“All these wounds happened after death. Since I’m sure you don’t want all the details, I’ll just tell you that this”—she lifted his head and turned it to the side—“was what killed him.”

Parker could see the indentation and bruising pattern on the skull. “Someone hit him.”

“That’s right. One blow with a flat, hard object. To kill a man like that would take considerable strength. Given the trajectory of the blow, the assailant is a couple inches shorter.”

“What about…?” He motioned to the rest of the body. Strips of skin were missing, making him look like a human chew toy.

“This was all postmortem. I’m taking saliva samples and dental impressions, but my guess is this was two dogs at the most. If it had been any more, I don’t think we’d have even this much of the body left. The teeth marks are from regular dogs. Much too small to be from a shifter. Besides, I doubt a shifter would…” She trailed off and shrugged.

She didn’t have to finish. He knew what she meant. Shifters were hunters by nature, but they weren’t stupid. From what Parker understood, unless they were feral and out of their mind with rage, they wouldn’t leave a body in plain sight. And this body had definitely been moved. Parker was sure of that much. There was no blood spatter in the back of the truck where they’d found the guy. The fact that he’d been left in plain sight for anyone to discover told him it was a calculated move. Someone had not only wanted them to find this body but made sure it was very public. Which left a whole mess of other questions. Someone killed this guy, then had let dogs maul the body before moving it. It didn’t make a lot of sense. “Find anything else on the body?”

Bonnie nodded. “A blond hair. Long enough that I’m guessing it’s female. Also some fibers which are probably part of his clothes. I won’t know more until I’ve had more time with the body. I’ll send everything to the lab once I’ve finished.”

“Good work.” He stripped off his gloves and tossed them in the trash before exiting the room.

His shoes squeaked against the floor as he headed down the hallway. Once he made it outside, he sucked in the crisp, cold air. Anything was better than the sterile atmosphere of the morgue. He didn’t know how Bonnie handled being in there all the time.

As he reached his truck, his cell buzzed in his pocket. He inwardly groaned when he saw the number. “Hey, Julia.” His voice was cautious. He doubted this was a social call.

“Sheriff. How’s your sister doing?” She sounded sincere, but he knew better.

The nosy reporter for the only newspaper in Fontana was a bulldog most of the time. When December had been attacked in her home, Julia hadn’t reported it. Now he knew why. She was holding on to that favor for a favor of her own. Hadn’t taken her long to call it in. “She’s fine. What do you want?”

“No small talk?”

“You really want to waste your time?”

“Not really. I heard a human was killed by a shifter last night. Can you confirm this?”

Parker held a tight lid on his annoyance. They’d kept the crime scene locked down tight. Abel, the owner of the gas station where the body had been found—and the one who’d discovered it—sure as hell wouldn’t have told Julia. “Where’d you hear this?”

“You know I can’t reveal my sources.” Her voice was haughty.

He snorted. “Then I can’t confirm or deny anything.”

She let out a frustrated growl. “Fine. I got an anonymous call.”

“Your cell or at work?”

“I’m supposed to be the one asking you questions.”

He was silent.

Finally she spoke again. “Work. Satisfied? Now, what’s going on?”

“I can only tell you that, yes, we found a body, but it wasn’t a shifter attack.”

“Do you know the identity of the victim?”

Parker shook his head at her persistence. He knew but he wasn’t telling her. “Even if I did, I couldn’t tell you until we notify next of kin. You know that.”

“So you do know who it is. At least tell me if it’s a man or woman.”

He sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face. “The victim is male.”

“Thanks, Sheriff. You’re a doll. Are you going to the Chocolate Ball next month? I heard they’re doing a bachelor auction. If you’re on the auction block, you better get ready for—”

“Good-bye, Julia.” He disconnected and slipped his phone back in his pocket. The tall, leggy brunette was hot, but she’d been after him since he’d moved to town almost a decade ago and she wasn’t his type. Hell, he didn’t know what that was, but it wasn’t a bulldog in high heels who’d use him more than anything else.

As he headed back to the station, he mulled over the phone call. It was too early for her to have gotten an anonymous call about the body. If it had been discovered later in the day, he’d have understood, but Abel had found it before anyone else and he wasn’t known for gossiping. No one at the station would have tipped her off. And he doubted anyone in town even knew about it yet. Fontana might be small but news didn’t spread that fast. The best possibility he could think of was that someone connected to the victim called. Now he had even more questions.

Someone obviously wanted Julia to think a shifter had attacked a human. The motive could be as simple as someone hating paranormal beings, but it was a hell of a risk to take, dumping a body in the middle of town like that. Unfortunately he wouldn’t know more about the DNA found on the body until they got results back from the lab. Since they were a small town, they had to send everything out. It would be a few days until he knew more.

At least he could still contact the family. If he could find them. He’d done a brief search before heading to the morgue and hadn’t come up with anything concrete. He’d found names but no addresses. That in itself was odd. A dull headache started at the back of his skull. Something told him there was more to this case than a simple murder.

Chapter 9

After driving around for a few hours, Liam and Jayce parked on Avalon Street a few blocks down from December’s store. After leaving the fae, Liam hadn’t wanted to come directly to see December. He wasn’t exactly concerned they’d have any interest in her, but he didn’t like the idea of them even knowing of her existence or her importance in his life. Their opinions of humans had been perfectly clear. The driving time hadn’t been a waste, though. It had given Jayce a chance to scout out the rest of Fontana and get a feel for the layout of the town. Liam understood that looking at maps could help someone only so much. Sometimes being on the ground was the only way to do reconnaissance. Now it was well past lunchtime as Liam opened the front door to December’s store.

Immediately he was accosted by the scents of the candles that lined the window. Butterscotch cookies and vanilla. Nothing could overpower her scent, though. The jasmine was probably too subtle or even missed by most people, but everything about her called to his most primal side.

She glanced up from the cash register and half smiled when she saw him. When her gaze trailed past him, her face filled with concern. Liam bit back a sigh, hating that she was uncomfortable. At least Jayce had his jacket zipped up, covering his blades. He could only imagine her reaction to those.

There were four women waiting in line and Kat was busy helping another. He realized she must be helping December out since she was short staffed. And Kat had almost the same reaction as December when she spotted them. A smile for Liam and a glare for Jayce. Next to him, Jayce gave a low, almost inaudible growl in his throat. She couldn’t hear him, but Liam could. It was a strained, almost distressed sound. Liam was careful not to look at him. He didn’t know what was keeping them apart, but it was obvious Jayce was messed up over her. The sexual tension in the air was so thick it was nauseating.

“Quit looking at her like that and at least pretend to be browsing or something,” Liam said under his breath.

Jayce shot him an annoyed look before stalking down one of the aisles.

A steady stream of customers flowed in and out for the next hour, but finally the place cleared out. The second the last woman left, Jayce tossed down the book he’d been looking at and riveted his attention on Kat.

“You were fucking kidnapped and didn’t tell me?” His low-slung words were directed at Kat, as if he’d been holding it in the entire time they’d been waiting.

“Shit.” Liam tried to place himself in between them.

Kat’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “I didn’t tell you because it’s none of your business,” she shot back, her voice just as low as his.

Both of them completely ignored Liam’s attempt to come between them.

“I had to find out weeks after the fact. What the hell, Kat?” He took a step toward her.

Liam tensed as December shot out from behind the cash register, her eyes ablaze. “Don’t talk to her like that. She doesn’t owe you anything.”

When Jayce turned his angry stare on December, a warning growl started deep in Liam’s throat. Before it had a chance to escape, Jayce relaxed and took a step back as he focused on Kat. “Can I talk to you in private?”

Kat sighed and glanced at December. “I know you haven’t had a break today. If you want to grab a late lunch with Liam, I’m fine here at the store.”

December glared at Jayce as she spoke to Kat. “You sure?”

“Yes. I’ll be fine, I promise. And so will your store. Take a break.”

She glanced between the two of them for a few long moments before nodding. “Okay. We won’t be gone long.” Once December agreed, Liam let out a relieved breath.

After she slipped on her coat, he hooked his arm around her shoulder as they exited. She stiffened but didn’t pull away. Considering the kiss they’d shared last night, he didn’t understand why she was acting as if he were a stranger. Like she hadn’t been ready to let him take her up against her front door. His body instantly hardened at the thought, but he forced his mind to the present. “Is Big Earl’s okay?” He motioned to the local diner at the end of the block.


***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com