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Crystal Magic - Starfall Grove Book 1

Copyright © Sheri Dwyer 2023

Chapter Ten:

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

Gabe was drifting between asleep and awake, his body loose and pleasantly exhausted, his mind calm for the first time in days. Then his phone began to ring. Groaning, he brushed his lips over Jasper’s shoulder, then rolled to the other side of the bed and pawed through the clothes piled on the floor, coming up with his phone on the fourth ring. Squinting at the screen, he swore when he saw it was Emerson, knowing his night with Jasper was over.

Tossing back the covers, Gabe slid out of bed, answering his phone as he grabbed his jeans off the carpet. “What’s up, Em?”

“We’ve caught a body.”

“Shit. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Tucking the phone between his ear and shoulder, he shoved his legs into his pants. “Text me the address.”

“Meet me in the back lot of Cherry Street and 2nd.”

Gabe froze as he was pulling his jeans over his hips. “Cherry and 2nd. That’s—”

“—Jasper Belmont’s shop.”

“Fuck,” Gabe said, then lowered his voice when Jasper stirred. “Are you sure?”

“Of course, I’m fucking sure. I’m standing here next to the body.”

Gabe closed his eyes, his gut telling him this was bad. Really fucking bad.

“It’s not looking good for your boy.”

Gabe’s eyes popped open “He didn’t do it, Em.”

“I don’t know, Gabe. We’re still going over the scene, but it looks like you were right about him all along.”

“I wasn’t. He didn’t—”

“Hang on. The coroner’s waving at me.” Gabe squinted, trying to hear what his partner and the coroner were saying, but there was too much background noise. Then Emerson came back. “You need to get your ass down here.”  Then he was gone.

Gabe squeezed his phone so tight it creaked. “Fuck.” He tossed it on the bed so he didn’t break it.

“Gabe?” Jasper said drowsily as he sat up, the sheet sliding down his lean body and pooling around his waist. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Gabe muttered as he zipped and buttoned his jeans.

Jasper squinted at him. “You sure?”

“Yeah.” Gabe grabbed his t-shirt off the floor and pulled it over his head. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“You’re leaving,” Jasper said, hurt in his eyes, his voice sounding resigned, like he hadn’t expected anything else.

Which didn’t work for Gabe. There’d been enough misunderstandings between them. He wasn’t going to allow another one. Jamming his arms through the sleeves of his shirt, he yanked it down, then sat on the bed, reaching over and putting his hand on Jasper’s thigh. “I’m not leaving because I want to. We caught a body. Em’s waiting for me.”

“Oh, no,” Jasper said, the sad look disappearing from his eyes. He rested his hand over Gabe’s. “Is it anyone I know?”

“I’m not sure who it is. Em didn’t give me any details.” Squeezing Jasper’s thigh, Gabe turned away and reached for his boots on the floor next to the bed. Looking over his shoulder as he pulled them on, he said, “But I couldn’t tell you even if he did.”

“Right. I know that. Sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.”

“It’s fine.” Quickly lacing his boots, Gabe stood, grabbed his phone off the bed and shoved it in his pocket, then walked over to the chair in the corner and grabbed his jacket, sliding it on as he rounded the bed to Jasper’s side. Bending down, Gabe pressed what was meant to be a quick goodbye kiss to his lips, but then Jasper’s mouth opened under his, coaxing him into a deeper kiss, one filled with a hunger even hours of sex hadn’t been able to sate. When Jasper’s arm wound around his neck and tugged, Gabe followed him as he sank back onto the bed, not having had nearly enough of his warm and responsive body. Then his phone chimed with an incoming text, reminding him that Em was waiting for him. Gabe reluctantly pulled away. “I’m sorry. I’ve really got to get going.”

“I understand.” Jasper smiled and touched his face, fingertips stroking over his cheek. “Stay safe out there.”

Gabe froze, not realizing until that moment how long it had been since anyone had cared enough to wish him well. And how much he’d fucking missed it. When Jasper’s forehead creased in concern, Gabe gave himself a mental shake, smiled to let Jasper know everything was okay, then stood. Patting his pockets to make sure he had everything, Gabe turned to go. Just as he reached the doorway, Jasper called out.

“Detective, I think you forgot something.”

Gabe turned back to him and saw Jasper holding up his right arm, which was still locked in the handcuff chaining him to the bed

“Shit.” Gabe hurried back over to him, pulling the keys from his pocket as he kicked himself for doing something so stupid and so fucking dangerous as forgetting to free Jasper. It just went to show how screwed up his mind was.

Quickly unlocking the cuff from around his wrist, Gabe let it fall, the rattle of the metal against the bedpost eliciting an immediate visceral reaction, his body going hard as images of Jasper thrashing in his cuffs as Gabe devoured his body flooded his mind. Clenching his jaw, Gabe breathed through his nose as he rubbed his thumb over the faint line on Jasper’s wrist, fighting to get his body under control. He almost had it then made the mistake of looking at Jasper, his glazed eyes and parted lips, swollen and bruised from Gabe’s kisses, proving to be his undoing. Unable to resist their lure, he bent down for another taste.

One kiss turned into another and before he knew it, Gabe had shoved down his jeans and was sinking into Jasper’s welcoming body, getting lost in him all over again.


Gabe stirred when Jasper’s hand rubbed up and down his back. “You’d better go. Detective Trewitt’s waiting for you.”

“Fuck.” Gabe groaned, pushing away from him and rolling off the bed. “Em’s going to kill me.” He quickly pulled up and fastened his jeans before his unruly dick could distract him from what he was supposed to be doing a second time.

Jasper, skin flushed and damp, and sporting a new bite mark on his shoulder, snickered and pushed himself up to lean against the headboard. “Just throw on the sirens in that muscle car of yours and you’ll be there in no time.”

Especially since he didn’t have that far of a drive, Gabe thought, the reminder of the body at Jasper’s store instantly wiping away the pleasurable aftereffects of great sex that had been humming through his body.

“Gabe? Is everything okay?”

“Yeah. But I gotta go.”

“I know,” Jasper said, then gave him a sweet smile so full of joy it tore at Gabe’s heart, knowing that whatever was waiting for him was likely to wipe it away. Needing a taste of that joy—something he’d had so little of in his life—before it disappeared, Gabe leaned down for another kiss, which turned into two.

“I wish you could stay,” Jasper breathed into his mouth on the third.

Gabe pulled away, brushing his thumb over a crease in his cheek. “So do I.” Instead, Gabe did the smart thing—for the first fucking time that night—and hurried from the room, down the stairs, and out of the house, making sure the door was locked securely behind him.

Pulling out his phone as he walked to his car, he read the text Emerson had sent.

“Victim alive. Evidence of assailant at scene. It’s bad.”

Gabe swore, having a feeling that whatever Emerson had found was going to fuck up Jasper’s life big time.


Gabe roared down the street, then slammed on his brakes, sliding to a stop next to the curb in front of Jasper’s shop. Then he was out and running over to Emerson, who was standing next to the body on the ground that, for some reason, the EMTs were giving oxygen to.

Emerson gave him a suspicious look when he came up next to him. “Took you long enough. You get lost?”

“Something like that,” Gabe muttered, then ignoring the questions he could see in his partner’s eyes, squatted next to the body. “What have we got?”

Emerson gave him a hard look. When Gabe just raised an eyebrow and waited, Emerson snorted, then pulled out his phone. “According to the responding officers, an anonymous tip was called in shortly after two. When they arrived, they thought the victim was dead and called in the coroner. She discovered he was still alive but had been put into a magically induced coma. She’s pretty sure it was caused by this.” He handed Gabe an evidence bag.

Gable took it, squinting at the large pulsing red and black stone inside. He brought it closer to study it, then shoved it away from him when he was hit with a sensation of wrongness so strong he felt instantly nauseous. Feeling like his skin was crawling, he handed it back to Emerson.

“Yeah,” Emerson said, as he put it in a lead-lined silver evidence box they used to contain magical objects. “Makes me feel the same way.” He handed the box to one of the officers standing nearby, who shuddered, then hurried over to Emerson’s car, putting it in the trunk.

Gabe looked back down at the unconscious man, something about him seeming familiar even though it was hard to tell what he looked like through the full-face oxygen mask. He stood and moved back when the EMTs shifted the body onto a wheeled stretcher, then turned to Emerson. “We get an ID on him yet?”

“Yep. But you’re not going to believe it. It’s Lucas Johnson.”

Gabe’s head snapped back to the man being loaded into an ambulance. “Jasper’s ex?”

Emerson nodded, his face turning grim. “We also found this.” He held out an evidence bag with a cell phone in it.

Gabe reached for it slowly, the sudden tension in Emerson’s body making him feel like he was being handed a bomb. “What am I going to find?”

“Wake up the screen.”

Holding his partner’s gaze, Gabe tapped the screen. A notification popped up. Meet me at my store. I need to talk to you. The screen went blank. Tapping it again, he saw the text had been sent by Jasper at one twenty-seven a.m. Which would have been impossible, since he’d had Jasper pinned face-down on the bed at that time. He handed the bag back to his partner. “Jasper didn’t send this.”

Emerson looked at him regretfully. “I know you don’t want to believe it. I didn’t either. I really thought he was innocent, but it turns out I was wrong.”

“No, you weren’t. He’s—”

Emerson put his hand on Gabe’s shoulder. “I’m sorry for not trusting you when you tried to warn me about him.”

Gabe grabbed Emerson’s arm. “Listen to me. Jasper didn’t do this.”


“He’s innocent, Em. I’m telling you, Jasper had nothing to do with this.”

“The evidence says he did.”

“The evidence is wrong. This is a fucking setup. Someone’s trying to frame Jasper for murder.” And knowing that that had Gabe’s fury rising like nothing had done before in his life.


“No. I can prove Jasper didn’t do it.”

Emerson stopped and stared at him, a wrinkle forming between his eyebrows. “What aren’t you telling me?”

Grabbing Emerson’s arm, Gabe pulled him around the corner out of earshot of everyone. “I know he didn’t do it because I was with him tonight.”

Instant scowl. “What do you mean you were with him?”

“Just what I said.”

“What the fuck?” Emerson hissed. “Are you trying to lose your job?”


“You know better than to get involved with someone who’s part of an active investigation. I may have teased you about being his boyfriend, but I didn’t think you’d be stupid enough to go near him before the case was officially closed.”

“I didn’t intend to.”

“You didn’t intend to. Well, that’s just fucking great.” Emerson walked a few feet away, then came back and stabbed his finger at Gabe. “I thought you were smarter than this.”

He usually was. “I tried to stay away from him, Em, but—”

“You should have tried harder.”

“I know. But I couldn’t. Something kept pulling me to him. The harder I fought it, the stronger it pulled at me until the next thing I knew, I was at his door asking to come in.”

Emerson stopped pacing and stared at him, long enough that Gabe shifted uncomfortably. Then his face cleared. “You really couldn’t, could you?”

Gabe shook his head.

“I think I know why.”

Gabe was glad one of them did.

“If I’m right, and I’m sure I am from the way you two have been pushing at each other…” A smile spread across Emerson’s face, which seemed inappropriate considering the seriousness of their conversation. “I think the two of you are mates.”

“Mates?” Gabe squinted. The emphasis Emerson had put on the word telling Gabe he wasn’t talking about the meet you for a beer kind of mate. “You’re saying like…soul mates?”

Emerson nodded.

“That’s a real thing?”

Another nod. “In Starfall Grove it is. And from what I’ve heard, the pull of a mate is powerful. That’s why you couldn’t stay away from him.”

Gabe stared at him. While part of him was glad to have an explanation for why he’d been acting like an idiot, the other part was kind of pissed there was something that could make him act against his will. Something he couldn’t control. “That’s fucked up.”

Emerson shrugged. “That’s the power of a mate bond. If it helps, I hear that the feeling of oneness you get from bonding with your mate makes everything worth it.”

“It doesn’t. You know I hate being forced into doing anything.” Especially by something he couldn’t fight against.

“That I do,”

“And this mate pull thing made me break the fucking rules. I could have fucked up this entire case.”

“I know,” Emerson said, putting his hand on Gabe’s shoulder. “But don’t worry. I’ve got your back. I’ll help you explain it to the Captain so you don’t lose your job.”

Which should have made him feel better but really didn’t. “Thanks.”

“Don’t thank me yet. It could still get rough.”

Of that, Gabe had no doubts. “I know. But thanks anyway.”

Emerson nodded and stepped away, looking around the corner. Glancing back at Gabe, he said, “We still have to deal with this mess. You know we’re going to have to bring him in for questioning.”

Gabe nodded. “I know.”

“He’s going to be pissed.”

And hurt. “I know that too,” Gabe said as he joined him. “But we don’t have a choice. At least it won’t be for long. Once I give my statement, he’ll be released.”


Gabe turned to him. “What do you mean, hopefully?”

Emerson shrugged. “The judge may not accept his alibi.”

“Why the fuck not? What better alibi is there than him being with a cop?”

“You’re forgetting he’s a powerful witch. He could have easily gotten past you when you were sleeping.”

“There wasn’t a lot of sleeping going on.”

“As far as you know. He could have put a spell on you to make you sleep, then snuck off. His place isn’t that far from here. It wouldn’t have taken him long to meet with Lucas, take him out, then sneak back and wake you up without you even realizing he’d been gone.”

Gabe shook his head. “I know he didn’t sneak off.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“I had him cuffed to the bed.”

Emerson stilled. Then he asked, “Police issued?”

Gabe nodded.

“Okay, good. Then he’s got a solid alibi.”

“Yeah,” Gabe said, so fucking thankful Jasper had been fascinated by his handcuffs. If Emerson was right about the judge, Jasper being locked up in them at the time of Lucas’ attack might be the only thing keeping him out of jail.

“Don’t relax just yet. Your boy’s still not out of the woods. The evidence against him is damned convincing. Whoever’s behind this knows what they’re doing.”

“And they’re a fucking whiz at tech,” Gabe said, clenching his jaw at the thought of how much trouble they’d caused Jasper.

Emerson nodded. “Yeah. Even with an alibi, it’s going to be hard to prove Jasper didn’t send that message.”

“Maybe not,” Gabe said, frowning at the evidence bag he was holding. “We might have a phone showing that Jasper sent a text to Lucas, but his phone won’t have the same message on it.”

“Proving he didn’t do it,” Emerson said, smiling. “We’ll take it into evidence when we pick him up.”

Gabe nodded, then realized they couldn’t and shook his head “It can’t be us. We need to send a couple of uniforms to bring him in.”

“You sure that’s the way you want to handle it? It’ll be easier for him if we were the ones taking him into custody.”

“I know, but we have to do everything by the book from now on. I’ve already compromised this case enough.”

Emerson snorted, “That’s for damned sure.”

Gabe scowled at him. “It’s not like he was a suspect when I slept with him.”

“I’m not sure that’s going to matter to the Captain,” Emerson said. “Don’t be surprised if he pulls you off the case.”

Which was Gabe’s second biggest worry. The first was Jasper not forgiving him when he found out Gabe was the one who’d ordered the cops to bring him in.