Today I am so pleased to welcome Victoria Sue to Joyfully Jay. Victoria has come to share an exclusive excerpt from her latest release, Beneath This Mask. She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Gael blew on his coffee, more for something to do than to cool it down. What the hell had possessed him to tell Jake that? He hadn’t even told Talon that story. But he knew. It was the room, the small enclosed space, and he remembered it as if it had been yesterday.
“Get out of my fucking sight.”
Gael had headed to the door, more frightened that his dad would take out his anger on Wyatt than on him. He was all of eight years old now; what had seemed to be a huge number at the time. He would have done anything to protect Wyatt, and had. He’d forgotten the number of times he’d gotten a beating because he had stepped between Wyatt and his dad, so being asked to get out of the way was no big deal.
But then Wyatt had cried and tried to get past their dad to get to him, and the old man had really lost it then. He’d dragged Gael over by his arm—Gael would have to hide the bruise at school—and pushed him behind the door before he’d wrapped his brain around what his dad was going to do.
It was dark. Not just turn-the-light-off dark. Not the whispered good nights or the gentle brush of lips that he could still remember. Not the perfume or the comforting arms. This dark was empty, a yawning space ready to swallow him whole. For a heart-stopping second, Gael’s pulse drummed so loudly in his ears, he had thought there was someone else there until he realized the whimpers he could hear were coming from his own throat.
He had stayed on the steps for hours. He could hear voices from behind the door. His hearing was sharp, and he had listened, hypervigilant for any cry from his brother now that Gael wasn’t there to protect him. He had finally had to pee down the concrete steps, not daring to move, and he was so thirsty. Gael wasn’t really sure how long he had been down there, certainly all the next day because he had heard the TV, and then finally his uncle had let him out with a brusque instruction to get a shower.
Wyatt had cried again when Gael had crept back upstairs. He’d promised he would always take care of him years before, one night when Wyatt had crept into his bed and they’d both heard their mother crying and their dad shouting. Heard the heavy slam of the door and hoped with everything in them—until the game had come on TV and they’d both known the wrong parent had left.
Wyatt didn’t really remember their mom, and even Gael wasn’t sure if the things he remembered were imagined or real.
“You want something else?”
Gael blinked, realizing he had been lost in the dark. He looked at the cup he clutched, nearly cold and took a breath. “Sorry.” Sorry for the coffee, sorry for spacing out, sorry he couldn’t be the partner he wanted to be. For a second he nearly shared the letter he had gotten three weeks ago, but he wasn’t sure he was even ready to admit that hurt to himself yet, never mind to a stranger. And if he was honest, Jake being ENu was merely a blip. If he hadn’t received the letter, he would have coped.
He looked over at Jake’s empty cup. “Want a refill? I’m gonna get this warmed up.”
“Sure, but to go. I’d like to get to Adero’s place.”
Gael nodded and took both cups to the counter. A lady was turning around as Gael stepped forward, and her eyes widened as she took in Gael’s face. He was going to take a step back, used to trying to appear nonthreatening, when she tried the same and seemed to get her feet tangled in her hurry. Her cup wobbled dramatically, and Gael lunged to catch it, ignoring the sharp gasp from her and the sting from the hot coffee on his wrist.
“Ma’am,” he said gently, respectfully, and she took a breath, hand flying to her heart.
“I’m so sorry. You st-startled me,” she stuttered out, Gael trying not to wince as he rubbed his hand on his pants to dry it. “Oh, you poor dear. Look at what my clumsiness has done.” She reached to take the cup from Gael, who was too stunned at her reaction to stop her. “You need some water on that,” she confided, worriedly, turning to put the cup down.
Gael opened his mouth and closed it completely at a loss.
“Are you okay?” she pressed, and Gael’s throat tightened. Just then it was a little too much, especially from a lady around fifty years old with a soft smile and what must be a kind heart. He wasn’t used to concern. He was used to fear.
He cleared his throat, suddenly conscious of Jake standing beside him. “I’m fine, thank you, ma’am. Sorry to have startled you.”
She beamed and patted his arm. He was so stunned he didn’t take much notice of Jake ordering their refills, or of the lady smiling and going to join her friend in the corner. He blinked and followed Jake out of the door.
“You need me to stop anywhere to get you something for that?” Jake nodded to his hand.
Gael shook his head. “No, it’s fine, thanks,” he said, still stunned at the way his morning was going.
Jake unlocked his truck and hopped in. “Can you check the address?”
Gael opened the file and typed it into his phone. It was going to take them nearly an hour to get to N. Florida Avenue, and West Seneka Ave was just off that. Adero’s brother owned a massive lawn-care company, but he was staying with his girlfriend’s family while the crime scene was being processed, and they wanted to talk to him first.
Gael shot a sideways look at Jake when he shifted in his seat.
“Can I ask you something?”
Gael stiffened. He didn’t want to dissect his reaction any more. “Sure,” he said evenly, really trying. It wasn’t Jake’s fault.
“How come you got burned?”
Gael huffed. “Because I got hot liquid on my hand?” He tried to rein in the sarcasm.
Jake drew a breath. “No, that’s not what I mean. I guess I want to know how is it bullets bounce off you, but you can get hurt by a lady and her coffee?”
Gael Peterson has spent years hiding behind the enhanced abilities he wears like a mask, even though he is an important, confident member of the FBI’s exclusive H.E.R.O. team. The hurt and betrayal of his mom’s abandonment and his father’s fists are secrets buried deep beneath the ugly scars on his face, and he doesn’t trust Jake, his new regular human partner, with any of them. In a world where those with special abilities like Gael’s are regarded as freaks and monsters, it won’t be easy for him to rely on Jake to have his back, especially when the abilities of a vulnerable, enhanced, nonspeaking child make that child a murder suspect.
Tempers rise and loyalties are challenged, and when the serial killer targeting the enhanced finally sets his sights on Gael, not only will Gael have to trust Jake with his secrets, he might have to trust him to save his life.
Victoria Sue fell in love with love stories as a child when she would hide away with her mom’s library books and dream of the dashing hero coming to rescue her from math homework. She never mastered math but managed to dream up quite a few heroes. Loves reading and writing about gorgeous boys loving each other the best—especially with a paranormal twist—but always with a happy ending. Is an English northern lass currently serving twenty to life in Florida—unfortunately, she spends more time chained to her computer than on a beach.
Loves to hear from her readers and can be found most days lurking on Facebook where she doesn’t need factor 1000 sun-cream to hide her freckles.
- Web: www.victoriasue.com
- Twitter: @vickysuewrites
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/victoriasueauthor– sign up for my newsletter and download a free story The Wrong Alpha
Victoria has brought a $10 Dreampsinner gift card to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Thursday, January 18th at 11:59 pm ET.
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