Jana Downs lives in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina with three cats, one dog, several dozen fish, and a very understanding partner-in-crime who hates to read but makes exceptions for her stories.
You can usually find her either watching bad reality TV, buying way too many books on Amazon, or dreaming up another man or two to occupy her time because life is good but several drop-dead gorgeous nonexistent men is just better.
RELAY FOR LIFE [DEADZONE 2]
Andrew Ainsley is a Deadzone-sponsored runner participating in the most intense cross-country race of his life. However, a double marathon through the wilds outside the safety zones will bring trouble he didn’t anticipate.
Marcel Carter has been in love with Andrew since he started running for Deadzone five years previously but never had the courage to ask him out. It isn’t until Andrew is lost that he realizes he’s been wasting time.
Matthew Gibson volunteers frequently for dangerous field missions, leaving little time for real relationships. He thinks he’s ready to put that life behind him until his cousin, Brooklyn, asks him to help rescue Andrew. When the three meet, sparks fly, and Matthew thinks he’s finally found what he’s been missing.
As they fight to survive zombies unlike any they’ve faced before and uncover dangerous government conspiracies, they’ll have to determine if their newfound love is real or if it only exists in the dead zone.
Matthew smiled in the light of the moon and Marcel’s heart tripped over itself. “So how about you, Marcel? What is your story?”
Marcel shifted. “I don’t really have one. I had civilian parents. They run a small tax business in sector four. I’m no good with numbers, so when I went to training school I majored in field training. After graduation, I got a job at Deadzone and have been there ever since. Andrew was my first assignment.”
“You must care about him a lot to stay on with him.” It was a statement. Was Marcel really that obvious?
He shrugged. “Of course I do. We’ve been friends for years now.”
“So tell me about him,” Matthew encouraged. “I’ve heard what the media says about him. I know he’s one of the best runners in the country, and I know he donates copious amounts of money to the National Orphanage. But other than that, there isn’t too much info on him.”
Marcel smiled at the thought of Andrew. He sighed softly and leaned back against his bag, stretching out so he could have a full view of the stars above him. “He’s wonderful. A little timid but there is a thread of steel running through him. He’s one of those people who can put away fear if he has to and has several times. There is nothing he loves more than running. I can’t imagine him doing anything else. The reason he donates to the National Orphanage fund is because he was an orphan himself. He doesn’t talk about it much, but I think that’s where his anxiety comes from. He can’t stand crowds. He’s probably much more at home in these woods than he would be on a packed busing transport.”
“How long have you been in love with him?” Matthew asked.
The macaroni he’d spooned into his mouth got sucked down the wrong pipe, and he proceeded to choke. He coughed until he was pretty sure his face was bright red, and Matthew separated the distance between them and pounded on his back in an effort to help him out.
When he finally regained the ability to breathe, he gasped, “I’m not!”
Matthew chuckled. “You’re not? Could’ve fooled me. You talk about him like he walks on water. Does he know?” He continued to pat him on the back as he spoke, making soothing circles that sent chills down Marcel’s spine.
“Um, no,” Marcel said, pulling away from Matthew’s soothing hands.
“The timing has never been right,” he said. He was embarrassed to be admitting the fact out loud. Why am I telling him this?
Matthew’s breath played across the side of his face when he spoke. “Timing is everything.” For someone as bold as Matthew seemed to be to, the lack of judgment in his voice was surprising. There was more to the SCAB agent than met the eye. “You’re a good-looking guy, Marcel. There is no reason why you should be scared to ask the guy out. I know if I had you drooling over me, I’d be beyond flattered.” Shock churned in Marcel’s gut. Is he serious? Matthew cleared his throat. “I like your passion and your commitment. When we catch up to your run kid, I’ll see if I can’t push you two together. I’m good at getting my way.”
I just bet you are. Aloud he said, “That won’t be necessary. I’m planning on making my intentions known.”
Matthew smiled slowly. “Good for you.” He moved over to where he’d left his pack, and Marcel breathed a sigh of relief. It was very hard to think when Matthew was near him. Which was weird considering he’d never felt that way about anyone other than Andrew. A little niggle of guilt ate at him. He shouldn’t be attracted to Matthew.
He rolled over and dug in his bag, looking for his sleeping throw. “I’m going to go on to grab some sleep. Take first shift?”
Matthew nodded. “Yeah. I’m too wound, so I’ll be up for a while. Get some shut-eye. I’ll wake you up in four hours.”
Marcel crawled into the tent and wrapped his throw around him. The automated heating system in the blanket regulated for the warm night, making the material feel almost sheer. He toed off his boots but left his socks on. He didn’t dare get more undressed than this, just in case of a night raid.
“You know, if it doesn’t work out with Andrew. I’d really like to take you out,” Matthew said from outside the tent.
“What?” Marcel asked, needing clarification. Maybe he needed his hearing checked. He couldn’t have asked what he thought he asked.
Matthew chuckled. “You’re a good-looking guy, Marcel, loyal, assertive. I think I’d like to take you out. Just think about it.”
Marcel’s heart pounded. Jeez. He hadn’t been expecting that. He hadn’t been asked out on a date in… He strained his mind to remember the last time. It had been years. He was pretty sure of it. It wasn’t that he hadn’t had encounters, but he was a bit of a homebody himself and didn’t frequent anywhere but his usual pub and his work place. Since he got hazard pay for assisting the run kid, he had a tidy little nest egg saved up so he didn’t work in between assignments.
“Why would you ask me out? You don’t know me.”
Matthew chuckled. “You’re attractive, and I like you. Why wouldn’t I ask you out?”
Marcel had no answer for that. He just knew that he was somehow deeply thrown off by the blunt way Matthew assessed the world. It was refreshing and pulling. It was also completely off-limits considering his intention to ask out Andrew. He cursed himself a thousand times for being a fool. Even considering a date with Matthew was inappropriate. Why can’t I have something like the company presidents have? The illicit thought was banished as soon as it crossed his mind. Andrew would never go for something like that. He didn’t seem like the type.
INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW
Q: Do you work best on a deadline, or do you need freedom from time constraints?
I’m a deadline junkie when it comes to writing. I set a daily word count for myself and if I don’t meet it, I feel like I’ve flunked an exam or something. Though when it comes to my edits, I tend to procrastinate. Without a deadline, I’d never get those done.
Q: How do you know you’ve written a good book?
I know I’ve written a good book when I am sad that it’s ended. I don’t know if that qualifies as “good” but I know if I enjoyed writing it, it’s good in my opinion.
Q: How do you keep your characters and stories organized?
Microsoft Excel. I would be lost without my color-coded spreadsheets.
Q: Are you a Swooper (write first, edit later,) a Basher (edit each sentence as you go,) or both?
Certainly a Swooper. If I try and edit as I go I get hung up on the grammar and forget where the story is going.
Q: What is the one thing you must have to be able to write?
Caffeine, soft music, and scented candles don’t hurt. Though if I had to pick just one it would be the caffeine. Romancing the Muse takes effort. He’s a Diva that way.
Q: Did you have any bad habits when you began writing? How did you correct those habits?
Dear Lord, tons! I think the correction was a combination of trial and error and friends in the genre who basically set me down and said “What are you doing?!”. I honestly think those sit-downs were what made me a better writer overall.
Q: What are you currently working on? How is it different from other books you’ve written?
I’m currently working on a joint series with another author, Anitra Lynn McLeod, called Owned in a sexy sci-fi setting. I’ve never written aliens before so it has been a very interesting experience and I think that readers will enjoy the many shenanigans I make these new characters get into.
Q: What types of scenes are your favorite to write?
My favorite type of scene would have to be that moment when the characters first meet. That spark and attraction are always the most fun to play off of and it’s interesting to see how my characters handle themselves.
Q: How do you feel about the term “Mommy Porn”?I find the term very derogatory. The idea that these books are somehow “cute” because they have explicit sex and have a largely female audience is pretty demeaning if you sit back and think about it. I don’t find anything “cute” or mommy-like when I’m reading about sexy guys or gals, depending on the preference, getting it on.
Q: Are you always in the driver’s seat? Or do your characters drag you along for the ride?
I am definitely the tag along when it comes to my characters. I ride passenger while they drive. Sometimes we go off-roading and take paths that I don’t expect the story to go, always fun.
Q: What is your least favorite part of the writing process?My least favorite part about the writing process has definitely got to be the edits. I make this perfect story and then editors come in and tell me what needs to be smoothed out to make it even better. The growing process can be a bit painful at times.