Thank you all so much for continuing to read :) I had a lot of fun writing this story and it's so amazing that so many people are enjoying it.
Some quick "business" -- Dreamspinner Press (publisher of my first three novels) is having a SALE! There are just two more days to get 25% off everything in the store (including in-stock paperbacks). This is definitely the time to stock up on those ebooks (let's face it, they cost less and hello, instant gratification!) or new paperbacks by your favorite authors (because they're big and shiny and you can hold them in your hands :) )
If you happen to live in Metro-Detroit (or not too far away), I hope you'll join me at Affirmations in Ferndale for an awesome presentation on PrEP. (No, I'm not in anyway presenting or there in a official capacity; I was sick the day APM sponsored PrEP training for its volunteers and staff members, so I'm going to make it up to myself by going to the panel discussion at Affirmations--although I probably would have gone, anyway. PrEP is an incredible drug that offers so much hope to the community. It doesn't protect against other STIs--and herpes is still incurable--but with each step forward, we get closer to finding a cure.)
Monday is World AIDS Day. It's also the day A Place to Belong is due, so I won't be around much. I'll be scrambling with last minute edits before turning it in with fingers and toes crossed! But I still want to take a moment here and now to remind everyone that the fight is far from over. We have to continue educating, speaking out, speaking up, and fighting not only HIV but the stigma that is attached to it.
Pink News recently published an awesome article about men taking shower-selfies in a new campaign called "We are ALL clean". It falls in line with my own recent post about the language we use to describe HIV negative and HIV positive people. To recap the mos salient point of my own blog post: I don't have lupus. I don't have cancer. I don't even have a cold. Does that make me "clean"? No. Of course not. It means I don't have lupus or cancer or a cold. When we say someone is "clean" we are implying that others are "dirty" -- you wouldn't say that about someone with lupus. You wouldn't say that about someone with cancer. You wouldn't say that about someone with a cold. Don't say that about someone who has HIV--all it does is add to an already nearly unbearable stigma.
Lastly, I know I've missed a couple of months (again), but my newsletter should be out soon. October was NOT the month I wanted it to be and that sort of caused November to whiz by in a blur. I have a few more days of crazy-marathon writing and then I can breathe again, get my newsletter out, put up my tree...so if you haven't signed up already, please sign up. I do monthly (or, you know, mostly monthly) book reviews, recipes, and occasionally hold special subscriber-only contests. Especially when I'm feeling guilty about not having put out a newsletter in a a couple of months!
And now, of course, the reason you're really here today, Chapter 21 of Tentacles and Chain...the chapter where everything changes....
Trellen blinked in dismay, aware that his Master could see him in the dark, even if all he could see was inky blackness. “You’re going away?” he repeated, turning the statement into a question. What Master had actually said was “I’ve been called away.” But what did that mean? Called by who?
Master brushed his knuckles across Trellen’s cheek. “I will only be gone for a short time, my sweet and I will I will leave you everything you need in my absence.”
Everything but you. The thought struck him both unexpectedly and hard. When had he come to need the other male so much that the thought Master leaving made Trellen’s heart ache? “Why do you have to go?”
“The details don’t matter, sweet. I won’t be gone long, I promise.”
“Can’t I come with you?”
Master seemed to consider it, but, “No,” he said. “It is best that you stay here where you are safe.”
Trellen frowned. Where could Master be going that wasn’t safe? What if something happened and he didn’t return? “Please. I won’t be any trouble—”
He swallowed hard. Master almost never used his name.
“It will be all right, my sweet,” he said more gently, cupping Trellen’s cheek “I will only be away for a short time and when I come home, I will show you exactly how much I’ve missed you—because be assured, I will miss you very much.”
His tone caused a shiver of pleasure to ripple down Trellen’s spine, but it did little to alleviate his unhappiness. He turned his head and pressed a kiss to Master’s palm. “I would rather you stayed.”
“I know. I would rather that, too. But some things cannot be helped. I have…,” he hesitated. “Responsibilities to attend to.”
Trellen didn’t like the sound of the word “responsibilities.” What could be so important—and so dangerous—that Master wouldn’t take him along?
As if sensing his distress, Master rubbed his thumb over Trellen’s cheek. “There’s nothing for you to worry about, I promise. I’ll be back before you’ve even had the chance to miss me.”
“When do you have to leave?”
“The sooner I go, the sooner I can come back to you.”
He didn’t like that answer either, but he forced himself to accept it. “Do you at least have time to fuck me before you go?”
Master chuckled. “I believe I can make the time for that, my sweet.” And he drew Trellen into a scorching kiss.
Trellen woke to find himself alone on the soft sand bed. It wasn’t unusual. Master was often away when he woke. But he’s never gone for long. This time, however, was different. Trellen knew Master wasn’t coming back any time soon.
Next to the bed, he found nets full of kelp, sagren leaves, clams, conches, and sea uchins, along with a sharpened stone for breaking through shells to get at their meat. There’s enough food here for several days. Did Master really expect to be gone for so long? Am I truly supposed to just wait here for him?
But what else could he do? He was a prisoner in the dark.
Hours passed. Trellen did what he could to distract himself from the cold loneliness. He moved through the bed chamber, blindly exploring every chest, feeling every seashell, every trinket, everything that Master had collected and lain out with such obvious care.
Then he slept.
He ate without tasting anything.
He moved through the chamber once more and finally lay back on the soft sand bed, staring into black nothingness. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he’d dozed off and then woke back up again.
This was the longest he’d been left alone since he came to Master’s home.
But then an ugly tendril of thought began to niggle at his brain. Trellen hadn’t “come” here. He had been brought. Taken against his will and held prisoner in the dark until he agreed to submit to another male’s pleasures.
Trellen swallowed back the cold lump in his throat.
“I require only your submission. But it is my hope that you do not hate me too much for taking you from your home.”
Did he hate the other male?
Master had held him prisoner. But he’s shown me such pleasure. And the other night, under the stars…. He was sure if he asked, Master would take him there again.
But he was stalking me since at least last turning. Watching me. Following me. He caged me and gave me an impossible choice. I made the only bargain that I could and I only did it so I could find a means of escaping this awful place.
And here he was, unguarded, unfettered, uncaged and knowing with certainty that his Master would be gone for a least a few days. Why was he not fleeing? He knew the way out…or at least he thought he could retrace the way they’d taken, just a few nights ago. When would he ever get another opportunity this good?
Only where would he go? He could never return to the colony and face his family, his friends. They would know at once that he was tainted.
There must be other colonies out in the Blue. One of them will surely take me in. Or if not, he could swim free, explore the Blue like Lucien and the others before him. It was what he’d wanted anyway, wasn’t it? To escape the colony and find his own way in the sea.
To be free.
Besides, sooner or later Master was going to tire of him and then what? What did an Unspeakable One do with his toys when he was done playing with them?
How many others had Master imprisoned here in the dark?
I cannot be the first. I won’t be the last.
But the way Master kissed him, the way he touched Trellen, the way he made him feel when he whispered words of praise….
He clenched his fists. He would not be a prisoner to his own depravity. If he could reclaim nothing else, he could at least reclaim his dignity.
He could break free of his cage, comfortable though it was, and swim once more in the sunlight. He could feel the wind on his face and know the joy of the open sea.
Trellen rose up off the bed and gathered up the nets of urchins and clams, because only a fool would venture out into the Blue without at least a few days’ supply of food.
He hesitated, as Master’s soft words echoed in his mind: “I hope I please you as much as you please me.”
“You do please me,” he admitted softly. “And I am sorry. I wish things could be different. If we had met and been allowed to…..” Love. The word hit him like thunder.
But how can this be love? I am his slave. I don’t even know his real name.
His mind made up, Trellen turned and swam out of the chamber.