Tag Archives: Addiction

New Release Blitz: A Face Without A Heart by Rick R. Reed

A Face Without A Heart | Rick R. Reed

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: June 1, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 56,700

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Blurb

A modern-day and thought-provoking retelling of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray that esteemed horror magazine Fangoria called “…a book that is brutally honest with its reader and doesn’t flinch in the areas where Wilde had to look away….

A rarity: a really well-done update that’s as good as its source material.”

A beautiful young man bargains his soul away to remain young and handsome forever, while his holographic portrait mirrors his aging and decay and reflects every sin and each nightmarish step deeper into depravity… even cold-blooded murder.

Prepare yourself for a compelling tour of the darkest sides of greed, lust, addiction, and violence.

Excerpt

A Face without a Heart
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
GARY

There is blood on my hands. I look down at a body, a body that’s become a thing—monstrous, ugly, inanimate. It could be a sculpture, a figure formed from wax or porcelain. The soul inside is gone, leaving a shell. I wipe a line of sweat from my forehead with a trembling hand, trying to tell myself these things, trying to believe that what lies at my feet is nothing more than an object, something to be reviled, something not worthy of further consideration.

It’s not easy to believe. Although the corpse does not have a twinkle in its eye or the simple rise and fall of a chest, it’s hard to remove myself from the plain fact that the body possessed those movements, those simple signs of life, just minutes ago. Distance, for now, seems more a matter of location than of feeling. The body at my feet wears the badges of its untimely demise—a dented face, a split-open skull, blood and grayish-pink matter seeping out. The bruises have already begun to rise, ugly yellow-pink things all over the body.

I stoop, plunge my fingers into the deepest hole, the one on the belly, to feel the warmth and the entrails. Amazed that the breathing has stopped. Amazed that I have such power.

I lift a finger to my mouth and slowly run it over my lips, the blackish liquid warm and viscous, metallic to the taste. I recall the vampire films I loved as a youth, never really believing such a thing could exist.

Now I do.

I have stolen a life so that my own might continue. There is something vampiric in that, isn’t there? Because without this theft of a beating heart and an expanding and contracting pair of lungs, I would be unable to live.

Isn’t that the real essence of the vampire?

It seems too quiet here, deep in the basement of a high-rise. A dull clanging is my only accompaniment, pipes bringing warmth and water to tenants above, whose lives continue, ignorant, untouched by my murderous hand. And that’s the amazing thing, the thing that causes my breath, when drawn inward, to quiver.

Life goes on, in spite of this monumental act, just a quick, surprised scream and a heartbeat away.

There is blood on the walls, spattered Jackson Pollock-style. Who can say what is art and what is murder?

This so-called victim who now lies in final repose on a cold concrete floor, staring vacantly at nothing or perhaps at the hell that will one day consume me, can no longer chastise me, can no longer beg me to drop to my knees with him and pray, pray for forgiveness, imploring Jesus to lead me down the path of the righteous.

It’s not too late, he said before I brought the mallet down on his skull, cracking it open like a walnut, slamming it into his windpipe, his gut, an eye socket, his shoulders as he fell, anywhere the mallet would ruin, destroying, sucking life.

He was wrong. The final irony of his existence, I suppose, is that he thought he had the power to do anything, to change another person, whom, I must admit, he cared very deeply about.

No, that power rests in my hand, the death-dealing claw that changed him. And people whine about how change never really lasts when it comes to others, how they always unfortunately revert to their old ways, the ways you don’t want them to be. Anyone who has ever tried to change another knows this to be true. Oh certainly, the change may last a week, a month, even a year. But soon the real person comes back, the one who has been waiting in the wings for just the right cue, the one that will allow him to say “Ah fuck it, I’ve had enough.”

But the change I’ve wrought in my friend can never be undone. He is dead and always will be. I have a power of which psychiatrists and psychologists can only dream. And I accomplished my transformation in a matter of seconds, behind a red-tinged curtain of rage.

Pretty sly, eh? For a man who’s spent most of his life doing nothing but looking after his own selfish needs and pursuing his own pleasures, it’s a pretty accomplished thing. Decisive. For once, a man of action.

I nudge him with my foot and am amazed at the heaviness my friend has taken on in death. His body doesn’t want to give, to roll; it has become a body at rest…forever.

I turn and head back upstairs. There are matters to attend to…clothes to be burned, an alibi to be concocted. People will want answers. And conveniently, I will have none. Knowledge is a dangerous thing. What was it my other friend once told me? “The only people worth knowing are the ones who know everything and the ones who know nothing.”

I know nothing about this. And now I must go back into the realm of the living to ensure my ignorance remains secure.

But alone, I know that ignorance is one of the few luxuries I can no longer afford. Alone, I have only the luxury of time to contemplate how it all began.

RickRReed-524x749

About the Author

Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.”

Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…”

Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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The latest Arou-Kalinski instalment puts you through the wringer!

50962394._SY475_Final Shot by V.L. Locey

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This book really ploughs through the emotions, both good and bad, as we continue the catch-up with the Arou-Kalinski families 10 years after we last saw them settled and happy.

Each time I come back to this pairing, I’m struck by just how real VL has made them as characters, I feel like I know them inside out.

I know how Vic will react to the disturbing news which comes from down South, where his son is off living with his mum and stepfather, I know he will be the solid rock his husband Dan needs as he comes to terms with another ice hockey injury and some home truths about his own behaviour.

This book is a hard emotional one, but it’s not without humour and I almost snorted my drink at the Shameless reference to Mickey Milkovich’s partner preferences 🙂

There are good times as well as the bad, there’re hard truths to face, there’s a plot line which, when I think about it was likely to come in some form or another to move the series onwards, it felt inevitable.

But over all, there is love, so much love, and I can’t wait to see what happens in book three as Jackie Blue Kalinski grows up ❤

#ARC kindly received from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review

View all my reviews

New Release Blitz: The Perils of Intimacy by Rick R. Reed

The Perils of Intimacy | Rick R. Reed

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 3, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 63,300

Buy Links:

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Blurb

Mark believes he’s meeting Jimmy for the first time in the diner where he works, but he’s wrong. Mark has no recollection of their original encounter because the wholesome Jimmy of today couldn’t be more different than he was two years ago.

Back then, Jimmy sported multiple piercings and facial hair. He was painfully skinny—and a meth addict. The drug transformed him into a lying, conniving thief.

Mark doesn’t associate the memory of a hookup gone wrong with this fresh-faced twenty-something… but Jimmy knows.

Can Mark see Jimmy for the man he is now and not the addict he was? The answers depend on whether true love holds enough light to shine through the darkness of past mistakes.

Excerpt

The Perils of Intimacy
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

JIMMY

In romance novels, they call it meet-cute. If you’re not familiar with the term or even with romance novels for that matter, let me explain. Meet-cute is how our two protagonists, our star-crossed lovers, if you will, first encounter the other. It might involve an embarrassing moment, or some great coincidence, or something like a setup, or a blind date that goes horribly wrong and does not bode well for the future. See…it’s like there’s that day where everything changes, often in a funny way, and our two love interests begin their journey toward love.

You might look at how Marc Kelly and I met as a meet-cute experience. It went something like this:

Even though I’m a smart guy, at least I think so, I’ve never really had much in the way of education. High school diploma was about it. I always hated school and never did very well in it, which is why I currently wait tables at a little diner in the lower Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle. I’ve been at Becky’s Diner a few years now, since I managed to get my life back in order. And I have to admit I like it. Becky’s is the kind of place alcoholics end up at 5:00 a.m. for an eye-opener and, if their stomachs can handle it, maybe a couple of greasy fried eggs and some bacon. It’s the kind of joint that’s been in Queen Anne since the Depression and still looks like it—scuffed black-and-white tile floors, dark walls, red leatherette booths, and stools at the counter, many of them patched with duct tape. On the other side of the joint is a bar that’s even darker—the drinks are strong, and we get a lot of regulars. The pinball machine over there pretty much goes untouched. Same with the TV, which is always tuned to some twenty-four-hours news crap with the sound turned off. No one watches it. Everyone’s too busy nursing their drinks. Anyway, I wait tables in the diner part.

And I find myself digressing away from my meet-cute. Maybe that’s because it wasn’t really a meet-cute, but it makes for a good story. And that’s what romances are all about, right? Good stories? At least on paper…

Anyhoo, about two weeks ago, this one guy comes in about seven, seven thirty. That day there hasn’t been much of a breakfast rush—we’re busier on the weekends—and I’m chilling behind the counter, checking Facebook on my phone. Marc, as I’d later find out his name, walks in, observes the Seat Yourself sign, and does just that—in the last booth at the rear. Right away, I see the guy is old school, as he spreads out an edition—paper, no less!—of the Seattle Times. He looks around expectantly.

I wipe my hands on my apron and approach, my order pad in hand.

I give him my trademark grin, the one I hope will coax big tips out of even the stingiest customers. “Hey there… mornin’! What are you in the mood for?”

He looks me up and down, a little smile twitching. I pick up on the gaydar, the attraction, and pause a little mentally because two things strike me almost simultaneously.

One: This guy is a good bit older than my twenty-three, maybe even by as much as fifteen or twenty years, but he’s a hottie. DILF! His salt-and-pepper hair is full, nicely cut, side part, with more salt than pepper. He sports—rocks—a little goatee that’s all salt. It perfectly frames cupid’s bow lips. How’s that for romance talk? But it’s his eyes that floor me—so dark the pupils just about get lost in them. They grip me. They hold me. They make me wanna quiver.

Two: There’s something about this dude that rings a bell. Not so much in the lust department, although that’s definitely there in spades, but in the area of “Have we met before?” Because, yeah, he looks familiar. I just couldn’t place him—at least not then.

We hold the look for a couple of seconds longer than the average waiter and customer would, and I can put my finger on this dance—it’s called flirting. Gives me the warm and fuzzies inside, except for that nagging feeling that I know him from somewhere.

And when you have a past like mine, you want to be careful with shit like that. Because I’ve not always been the best person, to say the least. Anyway, that’s something I’ve learned not to dwell on.

Can’t undo the past!

All that stuff took, like, thirty seconds to go down. The guy speaks, “I’ll have coffee and a cinnamon roll.”

I pull a pencil from behind my ear. Not sure I’ll need it, but just in case. “We’re all out of cinnamon rolls,” I say.

He grins, flips a page in the Times. Doesn’t look up at me as he says, “Okay, then. I’ll have tea.” He flips another page. “And a cinnamon roll.”

I chuckle. “We’re all out of cinnamon rolls.”

He nods and looks like he’s taking what I just put down to heart. “Okay, uh, how about a glass of milk and…a cinnamon roll.”

I shake my head. “Dude, I just told you—we’re all out of cinnamon rolls. Sold out during the breakfast rush. But I’ll tell you a little trade secret.” I lean close to his ear and notice a very nice aroma coming off him—something tangy, piney, and manly. “The cinnamon rolls come from the QFC off Mercer. You can buy a four-pack for what you pay for one here.”

“Okay,” he says, looking into my eyes with those killer dark eyes. Those lashes! Man! “Just bring me a cinnamon roll.”

I shake my head and then tuck the pencil back behind my ear. I start to head away, saying over my shoulder as I go, “You let me know when you’re ready.”

I can’t decide if the guy is a cornball, a total asshole, or incredibly charming. He’s probably a little of all three. And I feel a little flutter in my heart that tells me our little meet-cute encounter, which I’ve come to learn he lifted from some old public television kid’s show, means he has his hooks in me.

Smitten.

And yet there’s that nagging feeling I’ve met him somewhere before…and a darkness hides behind the notion that contradicts the fluttery feeling I get when I look at this hunk. In fact, that nagging recognition makes me a little sick.

It’ll come to me. Or it won’t. And something inside, a self-protective part maybe, hopes for the latter. They say ignorance is bliss, right?

He calls after me, “You do poached eggs? Runny?”

I turn. “We do anything. Two?”

He holds up two fingers and nods. “With coffee, no toast, no potatoes, fruit on the side if you got it.”

I jot down the order. “No cinnamon roll?”

He just laughs and begins reading the paper.

When is a meet-cute not a meet-cute?

When you’ve met before.

And my gut drops a couple of inches as I remember where I met him before.

I don’t want to go there. That was a different time. A different me. And there was nothing cute about it.

But I remember this guy because I felt something for him then. And I feel something for him now.

And it could never work.

Could it?

I watch from the corner of my eye as Cinnamon Roll, as I’ve dubbed him, downs his low-carb breakfast. How someone can eat poached eggs without any toast is beyond me, but it takes all kinds.

“You got a thing for him or what?” Matilda Blake, the other server on duty, whispers to me. She pauses just behind me with three plates balanced on two arms. I smell pancakes, bacon, and the sage aroma of sausage.

I turn a little to grin. “What?”

“Ah, don’t play innocent with me, Mister. I could see the lust in your eyes from fifty paces.”

I shrug. “Guilty. Maybe. A little.”

She laughs, and it’s a sound like a bell tinkling. Matilda doesn’t even reach five feet and probably doesn’t top ninety pounds, but she’s a workhorse like you wouldn’t believe. She has short, spiked blonde hair and numerous tattoos. On the weekends she plays in an all-girl metal band called Two Spirit. And in my head, I call her Tinker Bell, because that’s who she looks like to me. She takes off to serve her customers, but not without prompting me to “Go over and talk to him.”

I busy myself filling ketchup bottles and the salt and pepper shakers I’ve removed from empty tables, but I keep an eye on Cinnamon Roll. His food is gone and the newspaper’s been abandoned and he’s staring off into space. I shudder because I wonder if he’s recognized me and is thinking about our last encounter, a little over two years ago, at his place on Dexter Avenue.

But no, that couldn’t be possible, could it? I’m a different person now, inside and out. Back then I was twenty, twenty-five pounds lighter than my current one hundred and sixty-five. I had a septum piercing like Ferdinand the Bull. My hair, which is now cut high and tight and is reddish brown, was long back then, bleached blond, dirty, and tangled up in dreadlocks that reached down almost to my waist. My skin had, I’m sure, a pasty and unhealthy pallor.

That person doesn’t even exist anymore, and even though it’s only been two years, I look completely different today. He’s probably just thinking about his day or something.

Right?

I walk over to his table, a little nervous that he’d come to and look at me with an accusing glare. There’d be a scene. And maybe I’d end up getting fired or something. Thinking back to what I did to him, I deserve it.

But when I approach his table, all he does is smile. And that smile melts my heart. It did back then too. Just not enough to keep me from my desperate and dark ways.

“You need anything else?”

He looks down at his paper and back up at me. A blush rises to his cheeks, and I gotta say it—there’s nothing more adorable than this face staring up at me right now. He looks like he wants to say something, but all that comes out is “The check? I gotta get to work. If I don’t get out of here and on the bus, I’m going to be late.”

“Oh?” I cock my head. “What do you do?”

“You don’t want to know. Government contracts. Health care. Downtown. Websites, e-mail, so-called social media from a health-care perspective. Writing boring newsletters.” He laughs. “Not the astronaut I thought I’d be back in kindergarten.”

“Yeah. Well, I always dreamed I’d work in a diner. And look at me. Dreams do come true!” I tap my chest. “Living proof!” We stare at one another for a moment. My heart pounds for a variety of reasons, both sublime and shameful. “I’ll get your check.”

I turn and go to total up his modest bill. My hands are shaking just a tiny bit. There’s this dark shadow of shame hanging over me that I try my best to banish. I remind myself that shadows are made by light and that I should direct my thoughts toward the light, not the darkness.

I look over at him once more. He’s staring off into space again, and I take note of his clothes—the blue-and-white checked button-down shirt, the navy cardigan, the jeans with the rip in the knee of the left leg, the awesome wing tips, maroon and navy. He looks hipster professional. In the two years since I’ve seen him, he’s hardly changed a bit. A little grayer maybe, but essentially the same guy. I get a quick vision of a big black leather headboard, framed in dark wood. A box on the dresser containing valuables…

His name comes to me in full. Marc Kelly. Simple. Solid. Like him. A good guy who never deserved what I gave him.

I should leave him alone. I know I should. No good can come from this.

A little voice inside reminds me I’m a changed person, one who loves himself, and I shouldn’t beat myself up anymore. I should forgive myself and believe I’m deserving, especially now, of a man like this.

Still, it’s with a lot of qualms that I write, near the bottom of his eighteen dollars and sixty-five cents total, Jimmy Kilpatrick (206) 555-9407. I pause for a moment, thinking I should tear this ticket up and write a new one.

No. I put one foot in front of the other, walk over to him, and set it in front of him. “You can pay up front. Thanks for stopping by.”

I hurry away before he even has a chance to look down at the check or up at me. I head right through the kitchen and out the back door, where I stand outside by the dumpster in gray and drizzly February air and light up a smoke with shaking hands.

I think I have to release my wishes, to let them float away on the gray plume I exhale. I need to have faith—I remind myself—that everything will unfold just the way it should.

About the Author

RickRReed-524x749

Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed draws inspiration from the lives of gay men to craft stories that quicken the heartbeat, engage emotions, and keep the pages turning. Although he dabbles in horror, dark suspense, and comedy, his attention always returns to the power of love.

He’s the award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction and is forever at work on yet another book. Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…”

Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his beloved husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

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