Medusa in Your Head

There are lots of reasons why Medusa is the most interesting character in mythology to me, and why she inspired my
Medusa’s Consortium series. One of the biggies for me is that Medusa gets in your head in ways no one else can.

 

For Freud, she represented the male fear of castration. You’d expect that from Freud though, wouldn’t you? According to Freud, this fear is associated with that first view of mature female genitals — back in the day when muffs really were muffs – thus the association with snakes in the hair. The turning to stone is the resulting erection. Apparently there’s no evidence in the literature surrounding Medusa that she ever turned a woman to stone.

 

Medusa is also a classic example of god-bashing or in this case goddess-bashing. A conquering people often debased the gods of the conquered lands, the assumption being that they were able to conquer because ‘our-god’s-stronger-than-your-god.’ Greek mythology often shows this through the rape or seduction of someone by one of Greek pantheon – most often Zeus. Those being raped or seduced are usually local goddesses. Poor Medusa, however, gets a double whammy. She is raped by Poseidon in the temple of Athena, where she should have been under the protection of the goddess. Then, in the classic example of victim blaming, Athena curses her for debasing her temple – thus the snakes in the hair and the face that turns anyone who looks at her to stone.

 

From a feminist point of view, Medusa represents female rage. I suppose that’s as much why I chose to tell her story my way as anything. Strangely enough, I didn’t know about the feminist viewpoint when Medusa’s Consortium was conceived. I only knew that her story made me rage, that I wanted revenge for Medusa. That being the case, like everything a writer puts to pen, the story of Medusa’s anger has to be, on some level, the story of my own anger. The way Magda Gardener works through it as a modern anti-hero in my novels is, no doubt, on some level my way of working through my own issues. That, I guess, is far more Jungian than Freudian.

 

But then not everything is about penis envy. At least, for me, and from the point of view of Magda Gardener/ Medusa, it’s not the penis that is envied so much as the power it represents. It is the desire for the power and the freedom to control one’s own destiny. It’s the lack of that control that causes the rage. Magda Gardener and her consortium give me a wonderful way to retell her story in a modern setting, in a place where her revenge is ongoing, as is her redemption. And Magda Gardener’s redemption, her need for family and connection is every bit as important as her need for revenge. Here’s a little excerpt from Blind-Sided, in which Paul Danson, a New York City police detective in way over his head, meets Magda Gardener for the first time. Enjoy.

 

Blind-Sided Blurb:

 

In New York City away from those she loves, living with the enigmatic vampire, Desiree Fielding, Susan Innes struggles to come to terms with life as a vampire whose body serves as the prison for a powerful demon. When Reese Chambers arrives unexpectedly from England, desperate for her help, she discovers that Alonso Darlington, his lover and her maker, has been taken captive and Reese has been warned to tell no one but her. Before the two can make a plan, Susan receives her own message from a man calling himself just Cyrus. He not only holds her maker prisoner, but also her lover, the angel Michael, and if she wishes to see either of them alive, she’ll come to him and not tell Magda Gardener, the woman they all work for and fear. With no help coming from Magda or her Consortium, Susan and Reese must turn to the Guardian – the terrifying demon now imprisoned in her body. He alone can help them, but how can she possibly trust him after all he’s done?

 

 

We Meet At Last — Excerpt:

 

When he saw Magda Gardener for the first time, Paul was on his way back to his desk, updating Margaret on the phone. … At the sight of her, everything around him faded to background noise and he had a rabbit in the headlights moment. The only thing he wanted more than to run away before he caught her attention was to be the center of her attention. For a moment he stood unmoving, seriously fearing that he’d forgotten how to breathe. She wore faded jeans over legs that went on for miles all the way down to the black leather ankle boots that were totally soundless as she moved across the ageing tile floor with a dancer’s ease. Even in the baggy white cable knit sweater it was not difficult to tell that there were dangerous curves beneath. She had a yard of fiery golden ringlets just like in those Pre-Raphaelite paintings his mother used to love. My God, they looked almost like they lived and breathed and moved around her shoulders in adoration of the woman they belonged to, and yet, they were simply and carelessly tied back in a black ribbon. He couldn’t imagine what the eyes of a woman with such porcelain skin and such breathtaking hair must look like, and he had to imagine, because she hid them behind a pair of tortoise shell sunglasses. He didn’t know how long he’d stood there looking at her with Margaret all but shouting in his ear, asking if he was all right. It was only when she came to him, offered a smile and extended a hand that he remembered himself.

“Margaret, I’ll call you back,” he said and disconnected nearly dropping his phone as the woman’s warm fingers closed around his. For a second, he felt the room tilt and go slightly out of focus, and then her voice pulled him back.

“Detective Danson. My name is Magda Gardener. I need to talk to you about some missing persons.” She glanced around the room. “Preferably in private.”

“Of course,” he managed, nodding down the hall toward one of the empty interrogation rooms, very aware that all eyes were on them. He mumbled something about getting her a coffee or a Coke. She thanked him but declined.

“Please leave the door open,” she said when he made to pull it shut behind them. A slight flush of pink tinged her cheeks. “Afraid I’m a bit phobic where closed doors are concerned.”

He did as she asked, then pulled the chair usually reserved for suspects around to his side of the table and she settled into it, not waiting for him to ask how he could help her. “I’ve spoken to Vince Layton, and I know that the man calling himself Cyrus Rivers, has my people.”

After a couple of fish gasps, Paul responded. “You talked to Layton?”

“I did, yes. He was happy to talk to someone else who believed him, and he told me that you were the person I needed to see. Of course Desiree Fielding told me the same, but not very willingly, I’m afraid.” She offered him a warm smile that had his heart racing. “The woman means well, but she’s sometimes way too secretive. I, on the other hand, am not, Detective. I want my people back, and I want this Cyrus and the monster who pulls his chains … neutralized.”

“Neutralized.” Paul suddenly felt light-headed, like maybe he’d helped Layton finish off the bottle of Jack. “Look, Ms. Gardener, the two of us are on the same page here, and I assume you’re talking about Darlington and Weller.”

“And Susan Innes. He also has her now, though I’m sure Desiree didn’t tell you that.”

“Jesus,” he whispered, fighting the urge to hang on to the edge of the chair, which felt strangely unstable at the moment. “No she didn’t. Why not, is what I want to know?”

“Because you’ve been accusing her and Reese and Susan of … well of all sorts of things, and if you’ve talked to Layton and gotten the same responses I have then I’m sure you must understand that the three of them would like to keep the situation secret, and frankly the lives of Alonso and Michael may well have depended on it in the beginning, though now circumstances have changed.”

“And how exactly have they changed, Ms. Gardener?”

Her glasses slipped just the tiniest bit and his whole body erupted in goose flesh. He found that he desperately wanted to look away and yet at the same time, he never wanted to look away from her again. “Cyrus and his boss have my people, and they’re counting on me coming for them.” She pushed the glasses back up the bridge of her nose.

He swallowed hard with a throat that felt like it was full of sawdust. “What, you mean like an exchange – you for them?”

“More like I’m the cherry on the cake,” she said with a quirk of a smile.

He ran a hand over his stubble and puffed out a sharp breath. “So what exactly do you want from me, Ms. Gardener – a stake-out? Because if that’s the case, then you’re going to have to tell me exactly what the hell is going on before I put you, or my men, at risk.”

“Actually,” she stood and moved to pace the room, “I want to know what you know, Detective, and if you tell me what you know, I’ll tell you what you don’t know.” He was about to say that it didn’t work that way, when she continued. “For instance, I know that you and the lovely Dr. Margaret – she is delightful by the way – are battling with the fact that there just might be vampires in the world. I’ll make it easier for you. There are, lots of them, and yes both Desiree and Susan are vampires and Reese is the lover of one – Alonso Darlington. Though I reckon you’ve probably already figured that out – I mean about the two being lovers, since you’ve been in touch with the Cumbrian authorities.”

Paul heard everything after there are vampires in the world through a loud ringing in his ears, and the woman pacing back and forth in front of him seemed suddenly out of focus. She turned and settled herself on the edge of the desk looking down at him. “If you struggle with the existence of vampires, Detective, then the rest of the story is going to be a very hard pill for you to swallow.” The smile she offered him was empathetic and, to his surprise, she reached out and took his hand. “Detective you already know the monsters are real. You encounter them every day. While Desiree was shocked that she couldn’t glamour you, she shouldn’t have been. You have the capacity to understand the darkness better than most, Paul. I know this about you. I’ve done my research. You have the capacity to look for answers that others doubt, that others don’t believe possible. That being the case, why wouldn’t you be able to figure out for yourself that there are vampires and things much, much worse in the world? She gave his hand a squeeze and settled back on the desk. Her hair swayed as though it were suddenly caught in a breeze, “much worse.” Her voice was little more than a whisper and the look on her face was one of deep sadness. Paul just sat there. How could he respond to that? How could he respond to any of it?

“What do you want from me?” He managed at last, realizing that it was the question she should be asking him.

“I want you to help me find where Cyrus is keeping my people. I want you to take me to this place where you found Mr. Layton. I may be able to pick up something from it that you missed.” When he made no answer, she raised a golden eyebrow. “Detective?”

“She really did pull that man’s head off? Susan Innes did?”

“She did, yes, and that man was no man.”

“And she …”

“She healed Reese Chambers with her own blood, yes.”

“Jesus.” About now he was seriously wishing for his own bottle of Jack. “I can’t … How can I bring in the department on this? How can I get anyone to take me seriously about what you just told me – they already think I was drunk on my ass that night and that I went home with some bimbo.”

“It’s simple, Paul, you can’t bring them in.” She waved a hand dismissively, “Believe me it’s better that way. I have my own people and they’re prepared to deal with this sort of thing.”

“This sort of thing?” he snorted. “It happens often, does it?”

“More often that you would imagine. I clued you in because you basically already know, and because you can help. But you have to believe me when I tell you that stepping in yourself or bringing anyone else in will just get someone killed. I don’t want anyone killed, and I don’t want anything making us monsters look like the bad guys.”

“Us monsters?” he managed.

She gave him a bored look. “You knew that the moment you saw me, didn’t you?” She heaved a deep sigh and
shrugged her sweater down over her hips, “Look Paul, I can take from you what I need, and unlike Desiree, you won’t be able to stop me. I’m the one Cyrus and his people want for reasons that don’t concern you, reasons you and your whole department are far better off not knowing. What does concern you is that I can help you understand what’s going on and help you end it. What does concern you is that you’ll know the truth and if I believe you can live with it, which I do, then I won’t take it away from you when everyone is safe, and warm and happy at home again.” She gave him a look that felt like a warm buzz across his body and then she added. “There aren’t many people who really want the truth, Paul, but you do, and I believe you’re capable of handling it. What I want is your help to find the place where Cyrus is holding my people. The rest I can handle, and trust me, when I say, its better that way.”

 

New Excerpt from Landscapes — FREE Download

Just a reminder to those of you still looking for a steamy summer read,  Landscapes, my Medusa’s Consortium M/M novella, is a FREE Download!  With two more books in Medusa’s Consortium soon to be released, you’ll definitely want to be well acquainted with landscaper, Reese Chambers, and Alonso Darlington, the vampire who is obsessed with him, so be sure to download if you haven’t already. Here’s a brand new excerpt to tease and titillate. Stay tuned for more updates for the upcoming release of Blind-Sided and Buried Pleasures. 

 

 

 

 

Landscapes Blurb:

Alonso Darlington has a disturbing method of keeping landscaper, Reese Chambers, both safe from and oblivious to his dangerous lust for the man. But Reese isn’t easy to keep secrets from, and Alonso wants way more than to admire the man from afar. Can he risk a real relationship without risking Reese’s life?

Note: Landscapes has been previously released as part of the Brit Boys: On Boys boxed set.

 

Landscapes Excerpt:

Back on British Soil

It wasn’t that Reese Chambers made my cock hard – though he did. It wasn’t that he was beautiful in a rugged, leather and stone sort of way – though he was. It was that Reese Chambers moved me in ways I had not been moved in a very long time, in ways that I, who never lacked just the right words to express myself, found my vocabulary inadequate to the task. Talia would call it an obsession, and maybe it was; from my first sight of him mantling his sketchpad like a bird of prey over a fresh kill, alone in the midst of the crowded pub, I could think of nothing else. It was my first night back on British soil. It is said that you can never go back home, and it had been a very long time for me. But the need to come home was in my blood like fever these past years, as were so many needs that never left me, but only sharpened with the passing of time.

Next to me, Talia droned on about suitable residences in Cumbria, about the leasing of a car and the making of necessary renovations. The Twa Dogs was busy for a Monday night with tourist season past, but being invisible was sometimes easier in a crowd. As Talia talked business in softly accented English, the men at the bar gave her admiring glances. Along with the permeating waft of warm bodies and fermented barley, I smelled the subtle spice of curiosity and the yeasty bread scent of simmering lust from men who knew the woman they admired was out of their league. Besides being excellent at her job, Talia was good for keeping attention off me. But there was little less than a lightning bolt that would have taken my attention off Reese Chambers.

He sat at a table near the exit, sketching in an open pad, his pint gone wanting as he lost himself in his work. I admire people of focus; people whose work is also their calling. They seem to exist on a different plane from the rest of us, and no one or nothing outside can touch them. I very much wanted to touch Reese, to draw his attention away, to hear his voice, to perhaps solicit a smile from him, to know that for a moment his attention was on me. But I’m a cautious man, and time is always on my side. The anticipation of knowing Reese Chambers in itself was to be savoured, not unlike just that right amount of intoxication, when warmth and relaxation take one to the boarders of euphoria, but no further.

‘There are three places that might be suitable.’ I returned my attention to Talia. ‘One in the Borrowdale Valley and two near Ullswater. But perhaps you should consider going back to High View, after all it is your –’

‘Find out who he is.’ I nodded in Reese’s direction. Before Talia could protest, I continued. ‘I have a roof over my head, and I’ve fed. There’s nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow.’

Talia’s cheekbones flushed with the rush of blood, and heaven knew how beautiful she was in such a state, porcelain pale skin, midnight blue eyes and hair, which was so close to black that no one but I would have noticed all of the other colours in her silken tresses. She knew what it was I asked of her, and she knew the delicate line she tread on the rare occasion when I did ask. A tremor passed up her long, straight spine, and a bloom of tiny goose bumps textured her bare arms. It would not be painless, what I asked, and I knew she feared it as much as she longed for it. I could hear the thud thud of her pulse in the thin, silken skin of her throat as she swallowed the sudden dryness of fear. ‘What do you want to know?’

I leaned forward to rake the tip of my thumb against the pulse point in her temple. ‘Everything, Talia. I want to know all of it. And when you know, come directly to me. I don’t care what time it is when you return.’

Only her eyelids fluttered her acknowledgment, for an anxious moment shuttering the brilliance of her eyes before she drank back her Merlot and excused herself to the ladies to freshen up.

I took little notice of her leave, but like a child left alone with the candy jar he couldn’t reach, I sat taking the object of my lust into my hungry senses, watching the muscles of his arms move beneath fine bronze skin as he sketched, watching the rapid rise and fall of his chest, as though what he sketched excited him, as though he were breathless from his engagement with it. His hair, unkempt and in need of a cut, was the colour of newly-forged bronze and the rapid shudder of his pulse against his throat made my lips tingle with the need to be pressed there where the life force flowed so close to the surface, there with his excitement, there with his passion. I licked my lips tasting the copper salt of my own sweat, and opened my mouth just slightly, just enough to take in the scent of him — the heat of his body, the cinnamon bite of his intense focus, and my cock shuddered heavily against my trousers. For a brief moment the sound of my own blood rushing through my body drown out the dart game behind me, the low drone of a football match on the big screen TV, the clink of glasses, the shuffle of feet. I heard only the rising of my blood and the scratching of his pencil against the rough-textured paper. For a moment, I sensed his own lust, harnessed tightly and focused through a needle’s eye on his creation and, God, I wanted that focus on me.

Before Talia returned, I stood to leave, and as I brushed passed him I smelled damp earth and verdant growth, I smelled a spark freshly kindled, and at the back of my throat I could taste his essence, as though passion itself had been distilled from the lusting creative force of the human soul. I inhaled once, then again, then I left the pub, having no idea just how powerful my lust for Reese Chambers really was, nor the sequence of events it would set off.

 

Filtering Our Lives

From the archives

(This post first published on Erotic Readers and Writers blog March 2015)

 

I’m in the States at the moment having a wonderful visit with my nephew, his wife and their four lovely daughters, but I have been thinking about the filters through which we view the world — mostly social media and VR and this post seemed appropriate. Enjoy

 

I’ve been thinking about filters lately, going through one of my periodic stages of resenting smart phones, social networking and all things techno. That may well be in part because I’ve only ever managed to master what it takes to survive in that online world. I’m a klutz on my best days. But sometimes I’m an angry luddite wannabe, who grumbles incessantly while I bury my nose in my kindle to lose myself in a good book … Oh the neuroses of my life!

 

When I’m lost in the world of navel gazing and trying to connect to what matters without losing myself in the detritus and the trivia of a world online, I often find myself thinking about the filters we live our lives through, and what being once removed from everything, while at the same time up close and personal with the whole world and all the information in it means to us as a civilization – to me as an individual.

 

I can go online and hear the background microwaves that are the remnants of the Big Bang, the beginning of the universe. I have done, have listened over and over with goose bumps crawling up my arms.

 

I can go to Facebook or Twitter and have meaningful conversations with friends all over the world, people I’ve never met physically and yet I’ve connected with and feel somehow a kin to.

 

I can keep up on films and stars and gossip, I can join any group, be a fan girl, talk trash, be a part of any organisation with any cause imaginable – political, religious, medical, physical, magical, practical, any hobby, any sport, any obsession. It’s all there. All I have to do is log on. Easy.

 

When we were in Dubrovnik over Christmas last year, we found ourselves in a random café for lunch one day. The cafes that were open in the dead of winter were happy for customers, and when we arrived, we were the only ones there. About halfway through the meal a young man came in, eyes glued to his smart phone. He asked us if we’d read the reviews for this particular café. We said no, we’d just dropped in. The food was lovely. We had a local beer, local specialties, and the owners of the restaurant were friendly, and patient with us as we practiced our rusty Croatian on them. Meanwhile the man ordered without looking at the waitress, ate without looking at the food, all the time lost in communion with his phone. We left him that way.

 

Back out on the streets, after a wonderful walk in the sunshine around the medieval city wall, we stopped for coffee and once again were astounded by the number of tourists gripped by their phones even as they walked, obliviously, down the main street of the Jewel of the Adriatic, the sea the colour of sapphire and the sky a shade darker still, contrasting with the red tile roofs.

 

A few weeks ago we went out for lunch and observed three very lovely young women who came in and sat down at a near-by table, again completely caught up in whatever was happening on their phones. They barely spoke to each other during the course of their meal and never put their devices down.

 

I recently received an email from a friend of mine in the States, and I was saddened when the rather extensive epistle was all about what series she was now watching on telly. I know for a fact this woman used to be a librarian. We used to spend our time talking about books.

 

All of these events, and lots of others leave me slightly queasy, even as I sit here writing this blog post, hoping that a lot of people will go online to my blog and read this post. It’s the filters that leave me feeling this way. They leave me wondering about our connection with the real world, about MY connections with the real world. I wonder if we’re now more connected, and I just don’t ‘get it’, or are we less connected because we’re joined at the hip with our devices. I’m guessing it’s probably a combination of the two.

 

The world I live in is totally dominated by the technology my profession depends upon. The first thing I do in the morning is get up my laptop and see what I missed over night. I do what I need to do for PR on twitter and Facebook, I see what I need to do for the rest of the day, and some days that involves a good deal of being online and interacting with social media. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that I have some control over the promotion and sales of my books, no matter how little that may be. The feel that I’m at least doing something is worth a lot, even if it is at times only the placebo affect. In a time when publishing is entering the strange new world of self-pub, when the gatekeepers are no longer the guardians of all things literary, when the gates are quite literally wide open, I see how important it is to be present online. But I fear very much that being present online often costs me the simple pleasure of just being present.

 

I remember when I launched Interviewing Wade after a day spent mostly in promo, looking at reviews spending time on Twitter and Facebook and blogging, at last I went into the darkened kitchen to reheat the pasta from lunch for dinner and discovered something truly amazing. Through the kitchen window, I had the most exquisite view of the thinnest sliver of a new moon in conjunction with brilliant Venus, and for a few minutes there was the added pleasure of red Mars just about to sink below the rooftops of the neighboring houses. I was stunned. I couldn’t take my eyes off what I saw. I reached for the binoculars for a closer look

 

The moon was illuminated with earthshine and, through the binoculars, the darkened areas were visible with the brilliance of the sunlit crescent making the whole look almost dark purple, huge and 3D. As I tried to focus on the bright smudge of Venus, my heart beat kept jarring the binoculars, so I couldn’t resolve the phase, but I’m sure it was as close to full as Venus ever gets.

 

Venus is always in phase. How amazing is that! We never see the full face of Venus because it’s in between us and the sun, and it’s only full when it’s on the far side of the sun from us – something that’s only true with the inner two planets. Mars dipped quickly and was gone, but I stood for ages, trying to hold my breath and brace my elbows so I could look. But no matter how hard I tried, Venus constantly quivered through the binoculars with the steady beat, beat, beat of my pulse. I shifted back and forth between the shiver of Venus and the pock marked darkened surface of the moon with its crescent of brilliance at the bottom edge. When my arms got tired of holding the binoculars, still I stood.

 

It was one of those rare moments of being in focus, of standing with nothing in between me and my little sliver of the universe; experiencing a moment, one raw, naked, aching moment without anything in between me and my heart. That tiny shred of time felt like skin freshly formed over an abrasion. And I wanted to stay there forever in that little sliver of
the present with nothing in between.

 

I couldn’t, of course. The moon set, and I had work to do. It occurred to me as I nuked dinner, that even that incredible few minutes of focus were filtered, brought closer through the lens of my binoculars. We’ve been filtering our world for probably as long as we’ve walked upright. Perhaps we can only be safe in – and from our little slice of the universe when we filter it, analyze it, look at it through eyes – and heart — well protected.

 

The next morning, online, there were more images of Venus and the New Moon in conjunction than I had time to look at. I was far from the only one bringing that moment into myself through filters that helped make sense of it, helped make it personal and, clearly, I was far from the only person needing to share it. Somehow that makes the world community seem just a little bit smaller, just a little bit closer. Somehow that makes the filtering of my universe and all the contradictions that involves set just a little bit easier in my mind. That and the knowing at least for a little while that earthshine, that sliver of moonlight, that conjunction with bright Venus was mine. All mine.

 

 

 

Out Now—ANTHEM OF THE SEA By Thom Collins (@thomwolf @realthomcollins)

Anthem of the SeaBlurb:

An ocean of possibility. For love, revenge and murder.

Daniel Blake, a handsome young singer, boards the Atlantic Anthem in Portugal for the final voyage of her maiden season. The state-of-the-art ship is the jewel in the Royal Atlantic cruise fleet. For Daniel, a one-time boy band member and TV talent show winner, it’s an honor to perform aboard such a vessel. Daniel loves the freedom and adventure of the sea. He began his solo career as a cruise ship entertainer and returning to the ocean as a headline act brings him full circle. He isn’t looking for love.

Neither is comedian Elijah Mann. Working at sea has given Elijah’s career the boost it desperately needed. Often considered too good-looking and sexy to be funny, work has been hard to come by since his TV show was canceled. With a potential new career opening up, he must remain focused. But when Elijah meets Daniel the attraction is mutual and instant. As the ship sets sail for England they have three days to get to know each other. Elijah can’t let that opportunity pass.

The voyage home is far from smooth. Also on board is a figure from Daniel’s past. A man who’s been holding a grudge for years, waiting for his moment. As a storm builds in the North Atlantic, Daniel and Elijah discover that the trip of a lifetime could be their last.

LINKS:

Pride Publishing: https://www.pride-publishing.com/book/anthem-of-the-sea

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2rvgeTr

Amazon USA: http://amzn.to/2rh1Bnt

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/anthem-of-the-sea

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/anthem-of-the-sea-thom-collins/1126384702?ean=9781786515681

EXCERPT:

The taxi collected Daniel Blake from the hotel on time. He liked that. Punctuality, efficiency and professionalism—three things he valued in all areas of his career. Be on time and be prepared—that had been his motto since he was fourteen years old. Fifteen years later, he continued to live by it.

He helped the driver load his gear into the trunk. There wasn’t much of it. When on the road, he traveled light with just a medium-sized case, a holdall and a suit carrier. He’d arrived in Lisbon the previous morning, disembarking from a cruise ship, where he’d performed for two nights. His shirts would need washing and his suit pressing before his next show. There was plenty of time.

He gave the driver directions to his designated cruise terminal and climbed onto the back seat. Thankfully, the air conditioning was running. Though it was late October, the outside temperature remained in the mid-eighties and it wasn’t even eleven o’clock. Last night he had heard some of the hotel staff complain about the weather turning cold, but for a boy like him, born and raised in the northeast of England, these climates were well above average. Back home, this would be a hot day in June or July.

It was a short drive to the port. Early in the day, but the streets were busy. Three massive cruise ships were anchored in the harbor, discharging thousands of eager tourists into the city. British, American, German, Japanese, they scurried through the streets, clutching backpacks and maps, keen to explore as much as they could of the historic Portuguese city in the few hours they had here.

Daniel smiled at their faces as they zipped by.

Lisbon, his last stop before home.

The car arrived at the port and within ten minutes Daniel stood beside the gangway with his luggage, waiting for the necessary security calls to be made that would allow him to board the ship. The enormous vessel towered above him, casting a huge shadow across the dock. The Atlantic was one of the biggest and most spectacular cruise ships in the world.

There were a lot of criticisms for super ships such as this. He’d heard them described as floating shopping malls, grotesque monstrosities and budget hotels at sea, but for Daniel there was something quite majestic about the craft and its design, to say nothing of the engineering that went into the construction of such a huge vessel.

“Those things are so top heavy,” a jobbing magician once had told him in a bar. “I hear they roll right over in high seas.”

Daniel had laughed at the man’s ignorance. “And when did you last hear of that happening?”

The man had floundered. “I’m just saying that something so uneven can’t be safe, can it? You won’t ever catch me on one of them things. Mug’s game, isn’t it?”

“It’s your loss,” Daniel had told him cheerily. He felt safer at sea, even in the roughest weather, than he ever had on a plane. Motorways too. It might not be the quickest, but without a doubt it was the most luxurious and extravagant way to travel. He loved being at sea.

Waiting for the security guy to return with his passport, Daniel realized he’d drawn some attention.

A slow stream of passengers was returning to the ship. They couldn’t have seen much of Lisbon, coming back already. Among them was an English family. While the parents lit cigarettes before joining the embarkation queue, the daughter, who looked around fourteen, stared directly at him.

“Hi.” He smiled. “Good day out?”

The girl was plump and pretty with wavy brown hair that fell around her shoulders. She wore a sweet, flowery sundress and red Converse shoes. She blushed as she realized she’d been caught gawking.

“Are you…? Oh, my God, you are, aren’t you? You’re Daniel Blake.”

He raised his hands in mock surrender. “Guilty as charged. Don’t shoot me.”

The girl nervously stepped forward, looking at him with wide, hazel eyes. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m waiting to join the ship. I’m performing on board.”

Her jaw fell. “The Anthem? You’re coming on the Anthem?

He nodded. He didn’t mind being recognized like this. Daniel was famous enough in the UK, but not so much that it ever became an inconvenience. His fame came from a TV talent show. The public had made him and he appreciated all the support he got.

“Oh my God.” The girl’s face became highly animated. “Mam! Dad! Come here. Oh my God, you won’t believe it. Daniel Blake. It’s actually him.”

Her bemused parents stubbed out their cigarettes and came over. They were an attractive-looking couple of around forty. The girl looked a lot like her father.

“I hope she’s not bothering you,” the dad said, looking cautiously between Daniel and his daughter.

“Not a bit,” Daniel assured him. “It’s a pleasure.”

“Daniel is going to be singing on the ship. Can you believe it? How cool is that?” She grinned a mile wide.

“Starting tomorrow,” he said. “Make certain you get yourselves a great seat down front. I can use all the support I can get.”

“I will, I will. I voted for you every week on The One. You were my favorite from the start.”

“So it’s you I need to thank for winning. What’s your name, sweetie?”

“Julieann.”

“Well, thank you, Julieann. Your votes changed my life.”

The girl blushed violently.

The security officer came back to escort Daniel onto the ship. Before boarding, he posed for photographs with Julieann and her family.

“The girls at school will have a fit when they see these on Instagram,” Julieann said proudly as they took a selfie together.

“See you at the shows,” Daniel said as he walked on board. “And don’t forget—front row. Be there. I’ll look out for you.”

“We’ll definitely be there.”

Once on board, he passed his luggage through the security scanner and was equipped with his sea pass ID, the plastic card that would enable him to move around the ship, access his accommodation and run a tab in the bars and shops. He was greeted on the far side of security by a young woman in a blue shirt and khaki shorts. Her soft blonde hair was tied back from her round, attractive face. She was vaguely familiar from his engagement earlier in the season. He checked her name badge to refresh his memory. Belle Hodges, entertainment crew, from South Australia.

“Hi,” Belle said cheerily. “It’s wonderful to have you back on board.”

She extended her hand and he shook it. “It’s great to be back. Honestly, I’ve been looking forward to this since I left in May. How has your maiden season gone?”

“Over too quickly and totally ace. I can’t believe it’s been that long since you were here. Yikes, the time has flown. Let me give you a hand with your stuff.”

“That’s okay. I can manage. Just point me in the right direction and I’ll find my way.”

Ignoring his protests, Belle took up the suit carrier.

“You’re in real luck,” she said. “You’ve been allocated a large stateroom on one of the passenger decks. Balcony and all.”

“You’re joking? Wow. Am I sharing with the house band or a football team?”

Belle giggled, wrinkling her nose. “Silly. You’ve got the whole place to yourself.”

“Seriously? What gives? I never get accommodation like that.”

Belle looked around cautiously and lowered her voice. “We had a family thrown off the ship in Gran Canaria so you’ve got their room. They caused a fight in the martini bar and punched an officer who tried to intervene. Captain Rassimov put them off at the next port. No second chances.”

“Good to know we’re in such firm hands.”

“Captain Rassimov is the best,” Belle gushed.

Daniel didn’t doubt it. He’d met the dashing captain on his last trip. Tall, dark, handsome and extremely charismatic, he sent hearts beating fast among the passengers and crew. If he wasn’t so straight, Daniel would fancy him too. Rassimov was the perfect man to master such a grand vessel.

Launched in May, with a rumored cost of over one-point-five billion, the Atlantic Anthem was coming to the end of its inaugural European season. It was the newest and biggest vessel in the Royal Atlantic fleet. Daniel had spent two nights on board when he’d performed a headline set on the maiden voyage. He’d worked for cruise companies all over the world, but he couldn’t fail to be impressed by the Anthem. It was billed as the ship with everything. From his own experience that was certainly true.

As he walked through the decks with Belle, his sense of excitement increased. The interior was truly splendid. Not a penny had been spared, from the lush carpets to the paintings and sculptures that graced every deck. Before coming on board, he’d read all the specs—about the spa and fitness center, two swimming pools and a solarium, the Royal Theater with nine-hundred-sixty seats, the bars—eight of them across the ship—the main dining room plus three specialty restaurants and a twenty-four-hour café. Several public entertainment areas were situated on Decks Four and Five around a jaw-dropping central staircase. Knowing all of that in advance, he still had been blown away when he’d came upon the ship for the first time. And he felt it now, all over again.

Only the most jaded, spoiled and hard-to-please traveler could fail to be inspired by the Anthem.

They rode one of the glass elevators to the tenth floor where Belle led him down a long corridor to his stateroom in the forward section of the ship.

“Last time, I had an interior cabin in the crew quarters.” He laughed.

“Yep, that’s where they like to cram us in. But now you’ve got this.”

Daniel swiped his sea pass card to enter the room. A major step up from crew class, the room was bright and contemporary, to the standard of any good hotel. He had an enormous double bed all to himself and a sitting area with a long, cream leather sofa. There was a dressing table, minibar, TV, private bathroom and balcony.

“I hope I don’t get lost in here,” he joked, dumping his luggage by the wardrobe.

“As long as you’re on stage for your shows tomorrow night, no one will mind what you get up to in here,” Belle said.

“You can put your mind at ease on that count,” he said. “I’ve been performing since I was fourteen and I’ve never missed a show in my life.”

Belle left him to settle in. Daniel unpacked his clothes first and filled a plastic bag with stuff that needed washing immediately—shirts, socks and underwear. Another great thing about working on a luxury cruise liner—everything was to hand. If he left the bag out today, all the items would be washed, ironed and returned by tomorrow.

He went into the bathroom next, laying out his razor, toothbrush and skincare products. He brought everything with him when he traveled. Though he wasn’t particularly vain, it was important to look good in public.

He didn’t have to worry. At twenty-nine years old—five months shy of thirty—he was in prime condition. He’d never looked better. For years he used to hate the way he looked. Everything about him had been out of proportion, especially his face. Eyes, teeth, nose, chin, they were always too big. But throughout his twenties, the rest of his body had caught up. He’d filled out and gained muscle and his face, which had seemed so awkward in his teens, had developed an extraordinary handsomeness. He had a strong jaw with a cowboy cleft, while his mouth was wide and masculine. With sky-blue eyes and thick brown hair, he had become a good-looking man. Very good-looking.

His confidence hadn’t grown to match his looks. A part of him would always be that skinny, peculiar kid. But only he could see it.

Finally unpacked, he relaxed and walked onto the balcony. He had a great view of the city and the people below, streaming like ants around the port terminals. Daniel took a moment to enjoy it all. He loved just about every part of the cruise experience.

Every ship, every voyage, was a new adventure.

The Atlantic Anthem promised a greater adventure than any other.

He couldn’t wait to get started.

Thom Collins Bio

Thom Collins is the author of the novel Closer by Morning, with Pride Publishing. His love of page turning thrillers began at an early age when his mother caught him reading the latest Jackie Collins book and promptly confiscated it, sparking a life-long love of raunchy novels.

The novellas Gods of Vengeance and Silent Voices were published by Pride in early 2017, followed by the novel Anthem of the Sea, the first book in the Anthem Trilogy. He has recently finished writing the second book in a series and is working on the third.

Thom has lived in the North East of England his whole life. He grew up in Northumberland and now lives in County Durham with his husband and two cats. He loves all kinds of genre fiction, especially bonk-busters, thrillers, romance and horror. He is also a cookery book addict with far too many titles cluttering his shelves. When not writing he can be found in the kitchen trying out new recipes. He’s a keen traveler but with a fear of flying that gets worse with age. Since taking his first cruise in 2013 he realized that sailing is the way to go.

Links:

Blog: http://www.thomcollinsauthor.blogspot.co.uk/

Twitter:   @thomwolf     and  @realthomcollins

Email: thomcollinsauthor@aol.com

Release blitz organised by Writer Marketing Services.

 

Eros the Trickster – A Guest Blog by Monique Roffey (@MoniqueRoffey13)

Erotic love is the trickster love, isn’t it? Eros, the bastard, is a cherub and pest a manipulator. He draws back his bow, lets his arrow fly and then, bam. If he chooses you, you’re stuffed. It’s one thing if you’ve been struck by Eros and so has your love interest. Then you both go down; but get to walk away, hand in hand into a brave new day. If erotic love is mutual between two people, then, happy days. Often people get married on the strength of this mutual sexual love interest. But what if Eros strikes only you, or, only you first? Then, it’s an agony to be the one who has been struck. A complex has been triggered, the anima or the animus, and therein follows much pain, heartache and sometimes even humiliation. We suffer.

“Eros is stronger than the go,” my shrink once said to me. Yes, this kind of love is strong and we can topple over, or be dragged over, and sometimes swiftly. One minute we are rational-minded, thoughtful and grounded, the next we are ‘stupidy’ (as we say in Trinidad), and have taken leave of our senses. It’s a kind of moral death, too, or brain malfunction. We have been struck. We do things that are unethical (shag another’s husband or partner, for example). It’s a condition, a kind of brain fever. I’ve seen the best of us go under. Sometimes we suffer for months, even longer. An unrequited erotic attraction to another person – that’s a hard one. Yuk. Also, it’s hard to walk way from, too. And hard to set yourself straight; hard to keep the whole thing in its proper perspective, because Eros is a powerful player in the forces of the sexual love game. He tricks us, and we capitulate. Over we go. Eros sets the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons. Eros is a chaos element, the Fool in the Tarot, not the Lovers card; he is the Magician, too. Eros sets us on our travels; Eros is a cosmic bum, a Fool, and a fooler too.

In my sexy new novel The Tryst, Eros arrives in female form, in the small red haired beauteous character of Lilah. Lilah the domme, the imp, the pest, the player, the predator. An innocent couple Bill and Jane invite her into their home and she wreaks havoc on them and delights in it. She mashes them up, changes things between them, forever. That is her habit and her great kink, to fuck Innocents like Jane and Bill. Hit and run, leaving them wanting more. She is the great seducer, a Lilatha, a game changer. She’s done it many times, taken herself out on a night hunt, drained the man of his power, left him sleeping, and climbed out the window. This time, she is caught, though. This time she too is struck by another pesky imp, Eros. Bam. Over she goes.

*****

The Tryst, (Dodo Ink)

Extract

By Monique Roffey

LILAH

I scared Miss Sexual Desert good and proper, but found myself quite shaken too. In the cab on the way back I touched my cheek where she’d slapped me twice. The sting was still there, surprising. Heat in her after all, the little prig. I don’t think she believed what I said about me and Bill; I could hardly believe what I’d said myself, that I was journeying back to Bill, paying a cab to take me to him. Something has happened between me and Bill. What had been happening to me? Being outdoors in the fresh air had given me a taste of reality again. Whatever had been going on in that creepy house between us had to stop. It was only twenty-four hours since I’d met this dreary couple in a bar, a pair like so many others – Jane and Bill, Janet and Joe, Mary and Pete, just like many I’d encountered. Same deal.

And yet this time it had been different. I hadn’t escaped so easily. I’d prevaricated because of this new feeling. I hastily took stock. I had stayed on a hunt long after the kill. I had met a lover in the form of a man in the human realm. A First. Bill could meet me, match my skills. Bill had located my spot, caused me to gush like no other, not even Samael. And – was there more? There had been another aspect which I found hard to name, a feeling which had swiftly passed over me during our hours of sexing. It had been a flash of a rich, full feeling. I had felt an empathy with Bill, like he was more than just a mortal man. Bill had stirred me up and I wasn’t accustomed to this chaotic mixture of feelings inside.

Whatever these new ‘feelings’ were or had been, they had disappeared. Vamoosed. I couldn’t remember them. Love? Ha. I felt like my old self again. I felt itchy. Loose. I wanted to be on my way, back into the forest. I remembered the cat, Choo Choo. I thought of the hexacious tower I’d created, amidst all that iron. I had stamped my mark on this couple, I always do. I had reconfigured things between them, and that was what the wife had wanted me to do. Too bad if she had changed her mind. Too bad. And Bill, well, he had given me a turn. I had taken my life in my hands to have intercourse with him. He was one to remember. Okay, I said to myself: there’s nothing like experience. This man Bill has been a first. I will go and say goodbye to him.

Bill greeted me at the door with decisive amorous kisses. I’d only been gone a couple of hours, but already he wanted more of my talents; he was tugging at my clothes, trying to remove my skirt. I pushed him off. That constant shocked expression had disappeared. He looked different. Pinker in the cheeks. He wanted more of me and I’d had enough of him.

“Thank God you’re back. I fell asleep, didn’t find your note at first. I . . . panicked.”

“I went to see your wife.”

“What?”

“Yeah. I wish I hadn’t.”

“I wish you hadn’t either. What did she say?”

“What do you think she said? The usual jealous wife stuff. Do you care?” A strange look came into his eyes. Soft. Thoughtful.

“I don’t want you to disappear like that again.” I stared at him. “What are you saying?” Bill wanted to keep me there. He’d struck gold and fuck, shit, damn and hell – yes, he was expecting I might even like to stay with him!

“Me? Stay here with you in this creepy old house, with all these red and yellow walls – me? You freakin kidding me?”

“We can paint them white – or black – or whatever you want. Just stay, another night, at least. Stay a week. A month. However long you like. I was . . . worried.”

“Why should I stay?”

“For the same reason other imps like you have stayed with men. To be happy. Wouldn’t you like it here? What’s your home like? A hut? A bender made of twigs? An earth-floored cave in the woods? Do you live underground? Eh? What? Surely this must have some appeal?”

“Get lost,” I snarled.

“Always so mean, eh? Is that it? I’m to be chewed up and spat out, is that right?”

“Go fuck yourself.”

“And where’s my cat, eh? Choo Choo. Where is he? Scared him off too?”

“Oh, fuck your cat.”

“Have you fucked my cat?” He said this with a knowing smirk.

I threw myself at Bill, tore at him and wreaked my vengeance and distaste on him and their Goddamn marriage. I turned nasty on him, biting him and this time when we were fucking we were like cats fighting. Furniture tumbled around us. Again, I was matched.

Bill pinned me down and then he fucked me senseless and dear-God-in-heaven more than anything – this was not okay. This was why I fled in the first place, to be so taken like this by the very first man ever made. Rape. It was all women were to expect. And so my foremother Lilith ran and ran away from man and God, only to be further humiliated in the desert. She was so angry then, she made daemons, thousands of them every day, her offspring. She became an outcast, forever. I spat at Bill and fought, but he held me down and then he fucked me hard and rough and a pearly liquid gushed from between my legs, a silken waterfall slipping out. My whole body spasmed in the fullness of my orgasm. He could make me come just like that. It was as if he’d learnt the knack. And all the while I thought: I am lost, lost. Go home, get out of here. I was embarrassed, torn open. I hated him then. I didn’t want to look Bill in the eye. He thought he now had some power over me because he could make me gush. When he was done he withdrew, his own body shuddering, his semen still dripping. His cock hadn’t shrivelled with the release, it still looked plump and even ready for more. Bill glowed, exulted with his conquest. I’m sure he thought he’d turned a trick himself. He kissed my stomach. But I was cold to him, cold in my heart.

*****

The Tryst, blurb

By Monique Roffey

London, midsummer night. Jane and Bill meet the mysterious Lilah in a bar. She entrances the couple with half-true, mixed up tales about her life. At closing time, Jane makes an impulsive decision to invite Lilah back to their home. But Jane has made a catastrophic error of judgment, for Lilah is a skilled and ruthless predator, the likes of which few encounter in a lifetime. Isolated and cursed, Jane and Bill are forced to fight for each other, and, in doing so, discover their covert desires.

Part psychological thriller, part contemporary magical realism, The Tryst revisits the tale of Adam’s first wife, Lilith, to examine the secrets of an everyday marriage.

*****

Praise for The Tryst

“What makes The Tryst an unexploded virus isn’t just the quality and brightness of Roffey’s writing on sex, even as it uncovers inner glades between flesh and fantasy where sex resides – but the taunting clarity of why those glades stay covered. A throbbing homewrecker of a tale, too late to call Fifty Shades of Red.”

DBC Pierre, Booker Prize winner

*****

BIOG

Monique Roffey is an award-winning Trinidadian-born writer. Her novels have been translated into five languages and short-listed for major awards including
the Orange Prize, Costa Fiction Award, Encore Award, Orion Award and the OCM Bocas Award for Caribbean Literature. In 2013, Archipelago won the OCM BOCAS Award for Caribbean Literature. Her memoir, With the Kisses of his Mouth, was published in 2011. She is a Lecturer on the MFA in the Novel at Manchester Metropolitan University. She divides her time between the East end of London and Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Buy at Amazon:

UK: http://amzn.to/2snABX2 US: https://www.amazon.com/Tryst-Monique-Roffey-ebook/dp/B072BX51PV/

Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esSTfsbP3P4&sns=em

Twitter: @MoniqueRoffey13

Facebook: @MoniqueRoffeyAuthor

Instagram: @MoniqueRoffey

Website: www.moniqueroffey.com

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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