QSFer Nancy M. Griffis has a new MM urban fantasy book out:
When Leo and Gerald go on their honeymoon to the English seaside, they expect to spend a lot of time in a luxurious bed and a little in the sun and surf. Unfortunately, a murder on their hotel floor ruins that lovely plan.
With the deceased an acquaintance of Leo’s–and a German diplomat–Leo inserts himself into the perplexing investigation. Gerald has more than enough on his plate to fill the time: a most modern young lady–and her guardian mage–decide that Gerald needs looking after, even as he searches for a young thief with power… a thief who desperately needs his help, whether she wants it or not.
Between the danger and the dancing, Gerald and Leo have a very unusual honeymoon indeed.
Nancy is giving away a copy of the first book in the series, Most Unusual Wedding, in eBook format – for a chance to win, comment on this post below.
They spent the morning in bed, just as Gerald had wished, and he learned his way around Leo’s body with the zeal of a convert. Leo returned the favor with equal fervor and the bedding was an absolute disaster by the time they stumbled to the W.C. some time after the noon hour.
It turned out the tub was big enough to accommodate them both and they spent a goodly time there, just drowsing and lazily washing one another. Gerald couldn’t get enough of Leo’s kisses and hugged the stuffing out of him several times just because he could.
Eventually, he couldn’t ignore his empty stomach’s protests any longer and sighed heavily enough that Leo asked, “What’s wrong?”
“I’m hungry,” Gerald replied plaintively, “but have no desire to leave the tub.”
Leo chuckled and said, “That’s easily solved. We’ll have room service.”
Gerald balked, shaking his head. “No. I will not be lounging about in a tub while some poor soul has to serve us food.”
Leo looked up at him with a smile, blue eyes mischievous and hair spread out over his back in wet ropes. He looked like a partially submerged merman. “Darling, they really have seen far worse than us in a tub.”
Gerald kissed the top of his head and said, “Up. We’ll order in, but dressed properly.”
Leo stood, releasing him in the rise to his feet. “Very well. I think when we return for our anniversary, though, I’ll have sufficiently corrupted you that you won’t think twice about such a thing.”
Gerald watched him climb out of the tub, the sight tantalizing enough that his dick twinged in appreciation. “Highly doubtful.”
Leo winked. “But not impossible. Come along then, before you wither away.”
Lunch arrived swiftly ten minutes later, but they were both in casual dress by then with only Leo’s wet hair to denote anything unproper had ever happened.
Gerald spotted a small envelope on the tray and picked it up. It held Leo’s name, so he said, “You’ve a note, love.”
Leo looked up from where he was eagerly picking up a chicken leg and made a face before dropping it again and wiping his hands on a napkin. He took it from Gerald and read it, face going cold at the missive.
Apprehension twisted Gerald’s stomach. “What is it? What’s wrong? Is it Granddad?”
Leo gave him a startled look and reached out to grip Gerald’s hand. “No! Sorry. It’s from Mark. He’s insisting I return immediately home for a chat.”
Gerald frowned, even as relief ran through him. “Why?”
“In his usual, high-handed fashion, he doesn’t say why,” Leo grumbled, dropping the note onto the table. “If Mother hadn’t added a line that she’d like me to come, I wouldn’t, which is exactly why she did so, I’m sure. It must have to do with family business, though what can’t wait a scant two weeks, I’ve no idea.”
Gerald shrugged and said, “Guess you’d better find out then. Adele wouldn’t disturb us for something trivial.”
Leo sighed dramatically and leaned in to kiss him. “But I don’t want to.”
Laughing a bit at the whining tone, Gerald said, “You’ll be back in a trice, not even long enough for me to miss you.”
“Not even a little?” Leo asked, pouting. “That’s mean.”
Gerald nodded at the food. “Best to eat before going. You’ll need your strength.”
Leo collapsed against the sofa. “I’ve married a heartless man, I see that now.”
They shared a chuckle and took longer to eat than strictly necessary in unspoken spite against Mark. Finally, though, they dressed properly and left the room. Gerald watched as Leo warded the room and then they walked to the lift where Ollie gave them a cheerful smile before ushering them to the lobby. They stopped at the main desk to ascertain that no one was about to use the transport room before continuing on.
“And what will you do while I’m gone?”
Gerald thought about it. “Perhaps just walk around the village and get to know the area. Always best to know where you are.”
Leo smiled up at him as they stopped outside of a door that was so nondescript Gerald almost walked right by it. “This is me. I shouldn’t be long. An hour at best. I’ll send you a note when I return.”
Nodding, Gerald kissed him briefly and said, “Don’t get so mad at whatever it is he’s done now that you lose your senses.”
Leo smiled fondly. “I’ll just think about you and what you would do instead.”
Somewhat aghast at the thought, Gerald exclaimed, “No, definitely don’t do that.”
Leo laughed. “Any message for Daniel? Or Harry, if he’s still there?”
Gerald shook his head. “Just hello and I hope they’re well.”
Leo saluted and said, “Shall do. See you in a tick.”
Gerald watched him go into what looked like a tiny, plain wooden room before the door closed. He waited, but there was no obvious sign of usage and so finally left.
It was very warm outside and humid to boot. Gerald half-wished for one of Leo’s hats as he set off, the sun was so strong. Sweat prickled against the back of his neck almost immediately. He didn’t know how much time he had, but forwent the carriage parked outside. It would be nice to have some time to wander around somewhere completely new on his own. He knew London like the back of his hand from Hyde Park to the Chapel to the Thames, even though he generally stayed in his own neighborhood.
Gerald spent a good hour walking down the main street as far as it would take him and then back again. By the time he returned to the hotel he was sweaty and burning from the sun. He suspected his face looked red as a ripe tomato if the tightness of his skin was anything to go by.
Ollie gave him a knowing grin as he bypassed the lift for the stairs. Gerald didn’t deign to respond to the youth’s annoying expression, just walked upstairs. He stepped out of the stairwell into the hall just in time to see a small blond boy with rather faded clothes and a large rucksack over his shoulder stop in front of their door. Gerald frowned and watched as his hand reached for the doorknob. Before it landed, Gerald called out, “Excuse me, but you’ve got the wrong room.”
The boy didn’t even look at him. He ran down the hall like he’d stolen the Crown Jewels and all of Scotland Yard was after him.
Gerald broke into a run, chasing the lad around the corner to the stairwell at the opposite end of the floor. The door slammed shut just as he got there and Gerald slammed into it a second later as the door handle refused to move. He banged his shoulder against if a few times, but the door absolutely would not budge.
He cursed under his breath and kicked the door sullenly. “Damned mages.”
Gerald walked swiftly back to their room to make sure nothing had been stolen, even though the boy had clearly just arrived. He unlocked the door and walked inside, taking time to go thoroughly over things. Nothing appeared to be missing. All their clothing remained and no more of Leo’s books or paper had been taken.
“Well. That’s something at least,” Gerald said to the empty room.
He sat on the sofa and stared at the empty fireplace for a few minutes, mind whirling with what had just happened.
A child using power to steal is someone who either has no family or has a family making them do wrong. Either way, the boy needs help and I sincerely doubt the constabulary will be inclined to do anything. Surely if I speak to the lad, maybe help him find a good situation or a place in a local children’s home, that’s better than leaving him to fend for himself on the street.
The brief glimpse Gerald had had of the lad had shown a too young, dirty face. He needed help, there was no doubt of that.
Decision made, he stood again and changed into far more casual clothing and ran quick fingers through his hair to muss it up a bit. He didn’t really know how to find a child who lived as this one probably did, but he wouldn’t get far dressed like a toff. He didn’t want to look like a ruffian, that would attract the wrong kind of attention, but midlevel sounded about right. He would also need some money, no doubt, and was glad Leo insisted he carry around five pounds at all times, despite it being an enormous sum of money.
Gerald stopped by the front desk to make change and was glad Wilson was nowhere to be seen. He left the hotel and walked around the block until he found an alleyway that led to the hotel supply dock. Men in rough clothing carried crates from large wagons. Uniformed hotel staff directed the workmen. The talk was loud and colorful, to say the least. Gerald grinned a bit wondering how Leo would react to the situation.
He walked up to a dark-haired youth leaning against a wall and asked, “Who’s the boss ‘round ‘ere?”
The lad looked him up and down then nodded at a short, broad-shouldered man with sandy hair. “In a right pisser of a mood though. Course, he always is. Wouldn’t ask him for a job, was I you. Right stingy bastard, is what he is.”
Gerald winked. “Thanks, lad, I’ll take me chances.”
He waited until the man was done cursing out his current unfortunate worker to walk up. The man glared at him, dark eyes filled with anger. “What?”
“Wondering if you know of any lads for hire. Small ones for factory work. Over eight, o’course. Don’t want any inspectors comin’ down on me.”
The angry glare turned suspicious. “Ain’t no factories round these parts.”
“Not yet. Boss wants to open up a glassworks ‘bout three miles away. Far enough away the locals don’t get in a snit, close enough the workers got a job, you know?”
“But you’re just lookin’ for lads?”
“For now. Need ‘em for particular jobs. Can’t get those, no point opening up, really, and he’ll pick another spot. And they’re to have power. Not a lot. Don’t want the little blighters getting up to mischief, but enough to keep them from getting their faces melted off, y’know? An as for that, well. Families what don’t worry too much are best. Accidents happen in a glassworks.”
Nodding slowly, the boss said, “Right. Well, there’s a few lads I know with quick wits and a bit o’power. Can y’read?”
“Not well, but yeah.”
“Hatcher! Bring yer book over,” the man said.
A thin, spindly fellow around Sam’s age rushed up to them and held out a small notebook and pencil. The man wrote for a minute and then tore out a page and handed it over. “These lads’ll be hungry for work. Got enough power and sense to be useful, but not so much ambition to be trouble, if you get my drift. Tim’s their keeper, so you’ll want to pay him off first or you’ll have yer hands full. Or cut off, depending on his mood. That’s his address. He’s there most days ‘round about ten ‘till twelve.”
Gerald nodded and pulled out enough coins to come up to two pounds. “If the lads work out, I’ll be sure the boss knows who to send the finder’s fee to…?”
The man held out his hand. “Frankie Shelton.”
“Good to meet ya. Name’s Harry. I’ll see you ‘round, Frankie.”
Gerald tucked the paper into his pocket and strode out of the alleyway. It was nearly five and the pavement was a lot more crowded than it had been the rest of the day. It might be a resort town, but there were obviously plenty of locals to make foot traffic thick at this time. He was halfway back to the lobby entrance when he spotted the boy leaving the main doors. The rucksack was filled, not flat like Gerald had last seen, so the boy had to have robbed others. No one seemed to be paying him any attention, which meant he was using some sort of ‘don’t see me’ spell.
He stopped short, unsure what to do now that the boy was right in front of him. Should I grab hold of him so he can’t get away before I explain that I wish to help or perhaps follow him to wherever he lives?
Before he could decide, the lad turned and spotted him. Gerald saw then that it wasn’t a boy at all, but a girl with her hair cut short. There was no mistaking her gender looking right at her. He was horrified anew, this time that someone was making a little girl rob others to make a living.
It took her less than a second for her to recognize him and run for it.
Gerald ran after her, but she was exceptionally fast and darted through the late afternoon crowd with much greater ease than could Gerald. Several times he bumped into other people as he ran headlong after the girl. He turned a corner and crashed solidly into a constable, both falling hard to the pavement. He hit the ground and wheezed, trying to breathe.
“Oi! What is your problem, mate?” the constable demanded
Pushing onto his elbows, Gerald looked around but the girl was long gone. Drawing in a full breath, he climbed to his feet and said, “I’m very sorry, Constable. Dipper got my wallet.”
All business, the constable took out a small notebook. “Can you describe him?”
Gerald shook his head and said, “Unfortunately not. Young lad, dark hair, but that’s all I saw. I was trying to catch him.”
“Best to leave that to us. Let me take your information and I’ll keep an eye out.”
If he declined, it would look suspicious. “Gerald Harris. I’m staying at the Warrington for my honeymoon.”
The constable’s eyebrows lifted in apparent surprise. Understandable, given Gerald’s current wardrobe. “I see. Well, I will certainly let you know if we recover your wallet, Mr. Harris.”
I won’t hold my breath, he thought and smiled weakly. “Thank you, Constable. Sorry again.”
He turned and walked back to the hotel, feeling the constable’s gaze on him the entire way.
I grew up in the “snowbelt” of Massachusetts, moving around quite a bit within the state. I like to say it was a crash course in adaptability. I was a voracious reader from a young age and wrote my first (no doubt very bad) novel when I was fifteen, though I’d written short stories before then. Eventually, I moved down to Atlanta. I embraced the southern city, but it was to be a short love affair. I moved to Southern California and have been here ever since.
I was a major scifi/fantasy fan growing up (ST: TNG, Voyager, Babylon5, Buffy, Xena were all huge favorites) and those are the genres in which I write. I spend my time reading, writing incessantly, watching far too much television, and going to the movies as often as possible. I am currently between feline overlords.AUTHORBIO