Released: June 4, 2021
Genres: Thriller, Dark M/M Romance, Contemporary.
AN EXCERPT FROM HAPI:
The front office was open. Jayden darted inside. There was no sign of Barry. The interior door leading to what was presumably the back office area was closed. Jayden withdrew the damp book from underneath his shirt and crouched down in front of the sagging bookshelf to put it back. He ran his finger along the cracked, faded spines of the other titles on the shelf, waiting for something to catch his eye. He pulled one out and turned it over to read the blurb on the back. Something about espionage and terrorists. He flipped through the book quickly to check all the pages were there and then ran his fingers over the embossed title on the front cover.
The outside door squeaked open.
Jayden glanced over his shoulder, expecting to see Barry or one of the residents.
It was the man from the river and the supermarket. Black T-shirt and jeans again today. Dark, piercing stare, olive skin, slicked-back black hair, and a face as expressionless as though it had been carved from stone.
The book slipped through Jayden’s numb fingers and fell with a dull thump to the floor. His breath shuddered out of him as the man stared. He felt pinned down by the intensity of the man’s gaze, a mouse in front of a snake, hypnotised. A strange thrill ran down his spine and his skin prickled as though it was suddenly too tight for his body.
“Get up,” said the man.
Jayden’s body obeyed, jerking like a marionette as he rose awkwardly from his crouch.
The man’s gaze slid over him and then landed on the closed door to the back office. “Where’s Barry?”
His accent was strange, like a song with every third or fourth note sung in a different key. There wasn’t enough difference for Jayden to pin it down, only to be certain that the man wasn’t from around here.
“I-I don’t know,” Jayden said, his voice catching. He blinked and imagined a dark cloud behind the man, a vortex that he wanted to fall into. It was the crazy dreams, maybe; the nighttime visions where the man had stared at him like he was nothing, until he suddenly was—an insect, a thing—reduced to something small and helpless while the man smirked down at him knowingly. Those unsettling dreams teetered on the edge of being nightmares, except that Jayden woke up from them every time with his dick hard and aching.
The man took a step closer, and a tremor ran through Jayden.
And then the door to the back office opened, and Barry appeared, wiping a hand across his damp combover.
“Happy,” he said, sounding startled.
The man turned away from Jayden dismissively.
It took Jayden a moment to catch up. Happy. The man’s name was Happy? Jesus, it had to be one of those ironic nicknames, like calling the quiet bloke Rowdy or the one with red hair Blue, because Jayden couldn’t imagine a less fitting name for the man whose dark gaze held nothing but heavy menace. It was so ludicrous he might have even laughed, except he had the feeling Happy wouldn’t react very well to that.
“What can I do for you?” Barry asked warily.
Happy reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a leather wallet, which he opened and withdrew a pink five-dollar note. He set the money down on the counter. “I need ice.”
“Ah,” Barry said. “Righto, then. Yeah, I’ve got a few bags in the freezer. You boys, ah, you havin’ a party?”
Happy didn’t answer.
“I’ll go grab a couple, then,” Barry said. He darted into the back office.
Happy turned toward Jayden and took a step to close the distance between them. His dark gaze held Jayden’s. “You’re new here.”
Jayden jerked his chin in a nod.
“What’s your name?”
Jayden swallowed dryly. “Jayden.”
He caught a glimpse of a tattoo peeking out from underneath the sleeve of Happy’s T-shirt. It was the bottom curve of a circle. He couldn’t see the rest of the design. The ink was brown, a shade or two darker than Happy’s olive skin. Jayden was mesmerised by the way Happy’s muscles moved, causing the tattoo’s edge to roll like a bow wave in the dirty river.
Happy hummed, the sound low and dark and amused, and Jayden jolted and pulled his gaze back to the man’s eyes. He could feel his face burning. Happy leaned in closer, and Jayden’s heart skipped over a beat.
“You’re new, Jayden,” Happy said, his breath hot against Jayden’s ear. “But you won’t be here for much longer.”
A thread of panic twisted through Jayden’s gut. He pressed back against the bookshelf, hands grasping on air.
Happy hummed again and then reached out and pressed his big palm against the front of Jayden’s boardshorts.
Jayden’s brain shorted out. He whined, half turned on and half terrified, as his dick hardened against Happy’s palm. “What the hell—”
Happy stepped back as Barry bustled out into the main office and set two bags of ice down on the counter. Happy collected the bags without another word on his way out of the office and into the rain.