Hyde Johnson is an erotic audiobook performer. A ‘Read By’ byline is too plain, and ‘Narrated By’ still doesn’t capture what he does. His livelihood is his passion. Performance art, the air he breathes. Which translates to a recluse who is a hot mess. He’s not eating right, he’s drinking more, and his family’s meddling is making it harder to stay on task.
Being designated the guardian of her young niece Tina is the last thing Gypsy Hartford expected. But when the State of South Carolina unceremoniously puts Tina in her care, Gypsy accepts it’s time to grow up and stop floating from town to town. Where does she start when she has no degree, no real friends, and no family besides Tina?
A want ad could be the answer to both their conundrums. Or it might open a whole new can of worms. Especially when you throw in a crazed author with an unhealthy obsession for her narrator.
Someone to run errands, cook, and handle minor cleaning. Must be quiet and self-starting as I work nights and sleep during the day. Compensation negotiable, including transportation and board. Discretion a MUST.
Only serious inquiries please.
Targeted Age Group:: 16+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
A conversation with my narrators. We were working on the audio for another book of mine, and they brought up that they hadn't seen a story involving a narrator. It got me thinking about the fun which could be had, and my brain started creating.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Once I realized I had a grumpy hermit and carefree wanderer as my leads, their names presented themselves: Hyde and Gypsy.
“Easing his tongue into her mouth was more sensation than his body could handle—”
“Unca Hyde, sissies chase me. Halp!”
The tiny voice, paired with a banging fist, called through the door of his studio, bringing Hyde’s recording session to an abrupt halt.
Why his brother thought they needed a fourth kid when they had three monsters already was beyond him. Removing his headphones and switching off the mic, Hyde marked his script, saved everything, and shut down. Heavy feet dragged him to the door, which he opened to glare down into the wide eyes of Randy, his three-year-old nephew. A few seconds later, giggles drew his attention to the top of the stairs where Aimee and Ashlee, the twelve-year-old twins, stood on the right side of breaking the house rule: no one under eighteen was to step onto the upstairs landing.
They were close, but unlike their brother, they hadn’t crossed the line.
Since moving back into his childhood home, he’d remodeled the second floor of the old converted schoolhouse into his recording haven and business, Hush Studios. A small kitchenette and bath were at one end; the rest soundproofed and kitted out with the best audio and technical equipment he could get his hands on. Via the internet, of course, because Hyde Johnson didn’t leave his house unless he absolutely had to.
“Unca Hyde.” Randy tugged his hand, and Hyde let out a ragged sigh.
Sami was going to be less than pleased. Ms. Jackson, the author he’d narrated five projects for in the last two years, had been getting more demanding of late. Entitled even. It wasn’t his fault Zeke had shown up unannounced two weeks ago with his wife and kids and interrupted the recording of number six. Hyde’s meticulous nature meant this delay was driving him mad.
Two days, he reminded himself. They’ll be gone in two more days.
“Where’s your mom and dad, kid?” Hyde directed his glare at the twins even though he was speaking to Randy.
Their faces sobered before they turned around and disappeared down the stairs.
He gave a satisfied nod and looked down at his visitor. “There ya go, Randy. They’re gone. Off you go to bed now, I’ve got work to do.”
“You always say dat, Unca Hyde.” The little boy shuffled his feet and tugged harder on Hyde’s hand. “Come read me story. Pwease?”
“You aren’t going to take no for an answer, are you?”
Randy shook his head, and Hyde huffed.
Fuck. Why not, my concentration is already screwed, he thought. “Lead the way, kid.”
An hour, and three stories, later, Hyde stood and stretched his back. Randy had put up quite the fight falling asleep. Wondering if his animated reading had kept the little tyke up, he made his way out to the hall and closed the door behind him. He turned and jumped at the sight of Zeke and Connie leaning against the wall a few feet down, smiles on their faces.
“What?” Hyde grouched at the pair.
Zeke shook his head. “Nothing, brother.”
“Everything, Hyde,” overrode Connie. “It’s not too late for you to settle down and be a daddy, ya know? You’d make a good one.”
Hyde scoffed then trudged past them. Before he turned the corner, he looked back and snapped, “Remind your fucking kids to stay off the second floor. I’m behind schedule.”
Fifteen minutes later, he had everything almost ready to resume his performance of Tristan, the warrior lover with a wicked tongue.
First things first, though. Hyde went over to the wet bar, pulled the bottle of Effen from inside and poured a two-finger shot, then slammed it. The vodka burned on the way down, leaving a crisp, clean cucumber taste in its wake.
Now he was ready.
Jesus, his head throbbed. Hyde blinked heavy lids against the artificial lighting of the studio. The broken windows had long been sealed and blacked out in the remodel. Crawling into a sitting position on the couch, he swung his gaze around the room, eyes landing on the empty vodka bottle.
So much for my one shot per session rule.
Who was he kidding? He hadn’t adhered to that rule in months. He chuckled, then winced. Tylenol, coffee, and a hot shower followed by a long stint in his bed were needed. In that order.
After a quick trip down the hall to relieve himself, he ducked back into the studio office to check things over before he closed up shop for the day. A message box, the little missed notification bubble indicating the sender’s eagerness with its 20+, blinked at him from the bottom of his screen. He knew who it was without checking.
Hyde’s eyes still had sleep in them and weren’t focusing well, so he played the audio on the messages.
Hyde, it’s Sami, just wanted to see how we were doing. Thought I was supposed to get the next five chapters today…
Sami again. Hey, I was really counting on those chapters before I went to bed. Let me know.
What the hell, Hyde? Do I not pay you enough to warrant getting my shit on time?
Her distinct northeast accent was slurring by that point, so Hyde turned it off. He’d heard enough anyway. Recent history had proven the messages would progress to sexual aggression by the end of her tantrum. A smart man would be ending this business relationship. Yes, she paid him well, but that didn’t mean she owned him. Still, instead of heading to the coffee he knew his java-addicted sibling had brewed downstairs at the crack of dawn, he spent the next hour doing a quick edit on the chapters he’d managed to record in the early hours of the morning.
Not a bad batch, all things considered, he praised himself as he uploaded the files, added a brief note of apology with a reminder of his unexpected visitors, and then marched off to find his goddamn coffee.
Coming upon the kitchen, Hyde slowed when he heard his name mentioned. Zeke and Connie’s hushed voices suggested plotting. He moved as close as he dared to the doorframe, and leaned in to listen.
“It’s not right, how he stays alone all the time. This is the worst we’ve seen him, Zeke. I swear he’s lost more weight. We’ve got to do something to help him.”
“You know how stubborn he is, Connie. I’ve offered multiple times to have him move down to Charleston with us. He refuses to leave this house, though. I don’t know if he expects they’ll come back someday and he’ll get some kind of closure, or what. With any luck, he’ll eventually accept the punks got away with it, and that there’s no point wasting energy on what-ifs or revenge.”
Their words made him bristle. The pair of them could go fuck themselves. If he’d been home working on his acting skills, instead of at Clemson chipping away at an economics degree he would never use – but his parents had insisted he needed – he could have saved them. Hyde had always been a night owl, so had no doubts he would’ve been awake, and alert, on that particular night.
He wouldn’t have had to be pulled out of class the next day, hundreds of miles away, because his brother had come to the campus to speak to him. To explain their mother and father had been slaughtered in their bed while they slept so some assholes could smash up the place and raid the liquor cabinet. Besides the booze, all the intruders had taken were his parents’ lives.
The crime scene was discovered because their old Irish setter showed up at the neighbor’s house. When Mr. Miller drove Rusty home, he’d called the police after noticing the upper windows broken and the front door standing wide open.
Hyde shook off the cold memories and strode into the kitchen. “What time are you out of here tomorrow? I’m getting the hard press from my client. Y’all have cost me hours in the studio with your impromptu visit.” An undercurrent of warning laced his terse tone.
“Good morning to you, too, sunshine,” Zeke deadpanned.
“Hyde, I’m sor—”
“Save it, Connie.” Her back straightened when he cut her off, making her baby bump more prominent.
“Connie’s looking out for you. There’s no need for you to be an asshole, man.”
Shrugging, Hyde poured his coffee. “Guess it comes naturally,” he snarked before taking a much-needed sip of black gold. The hot liquid helped at once. “Sorry, long night,” he murmured, and then looked up to face them.
Pity and concern stared back.
“Listen, Hyde, we were talking.”
“I know. I heard.”
Zeke half-smiled. “Yes, well, we all know you aren’t leaving. I get it. This is a cool place, to be fair. I loved growing up here. Who would’ve thought an old school building would make such an awesome living space, right?”
Hyde grinned as a memory of a childhood round of hide-and-seek in the vast abode flashed through his head.
“Have you considered getting some help in?”
His grin fell. “What do you mean?”
“Someone to help out around here, with the domestic-y stuff. Some real food would do you good, too,” Connie hedged. “I know you’re a big boy and all that, Hyde, but I did have to do some tidying when we arrived. You’re spending all your time upstairs, living on takeout and vodka—”
“If you don’t like it, get out. I didn’t invite you. And I sure as fuck didn’t ask you to clean my shit.”
Hyde ignored his brother’s angry yelling following after him as he went to his room. He had his coffee. Next was Tylenol and a shower.
One more day to go.
Links to Purchase Print Books
Link to Buy Wanted Print Edition at Amazon
Link to Buy Wanted Print Edition at Barnes and Noble
Domestic engineer. Author. Burgeoning editor. And quite possibly certifiable. Believing every story can shine bright with a bit of tenacious tough love, R.E. Hargrave is thorough and to the point.
An international bestselling author, she takes storytelling and manuscript polishing seriously, working with her authors and on her own creations to ensure they come to life, crawling from the pages and into the reader’s souls.
Hargrave lives on the outskirts of Dallas, TX and is married to her high school sweetheart; together they are raising three children. A native ‘mutt,’ she has lived in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, and California. She is fond of setting her stories—which range from the sweet to the paranormal, to the erotic and horrific—on location in South Carolina and Texas.