The D.U.S.T. Ops: Mission 1
Steven Dos Santos
Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Gay, Romance, Sci-Fi
Released Sept. 10th – Editor’s Pick
When Ultimate Evil engulfs the entire world, only Dagger can pierce the Darkness—even if the Apocalypse falls on a school night!
Dagger Beaumont is a High School senior who’s been recruited by D.U.S.T.—a covert governmental organization dedicated to battling supernatural terrorism all over the globe.
However, Dagger’s unresolved conflict over his missing brother could be his undoing, as he races around the world battling the Dark Reich, a diabolical organization on a quest to possess an ancient artifact and unleash a mystical plague to enslave humanity. If that weren’t treacherousenough, Dagger must juggle his life as a secret agent with his social life, where he faces romantic rivalry for the guy of his dreams, a mysterious and handsome new student at his haunted boarding school.
But in a high-stakes world where nothing is as it seems, and death lurks in every shadow, love rides shotgun with survival!
I pulled the sheet down Reinaldo’s naked right hip, trying hard not to peek at what lay beyond. Why did he have to be so damn hot? Hey, I was a typical seventeen year-old guy, raging hormones and all that jazz. With one big difference.
I had orders to terminate.
Reinaldo lay sprawled beside me on the king-sized bed in our Parisian hotel suite, looking like the statue of David in a centerfold spread: jet-black curly hair, Roman nose, angular jaw, the chiseled body of a college gymnast. His biceps bulged, as did his pecs, which were lightly coated with hair that tapered into a trail leading down ridges of sculpted abs, past his pelvis, before disappearing into the tent under the sheets. As far as what was hidden, let’s just say all that rigorous exercise hadn’t stunted his growth.
He was the first guy to tell me he loved me. And now he’d be the first guy I had to kill. The quintessential love-hate relationship. If there’s one thing I’d learned ever since my brother Phillipe’s supernatural disappearance, it was that love had no business in the world of occult espionage.
Opening your heart was akin to opening your wrists.
I shifted closer, my face inches from his pelvis. Moving in, I smelled the freshly laundered linen, mixed with Reinaldo’s own musky athletic scent. I blinked my eyes three times, activating the infrared contact lenses I’d slipped on earlier, while Reinaldo’d slipped out of his clothes, after drinking the potion I’d slipped in his wine. Talk about a slippery slope.
He didn’t look quite as sexy bathed in a green glow, more like Michelangelo’s boy with a serious case of gangrene. But the only part of Reinaldo’s body that truly mattered was the part no longer hidden by the sheet. The part that throbbed underneath the gaze of my infrared lenses.
It was there, on his inner right thigh. The birthmark. My intel had been correct.
It was so tiny I might not have ever seen it, even if we’d done the deed.
What was it? Right?—no, left to zoom in. I blinked my left eye a few times enlarging the image. It was a symbol. A dragon inside a pyramid, its base parallel to another pyramid base facing the opposite direction and encasing some type of demon. Both of these were housed within a larger triangle.
I squinted, flexing my brows. Snap! Snap! Snap! The photographic evidence of the mark uploaded via the lenses’ transmitter. These shades rocked. I’d have to give props to Felanie—if I made it out of this.
I glanced back up at Reinaldo’s face. He looked so peaceful lying there, completely unaware he’d been duped. For a split second I almost felt sorry for him. Keywords split and almost. He’d more than duped me by pretending to be my boyfriend, until I’d found out he was a member of a sorcerist cell. Even so, the concept of terminating him sounded clinical and abstract when discussed in a cold, sterile briefing room, especially when I’d prepared months in advance, both physically and mentally, convincing myself it was for the greater good. With the target warm and curled up against me like a helpless pup, termination seemed more like murder. Orders be damned. Better to drug him and see if I could find it first before going down that road.
I maneuvered my body across his sleeping form. When our skin touched, I broke out into goose flesh.
Reinaldo stirred slightly.
I held my breath, tensing every muscle.
Then he stretched a sculpted bicep over his head, not a care in the world.
My heart down-shifted.
I reached over the side of the bed, past the ornately carved nightstand, and carefully rummaged through the pile of clothes Prince Charming had deposited on the lush, wine-colored rug. One black V-neck T-shirt with no pockets, the better to show off his massive chest. Skin-tight jeans that hugged his thick thighs and narrow waist contained nothing but empty pockets. A pair of size twelve flip-flops. Not much else.
I’d already performed a sweep of the room. He had to have it on him.
Wait a minute. The big silver belt buckle. Trendy. A good place for hiding a top-secret micro-chip embedded with an encryption key … stylish. I snatched it up, the metal feeling cold, even in my icy hands.
I examined the buckle, a very butch affair, complete with some type of horned steer. At first I’d thought Reinaldo’d been going for a metrosexual country western look. But the horns reminded me of the ones on that birthmark nestled against his loins.
My fingers explored the buckle’s surface, my thumbs pressing against every ridge. Nada. I’d have to improvise. Following my instincts, I pricked my thumb on the prong. A small trickle of blood bubbled forth. Kind of unconventional for espionage, I know, but it’s not like I worked for the CIA. As a matter of fact, I doubted even the CIA knew about us, that’s how high we were on the secret ladder. The Department of Unexplained Supernatural Terrorism. DUST. Saving the unsuspecting world from the criminal forces of the supernatural and the occult, one phenomenon at a time.
I smeared the blood on the buckle’s surface, hoping the “offering” would activate the trigger point. Voila! The surface snapped open, revealing the microchip lying in the buckle’s womb. It amazed me the clout virgin blood carried in the occult world. Yes, technically, I was still a virgin, though hardly the poster boy for innocence at the moment.
I sat up, carefully removed the dime sized-chip, and slipped it into the hidden slot in the waistband of my tighty-whities. Then I replaced the buckle’s face and dropped the pants back into the pile, just as the light came on. Two powerful arms encircled me from behind.
My name is Steven dos Santos and I’ve been known to write Young Adult books. I’m thrilled that my new YA Paranormal Espionage Adventure, DAGGER, has finally been released, thanks to the great folks at Evernight Teen.
But how did it all come to pass? Ever since I was a child, I had a passionate love of story in all its forms. It was the heroic and handsome Princes, however, that always captivated most of my attention, though at the time, I wasn’t quite sure why. Part of me wanted to be like them, for sure, charging in on my white horse and saving the day from darkest peril. But another part of me, which I never spoke of, wondered what it would be like to be the object of their quest, the one awoken from a long enchanted sleep by true love’s first kiss, like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, or whose foot fit the glass slipper like Cinderella’s.
Looking back on it now, I can see the absurdity of the homophobic rhetoric, that pontificates that somehow children will be “turned gay” if they are exposed to same-sex couples. If growing up with heterosexual parents and being bombarded with tale after tale of opposite-sex love in storybooks and animated movies wasn’t enough to turn a gay kid like me and millions of others heterosexual, then there obviously isn’t enough magic for the converse to be true.
As I got older, I became painfully aware of the glaring absence of people like me in stories. People like me weren’t worthy enough to be heroes in books, so it seemed. Years later, Young Adult novels with gay protagonists slowly began to emerge. These books dealt with important issues for gay youth, including coming out and self-acceptance.
As inspiring as this new wave of stories was, however, I wanted to move beyond the “problem” aspect of being gay. In 2007, I decided to take a shot at just that kind of Young Adult novel, and wrote a paranormal, espionage adventure tale entitled DAGGER. The manuscript featured a gay main character, who goes to High School during the day, and belongs to a secret, supernatural spy group that takes him all over the globe at night to combat the forces of evil. That same year, the late Perry Moore published his novel, HERO, featuring a gay superhero. Things were changing. The time for gay characters in teen literature had arrived.
However, one agent’s response to my query proved to be a rude awakening which really shattered me.
She started out by telling me I really had “a talent for writing YA with a paranormal/fantasy bent.” The first paragraph continued to praise my work and even recognized the “definite series potential.” She went on to say how much DAGGER stood out from the crowded market and what an accomplishment that was.
Then things took a turn for the worst. She basically told me that despite what a good book it was and how much she loved it, she would have to decline to represent me because “readers in the YA market are primarily female,” and since I not only had a male protagonist but a gay one, too, it would reduce the demographic “to a mere trickle of readers.” She concluded that “the general market trend for YA audiences is straight and female,” and wished me luck in my writing career.
Needless to say I was crushed. Devastated. My first question after reading this letter was, “How the hell is this supposed to not discourage me, or anyone else who writes books with gay main characters?” Would they have dared send this letter to someone substituting race or religion for gay? Imagine what it must feel like to get a letter like this, especially if you are a part of that minority being referenced.
Now I’m not saying that all agents or editors share this view, or that this was the only issue that someone might have had with my manuscript. However, that being said, the fact that an agent could send a rejection letter like this and not even grasp the magnitude of the underlying implications is truly sad and eye-opening.
I’d come to a crossroads. I could either wallow in my self-pity and blame the industry for my inability to get a book with a heroic gay protagonist published, or I could keep on trying.
I chose the latter, and after years of perseverance, DAGGER has come out of the shadows at last! I hope you all enjoy the book! Thanks for listening!
Steven dos Santos is the author of THE TORCH KEEPER novels, THE CULLING & THE SOWING, a Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic series. The first book was named an American Library Association 2014 Rainbow List Top Ten Selection. His new novel, DAGGER, The D.U.S.T. Ops Mission 1, a Young Adult Paranormal Espionage Adventure, has just been released by Evernight Teen on September 10th, 2015! Steven is a Team Member of We Need Diverse Books and is represented by literary agent, Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown, Ltd. Steven studied Motion Picture production at University of Miami and graduated from Florida International University with a B.S. Degree from the School of Journalism and Mass Communications Television Broadcasting program. He is a passionate advocate of LGBT rights.
FB Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/stevendossantosauthor
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Giveaway: $10 Evernight Teen GC and 1 Print copy of Dagger