QSFer Shannon West has a new MM paranormal book out in her Gods of War series: Dread.
Will Logan and Luke Warren are still running, with no refuge in sight. After stopping in Tennessee to meet up with teammates Ron Perry and Jake Wilson, they head for Atlanta, to rendezvous with the remaining member of their team, Todd Jackson. Kowalski told Logan he murdered Jackson, but Logan knows all too well how hard it is to kill any of them now. He’s hopeful that Jackson survived and is waiting to meet them.
Once they arrive in the city, they find Jackson easily enough. They soon discover, however, that he’s involved in a strange and savage situation, a member of a vicious fight club in the basement of an Atlanta club. When he tells Logan he’s in trouble and can’t extricate himself, Logan finds an oppressive atmosphere of evil in the club, seeming to center around the club’s owner, a charismatic man named Austell.
Logan is disgusted by the illegal fighting, but Luke and the others are all inexplicably drawn to it. Something or someone is influencing the men, infusing them with violence and cruelty. A chain of events begins to unfold that will test Logan and Luke’s bond to the breaking point. Logan’s life is turned upside down as he has to fight for the lives of his friends and the man he can’t live without. When they’re kidnapped, and everything Logan holds dear is in deadly danger, will he be strong enough to save them all?
In this book, the second in a three part series, new clues and revelations emerge as to what happened to Logan and his friends in book 1, Origins, Gods of War, to change their lives. They face a new and savage threat to their safety, and receive intervention from Heaven itself? Or could it be Hell?
After all the buildup in his mind, Logan’s first impression of the fight club was that the venue was amazingly ordinary. That’s why the atmosphere of evil that enveloped him as soon as he got downstairs took him by surprise. The basement wasn’t a damp, dark dungeon like he’d imagined, but a large, fairly well-lit area with a higher ceiling than any basement he’d ever been in. It was like a small gymnasium in there, and smelled about as good.
An octagonal “ring” made of crowd control barricades and gym mats was in the middle of the floor. There wasn’t much choice of seats. A few rickety bleachers stood on four sides of the room, but most people seemed to want to crowd around the barricades, close enough to touch if the fighters strayed too close to the edges. Not to mention they’d be splashed with blood and bodily fluids. Logan couldn’t see how that was a good idea for anybody, but to each his own. He took Luke’s arm and steered him toward the bleachers set up around the room. He made sure they were as close as he could get to the exit.
Roughly a hundred to a hundred and fifty people had apparently purchased tickets and were all trying to claim a spot with an unobstructed view, which was impossible, considering the crush around the barricades. Logan and the others found a spot at the top of the bleachers by the door and sat close together, leaning against the wall. After a few minutes, Logan pulled Luke over to sit in front of him so he could lean back against his knees. He felt uneasy about this place and he wanted Luke close, where he could get his hands on him.
There was no accounting for the feeling of corruption the basement evoked. Despite its drabness, the place was still managing to seem oppressive, and Logan couldn’t quite figure out why. It wasn’t dark or dingy; there wasn’t any smell of damp; there weren’t even many shadows around the walls. Even the people on the floor and filling the stands looked all right and were friendly enough, now that they had figured out Logan and his friends probably weren’t cops. Almost everyone was drinking. Most of them held bottles of beer and even fifths of liquor in their hands. Logan wondered if those bottles might become projectiles at some point in the proceedings. He could easily see a brawl breaking out in here at any minute. The energy was frenetic and edgy.
There was a feeling of foreboding, of being totally out of control of what was going to happen next, not to mention a distinct feeling of being vulnerable. There was a maliciousness in the air that was almost palpable, and Logan swiveled his head around to see where it might be coming from, because it felt like there was a presence in that room that it was emanating from, something old and malevolent crouching in the corner. But there was nothing there, of course. Nobody. He pulled Luke a little closer as that chill shot down his spine again, and he waited for whatever was about to happen.
Even more people filed in and soon there had to be two hundred people in the room, the smoke from their cigarettes, their combined body heat and the lack of proper ventilation making it a little hard to breathe. A busty girl wearing impossibly short shorts and a halter sashayed into the ring and walked around holding up a large card with the first combatants’ names on it.
Some other fighters, including Jackson, were being prepped by their corner men, who rubbed Vaseline on their faces, like Logan had seen MMA fighters do to minimize tearing. An announcer came out and called the first fight, which Logan was glad to see wasn’t Jackson’s. Another man, covered in tattoos, stood up from his corner and more half-naked ring girls came out. The crowd was raucous and noisy and a DJ started up some loud music from a far corner of the room, making it even more surreal and chaotic. The song was “The Way of the Fist” by a heavy metal band Logan recognized. They called themselves Five Finger Death Punch. It seemed appropriate.
“Unbelievable,” Logan muttered. “A soundtrack for getting the shit beaten out of you.” Luke glanced back at him and smirked.
The rules were simple, according to the announcer, his voice over the hand-held microphone raised above the raucous music. “No kicking, biting or shots below the belt. Sixteen-ounce gloves are provided by the house, but if you want your own, that’s fine. Or you might decide to fight with bare knuckles, and that’s okay too.”
Many of the young men being prepped on the sidelines, including Jackson, seemed to have chosen that option, as their hands were being carefully taped.
To Logan’s surprise, Dread climbed up in the stands to sit beside Luke. He nodded over his shoulder at Logan. “There are three rounds, five-minutes each, and the winners are determined by cheers from the crowd. Unless there’s a knockout, of course. In the event of a draw, a fourth round is fought.” He pointed to some men standing talking beside the barriers. “We have two cut men, off-duty emergency medical techs who monitor the fighters and tend to wounds.” He gave Logan an oily smile with very white teeth. “See? Nothing to worry about. Everyone’s just here to have a good time—maybe make a little side money.”
The smile should have made him seem friendlier, but instead it only increased his sharp edges and made him look like a shark about to enjoy a tasty meal. He was practically salivating, and the whole thing was making Logan uneasy and anxious.
Shannon West is an author of MM Romance and believes love has no gender. She has well over a hundred novels, novellas and short stories that usually have a paranormal or a sci fi twist, but she also loves contemporary. Her stories have been translated into French, Italian and even one Japanese Yaoi, and in the past, she has worked with several publishers, both large and small.
She can be found most days fighting cats off the keyboard, eluding housework, lost in fantasy worlds, and imagining love scenes—sometimes all at the same time. She makes her home in Georgia, with frequent jaunts to the North Carolina mountains and anywhere else she can, really, as she loves to travel. She’s married with four children, has too many cats and a bulldog named Rambo. She is almost always working on a few more stories at any given time.