Leonard Quill, private investigator, never expected a case to walk through his door quite like this one, complete with murder, a frame job, blackmail, and powerful players, especially coming from a man with bright blue eyes behind his glasses, a crooked bow tie, and an impossible smile.
“Mr. Quill?” A kid not much older than twenty-five turns around from being seated in the chair facing my desk. He stands with a clumsy scramble, pushing the rounded, gold-framed glasses he wears up the bridge of his nose and smiling in relief to see me.
That smile. It’s dimpled and crinkles his eyes—bright blue—in the most endearing way.
His bowtie is also blue with white polka dots, white crisp shirt, checkered sweater vest, with a uniquely shaped tweed jacket sporting larger, checkered lines like this kid is bisected every which way—and that seems to be the truth when I see the pain pushing through his smile.
He reaches for my hand before I’ve finished entering, before I can remove my hat like I should have outside. I accept it. His hand is warm, and I’d swear a shock shoots up my arm.
“Valentine. Westley Valentine.” He smiles a little wider, shaking my hand with both of his, eager and a little too firm. Then he lets go and rubs both hands together like he’s itching to move, or maybe had a few too many cups of coffee. He didn’t get any here, that’s for sure. Roxanne doesn’t do coffee. Says I make it better. Maybe she’s right. I could certainly use some now.
Westley Valentine. Ginger-haired. Too young. Too wide-eyed. Too hunched and trying to make himself small, maybe because he feels small, but I know he’d be as tall as me if he stood up straight. This bundle of nerves and energy has his full attention on me.
I glance at his hands, which is easy enough since he won’t stop playing with them. No wedding band. How young is he, I wonder? How has this kid survived in a city like ours? Place is vicious, part of why I love it. But a kid like him should have been eaten alive years ago. Yet somehow I can tell he’s local.
“I need your help,” he says, because of course he does, that’s how this worked, and yet, he might as well have said, “I need you,” with the way his chest heaves and he stares at me like I’m his last possible savior.
Finally, I pluck the hat from my short black hair while crossing the room and toss it onto my desk. Young Mr. Valentine follows my movements with more precision than I would have given him credit for—a calculating, analytical mind, like mine. Interesting.
He also flushes bright scarlet when he gets a better look at my face that had been hidden beneath the hat and our eyes meet.
This kid was going to be trouble, I just knew it. “Have a seat, Mr. Valentine. What can I do for you?”
4 of 5 Stars
This is very much a Sam Spade/Dick Tracy type story. The obvious difference is Leonard’s ‘brute’ is a beautiful ‘dame’ and he falls for a man instead of a woman. I love that the enforcer in the story is a woman…and she’s no joke.
It’s a good story that is quick to read and surprisingly complete (although I always like more). There is a bit of a backstory that made me wonder if there was another book out there, but I didn’t look. The writing takes a bit of getting used to if you’ve not read a story like this.
Westley was the perfect mix of innocent and strong and we find out exactly where he gets his worldliness with a wonderful twist in the story. Leonard is enamored immediately, and they make quite a pair.
This is a fun read and I’d love to see more like it, although maybe a bit longer.
About the Author
Amanda Meuwissen is a bisexual author, with a primary focus on M/M romance. As author of the paranormal romance trilogy The Incubus Saga and several other titles with various publishers, Amanda regularly attends local comic conventions for fun and to meet with fans, where she will often be seen in costume as one of her favorite fictional characters. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband, John, and their cat, Helga.
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