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by Karenna Colcroft
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Gay Fiction
Description: Sorcerer Joel Turcotte fuels his magic with pieces of people's souls---and now he has found the strongest soul he's ever encountered in Lanny Hollister. Sorcerer Joel Turcotte fuels his magic by stealing pieces of people's souls during sex. Since he caused the death of his lover a decade ago, he's careful to only take small pieces, but he regrets each one. When he meets Lanny Turcotte, he finds the strongest soul he's ever encountered, and one that's almost impossible to resist. Although Joel is reluctant to become involved with anyone, he and Lanny begin a relationship. But Joel isn't the only sorcerer who wants Lanny. Can Joel protect his lover from other sorcerers---and from himself?
eBook Publisher: MLR Press, LLC/MLR Press, LLC,
eBookwise Release Date: July 2012
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [289 KB]
Reading time: 193-270 min.
Joel rolled over and looked at the man in bed beside him. Thomas something. Or Timothy. He always mixed up those two names.
Not that it mattered. He wouldn't see the guy again. Not unless Thomothy showed up at another one of the Joel Turcotte "Know Your Worth" workshops. That was a possibility. Joel's self-improvement workshops were big draws, and people often attended more than one.
Of course, if Thomothy came to another workshop, he wouldn't remember fucking Joel. Joel had already done the magic to take away that memory. He hated like hell to do it. Especially at times like this, when the sex had been incredible and the sliver of soul he'd taken from his partner had been pure nirvana. Unfortunately, he had no choice. He refused to take the same partner twice. He was too afraid of what might happen if he soul-ripped someone more than once.
Careful not to wake the man, Joel slipped out of bed and gathered his clothes from the floor where they'd landed when he had stripped. Thomothy had barely been able to wait to fuck Joel Turcotte. He'd said he was honored to be chosen. Of course, he hadn't realized that Joel had chosen him because of his soul. Or that Joel had used his magic to seduce Thomothy.
Joel hated that part. He didn't have to use magic to lure people into bed, but it had become second nature. Sometimes he didn't even realize he had done it.
Dressed again in the blue button-down shirt and gray slacks and suit jacket he'd worn for the workshop, Joel glanced at the sleeping man and resisted the urge to kiss him goodbye. Instead, he walked out the door. Just like he always did.
Outside the high-rise apartment building, sitting in his Nissan 370Z, Joel closed his eyes and took a moment to savor the sliver he had taken of the other man's soul. The richness of its vitality, the tang of the low confidence and negative thoughts. That negativity had brought the man to Joel's workshop and had drawn Joel to him. Souls like that didn't pack the same punch as a soul belonging to a confident, positive individual, but they were enough for Joel's purposes.
His magic flowed more strongly than only hours earlier. That was the important thing. Power rippled through him, energizing him. He could do anything. Anything at all, at least while the magic remained. The entire world seemed to shimmer and his mind raced. Soul-ripping was a better high than anything humans had devised.
The black wall of guilt enveloping him harshed the high. He shouldn't have given in to soul-ripping again.
Souls were necessary fuel for his power.
They were also an addiction, one lasting over half his life.
He'd badgered himself into taking only tiny slivers, just enough to fuel himself, but hadn't been able to give them up entirely. Without soul rips, he became so weak just lifting his arms became an ordeal. His thoughts grew so fuzzy they were incoherent even to him, when he was able to think at all. Every part of his body ached, and his surroundings whirled around him as if he rode a carousel.
The last time he'd tried to quit entirely, he had ended up flat on his back for a week, unable to even muster the energy to leave his bed for the first twenty-four hours. Even after that, for days he had barely managed to move around his condo. He couldn't afford to be in that shape again, so he had accepted that he would have to rip souls to live. Fortunately, the slivers grew back over time, and the people he took from barely knew anything about them had changed.
I do what I must to survive. That had become Joel's mantra in the ten years since Davion's death. Sometimes he even believed it.
He pulled himself together and started the car. Dwelling on what he had done would be counterproductive. He'd fucked Thomothy and had enjoyed it immensely. He'd removed some of the qualities that made Thomothy's life the bland disappointment the guy claimed. He'd helped the guy. If the price of that was a small fragment of soul that would regenerate in a month or two, it was worth it.
Half an hour later, Joel drove into the underground garage beneath the marina condo complex where he lived. Ten years earlier, his magic would have generated his ability to live in such a place. Ten years earlier, he had done exactly that, using his power to persuade his sexual partners to buy him things or to persuade others to give him what he needed without realizing they were doing it. He hadn't needed money because he'd used his magic to gain or create everything he wanted and needed.
Now he earned his keep. People chose to pay for his books and workshops, and through those Joel earned more than enough to support himself in the manner he had barely dreamed of as a teenager. Using his magic to create content for the books and to run the workshops wasn't the same as using it to gain material things. It was a fine line, though.
Joel locked his car and armed the security system, then rode the elevator to the top floor of the building. His condo had one of the best views in the place, a direct line across Winthrop Harbor to the Boston skyline. On a clear night like this, the view was incredible. The buildings in the city were lit and sparkled across the water. Joel wished he had someone to share it with.
He went into his bedroom and stripped down to his boxers, then pulled on his favorite T-shirt, a faded reminder of the days before he had lost Davion. Davion had bought the shirt for Joel's twenty-first birthday.
It was the last thing he had given Joel before his death.
Dressed more comfortably, Joel went back to the living room to check his voicemail. There was little logic to his choice to have both a cell phone and a landline, but he hadn't been able to convince himself to live only with his cell phone. The landline was a way for people who didn't only know him as "motivational speaker Joel Turcotte" to reach him. He gave the number only to select people.
The voicemail held two messages. "Hey, brother, just checking in about Thanksgiving." His brother Chad's voice boomed through the tinny speaker on the phone. "Mom's hoping you'll be able to make it this year. She said you mentioned on national TV that you're planning to take the holiday off. Bad move if you wanted to avoid us. Give me a call."
Joel rolled his eyes and deleted the message. He didn't avoid his family. He just didn't spend much time with them. He should have known his mother would catch his interview on one of the network morning shows. If she hadn't been his mother, he would have said she stalked him.
Going up to Maine for Thanksgiving didn't sound like a bad idea. He needed the break from his obligations. The problem would come when his family started their typical dogpile on him about his lack of a committed relationship. His bisexual "lifestyle" had been a constant cause of conflict since he'd come out as bi at age fourteen, and he was tired of hearing about his family's disapproval of it.
He couldn't very well tell them that he refused to commit to anyone out of fear of losing control and soul-ripping them beyond repair. None of them had any magic. Joel had never managed to find out why he'd been born a sorcerer, as he termed it, while the rest of his family were just normal humans. From the moment he'd learned his powers existed, he'd hidden them from everyone. That was the primary reason he chose not to see his family often.
He probably wouldn't go for Thanksgiving, even if it would be a nice variation to spending a holiday alone. The decision could wait a day or two, though. He made a mental note to return Chad's call when he wasn't exhausted and irritated.
The second message was one Joel wished he didn't have to hear. "Joel, it's Crawford. The noon news had a story you might be interested in. New York mayor's aide was found naked and dead in her apartment. Police suspect sexual assault because the woman had clearly had intercourse before her death. Call me back if you want further details."
Joel erased that message too. He didn't want any further details about the mayor's aide. He didn't want any further details about anything involving his fellow sorcerers. But sooner or later, he would call Crawford back. He'd learned that there were others like him when he'd been in his late teens. Since Davion's death he'd tried not only to avoid harming any other humans himself, but to protect them from the rest of what he'd begun to call soul sorcerers. Eventually he would have to hear the other details from Crawford; he couldn't protect humans without knowing who and what he was protecting them from.
Death was one of the possible side effects of having a chunk of one's soul ripped away by force. It was also the sign of a sloppy sorcerer. Most of them, although they didn't see any reason to stop at just a small tidbit of soul the way Joel did, at least stopped before their victim died.
The human might be left catatonic or suicidal, but they wouldn't be dead.
Joel turned on the TV, more for the noise than to watch anything specific, and opened the laptop computer he kept on his coffee table. His travel laptop was still in his bag in the bedroom. The one he kept at home was more private, with less chance of anyone other than himself and possibly Crawford seeing its contents.
Including the file he kept on cases like the one Crawford had called him about. He opened that file and quickly typed in the information Crawford had given. This was the eighth case in the past six months that had made a local newscast, which meant someone was getting careless.
Joel didn't know much about the other soul sorcerers. They didn't exactly broadcast their existence, which was exactly the issue here. One of them--possibly more--had stopped caring whether humans found out about them. Otherwise, they would have either taken less soul or more care to hide their victims afterward.
Even local newscasts typically only reported deaths. Who knew how many humans had been left catatonic or had taken their own lives as a side effect of suddenly losing a chunk of their soul?
"Eight in six months." He spoke aloud out of habit. Since he'd left his parents' house at age nineteen, he had lived alone, not even bothering with roommates. He hated being alone but didn't want to risk getting close to another human. What had happened to Davion would too easily happen again.
"It might be one person," he said. "Or more. It's hard to tell. They're spread too far apart for there to be a pattern." The first victim had been in California; the others ranged from Texas to Utah to Maine. And now New York.
Joel wasn't sure why he had such a strong urge to track the deaths of humans who had been soul-ripped. He'd begun monitoring the Boston-area news after he'd recovered from Davion's death, at the same time that he'd begun training himself to remove only slivers of humans' souls instead of soul-ripping them. At that point, he hadn't had the resources to make sense of what he found, or to track the news in other parts of the country.
When he'd decided to hire Crawford, tracking the deaths had become part of the man's job description. Crawford was the only human who knew what Joel was. Possibly the only one who knew about the existence of the sorcerers. And he was the only human who knew how many other humans died from being soul-ripped.
There was a reason for keeping the information. Joel knew there was. He just hadn't yet figured it out.
The landline phone rang, and he leaned over the arm of the couch to look at the caller ID. Crawford again. Joel let out a long breath. He'd been afraid it would be his brother, or even his mother. Aside from Crawford, they and a few other family members were the only ones with his landline number.
He picked up the phone. "Turcotte."
"Joel, did you get my message?" Crawford asked.
"Yeah. I was just adding it to the file." He settled back and focused on the city lights across the harbor. Looking at them always calmed him. "You're keeping track too, aren't you?"
"Yes." Crawford sounded surprised. "How did you know?"
"I hired you as my assistant because you're a master of organization. It would have been out of character for you not to keep the information on file for yourself." Joel smiled to himself. He knew Crawford far better than the other man realized. "Have you noticed any connection among them?"
"They're all in politics," Crawford replied immediately. "Aides, mostly, though there was that city council president in Maine. Other than that, there isn't any unifying thread. They're all from different states, their ages range from twenty-two to seventy, and it's a pretty equal mix of male and female." He paused. "That doesn't matter to you folks, right?"
"First of all, please don't lump me in with the others." The last thing Joel wanted was to be compared with the sorcerers who soul-ripped their victims without even caring whether the human recovered. "Second, no, gender doesn't matter. Not to me, at least, and I would assume it would be the same for the rest. We gain pieces of soul through sexual intercourse. Limiting it to one gender would limit our magic."
"Magic that you use for?"
"That I use to motivate those who read my books and come to my workshops," Joel said. "You know that."
"It just seems to me that there should be some larger purpose." Crawford chuckled. "I guess I've been reading too many wizard novels."
"Clearly." Joel wasn't amused, but he didn't hold his assistant's comment against him. Of course humans didn't understand sorcerers. Most of them didn't even know sorcerers existed.
His brain finally registered the rest of what Crawford had said. "They're all in politics? All eight?"
"Yes?" Crawford sounded puzzled. "At least as far as I can tell. You hadn't noticed that yet?"
"No." Why didn't I notice? Not all of the news stories gave information about the people's jobs, but Crawford usually tracked down the information and passed it along. It wasn't difficult to find out everything one never wanted to know about someone thanks to the Internet.
"It might just be coincidence," Crawford said.
"There's no such thing." When you were able to work magic just with the power of thought, coincidence was a joke. "Thanks for telling me that. Now I wonder if all these deaths are for a purpose."
"That doesn't mean you have to find out what the purpose is."
"It doesn't mean I should ignore the connection, either." If he found out why these people were being soul-ripped to the point of death, he might be able to stop the sorcerer responsible.
Right. Because I'm the big, bad hero.
"Did you just call to make sure I'd heard your message?" he asked.
"And to remind you that you have a meeting with Barry Brigham at nine tomorrow morning," Crawford replied. "He wants to talk to you about doing a private workshop for his top executives. He thinks that having climbed the corporate ladder is a sign of low self-esteem and lack of confidence." He paused. "He's also considering having you do a workshop for his employees. He believes that will increase sales."
"Of course he does." Joel groaned. He had little use for Barry Brigham, the owner of a local auto sales franchise and one of the biggest bullies Joel had met since middle school. The man had buttonholed Joel at a book signing several months earlier and had talked his ear off, complaining about how unmotivated his employees and executives were and how they all needed to read Joel's book so they would, in Barry's words, "Shape the fuck up and work." He'd been trying for all those months to persuade Joel to do a private workshop, and so far Joel had refused.
The man pissed him off, plain and simple. He was the kind Joel wouldn't mind soul-ripping, if not for the fact that he found Barry too repulsive to even consider fucking him.
"We can cancel if you really don't want to meet with him," Crawford said. "I'm sure between the two of us we can come up with a good reason and the oomph to keep him from arguing too much."
The idea appealed to Joel. Unfortunately, he wouldn't be able to avoid Brigham forever. "I'd rather just get it over with, but thanks for the suggestion."
"Your call." Crawford paused. "You know you're going to end up doing the workshop his way if you don't shut him down tomorrow."
"I think it's too late already to shut him down. I'll deal with it." Barry wanted him to bully the employees just the way Barry did. For some reason, Barry believed having Joel do it would be more of a motivation.
It would be, of course, with Joel's magic to back it. But he refused to bully anyone. He'd dealt with enough of that kind of crap growing up.
"I'll see you in the morning, then," Crawford said. "The meeting's at nine. You should be at the office early so you have a chance to prepare. Set your alarm for seven so you have time to drive in."
"Thanks, Crawford. I think I can handle my commute." He couldn't, actually. Time was fairly meaningless to him. He would wander into his office at eleven one morning and six the next if he didn't have Crawford keeping him on schedule. That was why he'd hired an assistant.
The fact that Crawford seemed immune to Joel's persuasive magic was the reason Joel had chosen him out of all the applicants he'd had.
He hung up the phone and went back to mindlessly watching TV. After a while, it occurred to him that he hadn't eaten since the luncheon during the workshop. He decided he was in the mood for lasagna.
Within seconds, a plate of hot lasagna sat on the coffee table in front of him. Along with the side of garlic bread he couldn't live without.
There were, after all, some perks to being a sorcerer.