Tag Archive: Purgatory


Rehabbing the Villain

What do you do when a character you had a great deal of fun making thoroughly detestable over the course of three books looks you in the eye and tells you he wants his own book? That’s the predicament I found myself in courtesy of Bryce Newhouse, the Greenwich Village investment banker everyone — and I do mean everyone — loves to hate in GALE FORCE, DEEP PLUNGE, and especially FIRESTORM. Well, I do love a challenge… so here’s a bit of Bryce’s journey. BryceDanielSune7

“What the fuck do you mean, he’s ‘otherwise occupied’?” Unable to glare at the person who was pissing him off, Bryce directed his ire at the air conditioner. Which the fucking landlord wasn’t going to be able to fix until Tuesday at the earliest, and why he’d thought he needed to interrupt Bryce’s Saturday afternoon with that news Bryce had no fucking idea.

A couple of hundred miles away, Josh LaFontaine sighed. “He’s in a meeting, Bryce. This is just another work day for us, you know.”

Remind me again why the hell I called? “I knew that, that’s why I called the studio. And since when do tattoo artists have meetings?”

“I don’t see where that’s any of your business.” Frost rimed on the words.

Neither do I, he nearly blurted. To say he’d been rattled by his close encounter with the heart-stopping Lasair Faol would be the understatement of the decade. Left trembling in a way he’d literally never been before in his life. But that hadn’t been the worst. The worst thing about it was the way it had made him start thinking. About the methodical way he’d spent more or less his whole life shoving everyone who might otherwise have gotten close enough to want to do for him what the blond god in his bedroom wanted to do for him out the nearest windows or under the nearest trains. Figuratively speaking, thank God.

Which contemplation, naturally enough, had turned his thoughts to Terry. Even before whatever had happened this morning, it had been frustrating, being unable to remember why he’d thrown Terry out. Now the inability to remember had graduated to being frustrating as fuck. I seem to have fallen in love with the f-bomb. I suppose it beats hell out of falling in love with anyone else. At least from the perspective of the hypothetical anyone else.

Oh, right, it was his turn to say something. “I wouldn’t have thought Terry needed a social secretary, but as long as you seem to have given yourself the job, would you mind telling me when would be a better time to call?” Acquiring a conscience, if that’s what had happened to him this morning, hadn’t done shit to improve his social skills. No reason it should have, either.

“Why are you bothering?” There was an edge to the tattoo artist’s voice now. “And Terry’s getting on with his life just fine, no thanks to you.”

Jesus. He’d called because… damned if he knew. Had he really thought he could make things right with Terry with a phone call? When he still couldn’t remember how he’d made things wrong in the first place? Not to mention all the bad blood between him and LaFontaine, and him and Dary. Him and pretty much everyone he knew, come to think of it. Not just an asshole, a stupid asshole. “Maybe this was a bad idea.”

“I agree–”

“What the fuck?” A puppy dropped onto the sofa. A puppy that couldn’t possibly have climbed to anywhere he might have fallen from, and had been shut into the bedroom not five minutes before. He could see the bedroom door from where he sat. It was still closed.

“I beg your pardon?”

“I. Uh.” Bryce set the phone on his thigh and switched it to speaker, so he could gather up the bewildered puppy. “My, um, houseguest has a dog. It’s not supposed to be up on the furniture.”

“You have a houseguest?”

“Do you have to sound so fucking surprised?” Bryce cradled the squirming pup awkwardly. “It is my house. If you can have a guest in it, I’m thinking I probably can too.” Shit. He’d had to go and remind himself of Conall Dary. Again. Maybe masochistic tendencies were yet another surprise discovery waiting for him today. It was hard to imagine why else he was rubbing his own nose in that particular piece of his past yet again. I’ve walked this part of memory lane twice already today, can’t I give it a miss now?

No, something else about the memory was nagging him. Something very similar about the two men involved. Something about the eyes. The way they’d seemed to see straight into him. Before he’d been an ass to both of them, anyway. His very special talent.

There was more. When he and Terry had walked in on Dary and LaFontaine, hadn’t there been a length of silver chain on the bedroom floor?

The door to the bedroom opened, banging against the wall, chasing all thoughts of chains from his head. Lasair strode into the living room, his intense turquoise gaze fixed not on Bryce, but on the dog. Which was actually just fine. It meant Bryce didn’t have to be ashamed of staring, at least for a few seconds. He’d been taken by surprise in the bedroom, by those kisses he could still taste. He hadn’t really looked at the heart-stopping blond, his improbable blue eyes and his bite-and-be-bitten lips and his perfectly chiseled body. He’d just fallen against him and let himself be kissed. Touched. Wanted. At least, until he’d come to his senses and gotten the hell out of there. No, he couldn’t even take credit for that much common sense. His escape had all been the landlord’s doing.

However it had happened, it was a good thing. No way could Bryce let himself get involved with a man like Lasair. Even if a miracle had happened, and he now somehow had the capacity not to be a total dickhead, he was still missing something very important. Namely, the ability to be anything else. If he let this go on the way Lasair apparently wanted it to–who the hell am I kidding, I want it too–there was only one way it could end. Very badly. For both of them.

Still, he could look. He could dream. For a second.

The spell shattered as Lasair came toward him with the obvious intention of taking the puppy. Bryce’s arms closed around the dog instinctively. Or it would have been instinctively, if he’d ever had an instinct to protect anything but himself.

“Earth to Newhouse?” The plaintive voice came from the phone still precariously balanced on his thigh. Lasair’s efforts to take the dog away from Bryce ceased. The blond was staring at the phone as if he expected it to leap from Bryce’s thigh and bite him in the face.

This all really, really needed to get weirder. “I’m here.”

“Look, you aren’t planning to come down to D.C. again, are you? That Christmas visit of yours, you made Terry cry, you pissed off Conall, and just a word to the wise, if you ever even try to set foot in Purgatory again, Tiernan’s going to let Lucien use you as a medicine ball.”

There is no way I could ever make up for all the shit I’ve pulled. The sudden bleakness of the thought left Bryce feeling as if all the air had been sucked out of him. It goes all the way back to my childhood and here I sit, piling on more every time I open my mouth. But at least Lasair had finally heard, straight from the horse’s mouth, what a horse’s ass Bryce was. Hopefully that would save him the trouble of proving it to the blond Adonis himself.

“Conall? Tiernan?” Lasair was still staring at the phone like a spooked horse, and he spoke carefully, almost reluctantly. “Are you speaking of Conall Dary and Tiernan Guaire?”

Silence. “Who wants to know?”

Fuck. Lasair hadn’t even heard the Bryce-is-a-dick part. “My houseguest,” Bryce grated. And how the hell did his ‘houseguest’ know both Dary and Guaire?

The blond glanced at Bryce, eyes wide. “I’m… a friend of theirs.” He rested a hand on the puppy’s head. “A friend of a friend, actually. Are they in there with you?–can I speak with them?” The way the blond was nodding toward the phone, it was almost as if he thought LaFontaine was actually inside it.

Bryce shook his head. He’d discarded the raving lunatic explanation for the chained-up man in his basement early on, but maybe it was time to come back to it.

The tattoo artist sounded almost as puzzled as Bryce felt. “They aren’t here, no. I could pass your name along, have them call you back, if you want.”

“No, that’s not necessary. But where are you?”

Considering the context, that has to be one of the strangest questions I’ve ever heard. “He’s not in the phone, Rapunzel.”

“Whatever it is you’re using, Bryce, it’s way too early in the day for it.”

“Fuck you very much, LaFontaine.” Bryce touched off the phone, the urge to slam something down making him nostalgic for something from his grandfather’s house for the first time he could remember. One of those old heavy black phones would have been so much more satisfying to hang up.

Veterans’ Day at Purgatory

MacinNam

With your kind permission, I’d like to reprint an original Purgatory short story I first ran last Veterans’ Day. This young Marine is Mac McAllan; he served in Vietnam with Kevin Almstead’s father Thomas, and now he’s a bartender at Purgatory, where his partner Lucien is the bouncer. I’ll let you learn the rest as you read….

Mac carefully set the brimful pint glass of Smithwick’s in front of the customer who had ordered it, a thin, drawn guy in a faded camo jacket.
“Thanks, what do I owe you?” The man shifted on the bar stool and reached into his hip pocket, pulling out a battered wallet and opening it up, to reveal a wad of what looked like singles, and a very familiar blue identification card.
“Active-duty retired?”
The man looked startled, but nodded. “Desert Storm, Third Armored.”
Looking the guy up and down, the bartender made a quick decision. “Then you don’t owe me anything. The club’s buying for all veterans tonight.”
“No shit?”
“Least we can do.” Hell, yes. Desert Storm was pre-Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell. Which meant that this guy had served most or all of his career at risk of dishonorable discharge, if anyone had discovered the secret that made him one of Purgatory’s customers.
“Did I hear you right?” This from a balding bear in leather shorts and a harness, a couple of stools down the bar. “I did three tours, USMC, last one at Camp Fuji.”
“Semper Fi, what’ll you have?”
A small crowd gathered around the bar, as word started making it around the room that the house was buying for servicemen. Mac was more than a little surprised at the number of Purgatory regulars coming forward to claim drinks. Even Miss Mona, a drag queen who probably hadn’t missed a Monday night at Purgatory in forty years, turned out to have been a pilot in Korea. My paycheck’s going to take a beating this week. Mac laughed to himself. It’s worth it.
He looked up from pouring a martini – and grinned ear-to-ear, he couldn’t help it. “Sarge! – what the hell are you doing here?”
Thomas Almstead grinned back. “You turned down my offer of a beer tonight because you were working.” He glanced around at the men crowding his son-in-law’s bar – business is good, I see – and then reached across the bar to shake the hand of the man who’d saved his ass twice in Vietnam. “So I thought I’d come to you.”
“Did I hear him call you ‘Sarge’?” The speaker was an elderly man in a pink sequined mermaid gown and pink feathered headdress. “Then you can buy a lady a drink.”
Mac grinned at the drag queen. “You need to finish your creamy Sex on the Beach, Miss Mona, then you can pester Sarge for another one.”
“Oh, poo.”
Thomas laughed. Two years ago, if anyone had told me I was going to be spending Veterans’ Day 2013 in a gay nightclub run by my son-in-law, I would have… well, I’m not sure what I would have done. Questioning sanity would have been high on the list, though. Then he leaned across the bar, as Mac motioned to him. “Looks like they really needed you tonight,” he commented, before the bartender could speak. From what Thomas remembered from dinner conversations with Tiernan and Kevin, Monday nights were usually fairly quiet at Purgatory. Tonight was, apparently, an exception.
Mac’s gaze swept the group clustered around the bar. “Well, it’s my own fault. I decided to pick up the tab for any vets in the house tonight. Who’d have thought there were so many?”
“You decided to –“
“Hey, bartender!”
Mac rolled his eyes as a gaggle – there really was no other word for it – of boys who looked barely out of their teens waived at him. “Excuse me just a second, Sarge. I need to go card a few people.”
Thomas frowned in thought as Mac moved off down the bar, a slight spring in one step from the carbon fibre blade prosthetic leg he was sporting, then turned away from the bar and crossed the club, carefully skirting the edge of the pit full of black leather furniture and knocking on the nearly-invisible door on the far side of it.
Tiernan looked up, startled, from the computer monitor displaying his rotation of security cameras. “What the particular fuck?” Most people didn’t know his office door was there, and the ones who did generally didn’t bother to knock. He unfolded himself from behind the desk and went to the door, pushing it open. “Mr. Almstead!”
“I thought we’d agreed on ‘Thomas’, at least.” The human shook his head, chuckling briefly, before turning serious again. “I just wanted to let you know what your bartender’s up to.”
“Mac? Is something wrong?” Tiernan craned his neck to look past Thomas and over to the bar, but he couldn’t see the bartender over the unusual-for-a-Monday-night crowd.
“He’s picking up the tab for all the veterans in the club tonight. Even though he was discharged other than honorably himself.” Thomas shook his head, apparently at Tiernan’s confused expression. “An other than honorable discharge, back in our day, meant no benefits, no retirement, nothing. All because some rat bastard of a second lieutenant saw him holding hands with Lucien, off base, and Mac was too damned honorable to lie about it when they called him on it.”
Tiernan growled under his breath. He tended to do that, when reminded of what Mac had gone through. His husband had grown up on his father’s stories of his Marine Corps friend – hell, Kevin had been named for him, ‘Mac’ McAllan’s given name was Kevin – and the Fae tended to think of the bartender as one of the members of the extended family he’d managed to acquire when he SoulShared with Kevin. “Thanks for letting me know.”
“Mac. Over here.”
Startled, Mac, turned away from the group of just-barely-legals, to find his boss standing behind the bar, drumming the fingers of his gloved hand on the glass surface. “What’s up?”
“I’m told you’re buying for all these gentlemen.”
Mac cleared his throat. “Well, yes. It’s Veterans’ Day. Seemed only right.”
Tiernan frowned.
Mac wiped suddenly sweaty palms on his jeans. “It’s my own money –“
“What seems right to me,” Tiernan cut in, his voice raised, “is that your customers know that you served as honorably as any of them, you saved my father-in-law’s life, and you’re fucking well taking the rest of the night off.”
Mac felt himself turning bright red. On the far side of the bar, he caught a glimpse of Sarge, nodding at Tiernan, and customers staring. He’d never talked much about his service. Bartenders were supposed to listen, not talk, and most of the memories were still too painful. But looking into the eyes of one customer after another, he was sorry he’d kept it to himself for so long.
“Go on.” Tiernan made a shooing motion. “I’ve got the bar.”
A little dazed, Mac skirted the far end of the bar and made his way back to where Sarge and the others were waiting for him. He felt hands clapping him on the back and shoulders and Miss Mona tiptoeing to kiss his cheek as he shook Sarge’s hand. “You ratted me out.”
“Guilty.” The former first sergeant didn’t even try to look embarrassed.
“Look, I know this isn’t really your kind of place. If you want to go somewhere else –“
“Hell, no.” Thomas looked around at the men clustered around them. “None of you jarheads have heard any of my stories yet…”

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?

In which Rian Aodán, kidnapped as an infant out from under the nose of his mother the Queen of the Demesne of Fire in the Fae Realm, is introduced to Purgatory, Washington, D.C.’s hottest all-male club.

Chapter Six

            “You are so fucking lucky I’m forbidden to kill a Fae.” Cuinn could feel the magick thrumming in his hand as he brought it back down to his side, the magick he’d been about to use to stop the heart of whoever had interrupted him.

            Tiernan, the bastard, didn’t so much as twitch. “One of these days, I’m going to remember to ask you just who has the balls to forbid you to do anything. But not right now.” The blond wasn’t really paying attention to Cuinn, his eyes were all for the naked Fae who moments earlier had been daring Cuinn to take what he wanted.

            Daring him. Daring. Him.

            Fuck, yes, he wanted Rian Aodán. Or whatever the hell the Prince Royal had been calling himself for the last twenty-one years. Wanted him badly enough he’d been ready to take him, give him exactly what he wanted without caring who saw. Though he’d paused, just for a heartbeat, as a shiver that wasn’t cold, or even lust, ran through him. Delight. He shivered again, now, remembering it. Fucking addictive. He knew enough to know this was the scair-anam bond at work. Already. Shit. I’m not ready.

            “You can quit staring now, your Lordship.” Or I can sandpaper your eyeballs, he barely managed not to add. SoulShare jealousy. Which he needed right now like he needed a third testicle. In the middle of his forehead. “Lord Tiernan Guaire, of the Demesne of Earth, meet Rian Aodán, Prince Royal of the Demesne of Fire.”

Josh66Happy Valentine’s Day to all, from the Fae and humans of the Demesne of Purgatory. *winks* May your celebrations be as joyous as the boys’!

              Josh tugged at the door, making sure it was locked. No sense staying open late tonight—he’d decided that last night, watching the snow fall and listening to the wind. Which hadn’t a bad thing to do while wrapped up in Conall, but he’d realized that no one with any sense was going to be going anywhere for a while. He’d only had one client booked for tonight, anyway, and the guy was just as happy to cancel.

                He could see the dim light from the window of Big Boy Massage, next door. They were still open, and no doubt catering to the lonely hearts – and other parts – of those Washingtonians not lucky enough to have a date for Valentine’s Day. He was pretty sure, however, that the owner was already home, observing the holiday with Garrett.

                And soon he’d be home himself. He had to step over a pile of snow to get to the door leading up to the apartments over Purgatory, but it was still a damn short commute. He took the stairs two at a time, grinning. All thoughts of ice and snow were soon going to vanish.

                He knocked to deactivate the ward Conall had put on the door, and opened the door. A wave of incredible, amazing, mouth-watering scent instantly washed over him, leaving him dizzy and remembering he hadn’t eaten since breakfast.

                What the hell? Conall didn’t cook, though he was a great one for ordering out. But this was no take-out smell.

                Conall appeared in the kitchen doorway, a pink ruffled apron over his usual jeans. “You’re a little early, dar’cion.” His smile, as always, left Josh feeling weak in the knees. “But that’s all right, dinner is too.”

                Bemused, Josh let Conall lead him to their tiny dining table and pull out a chair. A wave of the mage’s hand lit candles, and another dimmed the lights.

                “D’orant, you didn’t have to go to all this trouble!” He craned his neck, trying in vain to see into the kitchen. “How did you find a place that would deliver today? In all this snow?”

                “Bite your tongue. Or better yet, let me. But not until you’ve had dinner.”  Conall bent and brushed a kiss across Josh’s cheek, then disappeared into the kitchen before Josh could so much as take his hand to pull him in for more.

                Josh glanced around, as clanking sounds came from the kitchen. “There’s only one place set.”

                “Nothing gets by you.” Light Fae laughter floated in from the kitchen, followed by the laughing Fae, carrying a small plate. He set it down in front of Josh, with a flourish.

                Josh stared down at three scallops, seared golden on their tops, on a bed of saffron rice, drizzled with a rich golden sauce and garnished with what looked like mint leaves.  “You… made this?”

                “I did. And you might want to start eating, it’s much better hot.”

                Conall vanished back into the kitchen, and Josh did as he was told, groaning as the sweet scallop melted in his mouth. My mouth has died and gone to Heaven.

                He heard chopping sounds coming from the kitchen as he polished the plate with the last of the rice. This time when Conall emerged, he was carrying a salad plate, piled with arugula and green-skinned apples and fennel, sprinkled with walnuts and smelling something like… gin? Crushed juniper berries, good Lord. “Conall…”

                This time a hand rested on the back of his neck as Conall set the salad plate down, and Josh’s skin tingled at the touch. As always. His hand was unsteady as he picked up the second fork. “Where in God’s name did you get juniper berries in a blizzard?”

                Again the light laughter. “I cheated a little and made them myself. Took a few tries to get the flavor right.”

                Josh couldn’t keep back his own laughter, at the thought of the mightiest mage in two worlds, standing at the kitchen counter, creating strange-tasting juniper berries out of nothing. Obedient to Conall’s gesture, he forked a bite of the salad and fought to keep his eyes from rolling back in his head.

                Conall smacked his forehead with the heel of his hand. “I can’t believe I forgot the wine.” Once again he hurried into the kitchen; the refrigerator door opened and closed, glass clinked, and he re-emerged with a bottle of white wine – and, Josh noted with relief, two glasses.

                “I have no idea if this even goes with seafood.” Conall set the glasses down and concentrated until the cork popped free. “I know nothing about wine. Human wine, anyway. I could tell you a thing or two about Fae vintages—“

                “Conall.”  Josh caught at his partner’s wrist, his hand making it look slight. “What else are you dishing up tonight?”

                The red-blond Fae colored slightly. “Lobster Newburg, when you’re done with the salad. Dessert’s not really fancy, it’s tiramisu—“

                “My favorite.” Josh set the fork down firmly and looked up into Conall’s bright green eyes. “D’orant, where did you learn… all this?”

                Conall worried his lip between his teeth for a second before answering. “In the Realm. Cooking, there, is something Fae usually do by hand only when there are a lot of mouths to be fed. A feast, or the dining room in a public house. It’s easier to do it with magick, and the results are limited only by a Fae’s imagination.”

                Josh detected a quiver in Conall’s voice. “Should I not have asked?”

                “No, no, it’s all right.” Conall’s slender fingers played with one of the ruffles on his apron. “I never dared to cook that way.”

                Of course not. Conall’s channeling ability was so strong, the slightest use of it in the realm had sucked the life from everything around him.

                “So…” Conall sighed. “I got very, very good at this kind of cooking. And I haven’t done it since I came here because…” He swallowed hard. “It reminds me of how alone I was, for so long.”

                “Oh, God.” Josh pushed back from the table just enough to let him draw Conall onto his lap. “Baby, you didn’t have to do this for me.” He placed a kiss in the shell of his partner’s ear. He’d felt funny calling Conall ‘baby’ at first. But the Fae enjoyed it, so Josh had gotten over it.

                “Yes, I did. Today, I had to.”

                “Why today? Just because it’s Valentine’s Day?”

                Conall took such a long time to answer that Josh started to wonder if he was going to.  And when he finally spoke, his voice was soft, unsteady. “Cuinn calls me a horndog, when he’s not calling me Twinklebritches. And he’s right. But you and I know why he’s right.”

                “So does Cuinn,” Josh growled. The other Fae knew perfectly well that before being exiled to the human world, Conall had never dared let another Fae touch him for pleasure, or for love, for fear of what his unleashed, unchecked magick might do. Not in three hundred years. It made Josh’s heart hurt, just thinking about it.

                Conall nodded. “I’m not apologizing for it. But it seems to me…” Another long pause. “It seems to me that every time I try to tell you, or show you, how much I love you, the horndog comes out, and it ends up more like’ ‘I lust you.’”

                The Fae turned, an effervescent tear making its way down his cheek before evaporating. “I thought maybe that if I tried to say it this way, it would come out the way I wanted it to for once.”

                Josh closed his arms around Conall, drawing his lover into a tight embrace. “Oh, baby, oh love.” He whispered, murmured, kissing Conall’s ear. “D’orant.” ‘Impossible’… hell yes, it was impossible that he held a male like this in his arms. “You say it every time you look at me. Every time you touch me. Every time you walk in my dreams and I wake up wrapped around you.”

                Conall pulled back a little, and looked into Josh’s eyes, as if trying to read his mind. “I want to say it this way, too.” Slowly, he smiled, the smile that never failed to make Josh’s heart race. “I love you. And I’m going to feed you until you can’t move, and then I’m going to have my way with you.”

                “It’ll be my way, too, baby. I promise you that.”

Veterans’ Day at Purgatory

Here’s a little story, with gratitude to all who have served, and who still serve. Including my nephew — I’m a proud Army aunt!

                Mac carefully set the brimful pint glass of Smithwick’s in front of the customer who had ordered it, a thin, drawn guy in a faded camo jacket.

                “Thanks, what do I owe you?” The man shifted on the bar stool and reached into his hip pocket, pulling out a battered wallet and opening it up, to reveal a wad of what looked like singles, and a very familiar blue identification card.

                “Active-duty retired?”

                The man looked startled, but nodded. “Desert Storm, Third Armored.”

                Looking the guy up and down, the bartender made a quick decision. “Then you don’t owe me anything. The club’s buying for all veterans tonight.”

                “No shit?”

                “Least we can do.” Hell, yes. Desert Storm was pre-Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell. Which meant that this guy had served most or all of his career at risk of dishonorable discharge, if anyone had discovered the secret that made him one of Purgatory’s customers.

                “Did I hear you right?” This from a balding bear in leather shorts and a harness, a couple of stools down the bar. “I did three tours, USMC, last one at Camp Fuji.”

                “Semper Fi, what’ll you have?”

                A small crowd gathered around the bar, as word started making it around the room that the house was buying for servicemen. Mac was more than a little surprised at the number of Purgatory regulars coming forward to claim drinks. Even Miss Mona, a drag queen who probably hadn’t missed a Monday night at Purgatory in forty years, turned out to have been a pilot in Korea. My paycheck’s going to take a beating this week. Mac laughed to himself. It’s worth it.

                He looked up from pouring a martini – and grinned ear-to-ear, he couldn’t help it. “Sarge! – what the hell are you doing here?”

                Thomas Almstead grinned back. “You turned down my offer of a beer tonight because you were working.” He glanced around at the men crowding his son-in-law’s bar – business is good, I see – and then reached across the bar to shake the hand of the man who’d saved his ass twice in Vietnam. “So I thought I’d come to you.”

                “Did I hear him call you ‘Sarge’?” The speaker was an elderly man in a pink sequined mermaid gown and pink feathered headdress. “Then you can buy a lady a drink on the house.”

                Mac grinned at the drag queen. “You need to finish your creamy Sex on the Beach, Miss Mona, then you can pester Sarge for another one.”

                “Oh, poo.”

                Thomas laughed. Two years ago, if anyone had told me I was going to be spending Veterans’ Day 2013 in a gay nightclub run by my son-in-law, I would have… well, I’m not sure what I would have done. Questioning sanity would have been high on the list, though. Then he leaned across the bar, as Mac motioned to him. “Looks like they really needed you tonight,” he commented, before the bartender could speak. From what Thomas remembered from dinner conversations with Tiernan and Kevin, Monday nights were usually fairly quiet at Purgatory. Tonight was, apparently, an exception.

                Mac’s gaze swept the group clustered around the bar. “Well, it’s my own fault. I decided to pick up the tab for any vets in the house tonight. Who’d have thought there were so many?”

                “You decided to –“

                “Hey, bartender!”

                Mac rolled his eyes as a gaggle – there really was no other word for it – of boys who looked barely out of their teens waived at him. “Excuse me just a second, Sarge. I need to go card a few people.”

                Thomas frowned in thought as Mac moved off down the bar, a slight spring in one step from the carbon fibre blade prosthetic leg he was sporting, then turned away from the bar and crossed the club, carefully skirting the edge of the pit full of black leather furniture and knocking on the nearly-invisible door on the far side of it.

                Tiernan looked up, startled, from the computer monitor displaying his rotation of security cameras. “What the particular fuck?” Most people didn’t know his office door was there, and the ones who did generally didn’t bother to knock. He unfolded himself from behind the desk and went to the door, pushing it open. “Mr. Almstead!”

                “I thought we’d agreed on ‘Thomas’, at least.” The human shook his head, chuckling briefly, before turning serious again. “I just wanted to let you know what your bartender’s up to.”

                “Mac? Is something wrong?” Tiernan craned his neck to look past Thomas and over to the bar, but he couldn’t see the bartender over the unusual-for-a-Monday-night crowd.

                “He’s picking up the tab for all the veterans in the club tonight. Even though he was discharged other than honorably himself.” Thomas shook his head, apparently at Tiernan’s confused expression. “An other than honorable discharge, back in our day, meant no benefits, no retirement, nothing. All because some rat bastard of a second lieutenant saw him holding hands with Lucien, off base, and Mac was too damned honorable to lie about it when they called him on it.”

                Tiernan growled under his breath. He tended to do that, when reminded of what Mac had gone through. His husband had grown up on his father’s stories of his Marine Corps friend – hell, Kevin had been named for him, ‘Mac’ McAllan’s given name was Kevin – and the Fae tended to think of the bartender as one of the members of the extended family he’d managed to acquire when he SoulShared with Kevin. “Thanks for letting me know.”

                “Mac. Over here.”

                Startled, Mac, turned away from the group of just-barely-legals, to find his boss standing behind the bar, drumming the fingers of his gloved hand on the glass surface. “What’s up?”

                “I’m told you’re buying for all these gentlemen.”

                Mac cleared his throat. “Well, yes. It’s Veterans’ Day. Seemed only right.”

                Tiernan frowned.

                Mac wiped suddenly sweaty palms on his jeans. “It’s my own money –“

                “What seems right to me,” Tiernan cut in, his voice raised, “is that your customers know that you served as honorably as any of them, you saved my father-in-law’s life, and you’re fucking well taking the rest of the night off.”

                Mac felt himself turning bright red. On the far side of the bar, he caught a glimpse of Sarge, nodding at Tiernan, and customers staring. He’d never talked much about his service. Bartenders were supposed to listen, not talk, and most of the memories were still too painful. But looking into the eyes of one customer after another, he was sorry he’d kept it to himself for so long.

                “Go on.” Tiernan made a shooing motion. “I’ve got the bar.”

                A little dazed, Mac skirted the far end of the bar and made his way back to where Sarge and the others were waiting for him. He felt hands clapping him on the back and shoulders and Miss Mona tiptoeing to kiss his cheek as he shook Sarge’s hand. “You ratted me out.”

                “Guilty.” The former first sergeant didn’t even try to look embarrassed.

                “Look, I know this isn’t really your kind of place. If you want to go somewhere else –“

                “Hell, no.” Thomas looked around at the men clustered around them. “None of you jarheads have heard any of my stories yet…”

As part of the festivities during launch weekend for Deep Plunge, Erin Kelley at The Lurker invited me to ruminate about where the SoulShares series started, where it is, where it’s going, and what I think The Meaning Of It All is. I had some fun with the project — so I thought I’d share it with you, with Erin’s kind permission!

Lurker Spotlight — September 1, 2013

Thanks for having me here to talk about the SoulShares, Erin! – I don’t really want to give away any spoilers, for people who haven’t read one, or two, or all three of the books that are out so far (though, really, what are you waiting for? – this post will still be here after you go to Amazon! *winks*) So I’ll summarize the books, but I thought I’d spend more of my time talking about how my Fae came to be, how they evolved, and what I think they’re trying to say through me.

Hard as Stone: Tiernan Guaire is a Fae in exile. Forced from the Realm into the human world for the unimaginable crime of a brother’s murder, he lives by a century-old vow, to trust no one, and never to allow himself to love or be loved. Kevin Almstead has just lost his future, to a vote of the partners at his law firm. Trying to escape for an evening, he ventures into Purgatory, the hottest all-male nightclub in Washington, D.C., where he allows himself to be seduced by a stranger with long blond hair and ice-blue eyes. Drawn into a Soulshare bond with his intended one-night stand, Tiernan soon learns that the most ancient and evil enemy of the Fae still walks the human world, and it will stop at nothing – certainly not Kevin Almstead – to possess the magick of a Noble Fae.

The Fae – MY Fae, anyway – were born on Facebook. I wrote up a Fae character for roleplay, and being the attention-to-detail sort that I am, I wrote a whole back-story for him. Where he came from, what he was doing in the human world, and so on. I’ve loved Irish legend and lore ever since I was old enough to read (which is a VERY long time), so I’m well acquainted with the Fae of Irish legend. Mine… aren’t quite those Fae. I played with the idea, had fun with it, changed a few of the basic assumptions just to see what kind of changes that might make in my character. I’m a great believer in creating a detailed and realistic world for my characters to play in, and letting it shape them. Then I entered a short-story contest that I couldn’t use my original Fae for, because of the theme of the competition, so Tiernan and Kevin were born. And the month after that contest’s deadline was NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writers’ Month, where you’re challenged to write 50,000 words in a month. I used the short story as the core of my project… which became HARD AS STONE.

Gale Force: Conall Dary is the most powerful mage born to the Fae race since the Realm was parted from the human world, over two thousand years ago. But that power condemns him to a lifetime of celibacy, because sex calls to power, and he has power enough to drain a world. When he refuses to use his talents for a Noble lady’s petty revenge, he finds himself shanghaied to the human world, his soul torn in half and his magick blocked. Josh LaFontaine is the beautifully inked owner of Raging Art-On, a Washington, D.C. tattoo and piercing parlor. While taking part in New York City’s Pride march, his world changes forever when the man of his dreams materializes at his feet. Josh’s sensual and loving touch, the first Conall has ever known, may be enough to give him back the magick he’s lost. But before they can complete their Soulshare, a terrible accident leaves Conall bodiless, lost, and invisible, to everyone except – maybe – the human with whom he shares a soul. But Josh will need to find him before the ancient evil of the Marfach does or everything they have – and more – will be lost.

I was stunned, to put it mildly, when I was offered a four-book contract by Ravenous Romance after they saw the first chapters of HARD AS STONE. I’d been prepared for years of slogging from one agent to the next, collecting rejection letters, the ‘normal’ author’s life. Now, all of a sudden, I had a ginormous playground I was responsible for filling up. ‘Terrified at the prospect’ sums up how I felt, pretty well. So I was pleasantly surprised when the stories didn’t stop coming. Conall and Josh had a compelling story to tell, so I sat down and started writing it. As I wrote, though, the story grew, and changed, the way all living things do, and I found myself in the position of wishing I’d built a better foundation for a few things in the first book. (This is not a problem that has gone away – while I was working on DEEP PLUNGE, I got myself a tattoo for a Mother’s Day gift, and spent the whole two and a half hours quizzing my artist about the ins and outs of tattooing. I would do a MUCH better job with Josh now. Did I mention my attention-to-detail personality?) And keeping track of who knew what about whom when caused me more than a few headaches. I would love a chance to go back through the first few books and re-write them. Maybe someday… And I started discovering all the additional things that come along with being a Published Author. Like the utter lack of time for anything other than working, eating, sleeping, and writing, not necessarily in that order. They say it’s essential to writing to read everything you can get your hands on — I’ve had to learn to keep my darn hands to myself. If I’m REALLY lucky, I can steal five or ten minutes before bed to read, but I don’t get lucky very often. I miss it…!

Deep Plunge: For the last six hundred years or so, the only things reminding Lochlann Doran he’s a Fae have been his faceted aquamarine eyes and the fact that he can’t die. He’s been a wanderer for so long in the human world – over two thousand years – that he’s lost his magick, including the gift of healing that goes along with being a Fae of the Demesne of Water. Finding his SoulShare might get it back for him. But it might kill him, too. Garrett Templar has been living on borrowed time, in a sense, since he was eighteen, when one of the johns he entertained to pay the bills while he danced at Purgatory infected him with HIV. It was always supposed to be a “manageable” disease, though, at least until a cure was found. Except he’s just found out that the virus in his system has inexplicably mutated into full-blown AIDS, and no known drug cocktail can even slow it down.  And when Lochlann and Garrett find each other at last, on Purgatory’s dance floor, the only thing as urgent as their need for one another is the hunger of an ancient evil to do whatever is necessary to possess Lochlann’s magick…

When I first started writing the SoulShares, back in the fall of 2011, I wasn’t thinking at all in terms of a message or a theme. There were people in my head, Fae people and human people, who wanted their stories told, and that was about it. That’s changed, the more I write. The first notion I had of a “theme” dawned on me when a gay friend of mine, who I’ve known for something like 25 years and who is the only person I know I would trust to “fact-check” my erotic scenes, responded to my first draft with “Have you been a gay man in drag all these years, and I just never knew?” I love being able to write gay romance, and erotic fiction, in a way that I hope says something to the rest of the world about how love is love, period. When my Facebook banner is done, it’s going to have a motto on it: “Many Fantasies… One Love.” And the other theme that’s come to mean a lot to me in these books started by accident. (Except that there’s no such thing as accident, really.) The first incident of what I’ve come to call “SoulShare joy” just sort of happened, between Tiernan and Kevin, but it’s become a hallmark of all the erotic scenes in all the books.  Love and delight, love and laughter go hand in hand, and even the hottest sex imaginable is heightened by joy. And as long as I still have anything to say on those themes, there will be Fae, and there will be SoulShares.

Thank you for having me, Erin! – and you can find all my books (including several anthologies I have stories in that I didn’t mention here) on my Amazon Author page, at

http://www.amazon.com/Rory-Ni-Coileain/e/B009M8XQP2/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1