Saturday, June 30, 2018

What's on the Reading Radar? #TBR #WishList

What have I been doing? Can anyone say World Cup? For the last two weeks I have been glued to the TV off and on as I root for my teams. Since the USA didn't make the cut, I've been cheering for any country of the Americas as well as Nigeria and Iceland. The games are part of the reason I didn't get the Reading Radar post put together  for last Saturday. Sorry!

I have also been working on the blog story for Tuesday. Assassin's Retirement will start up again this coming week so watch out for that. I've been adding new words to Constant (The Valepsian Pact, 3). But later in the week, I started working on edits for Alpha Trine. You can find the news about that HERE.

So a ton of stuff going on. With the games, I can't say that I have been doing a lot of reading. I discovered that one of my favorite series, Their Vampire Queen by Joely Sue Burkhart, is now on audiobook. I bought them all and have been listening when I can. But that doesn't mean I didn't browse the books the last couple of weeks. :-)

Title: A Trust to Follow
Series: (Wild Magics Book 1)
Author(s): Diana Waters
Length: 64 pages
Publisher: eXtasy Books Inc (June 1, 2018)

Genre: Romance / Fantasy / Gay / 


Blurb: Daymon is the second prince of a kingdom in which Evokers—those who possess intuitive magical abilities—have long since been treated with fear and mistrust. Marked as an Evoker himself, Daymon is captured by those who wish to take advantage of these powers. Now, the prince must put his faith in Rhyder, the captain of his guards—and the man Daymon has claimed as his own—to free him.

Title: Blood Bathory: Be Not Proud
Series: The Guardians of Gaia, 3
Author(s): Ari McKay

Genre: Romance / Urban Fantasy / Shifters / Vampires / Magic / Gay / 

Note: this just had a cover reveal this week! Release Date: August 6 2018

Blurb: Death, be not proud…

The conclusion of the war between Elizabeth Bathory and the Guardians of Gaia draws closer, but the theriomorphs and their allies are caught between vampires loyal to Elizabeth Bathory’s daughter, Anna, and humans controlled by Elizabeth and her sire, Thrace. With the forces of evil now pressing on them from two sides, the theriomorphs need help, and they need it fast!

And soonest our best men with thee do go…

It has been five hundred years since Antonio de Barajas, one of the oldest surviving theriomorphs, lost his mate at the hands of his worst enemy. But Gaia never revealed the whole truth about Raphael’s fate, and Antonio is shocked when Raphael arrives to train Evan St. John and Adam Carson as true Dark Guardians. Yet the man who returns after so long is not the same man Antonio once loved. The hard and lonely life as Gaia’s hunter has changed Raphael almost as much as his lost memories of Antonio and the love they once shared.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men…

Antonio must work with the stranger who wears his lover’s face, and while Raphael is welcomed by most of the team, one member sees his return as a threat to his own place in Antonio’s life. But Thrace has allied himself with terrorists who possess a weapon of mass destruction. Now the theriomorphs and Dark Guardians must work together in a race against time to discover Thrace’s plan. Even as Antonio and Raphael are irresistibly drawn to one another, Antonio risks losing far more than his heart this time. If he and his team fail in their mission, millions will die, for Thrace will stop at nothing to destroy Gaia once and for all.

Title: The Gallery Volume Two: The Special Exhibits
Series: The Gallery, 2
Author(s): Megan Derr
Length: 20k
Publisher: LT3 Press

Genre: Romance / Bisexual / Gay / Urban Fantasy / Poly / 

Note: This book will be released on Wednesday 18 July, 2018

Blurb: Welcome to the Gallery, where you can admire hundreds of beautiful paintings, and perhaps find what you didn't know you were looking for...

In these rooms you will find the Special Exhibits, those paintings which remain at the Gallery only temporarily. Their time here can range from weeks to decades—even centuries. But they do eventually leave, so admire while you can. The subjects of these paintings come from all walks of life, from lonely individuals seeking respite while they await their true love, all the way to dangerous beings captured by the Curator or given to him for safekeeping until such time as they can be trusted out in the world again.

Today's featured Special Exhibits include: The Assassin, about a killer on the run and a painting of a man who once chose surrender over murder; The Lion and the Mouse, where a grouchy accountant escapes the snow only to find himself on a beach with an ancient gladiator; The Gargoyle is a beautiful, erotic statue not for the faint of heart; Shapeless brings a new and rather unique guest to the gallery when he is bequeathed to Silenus by a dead alchemist; and finally, in Fallen Soldier, a man escaping his kidnappers hides behind a statue of an unusual being who once betrayed a dying kingdom...

Title: Ancients
Series: Heroes of Necessity, 1
Author(s): Riley S. Keene
Length: 523 pages

Genre: Non-Romantic / LGBTIAQ Character(s) / Fantasy / Sword & Sorcery / 


Blurb: An ancient spell of immeasurable power lies hidden beneath the holy city of Khule.

Athala Dohn, wizard and scholar, wants that spell. She has no idea what it does, who put it there, or why it calls to her. But it could be the greatest magical discovery of the Age, and she'll do everything she can to get it.

Going alone isn't an option though, so Athala has enlisted the help of a Conscript of Ydia, named Elise Bresch, and a northern barbarian, named Ragan Ermolt, to protect her.

Athala and her companions were prepared to face giant rats, and they assumed there would be animated skeletons. But they didn't expect to uncover a dragon.

Or to be carted off to jail for their discovery.

Will Elise, Ermolt, and Athala escape and secure the ancient spell of immeasurable power, or will a dubious outsider take advantage of their jailed status and steal it first?

Ancients is the first book in the epic Heroes by Necessity series, a Dungeons-and-Dragons inspired take on the fantasy genre, overflowing with rich world building, diverse characters, and heart-pounding adventure. Pick up your copy today!

Title: Hawk in the Rowan
Series: (The Rowan Harbor Cycle Book 4)
Author(s): Sam Burns
Length: 158 pages

Genre: Romance / Paranormal / Gay / 


Blurb: Devon Murphy has been back in Rowan Harbor for three months. He’s taken on a host of new responsibilities, and is in a serious relationship for the first time in his life. He loves the town and its inhabitants, but it’s starting to feel like too much for the former drifter.

Now there’s a storm on the horizon, and it doesn’t seem like things are going to slow down and let him catch his breath. A blizzard is brewing, and three people have gone missing in the woods south of town. Devon needs to find them before time runs out.

This book is the fourth of nine in The Rowan Harbor Cycle, not a standalone. Devon and Wade will return in book seven for their HEA.

Title: Gryffon Hall
Author(s): Alexia Duran
Length: 177 pages
Publisher: ShadowSpinners Press (May 8, 2018)

Genre: Romance / Historical / Fantasy / Fairy Tale / Gay / 


Blurb: Fated to be born the useless fourth son of the Lord of Glimmerveen, Wryler dreams of getting married and escaping the rustic confines of his father's castle. A wealthy merchant's son seems to hold the key to Wryler's safe if somewhat dreary future. However, the arrival of a mysterious stranger on the eve of Wryler's betrothal sends his plans into disarray and Wryler finds himself traded off in marriage to one of the most notorious rogues in the land. 

Is Lord Aeric Rouchet the scoundrel he appears to be, or is he something much worse? Separated from his family and thrust into a strange and dangerous new life at the foreboding Gryffon Hall, Wryler must unravel the secret of his husband's shadowed life and defeat the curse which threatens not only his growing affection for the barbarian in his bed, but the lives of everyone the Lord of Gryffon Hall is sworn to protect.

Title: Planet Noglion
Series: Alien Lovers, 5
Author(s): Olivia Black
Length: 85 pages
Publisher: Siren Publishing (May 4, 2018)

Genre: Romance / Poly / Sci-Fi / Aliens / Gay / 


Blurb: Eric Wilson volunteered to leave Earth to get away from his homophobic family. The only way he'd ever be able to have a life and fall in love was for him to start over somewhere far away. From the start, Eric knew there was no guarantee which planet he would live on. But, he never expected to go to the desert planet of Noglion. Eric doesn't know much about the alien world. The only thing he's heard are rumors, and those rumors terrify him. Commander Gru Poez'iq knew he wanted Eric as soon as the beautiful human boarded his starship. But, in order to claim a pet, Gru has to get permission from his older brother, Finn. On Noglion, the males of the same bloodline share a mate. With his brother's blessing, Gru goes to the arena and fights for Eric. After claiming the human's body, Gru and his brothers, Khaun and Finn, must love and protect their pet, even if it's from other Noglions, jealous that they claimed a human.

Title: The Blood Pendant
Series: Mage Knights, 1
Author(s): Soney Clink
Length: 262 pages

Genre: Non-Romantic / Fantay / LGBTIAQ Character(s) / 


Blurb: In a land where strange magical creatures roam the night, and dark cults constantly plot to overthrow the government, being powerful enough to stop them can be a blessing—and a curse. 

When a reclusive noblewoman in a patriarchal society awakens a rare magical talent, her life gets turned upside-down. No stranger to keeping secrets, Cassandra Windspark enlists the help of her chambermaid and best friend Jill to help keep her secret until the day comes that she’s safely away from the clutches of her manipulative father.

But when Jill becomes embroiled with the anti-government conspirators, will she be able to protect herself, or Cassandra from them? Or will the cult discover Cassandra’s powers and manage to use them against the Kingdom?

The Blood Pendant is the first in a series of a dark adventure novels that explores the life, love, death, and courage of both the weak and the powerful, the rich and the poor.

Title: Something like a Fairy Godfather
Author(s): Leon Hart
Length: 226 pages

Genre: Romance / Gay / Historical / Fairy Tale / 


Blurb: Love isn’t something Avery wants to deal with right now.

Stuck painting the royal palace walls to pay rent and barely evading a man he’s loathed all his life, Avery runs into his old friend, James, from university. James, however, turns out to be royalty and he needs Avery’s help with some princely troubles. Avery despises the traditional hierarchy his nation follows, believing it archaic in these modern times.

As Avery's own family secrets tangle with those of the rest of court, a slew of new dangers arrives with them. Certainly not a time for love. Such feelings must remain buried deep. And he certainly couldn’t be gay. But then, why does the prince’s bodyguard keep catching his eye.

Avery must rely on new friends to navigate the trenches of this highborn battlefield, finding unexpected love along the way.

This is a modern retelling of the classic Cinderella tale, from the perspective of the fairy godfather. The story is a light read, with a happily-ever-after ending.

Title: Roughnecks and Butterflies
Series: (Ore 5 Book 1)
Author(s): Meraki P. Lyhne
Length: 248 pages
Publisher: eXtasy Books Inc (May 25, 2018)

Genre: Romance / Sci-Fi / Gay / 


Blurb: What should have been the start of a life with lots of money, a prestigious job, and adventures in space, quickly turned sour as the promised job got downsized while Ethan was in route to Ore 5. Now there, he doesn’t even have enough money for the return ticket to Earth.

Stuck in the outskirts of the housing for the miners, he quickly finds that his usual standards are impossible to uphold. A new coworker opens up a new world to him, and in this world, the center of gravity is a big tattooed strip club owner named Ryder.

On the outside, Ryder is a player—promiscuous and superficial. And he has no problem throwing a punch if patrons get too frisky with his dancers. But he has hidden a side of himself since he came to Ore 5.

Both Ethan and Ryder see themselves differently from what others see. One is a body-conscious, chubby accountant—the other is a sex-symbol who has become the center of attention of every gay man on the planet—even a few straight ones who want to prove they are man enough to win the challenge.

They have one thing in common, but will their differences keep them too far apart?

Thank you for stopping by and reading!!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Pact Day: Alpha Trine News

I wasn't sure what to do on Pact Days now that all the species have gone up. So I decided to start with Valespian Pact news and go from there. 

The contract for Alpha Trine comes up for review on July 1st. I let the publisher know I would like to continue with them but I wanted to do a bit of editing on Alpha Trine. Yesterday, I received the manuscript from them so the next week or so I will be giving the story a hard look through. There will not be new content, just a clean up. I'm sorta excited about the prospect. There are a couple of things that I have wanted to do for a long time and now is my chance! :-)

I did consider changing the cover. I'm sure there are people who have passed the series by because the cover(s) didn't draw them to look further. I thought perhaps that we could renew the cover with illustrations of the characters. I have done several different character sketches... but my vision of the character may not be the same as the readers. I didn't want to ruin that experience for them. Beside, the current covers for the Valespian Pact are some of my favorite. I've had a while to consider what the next ones will be and they would follow the current series continuity. So, the covers will remain the same.

So that's it for this week's Pact Day. Next week, I'll share some the illustrations I commissioned for the series. I might recommission them since I can no longer reach the artist who did these colorful illustrations from my original sketches. Until then, have a great weekend!

Thank you for stopping by and reading!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Sumeria's Sons Flash Fiction: First Shift #SumeriasSons

This week's Sumeria's Sons flash fiction follows behind last week's Meeting a True Blood. Here, Ira and Marek transform for the first time and Ira's question as to what his animal is will be answered. 

This takes place between the end of Dragon's Eye and the beginning of Releasing Chaos. Enjoy!

Copyright Lexi Ander

First Shifts

Justus sat on the front porch between Ira and Marek, eating a popsicle while they waited for Uncle Tristan to call for them. Tonight, the full moon would rise. Lycans weren't commanded by the moon's cycles, but the full moon was a hunter's moon, all the better to run by when the pack came together to run.

"Do you think we will actually shift?" Marek asked as he pushed his blond hair from his eyes. He was large for a twelve-year-old. Those born to be warriors usually were, making both Marek and Ira much bigger than Justus. They were also three years older than him, but even with the size difference he sensed he could take them down whereas almost a year ago he couldn't. His wolf chuffed in agreement with absolute certainty. Much had changed within Justus since his wolf had surfaced early. Some of it, like the dreams, he was still trying to figure out.

Ira rolled his shoulders. "Something is different. My skin feels too tight."

"I've been that way for weeks now," Marek groused, rubbing his forearms. "It means nothing."

"Uncle Tristan says—"

"Uncle Tristan, Uncle Tristan, Uncle Tristan," Marek snapped. "All you can do is repeat things he says. How does he know just by scenting us that we will change? I don't believe it."

A growl of warning rumbled up from Justus's chest and both Marek and Ira startled. This was something else that had changed. The two had been at the ranch for almost a week. With each passing day, Justus's sense of them had changed. His wolf recognized they were… in many ways, his two friends weren't as strong as he was. Ira and Marek whimpered. When Justus's gaze met Marek's, Marek dropped his eyes.

"Uncle Tristan is our supreme Alpha, Alpha of all alphas and future king. He knows what he is talking about. If he says you'll change tonight then you will." As far as Justus was concerned Uncle Tristan was always right. He never said anything he didn't mean, ever.

Marek looked as if he wanted to argue but Justus ignored him, glancing over his shoulder. He'd sensed Uncle Tristan for the last couple of minutes, his alpha energy rolling over Justus in soothing waves of comfort.

"Are you ready?" Uncle Tristan asked through the screen door. Marek and Ira jumped again suddenly looking sheepish.

Uncle Tristan matched Justus's grin. He didn't know how Marek and Ira were so nose blind to miss Uncle Tristan scent. Perhaps they were too on edge to notice anything other than their own worries.

"I am," Justus responded, standing.

Uncle Tristan exited the house and Justus followed him around the side of the building. He didn't glance back at his friends but heard them scramble to follow. The sun kissed the horizon as they walked to the back pasture where the tribe would change and run. Around them, groups joined them on the track to the river. With each step, Justus's wolf pranced with excitement. They loved to run with the other wolves.

By the time they arrived, some of the tribe had already disrobed and were waiting. Justus hurried over and shed his clothes, dropping them in a pile near Corey's. Ira and Marek glanced around, their awe plain to see. They'd hadn't been to a group run yet. Justus remembered his first time, how he felt like he ran with only left paws, but still he had been exhilarated.

When he smelled Ace Cimarron and his brothers, Justus turned to watch them join Uncle Tristan. He sensed the tension they carried. The five brothers hadn't transformed in front of the tribe before. Earlier in the week, they had shown themselves as a favor to Ira, but only Justus and a few other guards had been in attendance. Today there would be more than fifty wolves participating in the run. Would the other Lycans smell prey and give chase? Or would they feel the same protectiveness that Justus did?

He hurried back to Uncle Tristan, barely noticing that Ira and Marek had disrobed and followed close on his heels.

"Until the tribe gets used to you, stay close to us." Uncle Tristan was saying to Ace as he gestured to Uncle Ushna, Uncle Brian, and Corey. "I don't expect any trouble, though."

"We haven't changed in front of so many before. Chicago doesn't give us a lot of space to be free in our animal form. We get together on father's preserve once a year to run as a herd, but this," Ace gestured not to the Lycans waiting to change but the open range. "So much space makes us nervous. We will probably stay in the middle of the tribe where we will feel the safest."

Huh? Justus hadn't thought the pasture would be so scary to them. He figured Ace would want to run the length of it and stretch his legs.

"Hello, little brother," Ace said to Ira. "I am honored to attend your first change."

Ira rubbed at his hairline where a nub for an immature horn hid. "Ah… Thank you. Would you mind if Marek and I stayed near you through the run?"

Ace glanced to Uncle Tristan as if gauging his reaction before he said, "Certainly."

Ira stood straighter and even gave a small nervous smile.

Justus didn't see what Uncle Tristan did to signal the people to change, but he felt the power. The wild magic that resided in every Lycan unleash as the crowd shed their human form. There was no popping of joints, breaking of bone, or stretching of skin. Uncle Tristan always talked about falling into his wolf shape. As Justus watched he could understand why. His people leaned forward, and by the time they touched their hands to the ground they had paws and were shaking out their fur.

Justus held on to his human shape, resisting the call of the wild magic. But Ira and Marek could not resist that much energy which beckoned forth their beast. They too dropped on all fours, their new fur ruffled by the night breeze coming off the prairie.

Ace knelt before Ira whose wolf pelt was as black as his hair. Ira bent his head and allowed Ace to feel the nubs that signaled he would one day have a curl of a horn around his ears. Ira's head was bowed as he stared at the ground, the scent of his nervousness and need tainting the air like a spritz of lemon.

"Hello, little brother, I see you," Ace said, his tone conveying acceptance and a hint of awe. When he moved to the side, each one of Ace's brothers dropped to a knee and recited the same words, as if they performed a ritual.

When they finished, the Cimarron brothers all changed, the air filling with the scent of prey. Justus straightened and stepped between them and the pack, watching for anyone who might mean the brothers harm. Not that he could have taken on a full-grown wolf, but he could divert their attention until Uncle Tristan took care of the situation. Justus was relieved when all he saw was curiosity from the other wolves.

He didn't jump when Uncle Tristan laid a hand on his shoulder. "Always the protector."

Justus felt uncomfortable under Uncle Tristan's intense scrutiny, unsure if he was supposed to say something in return. When he glanced around, only Stan, Corey, Uncle Tristan, Uncle Brian, and Uncle Ushna were unchanged.

"Come on it is your turn. Then we run." It wasn't the command in Uncle Tristan's tone but the power of his shift that pulled Justus along for his change.

Justus and his wolf settled into their skin with harmony. They sighed as they shook out their fur, happy when their alpha stood still, allowing them to rub against him. Corey raised his voice and the tribe echoed his howl. The Cimarron brothers waded through the wolves, enduring playful rubs and curious sniffing. Ira and Marek followed, Marek's lighter coat gleaming in the moonlight. With Ira's dark fur he practically disappeared into the shadows as they paced next to Ace. Justus made a wide circuit around them eyeing each tribe member as he passed. His tail high in the air as he willed everyone to know he would protect the True Bloods with tooth and claw. He huffed at the indulgent wolfy grins and took position ahead of the Cimarrons, following Uncle Tristan.

Soon the tribe lost interest in the True Bloods, and fanned out. Some played, others chase jackrabbits, flushing them from hiding. The Cimarrons stretch their legs and yes, they ran with a haunting grace that whispered to Justus, as if to say, "We remember you."

He didn't know what to think of the strange, fleeting thoughts. Instead he ran, yipping when Ira and Marek joined him. There was nothing better than being in wolf form, surrounded by his tribe, and basking in the glances of approval his alpha shot his way. He howled at the moon, giving voice to his joy, swelling with satisfaction when others answered his call.

Thank you for stopping by and reading!!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Pact Days: Wolfine #ValespianPact

Welcome to the last of Thursday's Pact Days! Astonishingly, we have come to the end of the species of the Valespian Pact. Thank you for stopping by every week. What will replace this? I'm not sure what I'll have going forward. I'm going to attempt to draw more of the characters of this series. I have maps and such that I have started. I've been asked for flash fictions but I think I'll save those for the promotion of the next book in the series. I guess we'll see what I come up with.

Today, we have the... well, currently I am calling them Wolfine, but that is not the correct characterization of this species, so the name will change. I just don't have a clue to what yet but I'll need to get one soon for they play a part in the series in book six.


A couple of side notes: For a list of species that have been posted so far, see the The People of Valespia page. I'm placing these in alphabetical order so I won't unintentionally place importance on any specie. I will leave off information on the species that will spoil future books. My standard sheet has the same categories for all species. So there will be blank categories just because that species didn't need them.

Species: Wolfine (perhaps Wolfian or Wolfene… in process)
Other races on the planet:
Planetary Terrain: 63% Rocky Forest, 2 moons with bases.
Patron Ryo'Pardeep:

Description: average height four feet to six feet. Iron blood. Fingers tipped with strong thick nails, fangs, and bushy tails. Biped and humanoid. Shortened muzzles (allows for speech). Eyes come in various colors. Short, Soft body hair, long hair on their heads. Superior hearing and smell but are color blind.

The Wolfine mind, being elementally linked, is very hard for psionics to read. Those who try pass out from the exertion.

Culturally communistic by nature, having no concept of personal ownership of material goods or land when it comes to common basics; food, housing, and medical. Knowledge, tools and other resources are considered community property, and all distribution of goods is handles through shamans of the clans.

Influence by shamanistic leaders and ties to the spiritworld. Can be very superstitious.

They don't often leave their planet. Those who do are usually exiled heavy magic users or those who can't live in the community and contribute. They chafe under the oppression of always contributing.

A few wolfine leave the planet to explore space. They never stay away long.

Few outsiders are allowed on the planet's surface. They have great planetary shielding bought from the Gaziniti and enhanced by their own specialties.

There is a starport on one of the moons that has a college where others developing mentalist abilities come to study with the wolfine.

The T'Sali are never allowed on the planet or the starport. Wolfine have no use for them.

The fusion of magic and physical tech is the basic way of life. Technomagic and virtual reality systems have both been utilized in wolfine society for a long time. Since they don't war against each other, the homeworld doesn't have advanced weapons system. The most sophisticated weapons on the surface is a crossbow. They are more likely to kill using magic.

They are born linked to the four elements: Air, fire, water, earth, spirit. This designation helps to determine personality.

Earth: conservative, slow to anger, tranquil
Fire: Assertive, quick to anger, energetic
Water: emotional, moody, variable
Air: intellectual, distant, unfocused

Wolfine favors spells from their birth element.

Only shamans can communicate with spirits and elementals.

Wolfine magic is closely linked to the energies of their planet. It is difficult to realign energy fields, but they can when off planet.

All alien trade goods are carefully scrutinized by shamans before the goods are allowed into Wolfine society.

Common Occupation: Shaman, elemental mage, technomage

Government Systems:  Shaman

Current Leader:

Council of Neighn of Member:

Allies: Chi-Lin, Gaziniti, Ryo'Pardeep, Chtichlian, Dar Massaga, GyrFalconi,

Star System: Red Wolf Star System

Other planets occupied by species: elves, dwarves, and giants.

Military Leader: The have a defense system but no armies. They do have police and security specialists.

Cultural names and terms specific to species:

Thank you for stopping by and reading!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Sumeria's Sons Flash Fiction: Meeting a True Blood #SumeriasSons

As I had warned last Tuesday, today and next Tuesday will have a couple of flash fictions in place of Assassin's Retirement. No worries, the next chapter for Assassin's Retirement will be up on Tuesday, July 3rd. In the meantime, enjoy some Sumeria's Sons antics. 

Today, we have a side story about a few of the children from Sumeria's Sons. The lead up to this flash fiction starts in Dreams of the Forgotten. Theo Sullivan, Tristan's ex-mate and twin flame, had passed away at the end of Songs of the Earth. By Lycan law, the his dependents are Tristan's responsibility. Theo had 3 children and a mate who come to live near Tristan and Ushna. On a visit to the mayor of Clearwater, Tristan and Ushna happened upon a fight in progress. Justus and his sisters, Neoma and Dawn (all three 8 years old), were caught in an alley by a couple of twelve year old bullies, Ira and Marek. The fight was broken up and Tristan discovered that Theo's mate had abandoned the children. Tristan and Ushna take the children in. Tristan then scheduled a meeting with Ira and Marek's parent to get down to the bottom of the bullying. It was discovered that Ira's parents were a part of nefarious organization and Ira's father was a True Blood posing as a Lycan. (True Bloods were direct descendants of Enkidu, one of the Lycan's ancestors.) Ira's father was a real ass, angry with Ira for asking for asylum from his parents, and he taunted Ira about whether Ira would be a Lycan or True Blood prey.

In Dragon's Eye, Tristan was saved by five True Bloods. In gratitude, Tristan brings them back to the ranch, hoping to learn more about the True Bloods. Ira and Marek came to the ranch to spend time with Justus and his sisters... There is where this short story starts.

This takes place between the end of Dragon's Eye and the beginning of Releasing Chaos. Enjoy!

Copyright Lexi Ander

Meeting a True Blood

"They're coming!" Dawn called excitedly from the front of the house.

Justus wiped his wet hands on the dish towel before handing it to Neoma. Then he glanced at Neoma's mother, Mary Jane, waiting for her dismissal. Ira and Marek were coming to stay the week. Justus and his sisters had scrambled to complete all their chores so that when the boys arrived they didn't have to wait to play.

"Good job," Mary Jane said with the ghost of a smile. "Now, go and have fun."

Justus ran out of the kitchen before she could even finish speaking. Upon seeing Justus and Neoma, Dawn jumped up and down as she opened the front door. Justus followed, close on her heels. A maroon sedan came down the driveway and he could barely contain his excitement as Mr. Gillander parked the car.

Marek and Ira piled out of the backseat, nearly ending up in a pile in their hurried rush, their eagerness palpable.

"Hello, Mr. Gillander. Mary Jane is in the kitchen," Dawn said as she ran by, reminding Justus of his manners.

Skidding to a halt in front of Marek's dad, he said, "Hey, Mr. Gillander, thanks for bringing them."

Mr. Gillander chuckled and ruffled Justus's hair before he bent, allowing Neoma to claim her customary hug. 

"Don't get into too much mischief," he warned before heading into the house.

After Ira's parents had been arrested for treason, Marek's family had taken Ira in. They treated him as if he was their own. Just as Uncle Tristan had ruled, Ira and Marek spent time with Justus and his sisters which started a tentative relationship. Months later, they were all friends, Ira and Marek visiting on a regular basis.

When Uncle Tristan had heard that Ira and Marek turned twelve but hadn't undergone their first change, he visited the Gillander's. Justus had went with him, carefully watching as Uncle Tristan interact with his friends. Like other Lycans, Justus sensed the output of raw alpha power that rolled off his uncle in soothing waves. When he was younger, Justus had met several other alphas, but none exuded as much energy as Uncle Tristan who was the future king of the Lycans, Alpha of all alphas. Well, except perhaps Corey, the tribe's arms master. But Corey somehow hid his essence, causing others to believe he wasn't as powerful. Justus desperately wanted to learn how to do the same one day.

Uncle Tristan had gathered Ira and Marek close, the Gillander's looking on with concerned expressions.

"Not all pups change when they turn twelve," Uncle Tristan had murmured. He held each boy by their neck, his power rising.

Justus sensed his uncle probing his friends. He wished he could see, to know how Uncle Tristan wielded his power, wanting the ability to do the same when he grew up.

Uncle Tristan made a small noise of satisfaction and smiled. "They are both very close. Why don't they come stay at the ranch for a week or so? They can join the monthly hunt and, if they change before then, we don't have to worry about a human accidentally seeing them."

That meeting had happened a couple days ago, and Justus had been looking forward to the extra company. At times, the mood of the adults could be intense, causing a constant itch that urged him to run in his wolf form. But he ignored the prodding, refusing to get too far away from Randy. After Randy had disappeared for over six months, the nagging fear his Twin Flame would disappear again kept Justus awake most nights.

"Stop daydreaming and come on!" Neoma grabbed and pulled Justus along.

Ira, Marek, and Dawn were running to the hay barn. He and Neoma hurried to catch up. The five of them spent the rest of the afternoon playing, trying not to make a nuisance of themselves and garnering the unwanted attention of the adults. Justus did sneak away a few times to check on Randy, but he spent the majority of the day outside with his friends. When evening rolled around, Justus fell into the blanket fort, erected in the corner of Randy's room, so exhausted that he slept the night through without dreaming.

When the next morning rolled around, the five of them ate in the warrior's cafeteria with Christie and Mary Jane. Justus was eating quickly but not so fast that he was admonished. He was excited to get back outside for another day of playing. The air of the cafeteria was filled with the low murmur of conversation from the warriors and magi. A sweet scent wafted through the room and the talking died down until it ceased completely. Every Lycan sat up and glanced toward the door where the True Bloods, the five Cimmaron brothers, entered. Gradually, conversation started again, but the wolves remained watchful.

"Who are they?" Ira asked, his black hair flopping into his amber eyes. He sniffed the air and Justus waited for his reaction before answering.

When Ira only seemed curious, he replied, "They are the True Blood royals, princes I think. Ace and his brothers saved Uncle Tristan from being captured."

"True Blood's like… like, my dad?" Ira asked, his hand trembling as he put his fork down on his plate.

Justus frowned, knowing what Ira asked and wanting to disagree. The Cimmaron's were different from the nasty man and woman who'd raised Ira.

Marek leaned in, his intent gaze on Ira. "Your dad was a jerk and a traitor to the tribe," he replied softly.

Justus glanced around to see if anyone was listening to their conversation. Dawn and Neoma were talking animatedly to Mary Jane and Christie. The warriors sitting around them were paying more attention to the Cimarron's than to what they were eating.

"Yeah, but, he said I would—"

Justus made a negative noise. "Uncle Tristan told you that you would be a wolf. It's one of Shamash's blessings; our wolves will always breed true."

"But what if being True Blood is the reason why I haven't changed?" Ira said in a rush, fear in his voice. "I'm only half Lycan. What if—"

"Uncle Tristan said—"

"But what if he's wrong?"

Uncle Tristan wasn't but Justus couldn't find the words that would reassure his friend. Instead, he turned his attention back to his food. He wished he could soothe Ira but had a feeling that the only thing to help Ira would be to finally change. Then he'd see he had nothing to worry about.

After he finished eating, Justus made a plate for Randy and ran it back to the house. He would have stayed but Stan ushered him out, urging him to go play since Randy still slept. Stepping out the back door, Justus saw the Cimarron brothers were following the trail that led to the river. The pasture running along the south side of the waterway was the area where the wolves ran when they needed out. Uncle Tristan made sure the horses and cattle were kept at the opposite end of the ranch so there would be no accidental chasing of the cows. "No use tempting mischief," Uncle Tristan had said.

Justus was ready to bound off the porch and find his friends when he caught a glimpse of Ira sneaking along behind the Cimarron brothers. Worried, Justus followed, not bothering to hide himself. Ira was too focused on the Cimarrons to notice he was being tracked.

The trail bisected the grassy pasture. The land transitioned from plains to colorful, red dirt arroyos and deep washes the closer they came to the river. The banks were shielded by a thick copse of trees following the edge of the water that seemed to swallow the Cimarrons as they crossed into the shade. Ira hesitated at the edge, and Justus hurried to catch up deciding he should find out why Ira wanted to spy on the True Bloods. But before he could call out or reach his friend, Ira plunged into the foliage. Justus rolled his eyes at the loud non-stealthy sounds Ira made. Really, could Ira announce his presence any louder? If the Cimarrons didn't know they were being followed, they did now.

Under the boughs shading Justus from the sun, the brush was thick enough he couldn't see too far ahead. But following the tracks wasn't hard and something Justus was good at. When he finally caught up to his friend, Justus stopped at the unexpected sight. Strangely, Ira wasn't hiding behind a tree or peeking around it, but had his forehead pressed into the rough bark of an old oak. Purposely making noise so he wouldn't startle Ira, Justus cautiously approached.

His keen hearing picked up other noises. Squirrels jabbering in at the higher boughs. The trickle of water over river rock. The low murmur of voices. Justus scented the warriors who were tasked with keeping an eye on the Cimarrons. But there were other barely discernible sounds… He glanced back and caught a quick glimpse of a white T-shirt that was out of place in the foliage of greens and browns. Cowboys who reported solely to Randy, the same ones who had volunteered to stayed behind to guard him all those months ago, hadn't stopped watching over him even though Randy had returned. Justus always felt shy when he considered approaching one of them. From what he understood, those men were related to Randy and very loyal, but Justus wasn't sure what they thought about him.

Pushing his wayward thoughts aside, he refocused on his friend. Ira's eyes were squeezed shut and he breathed in soft nervous pants. Beyond Ira, the Cimarron brothers could clearly see Justus and Ira. They watched warily from a small clearing next to the water. Justus sensed Ira's pain and he wanted to help. Gathering his courage, Justus moved past Ira and approached the five True Bloods. He hadn't spoken to them before, so asking them for a favor felt strange. He was sure it was somehow bad manners, but he still hoped they would hear him out.

Wiping his sweaty palms on his jeans, he approached Ace, the oldest of the five brothers. They said nothing when Justus stopped in front of them. For a second, he faltered, not sure how to start. His dad would smile so Justus put on his best grin. Uncle Tristan would introduce himself. Justus held out his hand. Ace took it, showing dimples when Ace grinned back.

"Hi, I'm Justus Sullivan and that is my friend, Ira." Feeling the need to be honest, Justus pointed to the location of the two hiding wolves. "And in case you didn't know, that is Helios and Robert." He pretended he didn't hear the exasperated animal groans. Then he hooked his thumb in the opposite direction. "Over there are a couple of the ranch hands who followed me."

Ace's smile widened. "Is that so?"

Justus nodded, considering how to proceed once the easy part was done. "None of us meant to intrude on your privacy. Well, Helios and Robert did."

Ace's deep brown eyes held a glint of amusement, as if he was laughing even though he still only grinned. "Already knew that."

"Ah… I was hoping you could help me out. Well, not me but my friend, Ira." Ace's gaze flicked to where Ira stood, who now looked as if he wanted to hide on the other side of the tree trunk. Ira's eyes were huge, silently asking Justus what in the world was he doing. He waved for Ira to approach which Ira ignored.

"What sort of help does your friend need?" Ace asked, concern diming his smile.

"His dad is a True Blood and his mom is a Lycan. Mr. Weatherby was real mean to Ira the last time he saw Ira, and he told Ira lies. Could Ira see you shift so that he'll know…" Justus didn't know exactly what Ira needed to know because Ira hadn't said. Instinct told Justus that would help Ira if he saw and interacted with Ace.

Ace motioned for Ira to approach. Justus wanted to roll his eyes when Ira came forward. He could have come when Justus motioned, but Justus refrained from saying anything to his friend.

"Have you seen a True Blood's natural form?" Ace asked.

"Natural form?" Ira squeaked.

"The father of our people, Enkidu, his first form was an animal. He lived in the wild and ran with herds of ancient elk and deer though he was still different from them. Singular. Later he became… almost human."

Ira moved closer, his eyes locked on Ace as he drank in every word Ace spoke. "Almost human? What does that mean?"

"His feet were hooves and his haunches weren't like human legs but furred and thickly muscled. He also kept his curl of horns." Ace grinned when Ira looked down at Ace's feet. Justus looked too, curious. "The human in us has given his descendants human legs and feet. But a few of my people have horn nubs in their human form."

Justus's eyes suddenly began to burn and he closed them, pressing his thumb and finger to them as he tried to figure out where the burst of overwhelming sorrow had come from. He could almost imagine running alongside the thundering herd, hear the rumble of hundreds of hooves as they moved across grassy plains. What would it feel like to be in sync in such surroundings?

An old and weary voice inside him whispered, "Wonderful."

When he opened his eyes, he brushed at a tear that tried to escape. Neither Ira nor Ace noticed he struggled with an emotion he was hesitant to name. Instead, Ira had reached up and parted his hair, revealing two raised nubs.

"Like these?" Ira's voice wavered.

Ace and his brothers stepped forward, a couple of them grinned with delight.

"Alpha Janick," Ira stammered, "says I smell like wolf, that when I change, I will be a Lycan, but I have these. And I'm half True Blood through my father. And I don't know… I'm afraid of what I'll become."

Ira didn't pull away when Ace touched the exposed baby horn. "You will be you," Ace said when he stepped back.

"What?" Ira's large eyes shimmered with unshed tears.

Justus grinned. Those were the words he had trouble finding. Ira would still be the same person no matter what. No matter what form Ira took after, Justus would still be Ira's friend.

 When Ace saw Justus smiling, he nodded. Returning his gaze to Ira, Ace said, "Why do you have to be one or the other? You carry the blood of two regal lines and you will probably bear the markings of both."

"So I'm going to be a wolf?" Ira recovered the knobs with his hair.

"I do smell wolf on you, but I also scent how you are also kin."

If possible, Ira looked more miserable than he had before. "But when I change, where will I belong? I don't want to be alone."

Ace's frown was full of concern. "Do you not have a place now?" He glanced at Justus and Justus nodded. Ira wasn't an outcast.

"But when I change, I might be different." Ira worried his lip with his teeth.

"Ira," Justus said to get his friend's attention. "Your dad told you lies. Marek and the Gillanders love you no matter what. Neoma and Dawn and I will always call you friend. We won't leave you either. And Uncle Tristan has claimed you as part of his tribe. We all belong to him." If Justus saw Mr. Weatherby again, he was going to bite him on the butt for making Ira doubt everything.

"And you are also a brother to the True Bloods," Ace added.

"You don't know me," Ira said incredulously.

"I don't have to in order to welcome you into my circle. In our culture, we often are invited to the first change of young from families we aren't familiar with. They are added to our personal collective, connecting the families together." When Ira looked confused, Ace said, "It's something similar to being a godfather. I can smell that your change is near and I would be honored to be a witness, thereby connecting you to my family."

Ira's bottom lip trembled. "You would do that?"

Ace smiled fondly at Ira. Instead of answering the question, he asked, "Would you like to see me change?"

Ira nodded mutely. Justus stepped away, but not because he felt like an outsider. On the contrary, even though this bonding moment was between Ira and Ace, Justus already felt connected, anticipating what would come, as if he'd been waiting for many lifetimes to see the form of a True Blood. If not for the dreams he'd been having for a year, Justus would have thought he was going crazy and be tempted to tell Uncle Tristan. When he slept, Justus was somebody else, living in another time and place. The person was like him, but not. Over the last few weeks, Justus was beginning to understand who exactly he dreamed about.

Sitting at the base of the old tree, Justus was joined by Helios and Robert, both still in their wolf form. After they laid on either side of him, Justus sank his hands into their soft fur, needing the soothing sensation, the grounding their touch brought.

Ace and his brothers disrobed and changed without preamble. The scent of wild magic grew strong as short fawn-colored fur cover their bodies. The joints of their legs suggested they could run on all four limbs even though they continued to stand upright. Justus recalled his bestiary anatomy lessons. What most people assumed was a reversed knee joint was actually a heel and ankle. Ace's hands shortened, his fingertips becoming blunt and square. The True Blood form was very different from Justus's wolf, but he saw graceful lines and a body that proclaimed Ace could run for hours and not be short of breath.

Closing his eyes, Justus inhaled. The scent of prey stronger now the Cimarrons had changed, but instead of calling his wolf to hunt, a protectiveness surged through him. When he opened his eyes, Ace and his brothers were staring at him. Their faces were flat, their nose short and triangular. Beneath that, their lips were thin and dark brown against their golden pelt.

"What do you smell?" Ace asked, nose tilted as he softly snuffled the air.

Justus looked at Ira, chagrined because he'd forgotten his friend was still there. This whole encounter had been for Ira's sake, but Justus had gleaned something for himself. He spoke the truth that had been buried in his soul. "They smell like home." His wolf chuffed in agreement.

Ace cocked his head to the side and grinned, showing square, blunt teeth. "Then I greet you, brother wolf."

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