Life as a concubine to the devious Viceroy Abasi isn’t so
bad. Temaj has food, shelter, and every inch of his skin is draped in emeralds. What’s
freedom worth when weighed against the luxury of the palace?
Solon’s dutiful life earned him the rank of army general to
the pharaoh. But when he’s sent on a diplomatic mission to an emerald mine rather than
into battle, he senses the end of his career and a lonely retirement.
Temaj is gifted to Solon for his stay, but the last person
Solon wants in his bed is a slave sent to spy on him—even if he is a gorgeous, silver-tongued
vixen of a man.
Trouble brews when emeralds go missing. With only a
clever concubine and the viceroy’s harem on his side, can Solon solve the mystery and
escape with his life, or are he and Temaj destined to haunt the walls of the palace
Over the Emerald Valley is a gay paranormal romance
full of snarky banter, dangerous secrets, steamy stolen moments and only one bed. It’s a
stand alone novel within the Immortal Jewels series and can be read first or last with no
spoilers, no cliffhangers, and always a happily ever after!
“Ah, fear not.” Abasi raised a bejeweled finger with
a flourish and beckoned forth a new group. “I’m told you prefer men, and I’m nothing if not
Solon preferred willing partners, not slaves, but he wouldn’t risk
insulting Abasi with his morals.
There was no easy way to get out of this. He’d have
to select one of them.
As the newest line of elegant, supple bodies drew
close, Solon caught the gaze of a tall man who moved with the feline grace of a street cat.
His honey-colored hair hung in long, loose waves over his shoulders, and his pursed lips said
he knew what a gem he was.
That light hair marked him as foreign among all the
black silken tresses of the other concubines. Northern. From distant lands. How did he end
up in an Egyptian harem so far south?
Solon stared. The man wore no paint, no kohl, and
no gaudy decorations, just a simple green linen shift belted at the waist. His beauty needed
Rather than cast his gaze demurely at the floor, as
the others had done, the blond met Solon’s stare…and winked.
A real smile at such a display of gumption replaced
the fake one on Solon’s lips.
Abasi stood, and a servant bustled to move his
chair out of the way. “Come, have a look. Shall I introduce them?”
Solon followed his host to the line of concubines.
There were fewer men than women, but still quite the selection. Six men and nine women in
“That won’t be necessary.” Solon would prefer to
retire alone for the night, but if he had to pick… “I’ve made my choice.”
Abasi knocked him on the back so hard Solon
nearly stumbled. “I like a man who knows what he wants. Which will it be?”
The blond, without hesitation, stepped forward.
Bold. He peered at Solon through half-lidded eyes, gaze intense, as if daring him to suggest
anyone but himself.
“Him.” Solon gestured to the brazen slave, who
only then deigned to lower his gaze.
“Ah, well chosen. That is Temaj, a beauty from the
north and a wild cat beneath the sheets, or so I’m told. My tastes don’t run toward
“Then why have them in your harem?” The
question was out of Solon’s mouth before he could think better of asking. Luckily, the viceroy
didn’t seem offended. Rather, the man laughed.
“A proper harem must contain both, dear Solon, for
how else are you to please all your guests?”
Solon would never understand the lives of the rich
or the royal. When he retired from the army, he wanted only a plot of land, a good mule,
decent tools, and, if he was very lucky, perhaps someone to share it with, though he
expected to end up alone.
“How do you want him?” asked Abasi.
Solon cocked his head. “What do you
Abasi gestured to Temaj, who stood silently as if he
didn’t mind two men discussing him as if he weren’t there. “How do you want him dressed?
Done up? What are your preferences?”
“Oh. Nothing,” said Solon.
Temaj startled and bestowed on him a glower that
would send a dog’s tail sticking between its legs.
About the Author
Lee Colgin has loved vampires
since she read Dracula on a hot, sunny beach at 13 years old. She lives in North Carolina with
lots of dogs and her husband. No, he’s not a vampire, but she loves him anyway. Lee likes to
workout so she can eat the maximum amount of cookies with her pizza. Ask her how much
she can bench press.
For any chance at love,
they must first be willing to trust.
A proud fallen knight, Gentry Patterson likes to take people
under his wing. Gifted with an easygoing nature, he makes friends effortlessly and, thanks to
his love of cooking, often invites his inner circle over for meals. Gentry’s favorite week of the
year is the annual retreat for his race, where he’s reunited with the many friends and
colleagues he’s met through the years. The only thing that would enrich his existence is his
mate, but he has yet to meet him.
Newly resurrected Tobias Kinsler wants to put his training
behind him and make his superiors proud. However, Tobias is struggling. He keeps it to
himself because he lacks people he’s willing to trust. With a mere few months of life under
his belt, Tobias attends the fallen knights’ annual retreat and discovers his other half.
The two men have a sizzling connection from the start and
waste no time binding their souls. Unfortunately, they will soon learn that secrets lurk
beneath their growing friendship, and those secrets fracture the tenuous bond between
them. As they chart an uncertain future, Gentry and Tobias must decide if they’re still willing
to honor Fate.
Toby was staring aimlessly when there was a distant ding of
an elevator. To his shock, his dick went rock hard, and the thick, pungent smell of
honeysuckle filled his nose. His head whipped to the right, and he saw that a brown-haired
man who was probably three or four inches over six feet was stalking toward him.
As the fallen knight moved closer, Toby admired his broad
shoulders and the sexy smile on his handsome face. Within a few feet of Toby, the man’s grin
grew broader, lighting up his hazel eyes. He was Toby’s mate, and Toby was elated, but
“Hi, I’m Gentry,” he said as he stopped next to Toby.
“I’ve always been excited about attending the retreat, but I
had no idea I’d meet my mate here,” Gentry remarked.
Toby loved the light smattering of freckles on his nose and
cheeks. “It’s my first one.”
“You’ll love it. I’ll help make sure of that. The line’s moving,”
Gentry remarked as he snatched Toby’s suitcase from him, flustering the fallen knight who
was so unused to being noticed as anything more than a disaster.
“I feel like I’ve been standing here forever.”
Gentry leaned close, and Toby closed his eyes to better
enjoy the honey and citrus scent of his gift from Fate.
“I got here super early so I could avoid this line,” Gentry
“I’ll have to remember that in the future.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll remind you.”
The confidence in his voice relaxed Toby, and he grinned at
Gentry. “I’m going to hold you to that.”
“We need to exchange numbers and coordinate our
schedules for the week.”
“I guess you’re okay with the fact that Fate picked us to be
With a nod, Gentry winked at him.
“You’re gorgeous, and I’ve always wanted a fallen knight for
a mate. You get my job. We already have a ton in common even though we just met. But I
want to learn everything about you. And I do mean everything.”
Although Toby had little sexual experience, Gentry’s flirting
was obvious enough that he couldn’t miss his interest.
“I’d like to tell you everything,” Toby commented softly.
Forcing himself to look away from the pretty hazel eyes,
Toby was somehow unsurprised by the twenty-three in roman numerals on Gentry’s shirt. It
figured that he’d be paired with a possibly ancient and clearly remarkable fallen knight. His
fear intensified, but Toby trusted Fate.
“You’re frowning. You okay?” Gentry asked.
“Yeah, I’m not a fan of lines,” Toby lied.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get you registered and settled
There was something about the way Gentry had swooped
right in and inserted himself into Toby’s world that appealed to him.
“You’re a protective person, aren’t you?” Toby
“I do like to feed my friends and help them with whatever
Toby shuffled forward again as the line picked up a little
speed and tried to handle the wealth of emotions racing through him. It was imperative that
Toby set aside his issues and focus on how lucky he was. Not only was Gentry handsome, but
he was also clearly interested. His smile didn’t falter, and although they knew nothing about
each other, Gentry’s presence soothed.
“That’s good. I can’t cook.”
“Don’t you worry, I’ll make sure you get to eat like a king.
You’ll have to tell me all your favorites.”
“I’ve discovered that there isn’t much I don’t like, but I love
a good steak.”
“Fate matched us perfectly. I can grill you one to
perfection,” Gentry said.
“Next,” Venerable Knight Roman Calixtus called.
Toby was so lost in staring at Gentry that he hadn’t realized
it was his turn. He fumbled to drag his identification card out of his pocket, and Toby handed
it over to Roman, who greeted him warmly and asked if he required a key to a room in the
Gentry leaned close again. “You can share my room if you
Everything was happening quickly, but Toby was ready to
dive into their relationship . Fate had given him a gift, and Gentry was supposed to be his
Toby grinned. “I’d like that.”
“Are you a bathroom hogger?” Gentry asked.
The Venerable Knight registering Toby looked away from his
computer screen to study the pair when Toby announced he didn’t need a hotel key.
“I don’t think so. I pretty much limit my use to regular
maintenance,” Toby assured Gentry.
“You two are going to share a room?” Roman
“We just met, but Toby is my mate,” Gentry stated loudly.
Toby loved the confidence in his voice and latched onto it as
a sign that his fear was unnecessary.
Roman smiled. “Congratulations. That’s wonderful.”
“Thanks,” Toby and Gentry said together, which made them
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
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.
Welcome to The Vampire Guard, where legend and myth
meet science and technology.
Vampires and werewolves live long lives. The Sleepless City saga might have
ended but the story continues…
Vampires make the best spies. Throw a smart-mouthed werewolf in with three vampires, mix well, and The
Vampire Guard’s newest team is bound to become one of their greatest assets. Super spies
with a full range of skills. Warrior, hacker, thief, and scientist. They get in, do the job and get
out before the bad guys ever know what hit them.
They employ a combination
of supernatural powers and cutting-edge technology to hunt down terrorists, thieves,
biological weapons… and sometimes even their fellow vampires and werewolves. An eclectic
organization comprised of individuals with diverse personalities, backgrounds, and abilities,
this guard has bite—and they’re not afraid to use it.
Vampires and werewolves live long lives. The Sleepless
City saga might have ended but the story continues… Welcome to the Vampire Guard, where legend and myth meet science and
technology. Vampires make the best spies. Throw a smart-
mouthed werewolf in with three vampires, mix well, and The Vampire Guard’s newest team
is bound to become one of their greatest assets. Super spies with a full range of skills.
Warrior, hacker, thief, and scientist. They get in, do the job, and get out before the bad guys
ever know what hit them. Forge, Blair, Declan, and Lucas are thrust into the
world of high-tech spies and top-secret espionage conspiracies. Recruited into the world’s
most elite and secret organization with one singular mission. Protect those who can’t defend
themselves from ruin. Together they must thwart an assassination
attempt on the open waters of Lake Superior while tracking a previously unknown biological
weapon controlled by the Qiguan—a weapon which may very well mean death for one of
And this time it’s
Book Title: Quarry (The Vampire Guard Book
Length: 66 300 words/ 185
Release Date: May 18, 2021
Heat Rating: 1-2 flames
It is not a standalone story,
but does not end on a cliffhanger.
Four members of The Vampire Guard—Forge, Blair, Declan, and Lucas—face a
dangerous and elusive enemy. And this time, it’s personal. When massive tech outages impact everything
from Wi-Fi to traffic control, Blair, Forge, Declan, and Lucas think it’s a simple matter of
catching troublesome hackers. But they quickly realize far more is at stake. Millions of dollars in art are the target of a thief
who’s not afraid to kill—and he’s no stranger. Not only has he escaped capture, twice, a
decade ago, but he’s had a hand in life-altering tragedies throughout their
lifetimes. Once it becomes clear that art theft is just a
fraction of his plan for mass destruction, they realize time is running out. The clock’s ticking.
Catastrophe is imminent. Can they find and disarm all the bombs in time or will countless
lives be lost?
BOOK 3 – NEW RELEASE
A werewolf and seven
vampires are all that stand between the world and complete annihilation.
Endosymbiont (The Vampire Guard Book
When Kai Richter and Ori Bier met, sparks
flew. Then a train blew up. Tracking an organism deadly to not only humans,
but vampires and werewolves alike, brings Kai and Ori into The Vampire Guard. Decades
later, they, along with Operative Team Jack Rabbit, come face to face with the horrors that
same virus produces. Dead bodies are coming back to life, and rational people are becoming
violent and brutal killers. A massacre is taking place nearly a mile under the
Atlantic Ocean. Two teams of The Vampire Guard are in the thick of it, fighting to
Excerpt from Endosymbiont
“How do werewolves fit into this grand plan?” Ori asked.
“When we first began chasing Sauer, he was collecting tissue samples and blood from
“And humans,” Kai added.
“I’ve been giving that some thought as well,” Lucas began.
“Both vampires and werewolves are more powerful than humans, but in different ways. As a
species each has slightly different skill sets than humans. A werewolf is born, unlike a
vampire. They have strong family and pack ties, so recruiting them as soldiers would likely
fail unless it was something an individual wanted to do. Getting large numbers to join up for
a cause outside a pack would be difficult, if not impossible. Yes, there might be German
packs siding with the Nazis, but there would be an equal number, or more, of packs from
other regions willing to fight on the opposing side. However, if there was a way to
incorporate werewolf attributes to enhance vampires, that would be valuable if the goal
were to create a super soldier.”
“Werewolves have, historically, fought in wars. However, as
a group they fared much better, particularly afterward. Because of their pack system,
soldiers returning from battle have a phenomenal support system. They don’t have the
homelessness and mental health problems many human soldiers do,” Ori chimed in.
“Humans are only now beginning to catch up to werewolf mental health.”
Lucas nodded. “Another desirable quality for a super
soldier. Mental and emotional stability. There’s also the possibility he was hoping to create
more than one generation of super soldiers by incorporating werewolves. I’m starting to
think this guy had a clear idea of what he wanted, but not how to achieve it.”
“And then somewhere along the way in his quest to create
some sort of super soldier, Sauer discovers an organism that can be weaponized,” Jonas
“There’s a gap in the research. A jump from analyzing the
three species to what we’re dealing with now,” Lucas said. “I’m guessing the biological
weapon is still a fairly new idea. Eighty years ago there simply wasn’t the technology to
make this thing useful. However, as a group, scientists are hoarders and packrats. We never
really throw anything away.”
“And once an idea is out there, it never goes away,” Jonas
added and grinned.
“Sauer became a vampire at some point, and I bet it didn’t
take long for him to realize all he had to do was hang around and wait for technology to
catch up to his ideas,” Sophia said. “He might’ve been a horrible and evil man, but he
certainly wasn’t stupid.”
One of the computers started chirping.
“This place is annoying,” Kai grumbled.
Blair wheeled his chair away from the table to the terminal.
“It’s a heat signature. A new one.”
“From where?” Ori demanded. “How would
someone get into this place without us knowing.”
Shaking his head, Blair stared at one of the monitors,
moving the cursor around. He did something that dulled the noise. “Whoever it is, they
didn’t come from outside, they’ve been hiding. There must be pocket areas that aren’t
covered by any sensors.”
“Heat signature, so not a vampire,” Declan said.
Blair nodded. “Too high for human.” He turned to face
them. “The werewolf we couldn’t account for.” He swung back to the computer when it
began making a different noise. “Kruger is in his office, but the werewolf and a human is
heading that way.” Moving to another computer, Blair pressed a few keys on the keyboard
and the quarters Kincade and Madison occupied appeared on one of the other monitors.
Madison was sitting on the side of his bed, reading. It was
obvious by how he yawned and stretched he’d probably only recently woken up. Kincade’s
room was empty.
Blair blinked at the monitor for a few seconds before he
exclaimed, “How the hell did he get out? The door is locked from the outside.”
“Air vents, or maintenance shafts.” Declan like the others,
was up and moving in seconds.
Porter started issuing orders. “Kai, Declan, Forge, with
Sophia.” He turned to Ori. “You stick with Blair if he has to leave this section.”
Ori nodded. “Yes, sir.”
About the Author
Mystery, action, chills, and
thrills spiced with romance and desire. ELIZABETH NOBLE lives by the adage “I can’t not write.” She doesn’t remember a time when she
didn’t make up stories and eventually she learned how to put words on a page. Those words
turned into books and fan fiction that turned into a genuine love of M/M fiction. A part of
every day is spent living in worlds she created that are filled with intrigue and espionage.
She has a real love for a good mystery complete with murder and twisty plots as well as all
things sci-fi, futuristic, and supernatural.
When she’s not chronicling
the adventures of her many characters, Elizabeth is a veterinary nurse living in her native
Cleveland, Ohio. She has three grown children and now happily shares her little, brick house
with two spunky Cardigan Welsh Corgis and their feline sidekicks. Elizabeth is a fan of
baseball, basketball (go Cavs and Cleveland Baseball) and gardening. She can often be found
working in her ‘outside office’ listening to classic rock and plotter her next novel waiting for
it to be dark enough to gaze at the stars.
Elizabeth has received a number of amateur writing awards. Since being
published, several of her novels have received Honorable Mentions in the Rainbow Awards. Jewel Cave was a runner-up in the Gay Mystery/Thriller category in the 2015 Rainbow Awards. Ringed Love was a winner in the Gay Fantasy Romance category of the 2016 Rainbow
Evander has gone by many names in the last thousand
years. He’s lived almost as many lives, using his immortality and his unique shapeshifting
abilities to become anyone and anything. His goal was simple: to eradicate
the malevolent magic threatening all humankind.
After finally succeeding, Evander feels he’s earned a
justifiable and peaceful retirement. But the past never stays buried, and he discovers that
it’s been watching him . . .
Marcos, the Guardian of War, has waited, he’s observed,
he’s admired, and he’s yearned. But now it’s time for him to step into the light and let
Evander see him for who he truly is.
But fate is fickle, destinies aren’t set in stone, and as much
as Marcos hopes Evander might be his, it will be the fight of his life to not only win Evander’s
heart, but to defeat the evil that once again raises its sinister head.
Marcos knew he would not tire easily, but Rhys—Evander, that was Evander
under that unassuming exterior, a marvel that would never fail to astonish
After watching him for hundreds of years, both keeping near to him, and also keeping his
distance, Marcos was still not sure how reduced his power was.
Marcos knew he’d retained some of the magic he’d possessed before, but unlike when he’d
been the Guardian of Secrets, now, he was clearly more particular about how and when he
“We should stop for a rest,” Marcos said, after they’d been walking all night and partway
into the day, almost without pause.
They’d stopped once, to fill their waterskins at a cold, bubbling stream. They’d long since left
Beaulieu behind, and they had not even passed through a single village. Out of choice,
Marcos had assumed, but it still surprised him that Evander kept to the disguise of Rhys.
Surely now that Marcos had revealed himself, Evander would let the shape of unassuming,
gruff Rhys melt away until he finally was himself again.
Except not once, as far as Marcos knew, had Evander taken his normal shape since he’d been
But now, now that he was with Marcos again, surely the subterfuge was unnecessary.
Rhys glared at him. Even after all these hundreds of years, watching Evander be someone
else, he was not used to seeing Evander stare out at him through someone else’s face. “Do
you need to stop?” he asked.
“No, of course I do not,” Marcos said. “I am a Guardian, I could walk all the way up the
North Mountain without stopping. But . . .”
“But I am no longer a Guardian,” Rhys interrupted him. “Your point is clear.”
But even if it was clear, Rhys was obviously annoyed that Marcos had brought it up.
He doesn’t trust you, he thinks you’re to blame, which isn’t all that surprising, and now
he thinks you’re patronizing him.
It was not the most auspicious beginning, but Marcos still held out hope that maybe they
could forge a partnership, even after all this time had passed.
He just had to stop himself from saying the wrong thing and angering
Evander—heis Rhys, Marcos reminded himself—even more.
So far, he had not managed even that.
Rhys stopped when the sun reached its zenith in the sky, finding a shady grouping of trees,
with a large fallen log they could rest next to.
“Is this sufficient?” There was still a bite to Rhys’ words.
“Perfectly sufficient,” Marcos said, taking care to make sure there was no additional
inflection to his words that would anger Rhys further. He certainly was not going to be
stupid enough to remind the ex-Guardian that he did not need to rest at all.
Rhys settled down against the log. He looked tired. Perhaps if he changed forms, back to
Evander, he might find additional strength. Maintaining a different form could be a strain on
his power reserves.
Marcos would have suggested it but the silence that had fallen between them, and Rhys’
defensiveness every time he made even the simplest suggestion, kept him quiet.
He waited until Rhys closed his eyes, and then shut his own, sure that Rhys, who was
obviously exhausted, would fall asleep quickly.
But a moment later, Rhys spoke up. “You did not mean to reveal yourself to me.”
Marcos had never been as accomplished a liar as Evander had been. He’d never needed to
be. Fighting was often straightforward, with little need for deception, and he’d never gotten
into the practice of telling falsehoods well.
He could lie, but it was unlikely Rhys would believe him, and the chances of
Rhys being even angrier at the lie were considerable.
“No,” he said carefully. “No, I did not mean to reveal myself.”
Rhys looked like Rhys, and not anything like Evander, not like . . . not like the Guardian he’d
known for so many years . . . but Marcos’ heart beat faster anyway when he opened his eyes
and Rhys was staring at him—like he was trying to figure Marcos out, still.
About the Author
A lifelong Pacific Northwester, Beth Bolden has just recently moved to North Carolina with
her supportive husband. Beth still believes in Keeping Portland Weird, and intends to be just
as weird in Raleigh.
Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first
foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope
springs eternal. She’s published twenty-three novels and seven novellas.
Senne Clayward and Kasimir vas Hjardar continue their
quest to rescue Senne’s young ward, Princess Sigrid, from the evil tyrant who has taken her
hostage. After they follow through with a mad plan to sneak into King Prosper’s fortress that
only halfway succeeds, the princess slips through their fingers once more. As they travel
across the continent of Taleth, they are one step behind their quarry at every
turn. Encountering numerous obstacles and enemies
both old and new, Senne and Kasimir doggedly pursue their goal while coming to rely on
each other more than ever. The two unlikely companions enlist the help of a small band of
adventurers to track the princess and intercept her captors while the armies of Toivonen
march westward behind them. Kasimir continues to grapple with the beast on his
back—a lifelong struggle—while Senne must bare his soul to earn the trust of those around
him. Can they survive the journey? Will they save Sigrid in time to keep her from harm and
prevent the realm from plunging into eternal darkness? And what will be left for them after
the dust settles?
“You there. Halt!”
“Here we go,” Kasimir murmured under his breath. He
turned to confront a group of greycloaks who had approached them from behind. None of
them seemed to have any visible rank higher than foot soldier. Kasimir put on a carefully
blank expression. “There a problem?”
“By royal decree, bearing arms within the city walls is
prohibited. You are in violation of this order.”
“Oh, aye.” Kasimir nodded dumbly. “Saw the notices, I did.
Smart idea, that. Only the notices was addressed as to say ‘Attention Senkalese citizens and
Yesenians traveling within the city, by royal decree’ an’ all that. But y’see, we’re not
Yesenian, an’ me mate here, well, he cannae read at all. So I figures it ’ad naught to do wi’
Senne cast him a puzzled look, no doubt wondering why he
was putting on the thick Lunarii peasant burr. Kasimir’s reasoning behind it was sound.
These guards were merely grunts. He had to confuse them enough to report to their
commander, because without someone of higher rank noticing them, they had no chance of
being put before the king.
Just as Kasimir predicted, one of the grunts, the one who
seemed to be somewhat in charge, scratched his head and looked at the soldier to his right.
“Does it say that?”
The other guard shrugged. “Well, yeah, seems right
enough. Never thought about what happens if we catch an outlander armed up in the
“We ought to fetch the captain, then,” said the
His right-hand man nodded sagely.
“I mean you, ya bloody imbecile,” he spat. The
foot soldier flinched and scarpered off. “Youse two, don’t move a muscle until the captain
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Kasimir said in his normal
Senne snorted quietly. The soldier gave them an odd look
but didn’t comment. After countless minutes of the tension-filled standoff, the messenger
returned, leading a man wearing a red officer’s cloak.
Upon further inspection, Kasimir realized he was not only
an officer, but a decorated one. His cloak was pushed back off his shoulders so Kas could see
he wore epaulettes studded with silver stripes and dripping with braided silver cords. The
dragon emblazoned on his armor appeared to be inlaid with real silver, and the regulation
bycocket hat had been replaced by an obsidian dragon-winged battle-helm. It all made for a
fearsome sight, and Kasimir had to fight the urge to take a step back when the man
When the captain reached them, he flipped up the visor of
his helm, and Kasimir was surprised that he appeared much younger than he would’ve
thought for a high-ranking officer, though the gray threaded through his dark hair
proclaimed him to be middle-aged. He was handsome in that craggy, chiseled way Yesenians
had—they always seemed to look as though they’d gone straight from mother’s womb to
the battlefield and never looked back—with his square jaw, closely trimmed black beard,
and slightly bent nose, as if it had been broken a time or two.
“I am Vilhelme, Commander of the King’s Army. Who are
you and why are you in my city?”
“Commander,” interrupted the head guard. “These blokes
said the arms notices only refer to Yesenian citizens, so I didn’t know what to do with
The look Vilhelme turned on the man was nothing short of
murderous. “That is absurd.” He turned back to Kasimir and Senne, effectively dismissing the
ignoramus, and repeated his question. “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
“Just travelers passing through,” Kasimir hedged. “Here to
trade for supplies.”
Vilhelme glared over his shoulder again. “In that case,
welcome. If you wish to trade in the city, I am afraid you must surrender your weapons.
They will be stored in the armory until you are ready to move on.”
Kasimir’s jaw tensed, his pulse thudding in his throat.
“Can’t do that, friend.”
Vilhelme attempted a smile, though it was more a baring of
teeth than anything. “You may address me as Commander Vilhelme and nothing else. If you
do not wish to disarm, you will be escorted to the main gate so you may leave. In fact…”
Vilhelme narrowed his eyes. “You should not have even gained entry with all those
weapons. I shall have a chat with the watch captain.”
“No need,” Kasimir said conversationally. “We snuck
Despite the smile, Vilhelme’s eyes glittered with danger.
“Why would you do a thing like that?”
“We want to see the king,” Senne said. “Thought if we
breached the wall, he’d come down from on high and deliver the mighty blow of
Vilhelme scoffed. “His Royal Eminence does not entertain
“Oi,” Kasimir said. “Why don’t you give him a message for
Vilhelme turned to face him head-on and crossed his arms
as if he were bored. “I’m dying to hear what that might be.”
“Tell him,” Kas growled through clenched teeth, “that
we’ve come for the girl.”
Vilhelme raised a fist to chin level, almost casually, and they
were instantly at the sword points and arrow tips of the guardsmen who had tripled in
number and somehow surrounded them. Easily thirty weapons, at least half of which would
be aimed at a kill spot somewhere on Kasimir’s body. His vision wavered. His blood ran hot,
pounding wildly in his chest and up through his neck, nearly choking off his breath.
“That,” said Vilhelme, “would be inadvisable if the two of
you are in any way attached to your hides.” He cast a bored glance at the men around him,
oblivious to Kasimir’s torment and the danger they were all in. Kas didn’t think Senne had
“All the same,” Senne said, his jaw bunching with his frown.
“Tell him the knight and the sellsword have come to collect our charge.”
“Well, I can’t say whether or not you’ll ever see the king,
but you’ll certainly get a good long look at the inside of our dungeons,” Vilhelme remarked
blandly. Then he gave his head guardsman a small nod. “Take them.”
About the Author
J.K. Hogan has been telling
stories for as long as she can remember, beginning with writing cast lists and storylines for
her toys growing up. When she finally decided to put pen to paper, she found her true
passion. She is greatly inspired by all kinds of music and often creates a “soundtrack” for her
stories as she writes them.
J.K. resides in North Carolina
with her husband, two sons, and their pets. If she isn’t writing, J.K. can be found designing
book covers at Wicked Pixel Designs, creating fiber art and supplies at Earthbound Fiber Arts
watching Hurricanes Hockey and, of course, reading!
Two friends. Two worlds.
A selfish desire that threatens them both.
Two friends. Two worlds. A selfish desire that threatens
Raijin killed a witch and found himself cursed.
Sandro went to Raijin’s aid and became an assassin’s
Neither expected that they would trigger the biggest
upheaval their world had seen in a thousand years.
And that it needed the love between them to lift the
Cursed, the second book in the Balance of Magic series,
is a slow-burn m/m fantasy romance featuring friends-to-lovers who become soulmates,
irate death gods, curses, inept, narcissistic politicians, curious, compassionate witches, and a
France, Summer 1920
“Poplars and plane trees, beeches and birches, or a
mountainside of firs.” Sandro stared into the bottom of his wine glass and tried to keep the
misery at bay. “Is it really too much to wish for a few olive and lemon trees? I’ve not been
near my grove in six years. Six years, Raijin!”
“What if they’ve dug it up?”
“Why would they?”
Sandro set the glass down. “To spite us,” he said.
Raijin stared at him.
“I know, I know. It’s not like me to think badly of people.”
He waved a hand. “But what other interpretation is there for the way Tan Hao treats us?
Every time we finish a task, he finds another one that keeps us from the base. Do you really
think he does that to everyone?”
Raijin wisely kept his mouth shut.
Sandro was grateful. He’d never been a maudlin drunk, but
the last six years had changed many things. Being prevented from visiting the only home
he’d ever known… hurt. Even if he’d barely spent a day alone while the human world tore
itself to pieces.
Maybe he shouldn’t complain. Especially not to Raijin. He
hadn’t been home for far longer, but… He lifted a hand to summon the waiter and order
another bottle of wine, when Raijin stopped him.
“Come along. I have an idea.”
“The good kind.” Raijin smiled the soft, lopsided smile that
Sandro had no defences against.
“In a moment.”
They paid for their meal and left the restaurant, wandering
up the street towards their lodgings. They had their own courtyard garden, had food, and
even wine, but Sandro had been too restless to stay home, and Raijin had indulged
“You’ve been doing that a lot lately.” He tried to express his
“Indulging me. I’m… Ignore me.”
“Never.” Raijin unlocked the gate and ushered them into
the place they’d made their base since the Armistice. It was clean, comfortable, and private.
But it wasn’t home.
Sandro had no idea what Raijin meant to do, but he didn’t
have to wonder long. As soon as he’d locked the gate behind them, Raijin took hold of his
arm, opened the veil and tugged Sandro through.
Two steps later, scents of brine and citrus hit his nose. Soft,
springy turf caressed his feet, and one look at the familiar trees had him fight back
Raijin had brought them to the top of the Custodia base.
Had given Sandro what he’d most needed: a visit to his grove of lemon trees.
If he could have touched all his trees at once, he’d have
done so. Since he lacked that ability, he wrapped his arms around the nearest tree, and
The trees responded, impressions wrapping him up like a
cloak: comings and goings, hot sun and sparkling raindrops, a storm from the east. Sandro
soaked it all up like a starving man and shared his own experiences in turn.
After the first sharing was done, Sandro went from tree to
tree, touching, checking, renewing his connection. When he joined Raijin at the centre of
the grove and accepted the glass of wine Raijin had poured him, he hummed with green
energy, his watcher sight as sensitive as it had never been before.
“I wish I could explain—” he began hesitantly.
Only for Raijin to wave it away. “It’s fine. You wanted to
check on your family. I understand.”
Raijin wasn’t demonstrative.
But when he chose to make a point, he took Sandro’s
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 write their own rules. 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
Evander has gone by many names in the last thousand years. He’s lived almost as many lives, using his immortality and his unique shapeshifting abilities to become anyone and anything. His goal was simple: to eradicate the malevolent magic threatening all humankind.
After finally succeeding, Evander feels he’s earned a justifiable and peaceful retirement. But the past never stays buried, and he discovers that it’s been watching him . . .
Marcos, the Guardian of War, has waited, he’s observed, he’s admired, and he’s yearned. But now it’s time for him to step into the light and let Evander see him for who he truly is.
But fate is fickle, destinies aren’t set in stone, and as much as Marcos hopes Evander might be his, it will be the fight of his life to not only win Evander’s heart, but to defeat the evil that once again raises its sinister head.
Rhys was in an exceedingly bad temper.
First, Marcos had been incredibly high-handed, demanding that they postpone their journey for at least a few days, in order to be “properly” outfitted with supplies.
Rhys had brought a handful of coins with him, enough for some periodic lodging and food along the journey, but based on the standards Marcos was insisting on, it wouldn’t be nearly enough.
And now, they had come to this dirty, ugly tavern, with its watered-down mead and slop for food. As for the lodgings, they were hardly an improvement. The bed was small and narrow, the mattress filled with lumpy straw that Rhys did not want to question the origin of. And to make things worse, there was only one of these uncomfortable beds.
Marcos insisted that he take it. “I will be keeping watch,” Marcos said, sliding a rough piece of wood across the door. “You can take the bed.”
And now, the very worst part of this entire situation was that Rhys was required to be grateful that Marcos had been so generous.
Rhys did not want to be grateful.
He wanted to be angry—but it was difficult to be angry with someone who offered you the only bed in the room, no matter how poor it was.
Rhys shifted to the other side of the mattress, trying to find an area without lumps, but was unsuccessful. He sighed, not even bothering to temper his frustration.
“Trouble sleeping?” Marcos asked kindly.
Even in the dark gloom, Rhys could see where he had settled—opposite the doorway, back against the rugged plank walls of the room, booted feet drawn up to his chest. Rhys could even see the wry expression on his face.
He’d always enjoyed his ability to see in the dark, always considered it one of his favorite gifts, but now he wished he could do it a little less well.
“The bed is lumpy,” he said, aware of how ungrateful he sounded. He could very easily be on the floor. Marcos was still, as far as Rhys knew, a full-fledged Guardian. He could have overpowered Rhys in an instant, with merely a crook of his fingers, never mind all those very impressive muscles.
But he hadn’t.
Rhys still had not figured out what ulterior motive Marcos had for accompanying him, and that annoyed him most of all.
“You could always transform. The hay might suit you better if you were of an equine descent,” Marcos teased.
Up until now, Rhys was unaware that Marcos teased. This was new. But then, even though they had served on the Conclave together for hundreds and hundreds of years, he had never really known Marcos. He’d kept to himself, more at home on a battlefield or in the armory than he was the Castle at the Top of the World.
“I certainly will not,” Rhys said firmly. “I will . . . adjust.”
He’d slept in far worse. Admittedly, not in some time. He’d gotten spoiled and lax. But at the very beginning, when he’d first been banished to the surface, there had been some lean, cruel years.
“Then I suggest you do,” Marcos said. “We have a long journey ahead, and there will be little time for resting after we leave here.”
Rhys turned over, plumping the straw underneath him, and attempted to banish the questions that kept swirling through him. Particularly all the questions he had about Marcos.
He’d just managed to lull himself into a relaxed state that at least approximated sleep when he heard a rustling outside the front door.
Not a rustling. A scratching.
About the Author
A lifelong Pacific Northwester, Beth Bolden has just recently moved to North Carolina with her supportive husband. Beth still believes in Keeping Portland Weird, and intends to be just as weird in Raleigh.
Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope springs eternal. She’s published twenty-three novels and seven novellas.
It’s a safe assumption that we all know the basic facts
about one of Greek Mythology’s most famous monsters, Medusa; the beautiful maiden
cursed and turned into a Gorgon. Her tragic story and death at the hands of the hero,
Perseus, has been told countless times for thousands of years.
But the thing with Greek Mythology is just that. They are
myths. Narrated, fictional legends as old as time that have been passed down from
generation to generation. Time has a way of changing the original tale. So, how can we be
sure that the myths we think we know are the real story?
What if important aspects of these myths have been
altered? What if the monster wasn’t really a monster at all? What if Medusa wasn’t actually
Medusa? What if her name was Meduso? And what if she wasn’t a her, but a him? This is
the tale of Meduso and his death at the hands of the hero Perseus’ sword. It is a tale of
innocence, love, betrayal, and tragedy.
Stheno and I continued to descend the mountain until we
passed the precipice. The slope flattened, leading to a narrow trail. We followed this trail
until we were able to see a bare hole right in the middle of the mountain. Stheno led the
way inside, grabbing a lit torch at the entrance, carrying it with her as we explored deeper
into the cave.
It felt like a never-ending tunnel. We continued to walk for
several minutes until we finally reached a very large and circular room within the cave. The
torch was no longer of use to us since there was a massive oculus overhead, allowing light
A figure came forth, stepping into the light. My mouth
gaped open. For being Typhon’s wife, I was expecting to see a monstrous female creature. A
repulsive, murky beast with fangs and talons, smelling of putrid, rotting flesh. But this was
not what stood before me. She had similar features to my mother. The lower half of her
body was composed of forest green scales, coiling into a snake’s tail. Her upper body was
that of a human, but not just any human. An alluring one. Pleasant to the naked eye.
Fair-skinned with shiny hair, the color of emeralds.
“Come forward, brother and sister,” the figure
Stheno and I approached her, now allowing me to get a
closer glimpse of her jade eyes that matched the jeweled tiara on her head.
She slithered just inches away from us. Her palm rubbed
along my cheek, with her fingertips tracing my chin. She studied me carefully.
“My. Oh my! And to think Ceto and Phorcys had the
capability to produce such a lovely creation,” she said to me. Her fingers now spun in a
circular motion to feel my hair. “And these beautiful golden locks. You will tempt all of the
mortals with this face. Dare I say the goddesses and even the gods too?” Echidna winked at
me before stepping back to give us separation.
“Meduso has yet to be introduced to the mortals, Echidna.
He will begin to socialize with them soon,” Stheno proclaimed.
“Ahhh. Is that so? His gorgeous features and now the
added layer of innocence and naivety will do wonders in the mortal world,” Echidna
My face began to turn as red as the rose of Aphrodite. I did
not know whether to be appreciative or stunned by her flattery. I’ve never had anyone pay
me such compliments in my entire life.
“Tell me, my dear, what is it you desire?” Echidna
“Desire?” I questioned.
“Yes. What is it you seek from this world? Power, riches, a
gorgeous woman… or maybe a handsome man?”
Stheno cut her off. “That will be enough, Echidna. There is
no need to tarnish the boy’s mind.”
I was unsure of what Echidna meant by desiring a handsome man. I’ve never even set sight on a mortal to know what aspects of them I was captivated
by. Most of the stories I’ve been told involved a male being in love with a female. However,
Euryale did share some rumors she had heard about certain Olympian gods taking some of
their male servants as lovers. But I did not know where my attractions lied, based on my lack
“Oh, don’t be so dull, Stheno!” Echidna exclaimed. “At least
give the boy some direction! He’ll wind up as dull and stupid as Koalemos if you keep him
secluded any longer.”
Stheno shook her head. “I think you of all people are the
last immortal that should be giving me advice. Look at the direction you chose for yourself.
And know where it put you!”
“Hmph. I’ll never understand you and our parents.
Choosing to stay isolated in the oceans while the rest of the world around you is drastically
changing.” Echidna continued to express her disdain for the traditions and beliefs of our
As my sisters continued to banter back and forth, I stood
still, just staring ahead at them. Their silhouettes became blurry and then non-existent in my
line of vision. Was I having an out-of-body experience? Instead, a new sight was before me. Some sort of rope. No, it was a net with a
gigantic fish caught in it, in the water, except the water was fairly shallow. I could see its
translucence and the glimmer of light shining through it. I swam toward the caught fish,
trying to free it with my bare hands. The fish was able to escape, but as I tugged away, I
realized I was snagged within the confines of the net. I tried my best to yank away, but to no
avail. As I glanced upward, I realized I was being pulled towards the surface, until…
Stheno called out to me, bringing me back to reality.
“Meduso! Are you okay!?”
I just glanced at her blankly. “Yes. I’m fine. Why? What is
“Your eyes…” Stheno began, with a worried expression on
her face. “They turned pure silver, for a moment,” she revealed.
“What? Are you sure?” I was extremely bewildered, not
even sure if I believed what she had just shared.
“A vision.” Echidna slid close to me and raised my chin up
with her hand, glaring into my eyes. “Did you have a vision, Meduso?”
“A vision? I mean, I saw a fish being caught in a net just
now. I’m not sure where. I’ve never experienced anything like this. What is happening?” I
felt shook up.
“It’s nothing to worry about, dear brother. You just had a
vision. Call it a gift, if you will. A sight into the future or a major phenomenon
happening elsewhere in the world. Such things gods usually experience. I’m surprised you,
as a mortal, are able to have them,” Echidna confessed.
“This truly is your first time experiencing this, Meduso?”
“Yes,” I admitted.
“Hmm. I wonder what it could mean. A fish in a net?”
Stheno was puzzled.
“View it as a mark of destiny, Meduso.” Echidna advised.
“Whatever you do, never run from these visions you have. The Fates are reaching out to
you, for a reason. They want you to see this. They want you to be brave and follow through
with these visions.”
“Do you really think so?” I turned to Stheno to see if she
had the same opinion.
“I think you should inform our mother and father about
this first,” Stheno recommended.
“Oh. Don’t listen to her, Meduso! They’ve held you back
long enough from whatever your destiny may be. Press onward, dear brother. If I were you, I
would leave the oceans the second you get the chance to, and never look back,” Echidna
“Yes. Echidna did the same, Meduso, and look where she
ended up. Locked away, alone in a barren cave in the mountains!” Stheno wittily
Echidna’s eyes flared at Stheno as she made this comment.
Her once pale skin shifted to a dark green color to match her scales. She was now angered.
“I’d watch your tongue, Stheno! Although I am your sister, I am not to be made a fool of! Do
not trifle with me!” Echidna threatened.
Stheno stood her ground. “And what are you going to do?
Make any tumultuous action and the gods and goddesses will know of your location. An
empty threat, if I’ve ever heard one.”
“How dare you! Get out, now!” Echidna vilely
Stheno grabbed the torch and turned back to face me.
“Come, Meduso. We leave!”
I just stood there, equidistant between both of my sisters.
Echidna glided to me, caressing my cheek one last time before our departure. “You are more
beautiful than I had ever imagined, brother. It will serve you well in their world. Never put
that beauty to waste.” Those were her parting words as Echidna swiftly skidded out of sight
in the blink of an eye, deeper into the dwelling of her cave.
I followed behind Stheno as we left, ascending the
mountain once again.
“That Echidna! Curse her!” Stheno grumbled.
“I don’t think she was so bad, Stheno. Much more pleasant
than I had imagined.”
“Meduso, that was only one side of Echidna that you saw.
Remember, she is the wife of the most cruel and vicious monster known to existence. Do
not forget. It takes a certain someone to be able to commit to that,” she explained.
Once we reached the summit, Stheno held out her hands
to me for me to take. I clasped onto them and we closed our eyes, summoning our mother
for our return. Within a flash, I opened my eyes, and I was once again standing on the ledge
of the cliff in our grotto.
“How does Echidna fare?” my mother, Ceto, asked.
Stheno shook her head and dismissed herself.
“Troublesome as ever! We have much to talk about, mother!” She headed back into the
palace, with my mother following in pursuit.
I chose not to join them, knowing Stheno would have
private affairs to discuss with my mother and father. I sat on the edge of the bluff, gleaming
into the crystal blue water, reflecting on the vision I had.
A net with a fish? What could it mean?
I found myself coming up with little to no answers or
I was then reminded of Echidna’s counsel and the last
words she spoke to me.
Never put that beauty to waste.
Little did I know that I would carry this guidance with me
for years to come. Never did I picture that it would end up shaping my future.
About the Author
BJ Irons works in the field of
education as an educational leader and college professor. Many of his personal experiences
as a gay man, have contributed to his works. Being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community
himself, BJ hopes to continue to bring more fun fictional works to his LGBTQIA+ readers. The
world could always use a little more color and fun.