These are a few excerpts from my work in progress, Dark Sky.
This is my favorite time of day, the hour or so before dawn. The sun is about to rise, but you can’t see it on the horizon just yet. You can still tell it’s there, the sky is different than at midnight. It’s more of a feeling than something you see.
I like that. I like to think there can be a little light, even when the sky is dark.
For the first time, the ruthless crime boss Ras meets someone he doesn’t want to kill…
Nate knows I can shoot the instant he moves that shaky hand holding his gun. He is entirely at my mercy, but he is not begging for his life, not trying to strike a deal. Perhaps he has a plan.
“You think you’re better than him.” He gestures to the body on the ground without actually looking down.
“I am better.”
He moves slowly and carefully, the soft tremble in his hands entirely gone. He sets his gun on a little table and steps away from it into the center of the room. “Then what do you need a gun for?”
I give him a delighted grin. He must be a decent scrapper, if he took down my hitman. This will be fun.
I set my gun on a nearby counter and step into the room. I stand a few feet back and wait for him to make the first move.
He lunges towards me, launching himself forward with a fierce fist intent on my face. I sidestep in a quick, fluid movement. He stumbles past me.
He spins sharply and attacks again, fingernails meant to dig into my eyes. But the angle is off. It’s a trivial thing to block the blow and dance aside.
He catches himself, palms landing flat against the wall. He turns, hands clenched into tight fists. It’s clear he knows how hopeless this is. But his lips still curl back into a feral snarl, and his eyes don’t leave mine.
I wink at him.
He spits at me, a wild animal all fury and instinct, teeth and claws and whatever it takes to survive. Like this, his shaggy brown hair hanging in his flushed face, breathing hard, he is remarkably attractive.
I wipe the saliva off my shirt with a careless swipe of a black-gloved hand. “That was not very nice.”
He responds with another attempt at a punch. I grab his arm, hyper-extend his elbow and use it to drive him to the ground.
I draw my knife in a graceful, practiced sweep as I move with him, kneel beside him. I hold the sharp side of the blade to the smooth curve of his throat.
“Any last words?”
He sucks in a breath, raises his chin, and meets my eyes. His are narrow and tense, but there is no sign of surrender, no slumped shoulders, no open palms. He clenches his fists as though still fighting.
Even as he waits for me to cut his throat, he doesn’t look away. He’s not going to beg, no bent knees or penitent words. Just the blaze in his eyes, something hot and bright buried beneath the drug dealer, the desperate fighter, this empty life in the slums.
It shines so powerfully not even the blood I’m about to spill could put it out. For someone who always lingers in the shadows, it’s blinding, this glow within him. And so beautiful even a creature of the darkness is not immune.
Nate, once a truly lost soul, finds himself in good company on Christmas morning, for the first time in many years…
“I don’t know. I have everything I need.”
The silence drifts back over us, he’s still watching the tree and I watch him and suddenly I know what I want.
I want to hold his hand.
I want to hold his hand. Me. The man someone fucked behind an actual dumpster, once, so I could get high and here I am, looking at Ras’s pale skin in the dim light and wondering what it would be like to twine our fingers together and just hold hands.
I can recite, like a memorized poem, all the things about me and all the things about him that make this a terrible fucking idea.
But I just can’t get it out of my head.
Maybe it’s because it’s Christmas morning, or maybe it’s so early this still feels like a dream. Or maybe the dark and the mist have convinced me that we are the only two people left in the world.
Whatever it is, I let all those things go, with the release of a single heavy breath.
I take off my mitten, and then I take Ras’s arm, pull the glove off of his hand. I don’t look at him as I lace our fingers together, and press my palm against his hand. There’s this fragment of a moment where we’re completely still, linked like that. I don’t even have time to breathe but it seems to linger and last, when I meet his eyes and they are the first tender green leaves of summer, even in this winter night.
And then he closes his fingers around my hand and I close mine around his. Even though it’s just this stupid little thing it makes my insides pop softly, like the golden bubbles in champagne.
He doesn’t say a word, and when I manage to meet his eyes again it feels like I’m falling, weightless in the space of the night sky, the mist caressing me as I fly. And I can only breathe in gasps, transfixed by the beauty of the stars cascading around me.
We don’t speak the whole walk home, like there’s nothing we need to say. And every subtle move of his fingertips reminds me that we’re intertwined, and that he didn’t pull away.