Title: Clouded Hell
Author: JR Gray
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: March 23, 2016
I survive on avoidance. Physical pain to avoid the mental. Disposable flesh to avoid relationships. Work to avoid attachment.
My club became my empire of avoidance. Inside the ring millions are won and lost. The fight is confined to breaths, actions and reactions, fists and pain. Rules don’t exist. Only my opponent exists.
I’d been avoiding my needs for far too long when Remi stumbles into the Inferno and I’m hungry. The promise of a submissive with no attachment is far too tempting. I can’t resist him.
He was only supposed to be a distraction, but I know I'll never get over him. There isn't a chance in this clouded hell.
If I hadn't seen the video of the fight, I wouldn't have believed it. I clicked the button on my laptop to rewind it, to see the way his body moved. I gripped myself through my shorts and glanced over at Kai. He was busy inking a full back piece, and I doubted he'd even take a break for another hour. He couldn't see me from where I sat. It would be so easy.
I trailed my fingers over the places Dante had left marks. I could almost taste them, even if the bruises had faded. I'd looked at them in the mirror over my bed and fucked my hand every night since I'd left. I groaned as I slipped my hand into my shorts.
I squeezed my shaft, digging my nails into the sensitive skin. I had to bite back a hiss of pain. Kai could easily walk out and see me. The rooms in the shop were three-quarter walls to divide the space with wide open doorways. Maybe I wanted to be caught. I kicked my feet out, watching a bead of sweat drip down Dante's neck. When he threw a punch his muscles tightened, and it took me back to him swinging his belt. The sound of his fist hitting flesh was close, so close, to the way the leather sounded against mine.
I shouldn't be imagining him touching me, but it was impossible not to. I wanted his hands on me. I wanted him to mark me with them. I was hit with the sudden realization he'd been acting when he was in the ring with me. He hadn't even gone at half speed. He was a monster when he fought. It took every ounce of self-control I had to keep from getting up and into my Jeep to drive to the airport.
I used my free hand to unbutton my shorts and slide down my zipper, freeing my cock.
“It's fucking hell being with you. Has anyone ever told you that?"
His grin broadened. "The whole world is hell, doll. At least with me you get a reprieve from the sun."
"So this is hell at night?"
"I like to think of it as Clouded Hell. One of the rare cool days you've got to hold on to when everything else won't quit."
He lifted his hand again, and instead of smacking me like I expected, he cupped my cheek and brought his forehead to mine. I fucking melted, right there in his inner circle of hell, and I wouldn't have changed it.
When not staying up all night writing, J.R. Gray can be found at the gym where it's half assumed he is a permanent resident to fulfill his self-inflicted masochism. A dominant and a pilot, Gray finds it hard to be in the passenger seat of any car. He frequently interrupts real life, including normal sleep patterns and conversations, to jot down notes or plot bunnies. Commas are the bane of his existence even though it's been fully acknowledged they are necessary, they continue to baffle and bewilder. If Gray wasn't writing…well, that's not possible. The buildup of untold stories would haunt Gray into an early grave, insanity or both. The idea of haunting has always appealed to him. J.R. Gray is genderqueer and prefers he/him pronouns.
“I like to think of it as Clouded Hell. One of the rare cool days you’ve got to hold on to when everything else won’t quit.” - Dante
This is a story about two tortured souls coming together and almost tearing each other and themselves apart in the process. In fact, it is not overstating the situation when I say that while these two men are torturing each other, they’re putting the reader through the wringer as well. From the moment they meet it is clear that Remi and Dante are perfect for each other. They give and take, demand and grant, order and obey in a brutal yet glorious dance that somehow fails to bring them closer together despite their obvious need for each other.
Dante has lost what he thought was the love of his life and knows, with absolute certainty, that not only will he never get over his loss, he’ll also never love again. He fills his days with the fight club he runs, fighting because he needs the release, and alcohol.
Remi has hidden who and what he is all his life and has managed to lose himself in the process. Being all things to everybody leaves very little room for taking care of himself and by the time Remi meets Dante he is far closer to his breaking point than he’s willing or able to acknowledge.
“I’ve settled my entire fucking life. I’ve settled for what everyone else told me was best for me, and I really started to believe my own lies. I started to believe there wasn’t love, or a connection, there was only mutually beneficial ‘okay’. I didn’t think there was a happily ever after in my cards. That true love was bullshit.” - Remi
When Remi and Dante meet the pull between them is instant, overwhelming and irresistible. These two men were made for each other, even if neither of them is willing to recognise or accept the fact. Past issues cloud both their perspectives and may be an obstacle too vast for them to overcome.
As Remi and Dante come together only to pull apart again time and again, I wanted to knock their heads together in the hope of making them see sense, but, as characters are bound to do, they took their own sweet time. When push came to shove though, and everything was on the line, denying feelings was no longer an option and both men came through; for each other and for themselves. But until they got there they shredded my heart to pieces in the best possible way.
I have to be honest and say that there were moments these two men sounded too similar and I had to check the chapter heading to work out whose mind I was in. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing because I firmly believe that it is because they are so very much alike that they can’t walk away from each other, but it did throw me once or twice. For example, the following thought could just as easily have been Remi’s.
“I felt like I was holding my world together with my bare hands as life tore it to shreds.” Dante
At one point in the story I thought: THIS. This is how it’s all going to come apart. And I was right. With Remi and Dante being the men they are, I would have expected the same thought to have occurred to either if not both of them, but it didn’t. I apologize for being vague, but it is quite possible that years of reading thrillers has me conditioned to pick up on moments like the one I refer to, and if that’s the case I don’t want this to be a spoiler for anybody else reading the book. Especially since while it was something I noticed it wasn’t something that made me love either the characters or the story any less.
I’m sure I’m not the only reader who is never able to catch up with all the authors they want to read. J.R. Gray has been on my ‘must read asap’ list ever since Legally Bound was published. Or maybe it happened even earlier—when I first started following @TheOriginalGray on Twitter. And yet, here I am, having to shamefully admit that Clouded Hell is the first book by this author I’ve actually read. It is safe to say it won’t be my last and also that I won’t allow as much time to pass before I pick up the next one. After all, at least a few J.R. Gray titles have been patiently waiting on my Kindle for me to get my reading act together. J