, mind racing through stroke and pneumonia and...but then his eyes and brain caught up with each other. There wasn’t much doubt about the handle of a knife protruding from Westin’s chest.

Tony’s pulse pounded in his ears. Shit, shit, shit!

Westin wasn’t moving, wasn’t breathing. Tony realized that part of that pounding noise he heard was soft running footsteps down the hall. For an instant longer he knelt, frozen in place, as the elevator doors closed on Westin’s trailing feet, dinged their displeasure, and sprang open again. By the time he lunged forward and stuck his head out of the elevator, the hallway was empty. The north stairwell door was swinging shut.

You could run after whoever it was. You should try to catch him.

Tony reached instead for Westin’s wrist, then his neck, feeling for a pulse he knew wasn’t there. The man’s shirtfront and jacket were soaked with blood, liquid and red, still running out and pooling around Tony’s knees on the floor. The smell of bowels loosening filled the elevator. Tony gagged and lunged out of the elevator, reaching back in to pull the emergency stop and block the obscene squeeze and release of the doors on Westin’s feet.

Phone. Try the damned cell phone.

He reached without much hope for his cell. Sure enough there was no service. The whole school was riddled with dead zones. It had the benefit of keeping the students off their phones, except when it had no fucking benefit at all. The rooms were all locked at this hour. He had no master key, only his own.

Tony hovered one more moment, pulled between Westin’s body, the stairwell, and
his room.

No brainer, you stupid git, he told himself impatiently, you can’t help Brian Westin, you’re not going to catch the guy on the stairs, so call for some help.

His room was at the other end of a hallway that had never seemed so long. His lock resisted the key when he jammed it in. Then there was his desk and his phone and he could finally dial 911.

“What is your emergency?”

Amazing how good someone else’s voice sounded right now.

“He’s dead!” Tony said. Idiot! “I mean, one of the teachers has
been stabbed, here at Roosevelt.”

“You are at Roosevelt High School?” the voice asked calmly. “2008 West Oak Street in Minneapolis?”

“Yes.”

“I’m dispatching police and ambulance to you now,” she
continued...

COLLAPSE

About the Author

I get asked about my name a lot. It's not something exotic, though. “Kaje” is pronounced just like “cage” – it’s an old nickname.

I live in Minnesota, where the two seasons are Snow-removal and Road-repair, where the mosquito is the state bird, and where winter can be breathtakingly beautiful. Minnesota’s a kindly, quiet (if sometimes chilly) place and it’s home now.

I’ve been writing for far longer than I care to admit (*whispers – forty years*), mostly for my own entertainment. I mainly publish M/M romance (with added mystery, fantasy, historical, SciFi…) I also have a few Young Adult stories released under the pen name Kira Harp.

My husband finally convinced me that after all that time writing for fun, I really should submit something, somewhere. My first professionally published book, Life Lessons, came out from MLR Press in May 2011. I have a weakness for closeted cops with honest hearts, and teachers who speak their minds, and I had fun writing the four novels and three freebie short stories in the series. I’ve been delighted by the reception Mac and Tony have received.

I now have a good-sized backlist in ebooks and print, both free and professionally published. A complete list with links can be found on my Books page.
I also have  an author page on Goodreads where I do a lot of book reviews. You can find me to chat there– I hang out on Goodreads a lot because I moderate the  Goodreads YA LGBT Books group there. I also post free short YA stories on that group, more than 50 of them so far. Or find me on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/KajeHarper


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