I would like to introduce you to the amazing cover of my new release Lab Rat which will be released next Wednesday, May 4th
Here, and here alone you will be treated to an exclusive excerpt you won’t find on any of my other cover reveal posts. Enjoy.
This was previously published by Romance First Publishing under the title of The Unfairness of Life, but it has been very much cleaned up and improved since then
IT’S THE LIGHTS. I hate the lights—they’re so bright. I don’t like bright. I want to go back to my room. It’s not bright in my room. It’s dim and cool and safe. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to think. I don’t want to….
“Good morning, Gabriel. Are you going to be a good boy today? You weren’t yesterday, were you?”
“I want to go home.”
“All in good time. We have work to do today, and the sooner we get it done, the sooner you can go back to your room. One more day. Just one more day.”
“Can I go home then?”
“We’ll see. Relax now, Gabriel. You know it’s easier when you relax. I’m going to give you an injection and I want you to relax and let your mind open. Relax now, Gabriel. I’m going to start now.
Remember to relax.”
The lights. I hate the lights.
It’s the screaming that wakes me every time. But this time I’m not alone. There’s someone here with me. My housemates never come near when I’m screaming; they know better. It scares them. It scares me.
I prise open my eyes and the shock stops the screams. It almost stops my heart. I try to push him away, but he holds on. He’s in my bed. He’s… dressed but I… I’m not. What the fuck happened last night? Was I that drunk?
“Get away from me.”
“When you stop shaking.”
“Fuck that. Get away from me.”
I manage to push him back and he stretches out like a cat, propping that head of glorious hair on one hand. He looks at me with his amazing eyes.
“What the fuck are you doing here?”
“That’s okay. I wasn’t expecting thanks. Not from you.”
“Thanks? What do I have to thank you for?”
“Well, I could have left you unconscious on your doorstep, but I thought you’d be more comfortable in bed.”
“I… what? I…. You undressed me?”
Laurie shrugs. “You threw up.”
I groan. I’m not worried about passing out or throwing up—that’s not unusual for me, especially after alcohol—but the thought someone saw it, saw me, and took off my clothes….
I’m horrified. No one sees my body. No one.
“Get the fuck out of here.”
“Just as well I wasn’t expecting thanks, isn’t it? Otherwise I might be feeling crushed right now.”
“I don’t give a shit. Get the hell out of my room.”
Laurie’s expression turns introspective. He reaches out and runs his finger over my arm. The touch sends shivers through me, and for a moment I freeze, staring at his hand. It’s been a long time since anyone has touched me, especially there.
Stunned, I raise my eyes and gaze into the deep blue orbs. “Is it because of that?” he says softly. “It’s alright. It doesn’t bother me.”
“I….” My heart pounds. I’m overwhelmed. I can’t cope with this. I shake my head. “Get out of my room. Get out. Get out!” I know I’m being unreasonable, but I can’t help it. I know I’m getting hysterical, but I can’t help that either.
Looking completely shocked, he does what I ask.
Laurie gets to his feet and walks slowly around the table. He reaches for my hand and I can’t resist when he draws me to my feet. I shiver when he puts his hand on my waist. I don’t want this. I don’t want him to kiss me. I want him to leave me alone. I want him to stop asking me difficult questions, to stop asking me to talk and stare into the darkness within.
No, I definitely, definitely don’t want him to kiss me…. But I think I’ll die if he doesn’t.
Laurie doesn’t kiss me. He just stands with his hands on my waist, gazing into my eyes.
“Do you still believe you’re not beautiful?”
“Laurie, don’t… please.”
“Don’t what? Don’t tell you what’s clear for everyone with eyes to see, everyone but yourself?”
“You don’t understand. You only see what’s on the outside.”
“I know. But what’s on the outside is so beautiful, so pure and so…. What’s on the inside can’t be that bad, Gabriel.”
“But it is. What’s on the inside is poison, Laurie. It destroys everything. It’s destroyed everything and everyone I’ve ever loved.”
“So you won’t let yourself love again, or believe you’re capable of it?”
“Yes. No. Don’t confuse me. It’s not fair. I’m confused enough already.”
“I’m not trying to confuse you, Gabriel. Far from it. I’m trying to get you to see clearly.”
“Don’t. I don’t want to see clearly. I’ve spent a lot of time fogging the glass.”
“Then it’s about time to demist the window. You don’t have poison in you, Gabriel. You’re the least poisonous person I know. You’d never hurt anyone but yourself. You’re shutting your eyes to the beauty that’s you. The only one you’re poisoning is yourself.”
“No.” I turn away and sit down, resting my elbows on the table and my head on my hands. “You don’t understand. I’ve hurt everyone; everyone I ever loved. I drove my mother to a nervous breakdown, my father to the verge of divorce, my sister to a grotty house with a grotty husband she ran off with just to get away from me. I drove one boyfriend to drink and drugs and the other to suicide. No one I’ve loved has ever escaped me unscathed.”
“Tell me about them, Gabriel. Tell me about your boyfriends. What happened to them?”
He draws up a chair and sits next to me, stroking my back while I tell him as much as I can remember. I tell him about how my life went off the rails. About the drink, the drugs, the casual sex, and about Daniel, the bright star who made it all worthwhile… until I extinguished his light. I tell him about my breakdown and about Michael. I tell him everything that happened… almost everything. What I don’t tell him is why. He senses there’s something
else, something I’m holding back, but he also senses I’m exhausted and in no shape to be pushed on what it might be.
I can barely lift my head when he says quietly, “Daniel and Michael made their own choices, Gabriel, and you weren’t and aren’t responsible for any of them. You didn’t force Daniel to drink or Michael to stop taking his meds. You didn’t hold the needle for Daniel, or the gun for Michael. None of it was your fault, Gabriel.”
But it was. I can’t tell him why… but it was.
With a huge sigh, I shake my head and let it fall on my arms. Laurie becomes businesslike.
“Come on. It’s getting late and it’s time you were in bed. You didn’t sleep last night and you look completely exhausted.”
I let him help me to my feet and steer me towards the stairs. I expect him to say goodnight in the hall, but he doesn’t. He shoves me up the stairs and follows me. After checking to make sure I take my meds and helping me wash the blood out of my hair, he watches me get into bed, then sits next to me, stroking my hair. I stare up at him. He’s the one who looks like an angel, outlined in brightness, the red in his hair catching fire and burning like flames. His eyes are pools of light in the shadow of his hair, bleached of colour against the fire, almost silver.
Laurie stares at me, drawing me into his eyes, falling into mine. Slowly, he leans in, and when he’s close enough, I bury my hands in his hair, drawing him down faster. The kiss is a gentle and sweet, unhurried, our first proper exploration of each other.
When Laurie raises his head, he has stars in his eyes. “You’re so beautiful.”
I guess I’m getting desensitised to him saying that, because it doesn’t hurt this time. Laurie runs his hand up my arm, gently, the tips of his fingers brushing my skin, making me shiver. When he gets to my hand, he covers it with his own, then turns his head to kiss my wrist—gently, softly.
At first, I close my eyes and surrender to the sensations: the tickle of his breath on my skin, the warmth of his hand over mine, the touch of his lips on my… Suddenly I realize, and it feels as if he’s spitting acid on me. I jerk my arm away and hold it protectively across my body.
Laurie doesn’t seem startled. He definitely doesn’t look sorry. He just looks sad. “You’re tired and you really should sleep. I’ll leave you alone in a minute to get some proper rest. I’ll come back in the morning. But first… it’s very important to me that you know how beautiful you are to me.
“I want you to know that no matter what happened to you, no matter how hurt you are, how damaged you think you are, it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters except that you’re here and I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere. You’re an amazing person and I think I’m
falling in love with you. I want you to know that, to know that I think every… single… part of you… is beautiful.”
As he speaks, in a low, hypnotic voice, keeping my eyes entrapped by those glowing silvery orbs, he gently takes my arm. At first I resist, but I’ve neither the strength nor the desire. Something inside me is screaming for release, begging me to let it go… let it all go… praying he won’t hurt me, that this won’t tear me apart. He punctuates his words by planting small, tender kisses on the inside of my wrist, caressing the deep, angry scars with his lips.
I close my eyes and let the scorching tears flow. I feel weak, so weak. I’m shaking all over, and the hand that Laurie’s holding is clenched into a fist but… but… for the first time, I don’t care. I don’t care that I’m weak. I don’t care that I’m shaking. I don’t care that I’m hurt and damaged and doomed. I don’t care because here, with him, I feel safe. And part of me— a very small part of me—feels… beautiful.
“Laurie,” I whisper. He lifts his head. Now he seems a little anxious, and I try to smile. “Will you stay with me?”
The smile that breaks over his face almost breaks my heart. What have I done? What the hell have I done? I don’t let people in. I don’t let people touch me and there’s a bloody good reason for that, and now… and now…. Laurie’s lips find mine and I lose my train of thought. I forget it all. There’s nothing before, there may be nothing after, but right now… right now everything’s perfect.
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Nephy Hart was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.
Nephy has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.
Later in life, Nephy became the storyteller for a re enactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.
It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.
In present times, Nephy lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son, dog, bearded dragon (called Smaug of course) and three cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. She’s never been happier since she was made redundant and is able to devote herself entirely to her twin loves of writing and art