Click on image to enlarge.
by Lissa Kasey
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: As the only male studying magic in a female-dominant society, Seiran Rou's life is already on a precarious perch. Then he finds a dead co-worker on his doorstep, and Sei realizes someone is trying to set him up for the fall. It could be anyone--including his own mother, a powerful witch and leader of the Dominion, the ruling body of elemental magic. Sei's only saving graces are his on-again, off-again vampire boyfriend, Gabe, and the mysterious Jamie, who wants to help him for reasons Sei doesn't understand. They may be all that stand between Sei and the Dominion's demands to control his magic. One man's devotion could be the key to save Sei's life and pull him back from the brink of losing his humanity to the magic he possesses.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: October 2011
19 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [208 KB]
Reading time: 136-191 min.
The darkness of the forest on the new moon could have been likened to the black abyss of a cave, if it weren't for the sounds of life surrounding me. Birds, bugs, a roaming raccoon, the city stretched too near for larger creatures. My power beckoned the rest, but they wouldn't come. Fear of discovery kept them at bay.
We would run together, the little things and I.
The thought eased into reality as fingers turned to clawed toes and flesh to fur. I understood the lycanthropes' draw to the full moon. They'd be home sleeping, free of the instinct on this furthest day from their change. Tonight, no one would interrupt. I'd run and chase the mice, race with the rabbits, and maybe swipe at a fox or two. This dark morning, the forest was mine.
* * * *
I stretched in my seat, trying to keep sleep from spilling over me. Stupid 8 a.m. classes.
"Seiran! Read from chapter thirty-nine." The teacher's nasal voice grated at my nerves, and her refusal to pronounce my name right just made me want to smack her. I was pretty sure she did it to irritate me.
"Yes, Professor Cokota." After a heavy sigh, I echoed the contents of the page to the room. The alignments of planets, magnetic pulls, and nature could have come from any science book rather than The Advanced Metaphysics of Earth Magic, a required reading.
"The new moon fuels a witch. Can anyone tell me why?" the professor asked. Hands rose everywhere. I didn't bother. Magnetic pulls or lack thereof were common knowledge.
I was well aware of the pull, and thought back to the previous night's adventures. They weren't allowed for non graduates. Hell, they weren't allowed for graduates either, and certainly not for me, the only male in the class. I chuckled to myself. Nature didn't talk, and neither would I.
By the time the final class ended at four thirty, I was so tired I could barely stand. Drive-thru coffee helped. Still, I dreaded having to head to the bar for the closing shift. Fortunately, the rise of the moonless night would pour more energy into my stiff muscles. Having run that morning, the pull wasn't painfully strong yet.
Smoke blanketed me through the open door to the bar. Gabe appeared by my side after I closed it. He didn't much like sunlight. It was a vampire thing.
"Can you work a double? Jo called in sick," he said.
Damn, I was tired, but Friday made for good tips. "Sure."
Gabe didn't move away. His green eyes stared at me in an appreciative sort of way.
A tight smile crossed his lips, and pretty lips they were. "You smell like earth and power." He paused, then turned away. "Stay away from the nonhuman customers tonight. Frank will handle any lycans or vamps that come in."
With a shrug at the boss's retreating backside, which looked nice in the snug jeans he always wore, I headed to the back, donned my waist apron, clad with pen and paper, and went to sling grease and beer. You couldn't get more American twenty-first century than a vampire bar with ale on tap and Angus on the fryer.
"Minus all the hardware today, Say-ron?" Frank asked when I gave him a passing nod. He always went out of his way to pronounce my name right. Still it bugged me. Go figure. Mostly because I was sure Gabe had told him to, or else.
Frank's baby blues looked me over like I was one of the girls he might take home later. But he was not the kind of guy who'd trade a woman for a man. Not even a girly looking guy like me.
"Just haven't had time to put them in today." I usually had four in each ear, but had taken them out before the change last night to keep from losing them. Anyway, my skin felt overly sensitive today.
I swept my long, black hair up into a ponytail, pulled the rubber band off my wrist, and wrapped it around until it was tight enough to pull my hair through halfway. Keeping it up stopped people, like Frank, from tugging on it.
"Nipple rings too?"
I laughed this time and started to lift up my shirt. "Wanna see them up close? I bet I can rock your world like no one ever has before."
He turned and walked away, disappearing into the kitchen. His flirting was new, and since I'd called his bluff, I figured that would be the end of it for the night.
Gabe raised a brow at me from his place behind the bar. His expression asked if I was going to create a problem. But I wouldn't. Not at work, with the boss around. Sigh. I guessed we were all pulling doubles today.
"Any idea what that was about?" I inquired of Gabe while I pulled up the table charts and marked my sections.
"Where are your nipple rings? That shirt hides nothing."
I gave him my sweetest smile, since he'd bought me the rings, and they were the only pair I owned. "Don't worry. They're safe. I haven't lost them." My shirt was just a bar T-shirt that blazed the Bloody Bar & Grill logo in dark red on black fabric. Small hugged just right since it had been made out of that baby-soft cotton. I'd begged Gabe for that cotton, on my knees, more than once. He didn't like that I'd discovered he'd make a lot of promises in the throes of passion.
"Better be. Those pure, white gold rings cost a fortune. And I love how it tastes on you." He teased. Snickers rose up from those closest to the bar. "Tone it down, you punks!"
Laughing my way to the first table of the night made some of the exhaustion seep away. Not a single regular, human or otherwise, thought anything of our flirting. Gabe and I had been on again off again for nearly five years. Since Matthew, he was the only guy I let have me more than once. No one else got the opportunity to get bored. Someday Gabe would, and I hoped that wouldn't hurt too much.
A handful of newbies, college boys, probably thinking they'd slum tonight, looked disgusted as I approached their table. Several wouldn't look at me. The others stared with slack jaws. Was it the hip-high lace-up boots, tight black jeans, or snug T-shirt? Was it the incident with Frank? Either way, they looked at me like I was one of those cleavage-rich, Hooters girls who'd just offered the ugly guy a lap dance.
Oh, this would be fun.
I pulled up a chair, reversed it, and sat down, making them inch away. "Evening, boys, my name's Seiran. Welcome to Bloody Bar. First time? I'll make sure it's sweet and gentle all the way through. Or maybe you'd like it a little rough and raw?"
More than one face turned red.
"So what can I start you with? A pitcher or two of beer? Some chips, maybe?" I spread my legs out, stretching them long, and pressed my hips to the chair rungs, proving I was all boy. As soon as I was sure they'd noted the fact, I leaned on my hand, giving them my most innocent expression.
The one closest to me, who had metrosexual, spiky light brown hair gulped and said, "A couple of pitchers please, and chips would be great."
I threw him a smile and got up, putting the chair back at a nearby table. "Be right back with that. Browse the menu while I'm gone. The burgers on page three are a real cherry-popping experience. And the special sauce will make you scream with pleasure."
They all flipped madly through their menus as I walked back to the bar to request the pitchers. Gabe just shook his head at me. "Leave it to you to make a bunch of homophobic jocks drool."
"Are they drooling already? I haven't even started yet." A bowl of chips and salsa appeared from the kitchen on the serving counter. A glance up told me half the boys' eyes were still on me. I threw them another smile. All heads ducked back down to their menu.
"Those boys best have brought money. Your smiles aren't cheap," Jack, one of our regulars, said from his seat at the bar.
I flashed him a grin on my way to deliver beer and chips. "Always a free one for you, Jackie."
After dropping off the starters and taking their orders, I got pretty busy. A whirl of both human and nonhuman customers kept the tables flying. Frank sneered when one of my lycan friends came in to ask for me. Since he was a lycan, I wasn't allowed to play bar whore for him. Still, he'd stopped me briefly to ask if I wanted to meet up after work. Because it was the new moon, I declined. I'd have liked to run and fuck. But Gabe was right about how my powers affected others during the absence of the moon. It scared me how much he knew about me sometimes.
Midway through the night, a group of vampires I didn't recognize came in. Gabe had seated them in the back, away from all my tables. And Frank just gave me a dirty look when I asked who they were.
The jocks at table four stuck around. They'd eaten dinner and still munched on chips and drank beer. The one with the light brown hair was starting to get loud. Fortunately, they'd already paid their bill, and Gabe had sent them their last pitcher, effectively cutting them off.
I piled up a bunch of dirty dishes from other tables and dropped them off by the kitchen sink. By the time I returned to the dining area, Brown Hair was on his feet, hand on the arm of one of the duo of ladies that came to the bar regularly. Her partner was pitching a fit in a shrieky girl-voice way that made my ears hurt.
Gabe raised a brow in my direction, asking with that one look if I needed help. I just shook my head in reply--I could handle one little jock trying to pick a fight with a couple of girls--and stepped up to the jock's side. My hand on his bicep made him turn. He looked ready to pull a fist back, but I gave him that hundred-watt smile again. He dropped Betsy's arm.
"Lara, take Betsy to the bar for a drink. On me." As they walked away, I asked the jock, "You wouldn't want to make Betsy upset, right, Friend?"
"Brock. My name is Brock."
"Brock. That's a very athletic type of name. Are you and your buddies ready to go?"
Brock looked like he wanted to say something, but one of his friends, this one blond and familiar looking, pulled him away as the other guys started to get up and prepare to leave. As I waited for them to gather their things, I felt someone's eyes on me. Who else was looking for a fight?
Scanning the room quickly, I found Frank glaring at me for a few more seconds, and then his attention flipped to someone beyond me. I turned and followed his gaze to the corner, where Gabe now stood, with his back to me. He was speaking to a man with dark hair and bright, blue eyes. Another vampire, who was staring at me as if he knew me.
"Seiran?" It was Brock again. Hadn't they left yet?
Had I seen that vampire before? He didn't look like my type, but I was known for being a little on the loose side with one-night stands. "Yes, Brock?" My attention swung back to the annoying jock beside me, and I tried to ignore the vampire.
"Nice to meet you," he said before he was dragged out the door by his friends. The rabble finally gone, I cleaned up their table, happy for the twenty they'd left me as a tip. That at least, made the trouble worthwhile.
"I don't know how you pull that shit off," Frank said as he passed me on the way to the kitchen. "Anyone else would be arrested for harassment."
"You're just jealous, Frankie."
"Yep, if I had half of what you got, I'd have a bed full of chicks waiting for me at home. Why you choose dick over that, I dunno."
The disgust in his voice made me laugh as I took the order from another table. Frankie, the vampire wannabe, couldn't rile me if he tried. He retreated to another table of lycans, and I shrugged at him, smile firmly in place. I never knew if he really hated gays--which seemed odd since he worshiped Gabe, and being bi made Gabe as good as gay in any homophobe's book--or if it was that I was a male witch.
I peeked in the direction of the unfamiliar vampire again. Mysterious Blue Eyes still stood there. His eyes locked with mine the second he saw me, and uneasiness settled in the pit of my belly. Who was this guy? Seconds passed before I could look away.
"Seiran," Gabe said, stepping between me and the new vamp. He took a firm grip on my arm and led me to the kitchen. "Please see to your customers."
It was unlike him to be so cold; it stung a little. "Sorry," I muttered, though I didn't know what I did wrong. How long had I been standing there staring? "Friend of yours visiting?" I nodded to the vampire in the corner.
He stopped, face stern, body tense. "I have no friends." He stepped closer and whispered, "Neither do you. Get back to work." Then he disappeared back behind the bar.
I brushed off his cold demeanor, reminding myself we weren't a couple. Gabe and I had history, and sure, he had snapped at me a time or two. It wasn't anything I couldn't deal with. I recognized boss mode when I saw it and knew he had to play tough at work. I tried not to let it bother me.
A new rush began to pour into the bar, which meant a baseball game must have let out. Being at the edge of downtown Minneapolis, we have several venues nearby, the Metrodome and the Target Center were the big two, and usually kept us hopping. The TVs blared several different sports channels, and I could never keep up. Were the Twins playing, or a college game, I wondered, but went back to work, flirting and serving to the best of my ability while ignoring the probing eyes from the corner.
Gabe shrugged off more than a handful of busty admirers. I wasn't jealous, couldn't be. Occasional casual sex didn't make us lovers. Declaring him one would have lessened my tips, since many liked to think they stood a chance with me. But I was a lot pickier than I used to be and rarely chose someone from the bar.
Jamie, Gabe's usual barman, showed up late. He helped me with the crowd and warned strange men away from me with a look that signaled angry boyfriend, though we'd never been lovers. Not that he wasn't attractive.
"It's not them, it's you," Jamie said snidely as I growled at the measly two-dollar tip left at the table of guys he'd just ushered out after they offered to buy me a drink.
"Is there some reason you have to be such an ass? You're killing my tips." I stuffed the money in my apron pocket and let my hair down, willing to take whatever just to bring in the dough.
"Because I'm good at it?" Jamie gave me his odd, lopsided smile and swept his long, blond hair over his shoulder. Very Fabio-like. He needed the ponytail holder more than I did. Mine was just long; his was thick, too. But the girls had been all over him tonight. He probably had his rubber band wrapped around the large wad of cash tips, stuffed in his pants. No man had a package that big.
"Apparently. But I'd appreciate it if you didn't scare off my clients."
"Clients? I didn't know you were taking payment for your after-work services now."
Okay, that was low. "You son of a--!"
"Seiran, table five needs to be cleared," Gabe said as he passed with a plate of food and a pitcher of beer. "Jamie, back to work. I don't pay you to chat with employees."
Jamie grumbled his way back to the bar, his tight butt in snug leather gaining nearly as many stares as Gabe did in his jeans. I cleared table five and flirted with an African American man and his wife at table three. They gave me a ten dollar tip.
I caught an irritated look from Jamie as I put away the couple's credit card slip. What was his problem? He looked like he'd swallowed a live fish and it was trying to wriggle its way back up. I shook my head and continued on like it didn't matter, pulling up a pitcher and filling it for one of my tables.
"You shouldn't do that," Jamie said.
My eyes shifted from the pitcher filling with golden brew to Jamie and then back again. "Huh?"
"Let those men degrade you. They slobber all over you like you're some kind of stripper. You're not even a girl, but they all do it anyway. Why do you let them?"
I swallowed a laugh, set the beer on the counter, put my foot up on the shelf behind the bar, and pressed my inner thigh against him. There'd be no mistaking that I was a guy. What was his deal, anyway? Jealous, maybe? "Why haven't you and I fucked before? I prefer to bottom, but I can top, if you swing that way." I gave him my million-watt smile. "You're stacked, and I can get you ready in no time. Maybe we can hit the bathroom for a quick break?"
His horrified expression made me wonder if I'd been wrong about him. Gabe came out of the kitchen and gave me a glare angry enough to make anyone shudder. I put my leg down and headed back to my tables.
Later, Gabe stopped me, his grip a little rougher than usual. "Leave Jamie alone."
"Is he a reformed homosexual or something? What the hell?" I tried to read his expression, but it was neutral as always.
"If I say yes, will you let it go?"
I shook off his grip and rubbed my wrist. There'd be a bruise there tomorrow. "Maybe."
"Then let me put it this way. If you fuck him, you're fired. If you blow him, you're fired. You do anything with him that can be considered sex in any country, by any religion, and you're fired. Got it?"
The counter behind me stopped me from backing away from him, but I could finally see the heat of his anger on his face. "Oh, no. You don't get to decide who I do and don't sleep with. We aren't a couple, Gabe."
He shook his head at me. "He's not your type. Don't torment him."
Why was he so angry? What did I do that I didn't always do? This wasn't like Gabe. "Not my type? What the hell does that mean?"
Everyone's eyes were on us. Gabe gestured me to the back door. I sighed and stomped ahead of him. When he shut the door and the cold air of the night settled around me, I shivered. "What the hell is your problem tonight?"
"You're a player, Seiran. You see every man as a conquest. Do you care for anyone?"
He was tired of me. That's what he had to be saying. I guess it had to end sometime. "That's a shitty thing for you to ask, since you and I have a date tomorrow."
"It's not a date, Seiran. You and I get together and have sex. There's no romance. You hate romance unless it's in one of those books you read. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't know love if it slapped you in the face." His voice went low and rough, and he turned away so I couldn't see his expression anymore. What was he hiding from me?
I gave him back the anger he threw at me. "You've been around a couple thousand years, Gabe. How much do you believe in love anymore? And what's wrong with sex? If you don't want me, then so be it. Is Jamie your new love toy? How long before he bores you too?"
He threw his hands up in the air, as if in defeat. "That's exactly it! Always my fault. You're flying high as a kite tonight, with all that new moon power riding you, and somehow it's my fault you're being an ass. Leave Jamie alone. That's my last warning. Now get back to work." He stomped inside, letting the door slam behind him.
When I got back inside, the place seemed quieter, like they were all staring at me and amused by the soap opera that made up my life. Jamie's chocolate-brown eyes looked sad. They flicked from me to Gabe and back again. He stood behind the bar, passing out drinks, but not smiling. Did he know he was part of the rift?
The pretty, dark-haired vamp with blue eyes sat in his booth, looking interested. I didn't even try to smile at him. My drama, his soap opera. Bastard.
The angry words ate at me while the rest of the night flew by. I let my irritation build and remembered instances such as this were the reason why I didn't do relationships. My first lover, Matthew, had taught me that time only makes the relationship grow dull. And if what I offered wasn't enough for Gabe anymore, so be it. I couldn't stop the sighs, rising from me several times before we closed. Thankfully, we were sweeping, cleaning off tables, and putting up chairs before it seemed possible.
Frank licked his lips and bumped me, hard enough to nearly knock me over. "You looking to take someone home tonight?"
"Not you. He doesn't want fleas," Jamie said as he walked by, carrying the last stack of dishes to the washer.
I shuddered at the thought. "You don't even do boys, Frankie."
"Not Jamie either," Gabe said, his calm voice back in place.
Both Frank and I turned to look at Gabe, who seemed momentarily confused. Then his cheeks reddened. He must have had a bottle or two of QuickLife in the back. Frank's spine stiffened, and he huffed his way to the kitchen.
Jamie reappeared. "What'd I miss?"
"Gabe's fucking me tonight."
Jamie paused but then just shrugged and said, "Okay." I guess if they had a relationship, Gabe was the only possessive one in it, which made no sense to me.
Mr. Blue Eyes had left only a half an hour before, and something about the visit seemed to bother Gabe. Maybe he wanted to talk about it, but I was still pissed and not really feeling up to another lecture.
Once everyone was shooed out and everything clean, we all headed for the door. I stripped out of the apron, waiting for him to let us out. Gabe, still in boss mode, lifted a brow in my direction, checking to see if I wanted to go home with him. I shrugged at him, signaling I wasn't onboard, not willing to put the anger at his attitude aside just yet.
He walked me to my car. "You sure you don't want to come home with me?"
"Maybe another time." I gave him the brush off, at least until I could sort through my irritation at him.
He gave me a tight smile, hovering close enough to nearly be attached to my side. "I'm sorry if I was harsh with you earlier. Sometimes I just wish you'd commit...."
I kissed him, forcing my tongue in to taste his, and to get him to shut up. He returned the kiss. Finally, I pulled away. "It's better this way. I'm high maintenance, complicated, and terrified of commitment. You don't need any of that."
"Goodnight, Gabe." I got in my clunker and headed for the flat I called home. The rest of the weekend was mine. I glanced up at the dark sky. Two more nights to play in the moonlessness. The sprawling, wild land to the south of the city throbbed in my bones. Soon, I promised myself. Sleep first. Magic later.