QSFer Addison Albright has a new MM fantasy book out: Change of Plans.
Once upon a time, two handsome young princes fell in love, faced down adversity, and lived happily-ever-after…until one romantic evening, they unwittingly ate a confection laced with a mind-wiping toxin.
Crown Prince Efren of Zioneven blindsided Prince Marcelo of Sheburat when he used The Contingency Plan embedded in a peace treaty to marry the naïve young prince. Now, Marcelo is shocked again when he awakens in an unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar land, in the arms of a stranger who’s taking such liberties!
Will that ignominious new beginning to their relationship doom their chances at rekindling their love? Or will Efren’s giddiness and the less formal surroundings of Zioneven propel them toward a more teasingly fun rapport?
Marcelo and Efren have forgotten more than their love. On their journey home to Zioneven, their Best-Laid Plans went awry when Marcelo was abducted. Now, neither remembers the unexpected strength of character and ingenuity Marcelo manifested to survive his harrowing ordeal, or Efren’s frantic search for his new husband.
Were Marcelo and Efren specifically targeted for the Forget-Me-Not poisoning, or were they the victims of a random assault? Is this new attack related to Marcelo’s abduction and his sister’s death? Will Marcelo revert to his old mild-mannered, unassuming self, or will he step up to prove he’s the same brave man his new family claims he is amid the fresh danger swirling around them?
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The man’s breath quickened further, and he spun before rushing to the window to throw open the heavy draperies. The sun was reflecting off Zioneven’s majestic mountains to the northeast with the sun just clearing the horizon south of where the range tapered off.
Objectively a beautiful sight, but the man recoiled with an alarm that had ratcheted up several notches. He wobbled as he whirled in place. “Where—?” He gulped. “Who—?”
A twinge of concern prickled Efren’s neck. The man’s distress went beyond what one would expect from waking in a stranger’s bed.
Far beyond. He’d reacted as if the scenery was completely unfamiliar.
“Where are you from?” Efren asked.
“Where am I?” the man countered.
The door swung open, and Dru and another servant whom Efren didn’t recognize entered, bearing trays.
“Erich! Thank goodness!” The young man expelled a breath that also deflated some of the terror that had stiffened his slight frame.
“Sir?” Erich sedately placed his tray on a small table, and his brows raised in a manner that conveyed a calming, “How may I be of service,” rather than a reflection of the man’s panic.
“Yes, thank goodness.” Efren rolled his eyes and turned to Dru. “I appreciate the effort, Dru, but next time, please find a bed-warmer who isn’t so deep in his cups he won’t remember how he came to be here.”
Dru halted with his laden tray halfway down to another table. “Sir?” Dru’s brows, unlike Erich’s, came together over widened eyes. In fact, Erich’s countenance now mirrored Dru’s. They both stared at Efren with a concentration that brought Efren’s twinge of concern back to life…and amplified it.
Dru carefully laid the tray on the table and took a deep breath. “You don’t know one another?”
The worry in Dru’s eyes clearly conveyed that they should. They should each recognize the other.
Efren’s blood chilled as he and the mysterious man both shook their heads. Surely it wasn’t…no…it couldn’t be. That toxin was strictly outlawed, and nobody had dared use it in years.
Dru gulped and yanked the bell pull three times, signaling an alarm.
“No,” Efren whispered as he sat heavily on the edge of the bed.
“I’m sorry, sir.” Dru’s eyes mirrored his words. “I fear you’ve both been dosed with Forget-Me-Not.”
Forget-Me-Not was banned in all four realms with a very stiff penalty to anyone caught using it. It had originally been developed in Sheburat, but the formula had been discovered and also used by the monarchies in Zioneven, Gagel, and Proye. It hadn’t taken long for each to conclude that they were better off if they all agreed to ban its use.
Forget-Me-Not wiped a couple moon cycles worth of memories from its victims, activating during the first sleep after dosing. Those memories were never regained.
If a couple months had gone by since Efren’s last memory—which had been mere weeks before his journey to Sheburat for his upcoming nuptials—then he should be married to Sheburat’s Princess Marcela by now, sealing the final agreement of the two sovereignties’ peace treaty.
Efren shivered and stared at his hands. Sure enough, a ring was missing from his pinky finger, replaced by a new, unfamiliar ring.
He frowned. He was married. His shoulders did slump now, although he couldn’t complain too much about remembering neither that tedious journey nor the ceremony he’d been dreading. Dare he hope she was already with child so he no longer needed to force himself to go against his nature?
Still, who was this young man with the beautiful strawberry blond curls who stood with his clenched fist holding the top of his tunic closed. “What…what is ‘Forget-Me-Not’?”
The question seemed rhetorical, because the intelligence he’d written off too soon seeped out from behind those brightly shining eyes as the man’s mind worked toward the answer. An inevitable conclusion considering their current state of confusion, despite the drug’s name being a bit of a misnomer since forgetting was precisely what it accomplished.
With a gasp, Efren stared at the ring gleaming from the man’s third finger as he continued to grip the fabric at his neck. This man was wearing the ring that used to adorn Efren’s smallest finger.
There was only one possible explanation for that.
Efren stood, straightened his back, and neutralized his features, hoping to appear unthreatening as he crossed the room and took the man’s hands in his own.
“You must be Prince Marcelo,” Efren said. Apparently, Princess Marcela had died at some point during the month before the wedding, and the contingency plan had been put into place, allowing Efren to choose from amongst her younger siblings. Marcelo was a rare son—Marcela’s twin, younger by mere minutes—born to Sheburat’s matriarchal royal family. Unlike his sisters, eighteen-year-old Marcelo had been kept deliberately naïve and uninformed.
Efren ran his thumb over the ring on Marcelo’s finger and gestured to the ring adorning his own finger, which he expected Marcelo would recognize. “And I am Efren, the crown prince of Zioneven. It appears we are married.”
The intense focus that had overtaken Marcelo’s eyes as Efren approached him faded, and his eyes rolled back in his head. Efren’s heart leapt, but he managed to inelegantly catch his husband before the man’s now-limp body could drop to the floor.
After hefting Marcelo properly into his arms, Efren carried him to his—their—bed and carefully laid him on the mattress as the sound of many sets of running feet filled the castle’s corridors.
Efren trailed his fingers across Marcelo’s forehead and tenderly shifted wayward strands of hair that had fallen across his eyes. He swallowed the lump in his throat and murmured, “I hope you’ll forgive me for that ignominious second beginning to our relationship. Surely I was more respectful first time around.”
He sighed, and backed away, letting Dru explain as security personnel filed into the room.
Addison Albright is a writer living in the middle of the USA. Her stories are gay romance in contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction genres. She generally adds a subtle touch of humor, a dash of drama/angst, and a sprinkle of slice-of-life to her stories. Her education includes a BS in Education with a major in mathematics and a minor in chemistry. Addison loves spending time with her family, reading, popcorn, boating, French fries, “open window weather,” cats, math, and anything chocolate. She loves to read pretty much anything and everything, anytime and anywhere.