Read an Excerpt
Hearts From The Ashes
By Ally Blue J.L. Langley Willa Okati
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2007 Ally Blue, J.L. Langley, Willa Okati
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCafe Noctem by Willa Okati
Anyone, gay or straight, would be proud to have Grey at their side. Tall as a reasonably sized basketball player and bulky through the shoulders from lifting weights, he tapered down into a toned waist and trim hips before bulging out again with rocklike muscles in his thighs and calves. He had a bit more Cherokee in him than Nicholas, and it showed in the hawk-like shape of his features, his beaky nose and the stern cast of his mouth. His hair, too, was definitely of the People-long, the tips brushing his shoulders, and a deeply hued shade of black-although there was far more gray threading through it now than there had recently been.
He was a man of such size he made Nicholas feel small, and such a brave that next to him Nicholas felt every inch one of the white men, no matter how he had been raised. As a teacher, his great-grandmother had kept him firmly in line and made sure he knew the ways of the People and how to honor the spirits, but as a caregiver she'd loved him with all the heart in her wrinkled old body.
When he came to the dinner table one night, watching her cook, and he'd told her that he thought he was gay, she had simply smiled and continued to stir the soup she was making. He'd been trembling with fear at her possible reaction, but she'd only shaken her head and said, "Well, make sure to find a good man, strong in the arm and clever in the head, eh? Don't fall for someone pretty, with no sense. That's been the downfall of many a hunter." Then she'd offered him a taste from her pot, and, well, that had been the end of that.
He had learned many things from his great-grandmother, but simple acceptance that what would be, would be, was one of her most powerful lessons.
If she were still around, he felt sure she would approve of Grey. A strapping big man with the smarts to own and operate his own business, a small café in the heart of downtown Asheville. Café Noctem. Nicholas could remember the fun they'd all had in naming Grey's new enterprise, and finally deciding on Noctem in honor of all the night owls the artsy city teemed with ...
Nicholas reached up and seized Grey by the lapels, kissing him hard. His move took the other man by surprise, but after a moment Grey kissed back, his arms coming around Nicholas' back. When their lips parted they stood swaying lightly for a moment, foreheads cradled together, their breath misty white in the cold air. They kissed again, soft and gentle, heads tilting to allow each other access to their mouths. Not a kiss full of passion, but one filled with promise. Grey pulled Nicholas tight, holding him close as the moment washed over them and passed, leaving them feeling somehow more at peace.
The mist on the ground began to fade away in curls.
Neither man noticed.
They stood in silence for a long moment before Nicholas cleared his throat. "Are we ready?" he asked in a quiet voice, showing respect for the dead on whose land they stood.
"Let's go," Grey said, much to Nicholas' relief. "The car will be warm. And we have a night of celebrations to prepare for. Celebration de la Vie in Asheville; it's not to be missed, or so I hear." He grinned and tweaked Nicholas' nose. "Or so I've been hearing since I was old enough to attend. Let's get out of here."
Nicholas nodded, relieved that this trip out, at least, had ended well enough. "I'm right behind you."
"No. You're at my side. Always at my side. First my friend and now my partner." Grey gave Nicholas a rough hug. "I don't know what I'd do without you."
"Then just be glad you have me and that I'm not going anywhere," Nicholas said softly, too softly for Grey to hear. "Not if I can help it."
And with those being his final words, the two of them left the cemetery behind them. Grey drove them away, still all but silent on the smoothly paved roads, through the gated entry and out onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. All the way back to their home, Nicholas occasionally placed his hand on Grey's thigh, subtly reminding him of who he was with now, anchoring him to the present instead of the past.
He found himself wary of what might be coming next. But then again, no one would suspect. Or should not have.
But if Nicholas' great-grandmother had been alive, she'd have seen the snaky smoke and warned the son of her daughter's son about what would be coming their way.
Nicholas might, or might not, have even believed her ...
Eros Rising by Ally Blue
Laughing, Keegan shut the office door and strolled out to the bar. Charlie was tending, leaning across the bar on his forearms and talking with a couple of the regulars who'd stayed the night. Not many members came to the club before five or six o'clock, but there were generally a few who wandered out from their overnight rooms to the bar as soon as it opened.
Keegan stopped in the shadows for a moment, drinking in the sight of the man perched on the barstool. Scott looked even better than he had the night before. Low-slung black jeans clung to his slim hips and hugged the tight curves of his ass. The muscles of his arms and chest strained against his snug red T-shirt, big enough to make Keegan's heart thump without crossing the line into freakish. Keegan licked his lips.
As if sensing his scrutiny, Scott turned and pinned Keegan with an intense dark-eyed gaze. Keegan grinned and walked toward Scott, hoping the man couldn't see how flustered he felt.
"Hi Scott," he said, relieved when his voice came out nice and steady. "Earl said you wanted to see me?"
Scott smiled, that sweet lopsided smile that lit up the room. "Yeah, I did. I hope I'm not bothering you or anything."
"Not a bit." Keegan stepped closer and leaned an elbow on the bar. He was close enough to smell Scott's cologne, something soft and spicy that made him want to bury his face in the man's neck and just breathe him in. "What can I do for you?"
"I'm afraid I forgot to pay my tab last night. I came back to pay up." Scott let out a tense little laugh. "So, I guess I need to sign the credit card slip, huh?"
"Mm-hm," Keegan mumbled, not really paying as much attention as he should. Scott's voice, deep and rumbling yet almost touchably soft, was doing terrible things to his concentration. "I left it in the cash register."
Keegan scooted closer under the pretense of shifting his weight to his other foot, and was rewarded by a rosy blush rising in Scott's cheeks. "Okay," Scott said, a bit breathlessly. "Should you ... um ... go get it? The slip? For me to sign, I mean."
"In a sec." Keegan stuck his hands in his pockets, thinking Scott might not appreciate being felt up right then. "Look, I know it's none of my business, but I like you and I feel like I need to tell you the truth. Last night after you left, Logan-"
"Don't bother," Scott interrupted, his smile fading. "He didn't come home until two-thirty. I'm betting he didn't spend all that time at the church confessing his sins."
"I'm sorry, Scott," Keegan said softly.
Scott shrugged. "I shouldn't be surprised anymore, really."
"You mean he's done this before?" Keegan had no trouble believing that.
"He usually just flirts, but I've caught him kissing other guys a few times. This is the first time he's cheated on me with two at once, though." Scott grimaced. "Aw, hell. For all I know he does it all the time and I'm just too stupid to notice."
Keegan knew he probably shouldn't ask, but he couldn't help it. He had to know. "Why do you stay with him? What could he possibly have to offer that would make you willing to put up with all that shit? You could have anybody, you could-"
The look on Scott's face stopped him cold. A wild-eyed, hunted look. As if Keegan had hit upon a truth that Scott wished wasn't there. He stared up at Scott, trying to figure out what he'd said wrong.
"Scott?" he ventured. "I shouldn't have asked that, it's none of my business. My mouth just gets ahead of my brain sometimes. Sorry."
Scott's eyes wouldn't quite meet his. "Don't worry about it. So, um, the credit card slip?"
Keegan turned and hurried behind the bar to the cash register. He felt Scott's gaze on him like a physical weight. His fingers trembled a little as he opened the cash drawer and pulled out the slip he'd saved in the event of Scott's return.
"Here," he said, sliding the paper and a pen across the bar.
Scott scribbled what Keegan assumed was his signature on the line and handed the slip back to Keegan. "There you go."
Silence fell. Keegan pushed his lip ring back and forth with his tongue, a nervous habit he thought he'd broken years ago. Something about Scott put him off balance in a way he couldn't pin down. And damned if he didn't like it. A lot.
With Love by J. L. Langley
"Do we have a problem, Mr. Johns?"
"We just might." Dev glanced at the omega sprawled on his stomach in the grass. He had no idea if the man was still alive or not. A blow to the temple like that could kill a human, but the man was a wolf, even if a weaker one. "Would someone like to explain to me why the five of you are beating up on a much smaller, much weaker man?"
The largest of the men frowned. "Who do you think you are, mister? This is a pack matter."
"Since I'm considering joining your pack, I'd say I have a right to know what's going on. Where I come from we treat our fellow wolves with a little more respect than what I see here. If that boy is dead-"
"You'll what, asshole?" The big man stalked towards Dev.
Dev was ready for him. He caught the man's fist in one hand and slashed his other over the man's abdomen, raking him wide open.
The man staggered back, his eyes wide, clutching his stomach.
The two men who'd been holding the redhead charged Dev. He dispatched them as effortlessly, stabbing one in the stomach with his claws and abrading the other across the face. It was pathetically easy. Dev was quite a bit quicker than them.
He looked up at the Alpha and the man in the green shirt, while the other three writhed on the ground at Dev's feet. "Who's next?"
The man in the green started forward but the Alpha's hand landed on his shoulder, holding him back. "Not now."
"But-" the man sputtered.
The Alpha shook his head, his eyes never leaving Dev. "I said not now, Peter. Gather them up and let's go."
Dev glared back at the leader, keeping the others in his peripheral vision. They were injured, but they were wolves and healed extremely fast.
Peter managed to get the other three on their feet and headed towards the cars.
The pack leader walked past Dev, head held high.
Dev turned and watched them go, keeping his front to the five wolves.
"I do hope you know what you are doing, Mr. Johns, because you have just challenged my authority and I can't have that. Rest assured, you will be hearing from me." The Alpha followed his men through the trees to the parked cars.
Dev hesitated, torn between following them to make sure they didn't mess with his truck, and getting to the kid to see if he was all right. Dev couldn't do much for the kid if he couldn't get them out of here. So he followed the men, standing in the tree line glaring at them until they piled into the three cars. They left without incident, but Dev was certain he hadn't seen the last of them. He shook his head and hurried back to the clearing as soon as the last car drove out of sight.
Dev had been taught from an early age that Omega were to be respected, not mistreated because they were weaker. They were the ones who held a pack together, they ran interference, they coordinated and listened to the pack's complaints and took them to the Alpha, they were the pack ambassadors, the peacekeepers. What did this little redhead do to piss off his pack leaders so badly?
He knelt by the smaller man, touching his back. Only then did he realize his hands were still claws. He relaxed and willed his hands back to normal. His canine teeth remained and his vision shifted, going black and white again, probably due to the adrenaline rush. It would wear off eventually and there was no one there to see him anyway. The rise and fall of the little Omega's breathing was easily discernable. Thank God. He leaned down next to the redhead, meaning to gently turn him, and gasped as he caught scent of him.
The man's scent was like nothing Dev had ever smelled before. He smelled like a wolf and he was definitely a weaker, submissive wolf, but he was ... enthralling? That was the only word that came to mind. Dev's cock, which was still hard, began to throb.
Come on, Dev, get a grip. He rolled the smaller man over on to his back and nearly swallowed his tongue. Happy freakin' Valentine's Day to me. The Omega was beautiful.
Excerpted from Hearts From The Ashes by Ally Blue J.L. Langley Willa Okati Copyright © 2007 by Ally Blue, J.L. Langley, Willa Okati. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.