Today EAB visits my blog to share new MM Fantasy novel Black Snow.
7 November 2016
Dreamspinner Press / Amazon / B&N
Prince Brier Snow has lived in the shadow of King Snow’s exalted memory. However, his fate changes when he nears his majority and Lirend’s steward queen attempts to dethrone him by exploiting an obscure requirement in the late king’s will: a yearlong sabbatical.
Brier travels to the desolate land of Aire to train under the Ceve guild, scorned refugees of war, including their guarded leader, Roland. Brier’s skillful master unlocks hidden potential, and what begins as a dutiful bond turns into ill-fated affection. When Brier returns to the capital, he’s carrying proof of his indiscretions with Roland—and his condition grows more apparent with each passing day. An affair with the huntsman is a scandal Brier’s enemies can use against him, but the birth of an heir is a burden even Brier is not sure he can bear.
Roland Archer, a man with a murky past, is skeptical of the contract to train the prince but willing to do anything for the guild’s freedom. Despite his best intentions, he is smitten by Lirend’s future king. Roland has resigned himself to solitude, but fate has other plans—for him, for Brier, and for Lirend’s oppressed subjects. Can Roland help Brier face a power-hungry queen and a country torn asunder? Either they will bring equality to a land that desperately needs it, or they’ll be thwarted by cunning enemies and an illusory curse.
Exclusive Blog Excerpt
They were both sopping wet from the storm. Roland was able to set up camp under a large oak tree leading toward the Black Forest and assembled the tent to keep them warm and dry from the drizzle. It was made of deer hide with a leather coating to protect against the rain and insulate in the colder months. There was enough space to start a fire inside, but neither of them had the dynamism to manage it. Instead, Roland lit a small oil lamp to give them some light in the pitch-black tent. He did not know how long the storm would keep up, but Brier was soaked to his first layer.
“You should take off your wet clothes,” Roland told Brier as he began to strip away his own wet garb. The last thing he wanted was for Brier to fall ill after such a close call, though the concern Roland felt was unexpected. As a younger man, he’d learned an important lesson of life. That everyone died eventually, whether from old age, plague, or an arrow to the heart.
Foes… friends… family… lovers….
They were all dangling on an inescapable cliff, holding on just a little longer. Death was always imminent.
Roland watched Brier take off his heavy traveling cloak and then a tattered jacket with missing gold buttons and faint, green embroidered designs on the breast. Then he stopped and looked up at Roland with wide eyes and faintly red cheeks.
“Are you all right?” Roland asked, frowning at how uncomfortable Brier suddenly seemed. The boy shook his head and held his worn tunic more closely. It seemed the trauma of Brier’s near death had emerged. “You are safe now, you know,” Roland whispered. “I promise you, Brier.”
“I know I am safe….” Brier muttered.
“Then take off that wet shirt.” Roland moved to grab the blankets. “Wrap these blankets around you to keep warm.”
Brier shook his head. He turned away still gripping at the tunic uncomfortably. “I will be all right.”
“You won’t be all right if you’re dead from a rain fever.” Roland tossed the blanket in Brier’s lap and scowled. He sounded like Lei with his worrying. Why was he making such a fuss?
The prince peered down, fingers entwined into the wool fabric. “Just….” Brier sighed heavily before averting his gaze. “Turn away from me for a moment.”
“Turn away?” Roland asked incredulously. Brier’s jaw hardened and Roland crossed his arms against his broad chest. “Why do you shield yourself? Are you hurt somewhere?” Roland demanded.
“It’s nothing like that!” Brier cried out. He breathed steadily and shook his head. “Just—trust me, okay?” They stared at each other for several seconds before Brier gritted his teeth and said, “I’m not taking it off until you do.” Roland huffed as he stomped to the other side of the tent.
What in the hell….
He could hear Brier shuffling to take off his wet shirt. Roland thought to peek while he undressed—just to make sure he wasn’t hiding any injuries, of course. However, he quickly dismissed the idea as both childish and overly dishonest even for him. Perhaps Aurelians had some silly rule about modesty to uphold. Not that it should matter for a man to see another man. If Brier was a woman, Roland could understand the prudence somewhat, but certainly he should not be embarrassed around Roland. Or rather… why would he be embarrassed around him? What was he hiding? By the time Roland had turned back, Brier had the blanket thrown around him.
Roland eyed him suspiciously. Brier pulled the cover closer to hide his pale shoulders completely. “Will you please stop staring?” Brier’s face grew redder as he fumbled a square dark box in his hands.
“You know….” Roland grabbed a loaf of the stored bread and tore it in half. “Gratitude is nothing to sniff at.”
“Shall I smile and courtesy, Lord Roland?”
Roland chuckled wryly at the honorific. “I don’t need your fake titles or smiles, but a thank you would suffice.” He handed Brier the piece of bread. There was a brief pause before the prince extended his hand in apology.
“Thank you for the bread.” Brier took a timid bite. “And thank you… for saving me. I owe you my life.”
“I didn’t do it so that you would owe me,” Roland answered immediately. “It is my job to protect you. I vowed to train you.”
“Of course, but I owe you just the same.”
Roland sighed and leaned back on the palms of his hands.
An Aurelian feels indebted to me?
“I was foolish enough to think I could do it on my own. Were it not for you, I’d be dead.”
“Were it not for the gods, we’d all be dead,” Roland recited in a singsong voice. “I always say, we save our tears for the outcome and not the possibility.”
“Haha—” Brier held his hand up to his mouth to hide his smile. “By gods, I never thought I’d say this, but you sound like my nurse, Roland.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. She’s always saying things like that.”
“Perhaps she is kin. Is she over six foot with a perfect beard?”
“I think not.” Brier laughed out loud this time, shaking his head. “She’s four-eleven with a large bosom. Rather wide around the middle. Eats more than you. Drinks ale at breakfast.”
“Sounds like a classy lady.”
“The classiest.” Brier chuckled again and took a large bite of the bread. “Oh, but don’t cross her. She’s got a wallop like a horse kick. Trust me, I’ve been at the end of it a few times.”
“A few times?” Roland eyed Brier dubiously.
“All right, plenty of times.” He rolled his eyes.
“Good on her.” Roland nodded in approval. Brier narrowed his eyes before laughing again. “Wallops build character. And character is the only thing that is constant in this world.”
“But surely there are plenty of people who change for the better, or in my stepmother’s case, the worse.”
Roland yawned and laid fully on the ground. He stared at Brier, listening to the rain plunk against the patent leather exterior.
“Stations change, but people do not.” No matter what he did or where he went, he would always be who he was. No amount of good deeds would wipe out his past.
“Marietta always says fate is the only thing that is constant in this world, but….” Brier’s smile faltered, and Roland felt a pang in his gut.
“You don’t believe her?” Roland asked.
Brier eyed a piece of half-eaten bread. “Aren’t you tired of hearing me ramble, Roland?” He smirked. “’Tis not your duty to listen to the bygones and woes of a homesick prince.”
“Am I to be bound to you by duty alone?” Brier eyes jerked upward and Roland tilted his head, waiting.
“Sometimes I think there is no such thing as fate or else….” Brier bit his lip. “Or else why would fate lead me here?”
Why indeed? Roland thought, gazing at the timid boy.
“I do not know which way to go. Every step I take feels misguided. How should I know what path to take when it is lost in the fog? Even the path before me is riddled with pitfalls. Verily, it would be easier just to give up and go home.”
“Wherefore this sudden loss of confidence?” Roland knit his brow. “It is not like you.”
“’Tis not a loss of confidence, but a realization, Roland. Mayhap… mayhap I am not fit to be a king.” Brier watched him with questioning eyes. Even though Brier did not say it aloud, Roland understood. The prince was afraid: of the unfamiliar path with no one to guide him; a longing in the prince’s heart that was once sated with love; the insecurity of never being good enough. Roland understood it because he felt it every day of his life.
“Everyone thinks I will fail. Who is to say I will not?”
“Whose authority is it to say that you will?” Roland challenged.
“No one’s, I suppose.”
“Wrong. Only you have that power.” Brier blinked, baffled into silence by Roland’s serious tone. “Every decision you make in your life is your own. Most certainly it is easier to go back home, but easy does not mean it is the right thing to do. I wanted to go through caves because they were easier, and you wanted to go through the cliffs.”
“And look where that led us,” Brier scoffed.
“It led us here. In this tent. Safe. Warm. Whole. You wanted Frieling to come with us, and he did. You made your decision, and you saw it through. Who cares if you stumble through the journey? The only thing that matters is that you make it to the end.”
“And….” Brier faced him. “Do you think I will make it to the end?”
The prince looked so exposed then, with his red rain-slicked hair and his lean body peeking through the blanket meant to shield him. Roland raised his hands and covered Brier’s cheeks. “I don’t know the answer to that,” Roland replied honestly. “Though I must say, I have never met someone quite as stubborn as you, little prince.” Brier’s mouth twisted upward, and Roland grinned, satisfied at the effect of his words. A real smile. If Roland had his way, Brier would always laugh and smile. Roland moved his thumbs gently across the fire-like blush spreading through his cheeks. Like petals in early spring, Roland was surprised at how soft Brier’s skin was on his fingertips. Then he leaned in and stared at the boy’s pink lips. Thinking how much he’d like to see for himself just how supple they were. Thinking how different he and the prince were, and why fate, as Brier had called it, brought them together. Roland swallowed. At that moment, a trickle of heat slid down his body and settled in his groin.
“Roland….” Brier whispered, smile long vanished. Brier did not pull away, but there was panic and uncertainty in his eyes.
What are you doing?
Roland removed his hands from Brier’s flushed cheeks when reason tugged at the back of his head.
“Finish your bread and rest,” Roland told Brier quietly. He rolled over to dim the oil lamp in their tent.
And what the hell was that?
He laid down on the blanket with his heart pounding. He knew exactly what that was, and he hadn’t felt it in years.
Brier finished the last piece of bread, wrapped up in the wool blanket, twisted away from the oil lamp, and did not say another word. Roland waited until he heard the gentle rhythm of Brier’s breath before he turned and watched the prince sleep. Roland exhaled deeply to cool his head, wishing he had a strong ale instead.
About the Author
EAB is an airline steward/stewardess—depending on the day—who loves writing erotic fiction. This translates to serving Wild Turkey bourbon at 38,000 feet and writing smut at 3:00 a.m. EAB spends free-time role-playing and reading. While EAB’s true passion is writing, EAB also enjoys reaching high scores in nerdism, spending time with family (cats included), and watching anime. An East Coaster at heart, EAB loves New York’s Broadway and greasy, heartburn-inducing pizza. Feel free to drop a line or recommend some good reads! Always looking for a new book to devour!