Tag Archive: Gille Dubh


Hello, Snippetteers! It’s the middle of a crazy weekend — I help run a two-day party here in the Twin Cities, for four or five thousand people, on St. Patrick’s Day and the closest Sunday to it. And today I had to get my taxes done. *shudder* But now I’m coming up for air, and I have seven (oops) sentences from STONE COLD for you. The speaker is Terry, who’s trapped with Coinneach in a ward that’s been put up around a wellspring. Coinneach is a Gille Dubh, a member of a race that hates the Fae (and has good reason to); there’s a truce between the two races right now, but Coinneach suspects the Fae have already broken it, and is trying to get evidence out of Terry, basically by trying to convince Terry that Maelduin, his Fae SoulShare, is lying to him, conning him, in an attempt to get back the half of his soul Terry has. And Terry’s kind of predisposed to believe Coinneach, because Terry has a really terrible track record when it comes to love — it’s not all that hard to convince him that he’s just made one more bad choice in a long line of bad choices.

*********

I’d rather be right than take a chance on being happy.
When had he decided to live like that?
He hadn’t. He’d never made that decision. He’d simply let one acceptance of ‘the way things were,’ one way of coping with a hurt, slide into another, until the acceptance had become his reality.
Maelduin offered him magick, maybe more.
If he could take the chance.

*********

A couple of links for you —

Rainbow Snippets, your Facebook home for more LGBTQIA+ yummy goodness: https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets/
And my author page on QueeRomance Ink, a new searchable site with buy links, for romance all over the rainbow: http://ow.ly/2f0t30a2KEs

PrideSilk

June is a very special month around here – Pride, and my birthday, and the anniversary of the signing of my very first novel contract! So in honor of all that momentousness (I’m not sure that’s even a word, but if it wasn’t before, it is now, so there), and by way of special welcome to everyone I met, or am going to be meeting, at Twin Cities Pride and CONvergence, I thought I’d gather all the buy links for all the SoulShares novels and my oboroten’ novella together in one place, in all the formats in which they’re available. However you like your m/m romance (provided you like it mythical, legendary, paranormal, and monitor-melting HOT) there’s a link for that. (And scroll all the way to the end for a FREE read, “Obsidian,” originally written for the Facebook MM Romance Group’s Love Is an Open Road project in the summer of 2015 and available on their Web site in .epub, .mobi, and .pdf. For freakin’ free. Go on, grab your copy, I’ll wait right here.

Back? Yay!

A lot has been going on over the last few months in my writing world – in particular, I’ve gotten the rights back to the two Gille Dubh novellas I had with Ellora’s Cave, HEART OF THE OAK and TEMPTED FROM THE OAK, and hopefully you’ll be seeing those two (and their younger and as yet unpublished sibling, BOUND IN OAK), sometime in 2017. I have short stories scheduled to come out in a charity Shakespeare m/m romance anthology and a 12 Days of Christmas anthology – check back here for more details on both as I get them. And I’m scheduled to be at CONvergence (Bloomington, Minnesota, June 30-July 1), Gaylaxicon (World LGBT SFF Convention, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 7-9), and GRL (GayRomLit Retreat, Featured Author, October 20-23, Kansas City, Missouri). C’mon up and see me sometime!

Oh, and if you’re new to my blog, please do subscribe, and come find me on Facebook –
https://www.facebook.com/Soulshares/

And now *drum roll* THE BUY LINKS!

Hard as Stone Final

HARD AS STONE (SoulShares #1)

Amazon (Kindle): http://ow.ly/6puW301xGCC
Riverdale Avenue Books (.epub, .mobi or .pdf): http://ow.ly/rZb1301xJtu
Amazon (paperback): http://ow.ly/CV9n301xGEO

Gale Force Final

GALE FORCE (SoulShares #2)

Amazon (Kindle): http://ow.ly/BfqJ301xIpz
Riverdale Avenue Books (.epub, .mobi or .pdf): http://ow.ly/HPmO301xJwL
Amazon (paperback): http://ow.ly/qPJs301xItz

Deep Plunge Final

DEEP PLUNGE (SoulShares #3)

Amazon (Kindle): http://ow.ly/vSYn301xI4p
Riverdale Avenue Books (.epub, .mobi or .pdf): http://ow.ly/8CW7301xJyQ
Amazon (paperback): http://ow.ly/OH4q301xI7g

Firestorm Final

FIRESTORM (SoulShares #4)

Amazon (Kindle): http://ow.ly/QoMW301xIcV
Riverdale Avenue Books (.epub, .mobi or .pdf): http://ow.ly/IaeV301xJC5
Amazon (paperback): http://ow.ly/K3bw301xIhU

Blowing Smoke Final

BLOWING SMOKE (SoulShares #5)

Amazon (Kindle): http://ow.ly/hFNQ301xIwo
Riverdale Avenue Books (.epub, .mobi or .pdf): http://ow.ly/Wgjo301xJHs
Amazon (paperback): http://ow.ly/7h3n301xIEr

Mantled in Mist Final

MANTLED IN MIST (SoulShares #6)

Amazon (Kindle): http://ow.ly/V9fx301xIJI
Riverdale Avenue Books (.epub, .mobi or .pdf): http://ow.ly/Sck1301xJKz
Amazon (paperback): http://ow.ly/yGJl301xINr

*********

Undertow from Amazon

UNDERTOW (SoulShares #7)

Amazon (Kindle):  http://ow.ly/qQ0E302oPfL

All Romance eBooks:  http://ow.ly/5IUX302oYBc

Riverdale Avenue Books (.epub, .mobi, or .pdf):  http://riverdaleavebooks.com/books/5267/undertow

Amazon (paperback):  http://ow.ly/Seok302oPlc

Coming in 2017: STONE COLD (SoulShares #8) and BACK DOOR INTO PURGATORY (SoulShares #9 and the end of the series)

WolfBecoming-final

WOLF, BECOMING (Russian wolf shapeshifter novella)

Amazon (Kindle only): http://ow.ly/US2D301xGzj
Dreamspinner Press (.epub. .mobi, or .pdf): http://ow.ly/ItKU301xITW

Lamia

FREE READ – “Obsidian” — http://ow.ly/yBTa301xNqI

HAPPY PRIDE!

Collage 4-11

It’s an experience I think we’ve all had. Sometimes it happens when you’re feeling stuck, when everything you do feels forced or stale or joyless and you can’t think of anything new to try. Other times it falls on you out of the sky, when you’re totally not expecting it, and sometimes it takes you a while simply to figure out what this odd thing is that’s landed on you and what the heck you’re supposed to do with it. And still other times, you take a deep breath, close your eyes, open yourself up to God or the Universe or karma or your Muse and you say “Hit me, baby, I’m waiting.”

And then it hits, and you open one eye, just a crack, and peer upward or inward and say “Are You/you/y’all really sure about that?”

Every once in a while, in other words, you get a clue.

The last month or so of my life has partaken of all of the above, to a greater or lesser extent. I’ve been feeling very stuck, not so much in my writing, as in my writing career. Due to a whole bunch of circumstances beyond my control, it’s been over a year since I’ve had a new book come out, and it’s going to be another six weeks or so before the first of the reissued SoulShares comes out. And while I write because I love to write, and because at this point in my life I can’t imagine not writing, I’ve always nurtured the hope that I’ll be able to make the writing pay, at least enough to let me go to conventions and get a new laptop when I drive the old one into the ground. So it’s been a l-o-n-g dry spell.

Then a bunch of my friends, in the Rainbow Romance Writers forum and elsewhere, all started talking about the same thing.

Marketing.

Now, if you know me at all, you know that I consider the m-word an honorary four-letter word. Most of this is because I’m not technologically very ept, for all that I work for an Internet information provider and spend all my time at BOTH my jobs on a computer. The time it would take for me to get up to speed on multiple social media platforms, learn marketing techniques on them, and then actually, well, market would add another year on to my dry spell, easily. Not to mention that I was raised never, ever, EVER to blow my own horn. Praise yourself, or ask for praise, and utter disaster will follow. Blowing your own horn just shows that no one else is interested in blowing it for you. If you have to ask for praise, it means you don’t deserve it. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Marketing. *shudder*

But as several people kindly put it to me, “Rory, you have to get over that. You have to grow up.”

I still didn’t like it. “I don’t have time to do all that and write, too!”

“You don’t have to do ‘all that’ at once. Start by picking what you want to be known for. What you love best, what you think you do best. What excites you. And start selling that. Not your individual books. Your passion.”

Well, maybe I can do that part, I thought.

And when I gave that part some thought, it wasn’t all that hard to figure out what I love best. Myth, legend, fantasy, fairytale. (All in an m/m context, of course.)

There was a feeling of being trapped, though, that I didn’t much care for. What about contemporary m/m, or historical m/m, or science fiction m/m? I love reading all of those subgenres, even though I don’t write them – do I want to say ‘No, nay, never’ to them?

And then it hit me.

I’m not ‘trapped’ in myth, legend, fairy tale, folk tale.

I’m effing ROCKING them.

And, funny thing, as soon as that dawned on me, doors started opening. In the last eight days, I’ve sat in on three panels at two separate conventions, on the subject of fairy tales as writer fuel. I’ve been able to give copies of one of my novellas to Jane Yolen and Emma Bull, two of my biggest inspirations to write fantasy and urban fantasy. I’ve signed on to blog with Queer Sci Fi on a monthly basis, as both a romance author and a fantasy author. I’ve designed a new logo, one I hope to unveil by the time the SoulShares reissues start, that makes me want to hug myself and giggle because it’s just so gosh darn perfect.

And I’m loving what I’m doing again. I’m excited.

I hope y’all are, too. Because I’m looking forward to giving you a LOT to be excited about.

*****

Speaking of giving… and scheduling… I know I’ve given out a lot of conflicting dates lately, and I’m starting to sound like the Fae Who Cried Wolf. Or something. I do apologize – but this latest delay is for a very good reason. Namely, I want to be able to give you all buy links for the new books when I debut the covers. Which means giving my publisher, Riverdale Avenue Books, a little more time to get everything set up properly so I can have buy links before the books come out. So here’s the schedule, as far as I know it and please God let it be the final one:

May 27: HARD AS STONE reissue
June 3: GALE FORCE reissue
June 10: DEEP PLUNGE reissue
June 17: FIRESTORM reissue
June 24: BLOWING SMOKE – new release!
June 28: My birthday *winks*

And if you just can’t wait until the end of May for more? Check out HEART OF THE OAK, TEMPTED FROM THE OAK, and “Ilya and the Wolf” on Amazon!

HEART — http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Oak-Boys-Will-Book-ebook/dp/B00FBF4XIY/ref=la_B009M8XQP2_1_4_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1428797268&sr=1-4
TEMPTED — http://www.amazon.com/Tempted-Oak-Rory-Ni-Coileain-ebook/dp/B00J8N6SY2/ref=la_B009M8XQP2_1_3_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1428797333&sr=1-3
Ilya — http://www.amazon.com/Ilya-Wolf-Rory-Ni-Coileain-ebook/dp/B00QEUP9XS/ref=la_B009M8XQP2_1_5_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1428797364&sr=1-5

*****

And, finally, if you want to hear from me a little more often than I post here, I invite you to come find me on Facebook – I have an Author page at https://www.facebook.com/Soulshares and a group, Rory’s Three Rs – Rowdies, Ruffians, and Rogues, at https://www.facebook.com/groups/721651487924752/ .

One way or another – see you soon, for more Men, Myths, and Legends! (And, hopefully, a better tag line than that!)

ScheduleAnnouncement

Hey, it’s only taken me the first month of 2015 to figure out what I’m doing the rest of the year – not bad!

First, the biggest piece of news I’ve had in a while – the first four SoulShares books, HARD AS STONE, GALE FORCE, DEEP PLUNGE, and FIRESTORM, are temporarily unavailable (except, as of this writing, for the paperback versions still up on Amazon, but those will be coming down shortly). The reason? New editions are coming out through Riverdale Avenue Books, starting in April! With a few additions and corrections (it would have been polite of Conall to inform me that he was a true redhead rather than a strawberry blond sometime before the end of book three, for example), AND a new Fae glossary for each book. AND…. (yes, there’s more!) the fifth book in the series, BLOWING SMOKE, coming out in May! (Follow me on my Amazon page, http://www.amazon.com/Rory-Ni-Coileain/e/B009M8XQP2/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1 and you’ll get updates when each one comes out!)

Here’s my publication schedule for the first half of 2015:

April 22: HARD AS STONE (SoulShares #1) – new edition
April 29: GALE FORCE (SoulShares #2) – new edition
May 6: DEEP PLUNGE (SoulShares #3) – new edition
May 13: FIRESTORM (SoulShares #4) – new edition
May 20: BLOWING SMOKE (SoulShares #5) – first time in print!

And while I’m being so gosh darn organized, here’s my schedule of conventions for the year:

CONvergence (Bloomington, MN) – July 2-5 (science fiction/fantasy)
Rainbow Con (Tampa, FL) – July 16-19 (LGBT media)
Midwestern Book Lovers Unite (MBLU) (Minneapolis, MN) – October 22-25 (romance writers/readers)

There’s something there for just about everyone, I think – come visit me! (And the Fae, and the Gille Dubh, and the oboroten’ – we’re a package deal!)

A teaser from BOUND IN OAK

Muirfinn18

What with the uncertainties of life at a Certain Unnamed Publishing House, it’s been a very long time since my last release. So I thought I’d tease you all with just a little bit of BOUND IN OAK…. you’re welcome….

 

Muirfinn ran his fingertips slowly down Cass’ chest, watching their progress as if he had never seen anything more fascinating. I have never touched a man, nor been touched by one. Not like this. Not in the years I can remember, not in the centuries I have forgotten. Never.
“But your darag…”
Muirfinn laid a hand gently over Cass’ mouth. I have not forgotten my darag. I cannot. But I, too, have needs. Even if I am almost too late in discovering them. With his free hand, he caught Cass’ wrist, placed Cass’ hand on his chest, fair against the tanned skin. Cass could feel the strong, rapid beat of the spirit’s heart, the tickle of the dusting of fine dark hair.
Touch me. Learn me. Remember me.

 

 

Remember when summer was about sleeping as late as you could get away with, biking to the library once a week, and spending as much of the remaining time as you could curled up in your secret private reading nook, devouring one book after another at a pace that made the librarian assume you were the supplier for your entire family?

I wish that had been my summer. Really. Instead, mostly I just heaved a great big ol’ sigh of relief when I tore August off the calendar. Here’s why…

My original contract for the SoulShares was for four books — Hard as Stone, Gale Force, Deep Plunge, and Firestorm. And it specified that I had 15 months to turn in all four books. Now, if I were able to write full-time, that would have been no sweat. But between the Evil Day Job and my family obligations, I generally only have a few hours a night to write. So after four books in 15 months (plus a couple of novellas), I was a great big stressball. But I had a new publisher who really, really wanted the fifth SoulShares novel, so I kept pushing, and turned in the manuscript for Blowing Smoke at the beginning of June. Then there was a short story to write, to submit for a Dreamspinner Press anthology (look for “Ilya and the Wolf” in Celebrate! — the Dreamspinner Press 2014 Advent Calendar anthology, and also as a stand-alone story, the beginning of December!). (Yes, it’s shifters. *grins* You’re welcome.)

Then July happened. I had to move, and downsized from a house to an apartment in a suburb a half-hour’s drive away, chosen because it was close enough to my son’s college that he could commute by bus and because they would let me keep my elderly golden-retriever mix, Fiona, and my Cornish Rex kitty, Grace O’Malley. One (small) carload at a time, we moved that house, all through the month of July. Three days before the final move, Fiona died. (Needless to say, between being burned out and dealing with the move and my sweet girl, not much writing happened in July…)

Then August happened. I started writing again (Bound in Oak, Tales of the Grove #3). The publisher with which Blowing Smoke had been resting comfortably since June announced that it was terminating all its freelance editors, including mine, and that all outstanding manuscripts would be reassigned to its staff of in-house editors. Now, there’s a very good reason why I became a lawyer rather than an accountant, but some numbers even I can crunch, and I realized that I would undoubtedly be an old(er) gray(er) lady by the time SoulShares #5, which had not yet gotten as far as first edits, saw the light of day. So I exercised my contractual right to pull the manuscript… and on Labor Day I sent it off to another potential home. Any and all crossed fingers, good wishes, prayers, and the like will be greatly appreciated, and hopefully I’ll have good news to report in a couple of months!

Now it’s September. I’m still working away at Bound in Oak (which may end up being a working title only, as Ellora’s Cave only wants titles to contain the word “Bound” if they’re BDSM titles, which this definitely isn’t), which I hope to have done by mid-October. And come visit me at the Midwestern Book Lovers Unite Conference, September 26 to 28, at the Minneapolis Airport Marriott — http://midwesternbookloversunite.wordpress.com/ — I’m hosting a table at the Dinner with the Authors, and I know this really great Mongolian restaurant five minutes from the hotel….

And finally… you’ve been waiting so long, and so patiently, for Blowing Smoke, it would be remiss of me not to leave you with at least a taste. Enjoy! — and comment!

 

 

Chapter Four

Greenwich Village
New York City

The first thing Lasair saw when he opened his eyes in the human world was an ass. A very nice, scantily-clad ass, although he might have been more appreciative if his face wasn’t bumping into it every few seconds. And if he felt even a little less as if he’d just been run over by the King’s best racing chariot and its entire eight-horse team. Over the thunder of his heartbeat in his own ears, he heard a muffled thumping noise and occasional grunts.

And a whimper. Culin was somewhere nearby.

Tipping his head back, Lasair saw a staircase, dull grey wood. Arching back as far as he could–not far, thanks to the chains–he could see as far as the floor at the bottom of the stairs.

He blinked. The floor glowed faintly, in the auroral hue of pure unbound magick. Not possible.

“Great, you’re awake.” The baritone voice was slightly out of breath, and the speaker sounded more than slightly put out. “Would you mind holding still until I get you upstairs? I’d rather not drop you on your head, you’d probably pull me down with you.”

I beg your pardon for occupying space. Lasair bit his tongue, kept the words to himself, and let his head drop. He could feel an arm now, wrapped around his thighs.

The jarring stopped, and he heard the creak of a door opening. His own personal scenery remained pretty much the same, but with poorer lighting. Then another door. Light. Furniture half-glimpsed, and other doors.

“Oh, fuck. The one door I forgot about.”

The floor suddenly came a head closer, and Lasair got a glimpse of beautifully muscled calves as his bearer bent his knees. There was a click, and another door opening.

Then, suddenly, Lasair was lying on his back, with Culin at his side. On a bed, he presumed. He was getting tired of presuming. The chains were bad enough–truesilver chains were forged to burn in the presence of a channeling, and they surely did–but being trussed like a roast made it much worse. He strained to sit up, but the chains made it impossible to do more than raise his head and shoulders.

Which was enough to let him see where he was, and who had carried him up the stairs. He was in a small bed-chamber, lit by pale sunlight from a single window. The first human male he had ever seen looked down at him, wearing nothing but short trousers of some soft fabric and a deep frown. His hair was nearly dark enough to be chort-gruag, bark-hair, like the tree folk out of legend. But on this male, it was nothing to be scorned. It suited him. So did his mustache, a rarity among Fae. Eyes of dark green watched him warily, glancing every so often at Culin.

He must be ravishing when he smiles.

“Do you have a key to those chains, or do I need to cut them off?” The male’s voice was rough, almost harsh.

“If I had a key, believe me, I wouldn’t be in this situation.” Lasair winced. He didn’t remember most of his transition, other than the agony of the beginning of it, but whatever had happened to him after that had left his head feeling as hollow as the inside of a great bell. And any word, any sound from him was a mallet pounding on the bell.

“All right. Wait here.” The male’s stare raked him from his head to his feet; he put up a dark brow, turned, and left the bedchamber.

Culin whined softly.

“It’s all right.” Lasair murmured. “It’s going to be all right, tréan-cú.” He had called Culin strong, a strong hound, since the pup’s birth. Names channeled power, even names given by one with little magick of his own.

Now all I have to do is be right.

When the male reappeared, he was carrying a long-handled pincers with a metal beak. This he fitted to the chains, and started to bear down on the handles. Doing so brought out splendidly defined arm muscles and a thin sheen of sweat. I would give my left nut not to feel like I’ve been pounded flat and scraped up off the stable floor right now.

“These are stronger than they look.” The male checked the wicked beak of the pincers, running long, slender fingers over the cutting edges as if he expected to find them notched by the chain.

Humans were very different from the way Fae lore drew them, at least if they were all like this one. This male was as handsome as any Fae, in his way, and the measuring intelligence in his gaze was as exciting as his strange beauty. “They’re meant to be. But you ought to be able to cut them.” Now that the links had no magick running through them, and had been given no new purpose to know.

One dark brow went up as the male re-set the pincers. “Mind if I ask what you were doing chained up in my basement at six in the morning?”

“Yes.” Shit, I should have expected that. One thing the old stories weren’t going to tell him was what humans thought of Fae, several thousand years after their parting of ways. Even the most trusting Fae–assuming such an exotic creature existed anywhere–would be skeptical under the circumstances. And he had even less reason to be trusting than most.

Why had he forgotten that?

Writing about… NOT writing

Muirfinn

 

Today I go back to writing, after a self-imposed one-month hiatus. (Well, mostly a hiatus… more about that later.) I had to move out of my home of 15 years and downsize into an apartment, over the course of the month of July. I figured, mostly correctly, that my Muse would spend July sulking – I’ve hated moving ever since a two-year period 30 years ago when I lived in six places over the course of two years. Add in the fact that this move was involuntary, and you have a perfect recipe for a sullen, pouting Muse. So it seemed like the perfect time for my first real break in close to three years of doing my damnedest to write Every. Single. Day.

Easier said than done.

I really intended to stay away from my next project. My last big project, the fifth Fae novel, was one of those stories where what starts out as a perfectly clear vision ends up feeling like wading through quick-drying cement, and I thought some “down time” was going to feel fabulous. And I was kind of right. I made it almost halfway through my “vacation” – it was almost two weeks before Muirfinn and Cass started hectoring me. I tried to placate them by outlining. Look, I’m not REALLY writing, I’m just, um, getting some ideas down. But one thing led to another, and pretty soon I was cruising Tumblr for pictures of hot models. And Googling the ferry and bus routes serving the Isle of Lewis. And checking out traditional homes in the Hebrides. And checking sunrise and sunset times (if you’ve read either of my Tales of the Grove novellas, you’ll know why that matters).

In other words, so much for all my good intentions. And the boys STILL wouldn’t let me be. Outlining wasn’t good enough for them, no sir no ma’am.

I’m not sure why I still set up these little tests for myself – “I’m a real writer if I do X.” Because I’m probably a “real writer” by any measurement that doesn’t involve hitting one or more national best-seller lists, winning a major national book award, or being able to quit my Evil Day Job. But I do. I test myself. And now I’ve passed another test. “I’m a real writer if I can’t stay away from the friggin’ computer for more than 10 days at a time.”

*rolls up sleeves* Back to work… I hear a reclusive Gille Dubh and an emotionally scarred artist yammering at me….

Happy Prideanniverthday!

TiernanMikeGrell

 

This weekend hits a lovely trifecta — it’s Pride weekend, and tomorrow (June 28th) is both my birthday and the second anniversary of the day I signed the contract for my first books, the SoulShares series (featuring the exquisite Tiernan Guaire, pictured above.) To celebrate, I’m offering y’all, in a very hobbit-y fashion, presentses! — an (unedited) excerpt from Blowing Smoke, the fifth Fae novel and the first in the Broken Pattern series, and a giveaway. Comment below with your e-mail address by 8:00 p.m. Central time on Sunday, June 29th for a chance to win YOUR CHOICE of: (1) an autographed paperback of your choice of any one of the SoulShares novels (Hard as Stone, Gale Force, Deep Plunge, and Firestorm), (2) Kindle copies of both Tales of the Grove novellas (Heart of the Oak and Tempted from the Oak), or (3) an autographed (by me) copy of the lovely picture above, drawn for me at ComicCon Minneapolis by the amazing Mike Grell).

Happy Pride! And it’s been an amazing couple of years, and I’m looking forward to many more!

 

Excerpt from Blowing Smoke, Chapter Two:

It took a while to get up all the glass slivers, find the mop, and mop the floor, but it was time well spent. Ever since coming home to the stench it had cost him five grand to get rid of, Bryce had a horror of having anything around the apartment that might smell.

He stowed the mop back in its cupboard. There was a place for everything, and everything in its place, especially in a little New York apartment.

Of course, he’d been that way for a long time. His grandfather had moved in with them when he was seven, after his first stroke, and overnight his room had become the one place where he’d been able to have things the way he wanted. Most of the time, anyway.

He limped back to the table, nursing a bruise on his hip where he’d fallen against the counter. Funny how he’d never managed to pair up with a man as fastidious as he was. Or even close. Aren’t we all supposed to be fussy? He usually drove most of the men he picked up, or who latched on to him, completely bugfuck crazy in the space of a few days.

Terry hadn’t minded, though. He’d been perfectly happy to let Bryce be Bryce, all the while scattering costume sketches and leotards and water bottles and leg warmers everywhere. On purpose, sometimes, he suspected. There had been one time, when Bryce had started to pre-heat the oven for coq au vin, and the strange smell that had filled the apartment had turned out to be roasted ballet slipper.

Bryce’s throat felt tight. He tried so damned hard to drag me out of myself. Drag my head out of my ass. Why the hell did I throw him out? He still couldn’t remember, even after almost a year. He’d asked Terry, but Terry hadn’t wanted to talk about it. Bryce supposed he wouldn’t, either, under the circumstances, but it still would have been nice to know, to get back some of those lost memories, even second-hand. Even painful ones.

Painful? Who am I kidding? I’m a dick. I probably laughed when I did it. Though he couldn’t have treated Terry any worse than he’d treated the parade of men who had followed him–

Bryce froze. What was that?

A barely audible sound, but he realized it had been there, on the very edge of his hearing, for a while. A soft whimpering. And, just as he started giving the sound his full attention, a tiny howl.

What the hell? The guy on the second floor, whose name Bryce had never bothered to ask, had a Rottweiler, but it had a bark like you’d expect from a monster that size and he’d never heard it whimper or howl. Besides, the noise sounded like it was coming from downstairs, not upstairs.

Fucking wonderful, an animal of some kind trapped in the basement. The landlord had a strict policy, all vermin were supposed to be reported to him so he could take care of them before the city caught wind of any problem. Not that Bryce gave a shit about anyone’s policy, but having someone other than him take care of rodents in the basement was his idea of common sense.

Another faint howl.

Rats don’t howl.

No, but dogs did. Bryce hated dogs. Not just Cujo upstairs, he’d hated them all as long as he could remember. His grandfather had kept mastiffs, before his stroke, and Bryce had been about four years old the day one of them had run him down on the front lawn until he tripped and fell, and had gone for his throat. He’d pissed himself from fear before his grandfather called the dog off. His mother had demanded the dog be put down, his grandfather had laughed, and dear Daddy had taken a belt to him for wrecking his new trousers.

The howl didn’t sound like a mastiff, though. Not even close.

I should at least find out what it is.

Bryce methodically unlocked all the locks on the front door, turning the second deadbolt on his way out so the door wouldn’t lock behind him and leave him in the foyer in his underwear. The door to the basement was closed, but not locked; he let himself in and left the door ajar.

The whimpering continued. Bryce reached around the doorjamb and fumbled for the light switch. The light didn’t stop the sound, either. Frowning, he bent to peer down the stairs.

A man lay unmoving on the grey cement of the basement floor. A man with long blond hair curling in soft waves around his face and an amazing body in what looked like someone’s idea of a Ren Faire costume, dark green. Wrapped around in silver chains, so tightly he wouldn’t have been able to move even if he’d been awake, and the linen charred where the chains touched it. And a whisker-faced brown and grey puppy lay on the man’s chest, sprawled out on its side, shivering, its belly rising and falling with rapid panting breaths.

Bryce took a few steps down the stairs. The pup stirred, raised its head maybe an inch, and howled. Not really a howl, more like a pitiful wail. Then it turned away from him, nosing at the man, crying.

He was confused as fuck, and he didn’t like the feeling. What the hell was going on with the man? He tried to imagine some combination of circumstances that could have ended with a Robin Hood type–a fucking gorgeous Robin Hood type, probably a model, just the kind to put a tent in his shorts under other, less bizarre circumstances–chained up in his basement. Unconscious. Smelling of smoke. With a dog. He came up blank.

Great, now the puppy was looking at him. There was something strange about its eyes, he could see that even from this distance. It was having trouble holding its head up, too, he thought.

What the hell am I supposed to do about this? About a dog he was supposed to hate, and a man he was supposed to… well, what? Catch and release?

One thing, at least, was clear. Bryce owed the intruders as much as he’d ever owed anyone else.

Nothing.

Clear, right?

 

Both Heart of the Oak and Tempted from the Oak have moms in small but important roles.  Maggie, in Heart, isn’t Trevor’s mother, but she shares a mother’s story that’s such an important plot point I don’t want to give it away here. *laughing* And Maura Cross, Gavin’s mom, from Tempted, tries to get hold of Gavin at just the wrong time — when Jeremy’s given him notice to get out of their apartment, just before Christmas, in a frigid, snowy Minneapolis winter (which I wrote long before it became apparent just how frigid and snowy our Minneapolis winter was going to be this year!). And Maura, like pretty much all of us moms, just wants to make things all right for her son…

So here’s the beginning of Chapter Twelve, from Tempted from the Oak. With love to all the moms out there…

GavinAustinSanderson5

Chapter Twelve

“He’s only letting you stay one more week and you still haven’t found a place to live?”
Why can’t a phone ever lose signal when I want it to? Gavin grimaced. He could always fake it, sure, but as far as he was concerned, there were some things a guy just never did to his mother. No matter how tempting the idea was. “Yeah, that’s about it, Mom.”
At least she wasn’t giving him crap for his lousy taste in men. She’d taken care of that in the first ten minutes of this phone call from hell. He’d had his phone muted at work and when his mother hadn’t been able to get hold of him, she’d called the other number he’d given her—the one he’d forgotten he gave her. The apartment’s number. Jeremy’s number. And the son of a bitch had told his mother that he, Gavin, was moving out, but wasn’t sure where he was going. Exactly the information he’d been very carefully keeping to himself because he hadn’t wanted to have the conversation he was presently having.
Still, it could be worse. She could have found out that he’d almost fallen in love with a tree spirit. Almost.
“You should come home, sweetie.”
Of course I should.
The bus crept forward another few feet. It wasn’t that there was a lot of traffic, not at six o’clock on Christmas Eve, when anyone with anything better to do than drive or ride a bus home from work was undoubtedly doing it. But the near-blizzard had brought everything more or less to a standstill. He kept clearing a circle in the frost riming the window, trying to see where he was and the circle kept freezing back over before he could see much of anything other than his own reflection. Which he barely recognized, swathed in every scarf and hat and sweater he’d been able to come up with before leaving the apartment this morning.
“I’d have to rent a car, Mom. I have too much stuff to bring home on a plane.” Shit, he was calling Seattle “home” again. Had he already given up? “I can’t afford that.”
“I’ll send you the money.”
“No, Mom—”
“Don’t you ‘no, Mom’ me.” Her tone was light, but Gavin knew from experience that Maura Cross was deadly serious about anything affecting the well-being of any of her children. And when his mother was deadly serious, nothing opposing her stood a chance. “You hate your job—you’ve told me so I don’t know how many times. You don’t have any reason to stay in that godforsaken glacier now that Mr. Wonderful has turned into Mr. Self-Absorbed-Head-Up-His-Ass.”
Gavin choked a little. “Mom, you’re not supposed to talk like that.”
“Someone hurts my baby, I’ll talk however I want to.”
“I love you, Mom.” Which was the truth and which was what made this whole conversation truly miserable. He loved his mom, his mom loved him, his mom wanted nothing more than for him to be happy. But his mom couldn’t understand what made him happy. She’d never understood his dream of working at the Guthrie or how much it had meant to him to move to the city where he might be able to make his dream come true. And she would sure as hell never understand his hopeless longing for the other dream he’d left behind in what he was pretty sure was the Scottish Highlands.
How could she, when he didn’t?
“I love you, too. Now promise me you won’t do anything stupid.”
“Mom, I haven’t—”
“And that you’ll be home for New Year’s. I’ll have the champagne iced.”
God damn it. His throat was squeezed tight and his eyes were burning. It was time. He needed to give up his dream—both his dreams—because that was all they would ever be. Dreams. And he had to get on with his life. “All right, Mom.”
“Thank you, sweetie. That’s the best Christmas present you could have given me.”
Gavin clenched his teeth. He should be relieved. Should feel lighter, without the burden of needing to find a place to live. Should be overjoyed at the thought of being able to wish Jeremy’s new boyfriend luck on his way out the door.
To hell with how he should be feeling. He reached up and yanked the cord to signal a stop. “Mom, I’m at my stop. I have to put the phone away. I’ll call you later. Merry Christmas.” Fortunately, he touched off the phone before she could hear how his voice caught on those last words. There was no way he was at his stop but he didn’t care. Wherever he was, he could probably walk back to the apartment faster than the bus was moving. Getting numb would just be a bonus.
Jesus, listen to me, I’m turning into an honest-to-God drama queen. Complete with M.F.A. Gavin shook his head, pulling out his gloves and tucking his phone into the empty pocket as the bus came to a stop.
“Merry Christmas,” the driver called out down the aisle of the nearly empty bus as he made his way down the steps to the back door of the bus.
Minnesota Nice. “Same to you.” He pushed the door open and stepped down into the street.
A blast of snow-laden wind hit him in the face, just as he went into a bank left by a snowplow almost up to his knees. Maybe this was a bad idea. Behind him, he heard the bus pull away from the curb, or the part of the street that was as close to the curb as anything with four wheels and an engine would be able to get for a while.
Well, shit. Gavin pulled his scarf up from where it had fallen while he sat in the comparatively warm bus. He looked around, making his way to the sidewalk and trying to get his bearings as he wound the wool more tightly around his face. How do people get used to this?
Not his problem anymore.
The unmistakable sound of church bells was muffled by snow and wind. He recognized them, the bells of St. Mark’s Cathedral, probably ringing for a Christmas Eve service. He’d disembarked at the Loring Park exit. If he were able to see at all through the blinding snow, he’d see the tree he never wanted to see again.
Thank God for blizzards then. The words hurt. He wanted them to hurt. That was how a person learned, right? By avoiding pain. Maybe next time he wouldn’t be such an idiot. Snow stung his eyelids, the tops of his cheeks where the scarf left them exposed.
He pulled his knitted hat down further until it nearly met the top edge of the scarf.
Gavin…?
Faintly, the whisper of leaves and an impossible hint of moonlight.
Shielding his eyes, Gavin started to look in the direction of the old oak, then caught himself. Even a drama queen knows better than to go chasing off after his own wishful thinking during a blizzard.
Wishful?
Hell, yes. He wished. He was never going to learn.
Gavin…please.
Gavin lurched aside to avoid a very determined older woman, barreling down the middle of the sidewalk like a wool-clad, fur-hatted tank.
Cold.
The muted clamor of the bells was starting to subside. Gavin missed the noise. It helped. Though it apparently wasn’t loud enough to drown out an imagination desperate to hear Tearlach’s whisper one last time.
Sleepy
No one had shoveled the walkways through the park since the storm started. It didn’t matter. He was being drawn to the source of that last faint, despairing sigh as fast as he could plow through the accumulated snow.
Faster, even. He stumbled, going to hands and knees in the snow when he stepped off the paved path. His chest heaved, drawing in great lungfuls of burning-cold air. He fought down a cough, trying to listen.
Nothing. No sound except the blowing snow, the whipping wind that sounded nothing like a lover.
He staggered upright, covered with snow now, brushing at himself as he trudged forward. His feet were burning in a way that suggested they were going to be completely numb before long and his eyelashes kept trying to freeze stuck together. Where the hell is the goddamn tree? The blizzard was changing everything. Every shape, every sound, every breath. Nothing looked familiar in what little light there was. Jesus, if I’m not careful I’m going to go too far and end up in the lake.
In the end he tripped over what he was looking for, going face first into the snow. Tearlach was curled in on himself, knees drawn up against his chest, arms wrapped around his shins, covered with a coating of snow that looked like it had only been knocked off when Gavin stumbled over him. He wasn’t moving. And it didn’t look like the snow was melting on him.
Cursing, Gavin struggled to his knees, peeled off his gloves and started shucking his coat. “Tearlach!” He wrapped the coat around the motionless spirit, then manhandled Tearlach awkwardly across his lap, holding him as close as he could with one arm while reaching for his phone. Which wasn’t in his pocket. Son of a bitch. No doubt it was out there in the snow, where he had fallen.
Let me sleep

Christmas Eve on the Isle of Skye

As a Christmas gift to all of you… an original, unpublished Darach and Trevor story, looking in on them on the Christmas Eve after their Midsummer meeting.

                Darach is having trouble sitting still. Or sitting at all, really. Somehow he gives the impression of being a prisoner in his unaccustomed clothing, the outfit I’d picked up for him in town. As I watch from the kitchen doorway, he brushes his fingertips over the front of the shirt, tanned skin against white linen, hooks two of them in the collar behind the knot of his tie, just a shade darker than Christmas-green, and tugs.

                Am I supposed to feel as if I am being executed?

                I can’t help laughing. And I can see the change coming over his face at the sound. He keeps telling me how much he loves my laughter, can’t get enough of it. I pause for a kiss, and of course it isn’t a short peck on the cheek, before crossing to the far wall, to bend and flip the switch to turn on the lights on the little tree I’d found and cut.  Tiny lights, a few simple ornaments, and an ornate glass star, the darag’s gift. It had appeared under the oak tree one morning, without explanation from either the tree or my husband.

                Husband.

                “I’m sorry about the tie.” I slip my arms around Darach’s waist, and breathe in his scent, musk and woodsmoke. “I love you so much for being willing to do this for me.”

                I do this for her, even more than I do it for you.

                Sometimes he comes to me here in the cottage, and on some of those nights he wears a silk robe, but he does that mostly because he loves the feel of me removing it, and I love what happens to him when he feels silk against his skin. These clothes are meant to stay on for a while, though. Kind of a pity. But damn, he looks as fine dressed as naked, and I keep surprising myself with how much in love I am. Me. Who would ever have thought?

                 “I still love you for it.” I pull him closer, rocking my hips against his as he leans into me. Just a little, we can’t get too distracted with company coming, but enough to let him know his nearness is having the same effect on me it always does.

                Yet he tenses, a little. I can feel it. And that sensation saddens me, because it’s part of a loss of his innocence. I don’t avoid talking about the outside world with him, but neither do I bring it up any more often than necessary. But as little as we talk about it, he knows that the world he woke up in is almost nothing like the one he lost when the magick went away, and that it’s not a world likely to be kind to a magickal being most of it would refuse to believe in.

                I stroke his hair gently, urging his head down to rest on my shoulder, working my fingers into his unruly hair until I feel him relax against me. “It’s going to be all right.”

                I trust you. The whisper is faint, but resolute. You, and whoever you bring to me.

                Almost as if that were a cue, we hear the sound of a car engine. Darach hears it first, of course, he’s always the first to hear anything. But then I hear it too, an uneven drone that doesn’t sound much healthier than my old keep-the-hell-away-from-the-crazy-American-driver truck. We don’t break apart, though, not right away. The long nights of midwinter are a blessing, but that doesn’t mean we don’t fill those night hours  as full as we can. There’s something about knowing that we can’t touch at all during the daylight that makes the night precious. Not to mention the faint shadow of fear I still see in his dark, green-flecked eyes.

                Finally, though, the car grumbles to a stop next to the cottage, probably next to my truck, and we reluctantly step back from one another. The car door opens, closes. I exchange glances with Darach; while I don’t share his fears, it’s still a strange feeling, having an outsider within our perimeter. We’re isolated out here, him by necessity and me by choice, and I never would have imagined that a guy bred, born and raised in Manhattan would grow as attached to solitude as I have.

                Soft footsteps approach the door, but the knock that follows is firm. Which doesn’t surprise me. I give Darach a quick kiss on the cheek, squeeze his hand, and cross the little room to open the door. It’s never locked, not out here, and I pull it open.

                The woman standing on the flagstone step is bundled in a woolen coat, a little hat perched on top of her gray hair and a basket over her arm, its contents mostly covered with a cloth but flashing a flirtatious hint of shortbread.  And she gives me a kindly and delighted smile that makes me certain of my choice to invite her to share our Christmas Eve. She reaches up to hug me with the arm that isn’t holding the basket, and I return the hug one-armed while reaching to help her with the basket.

                And stop, startled, as Darach steps in and slides the basket down Maggie’s arm. She’s startled too, and turns, and as they each hold on to the almost-forgotten basket with one hand,  for a moment all she can do is stand and stare.

                I don’t blame her, he still has that effect on me at least twice a night. “Maggie, this is my husband, Darach. Darach, this is Maggie.” The lady who saved me from myself and my own stupidity, when I was about to run away from the most incredible thing that had ever happened to me. But, then, Darach knows that. I told him about that near-disastrous bus ride to Kyle of Lochalsh, and what Maggie did for me.

                The two of them look at each other, with almost identical studying expressions, and I wonder which will be the first to speak.

                Darach, as usual, surprises me. “I’m pleased tae meet ye at last, Maggie.” He’s been learning English slowly – he prefers his own language of wind and moonlight and whispers. Which is beautiful , but God, when he speaks in that deep voice of his, with the accent he must have picked up from the Scots of two thousand years before, I go weak in the knees. Better not do that now, though.

                Maggie’s eyes go wide at the sound of his voice, and she looks him up and down quickly, taking in the dark wild hair, tanned skin against white linen, tapered torso and lean hips and dark trousers. And bare feet. We’ve never been able to find shoes he can stand for more than a minute.

                Her gaze travels back up to his face, and I can see the pounding of his pulse in his throat. And then she reaches up, and cups his cheek in her hand. “Husband, is it?” Her smile trembles a little.

                “Aye, handfasted at Lammas, we were.”  Darach eyes Maggie uncertainly, but his hand comes up to cover hers.

                She turns to me, and blinks quickly to clear away tears before her smile blossoms.  “I was i’ the right, then, lad, or nearly so? ‘Twasn’t the land calling to ye, but someone very close tae th’ land. Close kin.”  She goes up on her toes a little, to look more closely at Darach.

                And he returns the gaze, steady now, no hint of fear, only a lively curiosity. This one sees, he whispers to me.

                Maggie pats Darach’s cheek, her eyes twinkling. “Each of ye a blessing tae th’ other.”

                My “He is” crosses with Darach’s “That he is.”

                And we all laugh, and walk to the kitchen, to have Maggie’s amazing and sinful shortbread and Drambuie. Darach’s first Christmas, and my merriest.

If you haven’t yet read Darach and Trevor’s story, you can find it here:  http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Oak-Boys-Will-ebook/dp/B00FBF4XIY/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1380206135&sr=1-4&keywords=Heart+of+the+Oak

And, as the Scots would say, Nollaig chridheil! — Merry Christmas!