Sunday, December 22, 2013

Remembering Christmas

The tall blond man jogged with heavy steps on the spongy earth, his breathing quick and his gaze focused. Drizzling rain mingled with fog in a fine mist that surrounded him, reminding him of the first time he had entered the city. Away from the steady glow of the lights of neon signs, darkness marked the presence of enormous trees, ones that would overtake them all in mere decades.

But for now, life remained. Aldric kept jogging, turning away from the bright white neon lights and following the perimeter of the city, the trees to his left. Roots and hardy saplings jutted from the ground under his feet.

Daniel would have to hear about those, as would the city’s new mayor, Trinia. The saplings would have to be cut quickly before the city shrank even more.

Aldric shook his head as he headed back toward the pitted roads that would take him to the house he and his lover Daniel shared. He had been here for only half a year, and already he was beginning to fall into routine.

Of course, it was better than his old life of wandering.

Memories of his time alone, and his time before that, during the war, flowed into his mind. Rather than fight it, as he always had before, he let it happen, the quiet decay of the city and the sound of his jogging feet dulling in the remembrance of his time as a soldier, and the faces of his old comrades and friends from the war. Dino had always been the only one who could run faster than Aldric when they all jogged, the taller man’s longer legs giving him an advantage. He had always called back to the others, urging them on.

All of them were gone now, Aldric the only one left. The sound of a mortar whistled in his mind.

Aldric sighed, his breath puffing in the night air. The memories still hurt, but not as much as they once had.

And now, he had Daniel.

The house they shared emerged from the misty gloom as he drew closer, and with it a strange red and green glow. Aldric slowed, his heart beating hard, and anxiety tensed his muscles. The glow undulated with the roiling mist, like lights from ambulances or headlights, which he hadn’t seen in over a decade.

“Aldric?” Daniel’s voice came through the gloom, with no trace of fear or pain. Aldric took a deep breath. Calm down. “Aldric, is that you?” Daniel called out again. “Come help me with these!”

The mists parted when Aldric approached, and his eyes widened.

“What’s the matter?” Daniel asked from his place on the deck. He held a string of multicolored lights up over his head. The rest of the string decorated the front of his house and the door to the room where he kept his computer, the lights forming giant loops. “Not a fan of Christmas lights?” he grinned.

“Its…it’s Christmas?” Aldric asked, his voice raspy and quiet. Daniel blinked, silent for a moment, and Aldric wondered if he had heard him.

“You haven’t celebrated Christmas in a long time, have you?” he asked, setting down the portion of the lights that weren’t yet hung onto the deck. His feet sent ringing thuds out into the silence of the nearby forest as he came to stand by Aldric. He took his hand, squeezing it lightly through the gloves Aldric wore. “It’s the solstice tonight. Christmas is in two days.”

Aldric peered at the lights, blues and purples and greens and reds swirling in the mist. The last time he had celebrated the holidays, it had been during the early part of the war. During the years he had wandered, the seasons had ceased to matter, the warm stickiness of post nuclear earth all anyone ever felt.

“I didn’t know people still bothered,” he said. Daniel frowned.

“Many don’t. But I do.” He touched Aldric’s shoulder, lightly massaging the muscle there. Tension melted away. “I’ve always liked Christmas. I’m not really religious, and my family never was either, but…I don’t know. The togetherness always made me happy.”

Aldric just nodded, his throat tight. The lights flickered in the evening dark, dredging up ancient memories of his family, distant hazy images of a shimmering tree and his smiling mother and father. It felt like…no, it was. It was a completely different lifetime. A time before the anarchists had killed his parents, before he had fought in the war that ended the world.

He wasn’t even angry about their deaths anymore.


Aldric cleared his throat. “Who…who do you celebrate with?”

“In the past, before, it was my family of course. Then…Blake.” Daniel’s voice dropped on the man’s name. “But the past year, I went into town, and asked others how they used to spend their holidays. They liked to talk about it.” He smiled. “Now, though…” he turned, facing Aldric, and kissed him lightly. “I have you.”

Heat began to curl like flame in Aldric’s body, and he pulled Daniel closer. His lover molded against him, his body firm. Daniel’s arms snaked around Aldric’s waist.  

“You aren’t…” Aldric’s gaze traveled to the house, to the door that led to Daniel’s machine. The array of electrodes that would record memories, and ultimately send those memories to the rest of humanity that now lived in the stars. “Do you want me to record my memories of Christmas?”

Daniel laughed, shaking his head. “No, Aldric. Those memories are important, of course. And if it’s alright with you, I will ask you later. But…” he kissed Aldric again, deeper and slower this time, his lips soft and wet. His tongue flicked against Aldric’s lips when he pulled away. “How about for now, we focus on making new ones?”

The heat in his body sharpened into desire at Daniel’s words. “I’d like that.”

“Come on then,” Daniel said with a wry smile. “To start, help me hang these up.”

Swallowing against his rising lust for the other man, Aldric nodded.

With Aldric’s help, the lights were hung in no time at all. Aldric had no eye for it, but Daniel told him how to make pleasing patterns. Soon, festive loops of color decorated the normally bland house and sent cheery beams into the misty darkness.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Daniel asked. He sighed, leaning against the porch railing. “And it doesn’t take long at all. It feels like a lifetime ago when my dad and I…” he tapped his fingers against the wood, a light staccato that reminded Aldric suddenly of a woodpecker. He hadn’t heard one of those in years. “It always took us forever. I guess because I was so young. And not as tall as you.”  He reached out and squeezed Aldric’s bicep.

Aldric moved closer, resting a hand on his shoulder. “Did you hang these last year?”

“No. This was the first year I bothered, since....” He trailed off and stood up straighter, meeting Aldric’s eyes. “A new experience for both of us, eh?”

Aldric nodded. For him, this year was incredibly different, and it was more than just because of hanging lights. “I’m glad to be here,” he said, his throat tight on the words. He wished his horrible rasping voice could be normal, like it had been before the mortar, before his injury. Daniel would never hear his real voice. “I’m glad to be with you.”

Daniel smiled, a warm breeze blowing over them both as he put his arms around Aldric and pulled him into a kiss. The gust sent some of the lights shuddering against the house, lights dancing around them both.

“Come on inside,” Daniel said, his breath hot on Aldric’s neck. “Let’s celebrate.”

Aldric blinked in the dim interior, and a smile crept over his face when Daniel turned on the lights. A small pine tree sat in a pot of water in the center of the room, and more lights like the ones outside festooned the dark green boughs.

“I know,” Daniel said with a rueful smile. “I’ll have to get rid of it soon. But I like to pretend some traditions will last.” The tiny tree didn’t even reach Aldric’s knee, but knowing the fast growing trees of the area that had taken to Overgrowth, it would double in size in mere weeks. “Tabitha over on the other side of the city sells them every year. Nothing bad has happened yet.”

“Its nice,” Aldric said, taking Daniel’s hand.

“Did you have Christmas trees, before?” Daniel asked.

Aldric nodded after a pause. “We had a large pine on our property, about a quarter mile away.” His gaze lost focus as he remembered. “Every year we would walk outside and decorate it. On Christmas mornings, we would walk out to it, first thing. My father always left one present—something the animals wouldn’t get.” He smiled, and Daniel tightened his hand around his. “The last year before the war, there were no gifts, but we decorated it anyway.” He could still remember the still, bitter cold, but also the clean, sharp scent of winter and pine. “Tradition, I guess.”

“That sounds rough, making your kid walk a quarter mile in the snow for his presents.” Daniel laughed. “Fun, though. Maybe we should do that next year.”

Aldric nodded, facing Daniel. “That would be nice.” He reached out, stroking Daniel’s face lightly with his gloved hand before leaning down for a deep kiss. “But this is nice too.”

“Mm.” Daniel deepened it, and heat flashed through Aldric. He moved his hands over Daniel, his firm body and shoulders, and he shuddered when Daniel’s soft hands moved under his shirt.

“C’mon,” Daniel said, breaking the kiss with a gasp. He took Aldric’s hand, pulling him toward the bedroom.

The cheery light of the tree cast a colorful beam into the bedroom through the doorway, and Daniel didn’t bother to turn on the lights. Aldric’s old case lay in the corner, dust gathering on top of it. He didn’t need to travel, not anymore.

Aldric let Daniel maneuver him into a sitting position on the bed, tilting his head up to kiss the other man when he stood over him. A bottle of lube sat on the nightstand. Daniel really had prepared.

Daniel pulled off his glove, and Aldric tensed before telling himself to relax.

“It’s okay,” Daniel said, pulling off the other glove. He took Aldric’s good hand, the other metal one clutching the bedsheets.  Daniel grinned. “I don’t mind it, I promise.”

Aldric nodded. Six months, and he still felt a flash of anxiety when Daniel uncovered his arm.

“Now, the shirt.” Daniel kissed his neck, and Aldric pulled away for a moment to take it off. Daniel stroked his body, avoiding the metal arm that was bolted to his shoulder. An eternal reminder of the war, of the mortar that had nearly killed him. It had taken him a long time to get used to Daniel seeing it when they were intimate. Aldric still would never touch Daniel with it.

But that didn’t matter. The past, at least the painful parts of it, didn’t matter now.

Daniel removed his shirt also, the light casting shadows on the planes of his flat stomach. Aldric’s erection surged at the sight, and Daniel laughed, moving his hands down to stroke the growing bulge. Aldric gasped, leaning forward into the touch, pleasure surging down his body and tightening his muscles.

 “Do you want me?” Daniel asked, kneeling down further and kissing Aldric’s neck. Heat built between their bodies as Aldric nodded, their mingled breathing rushing over them both.

“Tell me,” Daniel said, taking Aldric’s good hand and placing it over the bulge in Daniel’s pants. The cock was firm and twitched under his stroking fingers, Daniel letting out a hissing gasp. “Tell me you want me.”

Aldric gripped him tighter. “Yes, I want you.” Daniel unbuttoned his fly, his cock springing free, and Aldric continued stroking it with one hand, trailing his fingers over the other man’s heavy balls.

Daniel groaned, then returned the favor, cool air rushing over Aldric’s dripping cock. Aldric gasped, hips bucking, when Daniel smeared the leaking precum over the head. The bed creaked when both men moved onto it, Daniel supporting himself as he loomed over Aldric.

“Will you take me?” he asked, the words sending a spike of heat through Aldric’s core. Precum dribbled from Aldric’s cock onto his stomach. “I want you inside me this time.”

 Aldric nodded, and then spoke aloud “Yes.”

“Good.” Daniel’s smile sent a warm comfort bubbling in Aldric’s chest, and then the other man was lying beside him, his mouth on his, his body close. Aldric tensed when Daniel brushed his bad shoulder, but the dark haired man quickly moved his hand away, down to his abdomen to stroke both their erections at once. Aldric did the same, taking turns, their hands brushing together along with their cocks.

“Mmm.” Daniel hummed into the kiss, his tongue curling around Aldric’s, gasping every so often to say his name. “Aldric, yes…Aldric, so good.” His hips bucked, and pleasure curled in Aldric’s loins, tight heat and pressure building. He wanted to come, always, so quickly.

But tonight it was his turn to take Daniel.

He pulled away from the kiss, swiping his tongue over Daniel’s neck, savoring the mixed flavors of sweat and the scent of his lover. He put both arms by Daniel’s head, supporting himself on the pillows, on hands and knees above the dark haired man spread beneath him.

Pleasure surged again at the sight. Daniel was so beautiful. Shadows and the faint colored lights from the tree in the other room played over his pale skin, accentuating the strength of his muscles and the red flush on his face and neck.

Daniel laughed. “Aldric, you’re dripping on me,” he said, taking hold of Aldric’s hardened cock and giving it a light stroke. Aldric bit back a groan as more precum dribbled down onto his lover’s thighs. He needed Daniel, he wanted to come with Daniel, so badly. He reached for the lube, popping the cap open with a metal thumb and smearing it on his good hand before slicking his cock.

“Here.” Daniel took the rest, dipping his fingers in before moving them underneath himself. Aldric stopped, his cock throbbing. He was transfixed by the sight of his lover penetrating himself, preparing for him.

“I’m ready,” Daniel said, his face red and voice breathy. “Please, Aldric.” The need in his voice, in the way he said his name, sent a shudder through Aldric’s body. He leaned his weight on his metal hand, holding himself with the other, aching to enter his lover and bring them both ecstasy. He moved his hips, his cockhead pressing Daniel’s entrance.

With a sharp thrust, tight heat enveloped him, and Daniel bellowed his name. “Aldric, yes, AH!” Daniel threw his head back as Aldric shook from the effort of not thrusting more, not fighting for his climax right then and there. He panted, sweat beading on his brow, and below him Daniel gasped.

“Ngh, Aldric…you feel so big.” Daniel moved underneath him, making Aldric grit his teeth. “Yes, there, now, please!”

Aldric thrust again, Daniel’s walls tight around his cock, every movement sending pleasure and heat through his entire body. The fingers of his metal hand dug into the covers below him while he gripped Daniel’s hips with the other, helping the other man arch his back. Aldric’s thighs shuddered with every thrust.

“Mmm, harder, Aldric, there, yes, please…!” Daniel was always loud, and Aldric loved it.

The bed began to creak, in a way it usually didn’t when Daniel thrust inside him. The creak of the springs was a counterpoint to Aldric’s restrained gasps and Daniel’s loud moans, his babbles of pleasure. Aldric watched as Daniel’s tight cock bobbed in time with this thrusts, and he moved his good hand off of the other man’s hips to grasp it.

“Aldric, yes, yes, please, more!” Daniel’s legs wrapped around Aldric’s back, forcing him in deeper. Aldric thrust harder, the scent of sweat and sex filling the room. Pleasure coiled in ever tightening springs in Aldric’s body, his balls full and heavy, his cock throbbing in time with thrusts and the beat of his heart. In his hand, Daniel’s cock twitched, and he pulled on it with hard, smooth strokes, the sensation traveling through to him by virtue of watching it.

“Aldric…Aldric…” Daniel’s babbling grew breathier, turning into long gasps. Aldric’s vision glazed, his eyes focused on Daniel, his blush even redder in the Christmas lights, the scent of his sex and the sensation of him around his cock maddening.

Aldric couldn’t hold on any longer. He thrust deeply, as deep as he could go, and then his climax overtook him, his body shuddering and his cock pulsing deep inside his lover. His vision fuzzed.

“Ah, YES! Aldric!” Daniel’s words met his ears as Daniel’s erection pulsed, and hot white cum pumped onto Daniel’s neck through Aldric’s fingers. The two men shuddered together, their breathing paused in a mutual instant of pleasurable silence as they rode their orgasm.

Together they exhaled, Daniel relaxing under his hand as tension left Aldric’s body. His balls ached, and he gasped as he withdrew his softening penis.

“Come here,” Daniel said, and Aldric lay down in Daniel’s arms. Their breathing slowed as one, contentment and fatigue stealing over Aldric all at once.

“You were wonderful,” Daniel said, kissing Aldric lightly. “That was…well, that was a damn good Christmas memory.”

Aldric nodded, his throat suddenly tight.

“You’ve changed a lot since staying here,” Daniel said with another kiss. “But you’re still so quiet.”

Aldric mulled over the words. He knew Daniel meant more than just his voice. He had spent more than a few days of his years of wandering wishing for something like this, desperate for companionship, for someone to celebrate small things with. Small things like Christmas, a holiday, a time to relax and be together…he had never had it before meeting Daniel. He had been too afraid.

“I’m happy to be here,” he said finally. “And…” he swallowed against rising emotion. “I’m so glad to be with you.”

Daniel pulled him closer into a tight hug, his body warm. The cheery lights played over his smiling face, and Aldric felt more at home than he had in a long time. His bad memories were just that—memories. Now, he had his fantasy.

“Merry Christmas, Aldric.”

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Want more of Aldric and Daniel?

Hello all,

Christmas is coming up, and I figured I would gift you all with a few little short stories. This year I picked the world of Perils of Forgotten Pain, with a focus on Remembrance and Aldric and Daniel's story.

So, for a quick glimpse at Aldric's thoughts before he met Daniel, check out My scorching Christmas Fantasies post on Scorching Reviews. It will go up on the 23rd.

And on that same day, check right here for a short story about Aldric and Daniel's first Christmas together.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Enforcer's Book 4 and updates

Book 4 has been submitted! My publisher will let me know if it will be split into two novellas or not--it's 50k words!

I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving!

I may be participating in a giveaway on the M/M romance group board over on Goodreads, so stay tuned if you want to hear about a chance to get a free review copy of Remembrance! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Small Excerpt

Hey everyone!

It's getting horribly cold where I live, and there are ice and snow storms everywhere. I wanted to post something from a novel I've been working on, in a world where things like that are less common.

You can enjoy the excerpt as it is, but for context you might want to check this piece out first: First Chapter from StormLords . One thing to note--The MC here, Rowen, is mute.

The book is 28k words and counting for now! It's one of my longer projects. 


“C’mon,” Volkes said, the cool air making Rayen shiver as they stepped outside the mess. The sky had gone from pink to deep purple. “No Kristoff this evening?” 

Rowen shook his head, his face heating slightly. He didn’t want to think about Kristoff, or Kristoff visiting his village, at all. Not when he was supposed to be celebrating. 

“Hmm.” Volkes’s gaze sharpened, but he left it alone. “Fine then. We’ll get an early start.” He broke into a wide grin, his teeth visible. “I’ll make it worth your while. C’mon.” 

Rowen followed Volkes, tracing the now familiar path back to their shared house. Rowen wished he could ask about Volkes’ training, maybe get some information about what to expect for his own. Elise was talkative, but had never sensed her own magic yet, and Sharon was usually away. Rowen didn’t know where. 

Volkes didn't offer anything as they walked, and the first few stars began to appear in the sky. Rowen shivered again as another cool breeze blew, bringing with it the still strange scents of deep forest and the salty edge of what Rowen knew must be the ocean. He wished he could see it again. Maybe tomorrow, with no need to study, he could explore the island itself some more. 

“Enjoying yourself?” Volkes dug into his pocket for his key, pulling out a keyring. Rowen wondered what the others were for. “Not used to it all yet?” 

Rowen gave a sheepish smile and shook his head as they walked up to the front door. No lights shone from the windows of their shared house. 

“It took me a while too when I first came here. I was ten.” Rowen hadn’t expected that. “In the north, where I’m from, we didn’t have quite this much forest and greenery. Certainly not the varieties you’re seeing here.” He lit the torches inside, skipping every other in the main hall and not bothering with the sitting room. “It was mostly snow and cold. Heat spells were different--when the snow started melting, we knew the storm would come.” 

Rowen raised his eyebrows, hoping Volkes would keep talking. He wanted to know what snow was. 

Instead Volkes headed up the stairs, keeping the lamp lighter in his hand. “C’mon, Rowen.” His blond hair gleamed in the dim light. “Come up to my room. I want to give you something to help you celebrate.” He grinned. “Ever had Darsean beer?”

Rowen paused on the first step. He was beginning to realize what kind of celebration Volkes may have in mind, espeically since there was no one else in the house with them. The blond northerner waved the lamp lighter, the small flame on the end dancing. “C’mon, Rowen.” 

            Sking prickling with unease and no small amount of anticipation, Rowen headed up the stairs and into Volke’s room, waiting in the doorway while Volkes lit one sconce in the corner. Volkes had a window, the untied curtains fluttering in the breeze. The covers on his bed were rumpled, and clothes and books lay strewn on the floor. Rowen carefully stepped inside. Volkes had more things on his floor than Rowen had ever owned in his life.

 Elise’s words from his first meeting with her came back to his mind as Volkes opened his dresser drawer and pulled out two glass bottles, holding them aloft. The light from the sconce shone through the clear liquid. “I got this from the Darsean traders. Best stuff there is.” No one had ever mentioned Darseans to him, and Rowen tilted his head. 

“The traders.” Volkes shook his head with a snort. “How do you think our island gets supplies? The Darseans are seagoers. Live and die on ships. Apparently heat spells destroyed their home country way back. Undispellable ones.” He waved a hand. “They’re the only ones who can come to the Storm Lord’s island, and Storm Lords are respected in their culture. They ship food and supplies to the island from around the world.” Rowen nodded. Suddenly the plethora of foods in the mess hall made sense.  “You can ask Sharon more about them if you’re curious. She’s Darsean.” 

Rowen gave a weak smile. As soon as he could write, he would. He also wanted to know more about undispellable heat spells, but Volkes tossed him the glass bottle before he could figure out a way to ask. 

“Well? You know where it comes from now. Try it.” Volkes grinned, popping his bottle open with his thumb. 

Rowen followed suit, the strange wooden top falling off onto the floor. He almost moved to pick it up, but Volkes waved a hand. “Forget it. Just try it.” 

His tongue curled at the taste, and he tilted his head back, letting the fiery liquid fall down his throat. It burned immediately, and he swallowed it down fast, coughing a few times. The aftertaste was smooth and cloying, with a root-like flavor Rowen could not identify. 

            Volkes whistled. “Wow. You didn’t gag or anything. I’m impressed.” Volkes tilted his head back and downed a portion of his own bottle, then stood up and set it down on the dresser. Rowen’s skin buzzed as the blond came so close Rowen could smell the Darsean beer on his breath.

            “So, Rowen. You want to celebrate or what?” 

It suddenly occurred to him what Volkes meant, his words about men and men who liked men flashing through his mind.  

A chill breeze blew through the window, but it wasn’t the cold that sent goosebumps down Rowen’s neck. He had never been with any man, with anyone at all. Was Volkes the one he wanted as his first? 

Kristoff came to his mind then, and with him the anxieties of the coming few days. No. He didn't want that, not now. 

“Rowen? Do you want to celebrate with me or not?” Volkes asked again, his tone more demanding this time. He reached out and took Rowen’s wrist, his grip firm. “Yes or no?” 

He looked so much like Lucas, and yet not. Rowen’s mouth went dry, his heart speeding up at the thought of finally doing something about the desires that had plagued him since he had first seen the blacksmith’s son. His desires for men, the ones his father had told him to be careful about. 

But that didn’t matter here. This was Rowen’s new life. It was normal. Even Kristoff liked men. 

Rowen gave into his feelings, his eyes leaving Volkes’ face and roving over his body. Warmth began to suffuse Rowen, curling up his spine and quickening his breath. Volkes smirked. 

“Yes, right?” He reached up to Rowen’s chin. “Either you are the lightest weight in history, or just really easy.” Rowen wasn't sure he liked his words, but they ceased to matter when Volkes’ lips met his. 

He had heard girls in the village giggling about such things, and boys and young men describing how soft girls’ lips were. Volkes’ were soft, but Rowen felt the tiny pinpricks of stubble, and Volkes moved his lips in such a way that Rowen was guided to copy it, molding his mouth against the other man’s. Volkes pulled with his kiss, as if nibbling on Rowen’s lips, and the sensation sent the curling heat into a burning flame. 

“Do you want any more beer?” Volkes asked, breaking apart and leaving Rowen breathless. He shook his head, letting Volkes take the bottle from his hand and place it on the floor. The blond smirked. 

“Have you ever been with anyone?” When Rowen didn’t respond immediately, he clarified. “Have you ever fucked anyone?” Rowen blushed hot. 

“Well?” He moved forward, so fast that Rowen stepped back, bumping against the wall. Volkes put a hand on his chest, then trailed it lower, his lips turning up further as Rowen squirmed. He was hard now, his erection uncomortably confined, and he knew it was obvious. 

“Answer me. Am I going to be your first?” He didn’t move, his hand motionless an inch above the bulge in Rowen’s pants. 

For a moment, Kristoff flashed through Rowen’s mind, and he pushed the thought away. He nodded. 

Volkes broke into a victorious smile. “I am going to make you feel good.”

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Echoes Of Balance review!

Remember the book I posted a few days ago? I finished it, and now here's a review! 

Echoes of Balance, by Cally Ryanne 


To begin, I’ll be honest and say I don’t read YA paranormal that often. I am a M/M erotica author, after all. I’m familiar with the heavy hitters, of course, and I dip into the genre on occasion, but typically I don’t find myself too interested in YA that has paranormal romance elements and I would not call myself well read in the genre by any stretch of the imagination. However, I was intrigued by the chance to read the first book released by a new publisher.

I was also pleasantly surprised. Echoes of Balance is an enjoyable book and one with a lot of strengths, including wonderful worldbuilding, generally strong characterization, and a plot that has just enough mounting tension to keep you sucked in. I’ll try to avoid spoilers in this review.

Let’s start with the book description. Echoes of Balance focuses on Chloe, one of the Naimei. The Namei are a paranormal race dedicated to preserving balance, and do this by using the Ways, a set of instruments that point to where trouble may be looming. Chloe isn’t too interested in the ways, having been interested in hunting vampires for most of her life, but when she injures herself and realizes that vampires are more than just mindless bloodsuckers, she refocuses and gets pulled into preventing the resurrection of two very powerful demons. To do that, she has to keep track of Aurelia, a girl in high school who somehow is pivotal to the demon’s resurrection.

Clearly there is a lot going on in the book, but the author, Cally Ryanne, does a good job keeping track of all the threads and tying up the important things by the end. The tension mounts as the book goes on, from Chloe meeting Josef and Sam, two vampires who she suspects more and more have something to do with the demon summoning, to Aurelia who displays strange powers, and even to Ducante, a demon who runs a bar and clearly knows more than he is letting on. It’s not quite a page-turner, but the mounting mystery kept me reading. There are also a lot of hints scattered throughout the book about Chloe and her family that suggest the series will only get more complex and interesting as it goes on.

The only weakness in the plot was the strange prologue. It hammers you over the head with mysteriousness and characters you know nothing about, so it falls rather flat. But it’s only a few pages, and then the story picks up quite quickly after that.

I’ll focus on the world-building for a bit. It’s hard to do paranormal justice these days, but the Naimei, the race that our MC Chloe belongs to, are a very neat paranormal species. I loved the idea of the Vanishing—that the Naimei, rather than die of old age, simply vanish with no explanation when their time comes. It was a wonderful bit of mystery and made the Naimei feel as alive and unique as any other paranormal creature. And this world has quite the menagerie—shifters, vampires, psychics, witches, and of course, demons. (I feel I should mention—no worries for those who are sick of vampires. The vampires here are fairly traditional, with enhanced strength and speed, a weakness for blood, and not much else. No sparkling, otherworldly beauty, or any other such things). It was also a boon to the story that the paranormal elements were absolutely integral to the plot. This was no YA high school romp with vampires thrown in for flavor, it was a supernatural adventure that happens to dip into high school. It reminded me a bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in its tone.

That said, the high school elements did fall a bit flat for me. Their were a lot of fairly cliché elements to them, including the bullies who are bullies for no reason, the fact that everyone in school decides Chloe is the coolest thing ever and should be Spring Fling Queen despite only attending the school for a week, and of course the whole idea of Spring Fling in the first place. Those high school elements made me feel like I was watching an episode of Saved by the Bell. Luckily, though, this is only a minor complaint since the high school elements, as I mentioned before, are not a huge part of the action. They also do get resolved with minimal teen angst and drama, which is appreciated.

Turning to characterization, I really liked the MC. Chloe is not a shrinking violet nor is she overly snarky like some other YA heroines, and not only knows how to use her powers but appreciates what they can do for her. For the protagonist of a YA book, Chloe is very mature in a lot of important ways, and her self-discovery takes the route of her finding a new way to focus her powers (from hunting vampires to fulfilling her family’s goals) and learning more about the paranormal world around her. She does have a few flaws, like not being as open with her family as she should, but all in all she was a strong character that I respected.

The supporting cast is good too. Chloe’s family were well fleshed out and defined, and the two love interests/vampires, Josef and Sam, were well characterized. I will admit to a preference of Sam over Josef, as I’m sick of the “overbearing jerk” love interest that pops up a lot in YA and Josef fit that to a T. Sam, the youthful vampire, had a kind of puppy-ish charm that I appreciated. The only real weakness in the cast was Aurelia, the high school girl that Chloe had to keep track of. She was interesting and we see a lot of good commentary into teen life through her character, but for a character who may end up being very important to future books, she could have used a bit more screen time.

I figure I should add that while I mention love interests, the romance was not a huge part of the book. Most of it was the ever-rising mystery and tension, which to me was a plus.

And as a final plus, the book was well written. Even for an ARC, I didn’t see much in the way of errors. The author tends toward a “telling” approach to some scenes in the interest of either time or reducing word count that I thought could have benefited from being shown, especially scenes with Aurelia where we might have gotten to see more of her home life or personality. This is a minor quibble, though, as clearly the way it was done did a lot for maintaining tension and keeping the pace quick.

To wrap, while not stunningly perfect, Echoes of Balance is a fun, enjoyable supernatural romp with strong characters and a well developed world that I’d be glad to see more of. I’d definitely recommend this for fans of YA or YA paranormal stories, fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and anyone else who enjoys a fast paced fantasy.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Got my hands on a cool book

So you can get some cool things by chatting with people on Twitter. When I'm not writing stories about cyborgs and mages and super powered students in college, I'm reading--and I got the chance to do an advance read and review of Echoes of Balance, a book by Cally Ryanne and published by a brand new start up publisher, Reuts Publications!

It's kind of exciting to read the very first book published by a new company! If you're curious about Echoes of Balance, check back in a few days for an in depth review.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Freshmen Blues on hold for a bit

Hey everyone,

So I'm going to put Freshmen Blues on hold for a little while. I'll be taking down all but the first few chapters.

Don't despair! I am super grateful for those people who have commented on it, and I'm glad I was able to share it. But I don't want to leave it up forever.

There are two major reasons why:

1. It started as an experiment, but I think it could go places. The story has taken off in my head. I don't want to post the entire thing on the blog since then it won't be publishable.
2. As a result of how it started, it needs editing. Badly. There are stupid typos already, and I want to hold off on posting more so I avoid posting really bad mistakes, like plot holes or other such things. I've had to back and change minor things in the earlier chapters, and if I add on more parts without changing things readers will just get confused.

Again, though, don't be sad. I know I'm halting just as things heat up, but you will see this story again, in a better form, and I will continue posting small excerpts here and there. And once it's complete, I might decide to post it for free once more depending on how things go. But it needs too much editing right now for me to feel comfortable leaving it up.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Changed layout again!

The red was a good autumn theme, but it was kind of harsh. Plus its cold now, so a nice soothing blue works better.

Book 4 of Enforcers is complete! I'm going to be editing it over the next month. Expect a sneak peek soon!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

New project--Sneak Peek

So I'm starting a new project in between working on Book 4 of Enforcers and Freshmen Blues. It's a bit different than my usual fare, though.

Check out the first 1k below and let me know what you think! Everything is very much up in the air at this point. Do you like the 1st person perspective, or should I stick to 3rd?


The man my master had commanded us to kill stood on the other side of the river, his wagon creaking as the wooden wheels began to roll over the bridge. The man was merely a shadow, even to my enhanced eyesight, silhouetted against the orange harvest moon.
            To my left, another of us chattered her teeth, her fangs emerging from her lips. My own stomach growled at the thought of food, the warm blood that would gush from the man’s veins and feed us. Master never fed us enough.
            Of course he didn’t. If he did, we wouldn’t be nearly as effective. The thought dulled some of my excitement, and I licked my lips, my fangs receding.
            The wagon moved slowly, the horses straining to pull it over the arched bridge. There were two, both with dark colored coats. One wore a frayed blanket, and the other limped as though its shoes fitted improperly. The man was clearly no wealthy merchant.
            One of us hissed, a sibilant, high pitched sound that only ones like us could hear. An answering hiss came from the bushes near the river.
            The lead horse flicked an ear, and the man in the wagonseat shifted his weight.
            As soon as the first horse set foot on the grassy bank, the one to my left attacked. Four others joined her, dark shapes against the light of the moon swarming toward the animals and their pumping, flowing blood.
            I cursed in my mind. I had been turned too recently, and compared to them I was slow. I swallowed saliva, my fangs pricking my lower lip, and leaped forward, dashing through the forest.
            Then light flooded the trees.
            The four who had run ahead first screamed, their hissing drowned out by the sizzling of bodies exposed to solar light. I ducked behind a tree, screwing my eyes shut, the heat of the light prickling on my skin.
            This was no weak man the master had sent me to take revenge on for some social slight. This was a vampire hunter.
            And I was just a thrall.
            The light died, fading to a dull orange glow of the first light over the horizon. A solar flare would work once and couldn’t be used again for at least a day. I knew that, from…somewhere. My life before, I supposed.
            My muscles tensed when the man spoke, a word to his horses or perhaps just to himself. The man was mine. The other thralls were dead. I would kill the hunter, take all his blood for myself, and the master would reward me. Me, his newest servant. The command tightened my muscles further and pounded in my head, my master’s words—Kill.
            I peered out from the edge of the trees, my vision sharpening with bloodlust. The man’s heart beat in a slow, steady rhythm. The light on the wagon made my eyes water, even used up as it was, but it couldn’t hurt me.
            The hunter sat, a gun across his lap. He wore tight leather trousers, and my gaze lingered over his muscular thighs. For a moment I imagined more than just blood.
            The thought died quickly. Since my master had turned me, any lust but lust for blood never lasted.
            The man had light brown hair, though it looked red in the fading light of the solar flare. Dark eyes scanned the forest, and then settled on me.
            I froze, my own thoughts tangled, my body screaming for me to take his blood. His scent, human and sweat mixed with woodsmoke and the bouquet from the village over the river, filled my nostrils.
            He raised the gun. In that moment, I knew I would die.
            My master’s orders still screamed in my brain, in my very being—Kill. I was a thrall. I obeyed. I was a servant, nothing more.
            But I knew I would die if I attacked. And I didn’t want to die.
            His horse snorted. The hunter held his gun trained on my heart. The sharp wooden stake that his gun would fire jutted from the barrel. A thrall like me would never survive it.
            I could attack. I wanted to attack, to try and sink my teeth into his veins, to obey the orders of the one who had made me what I was. My teeth ground against each other, and my fangs drew blood from my lower lip.
            Instead I turned and fled, without truly knowing why. No shot came from the forest.

            The hollowness in my gut was the first thing to break the hunger, and it took me a moment to realize that every other servant was dead.
            I hadn’t known them. It shouldn’t matter. We hadn’t even spoken, only interacting when we fought over the scraps my master gave us. Without them, there would be more for me. I should be glad.
            But happiness, like anything else, faded quickly. I fought to keep running, to ignore the command in my mind that told me to turn back and kill the man I had been ordered to kill. Doing so would be suicide.
            It was only when I entered the castle gates that I wondered if my master would be angry with me.
            The gates soared over my head, carvings of wolves seated atop the iron bars. The castle blocked the view of the mountain that overlooked it and kept it hidden from curious onlookers. Gray stone melded against dead trees.
            Inside, thousands of scents mingled, mold mixing with cold stone and dead leaves and the sharp scent of my master’s dogs. The scent of blood wound through it all, and saliva filled my mouth.
            I followed the scent, my bare feet silent on the cold stones, and found my master where the stone became plush rugs. A woman lay by the door to his room, her body shriveled. A shiver went down my spine, but faded quickly, just like every other emotion or feeling I had. The ever present hunger replaced it.
            “What are you doing here?” My master’s voice chased away everything else.
            The vampire who had made me strode closer. His blond hair was tied back with a blue ribbon, and deep red eyes met mine. He frowned, and I ducked my head, curling in on myself like a cur. I should have attacked the hunter and been done with it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

New Adult and genre

So I started Freshmen Blues as an experiment in New Adult, and I have to admit I didn't expect to enjoy it so much or to have others enjoy it as much as they seem to be. I'm very glad! And of course, writing it has made me think even more about the NA genre since my post last May.

I think the intersection of NA and speculative elements is, in a way, even more difficult than the intersection of NA and erotica. NA is a genre borne out of helping new adults today read about people like them. Maybe its the economy, or maybe its just the natural evolution of society, but today there are a lot of people between the age of 18 to 27 who don't quite know where they're going in life, or have succeeded professionally but not romantically or vice versa. They are discovering not only themselves but their place in society as a fully functioning adult. New Adult is there to address them.

So then, where does speculative elements and genres like sci fi and fantasy fit in to that? Would the exploits of a 21 year old out of mage school be comparable or relatable to a 21 year old who just graduated college but can't find a job in an economy where the unemployment rate for those under 26 is twice that of the general unemployment average? Would a paranormal story about a 22 year old half vampire trying to fit in be relatable? What about a story in a completely different universe--after all, Kenneth and Thorn are just out of their respective colleges, but I wouldn't call the Enforcer's series new adult.

Typically, when genre is the main point of the story, the story is classified as that genre. The Enforcer's series is steampunk. The main character in my favorite fantasy series, the Wheel of Time, is a teenager at the beginning of Book 1 and makes life changing discoveries about himself, but WOT is considered fantasy, not new adult. There are tons of novels out there with protagonists who fit the age range for new adult but are classified as sci fi and fantasy, and not new adult.

When the point of the story is to show someone's struggles with adulthood or gaining adulthood, having heavy genre elements is tough, especially when adulthood as a concept may change in other worlds and universes. And to add, self discovery doesn't stop at age 26--Aldric and Hermann from the Perils of Forgotten Pain series had plenty to discover about themselves and their roles as something other than soldiers, despite both characters being older. I think for something to really be classified as New Adult, there has to be something relatable and dare I say it, contemporary, in the story.

I think, at least in the current climate of new adult novels, the genre elements you can bring in would have to be light.  After all, the story in Freshmen Blues takes place in an altered earth, not a completely different universe or in the far future, like some of my other work. The things that happen to Chris in college are normal and relatable. And the main thrust of the genre elements are basically superpowers, which aren't even seen as unusual in that world, and are in fact how people get the best jobs. It's more like magical realism than anything else.

It also lends itself well to the themes of NA. After all, NA is about self discovery. What epitomizes that better than discovering one's true passion and mastering a super powerful skill related to it? I'm surprised there aren't more NA stories out there that have more traditional superhero plotlines, to be honest.

Of course, those are just my thoughts. If you have any thoughts about new adult and genre, feel free to say so in the comments.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Freshmen Blues update!

Hello all,

Today we have a new update for Freshmen Blues--Chapter 17!

Also, the first of my new print books will be Perils of Forgotten Pain and The WaterLord trilogy! No release date yet, but I am already preparing extra content for Perils, mostly editing and adding to the story I posted here.

I'm also working on Book 4 of the Enforcer's series, which is running a bit long. It might end up split into two 20k word novellas.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Which books would you like to see in print?

So my publisher is offering to put books in print. Woohoo! Now, to decide which series to start with...

The print books will be full length books, so novellas will be put together. Some options:

The WaterLord trilogy, all together in one book.

Perils of Forgotten Pain + Remembrance. I would edit this one, and add in a couple extra stories, too, both of which have been on this blog. :)

The first three books of the Enforcer's series.

Which would you prefer to see?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Friday, September 27, 2013


Anyone not familiar with the video game world is probably wondering what the heck that title means.

Does this help at all?

Yep, it's a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. And it's a ton of fun, at least for a short time.

For a long time, World of Warcraft (WOW) has been the king of MMOs. But just recently, Square Enix released Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn, which has a lot of the same mechanics from WOW but updates it with character art that's actually realistic and well done. Compare this:

To this:

It's surprising what a different aesthetics can make. I wouldn't mind that guy on a book cover!

Anyway, I have a Mi'quote on the Zalera Server. I don't play too often, but so far my questing has gone well.

Anyone else out there play MMOs? :D

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sunday, September 15, 2013

New Release: First Mission!

Today, First Mission, the third book in the Enforcer's series, is available!

Check it out!

Available here!

  Kenneth and Thorn have become Enforcers, those who keep the peace, monitor major societal changes, and if necessary, hunt down criminals. Luckily, their first mission seems easy. They must explore a new alchemy school, meet with the governor of the local village, and determine if the school’s presence has upset the local population of people who cannot use magic at all. As a talentless himself, Thorn especially is concerned. He knows the inequality the talentless face in a world ruled by mages, and he is anxious to see how he will fare as an Enforcer.

    When they arrive, the governor is friendly enough. But as Kenneth and Thorn begin to explore the school and surrounding village, they find signs of something far more serious than simple friction between the talentless and the magi. Students at the alchemy school displays feats of magical strength far beyond what Kenneth has seen before, and Thorn finds out that talentless people are disappearing. They set out to figure out what is going on—but run into problems when they meet an old enemy.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New Cover!

I got the cover for the third book in the Enforcer's Series today!

Expect a release date announcement soon!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Robocop remake?

I'm a huge fan of cyborgs in fiction, as one can probably tell from my books Remembrance and The Perils of Forgotten Pain. Affecting memories, and the body, with enhancements is a fascinating subject.

The movie that many associate with cyborgs, other than the Six Million Dollar Man, is Robocop. The 80's version was a violence filled, dark comedy that did a surprisingly good job at touching on themes of humanity with the character of Robocop and how he dealt with his memories of his human life and ultimate rebellion against those that made him. Reminds me of Herman, a little bit, from Perils.

Now, though, they're remaking the movie. I'm not sure whether to be excited or dissapointed.

Here's hoping they do the idea justice.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fall is here

And with it, cold weather. Time for school to start and summer fun to end--although lots of fun can be had indoors as well ;).

So now the blog will look a bit different. A little more cozy for the colder seasons.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Freshmen Blues update

Chapter 14 is up!

Considering some of the drunken antics I witnessed in college, Chris made out pretty well, considering. :P

(BTW--Had the votes gone to Skye, Chris would have ended up caught by the SA and in Skye's room)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Techno Tuesday and a fun image for Freshmen Blues

Some opera trance!

In other fun things, I put together a preliminary image/possible cover for Freshmen Blues.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Freshmen Blues Update!

Real quick update today! Expect another one soon.

BTW, I'm considering eventually pubbing it in an E-reader format. Probably self pubbed through Amazon. If I do, it will be edited, formatted properly, and will have extra scenes. Let me know if people would be interested in that!

Of course, we have a ways to go until the story is complete!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Anime Convention!

No song today--Haven't found any fun new stuff yet as I've been digging through my music.

In other news, though, I've turned in the edits to Book 3 of the Enforcer's series. Expect to see the cover soon!

I'll be away at an anime convention this weekend, but I will try and get the next chapter of Freshmen Blues up either before this weekend or mid week next week!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Techno Tuesday and Freshmen Blues Update!

Chapter 12 of Freshmen Blues is up!

Today's song is a remix of Sweet Caroline.

Expect the next chapter of Freshmen Blues to teach you all how to play a popular drinking game. ;)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Techno Tuesday

Hey all,

Here's a song that always makes me think of the beach...which, incidentally, is where I went last weekend and where I'll go this coming weekend!

Its funny--different climates and and parts of the world always inspire different ideas. Visiting a beach obviously makes me think about The WaterLord Trilogy, which takes place on a world of oceans and islands. Visiting urban areas makes me think more along the lines of sci fi, like Alpha or Perils of Forgotten Pain. Deep forests remind me of other projects I'm working on, and suburban areas remind me of Chris over at Creekville University.

Its important to get out there and see the world if you want to write!

Monday, July 15, 2013

1st Person Erotica

One of my many projects involves the story of a young man in a medieval setting who uses his powers over the will of others to try and record history. He is forbidden to interact with the people he records. Unfortunately for him, the Prince he intends to document is immune to his powers and sees him.

The story is still in the early stages, but its unique among my erotic works in that its all from the 1st person perspective of Keld, the main character. I haven't seen too many erotica novels that are from the 1st person, so its strange to try and do. Definitely fun and enjoyable, but strange.

Anyway, here's a very small snippet. Keld tends to get frustrated just watching all the time. ;)

I could not erase Binden from my mind. Perhaps it was from being so close to him, or perhaps it was just lust from having watched the same subject all day. Maybe my control really was failing. But as soon as I returned to my room, instead of looking at the books I took myself in hand.

            Regret filled me even as I began to stroke, my lust flaring high with each movement of my hand around my thick shaft. I shoudn’t be doing this. I was a magician. Only weak magicians fell prey to desires of the body. Only…weak…

            I let it go, my eyes fluttering shut. There was no other way. If I could not fight back the desire, giving into it would ease it. I hadn’t done this in a long time, but maybe that was part of the problem.

            My mind turned to images of Binden, fuzzy images of sweat dripping down his body and thighs and over his rear. They were fleeting, a cavalcade of images framed by my lust, and I drew up a fantasy of Binden’s hands on me, of his body against mine. I began to gasp, moving my hand faster. I wanted this. No, I needed this. I grit my teeth, choking back a moan. Soon, it approached the point where I could not have stopped even if my master had entered the room.

            My climax made me shudder, and I didn’t even have the presence of mind to reach for a cloth before the result of my weakness spattered over my fingers and on the sheets of my bed. As soon as I stopped pulsing, I groaned in a mixture of relief and shame.
In other news, I am also working hard on Book 4 of the Enforcer's series-Book 3 is submitted and I'll let everyone know the release date as soon as I know it. I also plan to release the next chapter of Freshmen Blues within the next two weeks. :)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Techno Tuesday and a question for fans of Freshmen Blues

Alright, first the question, for Freshmen Blues fans: Who do you like more, Skye or Frederick? Your answers may determine...something. :P If I get no answers, I'll just go with what I originally planned.

And for today's song, we have a blast from the past:

I was about 4 or 5 when I watched that show. :)

Also, keep an eye out for an updated reviews page in the next few days! I'm drowning in reviews. :D

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Techno Tuesday and book of the month poll!

A bit nerdy, but this remix of the Temple of Time theme from the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is amazing.

Anyway, both "Noble Magic" and "The Exam" from the Enforcer's series are up in a book of the month poll over at the TBR Pile! Give either one a vote if you enjoyed them!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Freshmen Blues Update

Chapter 11 is posted! Enjoy!

Also, I expect lots of parties this weekend, since DOMA has been struck down! :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sneak Peek at First Mission: The Enforcers Series, book 3!

Kenneth groaned as he was jostled hard against the side of the carriage. The plush velvet interior didn’t do much to cushion him.
            “Blast it, can’t the driver slow down?!” he shouted. The steady clop of the horse’s hooves didn’t change. They had been in the damn carriage nearly constantly for two days, and he was tired of it. The promise of their journey ending soon didn’t do much to console him.
            His lover put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. The brunette was grinning as he looked past Kenneth and out the window. “It’s the roads, is all. Cobblestones look nice but don’t do much to make a smooth ride, and there are probably pits in the road. Besides,” Thorn raised an eyebrow as he met Kenneth’s eyes, “most cabs I rode in were nowhere near this nice, and our roads were a lot worse.”
            Kenneth sighed, dropping his gaze to the cushions. “I know. It’s just—damnit!” Another jolt threw him against Thorn.
            The inventor grabbed him, placing strong hands around his thigh and shoulder. “I know a way to distract you from the rough ride,” he whispered huskily into the mage’s ear.
            A pleasurable heat flashed through Kenneth’s body, and he loosened in Thorn’s arms. “Oh?”
            Thorn chuckled, licking Kenneth’s earlobe, and the blond shuddered. “It’s too bad we’re here,” Thorn whispered.
            “Here we are, M’lord,” a voice called from outside, and Kenneth sat up quickly, straightening his robes over his burgeoning erection. The door swung open, the driver dipping into a half bow. “Edge of the town of Elesborough.” Gray skies and a flat road waited outside the carriage, a stone building visible in the distance.
            Kenneth’s face heated as he flipped the driver more coins than necessary. “Thank you, sir,” the driver said. He didn’t leave the bow until Kenneth left the cab.
            Kenneth mumbled a few words, and their luggage floated down from the top of the carriage. “That will be all,” Kenneth said.
            The driver tipped his hat to Kenneth, not making eye contact. He took his place in the driver’s seat, snapping the reins as Thorn left the cab. Then he spat at the inventor’s feet.
            Thorn’s eyes widened and he turned to the carriage as it lurched away. The driver didn’t look back.
            Kenneth’s stomach lurched. He had seen that before from talentless, those who resented him for his status as a mage and his wealth.
            But Thorn….he wasn’t used to it. “It’s nothing,” he said, hating the stricken look on his lover’s face. “He didn’t know you’re…” he was about to say “one of them,” but didn’t. “Talentless also,” he finished instead.
            “Right.” Thorn’s expression smoothed. “He must have just assumed I’m another mage.” Kenneth didn’t know why that was as relieving as it was, but didn’t question it.
            “Well, let’s go,” Kenneth said. “We’re staying with the governor, and he’ll inform us of the situation here.” Kenneth muttered a few words, their luggage floating into place behind them.
            It was time to start their first mission. Kenneth hoped it would be as easy as Liliana had seemed to think.  
            Droplets of rain began to fall from a cloudy sky as they walked down a puddled path. Kenneth licked his lips, the water tasting of dust as if it had been in a cup set out in an old house for far too long.
            “Its awfully isolated here,” Thorn said, avoiding a puddle in his path. “Why does he live so far from the actual town? That’s probably not a good sign.”
             “I make no judgments on that until we assess the situation,” Kenneth said.
Thorn snorted. “You sound like you’ve been doing this for years, not minutes.” He jumped over another puddle, water splashing the low floating luggage. “Think about things as you go. We are assessing the situation, right now. I don’t see any sign of anyone—no residential talentless houses, no buildings, and only one road. I see a governor that isolates himself from the town he is supposed to be governing. That implies a lot of things.”
Kenneth broke into a smile. “Alright. You’re right.” He loved how smart his lover was. “What does it imply?”
“Well, if I were a talentless living here, I would either be one of two things—fearful of a governor who is so high above me that he lives far away, or I would completely disregard him. That we won’t know until we explore the town.”
“Well, we have to explore the governor’s house first.” The road grew flatter and more well maintained as they approached the house.
“Not as impressive as the Victeni mansion, is it?” Thorn said, craning his neck. Kenneth had to agree.
It was certainly nice, and far better than most dwellings people lived in. But at only two stories and stretching for only about a hundred feet, it was no mansion. Cozy for a family, large for one man, but not what Kenneth had expected.
 As they drew near the door Kenneth spoke a quiet word to the aether, one Liliana had taught him before they left.
“What?” Thorn said. “What is it?”
“The wards,” Kenneth said. “they—“
The wooden doors swung open, Thorn jumping in surprise. Cheery light glowed from within.
“Greetings!” A young man stood on the edge of the doorway, waving them inside. “Come in, come in! You are the Enforcers, yes?” He spoke quickly, his bright blue eyes flicking from Kenneth to Thorn and back.
“I am Enforcer Victeni,” Kenneth answered. The man swallowed quickly. Kenneth was used to that reaction when people heard his surname, but he guessed in this case it was due to the title.
“And I am Enforcer Thorn.”
Kenneth waited for the question about Thorn’s last name, but it didn’t come. “I am Marle, a student living here with governor Thralten.”
“Student of what?” Thorn said.
“Alchemy.” He said after a pause. Thorn caught Kenneth’s gaze. A student at the new school. Interesting. “I also serve as the governor’s secretary and assistant.”
“Greetings, Marle.” Kenneth spoke without meeting the man’s eyes. He was an Enforcer and would not defer to an assistant. “I will speak with you at a later date, but where is Thralten? I assume he would have been expecting us.” There was no one else in the foyer at all, and no sign of either the governor or of any servants. Interesting.
“Oh…” Marle stepped out of the way as the last of their luggage floated through the door. “He is away. In the town, I presume.”
“Doing what?” Thorn asked.
Marle stared at Thorn’s clockwork hand without answering, his brows knit together. “Well?” Kenneth pressed.
“He left me here to greet you!” Marle burst, his voice wavering. “He does routine checks of the town—hearing grievances, meting out punishments, that sort of thing. He may be at the local alchemy school, where he serves as headmaster. That is where I attend when I am not here, and I take extra lessons with him in my free time. He’s a fantastic alchemist.” He paused again, and when neither Kenneth nor Thorn responded he waved a hand. “I…if you want I can take you there, but would you like to see your room first?” He looked back and forth once again. “You are lifemates, yes? One room is enough?”
Thorn smirked. “Yes. One room will do just fine.”
“Right this way.” Marle spoke the aetherword for light, and a glowing orb winked above his head. There were no wires or outlets for electric lights. No talentless servants then.
Had he figured out Thorn was talentless? Probably not. Kenneth kept quiet, merely observing as Marle led them through the house.
“Your room is through this hall here, on the ground floor. Thralten’s room is right above yours. Mine is in the basement.” The orb over his head grew brighter, sweeping up onto the ceiling as they walked. The interior was painted blue, the carpet plush. Kenneth looked back over his shoulder, a table and chairs still visible from a room on the other side of the entranceway.
“Does Thralten hold council here?” Kenneth asked.
“No, never. Can you imagine? This house is for his personal use—and for guests, of course.” Marle pushed open a door, revealing a spacious room with two well-made beds. Kenneth wrinkled his nose at the smell of dust.
“I know it may not be the accommodations Enforcers are used to,” he said sheepishly, “but if you’d like you can elect to stay at the council house in town. You’d be near talentless though.”
Thorn laughed aloud. Marle raised both eyebrows.
“This will be fine. Although I do look forward to exploring the town tomorrow,” Kenneth said, smiling as Thorn’s stifled chuckles started to become infectious.
“Excellent. I will….ah…”
“Leave us for now. But please do let us know when Thralten returns.”
“Of course!” Marle bowed, then let himself out.
Thorn waited for a few seconds after the door clicked shut before flopping onto the bed nearest the door and guffawing. “Oh, wow. ‘You’d be near talentless’?” He sat up, kicking off his boots and fingering the cuffs of his silk shirt. He looked like a rich talentless merchant. “I know I’m wearing these awful fancy clothes, but I thought the hand would clue him in.”
Kenneth chuckled. “I can’t really blame him. Who ever heard of a talentless lifemate?” Thorn grinned back at him, brown eyes twinkling.
Kenneth’s grin faded as he considered the flighty assistant. If he really thought that way… “We’re supposed to look for any problems from the governor or the town, and especially problems with the new school. An assistant who thinks like that…” he sat down on the bed next to Thorn, letting out a tired sigh. “It’s not good.”
“It’s not good, no,” Thorn said. He put his hand over Kenneth’s. “But I’m used to magi like that. It’s awful, but… it’s not breaking any laws, either.” His mouth twisted.
“Liliana said to look for signs of tension. We’ve found several already.”
“And perhaps when we report it the council will replace him. Odd that she said that Thralten was the only mage governing here, though. Who’s this Marle? Must be new.”
            Kenneth frowned, resting his chin in his hands. “He’s only an assistant, but it’s a good point. Assistants are usually groomed to succeed, and Liliana didn’t mention Thralten being an alchemist, either.” Kenneth’s mind buzzed. Their first assignment, and already there were a lot of things to keep track of. He couldn’t mess this up.
            “Hey. Look at me.” Thorn’s commanding tone chased away the weight of the mission, and he met the inventor’s eyes.
            “This is an easy assignment. We just have to report what we see back to Liliana. Just relax, explore, and write down our observances. There’s no need to be tense, because so far nothing is really wrong, right?” Thorn snaked an arm around Kenneth’s shoulders, pulling him closer. “Let’s have you relax.” Thorn’s eyes grew darker. “I didn’t like being interrupted in the cab.”
            Oh. A slow burning tightness began in Kenneth’s loins as he stiffened. “You didn’t?”
            “No. I didn’t.” Thorn broke into a wicked grin. “It frustrated me. So you’re going to suck me off.”
            Oh, by the aether did Kenneth love it when Thorn talked to him like that. “Yes. Yes I will.”
            “Forget about that little jerk Marle and about Thralten.” Thorn’s hands moved to his pants as he spoke, quickly undoing the buttons of his fly. Kenneth kept his eyes riveted on the growing bulge there. “Right now, your only job is this.” He freed his cock, the organ already thickening. A shudder went through Kenneth as Thorn stroked himself, pulling back the loose foreskin and revealing the glistening head. “Do you want it?”
            “Yes.” Kenneth’s mouth filled with saliva, and he swiped his tongue over his lips. “Yes please.”
            “Then suck me. Now.” Thorn’s words pulled like hot lips on Kenneth’s cock, and he leaned down as his lover commanded.
            Kenneth knew he was strange. He was a noble mage. It was odd to be so turned on by someone else controlling him, someone else commanding him.
            But as knelt between Thorn’s legs, relishing the other man’s hand shoving his head down, he didn’t care.
            Thorn’s cock was thick in his mouth, Kenneth taking him as far as he could. He whined, tilting his head underneath Thorn’s hand, and more pleasure flashed through him when the man got the message and pinned Kenneth’s head in place with both hands, lightly shoving him further down on his cock. Kenneth moaned around Thorn’s erection, his lips tickled by the hairs on Thorn’s balls. He writhed his tongue around the base and bobbed his head, sucking hard with his lips.
            Thorn was a quiet lover, but Kenneth wrung a gasp out of him when he swallowed around the cock in his mouth. He pulled his head back just slightly against the resistance of Thorn’s hands and explored the other man’s foreskin with his tongue. Thorn shoved him back down, thrusting his hips and forcing himself down Kenneth’s throat.
            It was so much, too much. Kenneth’s hips bucked, and he began to stroke himself through his robes.
            “Hands on me,” Thorn growled, and Kenneth moaned again, his erection dribbling precum as he stroked his lover’s balls with both hands. His hips thrust against air, and he whined his frustration and desire around Thorn’s cock. Thorn’s brown eyes met his searching gaze, and the inventor blinked slowly, his soft lips open. His tongue flicked out of his mouth, another gasp leaving his lips.
            “Enough,” he commanded, and Kenneth released him immediately. He waited to see if Thorn would start spurting, but instead the other man took a few quick breaths, his hands making fists on the bedcovers.
            “On the bed.” He stood and pointed, Kenneth tearing his eyes away from the vision of Thorn’s thick erection with effort. “On your back.”
            The bed was not as soft as the plush featherbeds Kenneth was used to, but the discomfort only added to his excitement. He wondered what it would be like if Thorn restrained him, with more than just his hands. The thought made him even harder, and he moaned again.
            “So loud.” Thorn was grinning now. “You wanted to stroke yourself, right? Do it now. For me.” He reached down and grabbed the front of Kenneth’s robes, yanking hard. Buttons scattered onto the bed as the fabric ripped and Thorn revealed what he wanted. “Get rid of these clothes. Then touch yourself.”
            Kenneth obeyed immediately, shucking the clothing and lying down naked on the bed. Thorn followed suit, standing over him.
Kenneth would never get tired of the view of his lover. Sparse brown hair trailed down a flat abdomen to his proud erection, his cock thick and balls full. His thighs were well muscled, and Kenneth let himself fantasize about all the times Thorn had pounded into him as he began to stroke himself. He never closed his eyes, watching his lover’s reactions carefully. He stroked himself faster, beats of pleasure building and building. He wanted…he wanted…something. He needed it. Thorn had to figure it out.
His lover knelt over him, his gaze traveling up and down Kenneth’s body, lingering on the motion of the mage’s hand. The inventor’s quick breaths washed over the mage, a rejuvenating wash of heat, and Kenneth stroked faster.
Then Thorn moved away, kneeling on the bed next to Kenneth’s head. His thick erection hovered over Kenneth’s face.
“Please,” Kenneth moaned.
“Please what?” Thorn began to stroke himself too, the sight sending Kenneth’s hand moving faster. He couldn’t have stopped if he had wanted too. He was so close, so painfully close. Sweat dripped onto the bed.
“Please!” Kenneth moaned and gasped, not caring how loud he was. He needed to come. He wanted Thorn to touch him, to grab him, anything! He needed to know Thorn wanted him, he needed to know Thorn was enjoying himself too. He needed to please him. He gasped again, stroking his balls with his other hand while he watched Thorn jack himself off.
            “I’m coming, Kenneth.” Realization and shock hit Kenneth all at once, and he opened his mouth almost too late as Thorn’s first ribbon of cum caught him on the chin. It was hot and sudden and wonderful, and Kenneth had to shut his eyes as his own orgasm blasted through him, his body shuddering as he pulsed. More of Thorn’s cum hit his face, getting in his mouth and on his cheeks even as Kenneth climaxed on his own stomach, and he nearly cried in his pleasure and relief.
            Then Thorn’s hands were on him, soft lips against his. “Kenneth,” Thorn whispered. “Was that alright?”
            “Yes.” Kenneth shuddered as Thorn’s hand dipped lower, stroking the mage’s penis and still-sensitive balls. “That was wonderful.”
“You need to get cleaned up,” Thorn said with a chuckle, laying his head down Kenneth’s shoulder. “You’re covered.”
The word sent a residual pulse of desire through Kenneth. “Not yet. I…I liked that.” He touched his chin lightly, Thorn’s cum having cooled on his face. He licked his fingers. “I really like it.”
“I’m glad,” Thorn said, snuggling closer against him. “I’ll have to find more things you might like.”