Category Archives: Guest blogger

Z. Allora with Lock and Key

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Welcome, Z. Allora, with the latest installment of a story in the Dark Angels world.  If you’ve been reading that luscious series as I have, you’ll recognize the younger brothers of the band. Lock and Key stands alone, and I’m ready to read  Zack and Andrew’s scorching story.  

Here’s Z.!

I want to thank Pd Singer for hosting part 6 of Lock and Key’s blog tour. I’m indebted to Pd Singer for also being one of my critique partners who saves readers from my squirrel speak and stops my abuse of the English language.

I believe we’re all a product of our experiences, which creates the filters we view the world through. I wanted to share how Zack’s perceptions and interactions prior to Lock and Key shaped his expression of BDSM.

Part 5 can be found at https://diversereader.blogspot.com/

Part 6

Stopping to get his younger brother a hot chocolate had been a mistake. Jordon hadn’t stopped yammering for the last thirty minutes. Zack had given up trying to follow the train of Jordy’s crazy as it zoomed from one station to another.

The image of his older brother standing next to his hot boyfriend waving good-bye was embedded in Zack’s brain. He’d never be Dusty. His older brother had it together: he was out, had a boyfriend who seemed really nice and was living the rock and roll dream as a drummer. Everything seemed to fall into place for him.

Zack wasn’t jealous. He was glad for Dust but it must be incredible to just… well be! No hiding, no pretending, and just be yourself.

When Jordon took a breath Zack jumped into the fray. “So um, Jordy, you know we can’t tell Mom we met Dusty’s boyfriend.”

“I know. But ah, I want one of those! God, Zack. Dusty’s boyfriend was pretty!”

There was no avoiding this conversation. “I know Jordy, and I think that’s fine. But please keep your sparkle and rainbow lust under wraps.”

“What! No! Why?”

Zack hated himself but begged, “Just until after high school. Please, Mom would—”

“I don’t care. What about my feelings and what I want?” Jordon huffed and glared out the car window.

What about me? Zack slammed that self-indulgent question back to the recesses of his mind as soon as it attempted to seek an answer.  No way could he contemplate his needs. He focused on Jordon. “It’s just two more years. Then you’re out of her house and at college.”

“Yeah, easy for you to say since you graduate in June!” Jordon pointed out.

Ha! Jordon had no idea how Zack could never be himself… gay was only part of what he needed to hide.

Part 7 will be found at https://becausetwomenarebetterthanone.com on July 1st.

LockandKeyFSLock And Key by Z. Allora

Rejected. Heartbroken. Devastated.

Zack Davis wanted to serve only one man, Andrew Nikeman. He was denied because Andrew thought he was too young and because their brothers were together. So Zack crushed his submissive tendencies and focused on being the perfect Dom, giving every sub he played with something he couldn’t have.

After years of denying his submissive side, Entwined’s charity auction “Are you Dom enough to be a sub?” gives Zack an excuse to get a little of what he’s always craved.

Andrew doesn’t know when his infatuation turned into more, but it kills him to see Zack with a constant parade of submissives. He’d refused to jeopardize his brother’s relationship or become Zack’s regret; however, Zack isn’t a kid anymore, and his brother’s relationship is unbreakable. Now Zack’s popularity and success as a Dom might ruin Andrew’s dreams of collaring him, but he can’t wait any longer to confess his feelings or he risks losing the man he loves forever.

EBook: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/lock-and-key-by-z-allora-7213-b

Paperback: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/lock-and-key-by-z-allora-7214-b

Please follow the rest of the blog tour. You can find the schedule at http://zallora.blogspot.com.

Big hugs, Z . Allora

www.zallorabooks.com

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https://www.facebook.com/Z.Allora

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Holy Cow! EM Lynley shifts to India

EM Lynely’s travels have gotten into her stories before, and I love them for their sense of place (among other reasons, like romance and plot).  I asked her to tell us about her time in India.  If I can’t go–I’ll read.   Here’s EM:
jaisalmer view from topA couple of years ago, Brandilyn Carpenter asked me for my favorite places in the world. I can’t find the list right now (that would have been a miracle!) but I do know that you’d find Jaisalmer, India in one of the top spots.

jaisalmer veggie mktI’ve been lucky enough to travel extensively around the world and even luckier to have been able to set stories in many of my favorite places so I can share the joys (and the occasional horror) of my own experiences.

jaisalmerSo I knew that eventually I’d set a story in one of the most amazing places I’ve even been: Jaisalmer. It’s really like a golden city floating above the desert near the border of India and Pakistan. It’s an old  fortress, with thick walls not unlike those you’d find surrounding a medieval European castle. Narrow walkways wind up to the top of the city past the old palaces that the Rajasthani royalty once occupied.

cows in loveAnd like many cities in India there are plenty of cattle wandering around. I had  my own intimate encounter with one up near the top of the Jaisalmer fort when I got caught in a narrow alley with a horned devil who didn’t want to share the road. I don’t have a scar, but lets just say that those horns are kinda sharp. It was one of those experiences that brought home that I was in INDIA!!

I ended up spending about four months traveling around India and though I saw many amazing and incredible places, Jaisalmer remains among my favorite experiences. I hope you’ll feel that you’ve made the journey when you read Holy Cow!

 cover holy cowBlurb: American med student Duncan Stirling is traveling around India with his two best friends, who have just married. Their last stop is the magical city of Jaisalmer, a fort in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan. He feels like a third wheel on their honeymoon, though the three friends had the trip planned for years, to celebrate finishing medical school and have a last adventure before they start their residencies back in the States.

Akash Nandi is an Indian man from a wealthy and well-known family. At least that’s how he appears. He hides the truth that his family is descended from Nandi, Lord Shiva’s bull, and they’ve guarded sacred places for millennia. Being gay and immortal is tough, especially when his family’s expectations make finding the right mate impossible. As his grandmother, the family matriarch, nears death, a struggle for power puts Akash and his new crush, the charming American Duncan, in harm’s way.

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2016 Daily Dose package “A Walk on the Wild Side.”

Buy from Amazon,  Dreamspinner,  Barnes & Noble  or All Romance eBooks.

 

Kayla Jameth’s back with A Tested Love

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Book two of Kayla Jameth’s epic of ancient Sparta is here! If you started with A Spartan Love, be ready to continue on with Theron and Andreas’ story. And remember, “This is Sparta!” has a lot of meanings, not least that they didn’t share those soft Athenians’ views on a lot of things, including what was acceptable between men.

Thank you, Kayla, for talking about Apollo, who’s very much part of the story.

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Apollo Hayakinthios

While researching Taming Theron (now A Spartan Love) and A Spartan Love (now A Tested Love and A Shared Love), I found all kinds of, for lack of a better word, myths about Sparta. Some are just minor things, such as trying to apply a modern mindset to an ancient culture and one that even its contemporaries considered strange. Others are the result of the other Greek city-states giving them bad press. No one really liked the bullies on the block.

So I thought I would focus on a real myth and explore its origins.

First the myth

Apollo is known for having several lovers—gods, goddesses, nymphs, dryads, and humans. He didn’t limit himself to any one gender.

One of his lovers, Hyacinthus, was a prince of Sparta. Both Apollo and Zephyrus courted the beautiful young man, but Hyacinthus preferred Apollo. One day while Apollo and Hyacinthus were throwing a discus, Zephyrus, the West Wind, blew the disc off course in a fit of jealousy. The discus struck Hyacinthus in the head, killing him.

Apollo was heartbroken. He refused to allow Hades to take the prince to the Underworld. Instead, he gathered the youth’s blood to create a flower, the hyacinth. The Olympian goddesses, Aphrodite, Athena and Artemis carried the divine hero’s body to the Elysium Fields.

The likely origins

A tomb to Hyacinthus can be found near Apollo’s altar and cult idol in the village of Amykles southwest of the modern city of Sparta and dates to the Mycenaean era. Most scholars consider Hyacinthus to be a local deity who predated the Spartan’s and Apollo. His name with the suffix –nth shows him to be pre-Hellenic. (The Greeks called themselves Hellenes.)

When the Doric Spartans invaded the Peloponnesus, they brought their sky gods with them. The Spartans considered Apollo to be one of their patron gods. Since Apollo was one of the gods most likely to take a male lover, Hyacinthus was quickly accounted as his lover. Tying the past to Sparta’s present and legitimizing the Doric occupation.

As is commonly the case when one god preempts another’s place and prerogatives, the older deity had to die to make way for the victor. Hyacinthus met with an “accidental” death at another, although minor, sky god’s hands. Apollo stepped in to fill the religious void, laying claim to Hyacinthus’ sacred site and taking the epithet Apollo Hayakinthios to commemorate his victory.

Apollo’s Men

My series, known as Apollo’s Men, takes place in 5th century BC Greece. Apollo is a POV character in all the novels. Only the short stories do not have him.

As Apollo Hayakinthios, he openly acknowledges he is a lover of men. Apollo is collecting warriors and their lovers (m/m) to provide a band of men to protect his prophet, the Voice of Apollo.

The Spartan Love arc—A Spartan Love, A Tested Love, and A Shared Love—follows Andreas and Theron. Other arcs follow Alexios and Galen, as well as Coridan.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Lured by seductive promises, Andreas risked his life to be with Theron, only to find himself betrayed. Abandoned and alone, Andreas resigns all hope of seeing his fierce warrior again and resumes his life as a helot.

All too aware of the harsh punishment Sparta demands of men who love other men, Theron reluctantly surrenders Andreas in hopes of keeping him safe. The warrior returns to Sparta to embrace his destiny in place of the helot he has grown to see as a man, not just a slave. Cold but honorable duty will be his new lover.

Duty proves to be a jealous lover when Sparta demands the final test of Theron’s loyalty. Sent to kill Andreas, Theron must find a way to come to terms with his burning desire for his handsome helot before their forbidden love destroys them both.

Buy links:

Find at Dreamspinner,  Amazon, All Romance eBooks, and your other favorite retailers.

Chapter One

Andreas’ heart pounded. Time was running out. If he didn’t find Theron quickly, he would be too late. Somewhere out there his warrior lay injured and dying.
Fearing what he might find, Andreas roamed his klēros, searching his barren holding for his missing lover. His fields stretched as far as the eye could see, blackened stubble growing hazy in the remote distance. No matter how long he walked, he couldn’t find Theron.

He tasted ashes, bitter as blood, on his tongue. Gray smudges covered his once white chiton and discolored his skin. Andreas would never be free of the stain.
Sometimes he thought he’d been wandering forever. Racing against inflexible Atropos, the daughter of night, Andreas was driven to find the kryptes before she cut Theron’s thread short with her abhorred shears.

Night was coming, that time all helots feared—something terrible fast on its heels, death in its wake. Doom now stalked them both, flashes of scarlet in the growing gloom.

He’d never stood beneath any sky without the sun to protect him, protect him from the kryptes and any other monsters roaming the lightless night.
Soon. He had to find Theron soon!

But he was frozen in place, unable to move no matter how he struggled….

Andreas sat up with a shout. He whirled, eyes searching frantically for the red-clad peril pursuing him. His breath came in choppy gasps barely audible above the thunder of blood in his ears.

The stink of soot and fear clogged his nostrils. He took a moment to recognize his surroundings in the almost nonexistent light coming from his hearth. The fire had burned down to little more than a flicker.

Untangling himself from the sodden blanket, Andreas shivered, sweat prickling his skin. He scurried to the hearth. Scrabbling for small bits of wood to add to the fire before he lost any hope of rekindling the embers, he drove a splinter under his nail. “Hades!” But he didn’t examine his finger until the scraps of kindling began to smolder. If the flame went out, he’d have to go to Petros tomorrow and beg a coal from his hearth.

He plucked the sliver free with his teeth and spat it out on the floor. Sucking on the wound, Andreas kept watch as the fire took hold. The mix of coppery blood and wood smoke drew his nightmare back from the shadows.

But unlike in his dream, while awake he didn’t fear the darkness within. The dark without held all the danger for him. Like every helot before him, he’d been taught as a child to fear the kryptes who roamed the night, slaying all helots they happened upon. A helot’s only hope lay within the walls of his home once night fell.

Unfortunately nowhere was safe for any helot who the Spartans determined must die.

The sole requirement a kryptes had to meet in delivering their fate was to remain unseen by anyone other than their victim. Their ability to come and go undetected was part of their mystique, part of what made them so terrifying.

The flames blazed up, filling the single-room hut with light. Andreas sank down to the floor, at first unsure what had brought on the nightmare when he’d gone a month or more since the last one. All those thoughts and feelings he’d refused to give life had come boiling up.

Much too late now, the dream should no longer have the strength to haunt him. Theron was long past his help.

Andreas hadn’t seen the Hekate-becursed man since he disappeared months ago.
How many nights had he sat up worrying about the bastard? How many times had he endured that nightmare? He’d woken with a shout, covered in sweat, too many times to count. And what had he gotten for all his lost sleep? Not a cursed thing.

With his endless searching, Andreas had come to know his lands better than he’d thought possible, but the warrior eluded him, whether in life or in death, he didn’t know.

Andreas chose to believe Theron yet lived. But it was long past time for his fate to matter. Theron should have returned by now if he were still alive. Either his “lover”—Andreas snorted in disgust—had died without him, or more likely he’d left Andreas behind without a second thought. If Theron was alive after all this time, he had no intention of returning. Either way Andreas would never see him again.

Once Andreas realized this, he submerged his grief as best he could. In an effort to avoid his nightmares, he’d worked himself harder than he ever had before. He spent his days tilling his fields like a madman, channeling his frustration into the uncomplaining soil until he was too tired to think of anything while he lay in his bed. Or nursing the wine Myron gave him in exchange for helping expand his vineyard. And his plan had worked, mostly.

Staring into the blaze, Andreas wondered what had driven Theron from him and kept him away. He’d left once, soon after they’d met, but Andreas thought they’d resolved Theron’s concerns about being exposed. Theron had even proposed a solution to the problem of their being together, offering to claim him as his mothônes, his companion.

Theron must have changed his mind.

“He’s never coming back.” Something broke inside Andreas, admitting that. But did he actually want to see Theron again?

Reaching for the wineskin hanging from the head of his bed, Andreas was surprised to find it missing. Glancing around the room, he discovered the half-empty skin where he must have left it on the table when he had stumbled to bed. He needed to refill the flask in the morning.

Without wasting time finding a cup, he drank straight from the wineskin. But the familiar warmth didn’t lull him back to sleep this time.

Andreas rose and paced the short distance between the hearth and his bed. The quick temper he’d inherited from his father came spilling out like one of the plagues from Pandora’s jar. He’d thought he’d stamped the last embers of that smoldering resentment out, but maybe he’d never cared about anything deeply enough to have his belief tested. He punched the mattress a fevered Theron had lain on.

Yet another way he would have disappointed his mother had she been here to see him.

For a while after his father died, Andreas had been every bit as angry as his father before him. Father had spoken out against the annual “war” the Spartans had waged on the helots, so when Andreas had railed on about his father’s death, his mother had grown fearful.

“You’re too much like your father! And what did his anger gain him? Is it not enough I have lost a husband? I will not lose my only child as well!”

Even the tears spilling down her cheeks couldn’t keep him from insisting, “But killing someone just because you can is wrong. What did Father do to deserve death?”

“Never forget we’re what the gods made us—slaves. That is our lot in life, Andreas. What we were born for. We are not, and will never be, their equals. The Spartans can do whatever they want to us. A slave’s duty is to endure. Anything else is rebellion and results in many more deaths. Do you want to be responsible for bringing destruction down on us?”

“They murdered him!”

“The Spartans are very careful to avoid murder. They declare war on us instead.”

“It’s still murder.”

“Ah… Andreas, my heart, the gods agree with them.” Then as if to forestall him, she pulled him into her arms. “It’s hubris to think you know better than the gods.”

Hubris. That ultimate of all sins. There was no answer he could make to that.

Andreas had learned to force the anger down, hiding his feelings under obedience and hard work. And the mask had served him well, until the day a thieving kryptes arrived to set his world and his hard-won composure on its ear.

Now the anger and resentment worked their way to the surface like the fires in Hephaestus’ volcanic forge, ready to spew molten fury and rain down disaster on anyone who crossed him. If Theron were here now, Andreas would be tempted to do more than just yell at the kryptes like he had in the past.

“Foresworn godless bastard! He said he’d stand by me and protect me, but where is he now?” Andreas spat. “Oaths to a helot obviously mean nothing to a kryptes. Pretty little promises to get me to do as he wished.”

As he stomped back toward the fire, Ictis darted under the table to escape his feet.

“Couldn’t even be bothered to let me know.” Another turn back to the bed. “The coward said he’d be back and then disappeared, walked off and left me, letting me think he’d died.”

Once more at the hearth, Andreas glanced down at his gods and picked up the figurine of Apollo. “I can’t believe I asked the Lord of Light to watch over a kryptes, of all people!”

Andreas clenched the clay god tight. The terracotta form dug into his palm, Apollo’s bow pricking the skin. He stared at his fist. After a moment’s hesitation, he carefully returned the likeness to his hearth before he did something unforgivable, like crush it. He didn’t dare incur Apollo’s enmity.

“Still allowing that sneaking murderer to control me. Honorless warrior!”

The fire snapped, and a handful of embers cascaded to the dirt floor. One landed on his knee, flaring amid the scent of burned hair before he hurriedly brushed the cinder away. The small red patch stung and throbbed in reproach.

No longer hiding under the table, the ferret’s black bead eyes regarded him from atop one of the stools. Andreas pursed his lips, trying to expel all the bitterness in his mouth. “What was I thinking, Ictis? Theron would come and take me away with him?”

On the next swing, he flung himself down on his bed. “I’m a fool, aren’t I? To believe there can be anything from a kryptes other than a knife in the back.” He lay there, his harsh breaths slowing. Too angry to sleep.

Ictis pounced on him. “I know you like him. I used to like him. But that lying kryptes didn’t abandon you to your fate after placing you in danger.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

Now you need the rest. 😉

The author’s giveaway is a $25 certificate to ARe, (which I suggest is best spent on as many novels of ancient Sparta as you don’t already have 😉 plus some tidbits from your wish list). My platform won’t show the Rafflecopter form, but one click gets you there.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Kate Pavelle on training, heartache, and romance

HCcover1400x2100Please welcome Kate Pavelle, who has a way of taking difficult topics and bringing life and joy out of them in the end. I asked about her new release, Hard Climb,  Book 2 of the SwimBikeRun trilogy, which I have been following like the fan of sports and m/m love that I am.

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The kind and effervescent P.D. Singer has been expecting this guest blog for quite some time. I’ve been meaning to write it, but every time I sat down and tried to focus on Jesse and Sebastian, and on the SwimBikeRun series, I stalled.

Nothing came to me.

Just the real world.

Upset and discord and all kinds of unpleasantness.

I just couldn’t focus on “Climbing Hard,” nor on its prequel, “Treading Water.”

Until last Friday, that is. I was in the pool, where my husband and I were getting our swim in before a margarita and chips date at a local restaurant (This triathon won’t train for all by itself, and a margarita with salt is like jacked-up Gatorade.) Few years ago, the utter boredom of crossing the pool back and forth had inspired me to think of a plot that would revolve around the sport of triathlon. I plotted as I swam, and as I swam, my characters were beginning to take shape in the water to my side, spun of the foam of my imagination and of the ephemeral bubbles that were kicked up by other swimmers. The guys helped me through a lot back then.

Last Friday, as I plowed through chlorinated water while pondering my real-life situation, they helped me once again. That is, I didn’t imagine them nearby and I didn’t try to evoke them. They didn’t show up. Instead, like a weird, delayed spark of bright illumination, I’ve come to realize that whereas a few years ago I have been a lot like Jesse, today I am a lot like Sebastian.

A bit spoiled, a bit entitled.  Always wanting to do the right thing, but not always knowing how. Entangled in a family business I’d rather not be part of, and trying to get away to do my own thing. Much like Sebastian, I am now at odds with my father. Much like Sebastian, I’m also dependent on the family business income to an unhealthy degree.

And, just like Sebastian, I will stand up for myself and do what I am good at. What I love best. Those talents and preferences aren’t governed by common history and shared DNA. Neither Sebastian nor I will move back to Europe to run a company, and neither of us will be pushed into taking on a project we don’t see in a good light.

This discord, it is stressful. I used to be the “good daughter.”

This hurt, it’s depressing. I have no retort for sharp words flung in anger.

This growth, it is painful – but the ache of rebirth is a price I’m willing to pay.

I’m not sure of my own HEA, although I hope for the best. For you, the reader, I can only promise a firm and touching conclusion to the SwimBikeRun series in book 3, “Final Dash,” coming out in April 2016.

 P.S. For those many of you who are reading these books, if you have a minute, drop me a review on Amazon! ~ Kate

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treading waterThank you, Kate, and I know there will be a resolution to your life roll.

Readers, I suggest starting at the beginning with Jesse and Sebastian, which is Treading Water. 

 Buffeted by the winds of fate, Jesse Hightower drifted far from his Crow reservation. Family issues, foster homes, and living hard on the street. Now his computer-jockey job got him out of shape, and a tough split with Renata threw him into depression. Even worse — to keep his job, he has to train for a mandatory, company-wide triathlon.

An heir to an ice cream empire, Sebastian Gillen was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and family expectations of an executive career. A brilliant swimmer, Sebastian had given up his shot at the Olympics for the sake of business. Meeting Jesse at the pool is an exciting breath of fresh air. Inspired by Jesse’s inner strength, Sebastian resolves to make this boyfriend thing work, even if he has to stand up to his family – including his sister, Renata.

HCcover1400x2100 HARD CLIMB

“When it feels like it’s us against the world, let’s not forget the friends that have our backs.”

Jesse and Sebastian are together now – or are they? Sebastian is waging a murky corporate battle on his own. When his distance and stress turns Jesse into a mess, Jesse’s boss Tyler remembers what his own break-up with Sebastian felt like. He pulls a few strings to help Jesse, he hits Sebastian with a clue-bat. It works wonders, but the results are just a calm before the storm.

Sebastian’s plan to ease into living with Jesse openly dies as he’s outed and black-mailed. The ground under his feet crumbles. From a designer business suit to cheap construction boots, his life of privilege falls apart and only Jesse and the constancy of triathlon training keeps him sane. Sebastian’s goals are clear: They won’t be homeless. They’ll make ends meet. For Jesse, he’ll do anything.

Why did the bear walk into the bar?

Bear200x300 Please welcome Eden Winters, whom you all know as one of my favorite authors. In honor of her new, very sexy, quite erotic release in the Naked Tails universe, I asked her to spend a few minutes telling us about the book. Which is sexy. Very, very sexy.

Here’s Eden to tell us how she gets her inspiration from unlikely sources.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

My “shiny” is information. I’ll spend a lot of hours not writing while I pursue the details of this or that if it’s caught my interest. My education isn’t terribly formal, but I’m dangerous at Trivial Pursuit.

My second most dangerous lure is a challenge. Some folks just know how to push my buttons, teasing me to write something I hadn’t even thought of. Bear shifters hadn’t crossed my mind until someone poked. Poked hard. Or erotica: I like plots. But people poke.

Cross these two quirks and the next book I write comes out with a title like “A Bear Walks Into a Bar.”

Three quirks—because what was supposed to be an erotic romp went and grew a plot on me. Then all sort of tidbits I’d picked up while writing Naked Tails surfaced. Things like animal group names and behaviors. Throw in my experience in construction, adoration for Harleys, and love for the Rocky Mountains, and the plot takes a certain shape.

The society itself, a hierarchy of different shifter groups cobbled together for the greater good, lives under the direction of the lone bear shifter on the mountain. The animal qualities of these shifters run very close to the surface of their human forms. The wolves would overthrow Sawyer if given half a chance, and the elk want to hone in on his territory for reasons of their own.

In stroll four young shifters: a bear, two wolves, and a fox, cast out from their families and having only each other. For Dillon, Kevin, Jerry, and Brad, sex is comfort, bonding and fun.  Meanwhile, Sawyer uses sex for discipline, reassurance, punishing, and to establish pecking order.

Why yes, there were days where my pursuit of the shiny led me to learn about bonobo apes.

This story was originally intended as a sexy bit of fun, but the characters took on characteristics like loyalty and caring, deviousness and determination, ambition and neediness. Sawyer found himself with his paws full, not just of four young shifters who needed help, but a mountain of creatures with a common enemy in the humans they sometimes resemble. Another bear, wolves, elk. We have some cameos from badgers and bobcats, and the cougars remain a distant danger.

And yes, somewhere, a possum faints.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank  you, Eden, and thank you for this snippet of Sawyer and crew.

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Bear200x300Sawyer growled, “I’m going to take care of four shifters who haven’t asked permission to cross into my domain.” Besides, the elk might have sent them, and the message he’d gotten only said four shifters, not what kind. They must be desperate or stupid.

“I still don’t like you traveling alone.”

No, you don’t like not knowing what I’m up to. Sawyer’s fist and Rudy’s face were seconds away from meeting again. Sawyer cracked his knuckles.

Rudy winced, but persisted. “You’re the last bear on the mountain. As you said, maybe I can lead the wolves, but do you think for a moment that the deer, beavers, otters, coyotes, and foxes will accept my lead if you don’t come back?” The Lobo folded his arms across his designer-shirt-clad chest. “The possums are stubborn, you know.”

“So growl at them, and when they fall over and play dead, make any decisions before they come to.” Sawyer so did not need this shit right now.

Rudy tapped his foot. In alternate form he’d have his ears laid back, snarling.

“I’m just going to take the long way home. You and the guys go on ahead.” Sawyer added the sinister smile known to get him his way—and make the rabbits shit their pants. “Leave the lights on for me.” What he really wanted was to get laid—repeatedly, to tide him over while he stayed close to his den and spent most of his time sleeping, and waking up with the hard on from hell with only his own paw to solve the problem. Damned hibernation.

“But—”

“No buts, Rudy.” Sawyer turned up the heat, physically driving Rudy back with shifter energy. “You’re the leader of the largest predator group under my protection, and my employee. You keep the business going when I can’t be too visible. I need you. But at the end of the day, my word is law, got it?” If not for the weight of responsibility, they might have been friends.

Sawyer couldn’t afford friends. Rudy hadn’t been party to the extermination of Sawyer’s clan, but he was still a wolf.

Rudy nodded, eyes downcast. Asswipe needed to alpha up before some upstart kicked his butt and seized power—like Brian.

Of course, that might prove interesting. This close to winter, Sawyer’s animal instincts were spoiling for either a good fight or a good fuck, and wasn’t too particular about which.

“Where exactly are you going? Would you at least tell me that?”

“A town nobody’s heard of about thirty-five miles from home.” If Sawyer needed to hide, he’d find a similar out of the way spot. Too bad this particular spot sat on the border between elk and predator. Just because they lived off vegetation didn’t mean his rivals weren’t a threat—an expert marksman had joined the herd a few years ago. He’d been tough and stringy, but ceased being a problem.

Conversation grew impossible when Sawyer fired up his bike. Mother Moon, but he loved the rumble of the big Harley between his thighs, the wind on his face, tempting his sensitive nose with a million different scents: moss, pines, rabbit, clover, chicken barbecuing on a grill at a campsite downhill, all awaiting him once he reached his mountain.

Fluffy clouds overhead cast shadows over the scenery, and the crisp scent of snow drifted over the highest mountaintops. Colorado. No greater place existed on earth.

Occasionally he caught a whiff of human emotions: anger, fear, sorrow, lust. Especially lust.

Damn, he needed to get laid.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks, Eden! Good to know that Sawyer gets what he needs. Boy does he get what he needs.

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