Not in an End Times way. In the sense that my latest book is now up for sale, yaaaaaaay!!!!
That’s right, boys and girls, both and neither, Hell On Earth (Hellscape book 2) is now available in the usual ebook formats for your reading pleasure on Samhain Publishing, Amazon, B&N, and possibly your other favorite 3rd party ebook retailers as well (you’ll have to check; it’s not on all of them yet). I’m extra super excited about it, too, because I LOVE the Hellscape universe, I love this book, and I particularly love my boy Sandman. He’s fascinated me ever since he popped up in book one, Hell’s End, and threatened to steal the show. Now he has his very own story, and I could not be more thrilled to share it with the world Read on for the blurb and an excerpt. You can read a different excerpt right here on my website, or read chapter one (slightly edited for Sandman’s bad language, ha) on the Samhain website. Enjoy!
© Copyright 2014 Ally Blue
Hell On Earth
Two prisoners. One forgotten planet. A secret that twists justice beyond all recognition.
All Sandman wants is to get away from his violent past on Hell’s End, but trouble follows him, leaving him with more blood on his hands and a one-way ticket aboard a crewless prison transport on a pre-set course for Deimos.
By the time he realizes the transport’s actual destination is a mystery, there’s only one other prisoner he can trust. He doesn’t like it, or the things Vijay makes him feel. Caring makes you weak. Makes you easy to hurt. And Sandman’s never been easy, or weak.
Vijay is focused on what he’s always done best. Survival. But Sandman is an enigma, fearless in battle yet terrified of tight spaces. Vijay finds himself longing to break through the fierce young warrior’s shell.
After crash landing on an uncharted planet, they stumble on the justice system’s dirty little secret—the Farm, where prisoners go in but never come out. When the Farm’s threat gets personal, Sandman and Vijay each test the limits of endurance to protect the man at his back—and in his heart.
[Warning: This book contains spaceships, soldiers, good guys, bad guys, solar system politics, and a one-eyed Gutter with an attitude. ]
Sandman followed, twirling his knife between his fingers while Vijay pulled water pouches and protein bars out of the backpack. They sat side by side on the filthy floor with their backs against the wall and ate in silence. Outside, the wind-driven rain pelted the building with a tick-tick-tick like an endless barrage of tiny pebbles. Thunder boomed in the distance, farther away each time. Vijay couldn’t even see the lightning anymore.
“D’you think there’ll be real sunlight when the storm goes away?”
Something in the way Sandman spoke made Vijay study his profile long enough to earn himself a back-off glare. Vijay ignored it, because he knew a defense mechanism when he saw one. He’d heard the faint thread of longing and fear in his companion’s voice, and seen it echoed in the tightness around the boy’s mouth. “I have no idea. But I hope so. Our supplies won’t last forever. Eventually, we’ll have to hunt, and if there’s no sun, that means nothing to eat.”
If Sandman felt any reaction to that, he kept it to himself. He turned his head to peer across the room. At this angle, Vijay couldn’t see his intact eye, only the yellow smiley-face ball in his right eye socket. The effect of the artificially cheery bit of rubber combined with his stillness was eerie. Vijay fought the urge to turn the boy’s face toward his, so he could see Sandman’s single eye with its constant spark of hot, defiant life.
“You should get some sleep.” Sandman rose to his feet, the movement smooth and graceful, still twirling his knife in one hand. When he turned around, his expression was blank. Cold. Except for the fire that never went out of that one brilliant blue eye. “I’ll keep watch.”
Vijay hesitated, though he wasn’t sure why. One of them would have to watch while the other slept. They would not survive this world if they didn’t trust one another at least that much. Finally, when Sandman’s free hand balled into a fist, Vijay nodded. “Yes, all right. Promise you’ll wake me when you get tired, though.”
Sandman’s eyebrows shot up, as if Vijay had surprised him somehow. “I will.”
Since Sandman didn’t seem to expect any further conversation and Vijay wouldn’t have known what to say in any case, he scooted into the curve of the half-wall and curled onto his side with his back against the cool stone and his face toward the gap through which he and Sandman had entered the space. He didn’t doubt Sandman’s abilities as a guard, but Vijay figured it couldn’t hurt for him to get in as strategic a position as possible before going to sleep.
If he could sleep. His body felt tense as a spring, his mind racing in spirals. Sleep seemed impossible. But they couldn’t travel in this rain that burned their skin, so now was the time to rest.
Calling on the skills born of a childhood rife with poverty and uncertainty, Vijay shut his eyes and breathed the tightness from his muscles. He focused on the din of the rain hitting the side of the building and tried to pretend it came from one of the tame storms generated by Mars’s engineered atmosphere. He lay there on the cold, dirty floor, one arm bent beneath his head, and let the sound sink through his skin, into his brain, quieting his runaway thoughts. It pounded like a thousand wild drums, like a terrified pulse hammering out of control, like small fists and feet on the inside of a coffin lid when the fire rages outside, like the crackle of flames when they eat away the wood and start on the naked skin of your shoulder and side…
Vijay woke with the scream on his tongue stifled under the unyielding grip of a strong, cool hand over his mouth. He struggled for a second before the nightmare faded, the real world returned and he remembered where he was. Relieved, he relaxed against Sandman’s chest. One of the boy’s arms banded both of his across his waist and the other hand kept an iron grip on his mouth.
Sandman’s hair brushed Vijay’s neck as he leaned close enough to put his lips to Vijay’s ear. “Someone’s in here. Stay put and be quiet.”
Vijay didn’t get a chance to argue. Sandman was already gone, slipping in a crouched stance toward the opening between the stone barrier and the wall on swift, silent feet, his knife in a confident grip and his gaze trained with impressive concentration on something beyond Vijay’s line of vision.
In that moment, Sandman resembled nothing so much as one of the predators that had roamed this planet long ago, creeping up on their prey and inflicting a killing blow before the unsuspecting victim knew what stalked it. Vijay found the sight arresting. He watched the flex of Sandman’s wiry body beneath the thin, still-damp prison shirt and licked his lips.
A high-pitched screech cut the air, followed by another, and another. The echoes were still bouncing around the room when the owners of the voices hit in a blur of rags, weapons and eye-watering stench. Sandman ducked beneath one leaping body, lunged in and slashed at it with his knife in one smooth motion. He was already up and whirling toward the next one in the half second it took Vijay to realize that the first attacker lay twitching on the floor, mouth opening and closing while her—definitely her—intestines slithered from the gaping wound in her belly.
It wasn’t like Vijay had never seen anyone die before. He’d been born and raised in the slums that covered nearly three-quarters of Callisto. Any child who made it to double digits there without having seen enough death to make it seem mundane was a rare creature indeed. But he’d never experienced death precisely like this. Never stared into someone’s eyes watching their life fade while they bled out not half a meter from his face.
People really did survive here. Whether from previous prison ships or not, this planet obviously still supported human life. He prayed he hadn’t just watched the last one die.
Sandman’s sudden appearance between him and the dying woman startled him into motion. He was on his feet with his stolen gun aimed at Sandman’s heart before he knew what he was doing.
Laughter was the last reaction he expected. He let the gun drop and leaned against the stone wall behind him, shaking. “What in the hell are you laughing at? I almost shot you.”
“Yeah, well, you didn’t.” Still grinning like it was funny, Sandman raked his tangled blond hair out of his face. “Good to know you got the balls to pull a weapon when you need to, Numbers. I like it.”
Uncomfortable with the odd gleam in Sandman’s eye, Vijay glanced around. Two other people—people, by the gods, actual human beings—lay gutted on the floor. Killed by Sandman, presumably. The short but intense fight seemed to have burned off some of the excess energy that had surrounded him like a crackling cloud, leaving him relaxed and smiling. Almost like he’d just had amazing sex.
The comparison disturbed Vijay on a fundamental level, not least because thinking of sex and Sandman made him feel hot inside.
He shoved his gun back in his pocket, not daring to look the boy in the eye. “I told you not to call me Numbers. My name is Vijay.”
More laughter. Low, rough, skating over Vijay’s skin like textured fabric. He bit his lip.
As if he sensed Vijay’s discomfort, Sandman sidled so close Vijay could smell him, sweat and blood and the faint residue of the poisonous water where the ship had crashed. He leaned in so that his plump, full lips nearly touched the shell of Vijay’s ear. “Whatever makes you happy. Vijay.” He drew back, his angular cheek brushing Vijay’s, and turned away with a wicked smile.
Vijay tried to hold himself up on the stone wall without letting on how much Sandman’s blatant flirtation had affected him. By the gods, what had he gotten himself into?