Tag Archives: fantasy

Summer Bite

As the pre-order date for The Burning Season draws closer (April 10th!) snippets and bits – and thus bites! – shall begin to appear. This first one comes from the very beginning, which is always the best place to start! 

To claim Bran forever, Macsen has begun the ancient ritual of sidhe courtship—but such a rite is a trial in more ways than one. Tradition requires that Macsen seek Bran’s favor in his own country, and a Summer courtship is teasing and promising. More than that, Summer’s Queen will come between Macsen and her son however she can. But despite his mother’s disapproval, Bran’s will is bent to the same purpose as his Macsen’s—the achievement of four proofs of love, proofs that only Bran can determine or acknowledge. One step at a time, they come closer to a day when nothing will be able to separate them—but a familiar foe is more than willing to try. In the mortal world, the year has continued to pass without a hint of green. The Green King has prevented the spring, and thus all seasons but winter…but it’s Macsen whom Dealla blames, and all her plans for violent retribution are directed at him. Failure may cost her everything, but that is a price she has long been willing to pay.  In the wake of her invasion, Macsen is left with a dilemma that might not be easy to solve. Love, or vengeance—which should he choose? Can they live together in the same heart?
This is that shiny, shiny cover I was bragging about – Beautiful, Bran!

 

Chapter One

Macsen lay unmoving, not sleeping, a hand over his eyes to block out the damned and brilliant sun. He was as the wolf in his winter coat, oppressed by the Summer swelter, but he endured for Bran’s sake. He had made a promise to stay, despite his discomfort in a place ruled by the sun. He had kept it, would keep it, but the time had come to go back to his own place. To return to the Red Kingdom, even if only for a little while.

He smiled to himself. Yes, only a little while. Then I will return for you, Bran. The last time Macsen had come here had been for him, too. For the oath that almost shattered us…but nothing will come between us now. He bared his teeth. Despite himself, he knew that nothing wore the shape of the Summer Queen. Your mother does not want me to have you, lover.

Privately, he considered that she might have good reason for her fear and suspicions. The last few times he had come here had been for Bran, love on his mind, but long before, he had come here in response to a challenge. He closed his eyes, and the memories were there within him, waiting. Winter chill superimposed over the green of the leaves. The great lake frozen and red with blood, and all the blossoms fallen under the weight of snow.

If there was one thing that was the same, it was that even then, he had come for a son of the Summer Queen…

Goddess

As accompaniment to my latest Rant, have this snippet, which comes to you from the first draft (ooooo! scary!) of the prologue of Earthbound!

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Pine for me, and I will return from the moon to love, brown earth and green leaves and the flowing water. Pine for me, but that means to remember my name.

Tell me, beloved, how do you forget what you cannot remember? I have been drawn to you from the beginning. Timeless, I am still enamored of time, and all its passing shadows…you are those shadows.

What lives in them is a man, and a woman. You and I, beloved. Shall I tell you their story? Once, it was for her, not the world, that he would have done all things, any thing. And so it was for her, not for the world, he shot the sky. His arrow past the moon, white-shining in a world made clear as glass by the fall of night.

The sun rose. The sun rose. The sun rose and rose and rose and rose until the face of the earth heaved and flame rode its curves and settled in the hollow throat of the world and cried out from the curled and hidden core, hidden at last in its own petals.

“Enough, enough, we can bear no more!”

He heard. You heard. Hou Yi, the archer. Did you know then? No… But the price of heroism would be steeper than the mountain, steeper than the curve of the sky. Nine times, you lifted your bow to heaven. Nine times, slew the sons of the brightest light. So that the fire fell, gleaming, bolts brighter than lightning piercing heaven and earth together…and not to be undone.

Your reward was your punishment. To put on the robe of heaven is to forget the world left behind, and you, you forget even now what you have done that was forbidden, even in the name of saving the whole of the earth. I remember, what you do not. That is my punishment.

To slay a god with mortal hands…

But this is not the first time I have told this story. This is the last, because you do not understand it, do not hear me, and you are the one it is for.

What speaks the shadow to the one who casts it, what speaks the shadow to the sun? Ages of ardor and ages of agony, and they were mine – as I was like you, doomed from that first stretch of the bow. 

Now I must acknowledge having planted temptation in your path – but in the manner of all good things, what I give is no more, no less than I sought. Whatever you suffered in the light, yes, all those eons in which I begged and you did not listen, do you suffer more in the darkness?

What are the thousand woes of your new existence? Are you still the lord of frigid stars? Are you still my darkest king?

What are you?

Lick Him Up

Welcome to our first Lick, an excerpt from Dark Side of the Sun, posted today in celebration of book three’s cover reveal! (You can see it here!) Why is this excerpt not in Bites, you ask? Because Licks are NSFW excerpts, and it’s only polite to keep them separate! Look forward to a new Lick on the smutty seventeenth of every month!

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…Bran flushed, and Macsen reached out and drew him close again, nuzzled his cheek and kissed his jaw, the curve of his ear, then down again toward his mouth. This kiss was rougher, deeper, and Bran tasted blood without knowing whose lip he had bitten. One of Macsen’s hands ran through his hair, dragged sharp nails against his scalp, held his head still. Despite himself, Bran groaned and gave in to his own desire. The soft lips opened to Bran’s tongue. He felt cool, tingling hands reach up to touch his cheeks, felt them running through his hair, slip down around his shoulders.

Bran turned his head under the pressure of a nudge and another kiss, and Macsen pulled him into a closer embrace. Bran opened his eyes and the movement felt lazy. Was the Red King’s kiss a drug?

No. It’s just desire.

Bran licked his lips, a quick darting of his tongue. He felt Macsen’s eyes on the motion and knew then the inevitable end of this confrontation.

“You’re trying to distract me, but I want—”

“I don’t want to talk about your mother right now, Bran Fionnan. I don’t want to talk at all. Not now. Ask me anything you want, but later. Not now.

He leaned close, breathed deeply. Bran felt Macsen’s breath against his lips and tried once more, but he was pressing up against Macsen even as he spoke, even as his words became a murmur that washed against Macsen’s lips.

“You’re sure no one—”

“No one will see us tonight. Not unless it’s someone with more power than me.” Macsen’s voice was breathless, his eyes shining and dark, the pupils dilated with lust. “Now, don’t struggle. I’d never hurt you, beautiful Bran—”

Macsen licked Bran’s lips, so soft, so teasing. Bran knew what was about to happen the moment before it did, but in that moment he found that he didn’t care. He had accepted Macsen’s nature for what it was—he enjoyed it, darkness and all. It was proof that Macsen was like him, proof that he was sidhe. Bran’s want flowed hot in him, spurring him onward, and beside his lust was the same welling of inexplicable trust that he had felt the night before. Trust. It was a promise with no words that was reinforced by Macsen’s aura, Macsen’s presence.

Macsen smirked, his lips stretching over white teeth, then bent to Bran’s throat. Bran felt Macsen’s tongue against his skin. Sharp teeth penetrated deep. A tickle like the brush of a feather became twin needles of sensation and fluttering heat. Bran gasped. The feeling was nothing like what he had imagined.

The theft of his blood was a delicate seduction that gave him promises instead of pain. For a moment it let him feel the rich, dark core of Macsen’s being—but that moment was very short. Macsen had taken barely a mouthful from Bran’s veins, but he was already stepping back.

“Delicious.”

Macsen’s hands roamed Bran’s skin through untied, unlaced clothes. Dazed, Bran wondered when that had happened. Macsen’s touch aroused, stimulated, tempted. His fingers teased Bran’s nipples into hard points and his other hand slipped between the tight press of their bodies and grasped the straining stiffness of Bran’s erection. Macsen lifted his lips from Bran’s throat and soothed the shallow wound there with his tongue. For a moment a haze hung across Macsen’s eyes. Bran saw it, heard Macsen’s voice thicken and slow and soften into a murmur that brushed heat against the tender place on his throat.

“Be my lover, beautiful Bran, my lover…”

Bran didn’t know why Macsen had stopped to ask. It felt like he had wanted this touch, this moment, forever. It didn’t matter that need and desire weren’t really the same thing, not right now. He surprised himself with the force of his answer. “Yes.”

That one word seemed like it was enough to awaken the bestial promise that slept in the Red King. Bran felt the shift in the hands that pulled his clothes from his body, hands that grasped his throbbing erection and pulled pleasure from his loins with smooth, slow strokes.

They stumbled together, and came up against the wall of Bran’s house. Macsen held Bran pinned there with the weight of his body, and Bran slipped his fingers against Macsen’s chest and down, down—he needed no encouragement to return the pleasure that Macsen’s stroking fingers gave him.

He could feel Macsen’s pulse beating in the heavy hardness that slid back and forth across his palm—then their gasps were equal and they panted together, gasping, moaning. Bran’s head fell forward against Macsen’s chest. He heard his own voice calling out, strangled and broken.

“Macsen…Macsen…Macsen…”

Macsen was quieter, but his whisper, “Bran,” was tender and sharp enough to send a new shudder rolling over Bran’s skin.

Wolf Bite

This excerpt comes from Wolf of the West, my newest release. Let me know what you think! 

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Marcas stared upward at the sound of an imperative caw, and knew he must move faster. Four legs paced under him, swift as the wind, but he could see even from a distance that what had been a battlefield had now become a scavenger’s rout. Above him, black crows crossed the sky, first in twos and threes, then a streaming murder.

It is coming.

The twilight darkened into premature night under the shadow of their wings, and from the gore that littered the field came crawling shadows, stick-figures unbending against the light.

Darkness made flesh.

Once, twice, Marcas howled, but the moon was not yet risen and he could summon no light into his service. From the top of a low rise, he could only look down and watch more carnage in the making. Warriors, bloodstained, wounded—waylaid in victory or defeat, they had survived the battle only to suffer something more terrible.

His gaze focused on their widened eyes, the glaring darkness in each overburdened pupil, teeth visible behind lips thinned with fear in each face—yet in none of them did he see what he had come for. A spark of light—the mark of brightness that told him the one so marked was meant to survive. That one, he would protect. But where was he?

Wraiths absent of flesh unfolded across the carnage, seeking their prey. The survivors who could move stumbled away from them with all the speed their broken limbs could muster. Marcas’ gaze caught on three that moved together, two older, one younger, perhaps a son or nephew of one of the others. The elder two held him back, their hands across his chest at what they must have believed was a final moment of fear—and yet that youth stood forward, his face all confrontation, nothing of terror in the glare of his eyes.

The shadow moved to confront him, the youth painted with blazing light in the dark field of Marcas’ mind, and the truth flamed in him, sudden and precise.

This one! This one—now, now!

In a flash, Marcas leaped down the hillside, crossed the blooded grass and buried his teeth in the shadow nearest the youth. Black blood spurted around his fangs, and he felt dark fingers clutching at the fur of his back. Marcas whipped around and lunged at them. He caught sight of the three men behind him, their eyes wider now, if that was possible—watching him, wondering—but there was no way for him to explain.

Like many men before them, they would have to come to their own conclusions.

Growling, spitting, pacing back and forth, Marcas marked a circle with his steps, with his body, with his flashing fangs. He leaped across to threaten any reaching hand, any open mouth, rattle-breathed, foaming.

Three of them, but I can’t protect just that one. The boy. The boy wouldn’t let me, and it wouldn’t be right.

But three men were two more than he had expected. A battle like this one, wounds like theirs—the older men should probably be dead, but there was no accounting for the strength of a heart, a spirit or a warrior. Marcas’ quick eyes took in the wound on the younger one—the thigh, wrapped tight, blood soaked but older blood now, not fresh flowing… Not so bad, boy. It would be easier to protect him than the other two—closer to death, closer to the enemy.

The crawling multitude of bloodthirsty spirits reached out first for the men, not the boy. For a moment he felt a vain desire to take the boy and leave these fools to their fate. One wounded young man was no match for a wolf of the faoladh, no matter what his desires.

But across his mind’s eye flashed that first glimpse again—blazing light and eyes with no terror in them at all.

Black energies tore at his back again, gripped his tail and pulled him. He whirled, ears laid back, snapping, tasted darkness and congealed death, but it was neither blood nor anything real. Shadow screeched, a sound like the caw of the crows, but deepened, twisted, broken. He sought the matte jet throats, tore open wounds that spilled nothing, but it was nothing with the taste of ash. Marcas pushed them back with the weight of his body, with his claws and fangs that snapped with supernatural swiftness. Tireless, intent, he fought against the circling foes that increased in number even as he engaged them. They flowed back and receded, then returned to wash around him, a new and stronger tide—

Until the moon rose. The moonlight fell on Marcas’ back and his fur shone with a pale light, every hair illuminated. He lifted his head and those of his foes closest to him took a step back. His mouth opened, and out of his throat came an illuminated noise, more than a howl—the true song of the night, safety from all shadow in that one note, even as it was many.

The wolf song shattered the shadow, broke it apart into bits as the moonlight spread and painted the black of the hills and the gore of the field with light. Panting now, feeling the pain of many wounds, Marcas fell silent and stepped back, looked around with wary eyes to see if the night might choose to rebirth its horrors.

There was only silence and stillness. The natural shadows of the night, death in coherent slumber. What the violence had awakened was restful now. Quiet.

Satisfied, Marcas turned to face the trio of men he had protected. They, too, were silent, all but unmoving, until he turned to leave.

“Wait.”

It was a young voice, the voice of the one he’d been called to protect, but Marcas didn’t look back. He turned away despite that call, and vanished into the cloak of the night.

 

* * * *

 

The dawn came early, yellow and heavy, sunlight spreading like spilled yolk across the horizon. It was welcome light, which scattered shadow and imprisoned the fears of the night behind walls of memory. The shapes of dark and crooked power that had spilled from what had once been the bodies of friends and foe—the tide of dark within the night—those things were faded, but the memory of that which had conquered them was not.

The wolf.

“Still well, Connor?”

Startled from the thoughts that had distracted him, the throbbing of the wound in Connor’s thigh returned full force at the sound of his father’s voice. He almost brought up the image that lingered in his mind’s eye. Moonstruck wolf. But he hesitated, and only answered the question his father had asked.

“Well enough. I’ll make it.”

They lapsed into silence after that. As Connor limped forward beside the single horse they’d found wandering at the edge of the battlefield, he drew himself out of his thoughts and watched his father over the horse’s neck. Silent, craggy, a mountain in motion, he stomped forward as if nothing could—or would—stop him, as if he felt neither the pain of his wounds nor the pain of their journey. How far now? Since the wolf had left them in the blazing moonlight—since they’d found the horse and his father had forced Lord Aran to mount? Too long.

There had been an apology on his father’s face, as he’d shoved Aran up on the beast, but despite the agony of this stumble through the dark, there’d been no other way to keep Aran moving.

Again, Connor looked into his father’s face. His dark eyes were crowded under the clenching of his brow and the poor bandage that was bound there. His father nodded once, approval or encouragement, and Connor set his eyes on the road again, a dusty band that cinched the green hills before them like a poorly tightened belt.

It was good that he hadn’t said anything, hadn’t brought up the questions that burned in him. When he had asked in the dark after the wolf had left them, his father had shushed him right away, warned of bad luck and spurned blessings. Some things we should not speak of, even amongst ourselves. He heard the echo of his father’s voice, the only answer he’d gotten, and knew that now wasn’t a time to add to his worries—but despite his outer silence, the questions remained inside him, loud and urgent.

What had those things been? Shadow had risen from their comrades and from the enemy warriors both. Was it the power of their foe? But then, what of the wolf? Where had he come from? He had never seen anyone fight the way that wolf fought. Focusing on those moments, those memories, he shuddered, stumbled, caught himself and forced himself not to look at his father again. Some things weren’t meant to be faced by mortal men. He had seen training injuries enough and the wounds on returning warriors—he’d thought he’d known what there was to know of battle and death.

He knew better now.

Battle was not wounds and weapons and warriors. Battle was blood-smoke, a mist of red in the air, so fine the taste of it was in every breath. Battle was stepping forward and slipping and not looking down to see if what was under your boots was mud or the blood-slick guts of someone who didn’t know he was dead yet. Connor had learned that the arm could grow so tired it couldn’t stop swinging, that a blade new-sharpened could clot in a glut of flesh, chip on a sternum and still shatter a skull. Battle was heaving breath, every muscle burning and nerves dead ended or on fire—no in-between, no pause, no breathing space… And in the lulls, everything too quiet. Every crow’s cawing, every breath of wind became a thing that stirred alertness out of impossible fatigue.

He’d thought the end was just another one of those lulls. That there would be another charge, another rush—something else, because it couldn’t be over. It would never be over… But it was.

Until night came.

His leg had been long-bound by then and he had done what he could for his father, limping, reaching across the broad shoulders to bind a wound that streamed new flow over the rusty stains of old blood. But it had been Aran who was the worst wounded, by the loss of his sons. Connor had found him, bent over the bodies. Perhaps it had been Aran’s cries that had woken shadows out of the dead. They were loud enough. They went on forever.

Not that he could blame him. There would be no honored burial, no pyre for those boys, not after this battle. Not when no one survived, no one but them—who would carry the bodies? Who would return to this plain and bring away the crow’s feast that remained? They had come to the very edge of his father’s kingdom to fight, two hundred warriors seeking to spill blood in the name of an ancient feud long abated. Fifty years of the High King’s peace had been broken there, and for what?

Nothing had been won, nothing gained, nothing threatened—a field in the middle of pastureland, and no herds in sight, and now his father’s men and the men who had rebelled both were dead.

Connor sighed, licked dry lips and looked up across the endless rolling of the hills and into the sunlight. How much farther? He took another step, and another, and another…

“Connor? Stop, Connor.”

He heard his father’s voice, but it seemed to come from a distance. Why would that be? His father was…right there. He turned his head to the left, and the motion unbalanced some precarious state he hadn’t even been aware of. His head was light, and his leg was numb. Thigh to foot, he couldn’t feel a thing.

“That isn’t right…”

“Connor!”

Darkness.

It reached out to envelop him, and for an instant, his heart sped up in fear.

But no.

No worries.

The thought came to him of itself, soothing, silken.

Wolf will protect me.

There was no need to fear the night.