Welcome to the Riptide Publishing/Aleksandr Voinov/L. A. Witt blog tour for our thriller, Hostile Ground!
Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for a choice of two eBooks off our backlists (excluding Hostile Ground) and a $10 Riptide Publishing store credit. Entries close at midnight, Eastern Time, on May 17th, and winners will be announced on May 19th. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.
Exclusive Excerpt from Hostile Ground
“It’s not that hard to pick out cops,” Ridley said. “Especially the idiots who aren’t so subtle.” He laughed humorlessly. “You’d be amazed how many try to work their way onto Lombardi’s payroll.”
Mahir managed a nervous laugh. “I can imagine.”
Ridley’s expression hardened again. Mahir wished the man would put his sunglasses back on. Not being able to see Ridley’s eyes was decidedly easier on the blood pressure than looking right into them.
“Every once in a while,” Ridley said, “one slips past me.”
Ridley nodded slowly. Fuck, that man could make any gesture look menacing. “They always get caught eventually, though.” A chilling grin spread across his lips.
Mahir shook his head. Considering one of the undercovers who’d been killed recently had been shot execution-style, he wasn’t about to call Ridley’s bluff on this.
“Care to guess how?” Ridley’s tone brought to mind a spider fucking with an insect already caught in its web.
Mahir coughed into his fist. “I . . . I wouldn’t know how. How you’d catch one, I mean.”
Ridley leaned back and swung one foot, then the other, onto his desk. He crossed them at the ankles and folded his hands across his flat stomach. Now he looked entirely too relaxed. “The easiest way is to tell him to shoot a man. A cop won’t do it.”
Mahir’s heart pounded harder. A sick, acidic feeling burned in his gut. I had sex with this psycho?
“But that method is so”—Ridley waved a hand and shook his head—“expensive.” He looked Mahir in the eyes. “And messy.” Rolling his eyes, he gave an exasperated sigh. “Hiding bodies is such a pain in the ass sometimes.”
“I can imagine,” Mahir murmured.
“Especially around here.” Ridley clicked his tongue. “Ground’s wet all the time. That clay is a bitch to dig in.” He shrugged, holding Mahir’s gaze as if he was scrutinizing every response. Searching for a tell. Something.
Mahir rested an elbow on the armrest and stroked his chin with his thumb. “Seems like you could just dump them in the mountains somewhere.”
The faintest upward flick of Ridley’s eyebrows suggested he hadn’t expected that. “Go on.”
“Well, the mountains are full of service roads and logging roads. Toss someone out there; a grizzly will get to him before anyone else ever finds him.”
Ridley stared at him. Then he laughed and smacked his palm on his desk. “Oh, Saeed. You never cease to surprise me.” But just as Mahir was ready to relax, glad that Ridley’s icy composure had cracked, all humor drained from Ridley’s face so fast and so completely Mahir would have sworn it had never existed. “I might have to take you with me next time I have to dump someone.”
No. Hell no.
“Found a . . . a few good places out there hiking.”
“Good, good.” Ridley couldn’t possibly be the same man who’d been in Mahir’s bed a few hours ago. “I still have a few other techniques for weeding out the badges that keep trying to sneak in here.”
Feet still up, Ridley reached down behind his desk. A drawer slid open, and something plastic crinkled. “There are certain things cops won’t do.” He brought his hand up and set a mirror on the desk. Then a razor blade.
Mahir’s throat tightened. Ridley didn’t need to know that undercovers could do whatever it took not to blow their covers. One of his buddies was still taking penicillin after he’d fucked a couple of prostitutes to keep himself from getting caught. Mahir could do whatever Ridley told him to, short of killing someone. He’d never done more than weed, and he’d never really enjoyed that. Coke? That shit scared him.
The plastic bag full of white powder landed on top of the mirror. Mahir’s pulse shot up as if he’d already snorted half the bag.
Ridley sat up. He slid the mirror, razor, and bag toward Mahir. “Go on.”
Mahir sat up, too, but eyed the stuff warily. “I’ve . . . never done it.”
“Never?” Ridley smirked. “Don’t tell me you’re a virgin.”
“When it comes to anything stronger than weed, yes.”
“This from the man who doesn’t drink.”
Mahir gulped. “I tried it when I was a kid. Was a mistake.”
“Well, now you get to try coke.” Ridley pulled a hundred dollar bill out of his wallet and set it beside the mirror. “Unless you’re a cop.”
“I’m not a cop.” Mahir glared at him. “I’m a Muslim.”
“You can take it up with Allah later.” Ridley didn’t break eye contact as he reached for the pistol in his shoulder holster. He drew it, clicked off the safety, and set the weapon on the desk, finger hooked loosely over the trigger. “Or sooner. Your call.”
Mahir reached for the mirror and stared at the drugs, psyching himself up. He opened the bag, shook a little onto the mirror, deliberately pouring out an amount that would likely kill him. Saeed would have no clue how much to use. An eighth of a gram would look the same to him as a gram. White powder, unless you had junkie eyes. He assumed the stuff was pure, too, though there was no way to check. It could be half rat poison, which would save a bullet, but it wouldn’t be very cost-effective.
He picked up the razor blade and ground the coke to a finer powder, separated the gram into two uneven lines and picked up the hundred, rolled it.
Ridley leaned forward, an odd twist to his lips.
Mahir bent down over the lines and was about to pull the powder through his nose when Ridley spoke. “Don’t take all of that. That’s a lot.”
So you do have a conscience, motherfucker.
Mahir looked up. “How much? Half?”
“A fourth each.”
Mahir kept an eye on the mirror and inhaled. The powder hit the inside of his nose, his sinuses, then his whole face went numb. Holy shit. He barely managed to take the roll out and put it into his other nostril while the numbness spread through his body. He wanted to rub his face, wipe his eyes, but he still had to complete the order. He snorted the stuff up the other nostril and dropped the bill on the table.
Heart pounding. Brain pounding. The effect was pretty much immediate. His body started to feel warm and tingly all over, a pleasant glow that intensified with his racing heartbeat. Worse, though, was the feeling of happiness. Confidence. Suddenly, nothing mattered. It was like the earth was spinning around him, with him its natural center, and he itched to do something. His nose was still completely numb, and Mahir touched it. Ridley reached over, offering him a handkerchief. Mahir noticed his nose was running. He took the handkerchief and dabbed at it. This felt spectacular—warmth, power, confidence, pure happiness. Wide-awake, too. Raring to go.
“Nice, isn’t it?”
Mahir nodded. “Yes. Didn’t think . . . never thought so clear. So light.”
Ridley came around the desk and placed a hand on Mahir’s shoulder. “What do you think your department would say if they could see you now?”
Aleksandr has been published for twenty years, both in print and ebook. He has ten years’ experience as a writing coach, book doctor, and writing teacher, and until recently worked as an editor in financial services.
After co-authoring the M/M military cult classic Special Forces, Aleksandr embarked on a quest to write gritty, edgy, sometimes literary M/M and gay fiction (much of which is romance/erotica)—the only way he can use his American Literature degree these days.
He’s been published with Heyne/Random House, Carina Press, Samhain Publishing, and others, and is an EPIC Awards winner and a Lambda Awards finalist.
Connect with Aleks:
L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer currently living in the glamorous and ultra-futuristic metropolis of Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, two cats, and a disembodied penguin brain that communicates with her telepathically. In addition to writing smut and disturbing the locals, L.A. is said to be working with the US government to perfect a genetic modification that will allow humans to survive indefinitely on Corn Pops and beef jerky. This is all a cover, though, as her primary leisure activity is hunting down her arch nemesis, erotica author Lauren Gallagher, who is also said to be lurking somewhere in Omaha.
Enemy territory is a dangerous place to fall in love.
After the deaths of three undercover cops investigating a drug ring in a seedy strip club in Seattle, Detective Mahir Hussain has been sent to finish the job. He joins the club’s security team in the hopes of finding enough evidence to bust the operation before the men in charge find a reason to put him in a shallow grave.
To protect the strippers, only gay men can work the club. Ridley, the cold and intimidating head of security, knows exactly how to test potential new hires—including Mahir. From the minute they meet, Mahir and Ridley engage in a dangerous dance of sex and mind games. Mahir needs to find his evidence before Ridley figures out he’s a cop—and before they both grow too close to betray one another.
As the game goes on, Mahir burrows deeper into the operation, where he learns there’s much more happening than meets the eye . . . and why every cop who made it this far has been silenced with a bullet.
Hostile Ground is available May 12th from Riptide Publishing.
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