Shadow Bite

To celebrate today’s early release at Pride Publishing,  today I’m sharing an exclusive excerpt from chapter one of The Shadow Road, Eight Kingdoms book four! 

Enjoy this crunchy little bite, and of course, if you want more, grab a copy here!

Through the barrow, across the ice, over the bridge and the river’s black water, Macsen ran quickly, following the promise of heat. Summer fire was making its presence known in the middle of Winter, fire and coiling smoke and the scent of golden power.

A smile crawled across his face, eager with anticipation. He knew where Bran was now, and he stalked around the palace, through the green of the orchard. Yes. Yes. He could see through the open spaces of the entryway that Bran was at his forge, muttering to himself, shaping the precious metals Macsen had left for him with practiced movements.

Bits of work were scattered here and there on tables. The beginnings of what might be a silver bridle, golden baubles filled with fire and a dozen gossamer lengths of chain were coiled and piled on each other.

Macsen’s attention was drawn to Bran’s hands, the smoothness of their movements, the easy way his fingers shaped the softness of the gold. There was something sensual in the motions, in his perfect focus, the way his eyes didn’t wander at all and a tiny wrinkle deepened between his brows. The intensity of his attention to his work was such that he still hadn’t noticed Macsen’s presence.

He almost took a step forward, arm outstretched, but caught sight of his own fingers, dark with bloodstains, and grimaced. Quietly, still unnoticed, he slipped away, up to their room and the bath. Macsen stripped out of silk as bloody as his body, and the water went red as he stepped into it. It grew redder still as he bathed, scrubbed gore from his face, his hands, even his hair.

When it flowed clear, he lingered for only a moment before he grabbed a towel and wandered back into the bedroom, considering. Talaith was gone. He would have to do everything himself, or find some other servant, and even the thought made him scowl. When Macsen opened the wardrobe, it was empty, nothing hung. His clothes, where were they? But then she did that too, didn’t she? He’d have to go down into the storage closets and find everything there.

He wrapped his towel around his waist, pushed wet hair back out of his eyes and contemplated a secondary irritation. His comb, where was that? He scowled, then turned to face the door as it opened.  It wasn’t Bran, he knew that instantly, and who else would dare? But he saw first not the one who had come, but what they had brought with them—his clothes, and things glinting silver. Momentarily, a familiar face emerged from behind the pile.

“Saoirse! What are you doing?”

“I… Since Talaith… I thought you…” And she stopped dead, but still peered up at him, curious and perhaps confused. “Should I leave? I didn’t mean to be trouble, but I helped Talaith sometimes and I never once saw you come down where everything is, so I thought you would need…” Again she stopped. “Red King?”

He had too many thoughts for words, and only shook his head and turned away. Whatever she thought of that, he didn’t know. Her stillness dissipated and she came into the room, began to lay things out on the bed. Tunics and trousers in red and silver, blue and gold, more choices than he needed and some that weren’t even his clothes.

“Girl—”

“There’s things for Bran, too. He likes new clothes after he’s been working. And I brought combs and brushes, but not jewelry. Bran doesn’t need it, not with your gift, and I haven’t seen you wear anything but your crown. Do you, Red King? If you do I’ll bring it next time but—”

Next time. Have you appointed yourself my keeper, Saoirse?” But he was already laughing before she could answer, laughing and shaking his head. “Do what you please, I won’t complain. You’ve done well. I don’t know where anything is, not after so long. But how did you know? How did you know I needed you?”

“I told you, I helped Talaith—and I was watching for you. Bran asked me to. He said he gets distracted when he’s working. He said he wouldn’t notice when you’d come back. I don’t know why he wanted to know, it’s not like you wouldn’t go to him first. You always go to him first. But you looked like you wanted to surprise him and you were very bloody, so I haven’t said anything, not anything. I went downstairs instead.” She wrinkled her nose. “Red King, tell him please that I did notice, and it’s only your fault that I didn’t say.”

He raised an eyebrow. “You think he’ll be angry?”

“Not Bran. It’s not easy to make him angry—you know that.”

Macsen studied her more closely when she smiled. Subtle changes that he had missed were making themselves known to him now, and he was…confused. Were her features sharper, her teeth more pointed?

She is not the same as she was.

“Girl, you’re changing.”

“I am. I am!”

“And you like it.”

“Yes.”

“Good.” And as if he had never said anything else, he returned to the previous subject. “Since you’ve done so well, this will be your responsibility. You’ll be our handmaid, mine and Bran’s.” He met her gaze. “You don’t mind? You were a princess once.”

She dimpled, grinning, and he saw that, yes, her teeth were sharper. “This is more fun, Red King.”

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Guest Author Raven Dark: Crime and…Punishment

Welcome, glorious beings! I hope the day finds you well, because today…we have a special guest! Say hello to Raven Dark, provider of last week’s Friday Fun post, writer of erotic romance, and especially BDSM erotica!

Who is Raven Dark? As a young girl she  dreamed of being abducted by a savage alien warrior, whisked away by a brutal pirate, or rescued by a cape-bearing hero. When none of these men came to claim her, she brought them to life in her stories. Then twelve years ago she met the man of her dreams. He doesn’t wear a cape, fly a spaceship, or wield a sword, but sometimes she swears they’ve mind melded.

Currently, Raven lives with her dream man and their one cat that thinks she’s a dog in the Mundane world’s version of Ontario, Canada. When she isn’t working on her latest erotic romance novels and crafting interesting worlds in which to set them, she’s spending too much time with friends, feeding her Youtube addiction, or curled up on a couch watching favorite shows with her future husband…

But today, she’s here to share a bit about her upcoming full length debut novel, Unlawful Desire, and give us some insight into why she writes!

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From The Author’s Pen…

I’m often asked why I write erotic romance and BDSM, but especially BDSM. It’s difficult to define what draws me to this genre because every story I write is different, but I can tell you what drew me to write Unlawful Desire, the book that just went live today.

Over the few years I’ve been writing and reading BDSM, researching into the lifestyle, I’ve noticed an alarming misunderstanding surrounding the genre. Specifically the view a lot of people have, that BDSM’ers enjoy abusing or hurting others, or they like being abused.

This is simply not true. There are practitioners who are into pain or humiliation, but properly done scenes come with informed consent and a safeword, safety protocols that an abusive relationship doesn’t have. Abuse is about power, whereas BDSM, when done correctly, is about fulfilling a fantasy both parties are into. Plus, humiliation, pain, those aspects of BDSM are only a small portion of a much broader world. The misconception is so prevalent it boggles the mind. I’ve lost count of how many times people have asked me why I like writing about “freaks who like abusing others.” Or why a strong, independent woman would want to “let a man abuse her.”

Yes, really.

When Unlawful Desire’s plotline came to me, I saw the perfect opportunity to incorporate the misconceptions that surround the lifestyle through the hero and heroine’s experiences.

As a professional Domme and former sub in the small town of Clayton-Moss, Annabella (or Ella, as everyone but Rock calls her) deals with this exact misconception every day. Having found out about it when Ella suffered an accident from a scene gone bad, her family disapproves of her kinky lifestyle, and they make no bones about it from the very start.

Simply because of his involvement in BDSM, they see Rock, her ex and former Dom, as an abuser, and Ella as being too blind to see what he was doing to her. Because Ella is also the daughter of one of Clayton-Moss’s founding families and the future heir to the town’s major real estate business, she’s a predominant figure. She deals with the same problem a lot of people face, knowledge that most of the people around her won’t understand her lifestyle choice, so it’s vital she keeps it under wraps. Especially with someone trying to blackmail her out of her empire.

On the surface, Unlawful Desire is an erotic romance about a couple getting a second chance at love, while teaming up to overthrow a greedy land developer who’s trying to take over Ella’s father’s empire. But there is a deeper underlying theme which I think makes this story stand out.

A lot of people become scared the first time they fantasize about their partner tying them up, thinking they’re wrong in the head. Even with how much more awareness there is toward kink these days, people fear they’ll be labeled sick or demented.

I’m hoping readers, especially ones who question their kinky side, will take away from the book an understanding of themselves. Individuals who into BDSM are not weird or sick, they don’t need curing, and they aren’t monsters. They’re normal, everyday people who come from all walks of life. A healthy fantasy life is not only beneficial, but chances are, everyone has at least one, even if it’s on the mild end.

This theme is only touched on in the first book, but each novel within the Men of Clayton-Moss series (each of which are stand-alone and deal with a different couple) is intended to delve deeper into the problems that arise from ignorance and stereotyping, as well as what happens when people prey on our fear of the unknown.

Overall, I love writing erotic romances because they tap into something so many women want, and don’t see enough of in real life. Happy endings and falling in that forever kind of love. But when it comes to the BDSM, at least with Unlawful Desire and my Men of Clayton-Moss series, I wanted to offer up something more than the standard fair. I wanted to open people’s eyes and tell those who might need to hear it, they are normal. They are worthy of love, and there is someone out there for them who will understand.

Thank you Belinda for having me, and for giving me this chance to talk about my baby!

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From the back cover: Their deepest secret could be their destruction…or their salvation. 

Curvy ex-submissive Annabella Clayton has no problem taking charge in the boardroom, or the bedroom. But as the future head of a major real estate empire in the small town of Clayton-Moss, she has to keep her life as a Domme under wraps. When greedy land developer Jake Scalder threatens to ruin her father’s business any way he can, she knows her BDSM lifestyle would cause just the kind of scandal he needs. Her only chance to save all that she and her father have built is to team up with gorgeous, relentless lawyer Rock McCarthy. Trouble is, Rock’s also her former Dom, and the man she let walk out of her life six years ago. 

While scrambling to expose Scalder’s corruption, their passions reignite, burning hotter than ever. Rock reawakens the hunger for his dominance Annabella’s buried for so long. But while he drives her deeper into his addictive world of rough fantasy, their enemy draws closer to discovering their forbidden secret. Can they take Scalder down before his plans succeed? Or will he destroy Annabella’s reputation and tear her and Rock apart forever? 

Warning! This book contains a BBW heroine who likes filthy talk and being called names in bed, plus a broody lawyer who’s happy to oblige. There are a few mild, brief ravishment scenes that are clearly role-play, but if you have triggers, please do not buy this book!

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Excerpt:  “Funny, I heard mention of a Mistress E. from one or two of the men at the club, but I never dreamed it would be you. How long have you been switching?”

“I don’t, not really.” She looked away. “I don’t sub anymore.”

“Never?”

“Nope.” A leaden sensation settled in Rock’s stomach as she got up from the couch and walked across the room to the window. She worked her hands over her lower back. From pain, or just a nervous habit?

He stood and followed her. His hands itched to work free the tension in her shoulders “Why did you stop subbing?”

“That’s a long story. I don’t want to talk about it.” She bowed her head and he could hear the pain in her voice.

Who hurt you? Protectiveness for her rode him hard but he forced himself not to press. “All right…” He bit back the urge to call her “girl,” the way he had when she was his. He had no claim to her now. If what she said was true, he never would again.

She turned to him. “I’ve asked you twice, more than I ever ask a man anything Rock. Why are you here?”

A smirk pulled at his mouth, heat spreading through his cock. “Nice dominance, Annabella. Too bad I don’t submit.”

“Ever?”

“Nope.” He wasn’t turned on by having a woman take control of him, but the possibility of fighting her for dominance made him hard as steel.

“Too bad you aren’t mine anymore. If you were, I’d tan your hide exactly like I used to when you stepped out of line.”

Her teeth flashed in a stunning grin. Despite what she’d said about not subbing anymore, he couldn’t mistake the heat in her eyes at his words, or the way she lowered them a fraction from his before her chin jerked back up.

“You still haven’t answered me.”

“And now I’m not going to. This is too much fun, watching you deal with a man you can’t command.”

“Ugh.” She spun to the window and he thought he heard her wince, her back tensing. “You’re as much of a jackass as you were six years ago.”

This time he couldn’t resist setting his hands on her shoulders and massaging them gently. His chest hitched when he felt the thick layers of tension there and the quivering breath she let out.

He put his mouth close to her ear. “You all right?”

“Why did you come back?”

“Disappointed?”

“No, but…”

The tightness in his chest loosened. He turned her around and cupped her face. “I’ve missed you, Annabella.”

Something flickered in her eyes, but he couldn’t define it. She didn’t speak, but lay her hand on his cheek. Did that mean she missed him, too? God, he couldn’t let her leave now, never knowing where things could have gone.

“Have dinner with me tomorrow night.”

She drew a shaky breath. “I can’t.”

“Why the hell not?”

“You know it can’t go anywhere. You are a Dom all the way and I can’t give you what you want. Not anymore.”

Want more? You can grab your copy of Unlawful Desire here, and follow Raven Dark on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, her newsletter, at her blog, or even join her street team!

 

Week Twenty One – Raven Dark’s Doing Wright

For this week’s Friday Fun, we have another guest! Say hello to Raven Dark, who’s stopping by with an excerpt from the first part of her completed “Teach Me” series, Doing Wright

(And of course, remember, this sort of Friday Fun is NSFW!)

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From The Back Cover: 19 year old Jacy is a college girl with a wild and wicked streak. She’s always had a penchant for older men, so it’s no surprise she’d fantasize about being taken by her professor in every possible way. Then again, her imagination’s always gotten her into trouble. 

When the sinfully gorgeous Mr. Wright shows up at her door one night, she’s sure she can tempt the brooding alpha male into taking control and claiming what he needs, but at what price? 

He’ll give her a night she’ll never forget, but she’s been to this party before with disastrous results. Will their tryst be the best night of her life, or the worst mistake she’s ever made?

Excerpt

Someone pounded on the front door and Jacy jumped. Who would be knocking on her parents’ door this time of night?

Downstairs, she looked through the glass in the door. Her breath caught, heat spreading through her like lava. Professor Wright stood on her front porch, holding up her schoolbag.

Jacy opened the door.

“You left this behind. Again, Miss Davidson.”

She swallowed. He was here. Standing right in front of her in all his glory. His dark blond hair glowed golden in porch light, and he took up the whole doorway. Even with that permanent scowl, like he was always on the verge of slamming a ruler on a desk, he was still delicious. In fact, that cool, hard look only made her wonder how his palm would feel smacking her backside.

Crap. Already, her mind was spinning, trying to come up with a way to get him in her house. Anything to end up alone with him.

Before she could say something catastrophically stupid, Jacy snatched the bag out of his hand. “Th—thank you, Professor.”

For an instant, their fingers brushed and heat raced up her arm. The electricity only underscored how dangerous it was for her to be around him now. She stepped back from the door, ready to shut it in his face.

“You might want to consider another excuse to see me, Miss Davidson. Leaving your bag behind three times? You’re getting obvious.”

Jacy’s jaw dropped. Mortification and indignation tore into her. How dare he! She hadn’t left her bag on purpose just for an excuse to see him. She hadn’t. Had she?

“It was only twice, sir. And don’t flatter yourself. I’m a busy student. I forget things.”

His eyes danced with rare amusement. The curve of a smile on his well-shaped mouth almost looked out of place. It gave him a charming, roguish look, much less imposing. Her bare feet curled on the tile floor.

“Right. See you tomorrow in class. Nice dress, by the way.”

Jacy huffed at his arrogance. The compliment sent an unwelcome shockwave through her. She would have shut the door on him, but her indignation wouldn’t allow him to walk off without cutting him down to size.

“You’re the one who drove an hour out here to drop off a student’s bag. Are you sure you didn’t just want to see me, sir?”

Holy shit. Had she actually said that? Ground, swallow me now.

But Wright turned and that curve on his mouth deepened. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Miss Davidson?”

She stared. It wasn’t a denial. His gaze took in her shape, the way the bodice of her dress cupped her generous breasts, the way it flared at her curvy hips.

She needed to say something, anything to slice that arrogance in half, but nothing came.

“Good night, Miss Davidson.”

Son of a bitch. Her muscles coiled tight with every step he took down the stairs. She pushed out a breath.

“You came here for more than my bag, Professor, and you know it.”

A soft chuckle drifted up from him. Then he turned and stalked back up the steps, stopping so close she could feel the heat of him. He loomed darkly over her.

“Get inside, young lady.”

When she lifted her chin, he leaned in, so close his breath fanned her face. It smelled faintly of the peppermint gum he always had on his desk.

“It’s not safe for a girl like you to be out here at night. The big, bad wolf might eat you.”

Want more? Pick up Doing Wright here!

Week Twenty – The Shadow Road

Friday Fun is back! For this week’s, we’re off to the Eight Kingdoms for a taste of sexy goodness. Book four, The Shadow Road, is currently available for preorder…and full of temptations!  

(And of course, remember, this sort of Friday Fun is NSFW!)

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From The Back Cover: In the wake of Dealla’s latest atrocity, Macsen has learned a lesson he will never forget. To love is to fear, and he intends to make sure that his fear never comes to pass. Bran is less than pleased with being left behind while Macsen hunts Dealla, but he has trouble of his own to distract him. An unknown ability is growing in him—magic that has nothing of Summer in it. Disturbed, Bran convinces Macsen to come with him to question his mother. Only she knows who Bran’s father is, and the secret half of his bloodline is the most likely source of his new power.

Elenn agrees to Bran’s request, but for her own reasons. Faelan, one of the gancanagh, is to be Bran’s guide to his father, and she has ordered him to seduce the Red King and prove his love false. Faelan has no desire to follow through, but also no choice. His queen has commanded, and he must obey.

Macsen and Bran aren’t the only lovers whose feelings are being put to the test. After five thousand years of separation, Myrddin has no choice but to accept Kas’ help in restoring the spring and its rite to the mortal world. The difficulty is that he wants Kas to desire him for himself, not out of necessity, and the whole of reality is standing in his way.

Where is the line that divides determination from desire? Love is power—but is it enough?

Excerpt

Macsen ran his fingers through the wild mess of Bran’s hair, bent to his mouth and pressed Bran back against the table behind him, back and back until he was sprawled half across it. “Did you miss me? You taste like you missed me.”

Bran arched up into his arms, hooked a leg around Macsen’s legs and held him close for a deeper kiss.

“Does that mean yes? Bran… I missed you, Bran.” His hands were cold, cold like they hadn’t been since the beginning. His mouth, too, was cold—cold against Bran’s mouth, his throat, his collarbone, his shoulder. He could tell just by how hot Bran felt against him. “Missed you… Missed you.”

He wrapped his arms around Bran’s body, curled himself over him and kissed the curve of his ear. “Tell me you’re well, Anwylyd.” And again, against the line of his throat, “I missed you.”

“I’m fine. Fine. Better now that you’re home.” He turned a little in the circle of Macsen’s arms. “I missed you too.” He lifted his mouth expectantly, and Macsen pressed closer, kissed him again more deeply. “Hmm…” Bran pulled back. “You’re so cold.”

“Yes. And you are hot.” Macsen drew Bran up, kicked the bench out of the way and pushed him back onto the table. Bits of gold scattered, glinting in the firelight and ringing as they rolled and fell.

“Not here. You’re going to make a mess, Macsen.”

“Yes, let’s make a mess.” Macsen ran his tongue over the line of Bran’s throat as he tilted his head back, down along his collarbone to his shoulder. “A beautiful mess.” Faintly, the pattern of his own teeth was marked there, the scar of the bite he had left to heal on its own at Bran’s request, when they’d begun their courtship, when he’d had to leave…

As it had every time since the first time he’d noticed the scar, the sight filled him with desire, woke all his possessive instincts. Maybe no one else could see it, but it didn’t matter. Indelible, it beckoned him, called to him. This time when he gave in to his own desire and bit deep, seeking Bran’s blood, it was just in that place, aligning the new bite with the marks of the old.

Bran shuddered in his arms, groaned and twitched his hips up against Macsen’s body. “The floor—everything is going to—Macsen, you…ohhh…” But Bran couldn’t make the words into a sentence, and his body betrayed the truth of his desire. He didn’t relax his embrace, and one moaning exhalation after another came hot against Macsen’s skin. His fingers crawled up Macsen’s back and held tight.

I’ll help you pick everything up. Later. Now, make more sounds for me.”

Macsen’s voice was rough with blood, with the feral rush that was the result of such a feast as he had made for himself in the mortal world. Winter’s strength was restless in him, his own power was building on the heels of it, and beside all those things the wanton willingness of his lover—beloved, beautiful, groaning under him, muttering his name again and again… It flushed him with lust.

“Is there anything you wouldn’t give me, Bran?” He murmured the words against the soft heat of Bran’s throat. “Anything I could ask to which you might say no?”

There was no answer but moaning, the soft exhalation of hot breath as Macsen slipped his hands under Bran’s tunic. Bran moved in his arms, wrapped his legs around Macsen’s back, reached up into his hair with both hands.

Macsen knew what he wanted, all of what he wanted, and laughed all but silently against the curve of his shoulder. “A mess, you said. I will make a mess of you, and everything, everything. I’m going to take you right here.” He pushed Bran back onto the table. There was a clatter and chiming as more metal fell to the ground and Bran lay back across the empty space, his fingers grasping at Macsen’s arms.

For an instant he looked back over his shoulder, trying to see what had fallen, but Macsen took hold of his trousers in both hands and tore them from him—ripped the laces and the soft sidhe silk right down the seams. Then he bent and bit at the curve of Bran’s hip, kissed a line along the shallow curve of his pelvis, nipped the soft skin of his thigh and set the blood flowing. It made a red stream that he followed greedily with his tongue.

Moans, and “More,” and “More,” came from Bran, and Macsen wet his fingers with oil and pressed two of them deep. There was a dark flush on Bran’s cheeks, his throat, his chest, and Macsen knew there would be fire soon, the beckoning heat Bran could never restrain. He slipped his other hand from Bran’s thigh to his cock, rubbed his thumb over the head.

Fire reached out and wrapped around his arms, his waist, slipped into his clothes and under them, tugging at his skin. He resisted the urge to give in at the first touch, resisted while filaments of heat licked at his cock, brushed over his nipples, slipped past his lips on his every breath. He could feel Bran’s want of him in every touch, and there was pleasure in each one of those demanding caresses.

Macsen bent and took the head of Bran’s cock into his mouth, just for the taste of him, and his hands darted down to cup the back of Macsen’s head. He licked his lips and stood straight again, pulled Bran the tiniest bit closer, right to the edge of the table, and replaced his fingers with his cock. He didn’t say a word, gave no warning, and Bran gasped under him, clawed at his shoulders, pulled himself tight against Macsen’s body and let out one long cry. It was just what Macsen wanted, his name drawn out into an unrecognizable sound.

“Open up for me just like that. So good, Bran.”

Bran shook, shuddered, and trembled finally as he relaxed. Everything was heat, and the fire clutched at Macsen’s skin, but Bran was so tight around his cock he couldn’t move. The pleasure was a torment. It was so hot—so hot—there was just one distraction, and he held Bran against his body and bit deep into his throat, sucked up the red, dark blood.

The first mouthful was enough to take Bran shuddering over the edge, all but untouched, heart speeding under Macsen’s tongue, all of him shaking and his cock throbbing its white essence in pulses between them. His body gripped Macsen’s cock almost painfully, then relaxed while he tightened his fingers in Macsen’s hair again and again.

He stayed still and let Bran ride out his climax, took slow mouthfuls from the brilliant spill at his throat. Brighter. Brighter than it had been since they had left Summer. Was it the power Bran used for his work?

So much sun.

Slowly, Macsen pulled back, then thrust deeper, again and again. He felt desire as it sneaked back into Bran’s body, up his calves and his trembling thighs, into the tautness of his buttocks and the sudden tenseness of his hips. The shadow of fire trembled across his skin as he arched back, flickered over his abdomen, his chest. There was fire in his blood, too, as it streamed over Macsen’s tongue and down his throat.

Summer, it was Summer green and gold, rich juices and wine. He knew he should pull back but Bran’s fingers were tight against his scalp, his skin. The heat of his cock was rigid and twitching against Macsen’s belly, and his hips rocked back against every thrust, begging for more. His whole body was begging for more, his eyes closed and his mouth open for wordless groans.

Faster. Deeper. Harder, until he had to hold Bran still with both hands, grip his hip and shoulder to keep him still against his mouth. The tightness and the fire, the almost-pain where Bran pulled his hair, dug his fingers into Macsen’s back… So good. Pleasure overwhelmed him, one sharp pulse after another spilling out of him and into Bran. Bran cried out a little, shivered, then begged.

“Please, I’m so close, please.” He tugged harder at Macsen’s hair, and Macsen slipped his hand between them, stroked Bran’s cock—but he still pulled, gasped, demanded, and the heaving curve of his throat was too much vulnerability, too much temptation for Macsen to resist. He bit deeper, took more, and Bran locked his legs behind Macsen’s hips and groaned out his release.

Want more? Preorder your copy of The Shadow Road!

Last Laugh

It’s #1lineWed again! Today’s “Context is Key” entry in the Secret Files comes from Holy – the theme was humor, after all! 

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Artemio felt Matti shifting on his chest as Marina shouted down Luca’s protests. He was so relaxed, his lips occasionally pressing against his throat, his fingers warm against the back of Artemio’s hand, that this time he didn’t worry. He grinned as Luca reached out and clapped a hand over Marina’s mouth to shut her up, at least long enough that he could get a word in.

“You’re drunk. Seriously, do you hear yourself? The second one is the shitty one, Jason vs. Necromancer Moon Unicorn three is Stabbin’ Fever.”

Marina pulled Luca’s hand off her mouth, took another drink and shook her head emphatically. “No it’s two, three’s from 2029 and it has the Cyberwar crap in it -”

“Uh…huh.”

Luca looked contemplative, but Artemio nudged the back of his head with a knee. “Nobody cares, because we’re not watchin’ anything with Necromancer Moon Unicorns.”

“But boss man -”

“Not. Happening.”

“I’m with Art on this one. Gotta add it to the list – no driving for Yuyi, nobody go to Luca’s house, and no picking movies for Marina when she’s drunk.”

“Fuck you – and you – and…and Taj again.”

“No, you just keep fuckin’ Taj, I got enough on my plate.”

“Hey!”

“The hell now? That’s like the third time tonight, who said I was screwing Marina?”

“I -”

“I mean not like I’d say no, but -”

“I -”

“Seriously, what gives?”

“I would like to say something if you’d both SHUT UP.”

Two pairs of eyes turned in Marina’s direction.

“….”

“…What?”

“Artemio’s a prick and I will never fuck Taj.” Without further ado, Marina slugged the rest of the bottle, then rolled it away across the floor and threw her head back. “Next!”

Artemio nudged Taj with an elbow, looked back at him over his shoulder. “Artemio, she says. Look at that, you got her to use my actual name.”

“I got her to? I think this one’s all you, Art.”

“Uh-huh, whatever. But anybody gives her another bottle I’m settin’ Yuyi on ‘em.”

“Oh? Oh? Oh? Yes? Yes…”

Artemio glanced down at her, suddenly alert, her head lifted, her eyes bright. “Don’t be too eager or nothin’…”

Luca reached up a hand, waved it around.“I want a bottle. Or a glass, even. Since, y’know. Marina drank the whole rest of the first one.” Luca scowled around, irritated, but nobody made to get up, and he scowled harder. “Seriously, I gotta get it myself?”

Artemio shrugged. “I’m not getting up. And that means Matti’s not getting up, or Taj, either.” Luca glared at him, then shrugged.

“And Marina can’t stand.” He tossed a hopeful glance in Svava’s direction, and she lifted an eyebrow.

“You are a lazy man.”

“I’m an old man.”

“You are only forty seven. I came into being more than two thousand years ago, but I am not whining about old age.”

“You don’t get achy.”

“I will be kind and bring you a glass, and the bottle, as I wish for a drink myself. But it does not change that you are a lazy man. And you, Taj?”

“No, thanks. I gotta drive, and dealing with Marina’s gonna be hell as it is.”

“Hmmm…this, I think you are right about. Artemio, is your glass full? Should I make offering to your lover?”

Artemio jerked his gaze up to her face. “To my – Matti? Fuck no, he’s had enough twice over.” There was giggling against his chest, then laughter, and Artemio only sighed. “See? Look at this. As I was gonna say before, I didn’t mean to even get him drunk, but I fucked up pourin’ outta the bottle and onto the altar. Which I’ve never done before. Also I got no idea how much it takes to set him off, I mean he’s got this wine, and he never got like this off that.”

“Yes, Artemio. But you?”

“Eh…yeah, I could use a splash.” He sipped at his glass, stretched his leg until he felt Luca’s shoulder against his knee, cold through his sweatpants. Svava came back with the bottle and a pair of glasses, topped off Artemio’s drink then stepped around the couch to give Luca his.

“Thanks, Svava. Life-saver, really.”

“I am not getting up again to give you the bottle -”

“Eh, you can throw at it me. Or I’ll just make Marina get it, that’ll be fun. So anyone gonna pick a movie or not?”

Artemio leaned his head back against Taj and closed his eyes. “I never finished watchin’ Terminal Glory but I think the noise might scare Matti into another incarnation. Unless he’s passed out alr-” Mouth. Tongue against his lips, so hot, so sudden he almost dropped his glass of whiskey. Matti kissed him hard enough to steal his breath, then pulled back and stared at him with eyes that were burning with brightness.

“Not passed out, not sleeping, not anything, only waiting, wanting – waiting.” Another kiss, somehow sharper and softer both, and then Matti slid back down Artemio’s chest and turned to the face the Wall again. Artemio blinked down at the top of his head, licked his lips, then lifted his glass carefully around Matti and transferred it to the hand resting on the back of the couch.

“Well. Guess that answers that – but I still don’t wanna watch it. Anybody else got a suggestion?” Artemio slung his gaze around the room – Jer only lifted an eyebrow, and Sváva blinked at him dispassionately. Yuyi’s eyes were closed, her breathing steady, and he couldn’t see Marina or Luca at all, turned his head and peered up at Taj out of one eye, met his gaze and the shrug in it.

“Don’t look at me.”

Artemio sighed. “We’re gonna end up watching moon unicorns, aren’t we?”

“Nah.”

And, as always happened eventually, random movie titles began to bounce around the room. “Imperfect Suicide?”

“Seen it. Sucked. Last Call?”

“You think everything sucked. And Last Call is almost four hours long, I don’t wanna listen to the boss snoring for that long. The Omen?”

“Luca, nobody is ever gonna wanna watch The Omen. Why do you always suggest it?”

He shrugged, a movement Artemio felt against his leg. “Better than Robocop?”

“Oh you dinn’t – don’even – Rob’cops th’best. Well, almos’. Alien’s reall’ th’bes’.”

“Christ, Mari. Just…don’t even talk. Though…actually. What about Alien?” Artemio scanned the room, got shrugs and shrugged himself. “Fine, at least it’s somethin’. Wall, find movie, Alien.” It came up almost at once. “Play. Hey, Matti. Matti -”

“Hmmmm? Master. Master? You need -”

“No, just – ‘s gonna get loud. Eventually. If it scares you, you don’t have to -”

“Master. It doesn’t scare me, it’s just…loud.”

Taj was snickering again, and Artemio shoved an elbow back into his ribs – but then the movie credits zoomed in from space to the interior of the ship, and Matti wiggled back against him, and Artemio gave up his scowl for a sip of bourbon and pressed his lips against the back of Matti’s neck.

By the time the movie was a half hour in, the soft whiskey scent had left Matti’s skin, and his mouth only tasted like sweetness when Artemio bent to kiss him, testing. In the light from the Wall, his eyes were clear now, and Artemio leaned back satisfied.

“Master.”

It was the softest whisper, pleased and warm. Matti wiggled back against him again, slipped his hand over Artemio’s hand and pushed it down to his waist, then his hip.

Artemio lifted an eyebrow, hooked his thumb into the waistband of Matti’s borrowed sweatpants and pressed his lips against his throat again, brought his mouth up to Matti’s ear and nipped the curve of it. “You be good.”

But Matti turned against him, pressed back and wiggled, wouldn’t be still until Artemio’s erection settled against the curve of his ass, and then he rocked against it.

“Matti enough!” He hissed it sharply, truly annoyed now. Hadn’t he made it clear enough that he wanted him? Didn’t the fucking hard on that’d been jabbing him in the back for the last hour prove it? “Enough.” Softer, irritated at himself now for being so sharp, he tightened his grip on Matti’s waist.

Matti shivered once and went still against him, eyes on the screen – but Artemio wondered, because there was no worry on his face, and he was still relaxed…even though that hadn’t been the case before, when he’d been sharp with him.

What had changed? Was it that there was someone else here with them now? Instead of paying attention to the movie, which he’d seen before, Artemio sipped at his drink, closed his eyes and contemplated the riddle that was Matti.

Obedience. But even if that was his nature, it obviously wasn’t the whole of him – wasn’t everything – or he wouldn’t resist. Or does he? Or…was he…

By the end of the movie, with Matti still and no longer trying to entice him, Artemio had dozed off. He always did, couldn’t help it – the dark did him in, and the alcohol, and the warmth of familiar presences, the knowledge of their safety which was the whole point of the evening. The difference was that this time, when he cracked his eyes open to the sounds of people moving around, felt Taj’s body moving out from under his head, there was one point of warm contact that didn’t move away.

Matti was still against his chest, his eyes closed, his breathing even and deep. He was glowing that soft glow again, asleep and perfect, and four pairs of eyes were staring at him that weren’t Artemio’s. Jer was already gone, and Yuyi was pacing by the door, waiting for Svava, but the rest –

He shifted his glance from one to the other and grumbled at them. “What’re you lookin’ at? Why are you still all here? Get.” Warmth tickled his chin as Matti turned his head, waking, rubbed his cheek against Artemio’s chest, and looked up at him.

“Master, should I get rid of them for you?” That scattered the rest of team. Artemio grinned, waved them all off and snickered at Taj’s back as he helped Marina stumble swearing out the door. It clicked shut, and Matti kissed Artemio’s throat in the same instant.

“You are awake now, Master? You were sleeping, so I slept with you – I did not like that movie. Everyone kept dying.”

Artemio chuckled, shook his head. “Yeah, I know. And I’m…awake? Mmmm…sorta. Kinda. Maybe.” He yawned, shifted, and Matti sat up, slipped off the side of the couch and knelt beside him. “Why, there somethin’ you wanna do?” He asked the question even though he knew exactly what Matti wanted to do, and the thought brought back the last thing that had been on his mind before he dozed off.

“No. No, not -” But he was biting his lip that way he did so often, leaning forward, and Artemio pushed himself up on one arm and leaned over the edge of the couch. He kissed him deeply, fully, smirked and came far more awake at the sound of Matti’s moan.

“What if there’s something I wanna do?”

“’Temio?”

“Like take you.”

“Oh. Oh -”

“I made you a promise…though I seem to remember somebody gettin’ handsy. In the middle of the movie – in fronta my whole goddamn team.” He lifted an eyebrow, reached out to tug at Matti’s hair the way he knew he liked, watched his lips part, his eyes darken. “Somebody who knows better.”

Matti’s gaze was innocent, but that innocence uncompelling. “Master, you never said not to-”

“Rub all over me? Kiss me like a dyin’ man? Try to make me fuck you right here, in front of my team? Cause you got me this close -” Artemio kissed him roughly, tugged harder at the hair in his grip and then forced himself to let go.