QSFer Lissa Kasey has a new MM fantasy romance out: “Heir to a Curse.”
Zach is running out of time to save the man fated to be his.
After losing a friend and inheriting her million-dollar home riddled with repair issues, Zach has his hands full. As a construction contractor he plans to make it the home she always wanted it to be. Except every time he fixes one thing, something else happens: fire, damage to the garden, and even mysterious lights making the staff whisper about ghosts. All linked to a historic Chinese shrine on the property.
When Zach catches a glimpse of a mystery man near the shrine, then dreams of monsters, he wonders if grief has driven him mad. But when a kiss awakens him to his past lives with an exiled lover, he begins to realize the only way out is to break the curse.
The first part I knew was a dream because the rabbit spoke to me. Not like a cartoon rendition or some Alice in Wonderland fairytale, but he sat in one of the chairs at my new table and spoke to me about the delicacy of making proper tea. I listened with intensity, though not really understanding any of it. A bit like listening to another language and thinking I could somehow assimilate the words without knowing what the other language was.
It didn’t really matter at first because those hands were there again, sitting beside the rabbit. Distracting me. Not with the tea making this time, but playing a delicate stringed type of piano. It lay flat and was long, and the sounds his skilled fingers made as they rolled over it with familiar ease soothed something deep inside me. I watched his fingers move with a fascination I couldn’t recall toward anything in my life. My own hands sat on the edge of the table looking large, scarred, and gigantic next to his.
“You play beautifully,” I told him, still not sure what it was he was playing.
I felt, more than saw his flush of pleasure. Pleased with my compliment for something he’d taken for granted. One of many skills he’d been required to learn. Things he considered useless. Odd how clearly I could feel his thoughts rather than hear or see them.
“Precious,” I whispered, feeling the tune like magic in my bones. The dream itself unusual, as I didn’t usually speak in them. I wasn’t sure when the dream actually changed, only that I could sense small bits from him as though I’d known them forever. Like the instrument was called a guzheng pronounced goo-jung and a required training of his family line. He spent endless days of his life studying languages, arts, math, science, law, and even war tactics, for the little good it did him.
The music at least brought him some peace. Me as well. I relaxed into the sound, a cross between a piano plunking of keys and a harp, his movement over the string fluid, graceful, and making the instrument sing an almost eerily sad song. I was tempted to ask him to play something more upbeat, but felt myself slipping into a deeper sleep, losing focus on him, the rabbit, and the music for a while, and drifting into the void of unconsciousness.
A wailing shriek cut off the music with a loud twang, and I bolted to my feet. In nothing more than my boxers and a T-shirt, I raced toward the sound, which meant out of the cabin and across the bridge again. The shrine, no longer dark and lifeless, flickered with color, as though it were on fire.
My heart pounded hard and echoing in my chest. Sofia!
We couldn’t lose the shrine. In only a few days it had become more than a glorified grave for ancestors who weren’t even mine. Instead it was a symbol of peace, a focus of memories for those who had been lost, and a place to breathe out the fear and take in the hope.
I reached the door and flung it open, expecting heat and raging flames, but instead finding a woman kneeling in front of the tree carving, hands stretched upward, splayed across the surface as though reaching for a particular name. This woman was thin, with inky black hair falling long and straight over her shoulders, and facing away from me, it felt like a memory of a horror movie, rather than a person. Colors flickered around me, in a dance of rainbow lights, as though the Northern Lights decorated the sky, or a wave of some sort of supernatural power had descended. The energy of it prickled on my skin, raising goosebumps and a roiling unease in my gut.
The woman moaned, long and drawn out, filled with a high-pitched whine. My mind went to old stories of banshees and the like, which I’d grown up on in scary children’s novels.
“Miss?” I called, stepping forward. “Are you okay?”
Something in my gut said Sofia, but I recalled her as older, short hair peppered with gray, and the curves of an older woman rather than a young girl. In her heyday she had been a true Asian beauty, even spending a few years modeling. Though her hair had never been so long or straight, nor could I ever recall her, even in old photos, looking so emaciated. I took another step forward, and she turned, face half covered with stringy unwashed hair, her skin pale as death and open pools of black darkness sat where her eyes had been. I gasped and took a few steps back too quickly, falling down the steps leading out the door and on my ass.
The pain of the fall registered in a dozen different places in my body, knocking the breath out of me, as my back stung. Dreams didn’t usually physically hurt. I admit to lying there in a bit of confused shock for a moment, and perhaps that was why horror movies depict people doing the wrong thing, not running away, or freezing up in fear. I sort of froze, unsure what was really happening.
She crawled toward me, like a worm, or some demon of nightmares. The bottom half of her seeming broken, as she dragged it behind her. Was I still dreaming? I never dreamed stuff like this, even after watching horror movie marathons and eating the worst junk food imaginable. But it had to be a dream. What else could it be?
She grew in size. Mouth open, tongue more like a snake than a person, elongated as she reached for me. I scrambled backward as she filled the doorway, so enlarged now that the frame cracked like a tree snapping in half.
I gasped for air, unsure what to do, how to wake up, or even if I was still asleep. Fear pooled in my gut, unfamiliar and strong, though slowed by confusion.
Arms wrapped around me from behind, tugging me up, to my feet, and giving me a little shove toward the bridge. I stumbled several feet, catching myself on the railing, and turning back instead of running away.
Fire crackled at the upper edges of the shrine, and something monstrous writhed from it with tentacles more like a deep-sea monster than anything of my normal nightmares. The face of the girl-like thing extended from the middle, mouth gaping as though searching for something to fill it. Where the creature touched the building, it began to burn. Real flames, orange and devouring, licking up the side of the building.
Pieces of paper flew at the tentacles, each landing and seeming to freeze the wriggling stalk for a few minutes. The paper glowed with symbols, possibly Chinese, though I didn’t know enough to determine for certain. But the tops of the paper began to burn away, a fairly quick turn to ash, while the creature shrieked its displeasure. It snapped and pulled back, flames going out in a few places. It snarled as more paper flew, thrown by someone with white hair, and a flowing robe of pale blue. The pieces of paper were talisman, I recalled briefly, not sure if it was from the many Asian period dramas Addy had insisted I watch in my life, or something else. Magic.
I had never had dreams so wild.
Lissa Kasey is more than just romance. She specializes in in-depth characters, detailed world building, and twisting plots to keep you clinging to the page. All stories have a side of romance, emotionally messed up protagonists and feature LGBTQA spectrum characters facing real world problems no matter how fictional the story