WHY THE DEVIL STALKS DEATH
BY L.J. HAYWARD
Jack Reardon uncovers secrets for a living, and the Meta-State spy is pretty good at it. Or rather he thought so until he met Ethan Blade—assassin, warrior, enigma. The unlikely pair have decided to give living together a shot, but Jack’s not entirely certain what he’s gotten himself into—or exactly who he’s in it with.
Jack’s worries are compounded when he’s assigned to a police strike force hunting a serial killer. With each new puzzle piece, Jack considers the true nature of a serial killer—and how similar it is to an assassin. To one particular assassin who’s having trouble adjusting to retirement. Jack’s unsure how to help Ethan—or if he even can.
When the killer strikes close to home, Jack must race against the clock to stop another murder, despite the price someone has put on his head. Could the matters be connected? Is a certain assassin at the centre of both? Surrounded by killers, the only one Jack wants near disappears, leaving Jack drowning in secrets. He’ll have to do what he does best—unravel the secrets, including Ethan’s—to stop the killer and save the life he and Ethan have only just begun to build.
Child abuse and child sexual abuse in a character’s history and not depicted directly on the page.
Settling back, Jack eyed the dancer contemplatively. The youth was, at most, twenty and all long limbs and lean torso shown off perfectly by an outfit that was, basically, a leather harness to hang a series of thin chains off and a considerately generous thong of black satin. There was strength in his slender body, lifting him effortlessly off the table to twirl around the pole in tight formation. His legs curled in a suggestive manner as he spiraled down and landed on the table, legs on either side of Jack, back arched. He looked at him with half-lidded, challenging eyes.
Admitting the artfulness of the display, Jack leaned forwards and tucked a baht note into the dancer’s harness. With a wink, the dancer spun around and rolled so he ended on his back in front of Lewis, head dangling off the table and all but in the man’s lap. He smiled up at Lewis invitingly.
“Jesus,” Lewis hissed.
Jack handed over a note. “Just tuck it somewhere safe and he’ll leave you alone.”
Wincing, Lewis shoved the money under a strap of leather and sat back hastily. The dancer’s smile widened, and he blew him a kiss. Then, with a sinuous little wiggle, he was back on his feet, dancing around the pole and dispensing some well-paid-for attention on the couple of other men at the table.
“I swear,” Lewis said when they were alone. “Last time you ever organise something like this.”
Jack shrugged as the waitress came over. “Can I get you gentlemen something?”
“Scotch, straight up.” Lewis stared fixedly at her as if he could banish every other man in the room.
“Bourbon,” Jack said when she turned to him.
“I won’t be long, gentlemen.” Then she walked away, with Lewis’s gaze glued to her back.
When their drinks arrived, both made a show of sipping the liquor, but neither let more than a discreet trickle pass their lips.
As the dancer sashayed past them with a hip thrust and welcoming smile, Lewis leaned in close. “How long?”
“As long as it takes,” Jack murmured back. “Just try to look not so uncomfortable.”
“I’m not uncomfortable.” Lewis sounded about as convincing as Jack had when claiming there was no boyfriend.
“For what it’s worth, I didn’t pick it. Is it my fault Theta Subject likes these sorts of places?”
Lewis grumbled but let it go.
Their dancer was tireless, slinking and spinning for their entertainment, always with a smile and wink for the men ogling him. By the time Jack caught sight of Theta Subject entering the club, he’d tucked a thousand baht into the young man’s outfit while Lewis silently objected to each tip.
With a small nod, Jack indicated their prey to Lewis. Between them, they kept an eye on Theta Subject as he made his way across the room and to a table like their own. He immediately tucked money into the thong of the dancer and sat down, waving for a drink without having to tell the waitress what he wanted. Clearly a popular regular, Theta Subject became the object of the dancer’s attention. The young man in a barely there police uniform all but ignored the other patrons at his table and gyrated for Theta Subject alone. A drink was delivered with a lingering caress along the man’s shoulders from the waitress.
It had to be the tips, Jack reasoned as he watched Theta Subject absorb all the attention from the staff on that side of the room. There wasn’t a lot else to recommend him, on the surface at least. Middle-aged, portly around the middle, stick thin legs, balding, sweaty-pale. It was conceivable he had a winning personality, but considering who he was and what he’d done to get on the Office’s hit list, Jack doubted it.
“Got to be the money, right?” Lewis whispered, mimicking Jack’s thoughts.
Jack snorted and feigned another sip of bourbon.
Theta Subject held out longer than Jack guessed he would, downing three drinks before producing one of the black cards. It was scarcely clear of his pocket before the dancer was off the table and hauling Theta Subject towards the back of the room. There, a bouncer took the card and opened a door for them. The amorous couple disappeared through it post-haste.
“Now?” Lewis asked.
Jack shook his head. “Give the man some time.”
Lewis groused but kept his mouth shut. Jack waited nearly ten minutes, then, catching the eye of their dancer, produced his own card.
Eyes lighting up, the dancer slid off the table and right into Jack’s lap. He kept dancing, rocking on Jack in time to the music. If Jack hadn’t been working, it probably would have been enticing. As it was, Jack gently pushed the young man to his feet, standing as well.
“Won’t be long,” he said to Lewis with a leer.
The dancer, snuggling into Jack’s side with a determined wiggle, pouted. “I’ll treat you good, sir.”
“Or maybe longer.” Jack winked as he turned away. “Behave yourself.”
This is one of my absolute favorite series of this year, and pretty much all time, and there is a reason for that... L.J. Hayward GIVES GREAT STORY!!!
I think my favorite part of this story was how each chapter rotated between the "Before" or "After". You're probably wondering: Before and After what? I won't be the one ruining that for you though :)
It kind of starts in the middle of the story and one goes backwards through the before chapters while the other (after) works forward, and then it kind of meets towards the end to where it started and then moves forward more, if that makes sense LOL
The way it unfolds, I swear I thought they were going to tear me apart!
The way it unfolds, I swear I thought they were going to tear me apart!
I was so scared for these two, LJ kind of leaves you with impressions of one thing happening which may lead to another thing. and the whole time you're thinking "no! Jack wouldn't do that!" And "no way, Ethan wouldn't do that!"
I loved and hated all the second guessing. Loved it, because I was so entranced by the story and hated because I didn't want to happen what I thought might happen.
Ethan is still an enigma, but we learn oh so much about his past, finally!
Even though this story unfolds and tells so much, there's still more to tell, at least that's the impression I'm left with. I really hope so because I seriously can NOT get enough of these guys.
This series is so freaking brilliant I'd love to shout it from a rooftop if it didn't make me look like a nutter!!
5 dynamic stars
TAGS: boys-who-love-boys, breakin-the-law, fave-mcs, book-series, squeezykillers-mafia-assassins, action-adventure, government, 2018-fave, abuse, all-time-faves, bisexual, murder-mystery, scarred