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Author: Kim Fielding
Series: The Bureau #3 (can be read as standalone)
Length: 34,000 words
Genre: m/m paranormal, historical
Release date: May 7, 2018
Tropes: Frankenstein? Lovable monster? It's really not tropey
Keywords/Categories: gay, noir
Warnings: some violence and abuse, but not in detail
Alone in a cell and lacking memories of his past, John has no idea who—or what—he is.
Alone on the streets of 1950s Los Angeles, Harry has far too many memories of his painful past and feels simply resignation in facing his empty future.
When Harry is given a chance to achieve his only dream—to become an agent with the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs—all he has to do is prove his worth. Yet nothing has ever come easy for him. Now he must offer himself and John as bait, enticing a man who wants to conquer death. But first he and John must learn what distinguishes a monster from a man—and what a monster truly wants.
John was greedy.
Every time the first sliver of sunlight came through the high barred window, he’d crawl across the floor and lay sprawled on his back, waiting for the thread of heat to grow into a ribbon. Eventually it became a blanket, warming him through the thick layer of grime that coated his skin. He closed his eyes and spread his scrawny limbs, and for a short time he possessed a crumb of comfort. One small thing he could claim as his own.
But then the sun would recede, unraveling his blanket until nothing remained but darkness and cold and the unforgiving hard surfaces of the cell. During those bleak hours, he hated the sun with an icy rage that chilled him more than the stone floor on which he lay. But every morning when the first rays again snuck in the window, his love was rekindled. John gorged on the light as long as it was his.
John wasn’t his real name. He didn’t remember his name, didn’t remember having a name. But a man needed a name, even if he was all by himself in a cell with inconstant sunlight as his only visitor. Sometimes he said it out loud just to hear the solid consonants echo against the walls. “John. I am a man called John.”
Only… he wasn’t at all certain that he wasa man. He had all the parts a man ought to have, at least as far as he could tell. His legs were too weak to hold him upright, his arms as thin as broomsticks, and his cock hung flaccid and useless. Yet he did have legs and arms and a cock. Like a man. But within the long emptiness of his memories, he’d never once had food or drink, and men needed those things to survive. And in those days before he was in the cell—God, he wished he didn’t recall those days—people had done things to his body that no man could have survived. He still had marks from those days, bumpy scars and puckered ridges that itched under the dirt but wouldn’t heal.
And he had no heartbeat.
If he wasn’t a man, though, he didn’t know what he might be instead. So he called himself John anda man, and he greedily drank the sunlight when he could.
“John,” he whispered today as the light slipped away. “I’m John. Come back to me soon, please.”
One lucky winner will get an audiobook copy of “Ante Up,” Kim’s Czech vampire tale, and an eBook copy of the first two books in “The Bureau” series – "Corruption” and "Clay White.” Enter via Rafflecopter.
About the author:
Kim Fielding is the bestselling author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They;'re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.
After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls the boring part of California home. She lives there with her husband, two daughters, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.
Title: Machine Metal Magic
Author: Hanna Dare
Series: Mind + Machine #1
Cover artist: Natasha Snow
Release date: May 3, 2018
Word count: approx. 65,000 words
Genre: m/m sci-fi romance
The galaxy's a dangerous place. Best not to travel it alone.
It's been over a century since the AIs rose up and attacked, driving humans from Earth and leaving them scattered across the galaxy. Humanity survives, but always fearful of the technology that allows them travel among the stars, never knowing when it may turn against them once more.
An interstellar fugitive.
For Jaime Bashir, born with the ability to communicate telepathically with computers, his gifts are more of a curse. They also make him a target. On the run, he finds himself among a starship crew, one transporting a mysterious cargo. Even more intriguing is Rylan, the muscled guard watching his every move. Jaime has no reason to trust him, but nowhere else to turn.
A disgraced ex-soldier.
Rylan Slate is looking to leave his past behind. Joining a crew of smugglers is one way to do it. But capturing Jaime is both an opportunity and a danger. He starts out as a prisoner, but then becomes something more, testing loyalties in ways Rylan never expected. Will regaining his honor mean betraying Jaime?
About the author:
A writer-for-hire for more than ten years, Hanna Dare now writes what she loves to read: well-written, character-driven stories of men exploring their identities and discovering their own unique kind of happily ever afters… usually through sexytimes.
Find Hanna on the internet enjoying pretty pictures, procrastination and caffeinated beverages!
Pushing himself off the chair to stretch his legs, and ignoring the phone that had started buzzing in his pocket ten minutes ago, Alex Dean wasn’t surprised to find a tenacious Greyson standing on the other side of the table. What did surprise him was the tangle of nerves that knotted his belly when he got a better look at how attractive the other man was.
Greyson was lean and wiry and several inches shorter than Alex’s own six-feet-four, putting the top of his head level with Alex’s chin. His eyes were the color of chocolate, which matched his evening scruff and his messy, curly hair. Curls fell over his ears and his forehead. Alex wasn’t sure if he wanted to run his fingers through them or pull on a lock to see if it would spring back into its curly place. A backpack slumped off one shoulder, he had a notebook tucked under one arm, a smoothie in his hand, and an impish spark in his eyes.
The man was hot. He knew it too, if the way his smirk widened while Alex took his time checking him out was any indication. Attraction, however, meant nothing to Alex without emotions, so a person’s physical appearance didn’t usually elicit a response reminiscent of a teenage girl with a crush.
Nonetheless, he shook Greyson’s proffered hand. Greyson was twenty years old at most, and his flannel shirt didn’t suit him at all. He looked like a kid playing farmer in his older brother’s clothes.
“Mitch Greyson,” Greyson said, setting his notebook and smoothie on the table. His backpack thunked onto the floor at his feet. “Nice to meet you. Can I ask a follow-up question? Or five?”
Without waiting for Alex to answer, Mitch continued. “Can you elaborate on how the NHL is and isn’t what you expected?” He opened his notebook to a page with a list of questions that was way more than five. “I also had some questions for Chris Blair that you might be able to answer? What kind of hands-on experience do I need for a career in sport rehabilitation? Also, should I be getting involved in any kind of formal or informal research? Are there any courses that you know of that would help me get better prepared for a career in sport rehabilitation? If you were looking for an athletic therapist, what qualifications would you—?”
“Whoa, whoa,” Alex said, chuckling, holding his hands up to ward off more questions. “Hold it, hotshot. You’re asking the wrong person. Isn’t there anyone here you could interview, like Halley?”
“I’ve already talked to them all,” Mitch replied. “But they’re all academics now, or they work in fields I’m not interested in. I wanted to talk to someone specifically about sports science and rehabilitation.”
“You must’ve been disappointed when I showed up instead of Chris.”
“Do you think he’d talk to me?” Mitch asked, eager as a puppy. “We could set up a phone call. Or I could email him my questions. Do you have his card?”
Alex tilted his head sideways and tried to read the questions in Mitch’s notebook. There had to be at least two dozen, and he got the feeling Mitch was the kind of person who would have follow-up questions to his follow-up questions.
“Let me talk to Chris,” Alex offered. “See if I can’t set something up between you.” It wasn’t an offer Alex would usually make, but he felt bad that Mitch hadn’t gotten to hear Chris speak when it was clearly something the kid had prepared for.
Mitch’s whole face—which was expressive to begin with—lit up. “Yeah? Let me give you my info.” He jotted his name, email, and phone number on a blank page of his notebook, ripped the page out, and slid it across the table to Alex.
“And, you know,” Mitch said, tapping the paper right above his phone number. “If you want to use this for something else too, I’d be okay with that.” Then he winked.
Wait. Was Alex being hit on?
He was mentally backtracking through their conversation when something must’ve caught Halley’s attention. He made his way over to them with clipped strides, his mouth in a tight line.
“Mr. Greyson,” he said. “You are not the only one wishing to speak with Mr. Dean.”
Mitch glanced around and his eyes went big at the line of students behind him waiting to talk to Alex. Alex bit back a sigh. His line was longer than the other panelists’. He sent a mental apology to his friends waiting for him at the pizza place in town, even as the phone in his pocket buzzed again.
“Should you wish for an autograph from Mr. Dean,” Halley continued, “the request needs to be made on your own time.”
“Autograph?” Mitch repeated. “Why would I want his autograph?”
Alex choked back a laugh. It was refreshing to talk to someone who didn’t give a shit about his pseudo-celebrity status.
“We were discussing career paths, actually,” Alex said, coming to Mitch’s defense. It was becoming clear that Halley had it in for Mitch for some reason.
“Is that so?”
Mitch stood silently, his arms crossed, an annoyed gaze on Halley.
“Don’t take up too much of Mr. Dean’s time please, Mr. Greyson.” Halley gestured at the cluster of students behind Mitch. “There are others waiting to speak with him.”
As Halley walked away, Mitch eyed the line over his shoulder before turning back to Alex.
“Bet they’re all wanting an autograph,” he muttered.
In line were three women—one of whom was holding a tiny mirror up to her face and applying lip gloss—a man wearing a blue and white Tampa Bay jersey, and another who was unashamedly filming Alex’s conversation with Mitch.
“You never answered my question,” Mitch said to him.
“Why the NHL is and isn’t what you expected.” Mitch tucked his pen into the notebook and slid both into his backpack.
“You follow hockey?” Alex leaned a hip against the table.
Alex tried to think of a response that wouldn’t sound wishy-washy, but also wouldn’t give anything too personal away. He didn’t know this guy from Adam. What if he was with the school newspaper and was angling for a sound-bite?
Except as he was wracking his brain for an appropriate answer, it hit Alex all at once that Mitch Greyson was blatantly checking him out. Okay, not so blatantly that someone not looking directly at his face and body language could tell, but blatantly enough that Alex—who never got hit on by men—finally clued in. He was, in fact, being hit on.
It completely threw him and whatever Mitch’s question had been? Yeah, it was gone. Not that Mitch seemed to care anymore whether or not Alex answered.
Was Alex giving off some kind of gay vibe or something? He’d promised himself a long time ago that if he ever made it to the NHL, he wouldn’t divulge his sexual preferences for anyone. He didn’t want to make a Thing out of it, wasn’t going to give the media something other than his skills to talk about. Not that he was worried—at twenty-four years old, he could count on one finger the number of times he’d been sexually attracted to someone. At this point, he was pretty sure the whole dating-romance-marriage-babies thing wasn’t in the cards for him. Not only did it take him forever to figure out if he was attracted to someone, but the way dating was going nowadays, nobody wanted to be friends first and wait for romantic feelings to develop, if they developed at all. There just wasn’t an app for that. Instead, people were too busy jumping into bed with random strangers and having casual friends-with-benefits hookups.
No, thank you.
Hell, he didn’t even like kissing. He’d kissed all of two people in his life and it hadn’t done anything for him either time. It was wet and gross and unpleasant. The way things were going in his nonexistent love life, he’d be a virgin for the rest of his life. Others might bemoan their virgin status at twenty-four years old, but frankly, Alex didn’t care. What was the big deal about sex anyway?
In today’s sexually-charged culture, Alex often felt like an alien.
That didn’t, however, prevent him from acknowledging the attractiveness of another person. Like Mitch, for example. Alex’s extremely limited sexual experience was the reason the butterflies had come out when faced with such an outwardly beautiful person.
Mitch’s gaze swept him up and down, a half smirk on his face, his thumbs tucked into the waistband of his jeans and drawing attention to his crotch. The man really was attractive in an I-know-I’m-the-shit kind of way. It was the kind of personality type Alex usually avoided. It was disingenuous and he didn’t have time for fake people in his life. Alex’s bullshit meter clanged and any butterflies that’d appeared at Mitch’s good looks disappeared in the face of Mitch’s in-your-face personality.
Mitch’s gaze landed on Alex’s mouth for one, two, three seconds. Then he took his time cataloguing Alex’s face. When Mitch’s eyes met his again, the man’s smile turned lewd.
It was possible Mitch was the type of person who hit on anything that moved.
Eyes hooded, he leaned in across the table and whispered, “Maybe I’ll see you around sometime.”
Well, it was blatantly obvious what that meant.
With one last parting glance at Alex’s mouth, Mitch turned and left.
Nick Andrews has grown up in poverty in a tiny village. All his life he’s been told that he’s useless. After getting one scolding too many he decides to go far away, off to sea. But his experience as a farmhand has done little to prepare him for the hardships of a sailor’s life.
When his ship is attacked by pirates, Nick’s life is miraculously spared by the notorious pirate captain, Christopher Hart—a man in charge of a crew feared for their brutality. Nick is forced to join the pirates, and he dreads finding out for what reason the captain has saved him.
But Hart is nothing like his reputation suggests, and Nick soon finds himself entangled in a relationship that could endanger both their lives. Unless Nick can help Hart on his quest to find a long lost treasure, their forbidden love may tear his new life apart.
Warning: This book ends with a cliffhanger, and it does not have a happy ending. The series as a whole will have a HEA ending.
Content note: This book contains dark themes and depictions of torture, murder, and rape.
Nick enters the cabin to find Hart sitting at the table. A book is open in front of him. Red-tinted sunlight floods the windows, casting a burnt orange glow over his hair and coat. He doesn’t look up as Nick steps inside and closes the door behind him.
“What did you want with me, sir?”
Hart sighs. Gives Nick a brief glance. “Ah, yes. My boots need a cleaning. Over there.” He points to the boots, neatly placed next to the door. “You should find what you need in that chest opposite them.”
Nick glances at the clogs on his own feet. Hart has not just one pair of footwear, but two—on his feet instead of the jackboots are black leather shoes. Sinking down to his knees, Nick gets to work. He grabs one of the boots, reaching for the cloth he’s found. His stomach clenches. All he can think of is that pool of blood around Stubbs’ head. He worries that Hart’s soles will be red, stained with the cabin boy’s blood. Thankfully, they aren’t. In fact, there’s not a trace of blood on them—almost as if they have been cleaned before.
Nick glances over to Hart. Did he clean his own boots before calling Nick in here? And if so, why? It makes no sense that he has wiped away the blood himself, when he could have made Nick do it.
Hart sighs and scribbles in the book. It’s unnerving to be alone with him and Nick feels relief surge through him when both boots are spotless and shiny.
“All done, sir.” He puts the boots back by the wall and stands up, turning to face Hart again.
The Captain doesn’t look at him. “Thank you.” Outside the window, the glowing sun has turned to just a sliver on the horizon. “That will be all.
About the author:
Elvira Bell lives in Sweden and spends most of her time writing, reading or watching movies. Her weaknesses include, but are not limited to: vintage jazz, musicals, kittens, oversized tea cups, men in suits, the 18th century, and anything sparkly.
Elvira writes m/m fiction with a touch of romance and has a penchant for historical settings. She adores all things gothic and will put her characters through hell from time to time because she just loves watching them suffer. It makes the happy endings so much sweeter, after all.
One lucky winner will receive a copy of "Entertaining the Sombrevilles."
The truth is complicated.
On September 11th, 2001, Kris Caldera was a junior member of the CIA's Alec Station, the unit dedicated to finding and stopping Osama Bin Laden.
Ten days later, he was on the ground in Afghanistan with a Special Forces team, driven to avenge the ghosts that haunted him and the nation he'd let down. On the battlefield, he meets Special Forces Sergeant David Haddad. David - Arab American, Muslim, and gay - becomes the man Kris loves, the man he lives for, and the man he kills for, through the long years of the raging wars.
David Haddad thought he'd be an outsider his whole life. Too American for the Middle East, too Arab for America, and too gay to be Muslim. It took Kris to bring the parts of himself together, to make him the man he'd always wanted to be. But the War on Terror wreaks havoc on David's soul, threatening to shatter the fragile peace he's finally found with Kris.
When a botched mission rips David from Kris's life, Kris's world falls into ruin and ash. A shell of the man who once loved with the strength to shake both the CIA and the world, he marks time on the edges of his life. The days bleed together, meaningless after losing the love of his life.
After being captured, tortured to the edge of his life, and left for dead by his comrades, David doesn't know how much of himself is left. He vanished one day in the tribal belt of Pakistan, and the man who walks out almost a decade later is someone new: Al Dakhil Al-Khorasani.
But strange rumblings are whispering through the CIA. Intelligence from multiple sources overseas points to something new. Something deadly, and moving to strike the United States. Intercepts say an army from Khorasan, the land of the dead where the Apocalypse of Islam will rise, is coming.
And, at the head of this army, a shadowy figure the US hasn't seen before: Al Dakhil Al-Khorasani.
This book was fabulous, but it was a hard read for two reasons.
First, it's based on actual events that happened surrounding 9/11. Don't get me wrong: It was interesting as hell. But war is never easy and it was hard to see not just our characters, but the world, go through that. I'll admit that as a Canadian I'm willfully ignorant about events surrounding 9/11 (I find it hard to read about war), so this was an eye-opener.
Second, if you've read Tal Bauer's Hush (you can read my review of Hush here), or if you've read the blurb for Whisper, you know something bad happens to David and I was on the edge of my seat the entire novel just waiting for it to happen, and that made the book, and thus Kris and David's romance, so hard to read.
That being said, this is exceptionally well-written and well-researched. Usually I highlight one or two passages on my Kindle per book I read (if that). This time I had 55. The wording is poetic, the character arcs are fresh and minutely detailed, the romance is heartbreakingly beautiful. I laughed, I wanted to throw my Kindle at the wall, I gritted my teeth, I cried, my hands shook. Tal Bauer really has a way of making the reader feel and question.
Kris and David's romance is something for the ages, something so epic that really resonates. They're so in love, and so devoted to each other, so in sync, that it was like watching a perfectly choreographed dance. I don't remember the couples in every book I've ever read, but this is one that will stick forever.
The secondary characters don't get left behind. They're just as developed and flawed as our mains, with their own personalities. You'll find yourself loving some and hating others and flip flopping between love and hate for a couple.
The descriptions of war, of Afghanistan, of Pakistan, paint a picture in a reader's mind they're so well-detailed. You'll find yourself sympathizing with the characters, questioning the decisions of some, following along on their journeys as if these guys are your best friends and you wish you could help.
If I could give this more than five stars, I would.
With Medley, Layla Reyne combines love, self-discovery, swimming, and the excitement of the Olympics in to one stellar event. I loved Jacob and Bas’s story.—Anna Zabo, author of Syncopation
Author: Layla Reyne
Series: Changing Lanes #2
Will the race for gold cost them their hearts?
Release date: April 30 (Print & Ebook)
Length (Print & Ebook): Approx 270 pages
Subgenre: m/m romance, bisexual romance, contemporary romance, sports romance, new adult romance
Sebastian Stewart was never Mr. Dependable; he was more the good-time guy who only wanted to swim, party, and ink tattoos. Until he cost his team the Olympic gold four years ago. Bas is determined to do right this time around—by his medley relay team and his rookie mentee.
Jacob Burrows is in over his head. The Olympic experience—from the hazing, to the endless practices, to the unrelenting media—makes the shy nineteen-year-old’s head spin. He’s trying to be everything to everyone while trying not to fall for his gorgeous tattooed teammate who just gets him—gets his need to fix things, his dorky pirate quips, and his bisexuality.
When Jacob falters under the stress, threatening his individual races and the medley relay gold, he needs Bas’s help to escape from drowning. Bas, however, fearing a repeat of his mistakes four years ago, pushes Jacob away, sure he’ll only let Jacob down. But the only path to salvaging gold is for Jacob to finally ask for what he needs—the heart of the man he loves—and for Bas to become the dependable one.
“How can you be your best when you’re not sure if your best will measure up? That’s the dilemma facing Bas and Jacob, as they deal with the immense pressure of swimming for Olympic gold while also trying to sort out their tangled hearts.” --Layla Reyne
Lawyer, priest, shrink.
Ask someone to name their confessor and those were the usual suspects.
Bas would argue tattoo artist for the last spot in the top five. Humming needle in hand, he’d heard more than a few confessions over the years.
From the second a client stepped into his shop, they told a story. The design they picked. How much liquid courage it took. The tale of joy or woe that spilled from their lips after the first shock of the needle. Their reaction when it was done—relief, pain, regret, pleasure.
He’d heard almost every story.
In love, in lust, in rebellion, in hate, in freedom, in chains.
But he still couldn’t figure out the story that’d nagged him most the past ten days. He swiveled on the stool in the rented studio, droplets of dark ink splattering his worn jeans. “You gonna give me something to go on, Pup?”
Straddling the fancy tattoo-massage chair, Jacob laid a cheek in the cradle and glanced to his side. Mint green eyes, tequila-hazy, peered out from under long burnished lashes. “This was your idea, not mine.”
Maybe there was the start of a story. Why did his nineteen-year-old teammate have a fake ID, and why was he so friendly with Mr. Cuervo? Was it the same story as countless other college undergraduates?
Bas didn’t think so.
Jacob’s eyes slipped shut again, lips turning up in a faint smile. “You said you needed to get out of there and work.” He shrugged his bare left shoulder, the one closest to Bas. The breaststroker’s upper back was wide, like most swimmers’, his delts and lats hard and lean beneath suntanned skin. Not yet fully developed, given his age, but stronger than most. “So do what you need,” Jacob said. “Work it out.”
There was the start of the story.
About the author:
Author Layla Reyne was raised in North Carolina and now calls San Francisco home. She enjoys weaving her bi-coastal experiences into her stories, along with adrenaline-fueled suspense and heart pounding romance. When she’s not writing stories to excite her readers, she downloads too many books, watches too much television, and cooks too much food with her scientist husband, much to the delight of their smushed-face, leftover-loving dogs. Layla is a member of Romance Writers of America and its Kiss of Death and Rainbow Romance Writers chapters. She was a 2016 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist in Romantic Suspense.
Win an ecopy of any back catalog ebook by Layla Reyne, or a paperback copy of Relay and Medley.
Title: Why I Trust You | Author: Colette Davison | Release date: April 23, 2018 | Publisher: Smudged Ink Press | Length: 76,000 words | Genre: gay contemporary romance | Add to Goodreads
Series: It's a standalone story but part of a loosely linked series (Why I Left You and Why I Need You)
Blurb: Martin is the larger than life funny guy, the one who’s quick to soothe other’s pain, whilst hiding his own. He wants nothing more than to find ‘the one’, but his love life consists of a string of break-ups. He’s close to giving up on love, until he meets Ryan online, the artist whose work speaks to his soul. There are just two problems: Ryan already has a boyfriend and he lives in California, which is one hell of a long way from England.
Working with Martin to develop a game is supposed to be purely business; a way for Ryan to earn the money to leave his abusive boyfriend. Except, he finds himself falling for the enigmatic Englishman. Wondering what kind of spark there might be if they were in the same country is one thing, escaping his boyfriend is another.
Wounded by their past relationships, Martin and Ryan have to learn to trust each other in order to have a chance at building a future together.
When he got back to the table, Ryan was doodling on one of the napkins with a biro. Martin craned his neck to make out what the drawing was of, but Ryan's hand was obscuring most of the image. Then Ryan looked up and smiled gently, turning the napkin and pushing it towards Martin.
Ryan bit his lower lip as Martin looked down at the sketch. It was a cute nervous habit, Martin decided, although the thought slid out of his mind as his stomach did a one-eighty when he saw Ryan had been drawing him.
"I'd like to draw you for real one day, if you'll let me." Ryan looked down, his eyelashes shielding his eyes.
The golden glow of his tan was consumed by a redness that reminded Martin of the dying embers of a fire: warm and comforting. And, shit, Ryan wanted to draw him. He cleared his throat as he tried to come up with a witty response, because that was what he did. He always had a smart response to everything that was thrown at him. Except for Ryan, who seemed to be able to render him speechless.
"I'd like that," Martin managed eventually. Naked, he decided. After they'd made love. Yes, that would be perfect.
About the author:
Colette’s personal love story began at university, where she met her future husband. An evening of flirting, in the shadow of Lancaster castle, eventually led to a fairytale wedding. She’s enjoying her own ‘happy ever after’ in the north of England with her husband, two beautiful children and her writing.
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Title: Evolved | Author: N.R. Walker | Release date: April 23, 2018 | Genre: Adult, Romance, Science Fiction, LGBT
In 2068, androids are an integrated part of human life. Big Brother no longer just watches from the shadows. It’s in every household.
Lloyd Salter has OCD issues with noise, mess, and he’s uncomfortable with human interaction. When his ex claimed the only thing perfect enough to live up to his standards was an android, Lloyd dismissed it. But two years later, after much self-assessment, Lloyd thinks he may have been right.
SATinc is the largest manufacturer of androids in Australia, including the Fully Compatible Units known as an A-Class 10. Their latest design is the Synthetic Human Android UNit, otherwise known as SHAUN.
Shaun is compatible with Lloyd’s every need; the perfect fit on an intellectual and physical basis. But Lloyd soon realises Shaun’s not like other A-Class androids. He learns. He adapts. Sure that SATinc is aware Shaun functions outside of his programmed parameters, Lloyd must find a way to keep Shaun safe.
No one can know how special Shaun is. No one can know he’s evolved.
By the time my intercom sounded at nine fifteen the next morning, the butterflies in my belly felt more like stomping elephants. I buzzed the delivery team through and waited for the elevator to pingdown the hall.
Breathe, Lloyd, I reminded myself.
My apartment was a spacious two-bedroom luxury unit on the top floor of the complex. Polished concrete floors, high ceilings, a bookcase as one entire wall, and floor-to-ceiling windows on the north-east facing wall. I liked the clean lines, minimalistic furniture. Well, I didn’t just like it. I needed it. Clutter and closed spaces made me anxious. My ex-boyfriend had found my apartment cold and clinical, but I found the whites and greys soothing, peaceful. Then again, he’d found a lot of things about me clinical…
The knock on my door startled me, even though I’d been expecting it. I opened it to find two men and a rather large crate. The first man smiled. He was wearing grey suit pants and a navy sweater. He showed me his ID. “Mr Salter, my name is Myles Dewegger. We have a special delivery.”
“Yes, yes, please come in,” I said, standing aside in invitation.
The second man wheeled through the crate. He was dressed all in black with a military style haircut, and he looked as though he belonged in a SWAT team. He was a rather large man, with bulging muscles and perfect skin, and I had to study him for a second. No, he was human.
“Nice place,” Myles said, looking around the large, open living room. “Are we all right to do this here?”
I closed the door and took a breath to steady myself. I wasn’t accustomed to having strange people in my house. “Yes, of course.” I followed him and stood next to the couch. “I thought Mr Kingsley might have attended the delivery. I assumed incorrectly, it seems.”
“Sasha’s a busy man,” Myles said with a smile. “Though if you’d prefer, I can call him and you can speak to him.”
“No, it’s fine,” I said. I was now staring at the crate. Oh boy. It was well over six feet tall, three feet wide. Shaun was inside. He was right there. I swallowed hard.
Myles read me. “Let’s introduce you, shall we?”
I nodded. “Yes, please.”
Myles and his helper, whose name I didn’t know, undid the crate and removed the front panel. My heart almost stopped. Inside, Shaun stood, packaged-in perfectly so as not to be damaged in any way. He was dressed in a dinner suit. A charming navy piece with a light blue shirt underneath his blazer, top button undone. His black hair was exactly as I’d ordered; short sides, longer on top, professional. His skin was warm ivory with a subtle hint of blush on his cheeks; his lips were pink and a perfect cupid’s bow. His eyes were closed, his lashes long.
He took my breath away.
The big delivery guy stepped in and unstrapped Shaun, then lifted him out. Right, that explained the need for muscle. Then he quickly wheeled the crate back to the front door, making the room neat again, leaving Shaun standing perfectly still in my living room.
Myles glanced at me. “Everything look okay?”
I nodded and had to focus on speaking so I could make actual sound. “So far, yes.”
Myles smiled as he took out a small hand-held screen I recognised from the SATinc office. It was a control panel. He tapped on both screens, I entered in a personal code, and Shaun was officially added to my Wi-Fi.
It was becoming so very real.
Myles seemed completely unfazed and oblivious to the fact that I was in the middle of a monumental life event. He went on a spiel of specifications and diagnostics, developmental robotics, neural networks, artificial consciousness, proprioceptive sensors, and spatial cognizance, but all I could do was stare at Shaun.
Myles stopped speaking when he realised I wasn’t paying attention, and his pause made me look at him instead. He continued, “I’ll activate him, then we’ll require him to study your face for a few seconds. He has facial recognition, so once he recognises you as his custodian, he’ll be able to identify you anywhere.”
“So if you’re out in public and you become separated, he will be able to find you.”
For the strangest reason, I found that comforting.
“And your voice. He’ll recognise that anywhere.”
I smiled at Shaun, though he still had his eyes closed.
“Are you ready?” Myles asked.
Myles held the small black screen toward me. He entered in a code and spoke clear and loud. “Please re-enter in your Wi-Fi code,” he said, averting his eyes while I entered my security code for Shaun’s wireless access. Then Myles added something else, and watching Shaun, he said, “Activate.”
Shaun opened his eyes.
They were the exact shade of blue I’d asked for. But he just stared blankly.
Myles entered in more codes, then spoke to me. “Please stand in front of him until I tell you to move.”
I did as I was instructed. Shaun was approximately an inch shorter than me, and he was even better close up. Being this close to him sent a curl of anticipation through me.
I could hear Myles tapping on the screen and then Shaun’s eyes focused on me. He was scanning my face, and then he looked down to my feet and up my body. It set my blood on fire.
Then Myles handed me the small screen and said, “Please read this out loud to him.”
I let out a breath and looked Shaun right in the eye. “My name is Lloyd Salter. I am your custodian, and this is your home.”
Myles took the control again and clicked on the screen a few more times, and something in Shaun changed. I saw it, the very moment it happened.
He became aware.
His gaze fell on me. “Hello, Lloyd,” Shaun said. His voice was a deep baritone, with a tenor that curled in my belly.
“Hello Shaun,” I replied. My voice was barely a whisper.
And then, throwing my world completely off its axis, he smiled. Not a perfect smile, but slightly lopsided in a very human way. If a simple smile could complete my existence, it was done. He was stunningly perfect.
“It is very nice to meet you,” Shaun said.
“Likewise,” I replied. I couldn’t stop staring at his eyes, and I swore the corner of Shaun’s lip twitched in an almost smile.
“Is that normal?” I asked Myles. “He’s so… human.”
Myles grinned. “It’s amazing, isn’t it? How real they are?”
I nodded, staring back at Shaun. So very real.
“As I was saying before, he has the spatial awareness and object manipulation skills of a surgeon. He can lift heavy objects with ease, but he can also hold the finest, most delicate glass object with precision. He has social intelligence; he can recognise and interpret, process and simulate human affects and empathy. He is, without doubt, the most advanced A-Class synthetic android in the world.”
Shaun tilted his head a little while he studied me, and I stared right back at him. So remarkable.
“He’s been uploaded with extensive knowledge of all requested data,” Myles said, holding the screen out for me to see. I glanced at it but couldn’t take my eyes off Shaun for long. Myles continued anyway. “Literary histories, world current affairs, everything you asked for has been preloaded, but he can access any information you require. If it’s on the web, he can find it, and he can discuss, converse, debate whatever you want.”
“Now, as for the personal companion aspect,” Myles went on. Personal companion aspect was synthetic speak for sex. “All lubricants must be silicone based, not oil based, though I’m sure you’re aware. He can self-clean but he might like it if you help him.” I looked at Myles and he winked. “Yes, he has likes and dislikes. Though he’s been pre-dispositioned to your psych evaluation so there are no conflicts. He enjoys conversation, attention, praise…, touch. Sex.”
My heart rate took off.
About the author:
N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance.
She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn’t have it any other way.
She is many things: a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don’t let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words.
She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things… but likes it even more when they fall in love.
She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.
She’s been writing ever since…