Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Mutable: Chapter Fourteen, Part One

Notes: Sorry for the posting delay, the baby woke up earlier when SOMEONE RANG THE DAMN DOORBELL ARRRGGG! *ahem* But she's asleep now.

Title: Mutable: Chapter Fourteen, Part One


Chapter Fourteen, Part One

Cas never did get a chance to collect the blood he’d left to gather information for him. After the attack, which had gotten around the ship in the most gossipy way possible, he’d been given an escort at all times. Fillie wasn’t removed from his rota, thankfully, but she was joined by at least one other person to help look after him. An armed guard was posted outside their quarters whenever he was inside, and Rone spent every free hour he had for the rest of the trip either going over his soldiers’ personnel files, looking for signs that someone might be trouble, or preparing Beren for another violent eventuality. “You got lucky against the Lieutenant,” he said somberly. It was clear that the loss, and the reason for it, had hurt him. “We can’t count on that again. If I could be with you more I would be, but—”

“You’re too important to babysit me,” Cas offered, small Beren-like smile on his face. “I understand. I’ll be fine.” And it was interesting, being taught the basics of evasion from his husband. Evasion, as opposed to fighting, because it was simply understood that there was no way Cas would be able to stand against an Imperian toe-to-toe and expect to do more than simply survive. They were better trained, better fed, and in a power suit far better armed. Escaping the last attack with his life was viewed as miraculous.

There was a part of Cas, a small but vocal part of him that desperately wanted to show Rone what he was actually capable of. It didn’t help that his phage basically curled up against the surface of his skin and purred whenever his husband spent time with him. We’re better than your people, better than men in power suits, better than words wielded like blades and doctors who scratch for secrets they don’t deserve. We’re stronger and smarter, and you’re the only one that’s worthy of us.

It was infantile, and Cas did his best to control it. He was supposed to be meek and sweet and unprepared—that was how he was supposed to draw his husband in, with the promise of someone to protect and cherish, not someone to challenge him head-on. But it was hard, not giving in sometimes. Not doing what he was good at. Not celebrating the kill.

The night before they were due to arrive on Imperia, Rone spent the whole evening with him. “Darven needs the practice hours bringing the ship into the capitol’s port anyway,” he said easily, pouring them a glass of wine with their dinner. Cas had had wine before, but Beren hadn’t. He made sure to go wide-eyed at the first taste, then sip slowly. “The last time he tried to set her down he almost got us into a midair collision.”

“Maybe you really ought to be up there then,” Cas joked, but Rone shook his head.

“I’d rather be with you tonight. Tomorrow is going to be hectic, and I want you to know what to expect.”

Now this was useful information. Cas leaned forward a little. “Tell me.”

“Normally, military ships land in the naval port at the edge of Obsidian and I take a royal shuttle to the palace to debrief with my brother. Because you’re here now, and due to the nature of our mission and the unfortunate events we’ve had to deal with, protocol is being changed.” And from the frown on his face, Rone didn’t care for that change one bit.

Cas risked reaching out and taking his hand, giving it a little squeeze. “What will I need to do?”

That got a smile. “All you have to do is be yourself, but look very prim and proper while you’re at it. I let Nurse Galway have at one of my formal civilian uniforms—she’s the only person on board with decent sewing skills—to refit to you. The fabric is smart enough to do most of the work, but regalia had to be moved around, it was a whole…ordeal, apparently.”

“Nurse Galway?” The one who didn’t like refugees and didn’t seem to like him in particular?

“Yes. She’ll be here in the morning to test it on you and make any final adjustments. And I’ll be with you the whole time,” Rone assured him before taking another sip of his wine. He hadn’t let go of Cas’s hand yet. “I know you don’t particularly like the medical staff.”

Cas decided a little oblique honesty was due here. “I feel like they keep expecting to find something strange about me and are disappointed when they don’t.”

“It’s not really about you. Doctor Weiss is just paranoid. Lieutenant Zane’s autopsy turned up some slightly disturbing results. It looks like he was afflicted with some sort of infection in his blood that spread to his brain.”

As sweet as it was to listen to his husband dissemble about motivation on his behalf, Cas was far too interested in what he was saying to get distracted by it. “An infection? Something he picked up on Leelinge?”

“It has to be.” Rone frowned. “It’s strange, though. He was screened by medical multiple times while we were on the planet and they never noticed anything. Given how dramatically it altered his behavior, I would have expected it to make a bigger difference on his bloodwork earlier on. Are you aware of any diseases or viruses on Leelinge that behave like this?”

No, but I know a parasite that apparently can. “We dealt with a lot of diseases underground, and some of them caused delirium, but I don’t know of anything that specifically matches this.” Feeling like it was a good time to change the subject, he asked, “Will I get to meet your children tomorrow?”

That brought a smile back to Rone’s face. “No, probably not. I doubt we’ll make it out of the palace until late, so they’ll be asleep by the time we get back to our home. The day after that, though, absolutely. They’re great kids, you’ll love them. They’ll love you too…eventually. It takes them a while to warm up to new people, but they’ll come around.”

Cas highly doubted that. He wasn’t planning on sticking around long enough to win the hearts and minds of children who couldn’t help his mission. “What should I do when we’re at the palace?”

“Stand around a lot, unfortunately. There will be a formal meal with the court after our audience with my brother the king, and then there’s likely to be a lot of people who want to gab at us and waste our time. I’ll get us out of there as soon as I can without causing offense, though.”

“I’m nervous about meeting your family,” Cas confessed. It wasn’t even a lie. “I don’t know how to act in front of a king.”

Rone raised Cas’s hand to his lips and pressed a kiss to his knuckles. The phage leapt in his blood, pushing against vessels like an overeager pet scrounging for a treat. “Just bow the way Fillie taught you and reply when he asks you a direct question. You’ll be all right. I promise.”

Cas would be holding him to that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Mutable: Chapter Thirteen, Part Two

Notes: This one might be a little tough to follow, but work with me here. And don't worry, we'll be switching venues soon ;)

Title: Mutable: Chapter Thirteen, Part Two


Chapter Thirteen, Part Two

The first hint of movement brought Cas out of unconsciousness, but he didn’t let himself show any outward signs of waking up yet. Unless and until they took him to the infirmary, it would be more beneficial to listen without fear of being noticed.

“Oh, fuck,” a voice muttered. Familiar but not friendly—it was the Chief. “Fucking hell.”

“What is it?” There was Fillie, sounding frantic. “Is it Beren? Is he okay? Oh my lords and ladies—”

“Panic any harder and I’ll kick you out of this tube myself,” the Chief snapped. Cas felt calloused fingers touch his throat, searching for his pulse. “He’s alive.”

“Thank the stars.”

“Thank sheer fucking luck, probably. Another few inches over and he would have been crushed by that ceiling tile too. Or perhaps…” The Chief’s voice trailed off, and Cas could almost feel him looking around, taking in the scene. He was going to have to be careful with this man. “Go page the CMO and the captain. I’ll look after him until they get here.”

“Should I tell them about the—the other, um, body?”

“Do you mean Lieutenant Zane?” the Chief asked acidly. “The head of my hydraulics team, that body?”

“No, I mean the body of the guy in the power suit who looks like he tried to kill our prince’s husband!” Fillie snapped back, and ooh, there was some fire that Cas hadn’t expected. It seemed to quell the worst of the Chief’s ire, too.

“Tell them, but there’s no need to rush on his sake. Zane’s not salvageable.”

Cas heard Fillie scoot back down the corridor, then felt the Chief’s warm, rough hands touch lightly against his neck again, where the bruises left by Lieutenant Zane’s power gauntlet were probably livid. “What have you gotten yourself into, kid?” he muttered. “What is this crew getting into? Fucking political bullshit.”

An interesting statement from a man who’s position in life had almost certainly benefited from political bullshit. Cas kept his breathing steady, his pulse there but weak, and blocked out the worst of the throb of his flesh as he waited.

Doctor Weiss arrived shortly, overseeing Cas’s removal in a calm and deliberate manner. He fixed some sort of monitor to Cas’s wrist and got two medics to load him onto a stretcher. Rone arrived while he was fixing things up, and gratifyingly came over to Cas straight away. “Is Beren all right?” were his first words as a hand settled gently against Cas’s cheek.

“His vitals seem fine, if a little weak. I’ll take him into the clinic for observation, but apart from the bruises—”

“Not the clinic.”

“What?” Dr. Weiss sounded startled.

“I don’t want him put in a place where anyone can access him. Get what you need to treat him and take him to our quarters.”

“Captain, my medical team is beyond reproach—”

“Really?” Rone demanded. “Are you absolutely sure of that? Because I would have said the same thing for most if not all of my crew, before Beren. Since then I’ve been proven wrong more than once, so at this point, be grateful that I consider you beyond reproach.”

There was a moment of silence, followed by a tight, “I understand.”

“I’m glad. Chief, you’re coming too.”

Surprisingly, there was no fight there. “You’re damn right I am,” the Chief said. “We need to talk, Captain.”

“We certainly do.”

Cas felt a cool, small hand wrap around one of his. It was Fillie. “You’re going to be fine,” she said, soft but bright. “Doctor Weiss will fix you up and you’re going to be totally fine, I promise.” The stretcher began to move, but she kept pace with it. “I shouldn’t have left you alone,” she confided, more miserable-sounding now. “I mean, I was under orders, but I was under orders with you too and it doesn’t really matter, because you’re my friend and I should have stuck with you and now the captain is probably going to reassign me because I’m terrible at this. I’m just…I’m sorry.”

Cas’s heart ached in his chest. He wasn’t used to feeling compassion for others—that sort of emotional response was trained out of you when you went to work undercover. But it was making a resurgence now, first with Rone, now with Fillie. He’d have to make sure it didn’t get out of hand.

Murmurs echoed in the halls around him as he was taken back to their quarters, crew members curious and whispering, nervous and wondering. Getting into the room was a relief, a chance to pull back the phage and give it a break. It was overworked, but he couldn’t let it rest too deep. He still had conversations to eavesdrop on.

It was hard, since one discussion was between Dr. Weiss and Fillie and the other was between Rone and the Chief, but he did his best to separate them out.

“He should wake up soon,” Dr. Weiss said gently as he detached the monitor from Cas’s wrist. “I’ve sent for a painkiller, it should be here—”

“—reason for it,” the chief engineer said firmly. “Jamal Zane was one of my best engineers, and the farthest thing from a rabble-rouser you’ve ever seen. He volunteered for every relief mission our navy’s got going, for fuck’s sake. I can’t imagine why he would go after your husband without good reason.”

“So what you’re saying is you think that Beren instigated this?”

“All I’m saying is—”

“—think it’s safe here?” Fillie asked quietly.

“I can’t honestly say,” the doctor replied. “Our captain’s marriage is provoking reactions in our crew that are anomalous. Before this, I would never have pegged any of them for out-and-out xenophobes. A few tend to talk when they’re drunk, but this…and it’s not just because he’s our captain, of course.”

“He’s the prince.”

“He’s the prince,” Weiss agreed. “And he’s already brought two non-Imperians into the royal family through adoption. The last royal adoption was over a hundred years ago, and it just change someone from nephew to son. This is—”

“—divorce him.” It was the Chief again. “You’ve done your duty. You got him off that damn rock. Now get him out of the line of fire. Divorce him, give him a settlement and set him up on some other planet doing whatever it is sweet, dim little people like him do.”

“You need to mind your tone, Chief.” Rone sounded cold. “You know nothing about him, and already you’re making judgments about what he’s capable of. Perhaps it’s a small wonder that someone with a grudge against non-Imperians was able to work right under your nose.”

If you’re implying that I’m xenophobic, you can take that accusation and shove it up your—nose. Sir.”

“No no, if you’re going to talk to me about my personal life, then you’re going to refer to me by my personal title, which is ‘Highness.’ And on the subject of xenophobia, you’re better than most of the nobility, but that’s not saying much. Whether or not you continue to work for me depends very much on how you salvage this conversation, Lord Stevenson, so tread carefully. Now, talk to me about what you saw.”

He sighed hugely. “It was a bloody—”

“—rather messy, but he seems to heal quickly. It won’t bother him for long.” Cas heard Dr. Weiss pat Fillie on the shoulder. “He seems to heal very completely, too. I haven’t seen a single scar on him, and I know for a fact that the technology to remove them isn’t available on Leelinge, much less to the Delacoeurians underground.”

“Maybe they found their own way of removing them,” Fillie suggested. “Something natural, in the caves.”

“It might be that, but he’s not the first Delacoeurian I’ve examined, and plenty of others showed scars. Not him, though.”

“Well, he’s kind of fastidious. And he had a very protective older brother. Maybe he was just very careful.”

“Hmm, perhaps. What do you know about his family?”

He heard her shrug. “Not much. The file mentioned his older brother, no other siblings, no living parents. The brother was an undercover Delacoeurian agent, and died in an explosion a month ago.”

“Did he now? That’s—”

“—honestly not sure how he defended himself against a man in a power suit,” the Chief finished up. “But then, I’ve seen stranger things, and it was quite a tight space. If Zane was holding up that tile, it wouldn’t take a big mistake to bring it crashing down on him. You should ask about it, though. Record it, preferably.”

“I’m not going to treat my husband like a criminal.”

“Then don’t. But don’t discount the possibility that he may be more than he seems.” The Chief groaned as he pushed to his feet. “Damned leg. I’ve done too much crouching today. Is that all, sir?”

“For now, Chief. Dismissed.”

“—looks like he might be coming around! Go get the captain, Private Fillie!”

There was so much to do. So many fires to put out, so many lies to expose and secrets to keep. Cas took a deep breath, then opened his eyes as Beren.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Tempest is live on Amazon!

Hi darlins!

My Rainbow Award-winning m/m fantasy novel Tempest is now up on Amazon! You can find it here: Tempest

Love can change a soul. But can it save one life?

Colm Weathercliff is a simple fisherman with an uncanny some might say preternatural knack for his trade. He thought leaving his small village to take his father s ashes to the capital city of Caithmor for a proper burial would be the grandest adventure of his life.

At first, all his hopes seem to be fulfilled. He finds a home where he s accepted without question, the freedom to use his talent to its fullest effect, and love with Nichol, a man with a longing for the sea as powerful as Colm s.

But Caithmor holds as many dangers as it does attractions. Colm s greatest secret turns out to be a dark revelation that gets him and his family shunned and changes everything he thought he knew about himself.

The truth about his parentage, his gift, even his physical form could poison his chance for love. And doom both him and Nichol to a gruesome, inescapable fate.

This is the second edition of the book, with a different cover, but it's the same story. If you've already bought it, thank you! No need to do so again, you're not missing anything.

If you're following it in Wattpad, never fear! I will continue to post chapters there until the whole thing is up. But if you want to know what happens next faster (and after this next chapter, you totally will) then here's your chance.

You might be wondering, what's the point of putting it up for sale if you're just going to give it away for free? Well, I've been thinking about that a lot lately, and I'll write a blog post about it later this weekend.

In the meantime, enjoy, and happy Friday!