In this Canes and Scales: the Novel excerpt, the power of the elves tries to make Alasdaire accept his destiny. He ignores the message, much to his later regret.
If you read the novella Canes and Scales, you only experienced part of the romance. Canes and Scales: the Novelsweeps the reader further into Linden and Alasdaire’s spellbinding relationship. Except for their love, nothing is as it seems.
Serpent Prince Linden of Ardaul is determined to drag his barbaric, power-hungry country into the modern age by encouraging learning, advances in the sciences, and tolerance. His insane brother Edward, the King, delights in making him pay for his efforts.
Long years of watching his back, fighting wars, and solving conflicts started by his cruel brother have taken a toll on Linden’s body and mind, and he needs a respite. When Linden meets an alluring young bed slave named Alasdaire, his weary heart responds. Alasdaire is an exotic mix of southern royal Totandian elf and human, and, although he’s also suffered hardship most of his life, his loving personality captivates the Prince.
Despite their differences, Alasdaire, canes—and Linden, scales—unite in body and soul, but their romance is nearly shattered by betrayal. When Linden becomes King, magical assassins, treachery, and threats plague them. They narrowly escape death more than once. The lovers must discover who wants them dead and more importantly, where they can turn for aid. Neither enemies nor allies are what they seem. Only time will tell who means to harm Linden and Alasdaire—the elves, the imprisoned Edward, or something even deadlier—and time is one thing they don’t have.
A LARGE raven flew toward the window to rest on the outer sill. How unusual. I peered down at the glossy black bird. “Do you bid me farewell?”
The lustrous bird stretched his wings and cawed at me. It prodded the glass with its beak, tapping down to where the narrow window opening received the cool morning air. Did the raven intend to enter the room?
One beady eye regarded me with what seemed like watchful urgency. “Caw-caw, caw-caw.” The bird ducked his beak down to dart between the window sash and the inner sill. The raven tilted his head again.
I swore he stared at me. Natural intelligence shone in his round eyes.
Impossible. Why did I know the raven was male?
Unreasonable annoyance made me react. I stepped forward and clapped my hands. “Begone, black one. Be gone!” I stomped my foot, hoping to warn him off.
The raven cawed again. He pecked the inner sill until his beak dented the polished wood.
I slapped my palm against the large windowpane, using too much strength. “Do not plague me!”
The raven opened and closed his beak with silent consideration until he wheeled off to join the other sleek black shapes soaring over the land. His last caw scolded me.
A shiver slithered down my spine. Had I missed a strange message?
Nonsense. My imagination adored teasing my common sense. Two weeks spent with Linden had scrambled my logic. We had made love in Alasdairean every single afternoon. We even stayed overnight, cuddled close while Linden enjoyed his pipe weed. Afterward, we slept under the stars. What a magical time.
When the realm demanded his return, I wanted to murder everyone. Today found me unsettled and cranky, although I hid my foul mood from Linden.
My king needed to rule. I needed to follow him.
Watching the ravens performing their ancient spiral air dance prompted another bleak memory regarding the sun. The first time I had watched the golden summer sun set over the distant mountains, I had bled from wounds inflicted by a noble’s belt buckle.
I remembered the noble pig’s name. Duke Erik Schloss, a cruel old man who punished any perceived slight. When I had refused to pleasure him with my mouth, he had thrust me to the floor, grabbed his belt, and whipped my back. The rage in me had almost forced me to reach up and turn his belt against him. Instead, I had curled on the floor, helpless, subservient—a craven thing designed to endure punishment. On that wretched day, I remembered my bleak place in the world.
I remembered what Lord Keith had told me about quelling my temper.
I had succumbed to being nothing.
I had succumbed many times.
Yet every noble pig’s name dwelled in my small notebook. Keeping track of the nobles who had abused me had granted me a focal point for my hatred. I should burn the damned notebook. Instead I had packed it.
I wondered why. What, would I read it to remind myself of former abuses?
The name Eldon Lynnald also held a special place in my pain pantheon. He had acted kind and gentle until he had opened a flat leather case. No, he still acted gentle when he had tied me up using his custom leather restraints and placed a soft leather ball into my mouth. When he swung his shattered-crystal-encrusted cat-o’-nine-tails against my back, his gentle nature vanished into the sullen air. Afterward he had kissed and licked my bleeding wounds while begging for my forgiveness.
To my dismay, I learned Lynnald appreciated my exotic looks. The wretched noble had requested me each time he stayed at Keith’s manor. Each time Lynnald explained to me how he needed an outlet for his mad passion. He abused me to keep sane.
The ravens swooped close. One seemed to nod at me. Something did call to me.
Not today. I refused to answer. Instead, I concentrated on crushing grim memories, making them small and easy to throw away. None of those decadent nobles would ever use me again. Linden had freed me for all time.
I needed to focus on Linden. He needed me more than he understood.
This morning I savored the first seeking rays illuminating the far mountains. Each tendril of light painted a sharp bright line over the stone. The lines intensified. Morning sun owned such a rich texture, bold and certain in its first strokes.
The ravens danced in black warning.
No. I refuted their dance.
Did the sun glow with happiness for me? I thought yes. Today a dear king swept me away from my former sexual prison. He would sweep me away from the ravens and craven nobles who needed to abuse another’s flesh to remain sane.
What a momentous event—Rahalda’s royal glory awaited me. In four days, I would live in the Serpent Palace.
What a daunting prospect.
When I shivered with anticipation, my mother’s pure love tingled down my spine. She still hoped I would find love and happiness.
I possessed both in splendid amount. My sweet mother felt proud of me. Her gentle presence haunted me in a comforting manner. Elven spiritual ties were hard to break, even after death. I nodded. “Yes, Mother, we seem to have won.”
I smiled. The sun’s full force had defeated the mountain’s shadowy fissures. Golden light washed heavy over the stern rock. Even the shadowy ravens soaring on the air drafts seemed stroked by gilt and light.
Behind me, quick, confident footsteps entered the suite. I didn’t turn around. When adoring hands massaged my shoulders, I leaned back into the pressure.
Linden’s warm breath fanned my hair. A faint licorice scent wafted around me. He did love his black licorice. I learned he always hid a few parchment-wrapped treats in his pockets. “Time to depart, my love. Will you miss this special view?”
“Not at all.” I shrugged. “I should, because the sight provided the backdrop for our romance. Still, now too many new and exciting views open to me.”
He squeezed my arm muscles. “Once again I apologize for our hasty departure. I was foolish to think I could remain away from court for too long. The new systems I’m creating suffer from too much turmoil. The unruly noble children need their royal father to scold them into playing nice with each other. Sometimes I understand why Edward acted like a monster.”
“At least we enjoyed two blissful weeks together. Our time defined our love. I’m not unhappy, not at all. Now I will be with you for all time.”
I twisted in his light embrace. Each time I viewed Linden’s gaunt, intelligent face, my love for him strengthened. Silly, but true. I ran my fingers through his hair. “Are you prepared to suffer my relentless love?”
Linden’s crooked grin reinforced my desire. “Suffer? I never suffer your love. No, I celebrate what devotion you offer me.” Linden trailed demanding kisses over my face. He even kissed the wretched scars snaking across my ruined cheek. “Come, my elf. Your new home awaits you.”
“As you command, Sire.”
Just as I had hoped, Linden mock-scowled at me. “If you call me Sire, even in jest, I’ll deny you my royal favors.”
“Please, then I will call you tyrant.”
“What a sharp-tongued elf. You need scolding kisses.” He launched fresh kisses against my lips. We kissed until he leaned away from me. He ran his right
palm up and down my bicep. “As much as I want to rip off our clothing and continue our delicious play, it’s time to begin our journey to your new home.”
“As long as I am with you, I do not care where I travel.”
“That’s a marvelous attitude. I will keep it in mind in case I need to travel somewhere odious like Intainatar. Last time I was there, the people threw rotten tomatoes at my carriage. How cliché.” Linden grinned at the memory. He tugged at my fingers. “Come, my love, let us be off.
Who is S.A. Garcia?
Forty years ago, I started writing gay male romance. Writing about men inserting tab A into slot B didn’t seem the norm for a suburban female teenager. Reading Gordon Merrick, John Rechy, and Larry Kramer helped me fill in the serious informational gaps. Yes, I read those informative books in my bedroom. No wonder.
As the years progressed, I continued writing gay male romance, although the stories progressed from scribbles in notebooks to hiding on the computer. I wrote fantasies, contemporaries, bodice rippers—my muse Diva Faboo refused to let this old lesbian write a F/F romance. Go figure. Someday!
I’m glad I kept the writing faith. I never thought anyone would published my novels. Imagine, my comedy An Elf for All Centuries (formerly from Silver Publishing; now in talks for a new home) was in the running for a few awards. What a thrill!
My life has turned into a fun quandary of too many stories hindered by my slow, two-fingered typing skills. I blunder onward into more trauma, drama, and humor. I just hope I can keep up with sexy men who insist on running off with the plots!
Along with Canes and Scales: the Novel, Dreamspinner is also home to my novellas, assorted short stories, short stand-alones and the M/M romdramedys (romance/ drama comedy) Cupid Knows Best and The Gospel According to Cher.
Love in the Shadows, my first attempt at mixing M/M historic and contemporary with a touch of the supernatural, is at MLR Press.
Facebook: S.A. Garcia