Hi guys! We have Santino Hassell popping by today with his new release Oversight, we have a great excerpt and a fantastic giveaway, so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! <3 ~Pixie~
Holden Payne has it all . . . or so he thinks. As heir to the founder of the Community—an organization that finds, protects, and manages psychics—he’s rich, powerful, and treated like royalty. But after a series of disappearances and murders rock the Community, he’s branded the fall guy for the scandal and saddled with a babysitter.
Sixtus Rossi is a broad-shouldered, tattooed lumbersexual with a man bun and a steely gaze. He’s also an invulnerable—supposedly impervious to both psychic abilities and Holden’s charms. It’s a claim Holden takes as a challenge. Especially if sleeping with Six may help him learn whether the Community had more to do with the disappearances than they claimed.
As Holden uncovers the truth, he also finds himself getting in deep with the man sent to watch him. His plan to seduce Six for information leads to a connection so intense that some of Six’s shields come crashing down. And with that comes a frightening realization: Holden has to either stand by the Community that has given him everything, or abandon his old life to protect the people he loves.
Holden glanced at the cameras in question. The main level of Evolution was empty of all but staff, and the VIP level was cast in the gloom of darker lights. In the past, he’d enjoyed seeing it void of patrons. He’d liked to see the place he’d created in all of its glory before it was desecrated by drunken psys who would inevitably end up puking or fucking at various locations throughout the space. But, now, he wasn’t as entranced by the stillness. It gave a spectral vibe that reminded him of another night not too long ago when the empty club had nearly been the setting for yet another murder. His own.
Swallowing the knot in his throat, he crossed his arms over his charcoal suit jacket. “To what do I owe this pleasure, Father?”
Richard flicked hair out of his face as he spoke in his usual unaffected tone. “I found a replacement for Chase.”
The knot formed again, bigger this time, and Holden had trouble speaking around it. He also had a hard time ignoring the icicles forming along his spine and the dread in his gut. Holden hadn’t seen his half brother since the night of Jericho’s murder, except for his appearances in one of Holden’s eerily vivid dreams—images of Chase strapped down on a metal slab, or strung up in a device constructed of tight straps, as a man with a thin black band tattooed around his bright-green eyes leaned over him.
“Chase isn’t replaceable.”
Richard mirrored Holden’s pose and said nothing.
“Unless you’ve located another multitalented psy who was psychically and physically intimidating enough to safeguard the club? I’m a little skeptical about that possibility since Chase was practically superhuman.”
Richard’s jaw clenched, and something passed over his face that Holden had never seen before. Hurt? Frustration? Whatever it had been, it was gone in an instant. “Apparently not, since he allowed himself to be controlled and nearly killed by a void.”
Holden narrowed his eyes. “Beck wasn’t a void. She absorbed powers and took them as her own. She was as close to a psychic vampire as a real person can get, even though you and the other leaders have always said that was a myth.”
“Regardless, your brother didn’t sense her hidden ability despite being nearly superhuman.”
“Neither did you,” Holden said sharply. “And you put her here.”
The silence that fell between them was sharp enough to slice holes in Holden’s self-control. There was so much he wanted to say to his father about that situation. Pointing out that no one in the Community had identified Beck for what she was until Theo and Nate Black had come along was only one of them.
If it weren’t for the Black twins, it was entirely possible Beck would have continued using Evolution as her honeypot to cannibalize powerful psychics. But Holden couldn’t say those things because he’d sworn his silence to Nate, and he couldn’t let his father know that, at the back of his mind, he put a big chunk of the blame on him. For not vetting better, for not trying harder to get past someone’s mental shields before putting them in a position of authority, and for blaming Chase.
But making those accusations, and asking those questions, would cast him in the kind of light Theo had been in before his death. A shit stirrer, a blasphemer, someone who didn’t trust the Community and who was likely a troublemaker. But the big difference was Theo hadn’t been a member, and Holden had been born into all this.
So he smiled and nodded.
“Tell me about the new guy.” Holden couldn’t resist a dig. “Was your vetting process more thorough than it was with Beck, or did you leave out mistresses this time?”
Richard had no tells, so it was impossible to know whether he was close to leaving in disgust or backhanding Holden before going on a rant about what could happen if people found him disloyal, before sending him off to be realigned at the Farm. Either was possible, and both had happened before.
“His name is Six.”
Holden wrinkled his nose. “‘Six’?”
“It’s short for Sixtus. Sixtus Rossi. I would think you’d remember him, considering how you behaved at his hearing.”
Rolling the name around in his head summoned an image of a thin, olive-skinned teenager with fierce eyes so dark they’d looked black. It was a face Holden hadn’t seen, or thought about, for years. He only remembered it because his encounter with Six had hung over his head like a pall for many years. Or more accurately, him witnessing how the Community had treated Six had hung over him.
It’d been the first time he’d feared the founders. And when he’d first learned that breaking Community rules could have serious consequences.
Over a decade ago, the biggest scandal to rock the Community had been a break-in at Community Watch—the organization run by the Comm that supported young and displaced psychics with no family of their own.
Six, a formerly homeless youth who’d been taken in by CW to be aligned and rehabilitated to become a Comm member, had raided and robbed the place. Holden had only known about it as a teenager because his father had taken him to the tribunal that had followed—where they’d discussed Six’s consequences. Before that, Holden hadn’t known tribunals existed for rule breakers. Or that they were public for anyone in the Comm to come and bear witness to a troublemaker receiving their sentence.
Even as the punk kid Holden had been at the time, it had shaken him. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he’d known that there were real laws in the world. Real police and judicial systems. And the deepest part of his brain—the part he’d receive consequences for even having since it was the part full of doubts and dangerous questions—whispered that the tribunal seemed illegal. Thankfully, it had only been his father who had seemed to sense Holden’s thoughts, and Richard had sent him warning stares between debates.
Besides Six’s consequences—going to the Farm to be realigned for an unknown period of time—the founders had argued over whether it was worth it to take in people with no connections or “value” to the Community. Most members weren’t like Holden, born into connections and money. Most were disenfranchised, had no family, or had been institutionalized for claiming to have psychic powers. These people were the most vulnerable, and required the most effort by the Community to realign and rehabilitate them, but they always turned out to be the most loyal.
Except for Six.
Six had been present at the board meeting, sitting in a chair removed from everyone, and they’d talked about him as if he couldn’t hear them.
As loyal as Holden had always been to the Comm, it was the first time he’d realized how cutthroat they could be. How they played judge and jury with the lives of Community members regardless of their age. He’d vowed to never get on their bad sides. And he’d ached for the thin teenager with the burning dark eyes who’d sat staring at everyone fiercely. Defiantly.
That defiance had been almost intoxicating, because Holden had never seen anyone look at his father that way before. He’d wondered how anyone could be so brave, and had gazed at the mysterious, dark-eyed boy as Six was dragged out. They’d only made eye contact for a brief moment after Holden had whispered to his father and asked whether Six would be okay, and whether they could help.
So weird how that memory was still perfectly etched into Holden’s mind.
“The kid who robbed CW?” Holden asked skeptically. “The reason why they started sending more ‘challenging’ intakes to the Farm before they advanced further?”
“Yes.” Richard seemed pleased that Holden’s memory was sound. “After the years he spent working at the Farm, he became an invaluable member of the Community.”
“Color me skeptical and yet still intrigued.”
“He’s an invulnerable,” Richard said. “He has a natural mental shield that prevents him from being susceptible to psychic abilities. Due to that, he’s excellent at positions requiring security.”
“I thought that was a myth,” Holden said, frowning. “Then again I’d also thought psy vampires were a myth, so never mind.”
Richard pursed his lips, staring flatly, and only went on after determining Holden was done speaking. “Invulnerables are not a myth. They’re rare, but if found, they make excellent guards. We can’t trust every psy who shows up on the CW’s doorstep, and it’s a huge security risk if we let the wrong one in and told them our secrets only to have them be turned against us. An invulnerable security force would safeguard the place against mental and physical attacks, and Six piloted that program. He’ll be an asset to you and this nightclub since you insist on keeping it open.”
Holden raised a skeptical eyebrow. He could see how having an impenetrable brain guarding the place would be great against a psychic attack, but . . . it just meant they had no idea what their invulnerable guards were thinking. Or whether they were really loyal.
“Why wouldn’t I keep it open?” he asked. “Queer psychics need safe places too.” Richard just looked at him flatly, and Holden rolled his eyes. “Aren’t you worried he’s untrustworthy?”
“No. That was nearly fifteen years ago, and he’s moved past it. During his detention and realignment, we realized that due to Six being an invulnerable, it’s difficult for him to empathize with others. He doesn’t feel things the way the average person does, and he doesn’t always make decisions based on an understanding of how other people will react.”
“So he robbed the organization that took him off the street because he didn’t consider how they’d feel about it? Huh. Sounds like a sociopath to me. Seems like your invulnerable-guard plan may have a flaw.”
“He’s not a sociopath,” Richard said sharply, giving Holden pause. He’d never seen his father be defensive over another person before. Not even him or Chase. “He has a capacity to feel and understand other people, he just processes things differently because of his internal shield.”
A mental shield so strong it prevented Six from possessing even a normal human’s basic level of empathy. Holden wondered how it worked. Was it possible to turn it off and on? Didn’t sound like it. A talent like that frankly sounded like torture and a permanent roadblock to making lasting interpersonal relationships, although . . . apparently Richard had formed an attachment to Six.
“What was he doing before coming here to guard the gay club?” Holden asked. “I’m sure it’s his dream job.”
“He was head of security at the Farm.”
The guy was going from being head of security at a major Community facility to . . . head of security at an LGBT nightclub. A wave of irritation washed over Holden’s grim amusement.
“Tell me something, Father. Is your new guy a replacement for Chase, in terms of safeguarding the club, or is he also a replacement for Beck . . . which means he’s monitoring me?”
The answer came in the form of pursed lips and the distant pump of bass as the DJ finally set up inside the club. The dubstep drops of a pop song’s remix were annoying enough on their own, but somehow the soundtrack was embarrassing with his father standing there. Richard was probably wondering why he’d financed a queer club for psychics that had proved far more trouble than it was worth.
“I think you know the answer to that, Holden.”
Holden’s nostrils flared. “Why? Beck caused the disappearances, she killed Theo, and she killed Jericho. She tried to kill me and Chase.”
“You failed to identify the threat, thereby putting others at risk.”
“The threat that you put here.” Holden jutted a finger at his father. “With all due respect, Father, I think you’re either beginning to suffer from dementia, or you’re in complete denial about what happened in this club. It was your puppet who harmed our community, and instead of apologizing for putting me and my people in harm’s way, you ship my brother off to who the hell knows where, and you give me another babysitter—a fucking sociopath shield thing.”
“Holden.” Two syllables had never resembled a thunderclap as much as Holden’s name when his father said it. “Your two biggest flaws are your lack of self-control and your mouth. Learn to control one and you may have less trouble with the other. Until then, I suggest you not presume you’re entitled to an explanation. If you trusted the Community, you wouldn’t be demanding one.”
“I do trust the Community. But after what happ—”
“What happened didn’t just happen to you,” Richard said, finally showing the first bits of emotion. His steely-eyed facade cracked, and he moved closer to Holden. “It happened to the entire Community. Seeds of distrust have been sown because you weren’t able to handle the situation with Beck discreetly. Police should not have been called to the scene of Jericho’s death, and after Beck was taken down, you should have only called me and me alone. If you were anyone else, you’d be gone, Holden. Do you understand that?”
Holden did understand, but he could do nothing but stare. Repeating his father’s accusations verbally would have had no effect, but they ran through his mind.
He was at fault for not helping to cover up the crimes? For not hiding that a high-ranking Community member had committed them. He had failed the Community by bringing in outsiders? Maybe they thought he was more at fault than Beck in that regard.
And if they truly believed that, who knew what they thought of Chase, whose purpose had been to identify, evaluate, and eliminate threats from Evolution. Was he at a tribunal somewhere like Six had been so long ago? Had board members determined what his fate would be for failing them, while he sat in a corner with no ability to participate in his fate? Did any of them matter as individuals or did they only matter if they remained dedicated members of the Community?
“I see,” was all he managed.
Richard watched him for a moment before nodding. “Six will be starting immediately.”
Richard indicated one of the monitors. Holden followed the direction of his father’s finger and zeroed in on the camera in the VIP section. He caught only a glimpse of a tall man with ridiculously broad shoulders and huge biceps covered in tattoos before the figure was out of range.
Read more at: https://riptidepublishing.com/titles/oversight (Just click the excerpt tab)
The Community series!
What lies beneath the surface of the world you thought you knew?
Secrets and lies have twisted an underground community founded by psychics escaping persecution. Blackmail, sex, and social climbing in the name of power has created an irreparable rift.
In the eyes of the founders, there are two sides: loyalists and everyone else. Surely no one would emerge from their tightly woven webs. And they certainly wouldn’t sow the seeds of rebellion within the heart of the Community’s only queer night club.
Now an outcast, a scion, and a runaway are leading a revolution to save not only the men they love, but the entire Community.
Check out The Community series!
Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family but grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into a grumpy introvert and unlikely romance author with an affinity for baseball caps. His novels are heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, and his desire to write relationships fueled by intensity and passion.
He’s been a finalist in both the Bisexual Book Awards and the EPIC Awards, and was nominated for a prestigious RITA award in 2017. His work has been featured in BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Washington Post, RT Magazine, and Cosmopolitan Magazine.
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