Happy weekend! I’m off to our sailboat, Land’s Zen, and the Carolina coast tomorrow morning. I thought I’d leave you all with a new excerpt from “Stealing the Wind,” the first book in the Mermen of Ea Series, due out this summer from Dreamspinner Press. But before I do, a few quick updates….
First, I hope you all like the updates my wonderful web guru, Angsty G, has made to my website. What’s new? Buttons for Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter, as well as progress bars for all my WIPs. You may also notice the new “Series” tab, where you can find all my series listed. Most of the other goodies aren’t as obvious, with one major exception: I now have a newsletter! To subscribe, just enter your email address on my home page. Simple, and I promise never to spam you or to send you newsletters more often than once a month.
Next, “Encore,” the fifth Blue Notes Series book has been submitted to Dreamspinner Press. If they contract the book, look for a November release date. I’m also working on a Blue Notes novella to be released during the holidays, tentatively entitled, “Symphony in Blue.” It will be a sequel to the first four books, and wrap up of Cary/Antonio and Sam/Aiden, but will also include Jules/Jason and David/Alex pairings. Oh, and Massimo, too!
Lastly, I’ll be starting a new free serialized story, “Who Rules the King’s Heart,” in my first newsletter issue. Subscribers to the newsletter will get updates on the story in each issue and a week later, I’ll post the updates to the “Free Fiction” tab on my website. So you don’t have to subscribe to read the story, but you will get it sooner if you do. “Who Rules the King’s Heart” is an MM erotic fantasy story about a king and the half demon/half human he loves.
Thanks for stopping by! Remember to sign up for the newsletter if you’d like. And now I’ll leave you with an excerpt from “Stealing the Wind.” I’m anxiously awaiting the cover art for the novel, and I’ll be sharing that as soon as it’s finalized, so stay tuned. Enjoy your weekend! -Shira
PS: If anyone knows who the artist is for the lovely artwork, please let me know! I found it on the web and can’t find any attribution.
Excerpt from Chapter Three (MMM, NSFW, 18+ excerpt)
Two years later
The island of Lurat was a frequent stop on the Sea Witch’s travels and one Taren loved. Hundreds of vividly painted clapboard houses dotted the green hillsides surrounding the Newtown harbor like flowers blooming on a vine. Vendors selling fruits and vegetables alongside exotic treasures from the farthest reaches of the seas filled the bustling market near the town’s main square. Lurat’s economy thrived upon trade, and the Witch’s crew always felt welcomed.
“We will sail for the mainland in less than a month,” Bastian said casually as he and Taren strolled through the marketplace in the bright morning sun. He regarded Taren with quiet interest, clearly hoping to glean his reaction. “Does this please you? To be going home?”
Taren just smiled and ran his palm over his mouth and chin. “My home is aboard the Witch. I have no need to revisit my far-from-blissful childhood.”
Bastian’s expression told Taren this was just the reaction he had sought. The realization that the other man had been concerned that he might feel differently about returning to his childhood home warmed him. Bastian needn’t have been worried—Taren wanted nothing more than to stay aboard the Witch, and he intended to make that clear to Rider when his three years were paid.
Bastian clapped Taren on the shoulder. “Good man.”
They walked onward, stopping when they smelled meat cooking over open flame. How long had it been since Taren had eaten anything but fish? His mouth watered. Bastian must have noticed, for he gave the vendor a few coins and handed Taren one of two small skewers. The meat was spicy and sweet, with a hint of coconut and tomato that was heavenly. Taren finished his share in a scant minute, then licked each of his fingers in turn. This garnered a lecherous look from Bastian. It thrilled Taren to know he was the cause.
“Later,” Bastian said as they walked once more, “you will have to lick my fingers as well.”
“I heard Rider say he’d bought more honey. He said he wants to watch me lick it off of you.” Taren chewed his lip and smiled at the memory.
More often than not, Rider liked to watch him with Bastian before joining in, although sometimes Rider sent him up on deck and Rider and Bastian spent the evening in bed. Taren didn’t mind; he was happy with his place aboard the Sea Witch. He had no need to possess either man’s heart—his only wish was to serve them faithfully and bask in the warmth of their affection.
“Aye. He does like that.” Bastian’s eyes glittered. Taren could see his love for Rider as clearly as he could the ship in the harbor. He wondered if someday he too might look the same.
“I heard the men talking at the docks,” Taren said, changing the subject. “Seems we nearly had company. The Phantom. Do you know her?”
Bastian’s expression changed markedly, becoming quite serious. “I know her only too well. And her captain, Ian Dunaidh.” He spoke the name in something approaching a hiss. “A rat bastard who would sell his own mother to the devil. He and the captain knew each other. Went to school together when they were boys. Captain won’t abide his name spoken aboard the Witch.”
“Oh. What did he do?” Taren knew little about Rider, but he’d never known Rider to hold a grudge.
“No one knows.” Bastian spoke in a low voice. “Some say Ian betrayed him and left him to die. Others say they were lovers and Ian ripped out the captain’s heart and spat upon it. Me, if I ever see the dog, I’ll make him pay.”
Taren didn’t know what to say so he held his tongue. Taren could not imagine Rider with anyone but Bastian in his bed. He knew it was childish and even naïve, but he couldn’t imagine anyone else in Rider’s arms. Except perhaps himself, although he knew well enough that Rider’s heart belonged only to Bastian.
A few minutes later, they arrived at the edge of the square, where Bastian stopped and handed Taren a small bundle of coins. “Run along and find something for our master’s birthday next week while I arrange payment for our cargo.”
“Me? But I—”
“You are more than capable of finding something the old man will enjoy,” Bastian said with a laugh and a wink.
Taren nodded, brightening. He had seen something that had caught his fancy in one of the stalls hidden behind the fish vendor. “I have an idea,” he admitted as he pocketed the silver. “Shall we meet back at the docks?”
“Aye. Captain’ll be wanting to leave before noon. He’ll not want to weather the coming storm in port.”
Taren had felt the storm’s approach two days before—a distant rumbling in his bones that grew more urgent the closer it came—so Rider had adjusted their course to avoid the brunt of it. Taren could sense changes in the weather long before the other men aboard the Sea Witch, and Rider had come to rely on Taren’s instincts to keep the ship out of harm’s way. They would not be able to outrun this particular storm. The best they could hope for was to catch only the leading edge and seek safe harbor to ride out the rest.
In spite of this, the storm excited Taren. The Sea Witch had only seen a few tempests since Taren had come to the ship, but he enjoyed the excitement of the wind and the waves.
Bastian left Taren with a quick wave of his hand. Taren watched him for a moment, then turned and walked back to the stalls, his step light. It took him only a few minutes to locate the vendor he’d seen before.
“Back, are ye?” The small man sat behind a wooden crate, his goods set out on pale-yellow silk. The smell of fish was strong here, but it didn’t bother Taren. He found the familiar scent comforting. All around them, people chattered and did their marketing. Taren had spent many an hour at the market by the inn as a boy, although he had been there at Cook’s behest and had never shopped for his own pleasure. How much had changed in the two years he’d spent aboard the Sea Witch.
He smiled and picked up a delicate carving made from smooth green stone. A horse, judging by its tail and broad muzzle. “From the Eastern Sea,” the old man said with a glint of pleasure on his narrow face. “They say it takes months to sail there, and few ships return. Perhaps they never reach those shores. Perhaps they stay.”
Taren set the figure down and picked up another, rubbing his thumb over the cool surface of it. He held it up to the light, trying to make it out but without success.
“A dragon.” The vendor smiled broadly. “They say they are as plentiful as deer and that villages must sacrifice their most beautiful maiden each year to appease their angry spirits.”
Taren grinned and shook his head softly. He’d heard of the fire-breathing creatures, although he doubted that they or their sea-dwelling brethren ever existed. He eyed the dragon once more, then set it back down on the silk. He had not come here for the carvings, but had it been a gift for Bastian, he might have taken one—the dragon’s fire reminded him of Bastian’s hair.
He brought his fingers to his lips and eyed the object he’d spotted before, set in a small box lined in velvet. Taren tried not to smile as he reached for it and lifted it from its container: a large ring carved from the same cool stone. He held it between his thumb and forefinger, studying it as his cheeks warmed. He was not ashamed—far from it—he was imagining how Rider might use it on him or Bastian. The thought also heated his loins.
“I see you know of its uses.” The old man’s smile was broader still.
“I… have heard of such a thing.”
“In the East,” the old man explained, lowering his voice, “there are slaves who wear such jewelry and nothing else. Their masters might parade them through a market much like this one for all to see their—” The old man grinned, pausing for effect. “—charms.”
“How much?” Taren asked far too quickly. The thought of Rider parading him naked through the market, his manhood visible to all who passed by, aroused Taren. Two years before, he might have been ashamed to imagine this, but now it excited his passions.
The old man told him the price, which Taren paid with shaking hands. He headed back toward the port a few minutes later, his body thrumming, wishing Rider’s birthday were tonight so he or Bastian could demonstrate Rider’s gift.
He had nearly reached the outer edge of the marketplace when he nearly tripped on one of the uneven flagstones. He caught himself before he fell, pausing with his hands on his knees, laughing at himself that he was acting just like a giddy child with a secret he couldn’t wait to share.
When he stood straight once more, he noticed a withered old woman sitting on a blanket in the shade of a tree. Her eyes were milky, unseeing, her hair white and thinning so that Taren could see her scalp beneath. By her side lay a small metal plate with several coins.
Taren reached into his pocket and retrieved a copper coin—far more than she’d expect, but he had nothing smaller. Rider had often teased him for his overly generous heart, but Taren knew Rider approved of it as well. The copper coins clattered against the metal, making the old woman turn her face toward her benefactor. Taren wondered for a moment if he’d misjudged her, if she could see. But her gaze focused on a place beyond where he stood, and he realized he’d correctly guessed that she was blind.
“You are kind,” she said in a voice that quavered and rasped. He wondered how old was she was. Life on these islands was difficult. He’d seen few people as old. “Your kindness will serve you well.”
“May I get you some water?” he asked, noting the empty cup behind her. She nodded, so he reached for the cup. As he did, she grabbed his wrist with surprising strength, pulling him toward her.
“You will be tested,” she rasped in his ear. This close, she smelled of the ocean, salty and bright.
“What did you say?” He was sure he’d heard her clearly, but he did not wish to offend her. He knew that sometimes age clouded the mind as well as the eyes.
“The call is strong. Soon, it will claim you.”
He pulled away from her so abruptly that he collided with a woman doing her shopping. He apologized for his rudeness, then turned back to the old woman. She was gone. He looked around, expecting to see her, but she was nowhere to be seen. How had such a frail woman moved with such speed? The blanket and plate were gone as well. For a moment Taren just stared at the stones.
Taren turned to see one of his shipmates waving toward him. He rubbed his chin and shook his head. How strange.
“Taren!” Charlie called once more. This time Taren shrugged, then went to join Charlie and the others as they made their way back to the ship.
Taren swung down off the ropes from the foremast and made a surefooted landing on the deck. The sun had just begun to rise at the edge of the horizon. He inhaled a deep breath of salty air.
“The new halyard’s secured, sir,” he called to Rider.
“Just in time too,” Rider replied with a nod. “With a little luck, we’ll outsail the worst of the storm.”
The growing moisture in the air and the cool fingers of wind intertwining with the warmer breeze spoke of the coming storm.
“Get yourself some rest,” Rider told Taren. “We’ll need to take shifts on this one. Bastian will relieve me at nightfall, and I’ll want you by his side.”
Taren’s body ached from his work high atop the mast. He had spent nearly six hours checking the ropes and replacing those too worn to weather the storm. Though the work had been exhausting, Taren loved nothing more than climbing to the top of the mastheads and looking out over the ocean.
Taren had become an indispensable part of the crew in the two years he had been aboard the Witch, working the lines, helping man the deck, even learning to chart the ship’s course. As promised, Rider had treated him well. Rider had rewarded Taren for his loyalty with more and more freedom. With enough food to fill his stomach, Taren had grown from a lanky boy to a powerful man, taller even than Rider, with shoulders nearly as broad. His dark hair was now long and knotted at the nape of his neck with a leather tie, his skin a honeyed caramel from his time in the sun.
After taking the steps down to the aft cabin two at a time, he closed the door behind him and shed his damp clothing. He washed away the salt from his face and hands in the small basin, toweling himself off before heading to the bedroom. Later, he would straighten the cabin and see to Rider’s laundry. It pleased Taren to serve Rider in this way—it pleased him to serve him in every way.
“Lazing around as usual?” he asked as he drew the curtains aside and climbed between the sheets. Bastian opened one eye, then closed it again with a soft huffing sound. “I can think of better ways to pass the time.”
Bastian drew his arms over his head and stretched. “Indeed. But I have orders from the captain to rest.”
“Then I will make sure you sleep well,” Taren said with a chuckle as he dived under the sheets and took Bastian’s awakening cock in his mouth.
“Tempting me from my duty, are you?” Bastian pulled Taren’s hair free of its tie and ran his fingers through the dark silky strands.
Taren said nothing but put his hands underneath Bastian, cupping the muscles of his buttocks and letting out a low rumble. Bastian canted his hips forward to greet Taren’s mouth, which made Taren smile with pleasure.
Two years, and Taren wasn’t sure which he loved more—the feel of Bastian’s smooth skin beneath his fingers or Rider’s huge cock in his ass. He spent his days above decks, climbing high on the masts, and his nights enjoying the warmth of his two companions. Taren no longer thought of his servitude, he only wondered how he might live without the joys Bastian and Rider had shown him.
“Ah,” Bastian shouted as he spilled himself into Taren’s willing mouth, “what happened to the little whelp we brought aboard all those months ago? Your mouth is sinful and your body insatiable.”
Taren laughed. He loved Bastian’s sleek body and the way he felt buried inside of him, while Bastian seemed to enjoy letting Taren dictate the course of their lovemaking. On deck, Bastian was far from subservient—no doubt he enjoyed the respite from the strain of the command. It warmed Taren to know that Bastian trusted him with his secret.
“Shall I take you from behind?” Taren wondered aloud, knowing it would drive Bastian to distraction to hear him speak of his intentions without acting upon them. “Or perhaps I should have you sit upon me so I can feel your chest and watch the way your face contorts as I impale your body on mine. Or perhaps—”
“Stop your babbling and fuck me, you rascal, or I shall have you kissing the gunner’s daughter while I take the cat to your haunches!”
“For as often as you’ve spoken of it,” Taren said with a broad grin, “you might need to try it sometime. I hear tell there are whips that can bring a man pleasure as well as pain. But unless you mean to make good on your threat, I will fuck you.” He laughed as he forced Bastian onto his belly. “From behind, since you beg like a dog for it.”
Bastian threw his head back, sending his hair flying about his face and shoulders, then pushed back until Taren was seated deep within.
“Beautiful dog,” Taren whispered into Bastian’s ear. Then, thrusting so as to leave Bastian nearly breathless, he said, “I have tamed you.”
“Perhaps,” Bastian said as he shuddered with each movement, “I am the one who has tamed you?”
Taren tugged hard on his hair until Bastian cried out with desire. “We shall see about that, won’t we?”
A gust of salty air blew through the room, causing the curtains of the bed to sway. If this is servitude, Taren thought as he climaxed with a satisfied growl, then let me die a slave!