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Death and the Devil #1.4

Bargaining with the Devil

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Meta-State spy Jack Reardon believes it’s all been taken care of. He has his verbal agreement with his boss to “keep Blade happy,” and Jack is more than willing to do his best in that regard. He also has his bargain with Ethan, to keep seeing each other whenever they cross paths. Small victories, interspersed with exploding bombs, smashed cars and miffed co-workers, all while consorting with an international assassin.

Contract killer Ethan Blade values his security, and Jack’s the first time he’s found that with another person. Wiring a warehouse or outback shelter for safety, no problem. Keeping safe a prickly ex-soldier-turned-spy who’s a magnet for trouble, not so easy. Instead of faceless, nameless jobs, he’s poking his fingers into Jack’s cases—a car bomb gone awry, a Hen party gone wild—much to Jack’s mounting dismay.

They have a deal; neither one of them can seem to stick to it. It’s Jack versus Ethan as the two men learn to navigate their ever-evolving not-a-relationship without losing the benefit of the bargain.

78 pages, ebook

First published June 30, 2018

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About the author

L.J. Hayward

21 books555 followers
L.J. Hayward has been telling stories for most of her life, a good deal of them of the tall variety. She loves reading but doesn’t seem to have enough time between wanting to be a more disciplined writer, being the actual erratic writer she is, and working for dollars in a dungeon laboratory. She also lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland, but rarely sees a beach and can’t surf, though she thinks living on a houseboat might be fun. At least then she’d have an excuse to get a cat.

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5 stars
494 (41%)
4 stars
498 (42%)
3 stars
167 (14%)
2 stars
19 (1%)
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2 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 142 reviews
Profile Image for Simone - on indefinite hiatus  -.
688 reviews43 followers
June 25, 2018
"It's just sex."

That's the arrangement Jack and Ethan made after Where Death Meets the Devil. And it is, right? Casual. Convenient. No strings attached.
More gay love and gay couples.All that is in a gay life full of love on restoringlove.com.

Ethan began to move. Slow, steady rolls of his hips that gently drove Jack insane. To watch and feel without touching him, or cursing in overpowering hunger, or telling him, showing him, how fucking good it was, how beautiful and amazing he was, was maddening. Frustrating. Painful.


All signs indicate that everything else would never work. A relationship between a super secret government agent and an assassin? Unthinkable. But with each and every encounter the solid boundary set between them gets another crack. 

Ethan finds himself feeling more and more comfortable in their not-quite-yet-relationship - a bit too comfortable, actually - which scares the living daylights out of him and sends every innate defense mechanism into overdrive, but giving up on Jack is not really an option either. Jack on the other hand gets increasingly fascinated by the living contradiction that is Ethan Blade, even if all his instincts scream to run for the hills to protect his heart instead of a certain assassin. Whatever it is between them, to make it work somehow they only have to find a way to trick life and all circumstances pointing against them...

I was on the brink of hyperventilating when I saw a tweet by the author about this novella and when I learned that this is the first of three novellas to help establishing the relationship between Jack and Ethan before Why the Devil Stalks Death comes out towards the end of the year, I almost needed an oxygen tent. And if this novella here is anything to go by, I'll mark my calender for each and every one of them and cancel all other appointments. I never thought it possible, but this short story consisting of three chapters in the life of Jack and Ethan, made me love these guys even more than I already did. The quiet times between these guys were cute and tender, only to create some tension in the blink of an eye to show us with whom we are dealing with here. The hot and smexy times were hot and smexy and the stories within this story funny and engaging.

This was an amazing teaser for what's coming up next and although not a standalone, a highly recommended read from me for fans of the first book.
***ARC generously provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!***
Profile Image for Shile (Hazard's Version) on-hiatus.
1,106 reviews838 followers
November 15, 2018
Jack, who is Harry?

Yeah Ethan! tell me again that it is just SEX.


In this case Assassins, Ethan is no Saint.

What's not to love! we have:

- HOT! HOT! Sex, No Kiss.........


-Jealous, blushing Assassins... huh! but we be good.

- Spy covered in Glitter, wearing lipstick , red briefs and boots. Yaap! consider me a goner.


Profile Image for * A Reader Obsessed *.
2,217 reviews454 followers
September 24, 2019
4 Stars

3 short stories showing how Jack and Ethan are navigating their new relationship parameters. It’s full of missteps, misunderstandings, but also hope and tentative feels and an obvious preference for the other though nothing has been officially said.

Swoony in the little things, these two have a lot ahead of them in regards to relationship progression but it’s the small wins that make this so satisfying!
Profile Image for Wendys Wycked Words.
1,559 reviews3,841 followers
November 19, 2018

Another wonderful novella, following my two favorite badasses Jack and Ethan. We are all on pins and needles waiting for the second book to come out, but these awesome novellas are keeping me at least (don't know about you all) satisfied.

This one is a bit bigger than the previous one....and even though great things come in small packages... I still like em the bigger the better :P

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor the bigger the better gif

I had a great time seeing these two getting closer and closer... It had a sweetness to it ;) It was also extremely HOT...but just like many many other I am still waiting for one thing : A Kiss !!!!!

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor now kiss gif

I can't wait for the second book to come out, but in the meantime, I will keep myself entertained with these great novellas... I am normally not a fan of short stories, but these little and not so little gems are blowing me away !!

Highly recommended ;)

This review has been posted on Wendy's Wycked Words

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Profile Image for Shin Mon Thway.
663 reviews1,501 followers
September 5, 2018
Seriously, what’s not to like? 😏 Blushing international assassins and undercover spies in skimpy red briefs and devil suits, Ooooooo, Shin so likey! 😁😍 Let’s face the facts. We love Jack and Ethan, both can’t be claimed as saints, particularly and crazy bastard Ethan but we adore them. 😉 We also adore that dry and uniquely witty and amusing humor of L.J. Hayward and that just enough and still-wanting-more chemistry and sizzling smut between these two. 🔥 It was nice to see the relationship between these poles apart yet similar in so many ways guys blossoming into beautiful love. I was right for waiting until the next novella in this series came out to read this one because now I’m dying for more. 😁 Oh well, onto the next appointment with my current favorite devil. 💙 Ethan you crazy bastard, here I come! 😉

4.5 shut up and shag me hard Jack stars

Profile Image for Ariana  (mostly offline).
1,391 reviews45 followers
August 26, 2019
Reread August 2019

How much more starry-eyed can I possible get over Jack and Ethan????

From the first admissions of feelings …

“Jack brought one hand around his chest, splayed his fingers over Ethan’s heart and let the intoxicating mix of dark and light sweep him away. The pounding of his heart was drowned out by the grenade under his ribs, heat washing thorough him, into toes and fingers, but burning right in the centre of his chest.”

“I didn’t fall asleep last time,” Ethan snapped. “I didn’t feel so comfortable then, or like I belonged here. Or so happy to simply lie there with you that nothing else mattered.”

…to the simply sweet and cute (and yes we ARE talking about an assassin and a hardass agent here!)

“Are you blushing?” (Jack)
“No,” Ethan snapped.
“Yeah, you are,” Jack laughed.

And then there are all those tender moments, so wonderfully packed into beautiful language!

BUT: where is that elusive kiss that means so much for Jack? It is too soon, I know. *SIGH*
Absolutely swoon-worthy and brilliant in every word!

Original review:

I think this may be only the second time I have given a novella five stars.
And why did I do that?

Because it is incredible how much the author fits into a few scenes between Jack and Ethan.
I love how Ethan remains a 'mystery', something Jack needs to unravel, a man who he finds totally intriguing and attractive. I mean the guy is a deadly killer, and yet so innocent in many ways. Working him until he loses control ... has certain rewards for Jack!

Let me tell you, these two are more than a deadly combination!
Despite the shortness of the book, we can see Jack and Ethan's relationship move on. Ethan's protectiveness made me smile, and Jack just knows deep down he has fallen heads over, not that he would willingly admit it!

I will be counting the hours until book 2 arrives!
And I am still willing to bet that this is going to be one of my all time most favourite series!
Profile Image for Teal.
608 reviews201 followers
June 6, 2021
This novella consists of three chapters, or three short stories, depending on how you choose to define it. The chapters/stories play out chronologically after the preceding entries in the series, Where Death Meets the Devil (novel), and the freebie Where Death Meets the Devil :Coda (short story). There would be no point in reading this book until you've read those.

The problem I've had with the series to-date continues here: While Jack comes vividly to life on the page, Ethan never quite seems real to me. (And he reminds me so strongly of Jeremy from M. Chandler's Shadow of the Templar series that I've gotten the two of them inextricably mixed up in my head.)

But here's what I loved, and what will keep me going with the series -- both from the third story, Death of the Party:


2. Jack still has random flashbacks to Ethan's manipulations of him in Book One.

Wish you were here? The unexpected return of that little issue jerked Jack out of the moment. It had been several months since the memory of the desert, and everything Ethan had done to mess him up had reared its ugly head.

You can accept an apology and make the conscious choice to forgive someone. You can intend to move on with life. But you can't make yourself forget, and you can't force your subconscious mind to let go until it's damn good and ready.

The only safe option here was retreat. Back off, way off, until he knew he wouldn’t completely mess things up by reacting to something Ethan had already apologised for.

I thought this was handled brilliantly, and, once again, realistically. So despite my ongoing dissatisfaction with Ethan's characterization, I'm still onboard with this series and will be preordering the next book.
Profile Image for Christelle.
808 reviews
December 27, 2018
Follow up from Where Death Meets the Devil - not a standalone !

After the unique encounter of Jack, an Australian government agent, and Ethan, a highly professional assassin, a story that I furiously devored, the author gives us a snippet of the evolution of this improbable relationship.

God, how I thoroughly enjoy the dance between these unique characters, the way they slowly get comfortable together, the way they stubbornly refuse to admit this is it for them.
OK, Jack and Ethan, let’s ignored the amazing chemistry between the 2 of you and pretend it’s just SEX, because seriously, I won’t complain with the hot sex nor with the jealous sex due to skimpy red briefs.

I’m addicted to this series on so many levels and I just LOVE Ethan with his dry humor.

PS : Thank you so much, Jewel, for this great gift. What a blast !! <3
Profile Image for Rosabel.
716 reviews189 followers
November 11, 2021
We got to know more about their way of thinking and personalities and... their male power, I seriously don't know how their dick's don't fall off, I know they don't see each other in long periods of time but... Yeah, it's probably that... Or not.

Still loving this, still adoring the characters and want to smack them in the head so they communicate, a smack full of love btw. 🥰🥰
Profile Image for haletostilinski.
1,227 reviews407 followers
July 1, 2018
A great short story to further along Jack and Ethan's relationship. I still feel like they have a long way to go until they get to love (Jack still won't kiss Ethan on the mouth and it's only about 3 months after "coda" when they made their "lets fuck sometimes" arrangement, and Ethan is off doing his assassin thing and Jack is doing this job thing for so long sometimes that they saw each other like...once a month in those three months. They aren't exclusive, and .

But their growing relationship is so interesting and fun to read. Also, these boys need to learn to communicate and not deal in absolutes. Ethan almost

These two men are both very stunted, very damaged men but seeing them - hopefully - get to falling in love is an amazing journey already. I mean Jack already knows it's more than just sex with Ethan, but that more...he hasn't defined yet.

Can't wait to read more! Love these little stories :D
Profile Image for Renée.
1,058 reviews331 followers
October 17, 2021
~4.5 stars~

That was SO good. Novella-length only (and three small stories, at that), this one packed a punch I wasn't expecting.

I got not only a dose of Jack and Ethan (who are both far too enigmatic for my tastes, and I need to know them more), but I got my catnip - relationship angst!

I'm left salivating. I need Book 2 yesterday.
Profile Image for Ky.
527 reviews64 followers
July 2, 2018
I'm really not surprised at all that I ended up absolutely loving this trio of short stories. Jack and Ethan are exactly as I remembered them: frustrating and awesome at the same time. Each short story takes place a month after the previous one and shows us how the arrangement they settled on in Where Death Meets the Devil :Coda is going so far.

They are still very cautious with each other, they keep some things close to the chest and are afraid to show too much to the other. Still, it's apparent that, even with only the little time they manage to steal and be together, they are getting to know the other better and inderstand each other more and in a deeper level.

If this is what we get from a mere few short stories I can't imagine what we'll get when the next full length novel is out! If you are a fan of this series, you don't want to miss this, and if you have no idea who Jack and Ethan are, well, what are you waiting for???

*An ARC of this book was kindly provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. *
Profile Image for  ⚣ Marco ⚣.
96 reviews49 followers
January 8, 2019
I really enjoyed these 3 short stories; each one of them added another layer to Jack and Ethan's blossoming relationship. Now, could we finally start talking about exclusivity? Please?
Profile Image for Alex.
341 reviews31 followers
July 7, 2018
I am so infatuated with Ethan & Jack!

I read that we will have 2 more novellas before the second book at the end of this year and I am so excited about that because I could read these novellas about how their feelings are growing over and over again!

Everything about this is PERFECT!

Profile Image for Jassy.
18 reviews12 followers
November 1, 2018
**4.75 stars**

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that I should re-rate book 1. I love Ethan and Jack as a couple even if they are still insecure about each other and their bargain is 'just sex'. Yeah, I am absolutely not buying that :P
When Ethan fell asleep in Jacks apartment - like really asleep - it obviously scared the hell out of him. But I loved that development of trust. It's point on my favorite trope and so very well done. Ethan is sweet when he tries to help Jack because he cares so much. And Jack on the other hand is also kind of cute. I get to like him a little bit slower but the things he is willing to do for Ethan made me warm up to him.
The only thing I had my issues with was.... that they aren't exclusive yet. And there go Jack's sympathy points. But even I had to admit - okay, you can't give 4 stars because of two goddamn sentences if the rest was perfect.
Profile Image for Mariam, the clown.
637 reviews369 followers
January 5, 2023
Loved it cus Ethan was so understanding and patient and soothed and calmed and LISTENED and did shit for Ethan because Jack wanted E to stay, it MADE ME FUCKIN HEART MELT!!!

I only have one bone to pick with this book.

Neither of them had promised exclusivity, though, so Jack hadn’t been entirely celibate since then.

WHY!!!! FUCKIN WHY!!!!?????!!! WHY!!!!????! 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭

But Jack still fearing Ethan is gonna kill him is ✨ ENTERTAINMENT ✨
Profile Image for Antisocial Recluse.
2,712 reviews
June 23, 2018
I just love these extra glimpses into Ethan and Jack’s still-evolving relationship after the end of Where Death Meets the Devil. “It’s complicated” is an understatement in this instance, when an agent of the government is dating an assassin. The emotional distance they both try to maintain is slowly breaking down, although we don’t see it fall in this short trio of vignettes. It’s so sexy and romantic to see the expressions of emotion, portrayed in their own unique way. Lots of fun and scorching hot! And d@mmit, still no kiss. Let’s hope the full sequel we’re waiting for has that highly anticipated moment. Read this one to help tide you over!
Profile Image for Meep.
2,118 reviews201 followers
August 26, 2019
RE-READ: I'm not sure I'd rate as high, while I love the characters I'm not a fan of these 'extras' that aren't really extras. While the pace is different to the novels and focus more on the tentative relationship than spy-action they do advance the overall plot so are necessary reading. The first story feels a lot of summarising rather than showing.
Definitely left me with the feel of M.Chandlers Templar series, the assasin (thief in those) suddenly involved in every case.

-- --
Pre-order to get to it at a reduced price!
Mailing list for a sample ;)

Well that was a nice smutty extra with added vulnerability and some complexities. I'm happy it's a out-take as it would change the pace of a novel but time with these two is always interesting and Blade a study of contradictions. Sexy, sweet but deadly. Looking forward to more.

Curious about Ethan's vulnerability with Jack and to be honest hoping to see him being more twisty in the sequel. But I do like seeing these two adjust and redefine their relationship.
Profile Image for Alisa.
1,801 reviews183 followers
July 4, 2018
Another good installment in this series. I'm so glad the author decided to not stop after the first book. Can't wait till these two admit they're in love with each other. AND KISS FINALLY!
Profile Image for Amanda.
1,387 reviews319 followers
May 23, 2020
A few short scenes with Ethan turning up at Jack's home at random times, Ethan trying to secure Jack's home like Fort Knox. Ethan interfering with Jack's assignment. Plenty of sexy times and the whole no kissing thing is driving me crazy!
Profile Image for fleurette.
1,407 reviews122 followers
September 2, 2018
I read it just last night and loved it. It's a great instalment, while we are waiting for the second book in the series to be out. This one is more on the romance than suspense part, Ethan and Jack have quite a bit of sex and they are working out some issues in their unusual relationship. I rarely do novellas, even those mid-series ones, but I'm glad I made an exception here.
Profile Image for alyssa.
856 reviews148 followers
August 30, 2021
besides me always mistakenly reading "Jake Riordan" (from the Adrien English series) when it's "Jack Reardon," i really enjoyed this one! 😆

i like how this novella acknowledges that they aren't exclusive yet and that Jack still has to work through what Ethan did to him in book 1 rather than sweep it all under the rug as if it doesn't have any effect on their relationship (it does big time!). although Ethan continues to be an enigma in my eyes, i can't wait to read more about these two!
Profile Image for Bibliophile.
839 reviews
July 12, 2018
Can we chain Hayward to a chair and force her to write the next installment of this series stat? No? Are you sure?

This is such an unusual series! I love it! It's not often you have an MC that the other one fears, lusts after, and wants to protect at the same time. And Ethan is such an interesting and deadly enigma! Add to that the lusty/emotional scenes, the action-packed sequences, and the surprising moment of humor and you get, well, a damn good read.

I could go on and on about why I love this series. Both book #1, the coda, and this follow-up novella have earned 5 star reviews for me and made my best-of lists. I am eagerly awaiting book #2 in this series and hope it will be published soon. Fingers crossed!

Profile Image for BevS.
2,749 reviews2 followers
January 8, 2023
Love these two...and yes, they are in love, no matter what they try to tell each other...or not, as the case may be 😊. Liked the sound of the 'Angel' too 😉. Come on January...
Profile Image for TT.
2,017 reviews5 followers
July 2, 2018
Jack: 'Crazy bastard'
Ethan: 'Half right Jack'
Me: 'Just kiss dammit!!'
Great novella, sexy fun!
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