As always, we are super excited to have Victoria Sue here for her monthly guest post. Today is release day for Beneath This Mask, and she has brought us an exclusive excerpt from the book. )I’ve read this one, the entire series in fact, and this one is fantastic. Gael is AMAZING! Jake isn’t so bad either 😉 )
Welcome to Victoria Sue!!!
Gael Peterson has spent years hiding behind the enhanced abilities he wears like a mask, even though he is an important, confident member of the FBI’s exclusive H.E.R.O. team. The hurt and betrayal of his mom’s abandonment and his father’s fists are secrets buried deep beneath the ugly scars on his face, and he doesn’t trust Jake, his new regular human partner, with any of them. In a world where those with special abilities like Gael’s are regarded as freaks and monsters, it won’t be easy for him to rely on Jake to have his back, especially when the abilities of a vulnerable, enhanced, nonspeaking child make that child a murder suspect.
Tempers rise and loyalties are challenged, and when the serial killer targeting the enhanced finally sets his sights on Gael, not only will Gael have to trust Jake with his secrets, he might have to trust him to save his life.
Gael was exhausted. Derrick had wiped him out, even though he couldn’t wait to tell the team. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had slept a full night from when he got the letter from his sister. Half sister. He needed to call Wyatt, but Wyatt was visiting his girlfriend’s family, and Gael thought he ought to check out Louise first.
And now, on top of everything else, as he walked into the field office, he was nervous. He hadn’t been lying exactly when he’d told Jake he could rent a room. He could, and he knew his biggest terror would have been the size of the cockroaches that scurried up the walls.
Or was it? Jake had been quite obvious. A harsh man would have said pushy, and it wasn’t like Gael was a virgin. It was true when they said one could buy almost anything. He just had no idea why Jake would have said what he did. Jake was gorgeous. Deep gray eyes he could drown in if he looked for long enough. The intense military cut, and the way he stood at attention without even meaning to. It certainly made certain parts of Gael stand at attention, at least the bits that weren’t attempting to melt, anyway.
Oh my God. Gael came to a stop. Did Jake think that because of his scar he was an easy target? That he was desperate? No, no, no. That didn’t make sense. He might admit to being so sometimes, but Jake was gorgeous. All he had to do was beckon a finger, like every cheesy romance moment he’d ever thought of, and someone would come running. He didn’t need Gael.
Gael blew out a long breath. Jake was stunning. Beautiful pin-up girls should hang from those biceps. Gael put the brakes on his thoughts—just because he was ugly didn’t make “gay” ugly. In fact, it was downright breathtaking sometimes.
He had spent the afternoon with Derrick, but Derrick had mostly slept it away. Dr. Maya had come in a few times and asked what Gael knew about Derrick, but obviously it wasn’t enough. After Gael managed to coax Derrick to eat something before he fell asleep again, his precious tablet clutched tightly, Gael had been all set to call Jake. Then the nurse, who had taken a keen interest in the signing, having done some himself, offered him a ride into town.
“Gael?” Gregory peered at him, and Gael tried to look like he was okay. “How was the boy?”
“He seemed calmer, sir. I’ll type up my report now.”
“Your team is in the gym” was all Gregory said before smiling and walking away.
Gael let them be for a while as he shot into the office and wrote his report on what had happened. Forty minutes later he walked into the gym and found Vance sitting on a bench and Jake laid flat out on the ground. Gael took in Vance’s amused look and Jake’s groan.
“You’re not supposed to kill your partner, you know,” he scolded Vance.
Jake groaned again and sat up. Gael walked to the vending machine and got a bottle of water. He unscrewed it and headed back to Jake, holding it out. Jake grabbed it, tipped his head back, and Gael followed every swallow down that smooth throat. He nearly repeated Jake’s groan.
“You staying here now?” Vance stood. “I’m going for a shower, then finishing my report. Talon says we can leave whenever we want so long as he has them for the morning.”
“Was the separate gym put in so all the other agents wouldn’t see our humiliation every time Vance put one of us down?” Jake asked, still sitting on the floor.
Vance chuckled and walked out.
“Walk it off a little,” Gael said, grinning.
“How’d it go?” Jake got carefully to his feet and rolled his shoulders.
Gael shook his head. “Incredible. Humbling. I have a ton to tell you. How did your session go with Vance?”
Jake shot him a level look. “For a mammoth he’s surprisingly agile,” he said appreciatively. “You gonna work out or did you just want to see me taken down?” He smiled, softening the question.
Gael chuckled and looked over Jake critically. “You feel okay?”
Jake nodded and quipped, “Still standing.”
“Vance has gone for a shower now that I’m in here.”
Jake’s brows creased a little. “He didn’t actually hurt me or anything.”
“We’re never allowed in here on our own,” Gael explained, and Jake raised his eyebrows. “It’s one of Talon’s rules.”
“No. The doc does an awful lot of tests on us, and she isn’t sure if adrenaline contributes to our abilities developing.” Gael looked behind him to make sure the doors were closed. “The thing with my skin? It happened suddenly when I was in a shoot-out. When the team first formed, it was me, Talon, and Vance, and they didn’t really know what to do with us. Vance knew a DEA guy, and he asked us for back up. Everyone just thought we were cannon fodder, I suppose. Anyway, the op went wrong, and Vance and Talon were pinned down.”
Jake stilled, waiting for Gael to finish.
“I thought I was gonna die anyway, so I used myself as a shield.”
“Gonna die,” Jake repeated woodenly.
“What?” Jake nearly shouted the question and took two steps right up to Gael, raking his eyes over him in concern.
“I’m fine.” Gael smiled. “Remind me to bore you with the science sometime. Anyway, my skin became a barrier for the first time, and the bullets bounced off me. More agents arrived and everything worked out okay. They started proper training for us after that.”
Jake gazed at Gael. His warm gray eyes seemed to slide over Gael’s skin. Gael took another breath, not wanting to see something in Jake’s eyes that wasn’t there. Jake had gotten a loud no the last time he had come on to Gael.
“What I’m trying to explain is why Talon won’t let any of us use the gym on our own. Safety. He always wants someone here in case our abilities increase, alter, whatever.”
“But I’m not enhanced.” Jake said it as almost an apology.
“Doesn’t matter,” Gael said. “You’re part of the team, and Talon doesn’t have separate rules depending on who you are.”
“And you’re sure you’re okay?”
Gael suddenly realized how close Jake was. He’d taken another step while Gael was desperately trying to rein in his imagination. Gael swallowed, and Jake’s gaze fell to his mouth, staring. Gael’s throat was so dry. For a second he wanted to step back in panic, but he was cold, suddenly, and the heat coming from Jake was so inviting.
“I’m not going to do anything that you wouldn’t welcome,” Jake said bluntly. “I want you to feel safe with me.”
Safe? That wasn’t the word Gael would use. The nerves in his gut tripled, but the tingles in his groin were fiercer. He ached. Just one more step and they would be almost touching.
Victoria Sue fell in love with love stories as a child when she would hide away with her mom’s library books and dream of the dashing hero coming to rescue her from math homework. She never mastered math but managed to dream up quite a few heroes. Loves reading and writing about gorgeous boys loving each other the best—especially with a paranormal twist—but always with a happy ending. Is an English northern lass currently serving twenty to life in Florida—unfortunately, she spends more time chained to her computer than on a beach.
Loves to hear from her readers and can be found most days lurking on Facebook where she doesn’t need factor 1000 sun-cream to hide her freckles.
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