Monday, September 27, 2010

Caught By Surprise excerpt by L D Madison

In Caught By Surprise by L D Madison, Federal Agents Jason Lowery and Noah Black wake up in bed naked, but neither one knows how they got to the remote cabin. Jason fears his partner's reaction and the potential fallout if their superiors ever find out. He had misread a fellow officer's interest once and lost it all - his career, his friends, his family's respect. This time around, he would not be the one risking everything.

Noah has always been curious about sex with another man, but his strict up-bring and life in law enforcement made it impossible to explore that side of his nature safely. When he and Jason get locked in a cabin by a well-meaning friend, Noah wants to sample the forbidden.

Both men agree to a single afternoon of passion.

When they are released from the cabin, Jason wants to see where a relationship with Noah might lead. However, Noah is not ready to make such a radical lifestyle change -and he doesn't think he'll ever be ready to come out to friends and family.

Caught By Surprise
Loose-Id (September 21, 2010)
ISBN: 978-1-60737-859-4


Caught in the midst of an arousing dream, Noah snuggled into the bed, hoping to ward off the chill in the room with the enticing warmth that wrapped around him from behind. Surrendering to his dream lover's embrace, he shivered as a hand at his waist skimmed idly down, softly caressing his navel. He held his breath in anticipation when calloused fingers continued their path downward. He was all in favor of having those skillful fingers wrap around his hardening cock.

Shifting back, Noah moaned, hoping it would encourage his lover to touch him more intimately. He trembled when the wicked hand wrapped around his cock and stroked up and down, up and down. Occasionally, a fingertip would rub the head, tracing the tiny slit, until all he could do was whimper and plead, “Faster, harder.” He knew it was nothing but a forbidden dream, yet his face heated at the sounds he made, the dirty words he whispered.

Maybe there was something to his shrink's advice after all.

Reaching back, Noah curled his fingers on the muscled thigh behind him. His lover's skin was hot, and the tiny, coarse hairs tickled his palm while a hard cock rubbed against him. When his lover's fingers burrowed between his buttocks and circled his sensitive hole, Noah hissed and arched at the shock of pleasure curling up his spine. Who would have thought a simple touch could make him throb that way?

Noah gasped as his lover rubbed the tip of his erection across Noah's twitching entrance but never made an effort to breach him.

At the persistent thrust and friction, his lover simultaneously matched the speed of his strokes on his cock. Noah's mind was reeling; he didn't know whether to focus on the delicious sensations coming from his ass or the viselike grip on his cock. Either way, he wished he could capture the sensations so he could replay them over and over again.

Sliding the covers off, he glanced down, amazed at how real those fingers felt around his cock. Noah couldn't remember ever having such a vivid dream before. He arched his back and hissed when his lover's cock pushed harder, nudging briefly into his body but barely penetrating. Part of him wanted to scream, Stop teasing and fuck me! but his rigid upbringing locked the words in his throat, choking him with shame and regret.

Pushing away the encroaching reality, he focused on his lover, an anchor in the enjoyment of his dreams. Within seconds, Noah cried out, coming furiously against the strong fingers coaxing more and more pleasure from him.

And he was not the only one.

Behind him, his lover thrust frantically between his buttocks and thighs, an unrelenting drive to reach his own satisfaction. As his lover came, Noah felt a hot, sticky fluid on his thighs and a muted shout against his neck.

He didn't know whether it was his heart thudding loudly or his lover's, but both spent several minutes panting and catching their breath.

Sometime later, Noah stretched languidly. Opening his eyes, he glanced at the alarm clock and froze; his small apartment bedroom did not have swanky decor, nor was it done up in delicate blues. Rubbing his eyes, he looked around the room, but everything remained the same -- foreign, unfamiliar.

There was a blue canopy over the bed, covering dark wood posts in a shiny material that looked soft and expensive. He reached down to the silky sheet gathered around his hips, which felt heavenly against his skin. Even the mattress was cozier than anything he'd ever slept in.

Suddenly wide-awake, he realized that a stranger's hand was still loosely wrapped around his prick.

“Oh my God.” Covering his mouth, he closed his eyes briefly, hysterically searching for an answer, a memory, an explanation of how he'd ended up in a stranger's bed -- and having sex -- with a man.

“Damn…what the hell's wrong with me?” the other man muttered groggily.

His heart chilled; he recognized that voice. Jason. Oh my God, I'm in bed with one of my agents… Shit!

Inching away from the hot, sweaty body behind him, Noah staggered off the bed, feeling decidedly hungover, his mind in a fog. Bracing himself against the mattress, he glared at Jason, who was reclining against large pillows and apparently searching for something to wipe away the cum dripping from his hand.

Noah flushed when he realized it was his cum on the blond's hand.

Cheeks flaming, Jason kept his gaze averted as he picked up the edge of the nearest bedsheet and wiped his hand clean.

Staring down at himself, Noah could see a trickle of Jason's semen trailing down the insides of his legs. He'd never seen anything more disturbing in his life. After grabbing one of the sheets, he wiped at the sticky mess, his actions a bit rougher than necessary. When he'd cleaned up as best he could, he gingerly wrapped the sheet around his hips.

“What the hell happ--”

He slapped a hand over Jason's mouth, silencing him abruptly. Waking up in a strange place, under strange circumstances -- it was best not to let anyone know they were conscious.

When blue eyes met his gaze, Noah shook his head and pointed toward the open door. Nodding, Jason got up from the bed and dragged a sheet around his body, making a loose knot at his side.

Both stepped away from the bed and did a quick search of the room, looking for their guns and clothes. When nothing turned up, Noah reached for an ornate candlestick, and Jason grabbed a slim, dark statue from the nightstand. Approaching the open doorway cautiously, they were met with silence and stillness from the outer room.

Noah gave Jason instructions using familiar hand signals. At the blond's nod, he inched around the door frame, taking in the cream-colored walls and extensive bookshelves that lined two walls. A wide window was set into the longest wall, letting weak winter sunlight stream into the room. Cushy armchairs were placed around an unlit fireplace, and an elegant area rug protected Noah's bare feet from the cold hardwood floor.

Cautiously, they explored the room, checking for anything that would give them a hint of their whereabouts and whoever was responsible for their current predicament.

Their search revealed a phone with no service, and no other way to get a message out. The windows and doors were locked, and no amount of force made them budge a centimeter. If there were bugs or cameras in the room, they were undetectable, even to agents with law-enforcement training.

Noah and Jason were all alone in the expensive cabin with no viable exits -- a gilded cage of sorts.

“Noah, you need to see this.” Jason stood by massive glass doors framed by snowy white curtains.

Coming to stand by his friend, Noah gazed out at the frost-covered woodland surrounding the dwelling. No matter which direction he looked, there was nothing but naked trees and cloudless sky. Wherever they'd been taken, the location seemed fairly remote.

Frustrated, Noah tried the doorknob, but it twisted uselessly in his hand. “Shit. Did you see any other exits?”

“Yeah, two, but they're locked from the outside and state-of-the-art. Nothing we can jimmy or pick.” Jason shook his head, still scanning the clearing for any sign of guards posted around the perimeter.

“Fuck!” Noah smacked the glass hard, but the pane didn't even vibrate under the force of the blow. “I can't believe we got ambushed so easily. They got the drop on us like we were a couple of rookies.” He hated making mistakes, especially ones that endangered his life and the lives of his men. “Let's see if we can find something heavy so we can break the glass.”

“We can try, but then we'll be out in twenty-degree weather with no clothes, shoes, money, guns, or cell phones. I don't think we'll get very far. Besides, we're not in imminent danger.” Jason's expression was neutral, typical for the ex-soldier. “So, any theories on how we ended up here?”

Noah rubbed his eyes. “Not a clue. None of the cases we're working fit the profile for whoever owns this place, and none of the perps we've put away in the last three years are anywhere near parole. We must be missing something obvious.” He tried to focus on the few facts they had, but he was having a hard time concentrating with everything that had already happened that morning.

“Still,” Jason said, sarcasm tingeing his voice, “it can't be a coincidence that we're both here, groggy and naked. Where did you get taken?”

“In a downtown parking garage,” Noah said vaguely. “You?”

“Coming out of the diner near the office.” Jason smiled wryly. “Do you think anyone's realized we're missing yet?”

Resting his head against the window, Noah sighed. “They might not miss me right away since I've been ducking out of the office lately, but you're like clockwork. They'll miss you before they miss me.”

“Are you all right?” Jason watched him carefully.

“Yeah, of course, I'm fine.” He delivered the line automatically, closing down that line of questioning immediately. But in the back of his mind, Noah heard his shrink telling him to trust his friends and teammates with more than just his life.

Noah took a deep breath. “I've been seeing someone -- a doctor --”

Alarmed, Jason interrupted, “What? Are you sick?”

“Not that way.” He hesitated, touched by the blond's concern. “After the shooting a few months back, I had to get a psych-evaluation release.” Noah blushed and looked away. “Once I got the all-clear, the shrink asked me to come back. He thought there were other issues I needed to work through.” Noah cleared his throat, embarrassed that he'd visited a shrink for personal reasons.

As Noah's words sank in, Jason teased, “Noah Black is in therapy?”

“Fuck you,” Noah shot back without any real anger.

Before Jason could respond, the phone rang, making a shrill noise in the cavernous room.

“I thought the line was dead,” Jason said as he approached the desk in the far corner.

“It was when I tried it. No dial tone and no dialing out,” Noah replied, standing next to Jason. Reaching out, he pressed the Speaker button.

An arrogant, satisfied voice came over the line. “I hope you liked my gift, Jason.”

Part of the “National Coming Out” celebration at Loose-Id
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Monday, September 20, 2010

The Princess of the Andes excerpt by Victo J Banis

In this excerpt from The Princess of the Andes, by Victor J. Banis, Raymond Letterman is a bore. He has driven the Captain and the crew of The Princess of the Andes to desperation with his incessant chatter – and the ship’s doctor comes up with a possible solution…

The Princess of the Andes
Untread Reads Publishing (June 14, 2010)
ASIN: B003S3S56C


When he went into the dining room a bit later, he found Captain Herrman and his mate, Hans, drinking a beer together.

"Join us, Doctor," the Captain greeted him. "We're just holding a council of war. "You know that Christmas Eve is only three days away."

"Of course."

They had brought a Christmas tree all the way from Los Angeles and the crew had been looking forward to the occasion. Separated as they were from their families, they took a very sentimental view of the holiday.

"Mister Letterman outdid himself at lunch today," the mate said. "He scarcely stopped for breath the whole time."

"It's hard enough to be apart from one's family at Christmas time, but I cannot endure the thought of spending the entire evening listening to that incessant chatterbox."

"Short of throwing him overboard, I don't know what you can do," the doctor said. "He's not a bad old soul, you know. He just needs a man."

"What on earth do you mean?" the Captain cried.

"Oh, come now, gentleman," the doctor scolded them, "Surely you must have realized by now that Mister Letterman is homosexual. Gay, in their own terms."

The Captain's face reddened. "Yes, that thought crossed my mind, but the man is sixty if he's a day. You can't mean to suggest that he's thinking of romance at his age."

"I think it all the more likely at his age," the doctor said. "All that loquacity. A good session with a lusty man, whatever it is that those people do together, it would relax all those jangled nerves. I give you my word we'd have some quiet then."

The Captain smiled at the suggestion and his eyes twinkled. "Well, then, doctor, since you are a bachelor, and this is the remedy you suggest, I think it is up to you to see to the matter."

"Pardon me, Captain, but as ship's doctor it is up to me to prescribe treatment for the afflictions of our passengers, but it is not my duty to administer it. Besides, I am past the age of sixty myself. I think that youth is an essential in this matter, and good looks an advantage. I believe our mate here, Hans, would be the ideal one to solve the problem."

Hans leapt to his feet. "Me. I wouldn't. I couldn't. Are you suggesting I am…?"

"Oh, don't be foolish," the Captain said. "You're a sailor, aren't you? Sailors have a long tradition in these matters. Didn't I see you dancing with another sailor in Belem not so long ago?"

"It was only a samba."

"Besides, you're handsome, young, and strong. We have two more weeks before we reach Los Angeles and can be free from this pest. Surely you wouldn't let the rest of us down."

"No, no, Captain, you ask too much of me. I was only married two months before we set sail, and I can hardly return to my bride and confess that I have already been unfaithful, and with a man in the bargain."

"Am I then to have the rest of my trip, and my Christmas holiday to boot, ruined because there is no man on my ship to show a little kindness to an aging homosexual? I swear it, I shall run us aground."

"What about Peter?" Hans said in a flash of inspiration. "The radio operator?"

The Captain gave a roar and pounded upon the table. "By all the angels in Heaven," he cried, "You have found the very solution. Bring that young man here, at once."

When the radio operator, young Peter, was brought into the dining room, he wondered uneasily if he had done something wrong, but he clicked his heels smartly together and stood at attention while the four men—the engineer had now joined the others—looked him over at some length.

Peter was tall, wide of shoulder and narrow of hip. His hair, a riot of curls, was golden, his eyes the blue of the sky—the very epitome of Teutonic manhood.

"How old are you, young man?" The Captain asked.

"I'm twenty one, sir."


"No, sir."

"You are aware, are you not, that we still have one passenger aboard?"

"Yes, Sir. I've seen him a time or two on deck. He always says a very polite good morning to me."

"And I trust you have responded in kind?"

"Yes, Sir."

"That is good, then." The Captain assumed a serious manner, and his face took on a stern impression.

"We are a cargo ship," he said, "but as you know, we also carry passengers and because it allows us to turn a profit, this is a branch of our business our owners want us to encourage. My instructions are that we are, each of us, to do everything that we can to ensure the happiness and the comforts of our passengers. I trust that you recognize the importance of that mission."

The radio man looked puzzled, but he nodded and said, "Yes, sir. I am always happy to do what I can to make our passengers happy."

"Good. The gentleman in question needs the attentions of a man."

"Attentions, Sir?" Peter screwed up his face in puzzlement.

The Captain reddened, but he said frankly, "Of a sexual nature. And the doctor and I have decided that you are the perfect one to resolve this issue."

"Of a sexual nature, Sir? You mean, from me?" The young man blushed and gave a little laugh, but he quickly saw that this was not a matter of amusement to the others in the room. "But, I'm not inclined that way, Sir. Anyway, the gentleman is old, he's old enough to be my father."

"At your age, that shouldn't matter in the least. When I was twenty one…well, no matter, my exploits are not the issue here. Besides, this is a gentleman of distinction. He has talked with us evening after evening of his acquaintances in the city of the Angels."

"He appears to be on a first name basis with a great many members of the movie community," Hans added.

"There, you see," the Captain nodded his approval. "Who knows what might come of your kindness in this matter? You're a good-looking fellow, I don't mind telling you that. Who's to say you might not find yourself enjoying a movie career as a result of doing a good deed. It's not often one gets the opportunity to combine a little pleasure with a chance at fame and fortune."

"But, Sir…"

"I am not making a request of you," The Captain interrupted him in his sternest voice, "I am giving you an order. You will present yourself to Mister Letterman in his cabin at exactly eleven o'clock tonight."

"But, what shall I do?"

"Do? What kind of foolish question is that? Do what comes naturally."
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Match Maker excerpt by Alan Chin

In the four years since being forced off the professional tour for being gay, Daniel Bottega has taught tennis at a second-rate country club. He found a sanctuary to hide from an unkind world, while his lover, Jared Stoderling, fought a losing battle with alcohol addiction to cope with his disappointment of not playing on the pro circuit.

Now Daniel has another chance at the tour by coaching tennis prodigy Connor Lin to a Grand Slam championship win. He shares his chance with Jared by convincing him to return to the pro circuit as Connor’s doubles partner.

Competing on the world tour is challenging enough, but Daniel and Jared also face major media attention, political fallout from the pro association, and a shocking amount of hate that threatens Connor’s career in tennis, Jared’s love for Daniel, and Daniel’s very life.

Match Maker
Dreamspinner Press (Sept 2010)
ISBN-13 978-1-61581-588-3 (electronic)
ISBN-13 978-1-61581-587-6


Connor Lin’s eyes grew large as the ball bounced short of the service line and sailed into his strike zone. He drew his racket back while planting his body in perfect balance; his arm swung, shoulders rotated, and his racket arched up through the ball and continued into a follow-through. The ball seemed to shriek from the impact as it sped bullet-fast toward the sideline. It scorched a pale mark on the green court a half-inch from the white line. But once again, it was the half-inch on the far side of the line. The lineman’s hand flew up, and he yelled, “Out.”

Connor dropped his racket and blinked at the mark, obviously not quite believing that he had lost another game.

Sweat dripped from his nose and chin.

He glanced at the chair umpire, attempting to coerce an overrule, but the chair awarded the game to Connor’s opponent.

Connor lifted the flap of his shirt, mopped his face, and bent to pick up his racket.

Watching him from the bleachers, it occurred to me that he must have dreamed about this match for most of his teenaged life. He had begun the first game with all the charisma of a champion poised for a run at brilliance, but the match had mutated into his worst nightmare. No brilliance materialized. Point by point, his entire being shriveled. His confidence and composure evaporated.

There was nothing anyone could do to reverse his downward spiral. I felt his frustration, a searing tightness in my abdomen. I had experienced the same ordeal many times, and even though half a decade had passed since then, I knew precisely how he felt: like a man alone at thirty thousand feet without a parachute. He was playing a quarterfinal match on the show court of an ATP satellite tennis tournament, set within the twisted pine forest between Carmel and the craggy cliffs of Big Sur. Five hundred shrieking, stomping fans packed the bleachers, and the loudest of them was Connor’s father, who sat three rows below me in the players’ section.

Cold fear. It first appeared in Connor’s eyes when he must have realized that, without the help of divine intervention, he would lose to a sixteen-year-old whose groundstrokes resembled a caveman swinging a club. His fear visibly gave birth to hatred, seething, and finally, humiliation. What Connor’s eyes showed eventually revealed itself in his body language. He looked like a pro tennis player—lean, agile body, good legs, coffee-colored hair gathered into a ponytail and covered with a ball-cap turned back to front, and the prettiest almond-shaped eyes I’d ever seen—but his slumped shoulders and marred facial expressions gave him away. He was out of his league, and he knew it.

I mentally listed his technical problems with a practiced eye. He had a decent first serve, but a weak, loopy second serve that my aunt Betsy could wallop for a winner. And when serving a critical point, his toss fell an inch or so shorter than normal, making him hit down on the ball and dump his serve into the net. He scrambled from side to side with the fluid steps that produce great footwork, but he seemed unsure of himself anywhere in front of the baseline, and three volleys hacked into the net and a botched overhead told me why.

Other than that, all his troubles lay between his ears. His problems stemmed from impatience. Instead of working the rallies while waiting for a weak ball to attack, he tried to crush winners from a defensive position. He won enough points to keep him pulling the trigger, but he also sprayed enough balls long, wide, and into the net to lose every game.

Nevertheless, even with his obvious technical and mental issues, he was thrilling to watch. His grace, explosive speed, and physical beauty sent chills up my spine. I was not in love with him. How could I be? I had never even met him. But I loved watching him play.

Connor lost the first set with a bagel, and his father shrieked hysterically. At first, he directed his outburst at Connor, telling the boy how to play, then at the opponent, for not being good enough to be on the same court with his son. The chair umpire notified security on his walkie-talkie, and we all waited while two uniformed men escorted Connor’s father from the bleachers. He screamed obscenities all the way to the parking lot.

Connor sat through the whole scene crouched forward on his bench with a white towel draped over his head. I would have bet fifty bucks that tears were flowing under that towel, but I doubt I would have found any takers.

Connor’s game continued to disintegrate through the second set. After a heated argument with the chair umpire over a questionable line call, he turned to flip the bird at a heckling spectator and received a code of conduct warning for “visible” obscenity. Two games later, another out call had him tomahawking his racket and unleashing a screech. It was a sound of pure anguish. I could only shake my head and watch as that temperamental athlete, with the sublime groundstrokes of a top-ten player, suffered a mental meltdown in public view.

I longed to cradle him in my arms and explain that it was only a game, that it should be fun. I wanted him to know that he didn’t need to battle against the pressures that the world threw at him, but he was in no condition to listen to anybody, least of all a has-been like me.

In Connor’s last service game, while he waited for his opponent to step to the baseline, he glanced into the stands. We made eye contact for a dozen seconds, and he looked right through me, as if to say, “Fuck you, you know-it-all bastard. At least I’m down here, still in the fight. What the fuck are you doing?” I saw something flicker deep within those beautiful eyes, something more than defiant pride. Or maybe I just chose to see. Even though his emotions had run away with him, I saw his courage as clearly as if he were holding up his heart like a metal shield.

I sucked in my breath and held it until he looked away.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Fall Into the Night excerpt by P. A. Brown

Fall Into The Night by P. A. Brown is an epic science fiction tale, a journey of discovery. Captain Terik u Selhdun has known darkness all of his life. Captain of the Necromancer, the ruler of Tiamat, his ancestral home, he is coerced into taking a small group of scientists in search of the legendary birthplace of humanity. Earth -- Terra -- was lost to history during the Exodus. From the beginning trouble dogs the expedition, from a failed assassination attempt to the manipulations of a despotic Suzerain and a brutal Navy Admiral who have no intention of letting Selhdun or his mission succeed.

Fall Into the Night
Amber Allure (July 19, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-1-60272-713-7 (Electronic)
ISBN-13: 978-1-60272-777-9 (Paperback


Chapter One

"So the old fool finally decided to die."

Terik u Selhdun tipped his wineglass back and let the cool liquid slip down his throat. He set the glass onto the table and studied the soft reflections of the other diners in the curved glasteel windows to his right. A pulse beat in his jaw. The scarred flesh on the side of his head tugged at the embedded metal alloy of his link. Ship lay on the other side of that link; his own power. A power that had nothing to do with his family or his name. "I'd say it was about time, but that's a lie. He was sixty years too late."

"You intend to go through with this, then?" Pakal Tarskaya frowned, his ever-present accent thickened as it always did when he was upset. Narrowed lids half concealed the unusual silver-gray of his eyes. The low light emitted by the walls of their booth gleamed off his mahogany-brown, hairless skull. "Even knowing how dangerous it is to be in power right now?"

"Tiamat's mine by birthright." Selhdun glanced out the enormous window, toward the lights of the planet Nexus thirty-six thousand kilometers below them. It was night on this side, and the lights of the endless city filled nearly every visible hectare of both continents. Even the seas overflowed with lights."I swear that nest of lights grows denser each time we return. Except there..." He stared down at the dark blemish the size of his manicured thumbnail that was the Suzerain's royal estate on the shores of the Khabarovsk Sea. "How is it, you think, that my cher-cousin, the Suzerain, manages to reside amid so much light and yet cannot see? He plies his rule upon these hapless souls and thinks they love him because they haven't figured out how to rid themselves of him once and for all. They haven't a clue what to replace him with."

Pakal glanced around quickly. The restaurant hummed with quiet activity. "You should take care, Terik. Such words, in the wrong ears could be trouble even for you."

"Even the Suzerain has to pretend my ascendancy to Ogema means something. He will observe the legal niceties of his own laws," Selhdun said. "Why do you think I plan to take what is mine? Once I'm Ogema, even the Suzerain won't dare touch us."

"He has other ways to rid himself of troublemakers."

Selhdun looked away from the planet, beyond the delicate lacework of metal. If he squinted, he could just make out the distant outline of his ship, the Necromancer, at dock on the outer fringes of the Spindle.

Ninety-eight hours earlier, he had brought the Necromancer out of Jump into Nexian space. There a message waited for him from his estranged family. His father was dead. He looked back to find Pakal watching him. He raised his wineglass. "The Ogema is dead. Long live the Ogema."

From the nearest tables, the voices of other diners were muffled whispers. Selhdun saw several sneak covert looks his way.

"Do you think they've heard?" He watched Pakal's eyebrow go up and answered his own question. "Of course, they have. Probably before I did. Hell, probably before my father did."

"Many of them support the Suzerain. You would do well to watch yourself while you are here, Terik," Pakal said. He toyed with the heavy base of his lead crystal glass, then met Selhdun's eyes again. "Or do you expect me to call you my Lord now?"

"Would you?"

Pakal snorted, rousing a smile from Selhdun.

"You must know what will happen if you walk back into that viper's nest. Your family..." Pakal shook his head. "How can you want to return, after all this time?"

"If I don't, who benefits? Will my mother be inconsolable if I allow Kerstrik to usurp me? She would like nothing better." Selhdun's mouth twisted in a feral smile. "Do I let her win--after all this time?"

"Win? Who wins? Not us. Not you. If you go through with this farce who will protect you once you are back there?"

"Are you saying you're no match for Kerstrik's scheming? Or my mother's?" A servant offered them a tray of sweets; after looking it over Selhdun flicked his hand in dismissal. "Buy more guards, if it makes you happy."

Pakal put one hand atop Selhdun's, stilling his restless movements on the soft table cover. "You are not fit--" Pakal frowned as though aware he had to be careful with his words. "How long has it been since you were dirtside? Months? The polo-match the Suzerain insisted everyone attend? You hated it. Remember the trouble you had just walking? Do you really want to go through that again? Are your muscles capable of such strain?"

"Just because I refuse to join you in the gym at some ungodly hour for those ridiculous calisthenics of yours, you think me weak."

Selhdun pulled his hand away. "Tomorrow you will begin preparations to leave. Call Kaari and tell her to start prepping the Necromancer.

The Cyxers are going to meet us on Tiamat anyway. We'll just arrive early." He caught the look Pakal gave him. "I am going back, Pakal."

Pakal sighed and looked out beyond the window separating the diners from the hard vacuum beyond. "I am glad now I hired the new apprentice when I did. Kaari has been showing him the ropes; we can consider ourselves fully staffed again."

Selhdun raised one eyebrow. "The boy from Xua? You're really going to offer him the contract? I thought you just brought him along to amuse yourself while I was in court."

"Nikoli is hardly a boy. An eighteen-year-old Xuan has already lived a dozen lifetimes beyond what this pampered crowd knows." He glanced around the elegant room. "He holds all the required Hegemon certificates. Now at least our crew compliment is back where it should be."

"I hope he's worth the bounty they made you put up."

"How did you know about that?" Pakal's narrow face went dangerously still.
Selhdun shrugged. "You forget there are those who enjoy keeping me informed of your behavior. Surely you know they envy you."

"I try to forget."

"So, is he worth it?" Selhdun grinned at the look of quiet exasperation Pakal gave him. "You forget I've seen him. You're lucky I'm not the jealous type."

Outside a trio of plate-sized Stationtechs moved across a nearby strut. The crab-like 'Techs were busy at some task, tending to station repairs as their continually remodified programming dictated. He caught a glimpse of his image in the glasteel window. The soft lights reflected off a skull, hairless like Pakal's, except for the braided queue of black hair hanging down the small of his back. The network of biosteel above his left ear glittered in the light like a fine strand of jewels.

"It's agreed then; we return," Selhdun said. He raised his wineglass. "To Tiamat, and profit where we find it."

Pat Brown
"The few books I’ve read by P. A. Brown have never let me down when it comes to finding well fascinating characters and a developed "storyline. Fall Into The Night is definitely among the top few that I’ve read. I look forward to seeing what this talent author comes up with next."
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