New Release – The Toymaker’s Hoard

Hello, Peeps!

I know a lot of you have been concerned about my writing, and if it would continue, now that we have closed LT3. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write about it, closing LT3 and a bunch of other things, most recently the abrupt death of one of our cats, has kept me preoccupied.

But through all of that I managed to keep trucking away at Toymaker, in large thanks to Samantha, who found time to edit it in the midst of the LT3 stuff and her own batch of excitement and problems.

This story is in the same verse as Love Tokens but you don’t need to have read that to enjoy this one.

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(iTunes is still processing)

I also have two other stories currently in edits. One is Bangkok Adventure, which is an Infinitum Government story. The second is called The Succubus and is a serious rehaul of a short story I didn’t even remember writing. It’ll be the first in a fun little trilogy.

Most of my time is spent on the stuff I’m writing for Patreon (all of which will get published as it’s finished, after it’s properly edited etc). Nearly done with Dance in the Storm, and just started running The Fallen King’s Pentitent Soldier (High Court #5), Like No Other (the Romeo & Juliet/Count of Monte Cristo high fantasy mish-mash), Sweet Nothings, a lost shifter story (and the latest Choose Your Own Adventure) and Midsummer Song, about a siren rockstar and an adorable brownie. And of course I post 2-3 ficbits a month. If you’re interested, you can find me here.

Hoping to work on other projects as well, but first I need to catch back up and get ahead on Patreon. Also in the middle of rehauling our house (moving rooms, furniture, cleaning, etc) and of course cats cats cats. Finnegan passed away, as mentioned, and there’s an on-going ‘is it a tumor or just an infection’ thing with Stardew.

In the midst of all that, I’m re-upping all my LT3 books as self-pubbed. Amazon and Smashwords are done, and I’m a quarter done with Draft 2 Digital, which will get the books listed on iTunes and a few other places. I’ll then work on Kobo, then Barnes & Noble, then things like Payhip.

Any questions or concerns, you know where to find 🙂


Books and Writing

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So as most have noticed by now, A Trilogy of Knights is now available for interested parties. This is a set of old old old stories that are still on my website (though they’ll be coming down once I have a chance to clean up my poor neglected website, along with the gallery stories). I mostly publish them for peeps who want to have them nearer to hand. They’ve been tidied up a bit, but no real rehaul was done. It was weird rereading them, and seeing where I started and just how far I’ve come.


Coming out in June is a new Dance with the Devil short, about Wyatt and Deacon (from Dance Only for Me) For those who always wanted to see a bit more about the notorious goblins of Dance-verse you are getting your wish.


The first two books in this series are coming back to me in June, so look for this trilogy with new covers in June or July. I also plan to do an omnibus at some point, but that might take until August, I just have so much on my plate.

And coming later this year, roundabouts September, is The Toymaker’s Hoard, an MMM story set in the same verse as Love Tokens. This story is about the titular toymaker, the chief of police, a duke’s son, and a few shenanigans :3

I am also about to start working on reading through these three, to dust them off and shine them up for their new covers. I really really really love these covers, I think they suit the books perfectly. The field of arcen, and the matching sword between Prisoner and Bound especially just make me 100 kinds of giddy. They’ve also been given a new, proper series name, instead of simple ‘kria’ which didn’t really fit, though it wasn’t entirely wrong. Nothing major will change about any of these, and as ever, if you bought them previously and want the new editions (when they come out) all you have to do is email me. Proof of purchase is not required. Once I have a firm date on the re-release, I’ll let peeps know.

I’ve got a bunch of other stuff in the works – the third Anti-Heroes book is about half done and I’ve also started the fourth; the final Dance with the Devil novel is moving steadily along, and there’s more High Court and other things in train. Busy busy as ever.

That’s about all I’ve got for now! I hope everyone has a good weekend! ❤️


Release Day – The Lady and the Thief (Deceived #5)

Dec5 - The Lady and the Thief

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So today is the release day of The Lady and the Thief, my first FF story in Deceived verse. It’s a pretty low-key story, about a woman, the maid she loved, and their unexpected reunion–and how the maid is very much not a maid.

Normally I would babble about how the story came to be, or some of the travails of writing it (a prompt on twitter; I stopped and started it 100 times while I struggled to write anything at all. My focus and discipline are still recovering from my slump).

Instead, I’d like to focus on why I, and so many other queer writers, don’t get to write anywhere near the number of FF (or anything else that is not cis gay MM) books.

It’s true most of the onus for providing more representation starts with publishers. It doesn’t matter who wants to read or write it if no one is going to make it available. But that’s only a problem at the Big 5 level. I’m a small publisher. Its pretty safe to say that at least in queer romance, Less Than Three has a greater number diverse offerings than other presses. We have trans, asexual, aromantic, and more in numbers that other presses do not (at least in romance, I can’t speak to other genres, obviously).

And much of the responsibility is also on writers, who say they support the queer community and want to see more diversity (not just in queer rep, but POC, disabled, etc. because if you’re one you should be for all). It’s disappointing to see an author declare how much of an ally they are, only for them to never care about anyone but the gay boys.

But what happens when LT3 and other publishers provide the books that authors write? Nothing.

It’s supremely frustrating and disheartening to see hundreds of readers say they’re all for increased diversity, that there should be more FF, trans, aromantic, etc books out there. That they’d happily read them if they existed. And then when the books are pointed out to them… they find reasons not to read them after all. “No money” as they go to buy the newest, hottest MM release. “I don’t like the premise” even though their GR shelf shows twenty MM books with the same premise. Don’t even get me started on the sexism, external and internalized.

Most reviewers are no better. Lesbian sites that are transphobic. MM sites that won’t review any book that might have a bisexual man in a relationship with a woman for a brief time. The way they’ll skip an entire third of a book just b/c it’s from a woman’s POV, and then relay incorrect information in the review, and the site mod doesn’t care enough to fix it. The way so-called ‘LGBT review sites’ that review 99% MM, and won’t even make a token effort during pride month to represent the rest of the community.

I would love to write more FF. More MFF and MMF, and any other combination that comes to mind. Trans characters. Genderqueer characters is something I’d like to get to. But these things have to be spaced out between the MM books that sell. Because I’m a publisher who tries my hardest, and an author who tries my hardest, but my efforts die before they even leave the gate because the hundreds of readers who t assured me they wanted the book, never show up to do their part and buy it.

The sad truth is that the new editions of the other Deceived books will probably sell better than the brand new addition to the verse, and even though I really want to write Edith’s story, it’ll have to take a back seat to the books people WILL buy, and there’s only so much I can do about that when LT3 and my own livelihood (like mounting medical debt) depend on the money my books earn.

To those that decide to give The Lady and the Thief a chance, my eternal thanks. I hope you enjoy it. I had a lot of fun writing it, even if I struggled at points.

Thanks for reading. I hope everyone is having a good week.


Books, a Chat, Things, and Stuff

Despite the dearth of work from me, I am steadily getting back on my writing feet. I haven’t had much chance recently, between travel and LT3, but as of today I did get some actual, real writing done, and I’m actively working between three WIPs (Fallen King, Toymaker, and Like No Other, though that one is still mostly in the research stage).

First thing first: On June 27th, from 18:00 to 21:00 EST, I will be hosting a chat on FB. The official link is here. All are welcome, but please do not show up just to start trouble. This is for peeps and such to get a chance to talk to me, and ask questions and the like. And it’s a pretty stress-inducing thing for me; I didn’t decide to do it lightly. So if you only show up to cause problems, you’ll get bounced. Otherwise, please be welcome and I’ll try to answer all the questions I can 🙂

Speaking of June 27th, that’s the release date for a new book!

Dec5 - The Lady and the Thief


This story sprung from a prompt on twitter that I really liked. I don’t know that the person who tweeted it still follows me, but it is dedicated to her. This story is set in Deceived verse, and follows the travails of a young woman who is struggling to break free of her oppressive guardians, and who is astonished to see that her former maid, who fled her home after stealing jewelry and more, is now suddenly a mysterious lady of society. A few familiar faces make appearances 😉

The next book in the series will be about Edith, and will be MFF.

Dec1 - Deceived Dec2 - The Highwayman Dec3 - Impractical Dec4 - A Suitable Replacement






And to go with Lady’s release, the rest of the books have matching covers (finally) andhave been dusted off. No major rehauls, but I have tweaked some scenes and cleaned up typos and things like that. As ever, if you already have them and want the updated versions, just email I have several emails from peeps already, but those who contracted my gmail and those who emailed LT3. I’m finishing up the last of the books now, and once the new ebooks are made I’ll send them out. I’m sorry for the delay! Traveling put me further behind than I anticipated.

TheGalleryVol1     TheGalleryVol2


Many will recognize some of these stories from right here on my website. Those have been touched up, some of them significantly expanded and/or changed, some are relatively the same. They’re both MM (+), I am aiming with future volumes to include women, etc.

The first volume includes familiar stories The Assistant, The Three Kings, and The Tycoon. The last two especially have received significant changes. New stories include The Bastard Son, about some familiar faces from a certain Round Table, and The Demon Slayer, in which our Tycoon meets his match 😉

The second volume, coming out next month, includes: statue porn, tentacle porn, and smoke porn (I’m not really sure what I can do next in regards to ????porn). Those stories are all brand new. The familiar ones in this volume will be The Assassin and The Lion and the Mouse.

WaitingforYou-f FightinForYou-f LookingForYou-f


This short little series about bodyguards and the reckless nerds they’re sworn to protect is complete. All three are poly. Book one and three are MMF, book two is MMM. They are best read in sequence. All characters are bisexual, except Symaia, who is biromantic and asexual (of the sex-positive variety).

I hope everyone who’s read them has enjoyed, and thank you very much for the support. Especially those who took a chance on my MMF when that is not your usual thing <3

Note: These are not LT3 books. The first two are with Ninestar Press, and the last one is self-published.

  Dragon Magic  Mercenaries


Rasnake was previously part of a Fairytales Slashed anthology. It has not changed significantly. If you would like the stand-alone version, you know what to do. For the unfamiliar, it’s a bit of a take on

Dragon Magic was my first major release this year, about four men who get accidentally bound together and must go on a Quest if they’re to be rid of each other. I hope peeps have mostly enjoyed it. I’ve gotten a few strong words about the ending, which I did not expect, so.

Mercenaries of the Stolen Moon is obviously the next High Court book. Ideally, it will be out in November, but I do not at this time have a for certain release date. Note this story is MMF. Jac insisted, and Jac gets what she wants, as will be made very clear throughout this story. Also I got to google ‘history of strap-ons’ so that was fun.



The Fallen King’s Penitent Soldier

This is the final High King book, and revolves around Prince Chass, Allen’s much-despised brother and Captain of Penance Gate. He’s not an easy character to write, that’s for sure. I hope I do him, and the premise, justice. We shall see.

The Imperial Dragon’s Secret Treasure

Poor Rene and Tara’s languishing story. I hate this fell by the wayside, but last year sucked. Hoping to get back to it soon.

The Toymaker’s Hoard

Another overdue story -_- This one is a prize from an LT3 Anniversary giveaway. It’s MMM, about a toymaker who accepts a commission from a young woman who intends to give it to the man she loves. Only her father is the Chief of Police, and the man she loves has a powerful noble for a father, dragging our toymaker into a situation he did not expect (a threesome).

Like No Other (working title, likely to change)

This is another story for a specific person, an auction winner 🙂 It will be a fantasy story, and a mish-mash of Romeo and Juliet and The Count of Monte Cristo. The setting is a city much like Venice in that it’s a collection of tiny islands, though the ocean rather than a canal, and it’s not sinking. Culturally, it will be inspired by a mix of Italian and Japanese elements (with reasons, it’s not just done willy nilly). Our Count comes from a family whose magic entails control of iron, which makes them famed sword makers. The rival family’s magic deals with water, which obviously makes them hella powerful.

Other books in the works include Dance in the Storm, the next Anti-Heroes book, Quest of Fools, and several others.

Thank you for reading this long, long post. I hope everyone has a lovely weekend!

Release Day – The Heart of the Lost Star


I hope everyone who’s already read this has enjoyed it, and I hope the peeps still reading, or will be soon, like it as well. The High King’s Golden Tongue ranks as one of my personal favs of the books I’ve written, and so too does Heart of the Lost Star. It may even trump THKGT as my fav in the series so far, though I suspect that if I can pull it off the final book, The Fallen King’s Penitent Soldier will trump it. Time will tell.

But The Heart of the Lost Star contained many elements that were well outside my purview, and without the kindness and hard work of the beta and editor who helped me out, this book would not be anywhere near as good.

Jader, right from the start, was inspired by many of my friends. Those friends who constantly hear shitty things like ‘you don’t sound Black’ or “you don’t look Mexican’ or ‘I totally couldn’t tell you’re Jewish’ and stuff that manages to be even worse. This sort of attitude isn’t uncommon in the queer community either.

He is also graysexual, a minor but still important element. This was important to me because it seems in so many stories, it’s always the shy, quiet, and/or introverted character who falls under the ace spectrum. But Jader is extremely extroverted, confident, vain, and rarely quiet.

Another important element of this story, of course, is Kamir and the abuse he’s suffered. My beta went above and beyond assisting me with Kamir (and countless other elements of the book), and to them I’m eternally grateful (I remain obscure about their identity because I don’t know how much attention they really want). Anything I got right, I owe to them. Anything wrong is obviously on me.

So too for the trans elements of this story. It’s been a source of amusement and vexation that so many people have, from the first book, assumed this world simply had some sort of mpreg I never bothered to explain. All my betas and editors instantly picked up that many characters are trans, so I wasn’t expecting the confusion and assumptions that came with the books’ releases. While some of that is on me, for not being as clear as I thought, I think it also speaks to just how little trans rep there is in fiction, and how little attention and support trans people get, even within their own community.

Like a lot of the first books in MM romance, books with trans characters right now still tend to make their being trans the focal point of the story. And as I have said many a time, I believe strongly in ‘queer as incidental’ rather than always using ‘queer is bad’ for easy conflict and cheap drama. In SFF especially, I feel it’s important to show worlds where a character being trans is a non-issue.

While books that put queer matters as the central focus are equally important and have their place, my preference will always be for incidental. Because when I was growing up, and trying to figure myself out, it was disheartening and painful that my only options were Queer is Bad or Bury Your Gays.

There were other little things that I really enjoyed writing: more of the Islander culture, finally getting to put Chass on-screen, laying the foundation for the shenanigans in books four and five. And the rest of the crew, of course, especially Sarrica, who is my favorite character to write.

Speaking of Sarrica, shortly after finishing Heart, I wrote a ficbit about him, Allen, pertaining to a brief conversation that takes place in the last bits of Heart. So if you’ve finished Kamir and Jader’s story, here is the ficbit for you to enjoy 🙂

I hope everyone is having a lovely week, and if not, I hope the weekend arrives quickly and proves to be infinitely better ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

Release Day – Waiting for You

Yay! Today is finally the day for Waiting for You. This story has had quite the time seeing the light of day, since it was meant for All Romance Ebooks and we all know how that ended (may Lori James burn in hell).

Anyway, here is my novella of a stubborn princess, a bratty prince, and a stoic bodyguard. I had a hell of a lot of fun writing it, and I hope peeps enjoy reading!


Ninestar | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Smashwords

I wrote a bunch of posts (and an author interview I have 100% forgotten), though I don’t know which posts are going to be at which places (and I only wrote the interview and seven posts, but there’s ten stops, so ???) but here are the stops! I did the interview, a post about why I wrote MMF and my issues with a lot of MFM… and it looks like I’ve already forgotten all the others. Two are excerpts. I’m terrible at this. One of them might have been my old friend Why Queer as Incidental is Important. Alright enough blathering from me.

6/5 | Erotica For All
6/5 | Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
6/6 | MM Good Book Reviews
6/6 | Sharing Links and Wisdom
6/7 | millsylovesbooks
6/7 | Divine Magazine
6/8 | A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog
6/8 | Happily Ever Chapter
6/9 | Bonkers About Books
6/9 | Stories That Make You Smile

New Release: Twilight (DwtD #7)

DwtD 7 - Twilight

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So I’ve said before that Twilight was the book I actually never had plans to write. More than anything else, I wasn’t certain I could do Avalon justice. He’s always been more than a little intimidating, given who and what he is, all he’s been through. And I’m no historical writer, as I think Midnight proves.

But my wife and friends asked, and I’m weaksauce. So hopefully I haven’t fucked up ^^

It was fun being able to write Devlin and crew again. This one obviously focuses on Neirin and Barra (and Avalon). Like Midnight, it’s divided into parts and each part is a different POV.

This book also obviously connects different threads of DwtD verse, since the final book, Dance in the Storm, will really bring them all together. The connections to DwtD and Sotk/SotD are pretty obvious, but there is also a couple of connections to Dance Only for Me. One pretty obvious, the other maybe not as much, you’ll have to tell me :3

Sadly, I can’t really discuss my favorite bits of this book because it’s all spoilery stuffs. But I do hope you enjoy Twilight, and all the shenanigans therein. And since I can’t babble about the book much, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite little bits ? Because nothing is more fun than fucking with Devlin.


Heaving a sigh, Devlin faced Avalon once more. “So what do I need to do? This is magic beyond my experience.”

Avalon winced. “Declare it, that you give me one year of your life to give me one day of freedom.”

Devlin eyed him warily, but then stood up straight, shoulders set, and said, “I grant to Prince Avalon, freely and with full understanding, one year of life that you may have one day of freedom.”

Avalon was absolutely certain he was about to die. Stepping forward, moving as quickly as possible, he grasped Devlin’s face, kissed each of his cheeks, and finally the softest, briefest kiss he could manage across his mouth. Stepping hastily away and bracing to be hit, he said, “The bargain is struck and sealed.”

For a moment, Devlin just gaped, too taken aback to react. But before disbelief could turn to anger, the room filled with the sound of laughter. They turned to Midnight, who was laughing so hard he had to lean against a nearby chair to keep himself from falling over.

He looked up, saw them staring, and just laughed harder. “Your faces. I have never seen two people enjoy a kiss less, and it barely counts as a kiss. I—” He broke off, laughing too hard to speak. Devlin stormed past him, pausing just long enough to shove Midnight over, and left the room.

Release Day – Love Tokens


LT3 | Amazon | BN | Kobo | Smashwords

So this is a re-release of a story I wrote a couple of years ago. Back then it was for a Halloween collection, which is why it has certain elements. But for all it’s a short, sweet and silly story, I love it dearly and had a lot of fun writing it. Chanda is an incubus who just wants to be romanced, but after being badly scorned and humiliated is resigned to be the notorious Anteros. Until a bossy little demon shows up and stakes a claim, but is utterly confounded by all this ‘romance’ nonsense. He tries anyway, though with a decidedly demon twist 🙂

Chanda was fun because he is an incubus, and an old and powerful one. His kind have been banned from positions of power because of what they can do (manipulate people, cast all manner of spells, and immediately sense who has been fucking who, among other things). But as he vehemently states, he’s not a creature of lust so much as a creature of passion, and all he wants is for someone to romance him.

He gets is a mysterious, powerful demon who promptly stakes a claim, doesn’t see the point of silly things like love tokens, and has a few endearing quirks of his own.

I hope peeps who didn’t read this one the first time around enjoy 🙂 Everybody have a good week!

Bi Visibility Day: Fav Books with Bi Characters

So in honor of Bi Visibility Day, here are a few of my fav books with bi characters. Feel free to mention your own favs in the comments, more books more better ^__^

  1. Malachite by Kirby Crow – I have loved Crow since I was a newbie writer and thought I’d never reach her level. Now I harass her daily on twitter. She’s a bit of a punk. Her writing is even more awesome now than it was when I fell in love with Scarlet & the White Wolf (which also has a bi character). I love this book to bits, the world and the chars, all of it. I NEED A STORY ABOUT PARIS, CROW, GET ON THAT.
  2. Four by Archer Kay Leah. The only author to appear twice on this list. This book will rip your heart out then gently put it back in. If you like redemption stories, you’ll be all over this. I’ve read this book five times since it was subbed to LT3, and I’m dying for the next one. It’s the second in a series, the first one is equally awesome.
  3. Battle of Will by Sasha L. Miller fills all my enemies to lovers needs. If that’s your bag, and/or you like a slow burn, here ye be. There is a sequel in the works, I am ever hopeful my wife will get around to writing it, and it’s unfortunate for her I know where she lives 😉
  4. Breakfire’s Glass by A.M. Valenza. I love Katerini more than life, she resonates with me in a way few other characters ever have. Valenza always includes a spectrum of sexualities in a way not many other authors do, proving that it really is that easy. And her books are the best world building porn
  5. The Merman and the Barbarian Pirate by Kay Berrisford. An author I miss dearly, I was happy she deigned to give LT3 a book. It remains a favorite, about a woobie mermaid and the bisexual pirate he falls in love with despite not liking him much at the start :3
  6. Just a Bit Ruthless by Alessandra Hazard is not a book I thought I would like as much as I did, but it takes some pretty standard tropes and executes them hella fucking well. If pretty gay boy with closeted twink tendencies getting kidnapped by Russian mod boss with closeted bisexual tendencies is your thing, boy are you going to be all over this.
  7. (Watch Me) Break You by Avril Ashton. My standard for stories about criminals is set by Ashton. I love her books like burning. This one has become my favorite, displacing even her first series, which I have reread a hundred times. You wanna talk enemies to lovers, man this book has got that nailed the fuck down.
  8. Brandywine Investigations by Angel Martinez. Who doesn’t love Greek Gods trying to get by in the modern day. Most of them are pretty good at it, Hades needs some practice. Luckily he picks up a woobie stray :3 The other books in this set are equally awesome, but I admit I’m partial to Hades’ story.
  9. Worth a Shot by Lyra Evans is an awesome fantasy story about three courts kept rigidly separated, and the trouble that ensues when they interact. This book does some really great things with werewolves, magic, and mates. I’ve read the first two, and the second was even better than the first, and I can’t wait to read the third
  10. Dark Soul by Aleksandr Voinov. I love Voinov to death, and while his Scorpion series is my absolute favorite, Dark Soul is a very very close second. This book is hot like burning, and like Ashton he does criminals and such without equal. Hella awesome series.
  11. How Beautiful Thy Footsteps by Vanessa Cardui. A very sexual, very awesome fairytale like story about the price of magic shoes, and how willing a thief is to pay it, no matter how stubborn the woman who makes the shoes. I love it love it.
  12. Enchanted Soles edited by Sasha L. Miller. An anthology of stories written by authors who very love and resonate with what they write. If you want a book that is super bi positive and shoes just how broad bisexuality really is, this is the book for you.
  13. The Cobbler’s Soleless Son by Meredith Katz. Another fun, sexy fairytale about a boy determined to find and spend time with a demon he glimpses one day, and isn’t nearly as stupid or flighty as everyone around him thinks.
  14. For the Clan by Archer Kay Leah. A dystopian book about a man torn away from the man he loves, who falls in love with a woman, only to be unexpectedly reunited with his first love – who now is on the side of the enemy.
  15. The Big Reveal by Eve Francis. Last but most certainly not least, this is a sweet, awesome, feel good story about a trans woman and the person she falls in love with. If you a story that leaves you grinning and feeling happy, get this one.

New Release – Magic & Mayhem

The Magic & Mayhem anthology is out! If you want to read my sweet little short about a mercenary and a mage, today is the day you can start doing that ^__^ and I totally don’t remember if I posted an excerpt of it anywhere, so there is one below, sorry if it’s been read before ^^


Amazon | Smashwords

Everyone deserves to see themselves in stories, to see themselves get a happy ending. For the past few years, GRNW has helped to see those stories reach more of the LGBTQ community, and gain traction is libraries and beyond.

Furthering that goal is this collection of fiction and essays, including information on how to get books in libraries, letters from authors, why positive and happy queer books are so important, and short stories about tattooists, soldiers, mages, and cyborgs that span the LGBTQ spectrum.

And my story is Demonica

Shale groaned as Keira set a plate heaped with food in front of him, along with a large pitcher of ale and a platter of biscuits, butter, and cheese. He’d cleared a quarter of his plate before she’d taken her seat.

“Breathe every few bites,” Keira said with a sigh. “Are you even tasting any of that?”

“It’s delicious,” Shale replied before shoving another bite of butter-soaked biscuit in his mouth.

Keira lifted her eyes to the ceiling. “You’re disgusting. When your arm doesn’t work right tomorrow and you have to spend three hours cleaning out crumbs and dried gravy, don’t whine to me.”

Shale paused long enough to glance at his left arm, but it was well-covered, from fingertips to just past his elbow, with a special-made, magica-treated leather glove that protected it from far worse than him being a messy eater. He’d also spent the better part of the day getting his arm, eye, and right leg tended, and most of what money had been left had gone to refilling all the medicine he had to take because of them. The Torrien Desert was always hard on his mechanica parts. “Shut up, I’m fine.”

Sighing again, Keira tucked into her own food at a much more sedate pace. They’d just started on second helpings when shadows fell across their table. Shale ignored them. Anyone worth taking a job from knew better than to bother them when they were eating.

Keira kicked his good leg under the table, but when Shale only grunted and started massacring another biscuit, she turned to their unwanted visitors—and choked. Shale tamped down on his annoyance and ate the bite of spiced potato on his fork. He chased it with ale as he looked at their guest—and damn near snorted all of it up his nose. He hastily set the mug down and wiped his face with a kerchief he pulled from a front pocket of his jacket.

Six guards stood clustered around the front edge of their table, dressed in the red-and-green garb of the Grand Duke of Soria Bell, who controlled the northeast section of Renmarkane. Peculiar. What would Her Grace want with them? Shale hadn’t seen her since, well, a time he was happier not thinking about. It had been made pretty clear to him that she and the rest of the family were done with him. Not a good sign she wanted to see him now, five years after they’d cut ties.

Keira grunted. “We’ve been gone the past five months and have only been back in Soria Bellmane eight hours. Whoever the fuck said we did whatever Her Grace is pissed off about is lying.”

The woman marked as a captain stepped forward, the torchlight gleaming in her dyed crimson hair. “Are you Shale Teor and Keira Mark?”

“No,” Shale said petulantly.

Quirking a thin black brow, the captain said, “The Grand Duke seeks to hire you.”

Keira sneered. “The Grand Duke can seek—” She broke off with a grunt when Shale kicked her under the table. Smiling stiffly at the captain, Keira said, “With respect, Captain Whoever You Are, of what possible use could a couple of glorified fetchers be to Her Grace? Surely you’re capable of doing the job.”

“I’m Captain Tula Rumark, and if she wanted me to do it, I would. She wants the pair of you.” With a sigh grand enough to make Keira’s look a paltry effort, Tula motioned to her soldiers and said, “Take them.”

Shale barely had enough time to snatch up his bags and grab a last biscuit before the guards swooped in and hauled them away. As they were dragged along through the streets of Soria Bellmane, he grumbled, “Just once I wish we’d be allowed to finish a meal before another bit of trouble found us.”

“I think we both know we’ll never be that lucky,” Keira said, and they both fell silent the rest of the way through the city and across the great bridge to Soria Bellketh, the castle of Lord Sara Halruul, the Grand Duke of Soria Bell.

It was as beautiful as ever. The sight left him sad and aching. This place had been home once—the only place to feel like home since he’d lost the first one. Mother of All, he didn’t want to be here. He twitched as they passed through familiar halls, scents washing over him and churning up further unpleasant memories of the last time he’d been there.