The park bench was empty.
But the guy had been sitting there just a moment before. Ben could have sworn he’d seen him out of the corner of his eye just before he’d taken the photo. He scowled and checked his camera screen. Yep, the bench was empty. In reality and on film, or at least what passed for film in the age of digital cameras.
“F**king hell,” Ben muttered under his breath. He grabbed his backpack and sat down heavily on the offending bench. Puffs of white floated in the air when he exhaled. His jacket wasn’t quite enough to keep out the cold, so he rummaged around in his bag for his thermos and pulled it out. Hot coffee would hit the spot perfectly and give him time to think about his next move.
The guy had to be somewhere near, right? Ben sighed and took a welcome sip of coffee. This was crazy. What if Well-Dressed and Sexy was some kind of stalker?
If he was, what did that make Ben?
“Is this seat taken?”
Ben looked up from his coffee and nearly choked when he saw who had spoken. “No,” he managed to splutter as he struggled to catch his breath.
“My apologies,” said the guy Ben had tried to photograph earlier, his casual tone implying the way he disappeared and reappeared, seemingly out of nowhere, wasn’t unusual. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“You didn’t,” Ben said, then amended it at the raised eyebrow he got in response. “Well, yeah, you did.”
His companion chuckled. “Unless you’re in the habit of choking on your coffee?” He sniffed the air. “It smells good, so I’m presuming it wasn’t the taste.”
“Yeah, it does, and no, it wasn’t.” Ben mentally kicked himself for sounding so lame. Up close, it was harder to ignore his body’s interest in the man sitting next to him. The English accent wasn’t helping. Ben had always had a thing for English accents. He gripped his cup firmly in his left hand and held out his right. “Ben Leyton.”
They’d been watching each other for nearly a week, so it seemed silly not to introduce himself. He ignored the warning whisper in the back of his mind that he’d maybe just given his name to some kind of stalker.
“Simon Hawthorne.” Simon shook Ben’s hand briefly, then shoved both his gloved hands into the pockets of his thick woolen coat. It looked expensive, as did the scarf and trousers he wore. Simon glanced down for a moment before clearing his throat, nearly catching Ben in the act of examining his equally expensive boots. When he looked up, Ben got a good look at brown eyes, several shades lighter than his own.
They stared at each other before Simon turned away. Ben gripped his cup tighter to hide his nervousness. It would be so easy to lose himself in those eyes.
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Shades of Sepia by Anne Barwell
To be soulmates they first have to survive.
A serial killer stalks the streets of Boggslake, Ohio. The victims are always found in pairs, one human and one vampire.
Simon Hawthorne has been a vampire for nearly a hundred years, and he has never seen anything like it. Neither have the other supernaturals he works with to keep the streets safe for both their kind and the humans.
One meeting with Simon finds Ben Leyton falling for a man he knows is keeping secrets, but he can’t ignore the growing attraction between them. A recent arrival in Boggslake, Ben finds it very different from his native New Zealand, but something about Simon makes Ben feel as though he’s found a new home.
After a close friend falls victim to the killer, Simon is torn between revealing his true nature to Ben, and walking away to avoid the reaction he fears. But with the body count rising and the murders becoming more frequent, either, or both of them, could be the killer’s next target.
Author’s note: This story was originally released in 2014 by another publisher. This edition has been revised and re-edited with the end result being a better, stronger story.