About the Book
Sociopath. Killer. Deviant.
Monster, devoid of morals, incapable of human emotion. The villain known as Spark has been called this and more, and as a super-powered aberrant has masterminded countless crimes to build his father’s inhuman empire. Yet to professor Sean Archer, this fearsome creature is only Tobias Rutherford–antisocial graduate researcher, quiet underachiever, and a fascinating puzzle Sean is determined to solve.
But one kiss leads to an entanglement that challenges everything Tobias knows about himself, aberrants, and his own capacity to love. When his father orders him to assassinate a senator, one misstep unravels a knot of political intrigue that places the fate of humans and aberrants alike in Tobias’s hands. As danger mounts and bodies pile higher, will Tobias succumb to his dark nature and sacrifice Sean–or will he defy his father and rise from the ashes to become a hero in a world of villains?
“Ambition,” he says a little too flatly. “Ambition is expensive, you know. I worked my way through uni but barely made enough for living expenses. I was arrogant and young and wanted to be away, because I thought away meant better. But while I was busy being away, they were giving up their meager savings to pay for my tuition. And while it’s not as beastly expensive as it is here in the States…”
It’s not wholly a lie, I think. The regret is too real. But it’s masking something else, even if the ache in his voice is all too true, too deep, his eyes glimmering faintly, wetly.
“I feel like I took everything from them. From my brother, too. Keane.” He smiles, but it’s tremulous and hurt. “And I paid back every pence and pound, in spades. I’m paying Keane’s university tuition right now, but I can’t ever forget how they struggled for what they gave up for me. And I feel like I don’t deserve to go home, because of what I took from them.”
He’s so intense. How can he stand to live with such intensity of emotion? How does he not drown in it, in himself, every day?
I push myself up to kiss him. It’s the only way I know how to offer comfort. With touch, with intimacy, with presence.
“You think they resent you,” I murmur, and he lets out a choked, wet-sounding laugh against my lips.
“How can they not?”
“Just because you resent yourself doesn’t mean they resent you.” I curl my fingers in his hair, stroke against the back of his neck. “Other people rarely see us the way we see ourselves. Other people rarely hate us the way we hate ourselves.”
He leans hard into me, almost desperately. “Do you hate yourself, Tobias?”
“Why?” He makes a rough sound. “No—don’t tell me. I wouldn’t understand.”
“No more than I can really understand you.” I rest my brow to his. “It’s a lonely life, not being understood.”
“A lonely life, for lonely people.” He trails into a near whimper that tears at me to hear, with a force I’m unaccustomed to feeling—as if he’d stabbed me with that sound, drenched my heart in his emotions. “Am I allowed to hate it when I chose this?”
“Yes,” I whisper, and take him fiercely into my arms.
Because this, I understand. This choice to be alone, because solitude is safer and yet so very, very terrible. “Yes.” He burrows into me, making an oddly small bundle for such a large man.
“You aren’t the only one running from something,” he mumbles against my skin. “You aren’t.”
“I know.” I close my eyes and curl around him and cradle him close. “And you aren’t the only one who’s lonely. So for as long as we can…let’s be lonely together. Until we have to run again.”
“Until,” I answer.
About the Author
Hi. I’m Xen. Cole. Whatever you want to call me; both are true, and both are lies. My pen names are multitudes, my nicknames legion. Tall, bi/queer, introverted, author, and of a brown-ish persuasion made up of various flavors of Black, Asian, and Native American. I’m cuter than Hello Kitty, more bitter than the blackest coffee, and able to trip over cats in a single half-asleep lurch; I’m what happens when a Broody Antihero and a Manic Pixie Dream Boy fight to the death, and someone builds a person from the scraps left behind. Beardless, I look like the uke in every yaoi manga in existence; bearded or not, I sound like Barry White. About half my time is spent as a corporate writer, and the other half riding a train of WTFery that sometimes results in a finished book. Romance, erotica, sci-fi, horror, paranormal; LGBTQIA and cishet; diverse settings and diverse characters from a diverse author.