Circles: Book Two
While planning a future with his partner, Val, Wyatt’s past refuses to be forgotten. Wyatt’s old friend asks him to look into the mysterious death of her uncle in a fire back in 1927, when men were silent, tough, and did not love other men—except when they did. Working with Val, Wyatt digs up clues uncovering the truth behind the tragic school fire and the one responsible. The story of Tom and Philip slowly reveals itself, and Wyatt and Val realize nothing is as simple as they originally believed. As their trail heats up, an old enemy of Wyatt’s decides he’s waited long enough for revenge. If Wyatt can’t tie everything together, history might repeat itself.
Every Life Is a Circle
Preakness Stakes—Present Day
“COMING DOWN the backstretch, it’s Angels Ascent in the lead, Ramble On and Dreamspinner nose to nose for second, Manic Monday third,” the announcer called out.
Val Mihalic leaned over the railing. Wyatt Harig held his breath when the announcer continued, “Into the far turn, it’s Angels Ascent, Ramble On has moved to second, and Dreamspinner has dropped back and is holding third, Manic Monday fourth.”
Punching the air with his good hand, Val shouted, “Go! Izzo, go!” When he lurched forward, Wyatt grabbed him and pulled him back without taking his eyes off the horses thundering down the track. More specifically Wyatt’s attention was glued to one horse and one jockey.
“They’re into the home stretch, and it looks like Skufca is making her move, getting Dreamspinner into position. Ramble On still in the lead by less than a length. Dreamspinner is coming up on the outside, moving to the front. Angels Ascent a close third, Manic Monday fourth.”
The few people who were still sitting jumped to their feet in the next instant. The applause harmonized with the sound of pounding hooves and almost smothered the announcer’s voice.
Absolutely no one at Pimlico Race Course needed to hear the announcer call the final order of horses, “Dreamspinner by a length, Ramble On in second place and Angels Ascent comes in third for this year’s running of the Preakness Stakes.”
While Val jumped up and down, cheering, Wyatt jostled the arms of people around them, pointing to the large, charcoal colt at the lead of the galloping horses and yelling, “That’s my daughter!”
The horse’s pace slowed, and the jockey punched the air with one fist before taking the reins in both hands again. Val twisted away from the rail and threw his arms around Wyatt’s neck, hugging him.
He was barely able to contain his bouncing up and down while shouting in Wyatt’s ear, “He won! He won!”
As if Wyatt hadn’t noticed. “Yes, he did,” he replied and chuckled.
“C’mon,” Val said and grabbed Wyatt’s hand. “We need to get down to the stables and meet Rod before they go to the winner’s circle.” They began making their way out of the stands.
“You know, if we watched from the owners’ box with Rod, we wouldn’t have to worry,” Wyatt pointed out. Val’s excitement and enthusiasm washed over him, and he laughed again. He turned and waved a good-bye to the race spectators they’d been near and let Val pull him along through the crowd.
Val insisted on sitting in the stands, closer to the track, which meant they’d have to make their trek to the owner area through a swell of people. Wyatt had come to think of the big colt as Izzo, and that was usually the name Val and Wyatt’s daughter, Janelle, used to refer to him. To everyone else, press, race announcers, and fans, he was Dreamspinner, and he was currently the most famous three-year-old Thoroughbred around.
Wyatt had no way of knowing for sure, but it was probable Izzo had no idea he was galloping his way into a place in history. He simply loved to run. What Izzo most likely cared about was the extra attention in the form of rubdowns and treats that would be coming to him very shortly. One thing Wyatt had learned in the time since he’d first met Dreamspinner was that the horse did love getting attention.
Val and Wyatt carried passes that allowed them access to the stable area and owners’ box, where Rod Duncan, Izzo’s owner and trainer, watched the race with his wife. They made their way to the stables and waited near Izzo’s temporary home. Wyatt knew the routine. The scene that had played out two weeks prior when Dreamspinner crossed the finish line of the Kentucky Derby, first place by a mere half a head, was about to be repeated. Wyatt said a silent prayer he’d be a part of this same sort of event after the end of the Belmont and see his daughter ride a Triple Crown winner.
Being the father of the first woman jockey to win the Derby and now the Preakness brought Wyatt quite a lot of notoriety. Wyatt had also been instrumental in busting apart a gambling scheme that had escalated to murder. Those events assured his face had become a familiar feature in the news. After decades of keeping his face out of the public eye, people now recognized Wyatt when he least expected it.
That turn of events had pretty much ended Wyatt’s career investigating theft of cultural treasures. His face was too well-known now to work covertly. More importantly, it’d mended fences he’d thought long broken with his daughter and brought him and Val together. After the Belmont Stakes and marrying Val in New York, Wyatt would worry about a career change.
The bad side of how he and Val had met was connected with gambling con artists turned kidnappers and murderers. In the process of apprehending them, Val had been beaten violently at Belmont Park. The end result was the partial loss of movement in his left hand, arm, and shoulder.
The winner’s circle was far less crowded than other parts of the track. One horse, one jockey, Rod and his wife, and Val and Wyatt stood together for a few pictures and the presentation of the trophy, the Woodlawn Vase. Today a blanket of black-eyed Susans, not red roses, adorned Dreamspinner. Their drink of the day had been a rather refreshing concoction of vodka, St. Germain, and a few varieties of juices, called, appropriately, a black-eyed Susan.
Val’s brother, Vin, waited just outside of the Winner’s Circle and watched the proceedings from there. Vin claimed his sudden interest in horseracing was to spend more time with Val, but he managed to always have a dinner invitation for Janelle, devoting more of his time alone with her. That gave Wyatt a warm feeling; he liked Vin.
When the commotion died down and Izzo was led back to his stall for a well-deserved dinner and rest, they waited for Janelle.
“Daddy, we won!” Janelle’s arms went around Wyatt’s waist, squeezing tightly. “And we’re going to do it again in New York.”
“Of course you are.” Wyatt hugged her, and when she pulled away, he bent and kissed her cheek. He hadn’t been daddy for nearly fifteen years, and it felt damn good.
Later, they all were in attendance for a big, festive dinner. Since Wyatt had, as Janelle very sweetly pointed out, commandeered her regular date for these events, she was forced to find another. He wasn’t in the least surprised to see Vin accompanying her. Val found a new hobby, nudging Wyatt’s elbow and casting sly glances at Janelle and Vin.
Wyatt leaned closer to Val while the salads were being served and whispered, “You know, you’re really not that subtle.”
The delightful black-eyed Susan drinks flowed freely, as did the conversation among the diners. The discovery that there were several other homosexual couples, including the owners of another of the horses that had raced that day, relaxed Wyatt and allowed him to let his guard down more than usual. A quick internet search and some recommendations from the locals and Wyatt had found a place to take Val once they could politely leave the restaurant. He slid his chair closer to Val’s and put his arm over the back and around Val’s shoulders. “I called a cab,” Wyatt said.
“And why is that?” Val said and grinned.
“You like to dance, and it’s a nice night for a walk later.”
Val looked down at his suit and adjusted his tie. “We are all dressed up.”
“C’mon.” Wyatt moved his hand off the chair back and reached down, wrapping his fingers gently around Val’s wrist. They said their good-byes during dessert and slipped outside to the waiting cab.
The small club Wyatt had found was in an area with several establishments that catered to a mix of gay and straight visitors. They walked around, stopping in a few clubs here and there, getting a drink and testing out dance floors.
“There is a twenty-four hour waiting period after we apply for our marriage license in New York. I thought it would be nice to get there a few days before the race and put in our application so we’re all set for the following Tuesday,” Wyatt said. They were waiting outside one of the clubs for a cab. He slipped one arm around Val’s waist and pulled him closer, giving his cheek a soft kiss. “Hmmm… I hope the ride to the hotel isn’t too long.”
Once they were back at their hotel, Wyatt ushered Val into their room, not bothering with the light. They were high enough up there was no need to close the drapes, and light from the city cast a soft glow over them.
As Val unbuttoned his suit jacket, Wyatt stepped up behind him, placing his palms on Val’s shoulders, then rubbing lightly up and down his arms a few times. “Let me give you a hand.” Wyatt eased the jacket off and kissed the side of Val’s neck, nudging his head to the side as he did so. A low moan rumbled out of Val’s chest. Wyatt dropped the jacket on a chair and slipped his hands under Val’s shirt, caressing Val’s skin with his fingertips.
When he reached Val’s tightening nipples, he rubbed small circles until Val’s hips jerked. Val shuddered and pulled in a quick, shaky breath, making Wyatt smile. Val’s tie and shirt joined his jacket. Wyatt ran his hands over Val’s torso before returning them to Val’s shoulders. He lightly traced the scars on Val’s shoulder with first his finger, then his tongue.
Val’s surgery to repair the damage done in the course of stopping some seriously dangerous people, who had been trying to force jockeys to throw races, had left several scars. They weren’t red, raised, and angry anymore. Val never complained about them hurting, but the marks were still puckered and darker than the surrounding skin.
“You know,” Val whispered between dragging in a breath and panting it out again. “That first time we went out to dinner, I was so worried you’d think I was some uncouth, country hick because I don’t know about wine and art. And that I was too young to bother with.”
“Hmm, do you know what I worried about when I was thirty?” Wyatt scraped his teeth across Val’s shoulder blades.
“Getting a sweet piece of hot ass,” Wyatt said in a low voice.
Val laughed. “Well, you’re sort of slow. Took you long enough. Worth the wait?”
“Oh, hell, yes.” Wyatt maneuvered Val to the bed.
They left a trail of clothes, shoes, and socks. It didn’t take long before Wyatt was buried deep inside Val. Reveling in the heat of Val’s body and feel of his ass pressed firmly against Wyatt’s groin. He kept up a steady pace. Wyatt’s entire body shuddered. He leaned forward and braced against Val’s back, groaning against the warm, supple skin of his shoulders. A tingle blossomed at the base of Wyatt’s spine, his balls tightened, and he shoved harder into Val, wrapped both arms around his hips, and desperately pulled them even closer together when his cock pulsed, sending ripples through him.
Val gripped the sheets and stuttered out something that was a mix of moaning and words. Wyatt moved one hand to Val’s cock. He gripped hard for a few seconds before he stroked Val fast. Val bucked back against him and held his breath for a few seconds. Wyatt felt Val’s body clench; he gulped in deep breaths and let them out fast when waves of tremors shook his body.
They collapsed onto the bed. Wyatt pulled away and rolled so they were on their sides, then repositioned and tucked Val firmly against him. He ran one hand along Val’s neck, turning his head enough to press a soft kiss to his lips. They lay there together, muscles twitching and quivering until they were spent.
Val pulled the extra blanket folded at the end of the bed up and shoved it under them while Wyatt tugged the comforter over them, yawning and mumbling softly, “Love you.”
Val nodded and sighed out, “Me, you.”
The next thing Wyatt was aware of was the sun streaming through the window and Val hanging off the side of the bed, slapping at the floor. He finally pulled a pair of pants up and extracted a noisy phone from the pocket.
Val squinted at the screen for a second before he answered, “Hang on, I’ll get him.” Whoever was on the other end couldn’t have possibly had a chance to speak.
Wyatt arched an eyebrow, pushed up against the headboard, and folded one arm behind his head. Val dropped the phone on his chest, gave him a cocky grin, and said, “US Marshals’ office. It’s not for me.” Val rolled off the bed, smiling when Wyatt caressed his rear and then gave him a playful slap. “Bathroom. Don’t wander off.”
Still watching Val as he ambled to the bathroom, Wyatt put the phone to his ear. “Harig.”
A man cleared his throat, and a gravelly voice asked, “Uh, I hope I’m not calling too early?”
Wyatt laughed at that. “I don’t think it’s ever an inappropriate time for the US Marshals’ office to call. And since you’re at work early on a Sunday morning….”
“Hey, watched the race last night. Congratulations, by the way.” The guy’s voice brightened, and Wyatt smiled when he heard a soft laugh and the rustling of papers from the other end. “So, sorry to bother you, I’m Griff Diamond.” Griff Diamond obviously did his homework before making phone calls.
Wyatt scrambled around mentally, trying to remember the correct title to use to address a US Marshal. It seemed every branch of law enforcement had a different set of titles, and they all got pissed off if you called them by the wrong one.
He went for the obvious. “Marshal Diamond, what can I do for you?”
“It’s Inspector,” Griff Diamond corrected. Wyatt closed his eyes and cringed. Inspector Diamond continued, “But just call me Griff. I was given your name by a former colleague of yours, Kevin Fells?”
Wyatt blew out a breath and pulled his arm out from under his head when Val returned and stretched beside him, handing him a glass of juice. “Years ago, we were both involved in some insurance investigations. He’s not really a friend.” He couldn’t imagine why an asshole like Fells, who hated gays in general and Wyatt in particular, would recommend him for anything. “He was also the brother of a… friend, but….” He didn’t know what to say and wondered why he was explaining this to a US Marshal.
Griff laughed outright. It was a hearty, warm laugh that set Wyatt at ease. Val must have heard it, because he turned his head far enough and leaned over Wyatt’s chest to look at the phone, raising his eyebrows.
“He’s a bit of an intense guy. I don’t think he was too happy about handing over your name, but he said you might be interested in some consulting work, and we needed someone with a few specialized skills.”
“Okay. Color me at least interested in the details,” Wyatt said.
“Here’s the quick version. There was a big storm here—I’m in Cleveland, Ohio—a few weeks ago, and there was a building that was damaged. Years ago it was a school, or so I’m told. Anyway when the construction crew went in to start repairs, they realized the thing needed to come down. That’s when they found the remains of three people. They are skeletons, but we got lucky and were able to get IDs on them. One of them was on our fugitive list, which is now why my office is involved. There’s more to it than that, but that’s the basics. The family of one of the other victims is also Fells’s wife. She won’t let anything go forward with the building or the remains until she has answers about what happened. I need someone with criminal investigative experience who can work with what is basically an archeological site. Fells works for the insurance company handling things, but he’s not involved professionally with this claim. Mrs. Fells is footing the bill for a private investigation. That’s how I got your name,” Griff paused. “Whatcha think?”
“Her name is Lily.” Wyatt drew in a deep breath and blew it out slowly. “I’m in Baltimore now and have to be in Belmont, New York by the first week of June. I’ll need to talk things over with my fiancé. We’re getting married a few days after the Belmont Stakes. Can I get back to you?” He had the thought again, why was he explaining all this?
“Sure, and hey, more congratulations. Let me give you my personal number. Mrs. Fells had boxes of family documents in storage, and now it’s all piled in my living room. My partner is less than enthusiastic about our new decorating scheme.”
Wyatt snickered, twisted, and reached to the table beside the bed for the pad of paper and pen he knew every hotel in the free world placed there. Val took the paper and pen from him and sat poised to write. Wyatt repeated the numbers Griff gave him, said good-bye, and disconnected the call.
He set the phone on the bed and looked at Val. “How about a trip to Cleveland?”
Wyatt nodded, and Val shrugged and said, “Okay. Thistledown is a sweet track; too bad the Ohio Derby isn’t until July.”
“Your internal calendar really does revolve around the race circuit,” Wyatt said. He reached out and cupped Val’s chin, kissing him. “Let’s get cleaned up and go to breakfast. I’ll fill you in.”
I enjoyed the past and present dual mystery.
Read the full review at
Review by Wendy
You’ll get so much more than a good story in this second book of the Circles series. You’ll get wholly engrossed in the adrenaline rush of horse racing with the answer to the question of who won the Kentucky Derby from the last book as well as Triple Crown history in the making. You’ll also get to witness not just one, but two romances – a continuation of the love story between Wyatt and Val, and an introduction to Tom and Philip. You’ll have the satisfaction of seeing the puzzle pieces fit together to solve a decades’ old crime. And last, but not least, who doesn’t love a good wedding!
I think that because this story is about an established couple (Wyatt and Val), the focus is less on them as a couple and shifts to encompass a bit more of the mystery they are called on to help solve. It was really a pleasant surprise and bonus for me to experience a second love story in the making (Tom and Philip) – granted, it occurred back in the 1920’s but felt more like real time as the timeline shifted to give that illusion. I found it very intriguing to see how a gay man in the 20’s might go about having a relationship with another man in a time that was clearly not tolerant of such things.
Just because this book has a bit more mystery/suspense, don’t get me wrong. There’s also plenty of sweet hotness to go around (times two)! I’d definitely recommend reading this book in order as part of the series or you’ll be missing all the wonderful back story and buildup of Wyatt and Val’s relationship. And as much as I loved revisiting these two wonderful characters along with the very pleasant familiarity of being around horses, I’m looking forward to learning more about Griff and Clint in Circles 3!
I’m a fan of Elizabeth Noble’s work, and this newest story is no different. Well, it is, the Circles Series is a far cry from her Sentries series (where I first fell in love with Ms. Noble’s writings) but it’s the same quality and depth that I’ve come to expect from this author. In A Barlow Lens we have not one great story, but two really. Val and Wyatt and Tom and Philip. One tragic, one not, hopefully. I don’t want to go in-depth for this review as it’s such a great ride as you hunt for clues and root for love. What I will say is that it’s another gem from Elizabeth Noble and a true delight to read. If you haven’t read Run for the Roses, do so first! But don’t let a little thing like not having read her before stop you. You’ll miss out, if you do.
It has been far too long since I read a book, so it seems fitting that the one I chose to jump back into the "game", so to speak, is by a favored author, and the second in a series I loved from the get-go. As strange as it may sound, it was relaxing and refreshing to lose myself in a murder mystery, criminal investigation, and to see how in love Wyatt and Val still are.
In the midst of racing season, an old acquaintance, for lack of a better term, recommends Wyatt as an investigator who might be able to solve a decades old death, which only recently came to light. What ensues is a fascinating look at homosexual life at the end of the 1920s. Even better is the way the author jumps back in time, so that I got such a clear picture of Tom and his lover, Phillip, but without any confusion relating to the timeline. Tom is a schoolteacher, and Phillip is a policeman. They're trying to live the "normal" life expected of them, while managing to fall in love. In an incredible burst of luck, Tom and Phillip manage to find a lesbian couple, Emma and Nancy, and they can all function as beards for each other. However, the investigation into Tom and Phillip's deaths isn't the only excitement to be had. Wyatt's deceased lover's brother, Kevin, has it out for Wyatt, and he comes looking for revenge.
A truly delightful addition to the series, 'A Barlow Lens', is filled with romance, mystery, history, horse racing, and two men who will do anything for the other. I'm really looking forward to the next installment. Thank you, Elizabeth.
NOTE: This book was provided by the author for the purpose of a review on Rainbow Book Reviews
A Barlow Lens is the second book in Elizabeth Noble’s Circles series and whilst it continues Wyatt and Val’s story it isn’t necessary to have read the first book, Run for the Roses to enjoy this story though I’m happy to recommend that book as a great read too.
A Barlow Lens picks up Val and Wyatt’s story a few months after the end of Run for the Roses and the excitement of horse racing is there from the beginning. In between the excitement of Wyatt’s daughter Janelle’s attempt to become the first woman to win the three horse races that make up the Triple Crown, Val and Wyatt are asked to look into a crime scene that dates back to 1927.
Elizabeth Noble seamlessly meshes together the story of Val and Wyatt’s investigation with the events in 1927 told from the viewpoint of the Tom and Philip who are just as much in love with each other as Val and Wyatt. However their love story is told against the background of prohibition and the illegality of being homosexual. I found the ideas of how Tom and Philip managed to have and hide their growing relationship in such an unforgiving time fascinating and it is their story that lingers most strongly in my memory.
If you are looking for a m/m book that is just sex from cover to cover then don’t buy this book. However if you prefer a romance (or two in this case) that develops realistically; a storyline that is well thought out with moments of high tension then this book is for you and I highly recommend it.
Chevalier by Mary Calmes eBook
Loaded for Bear by Cheyenne Meadows eBook
Beauty, Inc. by Tara Lain eBook
Love in Retrograde by Charlie Cochet eBook
There You Are by CJane Elliott eBook
Not Just Passing Through by Jamie Dean eBook
Jewel Cave by Elizabeth Noble eBook
Sand-Man's Family by CJane Elliott eBook
Wyatt's Recipes for Wooing Rock Stars by Clancy Nacht and Thursday Euclid eBook
Bad Dogs and Drag Queens by Julie Lynn Hayes eBook
Requires site membership
Love Can't Conquer by Kim Fielding eBook