Today I am so pleased to welcome AJ Rose to Joyfully Jay. AJ has come to talk to us about their latest release, The Family Man (The Mind Hacker Book 1). Please join me in giving AJ a big welcome!

 

AJ Rose is back with an exciting new series! The Family Man, book one of The Mind Hacker series releases March 8th. Read on for an exclusive excerpt available only on Joyfully Jay!


Excerpt

“I thought you said you didn’t have relationships.” Tracey was casual but his bright eyes gave away his interest.

Jon didn’t feel nearly as nonchalant as he projected. “Lesson learned the hard way. Some agents pull it off. Lots don’t.”

“What happened, if you don’t mind me asking?” Jon narrowed his eyes, and Tracey laughed, holding his hands up. “Hey, I told you my ex-girlfriend left me because she didn’t want to move to D.C.”

“That’s somehow not as personal as ‘my fiancé left because my nightmares freaked him out.’”

Tracey went still.

Jon rushed on. “This job. We can do everything possible to contain the hurt it causes, but that hurt needs an outlet. Sometimes it leaks out in ways we can’t control. I learned another lesson from that.”

“What’s that?” There was no judgment in the question, only concern.

“Therapy. There is no ‘psychiatrist, heal thyself,’ in this job. If you don’t have one picked out yet, you’d better get on that.”

The corner of Tracey’s mouth lifted. “Noted. But you were struggling and your fiancé left because of it? That’s harsh.”

Jon sighed. “It’s not that simple. Erik wanted me to talk to him, to let him help, but I didn’t want to expose him to what I see at work. He was my safe place, you know? When I was home, I wanted the bad things to stay out of our life. He called me a standoffish son-of-a-bitch and said I shut him out. No matter how many times I explained I didn’t want to poison us with this”—he gestured to their surroundings—“he saw it as a lack of commitment, because I wouldn’t let him in all the way. It took a toll. He left me with the house when he moved on to greener pastures. I still have my safe space. It’s just single-occupancy now.”

“What about you then?”

“What about me?”

“Just seems… I don’t know. Anticlimactic. You just work and live in the house you shared with him and that’s it?”

Jon quirked a brow. “Hobbies.”

Tracey leveled him with a look that said he wasn’t buying it. “No one since him?”

“Nah. I don’t have a lot of time to meet someone new, and even if I did, it’d be a broken record. Same thing would happen again.”

“How do you know?”

Jon curled his fingers around the stem of his cocktail glass. “I don’t, I suppose, but right now, I’m okay with things the way they are.”

“Yeah, but what about next year or in five years? You can’t be alone forever.”

“Why not?” It came out almost challenging, but Jon wouldn’t admit—even to himself—that alone forever would be so… well, lonely.

“Because.” Tracey flapped a hand toward him, like that would explain it. “You’re… um.” He gulped his drink too fast and started coughing. “Sorry.” He wheezed. “Wrong pipe.” He cleared his throat a few times.

When the fit subsided, Jon couldn’t help asking, “I’m what?”

“Huh?”

“You started to say I’m something. I’m what?”

Tracey gave another weak cough. “You’re a great guy. You deserve someone in your life.”

The air between them hung heavy, and it had little to do with the sticky evening air. Jon was tired of being put on the spot, so he turned the tables. “How’d your newfound awakening happen? I feel like I hijacked this conversation to talk about me, but I want to know what changed for you.”

“No, I asked about you. I wanted to know something personal. Thank you for telling me what you did.”

“That’s not an answer, Tracey. What changed?”

The rookie fidgeted with his glass, not meeting Jon’s eyes. “Nothing overt. It’s been humming in the background for a long time, until…” He hesitated. “Until a conversation with my best friend, Gray. He made me realize this goes back to when we were roommates in college. It was a bit of a shock, but then he talked me through it and I’m, I don’t know, processing, I suppose.”

Tracey was holding something back, but honestly, this was the last conversation Jon expected to be having with him, and if the discovery of his sexuality was new to the guy, who was he to push for more? “I find it gets easier after you’ve told the important people. Is Gray the only one who knows?”

“No. You do, now.”

“Ah. Your family?”

Tracey positively squirmed. “Not yet.” His face said maybe not ever.

“Well, you don’t have to rush anything.”

The conversation deflated after that. Jon was grateful when the waitress returned to take Tracey’s order for toasted ravioli and another round of drinks.

“If the ravioli is breaded and fried, why do you call it toasted?” He smiled up at her, and his dimples popped.

Jon let himself look while Tracey was distracted. The man beguiled him. Normally people with an edge caught Jon’s attention, those with a level of worldliness that spoke of experience. It wasn’t that Tracey seemed naïve. Just that he hadn’t let himself become cynical. If Jon were honest with himself, Tracey’s demeanor was refreshing, like a cool breeze in a heat wave. Mint in a sharp drink.

The waitress was clearly charmed. “Oh, hon, you’d have to take that up with the people who made it a St. Louis staple. You can’t come to this city without trying it though.” She showed off a dimple of her own.

“How do you know I’m not from here?”

She laughed and put a hand on Tracey’s shoulder, tossing her head like her hair was down rather than in a top knot. Jon stiffened. “If you were a local, you’d have known about toasted ravs.”

“Maybe I just ask all the servers that.” Tracey’s glasses slipped, and he looked at her over the rims.

Jon’s gut did a slow roll.

The waitress laughed, her hand lingering. “Single or double order?”

Tracey met Jon’s eyes, his expression open and sincere. “Bring us a double. We’re sharing.”


Blurb

AJ Rose writes the kind of stories you immediately get sucked into, ones with complex characters, incredible world-building, and engrossing plots. I’ve missed their writing and I can’t WAIT to see what they release next!
-Brigham Vaughn, Author of the RELATIONSHIP GOALS series

Special Agent Jon “Ice Man” Anderson is one of the FBI’s best monster hunters, catching predators using their darkness against them. It’s his purpose, and he’s relentless.

Rookie Special Agent Tracey Smith is Jon’s opposite, shining light in the shadows and counteracting the dark with hope. Together, they may be the perfect combination to catch The Family Man, a sniper terrorizing St. Louis, dealing death through the scope of a high-powered rifle.

They can’t afford distractions.
Jon can’t ignore the feelings Tracey has evoked.
Feelings he hasn’t allowed himself in years.

Jon’s not the only one compelled by Tracey….

In a city held hostage, the FBI races to stop the killing.
Before the sniper finds them,
And they lose everything.

The Mind Hacker: The Family Man is the 107,000-word opening salvo of a gay romance/suspense series following a law enforcement/workplace pairing through a bisexual awakening all the way to their eventual happily-ever-after.

Content warning: The Mind Hacker series contains themes of dark violence, including off-page sexual assault, psychological manipulation, narcissism, and other disturbing themes. If you’d like specifics, the author will happily answer questions through their email: ajrosefiction@gmail.com.

Every word and cover of every book published by this author has been crafted by a human and always will be.


Bio

AJ Rose has been in love with writing since a Halloween short story assignment 2nd grade. Writing has been the constant through the rise and fall of careers, presidents, and many personal and professional revelations.

An equal constant in AJ’s life is their wife, fellow romance author Kate Aaron, who understands the twitch on days of low word counts, the thousand-yard stare when an idea turns AJ’s vision inward, and the jitters when the word-babies go out to meet the world.

With a life full of this much passion, it’s no wonder AJ chose romance. The voices in their head have squarely landed AJ’s books in gay romance, but don’t be surprised if the occasional ghost still pops up

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