Corey Byrne loves his family—as long as he only has to see them once a year. Since he’s not out to them, it makes things… tense. Returning to his job at a homeless shelter after Christmas, he finds someone has left him a very expensive present. Soon, he begins to get messages from the anonymous gift giver. Then Corey’s friend Brad is murdered in Corey’s apartment and undercover detective Scott Reed is assigned to protect Corey. As they work together to find the killer, they realize they’re starting to care about each other. However Scott is unwilling to act on his feelings unless Corey comes out to his family and coworkers. As the threats from the stalker intensify, Corey is forced to admit that love is too precious to hide from. Perhaps now is the time to be honest about who he is and accept the possibility of love in return—before it's too late.
WITH THE holiday season over, Corey’s life settled back into its normal routine, more or less. The temperatures dropped significantly, so the shelter was filled to capacity day and night, and he spent more time there than he did at home. When he did return to his apartment, he collapsed into bed for a few hours and then showered, put on clean clothes, and went back to work.
Three days after the cold snap, the weather improved enough to allow Corey to work his regular shift again. When he got home that evening, the first thing he spotted was the pile of unopened mail from the last few days that he’d tossed on his desk to look at when he had time. “Bills and more bills,” he grumbled as he began going through it. There were other things, too, including a couple of what he presumed were late Christmas cards. The first was a comic one from an old college friend. Corey chuckled at the message and put it aside.
His address on the second one was typed, with no return address and a very blurred postmark. He opened the envelope, expecting to find it was from some company he did business with.
It wasn’t. The front of the card showed two hands, fingers touching to form a heart with “Merry Christmas” under them. From the look of it, the sender had designed the card himself, probably with a photo-manipulation program. Inside, typed, was a message:
I’m hurt. You haven’t been wearing my gift.
That was all. No signature. Nothing to indicate who had sent the card.
My secret Santa, as Archie put it? He could only presume that was the case and the sender was referring to the watch. Creepy. He shivered, crumpled the card, and tossed it into the wastebasket. I should get rid of the watch too. Donate it to… some charity that could sell it and use the profits to support their efforts. Not to the shelter, though. Mr. Zimmer would wonder why I was getting rid of it and, knowing him, make a big issue of it.
“Who the hell are you?” he muttered. He figured it had to be someone he’d met at one of the clubs. But why approach me this way? Why not just come out and say he’s interested in me? “Games, and not ones I like.”
He was tempted to call Kerry to get his opinion about the gift and the card. As a cop, even though in a different city, he might have some suggestions on what to do.
Like tell me to go to the police, and what would that accomplish? There’s nothing overtly threatening in this. I don’t think I can get a restraining order against a person or persons unknown. He chuckled dryly. Nope, not happening, so I’ll forget it for now and hope this is the last I hear from them.
Edward Kendrick was born and bred Cleveland, earned a degree in technical theater from the University of Iowa—later switched to costuming while apprenticing at a theater in Cleveland—and then headed to NYC. Finally seeing the futility of trying to become rich and famous in the Big Apple, Kendrick joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), ending up in Chicago for three years. Then it was on to Denver to put down roots and work as a costume designer until retiring in 2002.
Kendrick began writing a few years ago after joining an on-line fanfic group. Then Kendrick and two friends started their own group where writers could post any story they wished, no matter the genre or content. Since 2011, Kendrick has been writing for publication. Most, but not all, the stories are m/m, either mildly erotic or purely 'romantic', and more often than not they involve a mystery or are action/adventure.
Kendrick is the proud single-parent of a thirty-two year old son who works as a personal trainer.