Branded release party: Research, aka that week Google thought I was really into self-mutilation

June 1, 2014

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I would imagine that any writer’s internet history would be an good read (*ahem* I mean, their research intenet history…), but mine was particularly interesting the week I wrote the actual branding scene for Branded. The story itself doesn’t focus on the infliction of the physical injury, but it is something that’s covered on-screen, so to speak, so the reader can see both Bran and Coren’s reactions to it.

I’m a journalist, so I’ve always been research oriented. When I started writing fiction, that predilection intensified, since I like to write scenes that are as realistic as possible. For Island House, that meant a few hours of research about how weather a hurricane on a yacht. In Diving In, it was a particularly enjoyable experience because it called for watching a good hour of water polo. But for Branded it was a lot more gruesome and much, much less enjoyable.
Branding screenshot

I read everything reputable that I could find about strike branding, but after a few days of research I realized that I was going to have to actually see one being administered. I never intended to render it in graphic terms in the scene (and I didn’t), but nonetheless I needed to be intimately familiar with the process so I could gloss-over it in as accurate way as possible. (Ha.) So I watched dozens and dozens of videos of people willingly getting branded with a hot iron. There were probably quite a few adorable-guys-on-Tumblr breaks thrown in there as well, since that’s some pretty heavy stuff for someone who cringes in sympathy when someone else gets so much as a paper cut.

from via hesaguy
See? They’re kind of like a palate cleanser.Don’t you feel better?


I’m sure human strike branding wasn’t the weirdest thing I’ve ever Googled, but it was definitely up there with the most graphic and gross. What’s the strangest/most embarrassing/most gruesome thing you’ve ever Googled?

Remember, each comment is an entry in my $10 Dreamspinner Press gift certificate giveaway, so this isn’t the time to be shy. Tell me those dirty Google secrets!


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Mended Release Party: Why I like hurt/comfort stories by Charley Descoteaux

June 1, 2014

Hello Dreamers, and Happy Sunday!

Bru kindly invited me to join her HC party–thanks Bru! I’ve been looking forward to today, the release of “Not the Doctor” and the whole Mended Anthology. Thanks for visiting the party, I hope you have a great time.

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Every so often I, like many authors I’m sure, check out Dreamspinner’s open submission calls. I saw the call for the Mended Daily Dose and started brainstorming ideas right away. Joe and Kai took their sweet time speaking up to help me write their story, even though HC is one of my favorite tropes.

HC is a trope that’s wide open to interpretation. Many are, granted, but some—like May/December or Opposites Attract—are more rigid. I mean, if it’s MD both of the heroes can’t be middle-aged and for OA, well, they have to be opposites somehow. I like tropes that are more like suggestions than roadmaps. Probably since I have a hard time staying on point. Which is to say I let my characters call the shots, until they try to convince me it’s a good idea to jump a shark on a motorcycle.

I hope nobody thinks I’ve jumped the shark with this story, but I wanted to do something a little different. In my experience, if a character has a chronic condition they’re the ones receiving the comfort. Not so in “Not the Doctor.” In this story the man who’s usually the helper is just about helpless.

Which brings me to another reason I like this trope—the drama and the angst are built right in. A healthy shot of both is almost mandatory, which is perfect for someone who loves the angst like I do. I make all of my guys work for their HEAs, but usually their torture isn’t of the physical variety. Poor Joe, though, he wasn’t so lucky. He got a broken arm that later required surgery, and that’s not all. But that’s all I’m giving away right now.

Rainbow Rose

Okay, I lied. I’m also giving away a copy of “Not the Doctor.” Tell me about the most unusual HC story you’ve ever read for a chance to win. will choose the winner, and as far as I know has no opinion about what makes an unusual HC story.

NottheDoctor_FBThumb Not the Doctor by Charley Descoteaux

A moment of distraction on a lonely highway leaves middle-aged widower Joe Prescott with a broken arm and in need of surgery. He’s no stranger to long hours spent alone in his apartment, but until his arm heals, independence will be a luxury. Joe is used to helping others and doesn’t realize the strength it takes to accept a helping hand, especially from the neighbor he’s had a crush on since he moved in.

Kai Hosino, “retired” chef, lives with his elderly Aunt Tilly so they can help each other navigate life with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Kai is drawn to the silver fox next door, but his painful history of falling for straight men makes him hesitant to take a chance.



Are we really doing this? Am I really on my way to the time when Kai sees me naked?

It’s not as though I’ve never thought about it—I’m a gray-haired and wrinkled widower, not a corpse—but I never thought it would actually happen. Never thought I’d cry in front of him either, but that’s the drugs. He could probably change the dressing in his sleep. Kai lives with his aunt as much to care for her as so she can care for him. But she’s in her seventies. And she’s not unbuttoning my shirt.

“You don’t have to do this. I’ll call George….”

Kai sat me on the closed lid of the toilet and leaned his hip against the lavatory cabinet. Very slowly he crossed his arms over his chest. I saw it in slow motion, anyway. Everything moved in slow motion, even—or maybe especially—my brain.

“How long have we known each other?”

“About four years.” Since the day I moved into my “bachelor pad.”

“And how many times have you given me a hand or helped my aunt?”

He spoke so softly I leaned forward, even though I could hear just fine.

“I couldn’t make a decent guess at how many bags of groceries you’ve carried up, or…. This is something I can do. Please let me help you.”

His serious expression planted an idea I’d never considered, so I nodded. Kai smiled, his teeth very white against his brown skin. I was busy watching that smile, so I didn’t see him reach out and flinched when he resumed unbuttoning my shirt. Quickly followed by a groan. Flinching was not something on my list of things to do again.

Thanks for reading!

 Bring on your unusual HC stories. If you haven’t read one, feel free to make something up! :)

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Branded release party: Excerpt

June 1, 2014

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Thanks for coming by for my release party today! I’m glad I’m not alone in my love for characters getting hurt and then put back together, either emotionally or physically. A few other authors will be stopping by later with excerpts of their own Mended stories, but for now we’ll take a look at an excerpt from Branded that gives you a peek at Coren’s emotional struggle:


The sound of the overstoked fire crackling merrily was preternaturally loud in the room, and each snap made the feeling of cold dread in Coren’s stomach grow. He grabbed the ewer of water next to the grate and tossed it in, causing the fire to hiss and smoke before it sputtered out. The room filled with an ashy haze, settling between him and Bran like a physical manifestation of the barrier Coren felt between them.

It’s not your fault.” Bran’s voice was measured, but Coren could hear the strain in it. Bran’s posture was straight and his muscles rigid; he was clearly holding himself in check. Coren wouldn’t stand for it.

How is it that you are offering comfort when you are the injured party?” Coren hated the way Bran flinched at his clipped tone, but he was not in the mood to be pandered to. He wouldn’t have Bran expending any energy placating him—not when he knew Bran must be in pain. “Climb on the bed.”

It’s too early to retire for the night,” Bran said in the same careful tone. “I have to make my evening rounds, and someone will be in with your supper soon.”

Our supper,” Coren corrected. Bran took most of his meals in Coren’s rooms; the kitchen staff automatically sent up rations for both of them now. They had for years.

Your father requested my presence in the great hall this evening.”

That was news to Coren. Meals were served in the great hall daily, but they were rarely attended by anyone but the lower members of the court. Unless there was a celebration or occasion of state, Coren’s father took all of his meals in his rooms. The higher nobles often either dined with him if they were currently in favor or took private meals in their quarters if they were not. Coren didn’t mind; he’d take a meal with Bran eaten in privacy over the grandest affair of state any day.

I wasn’t summoned?” Bran handled almost all of Coren’s affairs—if Coren was expected at the dinner, the request would have gone through him.


And you thought to go alone? That I would eat a quiet meal here in my rooms while you suffer under the stares of the court as my father makes a show of you?” Coren could barely contain his anger.

Bran sighed. “I thought to spare you the spectacle, yes.”

I won’t have it. You’re mine.” Coren’s voice broke at the slip, and he swallowed to wet his throat before he corrected himself. “You’re my personal advisor. It wouldn’t be proper for you to appear before the court without me in attendance.”

Bran’s lips twitched, the first hint of a true smile Coren had seen in too long. “I am yours, sire. Which is why you need to stay in your rooms tonight.” He stepped forward and nuzzled against Coren’s cheek with his own. Coren shivered and leaned into the light touch without conscious thought; he was relieved beyond words at this proof that Bran still sought his touch after what he’d just done to him. “Your face, Cor. You’d give us away in a heartbeat. You’re too wound up right now for an appearance. Your father will make me display my brand and I’ll be dismissed. It’s a formality. I’ll be back before you even start your meal.”

That was a certainty, since Coren would not be able to stomach a single thing until he had Bran safely back in his rooms.

– Branded


The title gives it away, so by now you’ve probably realized that Coren is forced into a situation where he has to give Bran an hot iron stike brand, burning a crest into his skin.

I’ll be back talking more about the actual branding—and the fairly extensive research I did for it—later. (Don’t worry, I won’t get graphic.)

When the idea for Branded struck me I thought I wanted to write it from Bran’s POV, since it seemed obvious that as the injured party he’d be the one who was hurting the most, while Coren would be the one offering comfort. When Bran repeatedly kept worrying over Coren’s mental state, though, I realized I was coming at it from the wrong angle and recast it from Coren’s POV. His emotional journey through Branded was much more interesting to follow, even though I love Bran.

Bran’s injury was a necessity, but Coren chose to be the one to inflict it himself because he didn’t want a stranger hurting Bran like that, in a public forum, no less. Is that a choice you could make? Would you be able to do what Coren did?

Don’t forget that all day today I’ll be logging comments as entries to win a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift certificate!


Buy Branded

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Branded release party: Let’s talk about why we love hurt/comfort stories

June 1, 2014

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Hi Dreamers! Today we’re going to be talking about my latest release, Branded, which is part of the Dreamspinner Press Mended Anthology. This month there will be 30 new hurt/comfort releases, which is incredibly exciting for a hurt/comfort junkie like me. I’m thrilled to be a part of it!

While I’m no stranger to hurt/comfort (*cough* Island House *cough*), Branded is a definite departure from my usual genre. It’s my first historical, and it definitely won’t be my last. Everything, from the language conventions to the imagery involved with castle life, was so much fun to write. (Not that I don’t love my contemporaries—I do! Especially the second in the Dropping Anchor series, Finding Home, which comes out later this month.)



When a would-be assassin sneaks into the citadel disguised as a servant, the king requires that all servants who work in the castle be branded with the royal crest for easy identification. Prince Coren is powerless to fight the edict, but he refuses to allow his personal advisor and secret lover Brannir to suffer alone. Coren shows his devotion by wielding the brand to mark Brannir himself, even though he fears it will change their relationship. He’s prepared for resentment, hurt, and anger–every outcome but the one he receives: unconditional love.

Branded, by Bru Baker



So in one corner we’ve got Coren, who loves Bran so much that he refuses to let some stranger be the one to brand him. And in the other we’ve got Bran, who is honestly more upset about how inflicting the brand is hurting Coren than he is about his own physical pain. Lots of hurt/comfort opportunities here!

Davi Ozolin/Flickr, Creative Commons

Davi Ozolin/Creative Commons


For now, let’s talk about what draws us to hurt/comfort stories. It’s hands-down my favorite trope, no matter what genre it’s in. As the old adage goes, a person’s true colors show through in hard times. I love the character development that we get to witness when characters are challenged emotionally or physically. Watching how the characters work through that shows the reader a lot about that character’s, well, character. The fastest way to get me to identify with a character is to show me his very human reactions to obstacles or upsets—and his approaches to them determine whether or not I find him a sympathetic character.

Of course, while I enjoy the hurt part, the comfort is even better. Especially when the comfort is more than just “let me bang you better,” which works, but isn’t as satisfying as an emotional confrontation that leads to … is there a word for “tenderly bang you better”? And on the comfort, the fluffier the better for me. I am definitely a fan of grand gestures, hokey sentimentality, and, of course, steamy make-up scenes.

A little later another Mended author, Charley Descoteaux, will be stopping by to tell you about her piece, Not the Doctor, and what draws her to hurt/comfort.

I’ll be asking questions all day today and logging comments as entries to win a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift certificate. Talk to me! What draws you to hurt/comfort stories? Are you an equal opportunity fan who likes both physical and emotional hurt, or do you have a preference for one over the other?


Buy Branded

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Because of Jade release party: A Welcome, A History, and a Raffle!

May 24, 2014

Hello! I’m Lou Sylvre, author of the Vasquez and James books, and I’m having a party! I’m celebrating the release (yesterday) of Because of Jade. Although in some places you’ll find the book billed as #5, it truthfully caps the whole series, including (possible especially) the novella Yes, which is definitely romance, but a bit apart from the suspense theme of the other books. Yes has previously only been available as an ebook, but it’s included in the paperback version of the new release.

Before I do the usual post of the blurb, first let me tell you about the current rafflecopter. I can’t post javascript on this blog (it’s WordPress) so here’s a link to enter. 4 ways to enter including commenting on these party posts. 2 great prizes: 1st, $15 Dreamspinner book money and an ebook of Because of Jade> and 2nd, $10 DSP dollars and an ebook of any earlier Vasquez and James book.

Let’s go for a wild ride through Sonny and Luki’s history.

In previous episodes…

In the early pages of Loving Luki Vasquez</strong, Luki Vasquez and Sonny Bly James spotted each other on the streets of Port Clifton, and met for coffee at Margie’s Cup O’ Gold Café the next day. Luki had his I’m-a-chilly-badass black coffee with sugar, while Sonny had an oh-my-God-did-I-just-say-that raspberry latte, which got the whole romance off to a limping start. Their lips finally meet in kiss on the beach a few days later, but almost immediately the bad guy shows up. Luki is sure Sonny is the target but, seasoned detective that he is, he can’t put a finger on who is behind the string of ugly crimes. Luki’s badassery and Sonny’s calm common sense and courage pull them through and they seem also to have fallen in love by the time it’s over. 

But is it ever really over? In Delsyn’s Blues,, Sonny’s nephew Delsyn, whom he raised, dies as a result of horrible things that happened in book one. Sonny grieves and blames himself for Delsyn’s death, and has sent Luki packing back to Chicago. Delsyn’s murder, it’s later discovered was really an early result of a new and nasty crime.. Things go from bad to worse, but Luki refuses to let Sonny deal with threats on his own. He knows fighting crime requires a badass, and he’s certain he’s well qualified. Once Sonny is back in Luki’s arms and his head begins to clear, he know he doesn’t want to be alone,—so he proposes marriage. While bleeding out from a “flesh wound,” Luki accepts. In the end they must beat impossible odds to survive and hope to see their wedding day.

In book three, Finding Jackie , Chapter One opens with a sunny Hawaiian wedding on a breezy hilltop. The honeymoon starts sweet, but it can’t last, and soon a strange message is delivered to Luki by an informant. It’s cryptic, but it’s a threat—from a Mob hit man. When Luki’s sixteen-year-old nephew, Jackie, is tricked into delivering himself into the hands of a sadistic killer, finding Jackie and rescuing him takes Luki and Sonny on a hunt through leather bars, homeless meal lines, and dusty desert back roads that lead to terror.

Then there’s Saving Sonny James. The first part of this book is about how a couple decades of being a badass can come back to slap a man in the face—and about how a really strong man and his equally strong husband deal with that. The second part of the book is what Luki does to save Sonny’s life when things go all wrong in Paris, France. 

Next post in a few minutes: about Yes, and the blurb and essentials on the new release.

Wrapped Up in Chains Release Party!

March 14, 2014

Hi! I’m Cindy Sutherland and I’m here with you today celebrating the release of my latest book and first full length novel, Wrapped Up in Chains. I’m so glad to be here, and I’m really excited because I’ve never done anything like this before. I’m going to be hanging out throughout the day, chatting and answering any questions you might have. I’m actually have the day off because the flu has been running rampant through my house and it’s finally my turn. At least it waited until everyone else was over it!

I’m going to be giving away a copy of the ebook version of the novel and you can win by commenting below and answering this question:

Would you rather spend an hour as a sub or as a Dom…no judgements, just for fun! I’ll tell you my answer at the end of the day.

I’m going to start by sharing the blurb with you.

Devon West is a professional Dom who runs his own club, doesn’t believe in romance, and had never been in a long-term relationship. All this changes when he rescues Chase Mackenzie.

Chase is a runaway who has been kept as a slave since he was sixteen. Now twenty-three, he’s still innocent and sweet despite being severely abused and left behind by his Dom.

When Devon finds out that the man who held Chase hostage is the same man who hurt him terribly when he started learning about the sub/Dom lifestyle, he knows he has to keep Chase safe.

Spoiled rich boy and sociopath James Kingston is obsessed with Devon. He’s convinced Devon would be his perfect sub and Devon only thinks he’s a Dom because he needs proper discipline. Losing Chase to Devon is like rubbing salt in the wound, and he’s determined to get them both under thumb. This time, Chase may need to rescue Devon.

You can get Wrapped Up in Chains here. It’s also available here in paperback and the first twenty copies of that are autographed by me!

I look forward to spending the day with you all and lets have a little fun! I’d love to answer any questions you might have.


Broken by Raine Norman Launch Party Giveaway time!

February 19, 2014


Hi guys!

In the early part of the novella, Oliver is upset when Joel says they should take a break. He vents his despair at the cost of some damage.

Have you ever broken something in a fit of temper, frustration or despair? Give your reply in comments and I will randomly select one lucky person to receive a free copy of Broken.

I will give you an instance when I broke something. I used to have a silly ornament called Egg Whip which was in the shape of an egg with a scrawny chicken’s head sticking out of it which was dressed to represent a jockey. I bought it as a joke as my now ex-husband had been a professional  racehorse jockey in the past. Well, I was dusting one day and I noticed the peak of the cap was broken. My ex was really clumsy and I was cross he’d broken it without telling me that he had. When I asked him about it, he denied that he had done the deed. Pretty weak defense really as there was only the two of us in the house!  Long story short, I got so cross at his denial that I snapped the head of the ornament and yelled that it was really broken now! LOL!

So, were you as daft as me by making a slightly damaged ornament only fit for the dustbin? Or have you got even funnier stories to tell? Tell your tales of destruction below for a chance to win a free copy of Broken! The winner will be chosen later tonight.

Edited to add – this giveaway is now closed but check out my blog as there may well be another chance to win when I guest blog at the weekend – full details will be put up there on Saturday! 

Broken – buy at Dreamspinner Press.

Raine Norman facebook page

Raine Norman blogspot


Gingerbread Palace Release Day Author Q&A with @emlynley

December 11, 2013



I  probably should have posted this a lot sooner!

Since I need to take a break for an evening class for a few hours, here’s your chance to ask me any questions about me, my books at Dreamspinner or anything about writing.

A comment here will also get you an entry for my second giveaway. I’ll be back later to answer questions.


Since I also did not do a proper self-introduction before, here’s a bit about me and my writing.

I’m EM Lynley, and everyone calls me “Em,” which is easier to say than “E M,” right?

I write only m/m erotic romance, and have been with Dreamspinner since 2009. Most of my work is contemporary, and just about all of it has a mystery/suspense element, since that’s my favorite genre to read.

Italian Ice by EM Lynley Paperback

I am trying some new things and expect to be writing some paranormal/fantasy in the future!  I recently finished a BDSM mystery/suspense novel for Dreamspinner. I can tell you the research for that was fun!

I am a former economist, so many of my books have a financial element too. Now I’m living near San Francisco, and I’ve worked in London, Tokyo, and Washington, D.C.

Some of my guilty pleasures: 80′s music, the TV show White Collar, and just about anything that has coconut or watermelon in it.

What are some of your guilty pleasures? Got a question you want to ask about or any of my series or characters? If you’ve read any of my stories, I’d love to know what you thought of them.


Gingerbread Palace: It’s all about the firefighters! #gayromance #giveaway @emlynley

December 11, 2013


So, why firemen?

The real question is why not?

I’ve enjoyed reading stories about firefighters for years (Chris Owen, Damon Suede, Andrew Grey, among others) and I realized there were plenty of great storylines to use between a chef and a firefighter. Once I decided to set the story at Christmas, it was so easy to find just the right story.

Firefighters are well-known in the United States for doing charity work, fundraising, almost anything that helps kids. If my chef is also big on working with a kids’ charity, it was the perfect place for them to find their interests overlapping.

I didn’t think much about the research before I started writing. I admit I don’t know much about firefighters, but I definitely wanted to understand what these men and women think and feel when they are doing their jobs.

A couple of years ago there was a terrible fire here in San Francisco and two firefighters were killed. It may not seem like much, but losing two men the same day greatly affected the entire area—the whole state. A huge funeral was held with 5,000 people in attendance. Friends, family and fellow firefighters spoke about the two men for hours.

What struck me most about the funeral—which was shown on live TV because it was a huge event for the city—was the kind of stories told about the men. Little anecdotes about how they helped people at a fire, or what they said while rescuing someone, or examples of how dedicated they were to their jobs. I realized I had a special glimpse into their world through the eulogies and stories.


When working on Gingerbread Palace, I watched firefighter training videos, read first-hand accounts of fires and injuries, and had a firefighter beta the story. I still don’t think I got enough into the mind of Kevin Flint to know how he thinks, but I do feel an even greater sense of respect for the dedication and sacrifice that firefighters make to help keep others safe.

I enjoyed the research and it affected me so much, I intend to write another story with firefighters. It may be more about Kevin and Alex, or another completely different set of characters, but firefighters are in my brain and I want to explore their world in much more detail.

Leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway

Do you enjoy firefighter stories in general? What are your favorite books about firefighters?

Did you want to be a firefighter when you were a kid?

Medieval Tales release party: an extract from Tale 2: “Battlefront”

November 17, 2013

I wanted to pour into this scene all the unfairness of war. Lovers that think the other dead or deathly injured, and that realize that their death would bring nothing to a supposedly great cause. Here you have the complete scene:


Wyon turned his head with care, having recognized Omar’s voice as the caliph rushed toward him. The caliph’s clothes were covered in blood, and the thought that Omar might be hurt made Wyon’s blood—or what was left of it—run cold with worry.

A tall man, dressed in black, stepped in the caliph’s path and took him by the arms, stopping him. Omar glared at his captor with such hatred it confused Wyon. But the man did not move or release Omar’s arms or his gaze.

The man in black yelled an order in Arabic, and the two or three in the room left immediately, bowing low, except for Duncan and Adam. Omar breathed unsteadily, straining against the tight grip, and Wyon noticed a silent plea in the caliph’s dark eyes to be set free.

The man holding Omar released him with a bow of his head. “Wyon!” Omar cried again, and he knelt on the floor at the edge of the bed, taking Wyon’s hand in his and squeezing tight. Wyon could see the worry clouding the caliph’s eyes.

The man who had stopped the caliph looked like a councilor, and he spoke in broken English with a prideful voice. “Amīr al-Mu’minīn shall not be seen by any Arab kneeling before another man”.

“Out!” Omar barked, turning his head toward the man in black. “Now!”

The man bowed low and left, clearly not disturbed by the caliph’s outburst. However, none of the four men remaining in the room gave him any attention.

“My love,” Omar whispered against Wyon’s cheek, rubbing his forehead tenderly against Wyon’s and tightening the grip of their joined hands.

Duncan lowered Wyon slowly back to the bed as Omar moved his head closer to his lover’s, and then Duncan signaled to Adam, who nodded. They moved quietly but before they reached the door, the caliph spoke.

“Duncan. Please send for Ahmed, the palace healer,” Omar asked without turning. “If he was able to make me walk again, he should be able to save Wyon.”

“It was he who treated Wyon’s wounds, my friend,” Duncan informed him quietly from the door, “but I will ask him to return.” Omar smiled in thanks without taking his eyes from Wyon.

“You.” Wyon struggled to breathe in, but the sword wound burned when he inhaled. “Are you….”

“Hush, my love.” Omar put trembling lips over Wyon’s own. “Do not talk. Rest.”

“Hurt! Are you. Hurt?” Wyon insisted, breathing deeply in pain.

Omar looked down at his blood-covered clothes, then back to him.

“How can you think of me first, when you are so obviously in much pain? No. I am not hurt. The battle has ended and I came running to you. Now please, rest. I will be here the next time you open your eyes, I swear.”

“Who won?” Wyon swallowed around the lump in his throat at the assurance Omar was unhurt. Omar looked at his lover with intense sadness.

“None won, Wyon,” Omar answered quietly. “As usual, both of us lose.”

Do you think Wyon realized the deep meaning of those words?

And of course. Our winner of a free copy of the “Medieval Tales” goes to the person that got closer to the real answer: Carolyn!! (Please write me to sauraunderscore @ gmail dot com to let you know how to pick up your copy). Congratulations! And thank you all for participating!! There’s still another (easier) chance to get a free copy of the “Medieval Tales