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Crystal Magic - Starfall Grove Book 1

Copyright © Sheri Dwyer 2023

Chapter Fourteen:

(Please keep in mind this is not the final version, so is subject to change and may contain small errors.)

A few days later…

Relaxing with a vanilla latte at a small table in the corner of Leavenly Delights, Spencer’s bakery and specialty coffee shop, Jasper sat forward in his chair when his friend dropped a still steaming cinnamon bun on the table in front of him. Setting his latte down, Jasper tore into it, groaning when warm sweet yeasty cinnamon flavor burst over his tongue. Quickly chewing the soft doughy goodness that tasted even better than it smelled, Jasper swallowed then stuffed another hunk into his mouth, the almost obscene noises coming from him making the customers at the tables closest to him snicker. Not that Jasper cared. He just grinned at them and shoved another piece into his mouth, making more noises of appreciation for what was truly an epic cinnamon bun. Just like everything Spencer made.

His best friend was a freaking wizard when it came to combining flour, sugar, and butter and Jasper couldn’t get enough of anything that came out of Spencer’s ovens. And neither could his customers.


Spencer had opened Leavenly Delights shortly after finishing culinary school. Within a year, his baked goods had become so popular he’d had to double his staff to meet the demand. Five months after that he’d outgrown his small shop, with customers lining up down the block waiting to get in, so he’d leased the vacant spaces next to his bakery, knocked down the walls, and expanded. He now had a huge seating area which Spencer had filled with cozy round tables and cushiony chairs for his customers to relax at while they sipped their specialty coffees and groaned over the mouthwatering desserts that came out of the massive display case that stretched across the width of his bakery.

Jasper was so damn proud of what his friend had accomplished he could burst. Or that could be because of the extra-large brownie Katie, Spencer’s assistant, had slipped to him when Spencer had been in the back getting the cinnamon buns out of the oven.


Licking the last bit of creamy frosting off his fingers, Jasper sighed as he looked at his empty plate, kind of wishing he hadn’t eaten his cinnamon bun so quickly, but its demise had been inevitable the moment it had been placed in front of him. He glanced over at Spencer and saw the almost full tray of buns on the counter behind him and smiled. Maybe he’d just have to try to score another one.

Getting up from his seat, Jasper joined the long line of customers waiting to place their orders. When he reached the front, he held out his empty plate and gave Spencer a sad face. “Please, sir, can I have another?”

Spencer snorted. “Idiot.” Then shaking his head, he plated another cinnamon bun, adding a chocolate chip cookie on the side—he knew all of Jasper’s weaknesses—and set it on the counter. “That’s all you get or I’ll have nothing left for my paying customers.”

“I can pay.” Jasper reached for his wallet.

Spencer scowled. “You know your money’s no good here. Now get. You’re blocking the line.”

Jasper laughed and grabbed his plate, moving to the side so Spencer could serve the next customer. But before putting his wallet away, he dropped a five-dollar bill in the tip jar on the counter, then returned to his table.

When the second bun had gone the way of the first, Jasper leaned back in his chair and sipped his latte, keeping an eye on the door for Elwood who’d agreed to meet with him before going into the office. To amuse himself while he waited, Jasper studied the constant stream of people coming in to get their morning pastry and coffee, trying to predict what their favorite treat was. So far he was batting zero except for Mrs. Phife who’d ordered a dozen lemon drop cookies. But since he knew that’s what she always got when it was her turn to host the reading club on the last Thursday of the month, it didn’t count.

Jasper waved at her when she walked past him on her way out, then sat up straight when a short skinny man with dark round glasses and a bowtie came into the bakery. Elwood.

Mouthing showtime to Spencer, Jasper stood and waved to get Elwood’s attention. Elwood nodded when he saw him, then pointed to the counter and mimed drinking. Jasper gave him a thumbs up, then sat. While he waited for Elwood to get his coffee, Jasper went over what he was going to say one final time. He and Spencer had agreed that he needed to tell Elwood enough to give him something to work with but not so much that it compromised the police investigation. And since dissembling had never come easy to Jasper, what with being brought up by parents who believed in being completely open and honest about everything—to the point of embarrassing uncomfortableness at times—and who’d expected the same from him, he was going to have to be extra careful not to say something he shouldn’t.

Sooner than he was ready for, Elwood appeared next to his table.

“Hey, Jasper. How are you doing?” Elwood asked as he set his cup and plate on the table and pulled out the chair across from him. “It’s been a while.”

“It has,” Jasper said, taking a sip of his latte. “How have you been?”

“Good, good.” Elwood peeled the lid off of his cup and blew on his coffee before taking a sip. Looking at Jasper, he said, “I hope whatever you want to discuss won’t take long. I have a meeting with my father in an hour and he doesn’t appreciate it if anyone is late.”

“No, it shouldn’t take long at all,” Jasper said, then frowned when he realized the crystals in his wrap—which he’d finally gotten back from the police—had gone quiet. Brushing his fingers discreetly over them, they responded with little pinpricks of magic, then faded again, almost as if they’d gone to sleep. Which was…not normal.

Suddenly second-guessing what he was about to do, Jasper glanced over at the counter to Spencer, who looked questioningly at him. Jasper tipped his head toward Elwood and raised his eyebrows, silently asking if he should keep going.

Spencer’s eyes flicked to Elwood, then back to Jasper. He shrugged and mouthed, stick to the plan. Jasper nodded, then taking a deep breath, he turned and faced Elwood.

Elwood glanced from Jasper to Spencer, then back to Jasper. “Did you want to go get something?” he asked, pointing to the display case.

“No. I’m good. Just, uhm…I’m good,” Jasper said, pasting a smile on his face as he set his latte to the side and folded his arms on the table. “Kind of. I need your help.”

Elwood paused with his coffee halfway to his mouth. “You need my help?” When Jasper nodded, he took a sip, then motioned toward him with the cup. “What kind of help are you looking for?”

“I need some technical help and I heard you’re fairly knowledgeable when it comes to computers.”

Elwood’s nose wrinkled. “I wouldn’t say knowledgeable. I took a few online courses that covered the basics. But for anything advanced…” He shook his head. “No. I’m no expert.”

“Oh,” Jasper said, feeling disappointed even though he’d expected as much. “I don’t think basic knowledge is going to be enough for what I need.”

“You’d be surprised what can be done with even basic knowledge. Why don’t you tell me what you’re looking for and I’ll let you know if I can do it. If I can’t, there’s a good chance I’ll know someone who can.” He raised his cup to his mouth and looked at Jasper over the rim.

Which was pretty much what Spencer had said. Suddenly feeling better about the plan, Jasper leaned closer to Elwood and said, “I think a hacker’s after me.” Then jerked back when Elwood spit out his coffee, but not quickly enough to avoid getting splashed.

“Sorry, sorry,” Elwood said as he grabbed a napkin and wiped up the coffee sprayed over the table. “I didn’t mean to do that. Did I get any on you?”

“Just a bit,” Jasper said, blotting off his jacket, then crumpling his napkin in his fist and setting it next to his cup.

Elwood looked over Jasper’s jacket. “Do you want me to have that cleaned?”

Jasper shook his head. “It’s fine. I’ll look after it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. It’s kind of my fault anyway since I just sort of blurted that out.”

Elwood let out a small laugh. “It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting to hear.”

“Oh. What did you think I was going to say?”

“To be honest, I thought you wanted some investment advice.” Pushing his coffee to the side, Elwood rested his arms on the table and leaned forward, keeping his voice down as he asked, “Why do you think a hacker is after you?”

“Because things keep happening to me.”

“Like what?”

“Like…did you see the news a couple of weeks ago?”

“Probably. I watch it every night. What about it?”

Jasper just looked at him and waited.

Elwood stared at Jasper, confusion slowly spreading across his face. Then it clicked. “Oh,” he said, his eyebrows going up. “You’re talking about the night they aired your photo.”


“Why would you have let them use that particular image? It was rather…unflattering.”

Which was generous of Elwood since the photo had been so much worse than that. “I didn’t have anything to do with it. Neither did the news station.”

“They didn’t?”

Jasper shook his head. “No. Someone hacked them and put that photo up.”

“Why would someone do that?”

“I have no idea.”

“Is that why you think there’s a hacker after you?”

Jasper nodded. “That’s part of it. My tires were also slashed and then my building was vandalized.”

Elwood stilled. “Jasper,” he said slowly, “it sounds like maybe you’ve got a stalker, not a hacker.”

Jasper barely held back his wince, realizing too late he should probably have kept quiet about his tires and building. Damn it. He knew he’d be no good at this. Giving Elwood a weak smile, he said, “Do you really think so?”

Elwood nodded. “I do. You need to be careful in case they do anything else.”

“Yeah, about that,” Jasper said, shooting a quick look at Spencer, who nodded for him to continue. “I think the same person also hacked into the billboard on Canyon Drive and put up some, uhm, some…not safe for work pictures.”

Elwood’s eyes went wide, which, with his round glasses, made him look a bit like an owl. “I heard about those, but didn’t realize they were of you.”

Which was a surprise. Stan’s grapevine was usually more efficient than that.

“This is just…wow,” Elwood said, leaning back in his chair and picking up his cup. “Whoever this is really has it in for you, don’t they? Any idea why?”

Jasper shook his head. “No. I can’t think of any reason for someone to come after me.”

“Well, there has to be something.”

“I know. I’m just not sure what it could be.”

“It’s probably got something to do with money, lust, or revenge. Those are the reasons most crimes are committed.”

Jasper looked at him in surprise. “How do you know that?”

Elwood shrugged. “I read a lot of true crime novels. It’s the underlying theme in most of them.”


“So if you take money, lust, or revenge into consideration as the motivating factor, does that bring anyone to mind?”

Jasper thought about it, then shook his head. “Not really. I don’t have any enemies as far as I know.”

“It looks like you’ve got at least one,” Elwood said, then tipped his cup back and finished off his coffee.

Jasper couldn’t deny it, not after what had been happening the last couple of weeks.

Elwood put his cup down and looked at his watch, then grimaced. “I’m sorry. I’m going to have to go. Was there anything else you wanted to ask me?”

“Just one thing,” Jasper said, then hesitated, wondering if this would be crossing too far over the line into Gabe’s investigation.

“What is it?” Elwood asked, looking at his watch again.

Deciding it should probably be all right if he kept it vague, Jasper said, “I think my phone may have been hacked but I’m not sure how to tell. Do you know how to check for something like that?”

Elwood shook his head. “Sorry. That’s a bit over my skill set.”

“Do you know anyone who does have those skills?”

“Off the top of my head? No.”

Jasper sighed and slumped in his chair. “Okay. Thanks anyway, Elwood.” It had been a long shot, but it was still super disappointing.

“Hey. Don’t get all down. Just because I don’t know now doesn’t mean I don’t have ways to find out.”

“Really?” Jasper asked, perking up.

Elwood nodded. “Really. I’ll ask around and see if I can find someone who knows about this kind of thing.”

“Thanks. I really appreciate that.”

“No problem. I’ll start looking into it as soon as I get home.”

“Great,” Jasper said, smiling at him. “But be careful. If you can’t find anyone by casually asking around, don’t go digging. You don’t want to draw the attention of this hacker.”

“Don’t worry. I know how to be discreet.”

“Okay, good,” Jasper said, relieved he could leave everything in Elwood’s capable hands.

“You know,” Elwood said, tapping his fingers on the table. “This whole situation of yours reminds me a lot of a mystery series I’m reading.”

“It does?”

Elwood nodded. “Not the vandalism and nude photos, but the secret enemy working from the shadows using tech against you.” Elwood’s eyes were glittering as he got up from the table. “That’s very similar to what happened in the third Jack Riddlestone book I just finished. In the story, Jack was trying to track down a Soviet spy and had to search for signs of him on the web.”

Uh, oh, Jasper thought, getting a bad feeling about where this was going.

“I’m going to use the same strategy Jack did to try to find your hacker.”

It was worse than he’d thought. “Uh, Elwood, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“It’s a great idea,” Elwood said, his face animated in a way it hadn’t been a minute before.

“No, it’s really not,” Jasper said, shaking his head.

“It is. I know exactly what to do in a situation like this. The Jack Riddlestone novels are very detailed.”

Oh, god. “Elwood—”

“Don’t you worry about anything, Jasper. I should know who your hacker is before the week is out.”

“Elwood, no. You can’t—”

“But you need to be more careful until I do.” Elwood leaned over the table and whispered, “First lesson in spying. Don’t trust anybody. Ever.”

How was this even happening? “Elwood, please,” Jasper said, standing. “You really shouldn’t—”

Elwood pressed a finger to Jasper’s mouth, cutting him off. “Shhh. Don’t say anything else. You never know who’s listening.” He glanced furtively around the sitting area. Then giving Jasper a brief salute, he flipped his jacket collar up, ducked his head, then hurried from the bakery.

In a zigzag pattern.

“Fuuuuck,” Jasper groaned, dropping back into his seat and banging his head on the table, realizing he’d just made a huge mistake. Gabe was going to kill him when he found out.

And with how not discreet Elwood was, it wasn’t going to take long.


Jasper pulled into his driveway and turned off his car, then sat there wondering what the hell he was going to do about Elwood. He’d seemed so normal when he’d first arrived at the bakery that Jasper hadn’t realized he was off his flipping rocker until he’d slipped into super spy mode. Jasper had been debating all day on whether or not to tell Gabe about him before finally deciding he was going to try reigning in Elwood first.

If he would ever answer his damn phone.

Sighing, Jasper unbuckled his seatbelt and got out of the car. As he was pulling a piece of black obsidian from his pocket to protect his vehicle, he caught a flash of movement from the corner of his eye. But before he could react, he was grabbed. The black crystal fell from his hand when he was shoved against the passenger door.

His magic rose.

Then subsided when arms came around him and a husky voice whispered in his ear, “I’m sorry.”

Gabe, Jasper thought, everything inside of him settling.

“I shouldn’t have been such a dick the other night.”

 “It’s fine.” Jasper nudged him back, then turned around and slid his arms around Gabe’s waist.

“It’s not. I shouldn’t have yelled at you. I just don’t react well when I’m worried.”

Jasper let out a soft laugh. “I noticed. You also don’t react well when you’re scared or don’t get your way. Or when you meet an amazing crystal witch who makes you feel things you didn’t want to feel so you try to arrest him instead.”

Gabe grumbled. “You’re more troublemaker than amazing.”

Jasper smiled up at him, letting Gabe’s avoidance of his feelings slide. For now. “You think I’m a troublemaker?”

“I know you are.”

“Then maybe I should convince you I’m worth the trouble,” Jasper said, sliding his hands up Gabe’s back and pressing his body closer.

“Maybe you should,” Gabe murmured as he shoved his hands in Jasper’s hair and tipped his head back.

Jasper’s eyes slid half shut as the force of Gabe’s presence wrapped around him. “You want to come in?” he asked breathily.

“God, yes,” Gabe said, heat rising in his eyes as he bent down. Then it banked. He stopped with his lips poised just over Jasper’s. “After I finish apologizing. Because if I go into the house with you now, I’ll get distracted and forget what I want to say.”

“It’s fine. You don’t need to apologize,” Jasper said as he tried to pull him into a kiss, then sighed when Gabe turned slightly, his lips landing on the skin next to Jasper’s mouth. “I’m serious, Gabe. I know you were just reacting because you were angry and worried.”

“That doesn’t give me the right to yell at you,” Gabe said, brushing his lips along Jasper’s jawline. “It’s just hard not to when you do stupid things.”

It took Jasper a moment since he was distracted by the feel of Gabe’s teeth on his ear, then the less than loverlike comment made it through. Pushing Gabe back, he squinted at him. “Did you just call me stupid?”

“No,” Gabe said, brushing the hair back from Jasper’s face and tucking it behind his ears. “I said you do stupid things.”

A small laugh escaped. “I’m not sure that’s any better.”

“I just meant that sometimes the things you do aren’t very smart.”

Jasper snorted.

Gabe groaned. “You know what I mean.”

“I’m not sure that I do,” Jasper teased.

Gabe sighed. “I’m talking about you telling Spencer about the case. It was a dumb thing to do and it put you at risk.”

“Telling Spencer wasn’t a risk.”

“Telling anyone is a risk. The minute you said something to him, you put yourself in danger.”

Jasper shook his head, “Maybe if it was someone else, but not Spencer.”

“This is exactly what I’m talking about. You trust Spencer so much you refuse to believe he could be a threat when the reality is you could be at most risk from him because you let him get so close. You’d never see the danger coming until it was too late.”

Jasper sighed, knowing they were never going to agree on this. “Gabe—”

“No,” Gabe said, his hard-nosed cop’s face putting in an appearance, letting Jasper know how serious he was. “You have someone after you who can avoid detection, which makes it almost impossible to protect you from them. And chances are it’s someone you know, which means you can’t trust anybody. That should have included Spencer.”

Jasper shook his head. “He’s not—”

“Nobody, Jasper. Not a single fucking person.”

“What about the police?”

“Not even them,” Gabe said, shaking his head. “Until we catch this asshole, nobody, not even my fellow officers, can be trusted with you.”

“Not even Detective Trewitt?”

Gabe hesitated, then nodded. “Em’s okay. And so’s the Captain. I’d trust either of them with my life. And I mostly trust them with yours. But I still don’t want you alone with them. If you have to talk to them, I need to be there.”

Which is when Jasper got how worried Gabe was. His head thunked down on Gabe’s shoulder as he realized he’d have to come clean. Gabe would never forgive him if he found out later that Jasper had gone behind his back to search for the hacker. Or that he’d involved Elwood. “I, uhm, have something I need to tell you.”

Gabe stiffened. He unhooked Jasper’s arms from around his waist and stepped back. “This is going to piss me off, isn’t it?”

Jasper nodded. “Yeah.”

Gabe closed his eyes and let out a heavy sigh. “Does it have to be now or can we talk about it later?” His eyes cracked open. “Unless you’re looking for more angry sex, in which case, you’d better tell me now.”

Jasper had to think about it because the angry sex had been phenomenal. But he was kind of enjoying Gabe not being mad at him. And really, with how easily he drove Gabe insane, he’d have plenty of opportunities for angry sex in the future. “We can talk about it later.”

“Good. Because it’s been too long since I’ve been inside of you and I don’t want to have to wait another minute.”

“Me either,” Jasper said, then laughed when Gabe tossed him over his shoulder and started up his walkway. He quickly dug for his keys in his front pocket, which was harder than he thought it would be when being carried like a bag of rice, but he had them ready when Gabe reached his front door.


When the light on the second floor went out, a dark figure slipped around the side of the house, slinking through the shadows like a wraith, appearing next to the car between one second and the next.

A black leather gloved hand reached down and plucked the crystal from the gravel. A low hissing growl issued from the figure’s throat, then the leather-clad hand closed around the black crystal and squeezed.

There was a crack, followed by a high-pitched crystalline shriek that was quickly cut off as the shadow drained the protective crystal of its magic. Opening its hand, the shadow let the lifeless fragments fall to the ground, then completed the task it had come for before slipping off, fading into the night the same way it had arrived.