Book Title: Sun, Sea & Small-Town Secrets
Author: S. J.
Release Date: July 6,
Genre: Contemporary M/M Mystery/Holiday Romance
Tropes: Forbidden Love / Small Town / Holiday
Themes: Healing / Hurt/Comfort / Travel / Self-discovery
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 48 634 words/ 193
It is a standalone
Small towns are full of
secrets, some harder to keep than most.
Sebastian Conway is a professional psychologist and
accomplished criminal profiler, but when one of his patients is sentenced to life in prison for
a crime she didn’t commit, he simply cannot let it go. His borderline obsessive behaviour
has embarrassed his boss and lover, Gerrard Wilson, and the relationship has come to a
Seb has now grudgingly taken Gerrard’s advice and come to
the small coastal town of Ruéier in the South of France to get some distance and clear his
head—but he cannot sit by and do nothing.
He has started writing a book he believes will address the
failings in the case, but when he gets swept up in a local investigation into suspected drug
trafficking, which is led by the enigmatic and strangely enticing Antoine Damboise, the
book—and Seb’s intentions to avoid active criminal cases—take a back seat.
He knows it’s a bad idea to get involved, but he can’t seem
to help himself. And when it seems Damboise is tempted to make their relationship more
than professional, Seb finds it easier than ever to ignore his better judgment. But when a
local drug dealer is murdered and Seb is implicated, everything gets a whole lot more
Can the two men set aside their personal feelings long
enough to figure out what’s really going on before Seb ends up in prison? Or
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of murder and drug use.
I turned back. He was stood by reception looking
thoughtful, scratching at the stubble on his cheek.
“Would you, perhaps, like to get a coffee?”
I blinked. “A coffee?”
“Oui,” he said. “A thank you, shall we say?
His smile was friendly, but his eyes were weighing me
up with a dark intensity I couldn’t penetrate. Whatever it
was going on here, saying yes, I knew, would be a very bad idea.
“Sure,” I said with a smile. “Sounds good.”
His own smile widened, and he nodded. “Bon. I will meet you
I was grinning like a teenager with a crush as I stepped back
out into the street. The fresh breeze dried the clamminess on my face and swelled in my
lungs and chest. A small confidence boost could only help my productivity, I decided. I still
wasn’t sure what exactly his interest was. Heavy looks or not, I got exactly zero read on his
sexuality. But surely even French police didn’t take witnesses for coffee?
I was so busy retrospectively analysing his body language in
the interview room—Did he extend his leg
toward me? Rest his hand near mine?—that I
didn’t hear him behind me until he said my name.
“Apologies,” he said when I started, and a small smile
twitched the corner of his mouth. A pair of sunglasses hid his troublesome eyes from view.
He’d slung his jacket over his arm and, with the bright sunshine glinting in his corn-blond
hair and off his white teeth, I suddenly wondered how I ever considered him plain.
“It’s fine,” I managed. “Where do you want to go?” “Ah, I
know the best place. Follow me.”
We turned back. Adjudant Rayne was hurrying toward us.
She fired French at him whilst frowning at me. Damboise replied calmly, and she said
something more, her eyes leaving me to send Damboise what was unmistakably a warning
bon,” Damboise concluded. “This way,” he said
and turned toward the seafront. Rayne watched us leave with her arms crossed and
“She doesn’t like me very much,” I said.
“You misunderstand,” he said without looking at me. “She
was just reminding me of some paperwork that is late. I will do it after a bit.”
I spent the rest of the walk pondering the possible reasons
behind his lie.
The breeze was brisker and the air fresher as we stepped
out onto the seafront boulevard. The beach was crowded with families—the children
running, laughing and shrieking in the gentle swell of the shallows. The boats bobbed
sedately in the harbour, shining all the colours of the rainbow under the bright, sapphire sky.
Bicycles whizzed up and down the road, baskets laden with groceries or bottles of wine. The
men with guns seemed like a distant dream.
I followed him as he crossed the road to the Café De La
“You have been here before then, yes?” he said as he
pulled out the chairs around one of the plastic tables under a blue-and-white parasol.
“The first day I got here,” I said, a little warily as I surveyed
the clear view of the harbour. “The coffee is good, but I think it’s better at Cafe Maman.”
“Oui,” he said, hanging his jacket on the
back of his chair and sitting. “I would say that is true. But have you tried the
“Hot chocolate?” I translated dubiously, taking the other
chair. “I don’t much like it.”
“Just wait,” he said, signalling a smiling waiter with a raised
hand and placing the order. Damboise made meaningless small talk for the interval until the
waiter returned. I blinked, surprised, as he set the shallow cup half-full of dark liquid that
looked more like espresso than chocolate in front of me.
“What, no squirty cream? Marshmallows?” I asked with a
half-smile as Damboise lifted his small cup in his distractingly delicate grip.
“We respect chocolate too much to pollute it so. This is the
local recipe, melted then mixed with a splash of cognac. Go ahead. Try it.”
I lifted the cup to my face and inhaled the rich, thick scent.
It was sweet, yes, but savoury too—bold, rather than cloying. It reminded me of
fresh-turned earth, with a slight smokiness, like when the wind brings the scent of a distant
bonfire. I drank. It was so thick that I could almost chew it. It tasted like it smelled—rich and
earthy, with the spice of tree bark and apricot from the cognac.
“Yeah,” I said, tipping the cup farther to coax more into my
mouth. “This isn’t like the instant stuff.”
“In France, nothing is instant. Everything is slow.
“I’m beginning to get that,” I said, scraping the remains of
the chocolate with the tiny spoon that had come with it. Damboise smiled at me, sipping his
own drink like someone sampling a fine wine, then he dabbed his lips with a napkin.
About the Author
S.J. Coles is a Romance writer originally from Shropshire, UK.
She has been writing stories for as long as she has been able to read them. Her biggest
passion is exploring narratives through character relationships.
She finds writing
LGBT/paranormal romance provides many unique and fulfilling opportunities to explore
many (often neglected or under-represented) aspects of human experience, expectation,
emotion and sexuality.
Among her biggest influences
are LGBT Romance authors K J Charles and Josh Lanyon and Vampire Chronicles author Anne