Title: Killing Nightmares
Series: Killing Games, Book Two
Author: Reis Asher
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: 03/28/2023
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Genre: Science Fiction, horror, alternate universe, dystopia, action/adventure, bisexual, transmasculine, nonbinary, civil war
It’s been four years since the Killing Game turned Reis and Edgar’s lives upside-down. Believing the past to be behind them, they’ve tried to move on with their lives. Edgar has returned to freelance computer programming, while Reis is training to become a Bureau agent. Emily is about to marry, and Reis’s biggest concern is what to wear to the wedding as they navigate the rocky seas of their gender identity.
The peace they won is soon cast into doubt as Tony Anvas is released from prison. Shortly after, Edgar and Reis are thrust into a conspiracy more deadly and dangerous than the Killing Game when Anvas stages a coup d’etat, forcibly severing the Twin City-States in a bloody and brutal attack.
It’s once again up to Reis and Edgar to save the day, but Edgar is still suffering the after-effects of trauma and Reis is trying to determine whether to go ahead with medical transition. Can they outwit Anvas’s machinations once again and emerge whole—and if so, what will it cost them?
Reis Asher © 2023
All Rights Reserved
Edgar jolted awake, gasping for breath. It took him too long to realize he was at home, in the safety of his bed. Reis slept on beside him, their breathing shallow and even despite the stifling summer humidity.
He threw the sheets off and set his feet down on the floor, putting his weight on them slowly so he didn’t jolt the mattress. He knew where every floorboard in their home creaked and measured his steps carefully, tiptoeing around the problem spots like a ballet dancer. The ritual set his mind at ease a little as he cleared the bedroom without Reis so much as stirring. From there, it was a simple matter of padding across the hallway to the bathroom, where the cold tile floor against his feet helped him to shake off sleep as he emptied his bladder into the toilet and flushed.
He peeked out from the bathroom and heard a gentle snore from the direction of the bedroom. Reis slept on, oblivious to the fact that Edgar was awake at two in the morning again, having been torn from a fitful sleep by the nightmares that haunted him.
The terrors of his subconscious along with lack of sleep had come close to driving Edgar over the edge. He wiped the sweat from his brow and started the long journey down the stairs, grateful for the thick carpet they’d installed as it muffled his footfalls. The open-plan living room gave way to a massive kitchen they rarely seemed to use any more. Reis could cook, but they seemed less inclined since they’d started working at the Bureau. Reis often came home late and rose early. Sometimes he and Edgar would go without seeing each other for days. It was a far cry from the way they’d met, stuck with each other for weeks as they fled the people who wanted Edgar dead.
Edgar poured himself a glass of water. He thought about coffee; he could get some work done on the computer if he started early. The best thing about running a freelance business was he could work whenever he felt like it, sociable hours be damned. It was surprising how many clients seemed to respond at odd hours, and Edgar wondered if they couldn’t sleep either.
Maybe he should go back to his therapist. Reis would support him; they’d both spent a good amount of time in therapy, both together and individually, after the Killing Game they’d suffered through four years ago. Edgar had talked at length about everything bothering him—how he didn’t feel safe leaving the house, how he was becoming a hermit, the nightmares and night terrors. But there was one thing he’d never opened up about because he feared the repercussions, and the suppressed secret slowly crushed him now, bearing down on him like the weight of a skyscraper.
Every night he pulled the trigger on Ash. He watched Ash’s chest explode in a shower of blood and bones, and that was something he could never talk about. Not even to Reis. Especially not to Reis. Reis was a natural born killer—a soldier at heart, even if they’d chosen to use that talent to protect others. Edgar was a lover. Reis could separate and cut that part of themself off, but Edgar couldn’t. His brain traced patterns in moments of downtime, wondering how the world’s destiny had been irrevocably altered without Ash in its timeline. Like a line of code that had been deleted, Ash was gone, forever. He’d ceased to exist.
Ash was viral code, Edgar tried to reassure himself. He’d been involved in a terrorist attack that had cost a dozen or more lives. Ash had tried to kill him, in addition to burning down Reis’s apartment, destroying the last connection they had to their mother—the piano she’d bought for them. Ash had been about to murder Reis—and he wouldn’t have hesitated like they had. Edgar had been left with no choice but to pull the trigger and do what Reis had been unable to.
Maybe it would have been easier if Reis had hated Edgar for it, but their attitude seemed to have been largely one of resignation, despite Ash being their former lover. Their relationship had been abusive, Reis had admitted, seeming more relieved than heartbroken at his death. Ash had chosen his dark path not because of belief in a cause, but as an agent of chaos, determined to cause harm to a world that had hurt him so. All of that was true, but still—
Edgar had put the bullet that had ended him in Ash’s chest. He’d taken a life, even if it was for the purpose of saving one.
He decided against coffee, noting the tremor in his hands as he placed his empty water glass in the sink. He browsed the fridge for a snack to distract him, but it was a buffet of out-of-date salad vegetables and moldy leftovers. Reis never touched the fridge since they’d been introduced to the joys of Bureau catering. Edgar contemplated emptying it all into the trash, but a shard of resentment lodged itself in his heart and he closed the door, wondering why it was his job and not Reis’s. He worked full-time too, even if his career didn’t take him out of the house. He took on the lion’s share of the chores as it was. No, Reis could clean the damn fridge. He was sick of doing everything, damn it.
He slumped into his computer chair and let out a long sigh. No, his frustration wasn’t about the fridge. None of their little spats lately had been about the minor nuisances they purported to be. They were the manifestation of Edgar’s festering agony vented out into their shared living space, poison leaving his body by the fastest available route. He hated that this unresolved fragment of history had lodged itself in his heart and was ruining his present. He wanted to spill the beans and tell Reis what was bothering him, but something held him back. What if Reis dismissed his nightmares as irrational? Reis had killed more than once: they’d slaughtered a squad of highly trained mercenaries trying to protect him. What did Edgar have to complain about, really? If Reis could handle that, why couldn’t Edgar handle putting one bullet in one of the most despicable human beings he’d ever come across?
Edgar eyed the gun cabinet where Reis’s sniper rifle sat, locked away. He would have sold the gun if he’d had the option, but it wasn’t his to dispose of. It was Elias Torell’s rifle, the gun that had ended a war and started Unification. It was Reis’s last link to their father, and despite the fact his reputation had become rather tarnished in Reis’s eyes, they weren’t likely to get rid of it to silence Edgar’s demons.
Besides, without that gun, Reis would be dead. Edgar knew it and reminded himself of it daily. He’d done what he needed to do. He’d taken the shot to save Reis’s life, and he couldn’t bring himself to regret it, even as he tormented himself with it. Reis was safe and alive. Working toward their dreams, instead of lying in a coffin six feet under the earth. Given the choice between Reis and Ash, of course he chose Reis, every single time. But he was still a killer, and it was something he couldn’t reconcile with, even now, four years after the fact. His fathers had been singers. He was a programmer. He came from a long history of makers and lovers, of creative people who brought wonders into the world, not took them away. He glanced over at the mirror set into the back of the living room door and wondered if his eyes gave away the fact he’d destroyed a life.
He opened the locked drawer in his computer desk and took out a tiny box. He opened it. A flat, silver band with the sigils of Anver and Kasyova—the snake and the braid—entwined upon its surface sat cushioned against blue velvet. The engagement ring had sat in his drawer for a year now, waiting for the right time, but that time seemed further away than ever, now. They were becoming strangers, torn apart by the tides. Edgar had to fight the urge to wake Reis right now and get down on one knee.
No, he wasn’t fool enough to think marriage would make all their woes go away. They were enduring a test and cheating on it would only come back to bite them in the long run. He’d hoped Emily Vos’s upcoming wedding would give him the moment he needed, but the timing was all wrong with Ash’s specter looming over his shoulder.
Edgar closed the box, put it away, and locked the drawer. Part of him wanted to lose the key, to give up, to stop coming down here in the early hours and tormenting himself with things that had already happened and things that might never come to pass.
Meet the Author
Reis Asher (he/him) is a transmasculine author living in rural Pennsylvania with his husband and four cats. He loves video games, reading, technology, and of course, writing.
He enjoys shining a spotlight on queer characters and their adventures in a diverse range of worlds, from the fantastical to the everyday.
Catch him on Twitter where he’s happy to interact. You can find Reis on Twitter.
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