Today I am so pleased to welcome J.R. Gray to Joyfully Jay. Gray has come to share an exclusive excerpt from his latest release, Speak No Evil. He has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving Gray a big welcome!
Eli couldn’t shake the feeling he was being followed. He shuffled over the gravel pavement as he walked home alone. Steps echoed behind him, sending a shiver up his spine. He dodged into an alley to confront his stalker when the guy passed, but the sound behind him faded.
“Shit,” he muttered, turning to lean against the brick wall. “I’m going crazy. I thought it was only Marines who did this crap.”
He’d grown paranoid and he couldn’t sleep. It was past his usual late bedtime, and he’d taken to pacing the city. His hand shook as he palmed it over the top of his head. He couldn’t talk about it, because it ‘never happened.’ His CO had erased ‘the incident’ from all the books. He had to stop thinking about it. To his friends, his suspension was a week of paid leave. For Eli, it was torture. They all worked their normal shifts while he sat on his ass in a city he’d only lived in for a few months. His only option was to plant himself in a Walking Dead coma for the next two days so his friends wouldn’t have the chance to rag on him.
He reached into his pocket and closed his fingers around the antique, metal cigarette case he always carried. He flipped it around in his hand a few times before opening it and extracting one of the solid black cigarettes. The empty space left by the smoke exposed a worn and faded picture, leaving the smiling face staring at him. Feelings hurt, but he still stared at the picture every time he opened the case. He forced his fingers closed, hearing the case snap shut. The tightness in his chest passed after a few seconds and the case went into his pocket, and the black went between his lips.
He heard the same voice, his soft spoken warning, in his head every time he lit up. “Those will kill you.”
“I know.” Eli held his lighter over the end.
“They crystallize your lung tissue,” the voice went on.
“You’ve told me.” Eli exhaled, watching the smoke float away.
“You’re really going to kill yourself and leave me alone?” he nagged.
Eli hated his comments at the time. Now, he’d kill to have that conversation again.
His lips said the words like they did eight or ten times a day when he lit up. “I’ll be in hell if I don’t go before you, so let me have my vice. Give me this one thing?”
It had become a game between them. The verbal sparring had become more of a joke after he had given up on ever getting Eli to quit.
“Selfish bastard,” he laughed and it echoed in Eli’s ears.
“You’re right. I am,” Eli added out loud. Not only did he think someone was following him, but he talked to the dead. He really was certifiable.
Weston doesn’t believe in voodoo but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t believe in him. His life and family were steeped in the stuff and it was fine, until voodoo took everything from him, ripped his life from his grasp. And when it swallowed whole the person he loved most he had to escape.
But there were consequences. His voodoo goddess wasn’t going to let go of him so easily, and her revenge was the pinnacle of evil. He could have dealt with something like impotence or boils, but this was purely depraved. She came for him and hit him where it hurts. She might as well have taken his guns.
Weston found himself unable to lie. A hitman who can’t lie. What a joke.
When his handler throws him a bone, a job that requires no interaction only observation, Weston takes it. He should be able to do this in his sleep, but he’s off his game. He gets way too close. Nothing is as it seems, and someone else, maybe someone worse than him, is stalking his mark. But he can’t leave the kid high and dry. Not when Eli is all he can think about.
J.R. Gray is a cynical Chicago native, who drinks coffee all day, barely sleeps, and is a little too fashion obsessed. He writes realistic and damaged characters because everyone deserves a happily ever after.
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