Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Vignette: Dreams and Realities

Notes: A little Garrett and Jonah to wrap up the Academy vignettes! These have been fun for me, and kind of prepped me for next month's story, which will revolve around Kyle Alexander. That being said, next Tuesday I'll be in Japan, so odds are there will be no story post then. I get back the following weekend, and should be able to get on schedule then. Thanks for understanding, and thanks if you picked up a copy of Where There's Smoke! There are a few of you I owe copies to; I'll send those out today.

Title: Vignette: Dreams and Realities

***


“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” – Plato

 

 

Garrett dreamed in four dimensions.

That was what it felt like, at least. He’d taught himself to lucid dream as a teenager, a therapy suggestion from one of his more open-minded psychologists. After going through the typical chain of events: flying, fucking every hot person he could dream up, killing his enemies and generally exercising all the darker parts of his id, Garrett went back to the beginning of the process and trained himself on not just how to lucid dream, but how to make it into a planning exercise.

Dreams were a wonderful place to work out strategies, test different variables and generally make a mess of things before you had to in the real universe. Not that there weren’t plenty of computer programs designed specifically to help someone account for all possible outcomes and prepare accordingly, but those always had an electron trail, no matter how hard you tried to hide it. Hacking was hard to do, given that most people used implants and had biological firewalls in place that couldn’t be duplicated, but there were no guarantees. Garrett couldn’t risk it, so he used his dreamtime instead. He researched outcomes, played out Senate votes, took the entire Federation to war, and then did it all again.

It was exhausting. It was depressing. It wore on him, because the deeper he dug, the more evident it became that there was only a slim chance, the slimmest really, that he and Miles would be able to get their constituents out of the current crisis without resorting to at least a shadow war. Hell, the war was already happening, feints and lies pushing planets on and off of the board, empty platitudes filling the comm waves as more outliers were destroyed. How long would it be before Pandora was next? Or Paradise?

There were so many variables Garrett just didn’t know, and others he couldn’t accurately predict and control for. He would do his best, but what if Kyle died in prison before Garrett could get him out? What if the tide of sympathy turned and went against him, as President Alexander was working so hard for? What if the “pirates” stepped up the pace of their attacks before everything had been worked out with Admiral Liang? Without adequate ships there would be no adequate defense. What if, thanks to Garrett’s inattention, he got someone killed? What if it was his son, or his husband…what if…

He woke up to Jonah’s hands hot on his shoulders, shaking him gently. “Garrett! C’mon, honey, open your eyes.” He did, and saw Jonah’s face bent close to his, worry in every familiar line of it. Garrett opened his mouth to speak, but his throat felt strangely hoarse.

“What?” he finally managed to ask.

“You were screaming, darlin’.”

Well. That explained it. “Shit.” Garrett lifted his hands—they felt heavy somehow, much heavier than flesh and bone should—and pressed them to his eyes, then briskly rubbed his face. “I’m sorry.”

“You have a nightmare?”

Garrett grimaced and shook his head. “Planning session gone wrong,” he said, tapping his temple. Jonah frowned.

“You’ve been doin’ that every night for the past two months. Don’t you think your brain could use a break?”

“There’s no time for a break,” Garrett said bitterly. “I wish there was. I wish I was going to Perelan with you.”

“I wish you were too.” Jonah looked like he wanted to add something, then got up instead and poured a glass of water, which he brought back to the bed. “Drink a little, darlin’.”

Garrett sat up and sipped, cooling the burn in his throat. “Thanks.”

“It’s nothin’.” Jonah brushed lank hair out of Garrett’s sweaty face, his long fingers lingering against Garrett’s cheeks. Pain and paranoia suddenly gripped him, and Garrett set the water down and threw himself at Jonah, pressing him back onto the bed and covering him as much as he could with his own body.

“Garrett?” Jonah didn’t push him off, didn’t tell him no, just reached up and held him tight, pulling him even closer. It couldn’t be close enough, as far as Garrett was concerned. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t…I don’t know…” Fuck, was he hyperventilating? What was this? “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he forced out before his throat closed almost entirely. Ah, that was what it was. Panic attack. It had been years, but he remembered the fear that came along with them, the desperation with no outlet.

“Garrett, it’s okay, breathe.” Jonah smoothed his broad hands over Garrett’s back. “It’s okay. You don’t have to know anything, just breathe with me. Deep inhale.” He inhaled and Garrett felt his own chest rise with it, and did his best to mimic it. “And out,” Jonah sighed, and they kept it up for minutes, maybe hours, until Garrett could breathe on his own again.

“When’s the last time you went to Regen, darlin’?” Jonah asked quietly once it was over.

“Just a few days ago. This isn’t a brain chemistry thing,” Garrett replied. His body trembled with exhaustion, but he couldn’t go back to sleep yet. It wouldn’t help. “It was a panic attack. Too many variables in my head, no way to make things happen the way they have to.”

“You can’t take responsibility for everything that goes on in the universe,” Jonah told him.

“I should be able to,” Garrett snapped. “I’m in a position of power, I have allies and I have means. If I’m not able to take a stand that creates change, what good am I?”

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it. You’re doin’ everything you can, absolutely everything, to make things better for the Fringe planets. You’re doin’ more than anyone else I can think of except maybe your dad. You’ve gotta let the rest of it just happen, darlin’. Making yourself panic about things that you can’t do anything about is just gonna end with you making yourself sick, and if you do that I’m not going anywhere.”

Garrett shook his head. “You’ve got to go back to Pandora and start getting them prepped to leave. You’re the one who made all the arrangements with the Drifters; if you’re not there, the deal will fall apart.”

“If you need me, I’m stayin’ here.” Jonah kissed Garrett’s forehead. “And that’s not a threat. Jack can be trusted to handle things without me if need be.”

“You can’t trust him as far as you can throw him,” Garrett muttered, and Jonah chuckled.

“I always liked that saying. Doesn’t make much sense now though, does it? Could throw him forever in zero-g. And Jack’s not that bad. He wants Cody to like him; he’s not gonna give up on Cody’s home planet.”

“He wants you to like him,” Garrett said, but it was a weak complaint. Jack could want all he wanted—Garrett knew he never needed to worry about his husband’s fidelity.

“I like him fine. I don’t love him, though. Not anymore.”

Garrett lifted his head and looked at Jonah. They’d been together for thirteen years now, a tiny amount of time given the potential span of their lives, but still the longest personal relationship Garrett had ever had. He’d never expected to find someone like Jonah, someone who he never got tired of, someone who he never stopped missing when he went away, instead of feeling relieved to have time to himself again. Marriage was a quaint tradition by modern standards, contracted partnerships carrying all the benefits and none of the Old Earth baggage, but marriage had felt right for them. It still felt right, to call this man his husband, to think of him as one half of their whole. How could he love someone so much? How was he going to bear it when Jonah went away?

“It gets harder and harder,” Garrett said at last, “to let you go.”

Jonah nodded somberly. “I know it. I hate to leave you here without me. This…” he stroked his long fingers down Garrett’s throat, his eyes troubled, “this is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night when I’m not here. I trust you with everything I am, but you don’t always remember to take care of yourself the way I wish you would.” He leaned up and pressed a kiss to Garrett’s adam’s apple. “Use your journal while I’m away, darlin’? And read the messages. I’ll add to ‘em whenever I can.” The messages were a more recent tradition between the two of them, little notes, either physical or electronic, that they passed back and forth with no warning. They were sometimes mundane, sometimes romantic and always very welcome. Garrett had saved every one of them, and he read them often, sometimes out loud to Jonah.

“I will.” He’d have to if he were going to survive what might be months of separation. Comm calls just weren’t the same, and neither of them were interested in intimacy surrogates. Human, machine or something in between on offer, Garrett still just wanted Jonah.

“And get some normal sleep, please. Every now and then. Your big brain needs a chance to relax.”

“Sure, dad.”

Jonah grinned suddenly. “Didn’t know that was a kink you wanted to explore, honey.”

Garrett felt his face heat. “Well, I guess it is now,” he muttered, because…okay, yeah, he could get into a little roleplaying with Jonah. “Maybe later, though.” As much as he always wanted his husband, as ready as he was to make love, right now Garrett wanted nothing more than this, just this. He stretched out again and kept his head on Jonah’s shoulder, closed his eyes and listened to his husband’s steady heartbeat, laid his hand on Jonah’s stomach and felt the tiny vibrations of his digestive tract, all the biological processes that meant that Jonah was alive. Garrett inhaled deeply, the faint scents of sweat and sleep and freshly-washed hair filling his nose. He should bottle that scent, keep it on hand so he could have it whenever the longing got too fierce.

Garrett pressed a kiss to Jonah’s chest. “I love you.”

“Love you too, darlin’. More than anything.” It was spoken with the silent understanding that Cody came first, but that was a different type of love. Cody was their child, but Jonah was Garrett’s mate, the bond separate and special. Garrett had that, and he knew it. He’d do his best to hold it close, these next few months.

“Get some sleep,” Jonah said, and Garrett listened.

This time there were no dreams.

Monday, April 27, 2015

New Release: Where There's Smoke

Hi guys!

I'm super excited today, way more excited than I should be on a Monday, because my supervillain novella Where There's Smoke comes out today! You can find it on Riptide's site here: http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/where-theres-smoke or on Amazon here: Where There's Smoke. I'm really happy with how it came out, and of course the cover is awesome.

There's a blog tour going on for it this week, and if you comment and enter you could win a paperback copy of Rules To Live By, an M/M BDSM anthology with my last story for Riptide in it.

Today: supervillains, tomorrow: Academy vignette! You can't lose here, people ;)



Panopolis is a rough place to be an average Joe. I came here looking for adventure and excitement, but nobody cares about one more normal guy in a city filled with super-powered heroes. The closest I’ve come to glory is working in a bank that villains often rob.
But then I maybe accidentally-on-purpose helped a villain escape the hero who was trying to save the day. Imagine my shock when, a week later, that villain asked me out for coffee. One date turned into more, and now I’m head over heels in love with Raul.
Falling in love with the guy dubbed the Mad Bombardier isn’t without its downsides, though. I’ve had to deal with near-death encounters with other villains, awkwardly flirtatious heroes who won’t take no for an answer, and a lover I’m not sure I can trust. It’s getting to the point where I know I’ll have to make a choice: side with the heroes, or stand fast by my villain.
Either way, I think my days as a normal guy are over.
- See more at: http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/where-theres-smoke#sthash.MkRcnwzd.dpuf


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Vignette: Planetary Chess

Notes: Wow, this got plotty. I've got major stuff coming up in the Academy universe, folks. Stuff I didn't even realize was going to happen until it came out of my fingertips. Writing is so weird. Anyway, enjoy some Jason time, with additional Cody and Garrett and Ferran for good measure.

Title: Vignette: Planetary Chess


***


Jason Kim had never wanted children. An only child himself, he’d been perfectly content in his solitude, the companionship of his parents the only break in the quiet that he needed. He’d never had many friends, better at cultivating casual acquaintances than deeper relationships. The military had been a perfect fit for him: a firm hierarchy of command, everyone knowing their role and their duty and proceeding in accordance with it. Jason had made the military his career, and at the time had thought to prolong it indefinitely.

                He hadn’t counted on his capture, a shocking development resulting from a relatively small interplanetary conflict that escalated into actions more brutal than he’d ever imagined. In the slave pens where he and his fellow Federation soldiers were taken, there was no order of rank to protect those with different strengths. There were only the physically supreme slaves ruling over the weak, and the implacable fists of their overseers barely keeping the anarchy at bay.

                Jason existed as a prisoner of war for a little over a standard year. He’d gone from a decorated military officer known for his cool demeanor and tactical expertise to little better than an animal, scrounging for whatever power he could wrest from his wretched peers. It was barely a comfort that he’d never killed or raped anyone weaker than him in that place. His life certainly would have been easier if he had, it would have helped him stake his claim to have followers, but he hadn’t been able to do it.

That restraint, shallow thing that it was, hadn’t kept him from brutally defending himself against anyone who came after him. He’d maintained his status as a loner despite the attacks of his enemies and the entreaties of other slaves who’d wanted to ally with him. He had turned away supplicants and beaten his assailants, sometimes killing them. By the time the war was over and they were rescued, Jason barely recognized himself anymore.

Therapy and some time in the ReGen tanks had evened out his temperament again, but Jason had never forgotten his own sense of helplessness and shame, couldn’t forget it. He’d been directly responsible for killing five people and indirectly responsible for who knew how many more deaths, by not extending his protection to those who asked for it. His counselor had talked him through the path of his grief and guilt, gradually bringing Jason around to the fact that he wasn’t to blame, but some truths weren’t meant to be a relief. There was no assuagement of honor to be had in lacking objective blame.

Going back to the military had ended up an impossibility. Instead Jason found work as a commercial ship captain, calm and mundane, regimented and easy to understand. He’d made some friends, taken a lover and lost him again, and then…he’d met Ferran. And his calm and mundane life had dissolved into smoke, never to be found again.

Jason had never wanted children, but he felt he understood them better now. House Grenn had many cubs and they latched onto his presence, perhaps because of his stillness, perhaps because they knew he genuinely liked them thanks to their latent empathy. They became his family, Grennson especially, and letting his foster son go away to the Federation Academy had been surprisingly wrenching.

“It is time for him to go apart,” Ferran had told him reassuringly. “All young Perel do something of this nature. It is to our benefit. It certainly was to mine,” and here he’d grinned, and his quills had fluttered appealingly. “It is how we met, of course.”

Jason had laughed ruefully. “I know.” He kissed his husband on the lips, touched the skin at the base of Ferran’s neck where he was most sensitive and let their building ardor distract him from the fact that, while Jason did know what was happening was for the best, it didn’t make him feel any better about it.

He’d adapted to the loss, of course, and then…then Grennson came home for a visit. And he brought friends. Very human, excessively challenging friends.

Darrel at least was easy, and thank god for that. He had a handle on the language that made him incredibly popular among younger Perel, and he and Grennson were inseparable, so his integration came more quickly. Darrel loved Perelan, it showed in everything he did, and it loved him right back.

Ten was…well, Jason had known what they were in for with Ten, the kid was Grennson’s quadmate and Jason had been getting reports about them all year from Admiral Liang, so of course he knew about Ten. That Ten was somewhere between “spoiled brat” and “genuine force of nature” hadn’t been as plain until he’d finally met hir. Honestly, who experimented with acid in a closed environment like a small passenger ship? Worse yet, who hacked into Jason’s controls and made the computer lie to its pilot about what was going on? Ze’d been lucky the damage hadn’t been worse. Ten was a handful, and Jason had been more than happy to pass direct guardianship of hir off to the twins. They had similar personalities; if anyone could handle Ten it was them.

And finally there was Cody. Sweet, smart, kind Cody who’d been born with a birth defect that couldn’t be fixed. Who’d come to Perelan expecting to join in the fun and instead been relegated to a vacation spent largely indoors because the planet was just too harsh for him. Who’d ended up finding Jason, thankfully, and Jason felt a little bad about that because it shouldn’t have been Cody’s responsibility to find him. Jason was his temporary guardian, he should have interceded earlier, and he hadn’t.  It had ended all right, but…

He could soothe himself with the knowledge that even curtailed, he was hardly Cody’s only source of entertainment on Perelan. Even setting Ten apart, there was plenty for Cody to do, including, right at this moment, telling his parents all about he’d been up to for the past week. The call had come through while Jason had been going over the main strategies of the Battle of Ideyria with Cody, and he’d made himself scarce while Cody took the call over Jason’s own holoscreen. He was far enough away to hear the tenor of voices but no details. Ferran was in session with his mother, so Jason settled into a chair and read a book on his tab.

He made it through two chapters before Cody called him back into the study.

“Garrett wants to talk to you,” Cody said. “Do you mind if I…”

“By all means, go keep Ten from burning down the den,” Jason said, and Cody grinned wide.

“I’ll do my best!” He took off and Jason settled himself in front of the screen.

Garrett’s sharp face smiled at him. “Captain Kim.”

“Doctor Helms,” Jason replied, seeing the minute crinkle at the corner of Garrett’s eyes that assured him his friend still enjoyed being reminded of his name change. “Cody’s healthy,” he continued, assuming that was what Garrett wanted to discuss. “We’re still careful about going outside, but he’s been plenty busy and seems to enjoy it.”

“I know,” Garrett said. The smile fell off his face. “Actually, I want to talk to you about something other than Cody.”

That didn’t bode well. Jason straightened his back. “What is it?”

“What I’m about to tell you is strictly confidential.”

“I understand.”

“Good.” Garrett took a deep, fortifying breath. “Rosalee is gone.”

Rosalee… Oh wait, not a person, a planet. A planet in the Fringe, its pinkish color the result of highly corrosive minerals deposits that were nevertheless extremely valuable in the right industries. Rosalee had a small mining community on one of its poles, the only place that could readily support human life, but beyond that there wasn’t much there. “A pirate attack?”

“Supposedly. But I have evidence that the Federation not only knew that this attack was going to happen, it knew six weeks out and did nothing about it.” Garrett’s mouth twisted bitterly. “Even given that it’s an obvious shell game between the Central System politicians and the representatives from the outer planets, there still should have been some sort of alarm raised. If only for the sake of appearances.”

“If this evidence is private, there’s no reason for them to suspect they’d need to fool anyone,” Jason pointed out.

“That’s just it, it’s not going to stay private. It was never intended to. This is the next step in the culture clash that’s sweeping the Federation, the open acknowledgement that some planets just aren’t worth making an effort for. Some people will be shocked but far too many are just going to go along with it. It’s the mentality of the Central System, Jason. I can’t tell you how many people I work with have simply succumbed to the idea of a caste society, with them at the top.”

Jason frowned. “What can I do?”

“I want you to broach the possibility of Perelan as a sanctuary planet to the Matriarchs.”

Oh…heavens. “That will be a very hard sell,” Jason said carefully. “The Council of Matriarchs is making progressive moves, but there’s progress and then there’s total upheaval.”

“It doesn’t have to be for a lot of people,” Garrett argued. “There were fewer than three thousand settlers on Rosalee. Hell, Pandora has less than a thousand.”

“There have never been more than a dozen humans on Perel at any one time, thousands are still an exponential increase. The Matriarchs won’t go for it, Garrett.”

“You have to convince them to.” Garrett leaned forward, his blue eyes disconcertingly bright. “It’s imperative to the survival of their planet. The Central System is rigidly exclusionary, and while it’s possible the powers that be would just ignore Perelan in their quest to ‘simplify’ the Federation, there’s also every chance they’d swing by and rain destruction down on it from space, to put an end to ‘alien fraternization’ once and for all. You know how bigoted some of these people can be.”

Yes, Jason knew. He and Ferran had been the targets of slights, insults and a few outright attacks in their time as ambassadors. “How would turning Perelan into a sanctuary prevent it from being attacked?” he asked. “If anything, that would seem to invite intervention by the Federation.”

“Not necessarily. It all depends on perception. If the timing is right, Perelan could be viewed as the resolution to the Senate’s problems, not a problem in and of itself. They want to deal with refugees? Let them! And, more importantly, it gives us an excuse to mass ships around the planet that could be used in its defense.”

Jason wondered for a moment what it would be like to play chess against Garrett as he weighed the options. “What kind of timescale are we looking at here?”

“No sooner than one year, no longer than five.”

That was fast. Not, perhaps, completely undoable, but fast. He’d have to speak to Giselle Howards, his foster mother. He’d have to speak to Grenn. Hell, he really had to speak to Ferran, to see if there was some way to accommodate a flood of refugees that wouldn’t also throw the society of Perelan into complete disarray.

“You’re convinced this is going to happen.”

Garrett sighed. “I’m doing everything I can to ensure that it doesn’t, but at this point I’m going to be lucky to break even and prevent outright war. Jonah is preparing to head back to Pandora as we speak, to start getting things mobilized there. We’re calling it precautions against ‘marauders.’ Do you mind if he stops by Perelan on his way? He wanted to visit with Cody before…” Garrett’s voice trailed off, and Jason felt a sharp pang of sympathy for the man. He was going to be separated from his husband for who knew how long, with the prospect of war and death looming over both of them. It had to hurt.

“Of course. He just has to comm me when he’s getting close, I’ll arrange everything.”

“Thank you.”

“It’s the least I can do, Garrett.”

Garrett nodded briskly. “Well then. I’d better let you get back to your day. Give Cody a hug for me.”

“I will.” They disconnected, and immediately Ferran’s emotions flooded into Jason’s mind. Naturally he’d felt Jason’s confusion; they had a deep empathic link, one that Ferran was far better at controlling. Now that Jason was off the comm, Ferran reached out. Jason felt his /curious-questioning-love. The last was like a warm caress to the side of Jason’s cheek, and he sighed with relief as he slumped a little in his chair.

/Urgency-difficulty, he sent back, then /love, because he did, at moments like these he loved Ferran so much, loved the connection they had and the illogical way it made Jason feel so much better.

/Home. Ferran was leaving the meeting and coming home. They could talk, they could plan together, and he would help Jason work out what needed to be done.

/Gratitude-love, he sent back, then headed for the library.

Surely there had to be an abandoned House den in Beranzen somewhere.

Monday, April 20, 2015

My Website Is Updated. No, Really!

No, honest to God, I swear it's updated! Most of it, anyway. A few pages aren't, but the big ones, the home page and the works page and all the links, those are.

For newcomers (as in, people who started following me in the last three years) you'd best understand that I'm something of a Luddite. As a kid, I'd make my baby sister work the VCR for me. As an adult, I ignored the magnitude of what it would take to maintain a website and ended up losing all my setups when a computer went kablooie, and after that just...didn't go back.

The dark age is over! My man, sick and tired of my kvetching, helped me--for the last time, he tells me--update the website and figure out how to make it so I can do it too. And it's actually way easier now, thanks to web design tools that let me cut and paste instead of relying on my knowledge of asp and html. Which...yeah. No.

You can find me here: cari-z.net.

Boo-yah.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Vignette: Sample Size, Pt. 2 of 2

Notes: Here we have the sexy times I skipped last week! Explicit sex below, please don't read if you're offended by such things. Ten and Cody, oh my gosh, you two...and I'm getting so many ideas for the rest of this universe, when will it end?

It might never end... O_O

Title: Vignette: Sample Size, part 2 of 2.


***
 

There were time, Ten thought, when ze thought ze could be perfectly happy just rubbing hirself all over Cody for hours. There was something about the skin to skin contact that made hir feel…better. Not that ze ever felt really bad, that wasn’t what this was about, but there was something to be said for the old psychological tern skin hunger, that gnawing need for affection that could mostly be treated with targeted medical treatments and comforting additions to a person’s environment. In the early days of space exploration, before the invention of FTL engines, cryosleep had been the only way to assure a lone explorer didn’t suffer from massive depression and anxiety on their journey.

Naturally that time was referred to as a technological dark age at this point, and there were many developments in the field of preventative and restorative psychotherapy that took care of such odd, lizard-brain needs. Still, there was something undeniably special about the feeling of touching someone, and the pleasure it gave. Or rather, there was something special about touching Cody. Ten could think of plenty of people ze’d rather eject out of an airlock before coming into contact with.

They were naked in their bed, but Ten had decided against letting Cody shower. He smelled and tasted like sweat, hardly the worst thing in the world, and there was something appealing about having him while he was all messy and tired. Cody was more pliable when he was tired, less eager to please and more amenable to whatever Ten wanted, which right now was for him to stay still while ze had hir way with him. Ten sprawled across Cody’s body, chest to chest, hir hands roaming all over his torso and hips while ze licked and nipped at his neck. Ze felt every rise and fall of his chest, heard the slight hoarseness of his voice that came from working out too hard with Jason, and reveled in the way his breath hitched when ze sucked his earlobe into hir mouth.

“Ten…c’mon…” His hands smoothed restlessly up and down hir back, and Ten bowed into the caresses like a catterpet. “Let me just…”

Ze let go of his ear and kissed his open mouth. “No,” Ten said sweetly.

“Oh, come on!” Cody hitched his calves up around Ten’s knees and rubbed their groins together. “Just, we could like this, I’m so…”

Ten pulled back and Cody let hir. “Nope.”

Cody’s head flopped back on the bed as he groaned. And people thought Ten was the dramatic one? “You’re so mean.”

Ten knew that Cody didn’t mean it, but the words still struck a bit of a sore spot. Ze’d been accused of a lot of things over the years and mean was the mildest of them, but it still bothered hir. “No, I’m not.”

Cody, being the adorable idiot that he was, immediately agreed, as though Ten needed that kind of instant reassurance. “Of course you’re not.” And, well, maybe ze did, because it did make Ten feel better. "I meant to say wicked,” Cody continued with a blithe grin. “Because you won’t let me do anything when all I want is to suck you.”

Ten felt hir cheeks pink, and that was just ridiculous and didn’t bear thinking about. “That’s what I’m going to do, you just…” Ze leaned back in and pressed hir hands against Cody’s shoulders, pushing him deeper into the mattress. “Stay there. Just stay and let me. Okay?”

“Anything you want.”

How could he just…in that tone of voice…Ten hadn’t ever thought ze’d get more pleasure out of someone not arguing with hir over something. Fighting for what ze wanted was in hir blood, and it was still strange to Ten that Cody just gave it to hir, like ze’d done anything to deserve it. “You’re impossible. I don’t know how you’re parents put up with you.”

“Oh fuck, did you have to mention my parents right now?” Cody pressed his palms to his eyes. “Arg, there go my sexy thoughts. Oh my god, Ten, why?”

Ten smirked and shimmied down Cody’s body, always touching him, before ze settled in between his legs on hir knees. Cody wasn’t the biggest person Ten had ever gone down on, and he was far from the hardest to please, but for the first time in hir not-inconsiderable sexual experience, it became about something other than competing with the other person to see who would keep control the longest, who could do the most damage the quickest, who won the encounter. It was about making Cody happy, about making both of them happy. It was stupidly novel, and Ten hoped that the strange delight of it never wore off.

Ze spread Cody’s legs further, tracing hir small hands against the inside of his thighs and the curve of his hipbones and delighting in the way his body reacted, skin hot and slick, cock red and hard. Ten decided to be merciful, which was a trait ze generally held in reserve just for Cody, and wrapped one of hir hands around him. Ze leaned in and licked the head, sucking it slowly into hir mouth, then lowered hir mouth down until it met hir hand. Cody groaned like he was dying, the sound even rougher than usual thanks to the ruin of his throat, and if Ten hadn’t already been aroused that would have done it for hir. Ze ignored hirself, though, and went back to teasing Cody, sucking and jerking him slowly while ze toyed with his balls and pressed against his perineum. Ze didn’t penetrate him, wouldn’t without a lot more preparation, but ze stroked across his hole with hir thumb, a steady, smooth pressure that made Cody’s legs twitch around hir.

Skin hunger…this wasn’t the way the term was meant to be applied, Ten knew that, but kneeling here with Cody’s cock in hir mouth, his fragile control coming apart at the feel of Ten’s ministrations, it felt like the only correct way to think about it. Ten hungered to have Cody inside of hir like this, his body straining to connect and surround and subsume. He was leaking, slick precome sticky inside hir mouth and Ten was more than ready for it. Ze wanted everything Cody could give her, everything, now and tomorrow and forever. Ten tightened hir grip and sucked him hard, and Cody swore and arched his back and came in hir mouth, his hips making tight little thrusts as he spent himself.

Ten waited for him to finish, wrung the last drop out of him before ze spread hirself against his body again, connected from the tops of their feet to their lips, desperate to feel as much of him as humanly possible. Ze was so aroused just the press of their bodies like this was a sweet, zinging torment but Ten didn’t want to come, ze just wanted to get closer, was desperate to close every gap and never let this end, never, they could just ride the edge like this and be together and Ten would make Cody happy, ze could, ze could actually make someone happy and that someone was Cody and Ten had never wanted anything so much in hir entire life.

Ten didn’t even realize ze was making any noise until Cody’s words finally started to penetrate hir brain: “It’s good, we’re fine, we’re good, oh fuck, Ten…hang on, let me…” He rolled them over and Ten whined, but it was even better this way, the weight of Cody’s body bearing hir down into the soft swell of the mattress and holding hir there while he moved his hand over hir sensitive nipple, thumb stroking it gently before he replaced his hand with his mouth. He reached down and stroked hir cock and that shouldn’t have been enough to make hir come, Ten had better control than that, ze knew how to win at sex and you didn’t give the other person such easy satisfaction, but this wasn’t about winning. It was about being with Cody, and he gave hir exactly what ze needed and as wonderful as a blowjob would have been, his hand was all it took.

Ten wrapped hir arms around Codys’s head and came, holding him still as ze shuddered through hir ogasm. He stroked and petted hir through it, always touching as much of hir as he possibly could, and it was so good. Endorphins made hir mind go warm and floaty, and Ten relaxed hir grip enough for Cody to move back up beside hir and share the pillow.

“That was fun.”

“Hmm,” Ten replied.

“I’ll spar with Jason three times a day if this is the result.”

“Hmm—wait. How many times a day do you spar?”

“Usually twice. Sometimes just once,” Cody said with a little shrug.

“How does he have the time for this? Doesn’t the man have a job?”

Cody chuckled. “I asked him that. Apparently he has a lot less to do when they’re on Perelan than when he and Ferran are out touring the galaxy. He’s been working with me on a lot of stuff, and of course we teach the kids together.”

“What else have you been working on?”

“A lot of different stuff. Small group tactics. Hand-charting courses and calculations for interstellar travel. That sort of thing.”

Ten frowned. “Why would you ever need to chart a course by hand? That’s what navigation systems are for.”

“I told him that, but he just made that face he makes—you know the face—”

“Oh yeah.” Jason Kim’s I am not amused face was the archetype of imperturbable.

“And then of course I did it anyway. It’s going to be part of my navigation course in school second term anyway, I might as well get a head start on it.” Cody kissed Ten’s shoulder, and Ten shuddered again. Stupid body. “Did you have fun in the forest?”

“I got some excellent samples.”

“Yeah?” Cody lifted his head. “Want to take a shower and then show them to me?”

And all Ten could do was stare helplessly at this smiling, messy-haired, completely ridiculous boy and nod hir head.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Where There's Smoke is up for pre-order!

Hi guys!

Okay, this is a lot of info all at once, no nice slow cover reveal in advance, no cute teaser blurb, just all the information coming right at you, whoosh. It's okay, we got this.

My super villain novella Where There's Smoke is available for pre-order at Riptide Publishing! You can find it here: http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/where-theres-smoke



Look at it! Isn't it beautiful? *swoon* Where There's Smoke officially comes out on April 27th! I'm so excited about this story, I'm finishing the sequel up as we speak. Yep, it's turned into a series, which is...just...whoa, what? So amazing. I hope you guys like it.

Want a blurb? I've got one for you, darlins.

***

Panopolis is a rough place to be an average Joe. I came here looking for adventure and excitement, but nobody cares about one more normal guy in a city filled with super-powered heroes. The closest I’ve come to glory is working in a bank that villains often rob.
But then I maybe accidentally-on-purpose helped a villain escape the hero who was trying to save the day. Imagine my shock when, a week later, that villain asked me out for coffee. One date turned into more, and now I’m head over heels in love with Raul.
Falling in love with the guy dubbed the Mad Bombardier isn’t without its downsides, though. I’ve had to deal with near-death encounters with other villains, awkwardly flirtatious heroes who won’t take no for an answer, and a lover I’m not sure I can trust. It’s getting to the point where I know I’ll have to make a choice: side with the heroes, or stand fast by my villain.
Either way, I think my days as a normal guy are over.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Vignette: Sample Size, Pt. 1 of 2

Notes: Okay, before you read through this and want to kill me, note that this is part one of two! There will be more next week, and it will include the sexytimes that I didn't quite get to this time. More Cody and Ten, yay!


Title: Vignette: Sample Size, Part One of Two

 
*** 

 

                If Ten believed in reincarnation, which ze certainly did not but it was a quaint concept that was diverting enough occupation for hir brain for an afternoon or two, then ze might have wanted to be reincarnated as a carnivorous plant. Because honestly, the physics of the things, their anatomy and physiology, the arc of their evolution—it was utterly fascinating.

Ten generally wasn’t much for botany or zoology; what was flesh and blood or its floral equivalents when compared to the endless possibilities that came from chemistry and bioengineering? But these things…they were different. They were special. They were fast, and not just in a reflexive way either.

“Look at it!” Ten exclaimed as the plant closest to the factory that harvested phosphorescence snapped up a beetle. “Look at the speed of its offensive reflex! Has their reactivity been measured? The tensile strength of their cells? The hydraulic pressure inside of them? Because it has to be off the charts by comparison to similar species. You could potentially completely redesign combat power suits off of the information you could get out of one of those.”

“Is there nothing you don’t think you can improve?” Neyarr asked with a smile. He was one of Ferran’s cousins, and one of the few Perels who had traveled across Federation space for the span of a year before coming back to do his duty to his House by marrying. He and his brother Parrell had been offered by their Matriarch as guides and mentors to Ten, Darrel and Cody while they were here. Ten and Darrel had found them very useful for going places that Grennson didn’t have clearance yet, including out a ways into the forest to observe the wildlife.

Ten quashed the little surge of guilt ze felt over having left Cody back in House Grenn’s family compound, again. One day in three wasn’t very much time for him to get out, and even then they had to be careful in case his exposed skin started to abrade. Cody didn’t say a word about it because that was the sort of martyr he could be, but Ten knew it bothered him to be left behind. Or at least it had last week. This morning, he’d been downright cheerful to see them go.

“I’m good here,” he’s insisted over a cup of lhossa tea. “There are plenty of things for me to do.”

“Are you sure? Because I don’t have to go out today,” Ten had offered.

Cody laughed. “Are you kidding me? You would pout all day if you didn’t get to go poke around in the forest, you’ve been looking forward to it for a week. I’m totally fine, go ahead.”

“I wouldn’t pout,” Ten insisted. “When do I ever pout?” Cody had leaned over and kissed hir, which made the cubs that seemed to constantly pop up whenever one of them stopped for a second all grunt and giggle.

“You do sometimes. Go ahead, seriously. It’s fine.”

Ten wasn’t the type to press—well, no, that was a lie, ze was totally and completely the type to press when ze knew ze was right, or someone was trying to hide something or be stupid, which happened so terribly often—so ze’d gone out, and it was just as spectacular as ze’d expected.

“Are there samples in the museum?” Neyarr asked Parrell.

“Probably, but Ten wouldn’t be able to take any of those.”

“No no no, I can’t use old samples,” Ten insisted. “They have to be fresh or I won’t be able to make accurate measurements. Seriously, has no one compiled this data yet? This is one of your most common animal-plant hybrids and you don’t have its basic data available for study?”

Ten knew ze might sound a little…accusative, but the twins just rolled with it. It was one of the things ze liked best about them, their ability to handle any and all questions and moods with equanimity. It made hir feel less self-conscious about giving offense. When ze bothered to consider that at all, of course.

“Oh, some scientists probably do somewhere,” Parrell said breezily. “But how fresh could those samples be? I mean, you should only use the absolute highest quality, don’t you think?”

“I’m not even a scientist and I agree with you,” Neyarr said. “And I just happened to bring a cutter with me…”

“Fancy that, and I’ve got a specimen bottle!”

“It’s like you’re psychic, brother.”

“Or possibly we’re just too used to anticipating the needs of humans at this point.”

“At the very least, we’re good at anticipating the needs of this human.”

Ten looked between both of their smug faces. “Are you calling me predictable?”

They glanced at each other, then back at Ten. “Nine out of the last ten days you’ve gone out, you’ve wanted to carry something back home with you,” Neyarr said.

“And after the third time, when the residue from our little pheangia burned right through your glove, we figured it was best to be prepared.”

“Oh.” Well, that was logical. Ten had already been remonstrating hirself for not grabbing a specimen bottle before heading out this morning, but Cody had distracted hir. “Thank you for thinking of it.”

“You’re welcome!” Parrell said with a grin. “Now, we’ll just climb up there and shave a little slice off of its—”

“No no no!” Ten protested. “I have to do the sample collection myself, how do I know you’re going to get the right pieces?”

Their smiles dropped away. “Apparently you don’t love us after all,” Neyarr mourned. “Because you clearly want us to be murdered by Ferran and Jason once they find out that we let you climb an enormous, slick tree and take samples from the same creature that almost killed Jason not so long ago.”

“A decade is like a second when it comes to remembering that particular incident,” Parrell added with a little shudder. “If we never have to experience something like that again it will be too soon. That’s the human expression, isn’t it?” he asked Ten. “Because I have to say, it’s one I’ve always found a bit odd. The word never completely negates the timing of the event being referenced.”

“It’s meant to be ironic, and I’m not Jason,” Ten insisted. “I can take care of myself.”

“Well, probably so. Nevertheless, it’s us or nothing.”

“So what will it be?”

Ten glared at both of them. “I hate you.”

“You love us,” Parrell said without missing a beat.

“Fine, you go get it. But I need at least a square centimeter’s sample, and try to capture as much of the sap with it as you can, and don’t take from too close to the root because I want cells that are more regenerative and less vital to attachment, their physiology could be completely different…actually…could you take two samples?”

Neyarr’s quills ruffled in the equivalent of a smirk as he handed his brother another sample container. “I believe we can.”

Watching them work, Ten had to admit that they were probably doing a better job than ze would have. They had strong limbs and thick nails that dug into the spongy bark of the tree, and Parrell was up and down in less than five minutes without even bothering the plant. He handed two pristine samples over to Ten with a flourish.

“Thank you,” Ten said. Because ze could be polite, damn it.

They headed back to the House compound after that, and Ten went straight to hir lab to get the samples into more effective storage. It was tempting to start working with them immediately, but…

It was ridiculous, that ze could miss Cody so quickly. It wasn’t like they didn’t eat together in the mornings or sleep together every night, after all. But not even the lure of brand new experiments could distract Ten from the nagging, gnawing sensation of loneliness in the center of hir chest. This had never been a problem before Cody, hadn’t been an issue at all since ze was five. One year’s exposure to Cody had entrapped hir, changed hir DNA like an insidious virus. Ze was still coming to terms with it, obviously, but at least the means of relief were close at hand. Ten left the lab and went looking for Cody.

He wasn’t in their room, or in the hall where they all met for meals. Ten doubted he was with Grennson and Darrel, who were spending the day with Ferran at the Hall of Matriarchs in the center of the Perel capital. Maybe with Jason, then? Except Ten had no idea where that was.

Wait, no, yes ze did. That bouncy-floored room where he worked with the cubs. The last time Ten had peeked in there, Cody had been patiently dealing with over a dozen cubs vying for his attention. Hopefully this time would be different. Not that Ten didn’t think ze wouldn’t win out over a bunch of kids, but ze didn’t want to steal Cody away from something he enjoyed when his time here was already so curtailed.

Ten found the room and peeked inside. There were no cubs, so that was good. On the other hand, Cody wasn’t alone. He was sparring with Jason, and they were going after each other hard. It was actually kind of mesmerizing. Ten was able to push hir instant concerns for Cody’s health aside—no one was more careful than Jason Kim—and just watch them beat on each other.

Jason used his legs more, snapping kicks and low sweeps that Cody evaded or absorbed without taking too much damage. Cody preferred to punch, or reach out to grab and close the distance, but whenever he tried Jason would dance back out of range. It wasn’t the rapid fire attack-defend that Ten was used to seeing in holo films; instead it was a constant battle, sometimes slow, sometimes fast but the pressure never let up. Cody was breathing hard, sweat darkening the thin shirt he wore, and he was obviously exhausted. Jason didn’t look nearly so tired, but then he’d been doing this a lot longer. It was probably inevitable that he would—

Cody got a grip on Jason’s left lapel, and this time instead of turning out of it, Jason stepped in and held on as he swept Cody onto the mat. Cody hit with a resounding thud that made Ten wince, but instead of lying there breathless Cody jammed his foot up into Jason’s stomach, lifted him off the ground, twisted him 90 degrees and then dropped him sideways between Cody’s legs. An instant later he had Jason’s arm clasped tight in his thighs and straightened to the point of hyperextension, and a few seconds after that Jason tapped out.

“Nice,” Jason said, sitting up and shaking his elbow out. Cody didn’t bother to sit up, but he smiled hugely at his opponent. “I don’t do enough ground work; I should have seen that coming.”

“Garrett thought it was important that I learn,” Cody panted.

“Garrett knows what he’s talking about.” Jason glanced over toward the door and Ten didn’t bother pretending ze hadn’t been watching the whole thing. “Jiu jitsu is the physical version of a chess match. We’ll do more of that. In the meantime, I think I could use a break.” He stood up gracefully. “I’ll see you both at dinner,” he said with a little nod to Ten as he left the room.

“Us both…Ten, hi!” Cody called out from the middle of the floor.

“Hi.” Ze walked over to Cody slowly, taking in all his gross sweatiness and crazy hair and clear fatigue. Fuck, he was completely irresistible.

“Did you see that last part? What did you think of the—mmm—”

Ten was all for talking, but there was a time and a place for it, and talking while Ten was coming to grips with hir boyfriend’s ridiculous hotness was not the time or place. Ze leaned in, cupped Cody’s face in hir hands and kissed him hard, opening hir lips and tasting the coppery flavor in his mouth from a hit that had torn the inside of his lip a bit. Ze straddled Cody’s hips and kept him pressed to the ground, stretching out against his body, unable to get close enough. “Stupid…clothes…” Ten muttered as ze ground hir hips impatiently against Cody’s.

“Ten—Ten, wait, not---oh, shit, not here, there could be—people—cubs—”

Turning Cody into a stammering wreck was one of Ten’s favorite things ever, but he had a point. “Then let’s go back to our room and you can have a shower, and I can have you.”

Yes,” Cody said, and Ten laughed at ze got up and offered him a hand.

“Race you?”

“Screw you, I’m done running,” Cody said, but he still moved gratifying fast down the hall toward their bedroom.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Writing and Life and Stuff

Oh boy, April is here! April...oh my god, April is here already? *looks at calendar* Holy shit!

March was the month of finishing Soothsayer, and writing the sequel--which right now is super rough and in need of much love--to my supervillain story Where There's Smoke, which comes out this month. April is dedicated to revising said sequel, querying my novel Tempest, planning my writing project for May, giving you Academy vignettes here on the blog AND...writing my Goodreads M/M story. I just nailed down the title, which funnily enough helped me nail down the plot and structure of the darn thing, so I'll be off and running in a few days. I also got cover art for my Dreamspinner story In Memoriam, which is gorgeous, so here's me happy :)

April should be the month we learn whether or not my man's going to get his dream job. If I could cross my fingers any harder I'd break them.

April is also the month that we fly to...wait for it...Japan for vacation! Not to the main island, but down to Kyushu. We have a friend from the Peace Corps living near Fukuoka, and she offered us a place to stay and her help with getting around during our trip, so how could we say no? I've never been anywhere in Asia before, I'm ridiculously excited.

Has anyone reading this been to Japan? Got any suggestions for me? We're probably not going to go to Tokyo, we prefer to hang out with our friend and see things closer to where she lives, but any recs would be helpful.

April could be amazing. I'm hoping it will be :)