STYGIAN is the title of my newest release but it’s also the name of a band made up of moody tattooed rockers. They drive from Houston, TX to Logansport, LA for a summer music retreat and have big plans to write their sophomore album—the album that will finally get them signed. Except it doesn’t turn out that way.
They’re too busy bickering:
Sometimes Jeremy couldn’t decide if Kennedy was part of his problem with the band. Watts was a douche, but Kennedy was a complete enigma. He was an untouchable brooding mass of simmering discontent, but strangely accessible when he was trying to be helpful. Unfortunately, it wasn’t pity or guidance that Jeremy wanted. The very notion ratcheted his frustration up to unmanageable levels.
Jeremy switched to pressing the bottle against his neck and quit staring at the hard lines of Kennedy’s torso. “Where the hell is Watts, anyway? I thought the people who own this place were supposed to live nearby.”
“It doesn’t look like anyone lives nearby. He’s probably fucking Quince in the woods so he can feel like he’s roughing it.”
Or stewing in sexual tension because they haven’t banged yet:
“Don’t start this,” Kennedy whispered.
Jeremy spread his thighs wide enough for his hamstrings to burn, but it was nothing compared to the pressure of Kennedy’s erection pushing against his own.
“You want me to start it.”
But the guys DO manage to play some music between the interpersonal issues and the looming mystery of the Caroway mansion:
Music flooded his ears— odes to punk rock and Fuck Authority, melodic ballads about loneliness and numbing pain, and, of course, Caroline. By the time they reached their peak, the kids from Shreveport were on fire with enthusiasm. They pogoed like it was a real show, sneakered feet crashing into ancient wood, and went nuts when Watts’s spine curled toward their tiny audience, voice gone low with agony.
By the time they finished, Jeremy had stripped off his shirt and was buzzed on the excitement from playing a solid set just as much as from the liver-punishing mix of alcohol. He staggered from behind his kit to the feel of hands slapping him on the back and several voices blending together in a cloud of admiration. Amy rushed over to him with a wide smile, crying out with excitement, but he reared away. He was too drunk to come up with an excuse and instead sought out the sweat-slick shine of Kennedy’s tattoos.
Unfortunately, that mystery leads to the unlocking of darker secrets than they imagined:
Hunter smiled, and Jeremy’s stomach flipped. He was often surrounded by gorgeous men in the music scene, but his body responded differently to Hunter. Jeremy found himself taking a step closer, then another, until he was crossing the boundaries of personal space.
“You just have to keep an eye out.”
“Anything else I need to look out for?”
“No. Not in the woods.”
“So I do in the house? I heard it was haunted.”
The smile froze on Hunter’s face. “Who did you hear that from?”
“Some kids in town.” Jeremy wrestled with the desire to say more and eventually added, “And a feeling I get.”
“Yeah.” Jeremy gestured in a vague direction since he’d already forgotten the route he’d taken to the river. “I get weird vibes from the sealed-off wing.”
He expected Hunter to refute the story, to cocoon him in reassurance the way any other landlord would, but Hunter just looked at him quietly as they stood in the silent golden-green haze of the woods.
Jeremy has been isolated and adrift since the death of his brother. Most people just see him as the skinny emo kid who wears eyeliner and plays drums. No one gets him. Nobody tries. He thought the indie rock band Stygian would become his anchor, but—lost in their own problems—they’re far from the family he sought.
Still, hoping to get close to Kennedy, the band’s enigmatic guitarist, he follows Stygian to northern Louisiana for a summer retreat. They had planned to spend six weeks focusing on new music, but things go awry as soon as they arrive at the long-deserted Caroway mansion. Tempers flare, sexual tension boils over into frustration, and Jeremy turns away from the band to find a friend in his eerily beautiful landlord Hunter Caroway.
Kennedy suspects there’s something off about the creepy mansion and its mysterious owners, but Jeremy thinks he’s finally found somewhere he fits. It isn’t until Kennedy forces the Caroways’ secrets into the light that Jeremy realizes belonging sometimes comes with a price.
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Santino Hassell says that while New York City is his heart, writing is his soul. He writes LGBTQ romance heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of NYC, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.