Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday's Safe Word Shelf: Gaven by JC Owens

Gaven #1
When the Masarians attack Gaven's people, they are defeated and Gaven himself is taken captive. By a man claiming to be his father. It turns out his entire life has been a lie, and now his 'father' will give him into the hands of another man to indoctrinate and train him. Gaven vows he will never shame his people by giving into the Masarians' way of loving other men.

But Vlar, the legendary warrior to whom he has been given, has other plans. The blood-drinker is determined to have Gaven and to make him yield.

Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Anal play/intercourse, dubious consent, male/male sexual practices, violence, voyeurism.

The Bonding #2
Gaven learns that being Vlar’s pupil in all things is a mixture of pain and pleasure. He hates his Finnarian teacher...doesn’t he? Yet his body betrays him time and again, especially when he experiences the sexual ecstasy of a Finnarian bite and the giving of his own blood.

There seems to be so much more in their relationship than either of them can understand, so Vlar calls in his father, a Finnarian prince. What he tells them shakes Gaven to his core and he fears he cannot possibly live up to what Vlar wishes of him. Then when they seem to be on the edge of truly discovering each other, a shadow from Gaven’s past comes to shatter it all to pieces.

Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Male/male sexual practices, strong violence, voyeurism.

Draconian Measures #3
The immortal Finnarians mate for life and once they find their mate, nothing on earth can make them leave them. But what about when that mate is not Finnarian at all, but a stubborn, fiery, extremely irritable Draconian? What if that Draconian wants nothing at all to do with his Finnarian mate? It seems the Finnarian prince, Sadan, is going to have his work cut out for him. Fortunately, he is just as stubborn and far more persistent than said Draconian has ever had to deal with.

Graitaan is the last remaining Draconian and he has attracted the eye of a Finnarian prince, who claims that he is his bloodmate. Sadan may want to be mated, but Graitaan has developed a passionate hatred for his Finnarian commander, prince or not. Too bad Finnarians are persistent as the hells. Especially this one.

Gaven #1
Andar and I spent much time together over the next few days, and I gave him the courtesy of listening to his explanations of things as we walked the camp or sat at evening meals. I did not often answer. But I thought about what he said, and he knew it, did not push me to believe.

Vlar sat beside me at these meals but did not push either, though I felt his eyes on me constantly. I ignored him as best I could, though his presence was like a flame, burning into the edges of my consciousness.

The first time I saw my…the warlord, after the incident between us, I found myself staring at the bruises on his throat and looking away with a sense of discomfort, though I could not comprehend why I should feel shamed.

On his behalf, he seemed not at all put out by the attack, seemed almost proud of it in some twisted way I could not understand. He brought it up now and then when asked about the bruises, and he would laugh, saying the males of his line were strong.

I could not understand him at all. Sometimes I would watch him surreptitiously, trying to see me in him or him in me. I could find nothing. He was confident, powerful, with a natural air of a leader. I could find no similarity in my lean form, in my tense surety of insult and resulting pain. Or in my ever-present consciousness of my inferiority that had been so drilled into me. I felt like I was a fraud, sitting at the ornate table, dressed in borrowed clothing much finer than I had ever worn before, eating an opulent repast full of things I had never tasted before. I felt like I should be with the servants, serving the food, not eating it.

When the meal ended, Andar came to get me and we walked through the camp once more, watching the sun set and the torches being lit at the onset of dusk.

He steered me to large rocks that sat high on the riverbank, and we watched the water swirling below for some time before he spoke.

“There are many things about our culture that you do not understand, Gaven, many things that will affect you. I would explain them the best I can, if you would like.”

I looked at him in silence, then nodded warily.

“I know that you were raised by a very superstitious, backward group of people, Gaven, and that has given you some ideas that are going to make things difficult for you.”

I listened without comment, but he knew I had heard and was mulling his words over, as usual.

“We are warriors, Gaven. We often spend our whole lives amongst other men. It is not so strange then that we pick our closest companions, our lovers, from those around us. We have not time to court women or spend time being their husbands. Often marriages are made for the begetting of children and, once those children are born, the man and woman may well never see each other again. Ours is a very military society, and we are surrounded by other very warlike people; we are never at peace long enough to raise families. Yet we are but people, Gaven. We need love, we need caring in our lives, and it is totally accepted that men can love men with great intensity, even onto a lifetime. This is not strange to us, and indeed it is encouraged and expected. When a boy comes to the army, he is given to an eraman, an older warrior who will introduce the boy into being a man and lover, and also be his trainer and mentor as to the arts of war. It is considered an honor, and a ceremony is held when the boy is taken as lover. It is the beginning of his new life, a symbolic giving of himself to his mentor in all things.” He paused then, gave a small smile that made me look at him more closely. He turned his head and met my eyes squarely. “I am your father’s lover, Gaven. Have been for many years. We are bonded, which means a true commitment as great as any marriage.”

I stared at him in disbelief, then flushed and looked away, shifting uncomfortably on the stone. The thought of these two strong men…naked in each other’s arms…it made me think of Micael and the occasional thoughts that had crossed my mind. I flushed more deeply and bowed my head. Thank the gods that Micael, in his innocence, had never known of those thoughts. Now I knew why those terrible things had crossed my mind, though I had always cast them aside in haste and horror.

“Gaven, there are things you need to know…” Andar’s tone was serious and I looked at him in trepidation.

“Vlar is your eraman.”

I stared at him, though without great surprise. Vlar’s words from before now made sense. My father had given me into his second-in-command’s training; according to Andar, a great honor…

I shuddered, looked down at my clenched fingers.

“I do not want this, Andar. Surely there must be another way.” My voice was low and pained.

“There is not, Gaven, though I understand your reluctance. You are your father’s son and someday may hold a position of power. You must be seen to hold to tradition, to be one of us. It is important that you train with the army, let them see your abilities, your progress. This is your chance for a better life than you have known, Gaven. You have been told you are nothing. This is your chance to prove otherwise --”

I looked at him, fighting to remain calm and reasonable. “I am too old, Andar. You said boys go through this ceremony; I am almost eighteen. It would be a farce.”

“No, Gaven, it would be proof to the army that you accept Vlar and will be respectful to his training. They will see nothing strange in that. It would be strange if you did not.”

My fingers clenched tighter. “I hate him,” I whispered fervently.

“You fear him; that is quite different, my boy. Whatever it is you feel toward him, it is fierce and bright, and that in itself can lead to other emotions.”

I stared at him in disbelief. “I could never feel anything for him but disgust and revulsion. To suggest otherwise is madness.”

Andar smiled. “You are innocent in this, Gaven. You know not of what you speak. You will see.”

I shivered, set my jaw against useless argument. “He is not even human…”

Andar shrugged. “No, he is not. Should that make a difference?”

“What is he, then?” My tone was harsh with the fear I tried to hide.

“He is Finnarian.” My blank look brought a small chuckle from him. “Finnarians live far to the north. They are great mages and powerful warriors. He became friends with your father’s father and has been part of the family ever since.”

“My father’s father…he is not that old,” I said disbelievingly.

“They do not seem to age, Gaven. He still looks the same as the day he arrived, apparently. He has been a great trainer of men and he is an experienced eraman, which is why your father has given him this task: to see you brought to the pinnacle of what you can be. Many vie for this honor; few are accepted.”

“It is no bloody honor,” I growled under my breath, then paused. “His teeth --” I faltered, fear rising even from the very words.

“Finnarians eat raw meat and blood gives them strength. It is not uncommon for men to offer themselves to them for that purpose, to give them blood. It is said to be a very sexual experience, a pleasure beyond words.”

My jaw sagged. “He would not do that…to me…would he?” Shuddering at the mere thought, I swallowed hard, feeling sick.

“Only if you wished it, Gaven,” Andar’s tone was soothing and I slowly got my breathing back under control.

“I cannot do this thing, Andar, I cannot. I am not one of you. Why can I not just train to fight? Why this…?” I could not even finish.

He put a comforting hand on my shoulder. I did not flinch away, too sunk in despairing thought to move.

“It is not as bad as you think, Gaven. You fear what you do not understand. It will work out in the end. You will see.”

The Bonding #2
I whirled to the right, knowing in that instant that I had made a fatal error.

I managed to bring up the sword in time to take the blow on the steel instead of my shoulder, but the impact flung me sideways and I rolled in the dust, desperately trying to avoid…


The sword point hovered in the hollow of my throat.

“Slow today, boy. Any particular reason? Or are you just being difficult again?”

I stared into green eyes with defiant silence, fighting to restrain the snarl that would only get me punished.

Vlar laughed softly, letting the sword gently sweep down my chest through the sweat that literally ran over my skin. The point finally rested right over my groin, the tip actually prodding my shaft and then my balls through the thin fighting pants.

“You’re getting better in the bed, Gaven, but you have a long way to go in the fighting field.” Vlar withdrew the threat of the sword and turned away, taking a cloth that one of his trainees handed him to wipe the blade clean.

I wanted to smash the ground in frustration, wanted to throw the nearest rock at my eramon’s head, but I was learning restraint.

I felt myself flush then. I was learning restraint in more ways than one. I slowly and painfully pulled myself up from the ground and dusted myself off with shaking fingers. I felt unable to meet anyone’s eyes. Had they heard my screams last night? Vlar had tied me up and tortured me with pleasure, telling me that the more control I showed, the shorter the session would be. Well, I had obviously had little control, because it had gone on for over three hours, until I had literally begged to be allowed to come.

It was a little difficult to be at ease with the other men when I felt I might be judged on those reactions.

Being Vlar’s eramai was more difficult than I could ever have imagined. Now that the older man had official control of me -- the right to treat me as he saw fit -- he was harsh and often almost brutal in how he trained me on the field.

It was hard for me to hold my tongue. The one time I lost my temper, Vlar made it perfectly clear that I needed to lose the attitude. His training would keep me alive in times to come, and I had better get my head out of the clouds and get down to serious work if I ever wanted to be anything other than a burden.

It had stung, but it had also given me fire in my fighting, and I made several important strides from that incident alone.

I just wished I could control my reactions to Vlar’s prodding. I was too sensitive, overreacting to Vlar’s every word. But the man just had a way of setting me off without even trying.

It made me feel very young, and I wished that I could achieve the calm and control that Vlar displayed so effortlessly.

So I gritted my teeth and tried harder. Some of the best fighters in the army had been trained by this man. Not one of them could beat Vlar, but I could only hope that one day I would attain the impossible and kick the older man’s ass.

I could dream. Probably the same dream as every other eramai that Vlar had ever had…

I rubbed my sore shoulder with a grimace of pain and tried to walk without a limp. Damned if I would rub my sore ass…

* * * * *

Supper was loud and boisterous. I sat with mug in hand, brooding as I watched the other men. Teaser and Weasel were in fine form tonight, bouncing humor off each other and creating a raucous atmosphere around them.

They seemed so happy together, so right. What made it so? How had they found this? How did they keep it?

At this moment, I missed my old friend, Micael, even more than usual. The simple camaraderie the two men showed and the deep bonds among the Eight made me feel excluded. I stared down at the reflections in the wine, a frown on my brow. Everyone here was so close; years of fighting had bonded them into a tight-knit unit.

I felt like an intruder, and time had not seemed to lessen the sensation. I felt no more like one of these men than when I had first come here, felt no closer to being what the warlord wanted me to be.

As to Vlar…

My hand tightened into a fist, and I took a deep drink of the wine to quell the many emotions that coursed through me at the mere thought of my eramon.So many things had changed between us. Even his appearance was not the same as when I met him; his hair, which I had learned was not dark at all, was in truth various shades of blond. It had been dyed when I first met him, apparently due to some ceremonial coloring due to grief at the death of a friend. He had seemed like a creature of darkness then, and now he was all golden, all beautiful.

Across the room, I could see Vlar; the Finnarian laughing with some of the more experienced warriors, and my breath hitched. My body tightened, heat pooling in my groin.

I hated that my body reacted so easily to a mere glimpse of that powerful form. The way my very skin tingled and my mind seemed to want to force me to accept that this man almost owned me, could do with me as he wished.

Of the many emotions churning within me, indifference was not among them.

* * * * *

The king himself had ordered that I also receive teaching in reading and writing as a noble’s son, and this I found much more difficult than the fighting. I am a physical person. Sitting and listening to my tutor drone on and on was a far heavier burden than taking bruises from a sword blow.

I tried though; it seemed to make my uncle Sarin -- the king -- happy, and I had begun to quite like the man. He was very little like his brother, my father. Despite his burdens and responsibilities, he displayed a lighter hearted, more compassionate nature.

To my surprise, my uncle was obviously trying to forge a relationship of some sort with me. I could not imagine why, but I could not repel the advances without being rude. I am not good at being rude. This relative, at least, had never done me harm.

The king’s attention seemed to draw notice to me, and more people seemed willing to make conversation with me. I doubted their motives and trusted them not at all, but still… It was nice not to be ignored or, worse yet, taunted as I had been during my childhood.

On this particular day, I sat staring at the sunshine, trying to focus my mind enough to practice my writing. I startled as a hand came down on my shoulder, and guiltily I looked up at my long-suffering tutor, Philas.

“Gaven, my boy. This is enough for today. I am not so cruel as to expect you to be enthused over letters when such a beautiful day calls you. Go enjoy it. We can continue tomorrow. I am sure that one day won’t make a difference either way.”

I could have hugged him as I leaped up, almost falling over my own feet.

Philas shook his head, apparently amused. “My boy you are like an overgrown colt, all legs and energy.” He looked at me for a long moment, a certain seriousness appearing in his eyes. “You are far more intelligent, though, than you give yourself credit for, Gaven. Believe in yourself. A lot of your father is within you. Gareth is brilliant, almost too smart for his own good, but with an attitude as large as his brain. You are a pleasant surprise; there is no arrogance in you, only a wish for kindness, and you are deeply empathic to others. I see you often sensing another’s emotions before that person knows themselves. I feel that, one day, if you work past your own insecurities, Gaven, you would make a great leader, perhaps even better than Gareth himself.”

I stared at him in mute astonishment, then blushed fiercely, scarcely knowing what to say to such things. I had no idea how he could witness these things within me, when I saw nothing at all.

He smiled then, a little ruefully, perhaps. “Go, my boy.”

I bowed with respect, then lunged out the door eagerly on the way to a respite of freedom.

* * * * *

The heat rose throughout the day until, in the late afternoon, it was nigh unbearable. The men sought ways of cooling off, and the favorite method was a swim in the nearby lake.

I ventured there tentatively and was relieved when I saw Teaser waving at me. It was easier then, and I stripped down, keeping my eyes averted so I would not see if anyone was watching me. It was still difficult for me to get past the modesty that had been so instilled in my earlier years.

I had no sooner set foot in the cool waters, trying to slowly acclimate myself, than I was tackled by Weasel. We landed in a great splash of windmilling arms and legs. I gave a choked yell that almost got me drowned; then I twisted in the older man’s hold like an eel and ended up pushing Weasel under the water in retaliation.

Soon Teaser came to rescue his lover, and that set off the other six, so that it turned into a free-for-all. Whoops and yells called in any other guard in the vicinity; soon it was hard to tell where the brawl began and ended.

I managed to extricate myself by swimming underwater for a ways, getting past the combatants. I popped up with a grin, watching the antics from a safe distance as Weasel slapped the water around him, looking for a rematch.

I escaped to deeper water and swam lazily, keeping an eye on the action in case it moved in my direction. I had no warning before an arm came around my waist, and I went under. I splashed to the surface, ready to fight, only to face Vlar.

I became flustered then; very, very aware of his hands resting on my hips, very aware of the close proximity of my very naked eramon.

Vlar grinned at me, a slow tilting of the lips that made my blush heat even more.

“We will make this another training session, Gaven. One in trust.”

The mere word made me tense up, my breath coming harder with an effort to stay afloat.

“Lie back; let me tow you through the water. When you relax in trust, you will float. When you resist, you will sink. This is the test.” Vlar’s tone indicated he knew full well that I was going to sink quite a bit.

Having opened my mouth to argue, I snapped it shut and gritted my teeth. Damned if I would act as Vlar so obviously expected. Without a word, I lay back, trying desperately not to tense as Vlar put one large hand around my chin and began to tow me through the water.

I sank.

Draconian Measures #3

The son of a bitch saved my life! How fucking stupid was that?

The moment I could gain my feet, I punched him in the face, hard.

Sadan stood there like the idiot he was, flexing his jaw, perhaps seeing if it still worked, one eyebrow raised at me in that calm, supercilious manner of his that drove me up the wall.

“What in the hells was that for?” he dared to ask, like he did not know.

“That was for putting your life in danger. The king would have my hide if your precious self came to any harm. I hardly see the point, but he seems to think you are worth something.” A growl rumbled in my chest, and my tail lashed with agitation, a sign of my temper that usually had people fleeing.

Not Sadan. He was too full of himself to see the danger, fool that he was. Instead he had the nerve to smile at me. Smile!

I whirled on my heel, stalking off the battlefield as best I could with three wounds hindering me, wings clamped tight against my back in a clear sign of my displeasure. Fucking Finnarians. Damn bloodsuckers. They were almost worse than humans. What the king saw in them, I had no idea. I tried to avoid them at all costs because their behaviors grated on me, but this one -- Sadan -- was something worse than all of them. Darling of the army, loved by all, wanted by all, the bastard had taken it into his head to shadow me, of all people.

Anyone could have told him that was not wise in any regard, but Sadan was rash enough to see me as a challenge, no doubt, and thought he could use his charm to bring me to the same state as the rest of the troops.

Fat chance. I snarled under my breath, wishing only for the sanctity of my tent and a chance to lick my wounds.

Finnarians be damned.

* * * * *

My temper only worsened as the day wore on. The battle had been short, too short for me to work off my energies, and the pent-up aggression seethed within, needing release. We had driven the enemy back more easily this time, and there had only been a few injuries. As for my own wounds, I had waded into the thick of things again, and it had been a surprise when five enemy warriors had turned from their flight and banded together to attack me. That surprise had almost cost me my life. If Sadan had not… I growled at the thought and thrust it away with some haste. The fact that I had been blatantly foolish in my actions did not sit well with me. For Sadan to get me out of it only compounded my irritation and somewhat shamed annoyance.

I had no wish to go to the healers, so I tended my wounds myself. The spear wound on my thigh throbbed, and I flushed it out with what simple medicines I possessed, moaning with the pain, my wings spreading out in reaction.

Fucking gods, that hurt! Both the thigh and the wing. The spear wound throbbed in time with my heartbeat, but the tear in my right wing was the worst, stinging like a bitch and out of my reach even when I tried to fold it properly.

Swearing bitterly under my breath, I licked the thigh wound, grimacing at the taste of the medication.

Draconian saliva held healing and antiseptic properties, and usually I would have a sword brother to tend me, to help with those wounds I could not reach. But my last companion had died some twenty years before, and I was alone in this army, the last Draconian present.

We had started off over fifty strong, an impressive gift from our emperor to the Masarian king. Our duty had then been completely with this foreign ruler, and we were forever exiled from our world. It would have been on pain of death had we ever dared to return. One by one, over the years, we had fallen, until only I remained, a curiosity to the human troops, those who were of the generation who had never known us in our numbers, in our true strength. I was hardly enough to represent my kind.

I could scarcely remember my own world, so long had I been here. Perhaps I had blocked it from my mind so that I might endure the isolation, the loneliness. Here there had been no one of my strength since my last companion. Here I was an oddity. Something to be stared at and commented on but never approached. Humans were so damned fragile, and I had never dared take one as a lover.

I would surely kill them.

Therefore my only solace was my own hand and a vivid imagination.

And people wondered why my temper was somewhat uncertain. Let them try going without for that long. They would be a little growly too.

I sighed, my anger flagging with my own exhaustion. I tended to a wound on my arm, of less importance and smaller than the thigh wound, licking it slowly, my wings drooping with pain and the need to rest.

I was hungry as the hells too, but I did not have the strength or the will to rise and leave the sanctity of my tent. Here I did not have to pretend, did not have to be strong. Here I could just be myself.

Before I could sink into my usual despair, the flap of my pavilion was swept back and Sadan entered unannounced, a tray of food balanced in one hand, medical supplies in the other, that familiar faint smile tilting his lips.

I froze. I was not wearing any clothing, only a towel over my privates, and I had always been very certain to stay covered around others. I was already a hot topic of conversation, and I had no desire to add more fuel to the fire by showing my body at all.

The embarrassment made my fury rise.

“Shut up, Graitaan,” Sadan said calmly. “I don’t want to hear it. I saw that wound on your wing, and you cannot reach it yourself. I knew you would be too stubborn to go to the healers, so I am offering my services. Not to mention you never eat after a battle, so…here you go. Say thank you, Sadan.”

My jaw dropped open with my outrage. “I will not fucking thank you! You are out of your Finnarian mind, even more so than the rest of your crazy race. Get the hells out of my tent!”

“No.” Just that calmly. No, like he was not facing an angry Draconian warrior, wounded, hungry, and ready to kill…at least kill a certain Finnarian, if no one else.

I was speechless. The sheer gall of Sadan always had me sputtering, and it drove me to the edge of sanity. No one else could do this to me. They all avoided me like the plague, especially when I was wounded. I was liable to take their hand off if they even tried.

Did Sadan have a secret death wish I had never known about?

It certainly seemed so.

Before I could form more thoughts, Sadan snarled back at me, only in his refined supercilious way that made every scale on my body stand on end. “I don’t care about your damned sensibilities, Graitaan. Shut up and let me tend you. I need you back in my troops, and that wing is never going to heal properly like that.”

A low growl escaped from behind my bared teeth, but in the end, I could not argue. Duty was everything to a Draconian, and the miserable Finnarian knew that. Trust Sadan to use it against me.

Every other member of the army knew to leave me alone, especially when I was injured, so I was rather baffled by Sadan’s actions. Again the thought flitted by that the Finnarian had a death wish or was at least flirting with the possibility, because he was always in my face, disrespecting me in every way and completely disregarding my formidable reputation.

It drove me to the edge of sheer violence, but always the knowledge that Sadan was one of the king’s favorites and now had technically become my fucking commander, restrained the actions I longed to inflict upon the bastard and his smirk.

How could the king have done this to me? Had I not served him and his father and his father before that faithfully and well? Had not I --and my companions before their deaths -- proven the worth of a Draconian individually and together time and again? The king knew full well that Draconians and Finnarians were ill suited to each other’s company. I had made that perfectly clear on numerous occasions when speaking to His Majesty.

So why would said Majesty suddenly assign me under Sadan’s command, a lone Draconian in a sea of Finnarians?

All right, so maybe there were only twelve of the bastards, but with Finnarians that was a sea, damn it!

Twelve of them proved more annoying than a hundred humans, maybe even two hundred, come to think of it. Sadan could count for a hundred all on his own.

So they were beautiful…beyond beautiful. So what? Tall, very tall, with angular faces and slanted eyes of brown or green. Well muscled but slim with it, power leashed in grace. Their hair always long, tantalizingly long and, in this group at least, various shades of blond, right down to Sadan’s striking silver. Humans revered them, almost idolized them and their talents: blood drinkers, mages, warriors of renown. Fools. The blood drinking was a little off-putting, I had to admit, but they were discreet about it, not flaunting their differences but not hiding who they were either. I had heard rumors of the sexual ecstasy a Finnarian bite produced, and my imagination had gone off course at that thought. They went through cycles of rut and bloodlust apparently, though I had never seen them during these times as they often went into seclusion, with their brethren protecting their privacy. All I knew was that energy sustained them -- both sexual and blood, though they ate regular food as well, I had noticed. They seemed mysterious and powerful to me, and they made me uneasy in a way I had never encountered before. Especially their damned leader.

I actually hissed as Sadan approached me. Hissed! I had not made such a sound since adolescence, when I was learning control. What about Sadan seemed to drive me to the edge with so little effort on his part?

It was aggravating and humiliating. I had never encountered this before. Humans were terrified of my size, strength, and temper.

Now Finnarians were my equal in any and all of those things, but they were not Draconian. They were not my people, not my companions, and never could be.

What the king thought he was doing was beyond me. Perhaps the human military units were too afraid of a Draconian to want me in their ranks?

My temper subsided somewhat at that gratifying thought. Humans should be afraid of a Draconian. It was proper and respectful.

Perhaps the king had not meant insult but had tried to place me with as close to my peers as could be found in this misbegotten world.

My growls slowly died away.

I was alone. That fact was brought home to me on a daily basis, but never so much as when I was wounded. Therefore I was duty bound to accept help from another person in my new unit to ensure I became battle ready as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately it seemed that person would have to be Sadan, as my commander.

Damn it to the hells.

Shrugging as though to brush off the thoughts like troublesome flies, I flinched at the resulting pain. I drew a deep breath and turned my back on him -- a sign only given to a sword brother -- and held out my injured wing in silence.

As if in answer, he plunked the food tray in front of me.

“Eat while I tend your wing.”


I wonder if he has any idea how beautiful he is?

I did not think so, for there was nothing of vanity in Graitaan. He was modest and surprisingly reclusive, and I knew not whether this was typical of his kind or part of his self-imposed isolation, part of his own personality.

I was Finnarian and used to great masculine beauty around me. It was a trait of my people, but the moment I set eyes upon Graitaan when we were first sent to join the king’s services eight years ago, I was stunned to speechlessness by his exotic allure.

Discovering anything about the Draconian was almost impossible, except for the facts that he was alone, his last Draconian companion having died twelve years before I arrived, and that he shunned company of any sort. It was hard to divine his sexuality because no one had ever seen him with a lover. Perhaps Draconians were not sexual at all?

I found that hard to believe when I watched Graitaan move. He practically oozed sexual heat, at least to me, who could see it, and I could not believe no one had pursued him.

Of course there was his temper, but to a Finnarian, that was a small thing. Our women had fearsome tempers, and their right to choose a mate for breeding made us cautious of them. Breeding took place; then the female withdrew to be with other females, and only when the resulting child was old enough and male would he be sent to foster with his father.

Certainly Graitaan’s temper was no worse than that, and having dealt with such things all my life, I found it rather endearing to find it in a male. And such a beautiful male…

How blind and weak were humans that they had not sought to break the barriers around such a treasure long before this?

I would not make the same mistake.

For eight years I had been maneuvering and planning, and now, with the king’s blessing, I was finally beginning to make headway, even if only because I was now Graitaan’s commander. A position of great respect in Draconian culture apparently, and it went against his nature for Graitaan to openly disrespect me, though at times he could not help himself.

So tonight it led to this, the first time I would be able to actually touch him more than a hand up or a brush of shoulders.

I almost shuddered with anticipation.

It was even harder to resist at this time, since I was in the middle of my rut cycle, where I needed sexual energy, something every Finnarian went through once a month along with a bloodlust cycle, where I would need the energy that could only be had from blood. I had tried to remain apart from Graitaan at these times, fearing my need would overcome my sense.

But now…

I drank in his appearance, my first true look at his body, even if some of the most important parts were covered by that damned towel. He was not quite as tall as I was, which I liked, his body lithe and hard with lean muscle, his shoulders broad, dipping down to a narrow waist. His head was dragonlike, with small scales covering it, his beautiful eyes large and golden with vertical pupils. Small horns crowned his head, curving backward and spiraling slightly. His hands were finer than one would expect, more humanlike, with long, black fingers, scales along the backs only, and small, strong, retractable claws of a pale golden hue. Powerful legs bent backward, totally unlike humans or Finnarians, leading down to long clawed feet, one of the reasons he was so swift a runner. His scales were the most beautiful and elegant black, shading into blue green. The scales were larger across his shoulders and back, smaller across his chest, gradually leading down to black skin that looked soft across his belly and waist. His wings were enormous, but jointed so that they folded neatly across his back, able to be tucked out of harm’s way. I had never actually seen him fly, did not even know if he could. All I knew was that those wings looked so soft to the touch…and I wanted to touch them desperately.

I knew he was tired and sore. I had seen his posture when I entered the pavilion. Those wings were a true indicator of his moods, and they had been drooping sadly when I entered.

His embarrassment at his state of undress was endearing. He would not look at me, and his body posture radiated extreme discomfort at my proximity. I found such shyness utterly captivating because it did not exist in my people at all. Why Graitaan would feel such a thing mystified me. I found him utterly appealing in every regard, and I could not understand his propensity for such extreme modesty as he displayed. Still, I was pleased enough that he continued with it, because I did not want any competition. Several of my Finnarians, my Companions, had been eyeing him, and I had to make it quite plain that Graitaan was off limits. He was going to be mine, and no one had better step in the way of that or they would feel my wrath. Finnarians were quite promiscuous until they found their true mate, and then that was it. No other would do.

I did not know if Graitaan was my true mate, but I had never felt anything like this: a difficulty breathing, a force of heat within me that demanded completion, demanded Graitaan alone. None of my many lovers had ever triggered such depths of primal need before, and I wanted to thoroughly explore it. My heart, I think, already knew. I had not explained this to Graitaan, but he would find out soon enough. He was mine, and that was that. If I had to wait centuries for him, then I would, but I had no intention of going to that measure. My little Draconian would discover the pleasures of Finnarian sex long before that.

My fingers fairly trembled with anticipation as I gently took hold of his wing and stretched it out a little so I could clearly see the damage. I could feel the hard yet delicate bones of the wings flex with the movement. Then at last I could touch the black membrane that stretched between.

It felt as soft as I had imagined, and I swallowed hard, imagining these wings wrapped around me, caressing my naked skin.

I had to mentally shake myself to bring my attention to the matter at hand.

The tear was close to a foot long and in a possibly sensitive area close to a joint. It would not be easy to repair, and I would have to immobilize his entire wing until it healed.

Still, I had spoken to the healers about this long ago, wanting to know everything and anything I could about my Draconian, including what he would require in case of injury. Hence, I had the supplies I needed with me. I did not want any healer touching him unless it was dire.

My hands alone would touch him, take away his pain.

He made the faintest sound as I flexed the wing, and by that I knew it was very tender. Graitaan was stoic to the extreme. He would make no sound at all if it was not beyond his control.

I made a comforting sound that had him looking at me in confusion, before I gently rested the half-open wing upon the bed.

“Do not move it,” I told him sternly, and he growled a little but obeyed. A step forward indeed.

I took out the strips of extremely sticky cloth that the healers had given me. They had said it was the best way to pull wing membrane together, since stitches tended to tear through and do more damage than the original wound. Carefully I adhered one end above the wound and began to smooth it down, gently taking the torn piece and adjoining it to where it should be.

Graitaan’s body quivered faintly, and I again gave him a purring growl -- something that soothed Finnarians, whether young or adult.

It seemed to have a similar effect upon Graitaan, for although he looked at me warily, his body seemed to unconsciously relax. That was promising.

Gently yet as swiftly as possible, I repeated the process until I had brought all the edges of the tear into contact with each other. Then I smeared the opposite side of the wing with salve that would kill any infection that could arise, along with keeping the wound a little moist so it would not pull as it healed. I bandaged the underside, keeping the salve in place and protecting the wound.

Cautiously then, with the utmost care, I folded the wing so the pressure was taken off the torn area. I wrapped a length of bandage around the upper part so that Graitaan could not accidentally move it without thought and retear what I had mended.

By the time I finished, he had finished eating and was half nodding off, so I counted that a victory of sorts. He would not allow himself to show weakness in front of one he distrusted, and despite his antagonism, I think he was beginning to become more comfortable in my presence than he would ever admit.

Gently I touched his arm, looking at the wound there, and he jerked, startled, staring at me with those amazing eyes, wide and bright.

I clucked my tongue at him. “Let me see the rest.”

“They are fine now,” he growled, but it was halfhearted at best, and I could feel the exhaustion coming off him in waves.

“Sit still,” I ordered gruffly, hiding what I was feeling with the ease of long practice, and for a wonder, he actually obeyed. It was a measure of his weariness, no doubt, but I would take what I could get with this one. Everything was in tiny increments, but at least he was not outright pushing me away as he had in the past.

I would count this a victory.

Author Bio:
Also known as J.C. McGuire.

J.C Owens lives in small town, rural Alberta and is a self confessed writing-a-holic. In the absence of help for this affliction…

I do indeed love to write and have over twenty books sitting idle in my computer, waiting… I love the genre of male/male stories and conflict in what a person thinks they want, versus what they truly need to become themselves. I think any writing that shows the beauty of men loving men is worthwhile.

I love to hear from my readers and always appreciate suggestions and comments for future books. Sharing a love of reading and good, hot sensuality between men is always a cause for celebration!


Gaven #1

The Bonding #2

Draconian Measures #3

Another at Bat by Lyssa Layne

Title: Another at Bat
Author: Lyssa Layne
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: October 7, 2015
Pitcher Jace Richards had it all. Fame, status, money, and the perfect girl but it wasn't enough. Unable to curb his gambling addiction, he lost everything. Now banned from the MLB, he's struggling to get his feet back on the ground.

Laurel Darbis is the mom to ten-year-old Grey. Her son is her world and she'd do anything for him, including putting up with her cheating ex-husband, Adam. He doesn't make things easy on her but with her friends and family by her side, she has a strong support system to help her deal with his petty drama.

Grey is about to start baseball with his friends but their coach backs out at the last minute. All of the parents are thrilled when the new coach arrives, everyone except Laurel.

Can the former bad boy tame his ways for the sake of his players? Will the protective mother let down her guard? Either way, no one will ever expect what happens when the two match up.

“Whatever, Ash. You know the chances of me dating are non-existent, especially a jerk like him.” I nod toward the field where Jace stands on the pitching mound, the kids filling in the other positions around him. We turn our attention back to the hottie in the center of the infield.

“Wow, what do you have against him?” Ashley glances at me out of the corner of her eyes. “Oh geez, Laurel, don’t tell me you’re one of the groupies that went to spring training and hooked up with him!”

I swat her leg and laugh. “No! You really think I’d keep that kind of secret from you?”

“Ow!” She rubs her leg like I really hurt her. “You’d better not. If you hooked up with him, you had better give me all the details… and I mean all.”

I turn to face her. “Is your sex life that bad that you have to live vicariously through me?”

“Hell no! I’m just saying that if you ever got in bed with a baseball god like Jace Richards then I’d want a play by play. Don’t get me wrong, Kurtis and I have a hot sex life, but his body is nothing like that.” She nods to the field again and we both subconsciously sigh at the sight in front of us.

“Duly noted, I’ll add that to our friendship pact. If I ever get laid by a baseball god, take notes and tell you.” Giggling, we pinky promise and watch the kids practice. We met in elementary school and some days, we still act like we’re still in fifth grade.

After a few minutes, Ashley asks again, “So for real, what’s your beef with Jace Richards?”

I shrug. “Everything I’ve read about him says he’s a cheater. He cheated his team, he cheated the system, he cheated on that trainer he was dating…”

“Oh, so you hate him because your ex cheated on you?”

Jace winds up again, whizzing another ball past the batter. “You know what they say, once a cheater, always a cheater.”

Ashley lifts her eyebrow. “Well, haven’t you heard, don’t always believe everything you read?”

I bite the inside of my cheek. Ashley has a point, I don’t know this guy. Maybe the tabloids lied about him, maybe there’s more to his story. I sigh, maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt. Then again, last time I gave a man the benefit of the doubt, I wound up divorced.

Author Bio:
Lyssa Layne is first, and foremost, the proud momma to her precious daughter, AR. In addition to working full-time and being a mommy to AR, she is also an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan, a runner, blogger, and an infertility survivor.

Having watched one too many medical dramas and being inspired by author Rachelle Ayala, who introduced her to the world of indie writing, Lyssa decided to try her hand at writing a romance story. Her attempt turned into the Burning Lovesick series. You can find Lyssa's own interests throughout her stories although all stories are fictional.



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Release Day Blitz: Enough by Dawn L Chiletz

Title: Enough
Author: Dawn L Chiletz
Genre: Contemporary Inspirational Romance
Release Date: October 11, 2015



My name is Everly. I’m a stay-at-home mom of two beautiful kids. I have a husband who provides for our family, but I don’t think he loves me anymore. Inside I die a little every day.

I am not enough. Not enough of a mother, a wife, a friend, a woman… I’m not enough to get you to stay, to love me or to accept me. There’s a battle I’m fighting. It’s a battle within myself.

I’m a fixer; I help others. I try to make everyone around me happy and whole, yet I haven’t figured out a way to fix myself.

When time and circumstances push me to my breaking point, I’m forced to take a hard look at what I’ve become. A failed marriage, a failed attempt at a career, and a failed attempt at being a mother. I’m not enough to hold any of it.

This is my story. It’s about trying to figure out how to be happy with who I am, how to love myself again, and how to allow others to love me. When a second chance at love is standing in front of me, will I be able to see anything more than my broken reflection in his eyes? Will I be able to rebuild and reinvent myself when everything falls apart? Can I find the love I truly deserve?

Will I ever be enough?

He smiles and brings the pizza over to the couch. He heads over to the kitchen and returns with paper plates, a roll of paper towels, and two glasses filled with ice.

I scoot down and rest on my heels, opening the pizza box. The smell makes me groan, and I bring a piece to my lips before he’s able to hand me a plate. He laughs. “You were hungry.”

“This,” I say, motioning to the pizza, “is me.”

He smiles briefly then frowns again.

“I’m sorry I ruined your dinner plans,” I tell him.

“I’m sorry I tried to act like I have my shit together.”

“You do.”

“I really don’t,” he states as he crosses his legs and lifts a piece of pizza to his plate. I reach for a paper towel and he helps me.

“It was a beautiful place. I just didn’t feel like I belonged there.”

He shakes his head. “You belong in the best of everything.”

“Why do you say that stuff?” I ask as I take another large bite of pizza.

“I only took you there because I wanted you to feel as special as you are. You’re beautiful, Ever. You always have been. Inside and out.”

I suddenly feel conscious of my lumpy body, and I lift my plate and head over to the bar.

He follows me and sighs. “What did I say now?”

“It’s not you. You’re sweet and kind and treat me better than I deserve. I’m just not the same girl you think you remember.”

“You seem the same to me.”

I drop my plate on the bar and turn to face him. “I’ve had two kids. Underneath this dress are stretch marks and a scar from two cesareans. I have way too tight underwear on to hold everything in and enough cellulite to rival the waves in the ocean.”

He twists his head to the side and wipes his mouth with a paper towel as he finishes chewing his last bite. He places his plate on the counter and takes my hands. He positions them on his waist and angles me close to him. My breath hitches, and I stare into him with uncertainty.

“You are beautiful. I don’t care about all that shit. Don’t you understand? When I look at you, I see you. The girl who took my heart at the age of twenty-one and never returned it. I. See. You. You’ll always be you. That’s all I care about.”

I swallow hard at his proximity and then roll my eyes. He laughs and takes a step back to get a better view of my face. “Why are you rolling your eyes at me?”

“Because you’re full of shit.” I turn away from him and lift my slice of pizza from my plate. “If you saw me naked, you wouldn’t be whistling the same tune.” I laugh.

His eyes darken. “When I see you naked, I won’t be whistling anything. I’ll be licking every inch of you.”

My pizza slides out of my hand and falls cheese-first onto the floor.

Author Bio:
Dawn L. Chiletz is the author of The Contest and Waiting to Lose. She currently resides in Illinois with her husband, two boys, and two dogs. When she's not binge writing or reading, Dawn drinks large amounts of coffee and checks Facebook instead of doing laundry.



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Tutankhamen Speaks by Cheryl Carpinello

Title: Tutankhamen Speaks
Author: Cheryl Carpinello
Series: The Quest Books
Genre: Historical Fiction Ancient Civilizations
Release Date: January 2014
Publisher: Beyond Today Educator
Cover Design: Rita Toews at Your Book Covers
2014 EVVY Merit Award for Historical Fiction from CIPA (Colorado Independent Publishers Assoc.)

Long ago the old texts of ancient Egypt alluded to scrolls in which King Tut spoke to the people from beyond the tomb. Many archeologists put this down to an incorrect translation of the ancient Egyptian texts. Others swore to the accuracy of the translation. None of that mattered because the scrolls in question could not be found. Scholars labeled it a hoax, something that never existed. It was ludicrous to imagine someone speaking from the grave. They were wrong on both accounts.

Some afternoons when the palace guards relaxed their vigil and most of the people napped out of the heat, Ankhesenpaaten and I would climb the stairs up to the windows.

Looking out, we could see over the tops of buildings far to the East where the Aten appeared each morning.

“Where would you go, Ankhesenpaaten, if you could leave Egypt?” I asked one afternoon.

Her eyes sparkled, and her smile widened. I watched as she rested her chin on her arms, her eyes drawn beyond the eastern horizon.

“I would travel beyond the beginnings of our land,” she said.

I looked at her questioningly.

“In the women’s quarters, one hears stories,” she explains. “A few of the women are from there. The tales they have told are wonderful!” She turned to me then. “Imagine Tutankhaten, pools of sparkling water surrounded by lush, green bushes and trees, flowers of pink, orange, white, and even black!”

“How is that different from here?” I asked.

“Here it is only along the Nile where the bushes, reeds, and flowers grow. There in the land they call Persia exists a city where gardens hang from cliffs and mountain sides! I would love to see such a sight.”

A few years later, I remembered her wish. After we were married, I had a section of our palace in Thebes reconstructed to resemble those hanging gardens that she so wished to see. Had we been given more time, I would have ventured outside of Egypt’s borders and taken Ankhesenpaaten to the gardens in person.

Author Bio:
I am a retired high school English teacher. A devourer of books growing up, my profession introduced me to writings and authors from times long past. Through my studies and teaching, I fell in love with the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. Now, I hope to inspire young readers and those Young-at-Heart to read more through my Quest Books set in these worlds.



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