Bumper post alert! Before we start, I want to give you a bit of  a rundown of what to expect. I’m heading to New York for eleven days on Wednesday so I figured I’d leave you all with a bit extra to chew on. That said, bear with me: this post will reward the patient.

Seriously.

Also, I just found out the other day that I’ve been blogging for ONE WHOLE YEAR! That’s an absolutely crazy thought. I know it’s a cliché to say so, but this last year really has flown by. If you’d have told me a year ago that I’d have four releases out and preparing to launch a second novel, I’d probably have laughed in your face. Thanks for all the comments, visits, emails, etc. Really do appreciate it.

Anyway, on to the meat of the post. Brace yourselves: an overload of new stuff awaits…

Killing Freedom Cover Reveal

Last Wednesday, I promised I’d share the cover for my brand new novel, Killing Freedom, on Friday. I apologise for the delay — a few other commitments popped up. Anyway, with the Killing Freedom launch fast approaching (I’m targeting mid-July), I thought it would be a fine opportunity to present you with the official cover. So, here you go, in all its glory.

killing freedom cover

Looks good, right? This is the work of Lloyd Lelina, who also designed the What We Saw cover. Lloyd is a really great designer, so definitely get in touch with him if you’re interested. He’s very professional and always seems to understand an author’s vision in this strangely psychic manner. I love the way the cover captures the dilemma of the hero and conveys it so damn brilliantly. I love it.

Killing Freedom blurb

Probably the worst kept secret of the last few months is the setup of Killing Freedom: hitman forms bond with family he is hired to kill. I’m delighted now to elaborate on that one sentence teaser with a full blurb.

Jared is good at making friends. He’s even better at killing them.
When career killer Jared Colwright is tasked with intercepting and killing a family, he doesn’t think much of it. To him, it’s just another job.
But Jared’s life is thrown into turmoil when he begins to form an emotional bond with the family. As he grows closer to them and starts to dream of freedom, which path will he choose?
KILLING FREEDOM is a violent, edge-of-your-seat thriller that also poses serious questions: can an unforgivable individual ever start again? Can a killer ever truly be free?

Intrigued yet?

Good, because I have something else for you. I’m delighted and excited to be able to share an official first look at Killing Freedom with you, you lucky blog readers.

When I say ‘first look’, I really mean it. So far, only me and my editor, as well as Creative Writing colleagues, have read any of Killing Freedom. As a treat for your continued support over the last twelve months, here’s the very first chapter of the novel. If you enjoy it, read on for where you can read a little bit more…

Ready?

Killing Freedom: Chapter One

He stared at the large ornate fireplace and twiddled with the match. Would it be big enough? It would be big enough. He’d used fireplaces of similar sizes in the past and they had been big enough. He took a deep breath and threw the match onto the fireplace, the flames roaring upwards as he walked over to the oak table in the corner of the room and picked up the bottle of wine. Castle Margaux 1995. A nice way to go—not too strong. Blackberry: sweet and rich.

He didn’t drink alcohol, but he had to do his research. Research was important.

He held the bottle and walked through the heavy wooden door into the second lounge area. The red walls that enveloped the room were seductive.

Deadly.

The chandelier must have cost a fortune. It never got old, spending time in places like this, living with people like them. It’s just a shame it could never last.

He saw her in the corner of the room, wrapping the diamond necklace around her neck. Its tiny pieces glimmered in the dim glow of the low hanging chandelier and yellow-tinted lamps. Cosy. He cleared his throat, and she turned to face him, shiny white teeth beaming in his direction.

‘Hello, Ronin,’ she said, in her soft accent, her eyes flickering around his face. ‘You surprised me.’ She continued to smile.

He loved the sound of foreign accents, especially on women. It made them seem so regal—so alluring.

He smiled back at her and tilted his gaze towards his feet. ‘Sorry, Madame. I was just wondering if you would like to head to the dining table for drinks? Your husband is waiting.’ He tapped the side of the bottle with his fingers and raised it upwards, tilting the label toward her. ‘I have good wine.’ He wasn’t so bad at accents himself. That Egyptian twang seemed to come as second nature. The more he faked, the easier it became.

Olive rubbed her hands up her red satin dress and tiptoed towards him. ‘Who am I to refuse a drink?’ she said, resting her hands against his suit.

He clenched his lips together as Olive caressed his suit. It had been a long time, and Olive was so forward with these things. Always touching. She was probably a nice woman. She seemed friendly enough.

If only she knew.

He stepped back towards the doorway. ‘We’ll be waiting for you.’

Olive looked on, wide-eyed. She had beautiful green eyes. He liked green eyes but they always made things more complicated because they reminded him of his sister. That’s why it was so important to switch off, to forget about things like that.

He looked down at the bottle and headed for the dinner table.

 

Olive laughed when he told her about the time he’d got stuck on the bus. At first, he just stood around and watched, but he’d broken down their defenses; earned their trust.

‘You’re such a silly man,’ she said, before nibbling on her crackers, pule cheese smeared across the top.

Federico grunted and wiped his chubby face with his hand. ‘For a servant, you do a decent job. I’ve hired gypsies before and they fuck things up. Piss in my soup and touch my woman. One of them tried to steal my watch.’ He flicked his gold watch in Ronin’s direction. ‘But you,’ he said, pointing his chubby finger towards him, ‘you’re different. You do as you’re told. You respect us. I’d like to raise a glass to you, and to your future.’ Federico lifted his gold cup into the air and bowed his head. There was a crumb of leftover cheese tangled in his beard.

He’d always had a keen eye for the smaller things in life, an attention to detail. Attention to detail was always important. That’s what he’d been told. That’s what he’d learned.

But crumbs wouldn’t matter soon. None of it would matter.

Olive laughed and Federico grunted some more.

He just smiled. Kept calm and smiled. He’d watched this routine a hundred times before, or maybe nearer to a thousand. He didn’t like to think, didn’t like to remember.

But he watched and he waited. He didn’t drink, not unless he felt he absolutely had to. This family never seemed to notice that he didn’t touch his wine. They were too busy getting drunk themselves.

Simple.

Olive’s green eyes began to grow heavy, drooping at the eyelids. Either she was drunk, or it was taking effect. It had different ways of working. Sometimes it was slow, other times it was instant. He wished it could be instant for everybody. Raymond told him that this was the kindest method for fucks like these people, but Raymond said a lot of things.

‘Why have you no special woman in your life, Ronin?’ Olive asked. She grinned with those pearly teeth and leaned over the dark marble table towards him, her red lipstick spreading around her mouth as she pursed her lips. Her arm, which she leaned her head on, began to wobble.

Ronin undid the top button of his shirt as he spotted Olive’s empty wine glass, lipstick staining the rim. He would have preferred to have gotten out before she’d interrogated him, but he couldn’t just walk out now. It would look rude, and they’d know something wasn’t quite right.

Not that it mattered what they thought.

‘I did have someone special,’ Ronin said. His voice was croaky, his accent forced, but they didn’t notice.

It didn’t even matter if they did notice now. He could speak in a German accent, start raving and ranting. It didn’t matter anymore.

A line of sweat began to trickle down the side of Federico’s face. He undid his top button and coughed.

Just a bit of food stuck in his throat, that’s all he’d think.

Olive continued to stare at Ronin as Federico grew more restless.

‘And what happened to her?’ Olive asked. Her eyes drooped even more. She tried to lean against her arm on the table, but it kept flopping away beneath her.

Still she smiled with those glistening white teeth.

Blood began to trickle from Federico’s nostrils and down his mouth.

And action.

Ronin took a deep breath, stood up and wiped the crumbs from his lap as Olive’s arm finally gave way. Her head cracked against the edge of the hard, sharp-cornered table before her body slipped to the floor like a doll. It was probably better that she went that way: asleep, unconscious.

Smiling.

Federico wasn’t quite as lucky.

He tried to pull his bulky body to his feet as he looked over at Ronin, panic in his wide, bloodshot eyes. ‘What—what have you—Olive—’

Federico’s nose streamed with blood. Every time he tried to wipe it away with his red-stained hand, more of it trickled down his face. He dug his bitten-down nails into the marble table, struggled to pull his body up from the chair, but his knees kept on giving way as he collapsed towards the floor below.

Federico and Olive faced each other on the ground. Olive’s red dress. Red lipstick.

Blood.

Beautiful and red.

No—he couldn’t see things like that. It wasn’t beautiful, it was horrible. He had to keep his distance. He couldn’t get too involved, not like Frank and the others.

Ronin pulled his suit trousers off and folded them as the sound of Federico’s heaving tore through the room. No one would hear him. The advantage of living so far out of the way was that you could pretty much get away with anything.

In this family’s case, that had become a distinct disadvantage.

Ronin took his blazer off and threw it on top of his trousers before sliding them both into a white bin bag. He’d sneaked it in from the kitchen cupboard and left it on the side earlier. When he turned round, Federico was foaming from his mouth, shaking and fitting like an electrocution victim.

But this was worse than electrocution. Ronin knew because he’d seen electrocution. It wasn’t as bad as this.

He pulled a pair of clear latex gloves from the pockets of the clear protective coat he had on underneath his suit and marched over towards Federico’s shaking body. Federico’s eyes struggled to focus—to make sense of everything. He tried to grasp Ronin’s arm before his hand gave up and went limp. Ronin patted his flabby stomach. ‘It…it’ll be over soon.’

Federico’s eyes bulged out of his skull like snooker balls. His mouth whispered something inaudible, a weak, dying sound emerging from the pit of his croaky throat. ‘Why Roni…why?’

Ronin stood up and scratched his wrist before turning to Olive’s lifeless body and pulling the necklace from her neck. Some things he had to dispose of in more elaborate ways. He winced as he got down onto his knees and picked her up. He had to get this part right. Pick them up without supporting the lower back, and he’d end up doing his own back a world of damage. There was an art to it, a process. It took time to learn, but he was the best at what he did.

At least Raymond told him so, anyway.

‘It’s just the way things go,’ he said, turning towards the burning fire in the lounge as the weight of Olive’s body grew heavier in his arms. He carried her over to the fireplace before turning back to Federico. He’d be more of a struggle to lift. ‘I’m sorry I wasn’t completely honest with you about things.’ He paused and stared at Federico’s glazing eyes. ‘Raymond. You know him, right?’

Federico’s fists clenched together as he heard the name. Ronin nodded. ‘I thought you might know him.’

Then, he turned to the fire and threw Olive’s body into the flames. He slipped a camera out of his pocket and caught a snap of Olive, sighing as he watched her golden skin crackle, before turning back for Federico.

The cleanup always was the worst part.

*

So, what d’you think?! I hope you enjoyed this very exclusive first look at Killing Freedom. 

But it doesn’t stop there.

What if I told you there was a way to read the next two chapters of the book? Well, it just so happens there is, and all it requires is a couple of clicks.

How do I read more of Killing Freedom?!

All you need to do is click here to sign up to my New Release Notification list. All this does is signs you up to a spam-free email list where you will be notified whenever I have a new release out. You’ll also automatically be entitled to previews like this in future before anyone else.

So, I repeat: click here to sign up to the mailing list, confirm your subscription via email, and your exclusive preview of Killing Freedom awaits. As a bonus, you’ll get an email as soon as the full release is available mid-July.

Thanks very much for taking the time to read. It’s been an amazing year, and I’m delighted to be able to share my new work with you. Believe me when I say that there’s plenty more to come in 2013…

Now, time to head to New York! Give me a shout if you’re around. It’s my first time in the States so I’m really excited.

See you in July!

Ryan.

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