Welcome to Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau’s blog tour for our new release, Tin Man.
We’re visiting some of our favourite blogs around the place to talk a bit about writing Tin Man, and sharing some of our influences, our ideas, and even an excerpt or two!
Don’t forget to leave a comment, for your chance to win prizes!
Soren Lau couldn’t hear anything over the pounding of his heartbeat and the roar of blood in his head. Even his radio—already reduced to the occasional burst of static inside his helmet since he was hit in the head with the knapsack—was drowned out by the loud storm of sheer panic crashing in his skull.
He would fall.
He would die.
He was already losing his grip.
But then the crim he’d been chasing was back, and he was holding out his hand.
Soren swung his right arm up, his heart beating even faster. When the man caught his hand, his glove slipped slightly, but then strong fingers wrapped around his, and suddenly he was being pulled up. He didn’t let go of the railing, not yet, because he was sure the man—this crim—would drop him. Push him. Something.
Nothing in his training or his scant experience with the ATU had prepared him for anything like this. Nothing had prepared him for a lowly, moralless crim sacrificing himself so altruistically—“Run! Fucking run!” He still hadn’t recovered from the shock. He’d dropped his firearm—twice!—and now the man who’d assaulted him, a crim he was supposed to have executed, was saving him? It made no sense at all.
Soren had been in the ATU for three months now, but it had mostly involved walking around the streets near the interim government buildings, checking IDs and bags. Then the special task force had been set up. Soren had been on two patrols this quarter as part of the task force. Nothing had happened the first night. The second night, Soren had asked a man for proof of residence and employment, but he hadn’t had any. And the voice from Command had echoed inside Soren’s helmet and given the execution order.
Tonight, he’d received the same.
But he’d hesitated.
It was all Ruby’s fault. When he’d returned to Command after his first kill, he’d found her smoking a cigarette outside the locker room. He didn’t know how to take Ruby. She was a head taller than him, almost twice as broad, and she chewed gum and called him “rookie” even though Jax was newer to the team than he was. It was Soren’s baby face.
Ruby had offered him a cigarette. “First blood, huh?”
He’d nodded and waved the cigarettes away. “Guess he was a big target, right?”
“The kill. I didn’t recognize him, but Command must have.” Command monitored their feeds and provided them with constant instructions. Turn here. Walk there. Stop that man. Terminate him. “I wonder which one he was.”
“Which terrorist,” Soren had elaborated, unease edging into his voice at just the thought of having to clarify what should have been obvious. Should have been.
“Aw, rookie.” Ruby had shaken her head, curled her mouth into a salty bitter smile, and jammed her cigarette between her lips again. “You’re too cute.”
She hadn’t said anything else, and Soren had wondered if she was fucking with him on purpose, if she somehow knew that ball of unease in his gut was twisting and churning away, growing bigger and bigger every second. And then he’d wondered if maybe it was everyone else fucking with him instead: the ATU, the interim government, the whole damn universe.
So tonight he’d hesitated, and the guy had run.
But now he was back, pulling Soren from the brink.
And then what?
It didn’t take long for his relief at not falling to his death to morph into a fresher, more insidious fear. Just because the crim had saved his life didn’t mean he was suddenly going to start cooperating.
Shit. Maybe he was only saving Soren’s life so he could make use of it. Ransom him, maybe. Torture him for information—not that Soren had even a word to tell, but that was hardly an assurance against torture.
What if crims really were the bloodthirsty animals the higher-ups said they were? What if this one tortured Soren for fun or kept him as a pet or cannibalized him? Every horror story he’d ever heard came back to him in a heartbeat.
Metal scraped against his body armor as the guy pulled him up, and Soren’s pulse raced with adrenaline as his mind scrambled to sort out a plan. He’d dropped his firearm, but he had capsicum spray and a baton in his belt, and a knife in his boot. None of those options were exactly lethal—the knife, maybe, though he had only ever used it to stab the sandbags in the training room—but they were his only options.
His empty thigh holster snagged and caught on the metal. Over the roar of the blood in his skull and his own rising panic, Soren heard the guy grunting. “Fuck. Come on, fuck.”
And something in the way he said it, or something about the strained look on his face and the sweat pouring off his temples, made Soren’s dick twitch.
Just fear. Fear and adrenaline and his body’s automatic fucked-up response to stimuli. Maybe, knowing he was probably going to die soon, his dick wanted one last hurrah. Looking at the guy under the filth and those dark curls, Soren could hardly blame it for trying.
“Come on.” The crim lurched backward, pulling Soren with him, and suddenly their hands were unclasped and Soren was shuddering on the catwalk like a fish out of water, the guy sprawled beside him.
Baton, spray, knife.
Soren stared at the guy, terrified to make the first move but knowing he couldn’t let the crim get the drop on him again.
The guy stared back, dark eyes wide. He was older than Soren. Maybe in his midtwenties or a few years older. He had an angular face, ruddy and flushed under the brown of his skin. Dark eyes, dark hair—a sweaty hank of it fell across one eye as Soren watched—and a stubbled jaw. His lips moved as he panted, sucking breath into his lungs.
He didn’t know which to reach for: his baton, his spray, or his knife. Only one was likely to deliver Command’s ordered killing blow, and Soren knew that was what he should choose, knew it . . .
But what if the crim had a weapon too? What if he was quicker? In training this was all so simple, but the worst that could happen there were some bruises and a roomful of laughter if the trainer put Soren on his ass. He’d never been truly afraid. Now . . . God, now he was fucking crippled with indecision, and with the endless possibilities as to exactly how this could go wrong.
His radio blasted in his helmet again—a burst of static, no distinguishable words—and Soren flinched. The sudden move startled the crim, who twisted away, and that was just what Soren needed: an action to react to. He reached out and gripped the guy’s boot, yanking on it, hugging it tight as the guy kicked.
“Get off! Get the fuck off!”
The metal catwalk groaned and creaked in protest.
The guy kicked out again, but Soren held tight. Then the guy curled forward, pulling himself into a seated position, one fist flying at the side of Soren’s helmet. Soren clenched his jaw and rode the blow out. It dislodged his goggles, pushing them painfully against the bridge of his nose. The short, sharp pain only made him grip the crim’s leg harder.
Lean, ropy muscle moved under his fingertips, and his fucked-up mind went straight to the last time he held a guy’s leg like this: in a bathroom at a club. In a stall. The place had been a dive. The sort of place that didn’t check ID, and where fucking in the bathrooms, while still illegal, was the least of the place’s worries if the law showed up. Soren was nineteen, but he looked younger. He didn’t care if the other guy thought he was a kid, just wanted to get some action. And no way in hell was he going to jeopardize his career, and his freedom, someplace where he had to give a name.
He’d been conscripted to the ATU straight out of school, but knew he was more than lucky. Jobs were so scarce, and the cost of living so high, that he’d been terrified he wouldn’t find work. When the letter from the ATU came it had felt like winning the lottery. His parents weren’t happy, of course, because who wanted their son to face off with crims and terrorists? But job security was such a rare commodity that, right up until this encounter, Soren had been able to think of the danger in the most abstract terms. In the meantime, he had his own secure apartment in a decent district, with reinforced doors, a regular paycheck, and a pension plan.
For most, being gay came with the penalty of being labeled an “amoral element,” which came with a sentence of reeducation and hard labor. For an ATU man, it amounted to treason against the state.
Soren had heard enough rhetoric spewed by politicians and the media and people in the street to know from a very early age that this thing inside him, this thing at the secret core of him, had to stay hidden. Sometimes it felt like something from an old horror movie, like a man turning into a wolf in the light of the full moon. And when he couldn’t control it, that was when he went to some dive club where nobody asked questions, and sank to his knees on a filthy bathroom floor.
Always to his knees, because with a pretty face like Soren’s, and without the imposing ATU armor to hide behind, nobody wanted him any other way. Maybe Soren didn’t want it any other way, either. Who knew, because when it got desperate enough that he was seeking it out, he didn’t much care about the specifics, just opened his mouth like some twisted version of a faithful worshipper awaiting holy communion. And then, with the sordid transaction over, he was transformed into himself again, into a man in control of his own body and soul, the memory of clutching a pair of strong thighs as a stranger thrust down his throat enough to sustain him for another few weeks.
Here, now, grappling with this man, his body began to shake, and he couldn’t tell if the rush of adrenaline was from fear or from the association his touch-starved brain made with the men he’d sucked off in the past—sweaty, rough, and full of contempt—or from some strange place where the two meant the same thing.
The crim punched him in the head again, and this time the blow jarred more than the last. Soren’s eyes stung with sudden tears. He shook his head to clear his vision and grappled with the man, keeping one arm clamped around the guy’s thigh while reaching for his belt with his spare hand.
The guy let out a shout. No words, just a sound of pure outrage. He bucked in Soren’s grip, then grabbed for his goggles. Hooked his fingers around them, one rough nail scouring Soren’s temple, and pulled.
Soren tried to twist his head free.
“Fucker!” the guy grunted, his fingers jabbing into Soren’s eyes.
Pain shot through him, and he howled. In that second, he loosened his grip on the guy’s leg, and then he was on his back, the guy straddling him. His knees dug into Soren’s ribs, and he just kept fucking punching.
“You fucker. Fucker.”
Soren’s eyes were streaming. His goggles were snapped back onto his face now but not flush. Their ridges dug into his nose and cheek, lopsided. The guy’s hands were at his throat, wrenching the strap of his helmet undone, and then it was off, and Soren’s head was bouncing against the metal of the catwalk with each blow. He moaned as his helmet rolled over the edge of the walkway and to the floor, thirty feet below.
He hadn’t been able to hear Command, but maybe they’d still been able to see what was happening. Maybe they’d seen he was in trouble, and maybe they were sending backup. Maybe that’s what they were trying to tell him with each blast of static. Yet even if they had been, those unintelligible sounds had been his last real contact with Command. Now he was really alone.
Through his tears, Soren could see the crim’s face twisting with anger. God. He was going to die here, like this.
The crim gripped Soren’s balaclava, lifted his head, slammed it back down again.
The pain was so sharp that everything went white. The world shifted and shimmered, grayed at the edges, the darkness bleeding in.
Petty thief Ashoka “Ace” King knows better than to get in the way of Tophet’s Anti-Terrorist Unit. Rightfully feared in Tophet’s crime-ridden underbelly, a face-to-face encounter with an ATU is almost certainly a death sentence. But Ace has never been one to follow the rules.
Soren Lau might be an ATU rookie, but he’s not naive enough to believe everything his superiors tell him. Then again, he’s not stupid enough to disobey them, either. If he doesn’t shoot and kill as ordered, he might be next on their list.
But when Soren meets Ace, a moment’s hesitation is all it takes to put both their lives on the line. They don’t know each other, they don’t trust each other, and there’s no way in hell they can both walk away from this alive. But with suspicion and mortal danger mounting against both of them—and the forbidden attraction blazing between them—there’s nothing they can do but try.
The Social Links:
Lisa likes to tell stories, mostly with hot guys and happily ever afters.
Lisa lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but she suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.
She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house with too many cats, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.
Heidi Belleau was born and raised in small town New Brunswick, Canada. She now lives in the rugged oil-patch frontier of Northern BC with her husband, an Irish ex-pat whose long work hours in the trades leave her plenty of quiet time to write.
She has a degree in history from Simon Fraser University with a concentration in British and Irish studies; much of her work centred on popular culture, oral folklore, and sexuality, but she was known to perplex her professors with unironic papers on the historical roots of modern romance novel tropes. (Ask her about Highlanders!)
When not writing, you might catch her trying to explain British television to her newborn daughter or standing in line at the local coffee shop, waiting on her caramel macchiato.
Each comment on this blog tour enters you for a chance to win a $20 Riptide credit and an ecopy of Bliss, the first book set in this universe. Entries close July 25, and contest is not restricted to US residents.
Remember to leave your email address in the comments so we can contact you if you win!
Blog Tour: Tin Man by Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau was last modified: July 21st, 2015 by GGR-Review