Once again, it’s that time of year again. That time of hearts and love and chocolate.
As anyone that’s semi-familiar with my writing knows, I tend to write in a variety of genres and heat levels, though my stuff is usually on the softer side of hardcore porn 😉 Anyways, right now all I have published is m/m, though I promise that in the future there will be some m/f or m/m/f. Mostly though, my stories are about people and love.
I hope that everyone enjoys the excerpt and posts a comment at the bottom for a chance to win 1 of 4 ebooks I’m giving out or the grand prize, a signed print copy of “Heroes & Villains.”
Much love to everyone that enters and I hope you follow the link to ride out the rest of the Hop. There’s a lot of very good stuff being given out today by a bunch of incredibly wonderful people. So check out my entry, then be sure to enjoy the rest of the “With Love Valentine’s Day Blog Hop.”
P.S. My apologies to anyone that came around earlier. I had a post set up to be published at midnight of the 10th, but for some reason it seems to have disappeared 😦 I would have noticed earlier, but I was running errands this morning. I am incredibly sorry and I promise to make it up to everyone that does enter ::wink::
Title: The Brand
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: sci-fi, fantasy, mm
Pen is a Royal Concubine that belonged to King Darling, who has just been overthrown. Now Pen and the rest of the harem are spoils of war and belong to Duke Wrathful Fury, a hard man with the ear of the Emperor of the West.
Excerpt taken from “The Brand.”
Coming back to the palace where he had spent his whole life, Pen almost didn’t recognize the place.
It wasn’t as though the palace had been ravaged of its riches, but there seemed to be hundreds of strange soldiers at work busily clearing away bodies and reordering the world he had always known.
“Take him to the harem so he may clean himself,” Wrathful Fury ordered a lieutenant before turning to look at Pen. “I know how you enjoy your baths.”
“How… How do you know anything about me?” Pen asked, unable to resist seeking an answer to his curiosity.
“I have been watching you,” Wrathful Fury said. “Why else do you think I petitioned the Emperor to conqueror such a small and insignificant country?”
“For me?” Pen couldn’t believe it, and the horror the thought of it brought made him want to be sick.
Darling was dead because of him? It was not something he had even thought of before.
“Why would you conquer our country… for me?” he asked.
Wrathful Fury smirked at him. “Darling refused my offers for you, so instead of just taking you… I took everything he possessed, including his life.”
“Why would you do that?” Pen couldn’t help the slight catch in his voice. “What’s so special about me?”
“As if you don’t know.” Wrathful Fury reached out to brush his fingertips across Pen’s lips. “You are a rare and wondrous treasure, the most beautiful person in all the world. And now you are mine. And all I had to do was crush Darling and his army and claim this country for my own.”
Through sheer force of will, Pen kept himself from flinching back from that touch. His future was in the hands of this man and he would have to do his best to please him no matter what he personally felt, because more than anything, he wanted to live.
“So beautiful…” Wrathful Fury whispered. “And you’re mine.”
Darling had never made Pen feel like such a possession. There had always been this sense that if he had wanted to refuse harem life and venture out into the world, Darling would let him go. But he knew that Wrathful Fury never would.
The Duke pulled his hand back and turned to the lieutenant that was patiently waiting off to one side. “Take him to the harem,” he ordered, all softness gone from his voice.
Pen allowed himself to be led from the foyer and up the stairs to the harem.
It felt oddly as if he was heading into unknown territory and not back into the only home he had ever known. Everything was different now. The world had shifted around him.
“What’s your name?” he asked the lieutenant leading him. He figured he needed to start making as many allies as he possibly could, especially if this was going to be his new life.
The young man barely glanced at him. “Ilis.”
“Lieutenant Ilis,” Pen said, allowing a musing quality to enter his voice. “One of Wrathful Fury’s trusted soldiers.”
There was a slight hint of color high on Ilis’ cheeks, but he still refused to look at Pen. It was going to take awhile before any kind of rapport could be achieved, but Pen knew he was going to have to take the time to make things work because he was in this for the long haul.
“Here you go,” Ilis said, gesturing to one of the guards standing outside the double doors that led into the harem. The woman leapt into action, pushing the door open so Pen could pass through.
“Aren’t you going to accompany me?” Pen asked.
Ilis shook his head. “I need to return to my duties. Besides, none but the Duke and his chosen guards are allowed into the harem. You go on alone.”
Pen sighed. “Oh well, it would have been nice to have someone new to talk to, since it’s always the same old faces day in and day out in the life of a concubine. Still, I truly need a chance to bathe,” he said, wrinkling his nose at his stained clothing. He must look a sight, and probably didn’t smell too fresh either.
Ilis jerked a nod at him, then turned on his heel and left.
Pen looked after the other man for a moment, then shrugged. He smoothed back his hair before sauntering through the double doors as prideful as a cat.
“Well, well, look at who’s back,” a snide voice said.
“Silence, Taro, or something bad’s going to happen to you.”
Pen flashed a brief smile at Gyre. The boy was forever trying to protect him. It was actually rather adorable.
“Help me bathe,” he offered.
Gyre’s face brightened and he came hurrying over. It made Pen smile a little to see him being so puppyish.
“So, how’s it been?” Pen asked, low-voiced, as they made their way into the bathing chamber.
He could already see that some rather drastic changes had taken place in the harem, but he wanted a first hand account of all he had missed.
There were a lot less concubines in the harem. Faces that he had seen every day of his life had disappeared somewhere that he was almost afraid to ask about. There were also slight signs of some minor property damage off to one side, though it was obvious Wrathful Fury had had his men watching out for the harem to keep the damage to a minimum.
“How bad was it?” he asked.
Gyre shrugged as though it didn’t matter. “Not so bad. We had enough warning that most of us hid. When the Duke’s men broke in, they were under orders not to cause us any damage, so it was all right.”
Pen lightly touched the younger man’s arm. “I’m sorry I left you behind,” he said seriously.
Gyre smiled at him. “I’m just glad you’re back.”
“So am I,” Pen said, and even though he had meant it as a comfort for Gyre, he was surprised to realize that it was the truth. The harem was the only home he had ever known and there was really nowhere else in the world he wanted to be.
Stripping off his clothes, Pen stepped into the rinsing shower. He really didn’t want to take the filth that covered him into the communal bath.
“I’ll fetch you your shampoo and soap,” Gyre said, glancing around. The body servants that usually cared for them had disappeared somewhere and they would have to take care of themselves until the situation straightened itself out.
Pen sighed heavily as the lukewarm water began flowing over him. He could practically see the filth rolling off his body.
He had never spent more than a few hours outside of the harem, and then he had been surrounded by bodyguards and bodyservants and had never had to lift a hand for himself. He had spent his entire life cushioned in safety with no worry that any kind of real harm could ever touch him.
He closed his eyes tight on the memory of the horror that had befallen his home in the last week. It was the kind of thing that had been burned into his mind for the rest of his life.
His first realization that something was wrong came when he was in the gardens with Darling. He had noticed that the king was quieter than usual, more serious.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
Darling gave him a sad smile. “It’s all coming to an end.”
“What do you mean?” Pen asked.
“I fear…” Darling rubbed a hand across his face. “I fear that I have made a grave mistake.”
“And what’s that?”
“A messenger from Duke Wrathful Fury came to me last week and offered me immeasurable wealth to give the Duke something that he desired. I refused him.”
“Why would you do that?” Pen demanded. “Wrathful Fury is an incredibly dangerous man. If you anger him… he will destroy our kingdom.”
“I know that I should have given him what he wanted, but… I would rather die than lose it. And now I fear that I have doomed us all, because my messengers have brought word that Wrathful Fury has gathered the Horde and they’re on their way here now.”
“What?” Pen gasped, his fingers clenching hard against the edge of the stone bench.
Darling touched the side of Pen’s face with wistful fingers. “You’re so beautiful in the sunlight. I really don’t want to let you go.”
Pen’s lip quivered and he didn’t quite know why he felt like he was going to cry. “What… What’s going to happen?”
“There’s no way our army can stop the Hordes commanded by Wrathful Fury. We can’t stop the inevitable end.” Darling sighed deeply and gazed around the garden sadly.
“It’s kind of sad, but peaceful too.”
“I’m…” Pen threw his arms around Darling’s chest and hugged him tightly. “I’m going to miss you.”
He wanted more than anything to be able to say that he loved Darling, but that was a lie and they would both know it. As it was, he was exceedingly fond of the king and he really didn’t want him to die.
Darling stroked a hand across his hair. “I will miss you too, my dear Lovely Splendour. But I’m happy that you were mine even if it was never meant to last forever.”
Pen leaned his head against Darling’s shoulder, pressing their chests–their hearts–together. “I remember the first time I met you. I thought that if I spent my entire life serving you it would be all right.”
He could feel a soft trickle of tears landing against the top of his head, but he pretended not to notice. Kings did not weep, and if they did, concubines never spoke of it.
Sitting on the garden bench, wrapped close together, they both knew that what they had had was coming to an end. The world was changing and there was nothing either one could do to stop it. What they had had was almost over.
Enjoy the rest of the Hop and have a truly wonderful day ♥♥♥!