Excerpt from *Yes*: The Diagnosis

July 18, 2012

LUKI tried to make it look as though he met the doctor’s eyes, but really, he looked out the fifth floor window to the Seattle city traffic. Downtown, lots of people in the street, though not as many as say, New York, or London, both places Luki had been. The opulence of the oncologist’s office held no power to impress Luki. He had means, and, before he loved Sonny, this was the kind of place he chose to live and work. Because it was cold, sterile, empty of connotations and implications.

He looked—surreptitiously, he hoped—from the window to Sonny, marveling at the way he looked beautiful in a new way in every setting. As if he wove himself into a scene the same way he wove shining ideas into his tapestries. Would he, Luki, be here listening to the doctor drone if it wasn’t for Sonny? Probably. But it would mean less.

He registered the doctor’s voice: “Now, I’m not going to mince words….”

That sounded ominous.

“That would be dishonest, and unfair to you.”

“Yes,” Luki answered, because it seemed something was called for. The doctor, who was not, Luki thought, cold or empty, continued to drone. That was the only word Luki could think of for it. Blah, blah, blah. He’d already seen two doctors, had a bevy of pictures taken of his interior—like real estate—and endured poking and prodding that would stir the dead. But he inwardly admitted his reaction—or lack of reaction—to the doctor’s words might be less because of the doctor’s boring manner and more because he, Luki, didn’t want to hear a detailed description of the tumor in his lung.

Distracted, he gazed at the axial CT images, which was a view from the top down, and made his lung look like an almost egg-shaped hole, and the tumor look like a yoke splatted in the middle of it. Mr. Vasquez, I’m afraid you have a fried egg in your lung.

Luki didn’t realize he’d chuckled aloud until Sonny clamped a hand on his shoulder, and he saw a shocked look on the doctor’s face. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I was thinking about… something….”

“I’m not sure how much you heard of my explanation, Mr. Vasquez.”

“Just call me Luki, please. I heard it all, I think. Apical tumor, right side, squamous cell, advanced, etcetera.” The doctor and Sonny both looked shocked, and Luki felt shocked too. He hadn’t realized that despite his efforts not to, he really had laid claim to the doctor’s words.

“Yes, well,” Dr. Zhvornak continued, “good, so now this is the important part, Luki.” He slid his stool closer. “There are both positive signs, in terms of what’s in store for you, and negative ones. Negative first: The location in the apex of the lung—”

Another shock, this one physical, coursed through Luki when the doctor tapped his chest to show him where the tumor was growing, rather than pointing to the images. If he was trying to secure all of Luki’s attention, it worked.

“—tends to suggest a less favorable prognosis. And the tumor is advanced, adhering slightly, from what we can see, to the chest wall, here. Understand so far?”


“Some signs that are more positive: Despite the location of your tumor, you have no signs of Pancoast syndrome—which shows up when a nerve is sheathed in tumor. Though the tumor is large and adherent to the chest wall, I don’t believe it truly invades the tissue there significantly. And, believe it or not, it is favorable to you that this tumor is in your right lung, not your left. Very favorable, we found no evidence for metastases. Do you know what that word means?”


“We can fight this aggressively if you want. It will most likely involve chemo, radiation, surgery, chemo, and radiation again. Then, either immediately or six months later depending on the signs, another round of chemotherapy. That last round is insurance if we’ve been successful. If we’ve not met with success, if the cancer is still active, then that last round will most likely be palliative. That means—”

“We know what it means!”

“Let him say it, Sonny.”

“Palliative means it’s offered to reduce pain and discomfort in the dying process, and it may possibly lengthen your life by months or maybe a year. I’ve outlined for you the most aggressive treatment, Mr. Vasquez—”


“Luki, then. I have twenty years of experience treating cancers, and I can tell you yours is far from the least favorable scenario. This treatment regimen is my recommendation—leaving no medical stone unturned, so to speak. You will find the process painful, debilitating, and long. You may never recover your full strength. You will certainly lose part of your lung. You’ll have a new scar. During the process you’ll almost certainly lose your hair.”

Luki had no difficulty maintaining his cool exterior until those last three words. Lose. Your. Hair. His heart began to pound at the thought of grieving his carefully tended chestnut curls, which he considered a mitigating factor, making up in part for his frightening visage with its long, livid scar. When he tried to swallow, he coughed. Thankfully, it passed without becoming a spell. Sonny sat behind him and to one side, and now he lifted a hand to those curls as if to protect them.

“Statistics mean little in cancer treatment, Luki, but I like to be completely frank. Considering all the information we’ve gathered, the odds are one in three that you’ll survive for the next five years, if we fight with every weapon we have. Do you want to proceed?”

“Yes!” The word fairly burst from Sonny’s lips.

“Mr. James—”

“Call me Sonny.”

“I appreciate, Sonny, that you are invested in Luki’s welfare. Obviously, the two of you care deeply for each other. That commitment—if you two can make it last through the hell and high water you’ll face during treatment—is in fact another strong point in Luki’s favor. But Sonny, it has to be his choice. You can’t make it for him.”

Luki stood up. “Let’s go, Sonny. Dr. Zhvornak—”

“Dr. Z, please. We’ll get to know each other well, if you opt for treatment, and besides”—he smiled—“everyone massacres my last name.”

Luki laughed—which a few years ago would have been a miracle in itself—but Sonny looked horrified. “Luki, what do you mean, let’s go? We can’t just go. You have to—”

Luki gave Sonny a long, not too friendly stare, then looked over his shoulder at the doctor. “I’ll be in touch. It won’t be long. Thanks for your honesty.” Luki turned to walk out, but Sonny continued to stand in place, his dark skin visibly blanched. Luki raised his brows. “Sonny?” It was more an order than a question.

An Excerpt from Little Boy Lost: Sacrificed

July 2, 2012

About Little Boy Lost: Sacrificed

Reunited with his father but missing the one man he loves more than any other, Jamie Mayfield attempts to put his life back together amid rehab, seizures, and the gutting loneliness of Brian’s rejection. As he tries to cope, Jamie finds that relying on his friends isn’t nearly as difficult as he’d imagined, and soon he can once again stand on his own two feet.
While recovering from his addiction, Jamie starts a new phase of his life at college, working to become the man Brian needs him to be. Only one question remains: Can Jamie earn Brian’s forgiveness and win back his trust, or will their love be sacrificed at the altar of Jamie’s demons?
Brian and Jamie’s epic journey comes to a close in this thrilling conclusion to the Little Boy Lost series.

An Excerpt

(c) 2012 J. P. Barnaby

I finished the paragraph I’d been writing in the journal and then flipped over to my e-mail to see that I had just one, from Alex.

PIZZA and a movie sounds awesome. We haven’t done that in forever! Mike will be in SF this weekend, so can we make it a sleepover? I’ll bring my superhero jammies. We can get those weird chips that you like, lots of caffeine, and just talk.

Miss u like crazy!!

My laughter broke the eerie silence in the room. Apparently, lime-flavored tortilla chips constituted something weird. I logged in to the online grocery service that I’d started using to help my dad out. Grocery shopping was one of the few things that I could do to help out around the house. Two grown men who were hardly ever home didn’t make much of a mess, so there wasn’t a lot to clean. Because my seizures were still uncontrolled, my dad didn’t really want me to cook, so I’d just been assisting him in the kitchen. Adding chips, candy, and soda to the order, I scheduled the delivery and felt a little bit more in control of my life. At least I didn’t need to ask my dad to take me to store just so I could feed my friend.

After that, I fired off e-mails to my dad and Alex confirming plans for the weekend. I knew my dad wouldn’t have a problem. He’d been on me for the last two weeks to get together with my friends. What he didn’t really understand is that the one person I wanted to see didn’t want to see me. Brian hadn’t made any contact with me in the three weeks I’d been staying with my dad. Whenever I asked Alex about him, he just stalled and said that Brian was working some things out.

I lay back on my bed and stared at the ceiling, imagining Brian’s face.

The sound of a motor kicking to life startled me awake. My eyes opened against the late morning sunlight streaming in through the east-facing windows, and I blinked rapidly. The roar of the mower sounded close, so I went to my bedroom window to see where it came from. Three guys, naked from the waist up, worked in our backyard—mowing, trimming, and whatever else landscapers did. The guy mowing the lawn, clearly Hispanic, had a lean, muscular chest and a bandana holding back long black curls. My cock stirred just a bit, hopeful at the sight of such a beautiful guy in such close proximity. A second guy crossed my line of vision as he trimmed the hedges around the garage. Ebony skin glistened in the sun’s rays as they played across the perfectly defined shoulders and abs. A T-shirt, navy blue or maybe black, hung from the back of his jeans and looked dangerously close to falling when he squatted down to pick up a few small branches.

The third guy really got my attention as he knelt in the uninspired flowerbed along the back of the yard. I took a few steps closer to the window so that I could get a better look, my cock more interested by the second. By the time I could feel a chill from the glass, I was semihard. Short brown hair stuck up at odd angles, like he’d been running his hands through it, wiping sweat from his face as he worked. I couldn’t see his face, but if the body was any indication, the guy would be gorgeous. A sliver of guilt slid into my stomach because my dick got hard for some random guy in the backyard, but it wasn’t like I’d go out there and stand among the begonias and drop my jeans so he could suck me where he knelt. Though my cock strained at the crotch of my jeans, obviously very interested in that idea.

More from animal instinct than actual thought, my right hand strayed to my groin and rubbed lightly as I watched him transfer the last of the wilted plants into a lawn bag resting carelessly against his right knee. I rubbed my cock harder as the guy stood and stretched. My mouth actually watered at the sight of his long, lean muscles flexing and glistening in the soft light. Conflicting emotions swamped me as I thought about going outside to talk to him. My heart had ached for weeks without Brian, but a flurry of excitement caused my pulse to race. It was the only stirring I had felt since he walked out of my life.

When I considered opening my jeans to pull out my cock and stroke it in earnest, a horrible thought struck me. If my cock was in my hand when I started to seize, would my muscles tense around it, squeezing with brutal force? Almost as bad, I imagined the look on my dad’s face if he walked in and I was midseizure with my pants around my knees, cock in hand. I couldn’t even think about his horror if I were using some kind of toy. My hand moved away from my softening dick just as the gorgeous guy turned and I caught a glimpse of his face. I couldn’t stop the word that flew out of my mouth and reverberated against the window.


Mike glanced up from where he stood in the dying flowers and smiled when our eyes met. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I couldn’t believe I’d been drooling over the guy who’d made me feel like shit for the last few months, but I was honestly glad to see him. Mike felt like a link to Brian, and I needed one so badly right then. Even though we were in the same city, he seemed so goddamned far away that he might as well have been on the moon.

Release Party: “The Trust” – Excerpt Two (18+ excerpt, NSFW!)

June 18, 2012

This excerpt is a bit hotter than the last, so warning to all of you at work:  this one probably should be read at home!  Hope you like it.  -Shira

Blurb:   Eight years ago, Jake Anders was a college kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Then Trace Michelson recruited him into The Trust, a CIA-backed agency whose “executives” eliminate rogue biotechnology operations. Trace was everything Jake ever wanted in a man: powerful, brilliant, and gorgeous. But Jake never admitted his attraction to his mentor, and Trace always kept Jake at arm’s length.

Now Trace is dead and Jake is one of The Trust’s best operatives, highly skilled and loyal to the organization. But the secret agent has his own secret: six years ago, before he was assassinated, Trace designed a Sim chip containing his memories and experiences—and now that chip is part of Jake. It’s just data, designed to augment Jake’s knowledge, but when Sim becomes reality, Jake wonders if Trace is still alive or if Jake really is going crazy like everyone claims. He doesn’t know if he can trust himself, let alone anyone else.

To learn the truth about Trace and the chip, Jake embarks on a dangerous mission—except he’s not the only one looking for the information. Some of the answers are locked in his head, and unless he finds the key, he’ll be killed for the technology that’s become a part of him.

Now, more than ever, Jake wishes Trace were here to guide him. Too bad he’s dead… right?


Pre-publication Excerpt, final version may change!

Excerpt from Chapter Eleven:

He closed his eyes and imagined himself on a beach overlooking blue-green water. He could hear the sound of the surf hitting the sand; he felt the spray on his face and the warmth of the sun. He took a deep breath and followed the Sim’s instructions.

He felt a strong pair of hands on his shoulders, digging into the tense muscles there from above him, kneading at the stiffness. The surf pounded the shore, and a drop of salt water hit his cheek. For the first time during a meditation, he realized he could smell—the tangy scent of seaweed washed up on the sand, the salt on the breeze, and something else—the citrus aftershave he remembered from years before. Trace’s aftershave. It was deeply unnerving. It was as though Trace were there with him, beside him. The real Trace and not a simulation. He fought the urge to stand up and start pacing again.

“Relax.” Trace Michelson’s resonant voice was a surprising balm for the stress Jake could not seem to release. The voice was also different than before: warmer, perhaps. No longer in his mind, but right there, next to him. Real. Much like the difference between a painting of a beautiful sunset and the sunset as it paints the world with vibrant color, because you are there to experience it.

“You’ve never touched me before.” Jake marveled at the strength in those long, graceful fingers. He could almost hear the other man’s breath in his ear as he imagined Trace’s face above his own, looking down. He didn’t open his eyes for fear that the scene would disappear and he’d be back in his own apartment once more, alone.

“You’ve never let me touch you, not in this way,” the Sim responded. “Until now, you haven’t been comfortable letting me get this close to you.”

“Hell.” Jake sighed and gave in to the need to believe that it was Trace Michelson touching him, and not just a simulation. “It’s all in my head, anyhow. Why should I care what you do?” He began to relax into the warm sand, and all thoughts of what Grey might say if he told him his Sim massaged his shoulders on a Caribbean beach vanished.

“You will find the answers.” Trace began to work his way down Jake’s arm, kneading the muscles. “But you must be patient.”

“Easy for you to say,” said Jake with a laugh. Trace worked his fingers up Jake’s arms and lingered briefly at his shoulders, working through the tension, reaching around his neck to work the muscles of his upper back. Painful bliss.

“Relax,” Trace commanded after a few more minutes. Jake obliged as his head sank back further into the soft sand.

“God, that feels so good.”

“You’re fighting it,” Trace said, his face again close to Jake’s.

“Hell no. It’s just that I’m starting to feel like Jell-O.”

“I’m not talking about your body,” the Sim replied. “I’m talking about your mind, your spirit.”

“My mind?”

“You must open your mind, Jake, and see the infinite possibilities.”

A flash of color hovered on the periphery of Jake’s consciousness: the mandala. “What am I supposed to see in it?” he asked as Trace caressed his chest. “What am I missing?”

“The future. Your future is there.”

“Right now, I’m just seein’ myself dead,” Jake answered acerbically. “And that’s what I see, no matter which way I look.”

“You’re better than that—stronger. You’re capable of so much more than you’re willing to admit. This is no different from any mission you’ve been sent on in the past. Only perhaps there is more to be gained in the end.”

“Will you be waiting there?” Jake asked.

There was no answer. Trace followed a line to the sensitive skin under Jake’s ear, and he felt gooseflesh rise on his body.

“God, Trace,” he whispered, “what are you doing?”

“I’m merely responding to your wishes, to your desires.” Jake imagined Trace’s lips close to his ear. “It’s what I’m programmed to do.”

“My… desires?” Jake wondered aloud. “Trace… he programmed you to…?”

“My programming has never been completely static,” Trace replied as he ghosted a pair of silken palms over the muscles of Jake’s chest, and Jake’s body arched instinctively upward. “I’m only responding to your needs, your desires.”

“Have I desired this?” Jake mused. He was a sexual being, although he’d never found a man who could completely satisfy him. And yet, this man whom he’d worshipped from afar….

“You hesitate because you do not know what to believe of your unspoken need,” Trace explained calmly.


“It’s your desire that guides me. And it’s your fear that holds you back.”

“I’m afraid,” Jake admitted.

“You’re afraid of being with me.” Jake knew Trace was right. Was it so unreasonable to be afraid of Trace? He was nothing more than a ghost.

“How did you know,” Jake asked, uncomprehending, “when I didn’t understand it myself?”

“I’m a part of you. I can’t be separated from you, nor can I fail to hear what’s in your heart.”

Jake moaned again. The feel of Trace’s fingers on his scalp made him want to….

“Open your eyes, Jake Anders,” that glorious voice now commanded. “Open your eyes.”

Jake obeyed, looking into the most stunning eyes he’d ever known, their deep blue now appearing almost gray in the bright sunlight. It was as if he were seeing those eyes for the first time—they were no longer the cold, controlled eyes of the man who had mentored him but the eyes of a lover, warm and deep. Trace was naked, his hair wet from the water. Jake realized that he was naked, as well.

“Trace,” he whispered as their lips met. He ran his fingers over the well-defined chest, the smooth pale skin that seemed to glow in the sunlight. “You’re so goddamn beautiful. I never knew….” His voice trailed off as he felt Trace run his hands through his hair with its ends now painted in sand. Trace licked his ear, and Jake gasped. Why did this all seem so real? And how hadn’t he understood what he’d felt all along? He smiled for a moment at the realization that Grey had correctly guessed at his heart, then silently cursed the man for it.

“Do you understand, now, what you’ve denied yourself all these years?” Trace whispered, biting the lobe of Jake’s ear and sucking it for a moment. “Do you understand why I always kept you at arm’s length?”

“You didn’t want to hurt me.” Jake was momentarily stricken by the thought that the real man behind the Sim might not have desired him in the same way. To Trace, he’d been just a kid, eager, willing, and yet unable to comprehend the adult whispers of his soul.

Jake couldn’t deny it any longer: after years spent with the Sim as his constant companion, he’d grown to love Trace. It was utterly absurd. But as he lay on the beach with the water lapping at his toes, the absurdity of falling in love with the ghost who inhabited his mind didn’t matter. Here, in this place, that love felt real.

“I wanted you to make your own choices.”

I want this now. I want him.

Jake pulled Trace on top of him, raking his back with his nails until he heard a low groan in response. Then, roughly, he drew Trace’s face back to his and found his lips once again, probing Trace’s mouth with an insistent and demanding tongue, relishing the warmth as it opened to him. He had never tasted anything as sinfully sweet.

“Jake, what do you want?” Trace wrapped his arms around Jake and pulled him closer.

“I want you,” moaned Jake, his hands grasping at the tensed muscles of Trace’s shoulders, feeling the power there.

Trace pushed Jake back onto the sand, his eyes hooded with lust. He sucked hard at the base of Jake’s neck, then moved lower, biting a nipple and laving the outline of it with his tongue. Jake growled as Trace took the pebbled flesh between his teeth and rolled it there, biting it again, just enough to sting.

“Oh, fuck… Trace!” he cried out. Where did a Sim chip learn to do that? The thought was quickly replaced by thrumming need. He went to push Trace over, to dominate him as he was being dominated, but Trace was far stronger than he remembered, and he remained pinned beneath the smaller man.

Trace’s eyes grew darker still as he pushed Jake’s wrists into the sand at his sides. Jake ceased his struggle, surrendering to his companion until he felt Trace’s hard cock against his. But the blissful pressure of that contact was quickly gone as Trace leaned down, then drew lazy circles on his abdomen with his pink tongue, making his way slowly downward to the point that Jake thought he might lose his sanity in the pleasure of the other man’s touch.

“God, Trace.” The sun-heated water lapped at Jake’s feet as Trace’s lips parted and he felt the warmth of Trace’s mouth, exploring the length of him, tasting and sucking there.

Now I’ve really lost my mind.

“Hardly,” murmured Trace, circling his tongue around the sensitive tip before swallowing it down until his mouth met the reddish curls at the base of Jake’s cock. “You’ve just found it.”

He could barely breathe to feel that warm heat. And that tongue! God, that tongue was at once both heavenly and sinful. Trace sucked in his cheeks, increasing the pressure—that incredible, perfect pressure that made Jake forget everything. Teeth, lips, and tongue combined in the most exquisite way.

Jake realized his lover no longer held his wrists when he felt lithe fingers scrape the sensitive skin of his perineum and a firm hand cup his balls, then roll them about. “Shit!” he cried out, the sound of his voice lost on the crashing waves. “Shit, shit, shit!” A finger pressed against his tight opening, and it was just too much for him. He came hard in Trace’s mouth, shuddering and clutching Trace’s hair in his hands.

The cell phone alarm buzzed, and Jake awoke with a start, panting. He was still on the couch, wearing the same pair of pants as before. The apartment was dark. He was soaked in sweat. He felt the sticky warmth of his release on his abdomen. He was half-hard just remembering.

“Helluva dream,” he muttered to himself. He got up and headed for the shower, stripped off his pants, and set the temperature as cold as he could stand it. “You are one fucked-up SOB,” he added, shaking his head and grabbing the shampoo.

That was a dream, wasn’t it? he wondered as he rinsed the shampoo from his long hair.

Release Party: “The Trust” – Artificial Romance?

June 18, 2012

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the subject of three of my favorite sci fi movies of all time:  “2001, A Space Odyssey,” “Blade Runner” and “The Terminator.”  All three movies involve self-aware computer “beings.”  Wherever you look, whether it’s in the toy store, on line communities, or science, AI is the big new thing.  My daughter just got a new iPhone that talks back to her (Siri).  So when my co-author, Venona Keyes, suggested a gay spy thriller featuring a microchip that is like a virtual hero, I said, “Way cool!”

The Trust” is the story of Jake Anders, who was recruited into a CIA-backed agency, The Michelson Trust, by Trace Michelson, the grandson of the agency’s creator and the agency’s current director.  The flesh and blood Trace trains Jake and ultimately asks Jake to participate in “Project Resurrection.”  Jake receives one of two prototype Sim chips, the “Trace Sim,” created using the life experiences and personality of Trace himself.  But when Trace is assassinated, all that remains of Trace is embodied in the microchip Jake now shares his mind with.   Or so it seems, until the Sim chip becomes Jake’s reality.

So what happens when you fall in love with the artificial recreation of a man?  And what happens when that artificial man becomes real?  For Jake, he begins to doubt that Trace is really dead, and he goes on a dangerous journey across continents to uncover the truth behind the legacy of Trace Michelson and, perhaps find Trace himself.  Along the way, Jake discovers that the Trace Sim is capable of far more than anyone ever realized.

Is there a happily ever after for Jake?  Yes.  Definitely.  It’s a romance!  How do we get there?  That’s the fun part.  You’ll have to read the book to find out! Interested?  Enter to win an ebook copy by commenting here.  Good luck! -Shira

Release Party: “The Trust” – Read an Excerpt (PG-13 Excerpt)

June 18, 2012

Hey y’all!  Here’s the blurb and an excerpt from my third release from Dreamspinner Press, “The Trust” which I co-authored with the lovely Venona Keyes.  It’s a sci fi romance/suspense thriller about a secret agent who races against time to learn the truth about the technology implanted in his body and the man he fell in love with ten years before. Not sure what that’s all about?  Think “gay James Bond with lots of cool gadgets.”  Oh, and a sweet HEA, of course!  Enjoy, and don’t forget to comment to be entered to win an ebook copy! -Shira

Blurb:   Eight years ago, Jake Anders was a college kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Then Trace Michelson recruited him into The Trust, a CIA-backed agency whose “executives” eliminate rogue biotechnology operations. Trace was everything Jake ever wanted in a man: powerful, brilliant, and gorgeous. But Jake never admitted his attraction to his mentor, and Trace always kept Jake at arm’s length.

Now Trace is dead and Jake is one of The Trust’s best operatives, highly skilled and loyal to the organization. But the secret agent has his own secret: six years ago, before he was assassinated, Trace designed a Sim chip containing his memories and experiences—and now that chip is part of Jake. It’s just data, designed to augment Jake’s knowledge, but when Sim becomes reality, Jake wonders if Trace is still alive or if Jake really is going crazy like everyone claims. He doesn’t know if he can trust himself, let alone anyone else.

To learn the truth about Trace and the chip, Jake embarks on a dangerous mission—except he’s not the only one looking for the information. Some of the answers are locked in his head, and unless he finds the key, he’ll be killed for the technology that’s become a part of him.

Now, more than ever, Jake wishes Trace were here to guide him. Too bad he’s dead… right?


Pre-publication Excerpt, final version may change!

Chapter One: The Hitman is Hit

Shit. Shit, shit, shit!

Blood gushed from his leg, and for just an instant, he watched it with growing anger. Watched it, that was, until the adrenaline kick-started his brain and he realized he would die if he kept bleeding like this.

Gotta stop the bleeding, he thought with desperation.

He dragged himself to the women’s bathroom, pushed hard on the door, and stumbled in. Between the sound of the door slamming against the wall and the sight of all the blood, the startled women inside screamed and ran out.

Blood coated everything he touched. He leaned against a stall door, and it swung open under his weight. One hand applying pressure to the gunshot wound, he elbowed the toilet-paper holder. He fell to the floor and the roll sprang free. He placed the cheap one-ply paper over the wound and pressed down hard—it only took a minute before the roll was a deep crimson.

He tapped the microphone on his chest and shouted, “Agent down! I need an extraction, now!”

“Who’s down?” came the calm, even voice in his earpiece.

“I am. Sandoval fucking ambushed me. Caught me in the leg. Hit an artery.”

“Anders, where are you?”

“I—” He broke off, looking up to see a slender man leaning casually against the stall door, grinning at him. The Silver Fox, Jason Sandoval. Sandoval wasn’t Jake’s target, but it seemed as though Jake was his. Jake had always detested Sandoval. Now he knew why.

“So… there you are. Thanks for leaving me a trail of bloody breadcrumbs to follow.”

“Agent Anders, where are you?” the voice in his ear persisted. He ignored it.

“Looks like ya got a bleeder there, Anders.”

They had never been friends, but they had been colleagues. Now, Jake wanted nothing more than to blow the smirk off the other man’s face.

Fucking traitor.

“I’ve had worse,” Jake lied. If Sandoval wanted him dead, he’d probably only have to wait a few minutes for him to bleed out. But that wasn’t Sandoval’s style—he had never been a patient man, and Jake knew it.

“Not sure that’s true, but I admire your bravado.”

Again, the voice in his ear. “Agent Anders, who’s there with you?”

“What do you want, Sandoval?” Jake asked. He’d pretty much always suspected Jason Sandoval was insane. Now he was sure of it.

Who the hell is he working for? Foreign government? Private concern?

They had come here as a team, their mission to intercept a scientist who was in town for a conference. But things had gone horribly wrong. It had been a setup, the entire scenario. Three of their own agents had turned their guns against him and his backup team. But why?

Fucking traitors. All of them.

“Well, I could watch you bleed to death. Or I suppose I could just end it for you now. Seems a shame, though. You really were a first-class ops guy, Jake. Now your life is fading away, and I get to witness it.”

Jake slowly reached inside his pants.

“Now, now, Jake,” drawled Sandoval, “no cheatin’. Take that hand out of your pocket.”

“I’m trying to stem the bleeding at the pressure point.”

“Like hell.”

Jake withdrew his hand and flicked his wrist faster than the other man could follow, impaling him in the right eye with a knife. Sandoval staggered backward and out of the stall without uttering a word. Jake reached for his gun, but it was missing. When had he lost it? He needed to finish Sandoval off before he was the one lying on the floor with his brains blown out.

He heard the distinctive muffled “pflnk” of a silencer. With the last scrap of his energy, Jake pushed the stall door open in time to see Sandoval fall backward, hitting the tile wall and sliding onto the floor. He was dead.

“Jake,” came a familiar baritone voice. “Reduce your heart rate, just as I taught you. It will slow the bleeding.”

Jake closed his eyes, and in spite of the ice that flowed through his veins and the drowsiness that threatened to pull him under, he forced himself to meditate. He envisioned the frantic beating of his heart slowing down, imagined the damaged artery closing, the blood clotting, and the wound beginning to heal. The thundering rush of blood in his ears began to ebb, and the dizziness subsided. He slowed his breathing, and his heart steadied.

“Good work, Jake,” he heard the soothing voice say. “It isn’t your time to be with me. Not yet.”

“Agent Anders! Agent Anders!” He wanted to swat the microphone away, but he didn’t have the strength.

He blinked, trying to focus his uncooperative eyes on the figure that stood before him. “Trace?” he whispered as he passed out.

“Fucking traitor Sandoval,” Ryan Roberts growled from nearby.

“If Jake hadn’t killed him, I’d’ve gladly done it myself.” John Carson—Jake recognized the voice.

“He’s a damn lucky bastard.” Ryan’s voice again.

“Un-fucking-believable. Got that tourniquet on and still had the presence of mind to write the time on his leg,” added Carson.

“I gotta hand it to ’im—got Sandoval once in the eye, then turned around and shot ’im to make sure he was dead—all while he’s fuckin’ bleeding to death.”

“Gentleman, Agent Anders needs to rest.” A woman’s voice this time: soothing, no-nonsense, and familiar.

“Sorry, Dr. Carroll.” Carson sounded embarrassed, but Jake could hear the note of concern in his gruff voice. “We just wanted to be here when Jake wakes up.”

“He will regain consciousness when his body’s ready. He’s lost a lot of blood, and he’s been in surgery.”

“We’ll wait,” Ryan replied. Jake almost smiled to hear the stubbornness in Ryan’s voice.

“Agent Roberts, Agent Carson, the director has called a meeting, and you both need to be in attendance.” Stephanie Carroll’s voice was now commanding.

Jake felt a strong hand squeeze his shoulder. “You better get your lazy ass outta here, Anders, or I’m gonna have to beat the crap outta ya.” The sounds of chairs scraping the floor and fading footsteps followed Ryan’s words.

“It’s all right, Agent Anders. They’re gone,” Jake heard a few minutes later.

The dim light of the room was too bright. Jake squinted, blinked several times, and slowly opened his eyes. He had a splitting headache.

“Welcome back to the world of the living, Jake.”

Jake attempted to smile back at the gentle-voiced doctor, but it came out more like a grimace.

“Are you in pain?”

“My head feels like it’s gonna explode.”

“I’ll give you something.”

Jake watched as the tiny woman took a syringe and injected it into the IV in his arm. He felt warmth radiate from the site of the line as his muscles relaxed and the pounding in his head began to lessen.

“Thanks. I think I feel less ‘vincible’ now,” he said, managing a lopsided grin.

She smiled at him. “Jake, I really can’t tell you how impressed I am with the skills you exhibited under the extreme pressure of the situation.”

“I had help.”


“The Trace Sim. He told me to slow down my breathing and meditate. I imagined my artery knitting itself back together.”

“Impressive. I didn’t think the simulation microchips were so detailed in their programming.”

Jake shrugged. “Neither did I. It’s like he was right there in front of me.”

“When our bodies are under acute stress, we often imagine things,” she replied in a kind but patronizing tone.

Jake guessed that she’d heard the recording of his call for help and had wondered why he’d spoken Trace Michelson’s name.

“He seemed so real. Not like the usual Sim.”

Her answer was what he’d expected and hoped for: reassuring and kind. “The brain is an amazing organ. In times of severe stress, it can be a powerful tool to ensure survival.”

The tension in his shoulders abated with her words.

She’s right. It was probably a combination of the Sim and my own imagination. Either way, it worked, right?

She offered him a sympathetic smile. “You need to rest.” She checked the IV and made a notation on the chart at the foot of his bed.

She turned to leave, then paused as if considering something. “You know, Jake,” she said with a contemplative hand to her chin, “applying a tourniquet made from the toilet roll spindle and your torn shirt was quite remarkable, given the extent of your injury. But you didn’t really need it—the artery had already begun to heal on its own. It appears Dr. Michelson’s techniques are more effective than we originally thought. Quite fascinating.”

“Tourniquet?” It was the second time someone had mentioned it since he’d regained consciousness. But he didn’t remember a tourniquet, let alone applying one to himself in the heat of the moment.

“The one you placed on your leg before you lost consciousness.”

“I don’t remember that. The last thing I remember is Trace.”

“Writing the time you placed the tourniquet on your leg required true presence of mind, Jake,” she continued, undaunted. “We were able to quickly ascertain how long the circulation had been compromised.”

“I don’t remember that either.” He frowned.

She gave him another reassuring smile. “You really must get some rest now. I’ll be back to check on you later. Would you like something to drink?”

“Something more than ice chips?” he asked with a hopeful expression.

“I’ll see that you get some water.”

“Thanks.” He closed his eyes. He heard her walk out of the room and close the door behind her.

Tourniquet? Writing the time on my leg? And who killed Sandoval? I couldn’t have shot him; I didn’t have my gun….

It made no sense. An image of the man with dark hair and slate-blue eyes filled Jake’s mind. He’d seen that face many times while training with his Sim. He had known the real man himself years before—Trace Michelson had recruited Jake into the Trust. But for years, it had been only a virtual Trace who had inhabited his mind, training him, sharing his knowledge with his host as all Sims did.

This was different. He was so… real.

He forced his eyes open again and stared up at the ceiling. The gray acoustic tiles provided him with no answers.

“Idiot,” he muttered as he fought the overwhelming urge to sleep. “Of course he wasn’t there. He’s been dead for nearly five years.”

Excerpt – Thank My Lucky Scars by Tia Fielding

April 26, 2012

Just to change things up a bit, here’s a tiny PG-ish excerpt of yesterday’s release, Thank My Lucky Scars. I hope you enjoy it!

“Half now, half later? Please?” he asked and put on a puppy dog face that made me laugh and then surrender.

“Fine, but if I go all mushy and loopy and try to fondle your assets, it’s not me, it’s the drugs.” I huffed and held out my hand for the pill bottle. “I’m supposed to take two, so I’ll take one. Look.” I made a show of taking one pill from the bottle, placing it on my tongue, and then swallowing it with a sip of water.

I caught, just for a second, Brian watching my throat as I  swallowed,  but  then  he  walked  around  the  coffee  table  to sit down again.

“It’s an interesting song,” he said, listening with his head tilted a little, and then he grinned. “And you’re stating you wouldn’t want to, quote, ‘fondle my assets’ if you weren’t under the influence of some nasty medication?”

His  expression  was  so  teasing,  so  perfectly  what  I  had thought he was like, that I wasn’t sure if this was the real him or the Brian he usually showed to people he didn’t know. Fanboys like me.

“I wouldn’t go that  far, but I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the idea that I won’t be doing any… fondling, for a few months at least.” I rapped my knuckles on my cast.

“Oh, right, that does put a damper on things.” Brian nodded  and  gestured  at  my laptop.  “Can  I  show  you something?” he asked.

“Sure. And besides, I read the blog of that one porn fanatic guy—he said you don’t fondle your fanboys anyways,” I said as neutrally as I could while I settled a bit lower in the corner of the couch. I wasn’t getting loopy yet, but I was tired from the pain, and it was beginning to show.

The last contest-question and some rambling a bit later!

Music Inspirations for Coming Home

April 9, 2012

MJ back, talking about my book Coming Home, out today from Dreamspinner Press! This post is about inspirations — and as those who know me will tell you, my biggest inspiration is music.

 One of the things I nearly always do when I’m writing a book is I make a playlist on my iPod. I listen to those songs in the car, when I’m doing laundry, thinking and forming characters and scenes in my mind. Sometimes the music plays a more concrete role, like a title or a character name, but sometimes it’s all in the atmosphere. Coming Home is a warm, sleepy, small town story, that takes place in spring and early summer. The music I chose kind of molded the scene and the feel of the story. I thought I’d share a couple of the songs with you:

This is Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs. They’re a Washington Band that I was listening to around the time that I was working on the finishing touches. I like the sleepy melancholy:


Both of these songs were on the original playlist. I can’t hear them without thinking of Lex and Tally:)

What if You – Joshua Radin


Matt Nathanson All We Are


And here’s an excerpt to go with my inspirational music:) In this short scene Lex is starting to realize  how he feels about his employee:

His family thankfully dropped the subject of Tallis Carrington for the rest of the meal. Lex could tell it was on his mother’s mind, though. Her face showed it. He was grateful that she’d let it rest but knew that a shop visit wasn’t far off. If there was one thing his mother was, it was protective, and she had a very clear memory of Lex’s year as Tally’s number one victim. He shook his head a bit at that thought. No, he was never Tally’s victim.

Tally was a different person than the dick who’d ruled the school with his gang of apes in lettermen’s jackets. Tally was… real and hardworking and interested in learning new things. Lex couldn’t believe how much the new Tally had superimposed itself in his mind over the old snarling image that had been imprinted there. Now all Lex could see was the way he smiled or how he went out of his way to help as much as he could… oh Jesus. It’s too late.

Lex excused himself soon after dinner was over, claiming early mornings and breakfast rushes as he backed hastily toward the door before another well-meaning intervention could start. In the peace and quiet of his car he admitted what he’d been avoiding all week, especially during the tenseness of Friday night.

“I want him,” he muttered, testing out the words to see how they felt in his mouth. “I want my straight employee who also happens to be the same guy everyone in town hates. Except me.”

Oh, God.

Just a Taste

April 9, 2012

Hey again, this is MJ O’Shea back, talking about my book Coming Home. I wanted to share a little bit more about the book and add a couple of excerpts:)

This book is driven by two characters who had different but equally rough childhoods. One came from a loving but poor home, and was tortured at school, the other, a rich home not exactly filled with love — he spent most of his teens living a lie…and being cruel to others in a misguided ploy to fit in.

We have Tally, or Tallis Carrington, former rich boy who has fallen on hard times and desperately needs to find a job in the town where he used to be practically royalty and a big bully at the local high school

And we have Lex, who was nerdy and soft, tormented by Tally and his gang of friends. He’s come back as a successful business owner, handsome, confident, but still harboring a grudge at the boy who’d hurt him so much in the past.

When the tortured and the torturer meet again years later, sparks fly — although not necessarily the good kind. Tally is clueless, Lex is angry, and, well, you’ll see the results:

The coffee shop was in one of those turn-of-the-century brick buildings that seemed to line the streets of small towns all over Washington. From the outside, the place looked cheery and inviting, nestled among the renovated lofts at the far end of Old Main. A good sign, Tally hoped. The door was flanked by two potted Italian cypresses and inlaid with stained glass. There was a quaint hand-painted “open” sign dangling from a hook near the top. The hinges squeaked when Tally pushed it open, but even the squeak was oddly homey.

Inside the shop was even better. Warm and fragrant, the air drew him in and enveloped him. The walls had been painted spring green and decorated with framed black and white photographs of the surrounding beaches. Miles of old woodwork and wainscoting gleamed glossy white, and the floors were stained a warm cherry color. He longed to sink into one of the soft, cushy armchairs and close his eyes for about a week. But he couldn’t. He had work to do—and at that moment, his work was convincing one damn business in his wretched hometown that he wasn’t the big loser they all seemed to think he was.

Tally heard a shuffling sound coming from behind the high granite-topped counter.

“Hello?” he called tentatively. “I’m here to fill out an application.”

There was a small crash and a muffled “shit.”

Tally leaned over the counter to see what all the fuss was. There was a man kneeling on the floor trying to hold a halfway slit bag of coffee beans together while at the same time balancing a stack of white plates with his knee so they didn’t crash to the floor and break. Tally fought laughter as he leaned over to right the stack of plates.

“Thank you so much!” came a relieved voice… a relieved voice that made Tally’s heart pound in his chest, throbbing and trying to be noticed as if it were saying “pay attention to this one.” The rest of his body responded in that one short moment, hardening, quickening, coming to life. Tally gave himself a mental slap on the wrist. Really. Not the best time for that.

The man started to stand, turning slowly with the slit coffee bag still balanced on his thigh.

“Hey, not a problem. My name is—” Tally’s voice stuck in his throat, like he was some little kid with his first crush. The other guy’s name must have been gorgeous—sandy hair somewhere between brown and blond, a little shaggy and curling at the ends, big hazel eyes with long curly lashes and a mouth that Tally could have spent hours kissing. Tally wanted to drool. He stuck out his hand and tried to repeat himself. “My name is—”

After one look at Tally, the stranger’s beautiful face had gone from friendly to scathingly irritated in a matter of nanoseconds. “Yeah, I know who you are. I don’t really think I need the help after all.”

Not another one. Tally started to panic.

“Listen….” He paused, hoping for a name.

“Lex,” the man supplied grudgingly.

“Listen, Lex,” Tally repeated. “I know everyone in this town hates me. Obviously even people I’ve never met. But I really need a job, and you wouldn’t have had an ad in the paper if you didn’t need someone to help you. Couldn’t it maybe be possible that you might put aside whatever it is that you’ve been told about me and my father and just take a chance that maybe I’ll be a good employee?”

Lex cocked his head to the side, regarding Tally silently. Talk about nerve-wracking.

“Everything I know about you tells me you won’t.”

Tally backed away toward the door. “It was a long time ago,” he mumbled. “People change. Even me.” Or maybe people were never really what they seemed.

Lex gave him one more long pensive stare, completing Tally’s humiliation. Everyone who remembered him hated him, and it seemed that his reputation had spread to gorgeous strangers as well. He wanted to crawl back to his grandmother’s house and hide in his room to lick his wounds. Was I really that bad? He reached for the handle on the paned- glass door.

“You know what?” Lex’s voice surprised him. He froze. “Fine. I’ll give it a try. Not like I’ve had any other takers.” The last part was mumbled, but Tally heard it just the same. “I start early. Five on weekdays, six on Saturday and Sunday.”

“That’s okay,” Tally said quickly, ready to agree with nearly anything.

“Do you know how to make coffee?”

“No, but I worked in restaurants for years.” Please let that be enough.

“I’m not going to want to tell you how to do things twice.”

“I learn quickly.” Tally hated to feel hope welling in his chest, but it was there—faint yet insistent. As grudging as beautiful Lex seemed to be, there was finally someone willing to give him half a chance.

“Then I’ll see you in the morning. Five. Not even a minute late.”  …

I don’t think I’ll be spoiling things too much to say that soon Lex starts to notice that Tally might not be the jerk he used to be…and not only that, but Lex is actually very attracted to him. And so the fun begins:)

He was foaming a latte, the fourth pumpkin spice of the night, when he felt Tally’s presence behind him, close and warm and looming. Tally brushed up against him and reached around Lex’s shoulder to grab the big cinnamon shaker that was sitting on the counter right in front of Lex.

“Sorry,” he muttered quietly, right up against Lex’s ear. “Molly wants cinnamon sprinkled on her muffin.”

Shivers burst across Lex’s skin. “It’s okay,” he tried to mumble back. His voice came out in a squeak.

He felt the warmth of Tally’s breath on his neck, and when he inhaled he could smell him, spicy and sexy and lingering in the air. Tally hadn’t moved. The moment stretched, excruciating and hot. Lex felt every single one of his crashing heartbeats. Why doesn’t he move? He has to know what he’s doing to me! And then Tally did move, but closer, just a small little movement, the difference barely perceptible other than from the wash of warmth that Lex felt deep in his belly. There were fingers brushing lightly at his hip, a touch that could be interpreted in so many ways, and then he was gone—back to chatting with Molly Bates, the girl who always wanted cinnamon sprinkled on her chocolate muffin.

Lex clenched his jaw. Get a grip, Barry! But he couldn’t. His pulse thundered, turning his face red, making his groin throb painfully. He had to stare at the counter and do multiplication tables in his head for long moments before he could even consider turning to place the drink on the counter without making a public spectacle of himself.

“You okay, Lex?” There it was again—that light touch, on his shoulder this time, and Tally’s voice so concerned against his ear. Lex’s stomach quivered and clenched in on itself.

“Yeah, just hungry I guess,” he lied. “Got a little lightheaded.”

“You want me to make you a bagel with cream cheese? You probably need to get some carbs in you.”

No, I need you in me. Or maybe me in you. I don’t care as long as I can fill my mouth with your skin.

“Sure,” Lex answered weakly. He’d have to choke the bagel down. Bread wasn’t even close to what he wanted to swallow.

Moron. That’s Tallis Carrington. Tallis jerk-of-the-century Carrington. Straight, asshole… well, reformed asshole. Maybe. Point is, hands off!

In the self-lecture department, Lex knew he’d get an A for effort. It was the follow-through where he failed. Couldn’t seem to talk his body into listening… or his mind, for that matter. They both kept screaming “I want him!”

“Here, eat this, Lex. You’ll feel better.”

A toasted bagel with cream cheese was placed in front of him, accompanied by another hand on the shoulder. Lex stood at the counter, breathing slowly and trying to slow his racecar libido down before it crashed all over the place.

“I’m good. Thanks.”

Lex was surprised by the sharpness of his voice. His lust and self-annoyance had come out of his mouth aimed at the undeserving Tally. He turned to apologize, but by the time he’d turned, Tally was on the other side of their space, taking an order from two giggly teenaged girls who made no secret of the fact that they were checking him out. Lex thought he might look a bit hurt, but he hid it with an open smile and flirtatious banter. The two girls ate it up, flipping their hair and applying lip gloss. Tally silently handed Lex the girls’ drink order, then turned to wipe off the counter.

“Hey, Tally. I’m sorry. It’s been a long week. I don’t want you to think I’m a big asshole, I’m just—”

“Really, don’t worry about it. I understand. No hard feelings.” Tally gave Lex a shy smile. “You better make those two girls their drinks before they eat me alive,” he whispered. “I think one of them tried to slip me her phone number.”

Lex returned the smile, glad that he could breathe again. “You should escape while you have the chance,” he whispered back. “I think I can take it from here if you want to get home.”

“You sure?” Did Tally look disappointed? No, more like you’re projecting your own shit onto him.

“Yeah, I’m sure. Go get some rest. I’ll see you Sunday morning.”

Tally untied his apron and gave Lex another one of those killer shy smiles. “Night, Lex. I’ll see you Sunday.”

Okay, that’s it for this post! Hope you’re enjoying the excerpts so far. I’ll be back soon with some more:)

:) MJ

“No Quarter” Day: Excerpt the Second.

April 3, 2012
A short excerpt this time, a quiet moment between Michael and Gabriel.
Gabriel rolled off him and onto his back, shifting to get comfortable. Tugging Michael into the curve of his arm, he smiled to himself as Michael curled up around him, a leg thrown over Gabriel’s and an arm slung over Gabriel’s chest as Michael rested his head on Gabriel’s shoulder.
“Comfortable?” Gabriel asked.
“Yes, thank you.” Michael let out a slow breath. “Gabriel?”
“I… have not felt this for a very, very long time,” Michael said slowly, “and I do not want you to wonder or leave it unsaid. It is important to say it, I feel, especially as we do not know what may happen.”
“Oh?” Gabriel shifted a little so he could look into Michael’s eyes.
“Yes. Gabriel, I… I love you.” The last three words were said in a rush.
Gabriel smiled at that, running his fingers over Michael’s shoulder and arm, over the tattoo of the phrase “I am a shield and I am a sword, I protect and I serve” in Hebrew that stood out in black ink against Michael’s olive-hued skin. “And I love you, Michael.”
“You do not have to say—” Michael began, but Gabriel cut him off.
“Hush. I know how I feel, and I love you. Deal with it.”
Michael huffed at that. “Fine. I shall deal with it, as you say.”
Gabriel started laughing. “You’re adorable.”
“I disagree.”
“As is totally your right.” Still laughing, Gabriel pulled Michael even closer, so that Michael was half on top of him, and wrapped his arms around Michael, holding him close. “Get some rest.”
Michael hummed and nodded once. “I think I will. A short nap. You will be here?” The hopeful note in his voice was not lost on Gabriel.
“Aye, I’ll be here. I’ll always be here.”
Michael smiled at that. “Thank you,” he whispered.
Gabriel felt Michael stir a few hours before dawn. “Hey,” he said softly, slowly stroking his fingers through Michael’s hair. “I’m going to have to go soon, go and take care of my kids.”
Michael stretched and yawned, rubbing his eyes with the heel of one hand. It was an almost childlike action, and Gabriel couldn’t help but smile.
“As you say,” Michael agreed.
“I was thinking, though, that maybe you’d like to come with me back to mine? You could get to know my kids a bit better, and they could get to know you—and we could spend more time together?”
Michael smiled at that. “I would like that very much, Gabriel. Do we have time for a brief shower before departing?”
“Aye,” Gabriel leaned in to press a soft kiss to Michael’s forehead. “It’s not yet dawn. We got a few hours.”
“Good.” Michael stretched again, like a big cat. “Thank you for staying, da bao.”
“Da bao?” Gabriel raised an eyebrow. “Big treasure?”
Michael looked away. “It seemed fitting. You do not mind?”
“No. I don’t mind.” Gabriel kissed Michael’s forehead again. “I like it a lot.”
“As you say.” Michael sat up, running a hand down Gabriel’s chest. “Let us bathe, da bao.”
Gabriel smiled and nodded. “Aye.”
“Thank you both for staying with ’em,” Gabriel said, shaking Remiel and Samael’s hands.
“It was no trouble, Gabriel,” Samael said. “I enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with your children.”
“Shateiel and his bonded stopped by,” Remiel put in.
“Really?” Gabriel’s eyebrow shot up. “Why?” Shateiel was mute, but able to communicate telepathically with angelkind and those sentient beings who had the ability of telepathy.
“Shateiel only said to let you know he’s finished up with the assignments you gave him earlier, so he’s available if you need him for anything, and Agrat offered her services if you can think of a way they’d be of use. Then Shateiel got all stony faced grr-angel, and Agrat patted his arm a few times while he huffed in beatific silence, and then they left.” Remiel grinned. “It’s a good thing she doesn’t mind the silence. I teased her about that. She said he’s plenty loud in her head for her not to notice the silence, and then he blushed red like a tomato and stared at the ceiling.”
“Now, now, Shateiel’s a good officer,” Gabriel chided. “Although,” he added, grinning, “I ain’t never seen him blush, but now I think I have to. I’ll mention that when I see him.”
“He’s creepy sometimes.” Remiel shrugged. “Which I suppose is the point, seeing as he’s the Angel of Silence and Soldiers. How on earth he scored Agrat is still a mystery to me.”
“Mayhap Raziel can answer it for you.” Samael chuckled.
“Or mayhap we could cease gossiping entirely,” Michael said.

“No Quarter” Day: Excerpt the First.

April 3, 2012

Here’s an excerpt from “No Quarter.” It’s a scene between the Archangel of Death, Samael, and Archangel Gabriel’s two adopted children, Mira and John. It provides some of the back history of the Archangels in the form of a story told by Samael.

Samael smiled at Mira as she joined John in sprawling on the floor of the living room. While some of the Heavenly Host might sneer at the prospect of spending time with Gabriel’s adopted human children, and consider it little more than babysitting and a demeaning trial and waste of time at that, Samael was entirely the opposite. Humans were made by God; Archangels were commanded to guide and protect them. To Samael, it was as simple as that.

Gabriel’s two children were also two humans that Samael was deeply fond of. Mira, with her long, wavy blonde hair and green eyes, was a delight; her laughter was infectious, and she had always, even from when she had been a small child, questioned him closely about the meaning of the stories he had told her. He had helped Gabriel teach her, helped raise her, comforted her in the night when she had woken from nightmares while Gabriel had been away on a mission. He had bonded with her almost from the moment Gabriel had handed her to him as a tiny two-year-old toddler, her eyes wide and glassy with tears, her lower lip wobbling as she tried not to weep as he took her into his arms. She had been so small then, so delicate, he had been half-afraid he would break her. But Gabriel trusted him, and Gabriel’s trust and confidence in him were not things that Samael intended to lose. When Mira had smiled a small, shy, hopeful smile at him that day, she had reached out with her tiny hands and claimed his heart. Samael was as devoted to Gabriel’s daughter as he was to his son, as he was to the rest of his kind.

John, Gabriel’s younger child, had come to Gabriel in tragic circumstances, and Samael remembered the day that he, Gabriel, and Remiel had found the infant, squalling helplessly upon a crude altar in the jungles of South America. He had felt rage unlike anything he had experienced for thousands of years as he had beheld the zealot who strove to sacrifice the child to the Son of God. Gabriel had lopped the head off the man wielding a knife above the baby’s sternum without a word and scooped the child up in his arms, as Samael turned and laid waste to the cultists who had rushed to defend the man who would sacrifice an infant.

That day was one of the days that Samael, Archangel of Death, would never forget, and he had seen many such days. John, once he had settled into life with Gabriel and Mira, had grown into a quiet, shy, intense child. His intensity had given him a gravitas that made him appear much older than he really was. He had eschewed the companionship of humans his own age, preferring to spend his time with animals, and at school he had spent his free time in the library or helping his biology teachers. He was as introverted as Mira was extroverted and had dark blond hair and hazel eyes.

The two children also resembled Gabriel. Perhaps it was a mark of the Archangel who had raised them as his own that had somehow imprinted itself upon them, but there was a familial resemblance that sometimes made Samael do a double take. Gabriel had adopted children from all over the world over the many centuries of his life, and none of them had resembled him so closely physically as Mira and John.

Now, with Gabriel away training humans in specialized combat for Michael, Samael had taken it upon himself to spend the day with Gabriel’s children. The way they called him “Uncle” never failed to stir his Grace, the light of an angel’s soul, and he treasured every time they used the term with him. While he and Gabriel were not brothers, they were of the Archangel Brotherhood, and Mira and John’s love for him as their uncle was one of the most precious things in Samael’s life.

He toyed with a feather that had dropped from one of his wings, the black plume longer than any of those from a peacock’s tail. Angel wings were more than nine feet long at their fullest stretch, Archangel wings being longer still. Thus, their feathers were longer, finer, and stronger than those of birds.

“Is that from your wing, Uncle Sammy?” John regarded the feather in fascination.

“Yes.” Samael smiled, holding the feather out so they could see it more clearly. There was a deep, rich indigo sheen to the feather, more visible when direct sunlight shone on it. “From time to time, we lose feathers. It is a natural part of our biology.”

“Papa’s wings are like vulture’s wings, he said.” Mira was staring transfixed at the feather. “They’re all black and gray. Are yours like his too?”

“No, child, mine are just black. Save for this,” Samael indicated the sheen of indigo at the edge of the feather with his index finger. Against the darkness of his skin, the blackness of the feather seemed even more intense. “That is the color of my power.”

“Purple?” John looked confused. “Death’s purple?”

Samael laughed heartily at that. “No, dear one. Indigo. Death is shadows and light, death is everywhere, but death is not the end. Indigo is a mood and a color and a shadow. So it is with my power.”

“What about the other Archangels?”

“What about them, Mira?” Samael smiled fondly at her.

“What are their wings like? What color is their power?”

“Ah.” Samael sat back comfortably, idly turning the feather between his thumb and forefinger. “Michael’s power is gold, and his wings are russet, like those of an eagle owl. Gabriel, as you know, has black, white and gray mottled wings, like a vulture, and his power is silver. Raphael’s power and wings are both white, like a dove. Uriel’s wings are a dark gray, like a hawk, and his power is orange, like fire. Mine, as you can see with this feather, are black and my power is indigo. Metatron’s wings are mottled white and pale gray like a goose, and his power is pale blue. Tzadkiel’s wings are spotted and banded black on white, like a peregrine falcon, and his power is copper colored. Remiel’s wings are russet, tan, white and black, like those of a Mandarin duck, and his power is deep green. Haniel, Archangel of Love, has wings that are a soft gray, like the gray dove, and his power is red. And Raziel, our youngest Archangel, has dusky brown and white wings, like the swan goose, and his power is the color of bronze.”

Samael watched the two young people as they digested his words. Mira’s expression was thoughtful as she rested her chin in her hand, propped up on her elbow as she lay on her stomach. John, leaning back against the armchair in the corner of the living room with one of his legs stretched out, the other tucked beneath him, wore a slight frown on his handsome face.

“What troubles you, John?” Samael smiled. “I can see you are thinking hard.”

“Nothing really,” John admitted. “I just… they don’t say any of this stuff in the Bible or any of the other holy books.”

“No,” Samael agreed, “they do not.”


“Because there are things that humans are not meant to know. Consider how many wars have been fought because of religious disagreements. How many more would there be if such things were common knowledge?” Samael shrugged. “It is how things are. We are told that the information that exists about angelkind is enough for humanity to understand and no more and no less.”

“But you and Pops tell us stuff that isn’t in the Bible. Or stuff that’s hinted at,” John pointed out.

“True. We do. But you two are not about to declare war upon a nation, are you?”

John grinned. “No. That sounds like too much mingling with people for me.”

Mira laughed. “You’ll be the mystery man wherever we live, Mr. Solitary with his horses. I feel like I should buy you a cowboy hat or something,” she teased.

John shrugged. “Animals I get. People I don’t.” He was silent for a moment, and then, as Samael tilted his head to one side, John said, “But you’re not brothers, are you, I mean, not like we humans think of brothers, right?”

“No, we are not related in the way that humans define brothers or sisters.” Samael smiled a small smile. “We are of the choir of Archangels, which is best described as being akin to a religious order. You are both aware of there being many religious orders, such as the Brothers of the Christian Schools or the Christian Brotherhood of Ireland or the Little Sisters of the Assumption. The men and women who are part of these orders address each other as brother or sister; thus it is with us. We are, however, much, much older.”

Mira laughed at that. “You don’t look a day over forty, Uncle.”

“Thank you, dearest Mira.” Samael smiled warmly at her. “Does that description help you, John?”

“Yeah, yeah, it does.” John grinned. “I know angels are a totally different species to humans, but the way you describe the different choirs of angels as like different religious orders makes a lot of sense. I was sort of thinking it might be like different countries or something, but you’re all the same race, so that wouldn’t really work as an analogy.”

“Quite so.” Samael nodded. “You are wise, John.”

John flushed. “Not really,” he demurred.

“Uncle, can you explain how angel society works?” Mira canted her head slightly to one side. “Papa tried to explain, but he totally confused me.”

Samael chuckled. “Angels are a species,” he explained. “As you know, we are divided into choirs—what humans would call races as well as religious orders, as I explained previously. Thus, I am of the choir of Archangels. Gabriel commands the choir of Seraphim, who are the warrior legions of Heaven. Michael is the Commander in Chief of all of us, but he is not a ruler; his title is Prince of Heaven, yes, but he does not rule over us. We are ultimately responsible to God Himself.

“The Archangels are ten in number,” he continued, “and there are so few of us compared to the other choirs because we are the most powerful, the strongest, the most feared weapons and tools of Heaven. Even those whom you would consider to be noncombatant: Raphael, the Healer; Remiel, the Merciful; Haniel, the voice of Love. All of us fight when we are commanded to do so, and all of us have a blade and armor. We are the first made, along with Lucifer himself. After us came the other choirs. The Seraphim, Ophanim, Thrones, Dominions, Cherubim and the like. They all answer to us and we to God. Does that explain the structure of society of angelkind?”

Mira nodded slowly. “I think so. It’s like a race that’s governed by a body of ten and you answer to God?”

“Quite so, beloved Mira,” Samael said with a warm smile. He regarded them both thoughtfully and changed the subject to one he thought more important. “How do you both feel about this proposed move of Gabriel’s?”

“Good.” Mira nodded. “No, really, I do. I mean, I like it here, but it’s been really uncomfortable for a few months now. I wish what happened to me hadn’t, but… I can’t say I’m going to miss this place.”

“Same here.” John leaned back, resting his hands behind his head. “Wherever family is and my horses, I’m good.”

“You are good people,” Samael said simply.

“So are you, Uncle.” Mira smiled at him. “Can you tell us a story?”

He chuckled at that. “I see, you flatter me in the hopes of tales of the past!”

“You tell good stories.” The smile broadened into a grin. “You tell us stuff that even the Apocrypha only hints at. It puts things into perspective. Wasn’t that what you said yesterday, John?” She turned to her brother.

“Yeah, I did.” John reached over to ruffle her hair, and she lightly smacked his knee in retaliation. “Ow, brat.”

“Oh hush, you, I didn’t hurt you.” Mira rolled her eyes theatrically, and John laughed. She turned back to Samael. “So, will you please tell us a story?”

“A story, then. What sort of a story?”

“From the early days,” John said instantly.

“On Earth,” Mira added.

“The early days on Earth.” Samael pondered it and smiled slightly. “As you wish.”

As Mira and John got comfortable on the floor, Samael began to speak.

“When the Earth was newly made, there were three races of beings. There were the angels, the demons, and the monsters. There were no humans then, not yet, for God had decided to send us down to ensure that His creation was safe and would be welcoming when humanity began to walk the Earth. The Earth was young and beautiful, and her seas were a rich, lustrous blue, her lands green and lush.

“The demons sought dominion, and they went forth, born as they were out of the first moments of Lucifer’s rage after his Fall. The Fallen Ones, angels who had followed him to Hell, remained at his side, and these newly made demons swarmed up out of their natural realm and onto the Earth.

“They strove at first to draw the monsters to their banner—they wheedled, they promised, they cajoled. And when their entreaties did not work, they used more foul means, but still the monsters remained firm and would not be drawn into their conflict. The monsters, what humanity calls such creatures as vampires, werewolves, shape shifters, djinn, faeries, dryads, naiads—all of these creatures and more—were born out of God’s regret, born out of His tears as Michael threw Lucifer down into Gehenna. They were—are—God’s children, even as we all are.

“One night, a werewolf by the name of Aiyah sought out Michael. She was weary and mortally wounded when she found him in council with the rest of us, but she survived long enough to tell us what the demons were doing. They were torturing the monsters, who sought only to survive and embrace the world made by God in peaceful existence, into doing their bidding. And by doing so, they were driving some of the clans of the monsters insane.

“She died in Michael’s arms, and he wept, for she was a valiant and steadfast friend to us all, and then he took up his blade, which shone with the golden light of his power. ‘Archangels,’ he said, ‘we must go forth and punish these iniquities so they know their place. They must not overrun this planet; they must not take control or break the balance that God wishes us to maintain’.

“We rose with him and we went out and we made war. Dreadful, terrible war, the first war outside of Heaven. This war was long and brutal, and it drew out those gifts we were made with when God first created us out of His thought. Gabriel, the General; Raphael, the Healer; Uriel, the Guardian; Michael, the Commander in Chief.

“It was sixty years into the war as you now measure time, and Gabriel went to Raziel and Uriel and commanded them to build a place of safety. For, he said, our forces were being injured, and we were not omniscient. Raphael and Remiel would need a secure place to practice their arts of healing and mercy, and the monsters who fought beside us and the Seraphim, Gabriel’s warrior angels, would need a place to rest in between battles. And so Raziel and Uriel went from the plain where battle raged and found a valley, a rich, beautiful valley, verdant and green with plant life, and there, too, were the first animals: unicorns and dragons, saber cats and mammoths. There was water—a crystal clear river that mankind later named the Euphrates, and there were flowers, wheat, fruit and vegetable plants and great, leafy trees stretching as far as the valley went.

“Together, Raziel and Uriel built a wall, a great, high wall, one hundred and forty feet high and sixty foot thick surrounding this beautiful valley. They created a gate out of Celestial steel and covered the stones of the wall with their power, protecting and reinforcing it. And then, within the boundaries of the wall, they built a city, a city the likes of which no human has seen since they were evicted from it by the command of God.

“Eden, Raziel named it, with its spiraling towers that almost touched the sky, its broad promenades and buildings with many windows to let in the light and air. Eden, which in the old language of angelkind means sanctuary. And Uriel left the city to gather up the wounded and Raphael and Remiel, who were caring for them all, and bring everyone there so that the injured might recover and heal.

“And Michael and Gabriel came with them, and Michael wept tears that became glass as soon as they touched the sand of the desert that lay for miles outside the borders of Eden, glass that was stronger than any glass that has been created since. Such glass can still be found in places in the Sahara and the Gobi. His tears were of relief and of joy, for he knew that God’s plan was truly working as it should be and progressing as it had been foretold, for Eden had been a concept that he had long discussed with God before there was such a thing as Time.”

“This is better than any movie,” Mira said softly as Samael paused to take a breath.

“No kidding,” John agreed.

The two of them fell silent as Samael took up the story once more. “God looked down on the workings of Raziel and Uriel and the destruction and carnage caused by the war fought by our kind, and He decided to end it. The demons were banished again to Hell, bound there by spells and sigils and wards that some foolish beings have tried to use to their own ends, raising demons for their own selfish purposes. He blessed those of the monsters who had fought with us and gave them lands and places wherein they could prosper. And then He blessed Eden and called it the Cradle of Civilization.

“There was a great, blinding light then, and we all shielded our eyes against it, for even though our true forms are bright light and energy, the light of God is brighter still. When it faded, we saw there in the city of Eden, you. Humans. God’s voice was heard then as He issued us our first commandment in that place.

“‘Thou, my beloved children, angels and Archangels, will guide, nurture, and protect these humans. Thou wilt serve them as thou serve Me, for such is My will, and the rewards shall be great.’

“There was great rejoicing, and Michael sent those of the Host who were not Archangel back to Heaven, leaving the ten Archangels of God to walk the Earth and serve. And the rewards were great and continue to be great, yes, even after the expulsion from Eden. For that, too, was a necessity, and it was intended to be a blessing in the long run and not a curse.”

Samael fell silent then and watched Mira and John who were gazing at him with expressions of open awe on their faces.

“Wow,” John said finally. “I’ve never heard that story before.”

“It has not been told since Adam was the Prince of the Garden,” Samael said reflectively. “He was a modest soul and his wife also.”

“Who told it?” Mira asked.

“Tzadkiel sometimes, Metatron other times.” Samael’s voice was soft. “Uriel, Michael, Gabriel, and I patrolled the walls of the city and kept guard. Raziel wrote a guide for Adam, a book of secrets and mysteries. Raphael made sure there was no unhealed sickness or injuries, Haniel arranged marriages.”

“Where did the Grigori come into it, then?” John asked.

“Long after those warm, peaceful days.” Samael sighed sadly. “They came, they watched as they were commanded. And then Ishtahar was born. When she was sixteen, she was made to be high priestess of Semjaza, for she was born at a certain time when the stars and moon were in a certain place in the sky, and so it was her destiny.”

“The one they call the Mother of Nephilim?” Mira’s eyes had grown large. “Because wasn’t Lilith the first wife of Adam and she went off and had giants as children?”

“Quite so, beloved Mira. The stories and histories gloss over the pain that Ishtahar endured in her role as high priestess and unwilling wife to an angel, but Semjaza was smitten with her, and he had to have her.” Samael shook his head sadly. “He was always selfish. He broke the laws of God—angels must not marry humans or breed with them—and so he was punished by Gabriel and locked into the constellation of Aquila. The other Grigori who believed as Semjaza did were thrown down into Hell and imprisoned there by Michael. It was just. Ishtahar was a quiet, shy, beautiful girl, she was intelligent and kind and compassionate, and she did not deserve the agonies he forced upon her.”

“Ishtahar… wait, isn’t she Uncle Remi’s girlfriend?” John frowned in confusion. “If the Grigori were punished, then how can they be together?”

Samael chuckled. “We—angelkind—are barren. We cannot procreate. We cannot breed, God saw to that after the Grigori were punished. We can, however, love, and so we do. We do not marry for that is not our way—that is a human ritual. We have our own rituals for lasting relationships. Generally, we do not take long-term partners that are human. It is… painful to do so. We live forever and humans do not, and the death of loved ones who are mortal is painful. Ishtahar, for her part, was punished with immortality, made to wander the world forever and made barren. Harsh, perhaps, but she has turned what was seen as a punishment into a blessing and done much with her extended life. She and Remiel are well suited to each other, and he adores her. God approved the match—neither can have children now and both are immortal. She is no longer truly human by virtue of her immortality.”

Mira’s face screwed up in thought as she turned that around in her head. “It sounds complicated,” she said finally.

“These things are often thought to be so,” Samael agreed. “Yet they are actually very simple. However, it is the simple things that are complex because of their simplicity.”

Mira blinked several times. “What? You totally lost me, Uncle!”

John laughed. “He lost me around Albuquerque, Mir. About all I got out of that was that angels don’t marry or have natural-born kids and Ishtahar’s immortal and no longer human.”

“That is correct.” Samael smiled a small smile. “In sum, that is correct.”

“You couldn’t just say that?” Mira asked.

“I could, but then it would have less impact, would it not?”

“Are you sure you weren’t a school teacher as well as an Archangel?” Mira teased, and Samael laughed loudly.

“No, dear child, not I. I am feared because I am Death. It is you and your brother, and your father, who welcome me most, who do not fear me. And so, I tell you these things so that you understand and appreciate what it is we all do.”

Mira got to her feet and moved to the sofa, sitting beside Samael and hugging him. It was an awkward hug, but Samael didn’t appreciate it any less as he hugged her in return.

“So angels don’t marry,” John mused, “then what do you do when you’re in lasting relationships, as you put it?”

“We bond.”



“And that means…?”

Samael smiled. “That is a story for another day. You two need rest, for the hour is growing late. I will tell Gabriel that you are both excited for the move to Deep Bay.”

“Fine.” John sighed with great exaggeration as he got to his feet. “But you should rest too, Uncle Sammy, okay?”

“Okay,” Samael said with a grin. “I will.”

“Good.” John gave him a quick hug and left the room.

Mira stretched up to kiss Samael’s cheek. “Thank you for telling us the story,” she said softly. “It was amazing.”

As she stood up, Samael held out the feather to her. “Here, child. For you.”

Wide-eyed, Mira took it. “Really?”

“Really.” Samael smiled. “Take it as my gift to you and sleep well.”

Mira’s fingers closed around the feather, and she nodded hard. “Thank you,” she said. “Good night, Uncle Sammy.”

“Good night, child.”

Samael sat back as she left the room, turning off the lamps with a thought, and reflected on the wonders of humanity as he waited for Gabriel to return home.