Only one of them can take the prize…may the best wolf win.
They’re bond-mates. They’re rivals. Only one of them can take the prize…may the best wolf win.
Alpha Zach Logan is taking part in the Top Dog survival challenge to secure his billion-dollar inheritance. The odds are in his favor. He has awakened his latent wolf, becoming the first verified shifter in over a century; no way can he lose. But his biggest rival is also his bond-mate, the omega he’s destined to spend the rest of his life with. Can Zach keep their conflict from spilling over into the bedroom?
Omega Sebastian Gage came to the Island to win. That trophy is his, and he will fight anyone for it. Yes, including his bond-mate, who is smart and generous and doesn’t deserve to lose. But them’s the breaks, because Sebastian needs this win to free himself from unjust suppressed shifter laws that limit omega rights.
The Island isn’t a tame playground, however, and not every competitor plays fair. Will the deadly game tear Zach and Sebastian’s fragile bond apart, or will love come out on top?
Bonded is Book 2 of the steamy paranormal m/m romance series Latent. If you like high stakes, sizzling chemistry and fiercely protective shifters, you’ll love Alana Timms’s wild adventure.
Bonded is best read after Fever, Book 1 of the Latent series. Unresolved plot elements make this story’s strong HFN ending a cliffhanger. Themes include hurt/comfort, pack dynamics, fated mates and rivals-to-lovers. Bonded contains adult material and is not intended for audiences under 18. Includes steamy scenes, strong language, violence and minor character death.
Outside on the deck, Sebastian set the table with a crisp white table cloth, glasses, and silverware. Table for two under a waxing moon. He lit a couple of candles, placing each in a candle lantern.
Too much? Kill the candles?
Too late; Zach came into sight carrying his backpack and shopping bags. He swept his gaze over Sebastian. Then looked him over again, slower, eating him up. Sebastian shivered; he couldn’t hold the ocean breeze responsible for it. Not when his pulse raced as well. Zach dumped the bags, and prowled onto the deck. He fucking prowled, telegraphing his X-rated thoughts through a subtle change in his scent and the fierce intent in his darkened gaze.
“You look good,” said Zach.
His voice was laced with gravel; a near-growl that pitched Sebastian into full-blown lust. His stiffening dick pushed at the front panel of his kilt. His hole clenched hard around the butt-plug, wild for the real thing.
“Thanks?” Sebastian heard it, the uncertainty as though he were asking a question. He injected more authority into his voice. “You too. I like the haircut.”
Zach smiled. His dimples told a lie. Cute, they said, adorable.
Yeah, same way a tiger was adorable. Zach’s aura pulsated with barely leashed power. Raw and intoxicating, it put a dent in Sebastian’s authority. He hated this shift in their dynamics. But he loved how hot Zach made him feel.
“You’ve been busy,” said Zach, stopping within kissing distance.
So why weren’t they doing that, kissing? He couldn’t think of a good reason why Zach’s tongue wasn’t in his mouth. “Busy? You mean the table?”
“I mean busy claiming points for nailing my ass.”
He was supposed to feel guilty, but that was difficult to do given the memory of him fucking Zach through the jungle floor. “Oh, that.”
“Yeah, we’re not doing that anymore.”
A flare of panic. “What, nailing your ass?”
“Sex points.” Zach grabbed his hips and walked him backwards across the deck until his back hit the wall. “We’re not claiming points for sex anymore, Sebastian.”
Wedged between a wall and a hard Zach, staying on topic was becoming a real problem. He curled his hands on Zach’s shoulders, his fingers twitching as a tide of sensation swept through him from Zach.
“It’s the rules, Zach. We have to put in claims for all transactions.”
A muscle ticked in Zach’s jaw. He exhaled with force. “Apart from intimate ones, those are ours. They’re between me and you. Not between you, me, and the Auditors.”
Intimate was exactly it. A tide of intimacy flowing between them. He’d swear it was the bond creating new pathways, opening them up to each other. He bent his head a little to line his mouth up with Zach’s.
Zach kissed him softly, taking such infinite care that Sebastian lost his breath.
“How much for that, Seb? Ten points, a hundred? How about this?” Zach asked, and kissed him again.
No softness this time. Zach took what he wanted with the demanding sweep of his tongue. Sebastian let him in on a throaty moan, basking in pleasure. And sighing in frustration when Zach pulled back.
“Answer me. How many points?”
He tipped his head back to rest it against the wall, all kinds of turned on by Zach’s commanding tone. “I get it, all right? Points are stupid. But can we just play the game like it’s supposed to be played? Please?”
“It’s none of their business what goes on between us, Seb.”
He recognized stubborn when he saw it. Zach wouldn’t budge on this. But neither would he, because he wasn’t about to risk getting fined for flouting the rules.
“A foot race,” he said. “I win, we forget this conversation ever happened. You win, we quit claiming sex points.”
Zach cocked his head. “You’re challenging me?”
“Yes, I am.”
Zach’s eyes flashed, his smile wolfish. “Challenge accepted.”
His own wolf stirred at the flashing eyes: tread carefully. But there was no risk involved here, was there? He could break free of Zach’s grip on his hips any time he wanted.
What he wanted were more kisses.
About the Author
Alana is an avid fan of romance novels, mostly reading m/m romance. Drawn to growly alphas and their feisty omegas, she set out to write her debut paranormal m/m romance trilogy, Latent. Alana loves to write flawed characters and works at giving them complexity. Their paths to happiness may not be smooth, but they always get there in the end! When she’s not reading or writing, Alana enjoys hiking in the forests and beaches near her home on the east coast of England.
All Zeke wants for Christmas is a Daddy for two. Can his wish come true?
Dear Santa, If I could make one wish this Christmas, it would be for a Daddy with a big enough heart for two. We both want a Daddy who can be loving, but also firm when he needs to be, who enjoys spanking his boys and making their asses red, and with big enough arms to hold us both. We need a Daddy who can help us let go and relax. Lastly, but probably most importantly, we need a Daddy who can meet both our needs. I don’t have many boundaries as long as I can trust my Daddy, and I’m open to trying new things. Rett…well, he’s a little more reserved but he has a huge heart, and he’s the sweetest boy you’ll ever meet. Here’s the thing, Santa: I have a little over a week to convince Rett to stay. I don’t know if you can magic up a Daddy who can love us both, but I’m making this wish anyway. With hope, Zeke Dear Daddy, Please Hold us is an MMM Christmas romance, with a pair of army brats, an Englishman in New York who knows how to handle them, a purple triceratops teddy, and lots of sweet cuddles. This book is part of the Naughty or Nice multi-author series. Each book can be read as a standalone, but there are so many boys hoping that holiday magic will bring them their perfect Daddy, why not grab them all?
As they helped me clean up after dinner, I tried to work out what kind of scene would make them both feel cared for and wanted in equal measure.
Then came a moment when we were all in closer quarters than we had been the whole evening. There wasn’t a lot of space between the kitchen counters and the breakfast bar, so while Rett was loading the dishwasher, I was drying the pots that couldn’t go in, and Zeke was putting the wine glasses away, both young men were within touching distance.
I put down the pot I was drying and the tea towel, and as soon as Zeke had closed the cupboard door, I hooked my finger through his belt loop, tugged him close, and mashed my lips to his in a commanding kiss. He let out a throaty chuckle. When he pressed his body against mine, I felt the makings of an erection through his jeans.
Rett was crouched down by the open dishwasher, eyes wide as he watched us. Had he ever seen his best friend kiss another man before? As I wrapped one arm around Zeke’s back, I wriggled my fingers at Rett, inviting him to join us. For a moment, I thought he wouldn’t, but then he stood, closed the dishwasher, and edged closer, one tentative step at a time. As soon as he was close enough, I put my arm around his waist and pulled him to me. They were standing shoulder to shoulder, their bodies tracing mine. I tore my mouth from Zeke’s and, with his saliva still damp on my lips, kissed Rett.
“Oh, Daddy, that’s hot,” Zeke breathed as he watched the two of us kiss.
Hearing him call me ‘Daddy’ sent blood pulsing to my cock. It was good to know Zeke felt comfortable enough to say it, and it made me long for the moment ‘Daddy’ would cross Rett’s lips too.
Rett put his hand on my chest and gripped my shirt in his fingers. He relaxed a little against me, but there was still far too much tension in his slender body.
“Now kiss each other,” I commanded.
They didn’t hesitate. They kissed each other dirtily for me, sucking each other’s tongues as I held them. Then Zeke’s mouth was on mine again, and a few seconds later, I was kissing Rett once more. Zeke sought out Rett’s neck with his mouth, sucking and kissing in a way I was sure was going to leave a mark. Rett moaned as we both lavished attention on him, and his body became a little more pliant in my arms.
I ran my hands down to their arses and squeezed, tugging them so I could feel every inch of their bodies against mine.
“Let’s move to the bedroom.”
About the Author
Colette’s personal love story began at university, where she met her future husband. An evening of flirting, in the shadow of Lancaster castle, eventually led to a fairytale wedding. She’s enjoying her own ‘happy ever after’ in the north of England with her husband, two beautiful children and her writing.
It’s a race against time, with a deadline not only on their story or their growing relationship but on their entire lives.
Jackson Young and Fletcher Doherty are back in London and on a mission—to bring to light the murky underbelly of the Charles Payne media empire and, in doing so, get justice for the murder of Tallulah Payne. It’s not a simple task though. They need proof. They need people to speak up. And they need to keep their hands off each other long enough to track down the other manipulated Lotus Flowers, convince them to come forward and find a way to bring it all to the public. Not so easy when they’re up against the most powerful men in London who are determined to separate and silence them by any means possible. It’s a race against time, with a deadline not only on their story or their growing relationship but on their entire lives.
Jackson Young was a new man.
The sweet, shallow breaths trickling onto his neck were testament to that transformation. He shuffled back, his skin erupting delightful goosepimples that tingled and stirred and itched for him to beg for more. He refused to move. He couldn’t bear to move. Nor to wake up. This was where he wanted to stay. Closed-in. Coddled. Safe. And wrapped up in arms and legs that clung to him like a limpet.
Like a lover.
The birds outside tweeted and morning light bled through the gaps in the blinds. Jackson wondered, for the few moments he now had to lie as content as he were, if he would ever get used to waking immersed in such nirvana. He hoped not. That would be admitting defeat. He would pray to never get used to having one of Fletcher Doherty’s legs flung haphazardly over his hip, one of his arms draped over his chest, and his face nuzzling into his neck and inhaling him as though he was the cool morning air. Because this, right now, was perfection personified. His perfect moment. He never wanted to take it for granted. He’d discovered that there was life after the Jax. And if this was it, he never wanted it to end.
Because he could live like this forever.
However long that might be.
Fletcher jerked. Then, sliding away, he rubbed his eyes, and that miniscule movement declared the self-indulgence was over. Jackson remained where he was, facing away in the bed and curled up, hoping that Fletcher would forget what was lying in wait for them and sink back in beside him.
He’d never been this needy. Not for another man. But Fletcher was everything he’d ever craved wrapped up in everything he’d always desired. He was like the drink. The coke. The lights, camera, action that had fuelled his needs since the early years. Fletcher was his addiction. His lifeblood. His obsession. The air he needed to breathe.
But if Fletcher found out any of that, he’d make Jackson go cold turkey.
So he didn’t say it. And he wouldn’t say it. He muted himself.
The covers slipped from his body and he shivered. Fletcher rolled away, lifted, and checked the illuminated numbers on the digital clock. He then fell back to the pillows with a sigh and the scratching of fingertips down coarse facial hair indicated that any moment now, Fletcher would declare their peace and tranquility in the safe haven of a Surrey B&B had come to a bitter end.
As he would no doubt, any second now, say—
Jackson didn’t respond. Nor move. He feigned the deepest of sleeps. If Fletcher was going to start the day, then Jackson wanted him to start it the right way. For them both.
Fletcher kicked him under the duvet. “I know you’re awake.”
That wasn’t exactly what Jackson had had in mind. But he smiled, and with him facing away, Fletcher wouldn’t be able to tell.
“Fecking eejit.” Fletcher rolled back, clasped his arms around him and hauled him to his chest. Then, settling those soft, enticing lips of his to Jackson’s ear, he rumbled a deep and guttural, “Get up.”
Jackson twisted, falling into Fletcher’s arms and attacked the moment to kiss him. “I’m up,” he declared against the breath that he craved like he once had alcohol, and thrust his morning erection against Fletcher’s.
No, he wouldn’t ever get used to waking like this. He’d cherish it. And not take it for granted like he had every other morning of his life thus far. It might have been contrite. A tad inappropriate, perhaps. And not the time to be indulging in each other’s arms. But if they couldn’t do it now, when could they? Would they ever get to the point where they could be entangled in each other without the dark clouds looming over them? Without the threat? Without the fear and worry and everything else that had brought them together in the first place.
Relationships built under stress never lasted.
So like the meals he’d had to consume in a timely manner when incarcerated at HMP Flaymore, he wanted to get what he could, while he could.
“We have to get going,” Fletcher breathed out between heated kisses.
“Then maybe just get me off?” Jackson asked the question with a hopeful lilt and a smidgen of jest by rutting himself forward. He shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to make up for lost time and living his life to the full now he knew what it was he wanted.
And what he wanted was the naked Irishman snuggled next to him and gripping him as though he was about to fall.
He had already, of course. But he couldn’t say that. Not yet.
About the Author
Brought up in a relatively small town in Hertfordshire, C F White managed to do what most other residents try to do and fail—leave.
Studying at a West London university, she realised there was a whole city out there waiting to be discovered, so, much like Dick Whittington before her, she never made it back home and still endlessly search for the streets paved with gold, slowly coming to the realisation they’re mostly paved with chewing gum. And the odd bit of graffiti. And those little circles of yellow spray paint where the council point out the pot holes to someone who is supposedly meant to fix them instead of staring at them vacantly whilst holding a polystyrene cup of watered-down coffee.
Eventually she moved West to East along that vast District Line and settled for pie and mash, cockles and winkles and a bit of Knees Up Mother Brown to live in the East End of London; securing a job and creating a life, a home and a family.
After her second son was born with a rare disability, C F White’s life changed and it brought pen back to and paper after having written stories as a child but never had the confidence to show them to the world. Now, having embarked on this writing journey, C F White can’t stop.
To find love, two bitter rivals must start over or end their matebond forever.
From the moment he is resurrected, Mitchell Brooks is full of ambition and determined to win at all costs. The fresh recruit pushes himself to the limit and earns the title of Juris Knight, a highly respected position within the Order of the Fallen Knights. Mitchell wants to be the best of his graduating class, but the task is impossible because there is someone in his way—the man who happens to be his mate.
Pierson Murphy is brought to life with the gift of a perfect memory and miserable resurrection sickness. After three days of suffering, he begins his journey toward Juris Knight and excels, achieving perfect scores on every aptitude test. However, Pierson struggles with an inability to relate to everyone—including the man supposedly destined to be his other half.
They keep their matebond a secret and after weeks of discord, they are sent to different cities and go their separate ways with bitter confrontations their only memory. A century later, Pierson has a spotless reputation and zero friends. Horribly burned out and aching for something more, he transfers to another office.
His reassignment is the impetus Mitchell needs to end the fierce competition with the man he should have treasured, and he shows up on Pierson’s doorstep, prepared to start over. However, Pierson is ready to move on and wants anyone other than Mitchell. With so many barriers standing between them, is it possible to find love and honor Fate?
“Brooks, are you awake over there?” VK Ruarc called out. Mitchell snapped to attention, and his gaze automatically went to the blond standing on the mat. Sheepishly, Mitchell got to his feet. Unaware that anyone was waiting for him, he’d zoned out.
“I apologize, Venerable Knight. I was daydreaming.”
“Save that for after class,” VK Ruarc ordered. “Murphy needs a partner.”
“Right,” Mitchell said and stood in front of Pierson, who was staring at a point somewhere past his right shoulder. “You ready, Murphy?”
“I’m not the one who was delving into fantasy in the middle of class,” Pierson stated tightly. VK Ruarc left them, no doubt to give Wade some helpful advice since Trista had knocked him on his ass.
“Maybe I didn’t want to hurt you again, Blondie.”
Whether it was the words or his tone, Pierson’s eyes met his and there was nothing to read in his flat expression. “Let’s just do this shit.”
“Whatever you want.”
Letting out a huff, Pierson raised his hands and tried to hit Mitchell. It was easy to smack his arm out of the way and though Pierson was his mate, he refused to give him any quarter. Mitchell swung his foot out, then struck Pierson with a blow to his midsection. Staggering a few steps, Pierson barely managed to stay on the mat.
“Come at me, Blondie. Stop holding back.”
His mouth tightening into a line, Pierson charged forward but nothing about his attack was coordinated, and seconds later he landed on his butt. Mitchell reached to help him up, but Pierson slapped the proffered limb out of his face and bounded to the balls of his feet.
“Fight me,” Pierson demanded.
“Relax, this is supposed to be friendly competition.”
Pierson tried to get in a punch, but Mitchell moved deftly out of reach. “Everyone knows I’m terrible at this. I don’t need you to make it worse.”
“Make it worse? What the hell are you talking about?”
“Stop patronizing me by trying to help me up,” Pierson ordered when Mitchell landed a blow south of his collarbone.
“I do that for everyone, not because we’re—”
“Don’t you dare say it,” Pierson said through gritted teeth, finally moving quickly enough to shove Mitchell.
“You know why not. We’re supposed to be focused on training, not that other stuff.”
“That other stuff is supposed to be the foundation of our lives.”
“You don’t need to talk so loud; someone’s going to hear you.”
Mitchell’s boot connected with Pierson’s hip hard enough that he once again slammed into the mat. For once, he had no remorse about taking him down. There was nothing wrong with announcing their matebond, and it pissed him off that they had to keep quiet for no good reason other than Pierson’s hard head.
“You getting up, Blondie?”
With a glare, Pierson rose. “I hate this shit,” he muttered.
“Well, I hate your stupid high test scores.”
Pierson nailed him in the shin, and Mitchell’s wince made him smile. “I’m sorry that you don’t apply yourself to our written stuff the way that I do. You apparently prefer to practice fighting.”
Mitchell was stunned speechless for a moment, and it allowed Pierson to sneak in another blow he should’ve blocked. Since the first day Pierson had achieved a perfect grade, Mitchell spent every available hour reading and studying their assignments. There was still some energy devoted to the gym, but the bulk of his focus was trying to get anywhere near Pierson’s results. “I am trying, Blondie.”
“Really? Because it seems like you care more about hanging out with your friends than worrying about what kind of assignment you’re going to wind up with.”
“There’s nothing wrong with building relationships with the other recruits,” Mitchell retorted, shoving Pierson to the edge of the mat. Mitchell was slightly impressed that he didn’t land on his ass again.
“It’s a waste of time.”
“You’ve memorized the damn manual. You should know that teamwork and camaraderie is an important part of being a fallen knight.”
“Except that it says that while on the job you need to be cordial and make overtures toward your coworkers. This is training. Not one of those people is going to be in your life after the next seven weeks are complete.”
“It doesn’t hurt to have contacts in other cities, Blondie.”
“It’s too late for that.”
Mitchell’s brows drew together, and he circled around the perimeter of the pad as he tried to keep Pierson at bay while using his obviously feebler gray matter to discern his words. “Huh?”
Charging forward, Mitchell purposely swept Pierson’s hands aside and hit his shoulder with enough force that he hit the ground. “We already have enough shit you refuse to discuss, Blondie. You need to stop hiding under your little mask and talk to me.”
With a ferocious glare, Pierson slapped his palms down and dragged himself up. “Why are you always ordering me around?”
“Me? You’re the one with all the crazy demands.”
“Yes, but I can’t get into specifics because apparently there are some words in the English language our mighty Blondie is refusing to allow me to utter,” Mitchell retorted in a mocking voice meant to resemble Pierson’s slightly higher octave.
“Stop calling me that.”
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.
Doran had a problem, and it wasn’t that he’d been stabbed.
Doran Ó Seanáin, leader of the Black Lung Gang and former Foreman of the mines, is at war with Iole’s City’s tyrannical ruler for his brutal treatment of the miners. Doran is losing, badly, and he fears his relationship with his estranged daughter Grace will never heal following the death of his wife two years prior.
Nathaniel Morgenstern, an apotheker with a mysterious past to whom Doran owes his life, seems to offer salvation. But Nathaniel has secrets of his own that may just tear them apart before they have a chance to give in to each other.
Doran had a problem, and it wasn’t that he’d been stabbed.
Iole City is in turmoil. Doran Ó Seanáin, leader of the Black Lung Gang, is determined to bring the Lord Archon – Iole’s tyrannical ruler – down for his brutal treatment of the miners. But Doran has more to deal with than getting stabbed, a stalemate and city-wide lockdown that’s seeing his gang of ex-miners being slowly starved out of their base – his daughter Grace has turned against him, and the weight of his wife’s death two years prior haunts them both.
Things start to look up when he’s inexplicably drawn to Nathaniel Morgenstern, the apotheker with a mysterious past he owes his life to, but Doran is in way over his head. The fate of the mines hangs in the balance; the clock is ticking and the Archon is closing in. Doran’s plan to break the cycle may very well be his last.
Heart of Dust
This wasn’t out of the ordinary; Doran was accustomed to waking up any given morning with his head aching, his body bruised, his feet swollen, his bones fractured and muscles torn. But this time he couldn’t move, not even to open his eyes. He dimly wondered if he was hungover.
He felt someone prodding at his body. He grunted and forced his eyes open, regretting it immediately at the resulting implosion of pain in his head.
The culprit was a young man – a child, really – who yelped and jumped backwards with wide eyes, clutching a bandage.
“Sir?” the boy called out, over his shoulder. Doran flinched, the sound reverberating through his skull, and clenched his eyes shut again. “Sir, he’s waking up.”
The boy’s voice responded. “But –”
A heavy sigh. “Yes, sir.”
He could hear murmuring somewhere in the background but he couldn’t focus on the words. Instead he let the subtle but heady scent of pinewood and elderflower calm his aching mind.
There were light footsteps – the boy, Gerald – shuffling indignantly up a staircase somewhere to the right, then there was nothing but the sound of his own breathing.
His mind was so sluggish that an eon and a half had passed by the time he felt a cool glass press gently against his lower lip. A strong hand moved under the back of his head to guide him up. He managed a few sips of sweet, crystalline water. It tasted like it was sent from Lady Sionann herself to soothe his parched and aching mouth.
Doran swallowed, then gulped. Water spilled from his hungry lips and the glass was pulled away. He protested, or tried to, but the hand supporting his head guided him back down.
He realised he was lying on a table. It wasn’t hard enough to be stone, or cold enough to be metal. He could feel the grains of smooth wood beneath the tips of his fingers and against his skin, and his head rested on something soft. A jacket, perhaps, or even a pillow.
Consciousness filtered back to him, not quickly enough for his liking. Finally he managed to pry his eyes open.
The man leaning over him couldn’t have been more than a few years older than Doran, in his early forties perhaps, but if Doran thought he carried his own age badly, this man outrivalled him.
The stranger’s brown hair was peppered grey, completely silver at the temples; his face was hard, weathered and lined from years of trauma or poor life choices. A scar extended from the corner of his right eye to the middle of his cheek, destroying any chance of symmetry. Doran couldn’t call him good-looking, not by a long shot, but there was something incredibly striking about his features, in an offensive sort of way.
Doran swallowed thickly. “How long…” he tried to say, the words coming out in a harsh whisper.
The man had a low, coarse voice, like a miner after years of inhaling cigarette smoke and coal dust, but his words were soft.
“Shit.” Doran pushed himself to a sitting position. “What time is it?”
“Early, still,” the man replied, pressing his hand to Doran’s shoulder. His hand was bound in a black band of mourning, not unlike the one Doran wore around his upper arm. “Move slowly. You don’t want to tear those stitches.”
Doran glanced down at himself, and his memory of the previous day flooded back in an instant.
His hand found his side, and instead of a gaping wound his fingers met a firm bandage. He also couldn’t help but notice a distinct lack of blood and – apart from his underwear – clothing.
“…You helped me,” Doran said.
“You were bleeding all over my doorstep.”
The man grunted, though whether this was in dismay or to brush off the apology, Doran couldn’t tell. “Stab wounds do that. You’re lucky it wasn’t deeper.”
Doran thought of Rhian, bleeding to death in his arms while their daughter wept. “Yeah,” he echoed. “Lucky.”
The man moved away, then returned with a bowl of steaming broth and two slices of bread. Doran accepted the meal gratefully. The broth was hot but not enough to burn his tongue. He found himself draining the bowl with desperate gulps, then attacking the bread like a starving wolf. It was better than anything he’d eaten in moons. The bread was warm and fresh, and he used it to soak up the last of the salt and rosemary broth from the bowl.
The man offered Doran a bundle of clothes when he was done.
“These should fit you,” he said, passing them over. “I had to burn yours.”
Doran’s heart seized, a spike of pure panic gripping his body. His hand shot to his chest to clutch for the chain around his neck, calming only when his fingers curled around the locket. He exhaled.
The man’s head tilted at the sudden movement, a small frown creasing his brow as the flash of bronze caught his eye, but the locket vanished underneath the shirt Doran hastily pulled over his body.
“Thanks.” Doran swung his legs over the edge of the table, wincing when he moved too quickly.
“I’d tell you not to engage in strenuous activity for at least a week, but I doubt you’ll listen and the Archon won’t care,” the man said. “Try not to reopen the wound when you’re working the mines.”
That told Doran two things – there had been no revolution, and the mines were still open.
He swallowed his disappointment. “What makes you think I’m a miner?”
Doran glanced down at his hands, the cuticles of his nails and the skin of his palms permanently stained black. He clenched his calloused fists together and tried to keep his tone non-committal. “I hear it’s a hard life.”
“One I don’t envy.”
Book Title: Soul of Ash
Author: H. L. Moore
Cover Artist: Designed by Damonza
Length: 85 000 words/ 336 pages
Release Date: September 2020
Genre/s: Fantasy M/M Romance
Trope/s: Slow Burn
Themes: Addiction, Dark Pasts, Atonement, Forgiveness
Half a year after the events of Heart of Dust, Doran Ó Seanáin now finds himself trapped between two worlds while belonging to neither. Held in contempt by the upper class for the turmoil he caused during Archon Bryson’s reign and resented by the miners for selling out, Leonora Darkwater’s bid to purchase the mines from the crown may be his salvation. But the offer is far more complicated than it appears, and the only person Doran trusts is the same man who threw his life into chaos.
Haunted by his past, held hostage by his debt to the Archon, and a slave to the poison that keeps him alive, atonement feels perpetually out of reach for Nathaniel Morgenstern. Too much damage has been done and too much has gone unsaid for time alone to heal the wounds between him and Doran.
Unfortunately, time is the one thing they don’t have as their lives collide once more. There are vipers in Arajon; the mines aren’t finished with Doran, and the sand in Nathaniel’s hourglass is running out.
Soul of Ash
He was led down a mining shaft illuminated by coal-lit lamps, until they began pushing through a crowd of murmuring men and women held back by other miners. As Lien and Nathaniel were permitted to pass, he heard a hoarse, slightly damaged voice murmuring reassurances beside a derailed dumper tractor raised off the ground by a few metal supporting bars.
“Just hold on,” he heard Doran saying, from where he knelt beside the tractor. “He’ll be here any moment –”
“Doran,” Lien said.
The past few months had seen Nathaniel frequent the mines to deliver his wares or receive miners in his shop where he would be asked to render assistance. Trivial things, usually – scrapes and cuts, the occasional broken bone or beginnings of black lung. But since that day in winter, Doran himself had not returned to the shop, nor had Nathaniel seen Doran in the mines, no doubt by design.
“Good, you’re here,” Doran said when he saw Nathaniel. It was a warmer welcome than Nathaniel had expected or hoped for. “Can you help her?”
On the sooty ground, a woman, with half of her right leg pinned under the full weight of the truck, groaned.
If a woman’s leg been crushed under a truck in the glistening streets of the Bronze, the citizens would probably have thrown up or fainted or run away screaming. At the back of the cavern, the doctor was surrounded by men and women of the mines. They didn’t flinch at the horror scene that was her crushed leg; they’d seen worse. By the looks on their faces, most didn’t expect a happy outcome.
“I’d say good morning,” Nathaniel said as he too knelt beside the doctor, “but you don’t seem to be having one.”
The doctor had dark skin, betraying her as a member of the upper classes like the Harringtons, whose ancestors had emigrated not from the Valley but from the equatorial nations of Pontecorvo and Kedrossos, south of Vaison. She wore a circlet bracelet depicting the Lady Sionann, like many of the descendants of secular immigrants who’d made their fortunes did, embracing the culture of Arajon and generating both prosperity and poverty, while earning the disdain of the Valley population who clung to the old ways out of tradition or spite.
The doctor assessed Nathaniel as he set his bag down and pulled out the sterile cloths and alcohol.
“I don’t recognise this man,” she said to Doran, one hand braced against the tractor looming over her head, the other gripping the thigh of her right leg. Sweat beaded on her clammy forehead. “I know every person who has – nngh – passed through medicine at the Conservatorium. Who is this?”
“This is Nathaniel Morgenstern,” Doran replied. “He’s an apotheker in Methyr – the one who produces our remedies. He’s the closest thing to a healer we could find, given the urgency.”
“Morgenst— an apotheker?” the doctor spat. She arched her neck to glower at Doran through her tears of pain. “You’ve b-brought me some Helvetian herbalist! Are you mad? Those backwards fools didn’t even learn how to wipe their asses until a century ago!”
She was oddly coherent for a woman whose leg was currently crushed under a tractor.
“My mother had surgical training in Haderach,” Nathaniel said. “Her people discovered hygiene thousands of years ago. You’ll live.”
If anything, the doctor’s expression turned fouler. “A mev,” she muttered.
Doran’s hand clamped down hard on his shoulder.
“Mr Morgenstern is here to save your life,” he said, tersely. “Adrian, bring Doctor Lancaster some water.”
The one named Adrian scurried away.
Nathaniel felt Doran’s eyes burning into his shoulders as he examined what he could of the crushed leg under the twisted metal of the tractor. He cut the pant fabric from around Lancaster’s knee, and prodded his finger into the exposed flesh of the leg just below the kneecap, avoiding the bone jutting out like shards. There was no return of blood to her dark skin, and the doctor didn’t jerk with pain.
No blood flow. No feeling. The leg below the knee was as good as dead.
“Well?” Doran asked quietly.
Nathaniel shook his head. Doran uttered a soft swear.
“It would be better if the truck could be lifted so I can remove the limb safely,” Nathaniel said. “This area isn’t sterile.”
“We tried,” Doran said. “It’s too dangerous. The whole thing could collapse on her and crush her in an instant. She needs to be freed first before we can safely dismantle it.”
“How long will the procedure take?” Doran asked.
Nathaniel tilted his head at Lancaster. “Forty-odd years ago, the barber-surgeons in the Helvetic would hold down a patient and hack off their limb in thirty seconds. This was before numbing agents had been introduced, of course – time was of the essence for the patients, to minimise the pain so they wouldn’t go into shock. The wound would then be cauterised with either hot iron or boiling oil.”
“You barbarian,” Lancaster choked, “don’t you dare.”
Barbarian. That was a new one.
Surgery wasn’t his forte. He hadn’t lied – he could amputate limbs. In his time, he’d successfully amputated both limbs and heads, though the appendages usually belonged to different people and certainly hadn’t been for the purpose of saving their lives. If one was strictly speaking about life-saving amputation, his mother had taught him the technique and guided his hand through the procedure.
When he was twelve.
“I can do it that quickly,” Nathaniel said, “but you’ll either bleed to death or die of shock. Caution over speed is preferable. Do you want to be unconscious, or numbed?”
“Numbed,” Lancaster said. “You have done this before, haven’t you?”
“How many of your patients died?”
Nathaniel pulled out Professor Kaufman’s tome on Human Anatomy and Physiology from his bag and opened it to the chapter on amputation techniques. “They were all already dead.”
About the Author
H.L. is an Australian writer of LGBT+ fiction. She holds a Master of Arts in International Relations (2015) and a Bachelor of Media in Communications and Journalism (2012), both from the University of New South Wales.
She is a lesbian of Jewish and Middle Eastern (Egyptian) heritage, and is an #OwnVoices writer. She has been writing stories since she was old enough to hold a pen. She is the author of M/M fantasy romance novels Heart of Dust and Soul of Ash, Books 1 & 2 of the Death’s Embrace series.
She has had two short stories published: “The Collector” in the 2014 Future Times Award Collection A Tick Tock Heart, and “Entente” in the 2020 Twisted Stories Award Collection Just Alice.
Philip Gambone, a gay man, never told his father the reason why he was rejected from the draft during the Vietnam War. In turn, his father never talked about his participation in World War II. Father and son were enigmas to each other. Gambone, an award-winning novelist and non-fiction writer, spent seven years uncovering who the man his quiet, taciturn father had been, by retracing his father’s journey through WWII. As Far As I Can Tell not only reconstructs what Gambone’s father endured, it also chronicles his own emotional odyssey as he followed his father’s route from Liverpool to the Elbe River. A journey that challenged the author’s thinking about war, about European history, and about “civilization.”
“Philip Gambone weaves a moving memoir of his family, a vivid portrayal of his travels through the locales of WWII, and a powerful description of what that war was like to the men who fought it on the ground into a seamless and eloquent narrative.” — Hon. Barney Frank, former Congressman, Massachusetts
“A single question pulses through As Far As I Can Tell: why didn’t my father talk about his time in the war? With meticulous research, Philip Gambone puts sound to silence, offering us a book-length love letter, not just to his father, but to anyone whose life has been hemmed in by obligation, obedience, and the brutality of the system. It’s also a coming to terms with the unknown in others, which is its own hard grace. A vital, dynamic read.” — Paul Lisicky, author of Later: My Life at the Edge of the World
“As Far As I Can Tell is a fascinating mix of autobiography, travelogue, and historical research that not only takes us on a great adventure in search of what World War Two was like for those who fought in the European theater but probes that most difficult of all subjects, the relationship between a father and a son — in this case, a gay son. Extensively researched, highly literate and profoundly thoughtful, the story Gambone tells uses not only soldiers’ memoirs but writers as disparate as Samuel Johnson and James Lord to make this a reader’s delight.”— Andrew Holleran, author of Dancer from the Dance
On February 12, 1942, Dad reported for induction. The chief business was the physical examination, which was conducted assembly-line fashion. The inductees were naked, wearing only a number around their necks. It was the most comprehensive physical most of them had ever had. For some it was intimidating, for others embarrassing.
Most inductees were eager to pass the physical exam, so eager in fact that in many cases, they indulged in “negative malingering,” trying to conceal conditions that might get them disqualified. Once the physical was out of the way, the only screening that remained was a brief interview with an army psychiatrist, who had been instructed to look for “neuropsychosis,” a diagnosis that covered all sort of emotional ills from phobias to excessive sweating and evidence of mental deficiency.
Paul Marshall, who ended up in the same division as Dad, remembered being asked at his physical if he liked girls. “I didn’t quite understand what he meant about it. I told him, ‘Why sure, I like girls.’” Later Marshall figured out what he was really being asked. “The ultimate question mark of manliness,” James Lord, himself a homosexual, recalled. “Do you like girls? Or prefer confinement in a federal penitentiary for the remainder of your unnatural life.” The terror of being considered a sexual leper or worse, “unfit to honor the flag of your forebears,” was real. Lord answered, Yes, he liked girls, and was promptly accepted into the army.
Not every homosexual inductee lied. Some, like Donald Vining, came clean with his interviewer, who turned out to be “marvelously tolerant, taking the whole thing easily and calmly, without shock and without condescension.” The interviewer marked Vining’s papers “sui generis ‘H’ overt,” and he was out.
My father passed his induction physical. Hale, hearty, and decidedly heterosexual, he needed none of the remedial medical work—dental, optometric—that millions of other inductees did. With the physical and the psychological screenings done, Dad signed his induction papers, was fingerprinted, and issued a serial number. The final piece of business was the administration of the oath of allegiance, done, according to army regulations, “with proper ceremony.” Once sworn in, Dad was sent home to put things in order before he went off to Camp Perry to be processed for basic training.
Twenty-eight years after Dad’s, my own induction notice arrived, during my senior year in college. I was instructed to report to my hometown on May 6, where the Army would put me on a bus and drive me to the Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station in South Boston. I remember standing, before dawn, on a curb outside the town offices waiting for the bus. Other fellows from my high school were there, and I nervously tried to make small talk with them. We’d had nothing in common in high school, and the situation hadn’t changed in the intervening years.
My recollection of that day is shrouded in numbness. I remember standing in a line, stripped to my underwear, making my way from one examining station to the next. I kept assuring myself I could not possibly go to Vietnam, that the good fortune I’d enjoyed so far would see me to a different destiny than the one where I would end up dead in a jungle in Southeast Asia.
I was clutching a letter from my dentist attesting to the fact that I needed braces, in those days a cause for rejection. But aside from that, I had not taken any steps to ensure that I wouldn’t be taken. I’d heard stories of guys planning to go to their induction physicals drunk, or stoned, or wearing dresses and makeup. Others said they would flee to Canada or apply for conscientious objector status. I had made no such plans. Throughout senior year, I had been sitting on my damn butt, still banking on magic or luck to get me the hell out.
I passed every exam. I was not overweight. I did not have flat feet or a heart murmur. My blood pressure was excellent. At one station, I handed over the dentist’s letter. The examiner gave it a perfunctory glance and tucked it into my file.
At last, I came to the psychological screening area. All I remember is the examiner asking me if I’d ever had any homosexual experiences. And when I said yes, he followed up with a few more questions. Had I sought counseling? Did I intend to stop? That was it. He thanked me and I moved on. Less than two weeks later, I received a notice from the AFEES: “Found Not Acceptable
for Induction Under Current Standards.” I’d been declared 4-F. In the parlance of the day, I had “fagged out.” My parents thought the dentist’s letter about braces had done the trick.
About the Author
Philip Gambone is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. His debut collection of short stories, The Language We Use Up Here, was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. His novel, Beijing, was nominated for two awards, including a PEN/Bingham Award for Best First Novel.
Phil has extensive publishing credits in nonfiction as well. He has contributed numerous essays, reviews, features pieces, and scholarly articles to several local and national journals including The New York Times Book Review and The Boston Globe. He is a regular contributor to The Gay & Lesbian Review.
His longer essays have appeared in a number of anthologies, including Hometowns, Sisterand Brother, Wrestling with the Angel, Inside Out, Boys Like Us, Wonderlands, and Big Trips.
Phil’s book of interviews, Something Inside: Conversations with Gay Fiction Writers, was named one of the “Best Books of 1999” by Pride magazine. His Travels in a Gay Nation: Portraits of LGBTQ Americans was nominated for an American Library Association Award.
Phil’s scholarly writing includes biographical entries on Frank Kameny in the Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford) and Gary Glickman in Contemporary Gay American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. He also wrote three chapters on Chinese history for two high school textbooks published by Cheng and Tsui.
He is a recipient of artist’s fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Massachusetts Arts Council. He has also been listed in Best American Short Stories.
Phil taught high school English for over forty years. He also taught writing at the University of Massachusetts, Boston College, and in the freshman expository writing program at Harvard. He was twice awarded Distinguished Teaching Citations by Harvard. In 2013, he was honored by the Department of Continuing Education upon completing his twenty-fifth year of teaching for the Harvard Extension School.
Warnings:Please be advised this book contains graphic violence, torture, and murder. It also includes non-con, psychological torture, and various kinks. The book also includes significant homophobic scenes. Some readers may find this material triggering. It is intended for a mature audience 18 years of age and up.
Allesandro My fury consumes me. Nobody is safe from it. I will bring my Emilio home. I will rebuild my empire. I’ll demolish anyone standing in my way. Emilio He thinks he has me beat. He thinks he’s in control. If there’s one thing Master taught me, I make my own destiny. I’ll claw my own way out and when I do they’d better prepare. Nobody has ever seen the likes of me. What happens when vengeance and fury twist together?
Trigger warnings: Contains graphic violence, extreme sexual situations, and homophobic scenes. Please see inside for more warnings.
This is a continuous series. The first three books must be read prior to this one. Book 5 releasing early 2021.
I wake up from my nap gasping. The memory of Daniel dying is rushing through me as I push through the last remnants of sleep. I lie there for a moment, trying to reconcile everything. I’m not sure who to be the most pissed at. I knew he wasn’t happy, he said I shouldn’t have taken him out of the hospital. His urges were too much for him to handle, but damn, he could have talked to me. I bite my tongue hard enough to draw blood when I think of Eamon. Fucker put Daniel in that situation to take that bullet, hiding the knowledge that they were real, because if I’d known then, fuck no, I wouldn’t have allowed it. He never understood brotherly love, though. I shouldn’t have waited. I should have taken Eamon out first. But it’s too late for that.
Lio. Lio pulled the fucking trigger. A deep growl builds in my chest. I loved him. I gave him everything, and he repaid me by killing my brother. Daniel’s voice echoes in my brain about needing to keep calm, not to punish Lio for not being perfect, but damn it, Lio has always been perfect. It’s why he’s mine. It’s why I found him, took him, and did everything I could for him. I take deep breaths, trying to rein in the anger and the poisonous hate that wants to spread. Maybe I just need to push him more, make him earn his forgiveness. I’m not fucking sure at this point if that’s possible, but maybe it’ll work. Maybe I can recapture our love. Maybe…
I startle when I notice he’s not in bed with me. I’ve been so lost in my head. Memories of what I did earlier float in my mind, and I quickly move to look at the floor. I exhale forcefully when I see him. I feared for a split-second that he’d escaped, but he didn’t. It means he knows he needs to be punished, he needs it the same way I do.
He doesn’t raise his head even as I move. I know kneeling for so long must be hurting his knees, but I don’t give a shit. I reach out and grab his hair, forcefully bringing him up and onto the bed. The way he scrambles slowly to move tells me how stiff he is from holding the same position for so long. I violently push him on his back and straddle him, grabbing his throat with my hand and squeezing. He doesn’t fight back, although I wish he would. His face steadily changes color, and tears roll down his face, making a pathway through the dried cum, but still, he doesn’t fight. The most he does is tilt his head back to give me better access. I wrench my hand off his neck, letting him draw in huge gasps of air. I punch the pillow by his head, barely missing his face. That, at least, draws a reaction from him. The flinch and fear. I want his fear. I need it.
About the Author
Leigh is a dark M/M romance author from Texas with two needy terrors of terriers and a chaotic family. She considers coffee a major food group and her family fears broken coffeemakers. She writes in her spare time, forced to the keyboard by characters entirely too vocal in her opinion and often falls victim to plot monkeys. In between creating mayhem with her characters and friends, her hope is to transport readers to fictional places and provide darkness with a twist.
Andreas Mitchell is single, stupid and bored, and should have a good long think about the amount of bad life choices he has made lately. Instead he heads straight for the one guy he knows will become his worst mistake yet.
Luca Germano makes no choices at all, instead he lives quietly in the background, and prefers the safety of his own hand to risking his heart. And someone as pretty and fearless as Andreas Mitchell, is the last person on earth he should let into his life.
Especially at Christmas.
This is a work of fantasy and fiction. This story contains descriptions of sexual roleplay and consensual violence, and elements of mild BDSM, which are not intended to be taken seriously, or imitate real life. Please read with caution if these themes might trigger or upset you.
Find more stories from the fictional British town of Chistleworth, in Custard and Kisses (free to download from Prolific Works) and This thing with Charlie (part of the Winter Wonderland giveaway starting on Jan 1, 2021)
I barely finish that thought, before my office door opens. He doesn’t even knock, Luca Germano, before entering and walking up to me with determination in his steps.
“We are ready to deliver. I was just wondering if you would like to come down and look her over before I go home.” He grunts.
He’s wearing skinny jeans today, and a torn knitted hoodie. A speck of oil still lingering on his hand, and a polishing rag stuck in his back pocket.
“I trust you.” I say, taking the glasses off my nose, and placing them on the table in front of me. “The crew downstairs speak very highly of you. Thank you for helping us deliver on this one. I’m sure the car will be much appreciated by its new owner.”
I’m talking a load of shite, in a voice that belongs to someone like Mr Lambert. I do that, sometimes, when I speak with older clients. Try to make myself more mature, more sophisticated, and less of the twinkly brat I really am.
“Ahm…” He grunts, again. He’s a man of few words, Luca Germano. He still scares me, because he’s unpredictable. I can’t read him, not really. Sometimes he comes across as happy and carefree, at other times he seems almost terrified of me.
“Let me guess…” I tease. “Tonight you are working out, then you are going to go and have a nice glass of water at Club Eden. Am I right?”
“What?” he huffs.
“Yeah? That’s what you do, most weekends.” I giggle. I’ve immediately lost the stupid fake maturity. It doesn’t take much. Told you, I’m an idiot, and clearly a fool, because now Luca Germano is blushing and squirming, and looking at me like I’ve lost my mind.
“Why would you say that?” He huffs out, suddenly back to being annoyed with me. Then he looks scared, breathing too heavily, running his greased hand through his cropped hair. He’s had it cut again. I bet it’s soft against his fingers.
I’m clearly losing my touch here, and I need a break. Luca Germano turned me down for a simple reason. He’s probably gay, because most people frequenting Club Eden, are… gay. Since it’s a gay club. Yet, I’m feeling less confident by the second here, sat behind my desk being… frankly, both rude and stupid with one of our freelance tech crew. Because I know what I am doing, I’m flirting, and why the hell I am flirting with him, of all people? I don’t understand myself anymore. Well, I do. He’s handsome, in a rugged way. A little bit scary, because the man clearly works out and is both tall, fit and muscular. The kind of man with big hands that would toss me around a bed with ease and completely dominate in the bedroom. He’s also staring at me like I have two heads.
Note to self, also the kind of man I should avoid, because I usually end up in a state like last weekend. Do I take any notice? No. Here I go again.
“You usually spend the evening stalking me around the club, and staring at me.” It’s a little bit of a lie, but I’m smiling and batting my eyelashes. I’m giving the guy a chance here. I wouldn’t mind a hookup with him. I would even let him do me, like a little good pick-me-up.
“Look, mate.” He says again, with surprising strength, as he walks up to my desk and leans his knuckles on the top. Leaning over me and staring at me with an intensity that scares me. I actually shuffle my chair an inch backwards, because… Yeah. Intense.
“Don’t mess around with me, I’m not into all that.” He’s serious too, enough for me to feel intimidated.
“Mate, it’s an invitation to fuck, not a bloody job interview.” I nip back, trying to blow my chest up like a bloody baboon. I’m not impressive, I realise that, as he smirks at me.
“Just leave it. Not interested.” He huffs. I just laugh, because as he stands back, he turns around far too quickly for a man not interested. He’s also sporting a semi in his jeans, unless he’s hung like a horse. He’s probably hung, but that bulge…?
“Look, Luke.” I try, but he cuts me off.
“Luca. Not Luke.”
“Luca, my bad.” I try a smile, but he doesn’t take the bait. Just stares, like he does. Maybe it’s just his thing, and perhaps I have read all this wrong from the start.
“I go to Eden for a drink at the weekend, because my best mate from school mans the bar. That’s why I go there. I hang out and shoot the shit with a guy who I have known since I was three. Is that clear?” He’s pissed off, and now he’s frightening me. Just a little. In a good way.
“Crystal.” I nip back.
“I’m not interested in being one of your fuckbuddies, okay? So leave it. I’m very happy to work for you, and you have a great team downstairs, so if you have a project you need me for? Ring me. If not? Then I hope you have a great Christmas… and all that.”
He’s lost his steam at the end, clearly not holding a planned-out speech. He would never make a salesman, because now he is twirling around in a circle again, almost tripping over his own feet as he walks out of my office, leaving the door wide open behind him.
I don’t go down and check out the car. I probably should, before the handover to the new owner this afternoon. I should probably be there to sign it off. Instead I lean back in my chair and let my eyes close. Just for a second to calm myself down.
What on earth am I doing? That? That display of complete and sheer unprofessionalism was … staggeringly stupid. I could lose my job. It could be seen as harassment, on a grand scale. I need to stop, whatever it is I think I am doing.
In any case, I need to go home, grow up and grow a bloody brain, because the one I have at the moment? It’s fried.
About the Author
Sophia Soames should be old enough to know better but has barely grown up. She has been known to fangirl over tv-shows, has fallen in and out of love with more popstars than she dares to remember, and has a ridiculously high-flying (un-) glamorous real-life job.
Her long-suffering husband just laughs at her antics. Their children are feral. The Au Pair just sighs.
She lives in a creaky old house in rural London, although her heart is still in Scandinavia.
Discovering that the stories in her head make sense when written down has been part of the most hilarious midlife crisis ever and she hopes it may long continue.
Find me on social media @sophiasoames on all platforms.
Aurelia Morris is a cover artist, photographer, photoshop wiz and eternal fangirl.
She works in many mediums under more aliases that she can keep track of.
A beta in an oppressive werewolf society must participate in a mating ceremony where alphas hunt their future mates.
As a beta in Wereduin society, Fern has no choice but to be mated when he comes of age. The ideal beta wereduin was subservient to their alpha, bears young, and knows their place in society.
Fern isn’t like that.
Rather than become an extension of his alpha, Fern wants to play in his band, hang out with his friends, and stay himself.
Now of age, Fern is to be placed in the Offering—an annual ceremony where alphas hunt and claim their beta mates. And whose attention does Fern attract? None other than Donovan Blackfang, a Highborne alpha who will stop at nothing but to claim Fern’s heart, body, and soul.
Someone grabbed the nape of my neck. Shit, no! Why hadn’t I paid more attention to my surroundings?
This alpha male was stout and gray. His jagged claws dug into my shoulder, and it ripped a cry from my throat. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another beta. This alpha must have been cornering her before I showed up. She didn’t look back at me as she made her escape. The alpha who had me could have come from my worst nightmares. He had a large scar across his eye. His thick, weather-worn hide told me he’d been at this game for a while. He could be my papa’s age, not that age mattered for werewolves, but his face was truly menacing. The glee I found in his glowing red eyes terrified me. Veins riddled his muscular physique. One of his ears had been chewed off. He gripped my shoulder, tearing my skin. I clawed at his hands, face, biting wherever I could as he forced me onto the ground.
I felt sure I was a goner when he was knocked off of me. Growling surrounded us. It was the large, black alpha that had taken on the slaver. He snarled at the alpha who had been about to rape me. Slowly, I crawled away on my hands and knees. That was when he turned his fangs on me, growling. He didn’t want me to leave, as if he already felt some ownership of me. Something in his eyes halted me and trapped my breath in my throat. I shook my head rapidly.
There was no way I would be claimed tonight. And certainly not by a male. I took off running, leaving them to their fight.
It was over shockingly quick. The dark alpha won. My alpha. It confused me when I momentarily thought of him as mine. My body wanted to submit. Arousal grew heavy in my groin, heating up my body.
Instincts be damned, I was not born so I could have some male alpha’s pups.
The black alpha picked up speed.
Just then, two alpha males sprang from either side of the woods. I ducked low, and they collided into each other. I dodged around them. The left one snatched me back before the alpha on the right knocked him to the ground.
Both alphas were beautiful—if I allowed myself to think something like that about the same sex. One was a scarlet red, while the other a golden bronze. Hopefully, the two would also stop the black alpha who still followed me, and I could make a getaway.
Both tried, not wanting to let a challenger slip by.
I dragged out a relieved sigh. Part of me was disappointed, and that part scared me. The rest of me was thankful. I didn’t want any of them to win—especially the strong dark alpha.
It was apparent by their beauty that all three alphas fighting over me were from the upper-class. But my eye was drawn to the dark one—jet black with those piercing neon-blue eyes and riddled, muscular physique. Of the three, he was the most handsome. Shaking my head and trying to remove those unwanted thoughts about the beautiful alphas fighting for me, I left them to battle.
When I heard them following me, I stole a glance over my shoulder. My heart stopped. Both the scarlet and golden-bronze alphas chased behind me. The dark werewolf must have been beaten. My heart sank. I wanted to slap myself. Why did I feel so let down?
I ran blindly through the forest and over the rocks until I backed myself against a cliff. Both werewolves approached me, snarling. I retreated as far as I could go before I drew my fangs. There was no way I was going down without a fight.
Perhaps they formed an alliance because they no longer fought each other. Instead, they homed in on me. Was I about to be claimed by two males?
How would they take me? I only had one opening. Would they both try to fit? My body trembled, but my beta brain started to submit. It craved having the alphas’ cocks inside me.
Backing away, I shook my head and crouched low. They sprang at me, but before they could touch me, a black shadow leaped from the cliff over my head. He landed in front of me.
There he is again!
The black alpha.
Gratitude overwhelmed me, and I could do nothing but stare at him. I wanted this alpha. I ached inside. Precum dripped from my hard cock. I wanted him inside of me.
Violently, I shook my head. No. I did not want to be claimed by anyone tonight. I found a small opening created by their fighting and snuck out. The black alpha growled at me, and I couldn’t stop my shiver. He wanted me to wait for him. He wanted me to let him claim me. Already, it felt like he had his claws around my heart.
About the Author
Rosary is an author of erotica ranging from sweet and fluffy, to dark and taboo. She aims to foster a sex-positive experience for readers to indulge their fantasies in a fun and safe space. Sometimes she uses her writing to journey into the often hidden and taboo depths of human sexuality, and hopes readers will take away from her stories, not an acceptance of violence and sexual abuse, but rather a way to embrace their inner desires often shamed by society.
Gwen Cook has returned to Williamsburg, Virginia, after more than a decade away from her family estate. Frankie Porter has spent the last year renovating that same estate, turning the dilapidated Cook mansion into a showpiece. Gwen and Frankie shared a childhood full of hard secrets and ripe with first love. Now adults, their paths cross again and sparks fly.
A HEA with content warnings for PTSD and implied child abuse.
The boathouse had barely changed in twelve years. The creek ran quite a bit deeper and wider. Brown water had swallowed up much of the far bank and licked in pools about the base of the boathouse itself. Frankie had to shove back kudzu and sumac as she walked. The soles of her boots sank inches into mud. Tiny pink-and-white wildflowers grew up between the trees, and here and there she spotted a drooping hedge bright with red berries.
She made her way cautiously through the undergrowth until she could touch the old building. Standing against the foundation, she cocked her head and squinted up along brick walls. The boathouse seemed as sturdy as she remembered. Two stories high and crumbling on the outside, it was ruler straight and strong except for the roof, which still sagged but hadn’t given in to the elements and fallen.
“Used to be, they knew how to build to last.” Frankie patted the warm brick.
The structure didn’t tower the way it had in her childhood, but she supposed it wouldn’t. She had grown—her bones had lengthened into adulthood. She’d managed to top five feet, barely. At sixteen, she’d feared she would be stuck forever just above four.
Frankie hesitated, glancing up into the sky. The trees had grown tall, and she could see less of the sun than she remembered. The place was definitely cooler, definitely shadier; but on a warm summer afternoon, shade wasn’t such a bad thing.
She leaned against the boathouse and untied her boots. Stripping off her shoes and socks, she stood barefoot in the mud, regarding the brick walls. Twelve years gone and she was no longer a child. Could she do it?
Of course she could. Was it wise?
But her fingers and toes found the old cracks easily, and before she knew it, she was halfway up the wall. The brick brushed her khaki shorts, leaving brown stains. A branch streaked her white shirt with sap. Frankie didn’t notice. At the top she hoisted herself over the edge of the roof and onto the shingles. She sat very still, holding her breath, waiting to see if the roof would protest. The shingles held, even when she rose to her feet and tiptoed across the top of the boathouse to her old perch.
She looked up and around first, admiring the oak and the dogwood and the ash with their green-as-grass leaves. She sucked in the fragrance of the creek as she brushed her bangs from her eyes. Then she took a deeper breath and looked down.
James Creek glittered below, cut into geometric shapes by dim sunlight. Shadows gathered at the edges of the water and then spread away along the bank. From where she stood, the water looked deep and inviting.
About the Author
Sarah Remy/Alex Hall is a nonbinary, animal-loving, proud gamer Geek. Their work can be found in a variety of cool places, including HarperVoyager, EDGE and NineStar Press.