Growing up the outcast in an infamous family of psychics, Nate Black never learned how to control his empath abilities. Then after five years without contact, his estranged twin turns up dead in New York City. The claim of suicide doesn’t ring true, especially when a mysterious vision tells Nate it was murder. Now his long-hated gift is his only tool to investigate.
Hitching from his tiny Texas town, Nate is picked up by Trent, a gorgeous engineer who thrives on sarcasm and skepticism. The heat that sparks between them is instant and intense, and Nate ends up trusting Trent with his secrets—something he’s never done before. But once they arrive in the city, the secrets multiply when Nate discovers an underground supernatural community, more missing psychics, and frightening information about his own talent.
Nate is left questioning his connection with Trent. Are their feelings real, or are they being propelled by abilities Nate didn’t realize he had? His fear of his power grows, but Nate must overcome it to find his brother’s killer and trust himself with Trent’s heart.
“Want me to kick his ass?”
A startled bark of a laugh escaped Nate. “No, that’s okay.”
“You sure? I like knocking around rednecks.”
“You do it a lot?”
“Mmm.” The guy made a seesaw motion with his hand. “I don’t usually get the chance, but I enjoy it when it happens.”
“You should get a new hobby.”
“Like listening to Dir en Grey?”
Surprised, Nate looked down at his own T-shirt. “You know who Dir en Grey is?”
“Sure. I saw them play when they came to New York a few years ago.”
So that explained the accent. Nate tried to think of something else to say, maybe something about the Big Apple, but failed. He didn’t even know why he wanted to keep this conversation going. Maybe because the guy had pretty eyes and a cute smile, or maybe . . . because he was exuding vibes that felt like sunshine on a beach. Nate had never felt anything like it. Usually he had to touch someone to get an impression, but this guy was like a beacon of warmth.
Dropping his eyes, Nate grabbed the first bottle and scanned it.
“That’s a good book too.”
“You read paranormal romance?”
“Uh-huh.” He was starting to look amused. “Why are you so surprised?”
Because it was about gay psychics. He’d picked it out for purely narcissistic reasons, but it was well-written and kind of nice to read about people like him even if they were fake. And even if their powers were awesome and his was pathetically useless.
“It’s not exactly mainstream,” Nate said finally. “So most people don’t know about it.”
“Guess I’m cooler than most people.”
Nate finished scanning and bagging the bottles. He mumbled out a request for the guy’s credit card and ID, and tried to ignore the increased warmth flooding into him when their fingers grazed while passing the cards. It was rare to get good vibes from strangers. Often they were annoyed, impatient, angry, or anxious. For whatever reason, customers rarely gave off feelings that were healthy to absorb. It was part of what made this job so inconvenient. But this guy? Trenton Castille according to his ID? Nate felt nothing from him but curiosity, humor, and the buoyancy of a good mood. It was addictive. It made Nate want to touch him again so he could absorb more. Suck it in and make it his own. The very idea caught him off guard.
“Have a nice day, Nate.” Trenton grabbed the bag and flashed another cute smile. “If that dude’s still in the parking lot, I’m totally kicking his ass.”
If Eric was still in the parking lot, Nate was screwed.
“Thanks for trying to defend my honor.”
Trenton looked at him a moment longer, then tapped his knuckles on the counter before walking out of the store. As soon as the bell rang to signal his exit, loss slammed into Nate. He didn’t know anything about Trenton except for the fact that he’d completely overshadowed Eric’s negative vibes. It was an oddity, and the first time Nate had ever benefitted from his empath talent. Normally he had more interest in shutting people out than inviting them in.
Flipping the counter up, he walked to the other side and hoped no other familiar faces showed up before the end of his shift. The idea of running into any one else from high school, or Eric coming back again with his overpowering feelings of loathing, made Nate want to vomit. Or break down and finally get someone in his family to teach him how to stop being a third-rate psychic.
Growing up, Nate’s mother had kept him and his twin brother away from the rest of the Blacks. It wasn’t until she’d vanished, and they’d been taken in by her brother and sister, had Nate realized the strange phenomena he and his twin shared—feeling emotions that didn’t belong to them, and Theo’s intuitiveness that went far beyond good instincts—weren’t unique to them, but were hereditary. It should have been exciting to learn they not only shared these traits with their family, but that their family was special. For Theo, it had been. But Aunt Eveline had had little interest in Nate’s piddly empath abilities, and her obsession with Theo becoming a powerful multitalented psychic had made Nate uncomfortable. Especially since that was what had started changing Theo into a manipulative asshole.
But now Nate was in his twenties and slowly being driven to reclusiveness by his inability to block the impressions he absorbed from others. Maybe it was time for things to change.
Nate popped in his second earbud and began facing the store. At the end of the first aisle, he reached for a toppled Captain Morgan display, but a wave of vertigo hit him. He threw out a hand to catch his balance and knocked over several bottles, sending them crashing to the floor. The sound of breaking glass filled the store and pain blazed up in an arc from his hand.
The spinning sensation intensified and the store swam around him as color drained from his vision. Time slowed, and his surroundings darkened further before winking out of existence entirely.
He knew he was blacking out, and he knew, somehow, that it wasn’t natural.
Nate’s knees weakened, and he felt himself falling. The darkness swallowed him, but only for a second. When it ended, and his eyes opened, his confusion and alarm turned into terror.
The liquor store was gone. Everything was gone.
He was outside and standing in the middle of a road. Above him was a night sky with no stars. Across the road, a murky body of water stretched out to distant, twinkling lights. To his left were concrete piers, and a mammoth gray ship was anchored further down. The air was cool, much cooler than the humid Texas climate would allow in June, and a sharp wind cut through his clothes.
He realized then that he wasn’t just standing on a road—it was a wide highway. The lanes were split by a broad, granite divider and dozens of cars rushed past on the opposite side. The breeze gusted again, briny and damp, stinging his eyes. Narrowing them against the wind, Nate looked around in awe. When he half turned to see over his shoulder, he shouted in alarm.
Headlights assaulted his vision, and Nate leaped out of the way. The side of the vehicle brushed his side, and he fell, knees slamming against the blacktop and teeth clicking together from the impact. With his palms pressed flat against the ground and breath coming in violent bursts, Nate looked up and around.
What the hell was happening?
Across the highway and beyond the squat buildings were enormous high-rises. They shot up into the starless sky, towering sentinels that dominated a place that was nothing like Brookside or Houston; nowhere Nate had never been to. Even so, there was something familiar about it . . .
Forcing himself to his feet, Nate rubbed his stinging hands together. He wanted to wake himself from this dream, but he started walking, destination unknown, through the night. Each footstep echoed in the darkness. It drew his attention downward, and Nate saw that his shorts and Chuck Taylors had been replaced by combat boots and skinny, black pants.
Breath coming faster, Nate started to jog down the sidewalk. When traffic halted beside him, he glanced at the line of cars. The tinted windows of a Dodge Charger showed his reflection clearly, and Nate froze, unable to immediately process what he was seeing.
The customary Black family features—blond hair and steel-gray eyes—were there, but the face, as much as it looked like him, wasn’t his. The jawline was identical to his, as were the broad shoulders and lanky build, but where Nate had built up muscle, his reflection was narrow and waifish. It also had much longer hair and lacked his tan and the scar.
It wasn’t his face staring back at him. It was Theo’s.
He reached out to touch his reflection just as a voice shouted in his head: Run.
Adrenaline jolted through his veins, but before Nate could move, the world blinked again.
To celebrate the release of Insight, one lucky winner will receive $20 in Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on March 18, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!
About the Author & Links:
Santino was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed grunge kid, then a transient twentysomething, and eventually transformed into a guy who spends his days and nights writing romance with an edge.
Santino is a dedicated gamer, a former fanfic writer, an ASoIaF mega nerd, a Grindr enthusiast, but most of all he is a writer of LGBT fiction that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.