Release Date: 8/25/2015
She’s known it her whole life. She knows it every time she spreads her legs. Every time she begs for the pain, the pleasure, the heat of a hard man driving deep inside. She’s a slave to her own twisted lusts–and it’s eating her alive. She loves it. She craves it. Sex is her drug, and she’s always chasing her next fix. But nothing can satisfy her addiction, not even the nameless men she uses and tosses aside. No one’s ever given her what she truly needs.
Until Gabriel Hart.
Cold. Controlled. Impenetrable. Ex-Marine Gabriel Hart isn’t the kind of man to come running when Leigh crooks her pretty little finger. She loathes him. She hungers for him. He’s the only one who understands how broken she is, and just what it takes to satisfy the emptiness inside. But Gabriel won’t settle for just one night. He wants to claim her, keep her, make her forever his. Together they are the lost, the ruined, the darkness at the heart of Crow City.
But Leigh has a darkness of her own. A predator stalking through her past–one she’ll do anything to escape.
Even if it means running from the one man who could love her…and leaving behind something more precious to her than life itself.
Note: This book contains material that may be triggering for some readers
“State your name.”
Cold, clipped words, blending into the noise of the police station. Leigh lifted her head from a fixed study of her clenched fingers. Colors whirled around her in a lurid carnival nightmare, too bright, too blurry. On a bench on the far side of the room, a wasted and broken scarecrow woman picked at a scab on her wrist with a certain habitual listlessness, oozing diseased red-brown blood over liver spots. Her tendons were rails under her skin, and the dull gleam of cuffs chained her to the bench. She raised her head and stared at Leigh with yellowed eyes that captured her with a sort of empty, terrifying promise.
Across the desk a policewoman waited, with that compassionate impatience only a half-step from pity and shoulder-to-shoulder with disgust. Her flat blue eyes said she’d been trained to care, but couldn’t be bothered anymore. Leigh swallowed and tugged her hoodie close against the tinny air-conditioned chill. Her mouth had dried to a tacky, sticky mess, gummy pills of lipstick beading on her lips, and her tongue was a bloated and useless organ, this swollen pink thing pushing pointlessly against her teeth.
“Leigh,” she ground out. “Clarissa Leigh…” Her married name scratched sandpaper syllables against her throat. “…van Zandt.”
“And Miss van Zandt, do you know why you’re here?”
She nodded, her neck a creaking wooden puppet-hinge. “I do.”
“Your family’s been worried about you.”
She knew what she should do here. Bow her head in shame and contrition, maybe even sniffle. But she looked for the emotions and they weren’t there; just scraps and tatters, clinging to the empty place where they belonged. She had no feeling left, hollowed out and lost and wondering how she’d ended up here. This didn’t feel real. Instead it was a dream where everyone leered in fisheye close-up, their smiles all teeth and stretched red lips and manic glee. She wanted to run, but somehow she’d gone too numb to do anything but sit here surrounded by the stink of fear-sweat, stale beer, and that particular police-station smell of urine soaked into concrete for decades on end.
“What happened to you?” the officer asked. Leigh didn’t answer, and the officer’s pen tapped against the forms on her desk, rat-tat-tat, rat-tat-tat, Morse code for I’d rather be anywhere but here with this spoiled little runaway princess. “It’s been four years. You were declared legally dead.”
“That’s all right.” She closed her eyes with a laugh that ripped her guts up into her mouth, and buried her face in her hands. Dead. Dead.
Yeah, that was about right.
“Miss van Zandt?”
Stop calling me that.
“Miss van Zandt. I need you to focus on my voice.”
Stop calling me that!
Leigh took a measured breath and opened her eyes. Her shoulders squared. The bolts on the back of the hard, ass-biting chair dug into her shoulder blades. “I am focused. I can hear you just fine.”
“Eyes are dilated.” The officer—her nametag read Maroni, could there be a more clichéd name for a Crow City cop—leaned across the desk, peering at her face. Then she beckoned to the aide hovering over them like a mannequin. “I’ve seen this too many times. Drugs and prostitution.” She talked about Leigh like she wasn’t even there. “We’ll have to clean her up before her husband gets here.”
“I’m not on drugs. I’ve never been on drugs.”
Maroni’s pen-clicking stopped. Her disbelief was a heavy thing, push-push-pushing until Leigh nearly laughed.
“You’re not on drugs.”
“Then what happened?”
There it was. The first hint of exasperation. Of frustration, stitched into knitted brows and the purse of lips in just the right shade of I can’t be a woman, I’m a cop mauve. Because like anyone normal, anyone who wasn’t fucking broken to pieces and liked being that way, Maroni needed to make sense of this. Needed to quantify it in a world where the rules worked as normal and everyone wanted to chase that dream of happiness that wasn’t anything but desperation painted over of a frantic tally of things. Things of plastic, things with value created by people whose upper lips curled when they looked down at little girls like Leigh, and demanded she account for herself in sane, rational ways that made proper sense.
Sorry, Officer Maroni.
I’m not the kind of thing that makes much sense.
Maroni pushed a harsh sound through her teeth. “You had a job, a husband, a newborn son. You had a life other people would kill for, and we find you here on the streets. Were you pressured? Kidnapped?”
“No. None of that.” Leigh shook her head.
“You’ll have to explain, then.”
“I left.” She trailed off, lips parted; no words came for long seconds, until she managed, “I…I was afraid.”
“Of what?” Maroni tried to catch her eye, but Leigh looked down at her hands, at her chipped pink fingernails dipped in the sparkles of shooting stars. “Miss van Zandt. If someone was hurting you, you need to tell us now so we can take appropriate steps to protect you.”
“No. No one hurt me. Not like that.”
“I’m afraid you’ll need to be more clear. What were you afraid of?”
She struggled for an answer. Struggled for something this woman would accept, something that would make her sigh with sympathy and pity and relieved disdain that said there, but for the Grace of God…
But again, she found nothing. Nothing but the truth, and Leigh shrugged as she looked up at the policewoman and wondered if she had daughters who might one day be like Leigh, daughters who would cut stark red lines of fingernails in the walls of flesh that caged her in the shape of pop culture’s perfect woman.
“Of the inevitable monotony of it all,” she said.
Please tell us about your novel.
That’s…actually really hard to do. The Lost is a hard book to quantify. It started off as just an erotica that flirted with taboo subjects and let me play around with the darklings I suppress in my lighter contemporary romance. But it’s turned into a story of a broken woman delving into the depths of her sexuality, and an exploration of just how she came to be broken. It’s a story about filthy sex and falling in love; about finding yourself and making your demons a part of you. In a lot of ways it’s a feminist story, too, because it highlights the difference that choice and consent can make between dirty, rough, willfully violent sex and outright sexual assault, and looks at a heroine who takes on slut-shaming by embracing herself as someone wantonly sexual who takes pleasure in the shame, and revels in being broken and a tiny bit depraved.
How did you research your novel, if applicable?
It’s less research and more an accumulation of experience, both others’ and my own. I know many women who’ve been victims of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; I’ve been a victim myself. These are things that can change how you view yourself and your sexuality, whether you’re female or male. They can complicate sex and pleasure, and push you into places some people never think of going. The experiences that others have recounted to me combined with my own turned into the basis for this story.
Where can readers find you online?
Oh, god, too many places. I’m so bad with social media, especially when I’m in my writing cave. I have all these accounts I’m supposed to have, plus my website/blog, and I’ll only occasionally remember to throw something up on one or the other. But here’s the list:
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/ColeMcCadeBooks
Street Team / Closed Fan Group (for early teasers, exclusives, etc.): https://www.facebook.com/groups/mccadesmarauders/
When you are stuck on something, what is your go to cure?
Reading a book completely outside the genre I’m working on. If I’m writing light contemporary romance, I’ll read Stephen King. If I’m writing dark erotica, I’ll read a high fantasy story. Working on one of my dark supernatural sci-fi stories? I devour comedic chick lit and satire. I need something that will kick me out of my tunnel vision and break me out of the rut. Sometimes, if I want to multitask, Netflix can do the same thing. I swear to god I worked through half the tough spots in The Lost with fucking Winx Club playing in the background. Yeah. I know. I don’t want to hear a word about it.
Do you have a real life hero? If so, can you tell us who and why?
I…actually don’t. Is that weird? I have tons of people I admire, but no one I’d really consider a hero. Maybe I’m too cynical or introverted. Or maybe I’m just weird. I have a nerd-crush on Neil deGrasse Tyson. Does that count?
Who is your favorite literary hero and heroine?
Hard pick. I’m a complete book omnivore, so this can change with my moods. For a book I keep gravitating back to, though, I’d say a favorite heroine is Maia from Richard Adams’…well…Maia. She drives me batty sometimes and she’s definitely a product of the time she was written, but it’s fascinating to see a complex story of war and political intrigue in a bizarre and deeply intricate world told through the eyes of a simple peasant girl who never really stops being a simple peasant girl. My favorite hero is probably more of an antihero. Okay, he’s evil incarnate, but he…works with the good guys? Sometimes? When he’s not threatening to eat them? Anyway, it’s Gerald Tarrant from C.S. Friedman’s Coldfire Trilogy, starting with the first book, Black Sun Rising.
Are you character or plot driven? Why?
After some internal debate, I’d have to say character-driven. In some ways they’re interdependent; I can’t have a plot without characters who have reasons to drive the plot, but I can’t have characters without something for them to do. But generally when a story pops into my head, I get an idea of a person followed by an idea of what they want, which spins out into the story surrounding them. So it’s mostly character-driven in the end.
How do you feel about social media? Is it a help or hindrance to you?
See my earlier answer about too many social media accounts. *laughs* I kind of have a complicated relationship with social media. I get sucked into the fun and can be the life of the party, but it leaves me drained and needing to recharge my batteries, plus if I’m distracted by a rampaging Twitter party of dastardly proportions, I’m not writing. And there’s the inevitable drama of social circles, etc. that I’d rather avoid, even if I’ve met some amazing friends through Twitter. Lately I’ve kind of extricated myself from social media, and make a point of only posting when I have something to say, instead of feeling like I have to just to remind people “Hey! I’m an author! I’m here!” It means I post less, but it also means the things I say—no matter how silly they are sometimes, or meaningless—are at least authentic, and not a sales pitch.
What are the first five titles on your kindle?
Um…let me check. I’ve got a Nook, and I don’t think it sorts titles the same way that Kindle does, so I’m just going to grab my five most recent purchases on my home screen:
The Red Church, by Scott Nicholson
Tokyo Ghoul, Volume One, by Sui Ishida
The Grace of Kings, by Ken Liu
Kissing Madeline, by Lex Martin
Fall from Grace, by Christine Zolendz
Where do you see yourself and your writing in the next five years?
I’m hoping to be established in multiple genres; while Cole McCade is my pen name for contemporary and erotic romance, I also have separate pen names for angsty NA and dark supernatural sci-fi with LGBTQIA themes. The latter two, I’m working on as side projects right now, including a project a publisher invited me to submit. We’ll see where things go.
How many books do you own and what does your bookshelf look like?
I honestly don’t know the answer to quantity. I have thousands of digital books; I lost my original book library in Hurricane Katrina, and when I started rebuilding I mostly went digital. Though I do have a couple hundred print books, maybe, mostly older out-of-print YA fantasy and sci-fi that isn’t available in digital format. My bookshelves are actually all at floor level, black cubbies ringing the room and lining the baseboards, each stuffed full of various hardcovers and paperbacks while a select few are centered by bookends on the top of each segment.
If you are published traditionally and independently, which do you prefer and why?
I don’t really have a preference; both have their merits .Working with a publisher often means built-in marketing, which is harder to get independently; it also means taking some of the work out of my hands, like cover design and formatting. But working independently gives me freedom to break the rules. Sometimes working with a publisher means playing it safe, because of category, genre, or imprint rules. I don’t always want to play safe. Sometimes I want to experiment, see what works, see what doesn’t. Sometimes I want to write stories that can’t be easily labeled. So I do both. I have my publisher contracts, and I write things that work for them. And then I have my independent projects where I write things that work for me. Both are good, and balance each other fairly well.
What advice do you have for people that are trying indie publishing right out of the gate?
Don’t try to chase the market. By the time you’re done writing a book to follow a certain trend, that trend will have moved on. Write what you feel like writing; write a book for yourself, not for other people. If you’re lucky, it’ll be timely. If you’re not so lucky, you can still rely on your book being good as a selling point instead of hoping to be the next trendsetter. Either way, forget trying to either follow or predict the market, and instead follow the stories that showcase your talent best.
What do you find inspiring?
Music, in all things. It’s in my bones and in my blood, the voodoo in my veins, and I can’t find a moment’s creativity without it.
Do you have a favorite charity?
The Empowerment Plan: www.empowermentplan.org
It’s a Detroit-based charity that employs homeless women, giving them a gainful source of income and a fresh start. Even better, it employs those homeless women to produce protective clothing for other homeless people.
Your family is safe and sound. You have 24 hours to live and have been given the ability to do anything in the world, what do you do?
I’d make a wish from the peak of the Moon Bridge in Taiwan, and hope 24 hours was enough time for it to come true.
You are the main character of a book! What is your book about? Are you a hero or villain?
I’m neither. I’m the gray, the morally ambiguous, antihero one moment, honorable villain the next, always working by my own rules, my own code. I’d be the one you love to hate—both frightening and enticing. The one you hope will drop that cold, hardened outer shell to show you a moment of kindness, of vulnerability. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t.
But the moment I do, I’ll probably turn around and do something cruel but necessary. Just in case you ever start to think I’m on your side.
I’m the epitome of blue and orange morality. And my story isn’t one where I’m the protagonist, no. Men like me don’t work in the spotlight. We don’t have overarching character missions. We don’t do things in a straightforward way. Our questions can’t be answered in a three-act story, and we work best in the quiet and the dark as the apocalypse brings the night and despair is the order of the day. We shine in moments when things are at their worst, and someone needs to make the choice to do something terrible.
I’m the one who’ll do those terrible things, so you don’t have to.
I’ll lose my humanity so you get to keep yours.
When the world is falling around our ears, I will rise, and do the things you were always afraid to.
That’s the kind of character I would be.
And I’m not in the business of happy endings.
Corporate consultant by day, contemporary romance author by night.
Mid-thirties. Coffee addict. Cat lover. Bibliophile. Technophile. Definite sapiophile. Native Southerner. Runner. Country boy turned city suit. Shameless collector of guitar picks, vinyl records, and incense holders. Aficionado of late-night conversations over live music in seedy bars. Browncoat with a secret crush on Kaylee Frye.
Fascinated by human sociology, and particularly by the psychology of sex and gender – and their effect on relationship expectations, the culture of dating, and what it means to fall in love.
Non-smoker. The picture’s just a stock photo. A rather broody, dark one for someone who isn’t all that broody or dark, but sometimes forgets to smile even when he means to.