Review: Dealing in Death (Death and the Devil #2.5) by L.J. Hayward

Ethan Blade—assassin extraordinaire, cold-blooded killer, heartless monster, and . . . retiree?

I’ve spent my whole life dealing in death, efficiently eliminating targets while fighting to preserve a sense of self and morality, to avoid becoming as detached and ruthless as my siblings. I thought I had succeeded. Then I met Jack Reardon—contrary, handsome, forgiving, and far too good for the likes of me—and my life was tipped upside down. When he asked me to move in with him, he didn’t specify that I had to quit my job, but I wanted to—for myself, not for him. I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.

My old instincts—“Ethan Blade”—are soon tempted out of retirement by a job offer I can’t afford to refuse and by an old hook-up of Jack’s he’d be a fool to refuse. While falling prey to my own temptation, Jack struggles with his. Which is precisely when the true danger exposes itself—one of my siblings with no such sense of self or morality. Only pain. And he is prepared to rain it down on me and Jack, unless I can square the Ethan Blade I want to be with the one I need to be, in time to save us both.

‘Dealing in Death’ is basically a retelling of ‘Why the Devil Stalks Death’ from Ethan’s POV. Quite frankly, it doesn’t add much in the grand scheme of things.

Yes, we do get a better understanding of Ethan’s motivations, but it really wasn’t necessary, or all that pivotal.

With that caveat, I was still thoroughly entertained by this extended novella. It really was a bit of extra for the fans of the series, and I’m not going to complain about that!

Up until this point, Ethan’s been quite an enigma. While readers see through Jack’s eyes how Ethan struggles with and then finally (to an extent) accepts how he feels for Jack, it’s still a pretty big mystery as to what exactly goes on in that complicated mind.

‘Dealing in Death’ gives a window into Ethan, and his constant struggle.

He’s in a tug-of-war between the emotionless killing machine he was trained to be, and the life and freedom he wants with Jack.

I really felt for Ethan. Granted, I’ve had a slightly unhealthy soft spot for the morally ambiguous assassin since book 1, but in this case I think I’m completely justified!

It isn’t just the push-and-pull between his two lives that readers get to see. We also get a front row seat to exactly what Ethan feels for Jack, and how Ethan struggles to process those still-new and foreign feelings, and the physical desires that come with it.

Yeah, I might have swooned a couple of times. Don’t judge me. They’re just a very sweet yet slightly dysfunctional pair!

Beyond that, we also get a run-down of some of the major action scenes from book 2 from Ethan’s end. Plus, readers get to see how Ethan interacts with his siblings, particularly Two.

It was interesting to see Two’s role in making Ethan who he is, and how things were playing out behind the scenes while Jack was working on the case in book 2.

Again, I don’t think it necessarily added too much to the overall story. But it was still a fun ride.

Overall, I enjoyed this read. I think fans of the series will appreciate it, though I’m not sure whether it’ll be a required read for the final book. In any case, I’m stoked to see how Ethan and Jack’s grand tale ends in book 3!

A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour + Giveaway: Dead Man Stalking (Blood and Bone #1) by T.A. Moore

Author T.A. Moore visits today on the Dead Man Stalking (Blood and Bone #1) blog tour! Learn more about the latest from the author, read her prequel short story and enter in the $10 Dreamspinner Press credit giveaway!

Title: Dead Man Stalking
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release: 10 September
Cover Artist: Kanaxa
Dreamspinner Link:


Agent Luke Bennett proved that humans could rise just as high in the ranks as their vampire colleagues—until a kidnapper held him captive for a year and turned him without his consent.
Now he’s Took: a reluctant monster afraid to bite anyone, broke, and about to be discharged from his elite BITERs unit.
When an old colleague suggests he consult on a BITERs case, Took has little to lose. The case is open and shut… but nothing is ever that easy. As he digs deeper, he discovers a lot more than one cold case is at stake, and if he wants to solve this one, he’ll need the help of the BITERs team. Even if that brings his old commander, Madoc, back into his life.


First of all, thank you so much for having me! I’m thrilled to be here with my new urban fantasy Dead Man Stalking. This is the first book in the Blood and Bone series and I am thrilled to put it out there into the world. I was meant to be writing an entirely different book, but then Took and Madoc took up residence in my head and I had to give in and let them have their say.

I had a blast creating this world and these characters, and I hope you enjoy them too. I’ve included a chapter of a prequel short story that you can follow through the blog tour.

Chapter Three

Luke splashed water over his face and rubbed cold, wet hands around the back of his neck. There was hot and then there was South Carolina hot. He’d gotten used to California’s dry heat, that parched the moisture out of your mouth, not the oppressive sticky warmth that soaked his clothes with sweat the minute he put them on.
Six months.
He should be used to it by now.
Water dripped down Luke’s face and into the sink. He looked up at his reflection and dragged his hand down his face. Short, gilt stubble prickled against his fingers.
At this point, he thought sourly, he should probably be used to a lot of things. He’d known when he accepted the promotion to the BITERs that he’d be the only human in the teams. It just hadn’t occurred to him how odd it would be to work with monsters to catch monsters.
Lie to the rest of the world, his Dad’s old advice popped into his head, but don’t lie to yourself. That’s what will get you killed.
Bennet exhaled and glared at his reflection. If there was one thing you should take his Dad’s advice on, it was survival and lies. They were his wheelhouse.
Fine. It hadn’t occurred to him that only part of his discomfort with working with monsters would be the monster part. That he could just ignore. No one said you had to like your colleagues, just work with them. It was the tug of unexpected--unwanted--lust he felt around SES Madoc that left him wrong-footed.
It was the last thing he’d expected. He knew what they were, under the Anakim and the nice clothes and the close-lipped smiles. They were fangs and blood, dead babies handed over by blood-drunk mothers, and hunger. Luke had made the reputation thatgot him this job off the back of monsters who’d left towns in mourning, so how the hell could he want to fuck one?
But he did.
The admission didn’t make him feel any better. Luke gave his reflection an exasperated look and headed back into the bedroom. A fresh shirt and tie lay on the bed, crisp, starched and ready to be sweated limp. Luke picked it up and shrugged it on. Before he could button it there was a sharp double rap on the door.
Housekeeping his clean towels. Finally. Luke raked his wet hair back from his face, wet curls behind his ears, and padded over to answer the door. He pulled the door open mid-knock, except instead of the housekeeper with fresh laundry it was Madoc with cups of coffee in his hands.
There was a pause as Madoc raised a dark brow and glanced down to take in the width of Luke’s half-bared chest. He proffered the coffee in his right hand.
“I always forget how much Californians like their sunshine,” he said. “Do people even sunbathe this side of the country?”
“Some do,” Luke said as he took the cup. It was hot enough to scorch his fingers through the cardboard. His tan didn’t really take a lot of upkeep, a few hours a month in the surf to top it up to golden. “It’s not really a group activity. Something come up? I thought we were going to meet at the police station?”
Madoc took a drink of coffee. He didn’t spit it out, so Luke was reassured that his wasn’t the adulterated cup.
“We were.” Madoc checked his wrist for the time. “We will, in half an hour. But you don’t house a dog and bark yourself.”
Luke narrowed his eyes and sipped his coffee. It was excellent. Of course. He doubted that Madoc would have truck with anything less than that unless it was to make a point. “Flattering.”
“This is your chance, Agent Bennett,” Madoc said. “Convince me.”
There was an edge of challenge to his voice that didn’t feel completely professional. Luke took another drink of coffee, his mouth dry, and stepped back. He waved his hand at the room--bed, office chair, and luggage--in unspoken invitation.
Vampires seduced.
Luke didn’t bother to edit the word in his head. The bluntness of it helped. It gave him distance.
It was what they did, with blood and beauty that made people open the door and bare their necks. Madoc might dress it up behind a better mask than the glutted-like-ticks rogues that Luke tracked to trap houses and lairs, but it was the same lure. He was meant to notice it, but he didn’t have to bite.
Maybe admitting the hint of lust he had for his boss had been a good idea after all.
Madoc looked amused at Luke’s omission to offer official permission to entry. He didn’t need it to step inside, despite the old pre-Drakul myths, a threshold was just lintels and courtesy. An invitation did mean something though. An invitation gave Anakim...influence...over what resided in the four walls. A spiritual keyhole to slip through at night.
Opinions varied on whether that worked with mid-price hotel rooms. Luke didn’t care to risk it. They were here for a few days, at least, and if he had any nightly emissions he’d rather blame his subconscious than have to worry about visitations.


Tomorrow’s installment on Joyfully Jay! All the blog tour posts will also be linked here:

Author Bio:

TA Moore -
TA Moore is a Northern Irish writer of romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and contemporary romance novels. A childhood in a rural, seaside town fostered in her a suspicious nature, a love of mystery, and a streak of black humour a mile wide. As her grandmother always said, ‘she’d laugh at a bad thing that one’, mind you, that was the pot calling the kettle black. TA Moore studied History, Irish mythology, English at University, mostly because she has always loved a good story. She has worked as a journalist, a finance manager, and in the arts sectors before she finally gave in to a lifelong desire to write.

Coffee, Doc Marten boots, and good friends are the essential things in life. Spiders, mayo, and heels are to be avoided.

Twitter: @tamoorewrites


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Release Blitz + Giveaway: Puzzle Me This by Eli Easton

Puzzle Me This is out now! Celebrate with author Eli Easton & Signal Boost Promotions. Find out more about this romance & enter in the giveaway for a $10 Amazon gift card too!

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link - Exclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited

Cover Design: Reese Dante


Luke Schumaker designs computer games, working from his home. Every day he walks his dog in the woods nearby, never suspecting that someone who is completely smitten is watching.

The watcher is Alex Shaw, and he too works from home, designing logic and crossword puzzles. Alex’s options are limited: he’s too shy to approach Luke and his wheelchair won’t let him follow into the woods. His solution? Secret messages for Luke in the crosswords he writes for the local paper.

When Luke decodes them, romance begins, but then they face greater puzzles, like Alex’s interfering sister and what commitment to a man in a wheelchair really takes. And, most puzzling of all, how do you know if love is real?

About Eli

Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, and organic farmer, Eli has been a m/m romance author since 2013. She has over 30 books published.

Eli has loved romance since her teens and she particular admires writers who can combine literary merit, genuine humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, bulldogs, cows, a cat, and lots of groundhogs.

In romance, Eli is best known for her Christmas stories because she’s a total Christmas sap. These include “Blame it on the Mistletoe”, “Unwrapping Hank” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles”. Her “Howl at the Moon” series of paranormal romances featuring the town of Mad Creek and its dog shifters has been popular with readers. And her series of Amish-themed romances, Men of Lancaster County, has won genre awards.

Her website is

You can email her at

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Release Blitz + Giveaway: Wolf Lost (Wolves of Kismet #1) by Sam Burns

Author Sam Burns and Signal Boost Promotions promote the release of Wolf Lost (Wolves of Kismet #1) today! Learn more about the ABO romance and enter in the giveaway to win a back list eBook from the author!

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link - Exclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow With Kindle Unlimited

Length: 50,000 words approx.

Cover Design: Natasha Snow


An omega on the run.

An alpha fractured.

Sawyer Holt can’t go home. The Alpha who has replaced his father wants to use him as a tool to cement his political power, and Sawyer isn’t interested in marrying his father’s murderer.

Dez Sullivan’s leg may never heal from his last mission in Afghanistan, but he’s getting used to that. What he can’t adapt to are the nightmares and the tremor in his hand that the doctors insist is all in his head. Next to that, being a brand new werewolf seems easy, until Sawyer Holt blows into his life. The omega activates his burgeoning wolf instincts in a new way, and they threaten to overwhelm his common sense.

Both men are in Colorado searching for a new start, a new pack, and the safety they’ve lost. Their meeting is pure Kismet.

Sam Burns wrote her first fantasy epic with her best friend when she was ten. Like almost any epic fiction written by a ten year old, it was awful. She likes to think she’s improved since then, if only because she has better handwriting now.

If she’s not writing, she’s almost certainly either reading or lost down a Wikipedia rabbit hole while pretending to research for a novel.

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Release Blitz + Giveaway: Confessions of a Gay Curmudgeon by Andy V. Ambrose

Celebrate the release of Confessions of a Gay Curmudgeon with author Andy V. Ambrose and IndiGo Marketing! Learn more about the contemporary confessional and enter in the $10 NineStar Press credit today!

Title: Confessions of a Gay Curmudgeon
Author: Andy V. Ambrose
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: September 2, 2019
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: No Romance
Length: 62100
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, contemporary, humorous, gay, diary, dating, confessional, therapy, family drama

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Confessions of a Gay Curmudgeon recounts the adventures of Viktor, a fifty-year-old gay man in New York City trying to get back into the land of the living after the breakup of a twelve-year relationship.

Complaining into his digital diary, Viktor wrestles with negotiating the dating scene, dealing with new corporate bosses, and his friends’ stories of sexual misadventures and taking him to places to meet eligible new partners who he doesn’t find very eligible at all.

Trying to distance himself from his family and immigrant roots to build a new life, he finds it easier said than done. And even his therapist doesn’t seem to understand him. But perhaps most important, his former lover Gio is on his mind.

Funny and moving, the novel examines the lives of a group of middle-aged gay men, exploring new facets of their sexuality while dealing with all the changes middle age brings.


Confessions of a Gay Curmudgeon
Andy V. Ambrose © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Saturday Afternoon—Floundering

My erections aren’t what they used to be.

Well, Dr. S told me to write about the first thing that comes into my mind, so it’s what I’m doing. “Don’t think. Just write,” he said. “Stop censoring yourself, Viktor. This will help you in your therapy too, Viktor.”

Okay, okay. If that’s what the shrink ordered, let’s see if this works. We’re supposed to listen to our shrinks, right? That’s their job, right? They know how to get us out of whatever fucking funk we’re in, right?

So here we go. I’m writing about the first thing that comes to my mind and it’s my erections. Here it is, a lovely Saturday afternoon, sun shining, snow melting, spring a’coming, a perfect time to enjoy life. And what am I doing? Sulking in my apartment obsessing about my cock.

Hell of a problem to have on a day like today, isn’t it? Shit, be honest, Viktor. You’re supposed to be honest with this writing thing, aren’t you? That was Dr. S’s other directive, wasn’t it? Honesty. He was full of directives last session, wasn’t he? Oh well, maybe I need some directives.

So where was I? Oh yes. Gorgeous day, shitty mood, focusing on my cock when I should be enjoying life.

Oh, come on. It’s not just about my cock. I know that. After all, I did my share of screwing around when I was younger. Not that I was the biggest stud around in my heyday, but during those few glorious weeks my sex life got going, I learned how to have a good time. Yes, I did! But then I met Gio and fell in love. And he fell in love with me. And we had twelve years of bliss—more or less—until he left me last year.

And I’ve been floundering ever since. Floundering? Ha! Flopping around is more like it. So I’ve been seeing Dr. S—ahem, Dr. Singsirinavin—I’ve been seeing him to help me out of this predicament. Seems like a nice enough guy, serious, quiet, with a scrawny body and a bit of an accent, though I’ll be damned if I know from where exactly. These shrinks never tell you anything about themselves, do they? I’ve been seeing Dr. S for a year already, and you would think by now I’d have an idea, but I don’t. To tell the truth, I don’t have much of an idea about anything, including whether he’s helping me.

But I’m trying. Goddamn it, I’m trying, you’ve got to give me that. Didn’t put all my eggs in one basket, either. Went to my primary-care guy too, to complain about my cock. Dr. Agnostulopolini. Different accent, different mystery country. Had to change doctors when my cheapo company switched insurances and I had to find someone new. He doesn’t know anything about me and doesn’t seem to care, either. Every time I ask a question, the side of his face twitches like he’s having a stroke. “Doctor,” I said last time, “my libido seems to have disappeared.”

“You know, it does fall off with age,” he says. Translation: you’re getting old.

“But not this suddenly, Doctor. Could it be the new blood pressure medicine you prescribed?” Translation: Fuck you. Don’t give me that you’re-getting-old shit. I’m fifty. That’s not old.

“This medicine shouldn’t cause a drop-off in libido.” Translation: I’m the doctor. I know what I’m talking about.

“But then what could be causing it?” Translation: Fuck you. I’m the patient. It’s my libido.

And on and on. Dr. A suggested other medications, maybe talking to Dr. S about an anti-depressant. Sure, pump me full of chemicals. Is that all the medicos care about? They want me docile and uncomplaining. As long as my numbers on their medical charts look good, they think they’re a success. No matter what I think.

Well, fuck them. It’s my life, and I’ll screw it up the way I want to. Not according to the way they think I should do it.

Oh, I have to stop complaining and get myself out of this funk. No one else is going to do it for me, least of all the good doctors. I know that. It’s my life, and I better get it going again before it’s too late! But how? How, fucking how?


NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords

Meet the Author

Andy V Ambrose grew up in the Boston area and moved to New York City after college. He worked in book publishing for many years, wearing many hats: Editorial, Copyediting, Proofreading, and Production. This is his first novel featuring Viktor, a fifty-year-old gay man trying to get back into the world of the living after the end of a twelve-year relationship. To relax, Andy loves to ride his bike, read, watch foreign and independent movies, and travel. He’s only made it to three continents so far but hopes to visit the rest soon. He lives in New York City.

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Cover Reveal + Giveaway: Nightside: An Erie Vampire Tale by V.L. Locey

V.L. Locey and Signal Boost Promotions reveal the cover for upcoming vampire tale, Nightside: An Erie Vampire Tale! Learn more about the menage romance and enter in the eBook giveaway of an Erie Collection!

Release Date: October 23 2019

Cover Design: Meredith Russell

Length: 50,236 words

Erie Series

An Erie Collection - Universal Link


Being a new member of the undead sect has its ups and downs, something that newly embraced Akio Lee is finding out first hand. Being able to spend eternity with his beloved Vincente, the man who introduced him to life in the nightside, is a definite up. Having to sneak up and feed on strangers? That’s one of the downsides, and something that Akio is finding difficult to swallow. But what other option is there for a recently wed vampire couple who need blood to survive?

Finding a new donor perhaps? One who comes into the lifestyle willingly, as Akio had done, and is open to the unique and sensual relationship that develops when three men have a blood bond. A man who can exist in both the nightside and the dayside worlds. A man like Dalton Briggs, the tall, dark, and handsome caretaker of the manse Akio and Vincente now call home? Dalton seems to tick every box Akio and Vincente have: he’s comfortable around vampires, he’s obviously into men, he’s drop dead gorgeous, and he’s human. But will the outgoing handyman be willing to offer two vampires his vein, his body, his heart?

USA Today Bestselling Author V.L. Locey – Penning LGBT hockey romance that skates into sinful pleasures.

V.L. Locey loves worn jeans, yoga, belly laughs, walking, reading and writing lusty tales, Greek mythology, Torchwood and Dr. Who, the New York Rangers, comic books, and coffee. (Not necessarily in that order.) She shares her life with her husband, her daughter, one dog, two cats, a pair of geese, far too many chickens, and two steers.

When not writing spicy romances, she enjoys spending her day with her menagerie in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania with a cup of fresh java in one hand and a steamy romance novel in the other.

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Guest Review: Wrecked by Jodi Payne & B.A. Tortuga

The call comes when Beckett Adler least expects it. He’s made a new life for himself in Vermont and has a law practice of his own. After four years he’s even stopped wearing his wedding ring. So when he finds out his husband, bull rider Skyler Paulson, has been seriously injured at an event, he isn’t sure what he wants to do. He knows what’s right though, so he heads down to Baltimore to bring his man home.

Sky knows his injuries are a career-ender, and he can’t believe Beck has come for him after all this time. He’s not a hundred percent sure what went wrong with their marriage and he has no idea how to be anything but a bull rider. But he wants this second chance, so he grabs at it with both hands.

There’s a lot Sky has to learn, from how to walk again to how to settle down with the man he loves. Beck needs to learn to open up and how to be more trusting. For their marriage to work again, both men will have to find a way to meet in the middle. Because neither of them wants to be wrecked anymore.

Reviewer: Shee Reader

First I need to gush, I LOVED THIS BOOK! It had everything. Great characters, a super premise, the idea that the guys had a love story that had fallen apart, a good dose of tension and love and working at a relationship, plus super hot sexy times!

So, we have Beck, a good guy lawyer that has carved out his perfectly orderly and lonely life, and Skyler, the wild bull rider who loves his husband and has no idea what went wrong other than him leaving to ride bulls, again.

When Skyler has a life changing ride that sees him win, but also trampled by the bull, thinking he’s going to die, his friends call Beckett. Of course Beck goes to Sky at once and is shocked to see his broken cowboy. The road to recovery is long and hard, but is more about whether our guys can find their way back to each other and actually talk things out this time, and fight for their marriage.

What we get is a well written and thoroughly engaging story where I truly cared about the guys from the outset. I was rooting for them all the way through to a satisfying HEA. The supporting characters were interesting and the whole story led me on a roller coaster of emotion to the happy tears at the end!

Highly recommended!

I was given a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Release Blitz + Giveaway: Beyond Identity by Karrie Roman

Beyond Identity by Karrie Roman is out from NineStar Press! Celebrate with the author and IndiGo Marketing! Enter in the $10 NSP credit giveaway!

Title: Beyond Identity
Author: Karrie Roman
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: September 2, 2019
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 74200
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, New Adult, college, depression,hurt-comfort, friends to lovers

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Noah Lancaster’s life is a mess. He doesn’t know much about his past or who is parents really were. When he’s beaten on the streets one night while sleeping rough, the attack doesn’t feel like just another random assault on a vulnerable target. Somebody wanted Noah dead. But who’d want to hurt him? He’s a nobody who doesn’t know where he came from or who he truly is.

Harry Cooper wants to launch his career as an investigative journalist by telling the stories of the hardships faced by the homeless. His latest subject was lucky to survive a brutal attack—the mean streets almost swallowing him up like so many others. Noah is a mystery to Harry and it seems to the man himself.

When Noah’s attack brings these two men together, neither could imagine they’re about to be pulled into a mystery one hundred and thirty years old—and half a world away. They’re about to discover a secret someone has already killed once to protect and one that might get them both killed.

Sometimes who you are goes far beyond who you thought you were.


Beyond Identity
Karrie Roman © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Noah had been here before. People didn’t have sporadic stints of living on the streets and expect to escape the occasional bashing. An assault could come from anywhere—another rough sleeper, a junkie, pimp, or sometimes from some teenage twat who thought they were being hilarious beating the shit out of someone whose life had already kicked them in the teeth. When someone was homeless, they were either invisible or a goddamn target. The fucking irony.

This was different though. This wasn’t some son of a bitch grabbing the nearest body and laying his fists into them. Noah had been stalked. He’d watched this bastard skip first one and then the next rough sleeper he’d come across in the alley until he’d spotted Noah.

Noah recognised what the man wanted, could tell by the tense set of his shoulders, the white knuckles of his clenched fists. He wanted to make Noah hurt. Sensing danger became heightened when surrounded by it day and night with no locked door to offer even the illusion of safety. So, when he’d first spotted this man, Noah had wanted to run, he’d never wanted to run so desperately in his life. But he had nowhere to go. He’d chosen poorly the night before—a rookie mistake, though he was no rookie to sleeping on the streets.

He’d been so damn exhausted, when searching for a spot to lay his head, he hadn’t cared that there’d been no second exit, no escape route in this alleyway. He’d trapped himself, and a monster had walked right into his trap. But Noah was the one caught in the deadly snare.

Noah could fight. He was scrappy, no finesse, no training, but he could throw a half-decent punch. He was capable of delivering a hit to make his opponent think twice about going after him, and if that didn’t work, he knew how to bite, kick, scratch; hell, he’d go for the balls if he had to. Another thing learned on the street if someone wanted to survive was to use every weapon in their arsenal.

The monster coming for him was tall, not the biggest man Noah had ever seen, but definitely the biggest one he’d ever had to fight. The darkness shadowed his features, but he knew the eyes were bleak, cruel; he’d seen a flash of them in the streetlight near the top of the alleyway, or maybe his imagination was making the man’s physicality as sinister as his demeanour. Noah felt those eyes on him. Glaring. And he wondered what the hell he’d done to this guy to piss him off so badly.

Noah stood, legs wide, shoulders high, chest out, trying to make himself appear as big as possible. From the man’s bearing and manner, it was evident he had next to no chance of scaring this guy off, but he had to try. Any fight he didn’t end up actually fighting was a win.

Much of his time on the street Noah was alone, but never more so than when some fucker decided to take a potshot at him. He didn’t really blame anyone for their indifference. They lived in a don’t-get-involved kind of world and when no one had their back having someone else’s could be very hard.

The man kept coming. He was close now, close enough to allow Noah to see him more clearly. His eyes were as cruel as Noah had thought, but the rest of his face he’d describe as a baby face, soft, almost sweet-looking. His cheeks were puffed as though full of cotton wool, a perfectly shaped snub nose sat above rich red cupid’s bow lips pulled into a sneer. Without more light he was unable to pick accurate skin and hair colour, but he’d guess fair for both.

Noah raked his gaze quickly down the man’s body. He was muscular but not hulk-like. He had no obvious weapon, though from the size of his hands, Noah suspected he’d be able to do plenty of damage with those alone.

He wondered if the man would speak. Sometimes they did, especially the arsehole teens who, for whatever reason, felt the need to justify why they were beating the shit out of their victim, all while bragging amongst themselves about how tough they were.

Faster than he’d have thought possible, the man lashed out. Noah’s head snapped back, and a spray of blood bloomed from his nose, the sickening crack turning his stomach. He hadn’t had a chance to move. The stranger’s speed and accuracy confirming to Noah this man was no amateur—and Noah was in big trouble.

Before his head had even righted, he took a blow to his stomach, the force of it doubling him over. He gasped for air, trying to suck in big gulps through his mouth. The man’s knee connected with his already broken nose before he could catch his breath, and the follow-up blow to the back of his head sent him to his knees.

Noah didn’t stand a chance; he understood how dire his situation was now. This man was a professional—he knew what he was doing.

His vision was darkening, tiny purple-black spots making it difficult for him to see clearly. He lashed out with a fist, connecting with what he thought was the man’s thigh. He wondered if his attacker even felt the blow there was so little power behind it.

The man aimed for his head again, but somehow Noah managed to dodge backwards so the blow was only glancing. Unlike in the movies, Noah knew a normal person couldn’t take too many direct, powerful hits to their head without substantial damage or worse. His focus was scattered, not sharp enough for him to decide what to do about the punches raining down on him though. Did he duck and cover, hope to ride out the attack while protecting his head? Or did he try to get up and fight?

He kind of roll crawled to put some distance between them but the man charged relentlessly after him. Noah kicked out with his leg. He tried to aim for the man’s knee, but his head was spinning worse than the one time he’d had way too much whisky. He wasn’t sure where his foot ended up connecting, but his attacker only grunted and kept coming.

Noah curled into a ball, pulling his head down to his chest and wrapping his arms around the vulnerable area. He felt a sharp hard kick to his back and then another. He tried to roll to his knees, but the bastard wouldn’t relent even a little.

“Hey! You there!” A booming voice called.

Noah’s attacker stopped immediately. He heard running footsteps and glanced out from beneath his arms just in time to see the man sprint down the alley, barrel into a man and woman at the opening, and keep right on running. He didn’t have the energy to move, much less chase after him or even call out for help. He closed his eyes and groaned.

He wasn’t quite sure what happened to time then—it either slowed down or sped right up. He was too out of it to know which. He heard voices, vaguely registered they were occasionally talking to him, but he couldn’t be fucked answering. He wanted to sleep. His eyes were welded shut—they had to be—but lights flashed continually behind them. There were more voices and then some arsehole was poking and prodding at him. It was the strangest thing—as though he was there but wasn’t.

One minute he was curled up on the cold, filthy concrete and then suddenly, he was being jostled around in some kind of vehicle. Ambulance, probably—at least he hoped it wasn’t a cop car. He smelled pee and knew it was his, but he didn’t have the wherewithal to be ashamed. He was amazed he was capable of smelling at all, given he was sure his nose must be shattered in a million pieces. Mixed with the acidic pee was the coppery stench of blood.

Someone was asking him for his name. He thought his name was Noah, but everything was a bit hazy. He couldn’t for the life of him think of his last name.

“Can you tell me your name?” the voice asked again.

“Shh. I’m sore,” he replied, though the words were so slurred he didn’t know if he’d be understood.

He heard a soft chuckle and then that damn voice again. “I know you’re sore, but can you tell me your name.”

“Noah,” he groaned, so the voice would shut up.

“Noah, do you have any allergies?”

Jesus fucking Christ, didn’t this idiot know he just had the stuffing beaten out of him? He didn’t give a shit about allergies. He groaned again. The fucker could take his whimpered reply however he wanted.

“I’ll take that as a no. I’m going to give you a shot of morphine. Have you had anything to drink tonight?”

“Don’t drink.” Fuck, the slurring was getting worse. He shook his head no to make sure this guy would understand him. He felt like his goddamn brain was rattling around in his skull.

“Okay, good. Here we go then, just a small pinch.”

Noah felt a bite—a fucking painful one—in his arse cheek. “Fuck,” he spat. Small pinch my arse.

“I know, sorry. Morphine shots kinda hurt.”

“Arsehole,” he groaned. Every part of him hurt, but hopefully the morphine would kick in soon. He knew he was being taken to a hospital but wished he wasn’t. He wished he could talk them into letting him out now. With his veins full of morphine to dull the pain, he’d be okay. He’d find somewhere to curl up for a while and sleep it off. But they had their duty of care and blah, blah, blah. He’d sign something to say they did all they could, and he’d happily take the blame if he died from his injuries on the street.

He hated hospitals, loathed anywhere really that put him on the radar. He was no criminal, and he wasn’t on the run, but the idea of anyone knowing exactly where he was sent shivers up his spine for no particular reason except that’s just the way he was made.

Hands busied themselves all over his body. He had neither the energy nor the ability to open his eyes and watch what they were doing. From the noises being made and the sensations on his skin, they were putting in an IV and attending to his wounds. Noah floated happily on his morphine cloud, content to lie back and let those hands have their way with him. He still wished he wasn’t headed for a hospital, but he’d keep the worry for when the drugs wore off.

He felt the cold air rush in when the doors of the ambulance were yanked open. His body was jostled around when the stretcher was pulled from the back, though he knew they were trying to be careful—that pesky duty of care. He really tried to peel at least one eyelid open when he heard voices gathered over him, discussing him as if he wasn’t there. He heard them say assault and concussion and lucky. He didn’t care about any of it. He was in no pain now, and all his other worries seemed far off, silly, unimportant.

He heard them say something about topping the dose, and then even the haziness in his brain faded as he drifted away.


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Meet the Author

Karrie lives in Australia’s sunshine state with her husband and two sons, though she hates the sun with a passion. She dreams of one day living in the wettest and coldest habitable place she can find. She has been writing stories in her head for years but has finally managed to pull the words out of her head and share them with others. She spends her days trying to type her stories on the computer without disturbing her beloved cat Lu curled up on the keyboard. She probably reads far too much.

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