Dark and Deadly by Lynn Hagen

Chapter One




The fact that Warren Prickett was trying to get lost in the crowd at the summer festival told him that his day wasn’t going to go as he’d planned. The fact that he wasn’t interested in any of the stalls he was passing, not in the delicious-smelling food, the arts and crafts, or the trinkets on display for sale told him that his taste in men sucked.

Warren had told Ryan two days ago that it was over. He couldn’t handle Ryan’s obsessive ways, his domineering attitude, or the fact that he could tell Ryan was hiding something from him.

Warren stopped at a stall selling wind chimes made of prism glass. The sun filtered through the kaleidoscope of colors, turning his shirt into a shadowy tie-dye. The gentle wind made them clink together as Warren looked to his left to see if Ryan had spotted him yet.

“They’re beautiful, aren’t they? I can give you a deal if you want more than one.”

Warren dragged his attention to the girl behind the stall. She was pretty young, in her teens, if Warren guessed correctly. She was slim, with long brown hair that fell in waves over her shoulders, bright blue eyes, and a pretty smile.

“I’m just…” Hiding? He wasn’t going to tell this stranger his business, that he was running from his ex who had denied Warren breaking things off, telling him that he just needed some time to himself to realize how perfect they were together.

That if Ryan knew Warren was there, his ex would stick to him for the rest of the day. That Ryan was involved in things that scared the crap out of Warren.

But he did love wind chimes. One of them would look amazing hanging from his front porch and refracting the multitude of colors into his living room window on a sunny day.

His cat, Pie, would roll around on the carpet for hours trying to trap the reflections under her paws. She was only a year old and full of energy, racing around the house and constantly knocking things over.

Pie was also a cuddle bunny, and that was what Warren loved so much about her.

He looked over the wind chimes above his head, nearly gasping at the price tags. True, they were all gorgeous, but he wasn't sure he wanted to pay forty bucks for one.

The girl must have seen the hesitant expression, because she leaned forward and whispered, “I’ll give you one of the smaller ones for twenty bucks.”

Now that was a deal Warren could live with. He plucked one with diamond-shaped tubes made of the colored glass and a pretty butterfly dangling from the center string.

“I made that one just yesterday.” She smiled proudly, showing off a slight gap in her front teeth. It was an adorable gap that seemed to fit her face. “Great choice.” The girl grabbed a box from under her long plastic table and began boxing the chime for Warren as she flipped her hair from her shoulders to behind her back. “Thanks, mister.”

Mister? Warren wasn’t that old. He was a ripe age of twenty-five.

While little missy was boxing his chime, Warren scanned the crowd for Ryan. He wasn’t one hundred percent that he’d seen Ryan. It might’ve been someone who’d looked like him. Even so, he wasn’t letting his guard down.

Warren was determined to enjoy the festival. He’d looked forward to it for months, and no one, not even his obsessed ex, was going to ruin it for him.

“Here you go.” The teenager handed over the box, and Warren handed over the money. They thanked each other, and he merged into the crowd, his rectangular white box tucked under his arm.

The smell of popcorn, pretzels, and sizzling meat had Warren’s stomach doing flips as the sun beat down on him. Thank fuck the heatwave had passed and the day was a pleasant seventy degrees.

“Hey, Warren!”

Warren froze. He slowly turned, and his shoulders relaxed at the sight of Cosmo. They weren’t exactly friends. The bartender had lived across the hall from Warren before Warren had bought his house, and they were pleasant to one another whenever they’d crossed paths.

Cosmo was with some big, strapping guy with a Mohawk and dark sunglasses. The two were holding hands as Cosmo wedged his way toward Warren, stepping around a stroller and waiting for a couple to pass.

“Hey, Cosmo.” Since Warren didn’t really know the guy, there was an awkward pause. In truth, he was shocked Cosmo even remembered him.

“Just thought I’d say hi.” Cosmo held his hand above his eyes to shield the sun. “I never knew what happened to you after you moved out of the apartment building.”

“Nothing, really.” Except Warren had started dating a psycho. “Bought a house in town. That’s about it. I still work at Antonio’s Pizza.”