Tag Archives: Cornelia Grey

Cornelia Grey interview: the joy of short stories and more–also an excerpt from *Bounty Hunter*

Click on the cover image for the buy link at Storm Moon Press
Bounty Hunter by Cornelia Grey It wasn’t so very long ago that James Campbell and William Hunt were lovers. They met at the horse ranch where they both worked, training and transporting stallions and mares all across the state and sometimes farther. But then, James discovered his employer’s secrets and the truth behind the job he loved so much. The knowledge was too much, and James had to do something about it.

Now, James Campbell is a wanted man. Every bounty hunter in the area is hot on his trail, eager to be the one who finally brings him in. William, though, is determined to get there first. But when he finally catches up to James, he’s torn between finding revenge for James’ betrayal and helping him escape. Because his feelings for James are as strong as ever, and because he’s not convinced that James was entirely wrong…

Cornelia Grey is a creative writing student fresh out of university, with a penchant for fine arts and the blues. Born and raised in the hills of Northern Italy, where she collected her share of poetry and narrative prizes, she is now based in London. After graduating with top grades, she is now busy with internships – literary agencies, publishing houses, and creative departments handling book series, among others. She also works as a freelance translator.

Her interests vary from painting to photography, from sewing to acting; when writing, she favors curious, surreal poems and short stories involving handsome young men seducing each other. She loves collecting people’s stories and re-discovering lost tales that deserve to be told.

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: I guess that depends on the story! Sometimes, the title is all I have; I’m still working on the plot and I don’t even know how everything’s going to end, but the title is summing up the theme of the book, the main focus I have to bear in mind as I go along. Take, for example, three titles in an ongoing series of mine (of which only one has been published so far!): The Mercenary; The Stray; The Traitor. They describe the different ‘roles’ my protagonist finds himself stuck in, which are often imposed onto him from the outside.

Sometimes, instead, the title is the very last thing I know – in fact, I end up reading and re-reading the finished story looking for something that sticks out, maybe some peculiar expression that might sum up the ‘feel’ of the story.

I have a simlar approach when picking names. When the character’s appearance and personality are quite well-rounded in my head, I go through my name lists until I find something that fits. There’s usually just one name that jumps out and makes me go, ‘ah, so that’s who you are, my friend!’. Sometimes it feels more like digging out something that was hidden rather than making up something new.

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: The one thing that most of my settings have in common is – they aren’t real. But they usually aren’t 100% fantasy either. Let’s just say I like – tweaking reality, adding stuff to it, bending its rules. It’s probably got something to do with my love for magical realism. I always find it especially intriguing: there’s a base of reality, so you come into it with all sorts of logical expectations, and yet at every turn there might just be something unusual, absurd, magical popping up and turning all your certainties upside down. I find it exciting, that added layer of possibilities to a world that already offers so many; I love the added degree of freedom it allows, and the fun that comes with playing with the expected and unexpected, the unreal juxtaposed on the real.

In fact, most of my stories are set in a world that’s never grounded – no dates, no exact locations, no names, no definite reality. I like that, and I think it works for me because I mostly write short stories, and they have different rules than full-length novels. I love the idea of tuning in to whatever’s happening, wherever’s happening, and simpy watching it unfold for a while before departing again. Not every question is answered; this isn’t a full meal, it’s a bite, a savoury morsel. The story I’m currently editing follows this rule, too. It’s set in a circus – an old-fashioned circus, in a setting that has some historical features, but remains open to other possibilities. The atmosphere is steampunk-ish, even though there are no actual steampunk elements. I’d been wanting to play with a circus setting for a long time, and while I hope to use it in a longer piece soon, this was a very enjoyable start!

I guess I could sum up this ramble by saying that I really enjoy speculative fiction, and I similarly enjoy speculative settings – the ones that always leave you guessing!

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: It is limited, I have to say, since most of the time I come up with the entire plot before they actually have the chance to have their say – namely, before I start actually writing. It is mostly a bunch of adverse circumstances that I throw at the unsuspecting characters: they find themselves neck-deep in it before they can even realize what’s going on and they are swept along for a ride they didn’t expect, much less choose or want. So they don’t really have much of a say on that part, or on all the things that will inevitably go wrong along the way. But when I put them in an impossible situation, when it looks like there is no possible way out, that’s when they kick in and surprise me, finding unexpected, unpredictable, sometimes absurd solutions. Their outlandish flights of fancy allow them to overcome the squared, grey, rigid reality around them, and I always rely on them.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: Personally, I am very fascinated by alpha males. And I am even more fascinated when two alpha males collide. You know when two alpha lions meet, and their very instinct brings them to clash, to fight for dominance? That kind of electric, primal conflict is spellbinding. In my stories, I love to throw two alpha males together in difficult situations, and I love to watch them butt heads and get all growly and angry. They don’t dislike each other; but it is a challenge to learn to work together, to make their rough, sharp corners fit together in some sort of stabile combination. I love conflict, and as much as I like putting my characters in impossible situations – I’ll never be a writer of strictly domestic, quiet, relaxing stories; it’s life-or-death, razor’s edge, last-minute situations all the way – it’s even more fun if that’s complicated by an explosive inter-personal conflict. The poor guys just can’t catch a break. So they argue and fight, they are stubborn and hostile and yet at the same time they’re fiercely loyal and protective of each other almost to a fault. It’s this kind of incendiary interaction that keeps me hooked :)!

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: A little, yes! Mostly, I get many requests for sequels to my short stories. Often I’m tempted too; as I was mentioning, my short stories are often but a bite of something much bigger and more complex. I get to describe glimpses of fantastic worlds, introduce strange characters, hint at legends and mysterious pasts… and I’m left wanting more too; I want to keep exploring that world, to know more about those characters, to learn everything there is to know. But unfortunately, I am also very easily distracted: when I get a new shiny toy (= a brand new sparkling idea) all I want to do is dive into that next world that I still know nothing about and explore that. Since I have more ideas than I can write – I currently have 12 full plots competing for my attention, and clamoring when they get bumped back yet again in favour of the latest idea! – I end up never having the time to go dust off a world and characters I’ve already played with to see what else they might have to say. I’m terrible, I know! But I keep them neatly lined up on their shelf anyway, and dust them every now and then. They are always ready for action. So, dear readers, please don’t give up hope – hopefully I’ll get around to writing one of those sequels someday 🙂

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: I never really stopped to think about this! I guess an ideal relationship would be one where I behave and write all the requested sequels instead of chasing after the latest sparkly toy that strikes my fancy. Then obviously the readers would unconditionally love every word I ever penned, including grocery lists, drunken texts and the like, monarchs and presidents would offer conspicuous sums of money and private kingdoms for me to write their biographies, and my notebook from first grade with my early short stories would be framed and exhibited at the National Library with the Magna Charta. Well… you did say ideal ;)!

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: You know how, after you’ve been working on a story for a while, you sort of get… blind spots? There are things you won’t see, you won’t notice, simply because you’ve had the text before your eyes for too long. I love how readers can spot details, connections or mistakes that I was completely blind to. Once a reader pointed out a clever symbolism in one of my stories that I had absolutely never noticed, let alone put there on purpose! Another pointed out a logical flaw in the actions of a characters, wondering why he’d done a certain thing when he had much more pressing priorities; well, I had no idea. Once she pointed it out, it was glaring and I was left wondering the exact same thing: but I had honestly been completely blind to it before. Reading reader comments and considerations about my stories, I’m often able to see them from a completely different perspective, seeing sides of them I had never noticed or considered before, finding new interpretations. It’s amazing how much readers can teach me about my own stories.

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: Oooh, that is a tough question! I find all my boys super-hot. But I guess Captain Jonathan Tea, from my steampunk short story ‘The Tea Demon’, has an edge! He has green eyes, and luscious long brown hair tied in a braid – which, I’ll admit, is a recurring feature among my characters. He’s sarcastic and smart and annoying and intriguing; he can set things on fire with his eyes, and he loves a cup of fine tea. But what gives him the edge is that he’s a rogue, a pirate, the captain of a gorgeous flying ship, sailing across the beautiful Sea of Clouds… who wouldn’t want to be whisked away on such a ship?

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Oh, that’s a tough choice! I’m not sure I can pick a favorite. But since I was mentioning that my favourite character is Captain Jonathan Tea, and that said captain also has the tendency to set stuff on fire with his eyes when he’s angry, I thought it would be appropriate if he was the one to carry the ‘hotness olympics’ torch… 😉

Jonathan was spread under his gaze, the most inviting offer: pale skin glistening with sweat, his chest heaving, every muscle tense as he panted and writhed under Eric’s slow torturous thrusts. He slit his eyes open, looking at Eric from under his messed up bangs. His face was flushed, an enticing blush spread on his cheekbones, his lips bitten red. He looked utterly undone as he gasped, his thick cock leaking a streak of precome on his well-defined abdomen.
– The Tea Demon, Dreamspinner Press

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: At the moment, I’m in the editing stage of a short story for Storm Moon Press’ second gun kink anthology. I already contribuited a story to the first, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to write another gun-centric story; turns out this kink definitely does it for me!

As I was mentioning, it’s set in a strange, old-fashioned circus. Benjamin Pepperwhistle has wanted to join one all his life and, when the Fantabulous Circus of Wonders arrives in town, it’s just the chance he was waiting for. See, Benjamin has… a thing for guns, and it just so happens that Cole Beauchamp, the greatest pistoleer of all times, is a performer there. Benjamin is hellbent on becoming his assistant – except that Cole’s temper is explosive like his gunpowder, and Benjamin’s interest toward the pistoleer (and his gun!) soon turns out to be less than platonic…

The next project I have lined up is, surprisingly – a sequel! It’s a sequel for my short story ‘Bounty Hunter’, which was, incidentally, the first gun-kink story I wrote. We left our protagonists, James Campbell and William Hunt, in quite the pickle – and several readers have been asking to know what will become of their relationship. I was about halfway through when I abandoned it to work on the new shiny circus story… but I will get back to it as soon as this is done. Pinky swear!

An excerpt from Bounty Hunter

The man walked in the saloon, the wooden doors swinging heavily behind him. Gravel crackled under his boots as he was welcomed by the reek of cheap alcohol and gin sweat. The handful of drunken men barely spared him a glance. Someone was singing a crooked, out of tune, love song. Worn out cards slapped on wooden tabletops, the tired clinking of glass against glass as someone poured a drink.

William Hunt didn’t pay attention to any of it.

He had the best part of a whiskey flask in him, a gun heavy at his side, the stubble of four days on his face, and a sure lead. A lead he might have dragged out of a whimpering man, pressing the barrel of his gun hard into his cheek and wondering out loud whether at this particular angle the man’s eye would explode as the bullet tore through it before it blew up his brain. The man couldn’t speak fast enough to tell William what he wanted to know.

William hadn’t shot the man, of course. He hadn’t even intended to. He was just good at knowing what it would take to make a man talk; it came with the job after all. This one you could scare into spilling, that one you had to beat up, that one would crack after you broke a couple of fingers.

Whatever it took to get information.

William knew where James Campbell was holed up, and that was all he needed.

Worn steps creaked under his boots as he climbed the stairs. He bumped shoulders with a pudgy man coming down, wobbling, drunk off his ass, still trying to shove his shirt back into his trousers. He was escorted by a giggling woman whose hand was discreetly rummaging in the man’s pockets, relieving him of various possessions. William just walked on. He had business. Plus, truth be told, his sympathies went to the woman.
The lights were off, but there was still enough dusty sunlight coming in through the dirty window to see. The corridor was narrow, all the doors closed, scratched wood too thin to stifle the noises coming from inside the rooms: grunts and creaks and the choreographed high pitched moans of the whores. The third door to the left, the whimpering man had said, so William walked to it, stopped, and listened.

It seemed Campbell was having fun. It was no different from the sounds coming from the other rooms. It looked like William had gotten there at the best moment, too. He lifted his hand, placed it on the scraped wooden door, and heard the slamming of the headboard against the wall increase in speed and the woman’s wails rise in volume. They sounded oddly authentic and, despite himself, William found himself listening closely, trying to catch a hint of James’ voice. He remembered James’ low, guttural sounds, the harsh quality of his voice as he moaned in William’s ear, the broken words that started slipping from his lips in an uncontrolled litany when he was about to come. And more than his voice, his body—the span of tanned skin and taut vibrating muscle under William’s hands, his muscular chest heaving as he gasped, coated in a sheen of sweat. His blond hair ruffled and wild around his face as he looked up at William with glazed blue eyes, his strong legs tight around William’s hips as he pulled him in, strong and demanding and wild.

William could hear deep moans coming from inside the room, in a rich voice that made his skin prickle. He pressed his fingertips to the door, feeling splinters graze his skin, and swallowed.

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Featured Author Cornelia Grey…………….. “Apples and Regret and Wasted Time”

Scroll down for author interview and and excerpts—one mild, one hot hot hot.

Apples and Regrets and Wasted Time by Cornelia Grey cover by Nathie

He lives in the shadows of the law. Now, wounded and stranded in the city after a job only he could do, he has no qualms about climbing through the window his old lover left open—or stealing his shampoo, at that. He has, however, not taken into account the possibility of being surprised in the shower.

Three years is a long time to go between visits, especially if you’ve left so much anger and hurt and desire unresolved. They try to negotiate a truce for one night—over Chinese takeaway leftovers and apples, and between the sheets.

…………

Cornelia Grey is a student halfway through her creative writing degree with a penchant for fine arts and the blues. Born and raised in the hills of Northern Italy, where she collected her share of poetry and narrative prizes, she is now based in London.

Her days are full and hectic: she reads, goes to flea markets, galleries, and the theater, and of course spends most of her time writing. When she’s at home, she likes to curl up with a book and the classic cup of tea and leaves chestnuts in the garden for the squirrel that comes around from time to time.

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The busy mind of Cornelia Grey (the author interview)

First, Cornelia, welcome! Thanks for allowing me to feature you as an author and discuss your work. In a bit I’d like to talk about Apples and Regret and Wasted Time, and maybe a bit about some of your other stories. But first, perhaps you can give readers a bit more information about you as a writer:

Q: I know of several short stories (in addition to Apples and Regret) that you’ve had published. If readers look at several of your stories, will they find a common thread, or theme? How do your stories come in to being—do you create characters and the story grows up around them, or do you start with a plot and invent characters as they’re needed? (Or some other mixture?)
A: I noticed there’s definitely a common theme. My stories are mostly set in alternative realities, worlds that are either urban fantasy, post-apocalyptic, steampunk… or just plain weird . And often these worlds’ societies are flawed, deeply unfair, crushed under some oppressive power. The stories revolve around the underdogs, random and unconventional, who strive to fight against this oppression, even if in small ways. Another common element in my stories is that the protagonist is originally on the side of the oppressors, or at the very least completely uninvolved in the events, and his perspective changes completely when he gets to know the underdogs. This is a storyline that comes to me naturally, and even though I’ve used it more than a few times, it’s still my favorite.

I’m also usually a plot person. I tend to think up an ending, the more climatic and explosive the better, then a beginning (in this order!) and then I plan out the intricacies that come in between. By the time I start actually writing, the skeleton of the story is ready, complete with a fairly accurate bullet point list of the scenes. I like to have the full movie, complete with sound and fancy special effects!, all flowing in my head before I start putting it down on paper.

The characters sort of come naturally as the plot flows. Often I don’t know much about their back-story – heck, sometimes I don’t even know their names! – as if I was stumbling across two strangers at the beginning of the story and just stalked them around to see what they’ll do. I think that sums up rather nicely how the whole process works for me, actually – the story’s unfolding almost by itself and all I have to do is keep lurking and be quick to take notes.

Q: In the excerpt from Apples and Regret and Wasted Time, the language is in some places (particularly the line that contains the title phrase), gorgeously sensual. Is that something readers will find throughout your work? If so, perhaps you can talk a bit about what influenced you in that direction. Does it affect the way you see or “feel” your characters? (Their emotions, their actions, their sex?)
A: Thank you for your kind words! To be honest, the issue of language is a little complicated for me. My mother tongue is Italian and I’ve only been writing in English for a couple of years, so my control of the language is still a bit limited. I can never tell if a sentence sounds English or if it sounds like Italian translated into English, for example, so especially in my first stories I had some funny sentence structures floating around. Italian has long, convoluted sentences, and that doesn’t quite make sense in English. Plus I tend to use lots of Latin-derived words, because they remind me of Italian and therefore come easy, while in English they tend to sound obscure and overblown.

I think I keep improving, though – if I read stories I published last year, I can now catch some sentences that sound odd and that I would phrase differently today. I notice my latest stories have a much cleaner use of language, without all the twists and twirls of my Italian writing. I manage to keep things simpler and more effective, and I think it results in a sharper, more incisive writing style.

However, I think the poetic undertones that Apples has are a little unique among my stories . I was caught up in the atmosphere of the story as I was writing it, suspended in its dream-like, foggy scenario: I think that bled into the use of language, shaping it to enhance that particular mood. I notice it with every story, really—the language changes subtly to suit that particular piece’s atmosphere. I don’t plan it rationally, it just comes out that way. A story I just finished, for example, set in the Wild West, has a dry and dusty feel to it, and the language is accordingly grating and sparse. It seems like it all comes instinctively together to bring out the atmosphere I have in my head—use of language, dialogues, setting, the character’s attitude, their approach to sex…

Q: About the characters in Apples and Regret and Wasted Time—in the blurb and in the excerpt, the characters are not named. Are readers given their names in the story? If so, can we have them here? If not, why not? How do you think that changes the way we see them? These characters both seem the type that I, rather crudely, would describe as badass. In the excerpt, it’s apparent that history, as well as strong physical attraction, draws them together. Without giving away the story, can you tell us anything about that history, and the roots of that almost irresistible attraction? How much of that need for one another is emotion deeper than sex?
A: No, we never learn their names. Truth to be told, I never picked any. I just never felt they were necessary. The story was much shorter in its original version, and when I decided to expand it I wondered whether the absence of names would work in a longer piece or whether it would become heavy for the readers: but I just couldn’t imagine forcing names into it. It would change the whole tone of the story, I believe, and make it weaker. It was also an interesting experiment for me: I wondered if readers would relate to the characters even without knowing their names. I know I certainly do. I always wonder exactly how much we have to know of someone in order to care for them, how much is necessary to reveal about a character in a story to make him or her a ‘real’ person, someone the reader can relate to, can grow attached to.

I’ll hide behind a no comment regarding the characters’ history—there are hints scattered around the piece, and I’d rather let the readers dig them out and piece them together as they please.

Q: “Wasted time” implies that the character turns back to a forgotten goal, or perhaps a new goal that he now realizes is where he should have been heading all along. Is that accurate? Are they both headed in the same direction? Don’t answer this if it gives away too much, but I really want to know if there’s a HEA… ?
A: Well, together with the publisher, we decided to list clearly as a warning that this story doesn’t have a traditional happy ending. A HEA is sort of taken for granted in the romance genre, so we wanted to avoid disappointing readers who might expect it. Personally, I’m a big fan of unresolved endings – I don’t really believe in happy endings, but not in unhappy endings either. My favorite endings are always a little open, more of a ‘to be continued’: maybe the couple is happy for now, but – for example – they have just gotten together and we have no clue whether they’ll be together forever or if they’ll amicably part ways in a few weeks or if they’ll end up slaughtering each other with a machete… you get the idea.
Apples and Regret is the one story where I got to indulge this predilection of mine to the fullest.

I also like to explore romances in which life, for one reason or the other, takes precedence on the love story, and the lovers are forced to adjust their priorities… and the relationship doesn’t make it to the top of the list. In my opinion, it doesn’t make the romance – the love – any less important, any less true. I’m in a similar situation in my life – I’m still building my future and looking for my place in the world, and life is tugging me and my partner of six years in opposite directions. Romantic comedies make it look like dropping everything to just bask into each other’s undying love is the simplest thing in the world, but I believe life is more complicated than that. So I guess I’m trying to explore that kind of situation, and maybe learn from my characters how to find solutions: I tug them in opposites directions, heck, I tie them to two freight trains heading to opposite hemispheres, and see how they sort things out…

Q: The cover to Apples and Regret ranks, in my mind, high as one of the best I’ve ever seen. Enticing and beautiful almost to the point of being hypnotic. Who did the art and design? How involved were you in the design—choosing elements or style, for instance?
A: I have to say, I was astonished when I saw how gorgeous the cover was—and for a short story, no less! I couldn’t have asked, or hoped!, for anything better. The artist is the incredibly talented Nathie—I highly recommend you go check her Deviantart gallery. (http://nathie.deviantart.com) She’s an amazing artist, and I’m especially in love with the anatomy of her gorgeous characters.
The process was really straightforward – my editor had the idea for the composition, which I immediately fell in love with, and the rest is all thanks to Nathie’s talent. I gave my input on the character’s face, but that was all – Nathie just seemed to automatically tune in with the atmosphere I wanted to create in the story. It was amazing to work with an artist who seemed to simply read my mind and draw exactly what I wanted, even though I hadn’t quite figured it out myself. I’m really looking forward to working with her again in the future!

Q: You have stories in a couple of Dreamspinner Press anthologies, A Brush of Wings (“Angel Blues”), and Making Contact (“Making Contact”), both released in 2010. Also, in March of this year, Samhain Publishing released “The Mercenary” as a stand-alone. Do you have other published work? Anything new coming up? Are you working on (or do you have plans for) any novella or novel length fiction? Is there anything you’d like to add, now—something I’ve missed that readers really should know about Cornelia Grey, Author?
A: I do have a few things coming up, actually . Storm Moon Press recently released the Wild Passions anthology, which includes my story “City of Foxes”, a gritty urban fantasy involving fox people. This August, Dreamspinner Press will release a pirate anthology, Cross Bones, with my short story “Worth the Price”, and I have another pirate story scheduled for release with them as a stand-alone. The title is “The Tea Demon”, and it’s an odd mix of steampunk, humor and, well… really random randomness! I definitely had fun writing that one 😉

While I have a few novella-length plots sketched down, waiting to be written, I tend to do better with short stories—mainly because they come with a deadline, and I work better under pressure. Also, I have the attention span of a drunken squirrel, so I tend to get sidetracked while working on longer stories – newer, shiny ideas keep fizzing up all over my brain and I end up dropping my current project.

However, I’m currently working on my final project for university, which is a novel-length manuscript. It’s a steampunk mystery, with a good sprinkling of irony and not taking things too seriously. As expected, after working on it for months, now I keep thinking of new exciting projects I’d like to get started with. But the project is due in January, so I do have a deadline to rein myself in—even though I’ve already managed to drop the project for a week and sneak-write the Wild West story I mentioned earlier. I have just no self-control. I foresee interesting months ahead….

As a last random bit of information, I thought I’d mention that I find it essential to have a writing soundtrack as I write. Headphones and music play an essential role in helping me disconnect from my everyday routine and delve in the story’s atmosphere. While each scene tends to have its own specific song, that remains on a loop until that one scene is over, the general soundtrack is made up mostly of classic rock and blues songs—Robert Johnson, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jimi Hendrix… And with that, I’ll leave you all with a very heartfelt: rock on!

Thanks, Cornelia, for agreeing to be featured on the blog, for taking the time to answer our questions, and letting us get a peak at your work and your author’s mind. Best of wishes with your work.

(Readers: if you’d like to ask Cornelia a question of your own, or comment, please feel free. The link to comment is (unfortunately) in rather small print, below the title. Welcome!)

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“Apples and Regret and Wasted Time”………… An excerpt (PG-13 + a bit)

“Three years and the only reason you came to see me was because you needed a shower, idiot?”

I shrug. I close my eyes, letting the water wash over my face.

“You left the window open,” I say. He doesn’t reply.

When I turn around to face him, his hands are tucked in his pockets, his face tilted down, half-hidden in the shadow. He looks at me with quiet, dark eyes. I can feel my body tingle under his intense gaze, a shiver running down my abdomen and to my cock.

His eyes flicker down for the briefest of moments.

“You left the window open,” I repeat. It sounds almost like an accusation.

“That didn’t mean you had to come in. I didn’t put any sign saying Idiots welcome, let yourself in,” he retorts. I can glimpse the flash of a smile on his lips, but it disappears too quickly.

I can feel the memories stir in the back of my mind. His smile always made my blood pump faster. I can feel my face heating, and I hope the shadow is enough to hide it. “Maybe I was feeling nostalgic.”

“Right.” He unclips the holster and pulls out his gun, checking the safety before reaching to lay it on the sink. My knife is just out of sight, on the rim of the tub. It’s never out of my reach. I don’t move my hand toward it, don’t even look in its direction. I know I won’t need to use it.

His voice is tight when he says, “What are you doing here, really?”

It’s the city, that’s what it is, messing with my head. My nerves are rubbed raw.

“I don’t know,” I snap, harsh. “I’m just having a damn shower. Leave me alone. What do you even want?”

His arm shoots out, and he grabs me by the nape, hand clenching in my hair a fraction too hard. The water is quickly soaking his sleeve, staining it dark, spraying on his chest, his face. He doesn’t seem to notice.

“I want you to get out of here,” he says, voice dangerously low. “I want you to leave. I want to never see your face again.”

I wonder if he’s aware of how tightly he’s holding onto me. I wonder if he realizes that, while he’s telling me to go, his body is screaming don’t you dare move. I wonder if he even knows he wants me to stay.

His eyes are a sharp blue, mere inches from mine. Too close. They give away things I suspect he’d rather keep hidden.

Slowly, I reach to wrap my fingers around his tie. I pull him forward, pull him in. He has to brace his hand against the tiles in order not to fall, leaning awkwardly over the tub, the water now streaming down his face, soaking his shoulders.

I can see the anger fade from his eyes, washed away, leaving only a too-heavy weariness.

He doesn’t pull back when I lean forward and press my mouth to his. I trace his lips with my tongue, let it slip inside. I feel damn near intoxicated when he gives in to the kiss, tilting his head to the side to gain better access to my mouth as his tongue tangles with mine, sliding hot and wet between my lips. He tastes like apples and regret and wasted time.

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More Cornelia Grey…

Dreamspinner Press Anthology
A Brush of Wings 2010

“Angel Blues”
Short Story by Cornelia Grey

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Dreamspinner Press Anthology
Making Contact 2010

“Making Contact”
Short Story by Cornelia Grey

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Storm Moon Press Anthology
Wild Passions 2011

City of Foxes
Short Story by Cornelia Grey

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The Mercenary
A Novella by Cornelia Grey

Samhain Press 2011

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Excerpt from The Mercenary—a sizzler! (Rated 18+)

“Asher,” Gabriel repeated, breathless still. Asher could not suppress the shiver that raked his body, ensnared by the way his name sounded on those full lips. Gabriel looked at him with near-scorching intensity, distant thunderbolts rumbling deep behind his irises. His eyes had darkened to a deep shade of auburn. And then—then he said:
“Fuck me.”

Asher’s mouth went dry. He hesitated, suddenly all too aware of his own body—the heightened awareness that came only from the thrill of a fight, the rush of a kill—blistering energy thrumming in his veins, the heady rush of adrenaline-like stoked embers at the core of his brain. “More could come,” he rasped, his voice suddenly rough. His throat felt tight.

Gabriel’s eyes gleamed dangerously in his blood-spattered face. “Shut up,” he all but growled, an untamed grin curling his lips upward in the most infuriating, enticing of ways. He fixed his eyes on Asher’s as he discarded his cloak and shrugged out of his harness. Slowly, deliberately, he unbuttoned his tattered waistcoat and crumpled it in his hand, throwing it to the floor. He was left in a thin button shirt—its sleeves rolled up to reveal the soft crook of his elbows, the hint of strong biceps.

“Fuck me,” he repeated, his mouth a slow sin. His face was sharp and beautiful, pale skin a stark contrast with the dark bloodstains, his eyes smoldering embers staring at Asher from under his tousled locks, provocative, near damn intoxicating—
And Asher was yanking off his own coat, unfastening the thick leather protections that covered his chest. He stripped to a rough cotton shirt that stretched over his muscles, a sleeve ripped to reveal the brass gleam of his arm, a threatening confession in the half-darkness of the room. He grabbed Gabriel’s wrist, gracelessly dragging him close—their mouths clashed together, tongues exploring each other, teeth bared to sink in chapped lips, hot and messy and filthy of all the promises Gabriel’s half-lidded eyes seemed to bear. Asher’s fingers caught in thin fabric as they searched for warm skin—he ripped his hand free and impatiently slid it down the small of Gabriel’s back, past the loose edge of his trousers. His middle and index fingers tucked with ease in the warm crevice between Gabriel’s buttocks, thumb pressing a dimple in the soft flesh of a cheek. Gabriel licked Asher’s lips open and moaned in his mouth, wet and demanding, his taste a cinnamon wildfire seeping into Asher’s bloodstream, sizzling up his nerves to claim his brain, reaching down to his groin—

Gabriel groaned, half in pain, half in fervent lust—a hint of manic laughter twinkling in his eyes as he landed heavily on the crate, his arms not quite fast enough to prevent his chest from smacking against the hard wood. He braced himself with one arm and fumbled one handed with the fastening of his trousers as Asher held him down. The cold weight of the brass arm anchored him firmly as Asher all but wrenched his own garments open. Gabriel’s flesh was firm under his hand, sharp hipbone pressing against his palm as he traced his side, pushing obstructive fabric out of the way before finding a hold—his tanned knuckles a stark contrast where he grasped Gabriel’s fair skin.

Spit was all he had, hard to gather through the sudden dryness of his throat, and it wasn’t quite enough—Gabriel was tight, far too tight where he clenched around his fingers. Yet he moaned, using the leverage of his arms to push himself back, inciting Asher’s movements with small, ragged sounds that told him don’t you dare stop, laced in wordless threats. Asher wasn’t sure he’d manage to in any case, the warm body spread beneath him a much greater temptation than he could resist. He guided himself, slow burning hunger mounting with each of Gabriel’s pleas—it was three attempts before he felt Gabriel’s tight muscles yield to his flesh, allowing him inside. He stroked the soft skin of Gabriel’s hip with his thumb as he heard his ragged moan, the only comforting gesture he could muster, his brain burnt to near ashes by a breathtaking wave of need.

And it was the hot, heady clasp of flesh, muscles rippling and releasing in a stuttering rhythm that grew stronger at each beat, Gabriel’s pale skin vulnerable under his touch, Gabriel’s gasps and moans and strained murmurs. Asher could see the tension build in Gabriel’s shoulders, the taut muscles in his back, the ring of muscle obscenely stretched around his cock, and God—he leaned forward, hand braced on Gabriel’s nape, holding him down, his cold brass hand clutching Gabriel’s hip. It was too hard, he reckoned somewhere in the turmoil of his deep-sea thoughts, bound to leave bruises in its wake. And Gabriel, Gabriel, strong and demanding under his hands, writhing and pressing back against him, his muscles tense and vibrant with unrequited energy, sharp and breathless as he commanded, “Harder,” and “There,” and “Don’t stop, God—don’t stop.”

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