Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday Briefs: Aesthetic of Invention Part 2

Kenneth and Thorn's collegium interlude continues!

“Kenneth,” Thorn said, his face reddening. “I’m glad.” He took his hand away from Kenneth’s lips and threw his arm around the mage, pulling him closer. They kissed hungrily, Kenneth moaning as his magic flared. The sensation of Thorn’s lips, of being pulled close by Thorn’s strong arms, was overwhelming.

The bulbs that illuminated the workroom burst all at once, sending them both into darkness as glass hit the floor with an ear-piercing roar. Thorn jumped back with a gasp.

Kenneth tamped down his control of his magic, watching as the swirls of aether stilled with his increased control. Damn.

“Second time you’ve done that,” Thorn said, his voice breathless from surprise. “I had to get all the bulbs replaced in my room.” Kenneth could barely see him in the dark, and he called up a globe of light, illuminating Thorn’s smirk.

“Sorry,” Kenneth said, taking a deep breath. “That was a poor showing, wasn’t it?” He hoped the glow from the orb didn’t show how red-faced he was.

Thorn’s laughter eased the worst of his embarrassment. “It’s flattering, really,” Thorn said. “But I’m certain the masters here won’t be too pleased. I’ll have to replace the bulbs for now—what say I meet you at the collegium?” Thorn strode across the room, striking something on top of the table, and then a fire burned on a small match. He lit a lantern in the corner, dust making the fire jump before it settled into a steady burn. “There, now I won’t need your light.”

Kenneth swallowed down disappointment. “I truly am sorry. Later tonight, then?”

“Sure.” Thorn moved back over to him, his scent and closeness making the aether in Kenneth’s vision swim. “At least at the collegium, I can do whatever I want to you without worrying about your magic breaking my things.”

Lust flared, and Kenneth shivered. “I like the way you think.”

“Good.” Thorn gave him the lightest of shoves toward the door. “Tonight, then. Be ready.”

Kenneth nodded, adjusting his robes to hide his swollen erection. He would be ready.

But first, he thought as he headed down the hall and toward the stables, he needed to begin to learn how to keep things under control. He had a little under two months to graduate, and if he lost control like that around his lifemate constantly…he shuddered to think of the shame. Especially when he would become an Enforcer after he graduated.

Lifemates were rare, and Kenneth had never imagined getting one. So when his professors had introduced the concept and informed the students entering the collegium about protocol related to lifemates, he hadn’t paid close attention.

After stabling Jade back at the magi’s collegium, though, Kenneth did his best to remember what he had been told. One name stood out in his mind—Ruta Maibell. She was the head doctor at the infirmary, had a lifemate of her own, and was an expert on raw magic. She could tell a person’s strength just by looking at them, and sometimes even found lifemates for mages who desired one.

People wearing the tell-tale blue of healer’s robes passed him by as he entered the infirmary wing, his shoes clacking on the marble floor. It quieted when he got to plush carpet, and the entire building seemed to hush when he entered a circular rotunda, almost like a smaller version of one of the lecture halls. Curtains covered doorways that led further into the infirmary, and overhead, sun beamed down through skylights. Plush benches lined the sides of the rotunda, and a pale man slumped in one of them. Kenneth took a seat as far away from the man as he could.

He realized his heart was beating fast, and he took a few breaths to calm it. He hadn’t been here since Thorn had been hurt.

“Kenneth Victeni?”

Kenneth jumped at the voice, the person having moved so quietly on the plush carpeting he hadn’t heard them approach. A young man, probably a first year at the collegium, dressed in Healer’s blue grinned down at Kenneth. His grin faded slightly when Kenneth stood and towered over him.

“What seems to be the trouble today?” the healer asked.

“I’m here to see Doctor Maibell,” Kenneth said. “Is she available?”

The man’s eyebrows hit his hairline. “For lifemate consultation?”

Kenneth grit his teeth. “Yes.”

“I…yes, then. Follow me.” He beckoned, and Kenneth fell into step beside him. The young man was remarkably relaxed around nobility, and he tried to remember what family this man might belong to. No memories of any noble family with a son in healing came to mind, and he gave up on it when he was led to a heavy wooden door.

“I will tell her you are—“

The door swung open, a short, graying woman with eyes like an owls’ peering into the hallway. She looked Kenneth up and down, and her mouth set itself in a firm frown. With a wave of a hand to dismiss the healer, she nodded at Kenneth. “You think you have got yourself a lifemate?”

“I do,” Kenneth said. Her tone and stance in the doorway made him tense his shoulders. “I’d think I know that better than anyone else.” He had argued with the Dean about Thorn; he’d have no problem arguing it with this woman either, magic expert or no.

She stared at him, her mouth pursed, and finally nodded. “Come in, then.”

Kenneth had expected something like the Dean’s office, a sparse, utilitarian place of work with little other than a desk. Doctor Maibell’s office looked more like a sitting room, with couches along an enormous window that overlooked the collegium lawn, and a small desk that sat in front of a plush chair. Kenneth opted to stand.

“So,” Doctor Maibell said after a moment’s silence. “With power like yours, I imagine your lifemate’s presence must be quite distracting. Is that why you’re here? Losing control and all that?”

Kenneth coughed in an attempt to hide his blush. “Yes.”

“Not a surprise.” She waved a hand, moving over to her desk to write down some notes. “Well I can’t do much to help without whoever it is. Can you bring them here?”

Kenneth stifled a sigh. This was certainly going to be interesting.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wednesday Briefs: The Aesthetics of Invention

Today we have the first 1000 words of a new short story about Kenneth and Thorn. This takes place during the time period shortly after Alder was driven away from the Collegium, but before they graduated. Think of it as a small interlude.

Jade huffed, her hooves making a sloshing, crunching noise on the melting snow. Kenneth muttered to the aether, dropping the magic that would warm the air around him and his horse. The humid cold of late winter rushed in immediately.

Ahead of him, the inventor’s college stood against the gray sky, and he nodded to the gatekeeper as he turned Jade toward the stables. They knew him by now, and no longer stopped him and asked what he was doing here every time. No more nervous bowing or “my lords,” and Kenneth was glad for it.

It had been a month since Kenneth and Thorn had discovered they were lifemates, and they visited each other often enough that it wasn’t strange anymore.

Kenneth stabled Jade, making sure to give her the choicest bits of hay. He never needed to stable his own horse at the collegium, but the talentless were much more self sufficient.

And that would be proven today, he knew. Thorn wanted to show him his new graduation project. Kenneth sighed, trying to push away nerves. The last time Thorn had shown him his work, Kenneth had bungled things between them horribly. He couldn’t let that happen again.

“Kenneth!” His anxieties faded when he heard his lover’s voice, and at the same moment felt his magic strengthen. He wasn’t used to that yet. Thorn, just by being near, doubled his magical power, and it was still a heady thrum when it happened. He would get used to it in time, according to the masters at the collegium, but for now it was still intoxicating.

 Thorn stood at the entrance to the stables, a grin on his face. His brown hair was mussed, and the frayed coat he wore creaked like old leather as he walked closer. “Sorry I missed you enter the college, I was getting some supplies from the refinery.” He leaned over and reached into Jade’s stall, petting the horse on the nose before tilting his head as he met Kenneth’s eyes. “Kenneth? You okay?”

Kenneth blinked, trying to find his sense of self beneath the potential to control the aether. Bands of it wrapped the stables, waiting to be sensed and manipulated. “Yes, I’m alright.” He focused on Thorn’s face, and memories of their times together coupled with the head rush of magic quickened his blood. “I’m just glad to see you.”

Thorn smirked, his gaze dropping. “I can see that.”

Kenneth’s face heated, and he adjusted his robes. He wondered if all lifemates felt that way as they got used to each other, or just him. He cleared his throat. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be. Is it still the magic?” Thorn said. He leaned against the stable door, and Kenneth’s gaze was riveted to his neck, following it down to where his coat covered what Kenneth knew to be a well muscled chest, and then down to Thorn’s tight trousers which covered a long, beautiful, uncut cock. Desire pulsed through him again, maddening.

“Kenneth,” Thorn snapped. “Pay attention.”

Right. Thorn’s tone of command, so surprising coming from a talentless, cleared his head, the sense of magic falling under his control. Arousal still burned, but it wasn’t so bad. Privately, he relished the idea of obeying Thorn’s snapped commands. “Right,” he said again. “I’m sorry. I came here to see your work, of course.”

“Of course.” Thorn grinned. “It is what I invited you for.” He stood up from leaning against the stable. “Follow me.”

They traveled through the familiar path, down the wooden halls of the talentless college where other people, dressed similarly to Thorn, wandered the halls. Wheeled contraptions clicked past, and once Kenneth peered into a workroom, where flame hissed from pipes in the wall while a woman held metal over it. Down one hall, a mouse zipped past, disappearing into a crevice.

“Not as clean as the collegium,” Thorn said with a sheepish look. He pulled out a key, the door to his workroom opening with a creak.

Unlike last time, he hadn’t covered it. “Take a look and let me know what you think,” Thorn said, gesturing to the table. A mechanical hand lay atop it, and there was a brief moment when revulsion, or maybe just fear, flashed through Kenneth.

But it vanished quickly. He moved toward the table, where a metal hand lay, gray and heavy. This was what Thorn did. This would improve lives, just as magic would. And it would help the lives of those that magi had injured during the war.

“It’s not done yet,” Thorn said. “But it’s going to be more efficient than…than what I have now.” He removed his gloves, letting Kenneth compare his lover’s current prosthetic to the one on the table. The new one was sleeker, with fewer gears, and with wire that a word to the aether revealed was copper wound through the palm.

Thorn stared at him, and Kenneth realized his lover was anxious too.

“I love it,” Kenneth said. Thorn smirked. “Alright,” Kenneth amended. “I barely understand it. But it looks nice. More…” he looked at his own hands. “More natural.”

“I was going for more efficient,” Thorn said with a nod, his gaze shifting away from Kenneth. “But aesthetics matter too.”

Kenneth blinked, surprising rooting him in place. Thorn had designed it that way because of him. Kenneth’s thoughtless words a month ago, even after all that had happened with Alder, came back to him. He had hurt Thorn even more than he realized.

“It’s wonderful,” he said, choosing his words with care. He had to do this right. He had to let Thorn know he wasn’t repulsed by his fake hand, not anymore, and he wasn’t repulsed by Thorn’s work.

Maybe it would be better to show it.

He moved to Thorn, pulling him close, taking in the scent and nearness of his lover. The fuzzy-headedness returned, lust mixing with his overpowering sense of magic. “You’re wonderful,” Kenneth said, and he kissed Thorn’s neck, letting his inhibitions fall. “No matter what, I want you.”

Thorn gasped when Kenneth kissed his neck, and it turned into a chuckle. “Is that you or the magic talking?”

“Me,” Kenneth said. He took Thorn’s fake hand in his, feeling the powerful metal as he lifted and pressed his lips to it. “It’s always me.”

Friday, July 11, 2014

Interview over at Julie Lynn Haye's blog!

Hey everyone! Julie Lynn Hayes, Dreamspinner author of the To the Max series and more, is hosting me today over at their blog! Check it out here!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wednesday Briefs: Freshmen Blues!

Today, we have a brief from Freshmen Blues. Think of it as a sneak peek!

Please let me know in the comments what sort of scenes and which characters you would like to see in future Wednesday briefs!

Chris waited for Skye on the edge of the quad. His nerves danced with electricity, and the familiar sensation of fluttering in his stomach increased in intensity as he caught sight of his date against the purpling evening.

He wore a black shirt trimmed with red that made his red hair stand out even more in the setting sun, and tight black pants that Chris swore must be leather. The ensemble was completed by a thick cloth choker, a band around his neck that somehow made him look more, not less, masculine.

He was gorgeous. Chris shivered with a combination of nervousness and anticipation as Skye approached.

“You look nice, Chris,” Skye said. A flash of warmth and heat went through him.

“You too.”

“C’mon,” Skye said. He put a hand on Chris’ shoulder, heat traveling from his fingertips. “The club opens at six, and I know you probably don’t want to stay out too late.”

“I…I can stay up late,” Chris said.

“Oh, I said out, not up,” Skye said with a smirk. Chris’ face heated, and he fell into step next to Skye. He had to walk slightly faster to keep up with the taller student, especially as they climbed the slight slope of the arched bridge over the river.

“You’re not skipping out on studying, are you?” Skye asked with a chuckle.

Chris shook his head, his face heating a bit at the thought of the upcoming exam. “No, not really. I mean, I guess I could always be, but—”

“Don’t worry about it,” Sky said, tilting his chin up to indicate the lamps of the city that stretched out ahead of them. “A couple more blocks and we’ll be at the club. You ever wandered around the city before? It can be dangerous if you go too far, but this close to the school it’s kind of nice. A change from the campus, which believe me, you’ll get tired of after a few more months.”

“No. I’m still kinda getting used to things, I think, even at Creekville.” Chris turned, noticing that the campus was dark in the distance now compared to the twinkling lights of the small city. Past the bridge, street lamps lit their way and light glowed from buildings. In the distance, a red light flashed on the tip of a tower, probably to direct landing planes.

Just another place that was bigger than his old hometown. He really had come far.

“Sometime during the day, you should explore the city and maybe the surrounding suburbs. Trust me. Knowing where the good places are will be helpful once you get sick of campus food.” Chris stiffened when Skye put a hand on his shoulder, steering him into a turn down a cheerily lit street. “This way,” he said. “It’s near that Starbuck’s.” The familiar green logo shone in the evening dimness.

As they walked, they joined a few other people, some in couples and some walking alone. A neon sign split the night, and Chris’ heart started to pound.

“This is it,” Skye said. “No drinks, of course, but you seemed like you needed a place to relax, and it’s a fun place. Better than a frat party, by far.” He grinned, and Chris nodded weakly. “We can sit and chat, or dance, whatever you’d prefer.”

Pounding music, though not as loud as the music had been at the frat party, met his ears as they entered. A man in a tight shirt nodded to Skye, and after a glance at Chris, waved them both in. Chris paused for only a moment. He had been expecting an I.D check. Then again, this wasn’t campus.

The club itself seemed to consist of two rooms. The first was the bar, where a shirtless man with a buzzcut was pouring drinks, lit with cheery light. Through a wide doorway, though, Chris could see a darkened dance floor, where another bar illuminated in blue served people who danced either alone or in groups. A DJ stand stood off to one side, the table so dark Chris couldn’t see who was manning it.

“So which would you like, Chris?” Skye said. The music pounded beneath his words, and Chris found his gaze tracking a man who danced with no shirt, very close to another man. “Dancefloor or bar?”

Dancefloor, of course. “I…I can’t really dance, but I’d like to try.”

Skye smiled, and put a hand on Chris’s shoulder, once again steering him. “I can show you,” he said.

The music wound through Chris’ body and his feet as he let Skye guide him onto the dancefloor. The room wasn’t too busy, probably because it wasn’t too late yet, but two other couples—both gay—danced too. One of them, a middle aged couple danced very close, one man resting his head on the other’s shoulder. It made Chris happy to see it. By the bar, a few men mingled, just watching the dance floor.

Then Skye was in front of him, his hands on Chris’ hips. “Move with me,” he said, and Chris did, suddenly very overwhelmed by the combination of the pulsing music, the feel of Skye’s hands, and the sensation of Skye in front of him.

It was easy to move, at least. Chris followed Skye, stepping when he did. His heart began to race, but with both excitement and anxiety this time. The room was too loud to talk, but they didn’t need to. Movement, and contact, was enough.

Chris let his worries subside, just for the moment. The songs kept changing, the beat quickening, then slowing, then quickening again, and their movements changed with it. Skye’s grip snaked down Chris’ hips, and they moved closer together, Chris’ body heating at the increased contact. He put a hand on Skye’s shoulders, and then on his hips, marveling at the fact that this was happening. In one part of his mind, he felt like an imposter. This was a gay bar. It was hard to get out of the closet he had put himself in, to realize that he wanted this, and wanted to enjoy himself.