Tag Archives: urban fantasy

Easter Eggs: a post by Anne Barwell—*Family and Reflection* blog tour

It is my true pleasure to host Anne Barwell today, as she stops on her tour celebrating the upcoming release of Family and Reflection, book 3 of the popular Sleepless City series, available for pre-order now at the Dreamspinner Press Store. Read on to find out what the heck Easter eggs have to do with books. 🙂 (Also, the blurb, buy links, an excerpt, and a few facts of interest about Anne Barwell.)

Thanks, Lou, for hosting me today.

Something that sneaks into most, if not all of my books, is an easter egg reference. I’m not referring to the chocolate goodies associated with the Easter Bunny, but intertexual references to other books I’ve written. My stories take place in the same universe, so occasionally a character or place from another series has a cameo in the one I’m writing.

A couple of characters from The Sleepless City— a series which is a joint project with Elizabeth Noble— have turned up in other books but so far, only a couple of readers have picked up on it. Often the cameo isn’t something I planned from the outset, but sometimes it’s deliberate either because I’m setting up for something I haven’t written yet, or I need a character in a certain place or time, and I figure as I have an existing one who is there already, why create another? One character—I’m not saying who as that would give too much away—had a blink and you’d miss it cameo in my WW2 book Winter Duet, and a much bigger than I intended one in my WW1 novella, On Wings of Song. Another has turned up in my current WIP One Word, so it will be fun seeing if anyone notices her when things get that far.

On the flip side, there’s also a reference in Family and Reflection to another story I’ve written. It is a very small one, but the clue is that I don’t reuse character names. If you think, “isn’t that the same name as so-and-so in such-and-such a story?” then it probably is the same person.

That’s one cool thing about writing characters who are vampires. There’s a lot of history to play with…

Family and Reflection
Book 3 of The Sleepless City, Sequel to Electric Candle

For as long as Lucas Coate can remember, werewolves have been taught to mistrust vampires. Lucas is an exception—he has close friends who are vampires. The werewolf pack in Flint—and their leader, Jacob Coate—have made it clear that Lucas’s association with vampires is barely tolerated, and another transgression will be his last. When Lucas finds out about the plague of werewolf deaths in the area, he wants to help even though his own life may already be in danger.

Declan has been away from Flint for ten years, but he isn’t surprised to learn that the internal politics of the Supernatural Council haven’t changed for the better. When a series of burglaries hit close to home soon after he arrives, Declan—a vampire and professional thief—is their prime suspect, although for once, he isn’t responsible. With the council keeping secrets, no one is safe. Time is running out, and for Lucas and Declan, everything is about to change.


Buy links:
eBook: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6464
Paperback: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6465


Excerpt:

Declan turned the page of his book, read the first paragraph, then shook his head. He wasn’t sure why he’d bothered, as he couldn’t for the life of him remember what had happened on the previous page, let alone in the last few chapters. He closed the book with a thump, got up from the table, went over to the fridge, and opened it.

He wasn’t hungry, but if he had been, the mold-covered plate on one of the shelves would have put him off whatever else had taken his fancy. Someone really needed to have a word with Lucas about leaving his science experiments to breed. Declan lifted the plate somewhat cautiously and sniffed it, then wished he hadn’t. City coroner or not, this wasn’t… normal. Normal people cleaned out their leftovers before they got the chance to become strange new life forms.

Even if, in this case, his definition of normal was a werewolf.

But, despite his reaction, Declan couldn’t bring himself to throw the—whatever it was—away. To him it was disgusting, but to Lucas it might be some new discovery crucial to whatever he was currently working on. And Declan didn’t want to upset Lucas. In the short time they’d known each other, he’d become quite fond of Lucas, and enjoyed the time they spent together.

Declan sighed. He returned the offending thing to its previous resting place, ignoring the visions of reanimated zombie leftovers creeping up the stairs to attack him in the middle of the night, and instead got a wineglass out of the cupboard. He poured himself a decent-sized portion of his favorite red beverage and settled back down on the chair he’d recently vacated. As much as he enjoyed a good vintage wine, there were times when one had to quench one’s other thirsts. He sniffed the glass and savored the aroma before swallowing.

Hmm, not bad. It was amazing the standard of blood available to purchase through the right sources. It made it so much easier to feed than it used to be, and less messy too.

He heard the light step on the stairs and human heartbeat long before Ben reached the kitchen and stood awkwardly in the doorway.

“Hello, Ben,” Declan said. “Don’t worry, you’re not disturbing me.”

“If you’re sure?” Ben Leyton ran one hand through his thick dark hair. He looked tired. “I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I’d make a Milo and see if that helps.”

“I heard Simon having a nightmare earlier. He never did sleep well on anniversaries.” He’d known Simon Hawthorne a long time; Jonas Forge had introduced them shortly after Simon had been turned. Declan had also helped Simon through a dark part of his life, triggered by the events he suspected had prompted this particular nightmare, given the time of year. “I also don’t mind if you turn on the light.”

Although Declan didn’t need much light to see, especially with the full moon casting its glow into the room, Ben would appreciate more illumination.

“Yeah, well, they’re the worst times for most people, I guess.” Ben flicked on the light switch before walking across the kitchen. He filled the kettle and put it on to boil before reaching into the cupboard and bringing down a green can. “Do you want some? It’s a chocolate drink.”

“Thank you but no.” Declan indicated the glass in front of him.

The loud howl almost made him jump, and only years of practiced self-control stopped him. Even so, Declan’s hairs stood on end on the back of his neck, and the howl sent a shiver through him.

Lucas howled again. Frustration, anger, and loss all rolled into a sound that was pure wolf.

Declan knocked his glass over, spilling its contents. Without thinking, he moved at vampire speed, catching what was left of the blood in his palm and drinking deeply.

The glass fell to the floor, smashing into tiny pieces. He ignored it and finished the blood, then wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. A low growl escaped his lips. He knew his eyes were completely green. They tended to do that when his fangs extended.

When he looked up, Ben was staring at him, his eyes wide. “I’ll clean up the mess, shall I?” Ben said hurriedly, already heading for the broom.

“Don’t worry,” Declan said. “I’ll do it. Make your chocolate drink, mon ami. It’s my mess, so my responsibility, yes?”

Bio:
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who 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. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley 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.

Anne’s books have twice received honorable mentions and twice reached the finals in the Rainbow Awards.

Blog: http://anne-barwell.livejournal.com/
Website: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/
Coffee Unicorns: http://coffeeunicorns.wordpress.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/anne.barwell.1
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115084832208481414034/posts
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4862410.Anne_Barwell
Dreamspinner Press Author Page:
http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/AuthorArcade/anne-barwell

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Filed under Dreamspinner Press, featured authors, just a category, M/M romance, Upcoming release, Writers on writing

Gay Romance University course 501: The rewards of exceptional service — Servitude by Rebecca Cohen

As advertised, Gay Romance University is delving into the ins and outs of the life of exceptional service to a well-endowed… er, I mean well-tended master, as experienced by Lornyc, in service to Methian, and recorded in tale well-told by Rebecca Cohen, entitled “Servitude.”

Lest you think this is just your average tale of loving service, let me assure you nothing could be farther from the truth. The person doing the serving is… well, exceptionally able.

Oh, I see a student has raised their hand. There in the back of the hall, did you have a question, sir?

Oh, my! Well, I’m not going to repeat the question, because I fear you simply meant it as an off-color joke. Those are not appropriate in a university class, unless it’s me telling them, so please refrain. But, since you asked, although Lornyc may indeed be exceptionally capable in that respect, judging from Methian’s inability to resist him, I refer to his capability in terms of intellect—perhaps mind-over-matter describes it well. Witness, on page 5, in the labarotory.

In a darkened corner, beside a rack of spare parts for machines long scrapped, was a large black curtain. He walked over to it and pulled the heavy cloth back to reveal a gray rectangle about the size of a standard doorway. Next to it, in a chrome-plated bracket, sat a ball. It was small enough to have been held easily in one hand, and was a cerulean color flecked with gold. When he pressed his hand to the surface of the orb, it began to glow, and with a gentle push, it began to spin in its bracket.

Accompanied by a low hiss, the gray rectangle came to life with a series of waves and swirls appearing across its surface. Lornyc cast a final glance over his shoulder and stepped into the portal.Man in portal from Stockvault photos

Stepping out into a tastefully decorated but obviously seldom-used room, Lornyc called out, “Are you here?”

A muffled reply came from what Lornyc knew to be his lover’s bedroom. With a decidedly wicked grin, Lornyc advanced toward the bedroom door, stripping off his tunic as he did so. “I thought,” he said to a figure reclining on the large bed, “I’d put in another long night in the lab—that’s if you’ve not got anything better to do.”

The sandy-haired man grinned and bounced to the end of the bed, holding out his arms in invitation. “You know I’m always willing to help with your studies.”

Lornyc laughed as he walked forward. “Your dedication, Methian, is touching.”

Methian’s strong arms wrapped around him, and the kiss they shared chased away his worries from the lab. Lornyc yelped in a most undignified manner as Methian pulled him forward onto the bed, but any further complaint was lost as he let his lover distract him fully.

Before any servitude comes into play, Lornyc has already managed to demonstrate a successful principle of gay romance—any romance, really. That is:

Access, access, access. Even if you must create a trans-dimensional portal to do it, make sure you can always reach your lover when need arises.

Self-explanatory, right? So I’ll say no more about that.

But even persons with exceptional ability and high station in life in very interesting (and well-realized, thanks to Ms. Cohen) alternate worlds will at times find that not all events are under their control. In order to keep within the time limits of this university course, I’ll summarize events:

Long before Methian or Lornyc were twinkles in their respective daddy’s eyes, Lornyc’s legendary, long-lived grandfather, Reagalos, signed some contracts. Possibly unbenownst to him, these contracts included interwoven magic that would bind a certain grandchild to fulfill them no matter what. One of them said that his grandchild would be servant to a descendant of the house of Hadral. Lornyc is that Reagalos grandchild, and Methian is—you guessed it—that Hadral. So while Lornyc and Methian where busy playing in-and-out-the-portal (yes, very tacky euphemism, I know), their parents were busy binding Lornyc to Methian as valet. Despite the fact that the men had a well-known history of indiscretion! Read along on page 17 of your text:

“Unfortunately, while it would be usual practice for my personal manservant to be housed within my suite of rooms, Tancorix vetoed that immediately. Apparently I’d be unable to control myself and would have my wicked way with you,” said Methian with a wry smile. “As I did when we were at College.”

“Your wicked way?” Lornyc leaned away with a bemused look on his face. “They’ve never thought that poor, sweet Lornyc could’ve possibly gone after Methian Hadral. The way I remember it was that I had my wicked way with you. The mighty Methian seduced by a seventeen-year-old virgin.”

The second lesson to be drawn from this text begins to come clear immediately thereafter, and it’s one to be remembered by all who are wise.

Methian had to work hard not to get distracted at the memory of that encounter. “But it doesn’t matter. You’ll be below stairs—with the rest of the staff. You should be grateful that she’s decided against making you wear Hadral servant livery.”

Lornyc raised an eyebrow in response. “Really? I thought that would’ve been a definite, fitting me out in that gaudy blue you Hadrals seem to like.”

“Careful, it’s not too late to reverse that decision,” warned Methian, pushing Lornyc backward so that he landed on the pillows. “That sort of cheek will have to be punished.”

“Promises, promises,” Lornyc said playfully.

Methian grinned and crawled toward Lornyc, stopping once his knees were either side of Lornyc’s hips and his hands rested on the pillows next to Lornyc’s head. Methian leaned down to kiss him.

A bolt of fiery pain shot through Lornyc’s arm. He sat up abruptly, his head connecting sharply with Methian’s with an accompanying sickly crack.

Methian growled in pain and sat back, clutching his nose.

“My arm! It feels like it’s on fire,” cried Lornyc. He grabbed his shirt, tearing away the sleeve.

Lornyc grunted in agony but seconds later was hit by a wave of ecstasy, which rolled over him, stripping away the heat and the pain.

The two men stared at Lornyc’s left bicep. There, in vibrant colors, was the Hadral family crest: a blue shield embossed with a golden H.

“Bloody hell,” whispered Methian, reaching out and stroking the newly adorned patch of skin.

Right. Simply put: Magic complicates everything.

When magic rears its ugly, controlling head, how does a lover cope? For answers, we look to dear Lord Methian. We find this little jewel of romance on page 34:

Lornyc sagged into Methian’s arms. “I have no choice but to treat you as my master when you command it.”

Methian cupped the back of Lornyc’s head with his hand. “If anything, you are my master, and have been since you were seventeen.”

So, as far as I’m concerned that is the most notable principle to be gained from these two men—loving is give and take. Love is kind, and love is… well, noticeable. See? (This is on page 52.)

“Your grandfather could do amazing things, and from what I felt, you’ll be able to do even more. He didn’t need to rely on muttered words and hand movements, the world yielded to him—and now we need to make it do the same for you.”

“But….”

“No time for buts, my boy. This contract will be fulfilled, and if what Tancorix has told me is true, we need to get you connected and up to speed as soon as possible. You don’t have the luxury of time to procrastinate. Sooner or later you’re going to be Katraman’s High Lord—and you need to be everything your father isn’t.”

“But the contract to the Hadrals….”

“From what I saw, Methian—that’s what you called him, didn’t you—seems to be willing to cooperate.” The mage grinned. “If you truly are his valet, then you’re doing things way beyond the remit of your job description.” Kat laughed at Lornyc’s expression. “I can see your imprint all over him. Valet, my ass!” Sexy naked guy posing in studio with roses

“My what?”

“Even though you can’t do much, you’re still projecting raw energy. One of my talents is to see an individual’s magical signature if it’s being broadcasted, and Methian is covered in yours.”

Oops. But hey, being marked is not always a bad thing, right?

In truth, the lessons to be learned from the interwoven lives of these two men go far beyond romantic words and a master being marked by his servant. They persevere through so many things: parents, politics, grief—even females. But we’ve reached the end of the course seminar, and the rest can be absorbed through home study.

If you’ve been working with a borrowed text book and want to buy it, click the (fabulous) cover image for the buy link at Dreamspinner Press.

Thank you Lornyc and Methian for allowing us to spy on your joys, sorrows, and bafflements. And thanks Rebecca Cohen for a unique and delicious romance.

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Filed under Gay Romance University, M/M romance

J. L. O’Faolain’s new Section Thirteen novel: The Thirteenth Pillar

The Thirteenth Pillar

A Section Thirteen Story (Sequel to The Thirteenth Child)

Tuulois MacColewyn’s simple life performing dirty jobs for fey hiding in New York City has died a quick death. Consulting for the NYPD on a case involving child abductions, losing a friend, laying siege to a stronghold at the end of Broadway, and being chased through a hospital by animated scarecrows combined to make last month hell. This month is shaping up to be much worse.

Yet, it’s not all bad. Cole has a new place to live, a steady-paying job working for the NYPD, and the heart of Inspector Joss Vallimun, head of Section Thirteen and, incidentally, Cole’s new boss.

Section Thirteen is understaffed and overworked, trying to solve every supernatural crime in New York, including a series of grisly child murders and evidence that local fey are being enslaved. When Vallimun is gravely injured just as the investigation reaches a fever pitch while a snowstorm blankets the city, Cole will need all the help he can get to have any hope of salvaging this month at all.

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

In his spare time, when he isn’t writing, J.L. O’Faolain reviews televisions shows that were abused by the networks, or should never have been green lit in the first place,here: blip.tv/thatlong-hairedcreepyguy

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J. L. O’Faolain—A New and Again Provacative Author Interview

LS: Welcome back to the blog, J.L.! You are the first to make an encore appearance at sylvre.com. I’m looking forward to catching up, perhaps learning a bit more about you as an author, and getting some updates about the work you have out and what you’ve got planned.

JLO: It feels good to be back. I love joining you here!

Q: I realized that during our last interview I never asked about your origins, J.L., and I’d like to remedy that. I see you were brought up in the South. What part of the country do you live in now? You’re Section Thirteen series is set in New York City, quite a ways from your original home. How do you find your southern roots influences your writing, if at all, even when your characters are at play someplace quite different?
A: I’ve lived in the same region of the South all my life. I still hang my hat in Central Mississippi, though I’ve entertained thoughts of leaving since I was around five or so! Lol

When it comes to writing about different places, I try to picture what those places look and feel like. This usually involves research, though sometimes I research things as I go, then make corrections as needed. I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and used to pretend I was a world traveler. Fantasizing myself in far-off places is no great stretch for me after all these years.

As for my southern roots, I’ve never been much of what most people would call a ‘true Southerner’. I don’t have quite the same drawl that people in this area carry. I tend to enunciate carefully, and it makes me stand out. It’s something I was teased about all my life. Most people assumed I grew up somewhere else before living in Mississippi, but I’ve never been outside the state for an extended period of time.

Q: A little bit about your writing technique, perhaps: one of the things that happens when authors write in “other worlds,” be they space, or ghostly or Sidhe, etc., is that the stories require more description, so the reader knows where they are and what it’s like. Reading your work, I always feel like I’m right there, so much so that the settings begin feel familiar to me. Can you tell us a bit about how you accomplish that without resorting to long descriptive passages.
A: I tend to babble on about a subject in a conversation, so I keep that in mind while I’m writing so I get the point across without boring anyone. It’s good to hear I’ve been successful with that so far. Again, this comes back to me picturing things happening as I go along. It always feels more like I’m the narrator following along with events as they unfold. The twists and turns surprise me often enough. I’ve never deluded myself into believing that I have total control of a story, and what happens inside of it. I’m more of a cataloger than anything else. It’s just nice that my characters are willing to allow me the chance to tag along.

I’m grateful.

Q: On the fantasy aspect of your writing, you delve into a sort of Fey underground, including everything from Pixie’s to Titania’s wolves. How much research do you do—or have you done—into the old lore, ancient stories of Faerie? Do you have a favorite source? When you create one of your otherworldly characters, or settings, how close do you try to stay to the spirit of the legendary beings and places?
A: These types of things have always fascinated me. I grew up on them, much to everyone’s chagrin. Believe it or not, I’ve been so heavily involved with this kind of stuff for so long that I often just recall things as I go. If I need to do research, usually it’s just for some specific details that escaped me.

My favorite source is actually just Wikipedia, or a search on Google. I’ve very grateful to have the Internet at my fingertips. I never enjoyed having to pour through tomb after tomb for school projects. The tedium would get to me. I try to stay true to the spirit of the lore, though. Sometimes, things deviate, but no one from any gender, species, or race has ever behaved in a straight line, so when things seem contrary, it’s only because any sentient creature is contrary by nature.

Q: During our last interview, I asked about romance, and you said that it would develop in the series over time, that if readers read more books they would see how important it would be. (Also, that sex got hotter farther into the book.) In The Thirteenth Pillar, main character Cole definitely seems to be involved in romance, or at least sex. I don’t suppose I can ask whether the discarded (or departed) lover Corhagen ever makes a come back? Or was he ever really a lover? Is the current love or sexual interest long term? Well if you can’t answer that without giving away too much, how about this: how did you ever get the idea to have Corhagen summon Joss and Cole with his summoning spell just at the least opportune moment. Interestingly, Corhagen does seem to really mind…
A: Corhagen sees his past with Cole as something he’d like to forget. Cole sees them as former lovers. I do see Joss and Cole as long-term, but as I stated above, I don’t have control over these things. That will no doubt sound exceptionally weird, but I do hope for the best when it comes to them. Corhagen…

I just don’t know. Something tells me he and Cole would never work out, no matter what the circumstances. Then again, I’ve been proven wrong before. As for the summoning spell, Corhagen just has terrible timing. That wouldn’t change no matter who he slept with!
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Cover: The Thirteenth Pillar (#2 in Section Thirteen Series)

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Q: Your cover for The Thirteenth Pillar is just superb. Although I do enjoy Paul Richmond’s art in general, your covers seem to hit the nail on the head even better than most, and they’re quite graceful. Can you tell us anything about the cover for Pillar? Did you specify the elements? Have any input into color scheme, etc? What was your reaction, initially?
A: I love Richmond’s work. His art is superb, and it always feels as though we’re on the same wavelength whenever it comes time for me to describe how I would like the cover to be. When I saw what he’d done with the cover for ‘The Thirteenth Child’, I was breath-taken.

I had two different covers in mind for ‘The Thirteenth Pillar’. Both, I thought were good, but the one Dreamspinner Press went with is most definitely the steamier of the two. I try to describe something that is both eye-catching, and relates to the story at the same time. In short, both are beautiful, and I can’t wait to see what Richmond does in the future. If he just so happens to read this, I like to take the opportunity to tell him thanks for all his hard work. You rock out loud, dude!

*air guitar*

Q: You’ve written something very different in Blue Ninja, and that will be coming out late this spring, I understand. I’m going to post an excerpt, below, and here’s a blurb:

Ichikawa Aoshi is a twenty-three year old nukenin, a ninja on the run. Hiding in plain sight under the nose of the clan who wants him dead, he has managed to carve a life for himself in Tokyo working with a small band of misfit rejects. Among them is his friend and mentor, Aoi, who helped Aoshi find solace after several years of running non-stop. Together, the team of elite specialty ninja tackle jobs no one else in the criminal underworld will touch, but only for a price. Because of his youthful appearance, Aoshi’s most recent mission has lead him to a typical Japanese high school to catch a sexual predator responsible for driving a student to suicide. While there, his search leads him to make a startling discovery about himself that will affect the lives of his friends and every ninja clan across Japan.

Deep inside Aoshi’s chest beats the hungry heart of a lustful deity. Imprisoned in his bloodline for centuries, the Kyuubi-Onna, or Nine-Tailed Woman, whom his clan once worshiped, has been freed seemingly by chance. With her power steadily growing, Aoshi finds himself the bearer of a force he can barely comprehend and wield with only a minimum of control. Enraged at her incarceration, the Kyuubi-Onna only wants revenge, but the Hyakuzyu Tenko clan that Aoshi once hailed from has other plans. Hoping to appease her vessel, the shadow masters of Aoshi’s former clan offer him asylum and a promotion within their ranks in exchange for his return. Events grow more complicated, though, when a former rival swears to kill Ichikawa even at the cost of becoming a rogue ninja himself.

With enemies on all sides and rumors of a war between clans, Aoshi plays a very dangerous game, pitting his enemies against each other while his allies quickly get dragged into the front lines. Against his better judgment, Aoshi begins to feel the rush of the Kyuubi-Onna’s power as her wants and desires pull his heart in two different directions.

Aoshi has lived the life as a killer but can he survive being the servant of a goddess whose lust for male flesh is matched only by her fury?

Q: Can you give us a bit of background on how this story came to be written? Were your characters developed first, or plot? How do you see this as similar to, and different from, your Section Thirteen books? Will there be a Ninja series?<<
A: Blue Ninja is a three-part story. It was originally posted on adultfanfiction.net. During the fall last year, I went through and made a few changes and corrections, then submitted it. It’s been taken down from the site since then.

Blue Ninja is a different story from the Section Thirteen series, though they share similar themes. I first wrote Blue Ninja as a method of coming to terms with my sexual orientation. It was essentially my way of saying ‘This is who I am’ to myself. The story takes place in modern day Tokyo, and involves different clans of ninja who have maintained a delicate peace with one another for four hundred ears. It’s a mesh of mystery, urban fantasy, action, adventure, science fiction, political thriller, and even satire. If you are a fan of anime or manga, part of the fun while reading it will be spotting the inside jokes and references, but I kept those farther back for the readers who aren’t familiar with the genre, so they can still enjoy a good book without missing out on some of the subtext.

Both the characters and the plot evolved over a period of time, but the characters were there before I fully understood where the whole of the story would go. More characters followed after, until I had a whole cast of them. Balancing them all out was no small task. I’m anxious about how people will respond to this. I hope it does well. This is one book that’s rather personal for me.

Q: Well, my infamous question has rolled around—you know the one about which of your characters is the sexiest. In this case, I have to change it a little. Heck, I think we know in the Section Thirteen books Cole is the sexiest at least over the long haul (correct me if I’m wrong). But how about this: Is James Corhagen sexier, or Joss Vallimun? You did, in your last interview described Joss as “primal manliness.” Sounds pretty sexy. Can anyone compete? Anyway, this is an essay question, J.L. Please elaborate.
A: Eh, I’m still partial to Vallimun. Corhagen is far too repressed. Staffelbach has grown on me fast, though, and I see big changes for his character, and how he fits into the Section, later on.

He’s just too adorkable!

I wouldn’t mind seeing Cole hook up with both of them at the same time, to be quite honest!

Q: Finally, how about a little look into the J.L. O’Faolain crystal ball? We know we can look for Blue Ninja this spring. What else is coming up for your readers? And if you have any “appearances,” or guest blogs and such coming up, we’d love to hear about them as well.
A: I have one other blog appearance in February that I have to double-check on. Right now, I’m working on the sequel to Blue Ninja, and the first in a new storyline about superheroes. I’ve been a writing madman as of late, forsaking our mother star to lurk in my quiet den of corrupted decadence!

(That was a little too ‘purple’, I’m sure!)

I’ve had a lot of fun writing the superhero story, though. It’s about a superhero who is something of a poster boy for the organization he works with for being the first openly-gay hero to join their ranks, and also for being the only hero who supposedly has a legitimate super-power. He and his best-friend/roommate/unrequited love interest are charged with bringing on board a super-powered former criminal, and showing him the ropes.

Action, explosions, hijinks, and lots of sex ensue.

LS: Thanks for coming back to visit and let me badger you with questions. I enjoyed it, and I’m pretty sure readers will. I hope you did, too, and please come back again!
JLO: Anytime you’ll have me! It has been a privilege.

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Filed under Dreamspinner Press, featured authors, M/M romance

Excerpt from The Thirteenth Pillar (The Fey at work in NYC)


Cole suspected every morgue in the world carried a chill to it.

As a sidhe, he wasn’t susceptible to temperatures the way humans were, but the subtle changes in climate were something he remained aware of regardless. It was currently February, and outside in the bleak darkness, New York City was currently facing a maelstrom of winter snow. The heavy clouds churning with white flakes had blanketed half the country, spreading out as far south as Texas and the Gulf Coast.

Cole had walked out in it alongside his partner and superior, Inspector Joss Vallimun, as the two had been called down to the morgue to inspect another body. It hadn’t bothered him to walk outside while the flakes continued to pelt the ground. Joss had been shivering the whole time, but Cole was perfectly comfortable. Then they had entere237d the hospital morgue, and for the first time that day, Cole had shuddered involuntarily.

His left hand was twitching now. It always responded when there were a number of dead bodies in the area. His Hand of Power, the Hand of Cold Death, could summon anything cold and dead up to obey his every command. It had been called a weak, shameful power in the land of Faerie, but here amongst mortals, where he now worked as a special detective, the Hand had its uses.

The morgue, of course, reeked with the stench of formaldehyde. The smell of it was making Cole’s nose itch as Joss spoke with the coroner. The man didn’t look as though he was particularly happy to see him, and Cole suspected he knew why. They had been to this morgue before and each time had needed a moment to themselves in order to “examine” the body. That was the official story, at least. In reality, Cole didn’t enjoy being gawked at while he questioned the deceased. It made him uncomfortable, a rare thing among his kind. Plus, the screaming and pointing from other humans in the room got old after a while.

Cole waited while Joss sorted things out with the head of the department, making sure all the paperwork had been filed and whatnot so they could carry on with their investigation. Meanwhile, the coroner’s assistant, a young woman with olive skin and dark hair, kept shooting glances his way every few seconds. She had pretended to be busy sorting files, but when several fell out of her hands, the facade was pretty much blown. Cole waited while she picked them up, then caught her attention for a second. As Joss came over to fetch him, Cole gave the woman a wink and smiled as she blushed.

“Having fun?” Joss’s voice carried a thread of jealousy far beneath the mirth on the surface. “We can go inside now. They’ve got the body already laid out for you.”

“Right.” Cole said nothing more, following after Joss as he led them across the room into another area, one filled with drawer after drawer of dead hosts. One was already pulled out and waiting for them. Cole felt his left hand twitch with nerves as they entered, begging for the power inside it to be released.

“Name?” he asked, as the coroner lingered.

“Aaron Hoover,” the coroner replied. “The body was found in an alley. Someone had called their landlord about a bad smell coming through their window.”

The body in question was of a young boy around the age of ten with dark hair and blue eyes, having a light-colored skin. Cole knew this because he’d read the report. Had he not, there would have been no way of figuring that out, going by sight alone. The body had been burned to a crisp. The whole surface was burned from head to toe, except in places where it looked like chunks of flesh had been torn away.

“What about the wounds?” Cole asked, looking the body over. “It looks like they were caused by teeth.”

“Official report says the same thing,” said the coroner. “It looks like the body was burned first and then torn up afterward. There’s also evidence that he was held prisoner in a very cramped space before dying.”

“Just like the other two,” Joss commented, keeping his voice even and neutral.

“I’ll leave you two alone,” the coroner said, walking away now. “Just knock when you’re finished doing… whatever.”

Cole waited until the door shut before speaking. “There may be more,” he reminded Joss. “The first one we spoke to said that he’d been held prisoner in a dark place and that he’d heard other children talking.”

“The report said that the body had been held in a cramped space before dying,” Joss mused quietly to himself. “That corroborates with what the first one said, and the second one talked briefly about being in a cage.”

“The first one said that he’d been held in a cage,” Cole reminded. “The second one mentioned a tiny space before it got really hot.”

“It fits with the killer’s MO.” Joss nodded, keeping his face relaxed. “Good thing you told me to ask the coroner to check and see if the bodies showed signs of being imprisoned before they died.”

“It was just a hunch. Shall we get on with it, then?” Cole stretched his left arm out over the corpse and let the power burst out of his hand. “It was Aaron Hoover, wasn’t it?”

Cole released enough power to summon three or four bodies at once. It was needed, however, to shift the dead body back to something resembling a human form. There was no way the deceased could speak with a body charred so badly. The Hand of Cold Death could temporarily fix a damaged body with no life in it, but this required a little extra effort. Cole took several deep breaths as the form recovered some of its former youthful beauty and blinked up at them.

“Aaron Hoover,” Cole said slowly. “I want you to listen very carefully to me.”

The corpse blinked again. “Where’s my mom?” it croaked. “I want to see my mom.”

“Aaron,” Cole said sharply. “You are already dead.”

Joss gave Cole a look, but Cole ignored him. “You’ve been dead for a few days now,” Cole explained. “I have awakened your body so that we can ask you some questions about how you died. Once we are done here, you will be laid to rest again, and your spirit can finally move on.”

The boy didn’t stop looking terrified by this news, but with each word Cole spoke, the tension in his body seemed to lessen.

“Good,” Cole said, smiling now. “Now, do you remember where it was you were being held prisoner?”

The body of Aaron Hoover tried to swallow and found that it couldn’t. “It was dark,” it whispered hoarsely. “I couldn’t see anything.”

Joss looked across the slab at him. “Just like the others,” he said softly.

“Do you remember who kidnapped you?” Cole asked.

The body shook its head slowly. “I don’t remember being kidnapped. I was walking home from the bus stop. The next thing I knew, someone had put me in a cage, and I could smell something baking in an oven.”

“Baking,” Cole repeated, looking back at Joss. “Didn’t the others mention they smelt something?”

“Maybe,” he said with a nod.

“What did it smell like?” Cole went on. “Was it a bad smell?”

“It smelled good,” the boy who had once been Aaron Hoover replied. “It reminded me of when we used to visit Grandma’s house. It almost smelled like cookies, but better. I could smell it the whole time.”

Cole took a deep breath. “Here we go,” he warned Joss. “Aaron, do you remember how you died?”

The corpse didn’t answer at first. Cole wondered perhaps if it hadn’t heard him when the body suddenly shook. It almost rocked itself off the slab and onto the floor, but Cole forced it still by pushing his will into it through his Hand.

“They came for me,” the body cried out now, panicking. “I could feel them grabbing me with their sticky hands. They were taking me somewhere, and it was small and tight. I couldn’t breathe!”

Aaron Hoover’s corpse gasped, his breath rattling like a clanging bell in his lungs. “It was too small. I couldn’t get out, and it was getting so hot!”

Cole tried to will the body to stay calm, but it was reacting like the others before had. The more Cole tried to force the panic back down, the more it fought.

“It’s not supposed to react like this,” he growled, steadying his power and feeding more of it into the body. “Aaron Hoover, I command you to be at peace!”

The body went still at once, but the corpse began screaming. “I want my momma!” it shouted, the voice echoing off the metal drawers surrounding them. “I want my momma! Momma, help me!”

“Cole, turn it off before the whole department hears him,” Joss ordered.

Cole made a fist, shutting his power down at once. The corpse rattled for a bit as the air was expelled from the lungs, making a loud whistle. Stepping farther back, Cole waited as the deceased form went back to being a lifeless burned shell.

“Just like the others,” he commented. “They all died horribly, and under such traumatic circumstances that raising them for questioning is nearly impossible.”

“Held in a cage,” Joss said, thinking the words over carefully. “Then put inside a cramped space where it got hotter.”

“A furnace,” Cole said, feeling certain of his answer. “Or an old-fashioned stove.”

Joss nodded. “A kiln could have the same effect. I’ve seen some of the bigger ones up close. You could stuff a dead body his size in there no problem. As hot as they get, it’s a wonder there wasn’t just bone left.”

“The sweet smell, though,” Cole pointed out. “They all smelled something, and this one said that it smelled like his grandmother’s house. That’s why I think it was an oven.”

Cole was silent for a moment. “Should I try again and ask if it remembers seeing her?”

Joss shook his head. “We tried that last time and the poor kid kept right on screaming. I don’t think this is her handiwork.”

“Me neither,” Cole admitted, turning away. “But it was worth a shot.”

None of the people in the main area would look at them as they left. Everyone, including the coroner, was entranced by the floor or their own shoes. Cole ignored this and marched out the front door, timing his steps to where they fell in alongside Joss’s.

“I think the sound of dead bodies screaming is beginning to affect them,” he remarked once they were safely outside the hospital.

“You think?” Joss asked, cocking an eyebrow at him.

“It’s just a theory at this point.”

Both men climbed into Joss’s car and got comfortable. The snow had let up for a few minutes, but Cole could sense it was just a temporary reprieve. Soon, something much bigger would be slamming against the city with full force. It was lucky he had the very best that money couldn’t buy in central heating. Otherwise, he might have wound up freezing his ass off like so many who lived here.

“Come over to my place tonight,” Cole asked as Joss pulled out of the hospital parking lot into traffic. “It’s warm, and you can take a hot shower for as long as you like.”

“Sounds good,” Joss replied. “I could use one after today. They’ve had us running all over this fucking town looking for leads on this killer.”

“While we’re supposed to be out looking for clues to where Naryssa is hiding,” Cole pointed out. “How did this case get dumped into our laps again? Shouldn’t it have been something for homicide to deal with instead?”

“I guess the department thought it was weird enough,” Joss said, shrugging. “I really don’t know, but my guess is they’re swamped too. Budget cuts were not kind to those people.”

“They haven’t exactly been the Spring Faerie Falls for us, either. Speaking of which, has there been any word about getting some more people transferred to our division?”

Cole and Joss both worked in the same department, a clandestine undercover group called Section Thirteen. It had originally been started back in the fifties by a group of mortal cops who specialized in occult crimes and the supernatural. The city had disbanded them sometime during the seventies after too many of their reports read like acid-rock poetry. One month ago, roughly, the city agreed to bring the Section back into business after a mad half-sidhe hag by the name of Naryssa had gone on a murdering spree and kidnapped a number of half-fey children. Cole had gotten dragged into the mix and was now working with the police as an officer of the law to bring her in.

Cole often found himself repeating that statement to himself. Even now, it sounded too weird.

The Section had started off with the two of them and one other homicide cop, a man who had been Cole’s contact when he worked as a police consultant. These days, he and James Corhagen didn’t speak with each other much. It was just as well, especially considering Cole had moved on in his life, away from James and his problems.

Working in the Section had given him a whole new set of problems, and those were more than enough. When Cole had first signed on, Joss had brought in several members of the city’s vice squad to help out. Two weeks later, following an incident in the sewers, where they had been chasing after a large gelatin cube, every member of vice had pleaded with the brass to be taken back to their old assignments.

Dealing with the supernatural underside of New York was not something for the weak of stomach.

So it ended up that the Section was stuck with the three core members and no one else. No one else wanted to come close to them, and no matter how much Cole claimed he didn’t care, they were only three men. The Section had jurisdiction across the whole city, meaning they got called out several times a day to examine a crime scene just to clarify that it had been caused by something mundane and not a rampaging orc.

“I want to take my car home first,” Joss said, breaking up his thoughts. “Since there’s no place to park outside your place.”

“Let me have your cell phone, then,” Cole said, holding his hand out. “I’ll go ahead and call a cab for us so it can be waiting when we arrive.”

Joss fished his phone out of the back pocket of his pants and tossed it to him. “We really need to get you one of those. It’s difficult enough getting hold of you when you’re not on duty.”

“That’s the whole point,” Cole replied, punching in the number. “Hey, Crystal,” he said into the phone. “Yeah, it’s me again. Can you have a cab waiting for us at the usual place? Right, we’re a good fifteen or so minutes away, maybe more now that traffic has picked up again. Just tell your man to park outside the apartment, if you wouldn’t mind. Thanks!”

Joss shook his head. “I think she’s starting to wonder.”

Cole handed the phone back to him and stretched comfortably, gazing out the passenger window. “I love it when it snows here,” he said softly. “It reminds me of home.”

“I hate it,” Joss grumbled. “Give me spring any day. Before long, summer will be here and it’ll be too hot to breathe.”

Cole kept his thoughts to himself and allowed Joss the silence he needed to make it home quickly and efficiently. Soon, they were pulling up into the driveway of the inspector’s apartment, a shabby but neat building that Cole had been a guest at several times since he had joined the police force. The cab he had called for was waiting for them with the motor, and probably the meter, running. Joss parked his car; then they both rushed out to jump in the back of the waiting vehicle. The driver didn’t so much as comment, pulling out into the street without a backward glance at them.

They reached Bowling Green Park a little bit later. Cole already had his money out and passed it up to the driver before hopping out.

“Keep the change,” he said, slamming the door shut behind him.

“I’m surprised you can afford to keep doing this,” Joss remarked as they wandered through the entrance together.

“I just have to pay for food,” Cole reminded him. “The sithen provides me with everything else.”

“Lucky bastard.”

Cole laughed as they came up to the fountain. The jets had been turned off due to the weather, yet the water inside the basin had yet to freeze. People surely found this strange but were too busy with their own lives to investigate the cause. Cole snapped his fingers, then waited as the entrance to the world below rose up in front of them. As the doorway formed from the water’s surface, Cole brought his arms around the inspector’s waist and squeezed.

“Whenever you are ready,” he whispered into the mortal’s ear.

The first time they had gone through this door together, there had been an uneven flight of stairs leading down into a dark corridor. The sithen had been under Naryssa’s control back then, but after Cole had defeated her with Joss’s help, he’d taken up living in it. Naryssa had escaped, and now her home was his to do with as he pleased. Cole had gotten rid of those blasted steps first.

There was only a step or two down now. Joss went through first and removed his shoes at the landing. Cole came in next and waited as the door slid shut, sealing them off from the mortal world.

“Everything okay?” he asked.

“Fine,” Joss replied nonchalantly. “No strange visions or unusual colors. I had worse side effects from walking into my roommate’s dorm in college.”

“I simply wanted to be sure.” Cole had brought Joss here several times already, and each time, they’d stopped before going too far in to check and make sure the sithen wasn’t playing tricks with Joss’s mind. Legends spoke of the Faerie mounds giving mortals the odd turn now and again.

The ceiling was high, held in place ostensibly by a long row of columns that had tree roots wrapped around them. Halfway down the stone path was a stone fountain, the water of which splashed merrily, welcoming them home. Cole could hear laughter coming from it and waved at the pixies playing there as he walked past. They had once lived in a storm drain in Central Park, but after he had moved into the sithen, Cole had invited them along.

Above the fountain were two ghostly figures. The bean sidhe who guarded the entrance had taken to avoiding their posts whenever Cole brought Joss home. Cole suspected they were jealous and knew what he would do to them if they tried anything on Joss.

Smart ladies.

“Welcome home, Master Colewyn,” a voice said.

Cole looked to the source as a short man with a balding head materialized. “That way,” Mal, the ghost and operator of the sithen, said, gesturing. “Right through the door. I’ve already gotten your bed ready, and the bathroom water is nice and hot.”

“Thanks, Mal,” Joss said as they entered the double doors he’d been pointing to. “He’s really taken to this whole ‘butler’ role, hasn’t he?”

“I think he finds the role amusing,” Cole replied. The sithen had already changed itself around, as per Mal’s instructions, to take them directly to Cole’s private chamber. It was just down the smaller hallway now and to the left.

“That makes me worry,” said Joss in a grave voice as they entered the expansive room. “If what you told me is true, why would the ghost of a former sorcerer condemned for practicing black magic find being a butler amusing?”

“He was trapped in a book for centuries,” Cole pointed out, directing them both to the bathroom. “Mal is probably relieved to be out and doing anything now.”

“Good point.”

The sithen, with Mal’s help, had constructed a spacious room for Cole that was decorated in brown paneling with cobblestone floors covered by thick rugs. The bed was by far the largest piece of furniture in the room, but the cabinets, shelves, and desk were all massive and varnished a deep brown color to match the walls. It was the sort of room he’d always dreamed of having.

Off to the side was the bathroom. Cole entered first and began shucking his clothes as Joss came up behind him and did the same. As usual, Cole had worn all black while on patrol. His leather pants and long vest were far from regulation, but since Joss had insisted that Section Thirteen be a plainclothes operation, there was very little the higher-ups could do. Plus, as Cole himself had pointed out, a uniform would do very little to help him blend in.

Joss, unlike him, had dressed for freezing weather. His knee-length coat was the first thing to go, followed by the cream-colored button-down shirt. Cole was already naked now and stood there enjoying the view. Joss took a moment to slowly draw the undershirt over his head, knowing how much Cole liked to watch. His abs and chest came into view, covered in a natural rug of curly hair. Cole sighed, feeling a low moan rising up from his throat. He loved running his fingers through that carpet and did so at every chance. When Joss dropped his pants, the underwear came with them, and his shaft stood upright and rigid.

It was as big as a baby’s arm.

The head was leaking precum now, causing Cole’s mouth to water. Once Joss had stepped out of his clothes, Cole wasted no time in dragging both of them into the shower. The water kicked on immediately, and true to Mal’s word, it was at just the right temperature. Joss groaned as the three showerheads above them sent jets of steaming liquid onto his back, pounding the stress of the day out of him. Each head was shaped like a theater mask: one frowning, one grinning, and one trapped in between.

Cole seized Joss by his thick mane of wet blond hair and pulled him in close for a kiss that ended with their tongues dancing around one another. His own cock was stretched as far as it would go, almost to the point of pain, as their arms encircled each other. Cole could feel Joss’s hands all over him, and he moaned his pleasure down the mortal man’s throat.

Cole began kneading the knots out of Joss’s back as he nuzzled the man’s ear. “That feels so good,” Joss breathed, kissing Cole lightly on his shoulder. “Don’t stop, please.”

“Never,” Cole cooed. “Let go. I’ve got both of us now.”

Joss went silent for a moment as Cole continued to massage his back in time with the water. “That boy,” said Joss softly as Cole worked lower. “He couldn’t have been, what? Ten years old? Somebody baked him alive.”

“We’ll find them,” Cole assured him, not letting up. “And when we find them, we put a stop to it.”

“You make it sound simple,” Joss groaned, running his own hands up the slicked surface of Cole’s back. “It’s never that simple. Being a cop is anything but simple.”

“I’m not really a cop,” Cole reminded him. Seizing the man by the hair, he gently pulled until Joss’s eyes were facing his. “I am a sidhe warrior. You brought me into the NYPD, but at heart, I will always be who I was raised to be. No amount of paperwork or procedure will change that.”

“I shouldn’t let you say things like that,” Joss mumbled. Their foreheads pressed together under the jet stream. “We’re supposed to catch the bad guys, not execute them. But after what I heard those kids say….”

“One thing at a time,” Cole said, shushing him. “For now….”

Joss looked at Cole when he didn’t finish.

“I’m going to fuck you silly,” Cole whispered into his ear before spinning Joss around.

Joss brought his arms up to brace himself against the slippery wall of the shower as Cole reached his hand out. The sithen was always quick to respond, and this time was no exception. Before Cole’s hand could touch the wall to the right of Joss, it opened up a hidden compartment to reveal a small bottle of golden liquid.

“Last time, it was under the frowning shower head,” Cole noted, pouring some of the fey lubricant onto his fingers.

Joss merely grunted and steeled himself as two of Cole’s fingers were inserted into his ass. Cole quickly flexed and wiggled the tips as he felt them brush across Joss’s love nut. Joss’s cock jumped at the stimulation and began drooling. The rough and rugged male grunted as another finger joined the others. His asshole was opened slightly, but it was still tight and snug as Cole began to gently fuck his digits back and forth.

At the same time, he managed to dribble a little bit of the oil onto his other hand by tilting it slightly. It wasn’t easy, and he wound up with more than was needed, but the glass bottle didn’t slip out of his fingers once. Cole placed it back into the slot in the wall, snapped the cap back into place, and watched as it disappeared once more. Satisfied, he used the oil smeared all over his left hand to slick his cock up as Joss began moaning with pleasure.

“Here it comes,” he warned, pushing the head of his dick up against Joss’s entrance.

“Umph!” Joss grunted as the head popped past his sphincter. “Ohhh, yeah!”

“Get ready.” Cole braced himself, getting a nice grip on Joss’s hips as he drew back slightly, then drove himself forward hard. The head of his cock plowed into Joss’s innards, tearing a path that made the rough-and-tumble man moan.

“Fuck, yeah,” Joss breathed as the steam built up around them. “Fuck me, lover.”

“You want that?” Cole began to pick up speed as he slapped his hand across Joss’s ass cheek. “Your ass is as tight as I’ve had in a long time. It’s hotter inside of you than in this shower. I’m going to enjoy fucking the shit out of you.”

“Just shut up and fuck me!” Joss replied.

Cole was a sidhe warrior, and despite his svelte frame, he had the strength of ten muscled men on crack. It was very important for him not to forget how delicate Joss was by comparison. The mortal would not have liked hearing that, but of the two of them, Cole was actually the more durable. Yet the two had been on the move for days, tracking a killer who seemed even more elusive than the one they’d come up against a month ago. In that time, they’d barely had the chance to share a private conversation that didn’t involve the more unpleasant aspects of their work. As such, Cole found himself throwing aside some of his restrictions now. As Joss’s moans filled the steamy air surrounding them, Cole’s hips picked up speed, and he began to really pound into his man.

Joss tossed his head back and howled as his canal was savaged. Water from the showerhead splashed down into his face and mouth. Even then, he didn’t stop yelling for Cole to fuck him harder.

Cole was happy to oblige. As he kicked it into high gear, Cole felt his balls begin to draw up. Cum churned inside them, ready to unload down the dark tunnel of Joss’s ass any second. Joss’s own balls were already swollen and ready to burst. Cole grunted right along in time with his lover and steeled himself. Both of his arms snaked around Joss just below his hairy chest. As Cole was getting ready to bust, a voice rang out in his ears.

“Tuulois MacColewyn!”

“Shit!”

Cole gasped and leaped backward, drawing his dick out of Joss’s asshole as the air around them swam unexpectedly. Joss glanced back in confusion, still pulling at his dick as Cole leaped out of the shower in a panic.

“What happened?” he moaned. “Why did you stop?”

“Tuulois MacColewyn!”

“Never mind that! Turn the water off and get your clothes!”

The sithen was already two steps ahead of him. The shower heads shut off immediately, and Cole suddenly found their clothes much closer than where they’d left them. Amidst the pile were their weapons, which to him was much more important. Cole could already feel the spell beginning to take hold of him.

“Hold on,” he ordered, snatching their things up off the floor and jumping back in with Joss. Joss, however, had gotten the wrong idea and seized his cock, jerking it back and forth.

“I didn’t mean that!”

“Tuulois MacColewyn!”

Cole turned sideways next to Joss and felt his cock jerk hard as his balls were drained of their essence. Joss’s own cock was already exploding in the same direction. Something was pulling both men upward through what felt like a wet rubber tube as they shot their loads into clear space. A sense of displacement followed, and Detective Corhagen was abruptly standing in front of them with two separate loads dripping down his face.

Joss still had a few good shots left in him, it turned out. A whole rope of cum landed on Corhagen’s long coat, and another from Cole splattered across his tie. Corhagen’s eyes went wide from shock to disbelief as he took in the sight of both Cole and Inspector Vallimun standing together naked inside the summoning circle he’d drawn.

“Well,” said Cole, dripping wet. “This is a new twist.”

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An excerpt from J.L. O’Faolain’s *Blue Ninja*—interestingly X rated excerpt

Hokkaido

“Are you sure about this?”

Aoshi sighed at Otaro’s persistent question, it being the fifth time he’dasked, and turned looked back towards him. The stretch in his patience must have shown on his face, for Otaro looked away petulantly. Regaining control of his emotions, Aoshi forced calm into himself and took a deep breath before speaking.

“I honestly don’t know,” he stated truthfully. “For all anyone of us knows, Shinobachi’s information was completely false. It may have even been a flaw in his chain of communication, but the fact is, I have no other resources aside from going back to the Hyakuzyu Tenko and explaining the situation to them personally.”

Aoshi did narrow his eyes, then. “And you know what that would be like.”

“Gomen,” Otaro muttered, still sounding like a child. “It’s not like I don’t get that, but why do we have to go fight the Okami clan again?”

“We’re not going to fight them,” he corrected. “We’re going to try and negotiate. If Onizuka really is somewhere in the Hokkaido area looking to steal from the Okami clan, then chances are they’ll want to know about it. Hopefully, that will provide me with some leeway once we locate some of them. I don’t relish doing this anymore than you do but bear in mind that nobody forced you to go.”

“Is that why Kibako-san isn’t here?”

“Hai,” Aoshi told him, pausing for a second. “Kibako didn’t wish to go and I had no reason for forcing her. You, however, agreed to. And for the record, if you’re having second thoughts about it now, feel free to get off at the next available stop.”

“This is the express line,” Otaro reminded him.

“Then get on the first train back to Tokyo the minute we arrive,”Aoshi hissed, losing his patience now. “And go with my blessing.”

Otaro said not a word for the rest of the trip.

They had boarded the express together. Sabane had been willing to loan Aoshi the money for all of them, thankfully. Otherwise it would have been a solo mission, and despite the emphasis he’d placed on not wanting to ask for anyone’s help, Aoshi had to admit now how much he really needed it. Aoi-san had signed on as well, which made him feel a lot better. Kuroji had agreed to come also. Aoshi had the feeling this was why Otaro had come along. The four of them made up the team going to Hokkaido. So far, the biggest trouble they’d run into was listening to Otaro moan quietly to himself in-between bouts of questions about whether or not Aoshi was really sure about what they were doing.

Truthfully, Aoshi himself was not so sure. Granted, whatever Onizuka had planned would undoubted mean trouble for the Tokujogumi sooner or later but this really wasn’t anyone’s responsibility. Even though the sword had been handed to him by the Hyakuzyu Tenko elders, Aoshi still wasn’t sure he wanted it back. He’d left his clan and the responsibilities that came with it years ago. Getting involved in something that was sure to draw him back in was definitely unwise, yet he found himself pressing onward.

Other than Otaro, everyone else was quiet during the trip. Aoshi sat near Aoi-san, though they’d hardly spoken a word to one another. It made him a little nervous to be honest. He hadn’t thought to bring something to read with him, not that there had been much time to pack. Aoshi was grateful all the same for having Aoi-san come along. Having him there was comforting. He owed the man far too much to even begin paying it back. Aoshi just prayed nothing went wrong.

Something had been bothering him the whole time, however. He couldn’t put his finger on it and it was really becoming a distraction. Aoshi had been trained to be a warrior his whole life and a distracted warrior was a dead one. Taking several slow breaths, he practiced the meditation exercises he’d learned all those years ago during his initial training. As his mind cleared, he could sense the train car more clearly now. It was more than just the mission that was distracting him. Aoshi felt restless, even a little weak. Nothing like what had been happening to him but still bad enough that it affected his concentration.

Looking up, Aoshi spotted Kuroji staring right at him. The moment their eyes met, it felt like a sharp arrow pierced right through his chest. His heart skipped a beat, making Aoshi gasped involuntarily. Aoi-san turned to look at him curiously but Aoshi quickly shook his head, feeling embarrassed. When he looked again, Kuroji was turning away, though Aoshi knew the more experienced shinobi was keeping a close eye on him.

After several minutes, Aoshi stood up to use the bathroom. “Be right back,” he told Aoi-san. “I’ll be in the bathroom. Come get me if you think something’s wrong.”

As he walked down the aisle, Aoshi could still feel Kuroji watching him. Step by step, he made his way towards the back of the train where the restrooms were. Someone was in the men’s room when he arrived,leaving him with no other option but to wait. Luckily, after a moment, a handsome older man stepped out a second later. As their eyes met, Aoshi felt the bottom of his stomach drop out from under him. The man’s smile was almost predator-like but he continued on past Aoshi without so much as looking back.

Once inside the restroom, Aoshi splashed cold water on his face before shuffling over to the toilet. As his eyes left the mirror above the sink, he thought he saw something flash behind his reflection for a second out the corner of his eye. It had probably been nothing more than a trick of the light but it was enough to make him fumble with his fly for longer than necessary. When he finally freed his cock and balls, Aoshi let out a moan of relief along with the flow ofpiss.

Done, Aoshi stood there for a moment longer, casually running his hand up and down over the skin of his dick. Sighing, he threw his head back and close his eyes, just savoring the feel. His whole body was tense with the need for release. In spite of that, his hand didn’t quicken.

“Seems like a waste to me,” said a deep voice from behind, tickling his ear.

Aoshi tried to turn, but a pair of black arms encircled him, holding him fast. “A real waste,” whispered Kuroji-san. “When there’s someone here that’s more than willing to offer something alot better.”

“When did you…” Aoshi started to ask, but Kuroji-san silenced him by placing a hand gently over his throat.

“Just after you started,” he answered. “I wanted to watch you for a moment. Now, how about you let me?”

Aoshi felt his body grow slack as Kuroji-san gripped him in his strong arms. The fingers of the older ninja dug almost painfully into his chest for a second. Aoshi’s first instinct was to pull away and fight off the heat rising up from within him. However, before he could move, Kuroji-san seemed to sense what he was about to do and bit down hard on the fleshy area of his neck. The moment his teeth made contact with Aoshi’s pale skin, it was as though a switch had been thrown somewhere in his head. One moment, he was prepared to do anything to get away. The next, all the will in him evaporated into nothingness.

A low chuckle rumbled through his body from the man standing behind him. Kuroji-san wasted no time in removing their clothes, taking to Aoshi’s surprise great care to not just tear them off. When they were both naked, Kuroji-san bent Aoshi down over the sink and began pressing his cock between his ass cheeks. Aoshi felt a sharp pain,one that caught him off-guard for a moment. It had never hurt this much going in before. As if in answer, a door in his mind swung openand flooded power through him. Something held Aoshi’s body in it’s grip as Kuroji-san began shoving the first few inches of himself in. Aoshi gasped, partly from pain, but also from a whole different sort of orgasm the pain was giving him.

As Kuroji-san began pushing the length of himself slowly in, Aoshi finally understood. He had only consciously accepted the knowledge that had been given to him. This was different, however. He could feel the Kyuubi-Onna’s power flowing out from within him in droves now. It swirled around them both, holding Kuroji and himself in a grip of sexual rapture. As the power pierced through every pore in the shinobi’s body, Kuroji-san began thrusting in and out in afast-paced rhythm, driving the air out of Aoshi’s lungs in the process.

Each time Kuroji-san’s manhood shoved it’s way through to his innards, Aoshi felt the Kyuubi-Onna respond in kind. With every thrust, she unleashed more power into the air. With such a small space, it wasn’t long before the molecules in the air practically sizzled. Aoshi began to cry out, responding to Kuroji-san’s own moans as he pounded into him. They both felt the power build, felt it swimming around their sweat-soaked bodies.

When Kuroji-san came, he let out a howl that was surely heard all the way back up to the front of the car. Aoshi screamed right along with him, feeling Kuroji’s strength seep into his form down to the dark place where the Kyuubi-Onna resided inside of him. His seed sloshed around in Aoshi’s bowels for several minutes after, slowly leaking down onto the floor. Aoshi turned around to lean forward into Kuroji-san’s massive chest as he leaned helplessly against the wall. Rather than tired, Aoshi felt revitalized now.

“Once I recover my strength,” Kuroji gasped, laying a hand on Aoshi’s shoulder gently. “My power will be stronger than ever. I will be able to protect your host much more efficiently.”

Aoshi understood then that he was speaking not to him but the entity that dwelt within him. “Thank you,” he said softly, echoing her sentiments. “You have done me well, Kuroji-san.”

“Iie,” the dark-skinned shinobi replied breathlessly. “Just Kuroji now. You are far beyond me.”

Kuroji smiled then and lifted Aoshi’s chin up. Capturing his mouth, he drew Aoshi back into his sweat-covered form. Together, they kissed for a moment in blissful silence, savoring the taste of one another. Aoshi raised up enough to where he could wrap his arms around Kuroji’sneck. Kuroji, in turn, leaned down a little to give him better access. As he did so, the train suddenly gave a violent lurch.

Somehow, Aoshi felt as though he were falling forward and to the side nearly at once. The whole restroom seemed to turn on it’s end and spin like a washing machine for a second. While this was going on, a horrible sound like metal screeching on metal rang loudly in his ears.

Aoshi forced his brain to think even as the world spun around him. Kuroji had his smaller form in a death grip, using his much larger frame to take the brunt of the damage. There was only one possible thing that could be causing this.

Thetrain had derailed, somehow. They were going to crash!

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Josh of the Damned: Pretty Monsters (an excerpt)


Josh knew the night shift at the Quik-Mart would be full of freaks and geeks—and that was before the hell portal opened in the parking lot. Still, he likes to think he can roll with things. Sure, the zombies make a mess sometimes, but at least they never reach for anything more threatening than frozen burritos.

Besides, it’s not all lizard-monsters and the walking dead. There’s also the mysterious hottie with the sly red lips and a taste for sweets.

Josh has had the hots for Hot Guy since the moment he laid eyes on him, and it seems Hot Guy might be sweet on Josh too. Now if only Josh could figure out whether that’s a good thing, a bad thing, or something in between. After all, with a hell vortex just a stone’s throw away, Josh has learned to take nothing at face value—even if it’s a very, very pretty face.

*

The first time the hell vortex opened in the Quick-Mart parking lot, Josh very seriously considered quitting his job. But all that came out of it was a lizard guy, and all it did was amble inside, buy a bag of chips, and leave. All the monsters, while ugly, seemed nicer than his late-night human customers, and Mr. Kwon offered him hazard pay, so he stayed on.

Besides, it wasn’t all bad on the night shift. For instance, right now he was looking forward to the return of Hot Guy.
Of course it was a super hot night, still eighty degrees around midnight, and the air conditioner had to pick now to die. Josh peeled off his polyester work smock and put his nametag on his t-shirt, hoping Mr. Kwon wouldn’t suddenly show up and demand he put it back on. It breathed like a trash bag.

His latest customer was an obviously stoned guy buying a wheelbarrow full of snacks. Not only were his eyes glassy and red, but he reeked of pot smoke, making Josh wonder if he’d spilled the bong water. Pot Guy left and someone else came in. Josh leaned over the checkout counter, hopeful, but it wasn’t Hot Guy, just a lizard guy.

“Guy” in a generic, gender free sense of the word, of course, because Josh had no idea how to tell if they were male or female. Maybe they didn’t even have genders. He didn’t know how to ask without being a rude bastard, and there was a chance he wouldn’t understand the answer anyway.

The lizard guys were all tall, and this one was no exception, at least six foot five and so broad across the shoulders it could barely fit in the aisle. They had all your basic equipment—two arms, two legs, a recognizable face—but their mouths were huge, they had no nose, and their scaled skin ranged in color from moss green to primer gray. This one was a kind of greenish-gray, like his roommate that time he got food poisoning.

Like all lizard guys, this one had a weird gait because its feet were huge, with six long toes that almost looked like fingers . . . which was extra weird because their hands were always small and had just four stubby fingers. They looked like they’d been put together by a five year old with a bad sense of proportion.

They also made such a racket you could hear them all the way from the back room. It reminded him of his first Craigslist roommate, Barry, who couldn’t do anything, even open the damn curtains, without making several decibels of needless noise. For the brief time they’d shared a place, Josh had been convinced Barry was hiding a megaphone to fart into just for effect.

Thwak-thwak-thwak echoed in the shop as Lizard Guy waddle-stomped down the aisle, making a beeline for the Fritos display. It grabbed two bags and turned back, waddle-stomping to the register.

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More from Andrea Speed: *Infected*

In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.

But when your heart is gone, it’s easy to fall into a black hole and never crawl out. Roan has been lost and alone for more than a year, and his best friends think a new case might be just the motivation he needs. Roan forces himself back into the game and discovers a dead man who might not be all that dead, a street hustler that wants to hustle him, and a dominatrix who is well prepared to take Roan’s orders. As Roan claws his way out of the darkness by diving back into his work, he finds himself in a race against time in the adrenaline-pumping realization that nothing helps a person want to live like helping someone else survive.
*

The murder of a former cop draws Roan into an odd case where an unidentifiable species of cat appears to be showing an unusual level of intelligence. He juggles that with trying to find a missing teenage boy, who, unbeknownst to his parents, was “cat” obsessed. And when someone is brutally murdering infecteds, Eli Winters, leader of the Church of the Divine Transformation, hires Roan to find the killer before he closes in on Eli.

Working the crimes will lead Roan through a maze of hate, personal grudges, and mortal danger. With help from his tiger-strain infected partner, Paris Lehane, he does his best to survive in a world that hates and fears their kind… and occasionally worships them.
*

The newly married Roan is struggling to balance his work with his home life as he grows increasingly distracted by his husband Paris’s declining health. One case with strong emotions attached takes up most of his time: finding the murderer of a missing little rich girl. It’s a family with secrets so toxic they’d rather no one investigate, and there’s no shortage of suspects. But despite the dangers and obstructions involved, Roan won’t stop… until he loses something infinitely precious as well.

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An excerpt from MD Grimm’s Psychic Moon

Chapter One

IT WAS only halfway through his workday and his blood was already close to boiling. Derek hated humans. He hated the whole lot of them. What they did to animals was utterly disgraceful. Maybe he had lived a sheltered life with his pack, and maybe he hadn’t known what the world was about when he left home at age eighteen. Maybe he hadn’t been as fully prepared for the grief life could throw at him as he thought he had been.

Maybe.

But that was no fucking excuse for abuse and neglect of an animal that was bred to serve and love its owners.
Derek glowered as he drove his official humane officer car through the streets of Seattle, Washington. He had been horribly naïve when he had taken this job. He thought he would not only be helping animals but also helping humans understand how they could properly take care of the animals in their lives.

He had been wrong. This job had become a slow torment. Derek never would have imagined just how horrible humans could be to their pets and farmyard animals. He had grown up quickly and hadn’t been allowed much time to be a rookie.
His very first call on the job had been for a dog near death. Complete neglect and carelessness had led the animal to become a bag of bones, and dehydration had begun to take its toll. And the Washington weather didn’t help matters. The dog had been shaking with cold when Derek had pulled his vehicle up to the curb.

He had tried everything he could, and still it hadn’t been enough. The dog had died.

Derek’s dark brown eyes flashed with rage that hadn’t dimmed in the passing years. The rage, in fact, only seemed to build more and more each day as he saw the results of careless humans.

Right now, Derek had a cat in the cage in the back of his car that looked to be pregnant and close to birth. She looked dehydrated and malnourished, and the fur around her neck was gone. But in the skin he could see markings that might have been caused by a collar once upon a time.

Looked like she got pregnant, and the owners decided to abandon her instead of seeing her through the pregnancy.
A wolf-like growl issued from Derek’s throat, and the muscles under his skin rippled with anticipation. He shook his head once, hard. Not here. Not now. Shifting would not help the cat.

She was skittish enough as it was.

He couldn’t blame her; he was a wolf shifter after all. Cats and wolves didn’t have the best relationship. But that didn’t matter. He would have saved a cat from a flash flood without blinking. It was his job.

It was who he was.

Derek pulled up to the Pet Rescue center and got out of the car, slamming the door harder than he needed to. He walked around to the back and opened the door. The cat hissed, but Derek knew she had to be in pain, and her terror wasn’t helping.
“Easy there, girl. I’m only doing what’s best for you. Easy.” Derek continued to talk to her as he grabbed a small portable carrier and opened the cage door. He set the carrier on the floor and threw a cat treat into it. The cat, despite her terror, wanted food. Her nose lifted in the air and sniffed before her body heaved itself off the floor and waddled to the carrier.
Derek closed the small door and gently lifted her. She was much too light for a cat carrying a litter of kittens.

Shutting all the doors and locking the car, Derek walked quickly to the main doors of the Seattle Pet Rescue. The clinic was in the back, and he hurried past the waiting room and behind the counter through a door that read “Employees Only.”
Derek had been with the Pet Rescue for about four years now, beginning right after he finished several years at a community college. This was the only job he had ever wanted to do. The rest of his family was into saving the environment, wildlife preserves, and PETA. He had wanted to do something different, something that would help pets, not wild animals.
It was his opinion that pets were often the most in danger of human cruelty.

His anger flared up once more, and Derek growled.

“I agree,” said a voice behind him. Derek had just passed the clinic doors without knowing it.

Derek turned around, and his bad mood vanished almost instantly.

Here, Derek thought. Here is the one exception to the human species. Here is the one human who could restore the honor of the entire human species with a single gesture.

Brian O’Donogue was the best veterinarian the world had ever seen. At least, in Derek’s opinion. Brian had joined the Pet Rescue only two years before, and his presence had made a marked improvement in how many animals survived when brought in. He had a gift; it was that simple. The staff had also dubbed him “the animal shrink” because in the two years he had been with them, they hadn’t put an animal down for bad temperament.

He was somehow able to get into their heads and knew how to heal them, mind and body.

“What have we got here?” Brian came over and took the carrier from Derek’s hand.

“Female cat. Pregnant. Abandoned.”

Brian clucked his tongue and gestured for Derek to follow him into the clinic. They walked back to Brian’s workstation, and the vet put the carrier on the long operating table in the center of the room.

Brian bent down until he was eye-level with the opening of the cage door. A hiss could be heard.

“Poor thing,” Brian said, so many emotions riding on those two words.

Derek watched, leaning against the wall, as Brian tried to coax the cat out of the carrier once he had opened the door.
Brian was older than Derek, but he didn’t know by how much. He was blond with long hair that came down to the middle of his back. He always wore it either in a braid or a ponytail. He had a thin beard that didn’t do much to detract from his boyish face. Derek figured that was why he grew it. His eyes were a startling green that always caused a newcomer to look twice.
He was fit, and the long white coat didn’t detract much from his rather impressive figure. Derek also couldn’t help noticing how perky his butt looked in those blue jeans.

For two years, he had debated whether to ask Brian out, but had held back. It wasn’t because he was afraid Brian was straight, oh no. Brian was a flamer from the top of his blond head to the bottom of his red sneakers. He didn’t have the lisp or the limp wrist, but he had that feminine air about him and timidity that most straight men didn’t have. He also liked ABBA and would play Celine Dion as often as he could.

Enough said.

No, it wasn’t fear of rejection that kept Derek from asking. It was the fact that he was a wolf shifter, and what he wanted with Brian was more than just a night of pleasure. He wanted a relationship, which meant he would have to make the fateful decision whether to reveal himself or to keep it forever a secret. Two years and he still hadn’t made up his mind.
Brian finally got the cat out of the carrier and gently checked her over.

“Well?” Derek asked, pushing away from the wall.

“She’ll be due soon. We need to get some food and water down her. Not much, though. Too much will make her sick.”

“Right.”

“That pup you brought in this morning is looking well.”

Derek blinked. He had completely forgotten about the Labrador puppy that he had found in a storm drain.

“Shit, I feel like crap now. He’s going to live?”

Brian grinned and patted his arm. “I guarantee it. Other than fear and a bumped head, he’s doing fine. The staff’s already fallen in love with him.”

Derek took a deep breath of relief. “Good. Good.”

Brian looked at him a moment before speaking. “You were in a mood when you came back. Wanna talk about it?”

Not only was Brian the animal shrink, he was also the staff’s shrink. If anyone had any problems, he would be the one they went to. His quiet and nonjudgmental nature made people want to open up to him.

“I hate people,” Derek blurted.

“I know,” Brian said, nodding. He rubbed his hand up and down Derek’s back. It sent shivers of pleasure shooting to his groin.

It is amazing, Derek thought. This is the only person who can get me out of my bad mood just by looking at me. No one has ever done that.

He looked at Brian, and the vet removed his hand. Derek regretted the loss of contact.

“You should get back out there. I’ll take care of her now.”

“I know you will.”

“Don’t hate all humans, Derek. You only see them at their worst. They have a best. Remember that.”

Derek nodded mutely and walked out of the room.


*

BRIAN took a deep breath and looked down at the cat. “He’s a complicated one, I know.”

He and the cat stared at each other a moment longer before he snorted. “What do you mean he smells funny? How else is a human supposed to smell? He doesn’t wear cologne.”

Brian’s smile widened, and he continued to send calming thoughts to the cat. He imagined a warm and soft bed with fresh water and some tuna.

He couldn’t “talk” to animals, nor could they “talk” to him. But he could communicate on a level other humans couldn’t. He could give and receive images and that was how he could be an animal’s “shrink.” No one knew about his gift, not even his family. Whenever he had mentioned it, they would only think he was kidding, and when he got older, they told him to grow up. So he had grown silent.

The cat meowed in pleasure at the thought of the comfort coming, and when he put his arms around her to pick her up, she didn’t resist him. He carried the tawny beauty to the animal holding area and nodded to the staff as he passed.

People called him the animal shrink. He didn’t mind that. He was, in a way. His gift had always been used to help and soothe animals. He had also learned how to transfer his gift to humans. He couldn’t project calming images to them, nor could he read their minds, but he had good experience on how to soothe.

None of his techniques on humans worked better than on Derek. He was still puzzled by that. When he had been hired on, he had been warned about the humane officers and their territorial natures. The vet he had replaced, an old woman in her sixties named Lisa, had specifically taken him aside and told him about Derek.

The man was like a wolf, she explained to him. He was territorial, persistent, and loyal to a fault. He was dedicated to the job and took it very personally. The cruelty inflicted on animals was, to him, a personal insult. No one knew exactly why he took it so personally, but there it was.

Brian had listened to all Lisa had to say and had tried to prepare himself for the battle to come. Of all the officers he was to work with, he had been terrified of meeting Derek.

But when the meeting had come, it had been… uneventful. Derek had simply come into the clinic on his first day, introduced himself, and after giving Brian the once over, told him he could expect that day to be busy because of all the rain.

Only after that day did Brian loosen up. He still kept an eye on Derek, and realized that what Lisa had said had been the truth. Derek was utterly passionate, close to obsessive, about his job and the animals he rescued. He wanted punishment toward cruel and neglectful humans and was never satisfied with the fines most got slapped with.

Brian gently set the cat in a small kennel and gave her food and water. She thanked him with deep-throated purrs, and he smiled. He gave her head a thoughtful scratch before closing the kennel door.

He stood up, and, because today was slow, he figured he would get a lunch break for the first time that week.

But as he walked back to his workstation he began to puzzle over what the cat had “told” him. She had thought that Derek had smelled weird for a human, and it had put her on edge.

Why?

She couldn’t tell him what she had smelled or what it meant. Derek was definitely one of a kind, but why would his smell put a feline on edge?

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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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