New Release: Rag and Bone by KJ Charles

rag-and-boneBuylink: Samhain

It’s amazing what people throw away…

Crispin Tredarloe never meant to become a warlock. Freed from his treacherous master, he’s learning how to use his magical powers the right way. But it’s brutally hard work. Not everyone believes he’s a reformed character, and the strain is putting unbearable pressure on his secret relationship with waste-man Ned Hall.

Ned’s sick of magic. Sick of the trouble it brings, sick of its dangerous grip on Crispin and the miserable look it puts in his eyes, and sick of being afraid that a gentleman magician won’t want a street paper-seller forever—or even for much longer.

But something is stirring among London’s forgotten discards. An ancient evil is waking up and seeking its freedom. And when wild magic hits the rag-and-bottle shop where Ned lives, a panicked Crispin falls back onto bad habits. The embattled lovers must find a way to work together—or London could go up in flames.

This story is set in the world of the Charm of Magpies series.

Excerpt:

They got in hot mutton pies from the shop on Dyott Street that Ned supplied with waste. It was easier than going out to eat, and more discreet, considering everything they couldn’t talk about in public.

“So I have to see if this new teacher will be any good,” Crispin concluded his lengthy monologue. Ned had listened patiently, as he always did. “Or, if I’ll be any good, more like.”

“I don’t get it.” Ned brushed crumbs off his trousers. They were both sitting on stacks of waste, using the piles of manuscripts, letters, prospectuses, and forgotten legal documents as furniture because Ned had neither the space nor the funds for things like chairs. He had a bed, a gimcrack chest of drawers, incredible amounts of paper, and very little else, and he was the most contented man Crispin knew. “I’ve seen you do magic. We both know you can do magic.”

“I can. But…” Crispin had tried to explain this more than once. “Look, you’re a waste-man. You know how to buy waste, how much to pay, who to sell it to, how to turn a profit. Well, suppose I told you to get on the Stock Exchange and make a fortune? It’s all buying and selling, isn’t it? You know how to do that, so why couldn’t you do it with stocks and shares?” He gave Ned a hopeful look.

“I probably could,” Ned said. “If I learned the rules, and if they let my colour into the Exchange, which I wouldn’t bet on. I wasn’t born a waste-man, or even bred one. You learn things.”

Crispin sagged. Ned probably would make a marvellous stockbroker, if it came to that, because he was actually good at things. “Yes, well, I was born with my talents, or lack of them, and the way I was trained to use them isn’t allowed, and I’m no good at learning the new way. I simply can’t make my powers do what I want in the way people want me to. I mean, do you think you could ever learn to draw?”

“No,” Ned said without hesitation.

“You could take lessons. If you had dozens of lessons, I bet you’d be able to turn out a reasonable likeness, but—”

“Not like you.”

That was something Crispin could do. He’d sketched Ned half a dozen times, and himself in the mirror too, on request. Ned had that picture pinned to the wall of his tiny sleeping space. “No. I can take a pen and know how to put what I want on the paper. I can look at you and see how I’d shade your cheekbones in this light, how I’d draw your eyes.” It was the laugh that made Ned’s eyes, the little telltale crease there half the time even when he didn’t seem to be smiling. When Crispin shaded his work, seeking to make his pencil’s grey suggest the rich deep brown of Ned’s skin, he found himself drawing as though Ned’s eyes cast their own light.

Those eyes were on him, warm with amusement, and Crispin realised his fingers had adopted a writing position. He straightened his hand with a touch of self-consciousness. “But even if you tried and tried, it wouldn’t come naturally, or easily. You’d never be able to do what I can do like breathing.” Ned shrugged acknowledgement. “And now imagine you could draw beautifully if you did it a different way but you’re not allowed.”

Ned put an arm round his shoulders. His arms were glorious, thick with muscle, so Crispin had to incline his head to make room. He put up his own slim arm to take Ned’s hand.

“I hear you,” Ned said. “But you aren’t allowed. So it seems to me that you’ve got to do it how they want you to.”

“It’s not fair.” Crispin scuffed the paper dust on the floor, with his boot. “Just because a maniac used graphomancy to kill people—”

“You talking about your Mr. Marleigh, or the one who murdered a pack of peelers this winter?”

“The one this winter.”

Ned sighed. “Missing my point there, Freckles. Be honest, I don’t much like the sound of magic writing or the look of it either. I don’t want you doing stuff with your own blood, let alone someone else’s.” He tugged Crispin’s hand forward so they could both see the truncated little finger. “Don’t tell me anything that starts with chopping bits off yourself is a good idea.”

He sounded almost annoyed, and Crispin bit back an equally testy response. Ned didn’t know. He was a waste-man, he didn’t understand what it was like to have power. He didn’t even want it. Ned was a flit, possessing a tiny touch of magical talent. He was just about able to hear the sounds of the ether to which Crispin was deaf, but he had steadfastly refused any suggestion of training his meagre ability. Why would I hear more of that if I didn’t have to?

Crispin would have ki—would have done anything for the senses Ned didn’t even want.

“Well, it’s too late to change that,” he muttered, pulling his hand back. “And I’m trying.”

Ned squinted round at him. “That’s as much as anyone can ask. Look, drop it for now, eh? I know you want to get this sorted out, but it’s not the only thing in the world.”

He was well aware he’d been talking a lot about it, until the twilight had shaded to night, but the implied rebuke was still galling. “It’s the most important thing!” he retorted without thinking, and felt his stomach contract at the expression that crossed Ned’s face. “I didn’t mean— That is, it’s what I do, it’s the important bit of my day, not— Ned, I didn’t mean that.”

“Course not.” Ned let his head drop back against the wall. “You want to stay?”

“Yes,” Crispin said urgently. “I really do. I’ll stop. Oh God, I haven’t even asked about your day.”

“Same old, same old.” That proved Ned was offended: he never had a “same old” day. There was always a funny story, some observation or interaction turned into an anecdote, because Ned was interested in things, and people, and the world around him. He didn’t only think about himself.

Crispin couldn’t imagine why Ned put up with him.

He twisted to get his arms round Ned’s muscular torso. “Well, if it wasn’t a very interesting day, maybe I could make it more interesting?” he offered hopefully.

Ned let out a long breath. “Crispin…”

Oh, he couldn’t have made a mess of this as well, not this. Crispin turned properly, swinging a leg over so he was sitting on Ned’s lap, and took his face in his hands. “Please, Ned. I’m sorry. I’ve been looking forward to seeing you for days and now I’ve spoiled it. Can I start again?” He dropped kisses on Ned’s cheekbones, one side and the other. “I’d rather be here than anywhere else, and I’d rather be talking to you than anyone else, and I’d rather you were talking to me and I wasn’t talking at all because you make more sense than I do.” He moved his mouth to Ned’s jawline, over the rough slide of beard he’d grown through the winter and which Crispin had insisted he keep, down the side of his neck, and felt the paper dust slippery on his lips. “Please?”

Ned grunted, low in his throat, and his hands came up to Crispin’s ribcage, sliding over his back. Crispin wriggled closer, kissing his way up Ned’s throat and over his jaw until their lips met, and at last, for a little while, everything was all right again.

They ended up in Ned’s tiny sleeping space, which didn’t deserve the name of bedroom. It was a cubbyhole off the paper store, with a sacking curtain to keep the warmth of body heat in—Crispin still felt slightly embarrassed about the look Ned had given him back in the depths of winter when he’d complained the paper store didn’t have a fireplace—with a truckle bed barely wide enough for the two of them lying on their sides. But Ned kept it swept and aired as best he could with no window, and Mr. Voake didn’t notice comings and goings, or care if he did notice. It was a safe space for the two of them, a place where Crispin was himself. Not a practitioner, not a warlock, not a failure or a nancy or a molly or any of the other things he was outside. Just him and Ned, body to body, shivering under blankets that held the evening chill, warming each other up. Crispin couldn’t wait for summer, the hot, light evenings when they wouldn’t need covers and he could take his time looking at Ned’s compact, powerful frame, and the sloping shoulders that made his mouth go dry.

Then again, burrowing under the blankets together had its advantages. Crispin wriggled on top of Ned’s solidity, feeling his way by touch, exploring the wide chest with light hands. He hadn’t expected Ned to be hairy, somehow, the first time, had had a vague idea that men of colour were smooth-skinned, and been pleased to find himself wrong about that. He rubbed his cheek against Ned’s pelt, licking a nipple to attention, and felt Ned’s solid thighs shift under him.

“You’re all over, Freckles,” Ned whispered, a laugh in his voice, and Crispin knew he was forgiven.

“I’ll be all over you before long,” Crispin assured him, and then they were both giggling like schoolchildren at the ridiculous innuendo. Crispin took the opportunity to squirm down a bit, and Ned shifted around, and there they were, with his prick caught between Ned’s substantial thigh muscles and Ned’s pressed along Crispin’s belly, both of them rocking gently as Ned caught Crispin’s mouth with his own.

Crispin was willowy, effete, his manner screaming molly no matter how hard he tried to hide it; Ned was strong-muscled, a working man, a black man. Both of them were very used to what other men wanted of them. And it had turned out Ned was as tired of those expectations as Crispin.

NEW RELEASE: TO LOVE A TRAITOR BY JL MERROW

Blurb:

Wounds of the heart take the longest to heal.

When solicitor’s clerk George Johnson moves into a rented London room in the winter of 1920, it’s with a secret goal: to find out if his fellow lodger, Matthew Connaught, is the wartime traitor who cost George’s adored older brother his life.

Yet as he gets to know Matthew—an irrepressibly cheerful ad man whose missing arm hasn’t dimmed his smile—George begins to lose sight of his mission.

As Matthew’s advances become ever harder to resist, George tries to convince himself his brother’s death was just the luck of the draw, and to forget he’s hiding a secret of his own. His true identity—and an act of conscience that shamed his family.

But as their mutual attraction grows, so does George’s desperation to know the truth about what happened that day in Ypres. If only to prove Matthew innocent—even if it means losing the man he’s come to love.

This is a novel-length expansion of previously published novella.

Available now from SamhainAmazon.comAmazon.co.uk and ARe

COMING SOON: HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DOM IN 5 EASY STEPS BY JOSEPHINE MYLES

Blurb:

Sometimes the little head really does know best.

Jeff White’s needs are simple. All he wants is a submissive to help him explore the dominant side that his ex-girlfriend couldn’t handle. Problem is, inexperience in both dating and domming has resulted in a string of rejections.

What he needs is an experienced sub willing to show him the ins and outs of controlling a scene. Unfortunately, the only one willing to take him on is male, and Jeff is straight. One hundred percent, never-gonna-happen straight.

Easygoing painslut Eddie Powell doesn’t care that Jeff is younger, working class, and shorter. Eddie likes a bit of rough, and Jeff fits the bill perfectly. The trick will be convincing him to follow Eddie’s five-step training programme—which would be easy if Eddie wasn’t starting to have feelings for the rough-around-the-edges landscaper.

Once Jeff lays his hands on Eddie, things definitely get out of hand. But it’ll take more than hot, sweaty, kinky sex to persuade him to come out of the closet—especially to himself.

Available for pre-order now at Samhain

COMING SOON: BREAKING BY BARBARA ELSBORG

Blurb:

Keeping secrets is easy. Until love tempts him to break his cover.

Fall or Break, Book 2

Archer Hart, former SIS assassin, has just completed a freelance hit job when he finds himself in a sniper’s scope. The bullet whizzing past his ear is a clear message: someone wants him dead. Retirement will have to wait, as his only choice is to assume a new identity—and keep running.

Conrad Black is a broken man. The injured barrister has come to the beach to recover from a hit-and-run “accident”, with plenty of time to wonder who might be wishing he’d been left dead instead of partially paralyzed. When he spots a surfer in trouble, he throws his crutches aside to pull the man to safety.

One glance at Archer takes Conrad’s breath away. And Archer finds himself envying the hands Conrad is using to pet his dog. But as the net tightens, both men can feel the targets on their backs heating up. The only thing that will save them is the truth…before death snatches away their one chance at love.

Available for pre-order now at Samhain Publishing, Amazon.com, .co.uk

NEW RELEASE: PLAYED BY JL MERROW

Blurb:

All the world’s a stage…but real-life lessons are hidden in the heart.

The Shamwell Tales, Book 2

Though Tristan must join his family’s New York firm at summer’s end—no more farting around on stage, as his father so bluntly puts it—he can’t resist when Shamwell’s local amateur dramatics society begs him to take a role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The bonus: giving private acting lessons to a local handyman who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances. Not only is Con delicious, there’s fifty pounds riding on Tristan getting him in his bed.

A late-diagnosed dyslexic, Con’s never dared to act, convinced he’d never be able to learn his lines. But with Tristan’s help, he takes the chance. Trouble is, the last time Con fell for a guy, he ended up getting his heart broken. And with Tristan due to leave the country soon, Con is determined not to start anything that’s bound to finish badly.

Just as Tristan thinks he’s finally won Con’s heart—and given his own in return—disaster strikes. And the curtain may have fallen forever on their chance for happiness.

Available now at Samhain, Amazon.com.co.uk and ARe

NEW RELEASE: THE SECRET CASEBOOK OF SIMON FEXIMAL BY K J CHARLES

Blurb:

A story too secret, too terrifying—and too shockingly intimate—for Victorian eyes.

A note to the Editor

Dear Henry,

I have been Simon Feximal’s companion, assistant and chronicler for twenty years now, and during that time my Casebooks of Feximal the Ghost-Hunter have spread the reputation of this most accomplished of ghost-hunters far and wide.

You have asked me often for the tale of our first meeting, and how my association with Feximal came about. I have always declined, because it is a story too private to be truthfully recounted, and a memory too precious to be falsified. But none knows better than I that stories must be told.

So here is it, Henry, a full and accurate account of how I met Simon Feximal, which I shall leave with my solicitor to pass to you after my death.

I dare say it may not be quite what you expect.

Robert Caldwell

September 1914

Available now at Samhain PublishingAmazon.com.co.uk and ARe

NEW RELEASE: RITE OF SUMMER BY TESS BOWERY

Blurb:

Description

There are terrors worse than stage fright. Like falling in love.

Violinist Stephen Ashbrook is passionate about three things—his music, the excitement of life in London, and his lover, Evander Cade. It’s too bad that Evander only loves himself. A house party at their patron’s beautiful country estate seems like a chance for Stephen to remember who he is, when he’s not trying to live up to someone else’s harsh expectations.

Joshua Beaufort, a painter whose works are very much in demand among the right sort of people, has no expectations about this party at all. Until, that is, he finds out who else is on the guest list. Joshua swore off love long ago, but has been infatuated with Stephen since seeing his brilliant performance at Vauxhall. Now he has the chance to meet the object of his lust face to face—and more.

But changing an open relationship to a triad is a lot more complicated than it seems, and while Evander’s trying to climb the social ladder, Stephen’s trying to climb Joshua. When the dust settles, only two will remain standing…when they’re not flat on their backs.

Available now from SamhainARe and Amazon.com, .co.uk