Today I am so pleased to welcome L.A. Ashton to Joyfully Jay. L.A. has come to share an exclusive excerpt from their latest release, Valhalla. L.A. has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving them a big welcome!
“I can’t believe you didn’t take in one of your charges.”
Sakuma propped his chin on his palm where he stood next to Augustus. They were both staring through the portal of their home, watching the flare and fade of souls. “He was stubborn; you really have no idea.”
Augustus’s wings fluttered at his back. They were raven black—an abyssal color that matched the depths of his stare and the curls dripping over his forehead. He spread them in a stretch, the rest of him remaining motionless. “Hopefully he still finds himself a warrior’s death, since you seem so keen on him.”
“I believe he’s too bullheaded to allow for anything else.”
Augustus glanced at him. “Was Hildr upset? It’s not often I hear of one of us failing our charges, and I’ve certainly never seen such a thing from you.”
Sakuma stuck his nose in the air. “It wasn’t a failure.” Now his wings were the ones fluttering. “Ishii made a choice.”
“The wrong one.”
“The warrior one.” Sakuma narrowed his eyes. “You’ve been a Valkyrie longer than I have. Have you forgotten what it was like to battle for your nation?”
Augustus cast his gaze down at the fissure between realms. “Perhaps I have.”
“Well don’t,” Sakuma admonished. “In any case, I know the risks this poses for Ishii.” Ishii was interesting. When was the last time Sakuma had felt true interest? A flush of determination made him warm. “I won’t let him get away next time.”
“I trust in your ability,” Augustus responded.
Sakuma tried not to preen. Augustus was a top-tier Valkyrie. He was also a man who didn’t offer praise often or easily. “Of course,” he chirped.
The tickle of electricity that reminded Sakuma of an uncollected charge surged within him. It was always there, like an itch that could never be scratched, but now it burned. The pull in his chest begged him to fall forward.
“I think that’s him,” Sakuma said, wings spreading. He glanced at Augustus, then back to the human-sized spark on Earth. “I’ll return victorious.”
Sakuma made the dive, and it felt even faster and more breathless than usual. He didn’t know how long it had been since he’d seen Ishii; it could have been a week or a month or a year for the human. For Sakuma, it had felt like a blink, or a heartbeat—for something as eternal as Sakuma had become, the passage of time was barely noticeable.
Once again, Sakuma was able to stay close to the ocean he had grown so fond of. His feet came down just above the sands of a ravaged beach, long strands of beach grass shivering in the late afternoon wind. Ishii was easy to find.
He was limping again—still, perhaps—and using the butt of his rifle to help steady his steps. His body wobbled and fought against the waves of sand, his free hand gripping at his ribs.
Sakuma trailed him, nonexistent footsteps keeping his presence secret. He swooped up beside Ishii and grinned. “Ishii!”
Ishii flinched before rolling his eyes. “I must have a malfunctioning soul beacon.”
Sakuma bounced beside him. “No, no, I think you’re really dying again!”
Ishii chuckled, and the corners of his eyes pinched into fond lines that looked scarcely used. A bloody crack in his lip spread wider as he smiled. The crimson smeared across his teeth did nothing to eclipse the brightness of his smile.
Sakuma has served as a Valkyrie for centuries, smoothly escorting thousands of souls to the grand halls of Valhalla. While the world tears itself apart during WWII, he is summoned to retrieve the soul of a fallen Japanese soldier, Ishii Hiroshi. To Sakuma’s surprise, Ishii refuses his invitation to eternity.
The two meet again and again as the war repeatedly sends Ishii to death’s door, and what should have been a fleeting encounter becomes something much greater for the both of them.
Sakuma is determined to give Ishii the reward he so deserves, but Ishii’s stubbornness may condemn him to an eternity outside Valhalla.
L.A. Ashton is an LGBT+ author writing LGBT+ fiction. They enjoy rock music, traveling, and anything else that adds color to their daydreams. They believe in the healing properties of art and of having a cat firmly stationed on one’s lap. Their official site can be found at www.LAAshton.com.
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