Tag Archive: Tiernan Guaire


colorful font letter R

colorful font letter R

In just about five weeks, MANTLED IN MIST (SoulShares #6) is scheduled to make its way into your Kindles or onto your bookshelves. So I thought I’d lead up to that happy day with Rainbow Snippets from the first five SoulShares. Starting with HARD AS STONE (SoulShares #1) — Kevin’s first encounter with the Fae, Tiernan Guaire:

“I’m sorry.” The laughter lingering in the voice told him the speaker was anything but sorry. He was enjoying Kevin’s reaction. He’d bet anything that when he opened his eyes again, that devastating blue gaze would be locked on his. Anything.

Fuck, I hate being right sometimes.

*********

HARD AS STONE for Kindle: http://ow.ly/VO8bA

*********

And if you’d like to check out more Snippets, come join us on Facebook! — https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets/

All five

Ask my teenager, and I’m sure he’ll be glad to tell you all about how his Mom larned her readin’ and writin’ and cipherin’ by scratching on the face of a shovel with charcoal. But even the oldest of dogs have been known to learn new tricks, and I’m going to spend this weekend meditating on the mysteries of the QR Code.

I’m listing all the buy links for the SoulShares below, and I’ll be updating (and filling in the blanks) as I get links. If any of the links don’t work for you, let me know in the comments below and I’ll do what I can to fix them. (Which will probably involve telling my son that Mom’s out of charcoal again…)

SOULSHARES BUY LINKS

Hard as Stone (Tiernan Guaire and Kevin Almstead)

Amazon (Kindle) — http://www.amazon.com/Hard-As-Stone-Book-SoulShares-ebook/dp/B00YB9RSNI/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Amazon (Paperback) — http://www.amazon.com/Hard-As-Stone-Book-SoulShares/dp/1626011931/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

All Romance eBooks — https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-hardasstonebookoneofthesoulsharesseries-1815080-340.html

Barnes & Noble (Nook) — http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hard-as-stone-book-one-of-the-soulshares-series-rory-ni-coileain/1121999716?ean=2940151651233

Kobo — https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/hard-as-stone-2

Gale Force (Conall Dary and Josh LaFontaine)

Amazon (Kindle) — http://www.amazon.com/Gale-Force-Book-Two-SoulShares-ebook/dp/B00ZG85LVY/ref=la_B009M8XQP2_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434072678&sr=1-5&refinements=p_82%3AB009M8XQP2%2Cp_n_feature_browse-bin%3A618073011

Amazon (Paperback) — http://www.amazon.com/Gale-Force-Book-Two-SoulShares/dp/1626012016/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1434070650&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=rory+ni+coileain+Gale+Force

All Romance eBooks — https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-galeforcebooktwoofthesoulsharesseries-1825463-149.html

Barnes & Noble (Nook) — http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/gale-force-book-two-of-the-soulshares-series-rory-ni-coileain/1122095801?ean=2940151450300

Kobo — https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/gale-force-2

Deep Plunge (Lochlann Doran and Garrett Templar)

Amazon (Kindle) — http://www.amazon.com/Deep-Plunge-Book-3-SoulShares-ebook/dp/B01096BDXM/ref=la_B009M8XQP2_1_6_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1435115747&sr=1-6

Amazon (Paperback) — http://www.amazon.com/Deep-Plunge-SoulShares-Rory-Coileain/dp/1626012075/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1436488478&sr=8-2&keywords=Deep+Plunge+Rory+Ni+Coileain

All Romance eBooks — https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-deepplungebook3ofthesoulsharesseries-1840037-340.html
Barnes & Noble (Nook) — http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/deep-plunge-book-3-of-the-soulshares-series-rory-ni-coileain/1122189321?ean=2940151138369

Barnes & Noble (Nook) — http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/deep-plunge-book-3-of-the-soulshares-series-rory-ni-coileain/1122189321?ean=2940151138369

Kobo — https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/deep-plunge-1

Firestorm (Rian Sheridan and Cuinn an Dearmad)

Amazon (Kindle) — http://www.amazon.com/Firestorm-SoulShares-Rory-Ni-Coileain-ebook/dp/B011AKJNAG/ref=sr_1_7_twi_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436489308&sr=1-7&refinements=p_27%3ARory+Ni+Coileain

Amazon (Paperback) — http://www.amazon.com/Firestorm-Book-Four-SoulShares-4/dp/1626012105/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436549455&sr=1-1&keywords=rory+ni+coileain+firestorm

All Romance eBooks — https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-firestormbookfourofthesoulsharesseries-1846722-149.html

Barnes & Noble (Nook) – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/firestorm-book-four-of-the-soulshares-series-rory-ni-coileain/1122266522?ean=2940151024006

Kobo — https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/firestorm-54

Blowing Smoke (Lasair Faol and Bryce Newhouse)

Amazon (Kindle) – http://www.amazon.com/Blowing-Smoke-Book-Five-SoulShares-ebook/dp/B011HE7RG2/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1436754435&sr=1-3&keywords=Rory+Ni+Coileain

Amazon (Paperback) – http://www.amazon.com/Blowing-Smoke-Book-Five-SoulShares/dp/1626012121/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

All Romance eBooks – https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-blowingsmokebookfiveofthesoulsharesseries-1851332-149.html

Barnes & Noble (Nook) – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blowing-smoke-book-five-in-the-soulshares-series-rory-ni-coileain/1122287929?ean=2940150794184

Kobo — https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/blowing-smoke-5

And, just for good measure –

“Ilya and the Wolf” (Dreamspinner Press, short story, Russian shapeshifters) – Amazon (Kindle) – http://www.amazon.com/Ilya-Wolf-Rory-Ni-Coileain-ebook/dp/B00QEUP9XS/ref=la_B009M8XQP2_1_7_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436845609&sr=1-7

Heart of the Oak (Ellora’s Cave, novella, Gille Dubh) – Amazon (Kindle) – http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Oak-Boys-Will-Book-ebook/dp/B00FBF4XIY/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1436845523&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=Tempted+from+the+Oak+Rory+Ni+Coileain

Tempted from the Oak
(Ellora’s Cave, novella, Gille Dubh) – Amazon (Kindle) — http://www.amazon.com/Tempted-Oak-Rory-Ni-Coileain-ebook/dp/B00J8N6SY2/ref=la_B009M8XQP2_1_8_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436845564&sr=1-8

Hard as Stone Final

Hard as Stone, Kindle edition: http://www.amazon.com/Hard-As-Stone-Book-Soul…/…/ref=sr_1_3…

Hard as Stone, All Romance e-Books: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-hardasstonebookone…

Hard as Stone, Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/hard-as-stone-2

***prior post***

“Ay me! For aught that I could ever read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth.”

So Lysander said, in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream…. and so it can occasionally be said of publishing! I fully intended to have a pre-order link for HARD AS STONE available in time for the cover release, but alas, ‘twas not to be. So here’s what I’ll do – I’ll post the link here as soon as it’s available. And if you’d like a reminder, comment below with your e-mail address and I’ll send you the link as soon as it’s up.

Also, as a reward for following Kevin and Tiernan this far, here’s another excerpt from HARD AS STONE – enjoy!

TiernanMikeGrell

Tiernan leaned against the windowsill, looking out into the early evening pedestrian traffic on Bleecker Street. He hadn’t really been living in Greenwich Village long enough to get particularly nostalgic about it, only a few years, but it had a pleasant aura to it. A good vibe, he supposed some humans might call it. He’d lived in a lot of places, in more than a century and a half on this side of the Pattern, moving around every few years, before the humans around him started noticing that he didn’t age. He’d even lived in D.C. a couple of times, once right after the American Civil War and then again back in the late Forties, for a few years. This place, though, had felt as much like home as anyplace in the human world ever could.

But that was about to change. He shrugged and turned away from the window, his gaze raking the efficiency apartment. The bathroom door stood ajar, revealing the sybaritic tub and shower combination he’d violated pretty much every rule this building had in order to get installed. A shame he couldn’t take that with him. He wasn’t one to accumulate things, but he’d grown very fond of that bad boy. Sixteen settings on the shower head alone… damn.

The coffee maker tugged at what passed for his heartstrings, too, but it at least was a brand name and he could always order another one—should have already, he’d groaned out loud when he’d first discovered that his human drank instant coffee. Caffeine is caffeine, Kevin had said with a shrug, their first morning waking up together.

Instant coffee is sacrilege, had been his snarled reply.

It had been met with laughter. You’ll have to tell me more about that religion.

He’d let that one go, since the Fae had no gods. And even if they did, he doubted any would have followed him through the Pattern. What use a half-souled god? With a congregation of one? So far as he’d ever been able to tell, anyway. Granted, Fae had never exactly lined up in the Realm for the privilege of being torn asunder, but it had happened before. There had been stories. But he had yet to meet another of his kind.

The open mouth of his duffel bag beckoned from the California king-sized bed that took up most of the rest of the little space. Most of his clothes were already packed, and his shitkickers stood next to the bed, waiting for him to step into them. Truthfully, he preferred to be barefoot. He didn’t like to be encumbered, and he didn’t feel the cold. Much.

He had finally felt it, though, in the small hours of this morning, standing on the National Mall with Kevin. At first, the shivers had been the last fading remnants of nightmare, the same one that had made him lash out. But gradually, the cold had seeped into him, spreading from the soles of his feet up through his body, and when his human had drawn him in, he’d only put up token resistance, leaned in and pressed himself close and sighed, splaying his hands out over that broad strong back.

Come stay with me, Kevin had whispered.

He’d started, and drawn back, and seen chagrin in that dark brown gaze. I know it’s sudden, but if what you’ve said is true and we really do share a soul… Kevin’s struggle with that concept had been a mighty one, and still was. Then maybe it’s the right thing to do. And maybe I can help you with the dreams.

Going to let me black the other eye for you? He’d shaken his head, and tried to protest; in the end, though, the lawyer’s persuasive powers—and a hot kiss or three, complete with unfair breathless moans—had carried the argument.

He shook his head, reaching down to pick up the battered leather volume on the small table beside the bed, and the little leather pouch half-full of charcoal sticks. A few leaves had been torn out, and then tucked back in; he ran his fingers idly over the rough edges, then jammed book and bag into the duffel. He stepped into the boots, stomped his feet down into them. Almost done.

A belt hung over one of the bedposts, as if he’d played ring-toss with it; he caught it up, unbuckled it, and slid it through the belt loops of his leathers. The sheath hanging there was empty, but that was easily remedied. His stiletto was stuck in the plaster wall, almost at eye level, over the bed, right where he’d thrown it.

One of the two pages tacked to the wall was his latest attempt to capture in charcoal the intricate knots and loops of the Pattern; no two drawings were ever the same, and none was ever quite right. Even trying to copy his tattoo didn’t help, for some reason. Maybe someday he’d get it right, though, and then maybe it would quit haunting his fucking nightmares.

Then there was the other. He pulled the stiletto free, slipped it into its sheath, and smoothed the gouge it had left in the thick paper with a fingertip. A breathtakingly beautiful fair-haired woman looked back at him, caught by a few strokes of the charcoal, in the act of looking back over her shoulder. Just as she had when she’d Faded from his cell, a century and a half ago.

If he’d ever had the ability to love, it had died in that cell.

He reached for the torn page… stopped. There was nothing more here he needed. He buckled the duffel shut, hoisted the strap over his shoulder, the truesilver links coiled around the strap jingling softly, and Faded. Without looking back.

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!)

TiernanChrisBrown2

With the upcoming re-issue of the first four SoulShares novels (HARD AS STONE, GALE FORCE, DEEP PLUNGE, and FIRESTORM) and the upcoming release of the fifth (BLOWING SMOKE), and the fact that I’m about to leave on a week-long you’re-going-to-take-a-vacation-whether-you-need-it-or-not, I haven’t had a lot of time to craft a Valentine’s Day story for this year. However… I’m treating this as an opportunity to go back in time a couple of years and bring back one of my favorite Kevin and Tiernan short stories, about the first Valentine’s Day of their married life. (Sorry if that was a spoiler for anyone….!) And a word to the wise, this is definitely a love story for the 18-and-over set…

***********

Kevin eyed the plastic cup in his hand speculatively. Well, kind of a cup. A hollow hand grenade. And the bartender was watching him with an ill-concealed grin. Maybe I shouldn’t have admitted it’s my first time in New Orleans. Off to one side, the house band on the small stage was rocking out a zydeco song about what girls in the bayou they will do, won’t do.

Strange choice for Valentine’s Day. But, then, so was the Funky Pirate. Sighing, Kevin raised the cup, saluted the bartender, and took a healthy swig. Then, slowly, he set the cup back down on the bar, fighting the urge to cough. Holy shit.

The bartender laughed. “You let me know when you want another one.”

He moved off down the bar, stopping in front of what looked like a group of friends of the band, and Kevin’s gaze wandered. The front door of the bar stood open, and looked out onto the famous Bourbon Street. The street was closed to traffic, and was fairly crowded with pedestrians, most of them probably bar-hopping, carrying their take-away cups from one bar to the next. Probably nothing like it had been a few days ago, though.

The firm couldn’t have sent me here for Mardi Gras, no, they had to wait for Valentine’s Day. Kevin grimaced and had another go at the cup of death and delirium in his hand. Just let me get this down and I swear I’ll go back to civilized drinks. Nothing wrong with Jack and coke.

Nothing except the fact that he’d be drinking it alone. Damn, he missed Tiernan. Which was silly, because he’d be home in a couple of days. But he’d been looking forward to this Valentine’s Day, the first of his married life.

Almost on the thought, there was a pleasant buzz in his pocket. He pulled out his phone, saw the familiar number, and grinned as he slid the toggle to unlock the screen. “Hey, lanan.” He slipped off the barstool and looked quickly around; the Funky Pirate had a back courtyard, and he headed for it, phone in one hand and drink in the other.

“Hey, bodelafint.”

Kevin felt his cheeks flush even as he grinned. Only a Fae would turn ‘Elephant Dick’ into an endearment. “Are you at work?” He sighed with relief as he escaped into the courtyard; there was hardly anyone out here, and even though the music inside was being piped outside, it was a hell of a lot easier to hear.

“Hell, yes. Though I don’t know why, it’s not like there’s anything for me to do here.” Kevin thought he could hear the pounding bass of Purgatory’s sound system behind his husband’s voice. “Where are you? I hear music.”

“I thought I’d try the Funky Pirate. Great music, lethal drinks. I’m out in the courtyard now, though.” Kevin tried another pull at the oddly shaped glass, and this time there was no reason not to cough.

Tiernan’s laugh was pure wickedness. “You’re trying a hand grenade? When I’m not there to take advantage of you afterward?”

“You know the place?” A small staircase in a corner of the courtyard led up to a second story that was gated off; Kevin crossed to it and sat down on the stairs, balancing his drink on his knee.

“Yeah, I’ve been there a few times. I like the music. Though Bourbon Street Blues Company’s better for picking up guys.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too.” Kevin chuckled, but there was frustration in the sound. “I’d rather be at home right now. Especially considering that I wanted to dress to suit the day, but I don’t own anything pink, and the only red item of clothing I have is my red silk tie.” The tie that was his private signal to his husband that he was in the mood for breath play. Which he was. Damn.

“You don’t say.” The words were slow, drawn-out, and followed by a long silence. Then, just as Kevin was about to ask if the Fae was still there, “You say you’re in the courtyard?”

“Yes.” Puzzled, Kevin took another drink, held the peculiar glass between his knees, and rubbed the back of his neck.

“Send me a picture.”

“Of me?” I am so not unconfused.

Another low chuckle. “No. Of the courtyard. That back corner, by the steps.”

Kevin opened his mouth to ask how Tiernan knew the layout of the courtyard, but one glance at the corner beside where he sat answered that question very nicely, supplying him with all sorts of images of his husband putting the semi-privacy to thorough use with a woman, women, a man, men… All of which thoughts were making him horny as hell. “Hang on.”

Switching the phone to camera setting, he snapped a shot of the corner and texted it off, then returned the phone to his ear. “Was that what you wanted, m’lanan?”

“That was fucking perfect.”

Tiernan’s reply wasn’t coming from the phone.

Kevin’s head snapped around, and his eyes went wide at the sight of the Fae, shirtless under a denim jacket, in jeans so tight they looked like they’d been tattooed on, blond hair curling around his shoulders. And wearing a smirk that brought the lawyer’s cock to instant and rigid attention.

“I needed the reminder.” Then, in a murmur that should have sent up tendrils of smoke, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

“Holy shit.” Kevin slammed down the last of his hand grenade, let the cup fall to the ground, and surged to his feet, to be caught up in Tiernan’s arms and turned and pushed back against the vine-covered brickwork, where the Fae’s mouth came down on his in a kiss that left him dizzy.

He felt one of Tiernan’s hands sliding up between their bodies, out of sight; long, strong fingers closed around his tie and slid up the silken length to fist just below the knot. “You weren’t kidding, I see.” Faceted ice-blue eyes held him spellbound, as his husband’s other hand undid his belt buckle, unbuttoned his trousers, and slipped inside to curl around his shaft. “Hold very still, lanan, and let me show you how much I’ve missed you.”

The only answer Kevin could manage was a faint moan, one that Tiernan kissed away before starting to twist the silken tie tight. Kevin’s pulse was like thunder in his ears; his breath came in soft, rapid pants against Tiernan’s lips, and his hips made little, tight jerks of their own volition as his cock was firmly, insistently stroked.

“You are so incredibly fucking hot.” He could feel Tiernan’s lips moving, breathed in his words, and shuddered in ecstasy from his touch. “I can’t get enough of you.” The Fae’s hot tongue traced a path back to his ear, probed; teeth nipped, and the tongue soothed. “Are you close? Are you ready?”

Kevin tried, and failed, to get a breath. And the failure sent liquid heat racing down his spine, to pool in his sac. He felt Tiernan’s hand tighten in anticipation – both hands, the hand twisting the tie as well as the exquisite vise around his cock. He had no voice to whisper with, all he could do was move his lips. “…don’t let me fall…”

Tiernan leaned into him, pinning him to the wall, as his knees buckled with the first thick white jet of his release. His eyes threatened to roll back, his hips jerked forward; darkness started closing in, his vision becoming a tunnel. Tiernan’s hand became slick, and the Fae was moaning now, too, along with him, with every pulse of hot fluid that welled up and spilled over.
And the joy. Oh, Christ, the joy. Pure bliss, the delight of being held, pleasured, cherished.
Scair-anam,” he whispered, as the last wave of pleasure rippled through his body.

Opening eyes he hadn’t realized he’d closed, he saw his husband nod. “So fucking beautiful you stop my heart.” Tiernan’s lips parted, he leaned in, in a kiss that was as close to gentle as he ever came. “I love you, m’lanan.”

And before Kevin could answer, the faceted blue of the Fae’s eyes heated with a smile. “Let’s go back to your hotel room so I can do it some more.”

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!)

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…”

SoulShares4

Two years.
It’s been two years since HARD AS STONE, the first SoulShares novel – and my first book – debuted on Amazon. And a lot of other places. Two years since I first fell victim to “check Amazon sales rankings every two minutes” syndrome – fruitlessly, as it turned out, since somehow HARD AS STONE had been classified as horror >> occult, and I at this point didn’t know enough to double-check the categories. To this day I wonder what might have happened, if a customer had sought SALEM’S LOT and found instead a very randy bad-boy Fae…
A lot of things have changed in two years. For one thing, my publishers now know where my books go. *winks* Basically, I’ve turned into one of the magicians I spent most of my life watching with awe…. an extremely junior sorcerer’s apprentice, mind you, but still a member of the same lodge.
Just for fun, I thought I’d share something with you that shows just how far this journey’s taken me. HARD AS STONE grew out of a very short story I wrote for a role-play writer’s competition on Facebook. “The Door” is how HARD AS STONE, and all the rest of it, started…. and here’s how “The Door” started, three years ago.

“Kevin, what the fuck are you doing?”
A low, throaty purr was all the answer I got, as my lover’s hand continued to twist itself into my long blond hair and draw my head back. Hell of a way to wake up, and I groaned as the other hand improved on it by gliding down my chest until it found my gold nipple ring and twisting. “Say the word and I’ll stop.” His breath was hot in my ear, his tongue hotter.
“Is the word ‘fuck you’?” I tried to turn my head, managed to catch a glimpse of dark eyes, sleep-tousled black hair, and a sexy smirk before my head was wrenched back around. I sucked in a breath as he flicked the ring with a fingertip. This was so not like my human…not that my cock had any objections, it was begging for someone to get a grip on it. I reached down, curled my hand around the rigid length, and started a slow stroking, rolling my palm over the head on the upstrokes.
“It kills me to watch you do that.” The hard tip of his tongue traced around my ear. “That’s why you do it, isn’t it?” His chuckle was low and rich; on the rare occasions when I heard it, it always reminded me of dark chocolate.
“No, that’s just a bonus, it’s really all about the orgasms.” My mouth curved up in a smirk of my own, one that became a gasp as Kevin twisted the ring again, harder this time. What the fuck was going on? One of the things I truly loved about this human was the way there was always a hint of reluctance when I took him in my arms, hesitation before every kiss. I’d been his first male lover, after all.
And what a piece-of-shit coincidence it was that the delectable arsehole virgin had held the other half of my soul. If I hadn’t been unable to resist a perfect arse and a sensual mouth that night, I’d still be both immortal and invulnerable, as a Fae evicted from the Other Realm should be. But no, I’d had to see all that Armani as a challenge, and now I had to live with the result…
“Well, fuck me blind.” Kevin was rolling me onto my back, kneeing my legs apart, with a grin that said I was going to need serious recovery time in the hot tub.
“Are you a mind-reader?” Kevin smiled…
And for an instant, there was something else in those dark eyes. A plea, wild, desperate –
But it was gone, whatever it was, as quickly as I thought it had come. And Kevin’s warm hand was wrapped firmly around my shaft, his mouth was busy at my throat, and the smooth hot head of my human’s cock was making preliminary inquiries between my arse cheeks. “Shite,” I breathed, my head falling back. Unusual my lover’s behavior might be, but fuck if it wasn’t perfectly suited to my mood.
“That’s in, lanan, let me in,” Kevin crooned, using the Fae word for “lover” that I favored as he gripped and positioned himself. “Let me in…”
I relaxed – as best I could when my whole body was tensed in anticipation of pleasure – hissed as the thick head of Kevin’s cock forced its way past my ring, dry except for a few of his own warm drops. My eyes tried to roll back in my head, but instead I looked up, meeting my lover’s dark eyes.
Too dark. Black. Flat, sullen black. And I was falling into them. Losing myself.

I was… someplace else. A sense of near infinity, and yet a prison cell.

Before a Fae’s instinctive reaction to imprisonment – blind panic – could take over, I heard a soft sobbing. Kevin. What the hell?

Now I could see. And it was obvious where I was. If I had given any thought to what the inside of Kevin’s mind would look like, I might have conjured something like this; a comfortable study, the walls lined with bookshelves, both law books and the lameass fantasy shit my lover kept trying to get me hooked on. Like that was ever going to happen.

But… there was an air of decay hanging over everything. As if the fabric of the place was rotting, and any minute now a shelf or a chair or the floor would split apart and reveal the corruption underlying the façade. And the sound again… I turned, and a shudder ran through me. Kevin sat huddled in a wingback chair, arms wrapped around himself. His skin was grayish and clammy, his face drawn, his eyes sunken, his dark hair matted. And he wouldn’t meet my eyes, turned resolutely away. “Kevin…”

A laugh came from the area of the fireplace, a cold dead laugh. “Your toy is brave, Tiernan Guaire. He thought he could fight the Mhionbhrú.”

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?

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?