Tag Archives: futuristic/sci-fi

Blog tour: O. E. Tearman’s The Hands We’re Given—giveaway, links, and exclusive insight

Romance Across the Rainbow welcomes O. E. Tearman, who is on tour with a unique futuristic sci-fi—sounds fascinating!The Hands We're Given - O.E. Tearmann

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.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAN | QueeRomance Ink | Goodreads


Giveaway

O.E. is giving away an eBook copy of “After Hours Game: A Wildcards Christmas: with this tour – for a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4754/?


Excerpt

The Hands We're Given meme - O.E. Tearmann

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.

Author Bio

AUTHORBIO

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.

Author Website: http://aceshighjokerswild.com/

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/wildcards1407/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18359444.O_E_Tearmann

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/O.E.-Tearmann/e/B07J62VX9W

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Thanks O. E. Tearman and Other Worlds Ink for letting RATR be part of the tour. I hope you’ll visit again!

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Filed under Book tour, Contests, just a category, LGBTQ+ fiction, New M/M releases

J. Scott Coatsworth’s Ithani blog tour: unique guest post, giveaway

Today, Romance Across the Rainbow joyfully welcomes J. Scott Coatsworth and his blog tour for his new release, Ithani. So good to have you here again, Scott!

Ithani
The final MM sci fi book in J. Scott Coatsworth’s “Oberon Cycle” trilogy is out – “Ithani”!

Time is running out.

After saving the world twice, Xander, Jameson and friends plunge headlong into a new crisis. The ithani–the aliens who broke the world–have reawakened from their hundred millennia-long slumber. When Xander and Jameson disappear in a flash, an already fractured world is thrown into chaos.

The ithani plans, laid a hundred thousand years before, are finally coming to pass, and they threaten all life on Erro. Venin and Alix go on a desperate search for their missing and find more than they bargained for. And Quince, Robin and Jessa discover a secret as old as the skythane themselves.

Will alien technology, unexpected help from the distant past, destiny and some good old-fashioned firepower be enough to defeat an enemy with the power to split a world? The final battle of the epic science fiction adventure that began in Skythane will decide the fate of lander and skythane alike. And in the north, the ithani rise…

Oberon Cycle Trilogy

Ithani Buy Links

Dreamspinner eBook | Dreamspinner Paperback | Amazon eBook | Amazon Paperback | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Kobo | QueeRomance Ink | Goodreads

Book 1: Skythane:

Dreamspinner eBook | Dreamspinner Paperback | Amazon Kindle | Amazon paperback | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Kobo | QueeRomance Ink | Goodreads

Book Two: Lander:

Dreamspinner eBook | Dreamspinner Paperback | Amazon Kindle | Amazon Paperback | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Kobo | QueeRomance Ink | Goodreads


Giveaway

Scott is giving away a $50 Amazon gift card and ten copies of “The Stark Divide,” the first book in his other trilogy, his other trilogy, “Liminal Sky,” with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4753/?


Excerpt

Venin stood under the dome of the chapel, the waters of the Orn rushing past the small island to crash over the edge of the crater rim, where they fell a thousand meters to the broken city of Errian below.

The Erriani chapel was different from what he was used to back home. The Gaelani chapel in Gaelan had sat at the top of a tall pillar of stone, open to the night sky, a wide space of grass and trees that intertwined in a natural dome through which moonlight filtered down to make dappled shadows on the ground.

This chapel, instead, was a wonder of streaming sunlight, the columns a polished eggshell marble with glimmering seams of gold. Red creeper vines climbed up the columns, festooned with clusters of yellow flowers that gave off a sweet scent.

Both were bright and airy, but the Erriani chapel lay under a dome supported by fluted marble columns, a painted arch of daytime sky and the rose-colored sun blazing overhead.

The last time he’d gone to chapel had been with Tazim, before his untimely death.

Long before the troubles that roiled the world now.

Something drew him back. A need to reconnect with his past. To bridge the gap between then and now, between who he was and who he had become. Taz would have liked this place.

The chapel here had survived the attack, while much of Errian had not. The city below was a jumble of broken corrinder, the multistory plants that were the main building stock for the city. They would grow again, but the sight of the city’s beautiful white towers laid low struck him to the core.

So had Gaelan looked, after the flood.

Venin turned back to the chapel and unlaced his boots, baring his muscular calves before he approached the fountain that splashed at its center. The cool flagstone beneath his feet sent a shiver up his spine, and green moss filled the gaps between the stones.

Some builder whose name was lost to time had tapped into the river itself to make the fountain run, and the water leapt into the air with a manic energy around the golden statue of Erro, before falling back down to the pool.

Venin knelt at the fountain’s edge on one of the well-worn pads, laid his hands in the shallow water, and let his wings rest over himself, making a private place to pray.

Erro and Gael, spare us from danger and lift us up into the sky with your powerful wings. He gave Erro deference, being that this was his chapel, but he hoped Gael would hear him too. The god of his own people had been known to intervene in mortal affairs before, and if what Quince had told them about these ithaniwas true, they would need all the help they could get.

Venin’s wings warmed.

He looked up in astonishment to see the statue of Erro giving off an intense golden glow. His mouth dropped open, and he stood and stared at its beautiful male curves and muscles. Maybe the gods were answering him.

Venin reached up and touched the statue’s outstretched hand. The shock knocked him backward onto his ass, and he hit the ground hard, slamming into one of the marble columns.

Venin groaned, stunned, and reached back to feel his wings and spine. He seemed to be in one piece.

Taz would have laughed his ass off at the whole thing.

After a moment he sat up cautiously. He wrapped his arms around his legs and stared up at the statue, his chin on his knees.

The glow was gone.

Did I imagine it? He stood and felt the back of his head. A lump was already forming there. That’s gonna leave a mark.

Something had changed. Venin didn’t know what yet, but he was sure of that much.

He pulled his boots back on and laced them up. With one last suspicious glare at the statue, he turned and stepped out of the chapel, taking a deep breath of the moisture-laden air.

Then he leapt into the sky to soar down to the broken city.


Guest Post: Full Circle

Sometimes things come full circle.

Six years ago, I was an unpublished wannabe writer who had lost his way, knocked down by an across-the-board rejection of his first novel two decades before. I had gone almost twenty years without really writing, following other paths, but always wondering what might have been.
I ran across Robert Frost’s famous poem today, one I haven’t read in years:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

For years I lived with the doubt—the thought that I had taken the easy path, the road more traveled. Could I have made it as a writer, if I had just persevered two decades ago? Or were all those editors right?

Was I a talentless hack? My words, not theirs.

We were on vacation in Seattle, and Mark found out that one of his favorite authors, Rick Reed, was doing a reading at the University Bookstore. We decided to go, and ended up getting four authors for the price of one.

Rick read this really off the wall tale about gay guys and cats… even he said it was “either the best thing I have written, or the worst.” But although it was strange, it was still great to hear him read from his own work in progress—a real live published author.

One of the other authors at the reading was Lou Sylvre. I remember her well. She had such a presence, such an authory something that was immensely appealing to me. She read from one of her “Vásquez and James” books. I remember going up to her and telling her how I wanted to get back into writing, and how much I had enjoyed the reading.

After that, I started writing again, thanks in large part to a kick in the pants my husband gave me. But that reading was an inspiration—meeting these four amazing authors lit a fire under me to become like them.

Fast forward to last fall, when I was boarding a shuttle bus on the way to the annual Dreamspinner Retreat in Orlando—and who should I run into?
Lou Sylvre.

We’d both traveled different roads over the previous five years, roads that were not without their twists and bumps, but suddenly here we were.

And she remembered me!

This time we were both on the published author side of the fence.

We hit it off, and we hung out together and had a great time together at the retreat. And I told her how much she had inspired me.

Sometimes things come full circle, and we find ourselves in the place we always dreamed we would be. I’ve published six novels now with a seventh on the way, and twenty novellas and short stories. I am the author I wanted to be, six years ago in a brightly lit bookstore in Seattle.

And Lou Sylvre, who was there when it started, was also there to welcome me into the pantheon of writers. It’s kinda poetic, pardon the pun.

I finally took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.

Author Bio

Scott lives with his husband of twenty five years in a Sacramento suburb, in a cute little yellow house with a brick fireplace and two pink flamingoes out front.

He inhabits in the space between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into science fiction and fantasy by his mom at the tender age of nine, he quickly finished her entire library. But he soon began to wonder where all the queer people were.

After coming out at twenty three, he started writing the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Crown Books. If there weren’t many queer characters in his favorite genres, he would will them into existence, subverting them to his own ends. And if he was lucky enough, someone else would want to read them.

His friends say Scott’s mind works a little differently than most – he makes connections between ideas that others don’t, and somehow does more in a day than most people manage in a week. Although born an introvert, he forced himself to reach outside himself, and learned to connect with others like him.

Scott’s stories subvert expectations that transform traditional science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something different and unexpected. He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark.

His romance and genre fiction writing brings a queer energy to his stories, filling them with love, beauty and power. He imagines how the world could be – in the process, he hopes to change the world, just a little.

Scott was recognized as one of the top new gay authors in the 2017 Rainbow Awards, and his debut novel “Skythane” received two awards and an honorable mention.

You can find him at Dreamspinner here, Goodreads here, on Amazon here, on QueeRomance Ink here, and on Facebook here.

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Note from Lou: Congratulations on the release, Scott, and thanks for that wonderful guest post, which touches my heart. I’m very glad you took that less traveled road and we met upon it. Thanks OWI, and thank you readers for stopping by. As always, comments are welcome.

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Filed under Book tour, just a category, M/M romance, Sci-fi

From Elizabeth Noble: The Future is What We Make It (Plus an excerpt from upcoming release, *Chained Hearts*

I like the future. It can be a very cool and interesting place to hang out. Writing in the future means I can take that time and setting and make it whatever and however I’d like it to be.

The Sentries is a series that takes place three hundred years in the future. This is a future that hails back to the past. It’s not a high tech future. The culture and society in general have changed. The world of Sentries was created by a natural disaster occurring, for the characters Todd and Nick Ruger, three hundred years in their past. Things have changed between now and then.

I wanted a totally different society for my series, and since I stayed on planet Earth for this one, I needed to do something with the society we have now. Being basically lazy and wanting to take the easy route I did the only logical thing I could think of: I blew ours up.

Don’t you just hate it when some schmo comes along and blows up the modern world?

I suppose it was messy and scary and there was chaos for a while, but for the Ruger guys that was way, way in the past, so what the reader knows of those scary, messy, chaotic days are on par with what the Rugers know. I’m currently writing book four of the series, and the Rugers will know a whole lot more about those days by the end of it, which means so will the rest of us.

However, that’s in the future.

Let’s go back to the Sentries and the future.

Creating a different society wasn’t my only motivation for using the future. I needed a place and time where my characters, those delightful Ruger men, could be what I wanted them to be and here and now wasn’t that place, or time.

I’ve had more than one reader comment on the fact that the future in Sentries isn’t bleak and barren, people aren’t struggling to survive, and they’re not starving. My question is why does it have to be that way? Firstly, it’s not logical to think three hundred years after even a globally devastating natural disaster, that humans wouldn’t have at least partially gotten their act together and rebuilt something. Secondly, there is no reason good can’t evolve from horrible.

In Sentries there are cities, farms, politics, coffee and pancakes along with a few paranormal baddies to be dealt with. There is also something else, and that is what is more important, to me at least.

Ever since I started reading and writing in the M/M genre I’ve been seeing blog posts discussing the fact that women can’t write about gay men because women have no idea what it’s like to be a gay man. I’ve even heard tell there are gay men who will not read anything written by a woman concerning the relationships of gay men.

For me, personally the gender of the author isn’t important as long as they tell me a good story, but I’ll concede to the fact that not everyone feels the same way. Do I know what it’s like to be a gay man? Well, no. I’m not even sure I know what it’s like to be a straight woman.

What I do know and understand is what it’s like to be discriminated against for reasons that are just silly.

See, I was divorced when my oldest child was only seven, he has two younger siblings. Before that I was a child of a divorced couple and for some reason people seem to think untraditional families of any sort produce people (male or female, gay or straight) that are somehow damaged. I had friends in school whose parents blatantly refused to allow their children to interact socially with me since I was from “a broken home”. I had a very nice home and was given a good education.

Twenty plus years later my own children were told they weren’t welcome in this family’s home or that child’s birthday party because—go ahead, gasp in horror—yes, they came from a broken home! Our home wasn’t broken, I fixed it and I now have three successful adult children with decent jobs and their own homes.

I may not be a gay man, but I sure do understand what it’s like to be judged (falsely) by others simply because my life is different from theirs.

What does all this have to do with blowing up the world as we know it, two guys in love with one another who fight paranormal baddies, drink coffee, like pancakes, and the future in general?

Quite a bit, actually, in a roundabout sort of way.

I detest discrimination against anything for any reason. One method I try to fight it on a personal level is via the books I write. This is where we go back to the future (loved those movies by the way). In the Sentries version of the future things are different, they have changed. One of those changes is same sex unions are perfectly normal and acceptable.
My most favorite books, movies, stories of any sort are filled with action, adventure as well as a smattering of romance. Sentries is a series set in the future, with lots of action, tons of adventure and a smattering of romance between two main characters who happen to both be men. It’s sort of my own, little, personal way of protesting those that might discriminate against someone because they prefer a partner/spouse/soul mate who is not the opposite sex.

I purposely don’t make a big deal out of the fact that Todd and Nick are both men; I do make a big deal out of the fact they are very in love with one another. The Rugers are a family in their eyes and I hope in the eyes of the reader.

The words homosexual or gay are not used in the series because I like to imagine a future where those are not words used to describe people. A world where one is not judged by whom they are attracted to or lovFroe, where it doesn’t matter if your family isn’t what we today consider traditional and ‘right’.

My take on the future is best summed up by the words of Doc Brown in Back to the Future III “…It means your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Our future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one, both of you.”

There is no reason we, as a society, can’t make a future where tags such as gay aren’t what defines people. The future is what we make of it and I chose to try and make it a more tolerant place, unless of course, you’re some paranormal baddie that needs dispatching. In that case, watch out, because Todd and Nick will getcha!

Thank you Lou for allowing me to take up your blog and ramble on it.

From Chained Hearts, book 3 of the Sentries series:

Blurb:

Todd and Nick Ruger are alive and on the run in the Yellowknife Protectorate, but maybe not for long. After narrowly escaping New Colorado, where they were implicated in the assassination of Chancellor Shaffer, they’re running out of steam: Todd is gravely ill and Nick’s injured. Just when it seems like the harsh winter will get the best of them, they find refuge with a doctor in the isolated town of Elk’s Ridge.

On the surface, Elk’s Ridge seems the ideal place to rebuild their lives. Nick begins training as the doctor’s apprentice, and Todd works in a lumberyard until they’re recovered enough to return to their duties as Sentries. They make friends, forge a new life, and most importantly, there’s no sign of anyone from New Colorado.

They should have known it was too good to be true. Victor Raleigh, the new Vice Chancellor of New Colorado, knows all about Nick’s psychic abilities, and he wants them in his corner. When Nick is betrayed and captured, Todd sees no alternative but to head back to the war zone to rescue him. But will Nick be the same man Todd loves after Raleigh’s pet psychic vampire is through with him?

Excerpt:

Movement from the direction of Nick drew Todd’s attention. His mate rolled to his butt, sitting there leaning on one hand, legs half stretched in front of him and crossed just below his knees. Shaggy, dark hair was brushed away from his face and sleep-blurry eyes blinked at Todd making his young mate look even younger…more like a sleep tousled little boy.

There was no way Todd could, or would even try, to stop the smile from spreading over his face. Scooting closer to Nick, he combed his fingers through Nick’s hair, appreciating how soft it was. He pressed a gentle kiss to Nick’s forehead. “Morning.”

One side of Nick’s mouth twitched up for a second before he yawned.

“Christ, Nick, some days you make me feel like a pedophile.”

Nick yawned again, scratched at his chest and mumbled out, “huh?” Inching along the ground until he wedged himself between Todd’s legs and laid his head on Todd’s shoulder, face pressed against the side of his neck. Nick yawned again. His entire body relaxed as he nestled against Todd, ribcage expanding with yet another yawn.

“Lemme see this.” Todd lifted Nick’s shirt and inspected the bandaged wound as he had earlier. “According to the map there’s a town not too far from here, how about we check it out, see if there is somewhere we can get some supplies? We need more bandaging material and more medicine to put on this. I’m going to heat some water and get it cleaned out again.”

“I don’t think it’s ever going to heal.” Nick grumbled. “It’s been almost a month.”

“I wouldn’t mind finding a doctor to take a look at it either.” Todd smoothed Nick’s shirt back into place and took a deep breath. “Nick, you keep having those nightmares.”

“How are we going to explain this kind of wound?”

Tapping Nick’s nose with one finger, Todd warned, “No changing the subject.”

“I’m sorry. I can’t stop them, they keep coming.”

“Don’t be sorry, it’s not your fault. We need to work on stopping them.” Easing away from Nick, Todd stood up. Moving farther from the wagon he got a fire started and set a pot of water on to heat. Nick wandered off to the nearby river. Todd grabbed his clothes and headed after his mate. He’d considered the possibility Nick was right and the kelbit did have a mate who was somehow able to infiltrate Nick’s dreams. More likely it was trauma. Nick’s ability to sense evil entities also made him incredibly sensitive emotionally. That trait didn’t always work for them which strengthened his resolve to find them somewhere bigger than their wagon to stay.

Once they were done washing in the cool water, Nick quietly sat by the fire, naked from the waist up, while Todd scrubbed out the round bite wound, smeared some more of the antiseptic cream over it and applied a fresh bandage. The only sign of discomfort Nick let show was the occasional hissed in breath and a shifting of his shoulders forward. After the cream was smoothed over him, he turned and looked over his shoulder, rubbing at it with one hand. “That makes it feel better.”

“How about we get a real meal in town? It should be over that rise, it’s called Elk’s Ridge, and from the looks of it on the map it’s a decent sized town. Then we can hit a store if they have one. We’ll need somewhere for the winter, this area is as good as any I suppose. If we want we can head out again in the spring, but for now we have enough money to get us through.”

“We can always get work, Todd. There will be lots of our sort of problems kicked up by the war.”

“Not until that wound is healed we don’t. Besides, time to give it a break for a bit I think, and stay as far away from that war as we can. I hope if they have a store there is a post office so we can send our letter to Jimmy and maybe get a newspaper, see what we’re missing.”

Nick nodded and pulled his shirt over his head then the sweatshirt Todd had given him on their first day together and he still insisted on wearing. They dowsed the fire and packed their camp into the wagon before securing the team, choosing instead to ride the saddle horses into town.

“We can’t ride the same horse?” Nick stood beside Obi, looking up at Todd who was already sitting on the other horse. “What if it’s a problem, me on a horse?”

Motioning to Nick to mount up, Todd smiled softly. “It’ll be okay. No law says you can’t ride one as long as you’re with me. I know you like when we ride together better, but we’re going to need both horses and the packs to haul back supplies.”

“No law in New Colorado,” Nick grumbled and swung onto the horse.

“I doubt the laws in Yellowknife are much different, but if they are we’ll worry about it then.”

Nick didn’t say anything else, simply nodded and nudged Obi into motion, keeping close enough to Todd their legs brushed as the horses moved. The town, Todd discovered, was a pleasant one. There was maybe around a thousand inhabitants, smaller than the tens of thousands who lived in bigger cities like New Colorado City or Yellowknife City, but not so small that they were totally unaccustomed to people passing through.

Even as far north as it was, it was a hub for travelers which was immediately evident by the several number of inns. There were also a few cafes and restaurants, a larger sized livery, libraries and a fair amount of homes scattered around the outskirts and farther out in the countryside. Leaving their horses in the care of the livery, they decided to hike around and check the place out.

The buildings were mostly stone and wood with slate and shingle roofs. The streets were cobblestone or brick paved with wide, wooden sidewalks on either side. This was a little oasis of civilization in the rugged, mostly uninhabited far northern part of the Rocky Mountains.

Their first stop was a café a few blocks over from the livery. The letter to Jimmy started a few days ago was finished while they waited for their meal. Todd was pleased that people here had slaves, he’d seen several on their trip through and no one seemed much fussed over how he treated Nick. In fact this town reminded him of the New Colorado City neighborhood he’d chosen to live in, where more of the owners and slaves were a part of a family.

The fact Todd was a stranger and there with a slave drew little attention other than a few people greeting them on the street. As he’d always done, Nick’s tether was hooked to his collar and then tucked into his back pocket making it easy to grab if needed.

Todd got a good feeling from the town, people who minded their own business and were open to newcomers, not that he was ready to find a real estate office just yet, but this was definitely a place to check out more closely. They would probably be fine if they could find a small cabin or even a cave for the winter, keep an eye on the town and decide if this was where they wanted to live.

“The coffee here is good.” Nick had finally stopped shoveling food in and was leaning back in his chair, looking up and down the street. He looked content and was smiling, another good sign as far as Todd was concerned.

When they left the café there was a five-pound bag of coffee beans to add to their packs. The doctor, they discovered, lived just west of the town and outside of it on a small piece of property. If he didn’t find something for Nick’s shoulder in town then Todd decided a visit to the doctor was in order.

They wandered down the street to the next main intersecting street and took a right, walking along. There was a large store not far from the intersection; they’d gotten directions from a waiter at the café. It took up nearly half the block. It was several stories high, a store on the main floor, lodging on the second floor and whatever was on the third wasn’t open to the public, but Todd suspected it was storage. He could see houses behind the store that were attached to it. Probably whatever family owned it lived in those houses.

As they walked through Nick was all eyes, checking out everything, making Todd smile. It’d been a while since he’d truly seen Nick’s insatiable curiosity come bouncing to the forefront and it gave him hope his young mate would be on the mend if they stuck around this area for a while. Heading toward the back where there was a counter, and looking beyond it Todd did indeed see that there was someone’s home.

Two small children, a boy and girl, maybe about four years old came running from behind the counter. They were small, blond, cute, looked like twins and nearly ran Todd over.

“Whoa, whoa, easy there,” he laughed and scooped one kid—the girl—up, swung her around and set her on the counter all while deftly sidestepping away from the little boy plowing into his shins. Nick covered his mouth and snickered.

“Oh my gosh, I am so sorry. Karen, Kieron you’re both supposed to be in the house helping Nana not annoying our customers. Now go.” A woman about Todd’s age rushed after them. She was small, equally as blond as her children with crystal blue eyes and had long, wavy hair that fell to below her shoulders. She offered Todd a dazzling smile. “I am very sorry. What can I do for you?”

A quick glance back at Nick who was brushing his hair back from his face and looking a little grumpy and Todd stepped up to the counter after the little girl, Karen, vacated it for the house and her Nana. The woman’s gaze flashed to Nick for a brief instant before landing back on Todd. He hoped he really didn’t look like some kind of pedophile after all. His mate looked too damn young sometimes. Todd resisted the urge to blurt out Nick was twenty-three.

“Do you have any postal service here?” Todd fished the letter out of his coat pocket.

Nick stepped up behind him and dropped to one knee, arms crossed over his bent one, he looked around the store casually. Todd knew that for what it was, Nick’s little bouts of jealousy hadn’t bothered him since the night he’d chased after his mate. Nick behaved this way the most when he wanted reassurance from Todd, he understood that and found giving Nick his needed security and letting it ride was his best course of action. He let one hand drop casually to his side and moved it back far enough to skim across Nick’s hair for a few seconds before bring it back up to rest on the counter. Todd didn’t often demand Nick take a kneeling position behind him, but wanted Nick to know when he chose to do so on his own, Todd completely understood the reasoning behind Nick’s actions and that Nick would never be reprimanded.

“We do.” She held out her hand and Todd set the envelope with their letter to Jimmy in her palm. It took her a minute to weight it and figure the postage, she chatted away at him while she worked. “I’m Amelia Wilbourne and you’ve met my children. Are you new in town or passing through?”

He also found out in those few minutes she was a widow, her husband killed earlier the year before. She lived with her grandparents and children. Her brother and his family ran the local lumberyard about a mile down the road. It was way too much information, definitely way too much hair flipping and touching of Todd’s forearm while she was giving it out.

“Not sure yet.” Todd smiled at her and handed over payment for the postage then gave her a quick handshake when she offered her other hand. “We’re definitely here to pick up some supplies.” Reaching behind him, he slipped one finger under Nick’s collar and tugged lightly. Nick stood, stepped closer and waited placidly beside him. “I’m Todd Ruger, this is Nick, my mate.”

Amelia’s gaze barely flicked to Nick who smiled politely and nodded. “Hello.” His voice was soft and Todd was likely the only person who’d ever hear the note of insecurity in it.

“Well, Mr. Ruger, if you need anything at all let me know.” She had a sort of predatory sweet smile that made Todd want to shake his head. Nick more glared at her than anything. “I hope we see more of you in here. If there is anything you can’t find, let me know, I’ll have it ordered.”

“I bet you will,” Nick grumbled. If she heard him, she ignored him.

Giving Nick a slight bump on his arm, they grabbed a basket and walked up and down the aisles. Thankfully Todd found some medicated cream as well as the rest of the supplies they were getting low on. Nick finding a book that interested him made Todd happy and he made it a point to hand it back to Nick after paying for it. Amelia’s looks were making him nervous and he decided he really wanted her to understand Nick was his mate and Todd was not looking for any other sort of company.

It was early evening when they left the town and headed back to their wagon, Todd wasn’t comfortable enough to get a room at one of the inns for a few nights. He wanted to watch the town and the area for a few weeks first. That night a cold wind blew in heavy rains forcing them to sleep in the wagon. Todd spent the night shifting from one side to the other, trying to ease aches and cramps, never seeming to find a position that allowed him to relax and sleep all while trying to stifle a cough he figured came from the damp air and not wake up Nick. That turned out to be a non-issue since Nick didn’t really sleep much. If he wasn’t flinching awake from nightmares he was rousted from Todd’s tossing and coughing.

By early morning the two of them finally got to sleep. It rained most of that day, making Todd even more antsy. He’d decided he wanted to check the area, watch the town, and bad weather was thwarting his plans.

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S.A. Garcia’s *Divine Devine’s Love Song* (Dreamspinner Press)

Featured this week, S.A. Garcia and her latest novel, Divine Devine’s Love Song. Here’s a little about the author and the book, scroll down for an interview and intriguing excerpts from her work. As usual, on this blog, the cover images are buy links—click on one and it’ll take you straight to the publisher’s store.

In a world destroyed by nuclear mismanagement, a deformed young man named Trill finds an intact Netpad. Once he secures a working battery, he discovers a story penned by Sam Devine, a hacker who led a rebellion against the insane corporation BCM thirty years previously.

Sam works for BCM out of necessity rather than choice. He despises the company for its lack of ethics and knows the best way to destroy it is from within. When a meeting opens with the torture of BCM’s captive enemies, Sam receives his chance: he lies to convince his bosses he wants to further degrade one of the warriors, a man named Pokatawer. Once Pokatawer is released to Sam, he finds they share common goals and lusts.

But Sam and Pokatawer are up against a hugely powerful corporation, and they’ll have to bring BCM to its knees to escape nuclear wrath and make a life for themselves somewhere outside the company’s grasp.


S.A. Garcia can never decide between red or white. Nor can she decide between creating visual art or word art, so over the decades a career in visual design, music journalism, and technical writing blossomed. Ten years of running an indie music magazine certainly provided plenty of wild characters and curious situations for fiction.

Even when traveling to interview bands, writing fiction always percolated in the background, and writing male romantic fiction ruled above all. Reading Gordon Merrick at age nineteen sounded a wonderful wake-up call. There’s thirty years of male/male romance hidden away in her notebooks and on the computer. Now it is time to release the stories into the free air.

When not obsessing over different ways to describe romantic encounters, S.A. enjoys cooking for her beloved of twenty-five years; she endures the endless experiments with grace. Gardening, traveling, arguing politics, and teaching the house bunnies new tricks provide more fun. Unfortunately the furry furies refuse to learn how to type.

S.A. invites you to find her at her blog, S.A. Garcia’s World of Words.

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Excerpt: Divine Devine’s Love Song (wherein he meets the Bourbon-loving warrior)

Dan dropped onto the chair next to us. “Fine. Make me act like a parrot. What are you doing?”

“Passing justice to another abused human.” I gently touched the swarthy, stubbled cheek. What a proud, distinctive face. His strong features looked like something from a misty legend. What did I know about Pamavirgins? “Do you like the ocean? You probably haven’t seen the ocean since BCM destroyed the coast right down to the Carolinas. They built ugly steel walls. They ruined the beach. Not where I am. The sea is ruined, but at least I see it—bad pun—but I see the waves.”

There. The closed eyelids trembled. I continued whispering. “You want to see the ocean again, right? BCM stole the ocean away from you. I live on the ocean, and I want to take you there to stay with me. I live right on the ocean’s edge. I live in a house that survives the Howlers. Imagine watching a Howler with me. Imagine the ocean roaring in full might.”

Dan moaned in confused agony. He sprang to his feet and poured out a tumbler full of soothing bourbon. Today’s wanton drinking turned expensive for him.

My fingers stroked the massacred hair. Soft bristles teased my flesh. “Listen, I’ll take you away from here. One time someone rescued me, and it thrills me to do the same for another human. Let me rescue you. Give me an ingredient. Talk, and we can watch the ocean together. Imagine watching the mighty water trying to wash the filth away from the sorry shores. The ocean tries to make everything clean. Someday it will win.”

The thick black eyelashes trembled again. I relaxed against the wall. “I’ll wait.”

Moments ticked past. Instead of barking at me, my overwhelmed Dan slumped back and shut his eyes. His glass barely remained in his fingers. His defeated posture told me how far I traveled here, but his defeated posture also told me he supported me. Bless his determined-to-clutch-comfort heart.

My trembling fingers continued stroking warm flesh. Wrong of me to admire this man, but his impressive physique told me he performed manual labor. He certainly wasn’t like the silly ManH men who played in the one remaining status gym. His hard, solid arm and chest muscles understood grueling work. I must be insane to want to be alone with someone who looked like cracking my back with one firm hug came naturally to him. My naughty gaze examined his thick, potent cock. What a lulu.

Intuition told me if I released this proud, tough man, he’d adhere to his word and not harm me. My intuition told me to trust Dan, and here I sat, alive.

My warrior’s body squirmed in silent struggle. I stiffened in anticipation. Please don’t let him overreact. Please. Eyelids slid open. Green eyes surrounded by appalling dark circles peered up at me in consideration. His cracked lips opened. He swallowed. A word rasped free. “Kudzu.”

Wonder filled my soul. “Kudzu.”

“The base is kudzu.” This time I heard the soft Southern burr spice his raspy voice. He twitched in pain. His eyes rolled up and saw Dan sipping at the bourbon. His gaze focused in amazement. “Care to share, ManH man?”

What did he mean? Right. “Of course.” I wagged my hand at Dan, who pressed my glass into my grasp. “Small sips, dude.”

“Why?” My bold Pamavirgin gulped down the remaining amber inch and sighed in bliss. A man after my own heart. He took a stern licking and still wanted his drink.

I stared at Dan. “I want these fucking chains and cuffs off this man.”

One word choked free. “Hasty.”

What? I stared down at the bourbon-loving warrior. “Hasty?”

A faint smile appeared. “The chains are showy nonsense, but keep the cuffs on. Treat me like a dangerous savage. Why should they trust me?” His pained eyes examined me in supreme question. “Will you really take me away from this horrible place?”

“I will.”

“I want to see the ocean roaring in fury. I want to see freedom again.”

“So be it.”

By now Dan sputtered in dread. “Hello, Devine, how are you going to convince them to let you take him away from here?”

Those warm summer eyes gazing at me from the pained purple hollows told me the truth. They told me I still owned a soul. They told me someone trusted me. “The renegade loner needs to work with this special man in peace and quiet. I’m the only man he trusts here. We need peace and quiet to make any progress.” I swallowed in disgust. “Tell them I want him as a toy, as a reward. Let me have him, and I’ll make sure the intel flows.” My fingers touched the rough infected mark on his neck. “Damn to the depths, he’s been chipped and dipped in a sloppy manner.”

“It’s standard procedure for field captives. The bullyboys aren’t picky about the insert jet’s sterile conditions”

“Glad to hear you’re in the know about such nastiness, Dan.” I glared at my boss. I acted unfairly, but today everything irritated me. “Go ahead, man in the know. Work your special charms. Go play pocket ball. Tell them I need to take this man with me.”

“I hear and obey, you mouthy Brooks bastard. Fine. Only for you.” Dan slammed out the lab door.

I acted like an arrogant ass. That time I deserved Dan’s anger. Dan hated thinking he belonged to BCM, but why deny the truth? Bugger, I felt worse. I stared down at my battered new houseguest. “Don’t believe the toy nonsense. I tried to think what they’d believe, tried to think like them, which made me feel sick. What’s your name?”

“Pokatawer.”

I blinked in surprise. “Impressive. Native American?”

His eyelids crinkled in expressive glee. “Excellent, ManH man. Good to know someone in this decadent pit understands outside culture.

My name is Pamunkey for fire.”

“Pamunkey?” The strange word sounded like a children’s game.

“An ancient Native American tribe near RichM. We trace our roots far beyond the white man despoiling the land. When the BCM monsters war against the land, they fight us. Since we do not live in the cities, many tribe members survived the B-Rain. We are a tough breed.” A twisted little smile added grim punctuation.

I envisioned Dan’s cropped hair growing even shorter. Boss, guess what, I planned on harboring a radical Native American! Thud. I squirmed in delight. “Excellent. It’s time to make this fire burn free from this damned place. Trust me. Tell me you trust me.”
Pokatawer offered me a lopsided grin. “Why not?”

“I need your real trust.”

“Why is my trust vital to you?”

Why? “I mean my words. The man who just left the room rescued me from a death sentence. It’s time I passed the gift along to another human.”

Pokatawer shook his head. “Really? Yours is a tale for later. I do trust you.” He blinked and shuddered. “I ache. Keeping the body limp during torment is difficult on the muscles. I need food, but first I need to sleep if only for a few minutes. The monsters do not allow us sleep. They take pride in keeping us awake. Three days sans sleep is ugly.”

My hatred deepened to a darker shade. “Want a little more bourbon?”

“Yes indeed.”

I slid out from under my captive and poured out another glassful. He sipped from the glass held to his lips. Those brilliant green eyes grew glassy in bliss. “Who are you?”

“Sam Devine.”

Sputtery laughter sounded. “My divine Sam.”

Did he hear me wrong? “No, it’s Devine.”

“Divine to me.” A final smile formed before my battered guest succumbed to tortured exhaustion. His black lashes shut in gentle closure.

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Hackers, addicts, and howlers—another excerpt from Divine Devine’s Love Song

Seeing another human standing on the small terrace filled me with strange relief. I set the decorative old flower-power tray on the round pebbly glass-topped table rescued from a nearby dump. I loved decorating with trash-picked artifacts. They made me feel young.

I hugged my calm savage. “Here is the sea as I promised—well, more like the bay, but that’s the sea out there.”

“Can we swim in the sea?”

“Only on certain calm days. I always test before I enter. If the currents run counter to the shore, limited immersion is safe as long as you shower soon after. Never swallow the water. On most days the contaminate levels are too risky.”

“I want to experience the sea against my skin.”

“I want to see you frolic like a happy seal.”

“I am not sure I know how to frolic, but I shall try for you.”

My lips discovered a world of bliss. I submitted to Pokatawer’s simmering power. My hands teased down his back to clutch his

Michelangelo-worthy ass. He easily pushed me into my seat. “Later, my flirtatious ManH man.” He sat down and started consuming the leftovers in vigor.

I grinned. “How can you call me a ManH man, considering I live out here?”

“They accept you in their city. In reality you are one of them.” His strong teeth savaged an apple slice. “I am glad you are a ManH man, or else I would be dead.”

“When I heard what they intended to do, I wanted to strangle them. Lucky for them I’m a tech guy, not a killer. Did you hear their plans?”

“Yes. They are indeed soulless humans. At least we fight because we wish to defend our land.”

“When did they start attacking you? Their assault is a dirty little secret.”

The water glass’s upward movement halted. Pokatawer looked at me in scathing disbelief. “They lobbed a few powerful nail bombs at settlements in the Pamavirgins zone beyond the NoCrozz. Lo-tech but lethal enough to kill or maim innocent people. In the confusion troops defeated the few sentinels and broke the truce without remorse. Even after the strife BCM had created, if they asked to work with us, we might have considered it, but now, never.”

I groaned in disgust. “I tried to bring the bastards down.”

“I know you did.”

What? “How?”

Pokatawer shook his head. “Even in Pamavirgin we heard about Sam Devine, hacker extraordinaire. We thought you had been executed.”
Well, there we go; I was a legend beyond my own mind. “Pretty weird, dude. The bastards probably spread the word that they executed me.”

“While I sat in that cage waiting to die, I heard your name mentioned. It sounded like salvation. I was not wrong. Here we sit. I am a lucky captive.”

“It’s time for something stronger than water.”

“I agree.”

Today demanded a special treat. I stepped down into the small cool area I called my wine cellar. Dan supplied me great vintages from a massive BCM stockpile. A year ago he broke into enormous storage areas tucked beneath the MetM. He reasoned finders, keepers. There, that precious bottle of 2025 Shiraz looked promising. The tough old cork, real, not plastic, fought the manual corkscrew. At least the effort worked my arm muscles.

I poured out our libations. Pokatawer held the purple liquid to the light. “To my savior.” He thrust the glass toward me.

I raised my glass to his offering. “No, to my savior, who tells me it’s time to get the fuck out of here.”

The glasses clinked. We sipped.

My guest gasped in alarm. Wine drops splattered against the tray. One tense finger pointed eastward. “What approaches us?”

I shook my head. Nothing to spill the priceless purple over. “Don’t worry. That’s a small Sea Howler. Pretty, eh? They pop up, sprawl along, then dissipate. Predicting their curious patterns is impossible.” I cocked my head toward my guest. “Speaking of curious, I find it curious you’re from the RichM area. What hauled you into the north?”

“I volunteered for duty. I work building and repairing houses for the south settlements, but when those bastards started killing innocent people, a group of us traveled north to fight their evil.”

“Why did you agree to take the drug?”

A haunted expression filled Pokatawer’s black eyes. “When I lost Matt, I thought I lost everything. Our lives had been entwined for many years, since we were young men before the B-Rain. Our love seemed prehistoric; so much happened during our time together. We watched a nation rip itself apart over greed and social injustice. We watched the ill-advised city-states destroyed due to BCM treachery. Imagine a corporation dictating the nation’s rules. Heresy. Welcome to the vicious B-Rain solution.

“At hearing the fresh injustice, we agreed to fight together. We entered into battle four times. The fourth time Matt… died.” Pokatawer shook his head and gazed toward the horizon. “Since the BCM monsters seemed determined to hold the land they stole, we regrouped and reexamined the situation. When the battle drug was introduced, I agreed to use it. The first time I took the antidote and returned. This last time I was unlucky.” He sipped his wine. “Not completely unlucky. As I keep saying, I still breathe. Now my main question is how long will they allow me to remain with you?”

“Keep giving them nuggets, and they will ignore you.”

“Divine, you are naive to think they will shrink back and allow us to drift here by the sea. What reason do they have to leave us alone? Fine, you told them you wanted a toy. Is that reason enough? From what I understand, you are tolerated due to your skill and Dan’s protection. They bear no love for you.”

“Gee, chum, you know how to make an afternoon shimmer.” I saluted him with my wineglass and frowned. “You’re the new guy at the club, and you understand I’m merely tolerated. You make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.”

“Considering they were about to execute you, need I say more? Most of all I despise this chip they injected into my neck. You also suffer one of these devices? As do the Outer Brooks inhabitants? I confess we regard this entire area as corrupt, but from what I saw, the suffering in the Outer Brooks area is awful.”

“It’s awful since ManH lost control of it. Ever hear of Sud?”

My warrior’s nostrils flared in disgust. “That foul BCM drug. Use of that filth is not tolerated in the settlements. We despise acting like dictators, but Sud is dangerous.”

My smile felt brittle. “When the Brooks revolted due to the initial food shortages, BCM had the brilliant idea to try and use Sud as a control. Nothing like a tight-packed angry mob hallucinating together. Instead of keeping criminals in jail, now they chip them and toss them into Outer Brooks and beyond the North Harlem wall. They are the men the monsters want to bring against your brave volunteer troops. Killers, maniacs, and burned-out Sud addicts.”

A light breeze smelling of fresh air ruffled the fine tuffs on Pokatawer’s head. His silence grew uncomfortable. My new roommate excelled at making me feel squirmy. He made me feel unworthy to draw breath, which made little sense. I hated the sensation. He said nothing, but I sensed judgment flow from his pores. Worse yet, he owned every right to judge me. He owned every right to find me guilty.
I hoped my powerful warrior still desired me as his trusted battle brother.

Pokatawer’s impressive body slumped into the light stainless-steel chair. He looked smaller, vulnerable in his sadness. His right hand rose toward me. “I fear I feel less spry than I thought. The need to indulge in a lie-down conquers me. Excuse me, my gracious host. I need to use your bed.” He stood, hesitated, and slammed back into his chair. His expression of startled fury pained me.

My hands wanted to help. They found themselves blocked by stubborn arms. “No. I am not infirmed. Let me stand on my own.”

“No need for the me-so-strong-and-stern attitude here, dude.”

“I am not your dude. My name is Pokatawer.”

“Yes, absolutely, I acknowledge your name. Why don’t you drop the stubborn-ass attitude and let me help you into the bedroom?”

Impressive. Pokatawer’s pointed glare singed my auburn eyebrows into gray ashes. “I am not a stubborn ass.”

“Of course not. You’re an injured dude who refuses help to stand up. That’s not the definition of a stubborn ass, right? Stop acting mulish and let me help you.” My fingers grasped Pokatawer’s muscular forearms.

Whoa. One sharp frontal thrust tossed me back into my seat. I almost fell backward to the steel balcony. “I believe I said I need no help. I believe you are not deaf. Please heed my request. Do I have your permission to rest?”

“There’s one bed in my house, dude, and it’s mine, but since you are my guest now, it’s yours.”

“Thank you.” Pokatawer stood. He staggered until he held the doorframe and gained control over his balance. My warrior entered the house’s interior displaying more regal stiffness than an old king trying to prove his manliness.

I stared back into my house. What brought on Pokatawer’s unexpected snit fit? What the fuck? What did I do? Did discussing ManH’s vile plan turn me into the enemy?

Instead of charging in and demanding answers, I sat and finished my wine. I needed to calm my nerves down into sensible reason. Think about it—Pokatawer’s world shrank down to depending on me. No wonder he felt wretched. Hell, if my life depended on me, I’d feel extremely wretched. I was a turncoat slut, a major sellout. In the grand annals of history, I supposed I should have acted like a hero and accepted death instead of working for monsters. Too bad. Weak men littered history’s ugly path. Call me a practical man.

More like call me an asshole.

A few more elegant Sea Howlers danced across the horizon, their slim gray shapes twisting and swirling in their endless dance. Did the systems really end? Did one dissipate to be gathered into another’s creation? The curling Sea Howlers always looked the same. What separated them?

Worse yet, were they truly entities sent from the earth to destroy those who had perverted nature? BCM hated those new environmentalist rumblings. Rumors whispered the Pamavirgins encouraged those sweet fairy tales. The monsters at BCM and their decadent empire needed to pay for their crimes against the earth. The Howlers were Earth warriors, building in power until one last final crushing blow slammed into ManH. What an excellent fantasy.

Did my touchy houseguest believe the tale? Better not to ask.

Behind the Sea Howlers, the evening clouds gathered in predictable threat. Tonight a sub one Howler might hit, but those weak babies never passed beyond the shore.

My main worry circulated back into life. What did I do here? Could I trust this man?

Yes, I could.

Technology protected me.

Time to bring in the supplies before the evening storm created havoc.

Divine Devine’s Love Song

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