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Vote for King of Blades in the Swoon Awards semi-finals!

There’s a new contest in Romancelandia! The Swoon Awards are chosen by popular vote and are open to all romance readers. Much to my shock and delight, I found out that King of Blades made it into the semi-final round for the Fantasy Romance category.

Voting for the semi-final round ends tomorrow, so if you’d like to vote for King of Blades in the Fantasy Romance category you can do it here — go to the middle of the page and click the pink Next button to start voting. And thank you for your support!

Surfacing, Yet Again

As you know, Bob, I had one more book to finish and release in 2020. This was the very much anticipated Cross Current, which is the fourth book in my Olympic Cove menage fantasy romance series (or as I like to think of it, “Gods and mermen and selkies, oh my!”). People have been waiting patiently for this book for about five years, but I couldn’t continue the series until I’d gotten the rights back for the first three book. That happened this year, which meant that Cross Current was a go.

After I finished King of Blades and released it at the end of November, I got to work on Cross Current. Now, I had about 20K of the book done so I figured, meh, maybe two weeks to finish, two weeks to edit, polish, and format, and I could get it out at the end of December. Being an eternal optimist, I decided to put it out for pre-order on December 1st because I would have more than enough time to get everything done, right?

Put a pin in this because we will be returning to this point later.

So, I started working on Cross Current, and promptly ran into two rather large problems. One, I was hurting. For reasons I didn’t understand every joint in my body was screaming at me, and sitting for any length of time (which you kinda have to do if you’re a writer) was problematic. And no, it wasn’t COVID for reasons I will explain later on. But writing when your joints are on fire is not fun.

Secondly, I was having one hell of a time getting the story out. I knew how it started, knew how it finished, but the the middle part was like pulling teeth. I was lucky if I could get 300 words out a day, in between trying to get my brain to get creative and trying to get my joints to stop screaming at me.

On December 7th, I’m starting to get mildly worried because I haven’t made sufficient progress on the book and the upload deadline would be 6:00 PM CST Christmas Day. And then my muse, drunken ho that she is, strolled in with a margarita in one hand and said, “You’re having problems with this because your story is angsty. Nobody wants to read angsty in 2020. Liven it up, make it fun.”

She had a point. I was kinda putting my main character Matt through hell, and I wasn’t really paying much attention to all of the members in his menage, all five of them. Remember this graphic?

So I scrap my original story and decide to go with a fun Ocean’s 8 style caper story, where Matt has to steal some nanotech with the help of a mer and three selkies, and hijinks ensue.

And I’ll be damned, but that worked. Suddenly the floodgates opened and I could see the story in my head, which is what tells me I’m on the right track.

One eensy problem–those 20,000 words I’d already written didn’t fit this new story. I was able to salvage the opening chapter, but 15K had to go in the cut file, which really put me behind the eight ball.

But that’s when my second Festivus miracle occurred. I ran out of a supplement that I take to keep my nasal mucus thinned out (remember, I live with five cats to whom I am mildly allergic), and a day later I realized I felt fucking great. My pain levels were way down, and I was only having the usual issues with ShitKnee. I looked up the side effects for the supplement and saw, “can cause joint and muscle pain” (unsurprising because it breaks up biofilm and scavenges fibrin in the blood system).

By this time it’s December 9, and I have to put pedal to the metal because I now have to completely rewrite my first four chapters and actually finish the rest of the book. I keep plugging away, but it’s December, which means the J Crew have to be taken into the vet for their shots, I have a dental cleaning, and a myriad of other holiday-related things all eat up my time until December 17th rolls around and I only have 25,000 words out of a projected 80,000. if you do the math, you’ll discover that this left me with 55,000 words still to be written, and I also had to get the book edited, proofed, polished, formatted, and uploaded to Amazon in eight days.

Sometimes, you have to realize that you can’t do everything yourself and ask for help. First, I took a deep breath and talked to Ramón, explaining that I couldn’t do the usual Christmas prep that I do every year and get the book done. Would he mind helping out, or if certain things get pushed back a bit?

I am blessed to be married to the world’s best writer’s spouse. He blinked and said, “Petal, 2020 blows chunks anyway. We can live with a meh Christmas. Don’t worry about anything, just focus on the book.”

Okay, that was out of the way. I then talked to my editor, throwing myself on her mercy. She agreed to edit the book in chunks — I would finish a handful of chapters, clean them up, and shove them at her for editing (she is a goddess, by the way).

Finally, I sat down with my brain and had a come-to-Jesus chat. In order to finish this book, I was about to have a very unpleasant week  where I would have to write faster on a daily basis than I ever had just to finish the first draft, and then I would have to turn around immediately and edit/polish/format. If I could do this, at 6:01 PM CST Christmas Day I would get completely loaded in celebration, spend the rest of the night watching Wonder Woman 84 and Bridgerton, and the period from Boxing Day to January 4th would be devoted to rest and relaxation.

My brain reluctantly agreed. And so I sat down, wrote out a detailed outline, broke it down into chapters so that I knew exactly what I had to do in each chapter, and set out to write 10,000 words a day for the next five and a half days.

Yes, you read that correctly. And that wasn’t all; I would also be constantly shuttling completed chapters back and forth to the editor and incorporating her edits after I hit word quota for the day. But it was necessary because there was no way in hell I was missing this deadline and getting banned from Amazon pre-orders for a year.

So I did it. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I fell into bed exhausted ever night, my dreams were pretty much related to the books, I gained five pounds despite my determination to get at least fifteen minutes on the treadmill every day, the only cleaning I did was sweeping and laundry, and the meals were pretty much reduced to, “What can I throw together in ten minutes?”

But I did it. And somehow, I produced a pretty damned good book. Part of my mind kept noticing how things just fell into place, the three act structure chugging along like it was on rails. Each member of my fivesome now had an identity and screen time, and I cheered for them all the way through the book. And I wrote the most physically challenging love scene of my writing career to date. I’m still damn proud of it.

The last edits went in at 5:30 AM this morning, and I spent two hours fixing a formatting problem before uploading the file to Amazon (I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep until it was done, and I had this irrational fear that I’d die in my sleep and nobody would ever see the book that had killed me) and crawling into bed at 7:30 AM. After one of the best sleeps of my life, I got up, got dressed, played with the kitties, and just … breathed.

It was nice. Then I decided to give the file one last read-through, polish, and spell/grammar/punctuation check because I am an anal-retentive masochist, formatted THAT, and uploaded it to Amazon at 4:15 PM CST, an hour and forty-five minutes before the cutoff time. It’s now churning through the ‘Zon, and the seven lovely people who pre-ordered it will get it at 12:01 AM on Tuesday, December 29th.

And then I decided to wash the bedding so that we’d have crisp clean sheets for Christmas night and clean the library so that I could put up the tree. Get loaded and watch movies? Ho ho ho. Remember, anal-retentive masochist here. But I’m singing Christmas songs as I’m working, and I’m so very proud of myself for finishing Cross Current and getting it out into the world.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and may 2021 be a huge frigging improvement on this dumpster fire of a year.

It’s the little things in life

Like when the ‘Zon actually reads your email instead of sending you a boilerplate response and unblocks one of your series so that you can edit it.

Lemme ‘splain. KDP changed things about a month ago so that authors could edit their own series pages, instead of having to ask the KDP customer assistance team do it. Problem was, I misunderstood the email instructions when we were informed of this and tried to create a new Olympic Cove series page. KDP promptly blocked the series and sent me an email that said I would have to ask them to make any future changes.

Fair enough, it was my screw-up. But when I sent them an email last week informing them of the block on the OC series page and asking them to please add Cross Current, I got a response saying, “Oh, you can do all that yourself now — good luck!” I replied with the info that, er, no, I couldn’t, the series page was blocked.

The response? Crickets.

But I am resolute. Yesterday, I sent them a new email, politely reiterating that I needed to have the book added, and attached the original “You screwed up so you need to have us make any changes” email. This morning, I got a reply saying that the series was reviewed and successfully passed, and the updates would soon be available on Amazon. Translation: “Oh, we see. Okay, yeah, we’ll unlock your series.”

In other news, Cross Current is now officially listed on Amazon as book 4 in the Olympic Cove series, which is nice because that’s currently the only place I can put it up for pre-order (Smashwords requires too long of a prep period for me to do it on B&N, Kobo, or iTunes).

So that’s all to the good. Unfortunately, there are some new functionality changes on the otherwise superlative KDP Reports Beta page that removed the ability to see at a glance which titles you’d sold on a particular day (they used to have a bar graph with colors for each title — now the graph is one color and you have to drill down through a calendar function to find out which titles you sold on X day). But I also have Book Report running, so I guess I can keep that running in a tab and check there for daily sales.

As for Cross Current, I’m chugging along and should have the second draft off to the editor and betas by next week, which will give me a week to clean up and do any final tweaks before uploading it to Amazon on Christmas Day (probably before then, but that’s my upload deadline). The plot has changed significantly, but it’s also a LOT more fun (more of a caper romance than an angsty romance) now, so that’s all good.

And then I get to relax between Christmas and January 2nd. Ah, that will be swell…

Remember Olympic Cove? I’ve got some news…

As of last night I put Cross Current (Olympic Cove Book 4) on pre-order at Amazon. The release date is 12/29/20, which means you have something to look forward to between Christmas/Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve.

Is the book finished yet? Ho, ho, ho — of course not, because Nicola functions best when she has an immovable deadline ahead of her. But I I already have 20K finished and only need another 65K or so, and I will be dictating the bulk of the book this week, which will hopefully give me a first draft by this time next week. Then I can dig in and get it cleaned up and pretty before shipping it off to the editor and beta readers.

The big challenge with Cross Current is that it’s not only a menage romance, it’s a menage romance with five characters. And the main character, Matt, only has a romantic relationship with two of the other characters, who themselves have prior relationships with the other two characters (who are not in a sexual relationship with Matt but become found family members). Did I mention that those other two members are married to each other due to family requirements?

Hmm. Maybe this will work better if I diagram it out.

Yeah, I know, it’s complicated. But it’ll make sense in the end, I promise (I hope, she muttered darkly to herself).

So KING OF BLADES is live

And it’s selling briskly, so I’m pleased with that. I’m also amused that a writer friend of mine commented on FB, “So how did you get Don Draper to pose for the cover art?” Hey, I would not object to Jon Hamm posing for one of my covers, but I suspect his rates would be expensive as hell.

However, that did remind me of something that I kinda wanted to head off at the pass. Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the model on the cover of King of Blades is the same one I used on the cover of Shifter Woods: Howl. Why would I do something like this, you ask?

Well, because I think he’s hot, whoever he is, and he worked as both my world-weary coyote shifter sheriff and my determined king about to become the father of twins. That’s the beauty of indie publishing — you have full control over the covers. And if I want to use this austere, muscled stunner twice, by God I will.

Speaking of publishing, I just got word a little over an hour ago that Blades was accepted into the Premium catalog at Smashwords, so it should be available at B&N by tomorrow morning and at Kobo and iTunes within a day or so. I’m working on the print version and that should be available by the weekend, and I also need to put it up at Eden Books tomorrow.

While all that’s in play, I’m also back at work on the fourth book in the Olympic Cove series, Cross Current (and isn’t that a lovely cover at right?), with a goal of getting that out on *checks calendar* 11/24/20. I’ll be setting that up for pre-order sometime this weekend, so if you’ve been patiently waiting for the next book in the series, mark your calendars and pre-order it. Here’s the (unedited) blurb:

Fresh from a divorce, high school history teacher Matt Taber retreats to a cottage on Olympic Cove to lick his wounds before school starts up in the fall. But the Fates have other plans for him in the form of a merman running from a deadly family history, three selkies who have to satisfy a royal demand, and a new career as the Oracle of the Waters. Can Matt adjust to his new life before the Mad Nereid comes calling?

And there’s more good Olympic Cove news — I’m completing the series next year. Books Five and Six (tentatively titled Riptide Bay and Hurricane Eye) will be completed right after the first book of 2021, Hidden Empire’s The Crimson and the Black. So for everyone who prefers their series to be completed, you’ll be able to buy the Olympic Cove box set sometime in July. But if you hate the idea of the series ending, don’t worry — there will be additional novellas set on the cove, as well as related books (I have this image in my head of a grumpy and very reluctant Hephaestus being dragged to Earth by Hermes to help him get the Olympic Wi-Fi working, and falling in love with a female blacksmith). So many books to write, so little time…

King of Blades, Day 8

I’m starting out today with a word count of *checks Scrivener* 19,201. Should it be higher by now? Oh yeah. Why isn’t it?

Well, let’s take a look at the weekend, shall we? Quite apart from the hellscape that is the current US political situation, I put up King of Blades for pre-order on Amazon. Then I got some excellent advice about the free stories (“A Gentle Fall of Snow” and “Beneath Their Own Blue Sea”) I’ve been making available to newsletter subscribers, and I put them up on Amazon as well for 99¢ a pop. Why? Well, I’m working on the basis that not everyone will want to sign up for my newsletter, but they may want to read the stories anyway so I should make a legal copy available to these folks. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. And judging from the sales I made over the weekend, this was a good move.

Then I wrote 500 words of a short story I wanted to submit to a market (got the rejection today so I’m going to write it anyway and sell it myself like “Snow” and “Sea”). Then I had to update a bunch of pages on the website to reflect the new books, then put out a newsletter and let people know where they could get the free versions of “Snow” and “Sea,” as well as pre-order King of Blades. In between all this I had to adjust my Amazon ads, do laundry, go food shopping, make dinner, and yeah, work on King of Blades yesterday.

So, not quite where I wanted to be at in the book today, but I got a lot done anyway, so that’s all good. Onward!

King of Blades, Day 3

Today’s word count: 3,009
Total word count: 15,364
Approximate words to go: 64,636

So, today was surprisingly productive, despite the fact that every single member of the J Crew insisted on sitting on me at some point during the day. Which is fine, now that I can dictate, but Jasmine likes to squirm around while I stroke her ears, Jeremy insists on resting his big head on the keyboard, Jessie leaves me with one hand, and Jemma wants to be combed (and believe me, she needs it). JJ is the only one who’s content to just sit on my boobs/belly like he’s doing right now, unbothered by my hand movements as I type. If they were all like this, my writing life would be a lot easier. As it is, I’m going to go out on the patio tomorrow so that I can get a couple of solid hours in without a furry little feline trying to grab my attention or demand that I put kibble in his bowl (to be honest, that’s all JJ, but he’s an old guy who needs to keep his weight on so I’ll feed him separately if he wants it).

I also decided to be a complete loon, not learn a damn thing from Shadow of the Swan, and put King of Blades up for pre-order at Amazon. The release date is October 27, so as long as I stick to my writing schedule more or less and maybe have a couple of 5K days in there I should have the first draft finished on October 5, which will give me more than enough time to get everything through edits, polished and in publishable shape by October 23 (aka Upload Day). Once they finish chewing on it and give me a link, I’ll add it to the new King page here and make it available on social media.

And once the first draft of King is finished, I go back to Cross Current and start work on that. I said I was going to publish three more novels by the end of the year, and by God I intend to stick to my word.

First pubs of 2019

Woohoo, I’m kicking off 2019 with a double re-release! My first publications in January will be two novelettes I originally wrote for Evernight Publishing back in 2013; the rights reverted back to me in 2018, and I’m currently in the process of re-editing them and putting them together for release with Belaurient Press.

The first story, A Boon by Moonlight, is my “boy meets Sidhe/boy asks Sidhe for boon/Sidhe asks for night in boy’s bed” piece. This one has a special place in my heart because I dearly want to go out drinking with these two (Zach could be our designated driver, and Jerrek would throw back vodka like it was water and provide running snarky commentary on everyone else in the bar. It would be great). The re-release will also include the unpublished short story “Snow Day” featuring Zach and Jerrek housebound antics during a polar vortex, so there’s some added value there. It should be out on 1/15 so if you’ve never read this one before you can pick it up then.

And may I just say that I’m freaking in love with this new cover? It screams M/M fantasy romance to me (I still can’t believe I’m writing fantasy romance, but my God it’s fun). Finding the stock image of the model in fantasy garb was a real gift, and the other model works with him extremely well. I may do a couple more tweaks to the image before release day, but what you see here is primarily the finished product.

Oh, funny but true story about the cover — I sent it to a couple of writer friends for feedback. One of them writes SF/fantasy and said, “This is for a fantasy romance story? Because the woman on the right looks like a Vulcan.” I had to explain about Jerrek, after which she said, “Ohhh. In that case, it looks great.” *grin*

The other re-release is Grading the Curve, my “hot for teacher” novelette. Whereas I can get Boon out next week, Curve won’t be out for another two weeks because 1) hoo boy, I learned a lot about characterization and backstory in the last five years, which means 2) this 13K novelette is about to become a 30K novella as I gleefully apply both the Editorial Machete and the Storytelling Spackling Knife with a freaking vengeance (seriously, I re-read the original MSS and was deeply grateful that it sank without a trace. It’s not horrible, mind you, but it was clear I had no idea how to write a good, solid MF romance at that time).

The eagle-eyed among you may have noted the extra name on this cover and want to know who the heck Natasha Stark is. Well, she’s me — as of 2019 I’m using that nom de plume for all of my contemporary romances (and yes, there will be more of them — I’ve got at least four romcoms in mind), and this is my way of introducing her. It’s mainly for marketing purposes, since there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of overlap between contemporary romance readers and SF/fantasy/PN romance readers. I want to make it easy for people to find (and ideally buy) what they want to read, so SF, fantasy, or paranormal romance readers can stick with Nicola’s books, and contemporary romance readers can focus on Natasha’s books.

Oh, God. I’m going to have to set up a totally separate website/social media presence at some point for Natasha, aren’t I? I need a drink…

Meanwhile I’m also working on King of Blades (Two Thrones 4) and Natasha’s next romcom, tentatively titled Screen Kiss, so those should be out in March or so. So many books to write, so little time…

Wicked Wednesday Reads: Shadowy Pines

Happy Wednesday, lovelies! Today I’m here with my sister from another mister L.D. Blakeley and her hot new M/M fantasy romance Shadowy Pines, now available from Evernight Publishing and other online sellers. Take it away, L.D.!

A few years ago I went sightseeing in my own backyard and fell in love with a beautiful area just a few hours outside of Toronto called the Kawarthas. It’s the kind of place where I could imagine buying a cottage, or even picture moving to on a more permanent basis one day. You see, it has a vibe. I know – how very woo. But it does. It’s magical, almost otherworldly. And I knew in an instant I was going to create a fictional universe based on this bewitching region in Ontario, Canada.


When an over-educated, underemployed millennial is called home to help with the family business, he jumps at the chance to leave his crap job, crappier love life, and the city behind.

But moving to Shadowy Pines isn’t quite the idyllic life change Finn Parks imagined.

How the hell do you cope when you find out magic – actual magic – is real? Or that you also happen to come from a long line of powerful witches? And that handsome man with all the sizzle? Yeah, he might be trying to kill you.

FML.

 

 


Story Excerpt

“You’d be surprised how easily swayed I can be by a handsome face.”

Not for nothing, but Finn was fairly certain that was a come on. It had been a while, but he did remember what one sounded like. This one was … nicer, somehow. It still had the promising lilt of innuendo, but it didn’t sound like it had been rehearsed or lifted from bad porn dialogue.

“My aunt says you’re new in town, too. What’re you here for?”

“Business. Boring family business.”

“How vague,” Finn teased.

“Seriously. My father sent me back here to check out a vineyard. He’s interested in adding it to the wine brewing facility we already run, the Sharpe Wine Butler on the outskirts of town. You know it?”

“Can’t say I do, but it sounds more interesting than why I moved here.”

“Why are you in Shadowy Pines?”

“Jude and Poppy needed my help, I had nothing worth holding on to in the city, so—here I am.” Finn shrugged. “Now that’s boring,” he added with what he hoped was a charming smile.

“You don’t give yourself enough credit, Finn.” Owen pulled his chair closer and placed his hand on Finn’s knee. “Feel that?”

Of course he did. It felt as though a live wire had been placed against his bare skin.

“Yes.” Finn cursed the breathy, needy tone his voice had taken on. “What…” He wasn’t sure how to phrase his question so it wouldn’t offend. “What is that? I mean, I get the concept of electrical attraction, but this? This isn’t normal.”

When Owen didn’t reply right away, Finn prodded, “Right?”

“No, not really.”  Owen’s fingers were slowly caressing Finn’s leg and inching their way up his thigh “Not for most people.” Owen leaned forward and took Finn’s face in both hands and brought their lips so close Finn swore he could taste him. Owen’s eyes visibly blazed in a way that barely seemed human. Finn froze, his breath catching in his throat.

When Owen finally pressed their lips together, Finn felt another jolt of electricity arc through his entire body and he gasped at the sensation. Owen’s fingers at his nape trailed delicious sparks across Finn’s skin as he licked at the seam of Finn’s mouth. Finn opened eagerly and nipped at Owen’s bottom lip. Never had a kiss made him so crazy with want. He needed to touch, wanted to crawl inside of Owen and feel him from the inside, out. But as Finn reached out a hand, Owen pulled away, his breathing every bit as labored as Finn’s.

“We’re different, Finn.” Owen licked at his lips and watched Finn’s eyes follow the tip of his tongue. “You’re different. You know that, right?”

Finn had no response. None that made any sense. Right now all he wanted was to tear at Owen’s clothes and taste every last inch of the man. But for some reason, Owen had put on the brakes and wanted to discuss—what, exactly? Finn was at a loss. And his dick could have cut glass.

“The woman in the grocery store. You mentioned that wasn’t the first time you’d seen her, right?”

“Right.” Finn’s voiced faltered slightly. Not sure where Owen was going with this, he gestured for him to continue.

“I think she saw you for what you are.”

“And what exactly is that?” Finn asked, not sure he wanted an answer.

“You’re a witch, Finn.”

Owen’s face was so serious, so earnest, Finn almost believed him for a split second.

Almost.

He threw his head back and laughed uproariously. He laughed so hard, he could feel tears well up in his eyes. Well that’s an effective way to kill an erection.

But Owen’s expression hadn’t changed an iota. He simply sat and stared at Finn.

“Are you—oh, god, you’re serious aren’t you?”

Dammit! He knew there was a reason he’d established his dating embargo. He certainly could attract the crazies.


Where to Buy

Evernight | Amazon | iTunes | Barnes & Noble | Bookstrand | Kobo | Smashwords

On sale at Evernight Publishing → $3.99 $2.99 until Dec. 12


About the Author

L.D. Blakeley is a pragmatist with a romantic soul & a dirty mind. She loves horror movies, hot sex, and happily ever afters. She’s easily distracted by shiny things, and is a slightly neurotic, highly ambitious dreamer who enjoys dabbling in photography & pretending she can carry a tune.

In another life, L.D. was a newspaper reporter, an entertainment & music writer, travel writer, website content editor, and a marketing shill. Now she prefers to spend her time writing hot, steamy fiction (with a healthy dose of romance) about intriguing, sexy men.  Although she dreams of living some place isolated with an endless supply of wine and an infinite number of titles on her eReader, she currently lives in downtown Toronto with her husband and their rock star cat.

Find L.D. online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon | Goodreads

NaNoWriMo, Day One

Yes, I’m doing it again this year, and I’m working on King of Blades (Two Thrones Book Four), which should make the Matthiaë fans out there happy. I’m looking to finish it by November 30, with a release date around the third week of December, whee!

The plot: Matthias’s yearly visit to Hellas and the games that are celebrating Danaë’s pregnancy are complicated by family strife, old friends, and a string of accidents that may not be all that accidental. With Danaë distracted by her double pregnancy, Matthias has to sort out this new threat to his ever-growing family.

Day 1 word count: 1667

Daily snippet: The traveling party moved slowly through the shadows of the majestic Arpinnes mountains, toiling upwards towards a narrow gap in the range. In winter the gap would be all but impassable due to blizzards and the sheer amount of snow and ice deposited there, but this early in autumn the route was still clear enough for King Matthias IV of Ypres and his coterie of guards, servants, and courtiers to cross over to the other side. Once they descended and reached the small strip of land that formed the eastern border of Ypres, there would only be a short sea journey remaining before they reached the glittering island kingdom of Hellas, ruled by Matthias’s wife and co-ruler Queen Danaë.

Which couldn’t come soon enough for his riding companion. “Why is it so bloody cold up here?” Prince Ezeudo Debare of Ghobos asked, burrowing deeper inside his fur-lined cloak. “This is horrendous.”

Matthias swallowed a sigh. “I’m not really sure. All I know is that it’s always colder in the mountains that it is down on the plain. Consider yourself lucky we’re crossing now. Last time I did this trip there was snow on the ground.”

“Snow.” A disgusted sound followed the word. “I’ll take the desert, thank you very much. At least the air there doesn’t turn my lungs to ice.”

He considered his companion, one of his oldest and most trusted friends. “Ezeudo, do you ever stop complaining?”

“No. It keeps my mouth warm.” The prince grinned unexpectedly, teeth white against his dark skin. “Besides, if I stopped complaining you’d wonder what I’d done with the real Ezeudo.”

“This is true. Remind me again why your wife tolerates you?”

“Because she is the moon to my sun, the love of my life, and I venerate her as I venerate all the deities. Also, she enjoys my large penis.”

Matthias snorted. “I’ll take your word on that, my friend.”

Another flashing grin from the Ghobian. “You’re going to tell her I said that, aren’t you?”

“Probably.”

“Bastard.”