Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fertile Domain by Jude Mason

Jax watched for a moment, deciding what he should do. The man was most likely a traveler like himself, looking for the same thing he was. But, he could be dangerous, very dangerous. Starving men, even bands of them, roamed what remained of civilization, taking what they wanted and destroying whatever they didn’t.

Another moan set him into action. He lowered his gun but didn’t unload it, and approached the man. The cloth covering the man’s back and legs smoldered, but the exposed flesh and the dark mop of shoulder length hair seemed undamaged. Beside him lay a pack very similar to the one Jax carried, but it wasn’t as well rounded. That meant the man had few provisions. He did have a water bottle that looked clean, and was hopefully full.

“Help me,” came a soft, demanding voice. The man’s head rose, and a smudged face with a pair of deep set, brilliant blue eyes turned his way. Pained eyes, beseeching eyes that somehow urged him to a decision.

Jax squatted beside the man, taking stock of him and his gear. He was thin, but not emaciated, so possibly a little food would bring him around. On his belt he carried a compass, a long knife, and two pouches that Jax couldn’t guess at their contents. Neither was large. His clothing, although ragged, might have been functional before the rains. His boots, however, were almost new, and that was the deciding factor. Good footwear was essential, clothing was necessary, but it didn’t have to be pretty.

Sliding the .45 into his pocket, he reached down to help the man up. It was much too easy, and when he finally stood straight, Jax understood why. He wasn’t as tall as Jax’s six feet, possibly six inches shorter and had a very slender build. With his arm wrapped firmly around the man’s waist, they made it into the safer, drier back room. Easing him down beside the fire, Jax went back to retrieve his pack, and anything else he might have dropped.

Beside the pack was a bow, much like his own, but he couldn’t spot a sheath or any arrows. He grabbed the pack by the straps and, after a quick check around, went back to his little sanctuary.

Entering the room, he found his “guest” sitting cross legged and his hands held out to the fire. He’d taken off his outer wear. “Thank you.” The man’s voice was stronger. “I ran one hell of a long way to get here before the rain set in.” He turned, and again those piercing blue eyes focused on him. “You have food?”

The bluntness might have been out of place a thousand years ago but, in the world of pollution and acid rain, it was the norm. Survival wasn’t assured. Men died easily. They were expendable. It was the women who weren’t. Jax shrugged that thought away and replied, “Yeah, I have food.” He nodded to the man’s pack and the bottle hanging from it. “You have water?”

A smile crept across the mud-dabbed face. “Yeah. I crossed a creek on the way. It’s clean.”

“Good.” Jax went to his pack and unfastened the small bag holding his food. Going to the opposite side of the fire, he handed it over and settled down. “Name’s Jax. Yours?”

“Trev.” He took the bag, and with no further ceremony dug into it. Pulling out a small slab of rabbit, he eagerly sank his teeth into the light brown meat. Sharp teeth and grimy fingers tore a chunk off and the sigh of pleasure came from knowing he wouldn’t starve, not that day at least.

Jax had felt the same, on numerous occasions, so he smiled at the man. “You from here?” he asked when Trev had chewed and swallowed a few more morsels of meat.

“From the crèche north of here. Been out for nearly two years, but never seemed to go far. Had a few run-ins with men who thought I’d be easy prey because I’m not huge. As you can see, I did okay. You?”

“South. Two weeks walk, I reckon, if you walked it straight through.” He allowed his eyes to take in the slender man facing him. Lean, but with hard muscles beneath the tattered clothing, he was well worth looking at. The shirt might have been red at one time, but was now threadbare and a pale orange. His jeans had holes in the knees. “I’ve been heading north for about two months. Wanted to check out the countryside. Animals are coming back. Saw a pack of wild dogs yesterday. Got a rabbit the day before.”

Trev dug a piece of hardtack out of the bag and gnawed on it, finally freeing a marble-sized chunk. Chewing, he sat looking thoughtful for a moment. “There’s a breeder looking for males inside the walls at the southern edge of the city. She’s young, and from what I’ve heard, good looking.”

“That’s where you’re aimed for?” Jax reached for his food bag. It was much lighter when he palmed it. Thoughts of trapping a rat or two crossed his mind again, but only for a moment. Rabbit was better, and maybe he’d find better game. “Water.”

Trev nodded, pulled the bottle loose, and handed it over. “Take your fill.” He rubbed his belly and smiled. “Yeah, I’m heading for the fortress. I heard tell that tomorrow she’ll be looking at new men. I plan to be among them.”

Unscrewing the cap, Jax nodded, then drank deep. The water was fresh and sweet, much better than the stale draft he had, and he savored it as it slid into his stomach. Dragging the back of his arm across his mouth, he capped the bottle and handed it back with a quick, “Thanks.”

Trev’s hand brushed his and he glanced down at the smaller one, the fingers shorter but strong looking. He didn’t pull away. And neither did Jax. “It’s going to be a cold one, what with that rain and wind.”

Trev’s eyes found his and both men smiled. “Yeah, I know,” said Trev.

“You have a good blanket or bag?”

“It was before it got wet. Don’t know what the rain did to it.” His smile broadened and he pressed his hand even more firmly against Jax’s. “You?”

“Mine’s a good bag, and it’s dry.” He released the water jug and sat back, giving Trev time to get a good look at what he had to offer. The sky had darkened. Rain beat heavily down on the roof and hissed on contact. The fire crackled between them, needing more fuel, but was bright enough nonetheless. He was already getting hard. Just thinking of the smaller man sharing his bag was enough to bring back memories of men he’d had sex with over the past couple of years. In the crèche, they were encouraged to explore and enjoy the company of their age-mates. There was no guarantee any of them would have anything but male companions. When he left, or had been tossed out, even that release was mostly denied him. He assumed it was the same for Trev.

“Do you want to share?” Trev asked, his voice trembling.

Jax lowered his eyes, and saw the nice bulge showing between his slender thighs. “Yeah. When I like someone.” He glanced up and caught the other man’s eyes. “And I like you.”

The Edge of Nothingness by Shayne Carmichael

A dark flush colored Zach’s face and neck, and he cleared his throat, feeling the heat. “Thank you,” he said, his tone flat. “Under the circumstances, I suppose it’s my hand.”

“Out of politeness, I should offer to leave. But I am not a very polite person. It would be more interesting to stay and watch you. Don’t worry. I will only watch. I promise not to touch.”

“You can’t be serious…” Zach met Night’s gaze. The glitter of Night’s eyes became slightly more heated though the vampire made no move to touch Zach. Why did he feel as if he wanted to give into the vampire’s suggestion? It was insanity. Yet, the unmistakable throb of Zach’s cock showed him to be aroused by the thought of Night watching him. He hesitantly slipped a hand beneath the blanket and taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes. “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” he muttered, his breath stuttering for a moment. The movement of his hand beneath the blanket was obvious in its slow, up-and-down motion.

“I’ve always enjoyed others pleasuring themselves, Zach. Not so unusual for my nature. There is something very intense about someone allowing you to watch them in their most private moment.” Night’s voice seemed to caress over Zach’s senses like the feel of dark velvet. “And I won’t touch unless you wish me to.”

The motions sped up, Zach arching slightly. “Don’t stop talking,” he whispered hoarsely.

It felt as if the sound of Night’s voice reached for Zach, tantalizing him with unspoken promises as Night whispered to him. “So close you can almost taste it. It builds in you and shows in your face. So beautiful, so tempting. Let me see you come. I want to breathe in the scent of your desire, to taste it in my own unique way.”

“Night.” His hips jerked suddenly, the scent of his come filling the space between them.

As the vampire drew in the scented air, a soft growl erupted from his throat, yet he didn’t move. “You smell so sweetly delicious, young Zach. I can taste you on my breath. And you called to me in your pleasure. Such a beautiful sound to me.”

Zach licked his lips, shuddering through the last of the tremors. “How do you do this?”

“Do what? I have done nothing but speak to you. I do have a more powerful sense of smell that allows me to enjoy what you just did far more intimately than mortals can.”

“How do you make me want you?”

“I have done no such thing to you. And I will show you.” He placed his hand on Zach’s stomach, and the contact sent a sudden surge of near unbearable arousal through Zach. Zach arched and within seconds had him pinned to the bed. Zach straddled Night’s waist, cock hardening once more.

It was his own desire for Zach that Night fed to him. Just as quickly as it came, the feeling faded from Zach. “That is what happens when I feed my own desire to you. It is nothing like what you felt earlier, is it?”

Zach started to get up, but the sensation of silk against his hard flesh was too much. He gripped Night’s wrists, pinning them to the bed. Without saying a word, he started rocking, the thin fabric the only barrier between them as he pushed their cocks together.

A low groan escaped Night with the friction. “Zach, look at me. If you wish I will take care of it, but push me no further. It may not be what you want.”

Careful not to hurt him, Night rolled them both until the weight of his body trapped Zach to the bed. The downward shift of his body parted Zach’s legs and he settled between them, running his hands slowly over Zach’s inner thighs. The sight of Zach’s hardened cock drew a hungry growl from him, he had to taste, if only to ease his own inner need. One hand wrapped the base before the heat of his mouth engulfed Zach.

“Night!” Zach’s fingers twisted in Night’s hair, clenching into fists.

A shudder rolled through him as Zach yelled his name, and Night swallowed him. His tongue and lips began an erotic dance over Zach’s cock, hungrily taking him in repeatedly. Just the smallest nick of his fangs to the engorged flesh fed a tiny taste of the hot blood to Night.

Zach shouted, hips snapping up, pushing his cock down Night’s throat as he shot. He tumbled hard into the pleasure exploding over his senses. His heart pounded and his body trembled with the sensations overtaking him.

With the last jerk of Zach’s body, Night released him. Propped on his arms, he shifted to the side of Zach. “Perhaps your dreams will not be nightmares, young Zach.”

Panting, Zach drew his hands down his face. “Gods. I can’t believe I just did that with a vampire.”

“It is nothing to be ashamed of. Now you can return to your hatred.” Saying no more, Night silently disappeared from the bed.

Closer to You: Lee by Marie Rochelle

Out in the main room, Lee popped another mouth-watering crab puff into his mouth. He savored how flaky and good the fresh crabmeat tasted. Whoever fixed these had a talent that was probably worth more than Amanda was paying them. He had been bored since he stepped foot in the huge loft apartment.

At least Amanda had good taste, the place was decorated as only an art dealer could do. Looking to his left, he saw a smiling Amanda working the room as she usually did, wearing a very low cut dress for her rich male buyers. The more paintings the artist sold, the more money put into Amanda’s bank account. Walking around, he tried to find more crab puffs, but the servers only had the pretzel pastries that were good, but not as excellent as the crab.

Knowing his date would be in a conversation for a while before she missed him, Lee sneaked into the kitchen. Moving around the large area, he was about to give up hope on finding anymore crab until he saw a tray sitting by the stove. From the looks of them, they just came out of the oven. Lee walked over and popped a warm one in his mouth.

Swallowing it down, Lee licked his lips savoring the wonderful taste. As his hand reached for another crab treat a sexy voice spoke behind him, “Sir, if you go back out to the party. I’ll send the tray out by one of the servers.”

Placing the puff on a napkin next to the tray, Lee thought the voice sound very familiar. He turned around slowly and his eyes connected with Cherise’s. He grinned at the stunned look that passed over her gorgeous face. This night was going to turn out better than he first thought.

“Hello, sexy,” he said walking closer to her. His eyes stripping the green wrap around dress from her tempting body. “Are you the one catering this party?” he asked standing so near now that Cherise could feel his breath on her cheek.

No, Cherise’s mind screamed. Lee isn’t standing in front of her looking so handsome in his black suit. I can’t be caught in here with him alone. It would be another five minutes before any of the servers came back in for another tray. Her body would betray her in two minutes if Lee touched her, let alone pressed those firm lips of his on hers.

“Lee, what are you doing here?” Cherise asked, trying to move around him, but Lee placed his arm on the table blocking her in.

“I know you won’t answer me until I answer you,” he said reaching out to touch her shorter hair. “Why did you cut your hair? I liked the way it brushed your breasts when you wore it down.”

Gasping at his intimate talk, Cherise leaned back from him. “You didn’t answer my question,” she whispered looking at his mouth.

Lee noticed her eyes on him and it made his body respond. “I’m friends with Amanda Green and she needed a date,” he answered, running the pad of his thumb over the pulse beating in her neck.

Cherise didn’t believe any man would be just friends with a woman who looked like Amanda. “Sure, you’re just friends with Amanda and I just won the lottery,” Cherise snapped, pushing at his chest so he would move.

Was that jealousy he heard in her voice? He was ecstatic because if she was showing this kind of interest in him, maybe it would lead to more things. “Cherise, are you going to answer my question?” Lee whispered in her ear.

The feel of his breath on her earlobe made Cherise’s eyes close for an instant and then reopen them. “Yes, I’m working here at the party,” she responded looking into his beautiful eyes. God, why did he have to be everything she wanted but in the wrong package? Traci found her prince, but Lee Drace would never be hers because she wouldn’t allow it.

“Could you please move so I can check on the food?” she asked, her hand touching him in the middle of the chest.

Lee always lost his train of thought when Cherise touched him. “I’ll move on one condition.”

“I’m not going to kiss you,” she muttered.

Running his fingers through her shoulder length pageboy haircut, Lee cupped her chin in his hand making her look him in the eye. “I don’t want a kiss, yet, but I will get one in the future,” he promised his mouth inches from hers.

Licking her lipstick-covered mouth, Cherise asked, “What do you want from me?”

Easing his hand down her back, he cupped her firm butt. Yanking her to his aroused body, he brushed his lower body slowly against her making a gasp ease between her lips. “A date,” he said, staring into her eyes.

Her eyes widened in fear. To go out on a date with Lee would be committing suicide to her mind, body, and soul. He was way too devilish to ignore. “I can’t,” Cherise answered trying to get out of his light yet strong hold.

“Why not?” he asked, forcefully.

“Let go of me,” she said squirming in his hold, the feel of him through her thin dress was driving her crazy.

“Not until you tell me why,” he replied, pressing her body completely to his.

Biting her lips, she looked into his eyes again. “I can’t tell you, Lee,” her soft voice whispered. Sinful eyes widened then narrowed with anger.

Picking her up, Lee carried her into the bathroom that he knew was to the left of him. He closed and locked the door behind them.

She gasped at how quickly Lee moved with her weight. “You picked me up,” she whispered as he sat her on the vanity in the large bathroom.

“Don’t start with me about your weight,” he growled. “Are you dating someone?”

Shoving at his chest, Cherise got him to move back from her. “How dare you ask me that? You’re dating Amanda, which means you have no claim on me,” Cherise informed him hotly.

Moving quickly, Lee pressed her back against the mirror with his large body, “I’m not dating Amanda, she’s dating me,” Lee said.

Blind Date by Selena Kitt

Annie found herself playing a game she hadn’t even thought about since she was twelve years old and Robbie McCormick cut his lip on her braces. Her image of some benign affair, where everyone stood around with a wine glass and nibbled canapés, was deteriorating faster than her last blind date—with Stan the Used-Car-Salesman.

She’d had no idea when her sisters had invited her to this thing that it was going to be some nightmarish, pre-teen flashback. Annie felt ridiculous in such a revealing position, sitting cross-legged, trying to tuck her pastel patchwork skirt between her thighs. She noticed a lot of the women had discarded their shoes, but she was wearing soft, knee-high black boots that didn’t lend themselves to a casual slipping-off. The entire room had morphed from mingling adults to a gang of unruly adolescents, hooting and howling and elbowing each other the minute they all sat in a circle on the floor in their suits and skirts.

Her oldest sister, Chloe, spun the empty rum bottle and everyone roared when the narrow end settled on Rebecca, the middle sister. While the men whistled and whooped, both women crawled, giggling, toward the center of the large circle. Their cheeks flushed the same shade of rosy pink as they briefly touched lips.

Annie blushed as well, appalled and astonished at how her body remembered these old games with a dreadful pang and tingle: first kisses and two-minutes-in-the-closet fumblings. There was the time she and her sisters had tried to make their own soap opera just to have an excuse to kiss the boys. Then there was the summer they’d built a fort made of someone’s discarded turquoise carpet and played spin-the-bottle with an empty gin bottle Gary Hillman snitched from his mom’s stash.

There was a burst of laughter from the other room and Annie glanced toward the adjoining door to the den. She wondered what they were playing in there. Truth or dare? They sound just like teenagers, she thought, like some feral pack full of adolescent angst. Are we really just one immature game away from that part of ourselves? She smiled wryly, feeling far removed from any sensible adult reality as she watched Rebecca creep back to the middle of the circle to spin the bottle.

A chorus of “woo-hoos!” sang out when the bottleneck found John, Becca’s husband of two years, and they kissed. Annie winced when she saw his tongue slip into her mouth. She looked away, focusing on the red and white streamers hanging above her head. There were red foil hearts with plump cupids pasted in their centers spinning wildly on thread and attached to the ceiling by thumbtacks.

Annie was surprised Chloe had allowed tacks in her ceiling, even for something as important as maintaining the theme of the night—the sound of the bottle spinning on the hardwood floor brought Annie’s focus back to the game. John’s eyes were glued to the bottle as it slowed. She ducked as if she could avoid it as the bottle stopped, pointing just past her knee to the chubby girl on her left. Thank god. John was crawling toward them, grinning and eyeing Annie’s hemline, while the redhead next to her blushed to match her hair. Rebecca was watching, looking casual, but Annie knew better.

“Hey, I think this is pointing to Anne,” John exclaimed as he drew nearer. “Look at the angle.”

“This isn’t geometry, John, come on,” Annie hissed at him, keeping her voice low, hoping her sisters couldn’t hear. “Kiss the girl and get it over with already! Looks like she needs it more than I do.” Annie cut her eyes to the redhead’s face, which had flushed a deeper shade. The girl looked down at her lap as if there were something interesting there.

John raised his eyebrows at Annie, and she saw she had made a mistake. “Rebecca, I’m serious. Come look! I swear this thing is pointing at your sister. Chloe, are you the referee here?”

“John, it’s pointing at Lynn, not Annie,” Chloe called. “Come on, let’s keep the game going.”

“It is not,” John insisted. “You aren’t even over here! Come look!”

“Oh fuck this,” Annie muttered, struggling to stand without flashing the entire group a shot of her panties. For a moment, she thought she had succeeded, but from the look on a few of the guys’ faces, she realized they had seen something. Raising her voice, she said, “You know what, John? You kiss the fat girl here, and I’ll just step out of this juvenile little game that I never in a million years thought I’d be playing at the age of twenty-seven, okay? What do you say?”

Annie nudged him hard in the side with her shin as she passed. She heard him grunt. She turned back when she got to the kitchen door and saw the redhead standing, wobbly, making her way in the opposite direction. Annie felt a stab of guilt and shoved open the swinging door to her sister’s pristine kitchen. The light was off, and she left it, knowing her way even in the dark. She plopped onto one of the stainless steel kitchen chairs and unzipped her boots with a sigh, then toed them off.

Annie could hear her sister busily trying to save the day. “Let’s play the kissing game!”

She heard someone—possibly John—say, “I thought we were?”

Annie sighed in relief when that awful, stunned silence turned back to party chatter. She wished she drank or still smoked—or did anything dangerous and bad for her. Anything that could make her feel good—or just alive—even for a moment. Her sisters seemed to think the answer to Annie’s attitude was a man and had set about finding her one—with a vengeance! When she looked at Chloe and Rebecca’s lives though, she didn’t find much to envy. If that’s what having a man was about, she didn’t want to have any part of it.

Besides, Annie wanted something more, something different. She was tired of all the games and hookups and pretending. She had been to hundreds of parties like this one, and she always felt like some aging, dark-haired Barbie doll propped up in the corner by her sisters for all the Kens to come by and gawk at. She could never be herself, even for a moment. She always felt too guarded to let herself really get to know people, let alone really feel anything for anyone.

Chloe poked her head through the swinging kitchen door, spilling light into the room. Annie covered her eyes, which had already adjusted to the darkness. “What do you think you’re doing? You’re going to ruin everything!” Chloe hissed.

“Get the fuck out of here,” Annie spat back, giving her sister the finger.

Chloe rolled her eyes, opening the door to step in.

Annie leaped to press against the swinging door, trapping Chloe firmly between the door and the frame. Chloe grunted in surprise.

“I’m not kidding. I am not going back out there, so you can forget about it. What the hell are they doing now?” Annie stared past her sister, her brow furrowed and her mouth agape in horror as men and women in a circle were passing a playing card from person to person, mouth to mouth.

“The kissing game,” Chloe replied meekly.

“Oh my god. That’s it. Get out of this room and don’t let anyone else in here! You got me? I am done with this Hook-Annie-Up-Valentine-Shindig!”

“But, sweetie, you—”

“No! Not another word from you, okay?”

“Okay, fine. Could you...?” Chloe waved her hand, the one inside the kitchen, indicating the door where she was stuck. Annie eased off a little and Chloe sighed, stepping back out into the living room. “We were all just trying to do something nice for you, Annie.”

“Yeah, yeah. Thanks a lot. Appreciate it. Go!”

Annie flopped into the kitchen chair, tipped it back and put her bare feet up. She smiled with a bit of satisfaction, knowing she was probably the first and only person to have a body part other than maybe an elbow on Chloe’s expensive table.

“Didn’t your mother ever tell you that you could crack your head open doing that?”

Annie let out a yelp and the chair toppled backwards onto the hand-laid Italian tile. She saw stars bursting in the darkness behind her eyes and blinked rapidly to clear them. “Fuck!” she swore, rubbing the back of her head and rolling off the chair onto the floor. Her head was tender and already swelling, and she thought she could feel the wetness of blood. “I think I’m bleeding. Who’s there? Where are you?”

“Right here. Are you okay? I’m sorry.”

Annie saw the shadowy figure move out from underneath the kitchen table.

“I don’t know if I’m okay. I think I’m bleeding.” She tried to stand but immediately felt woozy again and had to sit. She rubbed the swelling on the back of her head, wondering how bad it really was. “Could you turn on the light, please?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t do that,” he replied, steadying her with a hand on her arm. It was a warm hand, large, with a firm grip.

“Gee, thanks, buddy. Fine, I’ll do it myself.” Annie sighed and started to stand again. His hand on her arm kept her from moving.

“No, please, don’t.” It was a request, but it didn’t sound like one.