Release Day!!! December 15, 2016Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in circlet, Drum Mage, happy-happy- joy- joy, Heart's Master, kvelling, new books, Release date, SQUEEE.
Today is the day! Today is the day that Heart’s Master comes out!!!!
Now, it’s early as I’m writing this, so when I say I’m doing handstands, I just want you to know it’s figuratively, okay?
But yes, definitely handstands. This book — it’s been a long, strange trip for this book. And it’s finally loose in the wild.
So, here. Have an excerpt:
I was just finishing another drink–my fourth or fifth–and I was feeling nicely squiffed when I saw the stranger coming towards us through the crowd. Tall, broad shoulders, long brown hair pulled back in a tail, early thirties at the most–this guy looked like he belonged on the cover of a romance novel. And he was heading towards us.
“Maureen, you shouldn’t have…” I murmured, leaning back and enjoying the view. She looked at me, then looked up, saw him and smiled.
“Nick!” she called out, waving. My jaw hit the floor.
“Nick?” I repeated. “That’s Nick? Your Nick?”
She grinned at me and stood up, hugging the stranger and kissing him lightly. “Nick, this is Steven Ahearn, the man of the evening. Steven, I’d like for you to meet Nicolai Vikentiyevich Rozhenko.”
I stood up and wiped my hand on my jeans before accepting his handshake, trying not to be dazzled by a pair of amazingly blue eyes. “It’s nice to meet you,” I said. “I’ve heard a lot of good things about you.”
“As have I,” he answered, and I heard a hint of an accent in his voice. Eastern European, Russian, something like that. Sexy as hell. “Maureen tells me that you’re leaving, though.”
I smiled broadly, “My big break. I still can’t believe it…”
“Who the hell let him in here?” Maureen murmured, her anger plain in her voice. I turned to look and cursed softly. Joey, all six-foot-one of him, shoving his way through the crowd and leaving an angry, muttering trail of actors and stage hands behind him. I heard Nick’s voice, speaking in French, and Maureen answering in the same language. Then Nick was in front of me, standing between me and Joey.
“What do you want?” he demanded.
Joey stopped and stared at him, then asked, “Who the hell are you? For your information, I was invited. And you’re standing between me and my boy, so get the hell out of my way.”
I felt my temper flaring. His boy? Since when? Even from where I was standing, I could smell the alcohol on Joey. I knew he was a mean drunk–it was the main reason that I refused to let him keep hard liquor in the house. I knew where my money had gone now, and I was not looking forward to telling him that I was leaving him. But I also wasn’t going to let anyone else get hurt because of me. “It’s okay, Nick,” I said, stepping out from behind my new defender.
Nick looked at me, his eyes narrowed. “Steven? You’re sure about this?”
“Yeah. I’m fine.” I met Nick’s eyes and nodded once, then tipped my head ever so slightly to the side, towards the side door that had been propped open in the hopes of getting a breath of cooler air into the too warm room. Hopefully, Nick would get the message that I wanted him to follow us. “C’mon, Joey. We need to talk.” I turned without waiting for Joey’s answer and headed for the door, and nearly jumped out of my skin when a hard hand closed around the back of my neck. I winced as Joey’s fingers dug in, but he held on tight and shoved me forward, out the door and into the alley.
“You’re very full of yourself tonight, slave,” Joey snarled at me as we walked out into the cold night air.
I stopped and twisted, breaking his hold and stopping just out of his reach, “Enough of that shit, Joey. I’m not your boy, I’m not your slave, and I’m not your whore. I’m done with your little power trip bondage games.”
Joey looked at me like I was talking in another language. “What?” he sputtered. “You just wait until I get you home…”
“I’m not going home with you, Joey,” I interrupted. “I’m moving out.”
“Out?” he echoed. “What are you talking about?”
“Out of the apartment. We’re done, Joey. You went too far this morning, and I’m not putting up with your shit anymore. Go find yourself someone else to abuse.” I decided that I didn’t want him to know about my good fortune, or where I was going, so I deliberately didn’t mention New York. Instead, I started to go past him, back inside to my party. I was expecting Joey to turn, to stalk off the way he always did when he was angry. I was not expecting him to grab me and slam me back against the wall, hard enough to knock the wind out of me and bounce my head off the bricks. Before I could recover, he pinned me in place, his hands locked around my upper arms, his chest hard against mine.
“Let me go!” I snarled through clenched teeth. He laughed, leaning in and kissing me roughly. I tried to push him back, but he was bigger and heavier than I was. He shifted, pressing harder against me, his thigh hard against my crotch.
“Who’s being abused now, slave?” he crooned as he pulled back, his breath hot and stinking in my face. Under the alcohol, I could smell something else, something harsh, and I could see now that his eyes were glazed. He must have taken something. Suddenly, I was afraid. Drugs. When had he started using drugs? How had I not noticed? Shit, what had he gotten in to? “Tell me you don’t like this…” he rubbed his hip hard against my crotch, then stopped and looked down, his eyes narrowing. “Wait a minute….” He shifted, catching me around the throat with one hand, holding me painfully tight and leaving me gasping for breath while he pawed at me with his other hand. “Where’s your collar, slave?” he asked, sounding annoyed. “I told you that was supposed to stay on. So where is it?”
His fingers around my throat grew tighter, and I heard him laugh again as I struggled to breath. “Oh, yeah. I like this. There’s your punishment, slave. I’m gonna choke you out and fuck you until you wake up. And that’s only the beginning…”
No, that was the end–I grabbed Joey’s wrist in both hands to try and keep him from killing me outright, braced myself, and slammed my knee up between his legs. Never, ever give a dancer a chance to kick you in the crotch; he went down like a dropped brick, gagging and puking. I left him rolling in the trash and staggered back towards the door, taking long, shaking breaths and feeling the ache of incipient bruises on my throat and my arms. I wasn’t surprised to see Nick standing in the doorway waiting for me. However, I was surprised to see the baseball bat in his right hand. Where had that come from?
“Are you all right?” Nick asked.
I nodded and grimaced. “You should see the other guy,” I quipped. Nick grinned.
“Where is he?”
“Trying to pry his nuts out of his sinuses, I think. Let’s get out of here.” I brushed past him and into the restaurant, only to find Maureen waiting for me just inside the door.
“He didn’t take the break-up well,” I said, slumping into a chair. I felt Maureen’s fingers on my chin as she tipped my head back.
“I can see that,” she murmured. “The bruises are already coming up. I think we should get your things tonight.”
“And call the police?” Nick asked.
“That will be tomorrow,” I said. “I’m not ready for that. And I need a drink before I do anything.”
I saw the two of them look at each other, then Nick took my arm and hauled me out of the chair. “Come on,” he said. “I know a place.” As we walked out through the crowd of people, I noticed that the bat was gone, and I wondered briefly what Nick had done with it.
The place turned out to be a vodka bar in Federal Hill. About half of the party moved with us, and for a while, I forgot about the break-up, about Joey and his violence, and about the fact that tomorrow I’d be talking to police about what he’d done to me. Nick decided that I needed to learn how to properly drink vodka, and I proceeded to get very, very drunk. I vaguely remembered Maureen telling me that we were going to go to my place to get some of my things, and then she and Nick were pouring me into the backseat of their car. After that, I didn’t remember anything until the truck hit us.
Heart’s Master is out of Circlet Press, and is available to order in all formats wherever you buy books.