Hello, darlings! Lightning strikes twice! I have another awesome release coming out that's available for preorder! This one is for such a good cause, and it's packed with tons of talented authors! I hope you check it out! I've included a teaser for my contribution, a short story titled "Playing for Keeps". Enjoy!
Private investigator Sloane Beaumont should be enjoying his recent engagement to eldritch god Azaethoth the Lesser, AKA Loch. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have time for a pre-honeymoon period.
The trouble starts with a deceptively simple missing persons case. That leads to the discovery of mass kidnappings, nefarious secret experiments, and the revelation that another ancient god is trying to bring about the end of the world by twisting humans into an evil army.
Just another day at the office.
Sloane does his best to juggle wedding planning, stopping his fiancé from turning the mailman inside out, and meeting his future godly in-laws while working the case, but they're also being hunted by a strange young man with incredible abilities. With the wedding date looming closer, Sloane and Loch must combine their powers to discover the truth—because it’s not just their own happy-ever-after at stake, but the fate of the world….
“Loch,” Sloane Beaumont began calmly, “you cannot threaten to turn the mailman inside out.”
“But I can,” Loch argued defiantly. “It’s actually really easy once you know how. You just start at the feet and roll the skin upwards—”
“I’m not saying you can’t do it, as in you’re not physically capable of it,” Sloane growled. “You’re an ancient and very powerful god. I have no doubt that you could, but what I am trying to tell you is that you can’t keep threatening him! We’ve been over this!”
“Ah!” Loch nodded in understanding. “What you mean is I should go ahead and do it because a clear example needs to be made!”
“You are so confusing, but you do look very pretty when you’re mad.” Loch batted his eyes, quickly changing gears. “Your eyebrows are so very luscious and thick, and you remind me so much of that nice human who plays Spork in the movie about trekking through the stars.”
“Hey, focus!” Although Sloane did appreciate the flattering comparison, he was not letting Loch get off so easily. “We’re talking about something important.”
“Mmm, yes. You.”
“Your eyes are like warm pools of dark chocolate, and your lips, oh, I could go on about your lips for eons!”
“Loch!” Sloane groaned again, sitting down beside him on the couch and taking his hands. “Remember how you can’t reveal that you’re a god because it would cause mass panic since most of the world is Lucian now and believes the old gods aren’t real?”
“Yes!” Loch said cheerfully.
“Turning the mailman inside out? Good way to cause panic!”
“But he keeps wrinkling my catalogues.” Loch huffed. “I like the catalogues. And I like them best when they are not wrinkled. There is a definite crease!”
“Azaethoth!” Sloane scolded, invoking Loch’s true godly name with a growl.
Beneath his red curls and bright green eyes, there was a great dragon of legendary proportions hiding. Loch spent most of his time in his mortal vessel, but Sloane never forgot what he really was under that gorgeous facade. The novelty of scolding an ancient god like a stubborn child was not getting old anytime soon.
Loch pouted and crossed his arms. “Fine. I will fix the creases myself like some peasant.”
“And I will not turn the mailman inside out,” Loch added sullenly.
“Thank you,” Sloane breathed, rewarding Loch with a sweet kiss and savoring the minty taste of his lips.
Loch smiled and sent a grayish tentacle out from his sleeve to nuzzle against Sloane’s cheek.
Sloane shuddered pleasurably. Any contact with Loch’s godly flesh was utter bliss. It was still hard to believe sometimes that a giant tentacled dragon was crammed inside that human body.
“Mmm, let me take you to bed,” Loch purred, more of his tentacles slithering out to pull Sloane into his lap. “I want to apologize for my awful behavior.”
“We have a case.” Sloane playfully swatted at him. “Remember? Jay Tintenfisch? Works with Milo? Mysterious disappearing roommate? Cat might be guilty?”
“Yes, I remember, but that can wait until I’m done apologizing.”
“No. We did plenty of that last night and this morning!”
“So? It’s tradition to celebrate an engagement with intense physical coupling—”
“Work first, playtime later.” Sloane wiggled out of Loch’s lap, grabbing his hands and pulling him to his feet. “Come on.”
Loch let himself get dragged up from the couch, mumbling, “Fine. We’ll go, but I’m going to complain the whole time.”
“Big surprise.” Sloane chuckled as he led Loch downstairs to his car.
“I liked the old car,” Loch said, huffing as he got settled into the passenger seat. “The old car had personality. This car is shit.”
“The old car got blown up by a very angry witch,” Sloane reminded him.
“Yes, but we shared our first kiss in that car.”
“You mean when you tricked me into kissing you.”
“God of Tricksters,” Loch said with an unapologetic smile.
Sloane rolled his eyes, frowning when his phone rang.
“Hey!” It was Milo Evans, Sloane’s best friend and former coworker when he still worked for the Archersville Police Department as a detective.
“Hey! What’s up, Milo?”
“You need to come by,” Milo insisted. “Like, right now.”
“Right now?” Sloane glanced at the time. “I’m supposed to be meeting with a new client.”
“It’s about the blue goo.”
“Look, it’ll take, like, five minutes!” Milo sounded particularly excited. “It’s super important! I have to tell you, in person, like right now.”
Sloane flinched, and he glanced sideways at Loch. Milo was known to be passionate even about mundane things, but the blue goo in question was of particular concern. “Okay, we’ll be there in five.”
“What is it?” Loch asked, tilting his head. “Did Milo anger Lynnette again?”
Lynnette was Loch’s little sister; well, technically, she was Lochlain’s little sister—the hot guy whose murder had started it all. Because Loch was living in a copy of Lochlain’s body, Sloane wasn’t sure if the familial connection still counted or not.
Milo and Lynnette had moved in together a few weeks ago, and things had been a bit bumpy.
“No,” Sloane replied, “it’s about that goo.”
“You’re willing to risk tardiness to meet our new client over some magical slime, but not for hot, primal mating?” Loch wrinkled his nose.
“I promise, lots of mating later!” Sloane argued. “This could be important!”
Loch grumbled his protests the entire drive, and Sloane didn’t even wait for him to get out of the car as he hurried to the front door of Lynnette’s house.
Sloane blinked when Milo answered the door with his face covered in black ash, asking carefully, “Are you okay? Is your beard… burned?”
“Oh! I’m good!” Milo patted at his thick beard with a sheepish grin. He was big, broad, and always smiling. He bowed to Loch as he finally caught up. “Nice to see you, Your Most Holy Tentacle-ness!”
Milo was a recent convert to the Sagittarian faith. He was a bit exuberant, but Loch loved the attention.
“Greetings, furry mortal child,” Loch said sweetly, wiggling his fingers in a friendly wave.
“You guys have got to see this!” Milo ushered them inside and led them into the kitchen, where he had set up a small laboratory.
There was still a faint smell of smoke, and judging by the broken glass underfoot, something had definitely exploded.
“What the hell?” Sloane gasped in horror. “Dude, Lynnette is gonna kill you if you don’t clean this up—”
“Just listen,” Milo whined, grabbing a dish towel to wipe off his face. “You first found the blue goo when Lochlain was murdered, right? After Loch took over his body and you guys went back to his apartment to look for clues?”
“Yeah. We also found it at Kunst’s house.”
“After he blew up the car,” Loch helpfully chimed in.
“Right!” Milo confirmed. “All places Bad Robert had been, so we always assumed it was him. But you know where I didn’t find any? In the yard after you went all Starkiller on his ass.”
“I found some definite worm slime, but it’s not the same stuff as the goo. Follow me here for a second. I think the blue goo belongs to another god,” Milo said slowly.
“Are you freakin’ serious?” Sloane scoffed and exchanged a worried glance with Loch. The old gods were not known for their sanity, most of them having gone insane when they went into their deep slumber.
“Yeah,” Milo replied with a grimace. “I’ve been blowing myself up all morning testing it again to be sure.” He grabbed two plates from the counter, offering them [BH3] for Sloane’s inspection. “Look for yourself. Lefty is the original blue goo, all refined down. Right is the slime from Bad Robert.”
Sloane held up his hands to form a triangle for a perception spell. He recognized the blue residue immediately, the holographic aura familiar and equally uncomfortable. The worm slime had a similar shine, but Milo was right.
They weren’t the same.
“It’s definitely godly. Like, for sure. We know it’s not Loch, and if it’s not Bad Robert… well.” Milo eyed Loch. “Any idea who might have been awake running around with your brother trying to end the world?”
“How much time do we have?” Loch retorted dryly. “It’s a long list.”
“Seriously.” Sloane squeezed Loch’s arm. “Can’t you, like, go back to Zebulon and do, like, a head count or something? I mean, shouldn’t we be worried?”
“I’ll reach out to my sister,” Loch soothed, pulling Sloane into a tentacle-filled embrace. “She still wakes often. Maybe she’ll know who Toll was hanging out with.”
“Toll?” Milo put the plates away.
“Tollmathan,” Sloane replied. “God of music, poetry, and plagues. Aka Bad Robert?”
“Right! Sorry!” Milo grinned sheepishly. “Still trying to learn them all.”
“The most important one to remember is Azaethoth the Lesser,” Loch said. “Me.”
“How soon can you talk to your sister?” Sloane asked, trying to get the conversation back on track.
Loch closed his eyes and clicked his tongue. “Done! Mm, I hate to wake her up so early, but I suppose we do need to start discussing wedding plans, after all.”
“Wedding plans? What?” Milo squeaked, grinning at them and clapping. “You mean, wait, did you, you two…?”
“Loch asked me to marry him last night at Lochlain and Robert’s wedding,” Sloane confirmed. “We didn’t want to announce it then and steal any of their thunder—”
“I wanted to,” Loch said with a soft huff. “Sloane wouldn’t let me.”
“Ahhh! Congrats!” Milo gushed. “That’s so awesome!”
“Don’t say anything yet! We want to make an official announcement later!” Sloane pleaded. “And maybe keep this new god business hush-hush. I don’t want anyone freaking out if it turns out to be nothing.”
“Okay! Can do!” Milo looked around at the huge mess he’d made. “Little help, my super awesome starlit friend? Lynnette might come home for lunch, and well….”
“I got you.” Sloane wiggled away from Loch’s many arms so he could clap his hands together. All the broken glass was immediately made whole again and the smoke cleared, all evidence of the disaster magically gone.
“Phew!” Milo sighed in relief. “You’re a lifesaver!”
“Yeah. She’s been super moody lately and I think she wants to kill me? But then she’s super happy and doesn’t want to kill me.”
“You should mate with her more often,” Loch advised. “Mating is a wonderful way to declare your love, and it solves almost every problem—”
“No, it does not,” Sloane scolded. “You should try talking to her first. Don’t listen to him, Milo.”
“Hmmmph,” Loch fussed. “Right, don’t listen to the all-powerful immortal being who has lived for thousands of years and gives really great advice.”
“Your advice is terrible.”
“No, it’s not.”
“When that little girl at the wedding was being picked on, you told her to summon a swarm of bees.”
“Do onto others as they’ve done to you.”
“Thanks, guys,” Milo said with a chuckle, “but I think we’re gonna be okay. Moving in together can be way stressful, you know?”
“Let me know if we can help. I’ll call you later if we hear anything,” Sloane said to Milo with a warm smile. He gave his friend a big hug. “Gotta run! Gonna go see your buddy Jay!”
“Oh good, so he called you?”
“Yeah, he called me yesterday at the wedding. He’s my new client.”
“I told him to set something up with you. I knew you’d try to help him. Everybody else kinda thinks he’s going crazy.”
“Said you guys worked together down at the department, right?”
“Yeah, he’s over in IT, and his office is down the hall from the forensics lab. They put him where the old janitor’s closet used to be.” Milo grimaced. “Hope you can help him out! He’s a nice dude!”
“Thanks for the referral, by the way! We’ll talk soon!”
“Take care, mortal child,” Loch said, waving a tentacle as he followed Sloane back out to the car. “Mmm, my sister is on her way. It may take her some time to find a willing vessel.”
“You guys can just… talk to each other? Just like that?”
“Mm-hm. As long as she’s not dreaming too deeply, my sister always hears me.”
“Well, hopefully she can help us.” Sloane started driving them toward his office. “It makes me nervous as hell thinking that Bad Robert wasn’t working alone.”
“I can think of many others that it could have been,” Loch said with a shrug. “Top of the list is Gronoch. He would have been next in line to rule after Tollmathan. Perhaps it was him? Although, he’s a very heavy sleeper….”
“It wouldn’t have been your sister, right?” Sloane hated to ask. “Galgareth?”
“No,” Loch said with a firm shake of his head. “She wouldn’t do anything to hurt mortals or endanger this world. That much I’m sure of.”
“All right,” Sloane said, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. He frowned when his phone rang again.
It was Robert Edwards, the good one.
“Hey!” Sloane answered cheerfully. “Thought you guys were leaving for your honeymoon?”
“Almost!” Robert laughed, sounding a little nervous. “Look, uhm, could I speak to Azaethoth? Or maybe just put me on speaker? It’s sort of, uhm, personal, but….”
“Oh sure! One second!” Sloane passed the phone to Loch. “Put it on speaker.”
“Azaethoth the Lesser here,” Loch announced. “God of Tricksters, Thieves, and Divine Retribution.”
“Hello, Azaethoth!” Robert gushed, sounding even more nervous now. “I know this is very last minute, but we’re getting ready to leave for the airport, and I’m terrified of flying.” He took a deep breath. “Would you be willing to give me and Lochlain a blessing of protection for our trip?”
Sloane glanced at the time worriedly. They were so going to be late, but he nodded at Loch with a strained smile.
“Of course, my dear child,” Loch said happily. “We’ll be right over.”
“You can just meet us at the hotel!” Robert exclaimed. “Wynne Hotel, right downtown! Thank you so much!”
Sloane groaned as he took his phone back, making a quick right turn to get them redirected to the hotel. “I don’t normally ask you to use your godly powers, but if you could make every light green? That would be great.”
“I am yours to command, my sweet Starkiller,” Loch declared, always eager to show off his abilities.
They whizzed through the busy streets, and Sloane pulled up to the front of the hotel in mere minutes. He spotted Robert and Lochlain waiting for them by the door, and he put the car in park before waving them over.
Robert was a handsome young blond, and Lochlain was the mirror image of Loch. They were absolutely identical, right down to their gorgeous smiles, but the similarities ended with their physical appearance.
While Lochlain reminded Sloane of a fluffy kitten playing with a bit of string, Loch was a full-grown tiger on the prowl and definitely never up to any good.
The newlywed couple hurried over to the passenger side, and they both bowed their heads respectfully in greeting.
Loch rolled down the window with a very pleased smile. “Hello, my faithful ones.”
“Hi!” Robert waved, kneeling down beside the car and trying to appear inconspicuous. “I hate to rush, but we need to leave soon—”
Loch reached out his hand, one of his tentacles slithering out from his sleeve and poking Robert in the middle of his forehead. “Great Azaethoth will be with you on your journey. His whispers will guide you and his starlight will guard you.”
Eyes fluttering from the rush of divine contact, Robert sighed in relief. “Thank you… thank you so much.”
Loch smirked at his twin, asking, “And what about you, my most devoted follower? Would you like a blessing?”
“I already have all the blessings I need.” Lochlain smiled adoringly at his groom. He grinned as he added, “Although I did hear about another shiny exhibit coming to town….”
“Ohhh, do tell,” Loch pressed eagerly.
Lochlain had become the trickster god’s most beloved follower by being a bit of a trickster himself. Lochlain was a very talented thief and had earned Loch’s respect with his profitable and clever heists.
The pair were capable of great mischief when they were together, and Sloane was quick to protest, “No felonies until after the honeymoon is over, and we really have to go!”
“We do too!” Robert grabbed Lochlain’s hand, laughing at how he and Loch both pouted. “You can play with your patron god when we come home!”
“Take care, guys!” Sloane hurriedly drove away, tires squealing. He hadn’t meant to take off like that, but they were dangerously close to being late to meet with their new client.
When his phone rang again, he wanted to throw it.
Loch picked it up to investigate, saying, “Ah, it’s Fred!”
“Hello, Fred!” Loch said cheerfully. “How are you doing, dear child? Any new bits or pieces rotting off?”
Fred Wilder was Lochlain’s best friend, a Sage, and a ghoul. His body had been destroyed by a fire and through forbidden sorcery, Lynnette created him a new one. Ghoul bodies were essentially husks, shells that would hold a resurrected soul.
Loch’s body was technically a ghoul since it was a copy of Lochlain’s, but he could maintain its integrity through his divine essence. Ghouls like Fred, on the other hand, required special magic to keep their bodies from rotting.
“Nah.” Fred’s gruff voice rumbled through the phone. “All of that is fine, but I appreciate it.”
“It’s my pleasure,” Loch said with a warm smile. “Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you.”
“There is something,” Fred said, pausing uncomfortably. “Things have been going really well with my ghoul doctor friend, but I need to talk to you about somethin’ personal.”
“Ah, your penis,” Loch said without missing a beat. “You’re worried about copulation. Sloane and I are on our way to an appointment, but afterwards—”
“Not exactly,” Fred grunted.
“—I will happily examine your penis.”
Fred grumbled and hung up.
Sloane scrubbed a hand over his face. “Smooth. Very smooth.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Sloane laughed, still blushing from secondhand embarrassment.
“Mortals are so uptight,” Loch snorted, crossing his arms as he pouted.
Sloane parked outside his office, quickly unbuckling his seatbelt. “Okay, come on. We’re finally here.”
Loch reached over to slide his hand up Sloane’s thigh. “Mmm, you’re so tense, my sweet Starkiller…. You need to relax.”
Trying to ignore how his cock stirred at Loch’s touch, Sloane argued, “I’m tense because we’re gonna be late. We literally have four minutes—”
“I can make you come in two,” Loch promised, pushing closer.
“Loch,” Sloane protested, but his voice didn’t sound so strong. Loch already had his pants unbuttoned, one of his larger tentacles snaking its way down into his underwear and making him squirm. “Shit, shit, shit…. You’d better be quick.”
“I’ll be so very quick,” Loch purred, kissing Sloane as his tentacle swallowed down his cock and sucked hard.
Sloane bucked up into the wet heat, gasping against Loch’s lips. Any physical contact with Loch’s godly self was incredible, and Sloane’s entire body was at once flooded with a spectacular heat that made his heart ache.
Making love with Loch wasn’t just amazing, it was absolutely otherworldly, and oh, those tentacles, the things they could do.
Most of them were merely prehensile, but there were three that were especially unique. Two of them were equipped with small mouths that had several delicious talents, including sucking with mind-numbing pressure and dispensing thick loads of divine seed.
But the third one….
That thing was a god in its own right.
Sloane clung to Loch’s shoulders, and he groaned when another tentacle slipped between his legs and petted around his hole. It didn’t penetrate, only teased and nudged as the other continued to suck away.
“Come on, my love,” Loch urged, kissing along his ear and nipping. “I’m so hungry for a taste of you….”
Sloane whimpered brokenly, the ache in his balls making him tremble. He prayed that no one could see what was happening in the front seat of his car; they were in a public place, right in the middle of the day.
The thought of someone watching them made this insanely hotter, and he came immediately with a loud cry. He fucked up into the tentacle’s willing mouth, gasping and twitching. “Loch! Oh fuck, oh yesss!”
Smiling smugly, Loch stroked him through it and slowly withdrew when Sloane swatted at him. “There. Don’t you feel better?”
Sloane melted into the seat, flushed and satisfied, grinning. “Yes, I feel much better….” Then he looked at the clock. “Fuck! Two minutes my ass! We’re freakin’ late!”
Loch was all smiles as he followed Sloane frantically racing into the office. There was a young man with glasses waiting at his door with a large pet carrier in his arms. He didn’t seem too upset by their tardiness, but Sloane was already saying, “Hi! Mr. Tintenfisch? I am sorry that I’m late. It was utterly unavoidable.”
Loch snickered. Had he been close enough, Sloane would have elbowed him.
“Hi!” the young man said. “It’s okay! You can just call me Jay.” He smiled down at the carrier. “This is Mr. Twigs!”
“Please, come in,” Sloane said, trying to fix his hair as he opened the office door. He ushered Jay in, saying politely, “So, your roommate is missing?”
“Yes,” Jay said, setting the carrier on Sloane’s desk and opening it up. “Everyone at the department thinks I’m going nuts, and Milo said you would be able to help me.”
“I’ll definitely do my best!”
“My roommate has been missing for almost two days now, and this is not like him at all. He hasn’t been to work, he hasn’t been home, but his car is still in the parking lot. The detectives wanted me to wait before filing a missing persons report, and nobody is listening to me.”
“And you think that Mr. Twigs here might be responsible?”
“I’m Silenced, so you know, no magic for me, but I know the sound portals make. I’ve heard it on a ton of documentaries. I know I heard one right before he vanished, and no one else was home except Mr. Twigs.”
The cat slinked out of the carrier and perched right on the corner of Sloane’s desk, its tail swishing. It was fluffy, black, and it was wearing small round sunglasses.
Loch kneeled down, eyeing the cat suspiciously. They were nearly nose to nose, locked in an intense stare.
“Huh,” Sloane said, blinking slowly. “The cat… wears sunglasses?”
“Oh!” Jay blushed. “I know it sounds crazy, but his eyes are really sensitive to light. So yeah. I tried to take them off and he got really upset.”
“Wait, you didn’t buy them?”
“Oh no!” Jay laughed. “He had them on when I found him. He’s a rescue, and he’s, like, literally the sweetest—”
“He is a foul and wretched creature!” Loch suddenly shouted, spinning wildly and promptly smacking the cat across the room. “Go back to the depths of Xenon, you disgusting fiend!”
“Mr. Twigs!” Jay screamed in horror.
“Azaethoth!” Sloane roared, shocked and furious. “How could you? It’s just a cat!”
“That is not a cat!” Loch argued, his tentacles beginning to unfurl. “It’s a monstrous fiend that just looks like a cat!”
“Owww,” a new voice complained, the fluffy black cat picking himself up from the floor and yowling in complaint. He hopped back up on the desk, his tail lashing as he hissed, “That was super rude!”
“Mr. Twigs…?” Jay stared in awe. He started to reach for the cat but drew back. “You’re… you’re talking?”
“Duh,” the cat replied sweetly. “Now, Jay, why don’t you forget all about this and go to sleep?”
Jay’s eyes rolled back, and he immediately dropped on the carpet face-first.
“What the fuck are you?” Sloane demanded, his hands moving to summon a shield of bright starlight. Loch stood in front of him protectively, his thick tentacles writhing around him and poised to strike at any second.
The cat laughed, transforming into a very thin and very naked young man. He tilted his sunglasses down, grinning slyly to reveal a mouthful of pointed teeth as he teased, “Meow, motherfuckers. Name’s Asta. I’m here to save the world."
Take care, lovelies!
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