Okay, I promised and here I am! I think the first thing is to tell you about my holiday story at Changeling. They do a special group or series each December at the rate of several each week and have a super giveaway in conjunction with it. This year the title for the group is Yule Tied and of course when you give a bunch of authors a theme and turn them loose the results can be a real mixture! Although unlike some of my publishers, Changeling does the whole gamut of erotic romance tales from regular m/f to all sorts of ménage and other groupings and of course m/m and f/f. Being kind of used to doing the gay guys for my main characters, that was what I wound up with here.
There is just one cover for all of the stories with the title and author’s name the only difference so that’s a good marker at their website and elsewhere to grab one of these—or a handful if you are so inclined! Here is the link to the Changeling site and the cover.Link: http://www.changelingpress.com/
My tale is titled Gift of Love. For a variety of reasons, I just can’t seem to write a real “Christmas” story so this one is a Yuletide story (as opposed to Yule Tied!) and centers around a group of Wiccans and their celebration of this midwinter season. Here is the blurb and then I will give you a short PG-13 excerpt although the story is hot.
Scarred by an abusive stepfather who destroyed his confidence and faith, Rob is adrift. Trying to live on the street, he falls under the domination of Daniel, an older man who is only marginally kinder to him. This man, self-proclaimed leader of a Wicca coven, is very arrogant and self-centered. Through this mentor , Rob obtains a job in a book store. He also serves as an assistant to Daniel in rites and ceremonies, albeit living in fear of making mistakes. At a sabbat gathering, he meets Sean
Sean grew up in a Wiccan home and only left following his parents’ death in an accident. He has floundered along alone and now works as a nurse. Seeing a notice of a coven meeting in his new home town, he attends a sabbat gathering. There he meets and is instantly drawn to Rob, seeing the gentle, truly good soul behind his shyness. Sean recognized he must woo the other man carefully and win his trust before they can begin a real relationship. Daniel stands in the way. When Daniel’s overbearing ways finally create a rebellion in the group, Sean sees a chance to step in. Will he manage to show Rob that sex can be about caring, trust and love instead of domination and harsh control? Can Rob accept a yuletide Gift of Love?
Excerpt: This is Rob's and Sean’s first meeting:
(After he saw the notice in the news) Sean decided he’d go. He was off the next day and even as he went about his small personal chores, he felt a building excitement. Maybe it would be good to be among people who shared at least some of his background, who spoke and acted in ways familiar and once well-loved. Maybe he would even find some real friends among the group. Hope seemed an alien emotion but it felt good, all the same.
Sean made sure he arrived early. Only a few people were there when he entered the room. One couple came over to greet him and then two guys who seemed to be alone as he was approached to introduce themselves. Good start so far.
Right after he met Mike and Sam, everyone turned toward the doorway. A tall man with iron gray hair down to his shoulders swept in, trailing a heavy purple cape. Clearly used to attention and perhaps even servility, he nodded to everyone but did not smile.
“Hey, Daniel, good to see you.” That was Mike. The man frowned slightly at the casual address. “Hello Michael. I see you decided to join us again.”
The female half of the couple smiled as she said, “Well met, Arch Mage. I’m glad to see you’re feeling better after missing our last gathering.”
At that point, Sean’s attention wandered as another man appeared, almost as if he had stepped out of Daniel’s shadow. Slender and fair, he held himself with a kind of diffidence as he carried in his arms a bundle of furnishings for the ceremonial part of their gathering. With exaggerated care, he approached the table that clearly served as the alter and juggled the armload as he tried to extract the cloth from around the bundle and spread it out.
Sean hurried over. “Here, let me help you. You’d need five hands to do this all by yourself. I’ve set up altars before, maybe a little differently than you do it here but I can at least help hold things so nothing falls on the floor.”
The fair man looked up, a flare of gratitude in his pale blue eyes. “Oh, thank you. That’s so very kind. It would be terrible to drop something.” His gaze cut quickly to the caped man but the “Arch Mage” seemed to be occupied, greeting other arrivals. “I—I’m sure it will be all right even if you are a visitor. Just so we do everything to Daniel’s exacting specifications…”
The blond man seemed almost fearful, which struck Sean as odd, but up close, Sean could see he was very nice looking. He had a quality Sean could only term sweetness about him, something almost childlike and clearly eager to please. Sean’s fingertips brushed the other man’s hand as he took the athame and two candles from him to hold for a moment. A quick tingle of energy zipped up his arm. From the other man’s sudden tension, Sean felt sure he had sensed the same thing.
Together they soon had the altar arranged and ready. “I guess I should introduce myself,” the fair man said. “I’m Rob Cantwell. I—I’m kind of an understudy or assistant to Daniel Costeau, the Arch Mage. He has such a huge responsibility that he needs someone to do the grunt work. I try to do the best job I can because it’s all so very critical, so essential. I just wish I was more capable.”
Sean smiled. “I’m Sean Cassidy. It’s been awhile but I grew up in a coven with my folks. They weren’t the leaders but senior members and had a share in the sabbats and ceremonies. It looks to me like you have the set-up all down to the gnat’s eyelash.”
Rob sighed. “I try. I often mess up but I do try. I want so much to learn and become reliable, error-free. I think I’m just a natural klutz and fuck-up though.”
“Hey, don’t put yourself down like that. If you didn’t grow up in a coven or circle how could you expect to know everything right off? I take it you’re not a life long Wiccan?”
Rob showed a rueful grin as he shook his head. “Oh no, my stepfather was a fire-eating Baptist preacher. I’ve just been–well, Daniel took me under his wing a few months ago.”
Sean wanted to reach out and give the other man a hug. Something told him Rob had endured a lot of tough times and brought a heavy load of bad baggage into his adult life. Although he was no expert, Sean saw abused children and teens in his medical work and Rob displayed many similar cues.
Maybe that was why he seemed younger than his apparent age. Sean guessed Rob was about twenty-five, no more than a couple of years younger than he was, even though the fair man acted about sixteen. Despite that, he found Rob very attractive and a strange desire to protect him had emerged almost at once.