LA’s heat holds danger and mystery for a Dom and his sub aiming for love and a new life together.
Anxious to leave London and its horrors behind, Brian Harrison and Jackie Vasquez move to Los Angeles. Brian hopes working for Luki, managing a small Vasquez Security branch, will leave him more time to live, love, and play with sub Jackie. But Los Angeles awakens old trauma for Jackie, and follows that with a brand new hit.
While Jackie struggles back to health after a crippling accident, Brian strives to find his balance as Jackie’s lover and Dom. Meanwhile, the more Brian defies the order not to investigate the disappearance of the previous branch manager, the deeper and darker the mystery gets.
Can the couple fan the lusty flames still burning between them, rekindle romance, and rise together in time to stand against looming dangers just ahead?
Having limited time, wanting to concentrate on making everything perfect for Jackie, and willing to find excuses to avoid driving in Los Angeles, Brian had dispatched Shel Solomon—the second most senior of the full-time agents employed at VSI-LA—to pick up Jackie at the airport. Now, as he set a third huge bouquet of roses—this bunch almost black—in a vase in his brand-new , not yet completely furnished but promising playroom, he glanced at his watch.
“He’s late,” Brian said to himself. He double checked the app on his phone, confirming the flight had landed only two minutes late. A little bolt of worry shot through him, but he quickly quenched it. This was Los Angeles. The delay was probably due to traffic. $Twenty or thirty minutes late means nothing in this town, he thought. “Hell,” he said aloud, “two hours’ delay is pretty much normal around here.”
Ignoring the hollow sound of those words in the mostly bare room, he set about hanging up carefully coiled hanks of colored rope via stick-on hooks, thinking only about the colors he’d use to make Jackie beautiful when he did arrive. He wouldn’t be able that night to use the suspension rig he’d bought—no time to set it up and make sure it was safe—but that didn’t mean they couldn’t have plenty to play with in the meantime.
Fifty minutes later, Brian had checked and fidgeted with each of the rose bouquets scattered around the apartment at least three times, made sure wine and water were chilling along with a tray of fruit and cheese, wiped the counters again, re-dusted the mantel over the built-in and partially locked cabinet, cleaned a smudge off the playroom’s triple-width, full-length mirror, and listened to two sets of phone messages twice.
Marley sauntered into the new playroom and began an inspection, disapproving as big orange cats tend to do, then gave up and sat down to stare at his human. Brian had just that moment arranged—again—the new cock-ring he’d picked up on another impromptu shopping spree, setting it jauntily alongside the vase of Black Baccara roses and the opened box containing the new collar he hoped to put on Jackie soon—maybe even within hours. He’d chosen the collar carefully, after much deliberation purchasing a rich, pliable, black leather adorned with a silver lock and trim and a stylized Triskeli inset with iridescent labradorite. He situated the box just so, sighed, and ran exasperated hands through his hair.
Legitimately, he had no more preparation to accomplish before Jackie’s arrival, but he fidgeted, knowing he wouldn’t succeed if he tried to do anything important and unrelated. He was full of nervous energy—more so the later it got, so he turned his mind to a minor mystery he’d discovered the day he’d moved in. The playroom had a built-in cabinet, something like a bureau, but mostly recessed into the walls, with a narrow counter stretching across the top like a mantel and a mirror above. Brian had opened, inspected, and cleaned seven of the eight small drawers and found nothing.
But he hadn’t been able to open the eighth drawer. The pull was missing, and at first he thought it was fake—just a façade like the double cabinet door in the center. But why only one fake drawer out of eight? And those doors looked to be painted shut, and their front was recessed from the rest of the structure. But the mystery drawer had a thin strip of metal set unobtrusively—almost but not quite invisible—along its side, between it and the neighboring wood. He bent and peered closely at it, shining the flashlight on his phone into the narrow space. A space in the middle of the inch-long strip looked like it called for a key.
Brian had always been driven to solve a mystery, and this one was no different. He stood with hands on his hips, squinting as if that would provide answers. The locked drawer bothered him enough, and it was enough of a welcome distraction from Jackie’s lateness, that he decided to try his hand at lock-picking. He went decisively to the other bedroom closet where he rummaged through a still-packed box and came up with a few paperclips.
He understood the basics of lock-picking, but had never had much call to apply the skill, which might be why he failed miserably. That added to his frustration with the way things were going in general. Already, things had slid downhill from his perfect plan—starting with the fact that Jackie was late. He wasn’t taking “no” as an answer from the $damned drawer. He lined a butter knife up with the lock and gave it three sharp blows with a hammer, successfully knocking the lock through the wood. Brian sighed, left with mixed feelings—tension relieved, gratified, victorious, but angry as hell and disappointed in himself for ruining the perfection of the setting for tonight’s planned scene. The front of the drawer was a splintery mess. He moved the roses, collar, and cock ring to the other end of the shelf for the sake of aesthetics.
Inside the drawer, he found a small notebook and nothing else. About half the pages were filled with what looked to Brian like scribbling. A few repeated things, like a circle around capital B followed by numbers, and certain other letters that seemed to be abbreviations. The arrangement of entries looked haphazard, completely disorganized, and—to his eye—meaningless. Yet… someone had found it necessary to lock it up, all by itself. The someone likely to have done that would be the now-disappeared Espen, as he was the last person to occupy the apartment.
Something seemed deeply troubling about that.
< /hr> Thanks for reading, and as always feel free to leave me your thoughts in a comment. I love hearing from you!
It’s here, and it’s new! Released on the Changeling Press catalog a week ago, on 11/1 A Shot of J&B is let out into the wild—available for purchase and immediate download from Amazon and the other major retailers.
Reviewer Kitty Munday, who also read the 2015 edition of this title, said:“For those who, like me HAVE read the original:OMG I absolutely LOVE how Lou fleshed out the story here!” Noting that a lot of the exciting suspense action story will be told in book 2, as serialized by Changeling Press, she also asks, “And dang it Lou, how long will we have to wait?!”
The answer is: Not long! Vasquez Inc series book 2, A Shot of Fear is coming November 21! Watch for preorder news and a cover over the next week or so!
About A Shot of J&B
When Brian Harrison first met Jackie Vasquez at a Hawaiian wedding, Jackie was sixteen and troubled. Six years later they meet again; Brian’s career at Scotland Yard is budding with promise, while Jackie’s student days at the University of Nebraska are rolling toward a strong finish. Magnetic mutual attraction pulls them insistently toward one another, but the ocean separating their lives makes for a simmering romance.
When the waiting ends and they get together for a weekend in Denver, Dom Brian and sub Jackie both know they’ve tapped into something scalding hot, and much deeper than sharing an artful session. Shibari, lust, and love are all on the agenda — but for Brian, so is his police career, and a strange series of crimes seems poised to threaten their romance—and maybe their lives.
To set the scene, this is an email, one message in a string of them sent back and forth before they’ve had a chance to spend any real time on the same side of the Atlantic. They’re getting to know each other, and here you’ll get to know Brian—at least a little. A little extra? He works at Scotland Yard, a cyber-investigation expert who’s moving up to working in the field. He has a cat, a rescue fuzzball named Marley who’s not overly grateful, but loves Brian in his own way. (When Marley meets Jackie, it might be true that he loves Jackie even more.) So now… Brian answering some… personal questions. 🙂
Your e-mail has me smiling for a number of reasons. First, thank you for answering my questions so clearly and honestly. To be honest, I think for D/s we’re a pretty good match. I’m kind of unusual as a Dom. True story, some people think I shouldn’t call myself a Dom at all, because although I do want obedience during a session — I need it to keep my head focused right and even for safety — I don’t need or particularly want to test it, nor do I crave inflicting pain. I can use a flogger, paddle, riding crop, and I have, but I generally steer clear of the sub that desires pain for its own sake, because I’m not the right Dom for them.
I have a mentor, Tommy Fujimoto, an older man who has taught me a lot about Domination, and especially rope and knots. (Someday, I hope you can see his beautiful Shibari. I’ll go so far as to say, someday, I hope you can experience my Shibari. *grin*) But Tom has been a great role model in other ways, too, and he made me see that being gentler than a lot of Doms doesn’t make me less of one. He said, “The thing that makes a Dom is wanting submission and being able to take a like-minded sub where they need or want to go, head-wise.”
Are you familiar with rope bondage, Jackie? Shibari in particular is meant to be beautiful to the eye and the sense of balance and completion. For me, the most satisfying part is when a sub, deep in subspace, has a sort of forced epiphany that they are beautiful in my binding. Good Lord, Jackie. I hope it’s not forward for me to say I so much want a chance to do that for you.
You said you are a little embarrassed because you told me about imagining I was with you while you had that overwhelming orgasm, and you almost erased it. I’m so very glad you bit the bullet and hit send anyway.
Unable to resist, he ended the email with a mild caution.
Jackie, I hope you enjoy your weekend. On that geocaching outing, please be careful and don’t go alone.
And here’s a tiny snippet from the action packed book two, A Shot of Fear coming November 21:
“Fear,” Professor Hermans said. “Tell me why you have an interest in the subject.”
“Because…” the student said, but then she hesitated, seeming to choose the next words carefully. “Because it’s undeniably real. The only human emotion that is always genuine. Truthfully, I’ve wondered if it isn’t the $only human emotion, period.”
The professor sipped her tea and continued to watch the young person, who sat with apparent confidence, unflinching, across the low table from her. There was more to the student’s answer—she felt certain. “And?”
The student smiled, nodded, as if conceding a point. “And it’s beautiful.”
And book 3, A Shot at Living,” won’t be far behind—probably December-ish. Here’s a bit from that book:
Jackie’s red-gold lashes fluttered again and he opened his eyes. Brian could see them moving around, searching. After a second or so, Jackie’s gaze steadied, locking on his own. Brian had never seen a color as beautiful as the gray of Jackie’s irises at just that moment, just that angle, shining like life’s own magic in the dim light of that room in the ICU.
“Damn, Jackie,” he said. “Damn I love you.” He no longer cared that the tears he’d been fighting broke free with the words.
(Don’t forget you can get the whole story leading up to this kinky, sexy, suspenseful romance in the Vasquez and James series, available in Volumes 1 and 2 from Changeling Press, and at all major online book retailers. The stars of that series, Luki Vasquez and Sonny James, are reader favorites. And yes indeed, they do pop up in the new Vasquez Inc series from time to time… :))
Thanks for visiting the Book Blog! Comments are welcome and appreciated.
About Lou Sylvre
Lou Sylvre loves romance with all its ups and downs, and likes to conjure it into books. The sweethearts on her pages are men who end up loving each other — and usually saving each other from unspeakable danger. It’s all pretty crazy and very, very sexy. As if you’d want to know more, she’ll happily tell you that she is a proudly bisexual woman — a mother, grandmother, lover of languages, and cat-herder — of mixed cultural heritage. She works closely with lead cat and writing assistant, the (male) Queen of Budapest, Boudreau St. Clair. She lives in the rainy part of the Pacific Northwest, and hearing from a reader infallibly brightens the dreary weather. Find her through her links listed here, or drop her a line at email@example.com. http://www.sylvre.rainbow-gate.com https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLouSylvre/ https://twitter.com/Sylvre https://mewe.com/i/lousylvre https://www.instagram.com/sylvre/
Rainbow Gate Book Blog is happy to be a stop on the Rocking Thin Ice blog tour. Welcome, Z. Allora!
Can a sexy rock star show a relationship-phobic ice skater that there’s more to life than gold medals?
When ice-skating’s bad boy Blaze first glimpses Drake, every fantasy he’s ever had flares to life. Not only is rock star Drake sexy as sin, his songs awaken a longing in Blaze that he’s denied for years. But Blaze Parker doesn’t believe in relationships—at least not those that last more than twenty minutes.
Drake Keys has dreamed about the sensual ice skater for years. When Drake is kicked out of his band because of his bisexuality, he drives across the country to finally see the man he’s had a crush on skate live.
Though the attraction is instant and intense, both Blaze and Drake have baggage that puts any relationship on thin ice. Blaze is driven by a long-ago betrayal to prove himself a champion, and Drake, uncertain about the future, hopes to resurrect his music career. As they take a road trip together, Drake romances Blaze, hoping to melt his heart and show him that love is possible… but not without some tough decisions.
I love rock stars. It’s no secret. I have two different series (The Dark Angels & Made in China) and now Rocking Thin Ice. There’s just something about a person who has the courage to stand in front of a crowd and sing out my feelings. Of course, add the cool/bad guy appeal and well, you’re in my happy place.
One of my gateways into M/M romance was a rock star story. It was perfectly imperfect and threw me down the path of lustful adoration. When I was in China, I spent hours (days… okay weeks… months) watching the Adam Lambert tour cross the USA.
I was fascinated by I could tell how homophobic the state they were performing in was by how they handled the song Fever. Did Adam Lambert and Tommy Ratcliff kiss? Did they makeout? How much did they play with each other? The tour embarked on their overseas tour and I followed it again. That song was still a good predictor of homophobia but when they headed to Malaysia and people protested because they were afraid he’d make their kids gay. I decided I had to start sharing my work.
The music industry is far from tolerant when it comes LGBTQIA people. Though as we’ve seen in the last few years more out rainbow people. Lil Nas X, who is openly gay is the rap star who went country and just won Song of the Year at the MTV Video Music.
I believe music can help people bridge gaps… therefore books about musicians can really get the job done!
Rocking Thin Ice came to be because I was enthralled with a Johnny Weir video where he skates to Lady Gaga in an exhibition. He’s all defiant and sexy… just by showing the world exactly who he is he fights and wins a war.
Blaze Parker from Rocking Thin Ice skates to music that sends messages to the judges, audiences, and the world. I struggled with who could balance and appreciate all that my skater is and wants to become… A rock star stood up for the challenge.
Drake Keys is super laid back. He likes girls, guys, and guitars. No biggie as long as everyone is happy… until the band’s homophobic manager dismisses him. He finally decides to see Blaze Parker skate live. He decides attending a skating event wasn’t stalking even if you had been crushing on the guy since you were a teenager.
Blaze doesn’t do relationships longer than twenty minutes so his decision to take a very high guitar player home was more about responsibility than spending time with a hot guy. His brother is joking about Blaze and Drake’s wedding on their first official date could easily be ignored, but even his dog (who takes the world on teeth first) loves Drake. It’s a conspiracy! But not a bad one.
About the Author
Z. Allora believes in happily-ever-afters for everyone. Z. met her own true love through the personals and has traveled to over thirty-four countries with him. Z.’s lived in Singapore, Israel, and China. Now back home in the USA, Z.’s a strong supporter of those on the rainbow in her community. Z. wants to promote understanding and acceptance through her actions and words. Writing rainbow romance that explores the spectrum within each letter of the LGBTQIA+ community allows Z. to validate and open hearts as well as bring a greater understanding of orientation and gender.
Facebook: Z Allora Allora and join Z.’s Yaoified Love group (for fun, character chatters, giveaways, and silliness)
The second half of the acclaimed Vasquez and James stories is out today from Changeling Press, following the release of Volume 1 last month. Vasquez and James Volume 2, sporting another brilliant cover, completes the long, flowing, beautiful love story of Luki Vasquez and Sonny James. Stick with them as they face suspenseful episodes, laugh with them as humor rears its marvelous head even in the toughest of moments, and rejoice with them as they come through the hardships stronger and closer than ever, with a happy ending any couple might envy. The sexy romance continues to blaze even while the suspense can chill you to the bone. Maybe that explains why Nadine said the novella Yes was “like some kind of magical incantation,” and the opening sentence of Nickie’s 5-star review of Saving Sonny James on Goodreads:
“What can I say about Lou Sylvre’s book Saving Sonny James? A veritable work of art. I laughed. I cried. I set on the edge of my seat. It was awesome.”
And here’s what Jules, of The Novel Approach review site, said in her review of the series’ final book, Because of Jade:
There is such a beauty about the way Lou Sylvre writes these characters. A pureness. A sort of reverence. If I had my way, there would be new Vasquez & James books until the end of time.
Get Vasquez and James Volume 2 today from Changeling Press and save 15% off an already great price. (And if you prefer buying through Amazon or another online retailer, the links are right there on the publisher’s catalog listing.)
About the books:
Troubles strike, Romance sizzles, Love endures, A family is made.
Saving Sonny James: The events of the last couple of years have begun to catch up with Luki — loving Sonny James and letting Sonny love him back have left gaps in his emotional armor. Sonny says yes to a European tour with Harold Breslin, a dangerously intelligent promoter whose obsessive desire for Sonny is exceeded only by his narcissism. When Harold’s plan for Sonny turns poisonous, Luki must break free of PTSD and get to France, fit and ready in time to save his husband’s life.
Yes (A Vasquez and James novella): Professional badass Luki Vasquez and textile artist Sonny James have been married for five years, and despite the sometimes volatile mix, they’re happy. From their first days together, they stood united against deadly enemies and prevailed. But now the deadly enemy they face is the cancer consuming Luki’s lungs. Sonny tries to control every thread just as he does when he weaves, but still Luki dances with cancer alone—until he gets a startling reminder of the miracle of life.
Because of Jade: Still cancer free after five years, Luki finds out his nephew Josh and wife Ruthie have met a tragic death. Luki and Sonny must help each other learn to parent an unexpected child, Jade, and still nourish the love that has kept them whole for the past ten years. A relative’s claim to Jade threatens the new family, and even if they prevail in court, they could lose their little girl unless they can rescue Jade from evil hands and true peril.
From Saving Sonny James
The cemetery lay quiet in heavy mist, autumn leaves breaking the gray with fiery shades. Sonny picked up some leaves and twirled them one by one in front of him, and Luki knew his mind was busy with ideas of color. They stood together at the foot of Delsyn’s grave, looked at the still new headstone with its simple engraving: a medicine wheel with eagle feathers in each of the four directions, and the name—Delsyn James Bull.
Luki said, “I didn’t know his last name wasn’t James.”
“He preferred James,” Sonny answered, shrugging. “He didn’t like his father.”
“So why is your name James?”
Sonny grinned, “I didn’t like my father either!” Then the smile disappeared but not the good humor, and he added, “And my stepfather, whose name I had on my birth certificate, didn’t mean anything to me. When my mother died and I was living with Melvern, I wanted his name—Melvern’s—and he got it changed for me. I’ve never been sorry. I don’t feel like any other name but James would have been mine.”
“I think you’re right,” Luki said. “You’re definitely Sonny Bly James, the most beautiful thing that ever happened to the world. And I love you.”
Sonny smiled and hugged Luki, then leaned his chin on his husband’s shoulder. “I love you, too, Luki Mililani Vasquez, the hottest badass that ever happened to the world.” He took a deep breath, held on really tight. “Why are you different, Luki?”
Luki’s wrapped his arms tighter around Sonny. He stayed quiet.
“Should I not have asked?”
Finally Luki found some words. “It’s fine that you asked, baby. I just don’t know how to answer…. Do you…. Are you asking why I’m different since I… since that kid—”
“Guard,” Sonny said. “He wasn’t a kid, he was a guard. No, I think I understand that, at least in theory. I’m asking why you’re different today. You’re… good. Have I blown everything by going there? Are you not going to answer?”
“No. You haven’t, and I will. Just not right this second.”
“Okay. Don’t worry, husband. No rush, and besides, I wanted to smudge over Del’s grave…. Damn, I hate saying those two words together.”
“Yeah, that’s hard. I’m sorry, baby.”
Sonny gave Luki a puzzled look, as though he could see something beyond those words that didn’t quite make sense. Luki thought, Please don’t say anything about it, Sonny, and perhaps Sonny was sensitive to that, because he said nothing more about it.
“Husband,” Sonny said, and the way he said it, Luki felt himself blush. He knew that was silly, but when Sonny called him that, in that certain way, it sort of made him tingle. He resisted a stupid grin, and Sonny went on. “Will you help me with the smudge?”
“Sure. What do I need to do?”
“Not a lot, really.” He reached into his backpack, fiddled with some things, and then held out an abalone shell filled with cedar and some other dried plant material Luki didn’t recognize. “Hold this,” Sonny ordered, “This is just sage, with the cedar. And a little sweetgrass.” He held a Bic to the mixture and set it to smoldering, making a plume of sharp but very sweet-smelling smoke.
Luki fought a smile again—almost lost the battle.
Sonny once again gave him the puzzled look. “This seems all mysterious, you know, but really it’s just a way of being clean. Body, mind, and spirit, so they say. I’ve never smudged all that often, nor did I go to sweat lodge or smokehouse to pray. But Delsyn did. Him and Melvern…. Watch how your holding that shell, Luki, it gets hot on the bottom.”
“Ouch! Shit, burn!”
Sonny took the shell from him, and Luki felt completely foolish. He’d been so distracted by the sweet smell of the smoke and crackle of the cedar, the pretty burn, he hadn’t even noticed the shell heating up. He looked up sheepishly to find Sonny peering at him through narrowed eyes, his lips pursed in a slight, pensive smile.
“You like this smudge, don’t you, Luki? That’s good. Put your hands in the dew.”
“Quick, honey!” Sonny sounded a little annoyed but obviously concerned for Luki’s welfare. “Put your hands in the dew on the grass—wet and cool, for the burns.”
“Oh, well, probably too late now. They’re not that bad, anyway. That was a really good idea, though.”
In answer, Sonny gave him another one of those bemused looks—this time, just out of the corner of his eye. Luki was trying to figure out what those looks meant at this point, but it didn’t appear he was going to be getting that information.
Sonny produced a medium-sized feather from the vest pocket of his leather jacket. “You know what I should do for you, Luki? I should have Jim Standing Bear come up and put you in a sweat with fifty-two rocks and a long-winded leader.” He chuckled. “Either fix you right up or put you in the hospital. Just kidding, of course. But to clean the grave—which sounds stupid but I think Del would like it—we have to be clean first. So I’ll do you and then you do me, okay?” Luki’s eyebrows went up.
“Smudging, Luki. We’re talking about smudging. Get your mind out of my pants!”
“Never, sweetie, but okay. Smudging. What do I do?”
“Just stand there mostly, while I get the smoke all over you…. Okay, lift up one foot… the other. Okay, you’re done. Smoke’s still going good. Do me?”
“Whoa, Sonny! Right here in the graveyard?”
Sonny laughed and smacked Luki’s bicep. “I meant the smudge, Luki. And you know it.”
“Oh, okay.” He knew a smile could be heard in his voice and he let it play there. He started to move the feather, washing Sonny down with the cleansing smoke. This whole thing, this day, this smudging as Sonny called it—it all felt so good. Luki didn’t want it to stop, ever, and he didn’t care if his beloved husband knew that. He hoped Sonny knew. He didn’t think he was well, cured, absolved. He knew he wasn’t, but just for now he felt brand new. He thanked Delsyn in his thoughts—this wasn’t the first time Delsyn had brought him and Sonny closer, or adjusted Luki’s focus. He’d done it more than once while alive, and it didn’t even really surprise Luki that he’d reach from the other side of the veil to wake him up.
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you’ll enjoy this second batch of Luki and Sonny’s adventures! Coming soon, a new series! Vasquez Inc, The J&B Stories, featuring the suspenseful trials, lustful heat, and poignant love story of Jackie Vasquez, Brian Harrison—with plenty of appearances by veteran characters Luki and Sonny! Feel free to comment on the blog—your thoughts are always welcome. Happy reading, everyone.
It’s a very good feeling for an author when a new book releases and some positive reviews roll in right away. Because Vasquez and James Volume 1 from Changeling Press re-releases a second edition of three books, I wasn’t sure what to expect in the way of reader response. It’s early yet, but there’s some good news! Check out these reviews from new readers. You can find the full reviews on the book’s listing page on Amazon.
Her characters are very well written, very believable for the most part. The stories will run you through a gamut of emotional ups and downs. In 1 minute you’ll be crying over a sad thing, then just have to laugh along with Luki or Sonny, as they try to find humor to help each other through the pain, or sigh over the sweetness of their love for each other. It can take them time to spot the vulnerabilities in their partner, but they eventually do.
The action/suspense in these stories is very well written. Lou has obviously done her homework here. Everything from kidnapping to small homemade bomb building. AND all the emotions evoked in the characters suffering these things are very believable as well.
This is a fantastic pairing of two MCs who seem like opposites on the surface. and yet they have so much in common. Number one of which is that neither is looking for a relationship! They have trials and tribulations galore as they make their way into each others’ hearts. This is a fantastic set, and the books should be read in order. There is danger, drama, trauma, grief, and love. I was unfamiliar with this author before I picked up this set, and I am so glad I did.
The Vasquez and James books that got such high praise from reviewers, readers, and fellow authors is back in a brand new format with a brilliant cover, courtesy of Changeling Press. Today, 6/28/19, the first three stories in this blazing romance between two extraordinary men comes out in an ebook box set, Volume 1 of 2, with the remaining 3 stories due out July 27. In each book Luki Vasquez and Sonny James meet danger in a thrilling episode of suspense, and despite it all their love grows a little bit stronger, glows a little bit brighter.
Get Vasquez and James Volume 1 today from Changeling Press and save 15% off an already great price.
Discover why author Kade Boehme said what he did in his Goodreads review of the first edition of book 1: “Luki is infuriating but god I love him. And Sonny… How appropriate is that name. He’s got a bad past hiding in there somewhere but he’s all light and “bubbles”. Just what that hard ass Luki needs. Lou Sylvre’s writing is also phenomenal. What chops. Very eloquent while still maintaining the masculine voices of her characters. Now THAT is talent. I’m smitten.”
About the books:
When badass meets artist, sparks and bullets fly. Blazing romance, chilling suspense, enduring love…
Loving Luki Vasquez: Renowned but reclusive weaver Sonny Bly James masters color, texture, and shape in his tapestries, but when he meets Luki Vasquez, an ex-ATF agent and all-around badass, his heart and desire spin out of control. The heat between them won’t be denied. United by danger, can Sonny and Luki put fear and anger aside, and fight together to save Sonny’s nephew and their own lives?
Delsyn’s Blues: Devastated by loss, Sonny James listens to a voice singing the blues from beyond the grave. Convinced he’s failed in an all-important life task, he tries to shut out Luki Vasquez and love just when he needs him the most. But when Luki finally breaks through Sonny’s fortress of grief, it’s just in time for the newly reunited couple to face a new, violent, escalating danger.
Finding Jackie: When Sonny James asked Luki Vasquez to marry him, Luki’s “yes” was accompanied by a request — a wedding in Hawaii. Months and many trials later, their hilltop island ceremony is poignant and funny, and every bit as beautiful as they’d hoped. The honeymoon is all sex, surfing, and sunshine… until Luki’s sixteen-year-old nephew is kidnapped by a sadistic killer. When it all comes to an ultimate showdown with evil, it’s not only love at stake, but their lives.
Excerpts (Beware of sexy hotness in the one from Finding Jackie):
From Loving Luki Vasquez
Oak Flats, Nebraska, 1982
A MUD-SPATTERED pickup in the front yard of a weathered house. Summer-gold hayfields rolling back farther than the eye could see. In the west, a sinking sun screened by a line of trees—cottonwoods and willows. Under those trees, a band of children just into their teens, whooping and laughing in that way that kids do in the summer when night is just on the edge of the next breath.
Luki ran faster than all the rest, and then looped back to taunt them. Excitement like electricity ran through him. Something about this day, this hour, this prelude to night, was special. “Maria,” he yelled. “I’ll race ya!”
It started a stampede, all seven of the boys and Maria, the one girl who always hung out with them, running as if they could fly, thrashing through brambles and over sticks and stones as if they couldn’t feel them. Out onto the Old Granary Road, onto the bridge, right over the rail and into the river, just as they’d done hundreds of times before.
Luki swam underwater for as long as he could hold his breath, which was longer than anyone, except maybe Maria. When he came up, laughing and spitting, and slicked his hair back out of his eyes, all of the other boys had gathered at the shore, whispering, or maybe arguing. Maria hadn’t even gone in, and now she was worming her way down the steep embankment from the road to the river.
The sun sank under the skyline, and the river turned dark, and Luki felt a chill run through him.
“Hey, Luki, c’mon over here, man.” It was Ronny Jemison, the boy that was a bit taller, a bit rougher, a bit meaner than any of the rest. Maybe the leader, if they had been a gang. “We’ve got something for you. C’mon.”
Ronny scared him when he was like this. Luki had seen the bully push Little Jimmy down the bank, yank Maria’s hair hard enough to put her on her knees, kill birds and frogs and rabbits—anything that lived—just to be killing. But, scared or not, Luki knew he had to choose: go and fight and maybe get hurt, or be deemed a coward and so get picked on—probably for the rest of his life.
So Luki went.
Before he quite made it safely to dry land, Ronny smacked him hard in the face with a balled up fist, and yelled one word, spit it at Luki as if it was made of acid and would flay him.
From Delsyn’s Blues
SONNY knew he should care a lot more about getting arrested for things he no way could have done, about people breaking in, about all of that. But he didn’t want to care. Luki—obviously—was thoroughly busy with the problem. Let him have it. Sonny had other things he wanted and needed to think about. Like Delsyn dying. Like Delsyn living.
Like Delsyn playing the blues.
He didn’t want to rush things, so instead of popping the cassette tapes into an old player, he took them to Port Angeles to a shop where they’d convert them to CDs. In the process, he discovered a 16mm tape he hadn’t noticed before. He had that converted to DVD. He successfully ignored Luki’s investigation for another twenty-four hours, then hopped in the ancient F-150 his uncle Melvern had left him as a legacy. After the key didn’t even crank the engine, he took it out of gear and hopped back out, gave the truck a push downslope, hopped back in and popped the clutch. On his way to P.A. to get the finished product, he didn’t think about Delsyn or various crimes. He thought about replacing the starter.
He drove through Port Clifton, which wasn’t quite on the way home, to stop at the store. He contemplated something alcoholic to help him through the hard parts. God help him, he once again contemplated dope, but he quickly discarded both ideas and settled for Rocky Road ice cream and a great big tin of Scottish shortbread cookies. Because, he freely admitted to the cashier, he was a little crazy. Making a last stop, he had a raspberry latte at Margie’s.
“So, Sonny, why are you driving that rusty bucket?”
“Mustang wouldn’t start,” he said, lying and pretty sure Margie could tell.
“Well, that’s kind of lucky, don’t you think? I mean, your Uncle Mel would have wanted to go along.”
Sonny laughed, and after that Margie found room in her freezer for his Rocky Road and chatted with him—or more accurately, at him—in the old way, not mentioning anything at all about death, murder, jail, dope, Luki, or anything else remotely related except her new PT Cruiser. But then at the end, she gave him another latte, free of charge. “You’re not the only one who misses him, you know. You’re certainly the one who has lost the most, but you’re not the only one who is sad, or hurt, or wondering how to fill up the hole in the world Delsyn left behind.”
“You miss him too.”
“I do, but I wasn’t talking about me. It’s good to see you in here again, by the way. I still wonder why you drink those silly coffees, though. See you soon, dear, and don’t forget to tell Luki I’ve always got a cup of coffee for him, black and sweet.”
Sonny parked the pickup in the yard, refusing the crotchety old thing the right to live in the barn with the Mustang, the Harley, and his auntie’s ridiculous but fragile ’72 Honda Civic. He wasn’t sure why his mood had lightened at least three shades, but he didn’t spend much time thinking about it. He wasn’t really the kind of person to get so very bogged down in misery, and now he had plans. He’d clean up the studio first—the rancid dyes had actually begun to smell up the rest of the house, and his fingers were starting to itch for the touch of silk and wool. Once he had his tools and space in order, he’d know what he wanted to weave. And what a relief.
Then he’d watch the DVD. See Delsyn again, he hoped. Hear his voice. Keep loving him, just as if he was alive. Maybe not, but better than nothing at all.
In the end, though, he didn’t deal with the studio at all. He let the screen door bang behind him as he ducked into the mud porch. Ignoring the strips of bark and thankfully dead but now useless cochineals, thankful that he’d at least dumped the smelly, spoiled dyes, he walked through to the kitchen to put the ice cream away and pried off the lid of the shortbread tin to eat a cookie. He thought about checking to see if it improved his fake Scottish brogue, but it never had before. The coffee pot was on, the coffee hot and smelling fresh, but Luki was nowhere in sight—not in the kitchen, the bathrooms, the bedroom, etcetera. Sonny thought about looking for him outside, or thought maybe he wasn’t there after all; maybe Rona had come to get him to figure out some legal thing that Sonny refused to notice.
But no. His shoulder holster was hanging on the back of the bedroom closet door. He wouldn’t have left it. Without having to think about it anymore, he knew where Luki was. Sonny could move almost silently, and he made it a point to be as quiet as he could on the way back to Delsyn’s room. It wasn’t that he wanted to surprise Luki. He only wanted to see him without the guard he would put up if he knew he was being watched. Maybe not nice, but Sonny didn’t care about that just then.
The door to Del’s room was open, the blue walls strangely aglow in the light that poured around the edges of the plywood he’d used to cover the broken window. The small lamp in the corner by Del’s bed had been switched on, and in the circle of light it cast, Luki sat in a T-shirt and striped pajamas, chewing his bottom lip and stroking the wood of Del’s old, now broken, guitar, tracing the scratches and scars on its surface as if reading it like Braille.
Of course, Luki became aware of Sonny instantly, and put the instrument down. It took him a minute to look up, and when he did, the look on his face gave away Luki’s feelings—a rare event in itself. Luki grieved. Sonny couldn’t understand now why he hadn’t seen that, expected it, even. The two of them had grown close—Luki and Del. Sonny had been happy for that at the time.
“He loved you,” Sonny said.
“You sent me away.”
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it.” Sonny thought of how lame that must sound, but he had no solution and just then he felt overwhelmed with all the things he’d done wrong—even if you just counted the last few days. But he tried to explain. “Luki, it was like… it hurt, but the pain was all I had of him toward the end. Stupid, I know, but I couldn’t share it.” He didn’t know what else to say, so after a moment’s silence, he added, “But I love you. And… will you watch Delsyn’s DVD with me? Want some Rocky Road?”
Luki sent him an almost-smile, nodded. “Sure. But hamburgers first. I’ll make ’em. You have to have something solid in your stomach before the shortbread.”
“You and your hamburgers,” Sonny said. “And I didn’t say anything about shortbread.”
“I need hamburgers to keep my strength up. You’ve got crumbs in your beard.”
“I don’t have a beard.”
“I know, but if you did, there would be shortbread crumbs in it
From Finding Jackie
LUKI and Sonny had checked into their hotel room before they went to the market, but they’d only had their bags placed inside the room; they’d never even gone in. They had decided to stay this time at a different hotel altogether, thinking the Fairmont was beautiful but the memories of their previous stay mostly not so good. At the Monaco, they’d been offered the Ambassador Suite, but Sonny had insisted the purple furniture would prevent him from sleeping, so they ended up with the Monte Carlo suite. They walked back to the hotel after their business and pleasure at the market was done, and Sonny sighed.
Luki said, “What?”
“Nothing,” Sonny said, sounding like a martyr. “It’s just… interesting wallpaper.”
“Baby,” Luki said, not understanding at all but willing to go to any lengths to please his man, “If you hate it—”
“No, no, I don’t. I mean, it’s not bad—it’s probably even good. I just need to get used to it. The colors in here are gorgeous, truthfully. And you know what?”
Luki’s eyes followed his husband, who paced from side to side, peeked around curtains and walls, opened doors. He made a sound, something like “Mm,” knowing Sonny wasn’t really looking for a response, but would appreciate knowing Luki was paying attention. He also smiled. Something about the quirky way Sonny settled himself into a space was too sweet for words.
“You know what I need to do, honey?”
Luki noted with glee that Sonny had begun to strip. This time, when he said, “Mm,” he didn’t have to feign interest.
“I need to get in that bathtub—do you see that thing? It’s like a swimming pool. I need to get in there and soak, all nice and relaxed, and take in that wallpaper until it seems normal to me.”
The man is fucking crazy, Luki thought, both disappointed and surprised. Sonny was already in the bathroom, fine-tuning the water temperature. Luki put his hands in his pockets—not a characteristic posture at all, but he was at a loss. He literally jumped when Sonny whooped and yelled.
“Yes! There’s bubble bath in here!”
Now, Luki was so nonplussed that he sat down on the couch, rather hard. When he tried to think of something he might be doing the only two things that came to mind were jerking off—which he dismissed immediately—and eating a hamburger. He considered the hamburger carefully, decided against, and got up to wander into the strangely wall-papered, thoroughly lavender-scented bathroom.
“This is a big tub, Luki.”
Luki stepped closer to Sonny and pushed a long strand of dark hair off his chest, letting it join its fellows falling down Sonny’s back.
Sonny grabbed Luki’s belt at the buckle and made as if to undo it. “Get in, Luki. There’s room. Look.” He lifted a foot out of the water. “See, my feet don’t even reach all the way to the other side. Not crowded at all.”
Luki stood silent, chewing his lip. He wasn’t one for shower play, which Sonny knew. It just reminded him too much of lonelier days. He never took baths, especially bubble baths. And, he really, really didn’t want to smell like flowers. But he loved his husband so much, and there the man was, asking for this simple, little thing.
“Luki, take a bath with me. Come on.”
Luki started to strip, tossing his clothes back out onto the chair in the bedroom. He was, of course, hard by the time he was naked, which was something Sonny certainly didn’t fail to notice, even though he said nothing. Luki stood there, feeling confused, never before having realized that deciding how to get into a bathtub and situate oneself was so difficult.
“Luki, you can just sit on that side, facing me so I can look at your eyes and we can talk. Okay? That way you won’t feel so awkward.”
“I’m pretty sure there’s something in that statement I should scold you for, Sonny Bly, I just haven’t figured out what it is,” Luki said while climbing in and turning around and sitting down as instructed. But once he settled, his hands found Sonny’s legs, and he couldn’t help but rub them. And then Sonny found his foot, and as Sonny well knew, Luki’s toes were really sensitive. And Sonny played with them. All the while they looked each other in the eyes.
“Luki,” Sonny said, finally, “you don’t play in the shower.”
“No. What’s your point?”
For answer, Sonny took Luki’s foot and laid it along his own erection, which was one of the sexiest things that had ever happened to Luki. Then Sonny took his size a-very-large-number foot, with its long, nearly prehensile toes, and not too gently stroked it up and down Luki’s cock, and Luki spent a few seconds catching his breath.
“This isn’t a shower,” Sonny said.
Luki nodded. “Right.”
Sonny let a little water out, added some hot to adjust the temperature. “We could fuck here, if we so desired, which I do.” Sonny actually looked hopeful, as if he was a little afraid Luki would say no, or maybe scoff.
Luki wasn’t about to do either one. Sonny was the most beautiful, lovable, eminently fuckable person on the planet, and Luki wasn’t about to fail him. As he’d explained to Sonny just the other day, fucking Sonny happy was his personal joy. He licked his lips. “Come here, baby.”
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you’ll enjoy Luki and Sonny’s adventures!
(I rarely note “warnings,” but there are potential triggers here. Beware if you’re vulnerable. – Lou Sylvre.)
Madeira Desouza has a new gay erotic sci fi tale out: Baja Clavius.
This controversial science fiction adventure depicts gay male time travel agents with very bad behaviors. They are violent and immoral men.
A few hundred years from now, these time travel agents work within a top-secret agency located beneath the crater Clavius on the moon. Their time-travel missions take them to Earth in the past where they ruthlessly manipulate man who are targeted for their roles in the outcomes of historical events such as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
Yesterday I was lost and I died. Today I am alive again. I accept the truth about foregone tomorrows and my resurrections from the dead.
I do not claim to be a believer in a deity or a religion. Yet, I have personally experienced being repeatedly brought back to life after death. Something far more powerful than us human beings resurrected me. And now, everything I have learned about living, dying, and then coming back for more is presented here.
I have been coerced into creating this journal of my experiences. I will suffer if I am less than completely truthful. I will be held prisoner until I have completed this in full.
I work for a top-secret international agency that is so deeply concealed nobody could possibly find it. Baja Clavius is the name of the international base of operations where I live. It is from that base that I travel in time to work assignments on Earth.
Desperate efforts by others to censor this work all have ended in failure. Just to confuse you, others have circulated conflicting versions of this. But I defeated all my enemies who wanted to prevent you for seeing this.
I begin by sharing my memories of being back in my home state of Arizona—on foot trudging through the desert under dark, threatening thunderclouds that do not diminish the hottest day I have ever felt in my entire life. Through an unexpected break in the storm clouds, I see bright white sunlight and the most magnificent color of blue sky. Up there above me a haunting full moon commands my attention.
Sticking out of the landscape under the ominous skies is a mechanical structure apparently made mostly of wood. As I walk closer to the device, it looks to me as though it was created specifically to slow down the process of hanging a man by the neck so that he will experience extended agony before his death.
Hung from a thick brown rope wrapped around a wheel wench is a muscular, shirtless, and barefoot man with his arms unbound struggling desperately to stay conscious as his neck is crushed in the noose. I see his high cheekbones and long dark brown hair that is tied behind his neck into a queue. I watch his bare feet kick the sky.
I notice a pair of unattended video cameras on tripods positioned nearby on the desert floor pointing toward the hanging machine. Why would anyone go to the trouble of videotaping this man’s death by ritual hanging?
I know that I have met him previously. But this man whose name I cannot remember somehow seems to hold a distinct place at the very center of faulty recollections in my brain.
Off in the distance fifty meters or so to the west of my location, I can see four men wearing cowboy attire running away. I must have scared them away when I approached. But they left that helpless man to die on their hanging machine.
He is someone who seems obviously capable of having put up very considerable resistance against this merciless fate. His powerful body attracts my full attention. He looks like he is about thirty years old—the same age as me. His legs wildly swing in all possible directions as I reach the hanging machine. He desperately tries to reach his hands up to his neck as if it somehow were possible to free himself from the noose. But that is impossible! He groans when he sees me as if to try and tell me something.
His faded blue jeans are too tight for him. I stare at his bulging crotch as he dances in the air at the end of a rope. I marvel at his incredible masculinity contrasted with utter vulnerability. This man looks strong and tough. He must certainly be capable of protecting himself against anyone with success. But, not now.
He cannot save himself. He is simultaneously very manly and totally defenseless. This precise opposing combination of traits is, I’m sure, why men watch executions of other men.
His deep, dark eyes remain open, defiantly staring outward into the eerie sky. He resumes his kicking, but much more forcefully now.
His tight blue jeans emphasize his growing bulge. He has attained a full erection ahead of what will be his final ejaculation into his jeans. There is intense humiliation on his face. His body jerks wildly. As he shoots his last load in his pants, his neck cannot withstand the crushing force of the noose. I am stunned because I did not expect to see his body spasms, kicking, and curling of his toes.
Very suddenly, he just stops struggling. His body no longer can fight back against the effects of gravity and the noose that has applied fatal pressure to his vulnerable neck. I watch him desperately try to open his mouth to breathe, but he has no life remaining in him. I am overwhelmed with intense anger and shock as I slump to the ground. I cry without any shame for this stranger. I feel stunned by my sexual attraction to him. It is as if I have lost someone who has been very significant to me and to my life.
Even though I feel instinctively that I have suffered memory loss, I can remember where I work. I especially remember being inside some kind of cylindrical blue machine.
The inside of the circular blue glass machine was filled with a milky white liquid. It was translucent and unpleasant. It smelled like chemicals. I was naked. I felt like I was drowning. But I knew I was not going to drown. Something has taught me that I cannot die. I know with absolute certainty that I do not know death. I live on and on. But, I have so many questions that I cannot answer. Why am I repeatedly resurrected? Will I live forever?
Notes from the Author on Diverse Characters
What motivated you to choose a wide diversity for your science fiction characters?
Both of my grandfathers came from Portugal’s Azores Islands situated in the Atlantic Ocean some 850 miles off the western coast of Europe. I grew up as a cultural minority within the Portuguese community situated midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. So, I definitely come from “old country” roots.
When I first started creating the characters in “Baja Clavius” I imagined that 200 or 300 years from today, people probably would not feel ethnic or cultural prejudice like we have nowadays.
My all-male time travel agents working inside the crater Clavius on the moon are from many well-known peoples of planet Earth. I prominently feature a Mexican or Latino hero named Ted Avila. He’s the narrator. The exact heritage of time travel agent Avila in the book is left open to individual interpretation. But although the character’s surname can readily be found in both Portuguese and Hispanic populations today, it is pronounced differently in various places. For example, the “A” in Avila Beach, California is pronounced like in the word apple.
I suppose I may have crossed the line when I created “new prejudices” such as the future society believing gay men are more successful in life compared to straight men, and, a very clear hero-worship of gay men who are celebrities for their sexual prowess. But unlike in the 21st century, nobody in the future society I created is prejudiced based on the color of a person’s skin or ethnic characteristics. Several prominent characters in “Baja Clavius” stand out in this regard. Time travel agent Vincent Wauneka is a Native American Indian born in the Navajo Nation. Markus Tagawa, director of time travel operations, is Japanese American. A second director of time travel operations, Marvin Mainer, is African American.
Madeira Desouza is a gay male author. He focuses upon telling stories about mature, masculine men who are sexually attracted to other mature, masculine men. He steers clear of several deeply embedded traits of American gay culture that can be found in film and in print–eccentric or flamboyant behaviors, alkyl nitrites, dance music, trendy clothing, trendy hair, gay men who think age 30 is old, and so forth.
Desouza’s creative works belong within the bara genre. This little word is shortened from barazuko. Translated from Japanese, it means rose-tribe, which is a code phrase for gay men. Originated in Japan decades ago as gay men created works for other gay men, this genre has not yet been widely embraced internationally. Perhaps this is because bara bara depicts same-sex feelings and sexual attraction to masculine, muscular men who sometimes behave in aggressive, violent, or exploitative ways towards one another.
As both a storyteller and digital artist Desouza explores conflicting and opposing compulsions that all men have. On one side there are impulses men have towards sustaining life, engaging in love, and being attracted to others. In the opposing direction are impulses men have towards being aggressive, engaging in violence, and, causing pain and death. For centuries, artists and storytellers around the world have found inspiration in these two opposing human compulsions that no man is able to resist or impede merely by his conscious will alone.
Romance Across the Rainbow is happy to host Jackie Keswick today, touring with her new MM fantasy romance, Healing Glass. Welcome, Jackie!
A dying city. An ancient, forgotten accord. And two gifted men caught in a web of greed and dark magic.
Despite belonging to different guilds, glass master Minel and warrior captain Falcon are friends. Their duties keep them apart, but when Minel falls ill and chooses death rather than the only known cure, nothing can keep Falcon from his side.
As their friendship grows into more, old wrongs and one man’s machinations threaten the floating city and leave both Minel and Falcon fighting for their lives. Can they learn to combine their gifts to save the city and its magic, or will everything they know and love perish before their eyes?
Healing Glass is an LGBT fantasy adventure with its head in the clouds. If you like medieval backdrops, impressive world-building, three-dimensional characters and a touch of magic, then you’ll love Jackie Keswick’s socially-conscious adventure.
Hi everyone, I’m Jackie Keswick. And I’m very grateful to Lou for inviting me to the blog to chat about my new release, fantasy novel Healing Glass.
Healing Glass, the story of a glass master, a warrior, and a floating glass city, is set in a medieval-style world, which is a historical period I love. It’s also a historical period I like to bend and fiddle with.
Medieval society in Europe was very structured, with each person knowing their place in the world. Tradespeople in particular had organised themselves into a complex system of guilds as a means of keeping skills together, supporting one another, and training the next generation. Those medieval trade guilds were my starting point for the world I’ve built in Healing Glass.
All the traditional guilds exist in my world, but at the heart of Healing Glass are three very special guilds. The Craft Guild, the Warriors Guild and the Merchant Guild are collectively known as the Gifted Guilds, because each guild member has talents that reach beyond their craft.
Members of the Craft Guild create objects and enhance their creations to soothe, cheer, heal, protect or bring good fortune. Warriors shape minds and use their powers to protect and aid each other. And merchants shape circumstance, transform one reality into another one at will. You can hire them and pay them in coin, or in favours – and for countless generations this system has worked very well.
But what happens when you bend carefully wrought magic out of shape? When you change its purpose to suit yourself? Well… then you put a whole world and a floating glass city in danger.
Excerpt from Healing Glass
Half a mile above the surface, a deep, rumbling groan rattled through Favin’s bones and turned his guts to water. The elevator jerked and shuddered—long enough for Favin to wonder whether he’d left his errand too late—before it resumed its stately progress up towards the floating city.
The groans and jerks came more often these days, on almost every journey. Despite the trickle of ice-cold fear, Favin welcomed the noise and stuttering ascent. He’d raised the alarm weeks earlier, but no one had believed the word of a servant. No one but Councillor Teak, who now clung to the transparent wall on the far side of the elevator, face grey and eyes wide.
The City Council would believe Teak.
“Is… this… why you wanted me to accompany you?” Teak spoke louder than necessary in the tight confines of the chamber bearing them aloft.
“Yes, Councillor. I reported it several times, but—” Favin stopped, loath to criticise the council. “I felt you had to know what’s happening.”
Teak, resplendent in a well-cut black coat and lace cuffs under his scarlet robe of office, didn’t belong in an elevator filled with rows of stacked crates, bins of cloth, and rolls of parchment, even when Favin hadn’t packed the space as full as he usually did. The councillor didn’t need the experience of a full cargo run, of squeezing into a gap just large enough to get in and out of. Never mind that he wouldn’t have fit. The servants joked that were the councillor hollow, one of them could fit inside his frame with space to spare.
Teak enjoyed his food as much as he enjoyed his status and privileges, but he hadn’t lost all sense of his responsibilities. When Favin had asked for his help, he’d only grumbled a little before agreeing to investigate the matter. Now here he stood, pressed against the transparent wall, gaze riveted to the crate in front of him, not daring to look down.
Favin watched the sea and the sky over Teak’s shoulder, wishing—as always— that he could see the city as they made their way towards it. The freight elevators didn’t allow for such a view, and Favin’s work rarely left him the leisure to sit on the beach.
Four levels of squat glass tiers and elegant spires connected by sweeping stairs and graceful bridges, suspended high above the waves by a raft of near-invisible columns… the floating city had stood waiting at the edge of the ocean when the Craft Guild arrived in need of shelter. Nobody knew its builders. Nobody quite understood how it worked. The city kept its occupants warm and dry, the glass walls closing or receding depending on the weather. Fountains supplied water in every square, and in all the buildings. The middle tier of the city—a wide, level space between the double-story, flat-roofed dwellings of the lower level and the skyward-reaching spires of the top tier—had been given over to growing food. All other goods the inhabitants needed came via the trade guilds and the Merchant Guild. The craft masters could have anything that fit into one of the eight large elevators, whether it came by land or sea, while men like Favin ensured the goods arrived where they were needed.
The groan came again, more of a pained shriek now, like the death cry of a material used too long and too well, as an abrupt slip downward hurled both Teak and Favin to their knees.
Then the sounds stopped.
The downward movement stopped.
And the elevator resumed its unhurried climb.
Sweat pearled on Teak’s brow and upper lip by the time the transparent cabin reached its goal. “Can we… not use this elevator?” He stepped off the floating disk before he turned to ask.
“It will delay deliveries, Councillor.”
“How many journeys do you make in a day?”
“Some days as many as fifty.”
“And the noise and the… jerking… have been getting more frequent?”
“Yes. I’m told the other elevators show the same signs of trouble. And in the upper city, the glass is said to be weeping.”
“That’s what I’ve heard, Councillor. I’ve not seen it.”
“No, of course not.” Servants of Favin’s class had no access to the upper levels. “Thank you, Favin, for bringing this to my attention.”
Favin bowed to the councillor before he set about unloading the cargo into the hands of the waiting servants. The council would decide whether to shut down the elevator or keep it running. He’d done as much as he could do, given his station. He’d said his piece and had had a councillor listen.
He continued with his work, until words drifting through a half-open door stopped him on his way to deliver rolls of parchment and ink to the council chamber.
“Weeping is the only way to describe it, Wark. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“And you think it’s going to be a problem?” The clipped tones were the regent’s and Favin froze where he stood, listening.
“Of course, it’s a problem,” Teak argued. “Go and see for yourself if you don’t believe me. There’s liquid glass welling up out of the column and trickling down its length. What do you think will happen if the glass wears away doing that? Or if the whole column turns to liquid? Will it continue to support the upper level in that state, or will it run into the sea and disappear?”
“Calm yourself, Teak. I’m sure there’s no need for panic.”
“You would know, of course.” Teak said snidely. “But I say you should listen. There’s more than one of those weeping spots in the upper city. The freight elevators jerk and groan, and servants are buying out their contracts, happier to make a life elsewhere than work here.”
Then it is serious, Favin thought, glued to his spot. More serious than I knew. Positions with one of the three gifted guilds were hotly sought. Only the king’s court paid better wages, and with the high prices in the royal city and port of Allengi, those wages didn’t go nearly as far.
“We must deal with this, Wark. Before it is too late.”
“Repairs to the city’s fabric are the task of the glass master. I will make sure he attends to the problem.”
“Minel is an outstanding craft master.” Teak bristled as if he had heard something in Wark’s comment that Favin had not. Something he disagreed with. “Most sought after, despite his youth. His list of commissions is near endless and he earns—”
“There are no other glass masters in the guild. Minel is our only choice if we want to fix the problem you’ve brought to my attention.” Regent Wark sounded oddly gleeful.
“No. You can’t— What if—?”
“You can’t have it both ways, Teak. You can’t bring me a problem and then object when I solve it. Minel’s work and his designs pay a large part of the city’s debts. I’m not so stupid I’d interfere with that. But if the fabric of the city fails, all the money and favours we’re owed will be no use to us. It’s fortunate that Minel cares about nothing but making glass. He doesn’t have the stomach for confrontation. I think… I think this will work out very well. Minel will accept that we direct his work and we can add another treasure to our collection. I have waited long enough.”
Jackie Keswick Bio and Links
Jackie Keswick was born behind the Iron Curtain with itchy feet, a bent for rocks and a recurring dream of stepping off a bus in the middle of nowhere to go home. She’s worked in a hospital and as the only girl with 52 men on an oil rig, spent a winter in Moscow and a summer in Iceland and finally settled in the country of her dreams with her dream team: a husband, a cat, a tandem, a hammer and a laptop.
Jackie loves unexpected reunions and second chances, and men who don’t follow the rules when those rules are stupid. She blogs about English history and food, has a thing for green eyes, and is a great believer in making up soundtracks for everything, including her characters and the cat.
And she still hasn’t found the place where the bus stops.
For questions and comments, not restricted to green eyes, bus stops, or recipes for traditional English food, join her in Jackie’s Kitchen on Facebook or find her in all the usual places:
Romance Across the Rainbow welcomes author Jay Hogan, on tour with her new installment in the series Auckland Med., Crossing the Touchline. We’ve got the links, an excerpt, and a unique post from the author!
A contemporary New Zealand romance from Dreamspinner Press
What if you’ve worked your whole life for a dream, to play rugby for the most successful sports team on the planet, the New Zealand All Blacks?
What if that dream is so close you can smell it?
What if you meet someone?
What if you fall in love?
What if your dream will cost the man who’s stolen your heart?
And what if the dream changes?
Reuben Taylor has a choice to make.
Cameron Wano is that choice.
(Part of the Auckland Med. series that includes ‘First Impressions’
Can be read as a standalone.)
I parked my screaming muscles on the ludicrously small chair beside
my locker, sweat dripping from every square centimetre of skin, and
shocked stupid by the brilliant game I’d seemingly squeezed out of
nowhere. The roar of fifty thousand screaming fans was still ringing in
my ears from the final whistle, and the official prize-giving was already
a forgotten blur. Except the part where I won man of the freaking match. Holy fucking shit.
I’d done a brief stint in front of the media for that little gem, but
the coaches had taken pity on me after that, and following an obligatory
few comments about how I was just one of the team and how honoured
I felt, blah, blah, blah, I was allowed to sneak off to the change rooms
relatively unmolested. And that’s when the whole shebang really hit me,
and why I’d yet to move a muscle off the damn chair.
Nothing in my body or brain was firing how it should. I was so
damn shell-shocked by the experience, I could barely string a couple of
words together. And when I was finally able to drag my attention from
the floor to my fellow teammates busy eyeing me with amusement… and
yeah, approval, I nearly burst out of my skin with pride.
A pair of Predator boots stopped in front of mine, at the same time
as a hand clapped me on the back. “Fucking A, Taylor. Where the fuck
you been hiding that all week?”
I locked eyes with Andrew Simons, who was wearing the same
shit-eating grin I’d had plastered on my face since the final whistle.
“Thanks, man. I’m just so damn glad I didn’t disappoint, you know?
Not like you didn’t have a great game too, though. Fucking amazing
tackle on McKenzie. He was a shoo-in for that try if you hadn’t brought
Andrew shrugged. “Maybe, but it hardly compares to the two tries
you brought home for us, you glory-grabbing bastard. And where the
hell did you learn to offload like that? Johan’s still grinning from ear to
ear. Not often a prop gets to score under the posts. We’re not gonna hear
the end of it—you understand that, right?”
I did. I laughed. “Fuck. And you don’t even have to share a room
with him. Hey, I must qualify for a room upgrade now, though, right?
The guy’s snoring is intense to say the least.”
Andrew snorted. “Fuck off. He’s gonna drive us all nuts with that
try shit. If anything, you’ve earned yourself a longer sentence.” He
roughed up my hair and moved on, doing his congratulatory rounds of
the change room.
Head coach Gary Knowles—hardly the most talkative of men—
approached with a sly smile and a proffered hand. “Well done, son. You
did us proud. We want to see more of that in the future.”
Hell yes. I’d take that. It damn near constituted a sermon of praise
from Knowlesy. Pride swelled in my chest and my hand automatically
reached for my phone, but as desperate as I was to share my high with
Cam, I was worried how awkward it might be for him since we hadn’t
I thought of calling my father instead. Didn’t. Fuck him. He hadn’t
even bothered to contact me since the game ended.
An incoming text buzzed in my hand and I glanced down. Cam. Yes!
Just seeing his name damn near brought tears to my eyes.
It had been his win as much as mine, and tomorrow I’d tell him exactly that.
Every time things threatened to go pear-shaped on that field tonight,
I thought of him and what he’d tell me. His sass to my ear. And it worked.
Congrats! Two tries. Fucking brilliant. So proud of you. See you
The lump in my throat threatened to choke me. Proud. Cam was
fucking proud, of me. It was the only message I needed. His, the only
opinion that truly mattered. Grinning like a loon, I wanted to see him so
badly. I’d have given anything to walk out that dressing-room door and
have him waiting.
Jay Hogan on New Zealand, Rugby, and Writing
When I first started writing mm romance, ‘Crossing the Touchline’ was the story I really wanted to write and get published but it didn’t feel like a ‘first book’. To that end, I wrote and had published ‘First Impressions’, the first in the Auckland Med Series, and it is in that book that you meet the character of Cameron Wano for the first time.
New Zealand is a rugby mad nation, (including me), and the All Blacks with their 120 year history, really are arguably the most successful sports team on the planet. They have a win rate of over 77%. They are not a national team. They are an international representative side so all their wins are against other top-flight international teams. They don’t play together in any national competition.
The mystique of the All Blacks is buried deep in the NZ and international rugby psyche. Maybe because we are such a tiny nation, 4 million-ish give or take, but we punch well above our weight in international sport, nowhere more so than in rugby. It is a full-contact, hard sport and physically punishing, a fact that has only added to its tough-man image. There are no pads, no helmets and no subbing on and off the field to give anyone a break. You get subbed off, you stay off.
To this day there has never been an out gay All Black, although there have been lots of rumours of course. The rugby scene is slowly becoming more diverse and inclusive, and all the protective policies are in place. The NZ Rugby Federation even got the rainbow tick but they have yet to be tested at All Black level so we shall see. I for one cannot wait! The All Blacks and NZ Rugby have earned a rainbow tick for their inclusive policies but they have yet to be tested, and although on principle the openness and policies are in place to welcome the concept, it is likely to be the rugby mad public, both nationally and internationally that will offer the biggest challenge.
What is interesting about that, is that the All Black aura is so powerful that having an out gay All Black will likely carry more weight internationally, and attract more press interest (read huge) than an out gay player in any other international rugby team.
Ma’a Nonu, an All Black who played over 100 tests and who simply liked to push the fashion boundaries a bit, caused an international stir when he ran out onto the field once wearing guyliner. It rated headlines from South Africa to Taipei, everyone wondering if the incident would put a dent in the All Black tough man image. Honestly!
It’s like the rugby world is holding its breath for the day, and I think that creates an added pressure which will make it even harder for that first player to come out. In ‘Crossing the Touchline’, I also wanted to push that boundary even further, wondering what would it be like if that first out gay player had a partner who didn’t and wouldn’t pass for straight. After all, saying rugby is ready for an out gay player isn’t necessarily the same as saying it’s ready for Cameron Wano.
NZ as a whole is a fairly inclusive country with a longer history than many of championing LGBT rights protected by law. Marriage equality happened in 2013 but more importantly there has been a good representation of the LGBT community in parliament itself. Georgina Beyer was the world’s first openly transgender Mayor 1995-2000 and went on to be the world’s openly first transgender Member of Parliament 1999-2007.
There is, nevertheless, a strong pocket of homophobia still present in NZ, especially within the rugby/sporting arena. I loved writing this book and especially developing the character of Cameron Wano. He will always be one of my favourites: sassy, strong, mature, living his truth, and playful with gender and dress.
But more importantly for me, was the idea of developing the relationship between Cam and Reuben, with Cam playing a very strong lead physically. I love that switch up. It went along with challenging the rugby stereotypes too. When we say the All Blacks are ready for an out gay player, I think most people think of a very masc type of guy (which would probably be true for the All Black partner due to physique requirements etc) but what about their partner? Is rugby, the nation and the international scene, ready for someone like Cameron Wano? We won’t know till that happens.
About Jay Hogan:
Jay Hogan is a New Zealand author writing in m/m romance, romantic suspense and fantasy. She has travelled extensively, living in a number of countries. She’s a cat aficionado especially Maine Coons, and an avid dog lover (but don’t tell the cat). She loves to cook- pretty damn good, loves to sing – pretty damn average, and as for loving full-time writing -absolutely… depending on the word count, the deadline, her characters’ moods, the ambient temperature in the Western Sahara, whether Jupiter is rising, the size of the ozone hole over New Zealand and how much coffee she’s had.
Romance Across the Rainbow welcomes O. E. Tearman, who is on tour with a unique futuristic sci-fi—sounds fascinating!
O.E. Tearmann has a new MM (trans) hard sci fi/cyberpunk tale out, book one in their “Aces High, Jokers Wild” series: “The Hands We’re Given.”
Aidan Headly never wanted to be the man giving orders. That’s fine with the Democratic State Force base he’s been assigned to command: they don’t like to take orders. Nicknamed the Wildcards, they used to be the most effective base against the seven Corporations owning the former United States in a war that has lasted over half a century. Now the Wildcards are known for creative insubordination, chaos, and commanders begging to be reassigned.
Aidan is their last chance. If he can pull off his assignment as Commander and yank his ragtag crew of dreamers and fighters together, maybe they can get back to doing what they came to do: fighting for a country worth living in.
Life’s a bitch. She deals off the bottom of the deck. But you play the hands you’re given.
The dark shapes of three drones flitted over the junkyard, blotting out the stars. Aidan desperately turned the keys, slamming his foot on the accelerator. The truck’s engine finally revved. Kevin flung open the passenger side door and leapt inside. “Go, go, go!”
Aidan slammed it into reverse and hit the gas. They jumped backward. Once the truck was far enough away from the fence, he changed gears and wrenched the wheel around. They bumped and rattled into the night as fast as Aidan dared without the headlights on. The heat of the engine would make them easy to follow for the drones’ thermal cameras, but the short-range guard drones couldn’t go too far from their base of operation before their programming called them back. Aidan just hoped they could outrun them.
He gripped the steering wheel so hard it hurt. He could feel the suit tightening down against his skin. His heart pounded in his chest. Kevin’s breathing was ragged beside him. Another burst of bullets sprayed the ground right in front of them. Aidan yelped and yanked the wheel to avoid getting hit. The truck jittered to the side. Aidan slammed on the gas. The desert night sped past in a blur of blue and red under the starlight. Slowly, the whir of rotors faded into the distance. Aidan’s grip on the steering wheel began to relax. Kevin pulled his tab out of the bag and set it on the dashboard, watching as the screen flipped through the security channels they’d hacked into, keeping track of the location of dozens of drones.
Finally, Aidan pulled up under an overhang of red rock and cut the engine. The wide-range security drones were due to make their fly-over soon. Better to stop for a while and recover, get back on the road when it was safer.
They sat in silence for a long time, listening for rotors over the quiet buzz of the night insects. Aidan rested his arms on the steering wheel and propped his chin on his wrist, watching the star-studded sky.
“You all right?” Kevin breathed. At some point during the drive, he had deactivated his slick suit.
Aidan sighed and leaned back so he could manually flip his face screen up.”Yeah. Think so. Banged my knee pretty bad. Your shoulder?”
“Bruised. Doesn’t feel severe.” Kevin shrugged.
“Um, good,” Aidan whispered eventually.
So. They were alive. They’d gotten out with most of what they’d gone in for.
At the expense of a bad bruise across Kevin’s cheek, that or worse to his shoulder, and an action that could have caused so much more.
Slowly, some of his anger seeped back. He took a breath. “You scared the hell out of me back there and acted like a complete gamma, Kev. Don’t do that again.”
Kevin ducked his head in a slow nod. “I’m sorry, Aidan. I—When I saw you like that, I guess I panicked.”
Aidan sighed. Kevin was normally so level-headed. He’d been utterly cool on-Grid, when Aidan had been scared shitless.
So why had he acted like this out here?
On the tab screen, the red dot of a drone approached their location. They waited in breathless silence as the long-range drone passed, not even the sound of whirring to announce its presence. The red dot moved out of range.
Aidan breathed out. Kevin looked up with a smile. So close. They were so close.
“That’s the last of them. A very fine night’s work if I do say so.”
Aidan tried to smile, but it faltered. “I didn’t get the holo board. That was the part we needed most.”
Kevin smirked as he pulled the bag up from the floorboard and into his lap. He rifled quickly through the materials they had managed to grab, yanked, and pulled out the board with a wink.
“Oh, I don’t know about that.”
“What? How…?” Aidan breathed, feeling the wave of defeat that had been threatening lift.
“Fell down the pile when you did,” Kevin whispered, grinning. “I simply grabbed it up. After all, I am the requisitions officer. Snatching things is my forte.”
A rush of joy shot through Aidan. They’d done it. They’d gotten everything. Nose to nose with Kevin, he grinned.
“Holy shit, we- Holy shit! You… wow. Kevin, holy shit! This is like one of your vids!”
Kevin’s eyes glittered like silver in the low light. “You know, if this is a vid, I know how the scene ends.”
“Yeah?” Aidan asked, still giddy with relief.
Kevin was still smiling, his teeth white outlines in his grin. And he was leaning closer. Aidan could feel the heat of his skin, his breath.
“Heroes always get a kiss at the end of the adventure. That’s the convention.” Kevin tipped his head, eyes holding Aidan’s. “Would the hero like a kiss?”
Aidan froze. Was Kevin actually… Was he…?
He wet his lips. His voice escaped as a whisper. “Am I supposed to be a hero?”
Kevin’s smile was soft now, and he was so very close. “I don’t see anyone else in the driver’s seat. So you must be.” Then he pressed his lips against Aidan’s.
Kevin’s lips were hot. Aidan’s brain turned inside out. Kevin was kissing him.
Kevin had started kissing him.
This was real.
He leaned into the warmth with a pleasure that was almost pain. This was only going to be a second, but if only this second would last.
Softly, Kevin drew back. “Was that okay?”
Kevin’s whisper barely made it through the buzzing in Aidan’s brain. He gasped in a breath. “Um, okay. Yeah.” He swallowed hard and forced himself to sit up. “We-we should get going home…”
Kevin nodded, eyes still holding his as he drew away. “I suppose we should.”
Aidan Headly wasn’t always the adorable anxious wreck of a commander who’s currently running the Wildcards in the Aces High Jokers Wild series. When he first appeared in my brain before I had any inkling of what his story would become, he was far, far different. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore how he became the character he is today.
Originally, Aidan was meant to be an antagonist of sorts. In his first story (which, thank goodness, never went anywhere), he was one of two point of view characters in a world that, in retrospect, was incredibly poorly conceived. I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say that he was in the majority instead of the minority. In this original storyline, Aidan was still part of a rebel group, but he wasn’t a leader–and this group wasn’t fighting for freedom.
As second-in-command of this rebel group, Aidan was a confident sharpshooter and spy who would often go on dangerous missions into enemy territory with his sister, Naomi. He was a post-operative trans guy with a little bit of a wild streak.
Not at all what he is today, right?
When I started to put together this new world and storyline, Aidan began to shift. He initially was going to be a side-character as I focused on his sister’s storyline, But then I got too invested in his and Kevin’s relationship and changed directions. I decided I wanted him to be pre-op so I could explore my own dysphoria and discomfort in fiction. So he got a binder and a hormone regimen. He developed anxiety and depression as I realized those things in myself and started to learn to cope with them. In many ways, Aidan became a reflection of myself on the page instead of the vague character I’d originally imagined. With some additional kick-butt leadership and fighting skills.
He continued to grow and evolve as The Hands We’re Given went from rough draft to published book. At one point, I wrote his depression as so bad and so deep that it began to eclipse every other aspect of his personality. Obviously, that had to get toned back and tweaked. He had a bit of a pendulum swing between being a competent leader and hiding in his closet before things settled out into what I hope is a good balance.
There are some traits that stayed the same throughout this evolution, of course: he’s still a rebel, he’s still trans and gay, and he has a similar voice to when we started out. He still cares deeply for his friends and companions, and will still stick his neck out for them.
No matter how much Aidan changed through the writing process, he has always been close to my heart. I’m proud of the way he evolved and became the character who’s out in the world today. It’s a little like watching a kid grow up and sending him out into the unknown.
All I can do now is hope my readers enjoy his adventures.
O.E. Tearmann lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, in what may become the Co-Wy Grid. They share the house with a brat in fur, a husband and a great many books. Their search engine history may garner them a call from the FBI one day. When they’re not living on base 1407 they advocate for a more equitable society and more sustainable agricultural practices, participate in sundry geekdom and do their best to walk their characters’ talk.
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