Haevyn and Emotional Cost

 

Haevyn_smIn Quentopolis women have been relegated to secondary status in many cases. Women of the working class society, lead very difficult lives. The Elite are treated more as pampered dolls, cosseted and spoiled, to be seen but not heard, with some similarity to that experienced in the 19th century. Yet, as with any society, there are some who do not tow the line, who break from this suffocating sort of bondage.

There are women–some surviving by their wits and intelligence, some by courage and an adventurous spirit–these are women who strive to break free. Some, like Silver from the first book in this series, end up paying a high price, including human and personal freedom. For some, such as the courtesan madam, Violette Goldswan, they wield their power through different, more shadowy avenues. And some, like Haevyn Breina, will attempt to rise through the more public ranks, clawing their way to a position where they have a chance of gaining societal acceptance as an equal, and gaining respect in the more demanding arena of this male-dominated society. None of this is accomplished without emotional cost. None of these women face and accept the challenges of this rather brutal society in quite the same way. For Haevyn, the rewards are worth the steep price. She does not back down from doing what must be done.

In Quentopolis, sexual relations and sexuality are very open and accepted parts of this society. For some it is about pleasure, for some it is a tool to rise through the ranks. Sex is used for negotiation; it is also a shared bond between friends. And it is also an art form, highly prized by a nobility class known as the Dominatae.

Haevyn Breina is of the Moondown Water District working class. Her parents were killed in a factory fire, leaving the care of her younger brother, Bhrett, in her hands. Responsibility came to her at a young age and she accepted it, along with every hardship and payment that security demanded. She gave up her virginity to a higher purpose and though it left her bruised and battered, she has never regretted her choices. When a brand new arm of the Regulate opens up to females, she jumps at the chance, even though strictly speaking the Compsociate Branch is considered by many to be simply a finely labeled government sanctioned army of courtesans in service to the upper Regulate officers. Haevyn accepts the challenge determined to rise within the ranks, but it is not without additional damage to her psyche.

Her lover and friend, Grisha, has served as her anchor, her “calm, safe haven” throughout her life. A simple fisherman, he is far distanced from the machinations of the political arena. But Grisha, more wise than Haevyn realizes, knows there is more that his lovely, wounded lover needs than the warmth and healing of his loving embrace. He knows very well how close to the edge she really is. But so is his other lover, an expatriate Orictan warrior by the name of Entreus.

In any world an emotional cost must attach, though all creatures deal with trauma differently. Some will splinter, some will rise to meet the challenge of adversity and fashion it into their strength. Some bear an anger or rage–they try to ignore or funnel through some other channel. Entreus funnels his rage and frustration through the illegal Cockrage events. Haevyn tries to bury her anger beneath a veneer of tightly-held control. Grisha knows this about each of them and has a sense of their needs.

How these three people adapt, grow, and hopefully heal is at the emotional core of this story. The journey is complicated by a very dangerous and deadly enemy to the city-state whom they must battle.

This is the world of Humanotica. Read an excerpt from “Haevyn,” the second book in the Humanotica series…

Read an excerpt from Silver, the first book in the Humanotica series.

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Haevyn buy links:

Amazon Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078C51G5Z
Smashwords Buy Link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/816536
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Silver buy links:

Amazon Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074PB91BV
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Tracking Backstory for My Soul He Seeks

Tracking Backstory for My Soul He Seeks

MySoulHeSeeks_smBrainstorming for this story started with word association. No, back up, it didn’t start there. It began with the image of a man. Hispanic, gypsy. What did he do? What’s in his soul? And so I dug deeper. Music is in his soul. What kind of music? There was no other answer. Flamenco. In researching, one line resonated with me, and with Ravol. Flamenco is at the very heart of the gitano culture with strong roots in Andalusia. And thus Ravol Nova was born.

Ravol possesses a dark and mysterious history. Rumors about his relationship, and the murder of his lover, Francesco, haunt him unceasingly. For me, this past came to life through a video on Youtube. Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch/?v=Y6slgaVCSxM. A duel of guitars in a sense. But for my story the duel started between a young Flamenco guitarist and a Flamenco dancer. What better inspiration could I find for the dancer than this Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXBctPuGIfU. Joaquim Cortes. Wow. Perfect. I had the passion and the pain of my backstory.

The foundation of Ravol’s dark haunting, is the murder of his passionate lover, Francesco, that has colored his life so deeply. But there was more, a lot more, because as I got into writing the story, I realized Ravol actually was a descendant of a lost gypsy tribe, the Zhalazti, which has its roots in Babylonian origins. (My story, “Run to Ground”, provides the foundation for the Zhalazti in more detail.)  And thus there is magic– a special magic he must harness and use in an effort to bring peace to his life. And he will use any means to find that peace. To that end, he acquires a special musical instrument. Enter, the young, auction house researcher, Byron Shepley, who has a very dark and somewhat disturbing history with the mansion Ravol now lives in. And it is on a dark and stormy night these two men will finally meet.

These fictional facts represent the foundation of “My Soul He Seeks,” as both Ravol and Byron, in seeking resolution to their past histories, may discover a light of love shining through the darkness shading each of their souls, even though there is nothing remotely simple about the attraction they soon share.

“My Soul He Seeks” is a story of redemption and resolution in many ways. It is also about sacrifice and revenge.

One last little tidbit about this story. I needed to name my town…something special. Ternekill wasn’t just something I pulled from my black hat and pasted into the story. I starting researching names. I thought about the town and the story and the people.  The word “terne” I discovered is a Delaware Native American word for…wolf. What better name could I choose? Especially with Ravol’s history as descending from the werewolf clan, the Zhalazti? Having grown up in central New York near the Catskills, I finished off the name of the town with the word, “kill.” Two meanings, one the obvious–to murder, or kill. The other goes back to the roots of the area, and the early settlers of New York – the Dutch. Kill refers to a river or a creek. Kille, meaning riverbed or channel. Thus, the town’s name of Ternekill. There is reference in the story to a dark spot in Ternekill history regarding the Ternekill Creek.

Did I mention I love creating backstory?

Read the excerpt I posted last month for “My Soul He Seeks.”  Discover where this all leads in the sequel, “My Fate, My Destiny,” releasing June 26, and currently available for pre-order on Amazon.

 

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Hot Satin & Blood-Red Silk – an excerpt

Blurb:

HotSatinandBloodRedSilk_smOlivia once yearned for love and the perfect marriage. She thought she’d found it when she wed sweet, handsome Ethan, never dreaming his romantic demeanor masked an abusive demon. Through her dreams, Olivia found the courage to leave him. Now, on a cold Valentine’s night, still recovering after the divorce yet feeling empowered once again, Olivia enjoys her freedom from love, with no wish to share this otherwise romantic evening with anyone. But freedom comes at a cost, and Olivia’s frozen heart and hungry soul possess a thirst for something she’s afraid to name. In answer to the call she cannot deny, Martin, her vampire mentor, finally returns to claim his chosen mate. And Olivia is more than ready to pay the price for her darkest passions, and to gain immortality. Karma can be a bitch–just ask Olivia’s ex-husband. But will her bargain with a vampire bring her everything she desires on Valentine’s Day?

EXCERPT:

It was a decadent display with scatters of black lace inset at the most provocative places. Olivia reached out to touch the molten creation, wanting to convince herself it wasn’t made of liquid fire, the way it shimmered beneath the lone spotlight above.

She closed her eyes as she absorbed its ethereal texture, imagined what it would feel like sliding against her own skin. But reality broke through. When would she ever have the nerve to wear something like this? Why would she want to? It was a garment meant to entice, and that was something she had absolutely no interest in doing. Her glance landed on her hand, on her ring finger, which still showed a shadow of the ring she’d once worn. Alas, she let her hand fall away and the silken mass drifted back to embrace the shapely leg of the inanimate model posed on the dais.

And yet, Olivia couldn’t bring herself to turn away; her feet seemed glued to the spot. She imagined the look of the man she would be willing to don such a sinful garment for. The perfect man–the embodiment of all she had once fantasized about. Before she’d met Ethan. Before he’d dashed all her dreams with the first punch to her stomach.

A whisper of an image formed inside her head. She tried to shove it away. Her skin grew hot at the thought of the touch of her fantasy lover. For the first time in many months her pussy grew wet at the thought of a man touching her. She fought against the image, tightened her thighs, tried to force the sexual heat back into its frozen compartment.

Try it on, Olivia. You’d look beautiful wearing it. Wearing it, and nothing else.

Olivia whipped around, searching for whomever it was that had spoken in that European-accented, sexy voice.

She saw him standing near the jewelry counter. It had to be him. Exquisitely dressed in a black suit, a white silk shirt. Pale skin, glossy black hair, mesmerizing black eyes. Her heartbeat quickened as she met his gaze. Recognition was just beginning to claw its way to the surface of her mind.

Ethan had been blond with light blue eyes and an all-too-easy smile. This man was nothing like Ethan. Ethan had never looked as dangerous as the man staring back at her from the other side of the store. Ethan’s rages had come out of nowhere, always catching her off guard. This man–no one could ever take for granted. Everything about him screamed dangerous.

Predator.

Run, Olivia, run. Her own voice screamed inside her head.

Too late.

The dressing room, Olivia. Go there now.

She knew him. She recognized that voice. Her whole body recognized that voice, not just her mind. She couldn’t help responding. Primed like Pavlov’s dog. This man was inside her mind. Not a new presence, but one that had remained in hibernation all these many months, the memory shielded from awareness.

He hadn’t said a word. She never saw his lips move. And yet she felt compelled–compelled to go to the dressing room. Compelled to do as she was told. Without question.

“Closing time in fifteen minutes. Please complete your shopping and make your way to a cashier.”

Olivia heard the announcement, but it seemed to bear no relationship to her. Instead she moved toward the dressing rooms. None of the sales clerks stopped her. None of them looked at her as she passed them. She focused on making it to the farthest cubicle from the activity in the store.

Silence. Barely a whisper of sound. Perfect.

Olivia slipped inside, closed and locked the door, shutting out the last vestiges of the voices of the clerks and the echoing footsteps of straggling customers in the store. She closed her eyes, took a deep shuddering breath, then opened them again, and stared into the mirror, gazed at her own reflection. He didn’t have to tell her. This was it. She’d waited a long time. Slowly she removed her clothing.

Olivia dropped her purse and then her gloves. Her coat followed. Her black cotton shirt, her black and white checked wool skirt, her white nylon slip.

She stared at her reflection in the mirror–at the lacy white bra and matching satin bikini panties, the nude colored pantyhose. She took inventory of the scars at her hips, her shoulder, her thigh. The slender expensive gold watch on her wrist. A gift from Ethan after her last stay in the hospital for her broken shoulder. She heard the loud chiming of the antique clock at the center of the store. Cinderella came to mind. Time no longer mattered. She didn’t shudder when a cold draft of air skimmed across her skin, like ghosts trampling across her grave. Her nipples puckered. Excitement mounted.

All of it, Olivia. Every last piece.

She lifted her chin, straightened her shoulders, glared at her reflection. No fear. Never again.

Her pussy was still wet, soaking the satin of her panties, her lips engorged with blood, sensitive and puffy. It had been a long time since she’d felt this aroused. A very long time. Olivia’s heart was still safely frozen, but her body–her body was on fire.

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Now available at these ebook outlets:

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Gulietta – an excerpt

Blurb:

guliettasmallThe lovely and seductive Gulietta requires sex on an inhumanly frequent basis. It isn’t until the Roman immortal, Quintus, barrels into her life, revealing the identity of her father, that suddenly she’s dropped into a magical world populated with atyrs, fairies, and shapeshifters. It seems her “problem” is not rooted in human sexual dysfunction after all. Gulietta finally discovers who and what her father is–as well as what she is. And Quintus has made it clear he is the man who can provide exactly what she needs. That is, if her father’s game plan doesn’t get in the way…

 

EXCERPT:

Satyr’s Court, Reate, Italy

The wide braided red leather collars were a striking improvement over the boring black of her father’s court. The father of whom she’d only recently learned the identity.

Red marked the members of her newly-appointed attendants. Gulietta rose from the green vine-entangled cedar throne. She pulled a succulent purple grape from the wooden tray and popped it into her mouth. As she bit down, sweet juice flooded her mouth. Gulietta’s gaze drifted around the courtyard as she stepped off the dais. Dancing stopped. Flute music and drums ceased as all eyes turned to her. Who would have thought this was where she would end up? Who could have known that her curiosity about the big black door in the photograph would lead to her destiny? This was certainly not what she had envisioned for herself.

She brushed a hand down the curve of her naked hip. She pushed her long black hair over her shoulder. In this land, behind the black door, clothing was optional. An afterthought.

“Continue with the music,” she said as she strode across the garden, elves and fairies and lesser satyrs of the court making a path. Immediately the sound of music filled the courtyard once again. The fauns and nymphs began to dance, twirling and swaying to the light, cheerful music.

“Take care, Gulietta. You push me too far.”

The smile was wiped from her lush lips. Her horns tingled. A rack of antlers, feminine, yet deadly. She whirled around to face the tall Roman who shadowed her every move.

“Your duty is finished, Quintus. You have returned me to my supposedly rightful place. You have done your duty to my father. Why are you still here?”

Without warning he fastened his hand to her slender hips and yanked her toward him. Too close for her to drop forward and use her horns. She beat her hands against his iron-hard chest.

“Let me go. I’ve let you bully me as much as I’m going to.”

He shoved her backward until her back was against a stone wall. Only then did he remove one hand from her waist and fist it into her hair, effectively stilling her movements.

“Bullied you? I’ve protected you. I’ve guided you.” He leaned closer until his hot breath brushed across her ear. “I’ve claimed you. And now you belong to me, Sabine woman. Your father promised you to me if I brought you back safely.”
She struggled against him to no avail. That was the whole problem. Gulietta was a duty and nothing more. A means to an end for Quintus. More than a thousand years had passed since Sabine women had first been the coin of prosperity for Romulus, nothing but a way to populate Rome.

Gulietta beat her fists against Quintus’s chest, he arched her head to the side, exposing her neck, taut and bare. His mouth fastened onto her flesh, fangs scraping across and then piercing her skin. She felt the rush of hot connection as he quelled her anger, forcing her to submit.

His tongue licked across the aching wounds as she felt her resistance ebb away. And yet the blood rushed hotly through her veins. When he finally raised his head and forced her to look at him, his eyes burned like molten steel newly forged in fire. His expression dark and lusty. This man–no, this immortal Roman guardian–a servant to her father–dug deep into her heart. And she hated that she could not find the strength to resist him. She would give anything to not want him–to not need him–as badly as she did.

She felt the familiar pain, a tug of lust that shot straight down to her vulva. She throbbed with desire, a need that thus far she had been unable to deny. And that only Quintus could ease.

“Quintus.” His name, an ache of longing. The smell of him. She leaned forward and licked at a nipple, tasting him, then suddenly drove her teeth into his flesh.

 

Now available at these ebook retail outlets:

Universal link for other bookstores (B&N, KOBO, etc.) : http://books2read.com/gulietta

Amazon Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01E0U0DIY

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Blood Bounty – an Excerpt

A vampire with a raging thirst for human blood and erotic pleasure; a man with a secret mission to find and destroy the undead. But lusty midnight passions defy logic, while boundaries and duty hold no sway on the decks of the Night Stalker. Captain Dontè Lucienne is the vampire captain of the Night Stalker. His crew is human, men who serve the vampires of Noctra, providing sustenance, as well as loyalty. They are fighters as well as lovers, and devoted to their vampire masters. They would destroy any who tried to kill their captain. Skye Templeton is a man on a dangerous mission. Plucked from the swelling seas by the crew of the Night Stalker, he’s exactly where he needs to be. Will he come out alive, or end up as fodder to the lust of the vampirate captain? His duty is clear, at least until he comes to know this licentious crew and their magnetic leader…until he comes under the supernatural, relentless spell of the Night Stalker.

EXCERPT

“Why?” he asked Skye, pointing to the blood and hair-encrusted axe.

Skye shrugged. “It seemed the thing to do at the time.”

“Do you know what they are? What they were?”

This time when Skye looked at Donté, the vampire captain saw confusion swirling within the blueness of his pupils. “No. I-I thought–”

VON1_BloodBounty_smAh, revelation swept through Donté. “The axe was for me, wasn’t it?”

Skye looked him square in the eye. “I thought you meant to kill all those people. You’re a vampire, what else was I supposed to think?”

“My reputation. They all think the vampires of Noctra sail the seas in search of victims to gorge our thirst. Isn’t that right?” Skye’s hands tightened around the axe handle.

“What else are we supposed to think? Vampires trail a heavy reputation of killing in order to appease their hunger.”
Donté started at him for a long time. His instincts told him Skye had been sent here to kill him. So why did he hesitate to have done with Templeton right this minute?

He nodded to the axe. “Well, here you are. And here I am. So why don’t you finish the deed you’ve come here to do?”

“How do you know I was sent to kill you?”

Donté shrugged. “You wouldn’t be the first.”

“What happened to the others?”

Donté looked back across to the other ship. “A few are now part of my crew. The others,” he looked down at the water. “A few have found everlasting peace or hell, depending on your perspective.”

“You’re a vampire. You have everlasting life.”

Donté watched as Skye swung the axe from his shoulder and dropped it to the deck. Donté looked down at the discarded weapon and almost felt a twinge of regret. What he wouldn’t give to have all of this done and over with. There was so little he found pleasure in any more. So many lovers dead, so many of his crew sacrificed. He felt the first heat of dawn’s fingers against his neck. All he had to do was remain on deck and it would be over with once and for all. He looked at Skye.

“You could have killed me tonight. My focus was on the undead on the ship. My men might have thought it an accident in the surge of bloodlust and they would have let you go.”

“Yes. That’s true.”

“So, why didn’t you?” He was curious to know the young man’s answer. There was something that intrigued him about Skye Templeton. This was a strong, intelligent man, rather unlike the rest of his crew. Most of them had spent their lives following the orders of others. But not this one. He definitely felt a strong attraction for the man–and it was more than his blood. Yet, his attention was drawn to the purple vein pulsing in Skye’s neck.

“I won’t become part of your food stores, Captain.”

Donté’s attention refocused on Skye’s face. “Do you think I need another?” He swept an arm in a semi-circle. “I have a crew of men more than eager to quench my thirst. Willingly. Do you think I need you?”

There was something indefinable in Skye’s expression. Donté’s attention turned to his mouth. Templeton meant to hold himself apart from the rest of his crew. But there was an element of desire and yet defiance in the way he held himself. A flagrant challenge to the vampire captain to force the young man’s submission.

“You will yield to me. Eventually.”

Those beautiful lips curved into a smile. A tongue slipped out to wet the elegant fullness. Suddenly, Donté swooped forward and possessed them, curling a hand tightly into the long blond locks. Taking what he wanted, tasting the sweetness of strong defiance in the young merchant’s kiss.

Skye pressed forward, off-balancing the vampire, pressing advantage, forcing Donté against the rail, as he took control of the passionate kiss. He thrust his tongue between Donté’s lips; his determined hands cupped the vampire’s cheeks, facing down the danger of such a predatory master.

If Donté had a heart that beat, it would have drum rolled a fast and furious pace as desire roared for Skye Templeton. He pulled free from Skye’s lips and stumbled away. He put the weakness that consumed him down to weariness from the night’s battle.

Donté slid his tongue over his lower, engorged lip and felt a trickle of blood and wiped it away.

“You challenge what you have no understanding of,” he said. He fought the desire to have this human in his bed right this minute. Bound to it, supping from him at his leisure. Or hanging on his wall, the bite of metal binding him in Donté’s presence. There was something in Skye Templeton, something so different and so desirable. So forbidden.

“I’ll give you what you need, my captain, all in good time.”

“Your blood?”

Skye smiled. But it was a strange look of mastery to the expression. “Your marks will never mar my flesh, Donté Lucienne. But perhaps my marks will decorate yours.”

Available on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LRK9JVC

Deadeye – EXCERPT

Dark and deadly adventure awaits in the old-west town of Deadeye. Vitus, a displaced Roman soldier, and Caecilia, handmaiden to a lusty goddess, must embrace a world of lustful and devious demons, in a town of high-stakes gamblers, quick and murderous gunslingers, vicious outlaws, and pretty soiled doves in order to succeed in their mission. And then there’s the hell-zombies who guard the place.

deadeye_smJustus, an incubus, is the son of the demon lord of Infernia, who also happens to own this decadent western town–a lusty sex demon who must shed his dark shadow in order to accept his destiny as a Nacraecian Dreamweaver Sorcerer, a destiny inherited from the blood of his dreamweaver mother. There’s more dangers than what’s just on the surface awaiting these three.

Three who meet, three who must face their duty to claim their destinies, three who risk everything to be free.

EXCERPT

1880s, The American West

Caecilia.

Where was she now? He’d last caught sight of her—what was it? Paris, a century ago. She’d been working on the stage at the time. Vitus had been sent there to retrieve one of Apollo’s daughters and dispense with the demi-god who had spirited her away. Vitus didn’t allow himself to dwell on Caecilia’s whereabouts too often. It did no good, served no purpose, other than to irritate the hell out of him.

The living had a way of thinking of hell in simplified terms, Vitus thought as he leaned forward in his saddle and surveyed the deadly western landscape spread out before him. The sun beat down hot and boiling. The saddle leather creaked as he leaned back, pulled out the makings and rolled himself a cigarette. He stuck it between his lips, lit it, and inhaled deeply, then released the smoke into the air. One of the simple pleasures he’d embraced from this time, and this untamed western land was one of the few places that challenged his innate warrior nature.

Gods and their vengeance. Long lasting and purely hell on earth. But even hell was only what you made it and not exactly the same for everyone. Being dropped into the court of Apollo had not led to an easy path for Vitus, but it was one he was familiar with and one he had learned to embrace.

I don’t need another lover, Roman. I want a gladiator to entertain me. I’ve become bored and I thank Diana for her most timely gift. Let us hope you prove to be worth the time. Immortality should offer plenty of opportunity for you to hone your skills. We shall see.

“Hey, stranger. You heading down there?”

Vitus tugged at the corner of his black felt hat and dipped it down lower. Fingers whispered across the handle of his Colt as he twisted around to inspect the newcomer. He liked the feel of the weapons of this age as he had the swords and daggers of his own time. In some ways they were faster and more efficient. A sword allowed for a bit more artistic endeavor, but when up against other weapons of the same caliber, one had to make do. Or die.“Ponderin’ the possibilities,” Vitus responded. Language was another thing that had turned serviceable. Earthy and practical. Lazy language that masked intention. In this land he’d had to adapt, to learn their language, assume their mannerisms, adopt their clothing. Folks were wary of people who spoke differently, had different ways about them, different rituals. So he’d adapted. The gods enjoyed this age of bloodshed, of lawlessness. They bathed endlessly in the violence.

“You know what’s down there, don’t you?” the dandified down-and-out gambler in the threadbare suit asked Vitus.

“Yep, I’ve heard.” Vitus squinted as he focused on the now fiery-tinged landscape. He felt the ferocity of that heat just beneath his skin. The pain was welcome and he absorbed its rejuvenating intensity.

“A king’s ransom at those tables in Deadeye. A poker game to beat any other, I hear.”

“So they say.” Deadly games, no matter the choice. “Surprised you didn’t take the midnight train into Deadeye. Would have been safer than crossing the desert.”

“No ticket. Ain’t easy to come by. I’ve already waited months kicking my heels in that one-horse town on the other side of the ravine. Lost my partner there when he got too antsy and tried to lift a ticket that warn’t his. Damn gunfighter shot him right between the eyes. Thought it best I hightail it outta there a’fore I was next. So, want some company?” the newcomer asked hopefully.

Deadeye. That’s what they called a shot like that in these parts. A shot like that got you respect on this side of the ravine. It gave you position, one of the fastest ways to get an audience with Zevodious.

The gambler looked so pale and cool to Vitus. He wanted to draw the gambler to him, to absorb the chilliness of his flesh. At least cooler compared to Vitus’s own flesh. But if he touched the gambler, Vitus would quench himself with the bracing human energy, like a tall icy drink of water. Attractive human energy undulated around the man. It was pretty, sexually enticing in a human sort of way. It was bright enough to light the sky in the dead of night. Not obvious to humans—but to Vitus’s kind—those of the night? He would be a beacon to the hell-zombies who would just be rising and surely ravenous. Not much flesh on the gambler—he’d obviously seen lean times. The creatures would make short shrift of him. Vitus doubted the man would make it much past sunset if he went down there right now.

“Nope. Not too keen on crossing the Saguaro at sundown. Wouldn’t advise it. You go down there now, you go it alone.”

“No need to be unfriendly. My name’s Cuthbert. You got a name, stranger?”

Vitus didn’t even turn to look at the man. He knew the lure of gold wouldn’t keep the idealistic fool from trying to cross the Flats. Yep, sun-up as opposed to sundown would be a better time for Vitus to make his way on down to cross Temptation Flats. No reason to put himself out fighting off hell-zombies when there wasn’t a need to do such. He nudged his horse off to the right and away from Cuthbert.

“Hey, where you going?”

Vitus didn’t even slow, his mind on other matters. He’d made his intentions clear enough. Every man made his own choices, and lived or died with them.

“Well, fuck you. I’m not waiting another damned minute to get what’s coming to me. More for me when I get there.”

Get what’s coming to him. Sure enough he’d be on the receiving end of some mighty focused attention. Vitus heard the desperate bravado tingeing those words. He might have kept the gambler for the night, fucked him, enjoyed him and his cool, pale energy. Vitus could have warmed Cuthbert thoroughly with his own fire until the gambler completely forgot what he came here to do. The gods would have enjoyed the lusty exhibition—they always had enjoyed a taste for earthy. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

But the moment they navigated Temptation the gambler would only have lost his soul in Deadeye, one way or the other. Why put it off? Vitus wasn’t that needy. Not yet. Nor did he care that much what happened to the gambler. Not really. Another soul to be claimed by Zevodious.

He heard the click of the gambler’s tongue against his teeth as Cuthbert urged his horse forward and down the ridge. Vitus looked at the horizon, at the blaze of fiery orange coals stretched across the sky.

“Shit. What do you think, hoss? Let the bastards split him open and use him serviceable. Earthy and practical. Lazy language that masked intention. In this land he’d had to adapt, to learn their language, assume their mannerisms, adopt their clothing. Folks were wary of people who spoke differently, had different ways about them, different rituals. So he’d adapted. The gods enjoyed this age of bloodshed, of lawlessness. They bathed endlessly in the violence.

“You know what’s down there, don’t you?” the dandified down-and-out gambler in the threadbare suit asked Vitus.

“Yep, I’ve heard.” Vitus squinted as he focused on the now fiery-tinged landscape. He felt the ferocity of that heat just beneath his skin. The pain was welcome and he absorbed its rejuvenating intensity.

“A king’s ransom at those tables in Deadeye. A poker game to beat any other, I hear.”

“So they say.” Deadly games, no matter the choice. “Surprised you didn’t take the midnight train into Deadeye. Would have been safer than crossing the desert.”

“No ticket. Ain’t easy to come by. I’ve already waited months kicking my heels in that one-horse town on the other side of the ravine. Lost my partner there when he got too antsy and tried to lift a ticket that warn’t his. Damn gunfighter shot him right between the eyes. Thought it best I hightail it outta there a’fore I was next. So, want some company?” the newcomer asked hopefully.

Deadeye. That’s what they called a shot like that in these parts. A shot like that got you respect on this side of the ravine. It gave you position, one of the fastest ways to get an audience with Zevodious.

The gambler looked so pale and cool to Vitus. He wanted to draw the gambler to him, to absorb the chilliness of his flesh. At least cooler compared to Vitus’s own flesh. But if he touched the gambler, Vitus would quench himself with the bracing human energy, like a tall icy drink of water. Attractive human energy undulated around the man. It was pretty, sexually enticing in a human sort of way. It was bright enough to light the sky in the dead of night. Not obvious to humans—but to Vitus’s kind—those of the night? He would be a beacon to the hell-zombies who would just be rising and surely ravenous. Not much flesh on the gambler—he’d obviously seen lean times. The creatures would make short shrift of him. Vitus doubted the man would make it much past sunset if he went down there right now.

“Nope. Not too keen on crossing the Saguaro at sundown. Wouldn’t advise it. You go down there now, you go it alone.”

“No need to be unfriendly. My name’s Cuthbert. You got a name, stranger?”

Vitus didn’t even turn to look at the man. He knew the lure of gold wouldn’t keep the idealistic fool from trying to cross the Flats. Yep, sun-up as opposed to sundown would be a better time for Vitus to make his way on down to cross Temptation Flats. No reason to put himself out fighting off hell-zombies when there wasn’t a need to do such. He nudged his horse off to the right and away from Cuthbert.

“Hey, where you going?”

Vitus didn’t even slow, his mind on other matters. He’d made his intentions clear enough. Every man made his own choices, and lived or died with them.

“Well, fuck you. I’m not waiting another damned minute to get what’s coming to me. More for me when I get there.”

Get what’s coming to him. Sure enough he’d be on the receiving end of some mighty focused attention. Vitus heard the desperate bravado tingeing those words. He might have kept the gambler for the night, fucked him, enjoyed him and his cool, pale energy. Vitus could have warmed Cuthbert thoroughly with his own fire until the gambler completely forgot what he came here to do. The gods would have enjoyed the lusty exhibition—they always had enjoyed a taste for earthy. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

But the moment they navigated Temptation the gambler would only have lost his soul in Deadeye, one way or the other. Why put it off? Vitus wasn’t that needy. Not yet. Nor did he care that much what happened to the gambler. Not really. Another soul to be claimed by Zevodious.

He heard the click of the gambler’s tongue against his teeth as Cuthbert urged his horse forward and down the ridge. Vitus looked at the horizon, at the blaze of fiery orange coals stretched across the sky.

“Shit. What do you think, hoss? Let the bastards split him open and use him as an appetizer? Or try to save his sorry gambler ass? And for what? He’ll just put himself right in the path of killing in some other damned fashion? But hell-zombies—there could be an easier way, I reckon.”

Storm tossed his head, eyes of crimson flame rolling back. The silver bridle jangled, sharp hooves stomped impatiently.

“I was afraid you’d say that.” Vitus tossed the remains of his cigarette. He opened his black duster and checked each of the pockets, considering which of the array of weapons would get the job done the fastest. He checked the special bullets in the twin silver-plated five-shot Colt pistols. He checked the keen edge on the single-edged hunting cleaver. And then there was his favorite—the three-pointed African iron-forged throwing knife gifted to him by a chief several years back when he’d saved the man’s son. Yep, his personal arsenal was in order.

He nudged Storm forward and down the slope just as he heard the first muffled scream. The gambler’s terrified horse, eyes rolling back, galloped past them headed back up the ridge. The second scream echoed through the darkened sky. “Come on, hoss, sounds like ole Cuthbert needs some help. Zevodious’s hell-boys are getting ready to have themselves some fun tonight.”

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Run To Ground – An Excerpt

A savage and passionate breed of mythic wuv. Two men—alpha and mate, fight for their clan, and their lives, and to reclaim the passion one threw away when he left. Loyalty might be earned, but could trust be regained? There are no half-measures in the world of the Zhalazti. One will rule; one will submit. A new pack will arise. It is the law of their species and all will obey. Submit or die.

Tallin Undine, human-made savage wolfish creature. He was once human, now wuv-beast—a creature ruled by the moon—made through moon-madness and savagery, his human family slaughtered. It is a continual struggle to hold on to some bit of his humanity. Scarred by his former lover, a Zhalazti Luminarian of noble and ancient heritage, during a rite of passage, who then abandoned him, Tallin has clawed his way to some measure of standing. But now the vaida, his Zhalazti clan chief, his accepted alpha, has been killed, and the security of his adoptive nation is at risk. His mission—to bring back the man who must battle to claim his position as rightful chief against a Negraluna cursed usurper to the position. One problem – Emmanuel Grimshaw is the very man Tallin does not want to see again. It was Emmanuel who mated him so long ago, and then left Tallin to pick up the pieces of what was left of his life. But Tallin has little choice.

Emmanuel Grimshaw, of the Zhalazti Natasia, a Luminarian, born of full-moon royal heritage, walked away from his clan, his mate, because of the savageness with which he claimed, and maimed, a man he loved, when he was too young to control his beast. He’d gone in search of his humanity, and a way to tame the wuv within. But when Tallin unexpectedly arrives, any peace he thought he’d found with his human companion, Niles, vanishes. And it isn’t long before Emmanuel’s beast within rises and in a savage mating, he reclaims Tallin—binding him, once again.

Zhalazti wuvs, like no other; a mysterious nomadic tribe—not the werewolf of loriRunToGround_medc myth. Descendants of a Sumarian god and his consort, who birthed the gods of the underworld, and evil demons. Emmanuel will do his duty, but not without the human stray, Tallin, at his side. A battle for survival and love is about to begin. Who will triumph?

EXCERPT

All things were dead in the garden, curled up, brown, brittle. Except there was a certain beauty to it in the thin veneer of frost that covered everything. From wilted brittle vine to defeated rose. The crystalline sparkle made it seem as though one stood in a vastly different world than that of human.

Tallin had waited. Upon his arrival in Vienna he’d taken rooms at a hostelry on the outskirts, near a densely wooded area, allowing him freedom to run when his animal urged him to flee the confines of the city. Mostly it occurred in the twilight hours. But it was early morning now as he stood in the garden, behind the elm waiting for Emmanuel to emerge. Having watched him for the last three days, Tallin had discerned his routine.
A smoke in the morning in the garden, to the university for lectures until mid-afternoon. Home to fuck his pet and take tea, not leaving the house again until twilight, and then off to the opera or some social event. Home again at two or three in the morning to fuck his pet again, before turning in for a few hours of rest. Emmanuel rose early, his pet later, obviously exhausted by the long grueling schedule Emmanuel set for them each day. So this was the best time of day to catch him alone. Today Tallin would confront him and then he would know what his next move must be.

He pulled out his pocket watch, flipped it open to check the time, closed it and repocketed it. Any moment now and Emmanuel would step out into the briskness of the winter morn. Being Zhalazti, the chill would not affect him keenly as it did humans. Nor did it affect Tallin in quite the same way. In fact, their kind thrived in the colder climes.
He scented the smoke of the cigar before he actually saw Emmanuel emerge from the house. Dressed in dark trousers and a white shirt unbuttoned at the neck, black leather shoes polished to an unmarred shine. His shirt sleeves were rolled back to reveal his dark, densely pelted arms. He turned away from where Tallin stood at the corner of the garden and stared up at the lightening sky.

He took the cigar out of his mouth, released a line of smoke into the cold stillness. Still a fine fashion of a man as he stood astride. Broad shoulders stretching the white shirt to its limits, tapering to narrow hips, muscular buttocks and thighs—a measure of the beast that thrived in his Lunaria blood. This morning he looked…human. More so than he ever had back in France. He looked almost tamed, so refined. A gentleman. Perhaps even more charismatic and seductive than Tallin had ever seen him.

“I know you’re there,” Emmanuel suddenly said. “You might as well come out of hiding. I can smell you. One does not mistake the scent of wuv blood—even if it is diluted blood.” He spun around to face exactly where Tallin stood. Tallin stepped out from behind the tree. Emmanuel’s eyes flashed, his focus going immediately to the eye patch and the scars on his face. Tallin didn’t flinch.

Emmanuel nodded. “I thought it was you. Why are you here, Tallin? I’m not returning. I’ve found some balance here. Some peace.”

“With your jijo? I take it he serves you well.”

Emmanuel’s eyes flashed angrily, a growl erupted from his throat. “Leave Niles out of this. He’s human and he’s fragile.

Tallin stepped more fully into the garden. “I know exactly how fragile humans are. I do recall something of their humanity.”

Emmanuel lifted the cigar to his lips and studied Tallin silently for a long time. The tip of the cigar glowed orange as he sucked. Tallin recalled Emmanuel’s special skill at sucking.

“You still have a fondness for cigars.”

Emmanuel released a cloud of smoke to meld with the frigid air. He set the cigar on the edge of the table he stood next to. “You should know. You were the one who stole the first box from Shiri. Have you lost your fondness for savoring fine things?”

“I have tempered somewhat.”

“I heard you have been named a captain in Hirmes’ war pack. You have come far in a short time. Few possessed ever—”

“Survive as long as I have?” Tallin said mildly. He should have died in the rite of passage but he hadn’t. He’d lived and thus gained some measure of respect. Of course, he’d not survived without cost.

“I wasn’t going to say that. We both know the reason humans are made wuv. It’s no secret,” Emmanuel said.

“Exactly. I was trained for it, wasn’t I? Treated little less than a slave—humans—jijos—were treated better than I was. But rikos are the expendable ones, aren’t they?”

“I helped you train, Tallin. I wanted you to survive, you know that.”

Tallin smiled bitterly. “What you did was give with one hand and take with the other. I never really knew where I stood with you until the hunt. Then we both knew, didn’t we?”
Emmanuel spun away. “Why are you here? Everything you speak of is in the past. It serves no purpose in bringing it up now.”

Tallin tamped down the beast and the memories. His wounded eye itched, the scars on his face throbbed with the memory. “Hirmes is dead, Emmanuel…”

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