May 29, 2013
Blaise Risner laughed as he led his lover and partner, Peter Keller, back into the hotel Peter had convinced him to splurge on during their stay on Regulus. They’d spent the day browsing the infamous pleasure bazaar, and Blaise couldn’t wait to get back to their rooms so they could put their new acquisitions to good use.
He pushed open the door, stepped inside, and froze. Instead of the simple but elegant decorations that had adorned the room that morning, he stood in a boudoir that seemed to be modeled on the fabled harem of the Orion emperors. The comfortable but utilitarian bed had been replaced by, or at least hidden beneath, a mound of plushly decadent body pillows. A gauzy veil draped from the ceiling around the bedding, seeming to serve little purpose in the climate-controlled suite but to provide the opportunity for glimpsing a lover’s naked body through its shimmering folds. Scented tapers provided the room’s only light as well as adding a heady, sensual fragrance. To one side of the bed stood a tray overflowing with delicacies to tempt the palate and a flask of deep ruby liquor beside two ornately etched goblets.
Blaise automatically took a step backward, intending to check the room number. He couldn’t imagine the door opening if they weren’t in the right suite, but he knew the room hadn’t looked like this when they left that morning. The movement took him directly into Peter’s embrace. Even in his puzzlement, the feeling of those strong arms going around him heated his blood, especially since it was already on a low simmer from all the discussions over the course of the day about the different toys and all the things Peter would do to him when they had time and privacy. “Peter?”
Nudging Blaise forward gave Peter the chance to rub his arousal against his lover’s firm backside, and Blaise’s puzzlement didn’t stop him from pressing against the hard shaft. Peter indulged himself in the contact for a moment before leaning forward to nip at the side of Blaise’s neck. “Unless you want to continue this here in the hallway, I suggest moving inside.”
Blaise stepped far enough into the room for the door to close behind them. He wasn’t necessarily opposed to a bit of exhibitionism, but he’d prefer to do it in a more controlled manner. “Not that I’m complaining, but what’s with the décor?”
“You don’t like it?’ Peter cocked an eyebrow before tossing their parcel of purchases onto the bed, where it was swallowed up in the sea of pillows. “Not that I object to sharing the captain’s bunk with you on the Stallion, but I thought you might appreciate a bit more comfort tonight.”
“I’ll never say no to comfort,” Blaise replied automatically as he turned to face Peter, “and it looks amazing in here, but why tonight? Or is this just for the hell of it?”
The appreciative gleam in his partner’s eyes convinced Peter that he’d definitely plan something like this just for the hell of it at some point in the future, but he managed what he hoped was a convincing scowl. “You don’t remember what tonight is? After I juggled our supply schedule to be sure we’d make it to Regulus in time? And made all these arrangements over the comm while you were asleep in order to surprise you?” He shook his head. “I’m surprised at you, Risner.”
Blaise racked his brain, trying to figure out what they could possibly be celebrating. “It’s not the anniversary of my arrest,” he said. “That passed while I was still trying to find you when you ran off to Petarus without me. It’s not your birthday or mine. It hasn’t been a year since we finally worked things out, so it can’t be that. I’m sorry, Peter. You obviously went to great lengths to put this together, and I really appreciate it, but I don’t know what we’re celebrating.” He was babbling and he knew it, but he hated disappointing Peter. He had no trouble angering him, seducing him, teasing him, playing any and every kind of game with him, sating him and being sated by him, but he folded like a house of cards at the first sign that he had not lived up to Peter’s expectations.
Dropping his feigned irritation, Peter drew Blaise closer, sliding his arms down until he could cup his pirate’s—or rather, privateer’s—delectable ass. “I didn’t appreciate what I had when you first showed up on the North Star,” he admitted. “I saw your obvious attractions, but nothing beyond that. It took a while for me get my head out of my ass long enough to recognize how much more there was to you, and how much you were starting to mean to me.” Before Blaise could speak, he covered the opened lips with his own, his tongue sweeping in to claim Blaise’s in a heated duel that left them both gulping for breath when he finally pulled away. “Not that I had any intention of letting you see that at the time.”
Blaise’s head was spinning from the kiss and from Peter’s hands on his ass. Peter had him well trained. At the first sign of his lover’s attentions, he went fully hard and ready for whatever Peter had in store for him next. He’d actually been surprised to get out of the room that morning without one toy or another inserted in or affixed to some part of his body. Maybe this was why. He cast his mind back over the previous year, trying to remember the nights leading up to him making the connection between the mysterious attacks on Confederation outposts and the Gavenelians who had held him captive and tortured him for six months. “The night you first asked me to stay,” he said after a moment. “The first time I felt like your lover and not just your fucktoy.” He rubbed against Peter’s hip, letting his lover feel his arousal and by extension his willingness for anything Peter had in mind. “Instead of bending me over the nearest flat surface, you took me to bed and made love to me. That’s what we’re celebrating, isn’t it?”
Peter’s grip tightened on Blaise’s ass, his cock already hard enough to tempt him to rip the clothes from that delectable body, throw him onto the pillows, and fuck him through them, just the way Blaise described it. But if he’d learned anything since his lover found him licking his wounds on Petarus, it was that there were times when talking really did need to take precedence over sex. He’d just have to talk quickly.
“On your birthday, when I offered you anything you wanted and you asked for just me, I started to hope we’d moved beyond my forcing you, though I couldn’t be sure it wasn’t simply a ploy to avoid having to endure any of the toys. But that night—this night—watching you sleep in my bed, I couldn’t deny it anymore. I might not have been sure what it meant to you, but I knew what it meant to me.”
“I was scared that night,” Blaise admitted. “I’d slipped up and called you by name because you’d stopped being Admiral Keller and had become Peter in my head, even if I couldn’t let you see it, but that night, you weren’t the sadistic bastard of an admiral, at least not once you started fucking me, and I let my guard slip. I don’t think I ever got it all the way back up. So this is our anniversary celebration?” He loosened his hold on Peter enough to look back over the exotic boudoir Peter had arranged to set up. “Shouldn’t you be taking me to bed then?”
“Still thinking you give the orders,” Peter grumbled, though no one hearing him would believe he was truly complaining. He moved forward, walking Blaise backward with a thigh between his legs, grinding their groins together with each step. He wanted to watch the silky netting around the bed whisper over Blaise’s honeyed skin, but his lover had entirely too many clothes on for that to happen. Just before they reached the gauzy veil, he stopped and took a step back, one hand settling on his hip and the other slipping into his pocket. “Strip,” he ordered in the tone his crew on the North Star had learned to dread.
For Blaise, though, that tone evoked none of the same foreboding. For him, it was a harbinger of things to come. Sometimes painful, but always powerfully arousing and ultimately mind-blowing things. Wearing the cocky grin that had earned him more than one punishment aboard the North Star, Blaise ran his hands up over his chest, making a show of undoing the buttons on his shirt one at a time, even though he could have pulled it over his head after the first two.
Peter widened his stance at the provocative striptease, though the shipsuit he wore was nowhere near as constraining as his Confederation uniform. His first glimpse of Blaise’s chest had the same effect, regardless. When Blaise let the fabric slide down his arms, baring the two rings adorning his dusky nipples—the one he’d pierced after he escaped from the Gavenelians, the other placed there by Peter himself—Peter started releasing his own fasteners, but he didn’t move any nearer. “The rest of it too,” he prodded when Blaise paused, eyeing him with what Peter no longer had any doubt was equal hunger.
Blaise dropped the shirt to the ground and popped the button on his trousers. When he was sure he had Peter’s attention, he shimmied out of them as well until he stood before his lover completely nude and utterly unabashed, his erection jutting out in front of him eagerly. “Your turn,” he drawled. “Can’t fuck me senseless if you’re still dressed.”
“Maybe I want to enjoy the view first,” Peter answered, though he shucked his own clothes quickly enough. After letting his gaze run the length of Blaise’s lean body—he might see it every day now, but it still never failed to impress—he took a step forward and ran a hand up the toned chest, pausing to tweak the nipple the bore his ring. Then he flattened his palm and gave Blaise a push backward. The fluttering curtain brushed over Blaise’s skin, the sight every bit as arousing as Peter had imagined it to be, before Blaise landed on the mounded pillows with a bit of a bounce.
“That was strange.” Blaise reached up to finger the sheer fabric with a puzzled look on his face. “It kind of tingled.”
Peter frowned at the small remote in his other hand. “The shopkeeper I bought it from didn’t mention that side effect. Is it painful?”
Blaise ran the palm of his hand over the cloth this time. “No, not painful. Tingly, like the way the lightning of Petarus leaves the air feeling charged when the storms come at night.” They had slipped out into the storms, one memorable night, making love beneath the pounding rain, bodies singing from the contact and from the electricity in the air. He looked up at Peter for a moment before reaching out for his lover with the cloth still in his hand. He pressed his palm to the unscarred side of Peter’s chest, letting the effect of the fabric add to his touch.
Shaking his head, Peter bounced the remote in his palm. Not that Blaise’s touch wasn’t potent enough on its own, but…. “It won’t work on me. It’s already taken a sensor scan of your bioreadings—that must have been the tingle you felt—and adapted itself to your metabolism.” He thumbed a control on the remote and cocked an eyebrow at Blaise, appraising the effect. The device was supposed to be painless, and while neither he nor Blaise was averse to an occasional nip of pain with their pleasure, it wasn’t a part of Peter’s plans for the night. He nudged the setting a fraction higher, his gaze never leaving Blaise’s face. “Enough to generate a mild stasis field.”
“New and inventive ways to tie me up?” Blaise teased. He didn’t try to fight the confinement. He never had other than for show, but tonight he didn’t even bother with that. “You could always just order me into whatever position you want me in, you know.”
“And since when have you ever followed orders?” Peter retorted, pausing a moment to appreciate the contrast of Blaise’s golden skin against the white pillows before moving close enough to trace the muscle of Blaise’s thigh with his fingertips. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he felt an echo of the tingle Blaise had mentioned quiver up his arm, and he dropped to one knee, caressing the other leg to judge if it caused the same effect.
Blaise was terrible at following orders, but only because he knew Peter loved it when he acted up. Even at his worst, he’d only done it when it hadn’t mattered. When it had been a matter of life or death, he’d listened and done what was expected of him. “Where’s the fun in blindly obeying every word that comes out of your mouth?” Blaise teased. He tried to move his leg, if only to spread his thighs farther apart in invitation, but the stasis field held, sending showers of electricity up his limbs whenever he tried to move or whenever Peter touched him, and all he could do was lie in place and wait upon Peter’s whim. The thought left him far more hot and bothered than it should have.
“That’s why I have to find toys like this,” Peter explained while running both hands up the insides of Blaise’s thighs. If the frisson of excitement that coursed through his nerves at the touch was anything like what Blaise was feeling, this would prove a sweet torment for both of them. The flutter of Blaise’s eyelids suggested the sensation was at least as strong for him too. “You’ll just have to lie there and take whatever I give you.” Leaning forward, he nipped at the woven ring that marked Blaise as his, sending sparks dancing along his synapses like the ionized dust in the Varian asteroid cloud. He closed his lips over the pierced nipple, a purr of pleasure rumbling from his throat at the jolt of awareness that flowed through them both.
“You realize,” Blaise gasped as he tried to arch into the touch and couldn’t, “that the more I try to move, the more I get that static electricity feeling. I’m never going to last.”
“You’ll last until I’m ready for you to come and not before,” Peter growled, and then set to work proving just how well he’d learned his lover’s sensitive spots—and his limits—during the months they’d been reunited. Each time Blaise’s groans and curses hinted he was close to losing control, Peter backed off, turning his attentions to a less susceptible spot and then pushing Blaise even higher, keeping him dancing on the knife-edge of release without letting him tip over. That the nerve-net’s augmentation was proving just as hazardous to his own self-control was the price he’d willingly pay to lavish his lover with this much pleasure.
Blaise would have given any number of things to be able to ignore Peter’s demands and simply jerk his cock until he came. He had come so close to release so many times already, but each time Peter had pulled him back and then pushed him higher. He tried to beg, but the stasis field’s effects had spread until he had trouble even making his mouth form words, not that Peter left it empty for long. Between his tongue and his cock, Blaise hadn’t been able to do more than gasp for breath in what felt like hours. His eyes rolled back in his head as Peter denied his orgasm yet again.
As much as Peter would have liked to prolong his attentions to every micron of Blaise’s skin, his own body was making its demands clear in the ache in his balls and the insistent throbbing of his cock. While he was well dampened between Blaise’s saliva and his own precome, he needed to slick Blaise as well, even if the preparation was cursory at best. He’d heard of a device that could be inserted to keep a lover lubricated, and made a mental note to look for one on their next supply run while he scrabbled among the pillows for the container of lube that was among the purchases they’d made that day.
“Now,” Blaise said as soon as Peter left his mouth unoccupied for more than a moment. “Fuck me now.” He couldn’t turn his head to see what Peter was doing, but he heard the squelch of lube and felt the cold touch of Peter’s hand between his thighs. “Forget that,” he groaned. “In me. Now, damn it.”
“I may listen to your orders aboard the Stallion, but I’m in charge here, as you seem to keep forgetting,” Peter countered, though since he punctuated his response by slamming into Blaise in a single hard thrust, he figured his lover didn’t have reason for complaint. Just to be sure, though, he captured Blaise’s mouth with his own, his tongue probing as deeply as his cock as he worked them both hard and fast.
Peter’s mouth muffled the scream that escaped Blaise at the sudden penetration, but it was exactly what he needed. He wanted to wrap his arms and legs around Peter as encouragement, but the fucking stasis field kept him from moving. He fought it, every suppressed twitch of his muscles sending another surge of electricity through him. Peter pounded into him perfectly, pegging his gland with every pass, and this time, he didn’t pull back when Blaise’s orgasm started to crest. With a second muffled scream, Blaise lost control, his climax spilling between them. Every spasm of his muscles triggered the stasis field, prolonging his pleasure until he was nearly insensate with it, and still it continued, Peter driving into him over and over and over and… fuck, it felt so good it hurt!
If his tongue wasn’t massaging Blaise’s tonsils, Peter would have gritted his teeth as he fought to hold back his climax and prolong Blaise’s. The convulsions of the tight sheath spasming around his shaft and the tingle the stasis field transmitted wherever his skin met Blaise’s proved his undoing, the sudden splash of Blaise’s release sending a flare of such ecstasy through the nerve-net that he nearly blacked out as his release seared through him like a plasma bolt. He barely had the presence of mind to thumb off the remote before he slumped against Blaise’s hot, sweaty body in complete satiation.
Blaise felt the stasis field disengage, but he still couldn’t move. Peter had left him completely boneless.
“So,” Peter drawled after regaining his breath, “should I have one of these installed in our cabin on the Stallion?”
“I don’t have to take your orders on the Stallion,” Blaise reminded him. A rather wicked thought occurred to him. “Unless you’d rather I use it on you….”
“Maybe next anniversary,” Peter murmured as he pulled his pirate into his arms.
Blaise grinned as he started to drift off to sleep. He had a year. He’d think of something to top this.
Read more about Blaise and Peter in Hot Cargo.
May 20, 2013
Outlast the Night by Ariel Tachna
Unemployed and out of luck, Sam moves to Lang Downs and learns life as a gay man isn’t impossible—and Jeremy can be part of it. Outlast the Night by Ariel Tachna, available from Dreamspinner Press.
Office manager Sam Emery is unemployed and out of luck. When his emotionally abusive wife demands a divorce, he contacts the one person he has left, his brother, Neil. He doesn’t expect Neil to reject him, but he also doesn’t expect the news of his divorce—and of his sexuality—to be met with such acceptance.
Neil takes Sam to Lang Downs, the sheep station Neil calls home. There, Sam learns that life as a gay man isn’t impossible. Caine and Macklin, the station owners, certainly seem to be making it work. When Caine offers Sam a job, it’s a dream come true.
Jeremy Taylor leaves the only home he’s ever known when his brother’s homophobia becomes more than he can bear. He goes to the one place he knows he will be accepted: Lang Downs. He clicks with Sam instantly—but the animosity between Lang Downs and Jeremy’s home station runs deep, and the jackaroos won’t accept Jeremy without a fight. Between Sam’s insecurity and Jeremy’s precarious position, their road will be a hard one—and that’s without having to wait for Sam’s divorce to be final before starting a new life together.
Sixteen Songs About Regret by J.S. Cook
Simon flees to London to pursue music. When he meets Stephen, their careers take off, but they may be too scarred for a relationship. Sixteen Songs About Regret by J.S. Cook, available from Dreamspinner Press.
Prodigy pianist Simon Duckworth has a dark past. After being violently raped when he was thirteen, he flees to London, ashamed and determined never to tell a soul. He gets a job at a Denmark Street music shop, but it stifles him. At the first opportunity, Simon answers an ad for a musician, an act that changes his life forever.
Stephen Abednego has seen the same ad. He arrives in London with little more than his ambitions and a sheaf of poems, but together, they’re enough to get him hired. Under their new manager’s watchful eye, Stephen falls for Simon—but Stephen is deeply closeted, and Simon may be too emotionally scarred for a mature relationship.
With their manager’s help, their music rises, dragging them into the hectic world of superstardom, but success doesn’t come without a price. Each step out of the ennui and coal smoke of 1960s industrial London must be paid for in regret. With social convention standing between them and the whole world watching, Stephen and Simon discover that finding each other is not as easy as it seems.
Until Forever Comes by Cardeno C.
When a young shifter tells Miguel they’re true mates, destined to be together, Miguel sends him away. But Ethan is persistent. Until Forever Comes by Cardeno C, available from Dreamspinner Press.
Ethan Abbatt is a wolf shifter who can’t shift. Plagued by pain and weakness all his life, he hopes to find an honorable death by joining his pack mates in a vampire attack. Instead, Ethan learns two things: draining his blood releases his pain and his wolf, and he has a true mate—a vampire named Miguel.
Miguel Rodriguez is more than four centuries old. Strong, powerful, and vicious, he walks through life as a shadow, without happiness or affection. When a young shifter tells Miguel they’re true mates, destined to be together, Miguel sends him away. But Ethan is persistent, and Miguel can’t resist for long. Once Miguel gives in, being together comes naturally. The challenge is keeping themselves alive so they can stay by each other’s side until forever comes.
March 29, 2013
Chateau d’Eternité by Ariel Tachna
The ability to travel through time it’s not without risks—to Russ and to the world as he knows it. Chateau d’Eternité by Ariel Tachna, available from Dreamspinner Press.
When Russ Peterson accepts an invitation to an all-expense-paid vacation at a castle in southern France, he doesn’t expect to learn he has the ability to travel through time. For a historian, it’s a dream come true, offering the chance to find answers to the mysteries of the past. But it’s not without risks—to Russ and to the world as he knows it.
After a few short supervised visits, Russ still hasn’t made up his mind about his newfound abilities. Then, on his first extended trip, he meets Quentus Maximus, second in command to the Legate of Nemausus. While learning firsthand about the realities of life in Roman Gaul, Russ is shocked by his reaction to Quentus’s dominant nature. After a week with Quentus, Russ’s vacation is up, and he realizes he wants a chance to see if their relationship can flourish.
Arranging a year-long sabbatical from work to give time to make the decision is easy. Figuring out if he can live with Quentus’s dominant nature long-term, and finding a way to establish a life for himself in Roman Gaul, is an entirely different matter.
Lighting the Way Home by EM Lynley and Shira Anthony
Josh realizes there is more to Micah than his lousy life choices… but that doesn’t mean Josh is ready to forgive him. Lighting the Way Home by EM Lynley and Shira Anthony, available from Dreamspinner Press.
World-class chef Joshua Golden is homesick for Paris before he even arrives in New York, but he’ll endure it—his parents need him to help run the family restaurant while his mother recovers from surgery. Running a place so far beneath his talents is bad enough, but bad turns to worse when Josh discovers his former best friend and lover, Micah Solomon, is living at his parents’ house with his ten-year-old son, Ethan.
For ten years, Josh has done his best to forget how Micah shattered his heart into tiny pieces. Now Micah’s back, fresh out of prison, and helping out at the restaurant. Micah may not be the kind of sous chef Josh is used to, but he is more helpful and supportive than any of the other employees. But Josh finds it hard to keep his distance when, time after time, Micah proves himself a better man than Josh thought. Reluctantly, Josh realizes there is more to Micah than his lousy life choices… but that doesn’t mean Josh is ready to forgive him.
Perfect Match by JJ Ryan
If Trevor and Patrick’s new love is to survive the drama, Patrick will have to own up to what he wants—and fight for it. Perfect Match by JJ Ryan, available from Dreamspinner Press.
Seattle trauma doctor Patrick Quinn has never been in love. In fact, he’s never even had a long-term relationship. In his limited personal life, getting a date is only half the problem. Being able to keep it, despite emergency duties in the ER, is the other. So though he’s interested in Trevor Oneil, a man he meets on a dating site, he decides to take it slow.
Trevor moved to Seattle looking for a fresh start. Recently single and lonely in his new city, he works business hours as an anesthesiologist, hoping a better work-life balance will make it easier to meet someone. Patrick might be just what he’s been hoping for.
Then disaster hits and a severely injured Trevor lands in Patrick’s ER. Unable to work on Trevor, Patrick feels helpless. He wanted to ease into a relationship, but he’s already attached. Then Trevor’s past comes rushing in to take him away from the dangers of Seattle. If Trevor and Patrick’s new love is to survive the drama, Patrick will have to own up to what he wants—and fight for it.
January 14, 2013
Adenet’s sense of responsibility will not let him take a male mate when the pack so desperately needs children. Lycan Partnership by Ariel Tachna, available from Dreamspinner Press.
By the time the alpha of the Morvan werewolf pack approaches l’Institut Marcel Chavinier for help solving his people’s fertility problems, pack numbers have dwindled and the remaining members are desperate. Though the wizards at l’Institut have no experience with werewolves, their lore, or their brand of magic, Raymond agrees to help.
At l’ANS headquarters, Raymond finds Marc Gourlin, a young wizard fascinated with werewolves. Marc agrees to visit the werewolves’ home to study their rituals for the source of the problem. But when he arrives, he finds himself distracted by Adenet Silaire, the pack shaman. The attraction between them is powerful, but though Marc suspects he might be Adenet’s mate, Adenet rebuffs him. Marc is a man, and Adenet’s sense of responsibility will not let him take a male mate when the pack so desperately needs children.
Meanwhile, Jean and Raymond discover the Aveu de Sang allows a vampire’s Avoué to calm his inner beast. For Jean and Orlando, this is wonderful news—but it only convinces Thierry how much Sebastian is missing out on because they cannot form an Aveu de Sang. Determined to give his partner everything he can, Thierry sets out to recreate the bond denied them by Sebastien’s past.
October 4, 2012
Dreamspinner Press celebrates Halloween in style!
During the month of October, we will be offering the following special discounts.
October 12-14: All Yaoi eBooks and eBooks by our authors who are attending YaoiCon in Los Angeles will be 25% off.
October 15 – 18: The 2008 Advent set will be available for 44.99 through October 31. It will go out of print on November 1, so don’t miss your last chance to get it! All Christmas eBooks will also be 25% off.
October 19-21: All eBooks by authors attending GayRomLit will be 25% off.
Abigail Roux, Aleksandr Voinov, Allison Cassatta, Amy Lane, Ana Bosch, Andrew Gray, Anel Viz, Anne Tenino, Ariel Tachna, Belinda McBride, Brita Addams, Charlie Cochet, Christopher Koehler, Clancy Nacht, Clare London, Damon Suede, Devon Rhodes, Eden Winter, Edmond Manning, Ellis Carrington, EM Lynley, Eric Arvin, Ethan Stone, Felicitas Ivey, Hayley B. James, Heidi Cullinan, Isabelle Rowan, Jacob Z. Flores, Jamie Fessenden, Jana Downs, Jeff Erno, Jackson Cordd, Jonathan Treadway, J.P. Barnaby, Karenna Colcroft, Kate McMurray, KC Burn, Kiernan Kelly, Kim Fielding, Lara Brukz, Lissa Kasey, Lori Toland, Lorraine Ulrich, Marguerite Labbe, Marie Sexton, Michael Murphy, MJ O’Shea, PD Singer, Piper Vaughn, Poppy Dennison, Rhys Ford, Rick R. Reed, Rowan Speedwell, S.A. Garcia, Scotty Cade, Shae Connor, Shira Anthony, SJD Peterson, Sue Brown, T.A. Webb, T.C. Blue, Thursday Euclid, Trina Lane, Venona Keyes, Xara X. Xanakas, Zahra Owens.
September 10, 2012
I thought I should introduce the main characters (or at least one of them) this time.
Needles. Someone was driving needles into his arm. Chris struggled against the pain, aware only of the need to escape it. Then memory returned with a flash and he bolted upright in bed. “Seth!”
Chris slumped back against the hard mattress, the flat pillows doing nothing to cushion his back, and he gasped as pain lanced outward from his ribs. “Where am I?”
“In hospital,” Seth said, looking small and scared under the fluorescent lights. “I got help. This big guy named Macklin and his boss, I guess, a Yank named Caine something unpronounceable. The Yank owns a sheep station, he said, and he said we should come work for him.”
“Back up,” Chris said. “You aren’t making sense. What happened when you ran?”
“I went to the hotel. It was close and I figured there would be people there. I was right. I begged for help, and almost before I’d finished, Macklin asked me where you were. I told him, and he and three others went to help.”
Macklin must be the man Chris saw before he lost consciousness. “How’d you get from asking for help to a job?”
“Caine, the Yank, wouldn’t let me go back with Macklin and the others. He asked a bunch of questions about where we lived and stuff, and when I was done, he said we should come work at Lang Downs, the station he owns.”
“You didn’t tell him the truth, did you?” They’d been over this. If people knew where they were living and why, they could end up with the Department of Community Services and separated, and that was Chris’s greatest fear. He didn’t have much in his life, but he wouldn’t let anyone take the one thing he did have: his brother.
“I know I wasn’t supposed to, but I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to say. I was too upset and….”
“No worries, Seth,” Chris said with a sigh. “He offered us a job, not to call the cops. Not that I can do much work at the moment.”
“I could probably work your shifts at the restaurant,” Seth offered.
“You need to be in school.”
“I’m not going to be in school on a sheep station either,” Seth pointed out. “At least here we’ll be in town.”
In town where people now knew he was gay. Seth talked about doing Chris’s job, but he wasn’t sure he’d have a job after the confrontation that had led to him being bashed. Even if he didn’t lose his job and Seth worked the shifts until he was well, he could run into those guys again at any time, and Seth might not be around next time to find help.
“Let’s think about it before we make a decision,” Chris said. “I’m too tired to sort it out now.”
A cough in the doorway drew Chris’s attention.
“Oh, Mr. Armstrong,” Seth said, jumping to his feet. “I didn’t see you come in.”
Chris might have chuckled at the awe in Seth’s voice, usually reserved for visiting heads of state or local demigods, but the situation was too serious for laughter.
“Good to see you awake,” the man said, addressing Chris. “Seth, could you maybe find some tea for me while I talk with your brother?”
Seth scampered out of the room like an eager puppy.
“You’ve certainly impressed my brother.”
“He’s just grateful I took him seriously when he asked for help.”
“You saved my life.”
“Probably. Macklin Armstrong.”
“Chris Simms.” Chris held out his left hand. The gesture was awkward, but it was the best he could manage with his right arm in a cast. “Thank you.”
“Glad I could help. So Caine tells me you’ve had a bit of a rough time recently.”
“Nothing we can’t handle,” Chris said defensively. “I’ve got a job.”
“You can cut the bullshit, Chris,” Macklin said. “You have a dead-end job, a flat you can barely afford to keep, and no way to get anything better because you’re trying to take care of your brother. You’re not eating well, even if you’re eating regularly, because you’re both way too skinny. You’re doing your best, and you should be proud of that, but it’s not enough.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Chris demanded. “You think I don’t know how bad our lives are?”
“No, I’m pretty sure you know exactly how bad it is,” Macklin said, “but I wanted you to understand that I know it too.”
“Why? So you can lord it over me?”
“Bloody hell, kid. If you weren’t already in that bed, I’d put you there,” Macklin roared. “I hope I wasn’t as stupidly stubborn as you when Michael Lang found me squatting in one of his drover’s huts. I’ve been where you are. I wasn’t bashed, but I was on my own at sixteen because my father beat my mother and me and spent the rest of his time ranting about pillow biters and queers. The words hurt worse than his fists ever did.”
“You’re….” Chris didn’t finish the sentence because he didn’t know how to do it without offending the other man.
Chris blinked a couple of times, looking the older man over carefully. He was tall, although not obnoxiously so, maybe six feet, with broad shoulders and muscled arms where they were visible beneath the short sleeves of his shirt. His hair was shaggy and his boots were dusty. He was the picture of a masculine stockman. And he was gay.
“And nothing. I was just surprised, that’s all.”
“Surprised that I’d admit it or surprised that I’m gay in the first place?”
“A little of both,” Chris said. “Not a lot of people out here will say it even if it’s true.”
Macklin snorted softly in amusement. “Truer words, but I’m not most people and Lang Downs isn’t most stations. I imagine your brother told you my partner offered him a job.”
“He’s only sixteen,” Chris said. “He needs to be in school.”
“He’ll get his lessons done,” Macklin said. “We’ve got a number of kids on the station, and we make sure they all get their HSC. What they do after they finish high school is up to them. Finishing high school isn’t optional, but we use School of the Air so the schedule is a bit flexible. He can work and go to school at the same time, and you can work in the kitchen until you get rid of that plaster on your arm. Then we’ll see what you’re made of.”
“Why should we trust you?”
“You shouldn’t,” Macklin replied. “You shouldn’t trust anyone but your brother until you know us a little better, but we’re offering you a chance, the same as Caine’s great-uncle offered me when I was sixteen and too stupid to know better. You won’t get a better offer, and if you decide at the end of the season that the station isn’t for you, you can leave when the other jackaroos do in May. What do you have to lose?”
A flop of a flat, a shit job in a dingy restaurant….
“Will the others care that I’m gay? I always heard the stations weren’t, well, kind to people like me.”
“You weren’t listening, were you?” Macklin asked. “Caine Neiheisel, the owner at Lang Downs, is my partner.”
“Oh, that kind of partner,” Chris said as the coin dropped. “I thought…. It doesn’t matter what I thought. I was obviously wrong. So everyone knows about you?”
“It’s hard to hide it when I sleep in the station house at night despite there being a perfectly good foreman’s house down the road,” Macklin said. “I don’t talk about it because it’s nobody’s business, but I don’t hide it.”
“You did save my life. I suppose this could be a way to say thank you.”
“You don’t owe me anything,” Macklin said. “But you do owe your brother the best chance in life he can get, and while I know you’re doing the best you can for him right now, I also know it isn’t enough. He’d have a real chance on Lang Downs, and so would you. Think about it while you’re here. You can tell us what you decide when they let you out.”
Chris had no idea why he was arguing, but it seemed too simple.
“What else would there be?”
“I don’t know. Threats to call DoCS, something to try to make me do things your way?”
“You’re not a child to be bullied,” Macklin said with a shrug. “You’re a man. A young one to be sure, but a man. You can make your own decisions without any pressure from me, and you’ll live with the consequences of your choices, good or bad, without any pressure from me. You proved you were a man when you kept your brother with you and worked to support him. Keep doing what’s best for him and you’ll be fine. We’re going back to the hotel for dinner, but we’ll be by in the morning to see what you decide.”
Seth came running back into the room. “I’m sorry, Mr. Armstrong. I couldn’t find any tea.”
“That’s all right, kid,” Macklin said, ruffling Seth’s hair as he walked toward the door. “I’ll get some at the hotel. Take care of your brother. We’ll come by in the morning to see what you’ve decided.”
September 10, 2012
Anybody ready for an excerpt? The beginning of the book is a little rough for Chris, but hopefully the end results make the early pain worth it.
“Help me, please. Oh God, somebody help me!”
The shouts of the kid who half ran, half fell into the Yass Hotel drew Caine’s attention away from what should have been a quiet lunch with his lover and partner of three months.
“They’re going to kill him. Please, he’s all I have.”
“Who?” Macklin asked, rising from the table.
“These thugs.” The boy was crying now. “They said he was a poofter and they’d kill him for it.”
Macklin’s expression, never soft to begin with, hardened to stone. Caine swore Macklin’s shoulders grew broader as he approached the boy.
“Where are they?”
The boy had barely finished his answer before Macklin was out the door.
“Yes, boss,” the jackaroo at the next table replied, already on his feet and following Macklin out the door before Caine finished speaking. Ian and Kyle, the other two hands who had come to Yass to help him hire new blood for Lang Downs, followed Neil without being prompted, bringing a smile to Caine’s face despite the seriousness of the situation. He still had trouble believing he had won their loyalty.
“I’m C-c-caine Neiheisel,” Caine said, approaching the boy slowly. His heart pounded in his chest so hard it felt like someone was squeezing his ribs tight, making it hard to breathe. He couldn’t go with Macklin. He was useless in a fight, but that didn’t stop his body’s fight-or-flight response. He took a deep breath, shaking his hands slightly to clear the tingling from the rush of adrenaline. “You w-want to have a s-seat?”
“Shouldn’t we go help them?”
Caine shook his head. “Macklin and the others will t-t-take care of it, don’t worry. Wh-what’s your name?”
“Seth. Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. Macklin won’t stand for that kind of nonsense,” Caine promised, his confidence so profound that he got that sentence out without a stutter, even as upset as he was at the thought of that kind of homophobia in what constituted his own backyard and the danger it presented to Macklin and himself. “Where are you from?”
“Nowhere anymore,” Seth replied, his voice so bitter Caine wanted to pull the kid into his arms and comfort him. He remembered what it had been like to be a teenager, though, and refrained, figuring the embrace wouldn’t be welcome from a total stranger.
“What about your parents?”
“Mum died six months ago, and the no-good bastard she married kicked us out the day after the funeral,” Seth said. “It’s just Chris and me now, if that scary dude can save him.”
“That ‘scary dude’ is Macklin,” Caine said, “or Mr. Armstrong to you since you can’t be more than fourteen.”
“I’m sixteen,” Seth retorted quickly.
He was way too small and skinny to be sixteen. Not that Caine thought he was lying. It was just proof of how hard his life had been.
Caine had already decided that was going to change. His great-uncle, Michael Lang, had made a habit of taking in strays at his station, much to Caine’s good fortune. He wouldn’t have Macklin now if Uncle Michael hadn’t taken the foreman in when he was the same age as this kid. Now Caine just had to convince Seth that coming to Lang Downs would be the right choice for him and his brother. “So where are you staying?”
“We’ve got a room,” Seth said defensively.
Probably some flop in a drug house so cheap they could afford it.
“Are you using?”
That was good. Caine was all for lending a helping hand, but he would not have drugs on his land. He had too much to lose. “Good. Your brother’s clean too?”
“What’s it to you?”
“I don’t hire men with drug problems.”
“If all you’ve got is ‘a room’ and no parents and no one but your brother, that pretty much means no future, at least from where I’m sitting. I run a sheep station north of Boorowa. I thought you might like a job.”
“You’re a Yank!”
“And you’re a brat who is about to lose the best chance to come his way,” Caine retorted. “Ask around if you don’t believe me. I’ve been here all week signing on jackaroos. I’ve got space for two more.”
They didn’t really. They’d hired the last of their crew this morning and planned to head back to Boorowa after lunch to pick up supplies and then drive back to Lang Downs tomorrow morning. Seth didn’t need to know that, though. Caine had already seen enough of the boy’s pride to know he wouldn’t take charity.
It wouldn’t be charity. Seth would work harder on Lang Downs than he had in his life. He’d earn every cent they paid him and his brother. He wouldn’t have many expenses, though, so he could put almost every penny away toward college, if he wanted, or into a savings account against the day he left Lang Downs and pursued a different path in life, and if he chose to stay, he’d have a family to replace the one he’d lost with his mother’s death.
September 10, 2012
Ariel Tachna here to celebrate the release of my newest book, Chase the Stars. I’m very excited to share some sneak peeks with all of you today. I will be giving away a copy to one lucky participant in the party today. All you have to do is comment on one of the posts to be entered.
Let’s start with the gorgeous cover art by the incomparable Anne Cain. I love all of Anne’s work. She’s a goddess beyond compare, but one of the things I love about this cover in particular is how she’s managed to capture so many of the different elements and feelings in the book. The sheep station, of course, with the tablelands of New South Wales, Australia, the night sky that Chris and Jesse spend more than one evening staring at as they talk, Chris’s youth (he’s only 20) and uncertainty, Jesse’s inability to keep his eyes off Chris, even when he should be looking away… It’s all there in this one amazing image.
So what do you all think? What’s your favorite part about the cover?
September 10, 2012
The gay bashing that nearly ends Chris’s life could instead be his salvation, if he has the strength to take the offered help. Chase the Stars by Ariel Tachna, available from Dreamspinner Press.
Sequel to Inherit the Sky – Lang Downs: Book Two
Twenty-year-old Chris Simms is barely keeping his head above water. After losing his mother and his home, he struggles to provide for himself and his brother. When homophobes attack him, he thinks his life is over, but then he’s rescued by jackaroos from a nearby sheep station. He’s as stunned to be offered a job there as he is to discover both the station owner and foreman are gay.
For Chris, Lang Downs is a dream—one that only gets better when Chris realizes the jackaroo he’s crushing on, Jesse Harris, is gay and amenable to a fling. Everything goes well until Chris realizes he’s falling for Jesse a lot harder than allowed by their deal.
Jesse is a drifter who moves from station to station, never looking for anything permanent. Convinced Chris is too young and fragile for a real relationship, he sets rules to keep things casual. Watching the station owner and his foreman together makes Jesse wonder if there are benefits to settling down, but when he realizes how Chris feels about him, he panics. He and Chris will have to decide if a try for happiness is worth the risk before the end of the season tears them apart.
Series: Lang Downs by Ariel Tachna
September 9, 2012
Our upcoming releases for the week of September 10, 2012.