Hello, and welcome to my fourth ever blog tour (I really do have to stop counting), celebrating Riptide Publishing’s release of Sand and Ruin and Gold. Yay! Thank you so much to Kathy for hosting me. And, to you, dear reader, for stopping by. If you’d like to come with me and keep me company on my virtual wanderings, you can find a full listing of when and where I am here on Riptide’s tour page.
I’m trying something a little different with this blog tour. Since Sand and Ruin and Gold is a short story, and I tend to feel that explaining short stories takes the fun out of them, instead I’m going to be posting, well, a completely different story. It’s set in the same world so I guess you could call it a kind of spiritual sibling. If you like it, you’ll probably like Ruin. If you don’t … then … um … you probably won’t. Sorry.
This is the fourth and final part of the story. Part 1 was posted by Smart Girls Love SciFi on the 22nd, Part 2 by Joyfully Jay on the 23rd and Part 3 by the Prism Book Alliance on the 25th. If you’re story lost (not that all those who wander are lost) and have missed a bit you can catch up on the RP tour page which, once again, is here, or you can swing by my blog where I’ll be attempting to keep track of everything.
Oh, and there’s a giveaway. Nothing very dramatic I’m afraid, as I don’t have any mermaids in my possession right now, but if you want to enter the Rafflecopter below, I’d be delighted to offer a book from my backlist, in either hard or soft copy.
Draconitas Part 4
Unnerved, he unrolled one of the canvases—it depicted a naked woman, her arms lifted in a pose of undeniable sensuality, her eyes half-closed, in modesty or ecstasy or tranquility, her dark hair wild against a halo of light.
“I have another somewhere,” said the dragon nonchalantly. “Another famous female, if you like that sort of thing. Bit of a cliché that one, though, something about the smile. Oh . . . or . . .” He reached out his hand and pulled the prince upright, dragging him over the kaleidoscopic landscape, metal skittering and paper flying under their feet. “What do you think of this?”
It was a sculpture of a horse that shifted seamlessly as the prince watched into a man and then two lovers, a city, a rose, a woman with a lute, a swan, fire, the horse again. He touched it with a trembling hand. It felt like stone: cold and certain. This was no image or illusion. It was matter, reworking itself endlessly, the magic of creation itself.
“How?” he asked.
“I could tell you, but the technology is in abeyance, and you wouldn’t understand anyway. I would far rather hear, if you can possibly stir yourself, how beautiful you find my hoard.”
“It’s . . . I don’t know . . .”
“I don’t show it to just anyone, you know.” The yellow-eyed man still seemed on the verge of irritation. “Where else in what remains of your world are you likely to see such things?”
And at last, the prince understood. He was the object—or perhaps the victim—of a seduction. That this centuries-long commitment to avarice, selfishness, and pride, which was alien to him only in its scale, was the closest such a creature could come to a gift. For reasons the yellow-eyed man had told him he would never fully understand, he had been given the heart of a dragon.
“It’s beautiful,” he said. “And so are you.”
For a painfully long moment the dragon was silent, and the prince feared his sincerity made for poor flattery. But then Surpassing Fair sighed, the heat of his satisfaction turning the air hazy. He held out his arms, and the prince stepped into them willingly, as the yellow-eyed man had promised he would. Treasure did not make a particularly comfortable bed, but the prince didn’t care. He simply held on tight as he was borne to the ground. Let the dragon add him to his collection of precious things. The yellow-eyed man nuzzled against his neck, pressing slippery kisses to the line of his jaw. “You can be so very sweet, my prince. The things you say when you believe them.”
He wound his fingers into the dragon’s mane, noticing for the first time the grey threaded through the fiery red. “You aren’t sweet at all. But I wouldn’t want you to be.”
“Then—” the yellow-eyed man gave him a crooked smile “—you’re fortunate.”
The dragon stripped him. Spread him like the virgin sacrifice he wasn’t over that impossible immensity of time-lost things, and took him, every part of him, with tongue and fingers, mouth and hands and body. Until there was only skin and burning heat and pleasure made bright by the possibility of pain: teeth at his throat and claws at his hips and the blunt intensity of joining. On his knees, with the dragon on his back, sliding on sweaty gold and crumpling paper, the taste of hair and blood in his mouth, his world reduced to nothing but a sweet-hot ache that made him arch and writhe and beg and scream.
Climax was a red roar that left him all in ashes. And afterwards, the dragon turned him onto his back, watching him with a half-smile and eyes grown oddly soft, and came over him in a splash of savage heat. The prince caught his breath at the searing agony of it, stars breaking behind his eyes until there was nothing but darkness left.
When next he woke, he was alone. And hot. He was too hot. Burning on the inside. Sweat streaking down his skin in scalding rivers.
His body hurt. Itched. He dragged his nails over his stomach, hard enough that the skin flaked away to reveal a curl of scaly red scar tissue. Still itching. Still hot. He tried to find the edges so he could prise it up, but his fingers slid over it, finding no purchase.
Glass walls around.
Where was he?
He couldn’t hold onto his thoughts. Memories slicking away like water drops in rain.
Dragon. There’d been a dragon. He was sure there had been a dragon.
He called out weakly for the yellow-eyed man, but his voice brought only echoes.
As he rose, his foot sent something spinning over the floor: a metal disc in faded red with scalloped edges and a smear of incomprehensible letters.
When the prince came back to us he was naked and tattered, in the grip of fever, babbling nonsense, his body covered in bloody scratches, burns, and strange rashes of rough dark skin. We had no idea—then—what might have happened to him. We thought he might have gone mad in the wilds, or fallen prey to some monstrous thing from our present or our past. We did not think he would survive, but whatever his inadequacies, he was still our prince, and the least we could give him was a bed to die in.
But he did not die.
The first we knew of his recovery was the buckling of the doors to the silver hall, as he flung them open, and stepped inside. He was barefoot, naked to the waist, his torso still swirled by hard red scars. His hair had grown wild, and his sickness had left his eyes jaundice yellow, the pupils pinpricks of black.
A faint smile curled his lips as he murmured, “Someone’s in my chair.”
His uncle—a noble warrior, a better man than his nephew—had stood as regent in the prince’s absence, for the rest of the royal line were yet too young to take the Trial. He rose from the throne, standing tall and proud, the leader of his people. “This is no longer your place.”
The prince’s footfalls landed softly as he walked towards his uncle, the ragged hems of his jeans scratching the tiled floor. “But I passed your little trial.”
“It does not matter. You are no fit ruler. You lack the strength, and there are . . . concerns . . . about your nature.”
“Oh? Concerns?” The prince stretched, his body a supple twist of skin and sinew, shamelessly sensuous.
His uncle flinched. “It does not bear speaking of. If you want the throne, you must claim it in honourable combat.”
We expected the prince to concede. He knew so little of battle, and his uncle was a seasoned fighter. Instead, he smiled, a terrible smile, full of sharp teeth. “You are dust, little man.”
Nobody knew how it happened.
Where it came from.
Some said later, it was the prince.
But, suddenly and seemingly from nowhere, a gout of flame enveloped the regent. He died screaming, a writhing shadow consumed by light, leaving nothing but blackened bones and ash.
The prince stepped carelessly through the smouldering remains that had once been a man and sprawled across the throne. Surveyed with pitiless eyes his subjects. The crook of a finger brought me to his side.
What else was I to do?
We stared at each other a while, the prince and I, all my words run dry in shock and fear. Then he flicked back his dark hair and leaned in close, his breath falling hot against my face. “Tell me,” he purred. “Am I not powerful and magnificent? Am I not beautiful? Do you not think me surpassing fair?”
Title: Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: sci-fi, alternate world / alternate universe, post-apocalyptic, erotic, romance
Length: 39 pages/Word Count: 10,240
Once upon a time . . . that’s how the old stories always begin.
Once upon a time there was a king of a fallen kingdom. He was just and he was beloved. Or so the numbers said. One day, he gathered together the greatest, wisest minds in all the land—not sorcerers, but scientists—and he bade them fashion him a son. A prince. A perfect prince to embody his father’s legacy.
The scientists each brought the prince a gift: beauty, strength, ambition, intellect, pride. But they must have forgotten something because when he saw the mermaids dance at the Cirque de la Mer, he ran away to join them.
For a year, he trained them, performed with them, thought he was happy. For a year he thought he was free. But then Nerites came: A merman who refused to be tamed. A captive from another kingdom. A beast in a glass cage.
The old stories always end with happy ever after. But this isn’t one of the old stories. This is a story of princes and monsters.
Purchase Link: Riptide Publishing
Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the twenty-first century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret. He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a seventeenth century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car. He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.
Follow the rest of the tour HERE.