My holiday lights are still up and burning every night, and I don’t even apologize. Light in darkness is what I love most about holidays, and this year I feel like we need it more than ever. So I decided we should have a book sale.
Falling Snow on Snow: Seattle, Music, Snow, Love — $1.99 (50% off) (And the Audiobook is 20% off, too.) Get it on Amazon
Can anything redeem December in Beck’s eyes—even a man with an angel’s voice? (Simply a story of how love happens, even in the bleak midwinter.)
Saving Darknight — $2.99 (25% off), and it’s still free to read via Kindle Unlimited. Get it on Amazon
Fate and a dragon unite two men in a battle for love, magic, the march of time, and holiday joy. In a time of tall-masted ships and hand-made lives, a Guardian and a sailor find true love and their fates in each other. But romance, and a future together must wait, for duty calls. In a battle against dragons, can they seize victory in time to rescue the magic of Darknight and deliver holiday joy to a world that can no longer find its own way?
In 1605, Robbie Elliot—a Reiver and musician from the Scottish borders—nearly went to the gallows. The Witch of the Hermitage saved him with a ruse, but weeks later, she cursed him to an ethereal existence in the sea. He has seven chances to come alive, come ashore, and find true love. For over a century, Robbie’s been lost to that magic; six times love has failed. When he washes ashore on the Isle of Skye in 1745, he’s arrived at his last chance at love, his last chance at life.
Highland warrior Ian MacDonald came to Skye for loyalty and rebellion. He’s lost once at love, and stands as an outsider in his own clan. When Ian’s uncle and laird sends him to lonely Skye to hide and protect treasure meant for Bonnie Prince Charlie’s coffers, he resigns himself to a solitary life—his only companion the eternal sea. Lonely doldrums transform into romance and mystery when the tide brings beautiful Robbie Elliot and his broken harp ashore.
A curse dogs them, enemies hunt them, and war looms over their lives. Robbie and Ian will fight with love, will, and the sword. But without the help of magic and ancient gods, will it be enough to win them a future together?
Isle of Skye, June 1745
Ian woke with a start, his dirk already in his hand before his eyes were properly open. He glanced around, unable to shake the feeling that something was wrong, although if asked what or why he couldn’t explain it…
The harp was gone!
Memories of the evening before flooded his mind. He’d walked by the beach as he usually did, checking that all was well and there was nothing there that wasn’t supposed to be. Since his run-in with Campbell and his men, he’d made a point of keeping an eye on the area at least twice a day. The harp had caught his eye, the tip of the old wood caught on the white crest of a wave, not quite submerged, or belonging.
It had taken but a moment for Ian to make the decision to rescue the thing. Part of him identified with it, he suspected. It had been so long since he’d felt he belonged. Sure, this was an important task he’d been given, but it was so lonely, especially since Fergus had died. It wasn’t as though he and the old man had conversed much, but Ian had taken some comfort in the knowledge he wasn’t completely alone. When his uncle had bestowed the task upon him, it was understood he’d keep to himself and not have much to do with the locals. The Harp and the Sea
It was safer for both him and what he guarded as it didn’t take much for stories to travel and find the wrong ears.
He still regretted not having had the chance to tell his parents the truth behind his banishment. His parents might not have approved of their son’s relationship with another man, but they hadn’t turned their backs on him for it. However, it hadn’t stopped his mam from telling him it wasn’t natural. A fine young strapping lad such as himself should get himself a pretty girl and settle down.
Months spent in only his own company hadn’t stopped him wishing for what he didn’t have, and what he truly wanted. On a cold night, those dreams were both a comfort and a curse.
A firm thigh. A muscular arm. The scent of someone unmistakably masculine.
“Aye, because that’s going to happen,” he’d muttered as he waded out from shore to recover whatever it was stuck out there, neither a part of the sea nor the land.
The water was freezing, but he’d expected that. He’d shivered, but it wasn’t from the cold. One firm yank and the harp was in his arms. His breath hitched, his imagination caught in the same way the instrument had been trapped by the seaweed, a green slimy rope holding it to its watery prison.
The harp was still beautiful, despite the state of it. Once ashore, Ian allowed himself to run his callused fingers over it, marvelling at the smoothness of the wood. Amazingly, the strings were still intact. He plucked at one, and then another, wincing at the following cacophony. It needed a good tuning, but he didn’t possess the knowledge. He had no clue what song it should play, just the strong feeling it was missing something—that like him, it wasn’t complete.
His thoughts snapped forward to the present, his attention taken by the slightly open door of his stone cottage. He’d shut it the night before, he was sure of it.
Ian’s eyes narrowed. Some thieving bastard had been in his home while he slept! Fully awake now, he grabbed his sword and its sheath as he stomped out of the cottage, intent on capturing the culprit and at the very least giving him or her a piece of his mind.
At least it wasn’t Campbell or one of his men. If it had been, Ian would know it by now. Campbell wouldn’t have let him sleep but more likely held a knife to his throat and ensured his waking was a painful one.
“Not very clever for a thief, are ye?”
The tracks leading from just outside the door were clear as day, the red rays of the rising sun highlighting them as clearly as though the thief had left a sign-posted trail for Ian to follow. He didn’t need any further invitation. The harp needed to be kept safe, though if asked he wouldn’t have been able to say why. Still, he had to find it.
The footsteps led him to a clearing some distance from the cottage. A man sat huddled on the ground, clutching the harp to his breast. He seemed lost, afraid, yet for some reason very familiar.
Ian forgot to breathe for a moment, lost in the sight before him. The man was slim and blond, with long hair stretching down to almost his arse. He stared at Ian, his green eyes the colour of the deep sea. Neither of them moved.
And then the harp began to sing.
The sun finally rose, and Robbie Elliot felt its warm finger skim along his pale skin, seeking his bones to warm them. Every time this moment had repeated itself throughout his long life, for just that blink of time, his existence seemed worthwhile. To feel the sun caress and kiss his skin, to see it spark gold off the knotty locks of hair that hung before his eyes, this one feeling made his heaven. It would pass too soon, but for that instant, everything was perfect.
He looked out at the olivine sea. He loved her, gave thanks to her for the gifts she had given. She was his mother, but she gave with a cold breast.
Heavy footsteps approached; it would be the Highlander who’d been asleep in his cottage when Robbie snuck in to retrieve the harp. The man would be afraid of witchcraft, once he saw Robbie sitting before the harp, legs stretched on either side, leaning over the arc of its neck as if it were an ailing lover.
Robbie hadn’t made it to land yet from his most recent stint at sea when the ruddy Highlander had lifted the harp from the foam at the edge of shore, but he’d been aware. Even before Robbie left the surf and stepped on dry sand, he’d sensed the man who’d touched his harp and felt he’d known him a lifetime.
And the feeling had woken him quickly, completely, mind and body, had pulled him towards the beach as if he were a fish on a line. He didn’t fight it. For the first time in so many that he’d lost count, a man had found the harp! It was a man who’d been drawn to the magic, who’d touched it and touched Robbie, though he—this Highlander who’d found the harp—had no way to know what he’d done. Drawing his first harsh breath of air as he rose from the sea, Robbie had felt such hope that it stung his eyes.
Voice raspy from long disuse, he’d whispered to himself, or perhaps to the sea. “Can it be at last? Can this be the completion of the magic?”
For all he had tried, he had not been able to make the harp sing with any of the women he and the harp had met—be they ladies or housemaids, whether they wanted him or not. And he knew why. He was, despite everything, the same Robbie Elliot he’d always been, and they were women. How could that work?
Now, sneaking a glance as the finder approached him across the meadow, Robbie thought, But this is truly a man. A ruddy, huge Highlander, kilt-clad and bearing a hand-and-a-half sword across his back.
When the man found the harp, Robbie had still been roaming far out among the waves. But despite the distance, with all the senses of the sea at his disposal, he’d seen and heard with his mind’s eye—and no less clearly. The great bear of a man had hefted the sodden wood of the harp in one massive hand—a hand that Robbie could feel as if it grasped his own flesh—and carried the wounded thing to shore, whistling off-key some song of the Highlands.
And now the Highlander stepped into the glade where Robbie sat in the sun with the harp before him as if ready to coax a tune from her broken strings and warped neck. He strode across the sunlit ground, the red flush on his face and neck betraying his anger, his eyes on the harp, intent.
But when at last the tall, red-headed Scot raised his eyes to meet Robbie’s… Oh, wonder!
The harp began to sing.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Romance Across the Rainbow is happy to host Jackie Keswick today, touring with her new MM fantasy romance, Healing Glass. Welcome, Jackie!
A dying city. An ancient, forgotten accord. And two gifted men caught in a web of greed and dark magic.
Despite belonging to different guilds, glass master Minel and warrior captain Falcon are friends. Their duties keep them apart, but when Minel falls ill and chooses death rather than the only known cure, nothing can keep Falcon from his side.
As their friendship grows into more, old wrongs and one man’s machinations threaten the floating city and leave both Minel and Falcon fighting for their lives. Can they learn to combine their gifts to save the city and its magic, or will everything they know and love perish before their eyes?
Healing Glass is an LGBT fantasy adventure with its head in the clouds. If you like medieval backdrops, impressive world-building, three-dimensional characters and a touch of magic, then you’ll love Jackie Keswick’s socially-conscious adventure.
Hi everyone, I’m Jackie Keswick. And I’m very grateful to Lou for inviting me to the blog to chat about my new release, fantasy novel Healing Glass.
Healing Glass, the story of a glass master, a warrior, and a floating glass city, is set in a medieval-style world, which is a historical period I love. It’s also a historical period I like to bend and fiddle with.
Medieval society in Europe was very structured, with each person knowing their place in the world. Tradespeople in particular had organised themselves into a complex system of guilds as a means of keeping skills together, supporting one another, and training the next generation. Those medieval trade guilds were my starting point for the world I’ve built in Healing Glass.
All the traditional guilds exist in my world, but at the heart of Healing Glass are three very special guilds. The Craft Guild, the Warriors Guild and the Merchant Guild are collectively known as the Gifted Guilds, because each guild member has talents that reach beyond their craft.
Members of the Craft Guild create objects and enhance their creations to soothe, cheer, heal, protect or bring good fortune. Warriors shape minds and use their powers to protect and aid each other. And merchants shape circumstance, transform one reality into another one at will. You can hire them and pay them in coin, or in favours – and for countless generations this system has worked very well.
But what happens when you bend carefully wrought magic out of shape? When you change its purpose to suit yourself? Well… then you put a whole world and a floating glass city in danger.
Excerpt from Healing Glass
Half a mile above the surface, a deep, rumbling groan rattled through Favin’s bones and turned his guts to water. The elevator jerked and shuddered—long enough for Favin to wonder whether he’d left his errand too late—before it resumed its stately progress up towards the floating city.
The groans and jerks came more often these days, on almost every journey. Despite the trickle of ice-cold fear, Favin welcomed the noise and stuttering ascent. He’d raised the alarm weeks earlier, but no one had believed the word of a servant. No one but Councillor Teak, who now clung to the transparent wall on the far side of the elevator, face grey and eyes wide.
The City Council would believe Teak.
“Is… this… why you wanted me to accompany you?” Teak spoke louder than necessary in the tight confines of the chamber bearing them aloft.
“Yes, Councillor. I reported it several times, but—” Favin stopped, loath to criticise the council. “I felt you had to know what’s happening.”
Teak, resplendent in a well-cut black coat and lace cuffs under his scarlet robe of office, didn’t belong in an elevator filled with rows of stacked crates, bins of cloth, and rolls of parchment, even when Favin hadn’t packed the space as full as he usually did. The councillor didn’t need the experience of a full cargo run, of squeezing into a gap just large enough to get in and out of. Never mind that he wouldn’t have fit. The servants joked that were the councillor hollow, one of them could fit inside his frame with space to spare.
Teak enjoyed his food as much as he enjoyed his status and privileges, but he hadn’t lost all sense of his responsibilities. When Favin had asked for his help, he’d only grumbled a little before agreeing to investigate the matter. Now here he stood, pressed against the transparent wall, gaze riveted to the crate in front of him, not daring to look down.
Favin watched the sea and the sky over Teak’s shoulder, wishing—as always— that he could see the city as they made their way towards it. The freight elevators didn’t allow for such a view, and Favin’s work rarely left him the leisure to sit on the beach.
Four levels of squat glass tiers and elegant spires connected by sweeping stairs and graceful bridges, suspended high above the waves by a raft of near-invisible columns… the floating city had stood waiting at the edge of the ocean when the Craft Guild arrived in need of shelter. Nobody knew its builders. Nobody quite understood how it worked. The city kept its occupants warm and dry, the glass walls closing or receding depending on the weather. Fountains supplied water in every square, and in all the buildings. The middle tier of the city—a wide, level space between the double-story, flat-roofed dwellings of the lower level and the skyward-reaching spires of the top tier—had been given over to growing food. All other goods the inhabitants needed came via the trade guilds and the Merchant Guild. The craft masters could have anything that fit into one of the eight large elevators, whether it came by land or sea, while men like Favin ensured the goods arrived where they were needed.
The groan came again, more of a pained shriek now, like the death cry of a material used too long and too well, as an abrupt slip downward hurled both Teak and Favin to their knees.
Then the sounds stopped.
The downward movement stopped.
And the elevator resumed its unhurried climb.
Sweat pearled on Teak’s brow and upper lip by the time the transparent cabin reached its goal. “Can we… not use this elevator?” He stepped off the floating disk before he turned to ask.
“It will delay deliveries, Councillor.”
“How many journeys do you make in a day?”
“Some days as many as fifty.”
“And the noise and the… jerking… have been getting more frequent?”
“Yes. I’m told the other elevators show the same signs of trouble. And in the upper city, the glass is said to be weeping.”
“That’s what I’ve heard, Councillor. I’ve not seen it.”
“No, of course not.” Servants of Favin’s class had no access to the upper levels. “Thank you, Favin, for bringing this to my attention.”
Favin bowed to the councillor before he set about unloading the cargo into the hands of the waiting servants. The council would decide whether to shut down the elevator or keep it running. He’d done as much as he could do, given his station. He’d said his piece and had had a councillor listen.
He continued with his work, until words drifting through a half-open door stopped him on his way to deliver rolls of parchment and ink to the council chamber.
“Weeping is the only way to describe it, Wark. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“And you think it’s going to be a problem?” The clipped tones were the regent’s and Favin froze where he stood, listening.
“Of course, it’s a problem,” Teak argued. “Go and see for yourself if you don’t believe me. There’s liquid glass welling up out of the column and trickling down its length. What do you think will happen if the glass wears away doing that? Or if the whole column turns to liquid? Will it continue to support the upper level in that state, or will it run into the sea and disappear?”
“Calm yourself, Teak. I’m sure there’s no need for panic.”
“You would know, of course.” Teak said snidely. “But I say you should listen. There’s more than one of those weeping spots in the upper city. The freight elevators jerk and groan, and servants are buying out their contracts, happier to make a life elsewhere than work here.”
Then it is serious, Favin thought, glued to his spot. More serious than I knew. Positions with one of the three gifted guilds were hotly sought. Only the king’s court paid better wages, and with the high prices in the royal city and port of Allengi, those wages didn’t go nearly as far.
“We must deal with this, Wark. Before it is too late.”
“Repairs to the city’s fabric are the task of the glass master. I will make sure he attends to the problem.”
“Minel is an outstanding craft master.” Teak bristled as if he had heard something in Wark’s comment that Favin had not. Something he disagreed with. “Most sought after, despite his youth. His list of commissions is near endless and he earns—”
“There are no other glass masters in the guild. Minel is our only choice if we want to fix the problem you’ve brought to my attention.” Regent Wark sounded oddly gleeful.
“No. You can’t— What if—?”
“You can’t have it both ways, Teak. You can’t bring me a problem and then object when I solve it. Minel’s work and his designs pay a large part of the city’s debts. I’m not so stupid I’d interfere with that. But if the fabric of the city fails, all the money and favours we’re owed will be no use to us. It’s fortunate that Minel cares about nothing but making glass. He doesn’t have the stomach for confrontation. I think… I think this will work out very well. Minel will accept that we direct his work and we can add another treasure to our collection. I have waited long enough.”
Jackie Keswick Bio and Links
Jackie Keswick was born behind the Iron Curtain with itchy feet, a bent for rocks and a recurring dream of stepping off a bus in the middle of nowhere to go home. She’s worked in a hospital and as the only girl with 52 men on an oil rig, spent a winter in Moscow and a summer in Iceland and finally settled in the country of her dreams with her dream team: a husband, a cat, a tandem, a hammer and a laptop.
Jackie loves unexpected reunions and second chances, and men who don’t follow the rules when those rules are stupid. She blogs about English history and food, has a thing for green eyes, and is a great believer in making up soundtracks for everything, including her characters and the cat.
And she still hasn’t found the place where the bus stops.
For questions and comments, not restricted to green eyes, bus stops, or recipes for traditional English food, join her in Jackie’s Kitchen on Facebook or find her in all the usual places:
Romance Across the Rainbow is pleased to welcome Natsuya Uesugi with a December 2018 release, The Seer of Ice and Sky. Read on for all the usual info plus a bonus excerpt!
Natsuya Uesugi has a new queer dark fantasy book out in his “The Seer of Grace and Fire” series: The Seer of Ice and Sky.
Surviving the devastation of DarkFall, Timorn is now rightful King of Faerie. With evil lurking at the fringes between the kingdoms of the humans and the elves, the dark mage Dalannin travels to Dragonreise to forge an alliance with the Dragon King.
Timorn’s travelling party sets off on request from an elven emissary but dissent grows as the party passes through the human city of Ekhrine. As they stop at the Ecclesiastical University where the cleric Kabal translated The Legend of Arden prophesy, a demonic aura haunts their path.
Can Timorn forge an alliance with the dragons to ensure peace or will darkness drive a wedge between him and his magical twin Ethesian as they journey through the elven lands. Transgender heroine.
A human cleric translating an elven prophesy must bring the work to the high court at Kannon in faerie before DarkFall, the solemn anniversary when all the male faerie newborns were murdered 17 years ago. If the translation does not arrive in time, all is lost. Timorn, a 17 year old ranger travels the human towns hiring out his services. A mysterious elven woman hires him to take her to Kannon before DarkFall, and only he can lead her with his purple faerie eyes.
The evil Valkyris is amassing an army to attack Kannon at DarkFall insisting she possess the prophesy. Sending her dark mage Dalannin to infiltrate faerie, he marches his demon hordes towards Kannon and sneaks into the palace. Ethesian, the 17 year old faerie daughter of King Ailon plays the dragon lyre, a female magic. Yet recently she has started having prophetic dreams as if she were male. When a lie is revealed, Ethesian is tasked to study magic she must master before DarkFall. Will Timorn reach Kannon before the Valkyris and Ethesian master a magic she shouldn’t possess? Secrets and lies, revelations and wizardry, DarkFall is coming and so too the reluctant faerie who would be king. Learn more in the first book of the dark fantasy trilogy, The Seer of Grace and Fire.
The Seer of Grace and Fire starts the dark fantasy trilogy reviewers have called “Enthralling” and “A beacon of light for readers young and old.” The series continues with release of The Seer of Ice and Sky book 2. Book 3 The Seer of Flesh and Death will be released early 2020.
Natsuya is giving away an ARC of book one in the series – The Seer of Grace and Fire – enter via Rafflecopter:
Timorn squinted as he studied the elven emissary, Arhlamanel dressed in finery, yet his stance and mannerisms were less refined then Ihel’s. He sensed deception. His ranger skill told him the elf was concealing something about his identity,
“I am aware of dragon riders, but not of a dragon king in Arenth,” Timorn said, turning to Eanna, his mother the First Consort, for confirmation. Eanna shook her head, also unaware.
Arhlamanel nodded. “The dragons are elusive and secretive, Your Majesty. Only a few high elves dare to venture up the perilous paths into the ice mountains to entertain them. It is treacherous as the dragons carefully guard the priceless gems within their lands.”
Timorn gripped the arms of the throne, leaning forward. “At DarkFall, we saw an adult dragon. A rider in black sat atop its monstrousg form. Luckily the brunt of its power was stopped before it could let loose with abandon.”
“It is as we heard. Thus, the dragon king requests you come to Akrisia, to the mountains in the North. He has sent me as emissary, in partner with the high elves, to bring you to hear his message. A party of your choice is invited to travel along, including one named Ethesian, who is also summoned. But be warned. One who wad banished many years ago has returned and is making inquiries in the dragon lands. He goes by the name of Dalannin. There is much suspicion amoungst the elves. Do you know of him?”
Timorn gasped. If Dalannin was with the dragons, that could only mean danger. Timorn spoke authoritatively, immediately deciding based on the elf’s report. “Yes, we know Dalannin, and yes, my party and Ethesian will accompany you to Akrisia. Lady Eanna will remain and keep watchful eye on the crown.”
“Yes, my lord,” Eanna acknowledged the decree.
“You must come dressed as a ranger,” Arhlamanel added. “That is how they will know you: by your clothes, your faerie daggers, and your sword. The dragon king and his half-dragon army will join you at the dragon court, high in the mountains. The trek up the expanse is arduous and will require a full day of walking to reach once we arrive.”
“Had Dalannin already recruited dragon riders to his cause? Timorn hoped for a negative answer.
“Unknown your Excellency. I hope, for our sakes and all of Arenth he has not.”
The Cleric Kabal at the Ecclesiastical University Library
Kabal tapped his foot in annoyance holding the large leather bound Elven dictionary as the Sexton Eskelan engaged him in the hallway. Patience wearing thin, Kabal rolled his eyes trying to disengage from the conversation.
“Your translation of the Legend of Arden was masterful. The Vicar Josephinian as much as said so. All my night students debated it marveling at the copy in the sacred room in the library…” Eskelan droned on.
Realizing there was no ending this conversation, Kabal decided to force the situation. Clearing his throat and interrupting, “your students are teasing you so you won’t assign Elven translations for homework. They hate that as I hated it many years ago as a novice before doing my rotation with the elves.”
A clerical student in the hallway carrying a stack of books came towards Kabal and smiled, nodding in agreement as he passed, the Sexton none the wiser, his back to the youngster.
“How do you know that?”
“Elven magic,” whispered Kabal with an annoyed chuckle. “My friend, I have tarried long. The librarian will have my head if I do not return this elven dictionary. Two turns of the hourglass passed since I promised her. She will eat me alive. I must take my leave.”
Kabal walked away abruptly as Eskelan remained, shocked. Kabal shouted behind him, waving the annoyance away. “Your students are playing with you. Don’t let them get the upper hand or they will battle you to the death and lose faith. May the Goddess of Learning, Aitreya, shine on your good fortune and guide your teachings.”
Kabal chuckled to himself, knowing he belittled the Sexton, as he quickstepped the utilitarian hallway to the illustrious library, the massive structure off the Provost building, the darling of the Ecclesiastical University in the human city of Ekhrine. With its floor to ceiling engraved mahogany doors with golden dragon carvings, to its stained glass dome in the ceiling showing the elven creation story, and marble intricately patterned tile floor, the countless books that lined its shelves were known through all of Arenth.
Kabal had translated the Elven prophesy, The Legend of Arden in the library before DarkFall, a royal edict from King Ailon of Faerie, the prophesy it revealed had changed Faerie forever and installed the young reluctant ranger Timorn, raised by humble human parents, of faerie nobility to the position of king of all Itheria. It had been but weeks since Timorn had started rule and they had now set off on their journey to the elven city of Akrisia then onto the dragons.
Kabal sighed as he pushed in the doors to the library and saw Timorn seated at a back desk glancing at a book lost in thought. Sauntering up to the circulation desk where the librarian was glaring sternly, Kabal swallowed hard garnering his strength and steeled his nerves for the encounter. The librarian was wearing a red short cardigan over a white striped ruffled shirt and a long brown twill skirt as she stood in front of the circulation desk counter extending her hand, frown deepening as Kabal stepped slowly towards her, trying to draw out the coming attack.
“An Anayalee, es ailan, ie nemalas,” he sung out in the Elven tongue using the highest honourific to ensure no disrespect.
She harrumphed translating his words into the human language, “gracious and humble in spirit, Mistress Anayalee, you, Noble Lady, look exquisite… Don’t start on me, Kabal. Your sweet Elven words do not work. You should know better trying to sweeten the librarian’s ego.”
Kabal lowered his eyes and bowed handing over the dictionary. She went behind the circulation desk and put the book up to be reshelved and picked up an unlit white pillar candle in a metal holder, pulling a small wand out from under the counter wagging it at him.
“Fly right or I will light you up!” She smirked, voice raising and touched the wand’s tip to the wick igniting the candle.
“I know your power, and doubt I could withstand such a force,” chuckled Kabal knowing she would not take kindly to sarcasm. Having given her the wand when she had first come to work as the librarian years ago, he knew she had little patience for him and his bucking the library rules, using its gifts at all hours, not filling the ink well, slapping books closed, scraping chairs, leaving books laying around, and never cleaning up the one desk he used. Though he transgressed often, he knew she had a soft spot for him after all these years.
She picked up the candle and motioned to him to follow her down the side hallway past the Elven tomes back to the sacred incantations room. The hallway grew dark as they passed the relic room and the sacred books behind glass and came to the back of the library. The darkness of the area was caused by the magic that kept the incantations housed. Only those with permissions and a certain level of spiritual training were allowed in the area.
There was a large white sign with black letters above the incantations room writing in Elven, the human tongue and Jannai, the faerie language. It warned unauthorized patrons to keep out. The librarian went into her pocket with a large metal key ring and handed Kabal the candle as she opened the door. Placing her right palm flat on the door, other hand on the key, closed her eyes whispering, “incantations, smart and strong. Key to portals, spells long gone. Aitreya, goddess protect my life, open this room as I go inside.”
A purple circle with a an Elven sigil of warding lit up on the door, as the lock clicked, releasing. She pushed the door open slowly, and it creaked taking the candle back. “Close the door behind you.”
Kabal pulled closed the door, leaving them in a heavy darkness, the weight of spiritual power. Closing with a thud, a purple light rushed up the door frame as the celestial incantation sealed them inside The librarian brought her hand over the candle. “Escarna…” she whispered. The candle light flared lighting the entire room. Filled with magical instruments, Elven and Jannai spellbooks, alchemy tools and ritual items, the librarian walked Kabal over to the left wall with a rectangular spell suspended in a glass frame black text inscribed in the celestial ancient Jannai script used only for magic. A purple mist undulated in the boxy frame swirling around the spell.
Kabal spun taking in the room cluttered with ritual items, absentmindedly getting lost in the pages of an open Elven spell book, he snapped out of his reverie quickly coming over to the librarian waving to him.
“What is it? I can make out the ancient text due to my translation of the Legend of Arden from Elven into Jannai. This is a Jannai spell?”
“Yes, a teacher on his way to Amaralon brought it a few weeks ago passing through.”
“That spell is active. It is safe?”
“Watch…” The librarian brought the candle closer to the picture frame and the purple mist swirled faster revealing an image of a wide open room taking over the frame. There was a person in the view. They watched as the person came closer in a long black robe, thorn crown on their head, glaring red eyes, a faerie by their features.
Kabal’s eyes burst open backing up when he realized who it was. He grabbed the librarian’s arm pulling her. “Move away from it. This thing is evil…”
The frame lost its vision and went back once more to the undulating mist. Kabal dragged the librarian back to the door yanking it open and pushing her out. He carefully closed the door and she locked it with the key, purple light once more running up the frame as it sealed, protecting the room.
He shuffled her back to the circulation desk as she blew out the candle and returned it to its hiding place. “That was the Valkyris I saw.”
“Do not utter her name. Its very whisper is evil. I fear she may spy on the library. Did the teacher say why he gave you the incantation?”
“He said he needed it protected. One of his students delved deep into the darkness, conjured it against his training and was being controlled. The teacher banished the presence haunting the student but he could not neutralize the spell. The only logical remediation was to put it in the incantation room.”
“Do not go near it. I must hurry and tell Timorn. We may not be safe here,” warned Kabal and bowed to Anayalee rushing away.
Kabal slapped his hands on the desk forcing Timorn to look up from his book.
“What is it, Good Cleric? Your face as is pale as bone,” Timorn smiled, his eyes darting around the library fearing danger.
“There is evil magic here sealed in the incantation room. It is too close for my liking. The librarian showed me, Your Majesty.”
Timorn took one of his daggers off his leather belt and set it down on top the table. It was dormant, not giving off a blue glow which it did when there was faerie magic near.
“My daggers are calm. There is nothing to worry yourself about.”
Kabal looked up for a minute as Ethesian, Timorn’s twin, and magic dream seer passed behind him looking at the Elven tomes on the shelves. “Still, my concern lingers…”
“Be still, Cleric. We are safe. If there is faerie magic near, my daggers will sound the alarm and I will notify you immediately. Be at ease,” Timorn smiled and flipped the page in the book going back to what he was doing.
Kabal sighed and walked back to the librarian, wary, unable to be at ease. If the Valkyris knew of Timorn and Ethesian travelling to the elven city of Akrisia for more knowledge of the dragon that attacked Kannon at DarkFall, then once again tragedy could befall faerie.
Natsuya Uesugi is a cybersecurity analyst with an MBA in International Management and a minor in Japanese. He is author of the science fiction grydscaen series, the yaoi novellas and manga graphic noiz and The Seer of Grace and Fire fantasy trilogy. He creates all the illustrations for his books. He enjoys skydiving, cosplay, anime and writing poetry.
In a relationship that violates rules and expectations, Mayr and Tash have found their perfect match in each other. Despite their fears and difficult pasts, they hope for a shared future with security and a family. When Mayr’s secret first love, Arieve, proposes they create that family with her, it seems dreams could become reality.
But life is complicated, and so is the delicate balance between duty and love. While Mayr protects the Dahe family at all costs, Tash is determined to succeed as a priest. Both positions require sacrifice, forcing their relationship into painful choices. To make matters worse, criminals lurk in the shadows, seeking revenge on them and those they guard.
The life they want risks losing everything—including Arieve and each other. Even if they can have it all, keeping it may take more than they can give.
Warnings: “Soulbound” contains some explicit content, references to self-harm, suicide, and mentions of suicide-related behavior and intent. This story also contains instances of graphic violence, references to rape and domestic abuse, and depictions and mentions of depression.
About the Series:
With the right people and the right price, the Republic of Kattal can be brought to its knees. But for every line crossed, someone waits on the other side, ready to push back.
Armed and ready to defend their lives, these heroes are not afraid of the fight. They stare adversity in the eye and dance with the darkness within. But in their justice, there is wisdom. In wisdom, there is protection. In it all, there is love. Sometimes it’s a matter of saving a village; sometimes it’s a matter of saving the one they can’t live without. Sometimes it’s just about doing the right thing and learning to love oneself.
Magic may lurk in the shadows. Crime may never sleep. But love doesn’t back down.
Silence fell, deep with meaning conveyed by long gazes and soft smiles. Why had he expected Aeley to say anything different?
Three loud knocks rapped the door, scaring them both. Cursing under his breath, Mayr opened the door.
Every foul word tumbled back down Mayr’s throat. “Hey.” He leaned against the door, one arm sliding up the side.
In an instant, he tripped on his own feet and stumbled into the door, swinging it open further.
“You can’t possibly be drunk already.” The corners of Arieve’s eyes crinkled with her smile, her glossed lips painted pink like her cheeks. Dark curls and plaits cascaded over her shoulders, the firelight lending a golden hue to the white-blonde streaks in the fringe of hair across her forehead. She held a silver tray, presenting two glass goblets filled with a bluish-purple drink and fragments of gold leaf sprinkled on top. “Otherwise, this might be a bad idea.”
“What’s a bad idea?” Mayr grimaced, his mouth suddenly dry as if filled with pillow stuffing. Quick to recover, he smoothed his shirt, resettled his belts, and slicked back his hair, pretending he meant to be clumsy.
“Your after-dinner drinks. Lira was going to bring them, but I thought I’d save her the trip. She’s having fun trading stories with your mother.” Arieve cleared her throat. “I didn’t want to interrupt your conversation.”
The tray rattled in her hand. The drinks threatened to slosh over the rims.
Mayr steadied the tray. “Thanks for that. This. These.” He offered her an awkward smile and took the goblets. “I’ll let you get back.” So you won’t see me kick my own ass for being completely inappropriate.
“Thanks, Arieve,” Aeley called from her desk.
“You’re welcome.” Arieve hesitated as she lowered the tray. She swayed gently, the rich green layers of her tiered, ruffled skirts moving with her. “I’ll let you finish.”
Before Mayr could say anything else, Arieve hurried down the hall and around the corner.
“I wonder what the mix is this time.” Aeley snatched one goblet to sniff it. “Hint of gaffa nectar, soured pamolea extract, and a bite of fulore. Plus maybe, probably—” another sniff “—syrup from the Sailor’s Sweetheart bush.” She took a sip and nodded. Flakes of gold leaf clung to her top lip. “Not as fun as last night’s concoction, but I could get used to it.”
“That’s what you always say.” Mayr brushed the flakes from Aeley’s lips with his thumb.
Aeley wiped her mouth on her sleeve. “Not always, just a lot. Cook knows her stuff. To be fair, she’s known me since I was three, getting into her puddings and tarts anytime she turned around. I trust that when she serves up a hodgeypodgey drink, it’s got personality.” She tapped her goblet against his. “I’m heading back to our guests. You should, too, considering it’s yourparty. We can resume this conversation later.”
After a kiss to his cheek, Aeley flounced out the door and through the corridor, humming to herself.
Mayr stared into his goblet, watching the gold swirl in an abstract pattern. My stomach. My head. I can’t even…
He set the goblet on Aeley’s desk. He needed Tash’s forgiveness more than he deserved a fancy drink.
As he exited the room, questions assaulted him hard enough to drown the sound of the door latch as it caught. One question practically shouted above all the others: how much had Arieve heard of his conversation with Aeley?
His heartbeat faltered. He was mortified. The door was not impervious to sound. What would Arieve think of him had she heard…
Hey, stupid! It doesn’t matter.Mayr grumbled and hooked his thumbs around the back of his belts. It still comes out to you’re taken and happy, so shut up.Dragging his heels, he wandered through the corridor and turned into the next, towards the ballroom.
Around the corner, Arieve leaned against the wall, head bowed, with her face hidden by her hair. She twined the trailing black laces of her bright green tunic around her fingers and pulled taut, then released them only to repeat the process. The empty tray rested beside her, abandoned against the wall.
“Hey.” Mayr stopped, careful to leave two foot lengths between them. “I thought you went back?” He toyed with his marriage ring, twisting the band nervously. Memories of Tash surged forward, the airy weight of his kisses almost real enough to feel.
“I wanted to wait for you.” Arieve raised her head and offered a tender smile. “I probably won’t get a word in the rest of the night given the company, so I thought…”
She was in his arms before he could reply. Her hug stole his surprise, shredding it until all that remained was stunned.
“Congratulations,” she murmured, her forehead tucked beneath his chin. “He’s got a good heart, solid. You’ve found your match. If the Four could grant me one wish tonight, it’d be for you two to have everything you desire.”
Mayr hesitated, his hands hovering over Arieve’s back. Touching was a bad idea, especially while he kept Tash from the truth. “Thank you.” Quick as he could, he embraced Arieve and pushed her away, feeling worse than the coward he was. “Let’s go back. I need to stop my mother from revealing every baby story she has or everyone’s going to hear about my naked backside and trailing diaper crowns.”
Arieve picked up the tray and started up the hall. “I’m sure Tash is soaking them up as we speak.” She laughed, the joyous sound digging up a dozen memories.
Memories he needed to lock up and burn down.
He followed Arieve and cast his gaze to the ceiling. Please, Reverent Goddesses, get me through tonight. Then let’s talk about strength of will, because one of these days I’m going to have to confess everything and it’ll hurt more than scorching my pride.
Archer Kay Leah was raised in Canada, growing up in a port town at a time when it was starting to become more diverse, both visibly and vocally. Combined with the variety of interests found in Archer’s family and the never-ending need to be creative, this diversity inspired a love for toying with characters and their relationships, exploring new experiences and difficult situations.
Archer most enjoys writing speculative fiction and is engaged in a very particular love affair with fantasy, especially when it is dark and emotionally charged. When not reading and writing for work or play, Archer is a geek with too many hobbies and keeps busy with other creative endeavors, a music addiction, and whatever else comes along. Archer lives in London, Ontario with a bigender partner and rather chatty cat.
Romance Across the Rainbow is happy to welcome Eric Allan Westfall today, touring with his new release, Of Princes False and True. Read on for buy links, an excerpt, and exclusive interview, and a giveaway.
A tennis match? Starting a war between the Duchy of Avann and the Kingdom of the Westlands?
Only in a fairy tale.
When Prince Henry hurts a young ball boy who told him Danilo’s ball was inside the line, Danilo’s response is automatic. Punch the prince’s face, pick him up left-handed, and break the royal jaw. Unfortunately, there’s another “automatic” at work: a death sentence for whoever strikes royalty.
King Hiram can’t—won’t—change the rule of law to rule of royal whim. But he grants the Heir of Avann fifteen days to find words that will allow Danilo to live.
In those fifteen days: Magick. The gods, goddesses and gender-fluid deities on Deity Lane. Kilvar, the assassin. A purse which opens in a bank vault. A mysterious old man. The Lady of All. The Magickal Hand writing, rewriting. A fairy tale within a fairy tale. A huge horse called Brute. And at the end…perhaps the right words and a most unexpected love. Plus a deity-supplied dinner with just the right amount of garlic.
All royalties will go to a local LGBT organization.
The Small Throne Room The King of Westland’s Castle Late Morning, the Day The Story Starts
“Sit,” King Hiram commanded. The young man, still head-bowed, didn’t move. The guards squeezed the prisoner’s biceps, half-marching, half-dragging to the chair at the opposite end of the table from the king. With four guard hands occupied by flesh or chains, the difficulty in moving the chair was obvious. The wizard’s spell removed the chains; they reappeared with a clunk!on the floor beside the table.
The guard on the young man’s left pressed a dagger-point against his throat. The other guard released him, stepped behind the chair and pulled it enough away for the young man to be maneuvered in front of it. Rough hands on shoulders forced him down. It was, of course, only happenstance the knifepoint nicked the neck, a drop of blood appearing when the blade was removed.
The recent command not to hurt the prisoner apparently didn’t apply to chairs in which the prisoner was sitting. The force used to propel it toward the table would have crushed the young man’s fingers if he’d rested them on the arms when he sat. Fortunately, his hands were in his lap. The young man’s head remained down as he was in effect caged by the chair and table.
He raised his head, looking straight ahead, but Hiram and his advisors could see he wasn’t seeing anything then present in the room.
Beneath the dirt, bruises, scrapes and crusted blood he was handsome. Sharp cheekbones, aquiline nose, thin lips, a faint cleft in his chin. Brilliant green eyes, flecked with gold. Unusual long hair tumbling near his shoulders, red-brown strands mixed with varying shades of gold. There was something almost familiar… The king chased a wisp of memory, but lost it.
The young man tilted his chin up enough to look at the king, apparently believing if cats could, so could he. There was no cringing in those eyes, no shame, no embarrassment. No anger or resentment. Perhaps, though, a tiny glimmer of…interest. As if this was some grand adventure and he needed to absorb everything happening to and around him for later remembrances.
Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be remembering anything again, in the not too distant future. A man doesn’t when his head has been severed from his neck, or he’s been hanged until a neck-snap or slow strangulation ends him. Hiram realized he didn’t remember what death the law required. He would, he knew, have to check.
In silence, the young man lifted his hands, and pushed the long, thick hair behind his ears, each movement telling a story of strain and pain. As did his face. One eye was swollen almost shut; a cut on his forehead still oozed blood; there was dirt on the bruising on cheeks and jaw; one lip was split.
“Did he resist arrest?”
“No, Your Majesty.”
“Did the prince do this?” The king refused to let himself display the tiniest glimmer of hope the answer was “yes.” The hope Henry fought back.
“Did he attempt to flee and have to be captured?”
“He is as the Guards found him on their arrival. I am—”
The young man interrupted with a laugh—a bright, beautiful baritone, filling the room with a joy entirely out of place in the circumstances.
The king’s low and angry voice in turn smashed the laughter. “You think all this is a joke?”
The young man blinked. “No, Your Majesty. I just thought it was funny someone thought I might run away. Only a coward runs, when he knows he’s done no wrong. I did what was right.”
“You struck my son.”
The young man shrugged. “I’ll strike any bully beating a child.”
Someone in the room gasped. The king merely thanked the Thirty-Nine it wasn’t him and pretended he hadn’t heard.
But as Hiram spoke he realized he was defending his son because of a father’s obligation, not from a belief in his innocence. “Prince Henry is my heir. He would never—”
“He did.” Kings do not flabbergast easily. Hiram was rendered so. Rogermight interrupt him in the privacy of the royal chambers, but elsewhere? No one dared. Until the young man.
Who had no idea what he was facing; had no idea of the inevitable outcome of his admission of guilt. Hiram did not need to hear more. The law was clear. The punishment was clear.
Yet if he was compelled to do as the law demanded, he would at least learn the truth first.
“Do you have any witnesses?”
The young man’s response was a scoffing, “Of course. Anyone there will tell you…” His voice faded away. “But they won’t, will they? He’s a prince, I’m a foreigner, and they’ll only tell you what a kingly father wants to hear: his son is as pure and innocent as the drifting…slush would be, in a kingdom where snow is possible.”
The chin-tilt this time was defiant. “So. What’s the penalty in this kingdom for saving a child from a beating which might have left him crippled?”
The young man paled, but didn’t flinch, and when he moved his hands to the table, there was no trembling.
Nor was there any in his voice. It was calm, almost matter-of-fact, and he didn’t avert his eyes from the king’s. “Interesting. I thought to rescue a child and instead I start a war.”
Old Moldy heard a threat and started to bluster. Hiram heard a statement of fact, or what the young man believed was truth. He told Old Moldy “No!” and the Chancellor slumped back in his chair.
“A man admits to a crime in my kingdom, for which the law demands the severest penalty. Why should anyone go to war over just punishment?” Everyone heard the silent question, “Who are you your death would cause a war?”
The young man’s bow—so far as he could in his seating situation—was formal. An objective observer might have called it regal.
“Your Majesty, permit me to introduce myself. I am Danilo ys Daeaen ys Cirill. I am the only grandson of the Duke of Avann.” The young man shrugged. “They call me the Heir of Avann.”
OF PRINCES FALSE AND TRUE
BLOG TOUR INTERVIEW
Is there a character in your work you feel especially connected to? Why?
Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes.
Me. And my partner of 30 years.
It was March of 1965. Although I’d known I was gay since I was roughly five, it took me until I was 21 to come out to my parents, and truly admit it to “the world.” I was in my senior year in college, in a town with not much by way of gay bars, so I headed to the “metropolis” with a date. Or meeting a date at the particular very popular bar. (Can’t quite remember because that fuzziness isn’t all that important.)
We met in…let’s say…a most unusual way.
I ditched my date—wasn’t that a queer thing to do?—to go to an after-hours party with him. I traveled back and forth a lot until graduation, and moved to that city in June of 1965 to be with him. The pejorative “instalove” is tossed around a lot these days, which is sad for you all. Love at first sight exists. Always has, always will, if you let it. It happened to me.
We were together until his unexpected passing in August of 1995.
The main characters in The Warlord and the Bard meet the same way we did, though in a much more royal and imperial way in that fantasy world. So, yeah. Special connection, indeed.
What is the hardest part of writing?
I don’t have the drive that other writers do, the kind which keeps them writing every day besides having full-time responsibilities with family and day jobs. For the most part, over the years, I’ve had difficulty in starting up and keeping in a productive writing mode with any semblance of regularity.
Here’s a list of what’s in progress, from a page or two to sixty percent or more, from short story to novella to novel: Adam’s Other Rib, The Assassin’s Song, The Bartered Bridegroo, bloodLight, Christmas at the Baths, The Dragon Winked, Dragonne’s Lair, hrny 4 u, 3 Boars & a Wolf Walk Into a Bar, The Truth About Them Damned Goats, Little Red’s Riding a Hood, Hath Not a Demon, The Prince and The Redneck, Sranjir in an Odd Land, The Serpent Mark, Strathairn’s Warrior, Taren’s Tale, The Biter Bitten, and Without the Cask.
These are good ideas. Some of them are great ideas. (You may have noticed my opinions are not very humble.) And they ought to be finished.
Since I committed myself to finishing Of Princes, and no way out (a Regency set in Another England) by signing up for back-to-back blog tours, I’m hoping that will provide the impetus to keep going. So I can get at least 3 Boars and Damned Goats out in 2019…and maybe whittle down the rest of that list.
I can but hope.
Where do you look for inspiration for new stories?
Please, no! You saw the list above.
New ideas? I’m the guy who strings large cloves of garlic around the doors and windows of his house, and adds crosses, to keep the vampires out. New ideas are, I believe, just like vampires.
So to the greatest extent possible, I keep my authorial eyes closed, and have a finger in each authorial ear, all the while going “La, la, la, la, la! I can’t hear you” as loud as I can, whenever I’m in the vicinity of a new idea.
But the sneaky things…sneak in anyway.
I saw a gorgeous male dancer in tights and “tanktop,” stand on his right foot, and raise his left leg until it was vertical, nose pressed to knee, hands above to calf and ankle in an incredible display of flexibility. Which somehow became a serpent shifter in that position, and then other positions calling for serpentine flexibility. “The Biter Bitten” was born.
A while back I watched Adam’s Rib (Tracy/Hepburn) on TCM, and the next day, there was Mike the Manly Muse tapping on my shoulder, then yanking me into the office and forcing me into the chair when I balked. “Shouldn’t there be a gay version of this?” he asked, turning on the computer and monitor without my agreeing, putting my hands on the keyboard. That’s how “Adam’s Other Rib” got started.
Bottom line: New ideas? Nope. Not for me. No way, nohow. La, la, la, la, la.
Uh…what was that you said, Mike?
What are you currently wearing?
Really? What an inappropriate, intrusive intrusion into my privacy. (That’s properly pronounced PRIV-ah-cee.) It’s a good thing this was the last question. Had it been the first I might have walked out of this interview with a display of some degree of dudgeon. I give very good dudgeon.
Eric is a Midwesterner, and as Lady Glenhaven might say, “His first sea voyage was with Noah.” He started reading at five with one of the Andrew Lang books (he thinks it was The Blue Fairy Book) and has been a science fiction/fantasy addict ever since. Most of his writing is in those (MM) genres.
The exceptions are his Another England (alternate history) series: The Rake, The Rogue and the Roué(Regency novel), Mr. Felcher’s Grand Emporium, or, The Adventures of a Pair of Spares in the Fine Art of Gentlemanly Portraiture(Victorian), with no way out(Regency) coming out a month after Of Princes.
Two more fairy tales are in progress: 3 Boars & A Wolf Walk Into A Bar(Eric is sure you can figure this one out), and The Truth About Them Damn Goats(of the gruff variety).
Now all he has to do is find the time to write the incomplete stuff! (The real world can be a real pain!)
There’s a new queer romance anthology out that benefits RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) – Summer Fair.
Summer festivals bring the aroma of popcorn, the excitement of rides, and the promise of real-life enchantment. Seven authors bring you original love stories, each set at a different summer celebration. You’ll experience the thrill of the Chicago World’s fair through the eyes of a plucky girl reporter and the quiet desperation of a teen working a summer job at a traveling carnival. Get whisked away on romantic journeys around the world from a sweet Texas Dewberry Festival to a lantern-filled temple celebration to a surprisingly rowdy New England Founders Day. Whether it’s the magic of a Renaissance Fair, the excitement of a Theater Retreat, or the pulse of a Music Festival, you’re sure to get geared up for all things summer with this delightful new collection.
Note: Most stories are fantasy, but this anthology also includes historical, paranormal and contemporary works.
She decided to do something bold. “Come up in the wheel with me.”
“I’ve been up in the wheel,” but Cathleen didn’t say no. “You don’t have to buy me a ticket.”
“But I want to,” Anna said. “I want to go up there with you. The line is long. It may be the last thing I get to do today, and though I’m terrified I can’t pass up the chance to do something that is once-in-a-lifetime.”
“No, I imagine you can’t.” Wiping her face, Cathleen finished her hot dog. Anna did the same, and they returned their glasses to the Pabst booth and then got into the long line for the wheel. Children bounced in line, excited to go up but bored with waiting. Men smoked and sent the wafts of smoke across all the people in line, and more than one person looked nervous about going into the sky in the steel contraption.
Anna and Cathleen bought tickets and, by virtue of space, were shoved together as they shuffled slowly to the front.
“Mercy, but it’s high.” Anna felt as if she might be sick.
“You don’t have to do it, you know.”
“But I’ve already bought a ticket.”
“Someone’d pay you for it.”
“But I’ve come all this way and I’m here standing underneath it. Besides, what’ll I do if I don’t—go look at the Fisheries?”
She felt a warm hand take hers and nearly fainted. Cathleen had taken her hand. “Don’t be afraid. It’s fun. It really is.”
“And if it collapses and we die, at least we’ll die together.”
Anna groaned but did not take her hand away. Hand in hand, they reached the front of the line and waited with a group of thirty others for the next car to come down and to board. Cathleen pulled them to a windowed corner where they could both press against the glass.
Still, they held hands.
And when the car started to move, Anna squeezed hard from nerves without thinking. Cathleen ducked her head in and put her lips to Anna’s. It was brief, just a momentary touch, but then she whispered into Anna’s ear. “Don’t be afraid.”
Anna wasn’t. Cathleen’s lips against hers had taken away all the fear she had felt about the Ferris Wheel, and then some. With Cathleen beside her, their fingers entwined, she rode the car that rose into the air and beheld the entire fair in all directions before her. She saw the Coliseum of the Wild West show, and the balloon in the sky, and all the trains, and all the people, and all the way back to the basin where she’d first entered the fair off the Lake. The sun was just beginning to go down in the sky. Soon, it would be evening, and Anna would need to get on her way—but with the incredible views and the hand of the lovely girl in hers, and Anna’s heart swelled about to bursting. She could have wept at it all, at this perfect day.
The car started to descend.
“We get one more loop,” Cathleen said.
“I wish it was a hundred,” Anna replied, turning to her friend. “I wish we could stay here forever.” It was an honest confession.
Cathleen smiled, but sadly. With the displays below, Anna felt as if she could see all the world ahead of her. And all the world seemed so small and unimportant.
About the Authors
The brain child of Chicago romance author Marie Piper, the StoryPenners is a collection of fiction and romance authors dedicated to producing independent anthologies to support charitable causes. The StoryPenners has members from the Midwest, the West Coast, New England, Canada, England, and Australia.
Original Members: Marie Piper, Harley Easton, CM Peters, S.B. Roark, and Sienna Saint-Cyr
Contributing StoryPenners: Randi Perrin, Annabeth Leong, Gregory L. Norris, R.L. Merrill, Katey Tattrie, R. Diamond, Arden de Winter
When I was younger, I’d kind of ‘shut off’ emotionally. Not much affected me by my teen years. I was depressed, into cutting myself (mostly because I wanted to feel something and that was something I could feel), and I ended up working for the local fair. While the fair was run by local folks mostly, the rides were brought in by another party. The folks that ran the rides referred to themselves as Carnies.
Many aspects of my story are real and likely have that feel for that reason. I’ve changed names and scenarios, but there really was a very sweet man running the Tilt-O-Whirl and my friend and I did indeed ask him to ride it with us. We were the first to ever ask him and it really did bring him to tears. I’ve wondered how he’s doing over the years but each year brought a new carnival and different crew, so I never found out. I was sad when I realized he was never coming back.
It’s true that the rules are different when you work for a carnival. I was only fifteen and constantly being hit on by older men. They’d slam cups onto the counter and say, “Do me,” and most of them were complete jerks. And worse, tolerated jerks. But not all were like that. The man that ran the Tilt-O-Whirl was good to me. He watched out for me (and my friend). I didn’t have visible cutting scars then because I mostly kept that to areas people wouldn’t see, but I suspect he saw pain in me, just as I have my characters experience in the story. I saw his pain to.
That’s why I wrote this story the way I did. He’d once told me that no woman could ever love him. I wanted to give him a better story than that. This stranger that I only knew as Carnie Nine was my inspiration for this story. I hope he’s still around, that he’s found someone to love him, and that he one day reads this story and remembers the teen girls that asked him to ride the Tilt-O-Whirl with him.
Sienna Saint-Cyr’s erotic fiction has appeared in the Love Slave books and Sexual Expression series; contemporary erotica in Silence is Golden and Goodbye Moderation: Lust, and romance in Melt, Haunt, and Summer Fair. She also writes nonfiction and flash fiction for several websites. Sienna owns and edits for SinCyr Publishing, an erotica company with a focus
on shifting rape culture one sexy story at a time. She also runs a nonprofit writing workshop and writes dark SF and literary fiction under her legal name.
Along with writing, Sienna speaks at conventions, workshops, and for private gatherings on such sex-positive topics as a healthy body image, using sexuality to promote healing, enthusiastic consent, LGBTQIA, CPTSD, and navigating diverse or non-traditional relationships.
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