Today I am so pleased to welcome L.J. Hayward to Joyfully Jay. L.J. has come share an exclusive excerpt from her latest release, Dealing in Death (part of fabulous Death and the Devil series). She has also brought along copies to give away! Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
G’day! I’m L.J. Hayward, author of the Death and the Devil series and Jay has very kindly allowed me to pop by today with an exclusive excerpt of my new book, Dealing in Death, releasing on August 30th.
Ethan Blade and Jack Reardon are back and this time it’s Ethan side of the story. Jack’s busy chasing a serial killer with close ties to Ethan, and Ethan… well, he’s got his own dilemmas to deal with. I hope you enjoy this sneak peak at the opening of Dealing in Death and two lucky commenters will win a copy of the ebook.
Twenty-one Months Ago
I attached the scope with a soft click, then ran my hand over the Assassin X, swiftly checking the assembly. Everything was smooth and ready, so I set it to my shoulder and looked through the night-vision scope. The target came into view. A balcony on the third and top floor of an apartment building. There was a single chair on it, and tonight, for the first night in the week I’d been watching it, it was occupied.
He was home. At last.
Jack Reardon sat with his feet up on the balustrade. They were bare, his toes curling and flexing in the warm, early autumn night air. He wore only a pair of track suit pants, his hair still wet from a shower, hanging in thick black curls over his forehead and neck.
Seeing him again was both a balm and a pain. Knowing he was hale eased a tension I’d been carrying since leaving him in the desert. I didn’t understand the effect Jack had on me, having never before experienced that flood of warmth and joy that just looking at him created in my body. Nor the surging physical need for him to be close to me. Jack had awakened something in me that hadn’t quietened since we’d parted ways. Just the thought of him was enough to rekindle those sensations. And that was why it was also a pain. I would never have the chance to feel those things firsthand again. This was as close as I would ever get to him now.
So I drank him down as much as I could. His brown skin, long legs, narrow hips and broad shoulders. If only he would lean forward so I could see the tattoo of the St. Thomas Cross on his left shoulder blade. Instead, he slouched in the chair, mouth slack, staring at something distant. The Sydney skyline, the faint spread of stars, a horizon he’d never reach?
I’d seen that despondent expression before, when Jack had thought I wasn’t paying attention. At the torture shack, as he’d named it, and after the fight, when he’d realised I—his enemy and a cold-hearted assassin—was his best hope of surviving. It had reappeared during the night and day that followed, but not since then. Not even when I’d betrayed him at the compound, or while he’d been tied to that chair as my primary target,
Samuel Valadian, taunted him. When we had parted ways at the old homestead, he’d been determinedly stoic. Two months later and I was seeing that despair again.
My hand itched to leave the trigger guard and reach out to him, to smooth away the lines around the corners of his mouth, to trace the shape of his eyes in the hopes they would light up again for me. In humour or anger or lust. Anything so they wouldn’t look empty anymore.
He had been a target. A means to an end. He was supposed to be dead by my hand. I was not supposed to miss him so much my body hurt.
But I wasn’t here to ease that ache, as much as I wanted to. I had come to do what I should have done in the desert—protect him.
Dropping the angle of the rifle, I scanned across the front of Jack’s apartment building. There was faint light shining through one window on the second floor, and apart from it and the brightly lit common areas of the building, it was all dark. The leaves of the trees and hedges along the front of the building rustled gently every now and then but otherwise, it was all still. The building wouldn’t be difficult to breach, nor would Jack’s apartment, I was certain.
I scoped the street and, sure enough, found my true target. A sniper rifle and perch on a neighbouring building might be the easiest way to kill Jack, but that option wasn’t available to Two. All Sugar Babies shared white irises, fixed pupils and a heightened night vision, but the condition also exaggerated other issues, such as Two’s short-sightedness. He’d never been any sort of marksman and had instead perfected hand to hand combat. Jack was a very good fighter, but he was no match for Two. I couldn’t let him get anywhere near Jack.
Placing the crosshairs in the middle of Two’s face, I snapped a photo of him through the scope with my neural implant—basically a smart phone grafted to my temporal lobe—then sent it to Two. He blinked when my message came through, then a slow, cool smile curled up the corners of his mouth. His connection pinged into my head a moment later.
“I’m impressed, little brother. How long have you been waiting?”
“Long enough I began to doubt your insistence that you are the best amongst us.”
Two laughed. “As your inability to finish your jobs lately caused me to doubt your second best status.” He motioned in Jack’s direction. “This one is supposed to be dead. I overheard your debrief with Zero and thought I would finish the job before you get into too much more trouble with the bosses.”
My heart gave a single, hard thump at the thought of Jack having to face Two. I would do anything I could to make sure that never happened.
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.
L.J. Hayward has been telling stories for most of her life, a good deal of them of the tall variety. She loves reading but doesn’t seem to have enough time between wanting to be a more disciplined writer, being the actual erratic writer she is, and working for dollars in a dungeon laboratory. She also lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland, but rarely sees a beach and can’t surf, though she thinks living on a houseboat might be fun. At least then she’d have an excuse to get a cat.
Visit L.J. at her website, ljhayward.com; on Twitter, @ljhayward; or on Goodreads, goodreads.com/L.J.Hayward.
L.J. has brought two copies of Dealing in Death to give away to lucky readers. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Sunday, September 1st at 11:59 pm ET.
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