Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Secrets and Scrabble Series Tour and Giveaway



Secret at Skull House 
Secrets and Scrabble Book 2 
by Josh Lanyon 
Genre: M/M Cozy Mystery 


Ellery Page is back--and poking his elegant nose into trouble again! 

Unlike everyone else in Pirate's Cove, Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, reigning Scrabble champion, and occasionally clueless owner of the village's only mystery bookstore, is anything but thrilled when famed horror author Brandon Abbott announces he's purchased legendary Skull House and plans to live there permanently.

Ellery and Brandon have history. Their relationship ended badly and the last thing Ellery wants is a chance to patch things up--especially when his relationship with Police Chief Jack Carson is just getting interesting. But then, maybe Brandon isn't all that interested in getting back together either, because he seems a lot more interested in asking questions about the bloodstained past of his new home than discussing a possible future with Ellery. What is Brandon really up to?

Ellery will have to unscramble that particular puzzle post haste. Because after his former flame disappears following their loud and public argument, Ellery seems to be Police Chief Carson's first--and only--suspect.

***This story contains no on-screen sex or violence 



Chapter One


Murder is fun.

At least, a lot of otherwise nice, normal people seemed to think so.

Having recently gone through the ghastly experience of finding a body in

his bookshop—oh, and of being suspected of murder—Ellery Page was

less thrilled by the notion of violent death. He couldn’t deny it was good

for business, though.

Something about the idea of murder in a mystery bookstore really

captured people’s imagination. True, a third of the tourists wandering into

the Crow’s Nest this beautiful sunny June morning were there specifically

to see Where It Happened. But because they felt a little guilty for their

ghoulishness, they almost always bought a couple of books before they

left. So while business wasn’t booming, it had certainly picked up.

Which was a good thing because Ellery’s screenwriting career was

going nowhere fast. He glanced down again at the latest rejection letter

from his agent.

The worst part was, while the rejection stung—rejection always

stings, even when you’re getting rejected by people you would reject—he

just couldn’t get too worked up about it. Not on such a beautiful day.

And it was a beautiful day. Like a painting by one of those 19th

century artists who went in for seaside postcards of gentlemen in straw

hats and striped one-piece bathing suits and ladies with—well, frankly,

Ellery was more interested in the gentlemen.

Anyway, really nice weather. The sky was a soft and languid blue,

swirled with clouds as filmy as smoke. The sand sparkled, the water

sparkled, the sunlight sparkled. Brightly colored boats bobbed in the

harbor, flags snapping in the sea breeze.

The only thing that could have made it better was if it had been

Saturday rather than Monday. The weekends meant more visitors to Buck

Island, and more visitors meant more business, and Ellery was going to

need more business—a lot more business—to keep the Crow’s Nest sailing

along. Seeing that Ronny had no interest in pitching Night Chess to

anyone.

The scenes are void of meaningful or compelling conflict.

What did that even mean? Well, okay, Ellery knew what it meant, but

he didn’t like conflict. Not in his movies and not in real life.

Conflict arrives, is instantly resolved, and the narrative course

continues unaffected.

Ellery muttered, “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

The bells on the front door jingled merrily as Mrs. Nelson swept in.

Ellery’s heart sank.

Hermione Nelson was a heavyset woman in her late sixties with

startlingly blue eyes, hair as red as a rusty battleship, and a small,

pinched-looking mouth that gave the impression that the effort of keeping

her thoughts to herself was starting to give her heartburn. Except, she

never kept her thoughts to herself, so…

Mrs. Nelson was under the impression she was Ellery’s best customer,

and she would’ve been if she didn’t return three quarters of everything she

bought.

“Ellery, this book was a complete waste of my time. I can’t believe

you recommended it.” Mrs. Nelson reached the wooden counter, fished

around in her patchwork bag, and thrust a battered copy of The Better

Sister by Alafair Burke at him.

“I’m sorry. It made pretty much everyone’s Best Of lists for 2019.”

Ellery took the hardcover, wincing inwardly at the sight of folded page

corners.

“I don’t want to read about nasty people.”

“Well, we’re a mystery bookstore,” Ellery pointed out. “Safe to say, at

least one character in every book is going to be kind of nasty.”

Mrs. Nelson was not amused. “I like my murders to happen to nice

people. What about that new one from Joanne Fluke? I think I might like

that.”

“I’m not sure we have any copies le—”

Mrs. Nelson beamed. “I’ll just go and check. We can do an even

exchange. That will keep things simple for you.”

Uh, no, actually that would complicate everything, but Mrs. Nelson

was already bustling away, making a beeline for the Cozy Mystery section.

Ellery swallowed his exasperation. He was still trying to build his

customer base—and being suspected of murder had not helped matters

along—so he felt he had to be extra accommodating to the customers he

did have, even if some of them were using him more as a library than a

bookstore.

He gazed out the large bay windows at the people strolling past, icecream

cones in one hand, shopping bags in the other. A former fishing

village—actually, a former pirate sanctuary, if you wanted to go way back

—Pirate’s Cove was working hard to transform itself into a premium

tourist destination. Things were pretty quiet in the fall, winter, and spring,

but once summer arrived, the little windswept island offered biking,

hiking, sailing, fishing, and lots of sunny beaches to explore.

The island also boasted two historic lighthouses: North Point and Half

Moon Bay, as well as the partially buried ruins of a pirate fortress. Nearly

half the island had been set aside for conservation, with the northwestern

tip serving as a resting stop for birds migrating along the Atlantic flyway.

The potential for business was definitely there. The business itself…

not so much. Not yet.

But the citizens of Pirate’s Cove were working to change that, and no

one was working harder than Ellery.

The Crow’s Nest had been underwater when he’d inherited it from

Great-great-great-aunt Eudora, and it was still leaking like a sieve, but the

sight of all those ice-cream cones and shopping bags gave him hope.

Even better than ice cream and shopping bags was the sight of

Police Chief Jack Carson heading toward the front door of the Crow’s

Nest. Jack’s gaze met Ellery’s through the glass, and Ellery’s heart skipped

a beat. He smiled. Jack smiled back.

Over the past weeks, he and Ellery had become friendly—which was

not exactly the same thing as being friends, but they were moving in that

direction. Ellery was happy. He liked Jack. He was also attracted to Jack—

and he wasn’t alone in that; most of the fairer sex of Pirate’s Cove was

attracted to the handsome, widowed chief of police. Jack was in his late

thirties, a lean six-foot-nothing with sun-streaked brown hair and piercing

green-blue eyes. He had a terrific smile, which he kept mostly in reserve.

It was because Ellery was attracted to Jack that he was grateful their

friendship was developing slowly, maybe even cautiously.

The fact was, he did not have good luck with relationships. Not

romantic relationships. So, thinking of Jack as strictly friends took the

pressure off.

At least that’s what Ellery told himself.

The bell offered a silvery welcome as Jack stepped inside the

Crow’s Nest.

“Why, howdy, Sheriff,” Ellery drawled in his best minor-characterin-

a-made-for-TV-Western accent.

“Why, howdy, Mr. Page,” Jack drawled back, and maybe it was being

from California, but he did that Home on the Range accent better than

Ellery, who even had three minor second-cowpoke-from-the-left credits on

his acting résumé.

Good intentions notwithstanding, something about Jack’s deep,

pleasant voice always gave Ellery a little tingle at the base of his spine. It

was distracting, to say the least.

“T’warn’t fixin’ to see you quite so soon.”

Jack grimaced and dropped the drawl. “I know. I have to take a rain

check on lunch. Emergency town-council meeting.”

Oh.” Ellery didn’t bother to hide his disappointment. He and Jack

had lunch together about once a week. Jack had also twice come out to

Captain’s Seat, the falling-down 18th Century mansion Ellery had

inherited, to help with renovations. “That’s too bad. What’s the

emergency?”

“The lack of any game plan to handle the media once they arrive for

the trial.”

“Ugh. Right.”

Ellery’s recent experience with the editor of the Scuttlebutt Weekly

had left him with a sour taste in his mouth for members of the media.

“Yeah, anyway, I was wondering—” Jack broke off as Watson, the

black spaniel-mix puppy Ellery had adopted, wandered out of his crate

behind the counter to say hello. Jack squatted down. “Hey, you little

rascal.”

Watson threw himself on his back, wriggling in delight—which was

the typical reaction of most Pirate’s Cove citizens when Jack Carson

appeared.

Sure enough…

“Oh! Chief Carson. I thought I recognized your voice.” Mrs. Nelson

came around the corner of tall bookshelves.

Jack rose. “Mrs. Nelson. How are you?”

Mrs. Nelson proceeded to tell him in detail.

Mrs. Smith—small and slender, with thinning sandy hair—appeared

at the counter, a stack of used paperbacks from the bargain bin in hand,

and beamed at Ellery. “Ring these up, dear.” She turned immediately to

Jack. “Chief Carson, how is the Maples case coming along?” Mrs. Smith

was a devoted viewer of the Investigation Discovery channel and believed

herself to be an expert in criminal investigations.

“We’re gathering evidence and building our case, Mrs. Smith,” Jack

said politely.

“The circumstantial evidence alone ought to be enough to secure a

conviction.”

“I prefer direct evidence.” Jack glanced at Ellery, and Ellery

grimaced. There had been plenty of circumstantial evidence against him in

the Maples case, but luckily Jack had dug deeper.

Mrs. Nelson, who had not finished detailing the delights of her

gallbladder surgery, cut in. “Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t trust a

doctor younger than my grandchildren.”

“Isn’t your youngest grandchild around eight years old?” Jack

inquired.

Mrs. Nelson ignored that.

“I always suspected there was something up with that man,” said

Mrs. Ferris, materializing out of the brand-new True Crime section, to join

in the conversation. “His taste in sports coats was a clear indicator of a

deranged psyche.”

“Juries like circumstantial evidence,” Mrs. Smith insisted.

Watson, wearying of so many conversations that had nothing to do

with how adorable he was, waddled toward the front door. Ellery dashed

around the counter to scoop him up as two young women opened the door,

saw the crowd at the counter, and ducked back out.

He sighed, glanced back at the huddle in front of the cash register,

and caught Jack’s gaze. Jack looked resigned, as well as…something else.

Ellery didn’t know him well enough to interpret his every expression, but

he had the impression Jack had been about to ask him something.

Well, whatever it was, it would have to wait. Jack’s fan club was not

going anywhere soon.

Ellery returned Watson to his crate, gave him a chew toy, and began

to ring up Mrs. Smith’s books. He listened with half an ear to the

conversation around him. He was surprised Jack had not already extricated

himself and escaped, something he was very good at in such situations.

He looked up, feeling Jack’s gaze, and they smiled at each other

again. It warmed Ellery. He really did like Jack. He liked his easy,

straightforward manner. Nothing ever seemed to fluster Jack. He liked the

way he was with Watson. He liked how Jack looked—broad shoulders and

narrow hips, muscular arms and long legs—in his trim navy-blue uniform.

He liked the way Jack’s smile formed little crinkles around the corners of

his eyes.

Jack started to speak, but Mr. Starling appeared at the counter with

Lee Child’s latest. “Ellery, my boy, could you tell me the price of this

book?”

Ellery was about to rattle off the price, which happened to be clearly

labeled on a sticker on the back of the book, when Mr. Starling turned to

Jack.

“Chief Carson, I didn’t see you there!”

Ellery resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

“Morning, Mr. Starling.” Jack glanced instinctively at the door, and

Ellery bit back a grin. Everyone had their breaking point, and Mr. Starling

was usually it.

“Nice day today, eh, Chief?”

“Yep.”

Ellery handed the receipt with the stack of paperbacks to Mrs.

Smith, who dumped everything in her canvas shopping bag. She turned to

Mr. Starling. “How’s your wife, Stanley?”

Mr. Starling waved dismissively. “Doing fine, I suppose. Spends her

days staring at the boob tube.”

Mrs. Nelson began, “I don’t believe televisions still have tubes—”

Mr. Starling ignored her. “Chief, I’ve meaning to talk to you about

those young hooligans hanging out on the beach every evening. It wouldn’t

surprise me if they were doing drugs and whatnot.”

“Sure,” Jack said, edging toward the door. “Why don’t you come

down to the station later and have a chat with Officer Martin.”

“I’m not sure young Martin is old enough to know what’s what.”

Mrs. Smith was also angling toward the door with Jack and Mr.

Starling. “Lovely visiting with you all, but I must pick up some scallops

from Finn’s.”

Ellery opened his mouth, but Mrs. Nelson was there before him.

“You’ve forgotten to pay, Jane.”

Mrs. Smith looked startled and then laughed gaily. “Oh dear. I’m

always doing that!”

Yes, she was, but Ellery chuckled too. Politely.

Jack said mildly, “Uh-oh, Mrs. Smith. Should I save space for your

mug shot on the station bulletin board?”

Mrs. Smith turned red. Her laugh sounded a little hysterical that

time. The others joined in. She hurriedly dug her pocketbook out and

handed over a twenty-dollar bill. “Keep the change, dear.”

In fact, she was twenty-three cents short, but Ellery knew to choose

his battles. “Thanks, Mrs. Smith.”

The shop door flew open, the bell clanging wildly, and Nora Sweeny

rushed in, narrowly missing colliding with Jack and his entourage.

“Ellery, dearie! So sorry I’m late, but you won’t believe what’s

happened!”

Nora was Ellery’s shop assistant. She was about seventy, small but

mighty. In spirit, at least. Her hair was gray, her eyes were gray, but her

personality was bright and cheerful as the gold and blue city flag she had

helped design. Once upon a time, Nora had been president of the Pirate’s

Cove Historical Society, and it was her life’s ambition to bring that now

defunct organization back to life.

“What’s happened?” Ellery and everyone else in the Crow’s Nest

chorused.

Nora skidded to a stop, looking nonplussed. “I didn’t realize—well,

the news is bound to be all over the village by now. I still can’t believe it.

It’s a…a calamity.”

“What’s a calamity?” Jack, being in the calamity business, was

frowning.

“Skull House has been sold!”

“Isn’t that good news?” Ellery was confused. “I thought the

historical society was planning to buy it for their new home base.” It was

pretty much all Nora had been talking about for the last two weeks, ever

since the news broke that Skull House was going on the market.

“But that’s just it. It’s not us. The Historical Society hasn’t

purchased the house. We were outbid. We didn’t even know we were

bidding. Someone—an outsider—swooped in at the last moment and stole

the house out from under us!” Nora reached the counter, resting her

elbows on it and dropping her head in her hands.

Ellery bent over her. “Are you all right?”

Nora, still clutching her head, shook no.

Everyone else—with the exception of Jack—was talking at once:

who, what, where, when, why…

The why was the real question, in Ellery’s opinion. Why anyone, let

alone the Pirate’s Cove Historical Society, would want to buy Skull House,

was a mystery to him. For one thing, it was out on Pequot Bluffs, miles

from the village. For another, the house was a wreck. Not as much of a

wreck as Captain’s Seat, maybe—or maybe it was, because no one had

lived there for the last fifty years. That amount of dust was probably

lethal.

“I’m sorry. But, you know, maybe it’s for the best,” Ellery said.

“Skull House would probably cost a fortune to get in shape, and it isn’t

exactly conveniently located. There are other houses.”

“No, there really aren’t,” Mrs. Nelson informed him. “When was the

last time you saw property for sale on the island?”

Well…never. Granted, he had only lived on Buck Island for four

months.

“And no new construction,” Mr. Starling said. “Per the Buck Island

Conservancy.”

“The Maples’ properties are going to come on the market

eventually.”

“Eventually,” agreed Mrs. Nelson. “Which could be years from now.

You know how courts are.”

Nora moaned. “I know! I know all that.”

The bells on the door chimed softly as Jack eased it open. He raised

a hand in farewell to Ellery, who nodded back regretfully. He couldn’t

blame Jack for making his escape. He just wished Jack had taken the

others with him.

“To think an outsider could just come in and buy one of our

historical landmarks.” That was Mrs. Ferris.

“It’s not actually a landmark, is it?” Ellery asked. “Not technically.

Not legally.”

No one bothered to reply.

Mrs. Smith asked, “Who is this mysterious outsider? Who has

bought Skull House?”

Nora raised her head. Her eyes were dry, so that was good. In fact,

she looked more mad than sad.

“He’s a writer. Very popular, if you like that kind of thing.”

“What kind of thing?” Ellery asked. If this mysterious someone was

a mystery writer, this might not be a total disaster. It was very hard to get

authors to appear for book signings when they had to travel by ferry to a

small island in the middle of nowhere. Okay, Rhode Island. Still.

“Sex?” Mr. Starling asked hopefully.

Nora said in tones of loathing, “I’m speaking of Brandon Abbott.”

Ellery stared at her. “Brandon?” he repeated. “Brandon Abbott?” He

heard and understood the words, but somehow they seemed to have shortcircuited

his brain.

“Brandon Abbott. Yes.” Nora’s gaze grew curious at his obvious

shock.

“I know him!” Mrs. Smith exclaimed. “He’s like Stephen King. He

writes all that spooky stuff.”

“Horror,” Ellery said, which pretty much summed up his feelings

regarding Brandon Abbott.

“Do you know Brandon Abbott?” Mrs. Nelson asked, surprised.

“I used to. He’s my ex.”

“I thought—” objected Nora.

“My other ex,” Ellery said.





Murder at Pirate's Cove 
Secrets and Scrabble Book 1 


First in an adorable new cozy series! 

Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, Scrabble champion and guy-with-worst-luck-in-the-world-when-it-comes-to-dating, is ready to make a change. So when he learns he's inherited both a failing bookstore and a falling-down mansion in the quaint seaside village of Pirate's Cove on Buck Island, Rhode Island, it's full steam ahead!

Sure enough, the village is charming, its residents amusingly eccentric, and widowed police chief Jack Carson is decidedly yummy (though probably as straight as he is stern). However, the bookstore is failing, the mansion is falling down, and there's that little drawback of finding rival bookseller--and head of the unwelcoming-committee--Trevor Maples dead during the annual Buccaneer Days celebration.

Still, it could be worse. And once Police Chief Carson learns Trevor was killed with the cutlass hanging over the door of Ellery's bookstore, it is.

**This story contains NO on-screen sex or violence. 






Josh Lanyon is the author of over sixty titles of classic Male/Male fiction featuring twisty mystery, kickass adventure and unapologetic man-on-man romance.

Her work has been translated into eleven languages. The FBI thriller Fair Game was the first Male/Male title to be published by Harlequin Mondadori, the largest romance publisher in Italy. Stranger on the Shore (Harper Collins Italia) was the first M/M title to be published in print. In 2016 Fatal Shadows placed #5 in Japan's annual Boy Love novel list (the first and only title by a foreign author to place). The Adrien English Series was awarded All Time Favorite Male/Male Series in the 2nd Annual contest held by the 20,000+ Goodreads M/M Group. Josh is an Eppie Award winner, a four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist (twice for Gay Mystery), and the first ever recipient of the Goodreads M/M Hall of Fame award.

Josh is married and lives in Southern California. 




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