Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunday's Safe Word Shelf: Thrown to the Lions by Kim Dare

Each man has his own reason for volenteering to be thrown to the lions.

Money. Excitment. Duty. Lust.

The only thing that's garanteed, is that every man who arrives, bound and naked on the lions' doorstep always recieved much more than he bargined for.

And as for the lions who accept their sacrifices - they're about to find out just how much trouble humans can be.

Please note: These books are best read in sequence as part of the series.

This series is now complete. No further books are planned.

Ryland's Sacrifice #1
Principles don't pay tuition fees. When Ryland's math scholarship disappears overnight, he has two choices. He can borrow money from fellow student Jason Burrows, who has very interesting ways of collecting debts. Or, he can volunteer to be thrown to the werelions.

One night spent playing the part of a willing human sacrifice will give him enough money to finish his PhD. It seems like a good deal-right up until the moment he finds himself naked, blindfolded, bound and surrounded by lions.

Marrick's Promise #2
Marrick thinks that being thrown to the lions will be the ultimate adrenaline rush, and he’s not disappointed. But his plan is to try everything life has to offer once. He has no intention of visiting the lions again.

Blaine and Luther don’t expect to give any of the human sacrifices they share another thought once they leave the den. This man’s different. They have no intention of letting this one go. The only question is, while they are willing to share Marrick with each other, are they willing to share each other with a human who could become as important to each of them as they are to each other?

Ellery's Duty #3
As a well respected dominant, Ellery has been watching the subs from the local leather bars disappear into the lions’ den for far too long, and he’s not convinced that everything is as fine as they all claim it is. He’s determined to find out what really happens in there. If the only way he can do that is to volunteer to be thrown to the lions himself, so be it.

Kefir’s never worked out what the other lions find so interesting about the human sacrifices who visit their den, but this new man is unlike any other human he’s ever met, and Kefir’s captivated. Can the smallest lion in the pride claim a man like Ellery as his pet—is that even the way Kefir wants to think of his human mate?

Cameron's Pride #4
Franklin knows the way the game is played. It’s the man with the money who calls the shots, and Franklin has plenty of money. When he sees a beautiful lion shifter called Caramel dancing on the stage at his favourite club, he doesn’t hesitate to reach for his wallet. And, when Caramel disappears before he can even open negotiations, he’s quick to pay a fortune in order to be thrown to the only pride of werelions in the area.

Cameron’s been living without a pride for years, doing whatever it takes to survive. Dancing in clubs, and doing whatever the guys who throw money at him want him to do in the alleyways behind those clubs, hasn’t given him the best opinion of human men. All he knows for sure is that the rich ones are the worst.

The pride are determined to track down the lone lion that’s living in their territory and bring him safely under their care, but is it too late for Cameron to find a sense of pride—and if he does, will he be too proud to.

Ryland's Sacrifice #1
He wasn’t completely naked. Ryland Gilford silently repeated the fact over and over inside his head. Even though it was technically true, it did little to reassure him.

By his careful estimations, sixteen square inches of his skin were hidden away. Unfortunately, neither the leather cuffs wrapped around his wrists, nor the blindfold over his eyes, concealed any of those parts of his anatomy he generally preferred to keep covered in the presence of strangers.

The car lurched to a sudden stop. The seat belt tightened across Ryland’s chest as he was flung forward. His bound arms dug into his spine as he was tossed back against the seat again.

Dragging a deep lungful of air into his body, Ryland scrambled for a different, more effective, mantra—one that didn’t remind him he was stark bollock naked every two seconds.

Textbooks cost money? That was more promising. Maybe, if he concentrated very hard on remembering why he’d agreed to do something so blatantly, bloody stupid, he’d somehow manage to survive the night with some little part of his sanity intact.

Textbooks cost money. Tuition fees have to be paid. Rent money has to be found. Enough spare change to buy a meal or two during the next academic year would be nice, too.

Remembering those facts helped a little, but it wasn’t enough. Ryland still felt sick to his stomach. The car turned a sharp corner. He swayed in his seat before finally managing to right himself. The chauffeur’s driving really wasn’t helping his efforts not to give way to nervous nausea.

Still it was better than being driven around by one of Jason Burrows’ drivers…

Ryland took a deep breath and let it out very slowly. Yes, that was what he really needed to remember. Sacrificing his principles this way might make his skin crawl, but it was still better than putting himself into the hands of the only man at the university who might be willing to lend money to a doctorial math student whose scholarship had vanished into the murky depths of the recession.

He’d heard all about the way Jason Burrows called in his debts. The rumors made him out to be very inventive in certain areas. Anything had to be better than that—even this.

The car jerked to a stop once more. Silence filled the world as the driver killed the engine. Ryland’s breath caught in his throat as he realized this wasn’t just another set of traffic lights.

From the darkness behind his blindfold, he heard the driver get out of the car. The door next to him was thrown open. Cold air rushed into the claustrophobic little space. Clothes brushed against his bare skin as someone leaned in and undid his seatbelt. The driver’s breath caressed his neck.

Ryland tried to press himself further back against the seat. The buckles on the leather cuffs stabbed him in the back. A second later, a calloused hand caught hold of his arm and dragged him unceremoniously out of the car. He stumbled as he tried to get his balance. The chauffeur took no notice.

Gravel crunched under the other man’s shoes and bit into Ryland’s bare feet as he was marched forward. They stopped as suddenly as they started. A yank on Ryland’s arm kept him upright when he’d have stumbled. It damn near wrenched his shoulder out of the socket too.

A doorbell rang in the distance. The driver let go of his arm. Ryland rolled his shoulder as much as his restraints would allow, as if the fact someone had set his shoulder on fire was the only thing he needed to be worried about right then.

Footsteps stomped over the gravel once more, growing fainter as they moved further away from him.

“Where are you going?” Ryland silently cursed himself. He really hadn’t intended to sound that way, but the words already hung in the cool evening air. It was too late to wish they’d been braver.

A car started up. Ryland turned toward it. “What the—” He opened and closed his mouth a few times. No other words materialized.

No one had said anything about him being left on a doorstep like a sodding parcel. Some frightened little part of him knew there were a hell of a lot of details he probably should have checked before he launched himself into this stupid mess. If he’d believed himself capable of finding out those sorts of particulars and still going through with it, he was sure he’d have asked every single one of the right questions.

Pity, then, that he was well aware that he wasn’t that kind of man. If he’d let himself find out too much about the horrible little charade, he wouldn’t have entered into it calm and well informed. He’d have run away before anyone had a chance to strip him down and lock those idiotic cuffs around his wrists.

And what would he have done then? Borrow the money from Jason Burrows? Drop out and prove his parents had been right when they’d said he’d never get through his degrees without crawling back to them and begging for their help.

A cool breeze danced over Ryland’s skin, reminding him it was far too late to wish things were different. A shiver raced down his spine. The evening air seemed to have a mind of its own. It concentrated all its efforts on blowing against his exposed cock, apparently rather amused by the fact that he couldn’t put his hands in front of his body, that he couldn’t even see and find a bush to hide behind. Silence surrounded him, leaving him in no doubt he was alone in some nameless person’s driveway.

“Please, God, let it be the right house,” he whispered to himself. That wasn’t too much to ask for, was it? Please, don’t let it belong to some nice little old lady who’s going to phone the police and demand they come and arrest the flasher lurking in her front garden.

“Don’t worry, sweetheart, you’re in the right place.” The words were purred just a few inches from his ear. Ryland spun around, as if the blindfold might conveniently disappear and allow him to see his…his attacker? One of his owners for the rest of the night?

The heat radiating from a warm body confirmed the speaker stood within inches of him. He barely had time to register that fact before a naked body brushed against him. Ryland stumbled away from it. An embarrassing little yelp escaped from the back of his throat as he discovered another, equally naked, man behind him. Surrounded by bare skin, he twisted around, searching blindly for an escape route.

“No playing in the driveway!” someone yelled from the direction of the house. “Inside, all of you—now!”

Strong hands wrapped around each of Ryland’s bound arms and led him forward.

Tile flooring replaced the gravel. Wooden floorboards replaced tiles and in turn gave way to thick carpet. A door slammed behind him. The room they’d led him into was stiflingly hot after the chill of the driveway. The rapid change in temperature sent a shiver through him.

As the hands gripping his arms disappeared, silence surrounded him once more, broken only by the sound of logs crackling on a fire. For a few seconds, Ryland managed to focus on his actual surroundings rather than all the horrible possibilities that tangled themselves together his mind. The heat from the fire warmed the right side of his body.

Fire on the right. Door on the left. He knew where he was. Sort of. Even if he didn’t, pretending he did made him feel a little bit better about the world. And it had to be better than thinking about the eyes he could feel roaming over his bare skin. No one laid a hand on him, but disturbed air caressed his skin. Ryland got the distinct impression someone was circling him, that he was being judged.

Against all reason, he found himself hoping whoever it was, would be pleased with what they saw. He wasn’t under any illusions. Guy’s weren’t exactly queuing around the block in the rain for him. But he wasn’t so bad. Some guys seemed to like him. Some guys liked blond hair and blue eyes on general principle. The guy who’d agreed to send him there that night had certainly seemed to like staring at him when Ryland had stripped down to ‘audition’ for the part he was about to play in this stupid little game.

Ryland swallowed several times as his nerves threatened to get the better of him. A slow breath in and out failed to calm his rush towards full out panic.

“No one’s going to hurt you.” Once again, the words came from just behind his ear, but this time they made him freeze rather than spin around. It was a different voice, deeper and richer than the one that had spoken to him outside.

“You were told we have no interest in unwilling men?”

The silence demanded an answer.

“Yes,” Ryland admitted. And he’d been desperate enough to believe it. Bloody fool…

Something touched his cheek. Ryland let out a terrified little whimper before he realized it was nothing more frightening than another man’s hair brushing against him. Impossibly soft lips placed a gentle kiss on his shoulder. A rough tongue rasped against his skin.

Ryland bit back another whimper as the sensation rushed straight down his spine and lodged in his cock.

“You know what’s expected of you?”

“Whatever you want.” Ryland cleared his throat. “I have to do whatever you want for the rest of the night.” He had to. If he didn’t, he’d probably be expected to give the money back—which would be pretty difficult, considering he’d already spent every last penny of it paying the remainder of his tuition fees.

The man behind him made a vague noise, half way between agreement and disagreement. Lips trailed up Ryland’s neck. The heat from a man’s body standing close behind him overpowered the warmth from the fire, rendering the blaze insignificant.

“Tell me what you want me to do?” Ryland asked.

The request was ignored.

Long strands of hair brushed against his other cheek. “Have you ever taken a lion before?”

Ryland shook his head. But that didn’t mean he hadn’t heard all the tales that were whispered around the university. Werelions lived on campus. A man could make easy money being thrown to the lions. Oh, yes, he knew all the rumors. It was gossip like that that had landed him in this mess in the first place.

Strong. Dominant. Insatiable. Werelions. Half man, half cat. They hunt in groups and share their prizes with the rest of the pride. In that moment, Ryland really wished he hadn’t heard the stories, almost as much as he wished the guy hadn’t said the L word. He’d sounded so human. It would have been so easy to pretend…

The lion closed the gap between them. A hard cock brushed against Ryland’s skin. Against all reason, he felt his own cock twitch in response. The shifter moved closer still. Lining his body up behind Ryland’s, he ran his tongue over his shoulder once more.

Large hands settled on Ryland’s flanks, holding him still, but it didn’t feel like the lion was trying to stop him from escaping. His touch was strong, confident, it seemed to aim to reassure rather than restrain.

The rough tongue’s caress sent a shudder through Ryland’s body. He bowed his head as an image of a kneeling shifter invaded his mind. The possibilities of that tongue turning its attentions to his cock made him whimper.

Warped. Ryland mentally rolled his eyes at himself. He was so warped. Not to mention delusional. Like there was a hope in hell he’d be the one looking down at another man on his knees that night.

Marrick's Promise #2
As far as Marrick Powell was concerned, there was only one thing better than one naked man pressed intimately against his skin, and that was two naked bodies, completely surrounding him with a solid wall of heat and strength.

Lions…the very thought of the shifters had kept him hard ever since the guys at the pub had first put him, bound and blindfolded, in the back of the limo. The reality of it was so much better than any of the possibilities his imagination had managed to cook up—especially since there seemed to be a fantastic buy one get one free offer on werelions that night.

Rough gravel bit into Marrick’s feet as he wriggled between the two shifters, but that wasn’t important. His squirming informed him that the guy behind him was just as hard as he was. Sore feet couldn’t compete with that sort of knowledge. Arching his back, he explored the other man as best he could while his hands were still bound behind his back.

The man…the lion…the…whatever the hell he should be called, was all gloriously hard muscle. Marrick pushed his arse back in encouragement as the tip of the other guys cock nudged against the cleft between his buttocks.

Someone purred in his ear. Rough palms slid down his arms. Another set of equally demanding hands slid up his chest, exploring him as if it was their right—as if he’d given them that right when he agreed to be their human sacrifice for the night. Marrick grinned blindly into the night air as an extra shot of adrenaline raced through his veins as the truth of his situation sunk in. He redoubled his efforts to explore the other men in return.

Great builds, equally impressive cocks—there were some things he was soon certain of. But the men could still have been twins for all Marrick was able to tell them apart through his blindfold. They moved around him, caressing and assessing him, changing places with each other until he had no idea which man had originally been where.

A tiny part of him cared which man was which. Most of him really didn’t give a damn. It wasn’t as if he was ever going to see their faces, as if he’d ever meet them again. The pure anonymity of it all made his heart race faster, his body arch into their touch even more eagerly.

Bungee jumping had been a rush. White water rafting better than he’d ever imagined it could be. But, in that moment, Marrick knew that being thrown to the lions was easily going to be the best thing he’d ever tick off the extensive list of things he was determined to squeeze into his life. Even the whips wielded by the local doms couldn’t compete with the endorphins just being close to the lions sent swirling through him.

One of Marrick’s soon to be lovers purred his approval against his neck as Marrick managed to force his restrained hands into a position where he could wrap his fist around the shifter’s cock.

He was just like a very well hung human—except for the fact his whole body was hotter than any man Marrick had ever known. The cool air that blew across the driveway didn’t seem to worry either shifter. Caught between them, Marrick found himself content to let the party start wherever the hell they wanted it too.

Gravel marks on his knees probably wouldn’t be that much more painful than carpet burns, and if the sharp little stones broke the skin, Marrick gave a mental shrug—he knew he’d enjoy looking at the scars when the blindfold came off.

“Inside—all of you!”

The voice didn’t come from either of his new friends. Disorientated from the lions’ inspection of him, Marrick could only assume it originated from inside the house. He moaned his disapproval as the other men slipped away from him, leaving him with nothing more than their hands gripping his arms as they led him forward.

He stumbled along between them, into the mild warmth of one room, then into the heat of another. The softness of a rug under his feet tempered his silent curses a little. He’d had gravel rash a time or two when his faith in his mountain biking ability wasn’t matched by his actual talent—it hadn’t been a particularly erotic sort of pain. A rug would probably be more fun. Besides, they had the whole evening. No point staying out there the whole time and catching a chill…

The hands on Marrick’s arms remained long after they came to a halt. It didn’t take him long to realize that all three of them were facing someone else now. Marrick tried to get a sense of the room and who might be studying him and his new friends.

He had the distinct impression he was being inspected, but it was nothing like feeling a voyeur’s gaze traverse his skin—he’d felt that often enough in the clubs. The gaze felt more like the way he imagined a betting man might judge the worth of a boxer about to step into the ring. It was impersonal, practical, and had a strange way of making a man hope it would declare him up to scratch for the bout.

“I take it there’s no need to ask if you two are interested in him.” The voice was deep and rich, and whoever it belonged to wasn’t making any attempt to hide his amusement. Marrick grinned, guessing the other two men were still just as hard as he was.

“Yes,” someone said to his left. The man on his right said nothing. Marrick could only hope that was because he’d offered up a silent nod instead.

“He’ll probably enjoy himself far more if you leave his arms in working order.” A hint of seriousness crept into the voice facing them.

The hands on his arms instantly eased their grips. Behind the blindfold, Marrick frowned. They’d felt pretty bloody good as they were. The grips didn’t tighten again, but the men’s hold did alter as he felt someone step in front of him. Barely a fraction of a moment later, the other man’s hand slid against his skin and Marrick felt the second shifter move behind him.

“Manners, Luther,” the deep, serious voice bit out.

The lion in front of Marrick pulled back a little as he seemed to hesitate. “If you say ‘sword’, we have to let you go.” The words were little more than a rough purr.

The still un-named lion behind Marrick lined his body up against him, pressing a hard shifter-cock against his arse. “If you don’t say it, we can do whatever we want with you.” His voice was harsher, and dominant enough to send an expectant thrill down Marrick’s spine.

He waited impatiently for one of the men to move. The entire room seemed to hold its breath, waiting with him. A full minute passed.

“They won’t do anything until you give them your answer.” That was the deeper voice again.

Marrick blinked in the darkness behind the blindfold as he realized they weren’t waiting with him, but for him. “I understand. Safe word’s sword. Got it.”

The words before hadn’t been a purr. The noise the shifter in front of him made as he brought their lips together was a purr. The vibrations shot down Marrick’s spine and rushed straight to his cock, making him moan as he parted his lips and invited the other man to deepen the kiss.

Once more surrounded by naked skin as the shifter behind him pulled him closer, Marrick rocked his hips rubbing his arse against one lion, his cock against the other, and any bit of skin he could, against any available portion of the other men’s bodies.

Tugging at the bindings around his wrists, he tried to work out if he could squirm his way out of the cuffs. The blindfold was fair enough. Anonymity—a few hours stolen away from the real world where a man could do whatever the hell he liked and never have to face the other guy, or guys, in the morning. He was all on board for that. The blindfold was hot. The cuffs were just bloody well annoying.

Either the lions didn’t notice that he was trying to get rid of them, or they didn’t care. The lion in front of him, the one called Luther, broke the kiss. A moment later Marrick’s face was turned, his mouth captured by another eager pair of lips.

A rough tongue thrust into his mouth demanding to taste him. Marrick’s tongue stroked against the shifter’s, eagerly sparring with him as he tried to explore the other man’s mouth in return.

The lion slid his hands into Marrick’s hair as they fought each other for control of the kiss, but the shifter’s grip on him provided scant advantage, especially when he kind of liked the way the guy tugged at the short black strands.

Marrick was almost as good at controlling a kiss as the other guy—almost. Pleasure rushed through him as the other guy wrangled control from him and refused to give any scrap of it back.

As one kiss was broken and the other lion took his turn possessing Marrick’s mouth, one of the shifters wrapped his fingers around Marrick’s cock. His grip was strong, his strokes rapid, but at the same time, he could tell the other man was holding back on him, gentling his touch when he could easily have been rougher.

Sod that. There was no way he was going to stand for being treated like some fragile little princess. That wasn’t what he’d signed up for. He could hold his own in the best leather clubs in the city, and he’d be damned if he wouldn’t do the same in the lions’ den too. Shrugging his shoulders, shaking off the lion behind him, he leaned up and blindly fought for control of the kiss from the shifter before him.

Luther seemed a little startled, it took him a second to catch up and try to snatch control back from him. His grip tightened around his cock. The lion behind him caught hold of him, as if he sensed the change in his attitude too. Sharp points, like the tips of claws, caught at his skin biting into his sides.

Marrick moaned his approval against the other lion’s lips as he pictured the marks they might leave on him if they really were claws. The second’s distraction was all Luther needed to regain dominance of the kiss. A second later, Marrick felt them all being lowered onto the rug. His knees hit the floor with a bump.

Hands stroked down his back, pushing him forward, toward Luther. Two lions had to mean there were only four hands exploring his body.

It felt like more. There was no way a simple little threesome—even a threesome with an audience—should be able to make him so hard, so desperate to come. As Marrick’s head was pulled around for another kiss from the man behind him, he felt two mouths caress his lips at the same time.

The lions’ lips met and for a second, he was forgotten about. Marrick gasped for breath, wishing the leather blindfold away, just for a few moments, just for long enough to see the kiss. Muscular bodies pinned him between them, as hands slid past Marrick and found their way onto the lions’ skin instead.

Perhaps he wouldn’t mind sneaking a peak at some bits of the lions other than their mouths if he ever got the chance…

His fumbling hands managed to wrap around the cock behind him. One of the lions purred into the kiss but it was impossible to tell which one. They pulled each other closer, trapping him, making it almost impossible for him to draw breath.

Lowering his head, Marrick found a lion’s shoulder with his lips. He pressed a kiss against the lion’s skin and butted his head against the other man’s shoulder, trying to push him far enough away that he could kiss his way down to the shifter’s cock.

It took the lion a lifetime to realize what he was trying to do. He pulled away. Marrick didn’t waste any time. He’d had enough of cocks rubbing against him. He needed to taste one. Blindly sensing the lion’s retreat, he leaned forward and down, mouth already open as he licked his lips in anticipation.

The lion behind him caught his hips just in time to stop him falling face first into the rug. Another pair of hands settled on his shoulders, steadying him perfectly.

Leaning further, Marrick finally found the tip of the other man’s shaft. He wrapped his lips around it, murmuring his satisfaction as he felt pre-cum leak onto his tongue.

One of the hands on his arse disappeared for a moment. Off balance already, Marrick felt the entire weight of his torso fall into the hands of the man in front of him. The guy seemed strong enough—and he was about to get a very good blow job. All things considered, Marrick decided not to feel too guilty for letting the other guy bear his weight for a little while.

Slicked fingers slid down between his arse cheeks. He immediately pushed back against them, encouraging the shifter behind him as he let Luther feel the full vibrations of his pleasure.

The first touch against his hole was gentle, cautious, as if the lion half expected him to freak out from nothing more than a few fingers. Marrick groaned his frustration, desperate to tell him to hurry the hell up, but not wanting to let the cock in his mouth slip away for long enough to get the words out. Finally, his mumbled demands seemed to get through to the lion. A rapidly increasing number of digits thrust into him, hard and fast, preparing him as quickly as possible.

The fingertips rubbed against his prostate, making him squirm and suck the other man’s cock more deeply into his mouth. Just as they found the perfect spot, they disappeared altogether. The tip of a cock pressed against him in their place. A lifetime had passed since he was ready to feel the shifter’s cock plow into him, but it was still just a fraction too soon for a red flag not to go up inside his head.

He pulled back from the cock between his lips. “Condom.”

“What?” The shifter behind him asked.

“Condom,” Marrick repeated, unable to stop himself running his tongue up the other man’s shaft the moment the second syllable had left his lips.

“We don’t need—”

“You do if you want to screw me.” It was hard to sound determined and unswayable, while also trying to gasp for breath and simultaneously lick cock, but Marrick did his best.

The lion behind him let out a frustrated little snarl, obviously not impressed. But Marrick felt the shifter pull away, and heard him scrambling around for something. A moment later, the sound of a condom wrapper tearing made it to his ears. He shuffled his knees a little further apart on the rug in praise of the other man seeing sense.

Ellery's Duty #3
“Mr. Ellery!”

Marlin Ellery turned his face toward the voice, as if there was some chance that the leather blindfold some fool had tied over his eyes would conveniently disappear. Of course, it didn’t. Ellery remained surrounded by darkness and an unknown number of men.

Rough hands pressed down on his shoulders, forcing him to his knees. A thick rug softened his landing. A second pair of hands wrapped around his right arm and stopped him from falling flat on his face. Neither of those facts provided a great deal of consolation.

He was bound, blindfolded, naked and now he was on his knees in front of a room full of men. The sudden realization that the men weren’t all strangers to him, wasn’t a blessing.

The voice finally matched itself with a name in the back of his mind. “Marrick?”

“You know him?” one of the men who’d led Ellery into the room demanded.

“Yeah. From the clubs. He’s a…dominant.” That was Marrick’s voice again, stumbling over the term as he tried to make the title fit the man kneeling before him.

Ellery’s hackles rose. His hands tightened into fists behind his back. After so many visits to those local clubs, the boy should have more sense than to think the trimmings could make so much difference to the man.

Holding back a string of curses, Ellery did his best to console himself with the knowledge he was definitely in the right place. This was definitely the lions’ den that the local subs kept disappearing to. All he had to do now was keep his temper, and everything would be fine.

“He’s a what? How do you know him?” One of the men who’d dragged Ellery into the room demanded, from his left.

“Um…are you two sure you got the right guy?” someone cut in from the far side of the room.

“How many men do you think land on our doorstep dressed like this by accident?” Marrick’s friend snarled.

“He’s not very like the other sacrifices…” That was Mr. Worried from the corner again.

And suddenly everyone was talking at once. Voices chased each other back and forth above Ellery’s head. He did his best to build some sort of mental map of the room, but there were too many people, and they moved around too damn much. It was impossible for him to even be sure of the number of men present, let alone calculate which really were men and how many were actually werelions.

“He’s older than most of the other sacrifices…



“Not very pet like…”

“He’s beautiful…”

The last two words were softly spoken, yet they seemed to catch the attention of everyone present. Silence fell over the room until a log crackled in the fire.

Nothing else was said, but Ellery still got the distinct impression that someone was creeping cautiously closer to him.

Fingers stroked very softly down his cheek, caressing Ellery’s skin more gently than he’d ever have believed possible. Against all logic, he found himself remaining still and simply accepting the other man’s touch.


The man in front of Ellery spoke up in response to the query. All he managed was a hesitant little “I…” but it was enough to confirm a name at least.

Kefir snatched his touch away from Ellery’s face. The dominant sensed him retreat.

“You know what you need to say?” It was the same voice that had said Kefir’s name.

The speaker sounded older than the men who had been arguing with each other a few moments before, his voice was deeper, richer. Even though he seemed to be making an effort to speak gently, his voice was still strong and confident—a natural inclination to dominance still came through loud and clear.

Ellery’s spine straightened, as he realized he’d just met the leader of the pride.

“You can’t be serious!” Marrick’s friend cut in from Ellery’s left, before Kefir had a chance to speak again.

“Are you declaring an interest in him, Blaine?” the leader demanded.

“No, but—”

“Then be silent!” The older voice made no attempt to speak gently to the dissenter in his ranks.


A roar echoed through the room. Primal instinct kicked in. A shudder tried to run through Ellery’s body, but he stopped it in its tracks, unwilling to show any such weakness before the assembled lions. Anyway, he could hardly blame the lions’ leader for losing patience. Marrick obviously belonged to a brat.

“Let him go, both of you.”

The hands that had led Ellery into the room disappeared. He sensed the lions they belonged to stepped away from him. Bare skin brushed against Ellery’s knee as Kefir crept closer again.

“You know what you need to say?” the leader asked Kefir again.

“If you say ‘shield’, you’re free to go,” Kefir whispered, making no attempt to make his voice sound deeper, or more dominant, the way Blaine had.

Ellery was so focused on the beautiful, submissive quality in his tone, it took a moment for the meaning of the shifter’s statement to sink in. The lions knew about safe words, then?

An answer appeared to be required. “I understand.”

“Neatly done, Kefir.” The leader sounded very pleased with him. “He’s yours for the night.”


The leader didn’t give the brat a chance to say another word. “The decision’s been made. There will be no argument.”

Other words floated through the darkness surrounding Ellery, infantile silliness warring with impatience at every turn, but they grew fainter as the men speaking walked away from the fireside, to another part of the room.

The only presence Ellery sensed remaining close to him was Kefir’s.

“No one will hurt you,” his new friend whispered to him. “You don’t need to be afraid.”

“I’m not.” Ellery’s jaw clenched at the very idea.

Fingertips touched his cheek again, stroking over the tensed muscles, before hesitating. “May I…?”

A great many widely varying possibilities had made their way through Ellery’s mind when he decided, in his infinite wisdom, to volunteer to be thrown to the lions. But the idea that he could somehow end up being handed over to a submissive feline, had never even occurred to him.

The shifter’s hand disappeared from his skin when Ellery failed to provide immediate permission for it to linger there.

“You may.”

“You’re sure you don’t mind?”

“I don’t give orders I’m not sure of,” Ellery informed him, a touch of irritation seeping into his words.

The fingers hadn’t come back, and the dominant suddenly realized that he wanted them to return far more than he should. Unable to reach out and make that very clear to the other man, he chafed at the bondage and the stupidity of the situation more than ever.

Several seconds passed. Ellery couldn’t even be sure if the other man was still there. In the darkness of the blindfold, he silently spat out a string of curses that might even have had a few of the mechanics in his bike shop blushing.

Finally, the lion’s touch came to rest against him again, not on his cheek this time, but on his collar bone. The shifter’s hand stroked across his shoulder and down his arm, tracing out the lines of muscle as if quite fascinated by them.

Kefir’s hand didn’t feel overly large. That wasn’t exactly conclusive evidence of anything, but Ellery had no choice but to piece together whatever he could from the scant clues at his disposal.

A small hand belonging to a relatively small man? He sounded quite young. Most lions were fair haired.

The shifter came closer as he started to explore Ellery’s body a little more confidently, his knees brushed against Ellery’s leg. He did his best to picture the man kneeling in front of him, but it was all just guess work.

“You’re very beautiful.”

Behind the blindfold, Ellery raised an eyebrow. He’d been a newbie on the scene the last time someone had tried to speak to him as if he was some pretty little sub. In the decades that had passed since then, no one would have dared. Yet, the anger Ellery expected to flood through his veins failed to materialize.

The boy sounded so earnest, it was hard to be anything other than amused by him. “If you take the blindfold off, I might be able to say the same about you,” he suggested. A strange desperation to see the lion flooded through him. It was more luck than judgment that kept most of it out of his voice.

The shifter’s hand faltered in his caress. “We’re not supposed to do that.”

The only man his submissives needed permission from to do anything at all, was him. Ellery somehow managed to stay silent, and keep that fact to himself, but he couldn’t stop his wrists pulling irritably at the cuffs behind his back.

Kefir’s attention transferred from Ellery’s arm to his chest. The dominant couldn’t be sure if the man was trying to tease or not, but as the lion stroked his way over his skin, every sensation rushed straight to Ellery’s cock. In spite of everything, he started to stiffen.

As best as he could tell from the younger man’s continued explorations, Kefir didn’t notice that for some time. As the lion’s touch hesitated half way down his abs, Ellery had the distinct feeling that the penny had finally dropped. He waited, blind and impatient, for the shifter’s reaction.

A fingertip brushed delicately against the tip of his hardening cock.

Ellery tensed. His hips attempted to rock forward. He locked his joints and refused them permission, unwilling to put on such a show for anyone who might be watching.

“Do humans like the same kind of touch as a lion would enjoy?”

“That rather depends upon how lions like to be touched,” Ellery informed him, keeping his voice steady through sheer force of will.

For what felt like a long time, Kefir remained very still, very silent. Eventually, Ellery felt the other man’s hand wrap around his shaft. The boy’s touch became a little stronger as he seemed to gain confidence. Apparently, lions liked to jack off just as much as humans did.

It wasn’t the kind of information Ellery had been searching for when he volunteered to play the sacrifice, but as the lion’s thumb rubbed back and forth across the head of his cock, he couldn’t quite manage to feel annoyed by the diversion.

Pre-cum began to leak from the tip, slicking the other man’s hand. The shifter was just beginning to build up a pleasant rhythm when he took his hand away without explanation or warning. His fingers transferred their attention to Ellery’s leg.


Ellery quickly cut himself short, but the shifter’s hand still hesitated against his thigh. “Do you mind?”

The question was so softly spoken, so uncertain of anything and everything in the whole damn world, Ellery couldn’t help but think it was the younger man who was really out of his depth and his comfort zone.

“Your choice,” Ellery said. He sounded as if he meant it. In some way, he did. He wasn’t going to order the boy to keep going just because he wanted to come, not when he couldn’t even look into Kefir’s eyes and see what the hell was going on with the sub.

Dominance was dominance. Being cuffed and blindfolded didn’t change anything. It didn’t excuse a dominant from doing his duty and taking appropriate care with the man under his control. It just made it a damn sight more difficult to enjoy the process.

Ellery forced himself to remain still and impassive as the younger man’s exploration of him resumed. He’d gone over dozens of submissives’ bodies that way over the years. He knew how to make them squirm, with pleasure or with frustration, depending on how well they had behaved up until that point.

He knew how a blindfold could alter a submissive’s experience of the world, how it could heighten each sensation, how it could encourage them to give up control and rely on their master. Trust could come quickly to a man who couldn’t rely on his own senses to take care of him.

Being vulnerable before another man pulled something out of a submissive.

But he wasn’t a submissive, he was a dominant who happened to be in a difficult situation for a while—a dominant who’d given a submissive permission to explore his body.

There was no reason to freak out about it all, like a silly little novice. No reason to get all hot and bothered over what amounted to an incredibly mild scene.

Squaring his shoulders a little, Ellery took a deep breath and chased the tension out of his muscles. The very fact he relaxed and seemed more willing to accept his explorations seemed to give the other man some extra confidence.

A breath caressed his shoulder as Ellery felt the man lean toward him. A moment later, a rough tongue lapped at his skin.

“You taste nice.”

It was said so politely, Ellery had to bite back a chuckle. “Thank you.”

The shifter moved to kneel at his side. Kefir’s hands began to explore his dominant’s back with just as much interested as he’d inspected the rest of him. Kefir’s fingers stroked down his spine until they reached his bound wrists. He hesitated as he touched the cuffs.

He was going to undo them. Ellery had no doubt about that.


Ellery mentally cursed as Kefir snatched his hands away from the restraints at the interruption.

“The food’s about to be brought in.”

Ellery had the distinct feeling that some silent look passed between Kefir and the leader of the pride at that point. The younger lion’s hands didn’t return to his wrists when the brief exchange ended.

“There’s a sofa,” Kefir suggested, softly.

With his knees already protesting and his legs cramping in the unfamiliar position, Ellery didn’t need to be coaxed. He quickly nodded his approval of the idea.

The shifter’s hands slid against his skin as Kefir helped him to his feet. Ellery no longer had any hesitation in thinking of the other man as smaller than him then. As their bodies brushed together, he was left in little doubt that he was a good head taller than Kefir—or that the little lion’s cock was just as hard as his own.

Cameron's Pride #4
“I’m looking for a lion called Caramel.”

For several seconds, Franklin Hamilton strained his ears. He could feel several pairs of eyes running over his naked body, but no one spoke up to either confirm or deny Caramel’s presence in the lions’ den.

Franklin took a deep breath. The heat from the fire he could feel burning to his right, raced into his lungs. It scorched and seemed to threaten to suffocate him after the colder air that had filled the…the driveway, he supposed it must have been. It was hard to be certain of anything while the blindfold covered his eyes.

There was only one thing Franklin felt sure of. Caramel was there. He had to be. Franklin shuffled his feet against the rug beneath him as he waited for someone to speak, for Caramel to make his existence known.

Eyes continued to rake over Franklin’s exposed body, he could sense other men’s attention surrounding him. If his hands hadn’t been cuffed behind him, he might have actually given in to a display of weakness and brought them in front of his crotch in an effort to cover himself. As it was, there was nothing he could do but wait and hope he’d finally managed to track down the man he was looking for.

Franklin squared his shoulders and lifted his chin. There would be no weakness, not from him.

A hand suddenly brushed against the back of his head. Before Franklin could react, it deftly unfastened the buckle holding his blindfold in place. The leather fell away from his face. There was no light other than the fire burning in the grate, but, after so long in complete darkness, Franklin was still half-blinded by the flickering flames.

Quickly turning his face away from the blaze, he only managed to catch the briefest glimpse of the man in front of him out of the very corner of his eye. That was still sufficient for him to realize that he wasn’t facing the pretty little dancer he was looking for.

Franklin had spent more than enough hours staring at Caramel while the shifter had been on stage to be able to recognize him instantly. The lion he wanted was all lean lines of graceful muscle, high cheekbones and tumbling golden locks.

As Franklin’s eyes adjusted to the firelight, he quickly ran his gaze over the man before him. He couldn’t have been more different to the man Franklin expected to see.

“What do you know about Caramel?” the man demanded, as he glared down at Franklin, making full use of any psychological advantage his greater height might give him.

He was indeed taller than Franklin, and he was older, and broader across the shoulders too. If anyone had asked Franklin to picture the kind of person who might be capable of turning into a wild animal at the slightest provocation, the man before him would have fulfilled all the requirements perfectly.

Strengthening his body language as best he could while still bound, Franklin squared his stance and refused to show the slightest hint of fragility.

Just because everyone was naked, that didn’t mean this was all that different to a board meeting. The same psychology applied. The shifters were probably just slightly more honest about the kill or be killed nature of their dealings with each other.

“Where’s Caramel?” Franklin demanded, in exactly the same tone he’d have used with the head of a major project that was over-budget, behind schedule, and swirling around the bottom of the drain.

Apparently, that voice didn’t work on lions. Humans twice Franklin’s age had panicked when they heard it, and suddenly realized working for a twenty-four year old wouldn’t be the easy ride they expected. The feline in front of him didn’t even blink.

“I asked you, what do you know about Caramel?” the larger man reminded him, perfectly calmly.

A movement from the corner of Franklin’s eye caught his attention. He turned toward a smaller, younger man. The pretty little blond boy’s hand came to rest gently on the forearm of the man in front of Franklin, as if he was trying to soothe the larger man’s temper.

The boy met Franklin’s gaze without any hesitation, but there was no challenge in his expression only a kind of serious curiosity. “This is Ellery,” he said, softly. “My name’s Kefir.”

Silence descended. Franklin got the distinct impression the younger man would wait however long it took to be offered the same information in return, even if that turned out to be hours—or even days.

“Franklin Hamilton,” he provided, impatient to move on to more important matters as quickly as possible.

Kefir smiled encouragingly up at him. “And you’re looking for Cameron—for a feline dancer that calls himself Caramel?”

“Yes.” Franklin tried to peer past them and spot Caramel in the shadows. It wasn’t easy while Ellery continued to stand directly in front of him, blocking his view.

“So are we.”

“What?” Franklin’s attention snapped back to Kefir.

“We’ve been looking for him for some time,” the smaller man said. “If you have information then…”

“He’s not here?” Franklin demanded.

Ellery shifted his stance the moment Franklin raised his voice. He obviously didn’t like anyone shouting at his…Franklin glanced at Kefir and took note of the silver collar around the younger man’s neck…Ellery’s human submissive.

Franklin looked from one man to the other, then back again. It was time to cut to the bones of the matter. “I’ll pay you for any information you have.”

Kefir tilted his head to one side, as if he didn’t really understand the concept. Ellery’s expression was far more knowing. He might not be as impressed with the offer as Franklin had hoped, but at least he seemed to understand the theory.

“Perhaps, if we all sit down and tell each other what we know, that would help?” Kefir suggested.

Ellery nodded. They both stepped back, giving Franklin his first unobstructed view of the room. Over a dozen shifters sat in pairs and groups. Mixed in with them appeared to be a few human submissives, like Kefir.

As Ellery took a seat in one of the armchairs, the smaller man sat at his feet, for all the world like a well trained pet.

It wouldn’t do to let the man think all humans could be treated the same way. “Do you intend to remove my cuffs?” Franklin asked, pointedly.

“No.” Ellery said it as if he had every right to keep him bound for however long he damn well pleased.

Boardroom survival skills made Franklin’s next move clear. He didn’t even hesitate. “Are all lions so afraid of humans that they insist they must remain bound in their presence, or is it just you?”

Ellery’s reaction should have been easy to predict. He should have tensed at the insult and risen to the challenge. Franklin frowned as the other man’s lips twitched as if he was trying to bite back a sudden smile.

“I wouldn’t know,” Ellery eventually said. “Not being a lion.”

Franklin blinked at him.

Ellery’s smile broke through. Against all logic, it didn’t make the man look the least bit friendlier. If anything, he just looked hungry.

Franklin glanced at Kefir. The younger man did look far more like Caramel than Ellery ever could. He didn’t have the dancer’s build, or his grace of line. His hair was shorter. But, there was definitely something around the eyes, something…feline?

Vehement curses rolled around Franklin’s head, but he didn’t let them out. Pushing the whole matter aside and ignoring his mistake as if it had never happened, he pushed on, instead. “Is Caramel a member of this pride or not? I was told this is the only male pride in the area that accepts male sacrifices.”

“That much is true.”

Franklin spun around. Another armchair was occupied by another man with much the same build and manner as Ellery. He also had a younger man sitting at his feet. Franklin took a moment to study both men’s eyes, looking for any feline qualities there before he made a fool of himself again.

The older man had a dark mane of hair and a glint in his eye that marked him out as the more likely candidate.

“Who’s in charge here?” Franklin demanded, looking from that man to Ellery and back again.

“Joseph Arslan,” the man with the mane introduced himself. “I lead this pride. But, Kefir is the lion in charge of our search for Cameron.”

“How much?” Franklin asked him, never taking his eyes off Arslan.

Arslan’s eyes narrowed. “Excuse me?”

“How much money do you want in exchange for ordering all the lions in your pride to give me any information they have on Caramel’s whereabouts?” Franklin specified, impatience rushing through every word as he realized he seemed to have stumbled into an entire room full of men who had no idea how business was conducted.

The fire continued to burn as brightly as ever, but the temperature in the room somehow seemed to drop. It was all Franklin could do not to let a shiver run down his spine.

“And if you find him, what do you intend to do then?” Arslan asked.

Franklin glared down his nose at the seated shifter. “I fail to see what concern that would be of yours.”

Arslan smiled. It wasn’t a particularly friendly expression. “You’re standing in a room full of lions who could easily tear you limb from limb. If you fail to refer to his mate with due respect again, Ellery can probably add a human to that number. Insults are not your best course of action.”

“It wasn’t an insult, it was a business offer,” Franklin corrected. “You have information I want, and I’m prepared to pay very handsomely to get it.”

“Did you pay Kershaw to throw you to us tonight as well?” Arslan asked.

The more politely the lion spoke, the more tense the man sitting at his feet became. Franklin had known a secretary like that once, she had always been the best indication of her boss’ mood.

Franklin studied the submissive at Arslan’s feet, eager to gain any advantage before negotiations began in earnest. Apparently, he stared at him for a second too long.

Suddenly Arslan wasn’t sitting placidly in his chair, he was standing directly in front of Franklin, looming over him, a snarl building in the back of his throat.

“Yes,” Franklin rushed out, helpless to do anything else. “I paid Kershaw.”

“And what do you intend to pay Cameron to do if you succeed in tracking him down?” Arslan demanded.

Franklin tried to meet the older man’s gaze and hold it, but it was damn near impossible to out-stare a man who didn’t appear to need to blink.

As the seconds passed, it was all Franklin could do to hold his ground when his body begged him to take several rapid steps back. “That would be between myself and Cameron,” he managed to say. Habit held him in good stead. The words were neither as weak nor uncertain as he feared they might be.

Arslan made a disgusted noise in the back of his throat as he spun away from him. “Humans!”

The leader of the pride ran his fingers through his lover’s hair as he rejoined him, perhaps in apology for insulting his submissive’s species, perhaps not.

Franklin turned toward Kefir as he automatically sought out a weaker link to bargain with.

“You’ve seen him recently?” the smaller lion asked, his tone as mild as ever.

“A few weeks ago,” Franklin admitted.

“Where?” There was nothing mild about the way Ellery barked out his question.

Franklin considered his options. Searching for the other man on his own wasn’t working. Would it really be such a bad idea to use the pride to track the shifter down? They couldn’t do any worse than the private detectives Franklin had already invested a fortune in.

“In a night club on the other side of town,” he replied.

Within minutes, Kefir and Ellery had a whole selection of maps and notebooks spread out across the table on the far side of the room and they were both pouring over them with Franklin. The other shifters and their mates moved around them, tucking into the plates full of food that had been pushed to one side. But, as the other lions turned their attention to conversations on other matters, Franklin stayed at the table with the little lion and his master.

When Ellery finally undid his cuffs so he could help them sort through the papers, Franklin quickly found himself in his element. Putting together the clues wasn’t that different to putting together a business deal, and Franklin knew how good he was at those.

The other two men had already done most of the grunt work. No doubt they would be far from pleased when they discovered he had no intention of sharing Caramel with the pride when they finally found him.

With a mental shrug, Franklin gave all his attention to the notebook where Kefir’s neat writing listed the places that the dancer might be. Their hurt feelings weren’t his problem. And anyway, in his experience, there were few actions that couldn’t be forgiven if a man threw enough money at the offended parties.

Author Bio:
Kim is a thirty year old bisexual submissive from Wales (UK). First published in 2008, she has since released almost 100 BDSM erotic romance titles ranging from short stories to full length novels. Having worked with a host of fantastic e-publishers, she has just moved into self publishing.

While she has occasionally ventured towards other pairings, Kim's first love is still, and probably always will be, Male/Male stories. But, no matter what the pairing, from paranormal to contemporary, and from the sweet to the intense, everything she writes will always feature three things - Kink, Love and a Happy Ending.


Ryland's Sacrifice #1

Marrick's Promise #2

Ellery's Duty #3

Cameron's Pride #4

Rundown by Teresa Michaels

Title: Rundown
Author: Teresa Michaels
Series: Curveball #2
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: June 15, 2015
Cover Design: Mayhem Cover Creations

Breanne Sullivan never expected to find love again. Allowing herself to move on wasn’t easy, and now it may be too late. Determined to give herself a second chance, she will go to any lengths to prove her love to Drew. If only she could find him.

Desperate to numb his heartache in the wake of Breanne’s rejection, with something other than women and booze, Drew Scott packs his bags for the West Coast. Distance and a fresh start are just what he needs to heal the wounds caused by the only woman to ever captivate his heart.

But when the past and present collide in an unexpected way, Breanne and Drew quickly learn that things aren’t always what they seem. Caught between solving the mysteries that haunt them and getting the happily ever after they deserve, the two once again find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that could destroy them both.

Answers come at a dangerous price. Sacrifices must be made in order to protect the ones they love. Can Breanne prove her love to Drew before its too late? Or will opposing forces interfere and destroy any chance of them having a future together?

Curveball #1
Breanne Sullivan’s world has been turned upside down. In the midst of an investigation surrounding her husband, Breanne returns to the corporate world she left years ago to raise her children. Now, a required business trip places her on Innovation Airways’ maiden flight sitting next to pitching sensation and self-proclaimed bachelor, Drew Scott.

Drew is charismatic, devastatingly handsome and has never encountered a woman he couldn’t have.

That is, until he meets Breanne, whose attempts to deny the intense attraction they share only fuels Drew’s determination not to take no for an answer. But when the flight veers off-course and an unfathomable sequence of events forces them to rely on each other in a race for their lives, intentions quickly change. High-tech travel turns into a game of survival that invites temptation and threatens to push their desires over the edge.

He’s a tempting distraction she has to resist. She’s an unexpected challenge he’s determined to have at least once. The question is, if she gives in will he be able to let her go?

Author Bio:
Teresa Michaels lives in the New England area with her husband and children.  Curveball is her debut novel.


Rundown #2

Curveball #1

Brought to you by: 

The Gentleman & The Rogue by Bonnie Dee & Summer Devon

Lad from the streets meets lord of the manor. Both men's lives will be changed forever.

When Sir Alan Watleigh goes searching for sex, he never imagines the street rat he brings home for one last bit of pleasure in his darkest hour will be the man who hauls him back from the edge of the grave. Despite his harsh life in the slums of London, Jem is a bright, cheerful young man. He's also witty, irreverent, glib, and makes Alan laugh--a rare occasion since war time trauma and the death of his family have made the man a ghost of his former self.

A single night of meaningless sex turns into an offer of permanent employment. Jem acts as Alan's valet, but offers him so much more than polished boots and starched cravats. Just as the men are adjusting to their new living arrangement, news about a former soldier under his command sends Sir Watleigh and Jem on the road to save a child in danger.

The journey brings them closer together as they travel from lust toward love. They rescue the girl from the clutches of an insane surgeon, who is as interested in experimenting on the vulnerable human spirit as he is on physical bodies. Alan realizes his love for Jem when he nearly loses him, but is Alan's love strong enough to risk society discovering the truth about him? And is he strong enough to finally accept his sexual nature?

A reissue of the title first published by Loose Id.

I loved the connection between Jem and Alan, instant and yet complete opposites.  Jem is comfortable in his own skin and Alan seems to be fighting everything about himself, from his memories of the war to his need  to fill his heart.  When he takes Jem home, he's looking for one last night before he plans on ending it all.  Well, we all know the cliche about the best laid plans of mice and men, that pretty much sums up Jems entrance into Alan's life.  Then you throw in the doctor and his evil ways and the boys need to rescue little Major and you have a very intriguing and well written historical piece of fiction well worth reading.


April 6, 1813
It was a hanging offense if he got caught. Jem knew that. But he also knew he could get half a crown for the act and sleep with a full belly tonight. Now he just had to decide if the gent in the fancy waistcoat was a real customer or a troublemaker setting him up to take a fall. Another glance at the expensive carriage waiting on the street convinced him the dark-haired man was the former. A beak wouldn’t get that elaborate in his attempt to set up a whore. He might approach him in a tavern or on the street and whisper a furtive request, but wouldn’t hire a rich man’s carriage to complete the ruse. Would he?

Jem looked into the man’s eyes, trying to read them, but it was a dark night. The fog rose along with the stench from the rubbish in the alleys and crept out to claim the London streets. A man could hardly see his own hand, let alone a stranger’s face, in the swirling gray.

“Will you take a ride?” the man asked again. Street slang decoded the words to mean the cove wasn’t just seeking fast relief. This wouldn’t be a quick tour around a couple of streets and back again. The man wanted a full ride.

Jem decided he’d give it to him. He shrugged. “Cold night. Aye, I’ll take a ride with you.”

The gentry cove nodded and gestured for Jem to go first into the carriage. He climbed the step and slid across the seat, breathing in the delicious aroma of leather, tobacco, and wealth. He’d wished for shelter from the frigid wind, and it appeared his wish had been granted for now. No fool, he’d take a little warmth while he could get it.

He looked out the small window at the street he knew so well -- or what he could see of it through the fog and the night. The buildings looked different from this high perch, more squalid and decrepit than he’d realized. His heart beat faster; Jem was both excited and nervous at the prospect of an evening spent somewhere better. Sure, it was only for a few hours and only because this man wanted to bugger his rear. But for a few fleeting moments he’d be out of this hell and in a warm place. Maybe even a plush hotel room.

Jem studied his temporary employer as the man climbed into the carriage and sat across from him. It was as dark as the inside of a slut’s cunny, but Jem could make out a few details of the man’s face and figure. He was of medium height and build, not too old, but no youth either. His dark hair was cut short and brushed straight back from his high forehead. The style wasn’t the high pompadour currently in fashion for society fops, nor was his cravat so elaborate that it forced his chin up. In fact, if Jem had to guess the man’s status or profession, he might have said the clergy from the plainness of his dress.

“What’s your name?” The low voice floated to him in the intimate darkness of the carriage like a seductive caress. Jem’s cock hardened in his breeches. Tonight would be no chore at all. He’d enjoy being fucked for his supper.

“You call me whatever you like” was his stock answer.

There was a long pause before the man spoke again. “I’d like to know your name.”

“Jem.” He didn’t ask for the man’s name. It wasn’t his place. Jem patted the seat beside him. “Do you want to come over here? I can make it a pleasant ride to wherever you’re taking me.”

The movement of the man’s head shaking was almost indiscernible in the shadow. “No. I’d prefer…to take some time and learn a little about you.”
“Fair enough.” Jem bobbed his chin. “I’m a working lad. Live in Southwark, will probably die here. I’ve tried my hand at a number of different business ventures and found my current occupation the most lucrative.”

He grinned, enjoying the sound of his own voice. He loved to mimic the swells’ speech and mannerisms -- his way of taunting them and showing his disdain.

“How old are you?” was the next question.

Knowing most customers liked to at least pretend they were plowing virgin territory, Jem subtracted half a dozen years from his age. “Thirteen.”

His host chuckled softly, clearly not fooled into thinking week-old haddock was freshly caught. “Is that so?”

“All right. Fifteen,” Jem lied again. Nineteen wasn’t nearly as attractive to prospective customers. “But those extra years bring experience from which you’ll greatly benefit, sir.”

Another breathless laugh. Not actual amusement, and Jem wondered what the man’s problem was that he had to talk and laugh instead of getting straight to work. To the good part.

“What’s funny, then, sir?” Jem didn’t like the frisson of fear that ghostly laugh gave him.

“Nothing at all, I expect.” The voice was soft yet clipped, the voice of authority. The dark figure in the corner shifted. The gent added, almost silently, “I am quite glad one of us has some experience.”

Jem wanted to laugh, make a ribald comment, but he wouldn’t because he wasn’t supposed to have heard.

The carriage jolted, and he grabbed for a hold. He was thrown toward the other man, knocked against the hard warmth of him. The gentleman grabbed him easily and hauled him upright, then almost threw Jem back onto the seat -- away from his corner. A swell though he was -- no doubt about that -- the man had some muscle on him, and he moved fast for one who’d been drinking. For the instant he’d been against him, Jem dragged in a lungful of air and caught the scent of brandy.

“Didn’t mean to launch myself at you, sir. Not unless invited,” he said and waited for the man’s laugh, which didn’t come.

Jem wondered if he should mention money now or suggest the man might be hungry, because he sure as hell was gutfoundered and wouldn’t mind stopping for a bite. He wasn’t fool enough to bring up the matter. It was up to the gentleman to set their course. Jem repressed a sigh.

“Have you ever been out of London?”

Not a moment of his life, but why did the gent care? What was his game? “Naturally I got the country estate,” Jem said. “Hunting, shooting, and what have you, all the livelong day. Cows,” he added. “Sheep.”

“Jem.” The voice was softer than ever. “Is that short for Jeremy?”

Fine, there wouldn’t be jesting, and a well-developed sense of self-preservation told Jem to stick to the truth as much as possible. “Naw. Just Jem.” No last names shared between men like them.

Near the middle of the night, rumbling through the streets muffled in fog, the dark interior of the carriage -- anything might happen. They slowed. Over the thud of the horses’ hooves and rumble of the wheels, Jem heard his own breathing coming fast. And he felt the slight rise of fear in his gut. He was no coward, but something about the unknown, very still gentleman in the corner of the carriage touched nerves in the most unlikely places. For instance, his cock was growing even harder.

The peculiar etiquette of the situation said he shouldn’t ask, but he did anyway. “Where’re we off to, then, sir?” He was pleased by his attempt at cheery nonchalance.

“My home. We’re nearly there.”

Not married, then. Or the cat was away and the mouse was playing. Only this was no mouse. The carriage stopped, the door opened, and for the first time, Jem saw the coachman. His smile froze. “Gawd,” he whispered.

The devil had been driving them. A huge, hulking devil with a great scar down his face. Two great scars. Part of an ear was gone. Jem had seen plenty of mangled and scarred souls in his time -- who hadn’t? -- but this one would have sent the children running and screaming even before he’d lost chunks of his face. He loomed over them.

“Badgeman.” Jem’s host ignored Jem as he spoke to the coachman. “Take my…guest round to the kitchen. I think it best that he bathe. Some of Jonathan’s clothes will fit him, I believe.”

The devil driver grunted and stood back. The gent stepped out. He nodded at the hideous coachman. Their faces were easy to make out by the oil lantern. They wore the same grim expression. Blank. Dark. Jem could read nothing warm or good in those two.

Jem swallowed hard and wondered if this was the moment he jumped out and ran to freedom. But curiosity, an empty stomach, and the knowledge that he carried a handy little knife kept him still. And desire. Don’t forget that, he mocked himself. He’d been in a state of semiarousal since getting into the big rattling carriage.

Before he could slide out of the carriage, the driver ordered “wait.” The door slammed shut. Jem clutched the knife and sat forward in the dark. He didn’t have to wait long. The carriage lurched. The horses walked forward for less than thirty seconds.

When the door opened again, the monster stood outside, haloed by fog, his boots and the bottom of his long black greatcoat surrounded by the stuff so he looked as if he were rising from the swirling smoke of hell.

Jem tucked away the blade and stepped out as if he were royalty exiting a coach in front of a cheering crowd. He had an unfortunate method for facing fear: annoy whoever provoked it. At the moment it felt as if he had no choice. “Mr. Badger,” he drawled and bowed.

“Badgeman,” the man rumbled. “Come, then.” He turned on his heel and strode toward a door.

Jem looked the building up and down. Large, granite, imposing. And this was the servants’ entrance. “So, Badger.” He did a passable imitation of cheeriness. “How many men have you two lured into this den of yers? Regular activity, is it? Once a week you two go out, pick up an unsuspecting young cove, and bathe him?”

The groom turned and stared at him. “Never before.”

Jem believed him. Poor Badger fretted over his employer for good reason, then. “Ah, that’s why you’re worried? You’re the monster, not me. I ain’t out to harm your master.”

“Worried about you?” For the first time something like a smile twisted the man’s face. Only one side. The other side of his mouth was cut by a scar that ran from his cheek to his chin. The cut must have hit something that made it impossible to smile.

“Then you always look like you lost your best friend? You and your master?”
The single eyebrow went up. Badgeman didn’t move for a moment, and then he said, “Badajoz. ’Tis the anniversary.”

“Oh.” Jem had no idea who or what a Badajoz was, although the word sounded familiar. “Anniversaries are the devil, ain’t they? Hardly bear it when that date rolls round again. All them bad memories. Or do I mean good ones?”

“Shut it,” Badgeman said without heat. “Wait out here.” He went inside the building, and Jem leaned against the wall. He shoved his trembling hands into his tattered waistcoat pockets.

Softly, so none of the neighbor houses could hear, he began to whistle a bawdy song. Quality didn’t usually bring a man like him home. Didn’t want to shit where they lived, so to speak. It was a dangerous proposition to let a street lad in. The servants might gossip about what their master was up to, or the dirty rascal might nick the best silver. Lord Muckety-muck was either a naive fool or confident that Jem wouldn’t dare cross him.

A chill breeze cut through his coat, and Jem hunched his shoulders, shivering. One more minute; that’s all he’d give, and then he was leaving, even though it meant hoofing it all the way back to Crowder Street.

The back door opened, and the mountain filling its frame beckoned him. “Come in. Your bath’s ready.”

Jem made a show of sniffing himself. “What, am I a little too rank for his lordship?”

“In here.” The Badger directed him through the entryway to the kitchen. A fire burned low on the hearth, and a copper tub filled with steaming water stood before it. Jem had never had more than a quick scrub in a basin of water in his entire life, unless one counted an occasional swim in the Thames on a hot summer’s day.

He stared at the water, then at the coachman or manservant, whichever he was. “You want me to get in that?”

The big man had taken off his coat and wore only his shirtsleeves and braces. He folded his arms over his chest. “Strip.”

“With you watchin’? Are you gonna scrub me too, while the master looks on? I’d have to charge extra for that.”

It was like talking to a rock. The man showed no expression. “Take off your clothes, and wash yourself. There’s soap and a rag on the stand by the tub and a towel to dry off with after.”

Jem considered for a moment, but just then, the wind rattled the windowpane, and he knew he didn’t want to go back out into the cold just yet. He’d see how this played out and hope he didn’t find himself later with his throat cut, dead in an alley. He shrugged off his coat, let it drop to the floor, and began to unbutton his shirt.

Old Badger gazed off into space, not watching him. He was there to guard the silver, no doubt. Wise decision.

Jem took off his shoes and breeches, and when he was completely naked, he padded across the cold flagstones to the bath and tested it with one hand. The water was deliciously warm. He glanced over his shoulder at the servant, but the man was still giving him privacy by ignoring him completely.
Gingerly Jem stepped over the edge of the tub, and his leg sank into the water. He paused for a moment, almost afraid to take his other foot off the floor. But he couldn’t hang there forever, so he took the plunge.

As he sank into the water, the level rose until he was covered nearly to his neck. Once he’d adjusted to the heat and the odd sensation of floating, he found it heavenly. He reached for the flannel, wet it, and rubbed it over the soap. He scrubbed his face and rinsed it with a quick dip, the suds stinging his eyes. Then he washed the rest of his body leisurely, resuming his whistling as he soaped and splashed.

“The hair too. Master don’t want your fleas hopping through his house.”

Jem kept his mouth shut for once and did as he was told, submerging his head completely underwater and scrubbing his hair with the soap. Wasn’t his place to argue if his customer wanted him clean, and truth to tell, the bath wasn’t so bad. The heated water relaxed his muscles till they felt like jelly and warmed him to his very bones.

“Hurry along now,” Badger urged as the water grew colder.

Jem reluctantly rose, toweled off his torso, then stepped out of the water, leaving a puddle on the floor, and dried his legs. He slung the towel around his hips and stared at Badgeman. “Now what?”

“Clothes are there. Put ’em on.”

Jem picked up the trousers from the pile on the wooden chair. They were smooth broadcloth, finer than any fabric that had ever touched his body. The shirt was soft linen, white and as clean as snow before chimney soot got mixed up in it. So he was playing a role, then, maybe the part of someone Lord Fancy had loved and lost, which would explain all the talk about anniversaries. He’d give the gentleman his money’s worth, put on his best impression of gentry, talk high-class, and pretend the bath had washed the stink of the gutter from him.

When Jem had dressed from his skin out, including slipping his feet into high, buckled shoes that were a bit too tight, he turned to Badgeman and drawled in a nasal tone, “Very well, then. I’m ready to meet his lordship. Lead on, sirrah.”

Author Bios:
Bonnie Dee
I began telling stories as a child. Whenever there was a sleepover, I was the designated ghost tale teller. I still have a story printed on yellow legal paper in second grade about a ghost, a witch and a talking cat.

Writing childish stories for my own pleasure led to majoring in English at college. Like most English majors, I dreamed of writing a novel, but at that time in my life didn't have the necessary focus and follow through. Then life happened. A husband and children occupied the next twenty years and it was only in 2000 that I began writing again.

I enjoy dabbling in many genres. Each gives me a different way to express myself. I've developed a habit of writing every day that's almost an addiction. I don't think I could stop now if I tried.

Summer Devon
Summer Devon is the pen name writer Kate Rothwell often uses. Whether the characters are male or female, human or dragon, her books are always romance.

You can visit her facebook page, where there's a sign up form for a newsletter (she'll only send out newsletters when there's a new Summer Devon or Kate Rothwell release and she will never ever sell your name to anyone).

Bonnie Dee

Summer Devon