Monthly Archives: June 2011

J.L. O’Faolain’s *The Thirteenth Child*—available at Dreamspinner Press

Scroll down for an interview with the author and a showcase excerpt.

The Thirteenth Child by J.L. O Faolain

Immortal sidhe Tuulois MacColewyn is living rough. After nearly two centuries of life as one of Faerie Queen Titania’s prized wolves and a handful of years as a Roaring Twenties mob boss’s favorite enforcer, he’s now exiled to New York, making rent doing dirty jobs for other fey outcasts. He used to consult on the occult for Detective James Corhagen at the NYPD, but since their highly combustible friendship burned itself out a year ago, Cole hasn’t heard from him.

All that changes when Corhagen summons Cole right out of his shower and into the middle of a crime scene. The NYPD is facing a rash of messy black-magic murders, complete with exploding hearts and very little forensic evidence, not to mention the sinister disappearance of several half-fey children. However hard he tries to deny it—and his inconvenient attraction to the sidhe—Corhagen needs Cole’s help. A persistent police inspector rounds out the team, but when their investigation comes too close to the truth, suddenly it’s their lives on the line. With a powerful killer on the loose, Cole, James, and Inspector Vallimun must race against time to stop the monster out to claim the thirteenth child.

J.L. O’Faolain was born the youngest, with four older sisters, in the backwoods of the Deep South. Those that’ve braved getting to know him have attributed this to being the root of his growing insanity. A teased bibliophile in his youth, O’Faolain spent his years prior to getting published as a cook, laundry man, delivery boy, grease monkey, and retail stocker. He has a plethora of skills and abilities, none of which would work well on a job application. In his spare time, O’Faolain enjoys weightlifting, philosophy, deconstruction, reading, writing, porn, and the Internet in general. Aside from becoming a successfully published author, he would very much like to pilot a giant robot while Two-Mix’s “Rhythm Emotion” is playing in the background. Either that, or travel the world in a dirigible. In short, the general consensus by all, including himself, is that he is a mighty strange fellow.

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J.L. O’Faolain—a (slightly provocative) interview with the author

Q: Although The Thirteenth Child has some unique twists, it seems the book falls solidly within the urban fantasy sub-genre. Are there particular writers that influenced you?
A: I am a huge fan of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files. In my college years, I also read Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter. Urban Fantasy was always a fascinating genre for me. I never cared for traditional fantasy much growing up, but stories about the spooky and otherworldly living right next door and across the street ensnared my imagination from a very young age onward. Truthfully, it isn’t shocking to me at all that my first published work would be about pixies and goblins living in New York City. Stories about mundane and everyday life bore me as a general rule. Usually, there has to be some exotic or supernatural element to it before a slice-of-life story can grab my attention, though there have been exceptions.

Q: How did the concept for this story arise? Did your characters come first and the story followed, or the other way around?
A: The characters came first. I had been keeping an eye on Dreamspinner’s submission page for a while to see if there were any requests that were up my alley. When I saw the Bittersweet Dreams category, I knew it was perfect for me. I never write anything ‘traditional’. There has generally been some kind of twist or unexpected hiccup during one of my adventures that catches people off-guard. The friends of mine who have read my stories know to expect it by now. Half the fun for them, I think, is trying to guess where it will occur.

The story itself evolved from an incident that occurred in my life a few years back. I’d become friends with a fellow geek at work. In a small Southern town, geeks do not live very social, outgoing lives with the rest of the population, so we kind of bonded over that. When he found out I was bisexual a couple of years after that, it didn’t go over so well. He would still contact me whenever he wanted something, but it left me feeling like I was getting the short end of the deal. Then at a get-together with some other friends of his, he went around whispering loudly to anyone who talked to me, saying that I was bi like I carried the plague. I was really hurt by it, and even after all this time, it still made me mad whenever I thought about him.

The story itself just sort of grew out of that. I sometimes work well when I’m angry. Every so often, one of the people I encounter turn out to be an inspiring Muse of Rage.

Q: In your mind, who is your sexiest character, and why? Who is the easiest to love, and why? If you can’t answer those questions, why not?
A: Cole has a natural devil-may-care attitude that I simply adore. He was never human, nor was he raised during his younger years in a human environment, so human sensibilities annoy and confuse him something fierce. He really can’t grasp the concept of why attraction between the same sex is considered wrong or taboo in human society. It completely mystifies him and I think that gives his character a kind of raw, sexy edge.

Inspector Joss Vallimun is just primal manliness. He’s not attractive in the traditional sense, yet there is just something about him that will make you slightly weak in the knees when he walks past you. You can feel it whenever his character enters a scene. Just by being there, the temperature in the room goes up. Its easy to see why Cole is drawn to him toward the end.

Katalina, however, is my favorite character and the one I cherish the most. The scene near the end was one of the hardest I ever had to write. Cole needs her in his life to give him a strong link to humanity. Without her, he’s terribly alone in the world.

Q: The first line in the blurb is a great hook. Both the blurb and the excerpt we have here feature the crime-fighter element and the sidhe presence. What about sex and romance? How strong is that thread in your story?
A: One of the biggest criticisms in my reviews is that The Thirteenth Child doesn’t have enough romance, or isn’t a ‘traditional’ romance. I didn’t want the story to follow a basic romance formula where the characters meet for the first time, are attracted to one another, fall in love a few pages later, have obstacles they could easily overcome if they weren’t too busy obsessing, only to magically work things out near the end. There is a lot of tension between the guys for a long time. Cole and James have a history with each other that’s left their relationship strained and bleeding. Vallimun is suspicious of Cole at first and doesn’t want to trust him completely. There is a point where you feel the story really could go either way, or in an entirely new direction. As far as romance goes, that’s an aspect I wanted to develop over a period of several books and not just one. You’ll have to read more books in the storyline before you see just how much romance really does factor into things.

As for sex, I wanted to develop the characters and the plot first, so the first several chapters are a ‘dry’ read. Later on, though, things do steam up quite a bit.

Q: The cover for The Thirteenth Child is absolutely beautifully drawn, and very evocative. Who is the artist? How much input did you have into what would be included, or how it would be presented?
A: Paul Richmond designed the cover for The Thirteenth Child. It really is amazing. I was completely blown away by it and so were my friends. I was given the option of describing two types of covers for the book. The one that got picked was the one I was really rooting for, though. Paul managed to capture the essence of what I wanted in the cover brilliantly. I was so moved by it. My favorite part of the cover is where James is reaching around to grab Cole by the wrist. He’s simultaneously clinging to him and holding him back. The ring on James’s finger is a constant reminder to him of the choices he’s made in life and where they have taken him.

Q: The main characters certainly seem to be the types that could have more adventures down the road. Will they come back? What can your readers expect in the future?
A: Book two is already finished and was sent to the editors a couple of weeks ago. I’ve begun working on the rough draft of book three now. There will be a total of thirteen books (of course) in the series, but I haven’t entirely ruled out the possibility of doing a sequel series someday, assuming readers want more.

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Excerpt from J.L. O’Faolain’s The Thirteenth Child

It was far too cold to be working outside today.

Cole took in the dozen or so thugs standing around him with an irritated glare of contempt. If the money for this job hadn’t been as good as it was, he’d be back in his loft curled up underneath a nice, thick blanket enjoying a replay of his old copy of Blood Omen right now. As it was, the rent was due. Katalina had already reminded him of that twice this week. The first gust of New Year air had nearly been enough to make him turn around and go back inside. Only the fact that Awar the troll paid good money made him keep going Now, he was lurking underneath a trash-strewn bridge that reeked of raw sewage as members of the attacking gang closed in on him.

Cole took half a step backwards, crouching down slightly as the red-hot end of his double-headed blade, Aed Deigh, extended out from the hilt. The thug that was nearest caught a swipe across his abdomen as Cole feinted forward, and then turned into a sweeping spin that caught two more with the opposite end, the one endowed with the power of arctic cold. There was perhaps a half-second where nothing occurred, as though his attacks had missed. His first target, however, suddenly clutched his belly in pain as fire exploded all over his skinny frame, incinerating him in an instant. The others went rigid at the same time as ice crawled like ravenous spiders all over their skin.

Cole never let up, even as the remaining members of the gang began having second thoughts. Two more found themselves the victims of spontaneous combustion as Cole drove his twin-bladed weapon with the hilt in the middle down into the chest of the boy who he assumed was their leader. The shocked expression on the man-child was actually somewhat comical. Cole withdrew his blade as the ice claimed him, then tipped the frosted statue over with his finger and smirked to the remaining few thugs as it shattered on the ground. The head wound up rolling down the incline and stopped at his feet. Cole placed the heel of his boot atop it and stared his audience down.

No one blinked. They were all too terrified to move.

Smart.

“I was asked by a friend to ensure none of you harass him any further,” Cole spoke, standing with a practiced ease. “This can go one of two ways. Either I slaughter the lot of you and walk off without breaking a sweat, or you can all go back to wherever it is you came from, and leave the nice troll alone so he can finish his homework and get over his head cold in peace.”

“This is our hood,” one bravely spoke up, yet Cole could distinctly hear the rapid beating of his heart. “Freaks like dat should stay da fuck away.”

A handful nodded their affirmation. “He kind ain’t welcome here no mo.”

Cole was on the speaker in the blink of an eye. “Would you prefer to be frozen, or burned to a little pile of ash?” he whispered in the young man’s ear. “I’d be happy to oblige with either.”

There was the unmistakable sound of a hammer being drawn back from a gun. Cole waited, waited until he knew the shooter was about to pull the trigger, then moved. At the same time, he jerked the boy in front of him forward slightly, putting him directly in line of the bullet as it left the chamber with what sounded like a thunderclap. Had it been rush hour, the sound would’ve been muffled by oncoming traffic. It was with his ears ringing that Cole released his grip just as the young man’s head exploded. Turning around, he saw that the shooter was holding, of course, a .357 Magnum.

“Those things make such a mess,” he muttered as blood and other things ruined his clothes. “My dry cleaning bill is going to be outrageous.”

Everyone else was still taking in the sight of their spokesman crumbling to the ground with most of his head gone. Not one to miss an opportunity to finish a job quickly, Cole dashed forward and took out the one holding the gun first. It was made of metal, and given the decidedly high iron content, it would do the most damage to him. One swipe with the fire edge of his swallow reduced the bastard’s arms to smoldering bones. Cole stabbed him with the ice edge for good measure, then carved a path through the scattering crowd as though he were the wind and they were caught in molasses. Less than a minute later, his job was finished. Ominous footsteps pounded the ground heading in his direction as he slowly stood upright.

“That should do it, then,” he said, willing the blades back into their shared hilt. “I’d like to collect my pay now, if you don’t mind.”

“No problem,” sniffed Awar, grunting from chest congestion as he fumbled around for the opening to his back trouser pocket. “Thanks for coming on such short notice.”

“I hated to ask you to get out of bed given your current condition,” said Cole, graciously accepting the bag of gold from him. “But I wanted to make sure they were indeed the ones harassing you. It would make me look bad if I’d murdered the wrong ones.”

“It’s no big deal,” Awar assured him. “I’m feeling much better, but the runny nose is killing me. I’ve got a calculus final to study for, and my correspondence term paper for American History is tomorrow. All I wanted was some peace and quiet, but those little shits just wouldn’t leave me alone. And it isn’t like I can just phone in the police, not that it would do me much good….”

“No need to explain,” Cole assured him, counting out the gold coins. “Go get some rest. You look like hell.”

“I haven’t been able to sleep because of this damned cold,” he muttered, weakly. “I’d love to have handled this myself, but this crud has sapped all my strength.”

Cole nodded in professional sympathy as he resumed counting. Awar, meanwhile, turned his rather lumpy head to the side and let out an impressively loud sneeze, which caused the bridge overhead to shake. Dust and icy frost rained down on their heads, signaling to Cole that it was past time to go. “Here,” he said, hold up three gold pieces. “You gave me three more than we agreed on.”

“Keep it,” Awar insisted, waving it away. Cole’s long hair was swept up as Awar’s hands inadvertently caused a small wind to kick up around them. “Consider it a tip for a job well done, since I wasn’t up for handling things myself. I honestly thought you’d just come down here and scare the little bastards, but this works out much better. The lot of them should fit in my meat locker with a little extra cramming. I’ve got food for almost a month now, and the bones should scare away anyone else that tries to hassle me.

Besides,” he added, “I was getting sick of chicken soup. It gives me bad gas.”

Cole accepted his tip and, with a wave over his shoulder, left the underside of the bridge very quickly.

A while later, Cole climbed the stairs leading up to his loft, shaking his hair to remove the bits of snow that hadn’t melted yet despite the warm temperature inside of the building. It was one of the many drawbacks to being a full-blooded sidhe living in New York. No matter how powerful he was, all the metal, glass, and man-made plastics hampered his abilities considerably. It was getting to the point where the changing temperatures really bothered him. Before long, he might even suffer from sinus problems like all the other red-nosed shoppers.

Shuddering at the thought, he waved a hand idly at the door and waited as the locks on the other side tumbled open. At the same time, the wards that had been placed years ago temporarily fell, allowing him passage. Shaking the rest of the snow off, Cole hung his coat on the rack and strode idly into his home. The place was quiet for the moment, which meant that Katalina had already left for class. Happy to have the place to himself for a few hours, Cole immediately stripped out of his clothes and stood naked in the living room for a moment, allowing the muted sunlight from the expanse of windows behind him to rake across his moonlight-colored skin. Sighing, he took a few steps over to the open kitchen area, grabbed a bottle of oak mead from the refrigerator, and downed it’s contents.

Having a roommate meant he was rarely able to go naked in his own home. The loft’s rent wasn’t cheap, however, so it was a trade-off he accepted on good terms, mostly. Feeling a nice light buzz from his drink, Cole made himself a sandwich from some leftover turkey, then made tracks for the shower. The gold from the job Awar had given him was strewn across the counter. He would put it away after he’d gotten clean and, more importantly, warm. Katalina could take it to the exchange bank on her way to class tomorrow. For now, though, his only priority was to stand under a steady stream of hot water for as long as possible.

There was only one shower in the whole loft. Luckily for him, Katalina rarely left anything of hers lying around for him to step on. Today, however, he nearly fell flat on his face because of a stray bra getting tangled around both feet. Raising up, he swept his eyes across the counter top, which was loaded with make-up and used cotton pads. There were puddles of water near the edge of the shower, and a used towel hanging on the bar alongside a drawn-back curtain.

Apparently, Katalina had been in a hurry this morning.

Disregarding all of it, Cole marched into the shower and closed the curtain behind him before turning the hot water all the way to the left. Steam rose quickly up toward the rafters as the jets beat down on his backside. Cole groaned; if there was one upside to being affected by cold weather, it was warming up afterwards. For years, he’d wondered why humans made such hype over things like hot chocolate and warm soup in the wintertime. Now, it made perfect sense, though he still missed the warm climate of Avalon.

An image of it, long buried, rose up in his mind. Cole found himself thinking of the last time he’d stood on its shores, looked out at the expanse of trees and distant fairy mounds, and realized he would never be coming back. Through the decades of his time amongst humans, Cole had countered his sorrow with thoughts of not wanting to return and the memories of his last encounter with Lord Oberon. The thought of returning to Avalon now seemed almost like a joke, but that didn’t stop him from crying. It didn’t stop the tearing in his chest, like something vicious was trying to eat its way out of his heart. It didn’t stop his head from swimming.

He must have been under the steam for too long. Even after Cole managed to get hold of his emotions, he still felt light-headed.

Tuulois MacColewyn….

Cole blinked and turned around in response. It had been a while since anyone had called him by that name, but hearing it seemingly out of thin air was especially odd.

Tuulois MacColewyn….

Oh, crap.

Cole looked around desperately for something to hold on to, or at the very least, something to cover himself with. The spell, however, had already taken effect, and he was being drawn out of the shower through the very air towards the one summoning him.

Tuulois MacColewyn!

Cole felt himself being forced through a sort of rubber tunnel, starting with his head. There was a loud splash as the water from the shower that had been teleported along with him came crashing down onto the head of Detective James Corhagen, who was conveniently kneeling at the edge of the chalk circle, directly in front of Cole’s groin. A small cut from the detective’s thumb indicated the blood he’d used to activate the summoning circle. The chalk, now soaking wet, was still clutched in his other hand.

Cole couldn’t resist. “While you’re down there….”

Immediately, Detective Corhagen rose up to his feet. Noticing that Cole was severely naked at this point, he darted his eyes heavenward at the same time that his head snapped sharply to the left. “Ouch!” he grunted. “Warn me next time, won’t you?”

“You could have called first,” Cole pointed out, not bothering to cover himself. “It isn’t my fault your bad timing persists even when you’re using that spell I taught you.”

“I am sorry,” he groaned. “I guess I caught you at a bad time. Are you busy right now?”

Cole rolled his eyes at the question, but Corhagen didn’t notice as he’d just covered his eyes with the hand that had the bleeding thumb. The sight of his former friend stumbling around slightly trying to regain his sense of direction with both eyes covered was enough to make Cole snicker privately to himself. It was only then that he began to notice his surroundings, and realize that the place where they both stood was unfamiliar to him.

“Where are we?” he asked, gazing around at what appeared to be someone’s bedroom. “Have we been here before?”

“Huh?” Corhagen asked, turning almost too fast to keep his eyes covered. “Oh, no. This is a crime scene. The murder that took place occurred in the baby’s room on the other side of that wall.” Corhagen pointed just behind Cole at the carefully made bed. “I think that’s the right direction, anyway.”

“You could take your hand off your eyes,” Cole suggested, coyly.

“No, thank you. This was the victim’s bedroom, anyway. Her name was Susan Brown. She worked as a cleaning lady at some subsidiary company of Microsoft. At approximately 12:01 last night, her heart somehow managed to explode out of her chest and splatter into pieces against the refrigerator. The babysitter discovered the body this morning when she showed up to look after the woman’s daughter while Mrs. Brown was at work. We’ve got her in the living room right now.”

“I thought you said the woman was murdered in the child’s bedroom?” Cole interrupted, confused.

“That was where the….” Detective Corhagen fumbled for a moment. “Where the ‘incident’, I guess, took place. Her heart somehow achieved escape velocity after exploding from her chest, sailed out the open bedroom door, and then splattered into pieces against the fridge.”

“Ah.” Cole nodded. “Now I understand. Please, continue.”

“That’s about it,” the detective finished. “Except that the baby is also missing, and this is the third case of such an incident happening. The chief is breathing down my neck, most of my department thinks we’ve got some kind of serial murderer-slash-kidnapper on our hands, except for the fact that all three crime scenes have been swept thoroughly with a fine-toothed comb, and nobody can come up with so much as a fingerprint. There’s no signs of forced entry, no sign of a struggle at all, unless you count the mess the victims made in their last few seconds before becoming an Aliens stunt double. So I’ve got a murderer who can make themselves undetectable to all forms of modern forensics, even down to DNA sampling, and people are turning to me like the answers are supposed to just come flying out of my ass.”

Cole studied his old friend for a moment. “You quit smoking again, didn’t you?”

“What?”

“You’re always this cranky when you stop smoking,” he clarified. “It makes you stressed out. So, why did you summon me here?”

“You have to ask? I need help here, Cole. This is some serious shit going down, and I don’t know what to do about it.”

The bedroom door eased open just then. Both Cole and Detective Corhagen turned to find a very small woman look directly at James. “Sir, they’ve questioned the babysitter. She had a spare key to the apartment that was given to her by….”

The woman’s eyes finally took in Cole and widened. James turned around to face him, received another eyeful, and quickly jerked away. “Um,” he stammered, thinking fast. “Thank you, Officer Morrison. This is my…. old friend, Cole. He and I used to work on some cases together. He’s a police consultant who specializes in….”

Corhagen snapped his fingers quickly. “Unusual cases,” Cole finished for him.

“Unusual cases! That’s it.” Corhagen was blushing now, which Cole had to admit was fun watching. “I asked him to come down here and have a look at the crime scene. He might spot something the other forensics guys missed.”

“How do you do, m’lady?” Cole bowed slightly, giving her a full view of his package. “Forgive my present state. I was in the shower when the detective called.”

Cole gave the detective a knowing look, and he promptly blushed red. “He got here really fast,” Corhagen tried, feebly.

Officer Morrison had been unable to tear her eyes off Cole during the whole exchange. Cole himself doubted the poor woman had absorbed anything that was said the entire time. “I’m very efficient,” Cole went on, deciding that he might as well enjoy himself. “As Detective Corhagen himself knows very well.”

“Could we maybe get the nice police consultant a pass so that he could examine the crime scene, Officer?” Corhagen pressed, his face turning redder. “And perhaps a towel, to hide his shame?”

“What shame?” Cole teased, as the door slammed shut. “I don’t feel any shame.”

Corhagen ignored him in favor of staring daggers at the opposite wall. A moment later, the door opened again just wide enough to allow a police pass entry. The plastic-coated tag sailed through the air and smacked the detective upside the head. A second later, one mauve-colored towel crossed the barrier forming the summoning circle, breaking it. Cole caught the towel and began drying himself off at his leisure. Officer Morrison eyed him for a second more through the tiny crack, then quietly slid the door shut.

“A very dedicated policewoman you’ve got there,” Cole remarked, taking longer than necessary to dry his balls. “I’d hold on to that one if I were you.”

Corhagen thrust the pass back behind him as he adamantly continued to avoid looking anywhere near Cole. Cole finished drying off, then wrapped the towel securely around his waist and took the pass from him. This one had a clip on it, so he fastened it to his towel just to the left of where his treasure trail ended. Corhagen risked a quick peek and sighed.

“Will you take the case?” he pleaded. “I could really use your help.”

“It’s obvious you need it,” Cole replied, avoiding his gaze now. “Why else would you have used that spell after so long?”

The weight of that sentence hung in the air between them. “I think I’d like to go home now,” Cole finished dryly. “And resume my shower. Do you think Officer Morrison would be willing to call a cab for me?”

“I’ll pay you double,” Corhagen spat out before Cole could step out of the circle.

“What?” Cole was sure he hadn’t heard right.

“If I have to pay it myself, I will,” he added emphatically. “Chances are, though, the Chief would rather cough up the extra cash than risk letting shit like this continue. And that’s really saying something, if you’d just stop for a second and remember what a tightwad he’s always been. Things on the force have been sour since…. well, for a year now. It’s not getting better, and since no one wants to admit what’s really going on, the problem just gets worse and worse. I’ve managed to get a few people at my precinct to come over to my way of thinking.”

It was impossible for Cole to mask his surprise. “I know,” Corhagen nodded. “Believe me, I know. It wasn’t easy, but some of them have had bad experiences themselves that they couldn’t explain afterward, or just didn’t feel other people would believe. None of us know what to do about it yet, but we’re trying. The Chief wants this case taken care of yesterday, though. It’s way too messy and would be a tabloid reporter’s wet dream. Imagine what would happen if word of this got out to the press. It wouldn’t be an outright panic, but the end result….”

Cole thought of Awar living under his bridge, thinking that all was peaceful now that the punks that’d been hassling him were dead. “If I have to, I’ll strong-arm the Chief into paying it,” James finished. “But we need you on this one. I haven’t been having the dreams yet, but I can feel it. It’s going to get a hell of a lot worse.”

Cole nodded. “You’d better not squirm out of paying for me,” he threatened lightly. “Or I’ll have the goblins on your ass for it.”

Corhagen laughed. “Right. So, where do we start?”

“Where else?” Cole replied, adjusting his towel as he headed for the door. “We talk to the victim. She probably knows a thing or two.”

None of the other police officers at the crime scene were happy to see Cole. Though he didn’t recognize many faces in the crowd of discontent stares, Cole had gained something of an infamous reputation among Corhagen’s fellow officers. He supposed word about Lieutenant Heisen’s sudden bout of erectile difficultly had spread very fast. That had been the last time he’d set foot in James’s precinct, so it was natural, he supposed, that people were less than thrilled by his return.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Corhagen to clear the room. Most of the police officers on the scene were male, despite the fact that humans today liked to think of themselves as equals. No one seemed in any big hurry to do more than glare reproachfully at him one last time before making tracks for the door. Once they were gone, Cole turned to his former friend and smirked.

“Nice bunch. Very people-skills oriented.”

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Loving Luki Vasquez release party!

M/M romance, intrigue and steamy hot sex!

Please come to a release party at the publisher’s blog, June 20th starting 10:00am PDT. Excerpts, chances for free books, and more.

Hope to see you there!

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Cardeno C’s *Where He Ends and I Begin* out now at Dreamspinner Press

Scroll down for steamy excerpts, and an interview with our author!

Where He Ends and I Begin--Cardeno C

Jake Owens, aggressive, physical, blunt and brave, is a football hero turned city cop. Nate Richardson, his best friend since before forever, is thoughtful, quiet, and kind, a brilliant doctor who has always known who he is and that Jake is the love of his life – and loyal, courageous, straight Jake has never had a clue.

But Jake has been nursing his own case of the unrequiteds, and he’s never been as straight as Nate assumes. Nate may think their passionate explosion is a fluke, a result of too much closeness for too long, but Jake is bound and determined to prove to him otherwise. For Jake, the question isn’t how they ended up in bed together… it’s how can he convince Nate that he wants and needs to stay there.

Cardeno C. is a hopeless romantic who wants to add a little happiness and a few “awwws” into a reader’s day. Writing is a nice break from real life as a corporate type and volunteer work with gay rights organizations. Cardeno often feels that characters write their own stories and just hopes to find enough time to get those stories on the page. And Cardeno loves to hear from readers so please drop a line to share your thoughts on a story.

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Cardeno C Interview (And an bonus excerpt)

Q: Where He Ends and I Begin is part of a series, or rather related stories centering on the concept of ‘Home.’ How does the story of Nate and Jake’s belated love affair fit into that greater theme? Does each book address a different aspect of that concept?
A: Each book in the series focuses on home in the sense that the characters are building their own home together. In that way, there is a singular focus. That said, each book is about a different couple, so each story is different. Nate and Jake have actually always been each other’s home. They are two people who have been best friends, almost family since birth. In Where He Ends, we join Nate and Jake as their relationship shifts and they become lovers.

Q: As an author, you say one of your goals is to give the reader a bit of happiness, deal in a little “awww” factor. Most people would probably equate that with a ‘happy ending.’ I’m not going to ask about the end of Where He Ends and I Begin—let readers come by that information honestly, by reading the book. But can you give us a morsel, an “awww” moment in this book?
A: Even though you didn’t ask, I’m going to tell. There is a happy ending in Where He Ends and there will always be a happy ending in (and happiness throughout) every book I write. That is the reason I write. There are so many hard things in real life, so many struggles, whether with work, our birth families, political issues, the list goes on. I write as a release to get away from that and to go to a happy, kind place and I think readers who connect best with my books are looking for the same thing. As far as an “aww” morsel, I’ll share the scene that inspired the childhood picture on the cover:

I woke up Saturday morning and looked at the warm, sleeping body next to me. His eyes were closed, his hair was tousled, and he had a crease from the pillow across his fair cheek. I gently brushed his soft hair off of his forehead and sighed as the memory of Nate’s angelic face over the years flashed through my mind like a slide show.

My first real, distinct memory, one that I knew was mine and not just an image based on a story told by my parents, was of Nate’s face. It was our third birthday party, and we were standing on either side of our shared cake, ready to blow out the candles. Nate’s cheeks were pink because we’d been running around with our cousins all afternoon, his hair was even lighter then and it was a bit matted down on his head, his eyes were closed, and his lips were sort of puckered, ready to blow out the candles. I looked at him and felt warm inside, then I held my breath when it was time to blow so he could get all the candles out and have his wish come true. After he was done with the candles, he opened his eyes and smiled at me.

Just as that memory of then-three-year-old Nate’s eyes pulled at my heart, present-day Nate opened those crystal-blue eyes. I stroked his cheek.

“Good morning, beautiful.”

His voice was raspy with sleep as he answered me.

“Good morning.”

He scooted toward me, bridging the few inches that separated us, and nuzzled into my neck.
“Watcha thinking about, Jake? You have a faraway look in your eyes.”

I stroked his hair.

“I’m just remembering. What’s the first thing you remember, Nate? Your earliest memory?”
He was quiet for a minute, thinking. Then he pulled back a little and gazed at me.

“You. My first memory is you.” He kissed me softly.

“Remember when we turned three and our folks had the whole family over? All the uncles and their wives and kids? We’d just blown out the candles on our Bert and Ernie cake and I’d made my wish—that we’d be friends forever. Then I opened my eyes and saw you across from me. I remember looking into your eyes and deciding that green was my favorite color. So that’s my first memory—your green eyes, your face, smiling at me over that cake.”

Q: Nate and Jake both do a lot of changing to overcome the past that has come between them. Which one has the most to lose? Which one changes the most?
A: You know, I think they both have a lot to gain. Their friendship is solid and unshakeable and in many ways, they’re also family (though not biologically). By taking the next step in their relationship, both men gain the joy of connecting in every way with the man they already love. As far as who changes most, I think if I had to choose, I’d say Nate. The change isn’t to his personality or his behavior, however, it’s to his perception of Jake and himself. Nate never believed Jake could want him, and much of the story centers on Jake proving to Nate that nothing could be further from the truth. Nate’s ultimate acceptance of Jake’s feelings is, in my opinion, the biggest change.

Q: When Jake needed a sexual outlet other than Nate, believing that Nate wasn’t attracted to him, why—in your author’s mind—did he sleep with women instead of other men?
A: Well, if I were going to be crass (and if you’ve read my books you know that I can be), I’d say because he was looking for a warm hole with no possible risk of emotional entanglements. Jake is in love with Nate, has always been in love with Nate, and knows he will always be in love with Nate. He has no desire to change those feelings and no desire to have anyone other than Nate fill the role of best friend, confidant, roommate, and life mate. Because Jake believed Nate didn’t want to share a physical relationship, he sought that elsewhere. But he didn’t intend to replace any other aspect of Nate’s place in his life. In Jake’s mind, if he had sex with men, he’d think of Nate and the one thing he couldn’t have with the man he truly wanted. So, instead, he had sex with women, which to him was a physical release without involvement of his mind or heart.

Q: To put a spin on it, do you see one main character as sexier than the other? Is there a key difference between them that sparks, that makes their sex really hot—the sum greater than the parts, so to speak?
A: I don’t see one as sexier than the other. I think they’re different men with different traits. I think the thing that makes their sex really hot is their emotional connection and shared history. These things make every touch meaningful to them, and hopefully that translates to an intense reading experience.

Q: What’s in store for your readers? Will there be more in the ‘Home’ series? Something new?
A: There will be many more books in the Home series so long as I am fortunate enough to be given the privilege of publishing them. The next book in the Home series is slated for release this summer, though I haven’t been given an exact date. I’m currently writing another book in the series, but it’s in the early stages so far. And I just finished writing a paranormal (shape shifter) book for a new series.

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*Where He Ends and I Begin* an Excerpt from Cardeno C

“Do you remember senior prom, Jake?”

I turned to him.

“Yeah.”

“You let your date have it because she called you her boyfriend, and then you left her there.”
So that’s what this was about. That’s why he’d relegated me to some fucking one-off with his buddies instead of owning our relationship. I sighed.

“Is that what you remember?”

He looked at me, confused.

“That’s what happened.”

“Come here, Nate.”

I stood up and reached my hand down to help him stand. Then I gently pulled him to my room and sat him on my bed. I walked over to my dresser and picked up a framed picture.

“This is a picture of me with my prom date, Nate.”

It was a picture of the two of us, wearing our tuxedos and smiling, with our arms draped across each other’s shoulders. Nate looked at the picture and smiled, rubbing his thumb over it. Then he seemed confused again as he looked up at me.

“Your prom date? What do you mean?”

“Nate, I asked you to go to prom with me. Tell me you remember.”

No response. Just that same confused look in his eyes. Fuck. I knelt at his feet.

“Okay, I’ll remind you. Prom was coming up and everyone was talking about it. I asked you if you were going to go and you laughed, said you didn’t have a date. I thought, well, you don’t have to be attracted to me to go to prom with me. I mean, it’s just dancing, right? So, I asked you to be my prom date. Do you remember what you said?”

I knew he was remembering, but he was still sitting there, just looking at me. No words were coming out of his mouth. So I kept talking.
“You said you didn’t want to be some sort of gay poster child, going to prom with another guy. I didn’t understand that. But I knew you were uncomfortable, so I told you we’d get a couple of girls to go with us and then we wouldn’t be making a statement. We’d just have fun. Sylvia and Julie didn’t have dates, so I told them they could come with us. I didn’t ask Sylvia to be my date, Nate. And I sure as fuck wasn’t her boyfriend.”

Nate looked down at the picture for a couple of minutes before he finally spoke.

“You were serious? When you asked me to the prom, I mean. You were actually serious?”

I knew he was sensitive and I knew those years growing up in Bryerville were hard on him, that he felt inadequate. But I guess I never fully grasped the depth of the damage, of his insecurity.

“Of course I was serious. You know what, Nate? You never danced with me. I asked you that night but you laughed. I think you still owe me a dance.”

His eyes were misty.

“Yeah. I guess I do.”

So we got up, turned on the radio, and danced slowly in my room. Nate was still wearing his nice jeans and button-down shirt. I was coated with dried muck from the puddles and the rain, wearing nothing but a jock. It didn’t matter. Everything except Nate faded away, just like it always does when we’re in each other’s arms. And we danced.

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And Here’s the Racy Excerpt, from Where He Ends and I Begin (Thanks Cardeno C.)

We somehow made it back to our apartment with our clothes on. That was a major accomplishment, considering the fact that I was practically in Jake’s lap in the cab. I started kissing him as soon as we got in and I only broke the kiss long enough for Jake to give the cabbie our address. By the time we made it to our door, I had his belt off and his pants unbuttoned. He managed to unlock the door and lead me into the apartment, while constantly sucking on my tongue.

“Let’s go to the bedroom.” he whispered to me.

“No time,” I replied as I stripped off my shirt and kicked off my shoes. Jake looked at my chest and made a sound that can best be described as a growl. Then he unbuttoned and unzipped my pants and pushed them, along with my briefs, down to my ankles. I stepped out of them as Jake plunged down on my cock, taking me into his throat.

I leaned back against the wall and moaned.

“Ahhhh. Jake, that feels so good. But I need to feel you inside of me.”

He pulled back a little but continued sucking.

“Ohh, Jake. I won’t last. Please, come up here. I need you!”

He stood up and I pushed his pants and briefs down. His cock slapped up on his stomach and our eyes met. Jake’s eyes seemed almost wild. He kissed me deeply as he wrapped his arms around me and grasped my ass. Then he lifted me up. I put my arms over his shoulders and clasped my hands behind his neck, wrapped my legs around him and locked my ankles. I felt his cock pressing against my ass. He moved slowly, trying to find my entrance. I moaned into his mouth when he brushed against my pucker.

Jake pulled his mouth back and looked into my eyes as he simultaneously thrust upwards and lowered me down onto his cock. It was a hard, fast movement. I gasped at the stretching, slightly burning intrusion. It felt incredible and my cock reacted by twitching and dripping.

“Ungh!”

I lost the power of speech. I could only grunt and moan. Jake had me pressed against the wall. His arms were under my legs, holding me up and he had his hands pressed against the wall to brace himself. His biceps were flexing, sweat was dripping from his forehead, and he was pushing himself up and down, using the strong muscles in his legs while moving me up and down by raising and lowering his arms.

I could feel my cock rubbing against his stomach. I could smell his skin, his sweat. The sound of us both moaning and grunting filled the room. The whole experience was primal and erotic.

The friction of his cock plunging into my ass without lube caused an incredible combination of extreme pleasure with just a hint of pain. I was really getting off on it. Jake was kissing me and thrusting up into me when I felt his body tense.

He pulled his face back and looked into my eyes. I was so close, I needed to trip. I was gasping for air, banging my head back against the wall in frustration. Jake seemed to know exactly what I needed—he bent his head down and bit the spot where my neck meets my shoulder.

“Ahhhhhhh!”

I screamed as I released all over our chests and I felt Jake respond by shooting deep inside me.

After a few moments, he turned around while still holding me up. He pressed his back against the wall and slowly slid down, lowering us to the ground so he was sitting on the floor with me straddling his lap. He gazed into my eyes.

I was struck by how comfortable, how safe I was with him. His look held the knowledge of every hope, every failure, every achievement, every dream, every disappointment, every success, every humiliation, every joy I’d ever experienced.

“Was… was that okay? Did I give you what you needed, baby?”

He was looking at me intently. I nodded and nuzzled into his neck, licking his skin, sucking gently. As I regained the power of thought, I realized that his voice sounded different. It sounded… unsure. I picked my head up and looked at him. He brushed my hair back and ran his fingers through it. I searched his eyes.

“Jake? Is everything okay?”

He sighed and then tightened his grasp on me.

“I just… I want to make you feel as good as you make me feel. I want to give you everything.” He hesitated. “But, I don’t have the experience of those guys tonight. I could never move like they were moving.” He leaned his forehead on mine and continued.

“And they were all looking at you, wanting you. Man! You looked fucking amazing tonight, Nate. You always look so fucking amazing. You’re beautiful. So beautiful. And you’re such a good lover. The things you do with your body… the things you do to my body. You make me feel a way that I never even imagined. And you’re sooo fucking smart. I mean, that guy Bill is an ass, but he’s right. You could be with someone so much smarter than me.”

I opened my mouth to stop him, but then he finished in a whisper so low, I wouldn’t have heard him if I’d made any sound, or if we weren’t so close together, sharing the same air.

“Am I enough for you? I want so much to be enough for you.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had never known Jake to be insecure. And he was way out of my league—how did he not see that?

“Oh, Jake. Enough for me? You’re everything to me. I lose my breath when I look at you. Do you realize that you could be on the cover of a magazine? You are so gorgeous, without even trying. And don’t say that you aren’t smart, Jake! You know that isn’t true. I’m good with numbers, books. So what? I never have the right words. I don’t understand people. Hell, I barely even understand myself. But you do. You always have. You can walk into a room and somehow understand what every person there is doing and feeling. Do you have any idea how much I admire you?”

I realized that I was crying when I felt Jake’s hand brush the tears off my cheeks.

“I’m not that great, Jake. Trust me on that. Or ask any guy I’ve ever been with. None of them would be singing my praises in bed. The way I am with you, it’s… it’s different. It’s because of you, because of the things you make me feel, because of how much I love you, because I know how much you love me.”

I sniffled. My face was damp with tears. Jake was still wearing his shirt. The front was wet and sticky from my cum, but the sleeves were dry. He reached down and took off his shirt. Then he found the dry areas and used them to wipe my tears and the rest of my face. I laughed.

“What? Why are you laughing?”

“You just… you just made love to me to within an inch of my life, Jake. I can still feel you in my ass. You have the most incredible body I’ve ever seen.” I slid my hand down his perfectly sculpted, chiseled chest. “And you took the shirt off your back and used it to wipe my nose. So, yes, I think it’s safe to say you’re enough for me.”

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Find Cardeno C. on the web:
Erotic Romance–about the family we choose and the home we build together

Find the first two titles in Cardeno C’s Home series:
He Completes Me
Home Again

Watch for Cardeno C’s new series coming out in July/August: Love at First Sight.

Drop her a line at cardenoc@cardenoc.com

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