QSFer Hannah Dare has a new MM Gay/Bi sci fi book out in her Mind + Machine series: Black Sky Morning. And there’s a giveaway!
A bounty hunter in over his head.
Xin knows how to look out for himself, and he knows when something sounds too good to be true. But a forgotten planet filled with riches is too tempting to pass up. Fortunately Xin also knows someone who can back him up – if he doesn’t arrest Xin first.
A government agent who’s lost hope.
Jonathan Gray used to believe in a better future. Now he’s not so sure. Then Xin walks in, with his dark eyes and maddening smirk, and Jonathan feels like he’s waking up for the first time in months. Well, parts of him at least. He knows Xin is trouble, but when trouble looks this good it’s impossible to resist.
Two men. One dangerous planet. To survive they need to trust each other – too bad neither of them does trust.
Hannah is giving away an eBook copy of book one in the series – Machine Metal Magic – comment on this post for a chance to win.
The third time Xin saw Jonathan Gray, the Commonwealth agent was in a seedy bar and well on his way to getting sloppy drunk.
It had taken Xin a considerable amount of effort and funds to track the man down, and while he wasn’t entirely sure where high-level Commonwealth operatives spent their downtime, he’d expected something quite different. Maybe an expensive restaurant — the kind that served food that had been grown in dirt rather than a nice clean vat. Or he could picture Jonathan sitting in some imposing library, where the books were stored like precious artifacts, not the clumsily bound, read-to-pieces selections in an outpost’s community library.
Instead, he found Jonathan in the only bar on a space station orbiting a planet so boring Xin couldn’t be bothered to look it up beyond checking that the coordinates he’d been given weren’t a joke. Perhaps Jonathan was on some mission, which Xin gathered was all that he did besides looking annoyed yet secretly intrigued by everything Xin said. He might be undercover right now and would be so put out by Xin showing up that he’d move beyond irritation into actual anger. Xin had a feeling that Jonathan Gray truly angry would be a sight to behold. Might even be the highlight of the trip.
Seeing him hunched over a glass, a bottle of something murky and deadly looking half-empty in front of him, Xin thought that if Jonathan was undercover it was the very deep kind. Halfway under the bar deep.
He dropped down onto the stool beside Jonathan, his best smirk in place. A blue eye looked up at him, blearier than the piercing ice Xin remembered.
“Oh,” Jonathan said without surprise. “You.”
It had been almost a year since Xin had last seen him. He’d been tired and covered in blood then, yes, but completely in charge, sending agents and soldiers scrambling with his orders; face determined, purpose clear.
Xin was used to dealing with Commonwealth agents and thought that they generally came in two sorts: ones who liked rules and ones who liked bribes. Jonathan Gray definitely liked rules, but with him it didn’t seem like the fiddly bureaucracy of trade regulations. The Commonwealth touted itself as existing for humanity’s protection — from the long-silent Singularity and from their own darker impulses — but Xin thought that was mostly bullshit. Watching Jonathan back then, though, he wasn’t quite sure.
Xin would have called him a heroic figure if he believed in such things. He didn’t, which was good because it would have embarrassed them both.
It seemed that in the time since things had changed for Agent Gray. He still had the blue eyes and the blond hair, but those eyes were shadowed and bloodshot. The hair, with its hints of dark gold, was longer, falling lankly over his face. Reddish gold stubble obscured his strong jaw but did nothing to hide the lines of weariness bracketing his mouth. Jonathan was very clearly drunk, but there was something else about him, a look in his face, that seemed almost haunted.
Xin prided himself on not being bothered by much — the galaxy was full of sad stories, after all — but he was unsettled by a Jonathan Gray who looked at him so dully and without interest.
“Maybe you don’t recall me correctly,” he began, “but you hired me a ways back—”
“The bounty hunter,” Jonathan said. “Xin.” He slurred the name and shook his head at himself, lifting the bottle up from the bar. “I remember you. I always remember the people, every single one of their faces.”
Xin put a hand on his arm before he could start to pour. “That’s flattering, mate, but how’s about I buy you a coffee instead? Or a water?”
“This is cheaper than water,” Jonathan said, splashing the liquid into his glass. Some of it hit Xin’s hand and he could feel the cool tingle against his skin as the alcohol evaporated almost immediately. If Jonathan drank much more he’d be unconscious.
He tried to catch the bartender’s eye, but she was studiously ignoring them, cleaning glasses at the other end of the bar, while the moving tattoo of a bird she wore fluttered nervously against her cheek. Everyone in the place was avoiding looking over, engaged in very seriously minding their own business.
“I expect your cover’s blown,” Xin said.
“What?” Jonathan glanced around, causing the other customers’ eyes to drop even more. “Oh yes, the good citizens of the Commonwealth. The ones I’m sworn to protect. They think I don’t notice the amount of illegal contraband they’re concealing. I noticed. I just don’t care.”
A large man, sweating in a bulky coat, hastily got up and made for the door. Jonathan raised his glass as the man scrambled out of the bar. “Good fortune to you,” he called to the man’s retreating form. He turned back to Xin, burping a little. “He sells drugs,” Jonathan told him conspiratorially. “Using too from the looks of his skin tone. Probably be dead in under a year.”
“A drink to his future memory then.”
He pried the glass from Jonathan’s hand and threw back its contents in one gulp. Xin’s eyes watered, and he felt it burn down his throat to settle uneasily in his stomach.
Jonathan nodded approvingly. “None of it matters.”
“Then you won’t mind.” Xin lifted the bottle seemingly to pour more into the glass and then tossed the entire bottle back behind the bar. It rattled around the floor, but the bartender made no move toward it.
Jonathan peered over the bar at the bottle, frowning as he looked back at Xin. “I can always get more, you know.”
“Sure,” Xin said, getting up. “But after you and me have a little chat. In private.”
He got his hands on Jonathan’s shoulders, prepared to have to haul him up, but the other man stood, albeit a bit unsteadily. He was slightly taller than Xin, and he blinked down at him, seemingly surprised by how close they were standing.
“I remember you,” he said. “You’re the one who likes to flirt.”
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.
You can find Hanna on the internet enjoying pretty pictures, procrastination and caffeinated beverages!