I've been getting some great feedback on Unfamiliar Moonlight, so thank you to everyone who has been reading & leaving reviews. I do read as many as I can and I really appreciate you guys' pov, especially on new series. :) I'm so happy to be writing again!
I should be turning in a few more books in the next few weeks, so look for more announcements on release dates soon. Which books? Should I tease? Bah! I'm no good at secrets. The final HGA, Angelic Ending, is the first one to be on the turn-in queue. I'll be putting up some excerpts as soon as I hit the last chapter.
The next sHarmony book Bitten at Last, is about halfway finished at present (Can you tell I've been manuscript hopping?) and Orion is giving his little mate hell for making him wait.
I'm also almost finished with Within Limits, the next in The Others series. This one involves a halfling, a human, some wolves, and a prison setting. Sound fun? Oh honey, you have no idea! ^-^ I'll post a teaser below to give you guys something to look forward to.
Last but not least, I'm going to be posting a new freebie to the website to say goodbye to a wonderful summer and Hello to a kick butt fall. I hope you guys enjoy.
Overall, I'm buried in projects at present and trying to get back on track for releases so you guys won't have to wait a whole year between releases again. :) As always, if you have any questions, as always, feel free to email me or leave a comment below to grab my attention. Thanks for reading!
Within Limits Excerpt
Welcome to the Pit
The world has been at war for ages. No one really remembers who started it or why it ended but, at last, there is peace. The five dominant species, the dragons, the wolves, the Sidhe, the spirits, and humans have arranged fiercely territorial boundaries in all of the cities of the world.
The territories of the dragons are all known as the Ashlands and are glittering gems in an otherwise apocalyptic landscape. Feeding on the hungers of all mankind, they supply the world with all the things that humanity desires yet is too afraid to ask for.
Wolves live in tightly packed urban lines with their pack violence still ruling their lives. There has been talk of peace between the packs of Los Angelos, but no Alpha has managed to make that happen yet. Deeply distrustful of humanity, they keep to themselves for the most part, and have their own brand of justice.
The Sidhe, the most mysterious group of all, live in the city center in towering high-rises and are known for their abilities to turn water into wine … and straw into gold.
Magic users or the spirits as they are known to the rest of the world, have built their dwellings toward the outskirts of the city in sprawling academic spaces where any species can attend for a price but whether the price is a pound of flesh or a mountain of gold, no one knows until the Dean of Spirits asks the price.
Humans live in scattered pockets amongst the Others, owning small businesses and generally fearful of what another war could mean for their nearly extinct species. However, ten years of peace have made them forget the most potent deterrents of defying the territorial lines and the laws that govern each.
Fear of war causes any person who commits three crimes, no matter how small, to be treated with the harshest punishments under the law: life without the possibility of parole. Any Other or human found to be in violation will be promptly banished to a prison which no one escapes.
The Pit, housed deep within the Western Mountains, has laws and a culture all its own and woe be to the male who finds himself navigating its treacherous path alone.
“You will be assigned a bunkmate for the duration of your stay in the Pit,” the new officer said, his slicked back hair reminding Damon of an oil spill. “When your last name is called, step forward and your bunkmate will escort you down to your new block.”
Fucking awesome. Why not just giftwrap him naked for whatever con got his number?
“If you find your new bunkmate objectionable, report your complaints to the nearest officer’s desk in the morning.”
Where do I report inevitable death? Maybe he could try to get into segregation.
Never before had he thought that having an “M” last name was a tactical disadvantage. That was before he sat through his first count and the men started getting bigger and bigger the farther down he got down the alphabet.
“McCarthy,” the officer barked.
Damon nearly jumped out of his skin and the chuckle from everyone within eyeshot made his face heat.
“Orlov, get your Halfling ass front and center.”
Halfling? I must not vomit. I must not vomit. Damon’s fists clenched rhythmically at his sides as his nervousness peaked. Movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. He nearly swallowed his tongue as the largest man he’d ever seen step out of the lines of inmates opposite the newbies.
The guy had to be at least six and a half feet tall with muscles on top of muscles on top of muscles. Even in the baggy tacky tan uniforms they made everyone wear, the fabric seemed molded to his frame. Topped with a handsome face with chiseled cheekbones, startling jade green eyes, and a black faux hawk, on the outside Damon would’ve done everything in his power to avoid the guy. Instead of prison tats, the man sported glittering green and gold scales on either side of his muscly neck, naming him a Halfling without the officer’s revealing command.
Damon was about to be another prison rape statistic. He just knew it.
“What the fuck, Hernandez?” Orlov rumbled. “I don’t do roomies.” He looked over at Damon like he was far from impressed.
Good. Maybe he won’t go all 3 Strikes on my ass. Damon swallowed. Of course, the alternative was that he was sizing up to eat him. Fuck. I hate this. I don’t belong here. A sound between a scream and a moan issued from his throat without any intention on his part.
The officer snarled. “You do what we want when we want, Orlov, and you’re the only spare bunk on A block. Deal with it.”
The look in Orlov’s eyes said he put the blame for his annoyance squarely on Damon’s thin shoulders. Orlov spat. “Fine. Get your ass moving, kid.” He turned around without another word and stalked toward the line of freight elevators on the opposite wall.
Damon followed demurely behind, keenly aware of all the eyes following his shuffle. At least they’d taken off the chains to make running easier.
He’d been surprised when they’d loaded all his fellow inmates into train cars and shuttled them down underground. According to the lecture on significant locations in the Pit, this level was roughly a quarter of a mile beneath the peak of the mountain. A large circular room had been carved out and topped with an arable dome at the center to provide sunlight and rain to a half-mile wide rec area known as the yard. The dining hall, work out room, and the officer’s desks were also on the same level.
The rest of the mountain had been carved out according to various construction projects brought about by the DOJ that sort of resembled a glorified anthill to Damon’s untrained eye. The elevators were labeled for the floors they went to and the line of cells were carved into the stone, two men to a cell, however long the hallways were on interlocking levels. There were also jobs he could apply for if he wanted extra commissary money but he hadn’t gotten that far in the pamphlet yet. He was too focused on surviving the here and now.
“How old are you, kid?” Orlov barked as the elevator doors shut, locking the two of them inside together.
“Um, uh twenty.”
Orlov let out a string of curses that would’ve made a sailor blush. “You got your three strikes by twenty? The fuck, kid. You got a death wish?”
“Not particularly, just really, really bad timing.”
The Halfling muttered something under his breath that Damon couldn’t hear. “Human, right?”
He nodded. No use denying it.
“Right. Lemme give you a heads up, if you don’t find yourself a crew worth a damn, you’re a dead man.”
Damon’s heart sank. “I surmised as much.”
“Surmised? Who the fuck uses the word surmised?” Orlov shook his head. “Don’t talk smart down here, kid. People won’t like it. Whoever you were on the outside, you better forget it. Grow a new personality.”
Silence descended between them as the elevator moved ever downward. The elevator rocked as it came to a stop, startling Damon. He felt like a scared rabbit down here. The doors creaked as they slid open on A block.
“After I show you the room, I’m going back up to the rec area. You can tag along if you want but if you start to make me look bad, I’m going to plant your ass six feet under.”
Tagging along did not sound like a good plan. “I, uh, wouldn’t let me cramp your style or whatever. I’ll, er, stay in the room.”
Orlov nodded like he had figured as much. The stone walls were very dungeon like and the fluorescent sconces along the wall did not detract from the feeling of medieval torture chamber.
All the cells looked exactly alike, their heavy metal doors partially opened to indicate their apparent emptiness. “Here we are,” Orlov said, waving toward the bars. “You can have the empty tub.”
Damon did not want to go in first but he didn’t have much of a choice. A very uncomfortable looking bunk bed took up half of the room and two yellow tubs were shoved underneath the bottom bunk. On the opposite wall, a single toilet with a small washing station. Overall, the place couldn’t have been more than ten by ten. Tight quarters for men half Orlov’s size. Damon made it his new life’s mission to stay the hell out of his bunkmate’s way.
“Your ass also gets top bunk. My feet hang off.”
No kidding. “Okay.”
“You an addict?”
Damon blinked. “No.”
“No meth, coke, Molly, or any of that new-age shit?”
He shook his head. “No. I smoked a joint once. I threw up.” That was probably not a good idea to admit in prison. Christ. I’m in prison.
Slowly, Orlov nodded. “Fine. I’m gone. Touch my shit and I’ll break your fingers.”
Damon slowly shuffled over to the bunk bed, clutching his fists tight. He didn’t have anything for the tub yet so he ignored it. Instead, he sank into the unwelcoming embrace of a bed that was as hard as uncut diamonds. For the first time since he’d surrendered himself at the courthouse, he let himself cry.
Damon managed to make it through the razing at lunch and the sexual innuendos that surrounded them everywhere they went without having a meltdown. He mentally patted himself on the back. Today had been exhausting but it was almost over.
“Come on, kid,” Gabor rumbled as the siren blasted and echoed through the caverns. “It’s time for last count. Then we get to grab some shut eye.”
He stamped down on the immediate spike of fear. So far Gabor had been nice. Well, as nice as he expected a big time convict to be anyway. He was tough and a little growly but he hadn’t been an ass.
Last count seemed just like first count only this time he was on the other side of the line. Officers walked up and down the lines, marking off inmates and scanning the tags on the backs of every inmates wrists. The implant had been in whatever shots they’d given when he’d been in intake.
“Come on, kid. Let’s get some shut eye.”
“I’m not gay,” he said as they entered the elevator.
“If you were, you’d be the one hunting out some tail down here instead of all the fishes hunting you,” Gabor drawled. The elevator was crowded, pressing the two of them closer together.
Damon glanced over and saw one inmate put his hand down another inmates pants. His mouth went slack in surprise. The smaller of the two whimpered, arching up into the grip of the larger man.
“Daddy,” the smaller man whispered. “Thank you, Daddy.”
“Hm, gonna come for me, baby?” the older wolf growled, fist pumping in the guy’s pants.
The smaller guy whimpered in answer.
“Don’t stare,” Gabor said, turning Damon around so that he faced Gabor instead. “They’re having a moment. Rich and Z are still in the honeymoon stage. Can’t keep their hands off each other.”
“Is it always so…”
“Between those two? Yeah. Z has a thing for public displays.” Gabor stared straight ahead instead of looking down at Damon. “I ain’t interested in that right now. I just need a friend.”
“Why would you do that for me?” He didn’t mean to imply that but the whole Gabor looking after him thing.
“You look so hot when you come, Z,” the guy who was clearly Rich rumbled from somewhere behind them. “Daddy is gonna make you feel so good.”
Somehow just listening to them made it seem so much worse. He’d never seen two guys. In person. Shit.
“Because I don’t like seeing a guy burned down to ashes because he isn’t from this world. It ain’t much but if I can save someone some suffering, then that’s all I need.” Gabor bumped their hips as the elevator shifted. “Besides, you’ll realize that everyone here is really just looking for a little connection. This place is forever and everyone needs to feel connected to someone else.”
Connection. He could get behind that.
The elevator arrived at the bottom floor just as Z howled his orgasm, making Damon blush. The entire crowd, maybe sixty people in all, shuffled out of the elevators and into the corridor beyond. It was a good thing Gabor was there because he had already forgotten where their room was.
“The doors shut and lock at precisely ten PM. Don’t be a minute late or else you’ll be trapped outside for the night,” Gabor said, leading them inside. “Trust me, you do not want to spend the night out there. The locked doors aren’t for other people. They’re for you. They’re protection when you’re most vulnerable.”
“Got it.” He could totally see that. He had no urge to get trapped outside in the pitch with all the predators running around.
Gabor shut the door and the lock instantly engaged. “See that box,” Gabor said, pointing to the thing he’d earlier thought was a small medicine cabinet. “That’s where they will drop your commissary orders. Move them out of the box when they arrive and put them in your tub. They’ll throw you into seg for a day if you violate that policy.”
“You can come to me or any of my crew for answers if you have questions. Don’t trust anyone else though, not until it has got around that I’m making you my kid.”
He crawled up onto the top bunk. “So about this kid thing…”
“I ain’t after your ass. If I just wanted to fuck you, I’d keep tabs, maybe pay someone to fuck with you. After I rescued you a few times, you’d start feeling like you owed me. It would start small. I’d get you to give me a handjob. Then I’d ask to suck you. Eventually, you’d let me fuck you because the alternative would be me throwing you back out into the thick of things without a parachute.”
Gabor’s story made him cold. “Fuck.”
“Exactly. I’m not going to lie. Some guys get down like that. I’m not one of them. I’d rather get to know you. See if we fit. Maybe someday you’d let me hold you. Maybe kiss you. It’s not on a timer. We may never get down that way. If I want you, that’s totally on me. There is no pressure for physical shit between us. I’m just a guy helping you out for the time being. Got it?”
“Yeah. Yeah. I got it.” For the first time in days, some of the tension melted from his body. He was so exhausted. “Hey, Gabor?”
The male stripped off his shirt and neatly folded it before putting it into the his tub. Damon’s original assessment was more than correct. The man was stacked, built like every chick’s wet dream. Even his scales enhanced rather than detracted from his sheer beauty. Damon looked away.
“What is it, kid?”
“Thanks for doing this for me. I mean, you didn’t have to.”
“I know.” No bullshit. Damon liked that Gabor didn’t seem like he was trying to pull the wool over his eyes. “Tomorrow, I’ll find something for you to do. Your official job duties won’t start til next week sometime but we’ll discuss it when the time comes.”
“Okay.” Damon was more than ready to defer to his better judgment.
“Try to get some sleep, kid. The Pit gets up early.”
Despite or maybe because of his hectic day, Damon was only awake for another thirty seconds before he faded into blissful oblivion.
They were at lunch in the cafeteria when Damon saw a dragon for the first time. “This your new woman, Orlov?” the dragon asked. His voice was like velvet and whiskey, all musical and sexy in a way only magick could invoke.
Though the guy looked entirely human, unlike most of the Halflings, the aura of power clung to him like a second skin. Any woman alive would’ve been drooling after him and most of the guys he knew. He wasn’t sure why there were so many handsome dudes here, maybe it was because they were all Other.
“Bet your ass he is,” Gabor drawled, looking up. “What’s it to you, Bravo?”
Bravo gave a ghost of a smile. “Just wondering if the rumors I heard are true. You always love the sweet looking ones, Gabor.”
Damon stared down at his plate and tried to be as small as possible. Goose pimples erupted on his arms and neck as his instinctive need to run kicked in. Damn. Dragons had presences that were really a kick to the electrical system.
“Leave him be, Bravo.” Gabor swigged his bagged milk. “I know you didn’t come over here just to screw with my kid. Whatcha need?”
“My nest has needs.”
“Don’t we all,” Gabor drawled. “I repeat, whatcha need?”
“My Vessel needs some things I can’t get at commissary.”
Gabor nodded. “Gotta list?”
The dragon nodded and gave Gabor a half-hug where Damon swore he slipped the Halfling something but he couldn’t be sure.
“Payment will be delivered,” Bravo said, straightening.
“Always is, man.”
The wyrm left without a backwards glance. Damon breathed a audible sigh of relief.
Gabor chuckled. “Nervous?”
“To a full-blooded dragon? Yeah. You did good though, kid. Not too overeager or affectionate. Would’ve looked phony to him.” Gabor ruffled his hair. “They know nothing physical has gone down between us but they now know you’re not going to deny the emotional connection.”
Blush suffused his face. “Fuck man. Why do I get treated like a pretty girl in here?”
The whole table cackled. “Because you are the prettiest bitch in the joint,” Luke said, giving his arm a shove.
Damon rolled his eyes and tried not to take that personally. It was really hard though. He felt… hunted. “Knock it off.” Never in his life had he been so touched by people. He knew wolves were different, more physical, but everyone in this place was more physical, even the humans. It was a constant low-level vibration that wore on already frayed nerves.
Gabor reached behind him and gave Luke a shove. “Leave the boy be. It’s only been two days.” His jade eyes focused in on Damon and Damon felt exposed, like the man saw right through him. It was unnerving to say the least.
“You want to go chill with me in the cell after lunch?”
Was that code for something? Damon frowned.
Gabor’s knowing chuckle made his face heat all over again. “Ain’t after your ass, Damon. I told you that. I just want to go relax and thought you might want to do the same.”
Decision made, Damon nodded. “Okay.” If he ended up with a size 13 asshole, well that was his dumb mistake for trusting the first convict who threw him a bone.
The rest of lunch passed pretty quickly, the topics turning to inmate gossip and talks about the new iPads that had been donated for the inmate library. Apparently, you could request books and they’d be uploaded to them but the administration still wasn’t doling them out until they knew they were security ready. They were still testing six months later.
In no time at all, the trays were empty and it was time for them to go. They dropped their trays on the line and Damon followed Gabor out of the café and into the hallway.
“You’ve got to start losing your boundaries, kid,” Gabor said as soon as they were out of earshot of his crew. “Crew is like pack. They touch. Constantly. Without worry. If you’re in business of contraband, like we are, you touch to convey business deals.”
“Where I come from, men don’t touch nearly this often,” Damon admitted. He could count on his hand how many times his own father had hugged him.
“I know. If you were a wolf, things would be easier. You’d be more used to it. Humans always have the hardest time adjusting to the pit. That’s one of the reasons they get constantly fucked over. But you’ve got a core of strength. You’ll make it. You’re smart.”
They reached the elevator and pressed their wrists to it to activate it and log their progress through the pit.
“I’m surprised you’ve got wolves in your crew,” Damon admitted, stepping inside. “I thought all the races tended to stick together.”
Gabor shrugged. “That’s true for the most part. Wolves stay with wolves. Spirits with spirits. Dragons and Halflings mingle and if a dragon claims a human Vessel, they’ll be crew as well. I’m lucky that I can get away with having Luke and Caleb in my crew because I’ve been here so long.”
“Why are you here? If I can ask,” Damon said, curious.
Gabor’s jade gaze cut his way. “You don’t ask someone that. Not unless you’re real close. Even then, knowledge is power. We don’t talk about what’s outside the Pit. You get a clean slate when you walk through the door. What you do with it is your business.” He paused. “Your memory any good?”
Damon blinked. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“It’s okay, kid. You’re new. That’s why I told you. So, your memory. Is it any good?”
“I think so. I mean, I never had issues or anything.”
“You go to college?”
Damon sighed. “Yeah. Two years. Then-” He waved his hand to indicate the place.
“Got it. Sorry, kid. You look like you’d do well at school.”
He hadn’t. Not really. He’d gone because his father had gone and his father before that. He’d gone because he’d been told that that was the normal way a guy did. Grow up. Graduate college. Get a job. Get married. Have some kids. Retire early. All that jazz. If someone would’ve told him that this would be his eternity, well, he might have done more of what he’d wanted and less of what his old man had wanted.
“It’s okay,” Gabor said, patting his back. “It’s okay to mourn it but when you’re done, let it go. Those memories will only bring you pain. Whoever you were. Whatever you were, let it go.”
The compassion in his voice had Damon almost reaching out to the guy. Almost. It was still too early to trust him but he wanted to. Very badly.