Today I am so pleased to welcome Victoria Sue to Joyfully Jay. She has come to share an exclusive excerpt from her latest release, The Twelfth Knight (Guardians of Camelot 1). She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Lance heard the knock on the door just as he was fighting to remove his blood-soaked shirt, contemplated ignoring it, but reluctantly muttered, “Come.” Mel stood in the doorway, the indecision so clear on his face Lance nearly smiled, but then Mel saw what Lance was trying to do and rushed in.
Lance set his jaw. “No. I can manage.”
Mel arched an eyebrow. “I’m reliably informed that they just wait for you to pass out from loss of blood, cover you up, and let you sleep it off rather than try and offer help.”
Lance grimaced. Maybe. But it didn’t matter.
“Let me,” Mel insisted and looked so fierce that Lance just stopped fighting. He was weary, and this was maybe one battle too many.
Mel was gentle, too gentle, and Lance both hated it and appreciated it at the same time. He was trying not to shake when Mel undressed him, and he suddenly found himself having to sit down. He wasn’t sure how he felt when Mel urged him to lift up so he could peel his jeans away. It wasn’t like he didn’t have shorts on.
“Kay told me where the first aid box was,” Mel continued far too cheerfully and reached for the plastic box he had brought with him. He quickly covered the deep cut to the side of Lance’s hand with some thick padding because it was still oozing. Lance closed his eyes as he felt his hand throb and sting so much he was light-headed with it. “I’m sorry,” Mel said softly.
Lance opened his eyes. “It wasn’t you wielding the sword.”
“No, but I distracted you,” Mel pointed out.
“And I know better than to let that happen.” Lance closed his eyes again because Mel was really close and smelled really good. He had used Lance’s soap, the bars he’d bought from a street vendor in the Zócalo, Mexico. She was a tiny woman, her wares laid out on a tarpaulin the first time he had seen her. Thirty years she had made the soaps and he had bought them, and her son shipped them for him. And then from out of nowhere his eyes stung. He didn’t want to think about the day they no longer came, because she would at some point become too old. Eventually they all did.
Mel had used his shower. Lance inhaled as Mel leaned forward, and he had been too much of a coward to think about it before, but he did now. It seemed that suddenly Mel in the shower was all he could think about.
And then the image of Mel in the alley came back along with the memory of his pierced nipples and Lance groaned. Mel’s eyes widened. “Did I hurt you?”
Lance shook his head and heard Mel go to the bathroom but stayed where he was. He was tired enough to sleep, but the pain was unlikely to let him rest. He knew he would sleep eventually, but that was likely a long way off. He wouldn’t be patrolling tonight anyway.
For a second the idea was tempting. The inevitability along with such blackness he felt cold to his very soul. Perhaps he should sneak out anyway? In this mess, with the pervading stench of blood, the Ursus would take no summoning. They would be on him like flies to a carcass. His would get his wish.
If it is still my wish. But even as the thought trickled through his brain, he doubted if he would have gone through with it.
He jerked a little as he felt the warm cloth on his hand and hissed at the sudden pain his movement cost him.
“Shh,” Mel soothed. “I said I was going to get the blood off and you mustn’t have heard me.”
Lance pried open his heavy lids. Mel was leaning over him with a soapy sponge, a towel draped on his lap. Methodically he wiped Lance’s arms, his chest, his neck, and Lance, too terrified Mel would see the sheer relief in his eyes at the touch, closed them again. If he had gone that night, his guardians would still fight. Lucan would make sure Tom was protected. His pulse picked up a little at the insistent worry that Mel might not be safe.
His eyes still stung, and he tried blinking, but they refused to stay open. Lance tried to tell himself it was too little sleep, but that didn’t explain the sudden tightness in his throat. The cloth warmed him, soothed him. How long had it been since someone had done this?
But it had been his mother, he guessed. As an adult, Lance had never had anyone interested in this sort of care. Not that he felt sorry for himself. There were far worse things. Terrible things. Evil things.
“Lie down,” Mel urged. “You are covered in the stuff.”
“I am,” Lance acknowledged. The blood of his enemies. The blood of the innocent he had been too late for. Sometimes he dreamed he was drowning in scarlet rivers, and sometimes he dreamed a red torrent was gushing from his heart. His hand hurt. But a physical pain was nothing to the mental agony he felt night after night.
“There,” Mel said calmly and dried his neck. He was still sitting, but then Mel pulled the pillow down and made encouraging noises like he should lie on it. He tilted his head a little and focused with difficulty.
“You aren’t going to be able to fight anyone if you don’t get some rest.”
“I don’t sleep well,” Lance admitted. There was always something else to keep him awake. The few hours he had caught the last two nights had astonished him. Mel nodded, but Lance didn’t know if it was in understanding or in simple acceptance. “I’m sorry you have been dragged into this.”
“You’ve been fighting far longer than me.”
“Too long,” Lance whispered, unable to hold the words in. “I mean—” He lowered his head only to have Mel’s hand rest on his shoulder.
“I can’t imagine how you get up in the morning.”
Lance lifted his head, ready with some smart retort about showers or being pushed out of bed, but as he met Mel’s understanding look, the words died unspoken. He could barely feel the whisper of them on his lips. His gaze settled on Mel’s face, and he wondered how his eyes could be so blue. They looked like they were washed clean.
“So clean.” He felt so dirty next to him. Spoiled. Bad.
Mel’s lips curved in humor, but he didn’t drop his hand. “Are you talking about my poor attempt to get the blood off you? I think you still have some on your—”
But Mel didn’t finish the words. He couldn’t finish because before Lance had even realized what he was doing, he had clasped Mel’s wrist and tugged, bringing Mel in for a kiss.
Mel froze and Lance instead of pushing became coaxing, cajoling. His lips urged Mel lower, and his own head settled back down on the pillow. Gently—he had no interest in bruising the soft lips that barely moved under his own—he used his tongue to lick the seam as if encouraging them to open.
He felt Mel’s chest rise and fall. The puff of air on his face. Nearly. Mel hadn’t asked him to stop. He slid his left hand slowly up Mel’s arm and the back of his shirt, stretching his fingers until they were wrapped in the soft curls at the nape of Mel’s neck. He moaned a little encouragement and slid his tongue inside Mel’s mouth, searching, and moved lazily, unhurried along the ridges of his mouth.
He heard a tiny breathless sound. Reluctant perhaps, but still not a no. But he had to make sure. He dropped his hand and Mel eased back, blinking in confusion. His big blue eyes gazed at him, but he didn’t speak. The spell was broken. Lance smiled, but Mel didn’t return it. If anything he looked displeased. Then he stood and carried the towel and cloth to the bathroom, came back, and opened the bedroom door, turning back just before he stepped through. “Just because I fuck for a living doesn’t give you the right to use me to pass an afternoon or to amuse yourself with while you wait for something better to come along.”
Lance opened his mouth to protest, but Mel forestalled him with a tilt of his head. “You’re not waiting for Guinevere, then?”
Lance swallowed. “She’s not coming. I’m fooling myself.” They both stared at each other for a second.
“Which wasn’t at all what I asked,” Mel acknowledged and closed the door behind him.
To battle an ancient evil, the greatest weapon each hero will have is each other.
Hundreds of years ago, facing defeat, the witch Morgana sent monsters into the future to vanquish a humanity King Arthur wouldn’t be able to save. The King might have won the battle, but now, centuries later, a few chosen men will have to fight the war.
Merlin always hated being named after some mythological wizard. His dad had been obsessed with the magic man of King Arthur’s Court before his untimely death – a loss that had sent Mel reeling in a downward spiral. He is ill-prepared, to say the least, for the outrageous claims of a proper English knight bent on overcoming evil.
Born a commoner, Lancelot was never supposed to be a knight in his own time, never mind now in a modern world he is so woefully untrained to protect. Thrown into a battle centuries in the making, this flawed hero, and a young man too-used to battling monsters of the present day, will have to come together in a last desperate fight to save humanity.
Can Mel and Lance defeat the greatest enemy the world has ever known? Or in the midst of fighting evil, will they discover the real threat has always been a shattered heart?
And what if the one fight they cannot ever hope to win is with themselves?
Victoria Sue fell in love with love stories as a child when she would hide away with her mom’s library books and dream of the dashing hero coming to rescue her from math homework. She never mastered math but never stopped loving her heroes and decided to give them the happy ever afters they fight so hard for.
She loves reading and writing about gorgeous boys loving each other the best—and creating a family for them to adore. Thrilled to hear from her readers, she can be found most days lurking on Facebook where she doesn’t need factor 1000 sun-cream to hide her freckles.
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Victoria Sue has brought a $5 Amazon US gift card and a choice of book from her backlist to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Saturday, October 5th at 11:59 pm ET.
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