Mating A Cowboy is book one in A Port Hope Small Town Romance series, but can be read as a standalone.
Release Date: May 23, 2019
Heat Rating: 4 flames
A bakery barely treading water, and a pending business loan has omega Dawson sweating more than standing next to the kitchen’s finicky oven. Serving up the sweetest temptations should be his primary concern, but when news of his alpha father’s death falls on his ears, Dawson learns that he has been named as the sole heir of his ranch in the small town of Port Hope.
Selling the ranch could be the miracle he needs to save the bakery, but after a chance encounter with a rugged small town alpha, Dawson struggles to balance his goal, with the cowboy’s lasso tugging at his heart.
Alpha Wyatt is no stranger to living the cowboy life. Having grown up in the serene countryside of Port Hope, Wyatt spends his days training and providing care to his rescue horses. Rolling hills, fresh air, leather saddles, and his Stetson was all Wyatt wanted in life. It was all he needed—then he met Dawson.
As their passion burns, the harsh reality starts to set in. Dawson has a life to return to in the big city, and Wyatt’s a country boy through and through. Is the bond they have worth fighting for? Or are their roots settled in the thousands of miles between them?
He looked in my eyes as mine lifted, the smile on his lips subtly bold, though the slant of his shoulders remained hesitant. The signals confused me even as they roused something protective. I knew he wanted me; it was in the dilation of his pupils, in the press of his fingers around my wrist. Maybe he was waiting for me to take charge, maybe he wasn’t sure where all this would lead in the morning.
I cleared my throat. “Do you—can I kiss you?”
His smile widened. I suppressed a wince because I knew it was a little late to be asking permission, but late was better than never.
“Yes,” Dawson replied, jaw flexing underneath my fingers.
I touched his lips a second time, but in this instance my eyelids fell closed and I inhaled. His head tilted back, mouth opening beneath mine as I pressed forward, deepening the kiss, our tongues meeting briefly, retreating, meeting again. It was a dance, the first few steps exploratory.
But as heat flared, my cock hardening, my fingers tightened their grip on his jaws and the dance morphed into a battle.
I pulled Dawson flush against my body, hands roving down his body to grip his hips, looping into the leather belt he wore. Spinning with him in my arms, I backed him almost blindly against the wall, slapping my hands on either side of his head as my crotch ground into his.
He gasped, hands reaching up to tangle in my hair. Tightly. As laid back as he was, the omega made his lust known.
“Bedroom,” he gasped against my mouth.
His lips glistened; it took a moment to tear my eyes away. “What?” He’d said something, right?
“Beeedrooom.” He drawled out the syllables.
I could fuck him right here, right now against the wall, but I sensed he needed, wanted, more care than that. If this was our first time together, I had to make a good showing for myself.
I didn’t want it to be the first and the last.
His hand slipped into mine, the gesture all the more touching for its casual intimacy. We walked the short hall silently, and I paused in front of my bedroom door, giving him that split second to retreat before pushing the door open and pulling him inside.
“Wyatt,” he whispered. The sound of my name on his lips… I don’t know how we ended up on the bed, my body braced over his. My mind blanked, body taking over.
I cursed. “Damn, we still have our shoes on.”
He laughed up at me. “And all our clothes.” Placing his hands on my chest, he pushed, eyes never leaving mine as his half hesitant, half teasing smile continued to stoke the flames of my lust. The need, the craving to make him mine engulfed everything else. I stood long enough to kick off my shoes, pull my shirt over my head.
Dawson sighed. “I guess we’ll save the striptease for next time.”
I paused, about to push my jeans down, and slowed the motion, trying to draw out his pleasure and my own using anticipation of the big reveal. And then my mind tripped on the ‘next time.’
“There’ll be a next time?”
About the Author
Kenna Grace is a small woman with a huge personality. By evening, she can be found writing, reading, and getting lost in her wild imagination. In her other life, she’s a behavioral analyst and devoted partner, but writing about men falling in love and their happily-ever-after is so much more exciting!
Ever since then, he has lived as an immortal house cat—short one life.
Anselm is a mildly depressed vampire with a soft spot for the feline he calls friend.
They live together as equals, companions for eternity—or so they hope.
But their lives take a dark turn when the witch who cursed Edmund long ago dies.
And suddenly, he is human again.
In a race against time’s cruel hand, Anselm and Edmund must make a decision.
Do they find a dark witch and re-enact the curse that plagued Edmund so they can be together for an eternity? Or . . . does Edmund give up forever as a cat to be with Anselm for now as a man?
I clenched my jaw. If this stranger had hurt Edmund, there would be hell to pay.
My immortal cat, as irritating as he could be sometimes, was my best friend. We’d been a pair since the beginning of the twentieth century and . . . in reality, he was all I had.
Everything changed but not Edmund. Nor me.
He was a cursed cat, once a young man in the prime of his life. I was the vampire he called friend.
“Edmund,” I called, dropping the bags I held. The fresh fish and blood I’d bought cascaded to the floor. Some of the packets burst open, but I didn’t care about the mess the blood would make or the smell that would linger for days; I cared about my best friend. “Edmund?!”
The stranger turned; his sharp gaze followed me though he was rooted to the spot.
I rushed through the living room, heading deeper into my home, knowing that if my heart still beat, it would be pounding against my chest like a sledgehammer.
Where was Edmund? Why wasn’t he answering?
Hunting through the rooms, I checked in all of Edmund’s favorite hiding spots—on top of the bookshelf, on my side of the bed, behind my pillow, in the perfect patch of moonlight that streamed through the bay windows in my office—but Edmund was nowhere to be found.
He was missing, gone, disappeared.
“Where is he?!” I demanded as I raged into the living room and caught the stranger by the throat. My fingers tightened as my anger—my fear—tainted the air, sending the thick stench of decay curling around us. The strange young man’s lips parted, opening and closing like a fish out of water as he grasped my wrist and fought for breath. “If you hurt him—” I couldn’t even finish the thought, much less the sentence.
The very idea of not having Edmund, of being without him . . .
I shook the man impatiently. “Where is he?!” I bellowed, shaking the boy.
He appeared desperate as he clutched my wrist and tugged on my arm, attempting to remove my hold, but my grasp was absolute as my fingers tightened around his neck.
Panic danced across his face. His wide eyes shined, a familiar neon blue that I knew.
My lips parted. “Edmund?”
I loosened my hold. It wasn’t possible. Edmund was . . .
The man I held by the neck trembled in my grasp, one minute a man, and in the next, thick black fur sprouted out of his transformed body.
“Y . . . You choked me,” he gasped as I gathered him close.
“You turned into a-a-a man!” I pulled him away from my chest, inspecting him as I did so.
How was this possible? He was cursed by a witch to live the rest of his life, or at least nine lives—eight now that he’d died once—as a cat. Right now, the fluffy black thing I peered down at looked like my housecat, but seconds ago . . .
About the Authors
Autumn Breeze is a bestselling LGBT+ author, and current Radish Content Provider. She is also the winner of a 2015 Watty Award, a former Wattpad Star, with more than 70K followers on Wattpad who was featured in Cosmo in 2017 “My Lessons with the Sexy Dance Instructor.” In 2017 she worked as a Freelance Writer for 20th Century Fox on, “A Cure for Wellness: Seeking A Cure.”
Ashley Chamblee is a bestselling author with 10+ years of experience who specializes in writing horror, fantasy, paranormal, and romance with LGBT themes. Currently, she has 35K+ followers on her combined Wattpad accounts EzraWinn and HonestDying. When Ashley isn’t writing she is either working with special needs adults, playing video games, reading or spending time with friends and family.
Blood Prize, her bestselling novel is available on Amazon.
When a veterinarian and a construction worker connect, it takes mishaps, mistakes, and a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Rex to show them they’re made for each other. Dr. Carter Falon is content living a quiet life in a small town caring for his animal patients. That doesn’t mean he’s not looking for a distraction. After finding himself precariously wedged… naked and at the mercy of a drop-dead gorgeous construction worker, Carter hires his savior to renovate his home. When Tanner Grady’s best friend and new niece needed him, he uprooted and relocated without a second thought. His life has since been centered on work and spending time with his family, but when he comes to the rescue of a cute vet, Tanner finds he’s a lot more interested in the homeowner than the house he’s renovating.
My eyes widened when they landed on his form. Damn, it wasn’t every day a client greeted me in the nude. Looking at the path between me and who I assumed to be Carter on the ground, I tried not to let my eyes linger for too long on his smooth expanse of skin. He was lightly toned, with a softness about him that was impossible to not notice, despite trying my hardest not to.
With a shake of my head, I calculated each step I took to get to his side. Once I made it safely to the top, the floorboards creaking under my booted feet, Carter angled himself to turn and look at me. Definitely pissed off and in pain, and perhaps a bit mortified too, a light blush covering his cheeks. His gaze roamed me from bottom to top before landing on my own. I quirked my brow in amusement and question while strategically ignoring how fucking pretty his brown eyes were. “So…?” I offered.
He sighed, and I watched in fascination as his Adam’s apple bobbed when he swallowed. “I rushed from the piece-of-crap shower when I heard the knock. My foot went through the board, and it’s stuck.” His pink cheeks turned crimson.
Unable to stay the small smile tugging at my lips, I grinned as I stepped closer. I took my time to get to him, wanting to help the guy out. The last thing he needed was me falling on my ass. Clearing my throat, I crouched down at his side, my focus now on his leg and foot.
The whole area was rotten and would need ripping out. But for the time being, I’d need to tear up the two surrounding boards to get his ankle free. “You have tried to get it out, right?” I felt like a jackass for asking, but it was always best to check first.
Carter huffed out a breath. “Yeah, I did. It’s wedged against something. I tried pulling it out, but it’s a no go. It’s tighter than a virgin ass.”
My gaze whipped to his. What the fuck? With lifted brows, I stared wide-eyed at him, drawing another blush from him.
“Shoot, sorry. That was inappropriate.” His eyes widened in horror. “I meant, it’s wedged. Erm. It’s just wedged tight, and—”
I grinned. “It’s all good. Give me a sec.” The poor guy looked like he wanted to join his foot in the space under the floorboards and curl over. He needed an out, and I needed to get some air in my lungs away from his intoxicating smell and firm thighs, which were impossible to ignore in such close proximity.
About the Author
Becca Seymour lives and breathes all things book related. Usually with at least three books being read and two WiPs being written at the same time, life is merrily hectic. She tends to do nothing by halves so happily seeks the craziness and busyness life offers. Living on her small property in Queensland with her human family as well as her animal family of cows, chooks, and dogs, Becca appreciates the beauty of the world around her and is a believer that love truly is love.
Jojo Arias, a Spanish-Filipino mestizo, didn’t expect to meet a U.S. Marine in a swank bar in the Philippines. But, Jojo can’t deny the electricity they have once he meets Adam. Although they come from different worlds, they struggle to keep their relationship private to protect Jojo’s status, and position as part of one of wealthiest and powerful in Filipino society. Billions of dollars could be easily lost if his family business was jeopardized by Jojo’s secret. Jojo is pressured to abandon Adam and live a life in the closet. When the struggle to maintain their secret romance unravels, Jojo is left with a life-changing decision to leave his family, or to pursue his love.
James Joseph Garcia Arias savored the last few drops, then set the now empty pilsner down, right next to two other empty bottles of San Miguel beer. Despite the thick glass windows in the swank Makati bar that should have offered some soundproofing, Saturday Manila traffic passed noisily one floor below. The rumble of buses, cars honking, and steady stream of headlights never bored him. He preferred the noise of the city to the quiet stillness that his parents called home.
He glanced at his Patek Phillipe Nautilus watch his grandmother had given him. He texted Erwin. Ready. Barely a second or two passed, when his phone received the reply text. Be right there, boss. He sighed. He’d asked Erwin not to call him that for the longest time, but Erwin insisted. Jojo stood, fished out the right amount of pesos, plus a slightly larger gratuity than what was expected, then headed for the men’s room. A large group of Americans sat around the glass-tiled bar, laughing loudly. He guessed they were military, based on their crew cuts, hanging out to blow off steam. When he returned a few minutes later, after peeing an hour’s worth of beer, one of the military guys glanced up, and smiled at him. The man’s eyes followed Jojo.
Walk on by. Don’t stop.
He wanted to listen to the voice inside his head but he couldn’t. Maybe the alcohol made him less inhibited, maybe he was still reeling from the breakup with his fiancee and maybe he wanted to talk to someone who wasn’t an employee or a family member, or maybe because no one left in the bar knew him because the next thing he did was he stopped, inches away from the blond.
“Is this seat taken?” Jojo asked.
The stranger smiled more broadly and shook his head. “No.”
Jojo waited a second to see if the handsome man would say something else, but all the blond man did was smile even more. “American right?” Jojo asked.
“I’m guessing you guys are U.S. military?”
“Marines, yeah. We’re sending one of our guys off, rotating from the Embassy here. My name’s Adam, by the way.” Adam offered his hand, which Jojo shook.
“James Arias, but my friends call me ‘Jojo’.”
Adam opened his mouth to say something but was interrupted by his friends who came over to meet Jojo. It didn’t take Jojo long to figure that Adam was probably the only sober one in the group, as the four other guys slurred their words, and often laughed uncontrollably at each other’s jokes. When Adam’s friends returned to their seats at the bar, Adam leaned in. “Your English is perfect, no trace of an accent, so I’m guessing you’re American too?”
“You’re partly right. I was born in America. My mother was a medical student in the U.S., and we lived in San Francisco but we moved back here after she got her degree.”
“So your mom’s a doctor?”
Jojo smiled. He wanted to tell Adam the whole long story of why his mother had never practiced medicine after she completed medical school because the family had seen no need of her working at a hospital or a clinic, and that these days her mother was busy hosting, or attending social and charitable events, but he thought the better of it and just answered simply. “Yeah, she is.”
“So you live here. . . I mean the Philippines?” Adam asked.
“Yes, I do.”
“I’m sorry I’m asking stupid questions because you don’t look Filipino. I hope I’m not offending you by saying that. Most Filipinos are short and very Asian looking. You look more like my Latino friends from Southern California and in a good way.”
Jojo laughed. “It’s probably the lighting, but my father and mother are both parts Spanish and Filipino so maybe that’s why my features are different than most.” Jojo’s cell phone vibrated. I’m downstairs, boss. Jojo palmed the phone for a second, aware that Adam was studying him. Erwin, something’s come up. Head back to the garage until I text you again.
Jojo shook his head without looking up from his phone.
Jojo raised his head and laughed at the handsome man’s brazenness. He liked how Adam’s strong jawline, full lips and dark eyebrows peered at him, waiting on every word. Maybe it was the alcohol. He moved within earshot so that only the Marine could hear. “No, I haven’t had a boyfriend in a long time. But, I did just break up with my fiancée.”
“Is that why you were nursing several beers over in that corner after your friends left you?”
Jojo narrowed his eyes. “You’re very perceptive, Adam. Except they weren’t my friends, they were . . . co-workers.” Jojo almost said employees, but stopped himself. Maybe it was the Arias family tendency to be secretive, and not give out too much information, but here he was on a Saturday night in a bar, drinking, when he was usually still in the office poring over engineering details, building plans, and contract proposals.
“I’m sorry about the break up. You look torn up about it. I couldn’t help but notice earlier when we first arrived. Can I buy you a beer?”
Jojo smiled, then laughed without meaning to. The last time a guy had bought him a beer was in a dive bar right outside CalPoly, after an engineering final.
“What’s so funny?” Adam asked, as he chuckled along.
“It’s been a while since another guy offered to buy me a beer.”
“No worries. It looked like earlier you needed it. Did she break your heart?” Jojo faced toward the bar, away from Adam. Jojo didn’t say anything, but he wanted to respond.
Adam spoke again. “You don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to.”
Jojo pondered Adam’s question as Adam’s friends got louder and louder on their end of the bar.
“Don’t worry about them,” Adam said as he pointed to his friends. “I’m the designated driver, and in about an hour they’ll all be sound asleep snoring in the government issued van I’m driving.”
So he’s brazen without alcohol.
Jojo faced Adam and breathed deeply. He couldn’t tell the color of Adam’s piercing eyes but Jojo couldn’t deny his own intense interest in the serviceman. Adam leaned in and prolonged his gaze. Jojo was mesmerized. Adam seemed genuinely concerned. And maybe he was wrong, but Adam appeared compassionate. “She asked me if I was ever going to marry her. If I loved her, and if we were only together because both our families wanted it. I had to tell her the truth, and that as much as I had feelings for her, I didn’t love her.”
“Ouch!” Then Adam smiled, his voice took on a tone of playfulness. “And you’re here, living and breathing with no scratch on you.”
“She is a very logical, rational person. That’s why I liked her when we first met. She was so completely different from the other girls my parents tried to set me up with.”
“You have a picture of her? I’m curious.”
Jojo nodded, fished out his phone, and scrolled through some pictures before showing a good one of his ex, Lani.
“Wow. She’s hot. Your parents had good taste if they thought she would be a good wife.”
One of Adam’s friends sauntered over and peered at Lani’s photo. “Dude, your girlfriend?”
“Ex,” Adam said. “That’s his ex.”
“How about giving me her number? She’s pretty.”
Jojo shook his head. If Lani, a black belt in tae kwon do, found out he’d ever given her number to someone, she’d probably roundhouse kick him in the head before he knew anything about it. “Sorry, I can’t do that.”
“Well, at least I tried,” the Marine said. “Hey, Adam, we’re thinking we should head on over to the bars downtown.”
“Downtown?” Adam asked.
“Ermita,” the man said.
Adam turned away so that only Jojo could see his face as he rolled his eyes.
“What do you say? For old time’s sake?” his friend asked. “You’re welcome to come along––’’
“––Jojo, my name’s, Jojo,” as they both shook hands.
“Mine’s Nate. Yeah, come along with us, I’m sure Adam won’t mind,” the Marine continued. “It’ll keep him company, and his mind off his ex-boyfriend he’s probably still pining after.”
Adam slouched. Adam’s reaction to his Marine buddy’s comment must have hit a chord and Jojo was compelled to find out more about Adam. Jojo hesitated for a moment. He wasn’t used to spontaneously accepting strangers offers to hang out, but Adam’s eyes beckoned him to say yes. Besides, maybe a few more hours out on the town would make him feel better for breaking up with Lani.
“If you’re sure I won’t be a fifth wheel, yeah, I’ll join you.”
Adam smiled. “Nate’s a little bit of a douche bag. So sorry about that.”
“Well, your friend’s had a little too much to drink.” Jojo leaned closer, sticking a hand in his pants pocket, his lips almost touching Adam’s ear, and whispered. “But to be honest, that scene is a little too, I’m trying to find the right words to say it––”
“––Red light? Yeah, I hate going down there.” Adam put his hand on top of Jojo’s wrist, squeezed it, and then removed it. The quick touch happened in a blink of an eye. “Do you have any other suggestions?”
Jojo didn’t say anything. He was shocked that Adam had just placed his hand on him, so casually, so friendly like. He couldn’t deny the electricity he felt when Adam touched him either. “If they’re looking for dancing women, there’s a club two blocks from here, more upscale but not so red light, as you say.”
“Well, lead the way, Jojo.” Adam smiled. “I’ll rustle them from the bar and we’ll follow you.” Adam stood and moved to where Nate and the other guys were huddled.
Jojo motioned to the bartender. “I’ll pay their tab.”
“Thanks, Mr. Arias. Shall I add it to your monthly bill?”
Jojo nodded. Before he could say anything else, Adam appeared at his elbow. Standing, he towered over Jojo by a few inches.
“The boys are cool checking out a new place. Thanks for the offer.”
“So who’s leaving that you’re having this party for?” Jojo asked.
“His name’s John.” Adam pointed him out. “He’s been stationed at the Embassy for more than three years now. Overdue for his new assignment back to San Diego.”
Jojo signed the chit the bartender handed him without even looking at the total bill.
“Hey, is that our bill? You shouldn’t have done that. What do we owe you?”
Jojo shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. I come here often enough that they actually give me a discount, and I’m glad to pay. Thanks for your service. All of you.”
Adam walked to where Nate stood, clapped him on the shoulder, and shouted something in his ear. All the guys around Nate, including John turned to Jojo and raised their glasses and beer bottles, some empty and others not so empty. “Thanks!” they shouted in unison.
Adam took two steps back to Jojo. “Now, they’ll follow you to the ends of the earth. Buying their drinks bought you some loyalty. Lead the way, fine sir!” Adam gestured with a bow, holding an invisible cap in his hands as his head followed the gesture.
Jojo laughed at the dramatic flourish and walked out of the bar, Adam right next to him as the other Marines followed them. As they took the steps down one level to the street, Jojo recognized the SUV parked on the side. “Hold on,” he said to Adam.
Jojo approached the Lexus with dark tinted windows. The whir of the window revealed Erwin’s face. “I didn’t go back to the garage, boss. They said I could just wait here until you were done, however long it lasted.”
“Well, we’re headed to my cousin’s VIP club down the block. You know the one. If you want to meet me there, that’s fine.” Jojo ignored his driver’s raised eyebrow. Jojo’s cousin, Tiny, owned a lounge with a rooftop bar.
Jojo hadn’t talked to Tiny in a week or so, since Tiny asked for a loan from Arias Holdings to help his deep in the red bar.
Tiny’s club had boxing on one floor, Ukrainian and Russian models on the second floor, and Filipino women, working as cocktail waitresses, dressed in Vietnamese ao dais whose skirts were mini-skirts rather than full length dresses. The male bartenders were all selectively picked for the discreet crowd. Cousin Tiny interviewed the entire bar and wait staff himself, making sure that they were attractive. The truth was, if they could flirt with Tiny and the head waitress, they were hired if they had a pretty face. Jojo didn’t care for the little people fighting in a small area that took up most of the dance floor, but his cousin assured him that he never exploited them, and that they were being paid handsomely to pretend to hit each other very hard.
The walk to the building where the lounge was didn’t take long. Security at the front recognized Jojo immediately. “They’re with me,” Jojo pointed to Adam and the Marines. The large security guard at the front, who Jojo guessed was probably part Samoan and part Filipino, was dressed in a heavy wool jacket and pants, nodded and then radioed the two equally large security guards by the door. They were shown to the marbled main floor of the building. As soon as they took the elevators, again escorted by another security guard, Adam and the Marines were quiet and didn’t say much. When they arrived at the final floor, loud music greeted them before the elevator doors opened.
About the Author
A military brat, who joined the military himself, W.S. Long now practices law during the day, but at night reads and writes male-male romance. When he’s not writing, W.S. Long travels and dreams of traveling far off distant lands with his mild-mannered college professor husband.
Dive into the first volume of a bleak cyberpunk tahgmahr you can’t afford to miss. What would you sacrifice to survive?
By 4042 CE, the Hierophant and his Church have risen to political dominance with his cannibalistic army of genetically modified humans: martyrs. In an era when mankind’s intergenerational cold wars against their long-lived predators seem close to running hot, the Holy Family is poised on the verge of complete planetary control. It will take a miracle to save humanity from extinction.
It will also take a miracle to resurrect the wife of 331-year-old General Dominia di Mephitoli, who defects during martyr year 1997 AL in search of Lazarus, the one man rumored to bring life to the dead. With the Hierophant’s Project Black Sun looming over her head, she has little choice but to believe this Lazarus is really all her new friends say he is–assuming he exists at all–and that these companions of hers are really able to help her. From the foulmouthed Japanese prostitute with a few secrets of her own to the outright sapient dog who seems to judge every move, they don’t inspire a lot of confidence, but the General has to take the help she can get.
After all, Dominia is no ordinary martyr. She is THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER, and her Father won’t let her switch sides without a fight. Not when she still has so much to learn.
The dystopic first entry of an epic cyberpunk trilogy, THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER is a horror/sci-fi adventure sure to delight and inspire adult readers of all stripes.
The Disgraced Governess of the United Front was blind in her right eye. Was that blood in the left, or was it damaged, too? The crash ringing in her ears kept her from thinking straight. Of course her left eye still worked: it worked well enough to prevent her from careening into the trees through which she plunged. Yet, for the tinted flecks of reality sometimes twinkling between crimson streaks, she could only imagine her total blindness with existential horror. Would the protein heal the damage? How severely was her left eye wounded? What about the one she knew to be blind—was it salvageable? Ichigawa could check, if she ever made it to the shore.
She couldn’t afford to think that way. It was a matter of “when,” not of “if.” She would never succumb. Neither could car accident, nor baying hounds, nor the Hierophant himself keep her from her goal. She had fourteen miles to the ship that would whisk her across the Pacific and deliver her to the relative safety of the Risen Sun. Then the Lazarene ceremony would be less than a week away. Cassandra’s diamond beat against her heart to pump it into double time, and with each double beat, she thought of her wife (smiling, laughing, weeping when she thought herself alone) and ran faster. A lucky thing the Governess wasn’t human! Though, had she remained human, she’d have died three centuries ago in some ghetto if she’d lived past twenty without becoming supper. Might have been the easier fate, or so she lamented each time her mind replayed the crash of the passenger-laden tanque at fifth gear against the side of their small car. How much she might have avoided!
Of course—then she never would have known Cassandra. That made all this a reasonable trade. Cold rain softened the black earth to the greedy consistency of clay, but her body served where her eyes failed. The darkness was normally no trouble, but now she squinted while she ran and, under sway of a dangerous adrenaline high, was side-swiped by more than one twisting branch. The old road that was her immediate goal, Highway 128, would lead her to the coast of her favorite Jurisdiction, but she now had to rediscover that golden path after the crash’s diversion. In an effort to evade her pursuers, she had torn into a pear orchard without thought of their canine companions. Not that the soldiers of the Americas kept companions like Europa’s nobles. These dogs were tools. Well-honed, organic death machines with a cultivated taste for living flesh, whether martyr or human. The dogs understood something that most had forgotten: the difference between the two was untenable. Martyrs could tell themselves they were superior for an eternity, but it wouldn’t change the fact that the so-called master race and the humans they consumed were the same species.
That was not why Cassandra had died, but it hadn’t contributed to their marital bliss. And now, knowing what she did of the Hierophant’s intentions—thinking, always, what Cassandra would have said—the Governess pretended she was driven by that ghost, and not by her own hopelessness. Without the self-delusion, she was a victim to a great many ugly thoughts, foremost among them being: Was the fear of life after her wife’s death worth such disgrace? A death sentence? Few appreciated what little difference there was between human and martyr, and fewer cared, because caring was fatal. But she was a part of the Holy Family. Shouldn’t that have been all that mattered? Stunning how, after three centuries, she deserved to be treated no better than a human. Then again, there was nothing quite like resignation from one’s post to fall in her Father’s estimate. Partly, he was upset by her poor timing—she did stand him up at some stupid press event, but only because she hoped it would keep everybody occupied while she got away. In that moment, she couldn’t even remember what it was. Dedicating a bridge? Probably. Her poor head, what did the nature of the event matter when she was close to death?
That lapse in social graces was not the reason for this hunt. He understood that more lay behind her resignation than a keening for country life. Even before he called her while she and the others took the tanque to the coast, he must have known. Just like he must have known the crash was seconds from happening while he chatted away, and that the humans in her company, already nervous to be within a foot of the fleeing Governess, were doomed.
Of the many people remaining on Earth, those lumped into the group of “human” were at constant risk of death, mutilation, or—far worse—unwilling martyrdom. This meant those humans lucky enough to avoid city-living segregation went to great lengths to keep their private properties secure. Not only houses but stables. The Disgraced Governess found this to be true of the stables into which she might have stumbled and electrocuted herself were it not for the bug zaps of rain against the threshold’s surface. Her mind made an instinctive turn toward prayer for the friendliness of the humans in the nearby farmhouse—an operation she was quick to abort. In those seconds (minutes?) since the crash, she’d succeeded in reconstructing the tinted windows of the tanque and a glimpse of silver ram’s horns: the Lamb lurked close enough to hear her like she spoke into his ear. It was too much to ask that he be on her side tonight.
Granted, the dogs of the Lamb were far closer, and far more decisive about where their loyalties stood. One hound sank its teeth into her ankle, and she, crying out, kicked the beast into its closest partner with a crunch. Slower dogs snarled outrage in the distance while the Disgraced Governess ran to the farmhouse caught in her left periphery. The prudent owners, to her frustration, shuttered their windows at night. Nevertheless, she smashed her fist against the one part of the house that protruded: the doorbell required by the Hierophant’s “fair play” dictatum allowing the use of electronic barriers. As the humans inside stumbled out of bed in response to her buzzing, the Disgraced Governess unholstered her antique revolver and unloaded two rounds into the recovered canines before they were upon her. The discharge wasn’t a tip-off she wanted to give to the Lamb and her other pursuers, but it hastened the response of the sleeping farmers as the intercom crackled to life.
“Who is it?” A woman’s voice, quivering with an edge of panic.
“My name is Dominia di Mephitoli: I’m the former Governess of the United Front, and I need to borrow a horse. Please. Don’t let me in. Just drop the threshold on your stables.”
“The Governess? I’m sorry, I don’t understand. The Dominia di Mephitoli, really? The martyr?”
“Yes, yes, please. I need a horse now.” Another dog careened around the corner and leapt over the bodies of his comrades with such grace that she wasted her third round in the corpses. Two more put it down as she shouted into the receiver. “I can’t transfer you any credits because they’ve frozen my Halcyon account, but I’ll leave you twenty pieces of silver if you drop the threshold and loan me a horse. You can reclaim it at the docks off Bay Street, in the township of Sienna. Please! He’ll kill me.”
“And he’ll be sure to kill us for helping you.”
“Tell him I threatened you. Tell him I tricked you! Anything. Just help me get away!”
“He’ll never believe what we say. He’ll kill me, my husband, our children. We can’t.”
“Oh, please. An act of mercy for a dying woman. Please, help me leave. I can give you the name of a man in San Valentino who can shelter you and give you passage abroad.”
“There’s no time to go so far south. Not as long as it takes to get across the city.”
It had been ten seconds since she’d heard the last dog. That worried her. With her revolver at the ready, she scanned the area for something more than the quivering roulette blotches swelling in her right eye. Nothing but the dead animals. “He’ll kill you either way. For talking to me, and not keeping me occupied until his arrival. For knowing that there’s disarray in his perfect land. He’ll find a reason, even if it only makes sense to him.”
The steady beat of rain pattered out a passive answer. On the verge of giving up, Dominia stepped back to ready herself for a fight—and the house’s threshold dropped with an electric pop. The absent mauve shimmer left the façade bare. How rare to see a country place without its barrier! A strange thing. Stranger for the front door to open; she’d only expected them to do away with the threshold on the stables.
But, rather than the housewife she’d anticipated, there stood the Hierophant. Several bleak notions clicked into place.
One immaculate gray brow arched. “Now, Dominia, that’s hardly fair. Knowledge of your disgrace isn’t why I’ll kill them. The whole world will know of it tomorrow morning. You embarrassed me by sending your resignation, rather than making the appearance I asked of you, so it is only fair I embarrass you by rejecting your resignation and firing you publicly. No, my dear. I will kill these fine people to upset you. In fact, Mr. McLintock is already dead in the attic. A mite too brave. Of course”—he winked, and whispered in conspiracy—“don’t tell them that.”
“How did you know I’d come here?”
“Such an odd spurt of rain tonight. Of all your Jurisdictions, this one is usually so dry this time of year! Won’t you come in for tea? Mrs. McLintock brews a fine pot. But put that gun away. You’re humiliating yourself. And me.”
About the Author
M.F. Sullivan is the author of Delilah, My Woman, The Lightning Stenography Device, and a slew of plays in addition to the Trilogy. She lives in Ashland, Oregon with her boyfriend and her cat, where she attends the local Shakespeare Festival and experiments with the occult.
Find more information about her work (and plenty of free essays) here.
At this year’s Webcon, nothing will stay secret for long.
Everyone has their secrets. Last year Digi walked out on Webcon, on his fans, and on Gram. Now he’s back determined to give what they had a real shot, but Gram is more prickly than ever, not willing to risk his heart again. Despite trying to stay out of the spotlight, the anonymous Public Service Announcements draw Digi back in. As the secrets of the internet’s top celebrities are leaked to the world, it’s only a matter of time before Digi and Gram are next. To get through it, they have to set their rivalry aside. Will Digi handle the pressure of the bright lights long enough to find who is tearing their world apart? Or will the threat of full exposure be too much for him to handle?
Gram tosses his cell phone onto the bed between us. Playing along, I grab his phone and check the screen, and the selfie we took last night stares back at me. I smile, we both look relaxed and totally comfortable, even though my hand on his thigh had me buzzed in that exact moment.
I set my mug down and toss the phone back to Gram before rolling onto my side. “Reminds me of when we used to vlog together.”
He stares at the photo for a minute. “Yeah. It does. Did you see the comments?”
“Turns out, people are still insanely curious about where you’ve been for the last year.”
“Because you disappeared, Digi. You were one of the biggest vloggers and then you were gone. All those comments are asking about you. So … let’s collab.”
“Well we’re friends, aren’t we? I haven’t lined up any guest vloggers yet, and if you do this with me, I won’t have to.”
“Yeah, no. I’m not doing that anymore.”
“I’m not saying you have to go back to it, but this will give you a chance to tell your piece, then everyone will stop speculating and you can go back to whatever the bloody hell you’ve been doing.”
I scrunch up my face, not real interested in the idea. “I dunno, Gram. I like being able to come here and not be hassled. If I do that, I’m opening the door on everyone thinking they can stick their noses back into my life.”
He sighs. “I can’t say I don’t understand. And it is your choice though.” Gram watches me, completely unguarded for a change. There’s no tension in his face, and it’s the way I like him best.
“Hey, remember that time we snuck off while our mom’s were on a panel, and went to that dolphin place?”
“Oh yeah …” His gaze goes unfocused and I know he’s remembering that day. “Yeah, that was amazing.”
It was. We’d spent the whole day there, participating in the training sessions and swimming around. Gram hadn’t started dying his hair at that point, and I can still picture the way he kept pushing his black bangs back off his face.
His gaze flicks to me and away again. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
I blink, noting how wide my smile stretches. “I just felt real close to you that day.”
“Probably because you kept hugging me.”
“I think that’s when we first really became friends.”
“When I first realized I’d never be rid of you.” He pretends to cringe, but doesn’t do enough to cover the affectionate tone.
“When I first realized I never wanted to be rid of you,” I counter, knowing he won’t expect it.
He sighs. “You just say whatever is on your mind, don’t you?”
“Sometimes. Unlike you. You never say what’s on your mind.”
“I do when it’s important.”
“So tell me what you’re thinking now.”
“Well that’s easy, I’m thinking I’m going to be late.”
The smile drops from my face as I glance at the time. “You don’t have to go yet.”
“You know my schedule, do you?”
“I just … I mean, you can hang out for a bit longer if you wanna. We can order breakfast up here. You won’t have to worry about fans interrupting that way.” I’m just throwing out words at this point, but his schedule doesn’t start for another two hours and he’s clearly ready. There’s no reason he has to race off, right?
“I thought you were tired,” he says.
He’s frowning at the bed and it takes him a bit to answer, like he’s trying to come up with an excuse to go. “I told my mother I’d eat with her …”
“You get to see her any old time. We’re only here for two more days, Gram. Would you really deny me your company?”
He laughs despite clearly trying to hold it back, and shoves my shoulder. “Okay, fine. Just stop.”
“Being so needy.”
I shrug, sitting up so I’m facing him. “What can I say? I like attention.”
“Tch. No you don’t.”
“I like your attention.”
Gram frowns, wide mouth falling into a pout. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were flirting with me, Digi Lynch.”
I blink, eyebrows pulling up. Flirting with him? Am I? I replay my words over, and actually, I think I might be. Huh. “Would that be a bad thing?”
“It would be a strange thing.” He’s still looking at me odd, so I leave him to be confused and pick up the room phone to order our breakfast.
Gram settles back against the pillows, long legs stretched over the bed and crossed at the ankles. He’s not too much shorter than I am, but he seems smaller. Maybe it’s the over excitable personality he puts on for his vlogs, or the way his delicate face scrunches when he’s trying to be mean. I could scoop him up easily, like I did when we took that photo, and I’m hit with the impulse to do it again.
I grin as I imagine how surprised he’d be if I just grabbed him and pulled him close. I dunno want I’d do when I got him there—hug him for sure, but maybe … maybe he’d let me kiss him again?
“I’m sorry for shaving your eyebrows off,” he says suddenly, glancing over at me.
“Gram that was two years ago.”
“But I didn’t apologize.”
“You didn’t, but like I care now.”
“They’ve never grown back properly though, have they?”
I rub a hand over my eyebrows. “They’re a bit of a mess.”
“They make you look permanently bewildered.”
I laugh, lying on my side so I’m facing him. “To be fair, I feel like I don’t know much of what’s going on anyway.”
“You are adorably vague.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Gram screws his mouth up to the side, but his eyes light up, and it’s all I need to know that he’s definitely flirting with me too.
About the Author
S. M. James writes books for teens about squishy sweet characters.
While not writing, SM is a readaholic and Netflix addict who regularly lives on a sustainable diet of chocolate and coffee.
Member of SCBWI.
Unapologetically dishing out HEAs for LGBT+ characters.
Australian secret agent Cole Pearson never could stay out of it.
Now he is AWOL and on the run with Sean Trammel, analyst for mining giant ARBUS dodging killers and cut off from help as he never is overseas. As they try to uncover the reasons behind the attack on Sean, Cole unexpectedly realises that he has reasons purely personal and increasingly physical for wanting to keep this man safe. And as they discover the stakes for their hunters they know that it is going to take more than Cole’s charm, guns and wits to keep Sean alive and out of their clutches.
It was the skulking action that first caught his eye. Even without the dark grey fatigues, not couture de rigueur for urban Brisbane, the light step and hurried, almost sneaking motion was deeply suspicious. Cole sat up straighter in his car, the boredom from sitting for five straight hours disappearing in an instant. The skulker slid along the side of the office building heading towards the back. Any legitimate visitor to the building would go through the front door, check in at the counter maybe. It wasn’t the building Cole was supposed to be watching and it was extremely unlikely that the skulker was the Indonesian intelligence officer he was looking out for but he was intrigued nonetheless.
“Now what are you up to buddy?” he muttered. A moment later he saw the man wasn’t alone. Two more men dressed in similar dark grey fatigues followed his path. Cole looked up and down the Spring Hill street. People were coming and going and not paying the slightest attention to him or the men moving into the building across the road from him.
Cole tapped his fingers against the vinyl of the steering wheel. He knew he should mind his own business. It wasn’t what he was there for and he knew he’d only been given this surveillance detail as punishment for his latest misdemeanour. He didn’t think his career could stand many more infractions. Anyway, it was warm in the car and while it was a sunny day out and midday, outside the air was chilly in typical Brisbane May weather. Still…he caught sight of another two figures and pursed his lips. Someone’s day was about to go to crap, he thought reasoning with himself. And really he could do with some movement. For an hour he had sketched passersby and played license plate poker on and off but mental stimulation didn’t keep the blood pumping. A moment more of internal debate and he grabbed his gun from under his jacket on the passenger seat and slipped out of the car. He was just going to take a look he told himself.
On this street the buildings were actually accessed at road level half way up the building with at least four floors below due to the way a hill had been cut into years before. The skulkers had wound their way from street level up the maintenance gangways which wrapped around the sides and presumably the back of the building like a mesh exoskeleton, up two floors so Cole followed at a distance. He saw the lead man jimmy open a door and the whole string of them, bar one who stayed by the door as look out, slipped inside pulling on ski masks as they did so.
‘Just taking a look’ would end now, Cole thought. No matter how he spun it. He’d clearly seen them go into a building he wasn’t supposed to be monitoring. At most he should call the Police. Instead, he double checked the magazine in his pistol and set to finding another way into the building.
Cole went back down one floor and used a fire extinguisher to break open a door and found himself in a back hallway near a couple of storerooms and the toilets. He slipped his gun into the back of his pants pulling the buttoned shirt free of his waistband so it could hang over the top to hide the gun. Following the hallway he entered an open area with a kitchenette along one wall and an open eating area with a floor to ceiling window looking out onto a courtyard type arrangement. When he encountered a couple of people, he adopted his best ‘yep, I’m meant to be here’ countenance and kept steadily on. He’d had a lot of practice blending in and it did not fail him here. Pretty much everyone ignored him. Just beyond the kitchen was a void through at least five levels with stairs to the next level up and down. The timber stairs squeaked slightly at his steps but still no one gave him a second glance. It was the usual thing, he thought. If you were in everyone just assumed that you were supposed to be.
About the Author
Kathryn Allen is an Australian cross-genre author of magic realism romance Ever Man and male/male action thriller Last Loose End along with a frankly ridiculous number of in-the-works fantasy, action and drama novels. For added confusion, she also writes under the names K R Allen and Kathryn R Allen. She enjoys writing about characters taller, bolder, quicker with the comebacks and infinitely better shots than she is.
Emperor Chrysander Draconis rules not only the dragons but the entire Council of Sorcery and Shifters. From the moment Fate selected him, he has devoted himself to ensuring his people thrive and prosper. His life revolves around duty; nothing stands in the way of his dedication to his job. One of the most prominent issues on Chrysander’s plate is the lack of hybrid drakelings that have survived the road from man to beast. When he receives word that one such rare soul is living in an obscure tribe, he races to help.
Ellery of the Fen-Lynthi elves is different from the rest of his people. He does not understand why his ears are shorter, why he stands taller than the others. Then his mother explains why the other children mock him and call him a mongrel: his father, a dragon, abandoned her the moment he learned of Ellery’s impending birth. With his mother’s often-fragile mental state, Ellery does not know if he can trust her words, but they are all he has. He spends his days ostracized, doing what he can to improve his lot.
Chrysander is overjoyed to find his mate among the Fen-Lynthi, but when it is confirmed that Ellery is half dragon, he is terrified Ellery will be ripped apart by the beast inside him. Regardless, Chrysander proceeds with their matebond ceremony, though he delays the event, believing duty demands they bypass elven tradition. This troubles Ellery, and he wonders if moving forward is what Chrysander truly wants. Their schedules present them with little opportunity to spend time together, which gives him further cause for worry. If that isn’t enough, Ellery is apprehensive over his new role as emperor. Chrysander and Ellery must confront their fears and learn to face the world as a united and loving front. In doing so, not only will they be able to defy the impossible, but they will change the world.
“I’m only trying to be realistic. We can’t ignore statistics, even if you are Chrysander’s mate,” Wesley stated.
“I am afraid I do not understand.”
“Ellery, what do you know about hybrids?” Chrysander asked, his voice warm with concern. Ellery liked his tone and wished they had a few moments alone to get to know one another, but for some reason Fate had paired him with a powerful man who had abundant responsibilities.
“Not much. My tribe did not interact with many people. I am the only hybrid I have ever heard of. I just know the other elves did not like that I was different. Is the Council the same way?”
“I won’t deny that there are those ignorant enough to think hybrids are somehow lesser than others, but they are very few. What Wesley’s referring to is survival rates for hybrids,” Chrysander stated, and his words were measured to Ellery’s ears, though he couldn’t discern why.
“What is the survival rate for hybrids?”
“In general, they’re quite high,” Damian revealed. “The ones who are half shifter almost always have a beast, though there are exceptions. However, the larger and more powerful the animal, the more trouble hybrids have surviving their first shift.”
“Dragons are very large,” Ellery observed.
“We’re also the strongest shifters,” Zane added quietly. “To date, no dragon hybrid has survived their first shift.”
Ellery let that tidbit of information settle into his mind. He reached down inside of himself where the entity inside him dwelled. It had always been a warm and inviting presence and at Zane’s words, all he felt was peace. A voice inside his head told him his dragon wouldn’t hurt him, and he decided to trust it. Just because no other hybrid had managed the feat did not mean Ellery was going to die. In fact, he refused to accept that it was his destiny. “How many dragon hybrids have there been?”
“Not many that we’ve known of, though hybrids in general are growing more common. Fate seems to be pairing more combinations of people than ever before,” Chrysander told him.
“How old are dragons when they shift for the first time?”
“Around one hundred,” Zane replied.
“So, my dragon is ready?”
“We’ll give you some time with a trainer but yes, you should be ready,” Chrysander assured him.
“I think we should wait until after Ellery’s shift for any of this. He can live here and concentrate on his beast. We’ll deal with the rest of the details afterward,” Wesley suggested.
“If that’s what Fate wanted, she wouldn’t have led him to Chrys until after his shift. The title is his,” Damian responded.
“I agree,” Chrysander said. Ellery found himself smiling. At least Chrysander appeared glad to have met him.
“Fine, but it’ll take at least six weeks to put together an appropriate mating ceremony,” Wesley argued.
“That’s fine, but everything else needs to be put into action immediately,” Chrysander replied, and Ellery grew irritated as his grin faded. No one was going to observe elven tradition or even ask him what he wanted, but he was now a dragon too. He needed to keep an open mind and learn about his other culture. This was his opportunity to put his life as an elf behind him and embrace dragonkind. He wanted to forget the isolation and sadness he’d endured and create something worthwhile that made him happy. But what he most required was to collect himself from the shock of his afternoon. There was a beast inside him ready to grow wings.…And even more astounding was the man he was going to share an eternity with. He was handsome, appeared kind, and Ellery welcomed the opportunity to discover more about him.
Ellery got to his feet. “Perhaps you could show me where I will be sleeping?”
“I’d be happy to,” Zane offered, and Ellery followed him out of the room. He wasn’t sure what his future held, but he wasn’t going to spend the next few weeks as if they were his last. The other hybrids may have failed, but Ellery was determined to make history.
About the Author
Jessamyn Kingley lives in Nevada where she begs the men in her head to tell her their amazing stories which she dutifully writes it all down in what has become a small mountain of notebooks. She falls in love with each couple and swears whatever book she wrote last is her absolute favorite.
Jessamyn is married and working toward remembering to start the dishwasher without being distracted by the scent of the magical detergent. For personal enjoyment, she aids in cat rescue while slashing and gashing her way through mobs in various MMORPGs. Caffeine is her very best friend and is only cast aside briefly for the sin better known as BBQ potato chips.
Will they get a second chance to rekindle their love?
Isaac was kicked out by his family at a young age.
It took him years of hard work to become his own man. Now he’s helping the LGBTQ youth of Lisbon so they don’t have to go through the same.
Max has a long and troubled past.
An ER nurse in New York City who volunteers at the local Liberty center, he knows first hand what it’s like to lose your family and having to make it on your own.
A chance encounter between the two a year ago has them hoping for a happy ever after, if not for the distance between them, but when Isaac takes a temporary work placement in Manhattan, the two men have an opportunity to find what their love is made of.
Will they make it, or will life’s tests tear them apart for good?
Made In Manhattan is the fourth installment in the Made In series by Ana Newfolk. It is a standalone gay romance novel with a HEA ending and no cliffhanger. Fair warning, there will be naked man-parts touching, a touch of angst, and the claws of an overprotective cat.
Made in Manhattan is 62k words and features the same main characters from Made In New York – A Christmas Short Story.
You don’t have to read it, but you may want to find out how Max and Isaac first met.
Isaac pushed me away, his eyes tight and piercing.
“What do you mean, you missed me so much? If you’d missed me so much then why didn’t you—”
“Isaac.” I put my hands on either side of his face so he would have no choice but to hear me out. “Can we talk, please?”
Fate really was a bitch.
I didn’t dare break eye contact for fear this was all a dream.
The club was packed so when someone elbowed me as they were trying to get past the motion jolted me into action, and with one step forward I wrapped Isaac in my arms, my face burrowing in the space between his neck and shoulder, his mass of dark curls soft against my skin.
He froze for a moment but then his arms came around me. As his body relaxed into the embrace, I swear a sob came from his chest.
He smelled of fresh pine; manly, woody, and so familiar it was making me dizzy.
I wanted to stay with Isaac like this for as long as I possibly could, which turned out to be not long at all because I had to ruin the moment with those five words.
He let out a long breath as if he was reminding himself we were in a club surrounded by people, and sat down at the table. I wanted to sit next to him, but it would be easier to keep eye contact if we were facing each other.
It had taken two days last Christmas for Isaac to do what many had tried and failed. He’d unpeeled the many layers of protection I’d built around my heart before hopping on a plane to return to his home in Portugal.
Six months later and three thousand miles away from my home in New York, I found myself right back where I’d been on the night I’d saved him from a fire, feeling like I’d been punched in the gut.
Except this time it was worse because I already knew what those eyes looked like when he smiled, what those lips looked like when they were all plump from kissing, and what his mere presence could do to my heart.
I should have known this would happen. There hadn’t been a day since I’d booked my flight to Portugal that I hadn’t thought of him. If I was honest, there hadn’t been a single day since I last saw him that he hadn’t teased my thoughts.
The first time I’d looked into his eyes, after I’d saved him from the fire, he’d been barely conscious, sitting against me on the pavement outside the LGBT Youth Center. All I’d seen was his wild curly hair, but when I’d pushed it away from his face and seen him open his eyes, he’d literally taken my breath away.
The second time I’d had the chance to look into his eyes from a close distance I’d seen it all, and it had been just before he’d pulled me into a kiss on top of the Empire State Building.
About the Author
Ana Newfolk was born in Portugal where she grew up surrounded by sunshine and countryside. She has always had a deep love of reading, and ever since she can remember her favorite presents and treats have always been books. She would often be found in her not-so-secret spot reading her favorite adventure books (when she was younger) and romance novels (when she discovered boys). At 20 years old she moved to the UK where she has lived since.
In 2015 Ana stumbled across her first MM romance novel by chance, and she was hooked. She loves reading about men falling in love, hard, fast and ever so sweetly. This new found love for LGBTQ+ romance has opened a new world for Ana, and in 2017 she decided to finally listen to the voices in her head and write them down.
In addition to the time she spends reading and writing Ana has a full-time job that involves meeting lots of people with interesting stories to tell. She also loves baking as much as she loves watching people eat what she creates, much to the delight of family, friends and work colleagues alike.
You can follow Ana on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or through her blog for up to date news of her book releases.
And two gifted men caught in a web of greed and dark magic.
Despite belonging to different guilds, glass master Minel and warrior captain Falcon are friends. Their duties keep them apart, but when Minel falls ill and chooses death rather than the only known cure, nothing can keep Falcon from his side.
As their friendship grows into more, old wrongs and one man’s machinations threaten the floating city and leave both Minel and Falcon fighting for their lives. Can they learn to combine their gifts to save the city and its magic, or will everything they know and love perish before their eyes?
Healing Glass is an LGBT fantasy adventure with its head in the clouds. If you like medieval backdrops, impressive world-building, three-dimensional characters and a touch of magic, then you’ll love Jackie Keswick’s socially-conscious adventure.
Buy Healing Glass to visit the floating city today!
Payhip Store (this offers a lower price than mainstream retailers)
Half a mile above the surface, a deep, rumbling groan rattled through Favin’s bones and turned his guts to water. The elevator jerked and shuddered—long enough for Favin to wonder whether he’d left his errand too late—before it resumed its stately progress up towards the floating city.
The groans and jerks came more often these days, on almost every journey. Despite the trickle of ice-cold fear, Favin welcomed the noise and stuttering ascent. He’d raised the alarm weeks earlier, but no one had believed the word of a servant. No one but Councillor Teak, who now clung to the transparent wall on the far side of the elevator, face grey and eyes wide.
The City Council would believe Teak.
“Is… this… why you wanted me to accompany you?” Teak spoke louder than necessary in the tight confines of the chamber bearing them aloft.
“Yes, Councillor. I reported it several times, but—” Favin stopped, loath to criticise the council. “I felt you had to know what’s happening.”
Teak, resplendent in a well-cut black coat and lace cuffs under his scarlet robe of office, didn’t belong in an elevator filled with rows of stacked crates, bins of cloth, and rolls of parchment, even when Favin hadn’t packed the space as full as he usually did. The councillor didn’t need the experience of a full cargo run, of squeezing into a gap just large enough to get in and out of. Never mind that he wouldn’t have fit. The servants joked that were the councillor hollow, one of them could fit inside his frame with space to spare.
Teak enjoyed his food as much as he enjoyed his status and privileges, but he hadn’t lost all sense of his responsibilities. When Favin had asked for his help, he’d only grumbled a little before agreeing to investigate the matter. Now here he stood, pressed against the transparent wall, gaze riveted to the crate in front of him, not daring to look down.
Favin watched the sea and the sky over Teak’s shoulder, wishing—as always— that he could see the city as they made their way towards it. The freight elevators didn’t allow for such a view, and Favin’s work rarely left him the leisure to sit on the beach.
Four levels of squat glass tiers and elegant spires connected by sweeping stairs and graceful bridges, suspended high above the waves by a raft of near-invisible columns… the floating city had stood waiting at the edge of the ocean when the Craft Guild arrived in need of shelter. Nobody knew its builders. Nobody quite understood how it worked. The city kept its occupants warm and dry, the glass walls closing or receding depending on the weather. Fountains supplied water in every square, and in all the buildings. The middle tier of the city—a wide, level space between the double-story, flat-roofed dwellings of the lower level and the skyward-reaching spires of the top tier—had been given over to growing food. All other goods the inhabitants needed came via the trade guilds and the Merchant Guild. The craft masters could have anything that fit into one of the eight large elevators, whether it came by land or sea, while men like Favin ensured the goods arrived where they were needed.
The groan came again, more of a pained shriek now, like the death cry of a material used too long and too well, as an abrupt slip downward hurled both Teak and Favin to their knees.
Then the sounds stopped.
The downward movement stopped.
And the elevator resumed its unhurried climb.
Sweat pearled on Teak’s brow and upper lip by the time the transparent cabin reached its goal. “Can we… not use this elevator?” He stepped off the floating disk before he turned to ask.
“It will delay deliveries, Councillor.”
“How many journeys do you make in a day?”
“Some days as many as fifty.”
“And the noise and the… jerking… have been getting more frequent?”
“Yes. I’m told the other elevators show the same signs of trouble. And in the upper city, the glass is said to be weeping.”
“That’s what I’ve heard, Councillor. I’ve not seen it.”
“No, of course not.” Servants of Favin’s class had no access to the upper levels. “Thank you, Favin, for bringing this to my attention.”
Favin bowed to the councillor before he set about unloading the cargo into the hands of the waiting servants. The council would decide whether to shut down the elevator or keep it running. He’d done as much as he could do, given his station. He’d said his piece and had had a councillor listen.
He continued with his work, until words drifting through a half-open door stopped him on his way to deliver rolls of parchment and ink to the council chamber.
“Weeping is the only way to describe it, Wark. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“And you think it’s going to be a problem?” The clipped tones were the regent’s and Favin froze where he stood, listening.
“Of course, it’s a problem,” Teak argued. “Go and see for yourself if you don’t believe me. There’s liquid glass welling up out of the column and trickling down its length. What do you think will happen if the glass wears away doing that? Or if the whole column turns to liquid? Will it continue to support the upper level in that state, or will it run into the sea and disappear?”
“Calm yourself, Teak. I’m sure there’s no need for panic.”
“You would know, of course.” Teak said snidely. “But I say you should listen. There’s more than one of those weeping spots in the upper city. The freight elevators jerk and groan, and servants are buying out their contracts, happier to make a life elsewhere than work here.”
Then it is serious, Favin thought, glued to his spot. More serious than I knew.Positions with one of the three gifted guilds were hotly sought. Only the king’s court paid better wages, and with the high prices in the royal city and port of Allengi, those wages didn’t go nearly as far.
“We must deal with this, Wark. Before it is too late.”
“Repairs to the city’s fabric are the task of the glass master. I will make sure he attends to the problem.”
“Minel is an outstanding craft master.” Teak bristled as if he had heard something in Wark’s comment that Favin had not. Something he disagreed with. “Most sought after, despite his youth. His list of commissions is near endless and he earns—”
“There are no other glass masters in the guild. Minel is our only choice if we want to fix the problem you’ve brought to my attention.” Regent Wark sounded oddly gleeful.
“No. You can’t— What if—?”
“You can’t have it both ways, Teak. You can’t bring me a problem and then object when I solve it. Minel’s work and his designs pay a large part of the city’s debts. I’m not so stupid I’d interfere with that. But if the fabric of the city fails, all the money and favours we’re owed will be no use to us. It’s fortunate that Minel cares about nothing but making glass. He doesn’t have the stomach for confrontation. I think… I think this will work out very well. Minel will accept that we direct his work and we can add another treasure to our collection. I have waited long enough.”
About the Author
Jackie Keswick was born behind the Iron Curtain with itchy feet, a bent for rocks and a recurring dream of stepping off a bus in the middle of nowhere to go home. She’s worked in a hospital and as the only girl with 52 men on an oil rig, spent a winter in Moscow and a summer in Iceland and finally settled in the country of her dreams with her dream team: a husband, a cat, a tandem, a hammer and a laptop.
Jackie loves unexpected reunions and second chances, and men who don’t follow the rules when those rules are stupid. She blogs about English history and food, has a thing for green eyes, and is a great believer in making up soundtracks for everything, including her characters and the cat. And she still hasn’t found the place where the bus stops. For questions and comments, not restricted to green eyes, bus stops or recipes for traditional English food, you can find Jackie Keswick in all the usual places.