Free Fiction Friday: Mods

POD Mods Ebook Cover 08
Description:

Bot smasher Nakato dedicated her life to taking the broken tech other people had abandoned and turning it into robots designs that the world had never seen. Only two things drew her from her home high in the Web: her best friend Rafah and commissions for customers she liked.

Those two things drew Nakato out of her comfortable rut when a commission for prosthetic arms for the orca War Tooth revealed just how much she had left to learn at the same time that Rafah fell into an abusive relationship that threatened her very life.

Mods is a thrilling cyberpunk story set in the Mouse and Snake universe that’s sure to excite.

Mods

By Meyari McFarland

1. Customer

Nakato stretched, her spine popping. Her nest was quiet. Better be given how much she’d paid to soundproof the spherical walls when she added on her workshop. Thick white sheets of insulation hung between radiating struts that supported the nest’s shell. Her tiny living area wasn’t half as quiet or secure, only having a fiberglass shell instead of synth and the lightest of insulation between shell and struts. Didn’t really need to be ‘perfect’ for Nakato. After all, it was just a place to sleep and keep Nakato’s meager supply of clothes, food and overflow tools.

It was her workshop that counted. She smiled as she looked around, working her shoulders and shaking her wrists to get rid of some of the ache from hours of close work. Thirty feet diameter, solidest walls possible, insulated perfectly; Nakato’s workshop was a top of the line nest suited for a family of six. It was perfect. The anchors she’d had installed to hold it in place were best on the market, too, and she’d had the place wired with the best computer system there was.

Nakato would live in here if it wouldn’t displace her tools and supplies. Shelves curved around the walls from floor to ceiling, secured between the heavy struts supporting the spherical shell. Each shelf held carefully secured boxes of parts, tools and completed sample bots she’d made for testing purposes. The only place that was open was the floor that dropped open so that Nakato could lower her bigger bots down when it was time for delivery. Wasn’t sure how that’d work when it was time to test her new orca-bot but Nakato’d figure out when it was time.

At this time of day, hours before dawn on a day that promised to be blustery early and clear later on in the afternoon, there wasn’t another person around outside. Or inside. She didn’t let many people into her workshop which might explain the persistent smell of sweat, grease and fried electronics. Every time Rafah came over her nose wrinkled as if she couldn’t stand the stink.

“Shows what she knows,” Nakato muttered as she slid backwards along the gentle curve of the nest’s floor towards the drain. It took her out of the slowly forming orca-bot’s shell. “Her place always stinks of pollen and wet soil.”

Her back cracked again as Nakato rolled to her feet. There was nothing worse than kneeling inside of a bot as she hooked up its nervous system. Always made her wish for that beautiful lab on the mainland that the big multinational corps tempted her with. Solid ground, no nest shifting in the wind, enough support structure that she could build her dream horse-bot and then enough room that she could ride it as it tested its functions out. She snorted and grinned, tasting dripped lubricating oil on her lips.

“Keep dreaming, girl,” Nakato said, amused.

It wasn’t going to happen. Maybe for Rafah, not that she’d ever leave her cozy little nest perched high in the upper levels of the Web amidst the grapevine and blackberry brambles. Rafah was small and sweet, cute in her sometimes-worn, sometimes-not, hijab. Nakato was never going to be anything other than a big bot-smashing black girl to the land-dwellers, no matter how many awards she won for her AI work.

“That’s fine,” Nakato murmured as she took her welding glasses off and shoved them into her hair without regard for whether they had oil on them or not. “Rather bash my bots out here and do people some good than be a corporate slave creating war-bots to be destroyed.”

*You always talk to yourself?*

Nakato jerked as she whirled towards the still-sealed door. No one was there. The seal around the door, the security system that Rafah’s mother had helped Nakato design, was still green all the way around. She frowned. No one could have gotten past her security system so what the hell?
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Novel Monday: Coming Together – Chapter 25 (The End!)

POD Coming Together Ebook Cover 05
Description:
The last thing Mari expected when she and her sisters arrived in Aingeal City with a load of trade goods was to land squarely in the middle of a marriage alliance. But that was the only way to save her clan and the Dana clan from the Delbhana plot that threatened not just them, but the entire world.

Mixing fantasy with romance, author Meyari McFarland expertly crafts a sweet romance that defies categories and instantly charms.

Coming Together

By Meyari McFarland

25. Finding Home

Mari smiled as Gavin muttered something as he fell asleep on her shoulder. Her legs were going numb already but that wasn’t that much of a problem. As soon as he started snoring Mari shifted so that he rested between her legs instead of on top of her. His hair smelled of plain soap and fragrant oil, maybe one of the wood ones from Idoya. She couldn’t be sure, not that it mattered. What mattered was keeping his arm still while the plaster heated and dried, safely encasing his arm so that it would heal.

“You sure about this?” Laoise asked as she helped the doctor wash the plaster off her hands. “You don’t have to marry him if you’re not serious about it. Seemed pretty clear that you enjoyed the open road too much to settle down.”

“I do,” Mari sighed. “Truly do. But I think he’s worth it. Gonna hate stayin’ in one place all the time, though.”

Laoise snorted. “As if you would. I’ll probably ship you out as soon as I can. It’s always good to have new eyes on trading missions, even if you’re not trained for trade in other countries. You’re still a trader, born and bred. I’m sure you’d be a credit on the sea just as you are on the roads in Aingeal.”

Mari blinked at her, shocked, slowly grinning when she realized that Laoise was serious. “That’d work. Never been on a ship before bu’ I’m sure I can learn. Give me a hammock to sleep in an’ I’ll be fine. Still not fond of Aingeal City, though. Too big an’ complicated. Never have been any good at findin’ my way ’round this city though I suppose I’ll learn it now. This building is even worse, y’know. I’ve seen mazes that’re easier to get ’round than your Clan house.”

“There’s a trick to it,” the doctor said, grinning when Mari perked up and nodded to her to explain. “You can track where you are by how gray the walls are and how they’re finished. The oldest living areas are over the warehouse entrance that faces the port. The newest areas are overhead here. Second floor will have shingles on the walls. Third floor is all plaster but the types of plaster differ depending on which quadrant of the house you’re in. And the stairs are easy to figure out. You’ll find stairs anytime you follow two right turns in a row though they might be tucked into an alcove or ladders instead of proper stairs.”

“Warehouse itself is easy,” Laoise agreed even though her lips were twitching as if she thought that the doctor’s explanation was wildly unnecessary. “Everything’s labeled. Offices and dorm can be a bit confusing but they’re all in one small area. You can’t get too lost in there.”

Mari nodded slowly as she thought about the various places she’d seen. When they’d gone to talk to Jarmon the walls had been gray, dingy and dark from the passage of time. The walls near to the suite she shared with her sister were plastered with a different finish than the ones close to Gavin’s suite. Maybe it wasn’t as impossible to navigate through the Clan house as she’d thought.

Gavin grumbled under his breath, shifting until his forehead rested against Mari’s neck. She grinned, heart slipping a beat from sheer joy. This tiny, fierce man could be her husband, always assuming Ma and Laoise agreed to it. But they would. She knew they would. How could they not?

Holding Gavin made Mari’s heart sing the same way riding a cart down the open road did. She felt like she was topping the long steep rise that led into the valley where her family lived every time he looked at her. The glimpses she’d gotten of his legs, the feel of his body against hers, promised more than her hammock between the carts or her bed back home.

Home.
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Now Available: Collected Debts and Assumptions of Debt!

Collected Debts Omnibus Ebook Cover 03
Description:
A world twisted by debt, tortured by terrorism: Meyari McFarland explores how debt and slavery intertwine in the best and worst ways in this collection of thirteen short stories and novellas.

Explore BDSM, romance, and adventure in:

Feast of the Senses
Jam Crisis
New Boy
Unrepentant Bastard
Controlled Edge
Silken Embrace
Sound of Obedience
Crack of Doom
Three Sisters
Taste of Joy
Be With Me
Popular
Anniversary

Find This Collection:

On Kobo $6.99 ebooks
On Smashwords $6.99 ebook
On Amazon $6.99 ebook or $19.99 TPB
On CreateSpace $19.99 TPB

POD Assumptions of Debt Ebook Cover 05
Description:
A new master only meant more abuse as Tommy paid off his debt. Master John Boles was different.

Even as Tommy’s past came back, full of torture and fear, Boles kept Tommy safe.

Better still, he wasn’t alone anymore. With Jay at his side, Tommy finally had a chance at revenge and freedom.

But only if his past didn’t steal him away and kill him first.

Find This Story:

On Kobo $5.99 ebook
On Smashwords $5.99 ebook
On Amazon $5.99 ebook or $12.99 TPB
On CreateSpace $12.99 TPB

Yay! I got the posts up! Two new books in the Debts to Recover ‘verse at last. I’ve got sequels planned for Assumptions, FYI, so look for those in the next year or so. Hope you enjoy if you choose to read!

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Novel Monday: Coming Together – Chapter 24

POD Coming Together Ebook Cover 05
Description:
The last thing Mari expected when she and her sisters arrived in Aingeal City with a load of trade goods was to land squarely in the middle of a marriage alliance. But that was the only way to save her clan and the Dana clan from the Delbhana plot that threatened not just them, but the entire world.

Mixing fantasy with romance, author Meyari McFarland expertly crafts a sweet romance that defies categories and instantly charms.

Coming Together

By Meyari McFarland

24. Choice

Gavin snarled at Lady Etain. His wrist throbbed, pain shooting up his arm as he tried to clench his hand into a fist again. His knees shook under his kilt. Thank every deity from the Morrigan on up that his kilt’s petticoats kept the quivers from showing. He didn’t think he’d been this angry in his entire life.

She had threatened him. She had threatened the clan. How dare she treat him like a bargaining chip? Gavin took a shuddering breath as he forced the wash of emotion firmly into anger and away from ridiculous tears. When he curled his wrist slightly the pain nearly overwhelmed both anger and overwrought emotion to the point that the room swam briefly as if he’d been dumped into the bay and floated there like a bobbing cork.

Every little sound seemed magnified, from the rapid pound of Gavin’s pulse in his ear to the shuffle of the women’s boots around him. He could still taste Mari on his lips, a mixture of her milk and the spices left on her lips from lunch with the native flavor of her mouth. Salt, coppery blood and dust mixed on his nose into something that spelled rage.

“You’ve never seen a love bite before?” Gavin asked. His voice echoed through the warehouse far louder than he’d expected. “I suppose I’m not surprised by that given your personality. I can’t imagine anyone being willing to have sex with you.”

“He always get this angry?” Mari asked. She sounded like she was on the verge of half-hysterical laughter.

“No,” Gwen replied. She laughed, high and utterly amused. “Not like the rest of us, anyway. Good for you, Gavin.”

“That’s not a bite,” Lady Etain said, gasped really. “It’s not!”

Her eyes bugged out as she regained her feet. Blood stank copper and bright on the wind from the port, mixing with the salt to remind Gavin of every brawl that had ever spilled over from the docks into the warehouse and the work he’d had to do to patch everyone up. He growled at Lady Etain, poking her hard enough in the chest with his good hand that she staggered back a step.

“I don’t care what you say,” Gavin hissed at her. “I don’t care what you do. I will not marry Danica. I am following my duty to my Clan and marrying Mari. There is not one single thing in the Goddesses’ heavens or the Morrigan’s Hell that you can do to change that.”

“I don’t suppose you’d consider fathering some children for me later on?” Danica asked.

“We can talk ’bout it,” Mari said as she hauled Gavin back away from Lady Etain with a gentle-firm grip on his shoulders. “Later, y’know, when things calm down a bit. An’ I check a mirror t’see what the fuss is. Didn’t even know he left marks.”

She wrapped her arms around Gavin, scooping his arms up so that she was gently, casually, holding his hands. One large hand wrapped around Gavin’s aching, swelling wrist, hiding it from Lady Etain’s view. Mostly. Gavin was fairly certain that in a matter of minutes his fingers would swell so much that the sprained wrist would be obvious but he was quite satisfied with the damage inflicted on Lady Etain compared to Gavin’s injury.

“Let him–!”

“Shut your mouth!” Gavin bellowed before she could finish the sentence.

He tried to jerk free from Mari’s arms to go at Lady Etain again but Mari squawked and lifted him back off his feet again. Danica laughed and shook her head as she grabbed the back of Lady Etain’s collar. One sharp jerk knocked Lady Etain right off her feet. She stared up at Danica, an angry, puzzled expression on her face.
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Free Fiction Friday: Midwife to Divinity

POD Midwife to Destiny Ebook Cover 03

Description:

Dahlia had a problem: a stalker with powers that threatened not just her life but also her carefully crafted identity. Jacks had a problem, too: a magical doom that had destroyed his entire family. Only by trusting each other can they solve the problems destroying their lives.

Midwife to Divinity is an urban fantasy focused on strength, challenges and claiming what you thought you’d left behind.

Midwife to Divinity

By Meyari McFarland

1. Cold Comfort

The answering machine light blinked at Dahlia. She stared at it, heart hammering in her ears, an angry lump up in her throat. Dru had been right. Everything she said was right. Dahlia bit her lip, watching that light flicking on and off like a strobe sweeping ever closer to her.

Her apartment was cold, dark, in contrast with the beautiful colors that had tempted her into staying here originally. Dahlia had taken to leaving blankets and sweaters everywhere so that she could curl up under them. Even after she finally figured out how to deal with this problem she’d probably keep them out. The comfort and color was so enticing that Dahlia knew she’d keep doing it.

Comfortable blankets or not, it wasn’t safe to turn on the lights. Turning up the heat was a problem, too, given what she’d been able to figure out about Jacks. As nice as it would be to have warmth in here, she didn’t dare do more than keep the pipes from freezing. Better to be cold and live in the dark than risk Jacks realizing that she was still here. She’d spent too many years building this life to abandon it so suddenly.

The entire mess was Dahlia’s fault. Despite Dru’s warnings, she’d had to go out, had to take a night off and go to the bar with her oblivious coworkers. That last night of warmth and laughter had been so wonderful until it all went wrong. Dahlia’s fingers tightened around the keys clutched in her hand, squeezing until her knuckles ached and the edges threatened to break her skin, spilling out power and blood in equal measure.

At least the cold kept the garbage from smelling. Dahlia hadn’t taken the trash out for three weeks now. Pretty soon she would have to but for now the bags, stuffed to the point that the drawstrings barely held them shut, sat patiently by the front door.

More air freshener would take care of the residual stink of rotting orange peels and apple cores that Dahlia couldn’t avoid. It didn’t help the empty fridge, though. That was something that Dahlia had to take care of soon or risk going to the mall next to work. Which she wouldn’t do.

Jacks would be there, his eyes too bright and his fingers curling as if they could feel the muscles of her biceps struggling to escape already. How he got away with his stalking was the mystery. Dahlia didn’t see how anyone could miss the man’s predatory expressions, the way he cornered young women, pulling them aside and forcing them to smile, to look up at him, to slip away with him. She didn’t know how people missed that the women came back bruised, frightened, sometimes bleeding and all, all, of them with gaps in their memory that covered the hours of the time with Jacks.

Dahlia already knew that some never came back at all.

That she’d seen on her own at the bar. A trip to the bathroom had become a descent into a cheesy horror movie as she watched a beautiful blond girl slide slowly towards the sticky floor of the hallway, Jacks looming over her with blood on his face and a twisted grimace that made Dahlia turn tail and run.

The memory of the bruises covering the girl’s neck as the shadows curled around both Jacks and her made Dahlia shudder. Even now she could smell the blood, the stink of bowels and bladder cutting loose as death overcame the girl. How had anyone missed that? Blurring the mind, forcing people to look the other way usually didn’t make them miss the smell of death.

So much of her family’s business would be easier if it were.

That was the true mystery that Dahlia was unwilling to figure out. Even though the smell of death had followed her out into the bar where booze and sex filled the air, no one else even looked towards the bathroom hallway. They acted as though there was nothing wrong, as though no grunts or whines echoed. Dahlia had even thought about intervening only to dismiss the sheer idea. She had too much invested in this life, this façade, to give up for a predator in human form and his already doomed prey.

That reluctance to confront Jacks had intensified as Jacks had appeared at her side in the bar, looming and smiling so gregariously that her coworkers immediately assumed that they knew each other. His hand had wrapped around Dahlia’s bicep, discretely digging in until bruises bloomed under her long sleeved purple sweater.

“I didn’t expect to find you here,” Jacks had said, his voice purring like a lion getting ready to attack.

“Let go,” Dahlia had replied, raising her chin. “Now!”

“Don’t be like that,” Jacks had said, leaning closer, close enough that she could smell the blood. Shadows had loomed above the bar, shifting towards the both of them like cold syrup flowing across a refrigerated plate. His teeth had seemed too long as he licked his lips suggestively.

“Let go!” Dahlia had snarled, jerking her arm free from his grip.

He’d stared at her as if shocked that she could do that, as if her sudden burst of strength was incomprehensible. Andy had frowned, blinking as if he’d only just noticed that Dahlia wasn’t happy to see Jacks, as if he was fighting against a fog keeping him from seeing what was in front of him. Lily had huffed, scolding Dahlia that she shouldn’t be so touchy. Jacks was a friend, after all. They all ‘knew’ him even though Dahlia knew that she’d never seen the man before that night.

“I’m going home,” Dahlia had announced. “Goodnight.”

“Let me escort you home,” Jacks had said, standing and looming over her.

“I have a gun and I know how to use it,” Dahlia said. “And I will use it, on you, if you dare to follow me.”
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Novel Monday: Coming Together – Chapter 23

POD Coming Together Ebook Cover 05
Description:
The last thing Mari expected when she and her sisters arrived in Aingeal City with a load of trade goods was to land squarely in the middle of a marriage alliance. But that was the only way to save her clan and the Dana clan from the Delbhana plot that threatened not just them, but the entire world.

Mixing fantasy with romance, author Meyari McFarland expertly crafts a sweet romance that defies categories and instantly charms.

Coming Together

By Meyari McFarland

23. Promises

Mari gulped as Gavin’s expression went from determined to horrified in an instant. “No! It’s not that!”

He stepped back, the rosy blush that had covered his cheeks most of the time they’d talked to Jarmon fading into a sort of sickly paleness that reminded Mari of just how sick Gavin had been just a day or so ago. She reached out and caught Gavin’s hand, trying to keep him from running away entirely without using brute force to do it. Gavin smacked her hands away, looking down the hallway with that sick-to-his-stomach look.

“Really,” Mari insisted. “You’re beautiful an’ smart an’ I always have loved that. It’s got nothing t’do with you, honestly.”

“It’s you, not me,” Gavin sighed. He sounded as though he’d heard those words a million times before.

“Not at all,” Mari said. She smiled hesitantly when Gavin frowned up at her. “It’s the Delbhana, Gavin. I don’ like the thought o’ you bein’ forced t’do something y’don’ want to just t’get rid o’ them. It’s not ri’. Man shouldn’t have t’go t’such lengths just t’be left alone. They’re breaking all the rules of decency an’ their own regulations. An’ the law. It’s wrong. I just… don’ want you t’do something you’d regret.”

She trailed off as Gavin put one hand over his mouth. At first she thought he was even more horrified but then his shoulders started shaking as he laughed silently. The laughter went audible a few second later. Unlike Mari’s brays of laughter Gavin’s laughter was low and confident despite the roughness left behind from his cold.

Gavin shook his head at Mari, the hand eventually dropping away to reveal a brilliant grin. His teeth were as perfect as the rest of him, small and straight and strong, just like he was. As his chuckles stilled, Gavin reached out and grabbed the front of Mari’s shirt, hauling on it.

Mari automatically struggled but Gavin tugged harder, overbalancing Mari so that she had to bend or topple over on top of him. His other hand caught Mari’s hair, using it as a tether do drag her face to exactly where he wanted her. Their lips met with too much force, teeth clacking together, but it didn’t seem to bother Gavin. He rumbled deep in his chest as he kept his grip on Mari so that she couldn’t escape.

It wasn’t like any of Mari’s other kisses. Even the times when she’d kissed lovers during or after sex there hadn’t been the same sort of passion. They’d been companionable, sweet, shy. Gavin’s kiss was like facing a thunderstorm pouring down out of the high mountains, like standing on a cliff edge with the wind blowing up at you. He felt wild, strong, determined in ways that lit a fire in Mari’s gut.

Mari’s hands wrapped around Gavin’s waist, slid down to cup his rear end so that she could pull him close. He was so short that she lifted him up into her arms so that they could kiss more comfortably. Gavin moaned, the hand in Mari’s hair trembling abruptly though he didn’t let go. If anything he held on tight enough to pull hair loose.

“Short,” Mari murmured against Gavin’s lips.

He snorted and bit her bottom lip to keep her from saying anything else. His tongue brushed over Mari’s lips, jolting her into a moan that Gavin echoed. She rocked against Gavin’s fabric-muffled erection, losing her scruples more and more for every second that they spent kissing.

She’d never kissed a man who was this forceful. It had always been Mari pursing and the men resisting before. Gavin didn’t resist. He wrapped both arms around Mari’s neck, playing with her hair as he licked and coaxed Mari into opening her mouth. Once in, Gavin’s tongue gave her vivid ideas about just what he could do between her legs if she’d just give him a chance.

“Fuck!” Mari gasped, pulling back and panting.

“Come back here,” Gavin ordered as he tugged at her hair again.

“Every single one o’ you is dangerous,” Mari said. She grinned as he nodded solemnly. “Still not comfortable wi’ the thought o’ you bein’ forced into sex, y’know.”
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Free Fiction Friday: Anniversary

POD Anniversary Ebook Cover 06

Description:

Andy had plans for his fifth wedding anniversary with Thomas. They would have dinner together. There would be sex in the living room on the sheepskin rug. Then they would to go bed and have more sex before falling asleep in each other’s arms. Their previous anniversaries hadn’t been special but by God, this one would be.

Unfortunately, fate had other plans for Andy and Thomas. Dinner was abandoned when Thomas came home injured. Their quick trip to get him treatment turned in a desperate struggle to survive when Black attacked the city. The only thing Andy had to cling to was his determination to get Thomas to medical care no matter what it took.

Anniversary is an exciting romantic adventure set in the Debts to Recover verse.

Anniversary

1. Dinner

Andy hummed as he finished the final touches for the evening. The curtains were firmly closed, giving their roomy condo a quiet intimate feel. It also made the room significantly warmer than normal which was a good idea. Even though they were still in the last stages of summer’s heat the condo’s air conditioning system was efficient enough that it was normally cold inside. Hopefully, if Thomas agreed, they would spend the rest of the night naked together. Warmer would be better for that.

He’d pushed the couch back against the west wall in the living room area and their armchairs up against the opposite wall by the sound system that was currently playing quiet classical music. That left a huge expanse of space open for his plans. The big fluffy sheepskin rug made a lovely base to work from. Their coffee table now held three whips, two floggers and all four of their canes.

Now all he had to do was get their dinner out of the oven and they could have a properly romantic anniversary night. After four years of nothing much special happening Andy thought that taking charge of the night’s activities might be okay. Hopefully.

Thomas was certainly the Dom in their relationship but he’d said over and over that he appreciated it when Andy took charge of the details on things like this. It was still a bit… nervous-making to do this though. Andy much preferred to have someone else giving the orders. Outlines of orders would be enough but he didn’t have even that much tonight. Just a hope for something special on their anniversary and a prayer that Thomas would appreciate it.

“God, I hope he doesn’t get mad,” Andy groaned. “I just… want it to be special.”

He shook his head as he checked on their roast chicken. It looked very close to done. The rolls were just about perfect too. He’d already gotten the corn cooked and buttered. A quick zap in the microwave and that would be steaming. The apple pie was perfect and already waiting in the fridge. Thomas’ favorite French vanilla ice cream sat in the freezer, too. Andy was ready for anything tonight. Probably.

“Home…” Thomas called from the front door.

“Hey!” Andy called back, shutting the oven and hurrying around the fridge only to stop dead in his tracks. “What happened?”

Thomas winced. His bottom lip was split and a huge bruise covered his left cheek. His glasses looked bent, just slightly, or at least Thomas wasn’t wearing them squarely on his head. His jacket had mud on it, too, something that Andy hadn’t ever seen. Horrifyingly, Andy could see footprints on his jacket.

“There was… a problem,” Thomas sighed. “Give me hand? My ribs are killing me.”

“Did you get beaten up?” Andy asked as he knelt and untied Thomas’ shoes.

“No, there was this girl at the station at Fourth and Vine. She was getting harassed really badly,” Thomas said. He leaned one hand on Andy’s shoulder, putting enough weight that Andy had to stiffen his back not to sag under it. “The police weren’t doing anything so I did. I got punched, knocked down briefly, and the cops tried to blame her and then me for it. They arrested the idiots after I gave them my business card.”

“This is why you need to stop taking public transportation and get a car,” Andy huffed. “You work for Master Boles. He’d probably recommend a good armored car dealer. I know that you could get a credit for one and we have a parking space available. It came with the condo.”

Thomas smiled ever so faintly but he shook his head no. That was a battle that Andy wasn’t going to win no matter what so he let it go. Along with his elaborate plans for the evening. So much for all his ideas of dinner and then a beating and making love on the sheepskin rug.

When Andy smiled ruefully Thomas frowned and cupped his cheek.

“What’s wrong?” Thomas asked.

“Well, I sort of set up a special evening for our anniversary but I don’t think you’re going to be up for the ideas I had,” Andy admitted. “I do have roast chicken, corn, rolls and a very nice apple pie for dinner.”

Thomas blinked several times very rapidly. He straightened up and then went to stare into the living room. Andy sighed as he carefully set Thomas’ shoes on their little shoe rack. All that work and it just wasn’t going to happen.

“Wow,” Thomas murmured as Andy moved to stand behind him. “Now I wish I’d just handed the card to the police before getting involved.”

“It could be worse,” Andy said. “I was thinking about putting in the vibrating butt plug around lunch so that I’d be ready for you when you got home.”

“That would be worse,” Thomas laughed so ruefully that Andy couldn’t help but grin. “We really need to take that vacation I’ve been threatening. Get out of town. Go to one of those armored, all-inclusive resorts where we can just play and not have to worry about anything.”

Andy ducked his head to hide his grin at that thought. They’d talked about it endlessly since they got together. He didn’t really think it would happen. While Andy’s work was relatively simple, mostly just filing and data entry, Thomas was fairly highly placed in Master Boles’ business. It was expected that he be on hand whenever there were problems and given Black’s unending attacks, there always seemed to be problems.

“It would be nice,” Andy said with a quick glance towards the oven timer. Still a minute and a half left to go. “Maybe somewhere warm.”

Thomas chuckled. He pulled Andy into his arms for a long hug that wasn’t half long enough but that might have been Andy’s fault. The way Thomas winced for the feeling of Andy’s arms wrapped around his ribcage made Andy feel too bad to cling to him.

“Go pull the chicken,” Thomas whispered against Andy’s lips. “We can still have dinner. Maybe afterwards we can play a little bit. Lightly.”

“Liar,” Andy whispered with a grin. “I felt that wince.”

“Damn it,” Thomas groaned. “Fine. No play time.”

He laughed quietly despite the groan and obvious disappointment in his eyes. Andy laughed as well. There would be another chance, another time. He got the chicken out of the oven, smiling that the thermometer confirmed that it was perfectly done. The corn heated back up perfectly and the rolls had just the right amount of crispiness. It was a simple dinner, a fairly light one all things considered, but it should still be good.

Thomas carved the chicken. His fingers shook a little afterwards which made Andy frown at him. The carving motion shouldn’t have hurt that much. Instead of immediately eating, Andy glowered at Thomas.

“What?” Thomas asked entirely too innocently.

“Let me see those ribs,” Andy demanded.

“I’m fine,” Thomas protested. He went red as Andy continued to glower. “Andy. I’m fine.”

“Ribs.”

“If we wrap them up I’ll be fine,” Thomas said in his ‘giving orders now’ voice.

“Ribs!” Andy insisted. “Don’t you try and order me around outside of sex, Thomas Loomis. I am your husband and I am not letting you risk your life and health because you feel bad about having gotten beaten up by a bunch of punks. Take that shirt and jacket off or so help me I’m getting the scissors and cutting them off!”

Thomas’ mouth worked a couple of times but nothing came out. He sighed, looking at their steaming dinner with enough hunger that Andy almost relented. But if he really did have broken ribs or worse, internal bleeding, eating would be a terrible idea.

When Andy crossed his arms over his chest Thomas sighed. He grumbled as he stomped into their spacious bedroom with it’s not going to be used tonight padded cross and definitely not going to be used for anything but sleep king size bed.

Andy had to help Thomas take his jacket off. Thomas went white at putting his arms back for Andy to slip the jacket down his arms. He was so slow unbuttoning the shirt that Andy took over only to freeze when he saw the damage.

Thomas’ ribs were covered with bruises. Not just bruises but boot prints that were so distinct that Andy could see the individual tread patterns of three different boots. In one spot along Thomas’ ribs he could even make out the exact curve of the boot’s heel and the size.

“We are going to the hospital right now,” Andy said. His voice came out surprisingly level and calm given that his stomach was churning and his fingers were shaking. Tears had welled up making it hard to see the buttons that Andy now redid.

“I’ll be fine,” Thomas murmured. “Andy. I’ll be fine.”

“I can already see the bruises, Thomas,” Andy replied. “They’re only going to get worse. We’re going to the hospital right now because if we don’t I’ll have screaming nightmares and we’ll end up there anyway for my panic attack.”

“Ah, right,” Thomas said with a tired sigh. “All right. Jacket?”

“It can stay off,” Andy said as he finally got the last button. “Did you file a report with the police?”

Thomas nodded confidently enough that Andy let it go. The police had been there. He’d said so. Knowing Thomas, he’d probably told them that he was fine, that he didn’t need to go to the hospital. Andy swallowed down a little laugh that had more tears in it than anything else.

“What?” Thomas asked so gently that Andy wanted to hit him.

“You didn’t go to the hospital so that you wouldn’t ruin our anniversary dinner,” Andy said. The words barely made it past the lump in his throat.

“Ah, well… yes,” Thomas admitted sheepishly.

His cheeks flushed so brightly that Andy’s half-sob turned into a half-laugh. Andy shook his head, tugging Thomas out of the bedroom and back to the door so that he could help with Thomas’ shoes. At least Andy hadn’t decided to go with a naked dinner. That saved time now.

The smell of dinner cooling in the kitchen prompted Andy to hurry in and cover their plates with foil. Their chicken would still be dry and cold by the time they got back but it wouldn’t be as dry. Hopefully. It hardly mattered, really. What mattered was getting Thomas taken care of.

“Don’t you dare!” Andy scolded when he rounded the refrigerator to see Thomas attempting to put his shoes on without help.

“I could do it,” Thomas grumbled.

“You have no sense,” Andy grumbled right back. “None at all. I swear, sometimes I feel like I’m the one taking care of you, not the other way around.”

Thomas laughed as Andy knelt and helped him put his shoes on. He waited until Andy was done tying the laces before catching Andy’s face in both hands. He deliberately squished Andy’s cheeks, making him pucker up even as Andy glared at him.

The squish turned into a gentle caress that threatened to bring down a storm of tears, at least until Thomas leaned over and kissed Andy gently. He rested his forehead against Andy’s. Thomas chuckled and his breath washed warm over Andy’s lips.

“You do take care of me,” Thomas murmured. “You do a wonderful job taking care of me. I love you, Andy. I always have and I always will. No matter what happens on our anniversary, or on any other day, I’ll always love you.”

“Thank you,” Andy whispered. He took a deep breath and straightened up. “Now quit stalling. We have to get you to the hospital.”

Thomas burst out laughing only to wince and clutch his ribs. He grinned despite the obvious pain. Andy stood and slipped on his shoes. It was still warm enough that they really didn’t need coats. Frankly, Andy could have worn shorts without too much trouble though he wasn’t as confident about his legs as he used to be. Five years of a desk job had added a good bit of weight to his formerly slender frame.

Summer hadn’t faded yet. The hallway outside their apartment was swelteringly hot even though Andy’s pants were very thin and his shirt was as light as possible with their apartment’s air conditioning. Thomas wrapped one arm around Andy’s waist. When Andy looked up at him, unused to such a public display of affection, Thomas’ lips were too tight and there were deep wrinkles between his eyebrows.

“Idiot,” Andy muttered at him. “We’re taking a cab.”

“…I’ll be on the couch if I protest that, won’t I?” Thomas replied. His lips twitched a little with amusement despite the signs of pain.

“For quite a while,” Andy agreed.

The cab, which was blessedly quick in responding to Thomas’ phone call, smelled of faintly alcohol and vomit. There weren’t any obvious stains. The seats weren’t sticky. But it still felt sordid to Andy. Fortunately, the driver had taken one look at Thomas’ arm around his ribs and then at Andy’s face and he’d gone silent. Silence was much easier to deal with than attempts at conversation at this point.

Andy claimed Thomas’ phone once they were in motion. Master Boles’ private hospital was more of a clinic in his mansion but it was still equipped to deal with almost everything short of major heart or brain surgery. He held Thomas’ hand as the cab flew around one corner only to slow down as three heavy black police armored personnel carriers barreled by going the other direction. They didn’t have their lights on so it couldn’t be too urgent.

“State your emergency,” the clinic receptionist said in as bored a tone of voice as Andy had ever heard.

“This is Andy Loomis, Thomas Loomis’ husband,” Andy said. “We’re coming in. Thomas was attacked by some punks on the train. His ribs are severely bruised and need to be checked out.”

“Ah, we got the police report on that one,” the receptionist said with much more interest. “Master Boles already sent out an order that he was to report to the infirmary first thing tomorrow.”

Andy smiled triumphantly at Thomas who just rolled his eyes. He was sweating now which frightened Andy. The cab picked up speed again, thank goodness.

“Any other signs of problems?” the receptionist asked.

“Um, he’s very pale and has started to sweat,” Andy said. “We’re in a cab. We should be there in a minute or two.”

“Good, good,” the receptionist said in the midst of a flurry of tapping sounds. She had to be typing something into the computer. “I’ll make sure everyone’s ready for him.”

“Thank you,” Andy said.

He looked ahead of them, peering past the driver and through the car in front of them. The road looked clear. It should only be a minute or two and they’d be there. Andy let out the breath he’d been unconsciously holding. He smiled as Thomas gently squeezed his fingers.

“Uh-oh,” the cab driver muttered.

“What?” Andy and Thomas asked at the same time.

Light and heat exploded around them. Andy screamed as the world, the cab, lurched and tumbled. He felt Thomas’ arms wrap around him but the cab rolled and flung Andy into the bullet-proof glass divider between them and the cab driver. Andy’s head cracked into the glass and then Thomas landed on top of him.

The cab continued to tumble but Andy couldn’t be sure of anything other than pain, stars behind his eyes and the roar of fire expanding everywhere. Something slammed into their tumbling cab and Andy’s head cracked against the window a second time, much harder this time. Everything went black.
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Novel Monday: Coming Together – Chapter 22

POD Coming Together Ebook Cover 05
Description:
The last thing Mari expected when she and her sisters arrived in Aingeal City with a load of trade goods was to land squarely in the middle of a marriage alliance. But that was the only way to save her clan and the Dana clan from the Delbhana plot that threatened not just them, but the entire world.

Mixing fantasy with romance, author Meyari McFarland expertly crafts a sweet romance that defies categories and instantly charms.

Coming Together

By Meyari McFarland

22. Good Advice

Gavin took a deep breath, his wrist aching where Uncle Jarmon gripped it. No matter how sick Uncle Jarmon was he obviously hadn’t lost the power that had always marked him. Letting the breath out slowly did nothing to calm the rage percolating in Gavin’s heart. He didn’t look up at Mari who shifted her feet and fidgeted behind Gavin like any Dana daughter called to task for yet another inappropriate brawl.

“What did they do?” Gavin asked. He couldn’t help the rage and warning in his voice, didn’t even try to mitigate it even though Uncle Jarmon was obviously unwell.

“Gavin, he’s sick,” Mari scolded him very mildly. She squeaked and stepped back when he turned to glare up at her. “A’ri’, shutting my mouth. Ri’ now.”

“Delbhana Vevina sent a letter,” Uncle Jarmon said, nodding towards his beloved bedside crate, the first thing Great Aunt Maeve had ever made him. “Etain has decided that the laws don’t matter. Her own regulations don’t matter. The only thing that matters is stealing you from us.”

“I need to go get my knives,” Gavin said, his voice distant and furious in ways he wasn’t hearing from himself.

Uncle Jarmon’s grip on his wrist tightened enough that Gavin knew he’d have a bruise. Even at eighty years old Jarmon’s strength was legendary in the family. The man could carry as much as Gavin even now. Still, Gavin knew that he could break free. He could go get his knives. He could stab that vicious mad abusive woman in the throat…

And then he’d go to jail and the rest of the clan would be destroyed.

“I don’ think stabbing her is a good idea,” Mari said. “An’ what’s wi’ this stealing thing? Gavin’s a grown man. Unless she’s kidnapping him she can’t make him do a damn thing. Can she?”
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Free Fiction Friday: Stitched Lines, Watching Eyes (a day late, sorry!)

(It’s been a crazy week so I’m a day late on the Free Fiction Friday… well, a week and a day since I missed last week, too. Sorry? Hope you enjoy!)

POD Stitched Lines Watching Eyes Ebook Cover 02

Description:

Noga bent over her stitching, neck aching in fear of Gul Maes’ heavy cane coming down on her.

Seven days until Mistress Kelly was married off to Gul Maes’ brute of a son.

Noga kept her head down. Wasn’t safe to challenge someone like Gul Maes.

But with the prayers and dreams of the rest of the keep Noga might be able to stitch together hope that would save them all from Gul Maes’ watching eyes.

Stitched Lines, Watching Eyes

By Meyari McFarland

Noga bent over her stitching. The curve of her neck ached with tension, fear, the surety that a hand or a knife or that heavy cane was going to crash down on her exposed skin any second. She pressed her lips together, fussing with fine red fabric, delicate embroidered lace made of silk and gold, so that she wouldn’t look up, wouldn’t whimper, wouldn’t give anything away that could get her killed.

Her pincushion, bit of felted fabric old when Noga had gotten it, shaped it into a bracelet, felt as heavy as lead. So did the delicate little scissors resting against her thigh. Even the scarlet silk draped over her lap was as heavy as the whole world. Might as well be carrying Mistress Kelly’s whole weight there, plus her husband to be and that vicious mother of his, too.

Gul Maes. Old when her precious son was born, nearly fifty. She’d raised that boy to be ruler of everything he saw just like she was. Only one that told him no was Mama Gul Maes. No one dared tell her no, not for anything.

Marrying her boy off to a girl of fourteen when he was twenty-eight, nearly twenty-nine? Why, anyone who complained was just hateful and sinful to boot. Noga froze for a precious instant as Gul Maes shifted, slowly walked around Mistress Kelly’s trembling body so that she could look at every inch of the expensive lace being attached to the hem.

Heavy tread, each heel hit the floor like a drumbeat from Death’s barge captain. Noga kept her head down, carefully pinning the lace so that it would settle perfectly smoothly, flare out just the way Gul Maes wanted as Mistress Kelly walked up the aisle to marry Gul Maes’ beloved boy next week.

Next week. Poor thing.
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Novel Monday: Coming Together – Chapter 21

POD Coming Together Ebook Cover 05
Description:
The last thing Mari expected when she and her sisters arrived in Aingeal City with a load of trade goods was to land squarely in the middle of a marriage alliance. But that was the only way to save her clan and the Dana clan from the Delbhana plot that threatened not just them, but the entire world.

Mixing fantasy with romance, author Meyari McFarland expertly crafts a sweet romance that defies categories and instantly charms.

Coming Together

By Meyari McFarland

21. Admissions

Mari’s heart beat so hard that she would have sworn she’d just hauled a barrel of beets up a fifty foot cliff by herself. She shouldn’t have asked. It was enough that Gavin was willing to go through with the marriage alliance. Asking for more, for a real marriage, one where they loved each other and had sex together, was too much.

But she couldn’t be sorry for asking. Not when Gavin stared at her, eyes wide and naked, filling with shock and something that Mari wanted to identify as hope. If he wanted her half as much as she wanted him then it would work.

Better than work, Mari was pretty sure they’d be one of those romances people sighed over and wrote silly songs about. She’d spent her life teasing Paili for being a soft hearted fool who fell in love at the drop of a handkerchief but here she was staring at a man she’d only met, what? One day ago? Two? Mari couldn’t believe she hadn’t known Gavin all her life by this point. She couldn’t imagine not seeing him and talking to him ever again.

“Um,” Gavin started to say only to shove his shaking hands into his lap.

He wouldn’t meet her eyes. The blush was like a living thing, creeping outwards from his cheeks to consume his entire face, then his ears, before crawling down his neck under his high jacket collar. It took a moment for Mari to realize that she’d seen Paili’s lovers hold their hands just like that every time she gave them inappropriate erections.

“Ah, sorry?” Mari squeaked, looking away.

“No, no, not your fault,” Gavin said. “Though really, those pants ought to be illegal. They’re basically pornographic.”
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