She’ll risk her life to break his curse but revealing the truth could be far more dangerous.
In high school, a friend’s mother blames Grayson Steele for the tragic death of her daughter. Now, years later, Grayson is wealthy and successful, but on the brink of suicide. Because the women he loves are dying. And he can’t stop it.
Knowing about Grayson’s circumstances, Gillian Fletcher derives a plan. Catch the killer who’s making Grayson Steele’s life a living hell. But there’s only one way to do it. She has to be the bait.
As Grayson and Gillian’s plan takes shape, they must not only expose a killer, but also their feelings for each other. The further they go, the more secrets they will reveal. Secrets that will illuminate not just a murderer, but shocking truths that neither may be prepared to face.
Truths that will change their future forever.
Curse Breaker is a 2017 Best Story award winner from New York Literary Magazine and a semi-finalist in the 2017 Kindle Book Awards for Mystery/Thriller. It can be read on its own or before J. T. Bishop’s Red-Line trilogy.
If you love shocking murder mysteries, riveting page turners, and fast-paced stories, then you’ll love this compelling book by award-winning author J. T. Bishop.
Pick up Curse Breaker and enjoy Bishop’s next great read today.
Targeted Age Group:: Ages 13+
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 3 – PG-13
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
After I completed the Red-Line trilogy, I wanted to start a sister series that could stand on its own, but yet have a connection to my initial stories. I also wanted to write a murder mystery but with an element of the unknown that gives the book a fun and unexpected edge. Curse Breaker fit the bill. It kicks off the sister series, with three books that follow, plus you could read the Red-Line trilogy as a prelude to the whole series.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My characters just sort of showed up, as they usually do. I had the two main characters – Gillian and Grayson, set in my mind from the beginning, then the supporting characters appear as I build the story in my head. I wanted Grayson to have a best friend, and Cooper was born. Then I needed a whole list of possible bad guys, so I added them in too. Some appeared as I wrote the book, which happens sometimes. I always add them in because those tend to become the most fun characters.
THE KNOCK ON the door pounded, along with his head, but Grayson Steele ignored both. He grabbed a pillow from the couch and pulled it over his ears to muffle the sound. The banging came again, and he groaned and pulled the pillow closer. The needles behind his eyes sharpened their aim and sank into his skull. The noise sounded again and the needles became drill bits, burrowing deeper. He still didn’t move, expecting the noisy offender to eventually give up and leave.
After a moment, the knocking ended. Relaxing his hold on the pillow, he could make out the soft sounds of the ocean surf. Grayson Steele had no interest in visitors. His only concerns were his dog—a mutt named Max who also ignored the front door because he’d learned early that barking at it mattered little—and his bottle of bourbon, which now sat half-empty on the coffee table. If those two items were not at the door, then he was not answering.
Although the pounding on the door had ended, the pain in his head did not. After a few minutes, he shifted from his prone state on the couch and groaned when his body protested. Despite his relative youth, he felt as old as his house and just as creaky. Seeing Grayson move, Max sat up from his perch beside the sofa and watched him. His doggy eyes peered and his tail wagged, indicating his hope that his owner might pick up the Frisbee and head for the back door.
“Sorry, Max,” he said. “No catch today.”
He tossed the pillow on the couch and attempted to sit up. Max’s eager puppy-eyed look made him sigh.
“You okay, Mr. Steele?”
He jumped at the sound and turned. The pain behind his eyes flared, and he winced. Looking over, he saw a slender but tall man in a light blue suit and yellow tie in his kitchen. He was well-groomed and clean-shaven.
Grayson held his head. “Who the hell are you?”
The man flipped on the faucet in the kitchen sink and began to wash the piled dishes. “My name is Franklin. Franklin Gallagher, sir.”
“What the hell are you doing in my house?”
Franklin scrubbed at a bowl and glanced up at him. “Cooper Stone sent me, sir.”
“What?” He rubbed at his blurry eyes. “Coop?”
“What the hell for?”
Franklin set a bowl in the drainer and reached for another dish. “He told me to come over here.” He held a plate under the water. “He said…and I’m quoting him now, ‘Get that asshole up and moving. Whatever it takes. I want him ready for the weekend.’”
Grayson shook his head and immediately regretted the action. “Weekend?”
“Yes. Mr. Stone is throwing a birthday party this weekend at his beach house. I believe it’s three doors down from here, sir.”
“I know where it is, Franklin. How did you get in here?”
“Mr. Stone gave me a key.”
“He said you wouldn’t answer the door. He’s been trying to reach you for two weeks.”
“He gave you a key?”
“That bastard.” He moaned and grabbed his temples. “Why didn’t he come? Why’d he send you?”
“Mr. Stone recently hired me. I’m his assistant and jack-of-all-trades, you might say. I help him with various tasks as required. He offered me a thousand dollars to come here and…” He looked around the house, eyeing the empty liquor bottles, closed shutters, and the dirty clothes on the floor. “…assist you.”
Grayson couldn’t believe this was happening. “Assist me? I don’t need assistance. I have a housekeeper, Frank.”
“Pardon me, sir, but perhaps their skills could use some improvement. When was the last time your help was here? A year?”
Grayson pinched his nose when his head flared again. “Nobody likes a smart-ass, Franklin.”
“I apologize, sir.”
“And stop calling me sir.”
“What would you prefer me to call you?”
“Grayson is fine.”
“I’d feel more comfortable with Mr. Steele.”
Gray attempted to stand but sat back down when his legs shook. Max continued to sit beside him. “Some guard dog.”
Max had no response.
Franklin shut off the sink and dried his hands. He’d placed the remaining dirty dishes in the dishwasher and flipped it on. He looked around the kitchen and viewed the pantry.
“Can I make you some lunch, sir?”
“Lunch?” asked Gray, shutting his eyes. “God, no.” Hearing rustling, he opened his eyes and peered into the kitchen. Franklin was poking his head into his pantry. “What are you doing?”
Franklin popped his head out. “I’m afraid I’ll have to go to the grocery for you, Mr. Steele. The only thing you have in here is dog food.” He pulled out a large bag and dug out a scoop of dried bits. Max immediately reacted and jogged into the kitchen. Frank found a bowl, dumped the food into it, and set it down. “Here you are, Max.” He patted the dog on the head.
Gray grunted. “You know my dog?”
“Mr. Stone told me about him, yes.”
Franklin began to walk through and gather up empty bottles and trash.
“You can go home. I don’t need a babysitter.”
“Mr. Stone said you would say that. He told me to ignore you.” He picked a shirt up off the floor and threw it on the back of a chair.
Gray shook his head. “He’s giving you a thousand dollars to do this?”
“I’ll give you two thousand to leave.”
Frank stopped where he stood, holding a dirty plate and an empty liquor bottle. “He told me to tell you that he’d offer a thousand more than any offer you make. Guess that means I’m up to three thousand dollars.” He walked into the kitchen and dropped the bottle into the trash and put the dirty plate in the dishwasher.
“I suppose you could say that.”
“Just what exactly does he want you to do?”
Franklin walked back into the room. Seeing something on the floor, he leaned over and picked it up. It was a lacy black bra. “Perhaps you haven’t been as lonely as Mr. Stone suspects.”
Gray stood despite his shakiness and pulled the item out of Franklin’s hands. “Mind your own business, Frank.”
“And stop calling me sir.”
Gray dropped the bra onto the kitchen table and sat down in a chair. His throat felt as dry as the sand off his back porch, and he knew he needed a shower and a shave. His stomach growled despite his hangover, and he realized he hadn’t eaten in twenty-four hours.
“To answer your question, sir…I mean Mr. Steele…Mr. Stone wanted me to check in on you. Make sure you were all right. Then he said to make sure you got cleaned up and ate something. Said you’d probably be hung over and would need a shower and solid meal. It seems he knows you pretty well.”
Gray held his foggy head in his hands. “He should. I’ve known him since the third grade.”
“I know, sir.”
Gray lifted his head. “You do?”
“Well, yes, sir.” Frank walked back to the pantry and pulled out a broom. “I’m surprised you have one of these.” He began to sweep at the crumbs on the floor. “You and Mr. Stone are well known. Most know of your background.”
Gray watched Franklin sweep. “They do, huh?”
“Of course. Everyone knows of Stone and Steele Enterprises. You two were self-made millionaires by the age of twenty-five. Mr. Stone was on the cover of Tech magazine.”
“That was me, Frank.”
“Yeah. Coop was on the cover of GQ.”
“Well, whatever. You both made a name for yourselves at an early age.”
Gray rubbed at his eyes. “I suppose so.”
Franklin stopped his cleaning. “Do you mind if I ask you something, sir?”
Gray sighed. “What?”
“Yes. I did my research when I began this job. The two of you were a popular team. Out in the media. Enjoying the night life. Traveling. Beautiful women. Then all of a sudden, you dropped out of sight. From what I’ve gathered, Mr. Stone has been running the business the last few years.”
Gray said nothing. After a moment, he stood and spoke. “I’m going to take a shower, Franklin.”
Franklin resumed his sweeping. “Yes, sir.”
Gray stepped away from the breakfast table but turned before he left the room. “Franklin?”
“Yes, Mr. Steele?”
Gray studied the man cleaning his floor. “You a reporter?”
“Excuse me, sir?”
“Are you a reporter?”
Franklin made a face. “Heavens, no, sir. I wouldn’t know the first thing about reporting.”
Gray thought for a moment. “I don’t like reporters, Frank. So I hope you’re telling the truth. A word of this impromptu visit gets out in the press and you’ll be sweeping floors for a living.”
Franklin gripped at the broom. “I would never speak of this, sir. I highly respect my employer’s privacy, and those of his circle.”
Gray eyed him as if measuring his honesty. “Let’s keep it that way.” He turned to walk back to his bedroom. “Oh, and Frank?”
His stomach grumbled again. “If I’m stuck with you, you might as well order me a pizza.”
“Certainly, sir. What kind?”
“Surprise me. Oh, and get something for yourself too. This is on Coop’s dime, right?”
“Then order for the neighbors, and get whatever you want.”
“Thank you, sir.”
He turned and headed for the shower. “Stop calling me sir.”
THIRTY MINUTES LATER, he re-emerged from the bathroom feeling better but still moving slowly. He walked back into his living room and squinted from the bright light that greeted him. Franklin had opened the shutters and sunshine flooded the room. He raised his hand to block his eyes. The room had been cleared of trash, and his dirty clothes were now gone, presumably in the laundry. Glancing into the kitchen, he saw the clean countertops and empty sink. He had to admit, it looked better. He considered grabbing a beer from the fridge, but he knew he’d regret it, and he walked to the back door and opened it. The sea breeze hit him, and he breathed deeply. Max ran up the porch and jumped up for a pet. He ruffled the dog’s head and stepped outside. Franklin was nowhere in sight. He stood for several minutes with his eyes closed and listened to the soft waves and cawing seagulls. Only the beach could calm him when he needed to relax. It was why he lived here now. After all he’d experienced, it was the only place he’d found peace, until the demons reared their heads, and then he’d learned that only bourbon could quiet those voices. And they seemed to speak to him more and more often lately.
The sound of talking reached his ears, and he opened his eyes to see people below on the shore, staring and pointing. He looked down the beach as Franklin joined him on the porch.
“There you are, sir…Mr. Steele. Your pizza is here.”
“What’s going on down there?’
“What do you mean?”
“Down there.” He pointed where the beach walkers looked. Red lights flashed in the distance and Gray could see emergency vehicles. It was hard to make out what was happening.
“I don’t know, sir. Perhaps an accident?”
A police cruiser joined the scene.
“I hope it wasn’t a drowning,” said Franklin.
Gray moved toward the stairs. “I’m going to find out.”
Gray turned toward Franklin. “What?”
Franklin turned and went inside. He came back out with a paper towel and a piece of pizza in his hand. “At least eat something while you walk.”
Gray almost turned him down, but then his stomach growled and he reached for the food. “Thanks.” He turned and headed down the stairs as Max joined him.
“What, Franklin?” He glanced back.
“You mind if I clean your bedroom?”
Gray considered it. “Have at it, Frank. Just watch out for the spiders.” He grinned when Franklin gave him a worried look. “Come on, Max. Let’s go find out what all the excitement is about.” Max ran toward the water’s edge, and Gray took a bite of his pizza. Franklin disappeared into the house.
Five minutes later, Gray came onto the scene. An ambulance pulled away as he neared and a policeman began to roll out yellow tape to keep bystanders away. A fire truck with flashing lights waited nearby and a second police cruiser joined the fray. Gray assumed the ambulance carried the victim until he moved and got a better view and saw what looked like a blue tarp on the sand. He froze when he realized it was a body. Policeman milled around, and he could hear the muffled voices of radio communication coming from their vehicles. Other people had stopped and they all stared from behind the tape as the police worked the area.
He’d finished his pizza on the walk over, and he curled the paper towel into his fist. Another vehicle drove up, and he saw the words, “Coroner’s Office,” printed on the side. The car stopped and two men stepped out and walked toward the covered form. Two other men with badges met them. They spoke, but Gray could not hear what they said over the sound of the waves. Max barked at a seagull but remained at Gray’s side.
“Any idea what’s going on?”
Gray turned at the voice and saw a woman. Dressed casually with sunglasses perched on her head, she stood next to him, but she watched the police as he did. Her long dark hair blew in the wind.
“No. No idea.”
“Doesn’t look good.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
They watched the men from the coroner’s office pull equipment from their vehicle. The policemen began to question the crowd.
“Do you know who it is?”
A seagull flew over Gray’s head. “What?”
“The victim?” she asked. “Do you know her?”
“It’s a her?”
“Yes. I saw her before they covered her.”
“You did? What’d she look like?”
“Blonde. Pretty. About all I could tell. You’re a local, though, aren’t you?”
“Excuse me?” he asked.
“You live here? Grew up nearby? Right?”
“How do you know that?”
“You’re Grayson Steele, aren’t you?”
He groaned, but didn’t answer her.
“My name’s Gillian. Gillian Fletcher.”
He continued to watch the men with their equipment. It was not the first time he’d been approached by a woman on the beach, but at a crime scene?
Still watching the activity, he answered her. “Listen, Miss Fletcher. I’m not interested, okay?”
He could feel her looking at him. “You’re not interested in what?” she asked.
“There’s a dead body over there. Now is not the time for a hook-up.”
“A hook…what, you think I’m hitting on you?”
He turned toward her. She was attractive, and under different circumstances, he might have made the effort, but he was not that man anymore. “Aren’t you?”
She smiled. “No, I’m not.”
“Then what do you want?”
“You know my name? Know I live nearby? Know I grew up not far from here?” He crossed his arms. “What do you want?”
She didn’t answer for a second. “I’m a reporter.”
He chuckled. The men on the beach lifted the tarp, but they blocked his view. “Looks like you’ve got quite the story on your hands. First on the scene.”
“I’m not that kind of reporter.”
“No. I work for Lifestyle magazine.”
“Lifestyle, huh? What lifestyle are you interested in?”
He smirked. “Let me guess. You want to interview me?”
“Why not? Everyone wants to get an interview with you. You’re a millionaire playboy who’s become a recluse. The Howard Hughes of our time. You’re a huge scoop.”
“Why not? Don’t you want the world to know the truth?”
“That you’re not as messed up as they say you are. That you’re not a drug user or psychotic. That you’re not building sandcastles in your bedroom in your free time. Or tying up seagulls and eating them for lunch.”
He grimaced. “Is that what they’re saying about me?”
“Depends on the magazine.”
He shook his head. “I’m obviously not keeping up on current trends.”
“So tell them that you don’t do any of those things.”
He tilted his head. “And how do you know I don’t?”
She didn’t say anything, but her eyes moved back to the beach. The men were moving the body into a zippered bag. They tried to keep the bystanders from watching by holding up a blanket, but a strong gust of wind blew and the blanket moved and he got a quick but clear view of the woman. A chill shot through him when he realized he recognized her. He knew the victim.
“Oh my God.”
“What?” she asked.
He felt the blood leave his face, and he stared at the sand.
He looked for his dog. “Max?” He saw Max chasing a seagull.
Max ran up to him and shook out the water on his coat. “Let’s go, Max.”
“Please, Mr. Steele. Would you consider it?”
He didn’t answer her. His wooden legs didn’t want to move, but he forced them over the sand, the face of the victim echoing in his mind. He blinked and tried to think back. When had he seen her last? Calculating the time in his head, he grimaced when he remembered. Three days. It had been three days since he’d slept with her. He felt the urge to lose his pizza, but he held it back. Picking up his pace, he walked fast through the sand and ignored the reporter behind him.
“Mr. Steele? Are you okay? Can I follow up with you later?”
Leaving the scene, he said nothing.
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