The God Hunters: Book One
David Ruger has always been curious. That's how he landed his charming on-again, off-again boyfriend, Wyler, and how they started in St. Louis and ended up in the Expanse, an alien universe where humans take on supernatural abilities and demons munch on Chinese takeout.
Thirty thousand years earlier, the Expanse was devastated by a gruesome war. The old gods and a group of shifters known as The God Hunters fought and failed to restore order. Little does David know that they've been waiting for the perfect time to try again-and they've set their eyes on him as the one with the power to restore the Expanse to its former splendor.
Strolling along cobblestone streets in a technologically advanced city floating above the clouds is fascinating, and David and his companions venture ever deeper, where strange beings welcome David as an old friend. But what should have been a brief exploration becomes a race against time to save David's life.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.65(d)|
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The God Hunters
By Mark Reed
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Mark Reed
All right reserved.
Chapter One"I promise, Davie, I'll be there."
I'd planned a gathering of friends at my house. Nothing fancy, a barbecue to provide some much-needed rest and relaxation, an invitation of welcome laughs and playful tears that would come from poking fun at one another until the wee hours of the morning. In my mind I could already see the rising sun completely ignored as our biological clocks futilely reminded us that bedtime was forever ago.
I couldn't wait to see my friends. Just thinking about hanging out with them put a huge smile on my face. My look soon magnified a hundredfold knowing that the man who spoke those words, that promise to me some ten days ago, would be here tonight as well. I'm speaking of my closest friend. He's also my boyfriend. He might secretly be a magician also because he's outstanding at the disappearing act. Here one day, then gone for the next several; it drives me crazy.
Where does he go to? Your guess is as good as mine. His intentions are always a mystery. He only conveys to me "business stuff" as an answer, and then poof ... he's gone.
Yet as brief as our relationship is at times, I am thankful for having him in my life. We fit together quite easily. The two of us would make a nut on a greasy bolt turn green with envy. However, it's debatable as to which one of us is the greasy bolt and which one is the nut.
I call him my little buddy, my little guy. He's boyish and spirited, sporting a devilish charm as well, which proves beyond adept at coercing me to his ways, more so in fact than I could ever do to him. At twenty-three, I'm five years younger than him, but both of us are vertically impaired at five feet seven inches. That's actually a great height. It's ideal for my tastes of the heart. Side by side, we're two small-framed guys-similarly fit, regularly active, both having short, dark hair with a few days' growth of stubble outlining our jaws, since we're both fans of such.
Facing each other isn't like looking in a mirror, though. There are noticeable differences between us. He's a financial adviser; I am a grease monkey (an auto mechanic), which as a profession has never attracted too many gentleman callers. I've always found that strange too. I thought men and grease went together like milk and cookies. Maybe that's a myth.
A grimy job wasn't my first choice in life by a long shot. I'm just good with my hands in the fixer-upper kind of way. Not to mention, I grew up around cars, so the road ahead seemed a bit inevitable. The paycheck isn't shabby either. I take good care of myself. Independent is my middle name, and I like it that way. Although I'd like it a lot more if I could be independent with him next to me.
I live in Saint Louis, Missouri, which was chasing the tail end of summer, it being the first week of September. However, it was still warm enough to make my workweek in this garage miserably hot and sweaty. Thankfully, though, this week had just taken its final breath; today was Friday, Labor Day weekend. After clocking out, I almost danced while climbing into my truck as I anticipated the air-conditioned, three-day weekend comfort of home.
Miller's Auto Repair was sandwiched between a man-made suburb and the natural world. The roads along the Mississippi River, the roads leading home, had stayed dry and dusty from two weeks of no rain. That meant more layers of atomized soil would be covering my poor red truck.
So much for clean, I thought.
After pulling off my sweaty work shirt, and cranking up the air, I blasted out of the parking lot. It was twenty minutes' drive time to my house, including the four traffic lights. That would be cutting it close, since I'd told my buddies to come over at five, yet I didn't leave work until four thirty. Jason and Chris were usually prompt, but Wyler, my disappearing boyfriend that I mentioned, would most likely show up at some unpredictable time, as he always did.
His actual name is Mason, but I've always called him by his last name, the way kids do to one another in high school or in college, although I've never been to college, so I'm guessing on that last one. Wyler never went to college either, which I've always found interesting, because he managed to land such an outstanding job in finance. His success could stem from a natural talent. He's quite skilled with moneymaking. Every time I slip my hands into his pockets, I find a fat wad of cash that always sparks a curious concern on my part.
Throughout this past year of our intermittent dating, I've kept a mental note of "concerns about Wyler" that pop up from time to time. It's not a scandalous list by any means. It's just little Post-it notes (little curiosities) that would ease my mind if ever they were answered by him. He's very clever when it comes to changing the subject. Any prying questions to him are deflected with skill. Evasion is Wyler's middle name.
Hitting the gas, I flew along the river road, lifting up clouds of dust a mile long before reaching my turn. My house (an older ranch style) sits atop a steep hill, making the driveway considerably inclined-so much that it frequently turns into a sheet of ice during the winter. So the absence of a slippery driveway did give summertime a few brownie points.
Creeping under some old pine trees, I parked my dirty truck on the carport directly off of the sunroom. I grabbed my sweat-soaked shirt from the passenger seat where I had tossed it and then swung open the driver's side door to hear my two dogs barking from inside. Up three steps, then opening the door, I walked into a crazy dance of jumping and barking, sniffing and snorting. Two female siblings I picked out from a litter of Akita and chow-mixed puppies several years ago, Sian is black and Zoe is tawny; Sian is very fit, while Zoe is somewhat brawny. They stay indoors while I am at work. And the backyard has a few fenced-in acres, so after I get home it's always their time, a time to frolic, a time to be free.
"All right, come on." I happily yielded to their dance. "You gotta pee-pee outside?" That was the only magical phrase I knew, but it pushed their canine buttons, sending them into overdrive.
Taking a left into the kitchen and then onward to the patio doors, which were not even fully open, both of them slipped through the crack to bolt across the brick patio in a blur of black and tan. They raced through the yard, chasing some unlucky critter into the trees, with the summer heat being the furthest thing from their minds. Only smells harbored real value.
Watching them play made me feel all the better to be home. Don't think of me as bragging about myself, but I consider this to be a good home. It's a comfortable-size, two-bedroom two-bath with a fireplace in the living room (although the hub of activity is the sunroom near the carport); also there is an unfinished basement, a walkout kitchen, and a long red-brick patio that I had a few friends of mine help me install three summers ago.
I untied my work boots, and they came off fast. I dropped them on the top step outside the patio door before closing it. My feet were never happier to be free. No such pleasure for the kitchen, however. The oblong table could have been cleaner. Some noticeable smudges and crumbs covered its blond wooden surface, but there was no time to clean, with the clock ticking. I then spied a small load of dirty dishes in the sink too.
"Way to go, David," I fussed at myself as I tossed my wallet and keys onto the breakfast bar.
Down the hallway, heading toward my bedroom, I stopped to turn the air conditioning down a couple of degrees. Although shirtless, I was still greedy for cool air, plus I doubted anyone would complain tonight. I'll turn it back up before bedtime, I thought.
I flung my shirt into my bedroom hamper, and each sock soon followed along the same flight path. After I unbuckled my belt, a quick yank on the buckle pulled it from around my waist; then I sent it air express to the top of my bed. My room also contained a dresser, an armoire, and a small loveseat. I also kept an area rug covering a small section of the hardwood floor so both doggies could enjoy naptime a little more. The patio doors in here (as well as in the kitchen) faced east, and the dogs both liked to lie in the sun on the bedroom rug.
I flicked on the bathroom lights and was close to jumping in the shower when I heard a car horn that didn't come from the street. Someone was already here.
Lickety-split I went back through the house to the sunroom and opened the carport door just as Wyler was climbing the three little steps leading inside. His arms were loaded with plastic shopping bags full of supplies for tonight's barbecue. I braced the screen door open with my right shoulder to let him pass.
"Bad timing," he grinned, ogling me before handing off a few of the bags to my free hand.
"I just walked in the house and let the dogs out. That's as far as I got."
I squeezed back a bit, opening the door as wide as it would go. As he slid by me, I noticed the overstuffed bags were close to bursting, and despite his full hands, Wyler did manage to tickle my belly in passing.
"Going to be a little hot, aren't you?" I teased him. He dressed in jeans with a dark shirt unbuttoned only at his neck.
"Well, I brought a change of clothes, figuring I probably wouldn't be driving back to my apartment tonight ... wink, wink."
"I'm not complaining," I said with a smile. "You know I'm always happy when you spend the night, little buddy."
I closed the door and then followed him into the kitchen. I was quick to set the bags on top of the table, making an obvious attempt to hide its untidiness by spreading each bag around as much as I could. Sharp as a tack, he laughed as I tried to cover the table.
"Like I give a shit about a little dirt in your kitchen. And seriously, you're going to worry about a tabletop when your pants look like that." He playfully shook his head, acting appalled by the grease and filth encrusted on my jeans.
"You're so cute," I chuckled.
With dark eyes and a youthful face, Wyler misguided many people into thinking he was much younger than his twenty-eight years. Looking at him, I wasn't sure how I got rewarded with such a sweet guy. My only wish would be that he takes the next step and move in with me. I've offered many times, but as I've said, Wyler deflects questions as easily as snow does sunlight.
Four bags down, and we were still unloading. "You think we'll need all this food?" I asked.
"I bought most of this a few days ago. There's no way I'm going to eat it all, so I just brought along everything. Oh, and by the way, Jason and Chris bailed on us for tonight. They're not coming."
"You're kidding me." Now we were officially outnumbered by the groceries.
"I kid you not, Davie." He smirked while handing me a grocery bag. "So congratulations, Mr. Ruger, it's a boatload of groceries-just what you've always wanted."
"Thanks ... goofball." I crumbled the plastic bag and then mischievously tossed it back at him. "So what's up with Jason and Chris, anyway? What are they doing tonight?"
"I don't know," he said a little dismissively. "Chris told me that he got sick this afternoon at work and didn't think he would be up for a barbecue, so Jason is going to stay home and pamper his hubby wubby."
A zucchini had poked through one of the plastic bags. Picking it up, Wyler shook it at my face while he filled me in concerning our absent friends. "Vile, aren't they?" he snickered.
I laughed, which doesn't take much sometimes, but I wasn't sure if he was referring to Jason and Chris as being vile or the suggestive vegetable in his hand. Either way, I snatched it away from him and laid it on the countertop before turning my attention to the dogs, who wanted back inside. Racing in, they scurried around Wyler's legs, sniffing him, in love with him as always.
Back at the table, I braced my hands across its edge and leaned forward to give my little guy an overdue welcome on his lips. He was eagerly receptive. I was reluctant to quit too, but I had a few tasks in mind that I wanted to unload onto him, so keeping a straight face became impossible. So did our kissing.
"Do you think you could fire up the grill, entertain the doggies, then maybe straighten up the kitchen a little bit while I take a shower?"
"Jeez ... a cold shower already, Davie? That was just a little innocent kissing."
"Don't be a smart-ass," I joked, giving him a light tweak of his nipple beneath his shirt. He flinched and grabbed his chest, giggling as he accepted my request. Feeling just as tickled, I amusingly shook my head all the way to my bathroom.
"Call me if you need any help in there," he shouted to me, still humored.
I stood in the shower for a long moment, relaxed, quenched, pleasured by the most basic of elements. However, I didn't feel right pushing all of the work onto Wyler, although I knew he wouldn't mind, so I finished up fast, dried myself off, and then brushed my teeth. I put on red square-cut trunks (my favorite underwear) and a pair of long shorts with a tank top. Wyler was a scent freak like me, so I sprayed on a few shots of cologne too. I didn't need to shave, or rather I chose not to, since I was a fan of five o'clock shadow. The only upside to shaving, in my opinion, was the smell of aftershave. I loved a man who smelled of aftershave.
By the time I got back to the kitchen, Wyler had the grill going. He had also cleaned the table, washed the dishes, and had all of the barbecue fixings spread out across the breakfast bar. And with all of that crossed off his list, he had still managed to change into a T-shirt and shorts, minus the shoes of course because we both loved running around the house barefoot.
"Here, Davie," he said, handing me a tall glass of frozen margarita with no salt around the rim. He knew me so well.
"You don't waste much time, do you?" I flirtatiously winked at him as I took a drink of this icy potion. It was a little heavy on the booze, Wyler's preference, but it still tasted mighty good going down.
With silliness abounding, he grabbed a pair of grilling tongs and then clamped them together a few times in front of me. "Follow me," he friskily stated, making his way outside, "and don't forget to kiss the cook."
You can count on it, I thought, taking another swig of my drink before I followed him.
As usual, we ended up making way too much food. The filled platters completely covered my round patio table. Wyler's grilling enthusiasm couldn't be eased, and I was no better by yielding to his "leftovers defense." I told myself that I'd slip a few pieces to the dogs later on. I was sure they'd have no qualms about some tasty handouts.
We loaded our plates, ate like hungry hogs, and contently watched as our evening slowly changed to a more tolerable temperature. The sun tucked itself around the front of the house, creating generous blankets of shade that graciously allowed us to sit for some time and simply talk with one another. We lazily lounged, leaning back comfortably in our patio chairs and staying that way until the last bit of sunlight that gleamed across the yard changed from golden yellow to a darker green and then finally to a deep black. Unfortunately, mosquitoes were swarming in full force tonight, so we worked our way back into the house, parking ourselves on the longest sofa in the sunroom.
Before we sat down, I closed the window blinds and turned on the floor lamp while he grabbed more drinks. Wyler is a bit of a social boozehound, but never to the degree of letting it influence his life in any kind of negative way. He's more of a lover, not a fighter. He's a television whore too. It lures him in as a carrot does a horse. The History channel or cartoons are notorious for keeping his feet propped up on the leather ottoman all day long as he giggles at his animated shows. Tonight, though, we sat oblivious to any programs. We created our own dialogue throughout the rest of the night, while distant cicadas in the background did the same.
Wyler has a clear, fresh voice, a young man's voice full of excitement and determination. Between the two of us, he is the talker. I'm the listener. Always, I give him my full attention, even if the topic sounds less than interesting to me. Our time together is what I value; the subject matter is secondary.
Excerpted from The God Hunters by Mark Reed Copyright © 2010 by Mark Reed. Excerpted by permission.
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