By Ally Blue On Jul 31 2011, 6:00 am
Shenandoah, book 2 of my Mother Earth series, is now out in yummy trade paperback. I have molested my copies already, and believe me, you want one. I mean, look at it! Rawr.
Read on for the blurb and a delightful excerpt of angstiness
Click here for purchase information. Read chapter one on my website.
© Copyright 2011 Ally Blue
The weakness he fears could be his lover’s only hope.
(Mother Earth, book 2)
Bear has never regretted leaving his old life behind for his exotically beautiful lover, Dragon. Following his heart, though, has left them in need of a home. There’s only one place he can think of where they can be together and be happy. Shenandoah. A place of myth—until he encounters signs that it’s a real place that lies somewhere to the north.
Dragon doesn’t share his lover’s faith that it even exists, much less that it will live up to Bear’s high expectations. Yet they are Brothers now, bound by love and so much more. No hardship will keep Dragon from Bear’s side. Even if it means nothing but disappointment waits at the end of their journey.
Danger lurks in the wilderness, the ruined cities of the lost Old World, and especially within themselves. As Bear’s quest for a new home becomes a spirit journey of mystical power, Dragon doubts his own strength—an unbearable shame he tries to hide deep within. But when a chance encounter turns into a fight for survival, Bear’s life depends on Dragon’s ability to put his doubts aside…and dare to hope.
(Warning: This book contains knife fights, cannibals, mysterious ruins, and dirty sex between warrior men)
They pushed north for three more days before infection began to set in. By the time they stopped to camp on the fourth night, after a day of slow and difficult travel, Bear ached all over with fever.
He clutched one of the wool blankets around his shoulders and tried to lie still while Dragon cleaned his wound. Even the gentlest touch hurt with a deep, sickening pain.
“It’s bad, isn’t it?” He knew the answer already, by Dragon’s muttered curse when he’d first unwound the dressing, but he had to ask.
Dragon was silent for a moment, patting the skin dry and laying a fresh poultice over the wound. “It’s swollen and red,” he answered finally. “And it’s obviously infected all around the outside. The good news is, the infection doesn’t seem to run too deep.” He ran his hand down the underside of Bear’s knee in a brief caress. “It’s bad. But it’s not as bad as it could be.”
“Well, that’s good. I guess.” Bear gritted his teeth and lifted his leg so Dragon could pull the old wrapping out from under him and slide the new ones beneath him. Dragon hadn’t said so, but Bear knew they were about to run out of clean cloth. Soon, Dragon would have to start reusing the old ones. He’d been washing and saving them since day one. “I wonder how much farther Shenandoah is?”
Dragon’s movements faltered, and Bear hid a grim smile in his folded arms. He wouldn’t be able to walk much farther. If they didn’t find Shenandoah soon, he’d die out here. He knew it, and he knew Dragon did as well.
After he finished with Bear’s dressing, Dragon rose, gathered the used dressings into the rabbit-skin bag he’d made for the purpose, then went to the fire. “I’ll make you another cup of tea.”
“It’s okay. One’s enough.” Bear wasn’t sure about that, not tonight. His leg hurt so badly he didn’t think anything would help. But to be fair, the tea he’d had before Dragon started on the dressing hadn’t had time to work properly yet. And who knew how long the herbs they’d brought with them would need to last? There weren’t that many willows of the type they needed growing in these woods, so they hadn’t been able to find much more bark since they left Lexin.
Dragon just shook his head and prepared another mug. He stirred in a generous portion from their precious stash of honey, then handed the mug to Bear. “Drink it. I still have chamomile and sage, and there’s plenty growing wild around here. I can use that.”
Bear obediently gulped the tea, trying not to grimace at the bitterness cutting through the sweetness of the honey. It might taste awful, but it eased his pain enough to let him sleep, which was more than any of the sweeter herbs could manage.
A few minutes later Dragon returned to the blanket with an earthenware pot full of the rabbit stew that had been simmering while he changed Bear’s dressing. “Can you sit up? You need to eat.”
“Yeah. Give me a second.”
Setting the empty mug down, Bear rolled onto his side. He pushed into a sitting position, his good leg curled close to his body and his injured one stretched out in front of him. His head swam, but he dug his fingers into the ground at his side and forced himself to remain upright.
When he thought he could move without falling over, he handed Dragon the empty mug. Dragon dipped it in the pot to fill it and handed it back without comment, but the sharp gray eyes missed nothing. He leaned over the pot and scooped stew into his mouth with a clean, flat piece of wood, watching Bear the whole time.
He reached for Bear’s mug after he’d drained the last of the broth from the bottom. “Here, I’ll get you some more.”
Bear shook his head. “No.”
Dragon’s eyes narrowed. “I’ve had my fill, and there’s still some left. And you need to keep up your strength. So if you’re just saying that because—”
“I’m not. I promise.” Bear hunched his shoulders beneath the blanket still draped over him. Mother, he was cold. “My stomach’s kind of unsettled. I’m afraid if I eat too much I’ll be sick, and we can’t afford for me to lose anything I’ve eaten. I’m already weak, and we don’t know how far we still have to go.”
The suspicion melted from Dragon’s eyes. Setting Bear’s mug beside the pot, he rose onto his knees and moved close enough to press his body against Bear’s side. He wound both arms around Bear’s shoulders and laid his cool cheek against Bear’s hot one. Bear turned his head to nuzzle behind Dragon’s ear, breathing in the scents of sweat, wood smoke and herbs. It smelled like comfort and safety. Like home.
Bear hoped he survived long enough to make a realhome with Dragon.
Don’t think that way. You’ll make it. You have to.
Turning toward Dragon, Bear curled his body enough to rest his head on Dragon’s shoulder. He yawned as a familiar languor crept into his limbs. “How much valerian did you put in that tea?”
“Only a little more than usual. You’ve had a rough hike today. Between that and the fever, you’re worn out.” Dragon stroked Bear’s sweat-damp hair away from his face. “Lie down. Sleep. We’ll start whenever you’re ready tomorrow, but we’re going to go easy, okay?”
“Agreed.” Bear yawned again. His eyelids slid closed. When he forced them open, he was surprised to find himself stretched out on the blanket, with Dragon’s shirt beneath his head and the thick wool blanket he’d been using earlier tucked around him from toes to chin. Dragon crouched beside the fire, rinsing the cooking pot with what clean water remained in the other pot. Bear frowned. “Dragon?”
Dragon’s head whipped up. When he saw Bear watching him, he set both pots down and hurried back to Bear’s side. “What is it? What do you need?”
“Nothing. I just…” Bear shook his head. It bothered him that he could fall asleep in the middle of a conversation and not even realize it was about to happen. “You should sleep too. I know you must be tired.”
Dragon smiled, though the worry line between his eyes remained. “I will. Just let me finish cleaning up.”
“All right.” Freeing one arm from the blanket, Bear reached up to touch Dragon’s cheek.
Dragon grabbed Bear’s hand in both of his and pressed a kiss to the palm before letting go. Bear shut his eyes and let himself drift.
He half-surfaced when the blanket lifted and Dragon’s warm body pressed close to his. Rolling onto his good side, he curled into Dragon’s welcome embrace with a contented sigh. He sank back into sleep to the sound of Dragon’s heartbeat in his ear.