Title: The Night Screams by Devon McCormack
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Genre: Contemporary, Gay, Young Adult, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 220 pages/Word Count: 72,902
Running naked through the woods, Cal flees the sadistic man who abducted and tortured him. When he stumbles upon a convenience store, he breaks in to steal food. A young store clerk, Jake, confronts him, and they get into a fight that ends with Cal being knocked unconscious. He wakes in the home of Jake’s Uncle Gary, the owner of the convenience store. Realizing Cal needs help, Gary tries to communicate with him, but despite Cal’s efforts, he can’t bring himself to speak. Instead, he writes down his experiences. Horrified by the perverse cruelty Cal endured, Gary takes him to the police, who track down his tormentor.
Abandoned by his parents before his abduction, Cal doesn’t have anywhere to go, so Gary and his wife eagerly welcome him into their home. He feels fortunate to be with such caring people—something he’s never had before. Despite their help, he still can’t find his voice, and he wonders if he ever will. And Jake certainly isn’t making things any easier. It’s clear he doesn’t want Cal to be part of their family. But the more Cal gets to know him, the more he realizes Jake might be the very person who can heal the deep wounds left by his horrifying past.
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JAKE PACED back and forth, fidgeting as he had the day they’d waited in the emergency room.
Gary perused a magazine, his elbows resting on the plastic arms of the chair he sat in. Cal sat between him and Sierra, the book he’d been trying to read set in his lap. He hadn’t even opened it. He hardly had the attention to focus on the news that came from a TV mounted just below the ceiling. Concentration seemed impossible under these conditions. How could any of them concentrate when they knew Luce’s life depended upon the skill of her surgeon?
It was only a few days since Luce had been in the ER, but her oncologist and surgeon had agreed the size and growth of the tumor were too concerning to wait, so they’d rushed an appointment for surgery.
As Jake walked past them yet again, Gary glared at him. Cal could tell his pacing was only making him more uneasy.
Sierra nudged Cal’s shoulder. As he turned his attention to her, she glanced to Jake, as if to say, Can you distract him so he’ll stop stressing Gary out?
She’d been good about distracting Gary, discussing the news or topics she noticed in the magazine she held, but she’d given up, surely because she could tell what Gary needed right now was time to think.
Cal stood, set his book on his seat, and approached Jake. “Hey, man. I was gonna grab something from the vending machine downstairs. Wanna come?”
Jake shook his head.
“They’re not gonna be done before we get back, so come on.”
Cal didn’t think it was a great idea to press, but he wasn’t doing it for Jake’s sake. He was doing it for Gary’s, though he figured it might do Jake some good too.
Jake turned to the door they’d taken Luce through, several yards away, past the counter several nurses sat behind. His gaze sank, as if he knew Cal was correct. He nodded.
They headed down a flight of stairs to a cluster of vending machines lining the walls in a nook. Cal’d seen them when they’d first entered the building. He fished through his pocket and retrieved two dollars. “What do you want?”
“Um… I don’t know. I don’t need anything.”
“Water? Do you drink water?” Cal teased, hoping the playful nature would make Jake loosen up… at least a little bit.
Jake smiled, but it quickly shifted to a frown, his face trembling.
Cal gave up. He bent the sides of his crumpled-up dollar, straightening it so he could get it into the slot.
“Okay. Fair enough,” he said. It was Jake’s right to be stressed, so he would let him have that.
He bent the corners of the dollar, fed it into the bill slot of the machine, and pressed the button for a Mello Yello.
As a bang sounded from the machine, Cal bent over to collect his drink.
He felt pressure on his shoulder. It forced him back up and spun him around.
Jake pushed him back against the machine.
It was an aggressive push, one that alarmed Cal. He stared at Jake, whose gaze was fixed on him in a way he’d never seen before.
Jake stepped forward and pressed his lips against Cal’s.
Cal’s face felt like it was on fire as Jake opened his mouth and kissed him firmly, passionately.
What is he doing?
The sensation was too delightful for Cal not to reciprocate.
Jake wrapped an arm around Cal and pulled his torso so it was flush with his.
Where Jake’s fingers touched his back, Cal felt like tiny electrical impulses surged through his shirt and radiated across his flesh.
But he couldn’t do this.
What about Mallory?
He shoved Jake back.
Jake appeared shocked by Cal’s reaction.
“I—I’m—” he stuttered.
What am I supposed to say to that?
Jake was clearly struggling with this, but Cal wasn’t interested in being his experiment, especially if they were doing this behind Mallory’s back.
Cal abandoned his Mello Yello and Jake. He headed back upstairs, the whole time thinking What the fuck? What the fuck? What the fuck?
Why had Jake done that? And why, of all times in the world, had he chosen Luce’s surgery? He supposed, if Jake had these impulses, it made sense they would crop up during such a stressful moment.
He recalled the unwanted advances he’d received from a boy at the GYR center. Jyre. That wasn’t his birth name, but to show his lack of respect for his abandoning parents’ decisions, he’d chosen his own. He hadn’t received more than a fourth-grade education, and while Cal studied for the GED, which his counselor at the GYR center had encouraged him to take, he’d offered to help Jyre do the same. Jyre shared snacks with him, and they’d spend the day in Jyre’s dorm, chatting about his days on the street, where he’d worked under another guy who’d loaned him out. Through Jyre’s experience, Cal learned about the sort of world Pastor Reese had talked about on Sundays—a world full of sin and cruelty, one without mercy or salvation. One day, while Cal explained fractions, Jyre became frustrated. He said he wanted to try something else and undid his jean zipper, exposing himself to Cal. He asked him for a favor—one Cal considered following through with. He enjoyed their talks and feared if he didn’t he’d lose his friend. After a quick flirtation with the idea, he surrendered to his discomfort. He’d never done anything like that. His brief exchange with Daryl was the furthest he’d ever gone, and he was terrified of taking things further. What would happen? Would it hurt? Would things change between him and Jyre? When he refused to go further, Jyre cursed and bashed fists against him before chasing him out of the dormitory. After that Jyre hadn’t spoken to him, but his silent treatment lasted less than a week before Jyre ran away from the center.
Would Jake’s kindness shift just as quickly?
They were finally getting along, and he had to go and fuck it up. Why did Jake have to complicate everything? Things were complicated enough as it was.
He returned to the waiting room and took his place between Gary and Sierra. He picked his book back up and pretended to be engrossed in it, hoping it would keep him from having to react to Jake’s return.
I’ll just pretend it didn’t happen.
Unlike Jyre, Jake had to be around Cal, and though Jake might be mad for some time, Cal hoped if he ignored the incident, perhaps things could go back to the way they were.
Several minutes passed before Jake entered, carrying the Mello Yello Cal had ditched.
“You forgot this,” Jake said, his voice laced with the sort of anger Cal’d become accustomed to before their truce. He squeezed the bottle between Cal’s leg and the side of his chair. He didn’t look at Cal, just walked past a table in the middle of the nook they sat in and continued his pacing.
I can’t think about this right now. We have to deal with Luce and make sure Gary’s okay. Why did you have to go and get me into this?
It was just a stressful day. Maybe once they got through it, Jake would realize what a colossal mistake he’d made and appreciate Cal’s pretending like it hadn’t even happened.
Devon McCormack spends most of his time hiding in his lair, adventuring in paranormal worlds with his island of misfit characters. A good ole Southern boy, McCormack grew up in the Georgian suburbs with his two younger brothers and an older sister. At a very young age, he spun tales the old fashioned way, lying to anyone and everyone he encountered. He claimed he was an orphan. He claimed to be a king from another planet. He claimed to have supernatural powers. He has since harnessed this penchant for tall tales by crafting whole worlds where he can live out whatever fantasy he chooses.
A gay man himself, McCormack focuses on gay male characters, adding to the immense body of literature that chooses to represent and advocate gay men’s presence in media. His body of work ranges from erotica to young adult, so readers should check the synopses of his books before purchasing so that they know what they’re getting into.