We’re excited to welcome Ginn Hale to the blog today! She’s brought an excerpt, as well as a giveaway, with her!
Kiram Kir-Zaki may be considered a mechanist prodigy among his own people, but when he becomes the first Haldiim ever admitted to the prestigious Sagrada Academy, he is thrown into a world where power, superstition and swordplay outweigh even the most scholarly of achievements.
But when the intimidation from his Cadeleonian classmates turns bloody, Kiram unexpectedly finds himself befriended by Javier Tornesal, the leader of a group of cardsharps, duelists and lotharios who call themselves Hellions.
However Javier is a dangerous friend to have. Wielder of the White Hell and sole heir of a Dukedom, he is surrounded by rumors of forbidden seductions, murder and damnation. His enemies are many and any one of his secrets could not only end his life but Kiram’s as well.
Javier did not relent throughout the meal. He was unerringly funny and pleasant. He didn’t lavish his attention upon Kiram, rather, he complimented Kiram’s work as his squire in an easy, offhanded manner. He bantered with Morisio and Elezar and very casually allowed one of his long legs to brush against Kiram’s calf. A spark of sharp desire flickered through Kiram’s body at the small contact.
It required nearly all of Kiram’s attention to ignore Javier’s appealing presence. The food hardly made any impression upon Kiram and more than once he had to ask Nestor to repeat himself.
“You seem a little distracted this evening, Kiram,” Nestor commented at last.
Javier gave him a knowing smile. Kiram could feel a flush rising but he refused to acknowledge it.
“I’ve been thinking about Scholar Donamillo’s mechanical cures,” Kiram replied.
A vexed expression flickered across Javier’s face.
“They’re fascinating, aren’t they?” Morisio commented. “I’ve been studying them myself. I even built a few miniatures but powering them is the real trick.”
Morisio went on and Kiram tried to concentrate on his freckled face, but the light sensation of Javier’s calf against his own obsessed him. He could feel the warmth of Javier’s skin radiating through his stockings and he remembered the weight of Javier’s bare body against his own and the heat of his mouth. Kiram hardly heard Morisio’s continuing ruminations on the key to Scholar Donamillo’s unprecedented success. “I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t something more than pure mechanism behind it.”
“I can’t help but wonder if you realize that no one cares a pig’s tit about Scholar Donamillo’s mechanisms,” Elezar told Morisio. In response, Morisio just threw a hunk of bread at him. Elezar leaned back and caught it in his mouth.
“If your fortunes ever fail, no doubt you’ll have a place in some circus,” Javier told Elezar.
“You’re one to talk.” Elezar tossed a golden plum at Javier. Javier caught the plum and spun it on the tip of his finger. Then he rolled it between his hands. White sparks of light flickered between his fingers and suddenly the plum appeared to vanish. All conversation at the table quieted as the Hellions watched in fascination.
Javier held out his empty hands, displaying his palms, then with a flourish he reached across the table and caught Kiram’s hand in a gentle grip. A conspirator’s warmth flashed in his smile. As he pulled his hand back, Kiram felt the plum drop from the cuff of Javier’s sleeve into his palm. Hellions hooted and clapped at the seemingly magical reappearance. Students at other tables gawked.
Kiram couldn’t help but be delighted—not just with Javier’s ingenuity but also at being included in the sleight of hand. He had no doubt that Javier had conceived the gesture hoping that it would charm him but the knowledge did nothing to diminish Kiram’s pleasure.
Elezar’s demand for another plum brought normalcy back to the table. Atreau needed notes from Holy Father Habalan’s lecture on the conquest of the Labaran Dynasty. Genimo offered his. Elezar complained about Nestor’s engagement and Nestor grumbled responses.
Kiram ate the sweet, tender plum and wondered with a sinking dread whether his resistance or Javier’s persistence would fail first. He wished he could feel happy at the prospect of either.
Award-winning author Ginn Hale lives in the Pacific Northwest with her lovely wife and their ancient, evil cat. She spends the rainy days admiring local fungi. The stormy nights, she spends writing science-fiction and fantasy stories featuring LGBT protagonists. (Attempts to convince the cat to be less evil have been largely abandoned.)