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Murders & Romance

Lashell Collins

Copyright © 2021 Lashell Collins

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or people — living, dead, or undead — is entirely coincidental and not intended by the author. This book contains content that may not be suitable for young readers (under age 18).

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this eBook may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25


Curses & Vows

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About the Author

Also by Lashell Collins


The little girl’s high-pitched scream felt like a needle piercing his temple, and Detective Isaac Taylor woke with a start.



His heart was running a marathon.

Damn dream. It wasn’t the first time he’d had it. It wasn’t even the first time he’d woken up in a cold sweat because of it. The case was over. The Lullaby Killer was dead. Hell, Isaac had killed the bastard himself. Well… sort of.

Death by telekinesis.

Had that really happened?

He sat up and shook his head as if to clear it of the ghosts, then he looked over at Sidney. She was sleeping peacefully. Finally. A sense of immense relief spread throughout his chest, and he reached out and gently moved a stray curl from her lovely face.

He hoped she was having a sweet dream.

Sliding out of bed, he intended to go pee. But his ringing cellphone had him reaching for it with lightning speed so that it didn’t wake Sidney.


He could hear both the sleep and the aggravation in his own voice.

“Morning, Detective Sergeant.”

The dispatcher’s tone was clipped and efficient, and much too perky for this time of night.

“There’s a dead body down on University Circle, near the Case Western campus. Officer on scene says it’s pretty gruesome, sir.”

Isaac sighed and glanced at the digital clock. 3:45 am.

“All right. Call Detective Vega. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

He ended the call and looked back at Sidney. She was still sleeping soundly, thank goodness. As long as it had taken her to fall asleep, the last thing he wanted was for it to be cut short.

He headed for the bathroom to shower and get ready. Fifteen minutes later, he was out the door.

He climbed behind the wheel of his metallic blue Mustang GT thinking about how he and his partner, Pete Vega, had been pulling a whole lot of overtime these last two weeks, covering not one fallen detective team, but two. He’d been a detective for over nine years, and he couldn’t ever remember a time when they’d been stretched this thin.

He pulled up at the location and looked around. University Circle was a busy hub of one square mile. Sort of a converging point for Case Western Reserve University, several hospital facilities, and many different cultural destinations — like museums, music halls, botanical gardens, college bars, and restaurants. In fact, one of his favorite ramen noodle joints was part of the busy University Circle hub.

Isaac got out of his car just as Pete pulled up. They acknowledged each other with the standard silent ‘what’s up’ lift-of-the-chin guys always did, and made their way over to where the pair of uniforms stood with a body. And Isaac did a double take at that body.


The horrified whisper dropped from his lips as Isaac studied the crime scene.

The body was completely naked and tied, spread-eagled, to a large tree trunk. The victim was male. Or at least, he had been before he was thoroughly and completely castrated.


Everywhere he looked there was blood. And the victim’s, uh… appendage was lying on the ground at the body’s feet.

“Holy Mother of God,” Pete said.

Isaac’s gaze darted all around, weeding out the CSU members and taking in the important details. There were no discarded clothes anywhere. That meant whoever had done this heinous deed wanted their victim to be publicly humiliated in death. This staging had been carefully deliberate.

Isaac quietly cleared his throat and turned to the nearest uniform.

“Who found the body?”

“Those two there.” The female officer pointed a few yards away to where her partner stood with two college-aged women, and then consulted her notes. “Kim Barns and Leslie Rowan. They were returning to the university about an hour ago.”

“Thanks.” Isaac motioned to Pete and they walked over to the women. “Detective Sgt. Ike Taylor. Detective Pete Vega. Can you tell us what you two were doing out here so late? Or early?”

The one to his right flipped her green hair over her shoulder. “We both work at one of the bars in the circle. So, we walk back to campus together. Safety in numbers, right?”

“Do either of you know the victim?”

“I think I’ve seen him around campus, but I don’t really know him,” the other one spoke up.

“And you are?”

“I’m Kim Barns.”

“And you mean you’ve seen the victim around the Case Western campus?”

“Yes, sir. Leslie and I are both undergrads.”

“And what about him? You know?”

The girl shook her head. “No. I’m sorry.”

Isaac looked around and pointed to the path they were on.

“This trail. Is it normally a popular place?”

“Yes,” green-hair spoke up again. “I walk this way all the time. It’s normally full of people in the daytime.”

“And when does it typically slow down? About what time?”

“Usually when it gets dark. This time of year around 8 or 9 at night.”

“And did you see anyone else near the body? Did you pass anyone else on the path?”

“No.” Both girls shook their heads and answered in unison.

“Okay.” Isaac sighed. “Thank you

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