Wrap-Up Wednesday | May

It’s Wrap-Up Wednesday time and I don’t have a clue what I’ve read LOL I’ve reread a few books, DNFed a few that I won’t mention, and so on. So before I continue this post, allow me to have a look at my various reading apps 😂

ePistols at Dawn by Z.A. Maxfield

I borrowed this from the library. I believed I owned it, and maybe I do, but I couldn’t find it when I scrolled through my different ebook staches. I’m so disorganised these days. Sigh.

I love some parts of this book, and some I’m not loving at all, but now I’ve reread it, so I know! 😁

epistols at dawnChoose your weapons.

Jae-sun Fields is pissed. Someone has taken the seminal coming-out, coming-of-age novel Doorways and satirized it. He’s determined to use his Internet skills and his job as a tabloid reporter to out the author as the fraud and no-talent hack he’s sure she is.

Kelly Kendall likes his anonymity and, except for his houseboy, factotum and all-around slut, Will, he craves solitude. There’s also that crippling case of OCD that makes it virtually impossible for him to leave the house. He’s hidden his authorship of Doorways behind layers of secrets and several years’ worth of lies – until he loses a bet.

Satirizing his own work, as far as he can see, is his own damned prerogative. Except now he has an online stalker, one who always seems several steps ahead of him in their online duel for information.

A chance meeting reveals more than hidden identities – it exposes a mutual magnetic attraction that can’t be denied. And pushes the stakes that much higher, into a zone that could get way too personal.

Warning: This book contains large Korean men; Will, the houseboy, factotum, and all-around slut; hot sexy manlove including oral sex, and serious ass play. (Jae’s note to self: OCD + socks + mouth = BAD.)


Demons Do It Better by Louisa Masters

I reread Demons Do It Better because I was in the mood. Sam. Sigh. Awesome series, and I might read the others too. I read them out of order the first time, so it could be fun to read them in order. Maybe. They’re awesome!

Demons do it betterI work for Lucifer. Only, it’s not as cool and satanic as it sounds.
The truth is, I’m an admin assistant who applied for a job that sounded kind of interesting and ended up working for the Community of Species Government. I’m the only human in the office, and basically I ride herd on a team of rambunctious shifters and demons.
I also spend a lot of time avoiding Gideon Bailey, the demon I had a one-night stand with right before I took this job. He hates me, and I really want to avoid being murdered. But I’ve been offered a promotion that will mean working with him, so we’re both going to have to get over it.
Plus, people are going missing. Pregnant people. And the word is that someone is dabbling in genetic experimentation. Putting a stop to that is more important than the sexual tension Gideon and I have been ignoring… isn’t it?


Too Stupid to Live by Anne Tenino

And I reread Too Stupid to Live. Again. I mentioned it in last week’s blog post and thought, yeah, that’s time well spent. I love this. Sam (I think I have a soft spot for characters named Sam 😅). If your boyfriend doesn’t play highlander with you, he’s not worth having LOL

Too Stupid to LiveA Romancelandia Novel

It isn’t true love until someone gets hurt.

Sam’s a new man. Yes, he’s still too tall, too skinny, too dorky, too gay, and has that unfortunate addiction to romance novels, but he’s wised up. His One True Love is certainly still out there, but he knows now that real life is nothing like fiction. He’s cultivated the necessary fortitude to say “no” to the next Mr. Wrong, no matter how hot, exciting, and/or erotic-novel-worthy he may be.

Until he meets Ian.

Ian’s a new man. He’s pain-free, has escaped the job he hated and the family who stifled him, and is now — possibly — ready to dip his toe into the sea of relationships. He’s going to be cautious, though, maybe start with someone who knows the score and isn’t looking for anything too complicated. Someone with experience and simple needs that largely revolve around the bedroom.

Until he meets Sam.

Sam’s convinced that Ian is no one’s Mr. Right. Ian’s sure that Sam isn’t his type. They can’t both be wrong…can they?

* * * * * * *

The Romancelandia stories can read in any order — jump in wherever you’d like!


The Truth About Riley by Henrietta Clarke

Another reread – you see the theme of the month? I never used to reread books, now it’s like my brain can’t take in new information. I don’t think this is available anymore. It’s a sweet story about a guy who has burn scars on his face and hardly dares leave his apartment. Slow burn.

The Truth about RileyRiley Aylworth’s life has been completely devoid of intimate contact since a fire three years ago left him with horrific facial scarring, so when he finds an ad for a phone sex service, he decides to give it a call. Except that the number is not a phone sex service—it’s the revenge Cameron Kirkwood’s ex-boyfriend took on the uptight advertising executive after Cam forgot their anniversary and accidentally put him in the hospital. Needless to say, after thirty-nine disturbing calls seeking phone sex, Cameron is at the end of his tether and yells at his fortieth caller. What he doesn’t expect is for Riley to hit redial and yell right back.

The argument helps both Cameron and Riley vent about their issues, and when they’ve calmed down, they decide to exchange numbers and talk again. From this decision springs a friendship that, over time, grows into a gentle romance—all over the phone, because Riley is too scared to meet Cam in person. Showing a potential boyfriend his disfigured face is the fastest way to get rejected, right? Even a month of scorching hot phone sex can’t change his mind, no matter how hard Cam tries to persuade him that with their phone chemistry, the sex would be so much better in person.

Meanwhile, Cam is haunted by the scarred blond he seems to be seeing everywhere, and Riley can’t get the handsome brunet who always seems happy to see him out of his mind. It’s a shock to both men to realise that the guy they’re falling for over the phone is also the man who brightens their day with just a smile; but it’s one thing to let a stranger smile at you and quite another to let him close enough to see into your soul. If Riley can’t break down the walls in his mind and believe that Cameron loves him in spite of his scars, their relationship may be doomed before they’ve even had a chance to kiss.

Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan

Another story I mentioned in last week’s blog post and thought I should reread. I rec it often, but it’s been many years since I read it, and it’s way more hardcore than I like my books. In general. And yeah… It is way more hardcore than I like my books LOL, and the sex scenes are far out of my comfort zone, but I like Roe and Travis, so I think I’m gonna keep recommending it.

Nowhere RanchLove will grow through the cracks you leave open.

Ranch hand Roe Davis absolutely never mixes business with pleasure—until he runs into his boss, Travis Loving, at the only gay bar within two hundred miles.

Getting involved with the ranch owner is a bad idea, but Roe’s and Travis’s bedroom kinks line up against one another like a pair of custom-cut rails. As long as they’re both clear this is sex on the side, no relationship, no interfering with the job, they could make it work.

Shut out by his family years ago, Roe survived by steadfastly refusing to settle into so much as a post office box. As his affair with Travis grows into more than just sex, Roe’s past catches up with him, threatening the thin ray of happiness he’s found, reminding him it’s well past time he went on his way.

But even a loner gets lonely, and at this point, there’s nowhere left to run. The shame and sorrow of what he’s lost will stay with Roe wherever he goes—until he’s ready to let love lead him home.


One Small Thing by Piper Vaughn and M.J. O’Shea

I got a bit unsure if I read One Small Thing this month or last, but I didn’t mention it the last month’s wrap-up, so I guess I read it this month. This is cute, a single dad trying to keep his life together by seeking help from his neighbour. I thought Rue was a bit selfish, but…

One Small ThingDaddy just took on a whole new meaning…

Rue Murray likes guys — hot guys, younger guys, older guys, all sorts.

So why did he have a one night stand with a lady? He’s kind of impulsive. Just ask his best friend, Dusty. His impulsivity can get him into trouble — trouble like an oopsie baby on the way that Rue is about zero percent ready for.

Rue is overwhelmed, but he won’t give Alice up. What he needs is a nanny, and he’s running out of options. He’s on the verge of a breakdown when he remembers his reclusive neighbor, Erik. Erik is a sci-fi novelist with anxiety issues to spare. He doesn’t like people in general, and he likes babies even less. But cash is cash and with his royalties circling the drain… he needs it.

He’s Rue’s saving grace.

Rue and Erik are as different as two people can be, and Alice is the unlikeliest of babies, but sometimes about a million wrongs can mix together to make something that feels very, very right.


Butterfly Hunter by Julie Bozza

And this is the book I read for the Reread Friday post over at Holly’s, so you can read all about it there if you’re in the mood. It’s beautiful, my only complaint is that I wish it had stopped around the 85% mark.

Butterfly hunterIt started as a simple assignment for Aussie bush guide Dave Taylor – escort a lone Englishman in quest of an unknown species of butterfly. However, Nicholas Goring is no ordinary tourist, his search is far from straightforward, and it’s starting to look as if the butterflies don’t want to be found. As Dave teaches Nicholas everything he needs to survive in the Outback he discovers that he too has quite a bit to learn – and that very often the best way to locate something really important is just not to want to find it…


I have a feeling I’ve read more books, but… eh… disorganised. I might add them to next month’s post or we’ll just have to live without LOL

#WhatToReadWednesday | Gay Romance Books with Homophobia

Today it’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, so I figured I’d rec some books with homophobia.

This is not a theme I go hunting for when deciding what to read, but it’s present in many books, far more books than the ones I’m gonna list below. I hopped over to Goodreads M/M Romance Group and scrolled through their shelf with books listed as theme-homophobia. There were over 1000 books there, but here are a few of the ones I’ve read.

The Tin Star by J.L. Langley

It’s so long since I read this you wouldn’t believe LOL I can’t say that I remember a whole lot, but I remember the main character being thrown out by his father for being gay and ending up with a hot cowboy.

The Tin StarJames Killian learns the hard way that sometimes smaller towns can be full of bigots. When he comes out to his father he is not only kicked out of his home but off the Quadruple J where he works as the ranch foreman. With nowhere to go and little money, his savior comes in the unlikely form of his older brother’s best friend, the man he’s been in love with for over half his life.

Ethan Whitehall is a successful rancher and a well respected man in his community. His ranch the Tin Star has been in Ethan’s family for generations and affords him a certain prestige and power in the small town he calls home. Ethan knows without a doubt that all of that could shatter if his sexual orientation were to ever become public. But when he learns his best friend’s younger brother’s banishment and the reasons behind it, Ethan can’t help but get involved.

He’s always had a soft spot where Jamie Killian was concerned, and it may very well be his downfall.


Change of Heart by Mary Calmes

This is not my favourite Calmes story, but it fits the theme, and if you’re out of things to read… Panther shifters are fun.

Change of Heart

As a young gay man—and a werepanther—all Jin Rayne yearns for is a normal life. Having fled his past, he wants nothing more than to start over, but Jin’s old life doesn’t want to let him go. When his travels bring him to a new city, he crosses paths with the leader of the local were-tribe. Logan Church is a shock and an enigma, and Jin fears that Logan is both the mate he fears and the love of his life. Jin doesn’t want to go back to the old ways, and mating would irrevocably tie him to them.


But Jin is the mate Logan needs at his side to help him lead his tribe, and he won’t give Jin up so easily. It will take time and trust for Jin to discover the joy in belonging to Logan and how to love without restraint.


Six Degrees of Lust by Taylor V. Donovan

It’s a long time since I read this too, and I never read the last one. I read the first two, but the third wasn’t out yet, and then I never got back to it. And if I remember correctly, the second ended on a cliffhanger.

Six Degrees of LustNew York City FBI team leader Samuel Shaughnessy lives for his immediate family and his job. After a marriage gone wrong, he has stuck to a firm rule when it comes to relationships: he doesn’t have them. Sexually active and emotionally unavailable keeps him satisfied, especially now that he is in hot pursuit of a serial killer targeting gay men.

Machlan O’Bannon manages a successful sports bar in Houston, and after years of waiting, he’s ready to stand up and be the man he always wanted to be: out, proud and drama-free. His politically-aligned family wants to keep him locked in the closet, but Mac just wants to be true to himself and live his own life.

One man is as high strung as the other is laid back. A chance meeting brings them together, and one night of passion ignites a fire neither can fight. Their lives are not only miles apart, but as different as day and night. They don’t want to get involved, but they might not be able to keep apart.


Hainted by Jordan L. Hawk

Oh, I think it’s time for a reread on this one. I remember the ghosts, but I don’t really remember the love story.

HaintedA retired ghost hunter. A man seeking redemption. Can they stop an ancient evil from destroying the world?

Dan Miller once hunted the zombie-like revenants known as haints. He protected the living and quieted the dead. After his parents’ death, Dan gave up his own dreams to raise his young siblings. But when a necromancer’s dark magic leads to murder, Dan must once again take on the mantle of protector and put his life on the line

Leif Helsvin needs Dan’s help to hunt down the necromancer. But the desire to solve the murder and find justice isn’t the only emotion at play between Leif and Dan. As the two men grow closer, the passion between them threatens to ignite into a fire neither of them can control. Will Dan give into his desire for Leif, or will the necromancer’s evil destroy their love before it can even begin?


Cost of Repairs by A.M. Arthur

Something contemporary after the evil ghosts? I was hovering with my thumb over this one just a few days ago thinking that maybe I should read it again.

Cost of RepairsSamuel Briggs moved to small-town Stratton, Pennsylvania, to escape his tragic past and try to start over. When he’s not out walking his beat as a police officer, all he wants is peace, a manageable routine, and time to fix up his newly-purchased project home. And Samuel absolutely does not have room in his new routines for a relationship. Except a chance encounter with a handsome diner cook unexpectedly shakes his resolve.

Rey King lives for his work as a short-order cook, part-time hardware salesman, and full-time handyman. He’s in debt up to his eyeballs, so he isn’t looking for complications. And the gorgeous blond cop who comes to Rey’s rescue is a complication he definitely doesn’t need. Lucky for him, Samuel feels the same way.

But what starts as an afternoon of no-strings sex inevitably complicates itself, as the two men learn how deeply each other’s emotional damage goes. When Rey is seriously injured protecting a friend, their already shaky foundation cracks a little more. Samuel barely pulled his life back together after his first lover’s death and falling in love again isn’t part of his recovery plan. He knows renovations are always a gamble, but this one isn’t about risking money—it’s about Samuel risking his heart.


Too Stupid to Live by Anne Tenino

Every time I see this book, I smile. Sam, my dear Sam. It’s not too long ago I reread this, but at the moment I hardly read anything new. I only reread old books LOL, so perhaps I should read it again. Everyone needs a boyfriend who’s willing to play Highlander 😆

Too Stupid to LiveA Romancelandia Novel

It isn’t true love until someone gets hurt.

Sam’s a new man. Yes, he’s still too tall, too skinny, too dorky, too gay, and has that unfortunate addiction to romance novels, but he’s wised up. His One True Love is certainly still out there, but he knows now that real life is nothing like fiction. He’s cultivated the necessary fortitude to say “no” to the next Mr. Wrong, no matter how hot, exciting, and/or erotic-novel-worthy he may be.

Until he meets Ian.

Ian’s a new man. He’s pain-free, has escaped the job he hated and the family who stifled him, and is now — possibly — ready to dip his toe into the sea of relationships. He’s going to be cautious, though, maybe start with someone who knows the score and isn’t looking for anything too complicated. Someone with experience and simple needs that largely revolve around the bedroom.

Until he meets Sam.

Sam’s convinced that Ian is no one’s Mr. Right. Ian’s sure that Sam isn’t his type. They can’t both be wrong…can they?

* * * * * * *

The Romancelandia stories can read in any order — jump in wherever you’d like!

Word count: 80,500; page count: 315


Moonstruck by Piper Vaughn and M.J. O’Shea

I’ve been meaning to reread these books too. This is the third in the Lucky Moon series, and I remember liking the second book a lot.

MoonstruckOne night between them would never be enough…

Moonlight. Luck. Two massive bands with huge international followings. One epic, historic collaboration.

Should be a no brainer, right? And it would be. For sure.

Except Moonlight drummer Surya Patel slept with Luck’s manager during their combined tour last summer and then bolted in the dead of night. Not exactly cool, he knows, and he’s regretted it ever since. Surya’s also been avoiding his proximity. For obvious reasons.

Of course when the label sends someone to talk Surya into cooperating, it’s Em, the manager, the one night stand… the guy who’s caused Surya months and months of regret.

Em is frustratingly professional. Charming. Gorgeous. He drives Surya wild. It doesn’t take Surya long to realize what they had was far, far more than sex. The heat between him and Em burns too brightly. Surya will never be satisfied with just one night.

He wants forever.


When All the World Sleeps by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock

Another book I reread not too long ago. This is rather creepy. Or not creepy, creepy, but Daniel killed someone in his sleep and now he has to live with it.

When All the World SleepsDaniel Whitlock is terrified of going to sleep. And rightly so: he sleepwalks, with no awareness or memory of his actions. Including burning down Kenny Cooper’s house — with Kenny inside it — after Kenny brutally beat him for being gay. Back in the tiny town of Logan after serving his prison sentence, Daniel isolates himself in a cabin in the woods and chains himself to his bed at night.

Like the rest of Logan, local cop Joe Belman doesn’t believe Daniel’s absurd defense. But when Bel saves Daniel from a retaliatory fire, he discovers that Daniel might not be what everyone thinks: killer, liar, tweaker, freak. Bel agrees to control Daniel at night — for the sake of the other townsfolk. Daniel’s fascinating, but Bel’s not going there.

Yet as he’s drawn further into Daniel’s dark world, Bel finds that he likes being in charge. And submitting to Bel gives Daniel the only peace he’s ever known. But Daniel’s demons won’t leave him alone, and he’ll need Bel’s help to slay them once and for all — assuming Bel is willing to risk everything to stand by him.


Let It Go by Mercy Celeste

More cowboys, but this one with a heap of trigger warnings that you should take seriously. This is doom and gloom, graphically so.

Let it go mercy celesteWhen alcohol and fierce tempers land two cowboys from the rodeo circuit under house arrest, it may be time to Let It Go.
Can hidden secrets and a common enemy hold the key to happiness or… will they destroy them both?

Creed was the main focus of Eli’s fierce temper. For ten years the two men left a trail of destruction in their wake, with rodeo, beer, and fists all they had in common. Until a judge had enough and sentenced them to house arrest—in the same house. They’d either learn to get along or they’d kill each other.

Trapped on Eli’s rundown Florida ranch, Creed discovers Eli’s secret, one that he shares. But he didn’t count on Eli learning all of his secrets, especially the one that would shatter their newfound truce.

Scarred to his bones, Eli avoided relationships like the plague. Yet something about the quiet Creed had always pushed his buttons. Falling in love with him was never part of Eli’s plan. When it happens he’s unprepared and out of his league. When a shared enemy comes calling Eli can only think of keeping Creed safe. He never dreamed that their lives were linked or that Creed’s former life could destroy them both.
Will love be enough to save them?

Story of abuse, mental, physical, as well as sexual. Scenes of extreme violence.


Linhart’s Beautiful Beast by Mel Bossa

Historical prison romance with all that it entails. Well worth the read!

Linhart's Beautiful BeastThe Great North, Quebec, 1934. Joe Vega, the Beast, has been locked up in Linhart Prison for three years. The brutish guards harass him because of his size, but Joe remains cool.

Until Christophe Dubois, the disowned son of an affluent politician, is led into Joe’s cell. From the moment Joe sees him, he suspects the ginger-head is trouble. Christophe is bold, curious, and feisty, and Joe can’t resist the temptation of climbing into the man’s bunk for long. However, the beautiful spoiled Christophe is a furnace to which both guards and convicts want to warm their hands, and Joe must fight to keep Christophe safe.

Linhart Prison may be a cruel place, but when the two men are released from its walls, they find an even tougher world out there.

Is the flame burning between Joe and Chris enough to keep them together?


Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan

More cowboys. There is something with cowboys and homophobia, it seems.

Nowhere RanchLove will grow through the cracks you leave open.

Ranch hand Roe Davis absolutely never mixes business with pleasure—until he runs into his boss, Travis Loving, at the only gay bar within two hundred miles.

Getting involved with the ranch owner is a bad idea, but Roe’s and Travis’s bedroom kinks line up against one another like a pair of custom-cut rails. As long as they’re both clear this is sex on the side, no relationship, no interfering with the job, they could make it work.

Shut out by his family years ago, Roe survived by steadfastly refusing to settle into so much as a post office box. As his affair with Travis grows into more than just sex, Roe’s past catches up with him, threatening the thin ray of happiness he’s found, reminding him it’s well past time he went on his way.

But even a loner gets lonely, and at this point, there’s nowhere left to run. The shame and sorrow of what he’s lost will stay with Roe wherever he goes—until he’s ready to let love lead him home.


Glitter by Ayla Starr

Less than 3000 words, but so worth it! And free.

GlitterI kept tripping over my feet, tripping over my words, and eventually gave up talking all together. You continued to smile anyway.


Think of England by K.J. Charles

I know I’ve recommended this book a thousand times, but it’s awesome.

Think of EnglandLie back and think of England…

England, 1904. Two years ago, Captain Archie Curtis lost his friends, fingers, and future to a terrible military accident. Alone, purposeless and angry, Curtis is determined to discover if he and his comrades were the victims of fate, or of sabotage.

Curtis’s search takes him to an isolated, ultra-modern country house, where he meets and instantly clashes with fellow guest Daniel da Silva. Effete, decadent, foreign, and all-too-obviously queer, the sophisticated poet is everything the straightforward British officer fears and distrusts.

As events unfold, Curtis realizes that Daniel has his own secret intentions. And there’s something else they share—a mounting sexual tension that leaves Curtis reeling.

As the house party’s elegant facade cracks to reveal treachery, blackmail and murder, Curtis finds himself needing clever, dark-eyed Daniel as he has never needed a man before…


In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

This is lovely. Or you know, Daniel’s family are jerks, but tattoos and woodworkers!

In The Middle of SomewhereDaniel Mulligan is tough, snarky, and tattooed, hiding his self-consciousness behind sarcasm. Daniel has never fit in—not at home in Philadelphia with his auto mechanic father and brothers, and not at school where his Ivy League classmates looked down on him. Now, Daniel’s relieved to have a job at a small college in Holiday, Northern Michigan, but he’s a city boy through and through, and it’s clear that this small town is one more place he won’t fit in.

Rex Vale clings to routine to keep loneliness at bay: honing his muscular body, perfecting his recipes, and making custom furniture. Rex has lived in Holiday for years, but his shyness and imposing size have kept him from connecting with people.

When the two men meet, their chemistry is explosive, but Rex fears Daniel will be another in a long line of people to leave him, and Daniel has learned that letting anyone in can be a fatal weakness. Just as they begin to break down the walls keeping them apart, Daniel is called home to Philadelphia, where he discovers a secret that changes the way he understands everything.


Guest Post | Mated to the Fire Dragon by Holly Day

Mated to the Fire Dragon Newsletter

Hiya! I’m here as Holly today 😊 Do you know what day it is today? It’s No Socks Day 🥳 and I wrote a story. Mated to the Fire Dragon was released on the 6th. I feel a bit overwhelmed at the moment.

If you’ve followed me for some time, you know my mother passed away back in November #fuckcancer. This is me processing that, with an added aversion to socks, dragons, and a certain blacksmith because why not?

It’s not a sad story, and no one dies, but Zale is very ill, and he is preparing to let go.

So there is illness and grieving what will never come to be, unless you find a sock-less dragon, of course.

I came home yesterday evening after having been in Mum’s house clearing out things. AND Mated to the Fire Dragon was released on her birthday. She would’ve turned 64 on the 6th of May. So I’m a little raw and a little weepy, but the story isn’t!

It’s all about life, about finding a miracle, living for several hundred years, and embracing love.

Everything you want can be yours. All you have to do is mate a dragon. It’s simple 😆

To Mum 🥂

Mated to the Fire Dragon

matedtothefiredragonZale wanted to see a dragon. He never expected a miracle.

Zale Hagan is dying. He doesn’t have many days left, but he wants to see a dragon before he leaves the world behind. As a fisherman, he’s seen where land ends many times, but he wants to visit the town where the human realm ends and the dragon realm begins.

Albus the Abomination is a blacksmith on Dragon Row. As a white dragon, he has no status and does his best to keep out of the way of the other dragons living there. But one day Zale steps into his smithy, and everything inside Albus catches fire.

Albus can tell Zale is very ill, but he can’t let him die. Dragon mates don’t get sick, and they live for a long time. Albus tries his best to get one of the other dragons to mate with Zale, but when no one wants to, Albus is at a loss. He could breathe fire into him, but then Zale would have to live his entire life with a white dragon, and no one wants that, do they?

NOTE: Mated to the Fire Dragon takes place on the same street as The Book Dragon’s Lair but can be read as a standalone story.

Buy links:

Paranormal Gay Romance: 38,392 words

JMS Books :: Amazon :: books2read.com/MatedToTheFireDragon

Chapter 1

Albus the Abomination never wanted to come to the human realm. He’d dug his claws in for as long as he could, but when he’d heard his mother discuss how to make his death look like an accident with a group of her friends, he’d grabbed his sodalite and flown off the tower without another word to anyone in his family.

Why she would’ve bother to make it look like an accident, he didn’t know. She’d never kept quiet about wanting him dead.

He’d gone. Left everything he knew, went through the portal, and started a new life. It might not be the kind of life he dreamed of, but he wanted to live, and crossing over into the human realm upped his chances of survival considerably.

Dragons loved fiercely. They worshiped beauty, adored everything sparkly, revered gemstones and precious metals. The darker the skin, the more important the dragon. Albus’ family came from a family of dark blue skin. Perhaps it was why he loved his sodalite stone so much because it reminded him of home? Dark blue with little veins of white, a symbol of how he dirtied the bloodline. In the stone, it was beautiful, in the bloodline, not so much.

He shifted his throat and mouth to be able to breathe fire and blew a flame at the iron in front of him, watched it glow a pretty orange, then swung his hammer.

He’d been a disgrace to his family from the moment he’d driven his egg tooth through the shell. Maybe it had taken a bit longer. He didn’t think his parents had been able to see the color of his skin through the first crack.

He swung the hammer again. The clang of metal hitting metal helped disperse some of the shame, not all, but some.

There was no color more despicable than white, and when he’d emerged from the egg, his parents had been horrified. His mother had wanted to drown him right away despite the hard work of laying and tending to an egg, but his father’s mother had stopped her. She’d said to at least give it a summer to see if his skin changed in the sun.

It did. It turned an angry red, stung, and flaked a few days later. The new skin emerging was as white as it had been before. Pale white. Egg shell white. Plain as can be.

He swung the hammer again. The metal was too cold for it to do any good, and if he wasn’t careful, he’d break it. He always had to be mindful of his strength, but it was one of the things he liked about being a blacksmith. He could warm the metal, make it soft and pliant, but if he used too much force, it would break.

He shifted one hand into a dragon’s claw, ignoring how his skin almost luminesced in the dim light, breathed fire, and twisted the metal before dunking it in the bucket of water.

“Holy shit! Why did you do that?”

Albus glanced over his shoulder. He hadn’t heard anyone enter the smithy, and it took him a moment to realize no one had.

Outside, in the early morning light, stood a male, a human man Albus hadn’t seen before. He didn’t know the humans in Edge—didn’t know the dragons either. They avoided him, and he could understand why. The same rules might not apply in the human realm as back home, but no one wanted to ruin their reputation by being seen with an abomination.

“Do you need medical care?” The man didn’t enter the smithy, but he was hovering on the doorstep. Normally, Albus closed the door. He was sure he’d closed the door this morning too. Maybe not. He’d woken from a nightmare and had come straight here.

“No.” The short word came out snarly and harsh.

The man frowned. “Are you sure? You touched glowing metal.”

Hadn’t he seen him breathing the fire? Dragons weren’t harmed by fire as long as they were in dragon form, and he’d changed his hand.

Albus turned around, and the man gasped. He’d stopped wincing, at least visibly, at people’s reactions to him. He was the freak on Dragon Row. All the other shops dealt with gemstones and precious metals, Albus dealt with iron. There was no iron in a dragon’s treasure cave.

“Holy fuck! You’re a dragon.”

Albus didn’t think Reverend Goodwin would appreciate this young man’s language, but then there wasn’t much the reverend liked. Albus could relate. One of the things he liked the least was the reverend himself. He wished someone would eat him.

When Albus had first arrived, he’d learned the reverend arranged matings. Albus had been excited by the prospect. He’d always known he wouldn’t have a mate, no one would mate a white dragon even if he survived long enough to reach mature age, but it all changed when he came here. A joy he’d never experienced had bubbled in his chest, but then the reverend had changed his mind—or someone else had changed his mind.

He’d come by the smithy—it hadn’t been a smithy then, Albus hadn’t decided what he’d do on this side of the realm yet—and told him there were no available mates. Albus had been disappointed but had accepted it. He hadn’t walked around Edge. He didn’t know how many humans resided there. It was possible they all were paired up already.

It wasn’t until a few years later when Nithe the Nefarious had arrived, and the reverend had hurried to present mates to him, Albus realized there were mates. If you were another color than white, there were mates.

It was nothing new, but it hurt that he’d allowed himself to hope.

“Right.” The man bounced on the heels of his feet. “I didn’t realize… I guess I’ve reached Edge?”

Albus shifted entirely back into human form and nodded. In response, the man’s face split into a grin.

“Really?” He took a step into the smithy and spun around. “Wow. Is it yours?”

Albus nodded again. He never allowed anyone into the smithy. He had his shop; people were welcome to browse his creations there—not many did—but this was where he worked. It was private, his personal space.

“Amazing. I believed dragons only did useless things. No offense, but you’re working. A real job, I mean.”

Holding his breath, Albus tried to come up with a way to answer. Was it an insult? He wasn’t trading gemstones, there had already been several shops doing that on Dragon Row when he’d arrived, and no one would trade gemstones with a white dragon if they could do it with a red or a blue. Who would go to Albus the Abomination when they could go to Saxon the Sinful or Mort the Monstrous?

“I didn’t mean to interrupt.” The human sent him a blinding smile, and Albus’ heart made an effort to escape his body. No one ever smiled at him. This man would stop too once he talked to people in the city.

“What’s your name?”

“Zale Hagan, at your service.” The man bowed, then all color drained from his face, and he reached out to steady himself on a wrought iron bookshelf Albus had yet to finish. The iron parts were done, but he needed wooden shelves and he didn’t know where to find a woodworker. He could do them himself if he got hold of wood, but he didn’t know where to go.

“Fuck.” Zale breathed in deeply. Gone was the smile and bubbly energy.

“Do you need medical care?” Albus believed there was some kind of healer on this side of the veil. He flicked his tongue to taste the air and winced. Zale was sick, sicker than anyone Albus had met before.

Zale waved the hand he didn’t use to cling to the shelf—good thing it was sturdy. “Nothing can be done. I’ve been to all the doctors I could find, but they can’t help me. I wanted to see the edge of the world before my demise.” He gave Albus a sorrowful look. “I guess it’s time to embrace my fate.”

“And what fate is that?” What a weird human.

“My death, I mean. It’s time to accept I don’t have much longer.”

An invisible fist curled around Albus’ soul. He was aware humans died young, but the man didn’t look to be more than… it was hard to tell with humans, but thirty-five maybe. “You should wait a bit longer.”

Zale barked a laugh, still holding onto the shelf. “I wish I could.” He sobered. “I’m ill. Something is growing in my belly, and it’s eating me from the inside.”

Albus shuddered. “A parasite?”

Zale’s eyes grew wide, then he shook his head. “No, nothing sentient, though it has a life of its own.”

It took effort not to take a step back. Dragons couldn’t be infected by human diseases, but Albus didn’t want to have anything growing inside of him.

* * * *

Zale watched the dragon, and longing welled up inside of him. He wished he’d have time to get to know a dragon, but he feared he had little more than days left. It was a miracle he’d made it this far. He’d fully expected to die on the way, and he’d been forced to remain in a few cities along the trip, had spent a few nights in hospitals.

There was nothing that could be done, so as soon as he could stand on his own, they let him go and he’d continued his travels to the end of the world.

He was done. It was over. He’d set his affairs in order, had sold his half of his boat to Dylan since he refused it as a gift. He’d get the money back when Zale died. It was all in his will. He’d sold the rest of his things, and he’d used the money to get here. He still had some left. It would go to his parents once he no longer was around, and he assumed they’d give part of it to Bay, his brother.

He’d said goodbye to his friends and family, but he wanted one last adventure. He’d sailed to the horizon until there was nothing but him and the waves. He’d seen the end of the land, but he wanted to see the end of the human realm. Edge. He assumed there were other portals leading to the dragon realm, but he’d never heard of one. So he’d packed a couple of changes of clothes, kissed his mother goodbye, engulfed his father in a wordless hug, and walked away.

The last they’d see of him was, if not a healthy man, then at least a mostly healthy-looking one. One who could walk on his own, who wasn’t bed-bound and lost to fevers and pain. He spent days lost in fevers and pain. They came more and more often now. He’d lost his strength, his legs didn’t carry him for any long walks anymore, and he had to rest several times a day. What precious time he had left was overtaken by fatigue.

At least he’d spare his family what was to come, what had already come. He had no appetite anymore and had lost a lot of weight. Seeing a dragon had sparked enough joy to fight off the lethargy for a few glorious seconds, but now he was fading fast. He needed to sit.

“I’m sorry, but do you have a chair or a stool or something?”

The dragon looked around, as if seeing the room for the first time. Zale looked too. There was no hearth or whatever a blacksmith’s fireplace was called. A dragon blacksmith. He wished he could tell Dylan.

“I don’t think I have one, but it’s time to open the shop, anyway.”

“Right, I’ll…” He allowed his legs to fold, but before he landed on the floor, strong arms wrapped around him. Zale gasped in surprise. Damn, he’d moved fast.

“The floor is dirty.”

Zale glanced down and realized the dragon was barefoot. “You’re not wearing shoes.”

He looked away so fast, Zale feared he’d inadvertently insulted him. Maybe dragons didn’t wear shoes.

“What’s your name?” Zale did his best to ignore being carried. A month ago, no one would’ve been able to carry him, both because he’d been too heavy, and he’d been healthy enough to fight off anyone who tried. Now he could accept being carried, or spend part of his day sprawled on the dirty stone floor in a smithy.

It took a few seconds before the dragon answered. “Albus the Abomination.”

Zale didn’t think he imagined the wince, and he did nothing to hide his own. Who in their right mind named their kid Abomination? He’d heard dragons had weird names, but often they were called something with strength or… They valued strange things. He’d heard of one dragon named Frightful, Finn the Frightful, or something similar. “Do all dragons have alliterations in their names?”


“What’s your mother’s name?”

“Orinda the Odious.”

Zale chuckled. “It’s not.”

Albus looked down at him, his pupils changing into cat-like slits and his eyes glowing red like rubies. Magnificent, but fear blocked Zale’s throat. Shit.

“It is.”

Zale nodded his agreement. It was, of course, it was. Could someone name their kid Albus the Abomination, someone else could name theirs Orinda the Odious.

“My mother’s name is Ocean.”

Albus blinked at him, his eyes turning human again. “Ocean?”

He nodded. “My brother’s name is Bay.”

“And your father?”

Zale grinned. “George. He’s not from the coast.”

“You’re from the coast?”

Zale nodded.

“And when you’re from the sea, you have sea names?” Albus bent to open the door to one of the narrow, tall houses on the street. It was like stepping into a fairytale. An entire street of small, tower-like houses. They had to be at least four floors. Some towered over the others, but no house appeared broader than another.

“Wow, this road is—” Zale didn’t have time to say anything else before Albus stepped into the shop. There were things everywhere—shelves, large wooden boxes filled with what looked like hooks, coat racks, wine stands, tables without tabletops, room dividers, but most of all there were candle holders. Wall mounted, floor standing, chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and some scattered around the floor.

“Holy fuck!”

Albus jumped at his outburst.

“Did you make all these?” There were too many things to give them justice, and there wasn’t any order to where things stood or how they were organized, which was too bad. The more Zale looked, the more amazed he became. “You’re an artist.”

“I don’t deal in art. It’s too risky.”

“But you sell these. These are your things, your shop?”

Albus grimaced. “On this side of the veil, everyone is paper-note dragons. If I get enough paper notes, I invest in gemstones, but my treasure is still small.”

Zale tried to process what he was saying without much luck. All dragons on this side of the veil collected money? Humans did too. “Have you been on this side of the veil for long?”

Albus put him on an iron-wrought stool by the counter, next to the brass cash register. “Did you make this too?”

Albus looked at the cash register with narrowed eyes. “I don’t like working in brass.”

“Oh. But could you make one?”

For a second, scales covered his throat before smoothing out into skin again. He flicked a forked tongue as he moved away, which made Zale freeze. Shit, he hadn’t known they had forked tongues. Knowledge about dragons wasn’t widespread, and not much reached small seaside towns like the one he came from.

“Too many details.”

Zale nodded his understanding. Buttons, and he assumed there were a lot of cogs and stuff inside. Not things you made in a smithy, perhaps.

“I’ll go clean up.” And then he was gone.

Zale slumped against the counter, the pain in his stomach gnawing at him. He closed his eyes for a moment, wishing for more time, but he was so tired.

There was a chime of a bell when the door to the shop opened, and a priest entered. He looked around in distaste, and when his gaze landed on Zale, he stilled. “Who are you?”

Where he came from, they weren’t big on formalities, but hospitality was important. “Zale Hagan.”

The man’s eyes narrowed and something close to a sneer crept onto his lips. “And what are you doing here?”

He was saved from replying by Albus entering the shop. “Reverend.”

The sneer bloomed. “Albus the Abomination.”

Since Albus didn’t move a muscle, Zale assumed he’d foreseen what kind of greeting he’d get.

“Why is there a human on that side of the counter?”

Rude. Zale wished he’d had the energy to stand. He wasn’t as strong as he’d been, his muscles fading with each passing minute, but he was taller than the reverend, and something inside urged him to stand united with Albus against him.

Albus didn’t answer, his eyes had changed to the glowing red color Zale had seen earlier, but it was the only indication he’d heard the reverend’s question.

Zale used the counter for support and stood. He did his best not to show what it cost him and smiled at the reverend. “How can we help you?”

“We?” The reverend slid his cold gaze over Zale. “I don’t know who you are.”

Did he know everyone in this city? Maybe he did. Zale was unsure of how big it was, but it was a tourist town. He couldn’t possibly keep track of the people coming and going.

“I’m with Albus the Astute.” He gestured at Albus so there wouldn’t be any confusion about who he meant. Albus hadn’t shown much emotion before, but now his face grew into a blank mask.

“You’re his mate?” The words dripped with distaste.

“What’s it to you if I am?” Oh, shit. He didn’t mind pissing the reverend off, though he should play nice with the church considering where he was heading, but he didn’t want to offend Albus. Would having a male mate make him less of a dragon? He’d heard the dragons coming here often took human mates, but maybe it was a bad thing in the eyes of a dragon too?

“I’m the one handling the human-dragon matings and Albus the Abomination—” he emphasized Abomination “—hasn’t been approved.”

The growl coming from Albus had Zale’s heart quicken, and he fought against the need to sit.

“What Albus the Adroit does is not your business. Now, how can we help you?”

Red painted the reverend’s face as he spluttered. “You can’t change his name!”

Zale glanced at Albus, who still held on to his blank face. “I don’t see how what I call Albus the Adept is any of your business. Did you have a reason to grace us with your presence?”

What little energy Zale had was quickly leaving him. He needed to sit, or his legs would soon go out from under him, but he didn’t want to show any weakness. He didn’t mind if Albus knew he was hanging on by a thread, but admitting defeat to the reverend would sting more than Zale wanted to admit.

“A nozzle on one of the church’s candlesticks has come off, and I was wondering if you could attach it again.” He dug out a heavy-looking bronze candle holder from the bag he was carrying and then held up a small plate-like thing—the nozzle—from his pocket. “If you could weld it back into place.”

Weld? Zale didn’t say anything. This was Albus’ field of expertise, so he’d sit this one out. And sit he did. It still hurt to have to lower himself in front of the reverend, but he made it look as nonchalant as he could, as if he’d lost interest now when they were talking shop.

“I can fix it.” Albus’ voice was growly, and when he stepped forward to grab the candle holder Zale was struck by how big he was. Not only was he more than a head taller than the reverend, but he was also twice as broad. Blacksmith, lots of heavy lifting.

“Can you do it now? I need to get back to the church.”

Albus nodded, and he plucked the nozzle from the reverend’s hand.

“I can take your payment while Albus is working.” Zale didn’t know what all the buttons meant, but there was one that was bigger than the rest, and he wanted to push it.

“It’s for the church.” The outraged tone had Zale fighting a grin. He wasn’t normally this petty.

“Yes, and the church will want to show their appreciation for Albus’ hard work, not to mention how important it is to keep a dragon fed. If all he has to eat is the customers daring to enter the shop, there will be a problem.”

Albus whipped around and stared at him, but Zale ignored him.

The reverend more or less threw a bill on the counter, which Zale quickly picked up. “Thank you.” He placed it in one of the slots and closed the drawer with a grin. The reverend glared, but Zale didn’t care. He wouldn’t be here long enough to have to suffer any repercussions, and he hoped he hadn’t made things harder for Albus.

It didn’t take many minutes before Albus came back into the shop and handed the candle holder to the reverend. “Done.” Then he walked in behind the counter without so much as looking at the reverend. Zale bit the inside of his cheek and waited until the bell above the door chimed before he chuckled.

He reached out and patted Albus’ arm. “I’m so sorry if I made things harder for you, but he wasn’t pleasant to talk to. It was childish of me.”

Albus studied him for a second. “Hatchlings are rude?”

Hatchlings? Ah, childish. “They can be.”

Albus nodded as if it explained everything. “You’re young, so it makes sense.”

A laugh bubbled out of Zale. “I’m not young. My mother would be appalled by my lack of manners.”

Albus didn’t reply. He had a faraway look in his eyes, which made Zale suspect he’d said something wrong. “How old are you?” He didn’t know if it was rude to ask, but at least it was a different topic.

“Two hundred thirty-four.”

“And yet you don’t look a day over forty.” Zale grinned, but it was soon replaced by a sigh. Two hundred and thirty-four years. Wouldn’t it be amazing? Or maybe you grew bored. Life was precious because it was limited and always a little too short. In his case, a lot too short.

“How old are you?”


“A hatchling.” There was something similar to fondness in Albus’ eyes, and it had a lump forming in Zale’s throat. He wasn’t sure his voice would carry, so he nodded instead and did his best to blink away the burn in his eyes.

When the silence grew too long, he cleared his throat. “A dying man.”

Albus was saved from answering by the bell above the door.