Were you on line at Studio 54? Did you ever swap drugs for gold in Tangiers? Or try on a dog collar at the Botany Club? Ever marry a countess or a Playboy playmate? Meet Barry. He did all of that and a lot more. He’s had many ups and downs and has probably forgotten more than you’ve fantasized, but this book is what he can recall…
Thus goes the pitch of Barry Hornig’s candid, compelling, revealing, and ultimately inspiring memoir, Without a Net: a True Tale of Prison, Penthouses, and Playmates (Köehler Books, 2015), which, from idea to polished manuscript, took him eight years to complete.
“Without a Net is the story of a young man from a middle class background who shoots for the stars and goes after things that aren’t attainable, and when he thinks he has them, they get taken away,” states Hornig. “In the process, he winds up incarcerated, threatened with guns, and succumbs to addictions, but through a powerful series of visualizations he manages to manifest somebody who helps him change his whole life around through love and compassion. And through that, he is able to help other people.” Hornig’s over-the-top life is told with honesty, self-mockery, hope, and more than a little Jewish humor.
The decision to write this memoir came about from Hornig’s anger about his great ups and downs in life and the question, “Why do they continue to happen to me?” He needed to get it out of his system. Through writing, he hoped to see life more clearly and get rid of some of the anger and pain. He decided he wouldn’t misdirect his energy by looking back, but instead concentrate on looking forward and benefit from lessons learned, and it worked. “I hope I left a roadmap and some signposts to show other people that when they get lost, there is a way out,” says Hornig. “I believe that with determination, visualization, and the right partner, you can emerge from any darkness, live an interesting and fruitful life, and recover your sanity and your spiritual balance.”
In addition to his personal journey, the book offers a kaleidoscope of America from its triumphant and proud years in the 50s to a more recent time when – from Hornig’s perspective – “A great power has been shamefully falling apart. We’ve killed all our heroes, and there’s nobody to look up to. Violence never wins. And Gordon Gekko was wrong; greed is not good. (Sorry, Oliver.)”
Writing Without a Net had its challenges. From telling the truth, to stirring the hot coals, to old temptations re-awakening, to unsupportive peers telling him he was wasting his time and would never finish the book, Hornig admirably stuck to his vision through it all and came through the other side with a completed manuscript and a renewed sense of reality.
Besides the obvious painful, emotional journey of having to access his troubled past, Hornig’s challenge included the fact that he’s dyslexic. Because of this, he decided to work with Michael Claibourne, who helped him organize his thoughts and pen his words. Claibourne loved his life story and had been urging him for quite a while to write it all down. It seemed just as exciting as any of the screenplays they were working on. “My creative process was a form of channeling with Michael, who acted as interviewer, scribe and psychiatrist,” adds Hornig. “We wrote this memoir from Topanga Canyon to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Montana, and New York City. Sometimes lying down and sometimes sitting up. In person, over the phone, and over the net. It was complex but clear. I tried to be truthful and honest with all the subjects.”
In spite of help from his writing partner, as well as support from his spouse and family, becoming an author has been overwhelming for Hornig, to say the least. “I can’t quite wrap my head around it,” he says. “All I did was tell a story. We’ll see what happens from there, and I’ll leave it up to my audience.” He’s looking forward to sharing some of his experiences in this journey with younger people, and hopes that this book puts him in a venue where he can talk to them. “I want to spread the news: it’s never too late.” He hopes readers will learn from his story and even find themselves in it, and realize that even the most destructive impulses can be overcome. “I have been able to forgive the people who wronged me, and forgive myself for wronging the people that I wronged – both the ones who are dead and the ones who are still alive. And looking back now through the other end of the telescope, it’s all very clear.”
Barry Hornig currently divides his time between Santa Monica, California, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he owns a gallery of fine art rugs. He is a professional sports fisherman, an expert on the paranormal, has talked with beings from space, had visions in Masar-i-Sharif, has been blessed by Muktananda, and hugged by Ammachi. “I have so many more stories to tell… and they’re not all autobiographical” states the author on what lurks on the horizon. “Screenplays, movies, all with messages. I am hoping that with this book my other story work will be taken seriously. And that in turn the other work will get out and more lessons will be learned.”
Connect with Barry Hornig on the web:
Website / Facebook / Twitter
Without a Net is available from Köehler Books, Amazon, B&N, and other online retailers.
My article originally appeared in Blogcritics.
Review: I loved this book. The concept was so refreshing, especially compared to the large amount of fantasy/paranormal books out there which all seem to be so similar. And who wouldn't like a book centered around dreams? Movies, books, etc that have anything to do with dreams are always super cool and exciting, as long as they're executed well. And The Dreamer was certainly executed well! The author's writing was superb and she did a wonderful job of switching between both worlds, which couldn't have been easy. I loved the characters and the setting, as well. And Dev, don't even get me started--whew! lol. Overall ,this book was excellent and I will be reading the rest in the series!
**Did you see she's doing a giveaway below? You totally need to enter!!
It’s night. Always night. Dreams guard against the evil forged by nightmares. Infinite shooting stars illuminate a moonless sky. A city stands alone, surrounded by a darkened field. On its fringes, a man watches one star separate from the masses and fall. What survives the crash will unveil a secret centuries long hidden.
Molly hasn’t slept well since the night of her twenty-fourth birthday. Being struck by lightning might have something to do with it, but then again, her chicken did look a little undercooked at dinner. Whatever the culprit, her life quickly catapults from mundane to insane as, night after night, Molly is transported through her once dreamless sleep to a mysterious land illuminated by shooting stars.
There she meets the captivating but frustrating Dev, and together they discover Molly possesses a power coveted by his people—the ability to conjure almost anything she desires into existence. Seduced by the possibilities of this gift, Molly shifts her attention from waking life toward the man, the magic, and the world found in her dreams.
But Molly must ask herself—does something truly exist if you only see it when you close your eyes?
Faced with the threat of losing everything—her job, best friend, boyfriend, and most importantly, that little thing called her sanity—Molly will learn just how far she’ll go to uncover what is real and what is merely a figment of her imagination.
EJ's Website / Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr / Instagram
E.J. Mellow is the author behind the NA Contemporary Fantasy trilogy The Dreamland Series. When she's not busy moonlighting in the realm of make-believe, she can be found doodling, buried in a book (usually this one), or playing video games.
Residing in Brooklyn, NY she is a member of Romance Writers of America and their Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal Chapter.
I’m Cassidy Delany. Bright new shiny MD. So how do I celebrate? I let myself go crazy with the hottest man I’ve ever seen. Piercing blue-gray eyes with a ripped chest and six-pack abs I could lick for a lifetime. The two of us together equals a nuclear explosion. Too bad Daniel is an arrogant billionaire prick who thinks he can just take what he wants. Sorry, buddy, but with four orphaned siblings to take care of, I don’t have the time.
Daniel Sheffield, MD. I do women; I don’t do relationships. And I always get what I want. I knew Cassidy Delany would be an amazing one-night stand with that luscious body and her smart and sassy mouth. She makes me want to buy an island where I can have her 24/7 until I get her out of my system. But I’ll never tell Cassidy she just might be the best time I ever had—in and out of bed. She may think she walked out on me, but I’m getting her back with surgical precision. As always, this will end on my terms.
Why Hate the Billionaire? (The Delanys Book I)
Cassidy Delany is resigned to a life of responsibility, hard work, and sacrifice as she struggles to support her orphaned family. She never indulges her passions so that her younger siblings can have the freedom to follow all of theirs. That is, until she encounters Daniel, a sublimely gorgeous—and arrogant—billionaire. Overwhelming mutual lust leads her to agree to a one-night stand that morphs into a fantasy weekend full of mind-blowing sex. When he acts like Cassidy is just another woman who exists for his pleasure, she runs away, hoping to never see him again. But when Daniel reappears and turns everything upside down, Cassidy knows that their unquenchable passion and the disturbing emotions it evokes, could destroy everything she’s fought so hard to achieve.
Daniel Sheffield, MD, is a typical spoiled, Beacon Hill Adonis from a Boston Brahmin family with trillions of dollars, and always gets whatever—and whoever—he wants. But the delectable and brilliant Cassidy Delany is something he’s never encountered before: a woman who sees something worth wanting beyond his money, power, and sex appeal. One taste and what he thought was just an insatiable desire for her body becomes a need for much more. But he’s shocked to discover that getting the girl can destroy what he values most—control.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Johanna Bordeaux grew up loving Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Fanny Burney, Collette, Georges Sand — all the classic female writers who knew that a good romantic relationship is all about the unique personalities of the lead characters and the special spark between them. She received her degree in English Literature, specializing in Jane Austen, the early English novels, and Shakespeare, with a minor in biology. In her profession as a mental health counselor, Johanna learned and deepened her understanding of the human heart and what makes a relationship great. Her sexy romance novels are about true love and fulfilling all of her characters needs for a very satisfactory relationship.
Title: April Snow
Genre: Womenâs Fiction
Author: Lynn Steward
Publisher: Lynn Steward Publishing
About the Book
At the cutting edge of womenâs fashion in the 1970s, a visionary young woman subdues her desire for love to remake retail at New Yorkâs most glamorous department store.
Newly single, Dana McGarry learns she must divorce herself from more than a bad marriage to succeed. Not only must she prove to family and friends that she can make it on her own, but she also must challenge an antagonistic boss who keeps standing in her way. Moving out of her comfort zone and into the arms of a dynamic businessman, Dana bets it all on a daring new move that will advance her buying career, But at what price?
Her dreams within reach, Danaâs world is shattered in a New York minute when a life is threatened, a secret is revealed, and her heart is broken.
Lynn Steward is a successful business woman who spent many years in New York Cityâs fashion industry in marketing and merchandising, including the development of the first womenâs department at a famous menâs clothing store. Through extensive research, and an intimate knowledge of the period, Steward created the characters and stories for a series of five authentic and heartwarming novels about New York in the seventies. April Snow is volume two in the Dana McGarry Series. A Very Good Life was published in March 2014.
Dana McGarry, on vacation for the first time as a single woman, arrived at the Lansdowne Club at 9 Fitzmaurice Place, just steps from Berkeley Square, in Londonâs fashionable Mayfair on the morning of April 8, 1975. Her lawyer had filed papers for a legal separation from her husband Brett in January, and after four months of being under the watchful eyes of well-meaning family and friends, Dana was savoring every moment of her solo trip across the pond. She and Brett had always stayed at the nearby Chesterfield Hotel, but her beloved Colony Club in New York City enjoyed reciprocity with the Lansdowne Club, where sheâd previously attended lunches and lectures while her husband met with clients for his Wall Street law firm. Undeterred by the steady English rain and dark clouds hanging over the slick gray streets, she stepped from one of Londonâs fabled black taxis with renewed spirit, excited to think that the distinguished house in Berkeley Square would be her home for the next five days. After Dana checked in, the hall porter asked her if she would like tea brought to her room and then discreetly disappeared with her luggage, a small, welcoming gesture that stood in contrast to an impersonal hotel. Rather than immediately taking the lift to her room on the fifth floor, Dana stepped into the entrance hall and surveyed the clubâs interior, intending to explore Scottish architect Robert Adamâs stately masterpiece commissioned in 1761 for King George IIIâs prime minister, the Earl of Bute. Previously, she had limited herself to the dining room, never taking time to appreciate the clubâs historic beauty. Although rich with finely-crafted embellishments and Neoclassical splendor, the house was clearly showing signs of fatigue, and its understated elegance made the environment that much more comfortable. Dana knew sheâd made the right choice. The club was an oasis of tradition and tranquility affording her the peace and privacy she needed.
When Dana arrived in her junior suite, she noticed a bouquet of flowers sitting on a table in the sitting area. Thinking they were compliments of the club, Dana opened the attached note and laughed out loud. The flowers had been sent by her childhood friend, Johnny Cirone. The message read, âTake Phoebe shopping and buy up the town. Whatever you do, enjoy yourself. Love, Johnny.â
Dr. Phoebe Cirone, who was in London attending a cardiology convention, was Johnnyâs sister. Their father, John Cirone, known affectionately to Dana and her brother Matthew as Uncle John, was the head of the House of Cirone, a manufacturer of ladies eveningwear. Having a passion for medicine from an early age, Phoebe had never expressed interest in clothes or haute couture, leaving Johnny to reluctantly carry on family tradition by working for his father. Danaâs parents, Phil and Virginia Martignetti, had been friends with the Cirones since before her birth.
Dana, pleased to see a porcelain tea service had already arrived, took her cup to the window and sipped the Darjeeling as she observed the new plantings in the courtyard garden. The peace sheâd felt a few minutes ago was gone, however. Something about Johnnyâs note, as thoughtful as it was, unnerved her. Johnny and her mother called daily to see how she was doing. Dana sensed their concern, although she felt it was unwarranted. What did they thinkâthat she was going to kill herself because the divorce would soon be final? They obviously didnât recognize her personal strength and resolve. Dana worked at New York Cityâs B. Altman, and the previous December sheâd formed the department storeâs first Teen Advisory Board. She had also succeeded in getting Ira Neimark, the storeâs executive vice president, to sign off on installing a teen makeup counter on the main selling floor over the objections of Helen Kavanagh, junior buyer, who thought youth-oriented strategies like those at Londonâs Biba, were a waste of time and money. Despite these personal triumphs, sheâd taken aggressive steps to further advance her career, leaving her comfortable job in the marketing department for the position of junior accessories buyer. She had requested time off for this visit to London immediately after settling into the new assignment, and that alone was proof that she knew how to take care of herself.
Dana had been equally aggressive in terminating her marriage to Brett. Papers for a legal separation had been filed in January by Danaâs lawyer when she discovered that Brett was having an affair with fellow litigator Janice Conlon, a saucy and impertinent young woman from California. Negotiations for a final settlement were proceeding smoothly, with no protests originating from either Brett or his lawyer lest the firm be apprised of his misconduct with the audacious Conlon. In the four months since their separation, Dana had realized that Brettâs dalliance with the abrasive Conlon had merely been a catalyst for the end of their relationship since there had been something far deeper and more troubling in their marriage: Brettâs growing neglect of Dana as he vigorously pursued partnership with the firm. His work always served as a convenient excuse to pick and choose his time with Dana and in the long run, that grim reality had proven intolerable. Within days of learning of Brettâs infidelity, Dana contacted an attorney and moved from her Murray Hill apartment to a carriage house a few blocks away in Sniffen Court.
Given the decisive actions in her personal and professional life, Dana therefore felt smothered at times by the daily concerns of others. As for her traveling abroad alone, she felt more than competent to take care of herself. When Brett had been with her in London, they were rarely together. He usually spent days working, and evenings meeting with clients, joining Dana for late dinners, if at all. He was up and out by 7:00 a.m. Sheâd always hoped that the next trip would be better, but this was never the case. Traveling alone? It was all she knew.
Yes, it had all happened just four months ago, illustrating how the course of a life can change so radically and quickly. But was she ecstatically happy now that a new phase of her life and career had begun, with Brett being almost surgically excised from the picture? No, she wasnât jubilant about anything at present, but she was content, at peace with the decisions she had made to take care of herself and her future. In the words of her father, she had discovered that she had âa very good lifeâ despite longstanding marital woes and formidable professional challenges. Many of her friends had urged her to re-enter the dating scene since she was almost thirty and the clock was ticking, but Dana didnât miss married life in the least and had no interest whatsoever in dating, especially guys described as the perfect match: upwardly mobile professionals, or âBrett clones,â the apt description provided by Andrew Ricci, Danaâs good friend and display director at the store. Besides, marriage was not the only path to a fulfilled life. In Danaâs estimation, happiness also resulted from pursuing a creative dream, enjoying good friendships and the myriad interests that gave her immense pleasure, such as travel, literature, films, and lectures on a wide variety of topics. Being suddenly single was not a condition to be cured but rather an opportunity to be savored.
A line from Dickens came to mind as she thought of events that had altered her life: âIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times.â Dana had survived the tumultuous weeks of the previous December, when she realized her marriage was over, but surely this was now the best of times, was it not? She smiled as she contemplated her walk tomorrow morning to Piccadilly for breakfast at Fortnum & Mason, followed by a long and leisurely visit to Hatchards, Londonâs oldest bookshop. The thought of Dickens reminded her of the delight she took in finding rare editions of the classics, or even first editions of lesser-known authors. Today, however, she was going to enjoy Richouxâs delicious risotto when she lunched with Phoebe, who was staying within walking distance at the Grosvenor House on Park Lane. Filled with a new surge of energy, the blue-eyed Dana freshened up, brushed her short blond hair, and grabbed a shawl and a pair of unlined leather gloves. The clouds were beginning to part, and the steady English drizzle had let up, but it was still a nippy fifty-four degreesâa perfect spring day in London.
Rays of sunshine were reflected by leaded windows in the rows of eighteenth century townhomes Dana passed as she strolled leisurely through Berkeley Square. It was only eleven thirty and she had an hour before meeting Phoebe at her hotel, enough time for a short detour across Hill Street and Hays Mews to the Farm Street Church, also known as the Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception. Years earlier, sheâd been sitting on a bench in Mount Street Gardens when she looked up and beheld one of the churchâs open gothic portals that seemed so inviting, beckoning her to enter and pray. Then as now, it had been a glorious April day, the kind celebrated by Chaucer in the opening lines of theCanterbury Tales, when spring rains provide rich âliquorâ for flowers suffering winterâs drought.
Dana arrived at the church and chose to enter from Mount Street Gardens rather than Farm Street, as sheâd done on her original visit. In the transept to the right of Our Lady of Farm Street statue was the Sacred Heart Chapel, and this is where Dana chose to pray in deference to the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, whoâd taught her for twelve years in her youth. She knelt in the third pew, said a decade of the rosary, and then sat, looking up to admire, as she always did, the glorious painting of the Sacred Heart flanked by four saints above an inlaid marble altar with three brass reliefs. But instead of finding peace in this pious setting, the silence suddenly became deafening, and the alabaster walls of the chapel began to feel close, confining. A wave of emotion engulfed her, and she cried uncontrollably, questioning her impulsive decision to end her eight-year marriageâand without considering her vows taken before God, family, and friends. What a hypocrite she felt herself to beâa selfish hypocrite who had turned her back on the faith that was such an integral part of her life.
Glancing at her watch, Dana saw that it was almost noon. She needed to pull herself together and be on her way to meet Phoebe. She took a deep breath, wiped away her tears, and walked outside to a bench in Mount Street Gardens, where she would spend a few moments composing herself.
In the sacristy, a priest was marking the readings for the twelve-thirty mass in the gilt-edged lectionary when he heard anguished sobs emanating from the Sacred Heart Chapel. Curious, he stepped into the sanctuary in time to see a young woman exiting the side door leading to the gardens. He followed her and observed her sitting on a bench fifteen yards away. He folded his arms, closed his eyes, and said a brief prayer.
* * *
Looking in her compact mirror, Dana wiped away the mascara beneath her eyes and reapplied a bit of powder to her cheeks. She didnât want Phoebe to see that sheâd been crying. What could she possibly say in answer to any questions her friend might have? That she was upset over the abrupt manner in which sheâd dissolved an eight-year marriage to an inattentive man whoâd cheated on her? No, the emotions that had spilled forth in the chapel had taken Dana by surprise, and they needed to be processed in private moments of reflection.
Dana had been resting her eyes when she looked up and saw a priest approaching the bench. The Jesuit, a tall man in his early fifties, walked with a confident gait, and the smile on his face was evident when he was still several feet away.
âGood morning,â he said. âLovely day.â He could tell the young woman was upset and, in point of fact, she wasnât the only one heâd encountered on the grounds who needed consolation or, at the very least, a friendly smile.
âYes, Father, it is,â Dana replied. âA splendid day.â
âAre you on holiday, or are we blessed to have you as a new parishioner?â he asked.
Dana examined the priestâs face more carefully. He wore rimless glasses, and pale blue eyes regarded her kindly beneath close-cut salt and pepper hair. He was dressed in a black clerical suit and looked to be strong and vigorous despite his gentle manner.
âOn holiday, Father,â Dana replied. âI come here whenever Iâm in London and wanted to stop in and . . . visit. I was taught by the Sacred Heart sisters back in New York.â
âA New Yorker!â Father Macaulay said. âAnd a member of the family, so to speak. May I sit?â he asked, motioning to the bench.
A member of the family, Dana thought, again fighting back tears. Not anymore.
âIâm sorry, Father,â Dana mumbled, rising to leave. âIâm meeting someone and Iâm late.â
Father Macaulay nodded. âI hope youâll visit again. Iâm here in the church or the gardens every morning from nine until I say mass. If you canât find me, just tell the sacristan that youâre looking for Father Charles Macaulay.â
âThank you, Father. Have a good day.â
Biting her lip to fight back fresh tears, Dana and Macaulay shook hands. The priest watched Dana walk out of the gardens, sensing that she was in distress. He was a good judge of people, and he thought that Dana would surely return to the church before she boarded a plane for New York City. Somewhere in her soul, he thought, there was unfinished business.
* * *
Wearing sunglasses, Dana walked for five minutes along Mount Street until she reached the Grosvenor House. Phoebe was waiting in the lounge, and after they exchanged warm greetings, they left the hotel for Richoux, which was two blocks away on South Audley Street.
The two women were shown to a small table in the dimly-lit restaurant owing to the dark wood paneling in the main dining room. When Dana removed her sunglasses, Phoebe immediately saw that Dana was upset. Her eyes were puffy and her smile was forced. Phoebe cocked her head and raised her eyebrows, as if to say, Do you feel like talking about it?
âIâm fine,â Dana said, brushing aside the concern. âNothing worth discussing. Now tell me about you, howâs the convention?â
The two women chatted over lunch, Phoebe speaking of the lectures sheâd attended on anticoagulation therapy, angioplasty, and catheterization for the diagnosis of coronary artery disease. In turn, Dana described her new duties at B. Altman. They laughed at Johnny Cironeâs daily calls and continued concern for Dana since her separation, although Dana was reminded yet again of the excessive attention she was receiving.
âWe have to get him married off,â Phoebe said, âor at least find him a serious girlfriend. Heâs becoming a mother hen.â She paused, knowing that Dana was holding back something painful, but decided not to press the matter. âBy the way, my dad has an offer on his house, and heâs in contract to purchase the estate sale on East 79th Street. Itâs a big renovation, so heâs hoping to get approved by the co-op board quickly and start the demo. Johnny is already interviewing contractors.â
John Cirone was moving to Manhattan since his Long Island home seemed far too large since the death of his wife two years earlier. Heâd accepted a seat on the board of the Metropolitan Opera, and Johnny was helping his dad make the long-overdue transition to the cityâand to the present, away from thoughts of his deceased wife, Lena.
âIt sounds like the convention is keeping you pretty busy,â Dana said. âWould you like me to pick up Uncle Johnâs cigars at Sautterâs? Itâs a few blocks from the Lansdowne.â
âThat would be a lifesaver,â Phoebe said. âI have two days of seminars on using something called a stent to open up clogged arteries instead of always resorting to bypass surgery. It would be a non-invasive procedure, but most cardiologists think itâs still years away.â Phoebe suddenly burst out laughing. âAnd here I am, bringing my father cigars, which is the last thing a cardiologist should do.â
The two women finished lunch, Phoebe heading to the convention for afternoon lectures,
and Dana returning to the Lansdowne Club, where she finished unpacking.
Dana sipped afternoon tea while paging through a book of poems sheâd found lying on the end table by the sofa, her thoughts returning to her display of emotion that morning. Brett had indeed been quickly and surgically excised from her life, perhaps too quickly, and yet she had received no judgments about the decision to do so from her parents. She was aware, of course, that Virginia had always been a bit leery of Brett, even at the very beginning of their courtship. As for her father, he was quite unflappable and had reminded Dana that things always work out in the end, which was a part of his lifelong, homespun philosophy that she found so comforting. And yet Dana couldnât shake the realization that Brett, despite all of his shortcomings, was a man sheâd loved for over eight years. Should she have given him another chance? After all, the marriage hadnât been all bad. The visit to the chapel, she concluded, had reminded her of Catholic dogma regarding marriage: it was indissoluble. Mount Street Gardens, the chapel, the brass panelsâtheyâd brought to mind her many years with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, causing her to second guess her decision.
Leafing through the slightly-worn pagesâshe thought that older books had such characterâshe saw Wordsworthâs âOde on Intimations of Immortality.â It was one of her favorite poems. She especially liked the lines towards the end.
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.
The sentiment was essentially that of her father, who had a âphilosophic mindâ when it came to handling disappointment. There had been good times in the marriage, but some things were beyond repair, and Dana had indeed retained strength in what remained behind, which was a full life that included friendships and opportunity. Dana realized how important this trip wasâfar more than a break from her daily routine or an enjoyable shopping spree. On her own, she could privately mourn her marriage and process her emotions, opening her mind and heart for whatever lay ahead. She was at peace again, ready for the rest of her stay in London. Still, she wondered if Father Macaulay would share her perspective. The priest had emanated kindness and understanding in the brief minutes sheâd been in his presence, and now, feeling stronger, she decided to visit him again before she left London. Heâd demonstrated genuine concern, and she wanted to hear his soothing voice one more time.
Summer vacation is almost here! And Pea O'Neil is stoked to try out the new local BMX track which is finally open. He and his gang of friends can ride all summer long!
But when Pea tries a back flip, he unwittingly opens a portal to another dimension and hordes of flying mutant zombie rats are unleashed upon the city. With the help of an otherworldly talking cat sent to help prevent the demise of humankind, Pea and his friends must hunt down the hungry mutants and send them back before the portal closes.
But when the zombie rats attack a neighbor man, the boys have to enlist the help of a graveyard looney and the city's stray cats. With time running out, Pea and his gang track the monsters to the city's sewer system. But in the city sewer of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, itâs eatâ¦or get eaten.
THE SEER'S LOVER won 2nd place in the LuckyCinda Book Contest 2014!
Author Kat de Falla was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she learned to roller skate, ride a banana seat bike, and love Shakespeare thanks to her high school English teacher.
Four years at the UW-Madison wasn't enough, so she returned to her beloved college town for her Doctor of Pharmacy degree and is happily employed as a retail pharmacist where she fills prescriptions and chats with her patients.
She is married to her soul mate, composer Lee de Falla and raising four kids together ala the Brady Bunch.
International spy Alabaster Black returns in this the latest instalment in Valjan’s exciting mystery/suspense Roma series.
This time Alabaster (aka Bianca Nerini) and her colleagues takes us to Naples, where tension is rapidly escalating between mafia clans and where she must outwit a powerful crime syndicate named Camorra.
Counterfeited euros and bonds, anagrams, car bombings, sexy women assassins on motorcycles, undercover detectives, and delicious Italian food mix together in this page-turning thriller filled with international intrigue. At the heart of the plot is a mysterious agent named Loki who, via the computer, communicates intelligence to Bianca. The problem is, we don’t know who she or he is, or what his motives are. We only know Loki has an avid affinity for anagrams which Bianca must decipher. Needless to say, not an easy task.
I’ve read all of the Roma series books and I found this to be the most complex and skilfully plotted. There are a lot of secondary characters and I was grateful for the list of character descriptions at the start of the book, which I found helpful, especially at the beginning until I familiarized myself with all the names. Valjan has a gift when it comes to writing about organized crime, and I found the dynamics between clashing mafia clans and their doings terrifyingly real. The inter-relations between special agents, the FBI, the Italian regional police, and capitalist magnates also ring with authenticity. The story moves fairly quickly with a lot of dialogue propelling the plot.
Turning to Stone is a deftly written novel and one fans of suspense will surely enjoy. Recommended.
Find out more from Amazon.
Visit Gabriel Valjan’s Amazon page and website.
Title: The Accidental Art Thief
Genre: General fiction/Literary
Author: Joan Schweighardt
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Find The Accidental Thief on Amazon
Set in New Mexico, this is the story of 45-year old Kathryn (aka Zinc), a deeply sensitive yet socially awkward woman who’s lived all of her existence without making her own decisions, and whose life suddenly forces her to take charge, face her fears, and grow as a human being.
For the past 25 years Zinc has cared for an old art collector and lived in a casita under the protection of his estate. She writes poetry and her only possessions are her two dogs. Life is monotone and safe for Zinc, whose idyllic environment is perfect for hiding from the world. But things abruptly change when the old man suffers a tragic fall and dies. His nasty daughter Marge takes charge, and gives Zinc only two weeks to gather what little she has and find another place to live. Overnight, Zinc is forced to face her fears and the world she’s been hiding from for so many years—or tries to, anyway.
Her first decision—stealing one of the old man’s paintings—unravels a series of unusual events that forces Zinc to interact with other people—a clairvoyant, her auto-mechanic brother, and a poet whom she ends up meeting in Antigua and falling in love with, among others. She even gets a job at the Chamber of Commerce. But Zinc isn’t the only one struggling through life and facing her demons, and so do the other characters in the book. Eventually, Zinc must make things right and return the painting, but not before going through a series of unusual turns.
The Accidental Art Thief is a well-written literary novel with complex, skillfully developed characters—ordinary people moving through life like ghosts, it seems at times. Their emotions are what makes this novel compelling. Themes of love, friendship, self-growth, and emotional survival interlace in this sometimes darkly humorous story. Elements of magical realism further deepen the tale, adding a light touch of the paranormal to the plot. Fans of Alice Hoffman, Sue Monk Kid, and J.K. Rowling (The Casual Vacancy) will surely enjoy Schweighardt’s The Accidental Thief.
My review originally appeared in Blogcritics.
I was given a review copy by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Research. Does it all come out of my head or is it researched? The ideas come from within, but they all could happen or have happened. All my books are carefully researched. Right from the start of the Richebourg process, I went down to Nuits Saint Georges to look for a spot to put my imaginary wine village. The response from any number of wine makers I talked to was, ‘Why do you want to create another village? Haven’t we got enough of them here already?’ Then a cork got pulled and a glass had a splash poured into it, and we all sniffed a bit, and I was asked what I thought of that. There were times when that all got too much, and the research became more of an atmosphere and less concerned with fine detail. There were other times when I really needed to understand exactly what the Phylloxera mite did to the vine, and why every single one of that sea of vines in front of me had rootstocks that came from the far side of the Atlantic, while the plants above the soil were all French. So I spent time at a vine nursery near Dole, sat and chatted with winemakers in all of the villages, and hopefully they will recognise the villages around them.
In The Charlemagne Connection, there were also forensic issues and issues of French law that were explored. The only bit of Charlemagne that needed to be rewritten was the forensic issue, which turned out to be not as I supposed. Nicholas Marquez-Grant, a forensic anthropologist at Cranfield, corrected my error, and the results of my error was written out. Much of the technical viticulture was edited and corrected by David Clark, an erstwhile winemaker in Morey-Saint-Denis, five miles north of Nuits-Saint-Georges over various cups of tea, and the occasional glass of wine, usually wine he had made himself, and if you can find any Domaine David Clark, buy - you will be well rewarded when you open it.
Did I write the books to be where I wanted to go and do the research? Perhaps the answer to that one is yes, and it’s not a bad excuse. Go where you want to go, and write a book about it!
Title: THE CHARLEMAGNE CONNECTION
Author: Richard Michael Cartmel
Publisher: Crime Scene Books
The Charlemagne Connection, Cartmel’s latest mystery, is an exhilarating tale of villainy in the vineyards featuring the rumpled but shrewd Inspector Charlemagne Truchaud of the Paris police.
About The Charlemagne Connection: Something sinister is afoot in the charming little Burgundy village of Nuits-Saint-Georges. Inspector Truchaud will have an elaborate mystery to unravel when a young German tourist goes missing in Nuits-Saint-Georges. What appears, at first, to be a straightforward case takes a dark turn when a decomposing body is found in the woods….
A captivating tale that transports readers to the vineyards of Burgundy, The Charlemagne Connectioncrackles with suspense. Smart, seamless, and sensational, The Charlemagne Connection blends a to-die for setting, a well-balanced, full-bodied plot, and irresistible characters. Celebrated novelist R.M. Cartmel uncorks a wild, witty, and winning wine mystery in The Charlemagne Connection.
Born into a military family, R.M. Cartmel was educated at Sherborne School in the South West of England and at Oxford. Cartmel served as a practicing doctor for over three and a half decades. As a novelist Cartmel combines two of his lifelong loves—writing and traveling throughout France’s exquisite Burgundy region.
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From the author of Inconvenient Relations Simi K Rao!
If you enjoyed Inconvenient Relations, you'll love The Accidental Wife, a new contemporary romance from Simi K. Rao.
Some accidents are meant to happenâ¦
Dr. Rihaan Mehta is a brilliant young neurosurgeon who has no inclination for love or marriage. According to him wives and girlfriends are annoying accessories that one can do without. But when his mother dangles the sword over his head in classic Bollywood style, he succumbs, and sets out in search of a bride who would fit his 'requirements'. But can Rihaan deal with what he gets instead?
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He found her on the balcony.
She stepped out of the shadows.
But the girl who stood in front of him was certainly not the one he thought heâd married, and to make matters even worse, she was definitely not ordinary-looking.
She was stunning!
Just as his eyes affixed to her face, the wheels of his brain drew to an abrupt halt. What a face it was. That of an enchantress, no less.
Bathed in ethereal moonlight, with dark, wavy hair of shimmering black silk that flirted with her smooth and dewy complexion; regular, well-defined features; huge, luminous eyes that sparkled; lustrous lips, full and moist that curved into a mocking smile andâ¦brought him crashing back to earth!
This was exactly what he had been guarding himself against! This girl, this stranger, had already knocked him off his moorings when he was least prepared for it. Beautiful creatures like her should not be allowed to roam free on the streets, in particular creep unannounced into unsuspecting menâs bedrooms! What was she doing here?
He wrenched himself out of the haze. There wasnât any way he could afford to be unsettled in his well-planned life. He cleared his throat twice before he found his voice. âYou arenât Deepika. Where is she?â
âYes, you guessed right,â she spoke in a low soft tone. âIâm not Deepika. Sheâs gone. I am Naina.â She paused for effect. âGood bye, Rihaan. Nice to have made your acquaintance.â
She turned to slip past him.
Simi K. Rao was born and grew up in India before relocating to the U.S., where she has lived for several years.
The inspiration for her books, and other projects, comes from her own experience with cross-cultural traditions, lifestyles and familial relationships, as well as stories and anecdotes collected from friends, family and acquaintances.
Rao enjoys exploring the dynamics of contemporary American culture blended with Indian customs and heritage to reflect the challenges and opportunities many Indian-American women face in real life.
Much of Rao's down time is devoted to creative pursuits, including writing fiction, poetry and photography. She is an avid traveler and has visited many locations around the world.
A practicing physician, Rao lives in Denver with her family.
You can connect with the author and read more of her work on her website at www.SimiKRao.com
Find her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SimiKRao and Twitter @SimiKRao.
Title: Ashamet, Desert-Born
Author: Terry Jackman
Find out more on Amazon
A desert world. A warrior nation that worships its emperor as a god. But for Ashamet, its prince, a future filled with danger…
Ashamet is confident his swordsmanship, and his arranged marriage, will be enough to maintain the empire’s peace. But when a divine symbol magically appears on his arm, closely followed by an attempt on his life, he no longer knows who to trust. Worse, the strange attraction he feels toward a foreign slave could be another trap. As events unravel, too fast,Ashamet must find out if this innocent young male is a tool for his enemies–or the magic key to his survival.
“Ashamet, Desert-Born” is a debut adventure fantasy with an exotic Arabian-style setting and elements of same-sex romance.
The king my father named me Ashamet. It means a copper-coloured whirlwind off the desert (colour of our own Kadduchi flesh). It’s meant to be poetic. Huh. Apart from that a princely life was pretty good – until my taster went into convulsions. Happily, they pinned it on some merchant’s less-than-healthy crawlfish. Panic over then; I didn’t bother witnessing the execution. But I was that rarity, a single offspring, and I’d been a single step from danger, and I didn’t have an heir yet.
Quite enough to make my father’s mind up; I was sentenced to be married…
Now, a thread of moisture trickled down my backbone as I took my seat again for yet another day upon the royal dais, formally escorted by my Uncle Raggesh. I had picked a sleeveless tunic in my lightest silks, a minimum of jewels, my thick, black hair lay braided at one shoulder, but it didn’t help. The Gate Hall, grandest audience chamber in our empire, had descended to a rowdy, yellow marble sweat-box.
Rag sat too, his longer robes spread out to swamp his sandalled, copper-coloured toes. Today he’d left his close-trimmed claws their natural white as mine were. Bet he wished he’d dressed like me as well. The tiny windows in the blue-enamelled arch above our heads were meant to keep this stage-like alcove cooler. Meant to, but the Gate – the famous golden screen of star-shaped so-lar lamps, at present dropped between us royals and the outer chamber – turned it back into an oven. Gods, I could have been up on a horse. In the fresh air. With a few companions I could actually trust.
I should have been receiving end-of-year assessments from my generals about our southern army’s readiness for action, given that my father had been taking more than normal interest in our southern borders lately. I suspected that our empire was again expanding.
But instead I blanked my face and scanned the throng beyond the ornate, semi-private metal filigree that dangled inbetween us.
Out there, thin coils of vapour from the ordinary iron lamps obscured the vaulted, gold and turquoise ceilings. Below, my father’s hairless, ochre-hided Kemik guard, exotic giants of our kingdoms, lined the path toward us, fangs retracted peaceably. The flame-reflections dancing off their breast-plates were the only movement there but outside them… Alpha Lords of every size and shade and all their twittering attendants skittered back and forth like termites, and the piled-up offerings destroyed the last pretence of taste the place had ever managed. I jerked my beard-point at the nearest jumble. ‘Look at it, we’ve swapped the Gate Hall for the Grand Bazaar.’
My uncle didn’t blink. ‘Show some grace. They’re your wedding gifts.’
I might have growled. It didn’t help that he was right. With five days still to go my marriage had progressed from bore, to stinking torment. Every perfume in the world was up my nose today, but none of them could mask the ripened bodies. Worse, my sword arm itched like seven hells, and with so many watchful eyes I had to curb an uncouth urge to scratch it.
Muffled creaks, from chains and pulleys underneath our feet. The Gate began to shiver upward, to disclose… ‘Gods, forget bazaar. It’s a cattle market!’
A pair of pure-bred white camels were being tugged forward, their plate-like pads scraping over the marble. Their willowy necks hung with ropes of pearls? Was the sheer volume of these eccentricities meant to make up for their inanity? As if it heard, one of the brutes chose to relieve itself, while the lordly fool in front attempted to pretend he neither heard, nor smelled, the ‘splop’ of brittle yellow crap behind him. Rag’s long nose pinched shut as brown-robed clerks made clucking noises. Slaves were chivvied forward. I think I sighed. ‘At least the colour complements the marble.’
Raggesh choked behind his drooping moustache. ‘Keep it down, Ash.’
I’d have given him a sharp retort except a guard distracted me with, ‘Highness? There’s a message from the outer gates.’
I tossed the message tube back at him and unrolled the paper. ‘Oh joy, the bride’s finally turned up… horsemen, eight baggage carts and threehorse-drawn litters? My fingers tightened, crumpling the flimsy paper. I relaxed with conscious effort. ‘How many crones have they sent with her? No wonder they’re so late, they couldn’t use a desert route with those things.’
‘Uh.’ My uncle watched the frantic sweeping, quite ignoring my reaction. I obliged him with a beaming smile instead. At least my mouth did. She was here then, the daughter of our newest vassal-king, Farad of Sidass. The bigger picture: the last of our smaller, paler, snubber-nosed Chi cousins were finally merging into the empire; a fading dynasty was being swallowed by a newer, fiercer bloodline. From where I sat I was stuck with her, unless she proved infertile.
Small chance of that. Females were rare enough. There was nothing rarer than one barren. I resisted growling at the luckless messenger. ‘Have someone send a message to the Inner Palace, to the closter-eunuchs. Tell them to unbar their doors, their future mistress is arriving.’ Though they’d very likely known as soon as I had, maybe sooner. They’d been looking forward to it.
I read on, since cleaning up the hall had halted the proceedings. Heavens forfend a lord should step in something. ‘Looks like the rumours about King Farad’s health could be true; he’s not with them.’
‘Uh.’ Rag at his chatty best. ‘Prince Effad?’
‘Not him either. This says Prince Thersat leads her escort. That’s the lesser son, right? The one who wasn’t there for the surrender?’
‘Uh.’ Rag (another lesser son, and cut accordingly, to centre our succession) raised a lordly finger. The next noble was ushered in. The Gate lowered. More gems. They moved him on.
‘So what do we know about this Thersat?’
The Gate lifted again. One out, one in. Another gift, then Rag could answer. ‘At the time we assumed he’d been wounded, but now we’re told he’s “prone to illness”.’ Rag maintained his bland expression.
I drew breath. ‘Farad can’t travel, Effad’s tied to his side, so we’re lumbered with a permanent invalid?’
‘Uh,’ denoted end of topic as the Gate reopened.
‘Great.’ The cursed itching made a fresh assault. It had to be insect bites. I looked about for some distraction and spied a short, bald figure, absent from the court since summer; yes, the tubby Sheshman, copper-skinned but built more Chi than Kadd, and strident in his household’s blue and orange. Ah, and something loomed behind him.
My spirits rose. If anyone would bring me something more amusing, surely it was Sheshman, of the rolling gait and wicked chuckle. There was more trader there than noble, so my father said. More pirate too, he’d added, laughing.
I must have grinned. I felt my uncle’s disapproval so I faced toward the lord approaching, nodding gravely, like a bigger, younger copy of my stately father. But I glanced aside again to guess what Sheshman might have brought me. Four slaves were moving up a heavy-looking, box-like… something… swathed in dull grey fabric. Hmm. A cage? An animal? The male knew better than to insult his prince – and thus his king – with something paltry.
Meanwhile, the slightly slimmer northern Chi in front of us, distinguished by his nose, his browner hair and pale red skin, had bent a creaky knee before us. I shouldn’t have frowned, but it was difficult to see how the Chi, so often weaker than the other races, had been dominant so long, for all their boasts of direct bloodlines from the Ancestors. As for this one, kneeling made him look like a slave. Our own Kadduchi lords would never kneel, except to Father. Though of course these gifts were really for my father; vying for the notice of our gods-protected Voice of Heaven.
Possibly my frown grew darker; certainly my thoughts did. If I was ever crowned – I tried not to plan that far ahead – I figured their loyalty to me would be less certain. The lord before us, backing off again, looked troubled; probably convinced his present hadn’t thrilled me. ‘What was it?’ I muttered.
Rag almost shook his head. ‘Deeds to an orchard,’ he gritted. ‘Listen, will you!’
‘What-’ Now I was offended.
‘Wine, nephew, and Sultaki brandy.’
‘Ah.’ A gift worth having.
Despite his flash of temper Rag gazed calmly outward. To those who watched, he was my father’s only sibling, and his twin and his most loyal kinsman. Or to put it bluntly he was here to keep his royal nephew out of trouble. Headstrong was the least I knew they said about me; unpredictable, both in or out of battle. Rash, impetuous, a wicked sense of humour? Gods, I hoped so. Almost thirty now, and still no wiser? I ignored the carping. Sober was for years yet to come. And there was only one more presentation left before I got to see that odd-shaped box of Sheshman’s.
I turned back to my duty long enough to marvel at the antique bowls a Kemik lord brought forward. They were delightful; translucent porcelain, hand-painted by a master. Not a gift one would expect from any of the rough-skinned Kemik either, who were prone to value battle gear or horses. In fact the only gift of real taste I’d seen all morning. ‘A rare possession. I am honoured, sir.’ They moved him off. I signalled to the clerk that he record my personal approval. Now for Sheshman.
‘My prince, I bring you every prayer for your approaching marriage.’ Old Sheshman bounced up, bowed outrageously, then watched me. Ah, the sight of simple, honest motives. Bribery. Ambition. Life-blood of the palace. Earlier I’d read his beaming smile with interest, now I noticed it had faded. Second thoughts? What had the scoundrel brought me?
Despite my sudden doubts I felt my back and shoulders loosen. Moments in the old rogue’s company and I was feeling more myself, I almost burst out laughing. Well, Sheshman was both small and round, a difficult shape to look dignified. It was amusing to see him try though. He squared his shoulders, sucked in his paunch beneath one of those bright sashes he loved, and waved a lordly hand. The slaves, their cropped heads lowered, brought their burden up the outer steps and forward to my feet, then grounded it on recessed legs and cowered.
It seemed to float above the floor. Silently I awarded him marks for detail, and waited for more. He actually lowered his voice. ‘My prince, I bring you a rarity I never thought existed.’ The old fool waved again. Two slaves pulled free the heavy draperies. I started frowning; couldn’t help it. First a puzzle, now a riddle? It was a cage right enough; rounded; big enough for a large hound. But this thing was a fantasy, its bars were curled and gilded. And there was silk now, white, stretched taut inside it. A silk-lined cage? I found I’d leaned toward it. Sheshman’s eyes had sharpened, and his face gone solemn.
‘Well?’ I challenged, but I smiled. I couldn’t help that either.
‘Well enough, I hope, my prince.’ He drew a breath. ‘Perhaps.’ He glanced around. ‘Would the prince deign to open it himself?’ The fellow offered a key, from around his own neck.
Rag had straightened, in surprise or in alarm, but Sheshman wouldn’t leave alive if there was anything in there to hurt me. Besides, the key was silver. I rather thought I’d guessed the secret. Not so tempting as it had been but a well-presented trifle, and the cage, and lowered Gate, would block the view of those outside it more or less politely. So I stepped down and took the key (and the unspoken challenge) and turned it in the lock.
Sheshman was murmuring in my ear by then, his voice gone knowing. ‘Your wedding duties draw close, my prince, and your subjects know you will perform with taste and honour. But afterwards…?’
I caught the bars and pulled. Hot air rushed past me as the twin doors of this almost-cage unfurled like curving wings about me, neatly blocking the interior from anyone not right before them. The light rushed in.
There was indeed a figure; half knelt, half seated on the silken cushions. Loose white trousers were the only clothing, as I’d guessed. And silver shackles, delicate as bracelets, etched with three-point royal stars. The chain that linked them had been pegged into the cage’s flooring. And the head was ritually gift-wrapped, mummy-like, in white silk wrappings.
‘Such as this would stir the blood of any male, much less my prince, whose appetite is fabled.’ The murmur made me turn my head. The beady eyes looked up at me, expectant, earlier nerves forgotten.
I drew a breath. ‘I may be about to marry, my lord, but I haven’t yet gone blind.’ I let my voice turn cold. ‘Nor stupid. This is no youth.’
“This” was too tall, even crouched as he was. The chest, the hands and arms stretched down toward the cage’s flooring all had shape, and muscle. Maybe twenty summers? Bodyslaves were usually at least a few years younger: newly-adult: left untouched, kept very private like a female. Hells, a bodyslave was often more exclusive. After all a contract with a female – where the cursed female wasn’t royal – could be drawn up for as little as a single year. Then her family would repossess her and consider bids from other males fit to breed with.
But this one… kept apart this long, till only ten years less than I was? Virgin white and silver, on a full-grown male? What did Sheshman take me for?
Behind me Rag had risen. Sheshman’s face, which should have been as yellow-eyed and copper-hued as mine was, turned a nasty shade of umber, likely both embarrassment and fear, but he stood his ground. ‘My prince, I swear to you, I swear he’s still a virgin: more than that, a holymale, taken as an infant, grown behind high walls. I would not cheat you, highness.’ Sheshman weighed my mood and laid a final hand down. ‘My prince, I trust you to decide my honesty. I’ll wait upon your judgement. If you judge him less than I have said, I’ll… send my youngest son to grace your chambers, to expunge the insult.’
Had I blinked? I’d heard that Sheshman kept a real trader’s superfluity of children, but my eyes and ears said he favoured that one. Give him into bondage? He’d never offer – not unless… My eyes slid back toward the cage.
I’d thought him painted. Now I saw he wasn’t. Wherever Sheshman found him it wasn’t in any of our kingdoms, not with skin like creamy marble that looked unreal in the lamplight. I followed the line of his neck and shoulder, the swell of his chest. His skin looked… fragile, and there was no sweat, though when I’d opened it I’d felt the metal cage was hotter than this alcove; never good. Surely he barely breathed, there was so little movement. One leg was tucked beneath him, the other raised before. Unusual, but graceful. Then I saw the triple-knotted cord about his waist. My breathing deepened. Truth, or lies, a very fine body.
Trust my fond uncle to spoil the moment. ‘Keep your pants on, Ash. Believe this, you’ll fall for anything.’ Dry amusement on the surface. Mockery beneath?
I defended any outward sign of interest. ‘Might be fun finding out, though.’
‘Huh. You haven’t even seen the face yet.’ Ever the cynic.
My own thoughts shifted. ‘Curious, uncle? I’ll oblige you,’ I said outrageously. I stepped forward, right into the opening, and reached up to the wrapping. The knot, loose at the nape of the neck, slid free between my fingers. One gentle tug and the silk fell away in rippling folds.
The head revealed stayed lowered, the eyes hooded. The hair, far from cropped, was long enough it would have brushed his shoulders, lighter coloured even than the Chi; not braided of course but tied back loosely. I had disarranged it somewhat. Below that a high forehead and good cheekbones framed curious brows, more delicate arches than our upswept wings. No sign of any beard, nor hair upon the chest, the face as pale as the body.
Still no movement? Perhaps the slightest swaying. As if the chains helped keep him upright? I caught the jaw and jerked it upward, gasped to feel a child-like softness, but then the eyelids lifted too, a reflex surely for he didn’t seem to focus.
Wide grey eyes, like still winter pools. Rag stirred, but I’d forgotten he was there. The eyes blinked twice, all up and down – no inner storm-proof membrane? – then gazed back at me as if he was my equal. I should have felled him, or had him whipped. Instead I stared back. My mouth dried up. I felt light-headed. This creature was weak, and confused, and more? Yes, surely. How much more though?
Curse these bites, my grip had tightened in reaction so I let my fingers drop away. I didn’t want my tougher skin to mark that silk-thin whiteness.
The lips parted. A tiny frown formed between the arched brows. ‘Are you… a vision? Or a nightmare?’
Faint, and husky. I doubted anybody else had heard him. ‘Call me either one too loud, they’ll cut your tongue out,’ I said softly.
He just looked back at me with those eyes. ‘No,’ he whispered. ‘Real..?’ His gaze lowered to the shackles at his wrists. ‘I saw this. I saw…’ Again his voice tailed off to silence. Then the white chest heaved, one huge, shuddering gulp of air. The tethered arms began to shake.
‘Call my slave master,’ I ordered. Someone scurried.
The world returned around me. Despite being shorter Rag was practically breathing down my neck. Indecent. I was stung to comment. ‘Put your tongue away, eh, uncle? If you’ve seen enough, I’ll shut this up again.’
Rag recovered with a warrior’s speed of reflex. His mouth did close, but only to reopen. ‘Aye, best keep it hid. There’ll be enough laughter as it is.’
He didn’t believe Sheshman, then. Not unreasonable, I conceded. To myself, not out loud. How in all the world could any male stay innocent this long past adult? But that face, those eyes. I’d never seen such innocence, even in youths whose balls weren’t dropped yet. And his words… My thoughts rebounded. If it was an act, it was a damn good one. And if that was so, I’d see both Sheshman and his slave regretted their performance. I shut the cage and turned. ‘I’ll weigh your claims,’ I said curtly.
Sheshman backed away as Medishel bustled forward, my half-Chi slave master, a swollen, amber echo of my own appearance in a red and yellow outer robe and broad yellow sash. When I jerked my head he pulled at one door of the cage, peered in cautiously, then backed his head out and latched the thing up again. His manners were as excellent as ever. Not a word, not a look, just a polite, ‘My prince?’
‘Take him away, Medi. See if he’s ill, or drugged. Best keep him separate, in case, until I give you other orders.’
Medishel bowed, caught the key and waved to Sheshman’s slaves. The cage was carted off, which caused a lot of heads to turn, and furtive whispers. I wondered sourly how long it would take for the rest of the tale to spread. Have you heard the latest? Sheshman actually claimed he’d found a twenty-year-old virgin. Gods, how many of these visiting lords would ask each other if they had a complete fool for a prince, if he was even tempted to believe such rubbish.
But in my heart I think I always believed, right from the start. Some things can’t be weighed, or measured, can they?
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