Friday, December 31, 2010

Last post of 2010

Last post of 2010.  Gosh.  Maybe I shouldn't make it promo, huh?  No, no, there will be tomorrow, and I can talk about the wonder that will be the new year then.  But this last year was pretty awesome...well, okay.  A recap.

My husband and I spent almost all of 2010 in our little town in our little country in West Africa, where we're aid workers.  Work was brisk and we learned a lot about healthcare and business in this part of the world, and also a lot about how to live in a rural community in a foreign country.  Thankfully my husband is brilliant and has built a lot of things that make our lives easier, and we usually have electricity, so I can stay in touch with family and friends.  That was the RL stuff, up until this trip to Germany. 

As for my fictional life, I published more than I thought I would, and started working with some new publishers that I really love.  I also got pushed into starting this blog, which has been a lot more fun that I thought it would.  The next year looks like it'll be an active one, both with my writing and with my fiction, and we're approaching our close of service date as well, which means we have to start thinking about jobs and moving and other frightening RL-type things.

To everyone who reads my blog, huge thanks.  I really appreciate you.  I hope you continue to enjoy the work I produce and wish you a very, very Happy New Year. 

Now.  To go blow things up. 

Fireworks!  I mean fireworks.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Surviving The Change comes out January 10th

Surviving The Change is my next release.  It comes out January 10th.  Below is all the salient information, including a link to Total E-Bound's website and a blurb.  I'm so happy with the way this one turned out.  My editor at TEB was fantastic, and even though she doesn't work there anymore, Delaney, you're the best.  And the cover art...oh, yeah.

Dan Bailey is a loner, a shifter without a pack that no pack will accept unless he has a mate. He's only looking for work and a few beers with friends when he meets Blythe Kenner, and suddenly his priorities change.

Blythe doesn't trust anyone—especially shifters. All he wants to do is bide his time working behind the bar while getting his law degree. That is until Dan walks in and makes it his sole vocation to get under Blythe's skin...and his covers. Blythe never counted on having a shifter as a lover, and complicated doesn't begin to describe how he feels.

Dan knows how he feels and he's not going to let Blythe go without a fight. But time is running out. A rival pack isn't happy with Dan's living arrangements, and if Dan can't win Blythe's trust soon, their very lives will be at stake.

And just in case you want to check it out early, here's the link: Surviving The Change.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Like To Watch is available!

I would say "at last!" but that would be silly of me, since while it didn't come out on the day I expected, I haven't been watching it like a hawk either.  Anyway, it's out now and it looks awesome.  Nice work, Christopher (otherwise known as Editor Man). This is a great anthology, and my short story Table Topped is included.  There are table sex and D/s overtures and all sorts of other yummy things showing up on the pages.  Here's the link to check it out: I Like To Watch.

And tomorrow!  I'll give you the update/rundown on my January releases, of which there are two, since one got bumped to February.  No no, little story, don't cry.  You'll be better for it.

In personal news, Christmas is over but we've still got more than a week to hang out in snowy Germany, for which I continue to be thankful.  Going home is going to be hard this year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays

So, do you come from a family that lets you open a present on Christmas Eve?  Isn't that a fun and exciting thing to do?  Not that I'd know, we don't work that way, but nevertheless I think it a fine tradition and am posting the next chapter of Pandora in that spirit.  Merry Christmas to those of you who do things that way, Happy Holidays to everyone, and I hope your week is as lovely as mine promises to be. 

The best presents are the ones that make us feel good, by the way, so don't be afraid to let me know if you like the newest post.  I love hearing from you.  Special good wishes for Tiffany and Jana:)

Pandora Post #7

Title: Pandora

Part Seven: A Timely End

Notes: This is the next part of a spin-off story of a series I posted on Literotica (titled Bonded, as Carizabeth) and the subject matter is m/m sci fi. This one is twice as long as my usual post, but golly, it’s Christmas! Enjoy:) BTW, in this part graphic sex happens. NC-17, people, so don’t be surprised. The first parts can be found a few posts down. I’ll put them all in the same place soon. I keep saying that, but I mean it this time.

Garrett caught a short nap before his lunch date with Jezria, enough so that he could handle plowing through the reams of legalese she was going to be throwing at him. Fortunately he didn’t have to go far to meet with her, since she was coming from a meeting with his father. They sat out on the terrace, placed their order with one of the kitchen staff and got down to business. Which was, as Garrett had suspected, mind-numbingly exhaustive.

“Health insurance?”


“That’s not just an inclusive part of the set-up? I’m going to be living there for three years, I think that qualifies me as a resident.”

“But not as a citizen,” Jezria clarified. “You’re not going to be paying taxes to Pandora or, by proxy, Olympus. Therefore you’re not entitled to the same benefits the colonists are. The medical facilities in particular will be rather expensive, given the distribution of naturals. Hence, the health insurance.”

“Is it any good?”

“Garrett,” she groused, “the contract is right there in front of you. Read it for yourself. Evaluate. Decide.”

“You know I can just private pay if anything disastrous happens to me.”

“That’s not the point, but if you don’t want to take advantage of what we offer, that’s completely within your purview.”

Garrett laughed. “You sound annoyed.”

“Well, you’re quite annoying sometimes.”

“Good thing I make up for it with the view.”

Jezria rolled her eyes. “Being beautiful can hardly be equated to being a good person, Garrett. Although for the record, I think that you’re both. But I think that three years in your company will inure me and pretty much everyone else on this expedition to your charms, so if I were you I’d do my best to put friendly first.”

“Wait.” This was news to Garrett. “You’re coming on this trip?”

“As chief administrative officer. Similar to my current position, really, except I expect I’ll have a lot more grunt work to do getting the colony up and running effectively.”

“You’re leaving the mantle of senator behind?”

“For now. I’ve been a public servant for more years than I care to let on. I’m ready for a change of pace.” She folded her small hands neatly over her soft, rounded midsection and smiled at him.

“Holy shit.” Garrett shook his head slowly. “I feel like I’m in some sort of parallel universe. Everything is changing. I’m moving to the edge of the galaxy, you’re giving up the Senate, Dad is having a baby…”

“Is that what had you so worked up on the comm yesterday?”

“Yeah. It threw me for a bit of a loop, but I’m happy for him. Them.”

“You just don’t want to be around for it.”

“Kids, Jezria,” Garrett said with heavy emphasis. “Children. Frightening, needy, maniacal little creatures with no instruction manual and a million ways for a parent to fuck up. Of course I want to get out of here. They don’t need me to be any part of this kid’s upbringing. It’s probably safer that way.”

“You don’t think you’d make a good big brother?”

“I’m more the fly-in, fly-out type, I think. More like an absentee uncle or something.”

“You have some very strange notions about yourself,” Jezria said, her eyes dark and uncomfortably penetrating. “But you’ll grow out of it, most likely. I think Pandora will be good for you.”

“Yes, freezing my ass off in the middle of nowhere will undoubtedly help me build huge amounts of character. Having a place to be and work to do while avoiding the impending rise of the happy family? Now that will be good for me. Where do I sign?”

“You haven’t read the last thirty-seven pages,” she pointed out.

“I can’t, I feel like I want to gouge my eyeballs out with this fork as is. Its fine,” Garrett said with a wave of his hand. “Now let me sign this thing so we can eat. Your ambrosia salad is getting room-temperature.”

“If you’re comfortable with that,” Jezria said. She pulled out the signatory page, then handed over a pen. “And the thumbprint next to it, please.”

Garrett signed with a flourish, pressed his thumb down and handed it all back to her. “Now let’s eat.”

“Gladly. Welcome aboard, Garrett.”

After the meeting, the rest of his afternoon was spent getting the last of the things he wanted to take with him packed aboard his ship and getting rid of things he didn’t have a use for. Wyl helped out, in between tweaking Garrett’s engines to run with more power and efficiency. He went through Garrett’s pile of cast-offs and provided color commentary that was almost enough to make Garrett reconsider asking for Wyl’s help in the first place, but not quite.

“What the fuck is this thing, anyway?” he asked, holding up a dangling, twisted cord studded with brightly-colored knobs.

Garrett glanced over at it from his pile of clothes. “Personal massager.”


“It goes with a particular type of body art. You have to have plugs and the right kind of neural network.”

Wyl raised his eyebrows. “And you have it?”

“No, I’ve never gone in for the massive bodysculpting stuff, but I had a lover for a while who did.”

“And when did you kick him to the curb?”

“Oh, maybe…ten years ago? Or eleven?” Anistaz. Dumb as a box of rocks, but he’d had an amazing body and Garrett had never been that interested in his conversation anyway. They’d spent a few exciting months together before the urge to nest hit his lover, and Garrett had promptly fled.

“And you’ve never bothered to get rid of it?”

Garrett shrugged. “I might have found someone else to use it on.”

“Man, I hope you washed it first.”

Garrett rolled his eyes and turned back to his clothes. In the end, Wyl took a couple of old-style paperback books off of his hands that he thought Robbie would enjoy, and some subdued vintage t-shirts that Garrett couldn’t ever remember wearing but which fit Wyl perfectly. They carted most of the rest of it to the recycling chamber and then parted ways, with a promise to meet again for dinner.

Miles ordered in from a sea-themed restaurant, fish and crab and five different types of snails, and Claudia paired it up with some light, crisp wines. Robbie and Wyl joined them on the terrace and the five of them sat down to a comfortable, friendly meal. It was perfect. Everyone knew each other, Wyl had long gotten over his early apprehension of Miles, and between the security concerns, the upcoming baby and Garrett’s imminent departure, there was more than enough to talk about.

They spent three enjoyable hours together before Claudia finally couldn’t control her yawns and excused herself, making Garrett promise to wake her if she was asleep to say goodbye before he left the next morning. Miles followed her, and then Wyl rubbed his hands together and smiled evilly.

“Time to go clubbing.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Robbie groaned, tilting his head back and sighing. “I’m too old for clubbing.”

“Bullshit.” Wyl patted Robbie’s knee gently. “But nice try, baby. You really go all out on the “curmudgeonly” front sometimes, it’s adorable.”


“It’s my party, right?” Garrett asked.

Wyl nodded emphatically.

“Then I say you go clubbing with us.” Garrett imitated Wyl’s evil grin. “And you let Wyl pick your clothes. No fatigues or gray t-shirt and black pants. And do consider some highlights. Just a little across your cheekbones and along your eyebrows.”

Wyl said “Yes!” just as Robbie said, “Hell no. No makeup. No dyes. Absolutely not. Your party or not, I will stage a hostile takeover and run this my way if I have to.”

“You are good at hostile takeovers,” Wyl offered.

“Don’t encourage him,” Garrett warned. “My place in an hour, we can go down together.”

“Where are we going?” Wyl asked. Robbie just looked resigned.

That was a good question. Garrett hadn’t been to any of the clubs in a while, not since his pick-up a week ago, and since tonight would be his last night here for quite some time, he wondered if he shouldn’t make a crawl of it and hit them all. But Robbie would get fed up with that fast, and despite Garrett’s teasing he did care if his friend was uncomfortable.

“The Palladium,” he said at last. What the hell. He had promised Isidore he’d stop by again if he got the chance.

Garrett glanced through his clothing, idly fingering his more elaborate clubbing costumes and wondering which to go with. He probably wouldn’t get much of a chance to use them on Pandora, and he probably wouldn’t have time for the brief period he would be spending on Olympus getting things ready for the science staff. He could make a scene tonight in something that glittered like a starry sky, or he could keep it simple and attract less attention. He finally went with something more subdued, in amethyst and garnet jewel tones that clung to him and left nothing to the imagination but didn’t scream his presence, and accented it with cool blushes of color over his cheekbones, forehead and down the bridge of his nose. He pressed tiny sparks of light to the edges of his eyes and the shell of his ear, then called it good and went to meet Robbie and Wyl.

Wyl looked about like Garrett had expected, punky with his hair on end and clothed in sheer black fabric everywhere except his groin, where it was opaque, probably at Robbie’s insistence. He had thick boots on, black chain jewelry and black shadow limning his eyes. He was hot, but Robbie was absolutely gorgeous, if clearly self-conscious. Wyl had chosen white for him, pants that clung just enough to his hips to stay up and a sleeveless shirt that could have been painted on. The shirt wasn’t quite low enough to meet the pants, and everywhere that bare skin showed, there was the faintest shimmer of glittery white, not from skin but from some kind of accent powder. Garrett looked from Wyl, who was smirking, to Robbie, who said flatly, “Don’t ask.”

“Not worth my life,” Garrett agreed. He took in their looks and let himself feel a little flattered, and then the three of them took an official car to the club, courtesy of his father’s insistence.

As before, there was no problem with the bouncer, and the stir they caused making their way to the dance floor was gratifying. The crowd parted and made room, and Garrett turned to his friends with a grin. “Dance with me.”

Wyl didn’t have a problem with that, sidling over and sliding down in a way that turned even Garrett on, and Wyl wasn’t his normal type at all, but Robbie was still looking self-conscious and on edge. Garrett pulled him close and murmured, “Just pretend we’re alone. Or better yet, you’re alone with Wyl. No one is watching you.” Lies, lies. “Just hold onto him and move.”

Despite his protestations to the contrary, Robbie did have a sense of rhythm, and when he relaxed enough to get going he moved beautifully, intensely, focusing on Wyl to the exclusion of everyone else and moving against him like sin. Wyl managed to split his attention between Robbie and Garrett for a while, but the magnetic pull of his lover overwhelmed him and soon Garrett was alone, and not minding it. He kept dancing for a while, moving from person to person and space to space until he was at the edge of the crowd again.

A hand touched his back, just fingertips, tentative but familiar. Garrett turned and smiled at Isidore, who was standing a little ways back but looking hopeful. He caught the young man’s hand and pulled him forward into an easy embrace, swaying a little to keep them feeling as though they were dancing. “You found me,” he purred.

“I thought you might come in tonight,” Isidore said, slowly letting his arms creep up to Garrett’s shoulders. “My aunt works at the governor’s mansion, and she told me that you were supposed to be leaving tomorrow. So I took the night off, just in case.”

Isidore’s skin was too dusky to reveal a blush, not in the dim lights of the club, but Garrett could feel the heat of it from a few inches away. “I’m glad you did,” Garrett told him, meaning every word of it.

“Are you leaving tomorrow?”

Garrett hated to disappoint him, but there was only one answer he could give. “Yes. I am.”

Isidore gave him a half smile and a nod. “Yeah, I figured as much. You’ve never come in with friends before. Are they hanging out with you tonight?”

“I think at this point I’m on my own,” Garrett said. Robbie and Wyl would find their own way home when they were ready.

“What do you want?” Isidore asked, his silver-inset eyes shining brightly. “We can do whatever you want.”

“So easy,” Garrett mused with a grin. “Didn’t I warn you about that last time?”

“Last time was amazing,” Isidore replied. His smile was so cute and earnest that Garrett just had to kiss it, and Isidore melted into his arms, his nervous tension vanishing at this sudden affection. They kissed for a long time, finally stopping when Garrett saw that they were attracting a crowd. He smoothly pushed them back towards an alcove, the most private spot you could get in The Palladium that wasn’t a toilet.

“Maybe we should leave,” Garrett suggested softly.

“Where do you want to go? The hotel?”

The idea didn’t appeal for some reason. This was his last night on Paradise and he wanted to really be on it, to see it. The planet had never truly been home to him, but he wanted to feel it somehow before he was confined to the sterile shipboard environment for the next few months. “Some place out of doors. Private, if possible.”

Isidore looked at him consideringly. “Do you mind taking my bike?”

“Is it enclosed?”


Garrett considered it. His outfit would suffer, but it wasn’t like he had to worry about impressing anyone after this. Not in these clothes, anyway. “That’s all right. How far are we going?”

“It’s just outside the city limits. Twenty-five, maybe thirty minutes,” Isidore promised.

“Then take me, I’m yours,” Garrett said. Isidore smiled again, just a little bit, before turning and leading the way out of the club. They went behind the bar and through the service entrance to the parking lot out back, where one of the many vehicles parked towards the edge of the lot was Isidore’s bike.

“Nice,” Garrett said as Isidore led him over to the vehicle. Garrett didn’t know anything about bikes, but he could tell quality when he saw it, and this ride had a vintage look to it, bright and shining and obviously well-maintained, much sleeker and less modified than a lot of the more modern aerial bikes.

“It’s my baby,” Isidore said as he keyed off the alarm. “I was a bike mechanic before the garage went under. I spend way too much money keeping this one running, but I can’t bear to give up on it.”

“How old is it?”

“Almost half a century,” Isidore replied, throwing his leg over the bike. “It was my dad’s.”

“You’re doing a great job keeping it up,” Garrett said as he joined him, wrapping his arms around the young man’s waist and leaning in close. He felt Isidore’s breath catch in his chest, and smiled over it.

“Thank you,” Isidore said faintly. “Uh…do you want a helmet? I only have one…”

“You’ve got the gyroscope keeping us upright, yeah?”


“Then I’m fine.” Garrett pressed a kiss to Isidore’s neck. “Let’s go.”

Isidore pulled the close-fitting helmet over his short, spiky hair, then revved the bike into ignition. A bike that could actually rev…so retro. Garrett grinned as they pulled around The Palladium and out onto the road. They got out of the downtown area fairly quickly and headed into the hills on the north side of Rapture. The desert gave way to rocky, scrubby ground that was broken by solitary houses and occasional trees growing out of red, iron-rich earth. They went on and up, until the houses were gone and the road was only two lanes, and then turned off onto a dirt path that went up a little more. They stopped on a large, flat slab of rock at the edge of a cliff, and Isidore killed the engine. Garrett got off and looked out around.

Rapture was laid out before them, sprawling across the valley floor and far more beautiful at night, when all there was to see were thousands upon thousands of lights, steady and bright. One of the two moons was a sliver, barely there, while the other was almost full, a misshapen orange blob glaring angrily down at the world. Isidore came up behind Garrett and slid his arms around his waist. “The old man is drunk,” he murmured.

“Old man?”

“The man of the moons,” Isidore explained. “They’re his eyes. When one is open and the other closed like this, we say that he’s drunk.” He looked out over the city. “It’s kind of dumb—”

“No, it isn’t,” Garrett said. “You like it here, don’t you?”

“Here is what I know. I was born here, my parents were born here, both sets of grandparents were born here. We came with the original colonists and we’ve been here ever since. So, yeah, I guess I do like it here. I’m happy being some place that I know so well. I think it would be really hard to never have a home like this, or to always be going someplace new.” He glanced at Garrett. “Where’s your real home? I know it isn’t Paradise.”

“No, it’s not…” Garrett let his voice trail off as he thought about it. “I don’t have one yet,” he said at last. “I have family, I have friends. My home tends to be wherever they are, but as far as an actual physical place goes, there isn’t one.”

“Do you think you’ll find it where you’re going?”

“On Pandora?” Garrett scoffed. “Not likely. It’s an underdeveloped, under-populated, viciously raw planet. It’s always cold there, raining or snowing or the wind is blowing hurricane speeds…I can’t imagine making a home there.”

“How long will you be there?”

“Three years.”

Isidore sucked in a breath in surprise. “That’s a long time.”

“I know.”

“So…there really is absolutely nothing that can happen with us.”

Garrett smiled and turned around in his arms, then leaned in and kissed the young man lingeringly. “We can be friends,” he breathed as he finally pulled away, nuzzling his nose against Isidore’s cheekbone. “Very friendly friends. Friends with lots of benefits.” He kissed Isidore again, tracing his parted lips with the tip of his tongue, before slipping slowly to his knees.

Isidore moaned and leaned back against his bike, thankfully close, and braced himself as Garrett undid his pants and pulled out his cock. Garrett pushed Isidore’s knees a little further apart so he could settle comfortably between them, or as comfortably as he could expect on solid rock, and then opened his mouth and breathed hot, moist air out onto his lover. The weather wasn’t cold, it rarely got cold on Paradise, but there was a sharpness in the air that told Garrett dawn was approaching, and he knew that the heat of his mouth would be a delicious contrast to that. He licked teasingly, never closing his lips around Isidore but never drawing back, and Isidore panted and mewled and finally slid one hand into Garrett’s hair, and that was all the encouragement Garrett needed to plunge down his lover’s cock and bathe him in wetness and warmth.

Garrett loved the heavy, hot feel of a cock in his mouth. He was a slut for bare skin, a total nudist whenever he could be, and few things felt better than going down on someone and having their body splayed out for him, naked, ready and desperate to be touched. He couldn’t have that with Isidore right now, not outside on a fucking slab of rock, so Garrett made the most of the bare skin he could have. He let the head of Isidore’s cock go to the back of his mouth and swallowed, his throat gripping the hard, needy flesh. Isidore suddenly cried out and seemed to melt, his hips thrusting forward as his shoulders fell backwards, and he came hard into Garrett’s mouth.

Garrett drank him down, humming appreciatively, and then stood up, using the bike for leverage when he realized his legs had gone numb. Fucking rock. Still, Isidore was clinging to him and smiling and staring like Garrett had hung the moons, and so he couldn’t complain.

“You’re so good at that,” Isidore murmured, pulling him close and kissing him. Garrett opened his mouth to the questing tongue and let the young man lick up every trace of himself he could find, grinding his own aching erection against Isidore’s spent cock.

“Do you want to fuck me?” Isidore asked finally, breathless from their kissing.

“Desperately,” Garrett said, and he was so hard with want that the word wasn’t at all flattery, just truth.

“I hoped so,” Isidore replied with a grin. “I’m ready for you.” He turned in Garrett’s arms and draped himself against his bike, holding himself up on his forearms. Garrett slid his hands under Isidore’s filmy shirt and pulled it up, exposing the smooth expanse of his back. He undid the fastening on his own shirt and pulled it aside, then pressed himself to Isidore. The heat and the slight, catching stickiness from sweat felt so good. He crawled one of his hands down the back of Isidore’s pants, and when his fingertip dipped inside and he felt the slickness there, he smiled.

“You prepped early.”

“I wanted to be…uhn, god…ready, if…fuck, Garrett,” he writhed back suddenly when two fingers slid inside. “Please, fuck me.”

The sky was lightening now, traces of rose, gold and orange drifting up on the horizon like curls of smoke. Garrett watched the colors come, felt the heat of his own personal sun in the warmth of Isidore’s body, and reflected that if he tried, if he wanted to enough, he could make this place home. He wasn’t one to second-guess a decision, though, and it was with a feeling of quiet acceptance that he moved the rest of their clothing aside just enough to press his cock into Isidore’s clenching channel. Isidore moaned, pushed back against Garrett and he bottomed out inside of the younger man. Garrett stayed there for a little bit, kissing the back of Isidore’s neck and stroking around the tight ring of his entrance with his index finger, which made his lover shiver, before sliding out and pushing in again.

“Garrett, more,” Isidore whimpered, and when he reached around and felt the young man’s resurging interest, Garrett decided to stop teasing him. He set up a rhythm, easy at first, then harder once he felt certain that he wasn’t going to be driving his lover’s cock into something hard and painful. He absorbed everything about the moment, Isidore’s warmth and scent and the sounds he made, so beautifully inarticulate. He watched the sky brighten into pale pastels, the clouds disappearing as the dawn burned them away, and his orgasm came in a surprising rush. He ground tightly against Isidore as he poured into him, letting the harsh ecstasy of the first few moments consume him before remembering his lover. Reaching around, he gripped Isidore’s cock in one hand and pressed firmly against the base of his testicles with the other, rubbing hard on his perineum the way he knew the young man liked.

Isidore arched against Garrett, throwing his head back and yelling Garrett’s name as he came again, a thick white plume of heat that slowed to an ooze against Garrett’s palm. Garrett supported their weight with one arm, bracing against the bike with the other, until Isidore’s eyes opened again and his breathing slowed to nearly normal. Then he pulled out, slowly, semen and lubricant clinging to him like a heavy mist. It almost hurt to pull away, but Garrett knew he had to.

Isidore’s shirt became a casualty of their mess, helping both of them get mostly clean again. After that they just stood a little longer, Garrett’s chest to Isidore’s back, breathing softly and watching the sun rise over the hazy horizon. Once it was fully up Isidore faced Garrett, kissed his cheek and said, “I’ll take you back.”

He ended up taking Garrett home instead, driving up as far as he could in an unauthorized vehicle before having to drop Garrett off. Garrett got off the bike, kissed Isidore on the mouth and said, “Give me your contact info. Wyl Leyton—he’s the mechanic who takes care of the military vehicles—he’s been bitching about needing more help for a while now. I’ll tell him to look you up.”

Isidore looked surprised, but dutifully recited his number before saying, “I’ve only worked on civilian models, though.”

“I’m sure you can learn the other types. One engine is the pretty much same as the next, right?”

“I… can’t even dignify that with an appropriate response.”

“Ah, now the truth comes out. Find a niche and suddenly everyone becomes a nose-in-the-air critic.” Garrett grinned. “You’ll fit right in.” He kissed Isidore one last time, then pulled back and let his arms drop to his sides. “Goodbye, Isidore Cain. Have a lovely morning.”

“It can only go downhill from here,” Isidore said, but he managed a little smile. “Thank you for…all of it. And I hope you like Pandora better than you think you will.”

“It can only go up in my estimation,” Garrett assured him. Isidore nodded, then revved his bike and roared away. Garrett watched him disappear down the private road before checking in with the guard and walking back to his ship.

Garrett forwarded Isidore’s information to Wyl, then took a long shower. He changed into a lightweight, elegant suit and fielded a brief phone call from Jezria before going into the mansion. Miles was in a meeting with his security advisors but Claudia was in the kitchen, and Garrett was greeted by a bright smile as he joined her.

“Gare! Do you have time for breakfast?”

“Actually, Jezria already called to let me know that she’s leaving in half an hour,” Garrett said apologetically. “She wants me to follow and got my clearance ahead of time, so I’m actually here to say goodbye.”

“So fast?” Claudia exclaimed, disappointment plain in her voice. “Garrett, really?”

“Sorry, honey.” He enfolded her in a gentle hug and kissed her temple. “But I’ll be back before you know it.”

“It can’t be soon enough,” she said against his shoulder, holding him much tighter than he was holding her. “We’ll really miss you, Gare. I’ll really miss you.”

“Soon you’ll be too busy to miss me,” he promised her. “Seriously, enjoy the calm while it lasts. And take care of Dad. He’s prone to getting swept away.”

“I’ll make sure he’s okay,” Claudia said. “Are you going to go say goodbye to him?”

“Briefly. Dad and I don’t really do goodbyes.” He let go of her and stepped back with a smile. “I’ll talk to you soon.”

“Okay, Gare.” Claudia wiped quickly beneath both of her eyes and managed to smile back at him. “Travel safely.”

“I’ll do my best.”

The meeting with his father was much less emotional. Garrett knocked on his office door, stuck his head in and said, “Dad? Got a second?”

“Sure.” Miles stood up out of a cluster of his advisors and let himself out of the room. “You’re taking off?”


“Okay.” They shared a brief, one-armed man hug and then let go of each other. “Come and see us as soon as you can get away.”

“Oh, I will. I want to start corrupting my sibling at an early age.”

“Don’t even think about it, kiddo.”

Garrett laughed a little. “Bye, Dad.”

“Goodbye, Gare.” And that was that.

The last people Garrett needed to say goodbye to were Robbie and Wyl. It was their mutual day off, so naturally he and Wyl were sleeping in. Or rather, Wyl was sleeping in. Robbie was up and reading one of the paperback books that Wyl had retrieved for him from Garrett’s discard pile. He let Garrett into their officer-sized apartment in the barracks, which was still smaller than Garrett’s living quarters aboard his personal ship, and offered him a cup of tea.

“Not coffee?”

“Sometimes I prefer tea,” Robbie said, sipping at his own cup of something far too pale to be an effective stimulant, in Garrett’s mind. “Sorry we lost track of you last night.”

“It was nice of you to come along,” Garrett replied.

“Still, it was your birthday. We should have been more focused.”

“If you had been any more focused you would have burst into flame,” Garrett teased his ex. “It’s nice to see that you’ll dance with someone. You’ve still never managed it with me.”

“I don’t dance, Gare.”

“You do dance with Wyl, Robbie,” Garrett pointed out. Robbie shifted a little uncomfortably, and Garrett had pity on him. “I think it’s great. Just don’t ever screw things up with him, okay? He’s what you need.”

“I know.”

“Can you go get him so I only have to do this once?”

“You want me to wake him up?” Robbie asked incredulously. “Pull him out of bed on our day off? I have to live with his wrath, you know, you get to escape it.”

“Such a baby.” Garrett rolled his eyes and walked back into the bedroom. He sat on the edge of the bed and prodded the blanket-covered lump in the center of it. “Hey. Wake up.”


“Nope, no coffee, just me. I’m leaving, so say goodbye.”

“Ugh.” Wyl poked his head out from under the blanket and blinked red eyes. “Goodbye. Now go ‘way.”

“Charming as ever,” Garrett said dryly. “Don’t forget to check your messages at some point today. I sent you the contact information for a mechanic you’d probably get along with.”

“Who is he?”

“Isidore Cain. He could have been my next ex.”

Wyl snorted. “Way to think positive, Garrett. This is who you ran off with last night?”

“Technically I think we ran off this morning. He’s a sweet kid; I’d appreciate you giving him a look.”

“Sure,” Wyl sighed. “Consider it your going-away present.” He leaned up, hugged Garrett fast and then flopped back down onto the bed. “Now can I go back to sleep?”

“Do that.” Garrett left the room and mouthed He needs coffee to Robbie, who nodded. They embraced, and Garrett inhaled the scent of Robbie in the morning, tea and toothpaste and his particular brand of soap, and it sent a nostalgic pang through him. Fuck, he needed to get out of here.

“Gotta go,” he said, pulling back.

“See you later, Gare. Take care of yourself.”

“I will. Be safe, Robbie,” he added, feeling like he was channeling Claudia but unable to stop. “This is going to be a dangerous place for a while.”

Robbie chuckled. “Everywhere is dangerous, Garrett.”

“Deep, truly deep. Bye, Robbie.” Garrett left their apartment, walked back to his ship and sealed himself in with a sense of relief. He moved to the bridge, sat down and started turning things on. He confirmed his clearance to depart with the military guard and the control tower, got coordinates for his rendezvous with Jezria’s ship and left the shuttle bay with as little fanfare as he could possibly manage. In seconds pale blue sky gave way to blackness, and stars, and Garrett inhaled deeply. A weight that he didn’t realize he’d been feeling seemed to evaporate, and he was smiling broadly as he contacted Jezria.

Her face appeared on his comm screen. “Garrett! Right on time. Are you ready to go, then?”

“Ready and waiting.”

“I’m sending the flight plans to you now. Your autopilot should have no problems following them.”

“I’ll be on your tail,” he promised her.

“Excellent. First to Olympus, and then on to Pandora.” Jezria logged off, and Garrett made sure his autopilot was receiving before leaning back in his chair and propping his feet up on the dash.

So long, Paradise.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ah, Allemagne...

It took a while, but we got here.  We had an extended layover in the Paris airport due to weather conditions in Germany, and many people were dismayed and angry and so on.  My man and I?  We were just happy to get a sandwich voucher for our time.  Delayed in a place with flush toilets...heaven:)  Yeah, I know, perspective is everything.  Anyway, now we're here, and after two showers in under twelve hours, I feel clean again.  Renewed.  Ready to do...what, exactly?

Apart from a brief away trip at the beginning of this next week, we'll mostly be in one place for this trip, and I look forward to using the time to write.  I spent a lot of our layover writing the next chapter of Pandora, which is now half done, so you can look forward to that soon.  As for other stuff, you'll know when I know.  Or very shortly thereafter, given the space-time continuum.  Darn immutable physics.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Heading South

We (that's the royal we as well as the other one, naturally) shall be more imcommunicado than usual as we make our way south towards the capitol and the plane that will carry us away to complete first-world awesomeness. 

America?  Well, no.  Too expensive to fly there.  But Europe!  Europe is good!  We've got three days of transit and one day in the capitol before we fly out, so hopefully by the time we get south I Like To Watch will be released by Cleis Press and I can give you a link and say Happy Holidays before we fly.  I have promo to do for stuff coming out in January too, and updates for my updates page, and arg.  It must all wait.  At least you can rest easy in the knowledge that once I'm in the land of milk and honey (or in this case, schnitzel and kaise--however you spell cheese in German) I will have access to electricity and internet all the time.  All...the...time...I'm flipping out a little. 

Hopefully the next part of Pandora will be out lickety-split, and thanks to everyone who went and read Shadows and Light Pt. 3 and rated it (special thanks go to commentors--ps I need your email so I can send your Christmas present). 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shadows and Light Ch. 3

It's up!  After too long waiting because I posted improperly (FFS, Cari...) the third chapter of Shadows and Light is up on Literotica.  Here's the link direct to the story: Shadows and Light Ch.3.  Please rate it  (please!), comment, send me a message...if you go to the main story page, the first story listed is Shadows Of Light by someone else, but the name similarity threw me at first. 

And I just read your last comment, Tiffany, timing is really working today:)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Pandora Post #6

Title: Pandora

Part Six: Dropping Bombs

Notes: This is the next part of a spin-off story of a series I posted on Literotica (titled Bonded, as Carizabeth) and the subject matter is m/m sci fi. The first parts can be found a few posts down. I’ll put them all in the same place soon. Don’t read it if you don’t want to, people. If you do read though, enjoy! If you enjoy, please let me know:)

It was nice to have his mind finally made up. Garrett skated through the next few days, researching Pandora and updating his technical knowledge. It had been a while since he’d worked in the field, and he wanted to make sure he could do the job. Fortunately, it looked like the equipment on Pandora was very familiar, and it wasn’t likely that the mobile lab on board the ship taking the new colonists out would be any more elaborate.

Garret had exchanged a few messages with Jezria, indicating his interest in the position and her willingness to hire him. They’d gone over an initial contract too, but the deal wasn’t completely finalized until the day before her arrival on Paradise, her last stop before heading back to Olympus to pick up people and supplies for a two year stint. The morning before Jezria’s ship was set to arrive, Garrett was sitting down to breakfast with his father and Claudia when Miles said, very casually, “So, we’re expecting.”

“Expecting what?”

Claudia blushed and Miles raised one eyebrow in a very familiar expression, and Garrett’s mind suddenly put two and two together. “You’re expec…oh, fuck, you’re expecting. A baby? You two are going to have a baby?”

“Well, Claudia will be doing most of the heavy lifting,” Miles deadpanned.

“Oh my god.” Garrett just stared at them for a moment, as Claudia got redder and Miles started to frown. After a moment he figured out that his reaction probably wasn’t the one they were looking for, and pulled himself out of astonishment and into enthusiasm. “I mean, that’s great news! Congratulations!” He got up and came around the table and kissed Claudia on the cheek, then the top of her dark, smooth hair. “Let’s hope the baby is as sweet as you, huh? Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl yet?”

“It’s still a little early to be completely certain, but the preliminary scans say a girl,” Claudia said, smiling now, relaxing some as Garrett expressed his pleasure.

“A girl. Perfect, then she probably will be as sweet as you. Hopefully she’ll get your looks, too.”

“Thanks,” Miles said sarcastically. Garrett moved behind him and squeezed his shoulders briefly, then sat back down.

“Wow. Um. What brought this about?”

“Well, sex is a kind of prerequisite,” Miles began, but Claudia smacked him lightly on the arm.

“We talked about it some before we got married,” Claudia explained, “and we thought having a child together was something we wanted, but we weren’t set on it, especially not while Miles was still in the military. But now he’s out and we’re going to be settled for a while, so we decided to try.”

“Gran must be happy.” Miles’ mother, the matriarch of the Caractacus clan, had never been satisfied with her oldest son’s meager contribution to the continuance of their genes.

“She doesn’t know yet. No one else knows yet, we wanted you to be the first,” Claudia said.

“I’m honored.” And Garrett was, in a way. “Congratulations.” He was spared from having to become more repetitive by the sudden chime of his com. “Please excuse me, I need to take this.” He stood up from the table and walked away, silently blessing whoever was on the other end of the line. “This is Garrett.”

“Garrett, good morning. It’s Senator Dowd.”

“Jezria! Finally! Get me the hell out of here.”

“I was actually calling to discuss a small change to the contract terms…”

“I accept. Whatever they are. I’m ready to go.”

“You certainly sound ready,” she chuckled. “What happened to light a fire under you? And for heaven’s sake, don’t accept a contract before you’ve read it all through.”

“Nothing happened, I’m just ready to go.” Lies, lies, lies. “What’s the change?”

“The length of stay is being changed from two standard years to three, but there’s a fifteen percent increase in pay for the last year, and it turns out we will be able to make room for your personal ship.”

“Three years. Excellent, that’s even better.” Time and distance had suddenly gained a lot of priority in his mind. “When can we leave?”

“I get into Paradise tomorrow…Garrett, are you sure you’re all right?”

“I’m fine. How long are you planning on staying here?”

“There are some supply issues to work out with your father, but it shouldn’t take more than a day or two. Will that be enough time for you to prepare?”

“Yes.” An hour would have been enough time, the way Garrett was feeling now. “Perfect, I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

“I’m seeing Miles first thing in the morning, but if you meet me for lunch we can take care of the contract details then.”

Garrett smiled. “I’ll have the chef make ambrosia salad.”

“You remembered my favorite, how sweet. I’ll see you tomorrow, my dear.” Jezria disconnected and Garrett suddenly realized he’d walked all the way back to his ship over the course of their call, as far from Miles and Claudia and their impending new addition as he could comfortably get. He sat down in a chair, strangely affected but not exactly sure how. It was good news for them. Great news. A baby, that was big, important, life-altering stuff. Garrett was happy for Claudia, he was happy for his dad…for himself, he didn’t fucking know. Not that it mattered; it didn’t concern him except in a very peripheral way. All that should concern him right now was getting his shit ready to leave.

The fact that he could take his personal ship was saving him most of the work, actually. There would be no need to box things up, no need to choose and discard. Garrett could take as much of his old life with him as he wanted to. Funny how he suddenly wanted to get rid of all of it.

His com sounded. “This is Garrett.”

“Your coffee’s getting cold.”

“Dad! Sorry.” Garrett flushed uncomfortably. “I’m heading back right now.”

“Good.” They disconnected and Garrett sighed, then pushed his new tumble of emotions out of the way again and resigned himself to spending the morning trying to be enthusiastic over something he didn’t really understand the allure of. Parenthood…fuck, he personally had probably taken years off his father’s life by being such a shit son. Garrett hoped that no matter who his new sibling turned out to be, that they’d be a good kid, and not the royal terror he’d aspired to.

Garrett went back to the terrace and finished his breakfast without coming off too strangely, he hoped. Claudia was more than happy to talk and he was more than happy to provide appropriate noises and cheerful expressions of interest. They talked a little but about Jezria and the contract, and Claudia expressed some more-than-just-polite dismay at the prospect of Garrett being gone for so long. “You’ll miss so much.”

“I’ll get vacations,” Garrett replied. “I prefer to be able to swoop in and spoil my sister rotten anyway. That makes it so much more exciting for Dad.”

“I don’t know how much excitement from you I can handle at my age,” Miles said.

Garrett grinned. “Well saddle up, cowboy, because you’re about to start all over again. Remember to take your vitamins and do try to learn from past mistakes.”

As soon as he said it Garrett knew it was a mistake. His father wasn’t as calm and collected about Claudia’s pregnancy as he was pretending to be, and being reminded of parts of Garrett’s childhood wasn’t helping him any. Miles hid his discomfort from his wife, but Garrett had had decades of deciphering his father’s flashes of stillness. Now wasn’t the time to talk it out, however, and they finished breakfast and went their separate ways as usual.

Garrett had vaguely thought about cornering his dad that evening, but that plan was shot to hell when a bomb went off in the warehouse district of Rapture that afternoon, killing a dozen workers, injuring seventeen more and doing millions in damages. Miles dispatched security forces immediately and went to the bomb site himself to coordinate the relief and repair efforts, and he was out all night. So was Robbie, and so Garrett and Wyl and Claudia banded together and spent the night watching news reports and ignoring the reporters that seethed just beyond the gate. Claudia thought she should go and speak to them, but Garrett advised her not to.

“You aren’t on the scene, you can’t tell them anything they don’t know, and your PR person has already made a statement about how seriously you’re taking this. Dad is at the site of the explosion, he’s got this. They just want to interview you to see if they can stir something up.”

“Really?” Claudia asked, her expression torn.

“Really,” Garrett affirmed. “Stay here, let your staff do their jobs and make Miles’ and your lives easier by not saying anything he might have to refute. You don’t have an official place in his administration beyond spouse yet, but they’ll throw everything at you from ‘do you have any theories’ to ‘how do you respond to allegations of…’ whatever the fuck they want to allege. Probably something negative. Don’t go there.”

“You have a very cynical mind,” Wyl told him, bare feet dangling over the arm of his chair. Garrett had no idea how the man could be comfortable sitting sideways in a hard-backed chair, but maybe he liked the feeling of being contained.

“Cynical is synonymous with experienced,” Garrett replied. “I’m not trying to throw that in your face, Claudia…”

“No, it’s fine,” she said. Her voice was calm but her eyes were troubled. “This is the sort of situation I worry about without you, Gare. I don’t know what to do yet. I’d be out there making a mess of things right now if you weren’t here.”

“Dad’s chief of staff will advise you when I’m not here,” Garrett said soothingly. “You’re smart, you’ll learn fast, and in the meantime treat everything like a learning experience and be thankful that the bomb didn’t hit closer to home.”

“You don’t think…”

“You’re dealing with terrorists, honey. From the losing side of a civil war. They’re bound to be thinking about all sorts of targets.” Tears sprang up in Claudia’s eyes and Garrett felt like hitting himself. “I’m sorry, I‘m an idiot.” He got up and moved over to Claudia’s side, hugging her close and throwing a remorseful glance at Wyl. “Dad’s got great security. You and the baby will be completely safe.”

“What baby?” Wyl asked.

“Oops. Did I let that slip?”

Of course then Claudia had to explain to Wyl, who was very happy for her and told her as much, and after a little while the gloom was put aside and the conversation was onto lighter, happier topics, exactly like Garrett had intended. They shut the news off and made popcorn and played a non-drunk version of “Never Have I Ever…”, which Garrett lost soundly, and eventually Claudia dozed while Wyl and Garrett drank espressos and talked.

“So,” Wyl said, “when’s the goodbye party?”

“I’m not having one,” Garrett replied. “Assuming things still happen on track, there won’t really be time. I’m set to leave tomorrow.”

“No goodbye party.” One eyebrow went up. “You’re fucking weird these days, man.”


“You should let Robbie and I take you out. One last night on the town. I’ll even drag him to one of your clubs.”

Garrett grinned. “I loved doing that. He’s never understood how attractive he is. People would gravitate towards him and he’d be looking like he was plotting exactly how to take out each and every one of his admirers.”

“Yeah, he told me once he’s always looking for trouble. He’d be threat assessing in a nursery school.”

“Have you guys ever thought about…you know…”

“Having a kid?” Wyl asked with a grin. He brushed fine black hairs out of his face and threw back the last of his espresso. “No, not really.” He headed over to the machine and ordered up another one, waiting patiently while it churned and ground and steamed. Condensed espressos took a little longer. “I think Robbie would be a great father, but he says he isn’t interested and I know I’m not. Besides, I’ve got black marks on my mental health record that would make adopting or surrogacy tough.”

“There are some places that don’t care about that.”

“Yeah, and those are the places that produce fucked-up kids,” Wyl said, shaking his head. “I’ve got a friend from when I was a bonder named Leesie—”

“The undercover marshall?” Garrett broke in, remembering a little of Wyl’s story.

“Yeah, they use her for that kind of shit all the time. She’s got this way with people…anyway, she told me about an operation she took part in once infiltrating and producing evidence of wrongdoing at a baby mill. She said it was atrocious. The geneticists’ backgrounds were all forged, half of the kids they incubated didn’t make it and the other half…man, everything from deformities to mental retardation to naturals.

“And what could the parents do? The kids were biologically theirs, they’d paid for them, they had wanted them…but some people only want perfect kids, so when the place was shut down a lot of them went into Federation-run facilities instead of to their parents. If that was what the folks chose.” Wyl picked up his tiny cup and blew on it a little. “It still makes Leesie cry to talk about it.”

“That’s terrible.”

Wyl might have said more, but the faint door chime indicated that Miles was back, as he was the only other one who could get into the personal wing without having to be let in. Wyl set his fresh cup down untouched. “I’ll get out of here, Gare. Robbie’ll be back soon if Miles is in. Remember, tonight: club, dancing, party. Suck it up.” He went out the back door, and Garrett grabbed up the espresso and went out to meet his father.

Miles was setting his formal coat down on the table by the entrance, looking exhausted. “How’s Claudia?” he asked as soon as he saw Garrett.

“Fine. Sleeping.”

“Good.” Miles took the proffered cup and sipped, did a slight double-take, then sipped again. “Did you make this?”

“Wyl was here. That was going to be his third.”

“Kid knows how to brew it,” Miles said appreciatively.

“Things okay out there?”

“As okay as they can be. We’ve got a lead on the bomb’s manufacturer, the company that was targeted is increasing security and I’ve spoken to the families of the victims…” Miles sighed. “So not great, but okay. Any problems here?”

“Lots of reporters. I persuaded Claudia not to make any comments.”

“I should have mentioned that before I left.”

“You might want to get her squared away with her own publicist or media relations person, just to be safe.”

“You’re right. I sometimes forget she doesn’t have your experience,” Miles said. He looked at Garrett fondly, and Garrett felt a surge of affection for his father.

“Can we talk in your office real quick?” he asked.

“Sure.” It wasn’t far, and they were careful not to wake Claudia as they moved past the cavernous living room. Once his door was safely shut, Miles turned to his son. “What’s up?”

“I’m sorry about this morning,” Garrett said without preamble. “I didn’t mean to insinuate that you’re not a good father.”

Miles’ lips twisted a little. “I made plenty of mistakes with you, Gare. Big ones. To be perfectly frank, I’m a little unsure about becoming a parent again. Claudia will do great, of course, but my schedule hasn’t gotten any lighter over the years.”

“It isn’t your fault I was an unstable, egocentric little freak,” Garrett snapped, not wanting to hear his father putting himself down. “Some traits breed true, and that gem came from Mom, no questions there.”

“You weren’t a freak,” Miles said calmly. “You had medical issues that were being overlooked, and I wasn’t giving you the attention you needed. I barely ever saw you, Gare. Who could blame you for doing what you did?”

“I can,” he replied. “It was a stupid, completely selfish thing to do to myself, and afterwards…afterwards, you could have sent me to a nice, discreet rehab center. Instead you quit your work, put your entire career on hold to stay with me for a fucking year. That is not the act of a delinquent father. You might not have been there for every milestone, but you put me first when I needed you and you’ve been there for me ever since. You’re a great father, and any more kids you have will be lucky to get you.”

Miles’ eyes were shining suspiciously, but his voice was reassuringly gruff as he said, “You can’t say that kind of thing to me without advance warning, kiddo, it doesn’t give me time to prepare.”

“Yeah, well, I’m a bastard sometimes.”

“Nope, completely legal.” His father held out one arm and they embraced, briefly but tightly, before the embarrassment got to be too much for both of them and they separated again.

“Are you going to catch a nap before your morning officially starts?” Garrett asked.

“No time,” Miles said, happily transitioning back to safer topics. “I’m supposed to meet with Jezria in two hours and I haven’t looked over the changes she wants to make to the shipping contract yet. I can’t go into that meeting unprepared.”

“Should I let Claudia know you’re in?”

“I’ll wake her up in a moment. Go get some sleep, son, you look beat.”

“Fuck you, I’m fresh as a daisy,” Garrett replied amiably. “I’ll see you later. Dinner out, maybe?”

“It might be better to order in for now,” Miles said cautiously, “just to be safe. But I think some sort of farewell celebration is in order, since you’re leaving tomorrow. Whatever you want.”

“Dinner with you and Claudia and Robbie and Wyl.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

Miles looked at him for a long moment, then shrugged. “As you wish.”

Any Second Now...

That's the refrain going through my head when I contemplate my work at the moment.  Any second now I'll have the sixth part of Pandora done, the third chapter of Shadows and Light will finally be posted on Literotica (it's in the queue), I'll be able to point you towards the I Like To Watch antho with a reasonable expectation that it'll be available (December they told me--it's a big month, though, you know?), and I can do promotion for my stuff coming out in January ( I have some great covers to show you, and yummy excerpts).  Soon.  Very soon.  Like, today soon, for some of it.  I'll let you know, barring any internet catastrophes (which only seem to happen in the middle of the month, so we may have a week or so of wiggle room here).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sequel for Treasured and updates

So, this rocks!

My publisher Pink Petal Books informs me that there are enough sales of Treasured to warrant a sequel with them, which is awesome because I loved writing the main characters and am planning on sending them to Venice to get into trouble next.  Ah, Venice.  City of a thousand smells.  I love Venice, really, but last time I went it was summer, and fragrant.  Whoo.  I'm sending them in the wintertime, because I love them more.

To make my life one big ball of bliss, if any of you visiting haven't checked Treasured out, it's one of my few stand-alone pieces, it's inexpensive and it's a really good story. You can find it here: Treasured at PPB. Cover art to tantalize:

So, very cool, fun for me and hopefully fun for you guys.  In other news...

Pandora is coming...hopefully this weekend.

NaNoWriMo will stop hoarding my creative force at the end of the month and I'll let you know what I was working on.

My story Table Topped in I Like To Watch is coming, huzzah.

Also, and unrelated: my little hand is the perfect size to fit up the back end of a turkey when pulling detritus out!  Thanksgiving was awesome, and all of the men present were happy when I offered to give the detail work a go.  Yes...I'm a giver:)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving is tomorrow...

So, big American holiday Thursday.  My husband and I managed to find a ridiculously expensive turkey (live, naturally) and have taken on the task of being the ones to prepare it for our coalescing American community tomorrow.  And by prepare I mean kill, clean, and cook.  We're learning a lot about fowl right now, in preparation for this momentous occasion.  For example, turkeys might not be the best flyers, but the dudes have a vertical, wing-assisted jump that puts pro basketball players to shame.  When you hobble them to prevent this sort of gymnastic maneuver, they can and will claw you.  Also, they shit incessantly.  Also, neighbors who tolerate the barking of your dog are not all that inclined to tolerate the barking of said dog supplemented by a harmony of turkey gobbling, despite the loudness of their own goats/sheep/pigs/offspring.  Such noise is also not condusive to writing, so I understand their discontent.

I'm trying to do NaNoWriMo, more Pandora and get Shadows and Light beta'd, but at this point I'm shooting for a 33% success rate for the evening.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American visitors! 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Table Topped snippet

Hi there!

We've had a week with no electricity, and suddenly tonight it came back on!  It's time for a celebratory post!  In honor of glorious electricity, I give you a snippet from my short story Table Topped, which comes out in December in the anthology I Like To Watch, from Cleis Press.  Voyeurs and exhibitionists, mmm. There will follow a real pimping post complete with links soon.

PS-This post is R-rated and m/m themed, so go no further if you're feeling particularly PG tonight.

Table Topped

by Cari Z

“What, here?” Michaels exclaims, his voice a lot higher than normal.

“What’s wrong with here?” I murmur in his ear as I pull him close to me again, wrapping my arms around his waist and slipping my fingertips beneath his belt.

“It’s…it’s Mr. Brandt’s office,” Michaels manages. His head is whipping from side to side, taking in everything as though he’s never seen it before. Which, come to think of it, perhaps he hasn’t. Matt Michaels works in accounting, has modest aspirations towards middle management, and a desk covered with pictures of his cat. I’m the vice-president of research and development for our corporation. I’ve been in this office plenty of times, but he’s probably never had reason to before. It’s likely a little intimidating. Lord knows I’ve found it to be so in the past.

“We can’t fuck in Mr. Brandt’s office, Jake,” Michaels hisses. “What if someone walks in? What if he comes in? We’ll both be fired!” Michaels and I have had the occasional interlude before in the workplace, but never in a space quite so…lofty.

“Matthew,” I say evenly as I let one hand drift up to undo his tie, “It’s the evening of the company holiday party. People are probably fucking everywhere right now. In the storage rooms, in the bathrooms, in the goddamn cafeteria…this is the one place we can be sure we’ll be alone. Mr. Brandt has been away on business all week and his secretary doesn’t work nights. We’ll be fine.” I slip his tie off and let it fall to the floor, then start in on his buttons. “Unless you’d prefer waiting in line for the broom closet…”

“No,” Michaels says quickly, leaning his chest into my touch even as his eyes rove over the furniture. I can tell it appeals to him. His nipples are pebble-hard beneath my fingertips and his breathing is fast and shallow. He’s looking at the table. Everyone looks at the table. It’s a goddamn fifteen-foot, lacquered, polished oak phallic symbol. When Henry first put it in I almost laughed myself unconscious.

I get our feet moving in the direction of that table, mindful of providing just the right view. “Do you want me to fuck you here, Matthew?” I purr, stopping my hand after the top few buttons of his shirt are undone. I want to keep some clothes between us, but I love touching his skin as well. Michaels has an incredibly smooth chest, almost certainly the result of careful attention, but so what? I like a man who takes care of himself. He’s a little smaller than I am, a little more slender and ten years younger, but when my hand finally presses against his erection I’m not disappointed. Michaels is just as ready as I am. “Is that what you want? Is this—” I pause and grind my hard-on against his ass, getting a groan out of him, “what you want?”

Monday, November 15, 2010

Blogging and balls

This is a bit of a random post, so please forgive me in advance. 

Guest blogging on Lisabet Sarai's site was very fun, even though I wasn't able to give her my stuff until a day before the post was supposed to go up.  In my defense, the top half of the country had no email access for 5 days, which was maddening but what can you do?  Call someone to complain?  That presumes your phone works.  Still...she was very understanding.  Thanks to whomever visited me there, uber thanks to the commenters (yeah, I'm looking at you, T:) and hopefully next time I'll be more focused.

I got accepted to another antho coming out in January with Torquere, which is lovely...I'll get promo stuff up soon.

And now, not that there are many men who read this blog in all likelihood, but if there are: thank you guys for being the ones to carry the testicles around.  What a pain that must be.  It's on my mind of late because a friend in another village was telling us how they castrate sheep around here, and all the men present were groaning and turning green, and all I could do was think, "I'm so happy that's not me."  And I am.  Kudos to dudes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pandora Post #5

Well, at least I did something productive while I couldn't access the internet...

Title: Pandora

Part Five: Subtle and Overt

Notes: This is the next part of a spin-off story of a series I posted on Literotica (titled Bonded, as Carizabeth) and the subject matter is m/m sci fi. This particular part does have graphic depictions of sex, making it an NC-17 rating, I suppose. The first parts can be found a few posts down. I’ll put them all in the same place soon. Don’t read it if you don’t want to, people. See the above rating! If you do read though, enjoy! If you enjoy, let me know:)

Garrett Caractacus didn’t believe in making decisions in a vacuum. He might habitually radiate inconstancy and caprice, but when it came to the important things he was entirely a scientist, putting far more stock in rationality and research than he did in gut impulses. Garrett weighed facts, tested hypotheses and explored all the available avenues before deciding on one. It was a method that had only failed him once in the past, and that had been less of an abject failure and more of a lose/lose situation.

One the one hand, there was the prospect of going to Pandora. Garrett had prevaricated with his father out loud, but internally he agreed with Miles. Odds were good that he’d be offered the position as the expedition’s climatologist again. Pandora meant a lot of new challenges, which would keep his brain from careening into self-indulgent atrophy. It meant travel, probably not in style but you couldn’t have everything. It meant another nice tag for his résumé, and another chance for him to demonstrate that he was more than a parasite clinging to his father’s career. It meant a good, objective opportunity to assess his life and figure out what had propelled him into his interminable brown study.

On the other hand, he could decline the offer. That opened up a lot of different options, from staying here on Paradise doing nothing to heading back to the central worlds, to finding an exciting lover and cruising for a while, to…Garrett ran out of things. Those things he’d listed were big things, but they didn’t seem very enticing at the moment. After all, he’d had the opportunity to pursue those options for months, and he’d fallen into the first one by dint of sheer ennui. The others just weren’t motivational enough, not even the prospect of new and interesting sex.

Experimentations followed, subtle and overt tests of the malaise that had settled over his life. Garrett spent a lot of time with Wyl, working on his ship. The designs Wyl was engraving into the engine casing, surprisingly fanciful ones for a man who made his living as a mechanic, were beautiful. They were of strange, elegant spires and masques and faces hiding in the patterns. Wyl talked a lot, often about nothing and more often about Robbie, and Garrett listened and responded appropriately and enjoyed the cheerful, often lewd flow of words as the friendly distraction it was. He spent time with Robbie and Wyl together, cooking dinner for the couple and listening to them bicker and play. He occasionally spent time with Robbie alone, not often because the man had almost as much to do as Garrett’s father, but it was always good.

Robbie, who was always honest about what he saw, was nevertheless a little hesitant to bring it up with Garrett, who had politely stonewalled Wyl with general reassurances multiple times. Garrett saw his ex’s hesitation and gave in over a shared slice of cheesecake one night as they watched Wyl work, so deep into his creative space that he wouldn’t stop to sleep if someone wasn’t there to make him.

“I’m working some things out,” Garrett offered abruptly, licking the creamy cake off his fork.

“And how’s that going for you?”

Garrett started to shrug, then sat back and sighed. “I’m afraid I’m growing up. Or growing old. Something like that.”

“The fallback pleasures are really starting to pall, huh.”

“Yeah. Which is quite sad, because if you can’t take refuge in hedonism and live a happy life, what hope is there for the universe?”

“Happy and fulfilled aren’t necessarily the same,” Robbie pointed out, stealing the strawberry off the top of the cake slice.

“Well, they’ve always been synonymous before.”

“Then are you going to take the job on Pandora, and see if you can find a new way to be happy?”

“Maybe,” Garrett replied. “Probably. But first I need to get laid.”

Robbie rolled his eyes. “Why am I not surprised?”

“Seriously. Maybe my angst is part of a vicious, celibate circle. Maybe finding some pretty young thing to fuck is just what I need.” Garrett grinned at Robbie. “I don’t suppose you and Wyl…”


“Of course not. Stick, meet mud. Square peg, here’s your square hole.”

“At least we fit together.” Robbie’s voice was mildly reproving.

“I know you do,” Garrett agreed. “I know you’re good for each other. You’re so disgustingly good for each other that you give Miles and Claudia a run for their money. Do you think you guys will settle here eventually, once the military doesn’t own you body and soul?”

“We’ll see,” Robbie said. “I’ve dragged Wyl around for the past three years; I figure when this tour is over we’ll go wherever he wants.”


The moment stretched with a strange discomfort, until Robbie reached over and laid his hand across Garrett’s. “You’re going to be all right,” he said seriously. “You’re gifted, Garrett, and you’ve got a lot to give. You’re going to find a place that deserves everything you’ve got and everything you are. I know it.”

Garrett turned his hand over and held on to his former lover’s for a moment, unable to find words but unpressured to come up with any. Robbie, like Miles, was good with silences. After a moment they let each other go and finished the cake. Wyl joined them a few minutes later, having finally hit an acceptable stopping point.

“You ate it all?” he exclaimed. “I’m slaving over your damn ship and you can’t even save me a bite of cheesecake? That stuff came all the way from T’s restaurant!”

“There’s more in the apartment,” Robbie reminded him.

“Will you feed it to me?” Wyl asked with a suggestive grin.

“I might be persuaded,” Robbie agreed.

“God damn you both to hell,” Garrett moaned, visions of cheesecake and naked men swimming in front of his eyes. It was a welcome kick to his libido. “Go have your two-man cheesecake orgy, and then please never tell me any of the details, ever. Not even if I beg.” He stood up. “I’m going out.”

“Happy hunting,” Wyl said, grabbing Robbie by the hand and pulling him away from the table. Garrett walked back into his ship alone, but determined not to stay that way. Not tonight.

Sex was another test of his mood, another experiment to analyze. Garrett dressed in skin-tight, dramatically cut clothes of different shades of sapphire and took himself out onto the town. There were a few decent nightclubs in Rapture and Garrett breezed into one of his old haunts like he’d never left, dazzling the bouncer and attendants with smiles as he went inside.

He wasn’t hunting yet; Garrett just wanted to move and be moved against, to be adored and admired like he was accustomed to. The club was filled with people, men and women and others, and the rapid-paced music was simple and primal and easy to dance to. No intimidating waltzes here to put off his plebian friends. Garrett simply melted into the crowd and let go.

More than a few people knew who he was, and more than that saw him and wanted to know him. For the next few hours Garrett drank his fill of the heated press of flesh on flesh, subconsciously assessing each new dance partner before turning to the next. There were those people who came onto him hard, who promised without words control, domination and mindless ecstasy. Garrett had had that before, and it wasn’t what he was looking for now. There were people who begged for domination as well, needy, sultry, sensuous as they ground against him and swayed lower and lower, offering him a tantalizing preview of what they’d look like on their knees. They were fun to play with, but not what he wanted either. Garrett wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but he knew he’d recognize it when he found it.

After a couple hours Garrett went over to the bar, and surprisingly there he found the elusive “it,” because the bartender was possibly the cutest thing he’d seen in months. The young man had very few of the decorations that most of the crowd did, and no visible external enhancements, another thing a lot of people were sporting these days. Personally Garrett considered advertising ones’ preferences like that a little too light on the subtle, but it did make certain hookups easier. This boy didn’t have any buttons or wings or protrusions to stroke, just simple silver makeup on a cute, average face and typical darkly-minded dress sense, all imitation leather and netting. His skin was dusky and his eyes were black, with small silver insets to make them glow in the dim light. Right now those eyes were wide with desire and more than a little astonishment as Garrett singled him out.

He didn’t even have to speak. He just lifted one pale, winged eyebrow in appraisal and smiled, and the young man melted like sugar in a storm. “You…haven’t been in for a long time,” the boy said, a little haltingly.

“Busy times,” Garrett lied easily. “I don’t remember you being back there before.”

“I just got the job a few days ago.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Garrett mimed a pout. “Then you haven’t worked enough to build up leave. And here I was going to ask you to leave with me.”

The young man’s expression turned a little desperate, and openly longing. “I get off shift in less than an hour…or I could ask Philemon to cover me, he’d say yes—”

“No, no,” Garrett said airily, watching the bartender’s face fall and immediately feeling guilty, another thing that so wasn’t him. He liked playing people’s emotions…didn’t he? “I’m happy to wait. One hour?”

“Yes.” Desperation gave way to amazement. “Really? You’ll wait?”

“I said so. What’s your name?”

“Isidore Cain.”

“Isidore. Lovely. I’m Garrett.”

“Oh, I know,” the young man breathed.

Ah, the joys of a reputation. “I’ll be back in one hour, Isidore. I’m going to dance.”

“But…you haven’t ordered a drink yet.”

Garrett smiled charmingly. “I didn’t come over here to order a drink, I came over to talk to you. I’ll be back in an hour.” He swanned back onto the dance floor, pleased with his choice of take-out even though shy Isidore wasn’t normally the sort of guy he went for. Garrett didn’t do shy, he did bold, he did someone who could match him move for move. Isidore, comparatively, seemed too easy.

When Garrett did a one night stand, though, he did it right. As soon as Isidore’s shift ended he was there, and instead of inviting the young man to his ship or inquiring about what was no doubt a less-than-spacious situation on the boy’s end, Garrett got them a room at the best hotel in Rapture, the Carousel. He held Isidore’s hand all the way up the lift, amused at the battle within his date between uncertainty and need. Usually if Garrett hadn’t made a move, at this point his date would be all over him. Isidore clearly wanted it, but just as clearly he didn’t want to do something Garrett might conceive of as wrong. He was so…innocent, and it was completely enchanting.

Garrett thought about that for a moment, considered his game plan and then as soon as their room’s door was shut, he took the young man into his arms and began to kiss him. These were slow, languorous kisses, kisses that fueled the need and the desire without forcing it into explosion. For some reason, that was enough for Garrett tonight. It seemed to surprise Isidore but he got into it, the tension in his shoulders relaxing as he melted into the touch.

“What do you want me to do?” he asked finally, breathlessly, after they’d been standing there kissing for several minutes.

“I want you to enjoy,” Garrett said, flicking his tongue across the hollow of Isidore’s throat, feeling his moan reverberate there. “Tell me what you like.”

“I like everything about you,” Isidore replied with complete honesty. “You’re so…”

Garrett stopped Isidore’s mouth with a kiss. He knew what he was: so…beautiful, gorgeous, sexy, brilliant, selfish, conceited, shallow, shameless. He didn’t want to hear any of that tonight. Garrett was sick of himself. He was sick of people like himself. He wanted to focus on someone nice, someone who he could drive so out of his mind that he’d have to respond honestly to what they did together, rather than putting on a show. He pulled back and pulled his new man with him, over to the large, softly-cushioned bed. He turned the density setting up a little so it wouldn’t fold like feathers beneath them, then moved back to Isidore.

“Tell me what you like,” Garrett husked in the young man’s ear, nipping briefly at his earlobe. “Do you want me to touch you here…” He let his fingers drift over the tight seat of Isidore’s smooth black pants. “Do you want my mouth here…” He brushed Isidore’s cock this time, which was pressed so hard against the confining material of his pants that Garrett almost worried. “Or under here…” He slipped his hand between Isidore’s legs, and captured his lover’s groan with a sudden kiss. “Here, then.”

Garrett took his time undressing his new man, ignoring the blush that flooded his cheeks when some imperfection was exposed. A little bit of a tummy. A scar on his abdomen. Pants that literally needed to be peeled off, which had them both laughing. Garrett pulled himself off of his newly-naked date and went to remove his own clothes, but Isidore stopped him. “Can I?”

“If you want to.” Garrett didn’t want this to be about himself, but after a few moments he realized that getting to undress Garrett was a thrill for his companion. Every golden inch he revealed had the young man captivated, and for the first time in a while Garrett remembered to be grateful he was so beautiful, because it was making someone else happy.

Eventually they were naked and lying down facing each other on the bed, and Garrett took some more time to bring his lover down from the edge, stroking and kissing him without aggression before working him back up. By the time Isidore was trembling with need, Garrett’s own libido was making heat rise in his chest. They hadn’t been at it long, but Isidore didn’t have any implants to shut off an impending orgasm and Garrett didn’t have any toys with him, so he just decided that they’d have a few more rounds that evening and slid his sweat-slick fingertips down Isidore’s cock, past his balls and onto the smooth, tender skin that was his perineum.

“Oh, f—” Isidore’s hands clenched on Garrett’s shoulders, and he threw his top leg over Garrett’s hip, to give his hand more space. “That’s really---god---I like that…”

“Good,” Garrett murmured around a kiss. “Just wait…” He pushed his middle finger gently against Isidore’s hole, reassured when it accepted him easily. He pressed one finger, then two inside the velvety, clinging channel, not to thrust but with just enough reach to massage Isidore’s prostate, and then rubbed his thumb firmly across his lover’s perineum, as though he were trying to join his fingertips together.

Fuck!” Isidore came apart at the seams, bucking forward and bearing down all at once, his limbs clinging desperately to Garrett as he came all over them both. Garrett pulsed his fingertips against the tiny gland, milking it for every ounce of sensation. Just before Isidore’s moans turned painful Garrett eased off, removing his hand once his lover’s grip on him relaxed. Garrett rolled the young man onto his back and kept kissing him, easing Isidore back into the world with a sigh and a smile.

“Oh my god…”

“I’m listening,” Garrett teased.

“You haven’t…you can do anything you want,” Isidore offered earnestly. “I swear I won’t freak out.”

“I did do what I wanted to do,” Garrett replied. “I plan to continue doing what I want to do. As long as you keep wanting it.”

“I can’t imagine not wanting anything you do.”

Either Isidore was very naive or he had an extremely high tolerance for the bizarre. “Don’t say that before you get to know me,” Garrett advised before settling in between the young man’s legs. “Speaking of which…” He rubbed the snub, slick head of his cock against Isidore’s entrance, asking for permission to fuck him.

“God, yes…”

Isidore came two more times before the night was over. Garrett only came once, but it was a long, sweet orgasm, sucked out of his body into Isidore’s tightness and heat to the accompaniment of his name, cried over and over in pleasure before diminishing to breathy whispers.

They had room service sent up breakfast in bed, and when Garrett decided to use Isidore as his plate and suck him off once he was done eating, the young man just laughed and agreed. They showered, dressed and walked back down into the world. Garrett looked fairly normal if flashy in his clinging blue suit, but Isidore’s clubbing clothes seemed a little garish in the light of day. “Next time pack a change of clothes,” Garrett advised with a smile.

“Will there be a next time?” Isidore asked hopefully.

“I’m not going to be here much longer,” Garrett replied honestly, knowing as soon as he said it that it was true. Last night had been wonderful and Isidore was a sweetheart, but he still felt that soul-deep ache that left him unsettled. “I’m taking a contract in the Fringe. But I may come by again before I leave.” Jezria was due back in five more days. Things would get resolved then one way or another,

“Oh.” Garrett watched disappointment and a little hurt flitter over Isidore’s face before it settled into expected resignation. “Well, if you come in I’d love to…see you.”

“If I come in you definitely will “see” me,” Garrett replied, grinning and leaning in for a quick kiss. He made his way back to the governor’s mansion in a good mood and a much more decided frame of mind, heading into his ship to change and relax for a while. Despite his inquietude, Garrett felt good, physically and mentally. Now that he’d made the decision to go, he seemed to have more energy. Of course, that could have been a byproduct of fucking around with Isidore all night, but man could not live on fucking alone. It had been good, really good, just what he needed from that part of his life, but not in and of itself enough. It was time for a total change.

Blogging on Lisabet Sarai's site

But first...

The upper half of the country was without internet/some cell phone service from Sunday until just now.  It's been one of those weeks when work is tough, heat is setting in and you don't want to eat anything, and all you can think it, "Goddammit, I wanna go back to America!"  Land of the cold, home of the wireless.  I know, bitch bitch, Cari, you asked to go to Africa.  You applied to go there, so don't whine now about how tough widdle you is finding it.

Well, fine.  Moving on then.

I'm guest blogging on Lisabet Sarai's blog this Saturday, on the concept of feast or famine in writing and in life.  We're really sprinting towards the famine times chez moi, and it's been on my mind.  Here's a link:  Please visit me there, I'd love to get some comments from my friends and I will respond to you.

Thanks to Lisabet for letting me post!  Even if I am two days late getting it in!  Don't kill me!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pimping my friends...

What, you have friends? *snort*  Yeah, who are they?

Shut up, I so have friends.  Lots of them.  It's just that most of them aren't erotica authors.  Their loss, or possibly our gain if their interests/talents don't run that way.  I don't know for sure.  I haven't spoken about the exciting world of erotica with most of them; it's just not a hot topic here in Togo.

But I do have some writer buddies, and I was updating my links today and thought, "I should mention these people.  Why?  Because they write beautifully, and make me green with envy and ridiculously hot and bothered.  That's the sort of talent that needs to be spread around."  And so.  Just the two of them today, but these people rock.  Our conversations might be only occasional, but they are always enjoyable.

There's Damon Shaw, who not only writes beautifully but also lives in Africa (technically speaking, although he's on a tropical island as opposed to my sub-Saharan savannah).  Find him here:  He published a story in the Myths and Magic anthology from Dreamspinner with co-author Rod Santos that's absolutely gorgeous.

Aaaand there's JL Merrow, who's work is witty, intruiging and occasionally freaking hilarious, completely on purpose too!  She's prolific, so check her site for more of her stuff, but she had pieces in the Making Contact antho from Dreamspinner as well as the Mine anthology just out from Torquere:

Alrighty then.  Gold star for me!  As for getting my rear in gear, I'm working on Shadows and Light, another installment of Pandora and, because it's NaNoWriMo, my alter ego is writing 1667 words a day of something that isn't necessarily destined to be erotica, but will probably end up that way.  I'm blogging on Lisabet Sarai's website next week; a link will be forthcoming.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pandora Post #4

Title: Pandora

Part Four: Family Groups

Notes: This is the next part of a spin-off story of a series I posted on Literotica (titled Bonded, as Carizabeth) and the subject matter is m/m sci fi. The first parts can be found a few posts down. I’ll put them all in the same place soon. Don’t read it if you don’t want to, people. If you do, enjoy! If you enjoy, let me know:)

In a universe where medicine had advanced to the point of near-immortality and genetic manipulation was routine, suicide was a rarity. Deaths occurred, of course. People would be killing people wherever they existed, and accidents certainly happened. In places where there weren’t reputable medical facilities, people’s natural tendencies tended to come through, and in some cases that meant a cocktail of mental illnesses that would make anyone unstable. Then there were the very rare, the naturals, those people who were resistant to genetic manipulation and who couldn’t be helped with prolonging therapies or cured by autodocs. They could die of illnesses that no one even remembered existed.

Many of the old ways of helping people had been lost, drug therapies and counseling abandoned with the advent of re-creationism. The powers that be forgot that society was a bell curve, and the outliers on either side suffered for it. Things slipped through. Perfection, no matter how appealing a concept, was in reality an impossible dream. People died. People killed themselves.

The suicide of Larissa Child had shocked the public. She was a star, a diva, a legend. She was the most gorgeous woman imaginable, had shaped and sliced herself to fit the public’s image since she was a little girl. Her looks changed depending on popular perceptions of beauty, but she was always inherently Larissa Child, always somehow recognizable no matter how many changes she made. When she married a promising young military officer from one of Earth’s oldest families, it was perfectly right. When they had a son, people had sighed with satisfaction. Even stars had normal lives. How lovely. How wonderful. How perfect.

She killed herself when Garrett was three. Miles had been away; he was often away, just like she was. They spent very little time together, and less time together with their son. Garrett was watched over by a flock of caretakers and personal assistants, and the only way he’d known something was wrong was by the sudden flood of tears from the woman pushing his swing as news of his mother’s death came over her com. Stricken, one hand over her mouth, she’d kept pushing him, her hand weak on his lower back as he swung his legs, trying to go higher, and she tried to figure out how to tell a child that his mother was dead.

Garrett remembered being unmoved. The last time he’d seen his mother she’d left behind an impression of shimmering fabric and curling dark hair and warm, too-wet lips pressed to his cheek. That was all. No sound, no smell, no feeling of love or affection. Just a brief, damp kiss and a flash of color. Her death didn’t mean anything to him, no substantial change from the way he’d been before. It did mean that he got to see his father more for the next few months, and that made him happy.

Despite the media hell that had become their lives, Miles must have continued to love his wife. He must still love her in some ways, Garrett reflected as he gazed over at the small portrait on the table just inside the sunroom. Why else would he keep her picture around? Miles joined him at the table a moment later, and Garrett pushed thoughts of his mother aside. “Coffee or bissap juice?”

Miles raised one eyebrow, a perfect imitation of his son’s gesture the night before. “You have to ask?”

“I do have to ask,” Garrett replied smoothly, pouring both of them mugs of rich, dark coffee and ignoring the carafe of purple juice. “I promised Claudia I would.”

“Contrary woman. No problem with alcohol, not in the slightest, but the sight of caffeine sends her running for the hills.”

“In her defense, you prefer coffee brewed strong enough to melt your enamel.”

“It’s still there.” Miles grinned briefly by way of proof, then picked up the mug and drank. Garrett added a little cream to his, then followed suit. They sipped in silence for a while, neither feeling pressure to speak as they watched the suns rise over the horizon in a slow flood of red and gold. Breakfast was brought out a few minutes later.

“She’s sleeping in, I take it,” Garrett said as he spread an embroidered navy linen napkin across his lap. Another of Claudia’s touches. Before they’d used utilitarian white.

“She had a big day yesterday.”

“So did you.”

“I’m used to it,” Miles replied, spreading apple butter across a piece of toast. “She’ll get there, but I’m not in any hurry to make her keep up. The work will wait. Besides, I like to watch her sleep.”

“So soft and sentimental in your old age,” Garrett teased.

“We’ll see how soft I am when I throw your ass off this balcony, kiddo.”

Garrett rolled his eyes. “My mistake. You reek of youth and testosterone. You are as unassailable as some quintessentially unassailable thing, and as far from cutely in love as you are from puppies and kittens. That better?” He cut a bite of his steak and ate, still smirking.

“Brilliant, handsome and an incurable smartass. Where did I go wrong?” Miles threw his eyes heavenward before snorting under his breath. “Shut up and eat.”

Garrett did, and they sat in easy silence for a while longer. Garrett looked at his father, really looked, and decided Claudia was having a good effect on him. Miles looked younger, the lines of his face falling into smiles more naturally, the thick gray of his hair a little longer, a little less severe than before. Despite his myriad of new responsibilities, he seemed more relaxed than he had for years. Garrett was tempted to start teasing him again, but thought better of it and looked back down at his plate, then frowned.

Teasing was standard. Teasing was rote. Garrett loved his father, but he’d long ago decided that the best way they got along was when they were picking at each other, and that pattern had worked for them since he’d been fifteen. If Miles wanted easy, uncomplicated conversation he could go his new wife. Things between father and son were supposed to be comfortably sharp, yet he found he didn’t want to needle his dad into a state of exasperation. Yet another aberration in his recent behavior. Maybe he should get checked out by an autodoc.

Miles, astute politician that he was, noticed but didn’t comment. Instead he finished his eggs, wiped his mouth, poured them both more coffee and said, “Jezria really wants you for the Pandora project.”

“No she doesn’t,” Garrett said automatically, “She just said that to perturb you. Not that I’m performing any desperately necessary tasks here.”

“She seemed pretty sincere to me.” Miles leaned back in his chair stretched out his legs and crossed his ankles, holding his mug of coffee comfortably at chest level as he looked out over his new domain. “She’ll be back in a month or so. If things go the way she thinks they will out there, she’s going to start hiring staff almost immediately.”

“Looking to get rid of me already?” Garrett asked lightly.

“No.” Miles took one hand from his mug and reached over, putting it firmly on top of his son’s where it rested on the table. The look Miles shot Garrett was serious, so serious it made him uncomfortable, but he couldn’t quite make himself pull back. “Absolutely not.” Miles held his son’s eyes for a moment longer, then relinquished his gaze and his hand and returned to his comfortable slouch. “Although I’m surprised you’re not bored out of your skin here.”

“Right, and Pandora would be a noted improvement over Paradise.”

“Pandora would offer its own challenges, and you’ve never been afraid of those. There’s always the central system too, although that,” Miles grimaced, “comes with its own set of problems.”

That was true enough. More civilization meant more people, more notoriety and far less privacy. The fringe was bad enough sometimes. You had to be constantly vigilant on the central worlds, and the way Garrett was feeling off his game lately, that wasn’t a prospect that appealed to him.

“I’ll think about it,” he said at last. “I’ve got some time. I’m not relishing the idea of living with a bunch of fundamentalists, though.”

“Actually, I think Jezria mentioned that the strongest bid was coming from a group of naturals.”

“A group?” Garrett was astonished. “There are enough of them out here to form a group?” Naturals were a vanishing breed as pre-birth technology improved even more.

“Them and their families,” Miles replied.

“Huh.” Well, that would be different. Depressing, but different. Garrett could understand why they’d want to get away, someplace where naturals wouldn’t be treated like glass and kept at a distance. They were so fragile, by comparison to regular humans. So incredibly fragile. They were hard to get close to, when all you could do when you looked at them was think about when they wouldn’t be around, how long you might have, when they might go. Being a natural in a prolonged society was no picnic. “I’ll definitely consider it.”


Claudia joined them soon afterwards, slightly mussed from her slumber and frowning because Miles had let her sleep in. Garrett watched his father gentle his stepmother’s pique until both of them were glowing with affection and decided that discretion was the better part of valor. He took his leave, kissing Claudia’s cheek as he went, and headed to the barracks. Something entertaining was bound to be going on there.

He wasn’t wrong. The barracks were packed, not just with the Marines who weren’t currently on patrol but with a lot of the spare security personnel as well. Apparently there was an exhibition going on. Moving a little closer, Garrett made out the two silver-clad forms going at it on the mat and grinned to himself. Quite an exhibition. It wasn’t every day the average soldier got to watch his commanding officers beat the shit out of each other.

They both wore sparring skinsuits that were calibrated to allow just enough force in, sufficient to stagger but not concuss, enough to make a joint twinge but not break. The suits stiffened to take a joint out of play if they judged enough force had been applied, to add realism to a fight, but neither of the combatants was trying to immobilize at the moment. They were going for pure percussive power.

Garrett sat down next to Wyl on a bench at the edge of the mat, soldiers and security staff melting out of his way without him having to ask. “Robbie feeling a little stressy?” he inquired.

“No, Jane is,” Wyl replied, not taking his eyes off the pair. “She just got word that her grandmother passed away. Jane doesn’t like to let things fester. She had a good cry, then said she needed a good fight and Robbie was the closest she was going to get.”

“Closest, huh?” Garrett turned his attention back to the mat. He didn’t know Jane Freeman all that well. She’d worked with Robbie in the fringe and had a similar background, and when Robbie couldn’t immediately take the position that Miles had offered him a few years ago, Robbie had suggested Jane as a replacement. Jane Freeman was a tall, Amazonian black woman with a doctorate in psychology and decades of service as a Marine. She also had a talent for logistics and getting projects off the ground, and her service had been invaluable to then-General Caractacus as he’d readied his short, victorious war. She was a good commander and a gifted tactician, and she and Robbie split their command duties right down the center when he came on board, with her planning operations and him in charge in the field. It was a nearly-flawless partnership that proved how well they worked together. This morning was showing that they worked against each other just as well.

Jane was a few inches shorter than Robbie but more flexible in the hips, and she used her extra reach there to great effect as one of her powerful legs came whipping around at his head. He moved out of the way but she didn’t snap the kick back, just let her momentum carry her around into a spinning side kick. Robbie took her heel to his midsection but grabbed her foot, throwing it into the air as he swept her plant leg out from beneath her. Jane crashed to the mat but didn’t wait for Robbie to close, hooking his ankle and knee with her feet and levering him brutally to the floor before rolling back to her feet. She wanted to bang, not grapple, and Robbie gave her what she wanted, jamming her next kick and grabbing her behind the head as he slammed his knee repeatedly into her gut. The watchers collectively winced.

“Mother fuck,” Wyl muttered.

“Yeah,” Garrett agreed. They winced again as Jane got her feet under her and thrust up with an elbow to Robbie’s chin, followed by several hooks that send him reeling to the side. “This is supposed to be therapeutic?”

“Fucked if I know.” Wyl glanced over at Garrett. “You have combat mods, right?”

“A present for my sweet sixteen,” Garrett said. “The civilian model, of course, Dad wasn’t about to push me to join up. Can you imagine me in the military?”

“Nah, not enough room for your toiletries in the standard kit.”

“Not even close.” They watched silently as Jane and Robbie beat each other across the floor, occasionally tossing in a joint lock or throw that was too good to pass up, but for the most part just kicking the crap out of each other. The suits were absorbing a lot of the damage, but both of them were slowing down. “How long have they been at this?”

“About thirty minutes.”

Garrett blinked. “Thirty minutes non-stop?” He glanced down at Wyl’s lap and grinned. “Have you had that for thirty minutes as well?”

“I can’t help it,” Wyl grumbled. “He does this to me all the fucking time; it’s not just the sparring. And I’m not the only one in here sporting wood either, this is better than porn for some of these jarheads.”

“Down, boy.”

“Shut the hell up.”

Five minutes later the match ended when Jane got enough distance to scythe a crescent kick up into Robbie’s temple, hitting him hard enough to make the suit flash red, indicating a solid knock-out blow. Robbie was down on one knee, shaking his head a little. He let Jane help him to his feet and they deactivated their suits, then grinned at each other. The audience enthusiastically applauded.

“I’ve gotta get out of here,” Wyl said. “He’s not done, this was just the warm-up before they put the Marines through their paces. If I stay here I’m gonna be hard all fucking day.”

“Come with me,” Garrett suggested. “We can come up with a plan for my ship.”

Wyl looked at him, surprised. “You’re actually going to let me fix her up?”

“Cosmetic improvements only, for starters,” Garrett warned. “The rest is still in the air.”

“Give it time,” Wyl grinned as he stood up. “Once you see what I can do to her outsides, you’re going to beg me to go to work on her plumbing.”

“We’ll see,” Garrett replied, mentally resigning himself to handing tools to Wyl for the rest of the day. There were worse ways to spend his time.