Haven Investigations, #1
What if trusting someone you barely remember is the only way to survive when former friend brings murder to your doorstep?
Shattered by the death of his brother, Ollie is struggling to put one foot in front of the other. Kade, his brother’s best friend, entering the picture seems like the help and comfort Ollie needs. Trusting this older man with his secrets, much less his heart, is something Ollie isn’t so sure is a good idea.
Between the two of them they’re going to need to come to grips with their budding relationship, and learn to trust, before their current investigation kills them. Literally.
Note: This MM romance features a tattooed ex-Marine, a former model with a passion for manties and sticking his nose into mysteries, and a bunch of reality TV stars with the habit of getting murdered.
- 2 To Be Read lists
- 4 Read lists
Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 5
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Demisexual, Gay, Genderfluid
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Badass Hero, Enemies to Lovers, Hurt / Comfort
Word Count: 81356
Setting: San Francisco, USA
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
I rotated my wrist in a circle to try to relieve the cramping and numbness forming, but they kept pushing more pages at me to initial, sign, and date. Hard to believe I, Oliver Petroskovic, had given them a check for over a million dollars for a home with “beautiful city views, Victorian bones, and a large private yard.” The place was a dump with crumbling walls, torn wallpaper, no appliances, and missing copper plumbing. However, it was going to be home for generations of Petroskovics. If there was anything Jacob, my ex-boyfriend, had taught me with his betrayal, it was that blood truly was thicker than water.READ MORE
Now all I needed was for my older brother Nathan to find some pretty girl to settle down with and have babies. I would be the proud uncle, spoiling the kids, watching them grow, and being easily coaxed into free babysitting when I wasn’t walking a runway in Paris or Milan. A few more years of modeling, and I could retire wealthy enough to take care of the whole family no matter how many kids Nathan had.
I’d have to retire soon, anyway. Models didn’t often last beyond twenty-two, and I was already pushing twenty-three. I thanked God every day for blessing me with flawless skin and the feminine figure that made my teenage years miserable but my modeling so lucrative.
I never would have dreamt at fifteen that seven years later I’d be traveling the world, speaking a half-dozen languages, and studying the high-pressure venue of fashion. No, that skinny kid was all knees and elbows and endlessly teased for never being enough of a man. But the money I made taking off my clothes and dressing femininely paid for the house in full. A house others could only dream of in the expensive Pacific Heights area of San Francisco, California, where multimillion-dollar houses congregated in beautiful rows of Victorian architecture. Sure, the house needed work, but no mortgage was a good thing. I wouldn’t have to worry about maintaining the high-buck jobs I fought so hard for now. And Nathan would help with the renovations, make it our home.
We had looked at over a hundred places. Some immaculate, which appealed to my laziness, but not to Nathan’s need to improve. And I debated with my agent on the price so many times, unwilling to pay so much for spaces too small for the effort of moving. The studio apartment Nathan and I had shared for the past three years worked well only when I was traveling. The flat was just too small, though it was blocks from the building Nathan used as an office for his investigations business. An easy walk to public transportation, shops, and endless restaurants made the rent sky-high. Buying was more economical. And finding a fixer with potential sweat equity was what Nathan had convinced me we needed.
The three-thousand square foot, three-story layout would give us plenty of space to not always be bumping into each other, and yet keep us close enough we wouldn’t have to go far to find the other. Nathan had been looking after me for years. Warned me about Jacob. My house search had actually begun as a way to find a home for Jacob and me to be together. But I should have listened to Nathan.
Jacob Elias was a rock star—with a voice like a god and an amazing ass in leather pants. He’d even won a couple Grammys and was featured on magazines everywhere. Which meant my face was plastered across every rag from here to Timbuktu. A year of my life I’d wasted, listening to him tell me all the stories about him cheating were untrue. Until I caught him in bed with another man. Nathan was there with a hug instead of an I-told-you-so.
A million dollars didn’t seem like that much in the larger scope of things, though it had been the bulk of my savings. I’d rather have Nathan close at hand than money, anyway. He was all I had, and I couldn’t wait to rush home and hand him the keys.
“Just one last signature, Mr. Petroskovic.” The guy slaughtered my last name again. He’d been corrected a half-dozen times. “That ad you did in Esquire was phenomenal.” He adjusted his tie and smiled, winking at me.
I sighed, signed the last page, and shoved my mirrored sunglasses down to cover my eyes, giving the man a slight smile. “Thanks.”
Not interested, move along.
“Where are you from?” he tried again, apparently not getting my not-so-subtle hint the first time.
“Oakland,” I replied and turned toward my real estate agent, effectively turning off the conversation. The man was probably shocked by my origins. But Nathan and I had come a long way from neighborhoods filled with gangs, drugs, and never-ending violence. I couldn’t count the number of times people had offered to pay me for sex while I walked home from school. Nathan saved my ass often when some wannabe something thought the pretty blond kid with a hard-to-pronounce last name was worth stirring up trouble. We’d survived. Worked hard to make ourselves better. Nathan had enlisted at seventeen, only to be called home six years later when our parents died. He refused to let the state separate us and instead left the Marines to take over as my guardian. I was twelve, and he became my life.
The rest was history. What we had now was the future. And I could finally give back to the man who’d given me everything he could. I fingered the keys as they made copies of the paperwork for me. Nathan was going to be so excited to start working on the house. When he wasn’t tracking down cheating spouses and white-collar criminals, he was building something. I couldn’t wait to see what he’d make of the house. The attic space would be mine. The giant wall of windows with sparkling glimpses of the ocean in the far distance called to me. The unfinished space was three times the size of our studio and would be solely mine.
My realtor handed me a folder filled with papers. He was probably thrilled to get rid of me. Over a year of searching and a dozen fruitless bids had finally brought us to this day. He held out his hand, and I took it to shake. “Congratulations, Oliver.”
I grinned at him. It was done. The house was ours. “Thank you for your patience, Mr. Frost.” I grabbed up my bag, shoved the folder in it, and headed for the door. Since I was downtown, I could walk home instead of calling a cab, but I wanted to get to Nathan so bad. He’d be at work, of course. But he would look up, smile, tell me he was proud of me, and maybe I could convince him to close up for the day to celebrate.
Tall, dark, and handsome waited for me in the lobby.
It was Will, my brother’s best friend, my best friend’s husband, and San Francisco PD. “What are you doing here?” I had to ask him. His lack of uniform meant he was off-duty, but he wore everything well with strong shoulders and lean hips. Even in jeans and a polo, no one would mistake him for anything other than a cop. He was my first crush. I’d been sixteen when he’d appeared back in Nathan’s life. A fellow Marine, he and Nathan were close. And when Nathan wasn’t around, Will usually was.
“Came to pick you up and take you to a congratulatory lunch. Britney planned it but had a last-minute client. So you’re stuck with me. How’s donuts sound?” He was always making cop jokes at his own expense.
I laughed. Britney was Will’s wife and my best friend. I could imagine how she had begged her husband, likely promising sexual favors, just to get Will to show up. He’d have come anyway, but I knew for a fact Will loved playing negotiator with Britney. Since I couldn’t have him, I was pretty happy my best friend had gotten him. “And ruin my girlish figure? You know I don’t eat that stuff.”
“Tofu and air it is,” Will teased as he led the way to his Suburban.
“Fish. No tofu.” I scrunched up my face in distaste. “Even I have standards. But let’s go get Nathan first.” I waved the new keys around and got in the truck. “I want to give him the keys to the house since I’m leaving for Milan tomorrow.”
Will backed the truck out of the lot. “PHI it is, then. Maybe you can convince that workaholic brother of yours to actually go to lunch with us. You know he’ll make some excuse about having work to do.”
Yeah, that was Nathan. He worked more than I did, often banking eighty or more hours a week. Sadly the fruits of his labor would never be enough to afford us a house large enough to live comfortably. The million-dollar dream house was a thank-you from me to Nathan. I owed him so much. He’d paid for private school and attended all of those early modeling sessions to protect me from predators. Lots of people wanted to take advantage of the kid who suddenly began making thousands of dollars for taking off his clothes. I learned very quickly to be comfortable in nothing but my skin, but to also be wary of the world, as everyone wanted something from me.
“Business appears to be booming as usual,” Will snarked as he pulled into the lot in front of the PHI building and parked the truck. Other than Nathan’s battered Honda, the lot was empty.
“He’s probably at the computer doing background checks.” Whenever I wasn’t modeling, it was what I did. My college degree had been achieved with the idea that someday I’d be assisting Nathan full-time at PHI. But since I was off signing my life away for a house this morning, that left the boring computer work and answering phones to Nathan, who hated it.
I slid out of the truck and trudged to the front door, giving it a hard yank. It was locked. That was weird. I fished my key ring out of my pocket and flipped through them until I found the one for the door, and unlocked it. “Maybe he’s taking a break?”
Will frowned but pulled the door open and held it for me. “Not really something your brother does without coaxing. Did he say anything about having a meeting today?”
I shook my head. I was the one who arranged Nathan’s schedule and couldn’t recall anything being lined up for today. “It would have had to be something last minute,” I told Will as I stepped inside. The office smelled. Metallic and something more unpleasant. “What’s that smell?” It couldn’t be a gas leak; the office was electric. In fact, Nathan had installed solar panels on the roof last year, taking it mostly off the grid. Costs to stay in San Francisco were sky-high as it was, so we tried to stay green and cheap all at once.
Maybe the bathroom was backed up. “Nathan?” I called.
Will grabbed my arm and dragged me away from the door to Nathan’s office. “Go out to the car, Ollie.” He pulled his phone out of his pocket and dialed. “Got a possible DB,” he told the person who answered and rattled off the address.
I blinked at him in confusion for a moment. DB. Dead body? My heart flip-flopped and bile filled my throat. What about Nathan? I tried to loosen Will’s grip so I could get to Nathan’s office. The door was closed. Nathan rarely closed the door, always said something about an open-door showing trust. Will’s arm wrapped around my waist, lifting me with the ease of a grown-up lifting a child, and carried me outside.
“Let me go. Nathan might be in there. He could be hurt.”
“Right, ’cause you have medical training that can help? Whatever’s in there, you don’t need to see. And help is on the way.” His grip was like iron around me no matter how hard I struggled. The sound of sirens wailed in the distance, coming closer. Nathan had always said it was good to be close to downtown, the hospital, the police, and the fire station all only minutes away.
An unmarked arrived first and parked beside Will’s truck. The officer who got out greeted Will respectfully by nodding his head. “Forrester.”
“We need to do a welfare check on the owner,” Will told the cop. “Main office.” His eyes flicked to me. “Owner’s brother and I arrived together, else I would have done it already.”
The officer nodded and headed inside. He was back a minute later, just as an ambulance and a half-dozen other cops showed up. The cop shook his head at Will.
“What does that mean?” I asked. “Where’s Nathan? Is he hurt?”
Will guided me over to one of the police cars. “Sit here until I can go check. I’ll be back in a minute.”
“Let me come with you,” I begged. If that was Nathan in there...
“No,” Will said firmly. He opened the door to the back of the squad car and shoved me inside. The door closed and I realized there was no way to get out, as there were no handles and a barrier between the front and back seats.
“Dammit!” I pounded on the window trying to get Will to come back, but he walked toward the building with a handful of other cops and medics who arrived and disappeared inside a moment later. My heart wouldn’t stop pounding. It hurt as it raced in my chest, rattling my ribs like it wasn’t really attached to my body. What if it was Nathan? Who would hurt him? Everyone liked him. Except for the occasional client whom he’d caught cheating. Why weren’t the EMTs coming out with him? How bad was he hurt?
Will was back a moment later. Instead of letting me out of the car, he slid into the backseat beside me and closed the door. The other officers congregated away from the car, giving us privacy. I could feel tears running down my cheeks before I even knew exactly what Will was going to say.
“Did someone hurt Nathan? Is he okay? Tell me, Will.”
Will’s expression said it all, the tightness in his jaw and the watery edges of his eyes. “It looks like Nathan hurt Nathan.”
What? That made no sense. What was he saying? “Was there an accident?”
“I’m sorry, Ollie. He’s gone. Looks like he put a gun in his mouth.”
It took a few moments for the words to register. “What? No! He wouldn’t. I don’t understand. Let me out. I have to see him.” I threw myself at the opposite door, willing to break the window if I had to in order to get out and get to Nathan. “It’s not him. You’ve got it wrong, Will. It can’t be him. He wouldn’t leave me. I closed on our house today. We were going to raise his family there. He was going to paint and remodel to make it our dream home.”
Will wrapped me up into his arms, locking my body against his though I tried to struggle free. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Stay here with me, Ollie. You don’t need that memory. Just remember him how he was. God, kid. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s wrong. You’re wrong. It can’t be him. Let me go. I have to see him. He needs me.” But Will wouldn’t let me go, and my world swirled in a crazy whirl of flashing lights and disjointed sound bites carrying me into a future where I was all alone.COLLAPSE