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An Excerpt from *Marked Yours*

It was close to midnight when they finally stopped to make camp. There were four wagons in all, the other three carrying two or three occupants each, and two men riding on horseback. Nick’s mind drifted back to childhood, watching Todd ride through his village a few times a year, watching him grow from a skinny boy of twelve to the powerful man he was now.

A fire was built in the center of the wagon circle, and a meal was prepared. The night air was chilled and damp and Nick’s clothes, more suited for the southern climate, weren’t keeping him very warm. Nick wouldn’t have minded sitting near the fire to eat, even if he had to listen to John Ruger and his friends tell whatever stories they told one another. Todd, however, took his food and headed back to their wagon, so Nick followed.

He tried hard not to shiver through dinner. Everyone else had thicker coats and heavier clothes, much more prepared for the climate they were heading into than Nick. Glancing wistfully at the fire and its warmth, Nick huddled over his plate. He’d never dare ask for another coat. He was a slave. Who cared if he was cold? Slaves didn’t count in this world.

“You have any heavier clothes?”

Shaking his head, Nick murmured, “No, Todd.”

Todd set his plate down hard on the ground and stood abruptly. Nick flinched and looked up. Reaching into the wagon, Todd pulled out a heavy dark green pullover shirt. In his other hand he carried a few bottles and two glasses.

“Here, put this on. It’ll keep you warm enough for now. When we get home you’re getting the right clothes. I’m not spending the rest of my life watching you shiver.” He set the bottles and glasses down and resettled onto the ground beside Nick. Dark, amber liquid was poured from one of the bottles. “You ever had whisky before?” He started to hold the small glass out to Nick, but when Nick shook his head no, Todd chuckled. “Okay then. Not having this right now.” Grinning, Todd downed the liquid himself. Crossing his eyes, he shook his head as he swallowed. “Here, try this instead. We’ll start you off slow and work you up to the really rotgut stuff later.”

Nick laughed and took the small bottle Todd offered. He took a whiff; it didn’t smell bad. Nick took a short sip of the bottle’s contents. He pulled the bottle away and looked at it. “What is this?”

Todd had been watching him the entire time, looking almost boyish and hopeful. “Eh, you didn’t spit it back at me, so that’s good. Beer. You never had beer before?”

“No. Just water.”

“You like it?”

“Yeah, I do. It’s different. Sorta bitter at first.” He’d pulled the heavier shirt over his head; it was thick and made of a woven material that was warm and soft. Breathing in deeply, he was at once surrounded by the combined smells of gun oil, leather, and something he recognized from sitting beside Todd all day that was uniquely Todd. The beer made his throat warm, but it was the scent of Todd all around him that made warmth spread in delicate tendrils from his belly to his chest.

“Good, ’cause I don’t do bread and water. We do what we do and keep the good folks in the towns and villages safe at night, but they’re damn well feeding us good.”

Nick had no idea what it was Todd referred to. He’d thought since Todd and his father, and now Nick, were hunters, they’d simply track down and catch their own food if they needed to. Nodding, Nick drank his beer and finished his food. It was stew—tasty, hot, and filled with chunks of meat and vegetables in a heavy broth.

After mopping the remains of the stew from his plate with bread, Todd leaned back and grinned. “I want more. You want more?”

Looking up, surprised and knowing his face showed it, Nick blurted out, “I am allowed more?”

Todd snorted. “Yes, Nick, you are.” He held out a hand for Nick to pull up on. Once righted, Todd’s hand released his, moved to his neck, and patted gently a few times before he turned and went back to the fire.

The men there snidely asked why Nick was still wearing clothes and why they were wasting time eating. Todd ignored them. As he turned around, heading back to their wagon, Todd’s eyes caught Nick’s. He smirked and shook his head.

They resettled behind the wagon, out of sight of the others, and finished eating in silence. Then, leaning forward, elbows resting on his knees, Todd rubbed at the back of his neck for a few minutes.

“So, uh, you ever been with a woman?”

Nick stared at a point between his feet and shook his head no.

Todd shifted a bit. Nick thought he sounded nervous. “A man?”

“No.” His voice came out barely above a whisper.

“Got any preference?”

Nick drew in a deep breath and looked up at Todd, who wore that boyish, hopeful expression again. “I like watching girls sometimes, but they’re sort of skinny, no muscle. I think I look at men more.”

Todd nodded and seemed satisfied with those answers. It wasn’t as if Nick had a choice. He’d been bound to another male since he was five years old. Whether he preferred men or women as sexual partners was never a consideration. Maybe he’d always been that way, or maybe he’d just trained himself to like men more. He didn’t know. It didn’t really matter.

When Todd reached out and curled warm, strong fingers around his neck, Nick leaned into the touch. He decided it was something Todd liked to do, touch him that way, and it appeared to Nick the gesture pleased Todd and made him relax. Nick had decided back in the village, the first time Todd had touched him that way, that he liked it. Not even twenty-four hours later and Nick was craving those tiny touches and counting the minutes between them, hoping for another one.

This time Todd leaned closer and pulled Nick toward him. As Todd’s lips brushed the side of Nick’s hair, he moaned soft and low. Pushing his nose through Nick’s hair for a few seconds, Todd pulled him in even tighter, nuzzling his cheek against Nick’s, breathing in deep. “You smell good.” Todd’s hand moved from his neck up into Nick’s hair, turning his head toward Todd.

Todd pressed his lips to Nick’s, gently licking his tongue along Nick’s lower lip. It startled him at first when Todd’s tongue slipped between his lips and into his mouth. Todd’s other arm wound around Nick’s waist and gently, slowly pulled Nick completely against him. Todd’s tongue glided around his own and coaxed Nick’s tongue into his mouth. Todd sucked lightly on Nick’s tongue for a few seconds before pulling away. He looked at Nick, seemed to be memorizing every bit of Nick’s face before pulling him back in for another kiss. This time Nick mimicked Todd’s actions and sucked Todd’s tongue.

When Todd pulled away for the second time, they were both panting, and Nick was whimpering softly. Fingers raked tenderly through his hair and Todd kissed his nose and then his cheek, murmuring in his ear, “You taste so good. I’ve been waiting forever to do that.”

Nick felt a flush creep over him. When Todd’s arm tightened even more around his middle, Nick leaned his head down so his face was pressed to the crook of Todd’s neck. “I don’t… I’ve never….” This was so embarrassing.

“It’s okay, Nicky. You’ll learn. You’ll be just fine. Just us now.” Todd rested his chin on the top of Nick’s head and held him tightly. Nick had never in his life been held—not like this. He’d been held down and beaten a few times, but never had anyone simply held him. When he pressed closer and relaxed more against Todd, the other man drew in a deep breath and let it out slow. Nick liked this and he sensed Todd did too.

Laughter from the direction of the fire made them both start and pull back from each other. Laughing nervously, Todd ruffled Nick’s hair. “We’ll save the rest for when we can be alone.” He stood and stretched, throwing the cover back on the wagon’s opening. “Just us now,” he repeated. Nick nodded because he had the feeling he was supposed to respond somehow. “C’mon, Nicky. Get some sleep.”

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*Marked Yours* turns up the heat (Excerpt rated mature—18+. Honor system. Thanks.)

Detail from Marked Yours cover by Paul Richmond
Easing away slowly, Todd yawned. “I’m gonna grab a shower. We won’t leave till midmorning, so get some more sleep. We can hit the café for breakfast.”

Nick rolled on his side and watched Todd amble off to the bathroom pushing the door mostly shut. The noises of Todd moving about the bathroom, starting the shower made Nick drift back to Todd in the bathhouse, his body covered with droplets of water, glistening and perfect. His mind wandered over the past week, thoughts of Todd, what he looked like, felt like, invaded his mind despite his trying to stop them.

Thoughts of how Todd watched over him protected him and cared for him mingled with the memory of Todd’s lips against his. How his hands moved over smooth water slick skin at the bathhouse. How he’d felt with Todd’s hands trailing the length of his back, stroking his cock, touching him everywhere. The kind words and gentle touches Nick was given every day. Todd had so invaded every bit of him that Nick’s life before, in the village, seemed a distant bad dream.

Nick flopped onto his stomach, trying to ease how his cock hardened, despite his willing it not to. Todd’s instructions had been clear and explicit, Nick’s physical pleasure was granted by Todd and Todd alone. He was not to touch himself. Nick refused to disobey and disappoint Todd.

Remembering the feeling of Todd’s fingers over his skin, making him moan and shiver wasn’t helping. He bit his lip to stop his rebellious hips from moving against the bed.

Hands winding around his ankles and gripping hard made him jump so much he nearly hit his head on the wall behind the bed.

“Roll over, Nick.” Todd’s voice was low, thick and gravelly making sparks of excitement shoot straight through Nick.

Pushing off one arm, Nick did as he was told. He watched as Todd’s eyes traveled over his bare chest feeling wanted and vulnerable all at once. Slowly Todd let go of his ankles and inched his hands up Nick’s legs, over his hips and to the waistband of the soft, woven pants Nick wore to bed. Todd pulled them down, along with Nick’s underwear, inch by excruciating inch. By the time his clothes were slipped over his feet and deposited on the floor Nick was panting and sweating.

Todd grasped his left arm and moved it over Nick’s head. “Keep it there.” His mouth skimmed Nick’s face, breath hot on his neck and then was gone leaving a cool spot on Nick’s skin.

Moving down Nick’s body Todd pushed Nick’s legs wide and knelt between them. His other hand grasped Nick’s right hand, and placed both their hands over Nick’s hard, aching cock making him flinch. The small noises Nick couldn’t stop creeping from his throat made Todd smile. Moving their hands together Todd stroked Nick’s hand slowly over his own cock.

The way Todd was wedged between Nick’s spread thighs made it nearly impossible for Nick to move much which only hiked Nick’s senses and ramped up his want, his need. Just as the other afternoon in the bathhouse, any bit of pleasure Nick received was totally under Todd’s control.

Stretching and arching his back, Nick pushed his head back against the pillow, pressing his eyes closed he groaned.

“Look at me, Nick.” The sound of Todd’s voice, the feel of his hand with Nick’s on Nick’s cock shot him through with electric waves of sheer want. Every inch of his body tingled and begged to be touched.

Nick opened his eyes, met Todd’s. The sight of Todd’s vibrant green eyes sparking with lust made his breath catch in his throat and his heart thunder in his chest.

Locking eyes with Nick, Todd ran one finger of his free hand through his mouth. All the while Todd’s hand guided his slowly, evenly over his cock making Nick’s breath come in shorter, more desperate pants, the muscles of his chest and abdomen flutter and twitch.

Todd pressed his fingertip to the soft flesh behind Nick’s balls making him arch off the bed only to be pushed back down at once by the hand over Nick’s cock. Working slowly he moved his finger in small circles over his skin until it moved around Nick’s entrance. Pushing against it for a few seconds Todd continued holding him to the bed. The fingers of Nick’s free hand gripped the bed sheets next to his head. He threw his head back and opened his mouth, but no sound came out, every sensation, his very breath, seemed to stick in his chest. He concentrated on his breathing, the ceiling, anything to keep from spurting.

When Todd’s finger slipped inside and moved around slowly, Nick gasped. The strangeness of it, the odd feeling of having Todd’s warm finger inside him evaporated in a jolt of pure pleasure when Todd crooked his finger and raked it over a spot. He did it again and again until Nick could barely breathe, yet words tumbled from his mouth, pleasepleaseplease…

One more swipe over that bundle of nerves and Nick thought he’d stop breathing. Then Todd’s finger was gone making Nick feel empty. Closing his and Nick’s fingers over Nick’s cock, Todd picked up the pace. His free hand worked his own pants down and he gripped himself. He refused to disappoint Todd by disobeying him, Nick wouldn’t get release until Todd offered it.

A few more twists and tugs and Todd leaned down whispering to Nick with a thick, rumbling voice, “Give it to me, Nick.”

As before Nick was powerless to control his own body, it reacted at once to Todd’s command. Hot ropes of cum spilled out of him, over his hand and onto his belly sending great waves of pleasure through him with so much force he was nearly paralyzed from it. A second later he felt Todd stiffen, heard him groan and felt how Todd’s own cum covered Nick’s belly and chest.

Leaning on one hand, Todd panted, shuddered and righted himself. Letting go of Nick he eased off the bed and stood on legs Nick saw shaking ever so slightly. “Go get a shower, Nick, you’ll sleep better.”

It took Nick a few minutes to get himself together, slowly pulling his trembling, rubbery legs together and pushing onto his elbows before he could work out how to get up and to the bathroom. He did as Todd instructed and when he was finished showering he was relaxed, loose and tired.

Sliding back into his bed, he rolled to his side so he could see Todd. Even though he was facing away from Nick, he could tell Todd was asleep. Nick’s eyes wandered to the shelves, to the carved bear then landed and stayed on the box holding his collar. He remembered waking up with Todd that first morning, feeling so safe and warm. Only on the hottest summer days did Nick ever wake up warm and comfortable as a child. His one thin blanket barely covered him let alone kept him warm in the winter, even in the milder southern climate where he grew up. He never woke up feeling safe and cared for.

In public his collar signified he was owned and dictated how he was treated, how he acted, there was no significance of affection or relationship beyond master and slave. In the privacy of his master’s home its meaning increased and became far more powerful. Wearing his collar in private didn’t simply symbolize Todd’s ownership, it brought them together as mates. Not only would Nick belong to Todd, he’d be Todd’s. Nick very much wanted to be Todd’s and in return have Todd be his.

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A sneaky extra bit: “Take What’s Yours” (a teaser and a link to a story by Elizabeth Noble)

Todd Ruger dumped sand out of his sock, brushed off his foot and pulled the sock then his boot back on. The most sought after sentry in New Colorado Protectorate and here he was with sand stuck to his toes.

Stretching his legs, he leaned back in the somewhat rickety wooden beach chair, hoping it didn’t collapse leaving him sitting on his ass on the sandy ground. He really didn’t want sand there too.

Gaze wandering to a boardwalk and the string of booths sitting farther up the beach, Todd watched his mate. Nick was tanned skin, messy dark hair, long legs and defined muscle. Right now he wore a pair of loose, lightweight cotton shorts that ended just above his knees and a sleeveless, light gray, close fitting shirt. Of course, he was wandering around without shoes. A hint of burn accentuated the rounded part of his shoulder. Todd never tired of watching Nick.

He could’ve, however, done without the sand between his toes.

Click here to read the whole story at Goodreads M/M Romance group.

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*Strays* by Elizabeth Noble, coming 9/7 from Dreamspinner

Here’s the Blurb:

Kyle Anderson lives in a world where disease has wiped out the ability for humans to reproduce, or so he thinks. After seeing satellite images that prove there are children and people to create them he is taken hostage by the same government he thought was looking for a cure. A freak accident allows him to escape, but he is alone, hungry and afraid on the streets of a strange city with no where to go and no one to turn to. He’s found by a man, Daniel Shanks, who is a member of a group opposing the government, the Freedom Militia, and taken in.

Daniel not only trains Kyle, but becomes his partner, gives him a home and safety. When a friend is killed Daniel can’t face the prospect of living without Kyle and runs from their life together. Knowing he over reacted and made a mistake Daniel begs for Kyle’s forgiveness after another tragedy almost claims Kyle’s life. Kyle must decided take Daniel back or go on without him.

And here’s an excerpt

Kyle had a life, once.

Now he had a hiding place in some city he’d never been in and really didn’t want to stay in. It was cold, wet and windy here. The sounds of a partially iced over lake, one of the Great Lakes he thought, surrounded him. The past few days were a blur at the best. He’d always thought the fact he was one of the youngest people alive on the entire planet made him, if not special, then at least worthy of keeping alive. Why the pandemic that wiped out half the human race left every female survivor sterile, he had no clue. He’d been born weeks before it’d struck.

Two days ago he’d been a student, almost ready to graduate and working hard at his first job in his chosen profession. All that changed when he saw satellite photographs of something he should have never seen. Instead of doing the smart thing and keeping his mouth shut, he’d asked his supervisor about the photographs.

That led to him being arrested.

When the van transferring him to where he’d likely spend the rest of his life, or suffer his execution, slid on the ice covered road and into a ditch, Kyle had escaped. They hadn’t chained him, simply locked him in a wire cage in the back of the van. The sides split open when the van overturned, forcing heavy branches and steel rails from the roadside straight through the vehicle’s side. He’d run, putting his long legs to good use and almost gotten away unscathed. One of the government agents fired at him, the bullet grazed the round part of his shoulder and ripped his jacket, the only bit of warmth he owned right now.

Stumbling, eyes stinging from the pain, lungs burning from exertion, Kyle kept on running. He’d never been hurt like that. It was the beginning of a line of firsts for him. Now, days later he was hungry and the only thing he’d had to drink was semi-frozen puddle water. His black tee and denim jacket were no protection against the cold.

Finding a spot near the outskirts of the city, Kyle wedged himself in a narrow alley between two buildings. Crouching low to the ground, he peered out from behind the wall. He’d been separated from his parents for so long he hardly remembered what they looked like. Even their whereabouts were unknown to him. None of his friends, if he could even call them that, would help, for fear of being implicated. Those people were more like coworkers anyway, not real friends. He was sure they didn’t really care what had happened to him. He didn’t know anyone his own age, though he knew some existed somewhere in the world.

Kyle wasn’t even sure what his crime was.

No food, no money and no way of getting help or supplies, Kyle was cut off from everything he’d ever known. He had no one, not even marginally, and was so afraid he was numb.

He tried to shove farther back along the wall of his hideout, but there was barely enough room for a six-foot-four guy as it was. When he heard footsteps, Kyle brushed his bangs away from his face, held his breath and tried to be still and blend into the shadows.

The guy walking down the street took Kyle’s breath away. In another time he’d have hoped this man was into other guys. Now he simply wanted to stay out of his line of sight. He wore drab green and gray clothing that was meant to blend in. Even his jeans were dark gray. He had short cropped, dark blond hair, a bit of a five o’clock shadow and intense green eyes.

Kyle took in every detail from the broad, muscled shoulders to legs almost as long as Kyle’s. He was probably a few inches shorter than Kyle. Only part of the pounding of his heart was from fear of discovery.

He couldn’t get caught, he couldn’t.

The man looked around. He squinted up into the twilight sky and twisted on his heels first left then right. Even though the man’s movements were casual Kyle couldn’t shake the feeling it was him this man was looking for, even though he didn’t wear the uniform of government agents. He carried himself like one. Kyle had seen enough of those people at the university and in the research facility where he’d worked.

A cramp shot through his leg and he hissed in a breath, shifting then wincing. The man turned and looked right at Kyle’s hiding place. Taking a few steps closer, the man leaned down, cocked his head to one side and stood straight again. The backpack he carried was dropped from his shoulder and gripped loosely in one hand.

Putting hands on hips, backpack dangling from his crooked fingers, he said, “Out, now.”

Not knowing what to do, Kyle stood on shaky legs, but didn’t move away from his hiding spot.

The man moved closer, reaching out and brushed his fingers against the blood stain on Kyle’s jacket. “You’re hurt.” He reached for Kyle’s good arm. “Come with me.”

Skirting carefully around him, Kyle saw a pistol sticking out of the man’s waistband. Using his good arm he darted in and made a grab for it. When the guy twisted away, Kyle kicked at his legs, grabbed the backpack and took off.

“Crap. Kid, don’t run!” The man yelled. “Why do they always run?” The man had shouted loud enough Kyle heard him despite running away.

Kyle didn’t look back. He gripped the stolen pack, there had to be something useful or sellable in it, and ran. Pulling air into his nose and blowing it out his mouth in huge puffs that turned frosty in front of him, Kyle used the panic from the sound of footsteps closing in behind him to create more speed. Swinging wide around a corner, he splashed through semi-frozen puddles—soaking his boots and socks—and headed in a direction he hoped would take him to somewhere deserted and with hiding places.

Cutting down an alley, Kyle swore under his breath. Fencing loomed up at the end of the narrow street. With his wounded shoulder he doubted he could climb very well, unless he got good height from a jump. Judging the distance, he stretched out his stride and leapt at the fence.

Fingers reaching for the chain link, they never connected. Something hit him across the back, hard. Kyle dropped to the ground, forced flat on his chest.

“Christ, you run like a freaking jack rabbit,” the man growled out, grabbed Kyle’s arms and yanked them behind his back making him gasp out a groan. “Well, if you hadn’t grabbed my stuff and run you wouldn’t be hurt right now.”

Hands tied, the weight lifted off his back and Kyle was hauled to his feet. Turned around he looked into the face of his captor then dropped his gaze to the ground and away from the anger in those mesmerizing eyes. “I-I’m sorry,” Kyle whispered. “I’m…I thought you might have food or water in your bag.”

The man eyed him up and down. “Are you lost?”

Kyle nodded.

“How long have you been out here?”

Shrugging, Kyle licked his lips and tried to think. “Couple of days.”

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-two.”

The guy drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Not really old enough to know better.” He rubbed one hand over his face then across the back of his neck. “You got a name?”

“Kyle.” When the man waved at him with a what else motion, Kyle gave him a small smile. “Anderson.”

“I’m Daniel.” He turned Kyle far enough to see his bound wrists. Taking out a knife he sliced through the bindings. “And if you run from me again I will shoot you. Got it?”

“Yes, sir.” Kyle rubbed his wrists.

“Call me sir again and I’ll shoot you twice.”

“Danny?”

“Did you get the part where I’m armed?” Daniel reclaimed his pack and stepped away from him.

Despite being pretty much scared out of his mind, Kyle grinned. Daniel looked him over again, face softening. Some of the fear and tension bled out of Kyle and he relaxed a small amount.

“Now let’s try this again. Come with me, I’ll get your wound cared for and get you something to eat. It’s almost completely dark, and we shouldn’t be out here. Especially you!”

Kyle stood there, not knowing what to do. “I thought…” his voice trailed off.

“No, you didn’t think.” Daniel took his arm, grip gentle but very firm. It sparked a feeling of safety through Kyle. He was led to a jeep parked a few blocks away. Daniel opened the passenger door and gave him a gentle shove. “In, sit, don’t touch anything and behave.”

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Anne Barwell’s *Cat’s Quill* (Dreamspinner Press)

Scroll down this page for an interview with the author and two excerpts.

Cat's Quill Cover

Tomas Kemp has two successful novels to his name and the true belief that a successful sequel is only a matter of a little inspiration. When Tomas meets a mysterious stranger under the branches of an old oak tree, he feels compelled to tell him about a book he holds dear and the sequel he wants to read. But Cathal doesn’t share that deep belief that the sequel Tomas seeks ends happily. Cathal has seen enough of a world where stories are real to know that happy ever after is sometimes the dream that won’t come true.

But stories have never let Tomas down, and as he follows Cathal across the reality shift between their worlds, he learns that Cathal is right: Happy ever after is never just given—but sometimes, it can be fought for and won.

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand, sharing her home with her twin daughters, at least during the holidays, when one of them isn’t away at university. Her son has left home and started his own family, although she claims she is too young to be a grandmother already. Her three cats are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching and has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and a librarian. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction club and plays piano for her local church and violin for a local orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.

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